Thursday, March 8, 2007

American Idol Rewind?

OK, before we begin, we must reveal "American Idol's" newest scandal, and it has nothing to do with Antonella Barba. In fact, it involves Jordin Sparks. This is supposed to be a live show, right? Well if you taped it, TiVo'd it or DVR'd it, run right back to your TV and go to the last 10 seconds of Sparks' performance. You'll notice on that last killer note, she drops the microphone to her side a full two seconds before the sound of her voice ends. The voice just continues -- full blast -- without the mic. Huh? Take a look:

Are they backing up the performances with the dress rehearsal vocals? What up Idol? Some 'splaining needs to be done -- and fast!

That being said, when you think about the men and women performing this year, the sexes seem to have reversed roles (and we're not even talking about Sanjaya Malakar here). Men are taught to be competitive from the day they are born. It starts with sports, continues with schooling and usually culminates in the business world. Of course, women are competitive, too, yet they're taught to be more subtle about it (i.e. hide the claws and the backstabbing, you're not supposed to know they're being competitive).

Yet, when it comes to this season's "Idol," it's the women who are the aggressors, unafraid to take the risks and let you know how badly they want to be in the Top 12. They pick the power songs, sing them to maximum effect and dress to kill. They even listen to the judges ... and learn. Simon tells Gina she's lost her edginess? She drops the feminine dresses, puts her tongue stud back in her mouth, dons her jeans, boots, one net glove and leather accessories and sings Evanescence. Simon tells LaKisha her neon orange blouse and mini-skirt are distracting and unbecoming? She returns the next week dressed in an elegant black satin below-the-knee evening dress, complete with rhinestone-studded sandals. All three judges tell Antonella her singing is pitchy and her song choices (Celine Dion) exceed her capabilities? Even she comes back with a more appropriate song (Corinne Rae Bailey) for her voice and range (just for the record, Antonella always looks good). So what's up with the guys? Guess, they just don't get it.

So we hope this week America finally voted with their ears and brains instead of their hearts, geographical location or genitals.

The evening started out on an odd note. In Ryan's intro, he mentioned that Paula was missing, but we'll find her. A few minutes later, as Seacrest introduced the judges, Simon told Ryan that Paula had been under the desk, with Randy adding that she had been "getting something for me." Ryan immediately tried to shut down that line of conversation, repeating at least three times that it was a family show. We think Paula even blushed.

Before Jordin Sparks sang "Heartbreaker," by Pat Benatar, she revealed that football is a huge part of her life and that she even wears face paint to games. Do you care? We didn't. This theme, for the most part is so lame. After last week's emotional performance, Jordin apparently decided to show her edge, rocking jeans, black polish on her toenails and sporting a nose stud. The beginning of the performance lacked energy, and at times was pitchy and off-key, but it built as it went and Sparks carried it off (or did she? She above). Randy said its wasn't Jordin's best performance, and had pitchy spots, but was still dope and better than the boys, while Paula told Jordin that each week she was getting better and better. Simon, not quite as enthusiastic, said it was a bit manic and a bit shrieky in the middle and wasn't Jordin's strongest performance in the past three weeks, but that she'd done well, showed her personality and that he was 100 percent sure that she'll be there next week.

Sabrina Sloan tells us that she always wanted to be the next Katie Couric and hosted a weekly TV show in high school. We see amateur-hour film clips of her as a school reporter with much darker hair. She looked absolutely fabulous, but her rendition of En Vogue's "Don't Let Go" went pitchy and flat in places. We still think she has a powerhouse voice and deserves a place in the finals, but also realize that people seem to either love her and hate her; there doesn't seem to be a gray area and that could be dangerous. Randy thought the performance was solid, but wished the song choice had a little more melody, but Paula thought Sabrina brought a whole different energy and told her she can "sing, sing, sing." Simon, though he admitted she's a great singer, said Sabrina lacked emotion and was a bit robotic, reminding him of a hotel resort performance. He also told her without personality her voice will only take her so far, a point we understood, because we really don't feel we know Sabrina at all. But when Ryan asked the judges whether Sabrina deserved to be in the finals, they all said "yes" without a second's hesitation.

Up next was Antonella Barba, who told us she played violin since age 4, though she was a little rusty. Barba set her sights lower this week, choosing Corinne Rae Bailey's "Put Your Records On." Was it as bad as last week. No (was that even possible?). Was it bad? Well, yes. Problem is, Barba is just a capable singer and so totally out of her element in a group of women who can "really blow," as Randy would say, that she sticks out like a sore thumb. She should have never made the semis. But in spite of everything we've heard (and seen), we almost felt sorry for her last night. Randy complimented her on the song choice, but added it was pitchy in the middle and was just an OK performance. Paula also said it was the right song choice, but added that Antonella had to watch out for the bottom notes. Simon, trying to keep it real, told Antonella that she had gone as far as she can go. He also, for the first time on the show, indirectly opened up the Internet photos can of worms by saying that Antonella had taken a lot of stick from the media and had handled it well, and that nobody should be put in that situation. But, he added, he wasn't going to patronize her. It wasn't her worst performance, but he wished she were a better singer.

Haley Scarnato was a gymnast as a child, until she dislocated both of her shoulders. She then discovered singing. Her version of Faith Hill's "If My Heart Had Wings" sounded mechanical and rushed to us. It lacked emotion and phrasing. We found it deadly dull and probably her worst performance. Randy said he wasn't jumping up and down but that it was pretty much in tune, but added it had no pizzazz, no wow, no "yo" factor (a term he then used repeatedly the rest of the night). Paula thought she sang it well, but Simon (thank god) called it what it really was, "horrible, just horrible, like a ghastly high school musical performance." He might have gone a bit too far when he tried to express to Haley how forgettable she was by telling her he didn't even know her name (ouch!).

Stephanie Edwards tells us she used to be real shy, but isn't anymore. Here's our problem with Stephanie: She's got a great voice and she looks great, but almost without exception we've hated her song choices, and that includes tonight's "Sweet Thing" by Chaka Khan. For us, there has been a lack of melody in everything she's chosen (last week it was Beyoncé's "Dangerously in Love") and we find it hard to get into the music, or the performance. Ultimately, we find ourselves not listening and not caring, even though she has an amazing set of pipes. Randy gave her an "A' for effort, but said it was just OK for him, but Paula called it "darn near flawless" and said she has great showmanship. Simon told her she was one of the best they've got and that she had done 100 percent enough to sing herself to the Top 12 next week.

LaKisha Jones is terrified of animals -- all animals. OK girls, want to get her out of the competition? Smuggle a critter backstage. Otherwise Ms. Jones is not going anywhere. She took on Whitney Houston's "I have Nothing" and did it justice. She might have an even bigger voice thn Whitney. My only complaint? I would have liked to hear the entire song, not just 90 seconds. Randy said it was another great performance by the great LaKisha, while Paula told her "You’re going to stay right here, and you’re going to work on being the next Idol." Simon added that LaKisha had brought passion, talent, believability, and (in a jab at Randy) of course the "yo" factor. He also sweetly added, "tonight you look beautiful." Ryan then told us that LaKisha's auntie and mama need their own show, while the camera panned to them, wearing LaKisha T-shirts and carrying on in the audience. This elicited an "Oh my, I told them not to act up!" remark from a laughing LaKisha.

Yea for Gina Glocksen! She really stepped it up this week and became edgy girl again, down to the stud in her tongue. After sitting through a look at her troll, pickle and other lucky charms (which, by the way, weren't magically delicious) she performed Evanescence's "Call me When You're Sober." We were a little worried by that choice. After all, it's no small thing to take on Amy Lee. And the performance wasn't perfect. It was pitchy in places and screamy in others, but it was also high-energy rocker, which is what we thought Gina was all along, but hadn't exhibited until tonight. Randy pointed out the pitch problems, but said the real Gina came out tonight and advised her to keep the edge alive, keep the "yo" going. Paula warned her to avoid oversinging but also said this is the style that suits you best. Simon told Gina it was the first time he had seen her looking comfortable throughout the competition and even though she had tended to scream the song, she was a breath of fresh air and that with choosing better, more melodic songs she could do well. He ended by saying "I really, really hope you make it through next week."

Last up was Melinda Doolittle. In the pimp spot. You go girl -- and she did. But first Melinda had to tell us about her Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, which she likes to think of as "equal opportunity." If she chews 10 times on the right side, she then chews 10 times on the left side. If she touches something cold with her left hand, she then touches something cold with her right hand. More information than we really needed (though charmingly explained) and thank god she didn't go into her toilet habits. Being a master of phrasing, she killed with Peggy Lee's "I'm a Woman." No contest. Randy told her, "You turned it out, the hottest one of the night," adding that she was a consummate pro. Paula called her so phenomenal and fantastic. But we enjoyed Simon's comment best. After a prolonged smile, he said, "You little tiger. I thought we had a pussycat. I loved that." He then said that it was quite obvious how good a singer Melinda is and that it is very, very nice that Melinda is actually enjoying every second on the show instead of viewing it, as others did, as a stepping stone, which was a direct shot at Jennifer Hudson's remark about "Idol" after she won her Oscar.

Top 2 in descending order: Melinda Doolittle, LaKisha Jones

Bottom 2 in descending order: Antonella Barba, Haley Scarnato

Everyone else, in no particular order: Sabrina Sloan, Stephanie Edwards, Gina Glocksen, Jordin Sparks

Should go: Antonella Barba, Haley Scarnato
Will go: Haley Scarnato, Sabrina Sloan


Rosie O'Donnell just can't stop complaining ... about everything. And it must be "American Idol's" turn in the barrel again. Apparently inspired by an interview with Frenchie Davis in the New York Post, O'Donnell called "Idol" weightist and racist. Davis, a contestant during Season 2, was booted from the competition when producers discovered she had bared her breasts on an adult Web site five years earlier. Since current contestant Antonella Barba was not booted, in spite of the fact that revealing photos of her have also shown up on the Internet, Davis told The Post that she's wondering why "Idol" producers have applied a double standard.

"I couldn't help but notice the difference between the manner in which she was dealt with and how I was dealt with," Davis told The Post. "I think it's fantastic if 'Idol' has evolved and I think it's fantastic she won't have to go through what I went through four years ago. But if the rules have changed, I believe there should be something to make up for the fact that I was humiliated needlessly."

Davis added, "I was up-front about those photographs and I had taken them five years before I was on 'Idol' ... It's not necessarily something I'm proud of, but not something I regret, either. It happened and I was honest about it ... and weeks later they decided to kick me off the show. They said it was because of the photographs, but my photos certainly weren't sexual."

Davis, who has appeared in "Rent" for the past four years and ends her run on May 24, said she's willing to give "Idol" producers "the benefit of the doubt." "I'm willing to say maybe the rules have changed, and I think that's great. But it was a very painful experience for me and it was humiliating for my parents."

So what does any of this have to do with Rosie O'Donnell? The same day the story ran in The Post, Rosie went into a rant on "The View" saying that "Idol" canned Davis for her breast-baring snapshots, but kept current wannabe Antonella Barba despite hers -- because Davis is black and fat and Barba is, well, not. "It's weightist and wacist," said Rosie, doing her best Donald Duck impression.

Instead of ignoring O'Donnell as the gnat that she is, Idol's executive producers decided to forbid "The View" from showing any more clips from "American Idol," which, of course, set Rosie off again on "The View."

But that wasn't enough. Idol Executive producer Nigel Lythgoe stupidly chose to prolong the discussion yesterday by issuing a statement:

"Without wishing to add to the obvious self-promotion of Ms. O'Donnell, I feel as though I must refute her absurd and ridiculous claims that AMERICAN IDOL is racist and/or weightist. Ms. O'Donnell has, once again, spoken without thought or knowledge.Viewers need only look at the show tonight to realize that AMERICAN IDOL constantly confirms to America that talent has nothing to do with weight or color."

Nigel Lythgoe
Executive Producer

OK, glad you all got that off your collective chests. Now will everybody just shut up?

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© 2007

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