So in the first week of finals' elimination the Bottom 3 were all boys: Brandon Rogers, Phil Stacey and Sanjaya Malakar. We shouldn't have been surprised with the boys so much weaker than the girls this season, but we wouldn't have been shocked by the early elimination of Stephanie Edwards or Haley Scarnato. Possibly growth of Stephanie's fan base and both Haley's crying and knock of her own performance saved the two women this week.
We were a bit nonplussed to see Phil in the Bottom 3. His performance was no less than middle of a very mediocre pack. But the more we talk to people, the more we think the "eeew" factor is hurting Phil (hey, if the "yo" factor can help, the "eeew" factor can hurt). Everyone always knew that Phil wasn't easy on the eyes, as Paula Abdul would say, but after Simon Cowell specifically pointed the fact out a couple of weeks ago, it's almost as if he brought it to the top of everyone's consciousness. Now, you can't help but see the pointy bald head, taxi-door ears and piercing blue eyes. And it makes it hard to focus on his usually pleasing voice. In fact, a few friends have said that Phil's voice really isn't bad if you close your eyes and listen, but unless the Idol-wannabe is going for the Braille audience, that's not the optimum remark an aspiring star can receive. So if Phil doesn't grow some hair, don a toup or better hats, have his ears pinned back or start wearing designer sunglasses, he could be bidding us farewell in the near future.
That Sanjaya didn't get eliminated wasn't the surprise ... that he fell into the Bottom 3 was. Not that he didn't deserve the boot, but a cadre of squealing 10-year-old girls are weekly text-messaging their fingerprints off to keep the 17-year-old train wreck on Idol. We also imagine Malakar might be garnering a strong gay vote, Indian vote and Hawaiian vote (hula, anyone?). And don't underestimate the latter. All you have to do is remember Season 3 and the huge and disproportionate effect that the tiny 50th state had on the voting, keeping the horrible Camile Velasco and the cute-but-barely-mediocre Jasmine Trias in the running long after they should have been eliminated.
We were sorry to see Brandon leave before Sanjaya, but we knew it would be a miracle if he made the Top 10 tour. He simply never lived up to his potential. Great tone, great looks, but the voice just never emerged fully. Sadly, Brandon sounded better during the group medley of Diana Ross hits last night than he did in any of his official performances. We know there is a voice there worth hearing, but Brandon will have to work harder to ever have a shot at being a soloist. Guess the good news is that he can still work as a backup artist, but after living the dream for a couple of months, it's a tough fall.
Other "highlights" of the results show included the incredibly lame Idol challenge, another opportunity for the producers to make a bundle off of Cingular text messaging (and anybody who doesn't believe that the Idol owners aren't getting a percentage cut from Cingular has to be an idiot), packaged to look as if the audience is the only one profiting from the contest. Then it was payback time (again, bundled to look like an advantage to viewers) when Diana Ross got to promote her new CD, "I Love You," in return for mentoring the 12 disciples. Her entrance was true Supremes style, voguing arms aloft, as the curtain opened, in a magnificent low-cut red-orange gown with matching feather boa. The Lady still has it going on style-wise. She sang "More Today Than Yesterday," and although we have great admiration for the job she did on Idol, as well as her performing history, it was clear that her voice isn't what it once was. But her moves and stage presence were, so kudos to the supreme one. After her performance, when Ryan coyly asked her who was going home, her smart response was, "Me." You can see her here .
And for those of you who love, but missed, those usually horrendous Ford commercials, here is the Top 12 Ford video, "Float On."
Set your TiVos, DVRs or VCRs for "60 Minutes" this Sunday night (don't forget to add extra time, as "60 Minutes" is preceded by an NCAA Basketball Tournament second-round game that could run into OT), when Anderson Cooper profiles and interviews Simon Cowell, as the star judge of the "American Idol," who has been accused of being cruel with his caustic critiques of hapless contestants, discusses the criticism he's received from the music industry, his wealth and value to Sony/BMG, the recording company he works for, and the appeal of "American Idol." Cowell also has the tables turned on him when agroup of judges critique him doing something he is passionate about. Click here to watch a clip of Cowell telling Cooper that everything should be shown on TV, jokingly adding that public executions would have no ads but sponsorship.
RYAN'S STRAIGHTEST MOMENTS
Well, that's what this hilarious video montage is called on Gawker.com. The tongue-in-cheek description reads, "Nothing we have seen over the years has ever suggested that Ryan Seacrest is anything less than a full-blooded heterosexual American male. For proof, Gawker videographer Richard Blakeley has assembled a montage of straight-acting moments. We think the results speak for themselves." Hey, why should TMZ.com have all the fun picking on Idol. There's so much to go around.
LYTHGOE ON THE TOP 12 PERFORMANCES
Once again, Nigel Lythgoe was interviewed by TVWeek's Chuck Ross. Here are some excerpts. You can listen to, or read, the entire interview here.
On Diana Ross songs being more favorable to the women: I think that's a fair comment. At the same time, when you look at some of the people that have recorded Diana Ross-Supremes songs, like Phil Collins, he's certainly not a woman and did a great job. There are a lot of good songs there ... and there are a lot that they left out, but they didn't know the songs in the best of times. But there were a lot of good songs that could've easily been turned around to be sung by a guy.
On Brandon: Well, he was a bit shocked. Don't forget that he was the first one up on that stage. It's the first time they've performed in front of over 600 people, and he wiggled his hips at one point, and the audience responded and that took him by surprise, so he forgot his lyrics. I think that threw him.
On Melinda: I think Simon said on occasions it ["Home" from "The Wiz"] can be a bit of a boring song, and she certainly changed that and made it very special.
On Chris Sligh without glasses: Yeah, he asked me at the end of the show what I thought, and to be frank, I wasn't sure; I quite like him with glasses. I absolutely disliked the arrangement that he did [of "Endless Love"]. For me it was sort of that flamenco-type rhythm; it was a bit like Lionel Richie sings "Man of La Mancha," and I didn't like it.
On Blake doing an electronic arrangement of "You Keep Me Hangin' On": I think Tamla/Motown has got such an incredible sound; it's not like doing the '60s or the '70s or the '80s, where they're all different things. Tamla/Motown has a specific sound, and if it was good enough for Phil Collins when Phil Collins recorded it, it's certainly good enough for anybody else that might appear on this show. Phil Collins has got a lot of technical things behind him, he can do anything he likes and he decided to stay with the sound, as did Billy Joel when he went down that route. It's an incredible sound; it's bright; it's energetic, and when you start messing it around, you lose something. And if you start changing the melody and the tune of it, you lose a great deal.
On Gina: Well, I thought it ["Love Child"] was good for Gina. I think the sound was great. I must say that having that big band last night was terrific; the orchestra was sensational. And I think she slotted right into that feel. It's still not an easy song to sing.
On Sanjaya: Well, he sang "Ain't No Mountain High Enough" and I think it's fair to say, "There is." ... I think there's a certain immunity you get with the way that you look and the way you are. Diana Ross absolutely adored him; she turned around and said he was love. Howard Stern, I believe, adores him -- not, and asked everybody to vote for him just so he could look at Simon's face in the finale when Simon is asked, "How did Sanjaya get to the finale?" It's one of those characters that stands out this year, a bit like Kevin Covais' Chicken Little; he's just a great character and people love him. There's nothing wrong with personality winning. At the end of the day, it is a singing competition and that needs to be thought about by the voters.
On Haley singing "Missing You": I think that Simon was particularly cruel to Haley the week before, and I think somehow that's been probably plaguing him a little bit, it's been playing on his mind, you know? And she wasn't bad last night. I think she sings in tune. ... the relief when Simon said to her, "I thought you were good." The relief, her whole body shuddered and she collapsed in emotion almost. It just shows you the power that the judges have over the contestants, not necessarily over the vote, but over the contestants. And it only takes Randy to turn around and say, "That was terrible, dude," and that shudder goes all the way through backstage, and it affects the entire show.
On Phil Stacey: It ["I'm Gonna Make You Love Me"] performed a little too slow for me. It's a great song and he sang it well, but it was just a little dragged down for me.
On LaKisha Jones: Well, I think the judges nailed it last night when they gave her props [for "God Bless the Child"] basically because she contained herself. I mean, she is somebody that could've outsung the song, and she remained within the song and she did it brilliantly last night.
On Stephanie Edwards: ... they were disappointed that she didn't go into the disco version [of "Love Hangover"]. Just to go back, if I may, on something you just said though, which is moving out of her comfort zone. The one great thing about this show is that you are always in your comfort zone when you are a great singer, and I think we'll find that people like Melinda and LaKisha will never, ever move out of their comfort zones because they have just got such fantastic voices and will be able to sing anything.
On Chris Richardson: I think it ["The Boss"] was a great one for a guy to sing. I felt as though he was sort of singing on helium a little bit last night; it just got this little tremor, this little wobble in his voice. ... He needs to be careful of it, because it sort of takes away the strength.
On Jordin Sparks singing "If We Hold On Together": I think she's going to be a huge star, this girl. I remember that she auditioned for "American Juniors" about three or four years ago when we did the junior version, and she didn't get in. And now they're sort of coming through and actually starting with "American Idol." This girl is a huge talent and I think somebody that we're going to see grow throughout the series now.
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