Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Sweet (and Sour) Home Alabama

Ah, Birmingham, the city that gave us Ruben Studdard, Bo Bice and Taylor Hicks. How could we lose? Well, apparently by a country mile. Not that there weren't good voices, some 20 tryouts snagged their Golden Tickets to Hollywood. But folks, that meant the rest of the 11,000 went home empty-handed, and Fox wanted to make sure we saw, and heard, that Southern contestants could be as hard on the ears and eyes as anyone else. However, there was a difference between the tryouts in Birmingham and other cities. These folks were almost all unfailingly polite when told "no" by the judges. Most said "thank you" as they left. Few begged to sing another song; fewer still cursed and screamed, though there were some tears.

By now, any Idol fan should know that the No. 1 way to get Simon pissed at you is to sing "Unchained Melody" badly. Yet, it seems to be the song of choice for innumerable lousy singers who, in their delusional states, actually think they're going to win Cowell over by butchering the Righteous Brothers classic. First up, Alabama homegirl Erica Skye, who said if she doesn't make it as a singer she would probably do something in the dental field. Sinking her teeth into "Unchained Melody," she chewed it up and spit it out. How bad was she? According to Simon, merely "neverending torture." And when she tried to mangle a Dixie Chicks tune after being told "no," Paula got up and left the judges' table.

The weirdness and badness continued with newlywed Katie Bernard, whose speaking voice made Paris Bennett's almost sound normal. She assured the judges that her singing voice was different, and it is. Nonetheless, we thought her version of "A House Is Not a Home" the strangest we've ever heard, her voice sometimes rich and full, other times a barely audible whisper (when we suspect she couldn't hit the right notes). Shockingly, Randy wanted to give her another chance in Hollywood, but Paula wisely told her to stay home with her new husband, an idea that seemed repugnant to Katie, compared with becoming the next Idol. After bringing her husband into the room and pleading with the judges, in a stroke of madness, Paula let her through. Yeah, she'll be gone in a Hollywood flash, but what about all the other, better singers (Memphis' Frank Byers Jr. anyone?) who weren't given that chance?

Over the course of the hour, covering the two days of auditions, we were also subjected to Brandy Patterson, who murdered Madonna's "Like a Virgin" than gave judges Jackson and Cowell (Paula did not show up for Birmingham's second day because she had to return to Hollywood on family business) no end of lip, first sarcastically, then profane.

Then there were the twin fashion and voice disasters. The first was Diana Walker, a big girl who claimed to be a former cheerleader, who badly mangled Whitney Houston's "Saving All My Love." Her dress, with its pink netting top and tight black bottom, made her look as if she had no breasts but had ingested a beach ball, and seemed to amuse Simon even more than her voice. And we suffered through Margaret Fowler, who at first claimed to be 26 but later fessed up to 50 (which we even doubted) and whose name seemed to be the inspiration for her head-to-toe yellow feathered Big Bird-like outfit. Question: Did anyone intentionally blind themselves after Fowler lifted her blouse TWICE and exposed her abdomen and tight stretch pants? Margaret, if we want to see flesh badly in need of diet and exercise we'll look in a mirror. We really don't need to see yours.

Lakia Hill, who told the judges she had "the whole package," was sadly pathetic, but polite, and left without a fuss after being turned down. And then there was Cousin Itt Victoria Watson and her mom (what is it with the bizarro mother and daugter look-alikes this year?), who has been growing her six-foot-long hair her whole life. Actually, her rendition of Josh Groban's "You Raise Me Up" sounded just as good as Kevin Covais' audition last season, but there was no Paula to save her, and Randy capitulated to Simon's not putting her through.

Nichole Gatzman was another borderline singer who
probably deserved to make it to the Hollywood round (especially since helium-voiced Katie Bernard was going). She sang a fairly decent version of "Something to Talk About," and for a second we thought Simon and Randy would give her a thumbs up, in spite of what Simon called her nasally voice. But in the end, with no female presence to defend her, she, too, got the boot from the boys.

In a bit of a surprise, Paula was the reason that Bernard Williams II almost didn't make it to Hollywood. We liked his performance of Michael Jackson's "Rock With You," as did Simon, who gave him a "100 percent yes." Then Paula said she liked the tone of his voice but that he was totally off key. Luckily for Bernard, he and Randy had a "dawg" moment and he received his Golden Ticket.

There was no such hesitation with Tatiana McConnico, a 17-year-old student attending a performing arts high school, who said she was born to be a singer. She loves the show and the judges loved her version of “I Never Loved a Man,” putting her through easily to Hollywood.

The "I Wannabe Kellie Pickler Sob Story of the Night" award is presented to 17-year-old Jamie Lynn Ward. You see, Jamie Lynn's daddy isn't in prison, he only should be. But he is paralyzed from the neck down ("but it's OK") and po' l'il Jamie Lynn helps her grandma take care of her daddy ("but it's OK"). Apparently, daddy caught stepmommy cheatin', so he shot her. Then he shot himself ("but it's OK"). This backstory was so melodramatic, we wondered whether it was fabricated (but it's OK). And we were incredibly annoyed by her "but it's OKs." OK for whom? Your cheatin' bullet-ridden stepmommy? You're paralyzed from the neck down daddy? You? And yes, we couldn't help wondering who was going to help take care of daddy while Jamie Lynn is Hollywood, a reward she received for an adequate rendition of Christina Aguilera's “Reflection.”

Most enjoyable performance of the evening goes to Chris Sligh, who entertained with his humor as much as with his singing. He did a respectable version of Seal's "Kiss From a Rose." And he was FUN-NY. He said some people say he looks like Jack Osbourne, while others say he looks like Jack Black, but he looks in the mirror and sees Christina Aguilera. When Simon asked him why he was there, he answered that he wanted to make David Hasselhoff cry, in a reference to the big teardrop dripping down Hasselhoff's face after Taylor Hicks won last season. And after he got his Golden Ticket to Hollywood with three "yeses," he said that he won the judges over with his personality: "I just looked at Paula and she crumbled into my chubby little hands."

Could Hollyweird be any weirder than this? Check it out tonight, when the road show moves home to Los Angeles (San Antonio was on the original schedule for tonight).

Love for Idol?

In a move that could only be described as jumping from the frying pan into the fire if true, says that Courtney Love exclusively told the site that Idol executive producer Nigel Lythgoe called her office last week inquiring into whether she would be interested in sitting in as a judge on the hit FOX show.

"He called," Love said. "He was wondering if I was interested. I thought it was kind of weird but brilliant." Love, who is currently in L.A. recording a solo album, declined to reveal any more specific details. But a source told that Lythgoe was considering having Love "replace Paula."

American Idol reps could not immediately be reached for comment.

Alumni News

According to Newsday's Robert Kahn, "Broadway Backwards 2," where singers perform standards traditionally associated with members of the opposite sex, has its second coming Feb. 26. Rosie O’Donnell, Betty Buckley, Bebe Neuwirth, Tony Roberts, Jose Llana, Liz Callaway, Len Cariou and downtown theater legend Charles Busch are already signed on for the gender-bending benefit, to be held at 37 Arts in Manhattan.

Last year’s inaugural concert featured show tunes with a twist, such as Andrea Burns’ rendition of "Maria" from "West Side Story." This time around, expect curiosities such as "I Don’t Know How to Love Him," from "Jesus Christ Superstar," as performed Season 4 American Idol finalist Constantine Maroulis.

The concert, with musical direction by Seth Rudetsky, benefits New York’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center. Tickets are $35 to $250; call 212-307-4100.

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© 2007

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Falling in Idol's Wake

They might have carried guns, but Idol killed them. Variety reports that two weeks into its new season, Idol has resulted in the cancellation of one show and the moving of another. CBS has pulled the comedy-reality series "Armed and Famous" from its schedule effective immediately, while ABC has shifted "The Knights of Prosperity" out of the "Idol" line of fire.

"Knights" will air Wednesdays at 8:30 p.m., with "According to Jim" shifting to 9. "Idol" won't air during the 8-9 p.m. hour for the next three weeks, giving "Knights" a better shot at finding an audience.

Idol managed to destroy a big chunk of the "Armed" audience, which started with solid numbers when it premiered three weeks ago in its 8 p.m. slot. Several unaired episodes remain and are expected to surface over the summer.

Diehard "Armed & Famous" fans can turn to VH1 if they can't go cold turkey. The cable service will run a five-hour marathon this Saturday, including an unaired episode of the Muncie-based series, preceded by the four previously aired episodes. According to the producers, seven episodes of the series were originally scheduled to be made.

A VH1 spokesman told The Star Press on Monday, "If the producers deliver to us the sixth and seventh episodes of the show, then we will air them. As of now, it's unclear whether they are finishing them or not."

VH1 will again run the first five episodes beginning at noon Wednesday, Feb. 7.

What happens in Vegas ...

Teen People reports that the Nevada Ballet Theatre honored Paula Abdul in Las Vegas on Saturday, naming her Woman of the Year. Trying for a little comedy in her acceptance speech, Abdul attempted to poke fun at her allegedly inebriated appearance on a Seattle news station in January. "Don't ever give a swivel stool to someone who's very hyper and active because I will spin and spin and spin."

She also saracastically thanked her Idol castmates. "I couldn't do it without the three men in my life," she said of Randy Jackson, Simon Cowell and Ryan Seacrest, who flanked her. "Every time Randy Jackson opens up his mouth, I look like a Nobel Prize winner. Every time Simon Cowell opens his mouth, Borat sounds like a Nobel Prize winner ... Ryan, I really do love him; almost as much as he loves himself ... These three brothers are the best thing a girl can hope for, just ask my therapists."

Season 5 finalist Chris Daughtry, who has the current No. 1 album on the Billboard charts, was on hand to serenade his former judge with two acoustic songs.

It's Just His Day Job

Simon Cowell own an iPod? Nope! Listening to music is his
day job, and Celebrity quotes Cowell as saying he can go great lengths of time without listening to music for enjoyment. "[I can] go weeks without listening to music for pleasure, " Cowell said. "If you work at a fish and chip shop, it's unlikely you're going to eat fish and chips at night. The idea of sitting in an audition room for 14 hours then putting on my iPod -- it's like, 'No! I can't do it.' "

A Cingular sensation

According to PR Newswire, Cingular will try to keep your fingers texting those Idol votes by offering subscribers access to some of the most outrageous moments from the show directly from their mobile phones.

"We are pleased to make highlights from this season's audition shows available to fans on their wireless phones, so they can relive their favorite moments as often as they like, whenever they like," said John Burbank, vice president, wireless marketing, AT&T.

For the next three weeks, the Cingular Video library will feature up to 10 new clips of Idols that didn't make the cut. To access these Bad Audition video clips, consumers need a 3G phone, such as the SYNC from Samsung or the Samsung Blackjack, and sign up for the $19.99 MEdia MAX Bundle, which includes unlimited Cingular Video.

In addition to the video content, Bad Audition ringtones ($2.49 each) and Answer Tones ($1.99, in addition to a monthly service charge of $0.99.) are also available.

Throughout the season, AT&T's wireless unit, which generated more than 64.5 million Idol text messages last season, will be introducing new Idol-themed content as well as favorites such as Idol Chat, Idol Trivia, Live Idol Tones and more. Click here for more information on Idol mobile happenings.

Gambling on an Idol payoff

WCNC-TV says that parents are questioning the appropriateness of "American Idol" scratch-off lottery tickets available for purchase in South Carolina. The prizes include cash and tickets to the "American Idol" finale.

When the station showed the new lottery tickets to several parents in Fort Mill on Monday most did not like what they saw. Judy Clark, who has 12 grandchildren, said, "It looks like 'American Idol' is sponsoring it, and kids would be drawn to it. I don't think it's right; you need something else."

Bruce White said his 11-year-old daughter loves "American Idol," and if she saw the tickets in the store, she would ask him to buy them. "I believe the kids would want their parents to buy those tickets because it says 'American Idol,' and it could get them in the habit of buying tickets," said White.

The South Carolina Lottery, however, said its "American Idol" scratch-off tickets do not target kids and pointed to the show's demographics. The show's own research shows 90 percent of its audience is between 18 and 50 years old. The South Carolina Lottery also noted that a person must be 18 in order to buy a ticket.

Delaware, California and Michigan are other states that also sell "American Idol" lottery tickets.

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© 2007

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Unrevealed Golden Ticket Winners

You must check out this Seattle audition video for 28-year-old former boy-band singer Tom Lowe singing Luther Vandross' "Always and Forever." This good-looking great-sounding Brit could be the next American Idol. The audition and interview clip was shown on ITV in England, but never in the States.

... The Cincinnati Enquirer reports that after nine
auditions, Robert V. Hatcher of Westwood finally got a Golden Ticket to Hollywood after his Birmingham and Memphis auditions. "I've been looking for a break into the entertainment business for years," says Hatcher, music minister for the First Baptist Church of Hartwell and a playwright, director, producer and entrepreneur.

He sang "Ordinary People" by John Legend, his favorite singer, and Frank Sinatra's "My Way" for judges Simon Cowell, Paula Abdul and Randy Jackson. Although he made it through in Memphis he wasn't shown auditioning, but Hatcher said that he's confident he'll be on TV when the Birmingham auditions are featured tomorrow night because, "Something happens with one of the judges." He revealed that Paula Abdul "... danced with me, and she usually doesn't do that. I'm pretty sure they'll air that," he said. Contestants are prohibited from revealing too many details before the show airs, but Hatcher said he flew out to the Hollywood round taping before Thanksgiving. The top 24 semifinalists will be announced on the Feb. 14 broadcast. "This is the chance of a lifetime. I have a real sense of achievement that I've finally made it," he says.






... Congratulations to Jennifer Hudson on her win at the SAG Awards. Hudson won outstanding female actor in a supporting role for her performance as R&B singer Effie White, who is forced into a back-up position in "Dreamgirls." Her castmate Eddie Murphy won the SAG Award for outstanding male actor in a supporting role for his performance as a struggling R&B singer. The pair also won Golden Globe Awards two weeks ago and are nominated for Oscars for their performances.

... Reality TV Magazine reports that Season 4 runner-up Bo Bice is rumored to no longer be with RCA Records. Even though Bice’s debut record “The Real Thing” went gold, the album met with some criticism because it had a decidedly pop flavor and little of the Southern Rock style that made Bo Bice famous on American Idol. A 2006 tour to promote Bice’s first record was also cut short last year due to Bice needing intestinal surgery.

Some 5,000 fans petitioned RCA Records to allow Bice to record more original songs on his second album. In late December Bice's publicist, when questioned about whether Bice was still with RCA, quickly responded that Bo Bice was “still with RCA.” However, Bice does not currently appear on the artist roster list on the official RCA Records Web site. Reality TV Magazine contacted Bice’s publicist today to ask why Bo Bice was not listed on the official RCA Records Web site and to ask if he was officially no longer with RCA Records. This time Bice’s publicist responded with “No comment.” We confirmed that Bice's name is not on the roster, however his picture still appears in a slideshow on the site of their artists.

... According to Digital Spy, Joss Stone has revealed that she turned down an offer to appear as a guest judge on American Idol.The 19-year-old singer was invited on to the show by Simon Cowell but refused because she is opposed to the "cruel" nature of TV talent searches."I find these shows far too cruel," Joss told The People. "Music should be allowed to develop naturally."

... Celebrity says that Scottish singer KT Tunstall credits Katharine McPhee with making her famous outside the UK. Tunstall insists hardly anyone knew who she was outside Britain until Season 5 runner-up McPhee sang her hit "Black Horse and the Cherry Tree" on one of the shows.

Tunstall says, "When she sang the song less than one per sent of Americans knew it. "Now I have people at my gigs going, 'I heard Katherine McPhee sing your song and I love your album." Of her second album, second album, due out later this year, Tunstall said, "I can't wait. It's faster and more mysterious."

... The Grand Rapids Press reports that seventh-place Season 5 finalist Ace Young performed for nearly 1,200 fans in Van Andel Arena on Saturday during the first intermission of the Grand Rapids Griffins hockey game.

"I'm singing 'Scattered,' my first single, and 'Dream On' by Aerosmith," Young said. "I want my fans to know you can always dream for the future."

As much as the Denver native is thrilled about performing and writing music with Desmond Child for a forthcoming album, his greatest joy is in giving back through his charitable efforts. "On my Web site, I feature some kids with cancer, and one of them, McKenzie, is 3, and she just relapsed and needs a bone marrow transplant," he said. "To see so many of my fans get tested to see if they are a match is amazing."

Because of his brother's car accident 10 years ago, Young is especially sensitive to the needs of families with hospitalized children. Along with his fan club, Highrollers with Heart, Young has raised more then $80,000 for a "family amenities" area at Denver Children's Hospital.

... From MJ's Big Blog, some upcoming appearances by Idol alumni:

Monday January 29
Katharine McPhee
is Jay Leno’s guest on the Tonight Show, 11:35 p.m/Ch. 4

Tuesday January 30
Ruben Studdard
appears at the B.B. King’s Blues Club and Grill in NYC. Show starts at 8 pm. Click here for tickets.

Wednesday January 31
Katharine McPhee
promotes her new CD on NBC’s Today Show.

Thursday February 1
Katharine McPhee
performs on Live with Regis and Kelly.
Katharine McPhee guest stars on the ABC sitcom Ugly Betty. 8 pm/Ch. 7.
Fantasia Barrino opens for Jamie Foxx at the Amway Arena in Orlando, FL. 8 PM. Check for tickets here.
Taylor Hicks appears on the Dr. Phil show.
Clay Aiken appears on ABC’s Good Morning America to discuss his work with UNICEF. 7-9am/Ch. 7

Friday February 2
Fantasia Barrino opens for Jamie Foxx at the BankAtlantic Center in Sunrise FL. Check here for tickets.
Katharine McPhee walks the runway for National Wear Red Day, part of the Mercedes Benz Fashion Week. The show starts at 11 am in the Tent at the Sixth Street entrance to Bryant Park.

Saturday February 3
Katharine McPhee
’s video for her single “Over It” will be featured on VH1’s Top 20 Countdown this morning at 9 a.m.
Kimberly Caldwell performs and signs autographs at the International News & Record Auto Show from 1pm to 4pm at the Greensboro Coliseum in Greensboro, N.C.

Monday February 5
Diana Degarmo
guests on Spike TV’s Casino Cinema
Katharine McPhee appears on MTV’s Total Request Live at 3:30 pm.
Katharine McPhee appears on the FOX Morning show.

Tuesday February 6
Katharine McPhee sings her new single on the CBS Early Show
Katharine McPhee guests on the Rachel Ray show.

Wednesday February 7
Katharine McPhee performs on Jimmy Kimmel Live, ABC 12:05/Ch. 7.

Thursday February 8
Katharine McPhee appears on Larry King Live; CNN, 9 p.m.

Sunday February 11
Carrie Underwood
performs on the 49th Annual Grammy Awards; 8 p.m., CBS/2.

Wednesday February 14
Clay Aiken
performs on Jimmy Kimmel Live, ABC
Jon Peter Lewis performs at the Kelly Lounge in Bakersfield, Calif.

Sunday February 18
Kelly Clarkson performs at the Daytona 500 in Florida.

Saturday, February 24
Kimberly Caldwell
, Ace Young and Lisa Tucker appear at the Hollywood Lights a benefit in Woodlands Texas.

Sunday February 25
The 79th Annual Academy Awards will be broadcast on ABC 8 p.m. Jennifer Hudson is nominated for Best Supporting Actress for her role as Effie White in “Dreamgirls.”

Friday, March 9
Bucky Covington
appears on the Grand Old Opry in Nashville, Tenn.

Friday March 23
Chris Daughtry performs a free concert in Greensboro, NC. Gates open at 7 pm. Check here for more information.

Chris Daughtry tour schedule
Taylor Hicks tour schedule
Kellie Pickler tour schedule
Josh Gracin tour schedule

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© 2007