Monday, July 9, 2007

Idols Offstage

Here's a few glimpses on what the Idols are like offstage. First, some tidbits from the Florida Times-Union:

Phil Stacey is getting out of the Navy as soon as the American Idols Live tour is over. Jordin Sparks is not as tall as you think. LaKisha Jones is tiny and wears a heavy coat and scarf, even on an absurdly hot Jacksonville afternoon.

That was some of the information and observations that came out as some of the American Idol performers met with the media Sunday afternoon before their concert at Veterans Memorial Arena.

Stacey's status: He signed up for a four-year enlistment back in 2003, but had requested a one-year extension, getting him out in October 2008. But he and the Navy have agreed to scrap that year. When the Idol tour ends in late September, he'll come back to Jacksonville Naval Air Station for a week of paperwork that will end his active duty. He may join the Naval Reserves, he said. But he really wants to get into the recording studio, cut a country album and go from there.

Sparks' height: The 17-year-old winner of the past season's Idol, towered over everyone on the show. Apparently everyone on that show is short (and as we've reported previously, she's also admitted to wearing 5-inch heels on the show).

She is friendly, excited and a nonstop talker. Last summer, she worked in Buckle, a clothing store in an Arizona mall. "We sold a lot of jeans," she said. "That was my first job ever. So now I have this job."

And that job attracts fans. Sparks told of a group called the Idol Junkies. "They're going to all three Florida shows," she said, "and more in New England. They wrote me a letter; they made me a teddy bear and a scrapbook of my Idol journey. I went outside in Tampa to meet them, but they weren't there."

Those same Idol Junkies were right outside the arena Sunday afternoon, sitting in the shade, hoping for a glimpse. Seven girls from Boston, ages 14-18, will go to a total of 10 Idol concerts this year, as they have every year. They had turned their clothes into photographic shrines to their favorite stars.

And while they were happy Sparks had received their gifts, they were not happy that they missed Sparks the other night. "We just left to eat," 18-year-old Jessica Twohig said. "That's it, we're never eating again."

Lakisha's clothes: Jones wears the overcoat and scarf to protect her voice. "Going from the heat into the air-conditioning, that's not good for the voice," she said. "I try to keep my body at one temperature."

Chris Richardson on Maroon 5: Chris will sing Maroon 5's "This Love" in the concert. He wanted to do it during the TV show, but the song's publisher didn't give him permission.

Sanjaya Malakar's music future: "I want to do R&B-based [album]," he said, "with world infusion and jazz and rock energy. I kind of feel it sounds like I don't know what I want, but I have good feeling about what it should be."

... For an upclose and personal look at the contestants, here's MJ's assessment. She writes mjsbigblog and had the good fortune to go to the after-party and meet up with the Idols in Tampa, the tour's second stop:

All the Idols were at the party. Unfortunately I did not get the chance to meet LaKisha Jones or Haley Scarnato. I didn’t meet Jordin Sparks either. She had a long line of fans waiting for her, and by the time I went to look for her, she’d left the party. Hey Jordin is ONLY 17! She needs her rest. Heh.

I did meet the others, and I have to say these peeps were to the one–Personable, down-to-earth, and funny. Really funny. It was nice to catch them at the beginning of the tour before the inevitable road fatigue set in. They all seem to genuinely like each other, too. If there are any divas in the bunch I met, they are very good actors.

My impressions:

Chris Sligh - I seriously *heart* Chris Sligh. That is all. Do NOT even argue with me on this point. I will shout you down. He's got good taste. HE READS MY BLOG. But really, that's not the only reason I think he's awesome. Besides being a talented musician and singer, he's a sweet guy–smart, snarky, and very good to his fans. He gets many, many props from me for striking a pointy pose for Erinn. She's got the picture, and she's going to send it to me. Heh. He appears to be close to the other Idols–particularly Phil Stacey, who Chris introduced to me. Some tidbits: Two songs were cut iright before the show–Melinda and Blake's duet "Killing Me Softly"” and Chris's number with the girls, "Another One Bites the Dust." Chris is very excited to play to a hometown crowd in South Carolina next week.

Phil Stacey - Rhu rho. Phil Stacey reads my blog too. To be blunt, I ripped Phil's perfor-
mances in my recaps–especially early in the competition. Despite this, Phil could not have been any nicer to me. My quick assessment of Phil is that he's a genuine, stand up guy. Not only did I get a couple hugs, but he thanked me for writing my blog. And he said it in a seriously genuine, non-suck-up way. I dig Phil. Phil's "Blaze of Glory" was, without question, one of the highlights of the show. Tidbits: I mentioned to Phil that I thought this year's cast got a bad rap, and he said that most of this year's contestants tried out on the urging of others, and didn't consider themselves singers, primarily. Phil and Chris Richardson are both songwriters. Chris Sligh is a songwriter and musician. Blake Lewis is a musician, songwriter and beatboxer. Phil went further than he thought he would. And after he was in the bottom with Haley Scarnato and she was eliminated, he stopped worrying about the competition and just started SINGING.

Gina Glocksen - Sarah has the best. story. Evah. about Gina, but I will let her tell it. Like I mentioned earlier, Gina's mom is her biggest fan. She wore a red shirt that said "Gina's Mom" and her friends had shirts that read "Gina's Fans." At the aftershow, mom told me that people were asking her "Are you REALLY Gina's mom?" And she said, "Would I be dressed like this with red streaks in my hair if I weren't?" I remembered mom from the show, but she was not featured as much as she could have been. Again, the producers skimped on the back stories much to the detriment of the show. Anyway, Gina's great. She's very outgoing and seems to be the kind of person who’d be fun to hang out with, definitely. She told Erinn, that after the tour, she'd like to put together an all-girl rock band. Her standout number during the show was her version of Pink's current hit, "Who Knew." I love that song ...

Chris Richardson - Ok, check out the picture. How cute is that? Seriously. Speaking of being mean, I rarely had an encouraging word for Chris during the show. To be perfectly honest, when I met him I did not mention that I wrote the blog. Yeah, I'm a coward. My prediction is that like Ace Young last year, Chris will be winning over new fans as the tour progresses. He manages the big tour stage very well and really sounds good in person. He was definitely one of the crowd favorites. Chris Richardson singing "Ain't no Sunshine"? You bet. He performed "Virtual Insanity" and it was also very good. He's also, like his tour mates, just a really, really nice guy–posing patiently for pictures, even when my flash wouldn't go off. His goofy faces are the best. I got a few really good pics of Chris that I'll post with my recap.

Sanjaya Malakar - Again, quick assessment: Sanjaya seems like a really smart, sensitive kid. He was signing autographs and he mentioned that it was hard to be witty. Except that he is pretty funny as well as quiet and shy. No wonder the 'tweens love him. As far as being witty, He seemed to do a pretty good job thinking on his feet during the competition, so I think Sanjaya is selling himself short. On tour he does a nice job with the Michael Jackson song, "The Way You Make Me Feel." Does Sanjaya have a great smile or what?

Melinda Doolittle - Mindy Doo is fab both onstage and off. In person, she is absolutely beautiful. She's tiny and has pretty eyes and really nice skin. Her "Natural Woman" on stage was simply terrific. Just like on the TV show, she's humble and super-sweet. She had so many fans wanting to meet her, that I had a hard time getting a few minutes to speak with her. Damn, not a diva in this bunch! Honestly, I really wish I had more dirt to dish, but I don't ...

Blake Lewis -
I intro-
duced myself to Blake as MJ, and then some-
body said,
"That's mj from mjsbigblog. Then, he says, "Oh, MJ." I kid you not. "I only read your blog and Rickey's," he told me. Yeah, I was flattered. In this case, since I'm a fan and was mostly pro-Blake in my recaps, I wasn't embarrassed (sorry Phil!). And here is a scoop for you peeps: Blake says he has just recorded six songs in eight days. "And you can post that." he said to me. Heh. He seems very excited about recording his upcoming album. Of course, not having my head screwed on straight, exactly, I didn't ask him about his record deal. Stupid, stupid me. Blake closed the first half of the show with "Time of the Season," "She Will Be Loved," and "You Give Love a Bad Name." YGLABN was just as potent as it was during the series. For you CAKE fans, there is a duet with Chris Richardson in the second half of the show.


Here's the USA Today rundown of the show:

•The event: Third show in this year's annual trek of the top 10 American Idol finalists.

•The crowd: Some fans showed up at 9 a.m. to await their Idols. At 6 p.m. the crowd streams in. They're a Price Is Right studio audience mix of old and young, families and hand-holding couples.

•The merch: There are generic American Idol T-shirts as well as those emblazoned with Blake Lewis and winner Jordin Sparks, at $30 a pop. There are $20 stuffed dogs clad in Idol photo tees. And they're all selling swiftly, according to the vendors.

•The backstage scene: Lewis gave fan Kailey Long, 10, a mini-beatbox concert in the parking lot. At soundcheck, the Idol "boy band" rehearses: Chris Richardson on drums; Sanjaya Malakar, acoustic guitar (and tambourine); Chris Sligh, bass; Lewis, guitar; Phil Stacey, keyboards.

•The first half: After a group version of Let's Get It Started, LaKisha Jones and Melinda Doolittle do their best Supremes impression with Baby Love and Stop! In the Name of Love.

There are huge cheers for the local, Stacey, as he launches into Blaze of Glory.

Malakar, in a white blazer, red pants and lightly gelled bob, leaps from the stage and launches into Michael Jackson's The Way You Make Me Feel, moonwalking along in sneakers, striking poses and generally hamming it up for the audience, who seem to eat up the idea that the Jester of Pop is taking on its King.

A red ostrich plume sticking out of her head, Jones begins belting Lady Marmalade before Gina Glocksen (in black feather) and Haley Scarnato (in fuchsia) join in.

Sparks and Richardson duet on acoustic guitars on Rascal Flatts' What Hurts the Most.

Lewis beatboxes into Time of the Season. He grabs an acoustic guitar and sings She Will Be Loved. Taunting the crowd with "You want to hear some beatboxing?" he beatboxes solo for a minute or two before segueing into You Give Love a Bad Name. The other Idol gents join in.

•The second half: Post-intermission, Stacey, dressed in his Navy whites (he's still active duty), leads the khaki-clad girls in America the Beautiful.

The "boy band" transitions from Gnarls Barkley's Crazy to Hey Jude, with Richardson, Lewis, Stacey and Sligh swapping lead vocals — and Malakar offering up several exuberant na na na nas.

Glocksen has her solo moment on Pink's Who Knew. Richardson plays the acoustic on Ain't No Sunshine. Lewis joins in on the mike, shifting to Jamiroquai's Virtual Insanity.

Jones thrilled the crowd on I Will Always Love You. Scarnato, Richardson and Malakar launch into Life Is a Highway, with Sligh grabbing a guitar solo. Doolittle sings You Make Me Feel (Like a Natural Woman), then returns with the other Idol women, all gyrating to Christina Aguilera's Ain't No Other Man.

Sparks, her hair in loose waves, rises from below the stage in floor-length chiffon-y mauve for I Who Have Nothing, followed by Heartbreaker, for which her gown transforms into a floaty shift over black pants.

She then grabs her acoustic and sings You Were Meant for Me. After a quick slug from a water bottle, Sparks implores the crowd: "Up on your feet for this last song!" (Living on a Prayer). The nine other Idols walk out and chime in.

For an encore. Sparks sashays out in a long teal gown for This Is My Now. Then the rest of the Idols emerge one by one, all in white, reprising their earlier solos.


The Birming-
ham News
reports that the Mont-
gomery nonprofit group called Alabama PALS (People Against a Littered State), which turns 20 this year, is marking its anniversary with some rare publicity: A 30-second public service announcement by "American Idol" Taylor Hicks with the slogan, "Don't Drop It on Alabama."


According to the Times-Herald, never in Jasmine Trias' wildest imagination did she think she would get paid for impersonating Britney Spears, Janet Jackson and Beyonce. But that's the clout one gets for finishing No. 3 in "American Idol."

Sure, winning the 2004 version of the undeniably popular TV show would have been nice. But the 20-year-old multitalented Trias isn't complaining.

As the first Filipino-American to place so high on "Idol," Trias has already done commercials, TV shows, and the recent three-month stint on the Las Vegas strip.

When she first got off the plane in the Philippines after her "American Idol" success, "it was like Michael Jackson arriving," said a stunned Trias. "I couldn't believe it. I was swarmed with media and there was security everywhere. A celebrity was coming out of the plane and I didn't think it was me."

Because "Idol" keeps its contestants isolated from interviews until the program is aired, "I didn't have any idea what kind of exposure we had outside of the show," Trias had.

It was Thursday morning and the talented Hawaiian-born Trias was preparing for her performance tonight at The Banquet in Vallejo. The "Summer Heat" concert includes another "Idol" performer, Sway, plus Vallejo's Urban Bushmen and saxophonist Andrew Beal of Benicia.

"It's going to be a great show," Trias said. "I always have fun performing for a Filipino crowd. There's so much love and appreciation."

It's basically been nonstop for Trias since the "American Idol" broadcast.

"My career has been overwhelming since then," Trias said. "The ball is rolling and still has drive. There are so many projects coming my way. I'm blessed and fortunate to do what I'm doing."

With "lots of endorsements" in Philippines, Trias has already received numerous awards even before she turns 21 in November: Filipino World Class Achiever's Award; Entertainer of the Year in Hawaii; People Magazine (Asia) People of the Year Award; several equivalent of the Philippine Grammy awards, three awards by the Hawaii Academy of Recording Arts, even Mobile MYX Top Picks' Ringtone of the Week.

Then there's the "Top 100 Sexiest Women" honor of being No. 50 in FHM Magazine in the Philippines which gets a few chuckles from the star.

"I forgot about that," said Trias. "I was like, 'Are you serious?' I guess I was flattered."

Not as thrilled as doing well on "American Idol," a show she's wanted to audition for since watching Kelly Clarkson win the first "Idol" in 2002.

When auditions came to Hawaii two years later, Trias was there.

"I went to Aloha Stadium with my dad two days before and camped out," she said, laughing, "and the rest is history."

Merely making the Top 12 "was an honor," Trias said. "So I wasn't disappointed I didn't win. If I won, that would have been a complete shock to me."

Because she didn't finish in the top two, Trias wasn't contractually bound to the whims of "American Idol" producers.

"So it's the best of both worlds," she said. "I got the exposure for being on the show so long and I'm not tied to 'American Idol.' It worked out perfectly. I'm happy."

Of course, she's had to live with Simon Cowell insults. But the notoriously nasty "AI" judge also managed to compliment Trias.

"He told me that I could possibly be one of the best singers in the competition," Trias said. "I was blown away."

That was at the Hawaii audition. When she made it to the top five or six, he reversed field.

"He told me I wasn't good enough for the competition any more," Trias said. "That really hurt. At the same time, I tried to ignore it. It wasn't constructive criticism at all."

It was far more unnerving playing the Vegas strip, where Trias was a substitute for Lani Misalucha at the Flamingo Hotel.

Performing with the Society of Seven, Trias said she was pushed beyond what she thought were her musical limits.

"It was an amazing experience," she said. "They put a Broadway medley in front of me and I had never done Broadway. I was so nervous."

Looking back, "what I accomplished, it was my proudest moment," Trias said.


Song lengths vary -- some are complete, others short clips. Quality is generally mediocre to poor (sorry!) and varies from video to video.

Watch video of Blake Lewis singing "Time of the Season" and the Idols Live Tour stop in Miami:

Watch video of Jordin Sparks singing "Living on a Prayer" in Sunrise, Fla.:

Watch video of Jordin Sparks singing "Heartbreaker" in Sunrise, Fla.:

Watch video of Jordin Sparks singing "I Who Have Nothing" in Sunrise and Tampa, Fla.:

Video of Jordin Sparks and Melinda Doolittle singing "This Will Be" in Tampa, Fla.:

Watch video of Sanjaya Malakar singing "The Way You Make Me Feel":

Watch video of Melinda Doolittle singing "Natural Woman" in Sunrise, Fla.:

Watch Chris Sligh singing "Another One Bites the Dust," accompanied by Melinda, Haley and Gina in Sunrise, Fla.:

Watch video of Chris Richardson singing "This Love" in Sunrise, Fla. and Tampa:

Watch video of the woman singing "Ain't No Other Man" in Sunrise, Fla.:

Watch video of the guys' band performing "Hey Jude" in Tampa:

Watch video of Melinda Doolittle singing "Killing Me Softly" accompanied by Blake Lewis beat boxing:

Watch video of LaKisha Jones singing "I Will Always Love You":

Watch video of Gina Glocksen singing "Who Knew":

Watch video of the guys' band performing "Crazy" in Sunrise, Fla.:

Watch video of the girls singing "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy of Company C" followed by Phil Stacey singing the Ray Charles version of "America the Beautiful":

Watch video of the Top 10 taking their bows at the end of the show:

Watch video of Jordin Sparks singing "A Broken Wing" in Tampa:

Watch video of Chris Richardson singing "Geek in the Pink" in Tampa:

Watch short segment of Blake Lewis and Chris Richardson (CAKE) singing "Virtual Insanity" in Tampa:

and "Geek in the Pink":

Watch video of Jordin Sparks and Chris Richardson singing "What Makes Me Crazy":

Video clip of Chris Sligh singing "Typical":

Video clip of the girls singing "Lady Marmalade":

Video clip of Phil Stacey singing "Blaze of Glory":

Video clip of Melinda Doolittle and Sanjaya Malakar singing "Proud Mary":

Video clip of Melinda Doolittle, Chris Richardson and LaKisha Jones singing "I Heard It Through the Grapevine":

Watch video of Jordin Sparks singing "This Is My Now":

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© 2007

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