Everybody has been so excited about the Season 6 Idols making hometown visits, there has been no end of stories, photos and videos posted. We've looked around, and here are some more you might want to look at.
AP shot some nice-quality video at all three finalist homecomings. You can go directly to its site, and click on American Idol in the left-hand column, or go to the Asheville Citizen-Times to see the same AP videos without the annoying commercial delays. The Citizen-Times also put together a nice composite photo gallery of all three homecoming visits on the same site.
You can watch video of Blake Lewis with Sir Mix-a-Lot here, click on the next link to see him singing Keane's "Somewhere Only We Know", or this one for Jamiroquai's "Virtual Insanity."
A fan captured Jordin Sparks on video singing in Glendale. The quality is pretty decent. You can watch video of Jordin singing "I Who Have Nothing" here, "Gimme One Reason" here or "Heartbreaker" here.
We couldn't find any independent video on Melinda Doolittle's hometown visit, which might not be a good sign for her. Where we come from, obsession=votes.
But the last three finalists left standing weren't the only ones to be recognized by their hometowns. Previously eliminated contestants Chris Richardson, Gina Glocksen and Sanjaya Malakar were also recently feted.
The Virginia Daily Press reported that Richardson was scheduled to get a a big celebration from the City of Chesapeake and his alma mater, Great Bridge High School, last night. The paper said that he wouldn't be singing because his contract with Fox and "Idol" won't allow it, but that he would be answering questions from fans chosen by local radio stations.
Yesterday was also "Gina Glocksen Day" in Tinley Park, Ill., according to the Daily Southtown. Glocksen's fans were able to meet her at the celebration held at a church, where she appeared for a qna program. As with Richardson, her Idol contract restricted Glocksen from performing, but she was scheduled to sign autographs and pose for photographs.
And in Federal Way, Wash., last week, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer reports that the first 200 fans on line donated at least $1 each to Federal Way-based World Vision to meet Sanjaya Malakar and get his autograph. Behind them were countless others who had to satisfy themselves with a more distant view of their favorite son. (Click on Sanjaya photos for enlarged images)
"Hello, everybody. How you all doing?" Malakar said from a raised platform inside the mall. "I'm so happy to be home!" The screams were so long and so prolonged that for several minutes all Malakar could do was grin sheepishly and wave to his many admirers.
The 17-year-old received accolades from Federal Way Mayor Michael Park and King County Councilman Peter von Reichbauer, praising him as a great role model for his positive attitude and willingness to give back to the community.
Malakar's mother, Jill Blyth, took the stage briefly and said, "Thanks for coming out. We appreciate the support. It really means a lot to us." He sister, Shyamali, was also there.
Tom Frostad of Federal Way brought his 12-year-old daughter, Chandler Frostad, and her friend, Hannah Garfield, to see Malakar, but Frostad said that by the time they arrived, "The first 200 tickets were gone." Frostad added, "My daughter's friend got the last one."
The first autograph went to Navie Gill, 16, of Federal Way, who was accompanied by two fellow Sanjayans. "We think he's a really good representative of Federal Way," Navie said. "Even though he didn't make it all the way, he did a really good job." Malakar signed her paper: "To Navie, keep smiling."
One of Gill's friends breezily admitted she slipped Malakar her phone number. After meeting the singer, Gill said, "I think he's really true to himself, as he is on TV. We're not rooting for anyone else. We're Sanjaya fans forever."
Probably the biggest thrill of the day went to Raelhiya Fulmer, 11, whose friends -- the ones she made 20 minutes earlier standing in line -- egged Malakar into kissing Fulmer on the cheek. "Oh my gosh, oh my gosh! I can hardly describe it," she said moments later. "He's really good!"
Asked if Malakar was the first guy who'd ever kissed her, Raelhiya said, "No." Asked what she planned to do with the autograph, she said, "I'm going to put it up on my wall and treasure it the rest of my life."
Malakar, prohibited by his "American Idol" contract from singing at non-"Idol" events said that had he been allowed, he said he would have sung "Besame Mucho."
Septuagenarian Donald Hoem, who came to the mall with his wife, Kathy, said: "I don't think he was a good singer, but he was one of the better entertainers. He brought viewers, and he's a local boy."
During a break to rest his hand, Malakar said that he was awed by the reception. "It's definitely a surprise to come into this mall that I've come into for shopping and all of a sudden be a celebrity," he said. "It's a lot of fun."
MICHAEL ORLAND ON BEE GEES WEEK
Entertainment Weekly checked in with Idol's musical maestro Michael Orland on how the finalists did during Bee Gees week.
On what went wrong during Bee Gees week: Bee Gees week looked a little better on paper than it did in reality, when it came down to it. I thought the show would be really fun, but once the judges started with their negative comments, it brought everyone down. The kids came out there almost defeated. You couldn't please Randy [Jackson] this week. I thought it wasn't as bad as they made it out to be.
On why LaKisha chose to do ''Stayin' Alive'': With LaKisha, it had to do with her lack of knowing any of those songs. Yeah, everyone got a three-CD set in advance, with the 50 best Bee Gees songs on it. But she had no frame of reference with any of that music. She struggled a lot with those song choices. She changed her mind a lot. And then Barry Gibb told her not to change the key, and she did, and she wasn't sure about it. When you're feeling not as secure about a song, you flounder back and forth about what to do. Plus, something happened to her outfit at the dry cleaners.
On Lakisha's secretiveness: She was the one from the whole group who was more secretive than any other. She realized it was a competition. People would say, ''What are you singing?'' and she wouldn't tell anybody. She was nice to everyone, but secretive. It was great. She was in it as a competitor. I hope some great, big things will happen for her.
On Paula saying that Melinda needed a "wow"' performance: Since day one, Melinda gives 150 percent every week. I had that conversation with her right after the performance. I said, "I thought that was great." She said, "I don't know. I gotta give more." I don't know what else she can do. She's had nowhere to go...because she started so high up.
On whether Melinda needs to get out of her comfort zone: She's done all different styles of music and I've never seen her out of her comfort zone. It's crazy how she can sing anything. When Paula [Abdul] said that to her, my initial reaction was ''I get it. Maybe she does need it.'' But then I was like, ''I don't know what else she can do.'' She's great and she started out great. We've watched other contestants grow and change. They're all up to where Melinda is as a performer now, but they've become that, whereas Melinda started that way.
On whether was off-key on ''Woman in Love'': When we were watching it back, I was like, ''It wasn't off key!'' I don't get it. I think she was tired. They were feeling like maybe she was pushing it a little bit. That is a powerhouse song, and at the dress rehearsal we were like, ''Oh my God, this girl is out of the ballpark!'' But it's a long day on those Tuesdays. Maybe they picked up on her fatigue. I thought it was definitely her night, though. She picked two really great songs.
On Barry Gibb saying that Jordin would be ''one of our greatest female recording artists'': After she did ''To Love Somebody'' with Barry Gibb at rehearsal she was all teary-eyed because she was so moved by his reaction to her singing. He was blown away, especially because it's a male vocal [with] a male vibe.
On Blake doing too much beat-boxing on not one but two songs: I think he would probably agree with you, now that it's over. Maybe he had such a great week on Bon Jovi week that he opted to do it. That second song he picked [''This Is Where I Come In''] — maybe one of the most obscure Bee Gees songs — I thought he did a great job with it. But maybe he felt like he needed to give it his treatment for people to respond.
On whether Barry Gibb was into the Blake renditions: Barry was into it. He loved that Blake was doing that second song. I guess it was the title of one of their albums and they wanted it to be a hit and it wasn't. He was excited that Blake could do it and make it a hit.
On how he prepares the finalists to conserve their energy and voices with doing three songs tonight: They definitely learn how to conserve. But for the first run-through, they sing it out to test it so the sound people know how big the song is going to get. And during dress rehearsal they have to sing it out because the recap clips [at the end of the show] come from there. Beyond that, you have to make them be quiet. These three are in it to win it, though. Any one of them could be in the finale, and any one of them could win. All three of them have huge groups of people into them, and all three of them are completely different performers. Now it's just high drama. I wouldn't go to Vegas right now to bet on anyone.
On how he feels about Simon's choice of Rose Royce's "Wishing on a Star" for Jordin: I thought it was an interesting choice. We took it and made it work for her. At first she was like, ''Really?'' But now I love it and she loves it.
On Jordin's chance: Let me just say that I don't know what will happen. Any of them deserves to be in the finals, but I don't think I'll be out of work before the end of the season.
TAYLOR HICKS ON LENO
Watch video of Taylor Hicks performing "Heaven Knows" on the "Tonight Show" last night. Jay Leno announced that Taylor will be appearing on the Idol finale next Wednesday. Yea!
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