Wednesday, April 30, 2008

American Idol:
The Top 5 Results Show

Bottom Two:
Syesha Mercado ("Hello Again," "Thank the Lord for the Night Time")
Brooke White ("I'm a Believer," "I Am ... I Said")

Brooke White

Syesha Mercado probably has good reason to thank the lord for the night time, because he once again saved her during last night's "American Idol" elimination show. If we are to believe what "Idol's" producers would like us to (but we don't), Mercado has now been in the Bottom 2 or 3 five times this season -- more than any other contestant, even Kristy Lee Cook (who last night watched the show from the audience) -- yet has continued to emerge unscathed. Her endurance nearly parallels that of Kimberley Locke (who performed on the show a few weeks ago) during Season 2, who also placed in the Bottom 2 or 3 five times before making it to third-place finisher in 2003, as Ruben Studdard and Clay Aiken advanced to the finale. Don't be surprised to see a repeat of that this year. Jason Castro will very likely fall to wayside next week as Mercado, David Cook and David Archuleta move forward to the Top 3, followed by the David-David finale that everybody has predicted for weeks now.

Last night Brooke White joined the list of elimi-
nated finalists. The blonde folkster, who at the beginning of the season was projected by many to make it all the way to the finale, began to tear up even before host Ryan Seacrest said her name. She collapsed into tears murmuring "yes" as he pronounced her the contestant going home this week. As her sad-faced husband watched from the audience, Seacrest, and then Mercado embraced White as she sobbed. Her tears were still flowing after her "journey video." She dabbed at her eyes, then Seacrest swabbed her damp face, as she thanked everyone. Her tears continued during her reprise of Neil Diamond's "I Am ... I Said," as the remaining four finalists surrounded her onstage and David Cook came forward and briefly placed a hand on her back to show his support. For us, it was the saddest departure to date this season and our eyes welled up watching it.

Watch video of Bottom 2 and elimination of Brooke White:

At the top of the show, Seacrest said that the finalists had received more than 45 million votes this week. Next, it was on the Top 5 singing a medley of Neil Diamond songs. Don't know whether it was the songs or the finalists, but it was awful this week, the worst medley of the season. Perhaps the lack of Carly Smithson's strong voice was a factor. We couldn't wait for it to end.

Watch video of Top 5 Neil Diamond group medley:

Back from commercial, Seacrest walking through the audience introduced this season's new "American Idol Extra" hosts, Season 6 finalist Gina Glocksen and Season 4 finalist Constantine Maroulis, but then walked right past Season 5 finalist Ace Young, though the camera did give Young a lot of face time. Seacrest also mentioned the "rumors" about Paula Abdul on the Internet, but never addressed the previous day's gaffe by the "Idol" judge. He only said the rumors weren't true (which ones?) and brushed the entire incident under what by now must be "Idol's" crowded carpet, saying Abdul's still part of the "Idol" family and that they love her. Hopefully one day someone will roll up that carpet and expose all the lies the producers have hidden under it. Are you listening Nigel Lythgoe? You can't keep everyone quiet forever. Sooner or later someone who knows everything we're not supposed to know is going to open their mouth about the dirty little games that go on behind the scenes of this so-called "reality" series named "American Idol."

To get our minds off what he had just said buried, Seacrest rushed right into the results, calling first Jason Castro, who sounded lucid for the first time all year, onstage. The night's first (staged) surprise was when Castro was sent to safety on the couch. The second was when David Archuleta followed him there. The producers better think carefully before they crown their boy wonder. He'll be a disaster in interviews. He can barely put together a sentence and when he succeeds at that he breaks down in giggles like a 12-year-old.

Next was an interminably long pimp video for Nigel Lythgoe's "So You Think You Can Dance." Hey, we love the show and have seen every episode, but is there no end to the newly long-haired Lythgoe's greed? That promo was longer than the elimination segment. Bleech! And as if that wasn't enough self-promotional commercial filler, we next learned that Ryan Lessnow won the design-your-own Coca-Cola cup, which Randy Jackson modeled for everyone.

Back to the results. Seacrest calls out David Cook. Are they going to shock us and lie that he was in the Bottom 2? No, they'll save that lie for Syesha Mercado, who scored the highest number of votes according to Now, we concede that the Web site's tally could have been a bit inaccurate, but there was no way Mercado was in the Bottom 2, not when for the past two weeks the Web site has correctly predicted the contestant who received the least amount of votes (Carly Smithson and then Brooke White). If anyone doesn't believe that the show's producers lie about the results and stage certain events on the show, they are on drugs or in denial. Never forget: This is not considered a game show, it is considered a reality show, which means it is classed by the FCC as a script-based program and the producers can LEGALLY manipulate or change the voting results without consequence. Don't believe it? Record a segment of the show and read the teeny-tiny print at the very end.

In an amusing turn, Ryan ask David C. his reaction to Paula calling him the next American Idol. David answered that the first thing he thought about was what Simon said to Carly Smithson the week before about it being the kiss of death. A bit of comic relief before David joins the other two remaining male finalists on the couch. That left Syesha and Brooke as the Bottom 2. After chatting "the girls," up, Ryan tells them to have a seat for now, as they have other business to take care of first. As Brooke departs, she says that's fine, they'll stay as long as they can. Even Ryan cracks up at that.

Then it's time for the Star Who Just Released a New CD filler. Up at bat, Natasha Bedingfield performing the single "Pocketful of Sunshine" from her new album of the same name. As these things go, she wasn't bad, nor was the song. We'll give it another listen. After her performance she asks to go to couch and sit next to Archuleta. Ryan suggests David take her to the prom. He goes into giggle mode. Perhaps the sandbox would be more appropriate.

Watch video of Natasha Bedingfield singing "Pocketful of Sunshine":

And yet more filler. The stupid viewer call-in Q&A, which actually got good at the end, but not before we found out why Paula is the only judge that always gives contestants a break and whether Paula is going to do another video with Randy. The last question is from Tara (age 46) who asks Simon what was more memorable, kissing Paula or kissing her at the age of 9 in his backyard? Simon blushes, especially after she convinces him she really is the Tara Miller that he kissed when he was 9. Ryan asks Tara if Simon was a good kisser and she hems and haws. Simon reminds her that he was only 9 and didn't have a massive amount of experience. Paula wonders if she is over the rabies yet? Tara jokes that she has had a lot of therapy. Simon wonders if she is still cute? Tara tells Simon that he has aged well and she thinks she has, too. Simon, apparently smitten by the whole thing, tells everyone that Tara really was the first girl he ever kissed and that she was his first crush. Ryan promises that they will get to exchange phone numbers and then does a public service announcement warning kids not to start kissing at age 9.

Watch video of Q&A with Tara Miller, the first girl Simon kissed and his first crush:

Coming back from the break we watch the Ford commercial with the Top 5 singing "Catch the Wind" in an environmentally correct Earth Week-ish video featuring a Ford hybrid car and the Idols magically restoring green to the Earth while getting rid of garbage and environmentally bad things.

Watch video of the making of the Ford commercial "Catch the Wind":

Watch video of Top 5 Ford commercial "Catch the Wind":

Finally, the week's mentor, Neil Diamond, performed "Pretty Amazing Grace" from his forthcoming CD, due out on May 6, as his mom watched from the audience. After he sang, Ryan chatted with him. Diamond said the judges were a bit harsh on the contestants, that the contestants should ignore Simon, and that if they love what they are doing they should never stop ... never.

Watch video of Neil Diamond singing "Pretty Amazing Grace":

Next week, the remaining four finalists will each sing music from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The results show will feature live appearances by Maroon 5 and Season 4 runner-up Bo Bice.


After that Q&A, People magazine located Tara and interviewed her. She chatted with PEOPLE about the fateful pucker.

"He'd taken me to the bottom of his garden," said Tara, whose last name is now McDonald-Smith. "It was very cute and it was very memorable. We were just kids. We didn't know what we were doing!"

As for who made the first move, Cowell's former neighbor in Radlett, Hertfordshire swears she can't remember.

"Really, I can't," McDonald-Smith insisted. "In those days there was like three channels on the television, there were no computers. We used to play spin the bottle ... and I got him a lot of the time. It was all good."

So what prompted her to reach out after all these years? "I saw him on American Idol and [I thought] wow, that's amazing," she explained. "It was just one of those 'This is Your Life'-type situations, and I thought I'd go for it. I hope I didn't embarrass him."

And, for the record, McDonald-Smith is not at all surprised that her childhood pal turned out to be TV's favorite Mr. Nasty.

Even back then "he was pretty forthcoming and said what he thought," recalled the single mom, who has three sons Connor, 17, Rory, 16, Liam, 11. "He was not too different than he is today."

Now that they've reconnected, the North California-based sales manager would welcome an in-person reunion.

"I'd love to meet up with him. I seriously would," she said. "We were good friends... and I think it would be great fun."

e-mail Idol Addict
© 2008

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

American Idol Top 5 Perform
These Diamonds Not Flawless

Watercooler buzz no doubt tomorrow will center on two things: Who's leaving "Idol" Wednesday night and what the hell was in Paula Abdul's Coke cup Tuesday night? Even though she did not appear inebriated or drugged, for the first time this season she was really making no sense. How so? How about reviewing a performance before it had even occurred! You see, the producers had to squeeze so many performances into the hour show (each contestant sang two selections) that they decided to save time by having the judges only critique each singer after their second song. Then they broke their own rule.

After the Top 5 all sang their first songs, Ryan Seacrest called all 5 finalists out on stage and quickly went to the judges to get an overview of Round 1. But Randy Jackson gave mini critiques to each performer. Following Jackson's lead, Paula started to critique Jason's TWO songs (remember he had only sung one at that point). Randy mumbled to her, "just on the first song, just on the first one," and Paula looked even more stupid and disoriented when she blurted out, "OMIGOD, I thought you sang twice." You could tell Ryan was getting flak through his earpiece as this was going on, and he said to her, "Just once. But Paula, you're seeing the future, baby, you're seeing the future. He's coming back." Paula: "This is hard!"

Simon Cowell tried to get things back on track by repeatedly asking Abdul, "But who is your favorite? Who is your favorite?" while Randy was telling her "Pick a person." It was ridiculous. You can see this mess at the end of the Syesha Mercado video of "Hello Again."

Of course, the Internet forum boards are crazy with theories on the Paula business this morning. Some are saying it's proof that "Idol" is rigged (ya mean ya didn't know that yet?) and that the producers tell the judges in advance what to say about each contestant. Others are saying that the judges took notes on the dress rehearsal performances, which they don't even have to attend. It's been written in many places that Cowell watches tapes of the dress rehearsals in his trailer and doesn't even pay attention to the telecast performances, especially because with all the noise in the studio he can barely hear them anyway. Last week Simon loved that because the show airs live America got to see it when Brooke stumbled on her lyrics then stopped and restarted her song. This week we love that because the show airs live Paula stumbled on her prewritten appraisals and reviewed a performance that hadn't even occurred yet.

Neil Diamond mentored the Top 5 this week and they all sang two selections from his impressively large catalog. We actually hated the tone of the whole show. Trying to fit 10 performances into 60 minutes was way too much. The show felt rushed and uncomfortable. Instead of feeling entertained, we felt like we were in a race and couldn't catch our breath. It was very unsettling.

Jason Castro performed
"Forever in Blue Jeans" and "September Morn." We wish we could say that he was phoning in the performances, but there wasn't enough enthusiasm to believe he even dialed the phone. Castro seemed even more bored performing than we were watching him. At least people singing karaoke in a bar seem to care what the crowd thinks about them. Jason acts as if he doesn't. Case in point, when he was rehearsing with Diamond, he not only forgot his lyrics, he brought the wrong lyrics for the song he was singing. What a stoner. After his second performance his excuse for his lousy singing was he had started choking right before he went on and it screwed him up. Uh-huh. If he isn't kicked off tonight it really will be a travesty, especially when he should have been given the boot last week. How can those silly girls keep voting him back just because of his dreadlocks and blue eyes? Even Sanjaya Malakar was gone by now last year.

After Castro's first performance Randy had said, "It was just OK. Better than last week, just OK." After his second performance, Jackson said, "Dude, look check it out man ... that was just another OK whatever performance for me. Definitely not the best." Paula said after Round 1, "Jason, the first song I loved hearing your lower register, which we never really hear. Your second song, um, I felt like your usual charm was missing for me. It kinda left me a little empty. And the two songs made me feel that you're not fighting hard enough to get into the Top 4." After Jason actually performed song two she said, "I felt you took kind of the same liberty on both songs, now. And I feel like it's safe, and you need to get outside your comfort zone. Come on! Come on! Fight. Fight." After Round 1 Simon told Jason he was forgettable. After Round 2, Cowell said, "Oh Jason, come on, we don't recognize you at the moment. For the last two weeks, this is not the Jason we put into the competition. There was no attempt to make the arrangement your own. You struggled through both songs, they were both, in my opinion, forgettable and I think you're going to look back at tonight and go, 'I don't know who this person is.' " (we do, a L-O-S-E-R)

Watch video of Jason Castro singing "Forever in Blue Jeans":

Watch video of Jason Castro singing "September Morn":

David Cook selected two of Diamond's more obscure entries, "I'm Alive" and the even more obscure "All I Really Need Is You." Although the judges greatly preferred his second song to the first, we thought they were both just OK. Unless the studio versions are very much better than what we saw last night, we won't be dialing them up much on our iPod. Which is not to say they were bad, we've just seen David Cook shine so fiercely in the past few weeks (and before) that, for us, these performances paled by comparison. Perhaps this week for him it did come down to song choice and we were less than thrilled with his.

For Round 1, Randy told him, "Very good, in the zone, very strong, doing your thing." After Round 2, he said, "You rocked the house again tonight ... blazing! blazing! blazing!" After her Jason blunder, Paula tried to say that she had mixed up David's notes with Jason's, with this attempted lousy save, "You know what, it's your notes, David, you were fantastic (although the notes she had just read were negative, what an idiot!) and it was a song that wasn't known." After the second song, she told him, "David I'm so proud of you. You not only picked two songs that are less familiar than Neil Diamond's hits, you are the only one that was able to pull that off. I feel like I'm already looking at the American Idol." Simon pronounced Round 1 "just above average" and said after Round 2, "I thought the first song was OK, I thought the second song was brilliant. You actually made it feel like that song was written this year, and that was the point I was trying to make to Jason. You changed the arrangement, you made it work for you. That was smart. Well done."

Watch video of David Cook singing "I'm Alive":

Watch video of David Cook singing "All I Really Need Is You":

Brooke White, surprisingly chose "I'm a Believer," and, not so surprisingly, "I Am ... I Said." She accompanied herself on guitar for the former and piano on the latter. Her second song worked fairly well. The best that could be said about her first is that at least she was having a good time -- even if we weren't. For us, her performance of "I'm a Believer," originally written by Diamond for The Monkees, was reminiscent of Brooke's Top 10 performance of The Beatles' "Here Comes the Sun," wearing her yellow banana dress. It was pretty much a disaster and looked like something from a kid's party. We imagine that's what nanny Brooke is like with the twins she used to take care of. We were waiting for Barney to come onstage next. Maybe Brooke's just not meant to sing happy songs professionally. However, her take on "I Am ... I Said" was earnest and heartfelt. We wished she hadn't taken Diamond's suggestion to change "New York" to "Arizona" in the song to "make it her own." It not only didn't make it her own, it sounded awkward and stupid with the rest of the lyrics, which say:
Well I'm New York City born and raised
But nowadays, I'm lost between two shores
L.A.'s fine, but it ain't home
New York's home, but it ain't mine no more

Arizona and L.A. are hardly between two shores. Oh, well. He was the mentor. Otherwise her second performance, though not her best of the season, returned her to the mode which she does do best. That she is at the bottom of this week is wrong. No one was worse than Jason. In fact, Brooke was no worse than David Archuleta. She and David should be tied for the second position in the Bottom 2.

On the first go-round, Randy told Brooke, "Better than last week. Still a little karaoke for me." After her second song, he told her, "Nice job." Paula, who didn't comment on Brooke during Round 1, decided to make up for it by acting like she was back on drugs with her appraisal during Round 2. We saw Simon whisper something to Paula just before she spoke and suspect he told her to say this, because it made absolutely no sense and he loves planting non sequiturs in the head of his favorite thimblebrain just before she speaks. Paula said, "Brooke, I think that what you just did, as opposed to the first song, I felt like you did have fun, but it was right after 'American Idol Gives Back' (?????? HUH ?????? ) and there was that whole video with 'I'm a Believer' (yeah, so, what did that have to do with anything?), but this, when you come back here with this song, it does show your vulnerability, it is how you connect with the audience. Everyone loves who you are and that works. Works, works works." Aspirin please. Simon initially called her first song "a nightmare." After song two, he said, "Brooke, I really, really hated the first song, because it was sort of like a girls' night out at a karaoke bar, wasn't it? But this, this is the Brooke we like, sitting behind the piano, singing a very good song. It wasn't incredible, but it was a million times better than the first song. Well done."

Watch video of Brooke White singing "I'm a Believer":

Watch video of Brooke White singing "I Am ... I Said":

We're pretty sure that David Archuleta's now infamous dad, Jeff, is fairly quaking in his boots, as his prodigy -- or as Paula amusingly called him "savant" -- son slips from "the one to beat," to the Bottom 3, as David Cook and now Syesha Mercado race ahead of him. And, we think, it's probably all Daddy Dearest's fault. The past two weeks Archuleta has been shaking up the arrangements of the songs he's sung, -- a la David Cook -- a deed, we're sure, that can be attributed to daddy, who fancies himself a musician. Only thing is, it hasn't been working. His first song, "Sweet Caroline" was so messed up, it was barely recognizable and nowhere as good as the original. Archuleta's second song, stolen straight from the Kristy Lee Cook patriotic playbook, was "America," and even this was manipulated, with David singing "let freedom ring" at the end, which doesn't exist in the Neil Diamond lyrics. If you believe DialIdol's stats though, it not only didn't rally the troops, it didn't even rally the country's Conservatives behind little Davy this week. Truth be told you could hear a better version of the song at Disney World. Ha! Back off Daddy Dearest.

Of course, Randy who totally pimps Archuleta every week, good or bad, said after Round 1, "Da bomb. Brilliant" Later, he told him, "You are definitely in the zone right now. Another good performance, baby." After Round 2, Paula told him, "This was the absolute perfect song for you to sing. David, your voice is so on point. I just want to see that joy, and that spirit, and that prodigy and that little (idiot?) savant I used to see. I love you, I love you. You were brilliant. Have fun. Simon told David after Round 1, "I thought it was amateurish." After Round 2, almost repeating word for word what he had told Kristy Lee Cook weeks earlier after she sang Lee Greenwood's "God Bless the USA," Cowell said, "Well, David, that was a smart choice of song. I've got to hand it to you, that was clever. It ticked all boxes, didn't it? ... it was absolutely the right choice."

Watch video of David Archuleta singing "Sweet Caroline":

Watch video of David Archuleta singing "America":

The most pleasant surprise of the evening was Syesha Mercado, who is blossoming into a consummate performer after dragging her feet for the better part of the competition. She not only has come into her own, she arguably had the two best performances of the evening, beginning with the tender and evocative "Hello Again," which was followed by her expressive and rousing, get-on-your-feet-and-clap-your- hands rendition of "Thank the Lord for the Night Time." Although we had never heard the latter, after the show we listened to Diamond's version and, believe it or not, Mercado's version kills Neil's version. No wonder Diamond was so enthusiastic about Syesha in the video. Voters at, where she sits in the No. 1 position, apparently agreed with us. It's an astounding accomplishment, especially at this point in the competition. In all honesty, we thought she'd be eliminated this week. If she is, well, the producers will outright prove the competition is rigged. A final note: Syesha looked stunning last night. The lady seems to get more beautiful every week.

After her first performance, Randy told her, "You [sic] definitely kind of in the zone, too. I thought it was strong. It was very nice vocals. It was strong, it wasn't amazing, but it was strong." Later, he said, "I think you [sic] finally realizing who you are. I think we've been saying it all along. That is also in the zone. I mean, that could have been in some play, it could have been on Broadway, it's still that carry over for me and I like you in this. This is where I like you." Paula said, "I didn't get to say anything on the first song you sang (well, you should have been lucid), so I want to say quickly, first song: I thought that that vulnerable side, as I always say, that touch to your voice, is always beautiful and that's your magic. Having said that, on your second song, it shows a whole different side and that's your performance theater theatrical place, and then when you're pop singing you could be a toss-up between Corinne Bailey Rae and Minnie Ripperton. You've got that softness in your voice." After Round 1, Simon told Syesha "I thought it was old-fashioned." After Round 2, he said, "I think what you demonstrated there again Syesha is that you are a very good actress/singer. I think, however, you may be in trouble tonight." This had all the earmarks of the producers having Simon say that because they planned to eliminate her, especially when Syesha asked him why, and he answered, "I'll tell you why. Because there's only five of you left, so it was a calculated guess. I don't think you had a really memorable second song, like some of the others tonight." Who? Like Jason? Give us a break. That was a total BS setup to eliminate her and then say, "See? Simon predicted it." Hopefully, the results will force the producers to do the right thing. Especially once they realize that Syesha's a marketable commodity -- way more so than Jason and/or Brooke. Usually their noses for $$$$ lead the way, so hopefully Syesha is safe.

Watch video of Syesha Mercado singing "Hello Again":

Watch video of Syesha Mercado singing "Thank the Lord for the Night Time":

Best: Syesha Mercado
Worst: Jason Castro
Bottom Two: Jason and Brooke/David Archulta (tie)

e-mail Idol Addict
© 2008

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

American Idol:
The Top 6 Results Show

Bottom Two:
Syesha Mercado ("One Rock 'n' Roll Too Many")
Carly Smithson ("Jesus Christ Superstar")

Carly Smithson

Watch video of Carly Smithson being eliminated:

Before the opening number, in which the Top 6 do a rather tepid ren-
dition (though the girls were better than the boys) of "All I Ask of You" from "Phantom of the Opera" (now we know why they wouldn't let Carly do the song) accompanied by Lord Andrew Lloyd Webber on the piano, host extraodinaire Ryan Seacrest tells us than more than 38 million votes were received (all wrong, appararently). He then introduces Randy Jackson by gripping his shoulders, Paula Abdul with a kiss on the cheek and Simon Cowell, also with a kiss, perhaps trying to reignite the are they/aren't they gay controversy we've heard so little of this season.

Watch video of Top 6 singing "All I Ask of You" with Andrew Lloyd Webber:

It's time to pimp the Idols Live '08 tour for the first time this season. This year, it launches in Jordin Sparks' hometown, Glendale, Ariz., on July 1st, then travels to 48 other cities. Considering last year's poor box-office receipts, perhaps the Idol folks feel more comfortable launching the tour in a rock-solid Idol town where they can almost certainly be sure of a soldout venue. We are also advised that voting for the songwriting contest ends tonight -- as if our votes mean anything, everyone knows the producers will pick the songwriter they want to work with -- before we go into the recap of Tuesday's show.

Watch recap of Tuesday night's show:

Ryan reintroduces Webber, and they chat about singing for TV vs. the stage. Ryan also asks Webber about Brooke White restarting her song, saying it was the first time it ever happened on "Idol." Er, except that it was the second time Brooke, alone, did it this season. Perhaps Ryan has short-term memory loss, but someone should replay him the video of White's "Every Breath I Take" performance. Webber defends her actions (at this point we're smelling a rat and beginning to assume she's safe), saying that even the best people lose their way, and that Brooke's a talented girl. He also said it was really a shame because in the dress rehearsal White was flawless. Moving on to Jason Castro, Webber said he probably wouldn't take his advice no matter what he said. (Do we smell the scent of a second setup here?). Perhaps because we're not going to suffer through the lame viewer Q&A tonight, Ryan finally asked Webber if he wrote a love song for Paula and Simon, what would he call it? Webber offers "Time to Say Goodbye" or "How Can I Miss You If You Won't Go Away?" Simon prefers the former title. The Ford commercial features David Archuleta as a cartoonist drawing the Top 6 as punk characters to Soft Cell's "Tainted Love." Somewhere, Danny Noriega is no doubt laughing with a finger "L" against his forehead and mouthing, "LOSERS." Maybe he'll make a video of it.

Watch Ford video "Tainted Love":

We next have to endure The President and Mrs. Bush thanking the producers for raising $65 million through "Idol Gives Back." Of course, this is played pretty low key as the show was a half-hour longer than last year's production, yet netted $11 million LESS (the ratings were also down in the millions compared to last year) and after the producers said they were aiming for $100 million, or $24 million MORE than last year's $76 million total. With those disappointing numbers don't be surprised if "Idol Gives Back" disappears next year (after all, the show is also about raising money for the producers) or is relegated to solely a Web drive.

On to the results. Ryan calls the Davids -- Archuleta and Cook, who resembled Wally and the Beaver as they entered the stage -- out first. Did anyone think they weren't safe? C'mon. Seacrest asks David Cook why he decided not to rearrange "Music of the Night," and David tells him that he keeps hearing words like predictable, and thought the most unpredictable thing would be to do the song as it was written. Ryan sends them to the couch and tells they'll be working with Neil Diamond next week.

It's now time for the "Where Are They Now" former "Idol" contestant segment, focusing on Broadway. Ryan mentions Diana DeGarmo, Fantasia and LaKisha (who was also in the audience), but the video features Tamyra Gray in "Rent" and Clay Aiken in "Spamalot." Gray looks better than in her "Idol" years, but Clay is becoming decidely middle-aged looking, especially in that Mr. Rogers outfit.

Watch "where are they now" video of Tamyra Gray and Clay Aiken:

Putting off the results even longer, Simon Cowell gets to pimp his "discovery" Leona Lewis, guaranteeing that her CD and single hold steady on the Billboard charts and make him even more $$$. Is it us, or is "Bleeding Love" the most boring No. 1 song EVAH? We needed a transfusion by the time it ended. Is this the reason Clive Davis got booted from Sony/BMG again, since he co-manages Lewis with Cowell?

Watch video of Simon Cowell discovery Leona Lewis singing "Bleeding Love":

Finally, we're back to the only thing anyone watching cared about -- the results. Ryan calls out Syesha Mercado and Brooke White, and goes into how well Syesha performed, while Brooke, well, screwed up, making us all think Mercado is safe and White is stool-bound. Surprise (was it really? we've come to know the games the producers play), Brooke is safe and Syesha is in the Bottom 2. Boo! Hiss! Next we play the same game with Carly Smithson and Jason Castro. Ryan talks about how Simon loved Carly's performance, while Randy called Jason's a train-wreck and Simon said he looked like a kid being forced by his parents to perform a song he didn't like at a wedding. Who's safe? Why, Jason, of course. Ryan tells us that Carly and Syesha will perform encores of their numbers, after which one will be sent home. On the couch, Brooke seems weepy and upset about being saved once again while someone more worthy is in danger, while Jason, with a dopey smile on his face (when isn't there?) looks as if he's thinking "Whoa, man, that was close, where's the weed?" When Ryan asks the judges if America got it right, Simon says that after watching the show back he thinks Brooke survived because she made herself human (no, actually, Simon you saved her when you said that you, too, would have stopped and restarted the song), while Jason wasn't good but he was charming.

Watch video of Carly Smithson reprising "Jesus Christ Superstar" and Syesha Mercado reprising "One Rock 'n' Roll Too Many":

After Carly and Syesha sing, Ryan asks Randy about the voting this week. Randy says it was a bit of a popularity contest, while Paula tells the women she has never seen more relaxation and joy at this stage. Carly answers that she and Syesha are roommates. Well, not anymore. Ryan tells Carly she is going home, and, to be honest, she looks happy about it. Ryan wants to give Simon and Carly one last time to talk things out, and Simon apologizes to Smithson for complimenting her the night before, calling it the kiss of death. He tells her to leave with her head held high. Carly says she's not upset about going home and that she has had the best time. We believe her.

Next week, Neil Diamond mentors the Top 5.

e-mail Idol Addict
© 2008

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

American Idol Top 6 Perform
Music of the Night

"Blaming it all on the nights on Broadway
Singin' them love songs,
Singin' them straight to the heart songs.
Blamin' it all on the nights on Broadway
Singin' them sweet sounds
To that crazy, crazy town."

-- The Bee Gees' "Nights on Broadway"

The Top 6 met their greatest challenge of the season to date, singing not only the sounds of Broadway, but specifically the sounds of Lord Andrew Lloyd Webber. Webber mentored the six proficiently but wasn't overly forthcoming with praise and gush. His at times dour and/or sour expressions (especially from the audience after David Archuleta's performance), made him look like a dyspeptic, fussy old dowager. But you can't deny his talent. He has composed probably half of the musicals that have appeared on Broadway and London stages for the past 40 years, racking up such hits as "Joseph and the Technicolor Dreamcoat," "Sunset Boulevard," "Evita," "Cats,"
"Starlight Express," "Jesus Christ Superstar" and, perhaps his greatest accomplishment of all, "Phantom of the Opera." So it was with great anticipation and trepidation that we awaited Tuesday night's show. Generally, people either love or hate show music. We are part of the former group and are especially passionate about "Phantom." Here is how it all came down on Tuesday.

We feared for Syesha Mercado when we scanned the night's spoilers and saw that she was not only first up, which has not proven favorable this season, but also singing a more obscure number, "One Rock 'n' Roll Too Many," from "Starlight Express." We knew that combination could be lethal, although we also knew that her set of pipes would probably lend itself to show music better than those of the other remaining females. Happily, she did not fail to impress. Starting the number atop the orchestra's grand piano, and looking killa great in a clinging red bandage dress, Syesha was more animated than she had appeared all season and sassed it to the max, even dancing with musical director Ricky Minor. In her preperformance video, Andrew Lloyd Webber predicted she just might bring the house down and she did, to an impressive standing O. The evening began to show great promise.

Randy Jackson told her "Not only is this your element, I think you could be a huge Broadway star. That was your best performance to date, right there." Paula Abdul said, "You brought the house down right, right at the very beginning," and Simon Cowell, much to Mercado's delight, began with, "Syesha, that was very sexy," then continued, "I think this was one of your strongest performances so far. You showed masses of personality, which we haven't seen before."

Watch Syesha Mercado singing "One Rock & Roll Too Many" from "Starlight Express":

Sadly, our happpiness was short-lived with the next performance, the train wreck named Jason Castro. To say Jason was a fish out of water would be a gross understatement. He was more like a whale on a mountain-climbing expedition. It was immediately apparent that Jason knew nothing about Broadway music. To make matters worse, he chose the iconic "Memory," a song usually sung by a diva-ish voice, such as the great Betty Buckley's. He then demonstrated his complete ignorance of the song and the show it came from when he uttered, "I didn't know it was sung by a cat." Well, duh. But worst of all, he massacred the song. He looked pained singing it and it was painful to sit through. Webber said he never thought he'd see a man in dreadlocks singing "Memory" from "Cats," and perhaps it would have been better if he never had. It was also the second time in as many weeks that a mentor said of Jason, he'll probably not listen to anything I told him, and was correct.

Randy said, "It was a little bit of a train wreck." Um, not just a little bit, there were very possibly fatalities, including a good chance of Jason's deserved elimination tonight. Paula absurdly said, "I think it was a very wise choice for you to do this song, because it allows you to put your influence into it and further identifies your unique being as an artist." Earth to Paula. We had to laugh, though, watching Simon getting so totally exasperated by Paula's stupid rambling critique that he leaned back in his chair, puffed his cheeks and exhaled with a "oh god, will you shut up already" look on his face. Simon laid it out correctly. "Jason it felt to me, and I'm sure to you, like the longest two minutes of your life, right? The reality was it came over as a young guy being forced by your mom and dad to sing a song at a wedding you didn't want to sing. (as booing begins) It did, it did. You were miserable throughout, I was partly miserable throughout, it's not your style of music."

Watch Jason Castro singing "Memory" from "Cats":

Things didn't improve much with Brooke White up at bat next. For the second time this season, Brooke stopped and restarted a song. Earlier in the year, she did it when she hit a wrong note near the beginning of "Every Breath You Take." Tuesday night, she "lost her lyrics" after singing the first stanza of "You Must Love Me," from the film version of "Evita." The first time it was a bit human and endearing. This time it seemed totally unprofessional. Pros don't get do-overs when they screw up. You cover the best you can and carry on. Webber pointed out in White's video that at first she didn't get the meaning of the song at all, but after he explained to her that Evita is dying when she sings this, she really got it. Guess so, she seemed to us like she was dying throughout that performance, and we didn't feel an ounce of sympathy. The only thing that should save Brooke is Jason, but she could become the sacrificial lamb because of all his female fans. We won't cry, Argentina.

Randy told Brooke, "For me, this wasn't great. There were parts of it that got good once you got started ... but vocally it was just a little tough." Paula with a pained look on her face, was the only one brave enough to tell White, "You must never start and stop. ... if you're strong enough and you're great enough as an artist [you] pick up the pieces." In fact, in the post-critique chat with Ryan, Cowell and Jackson, supported Brooke's restart, a cowardly move. Abdul continued, "What I did love about this performance, Brooke, is that you didn't overact." Simon said, "This is why I love live TV. It was so dramatic, the beginning. The trouble is, Brooke, it completely threw you, because at the point you were so tense, trying to remember the song, your voice was straining in the middle of it all and it actually became quite uncomfortable. So, this is a tricky one. Um, I think you're going to be very disappointed when you watch this back."

Watch video of Brooke White singing "You Must Love Me" from the film adaptation of "Evita":

To his credit, David Archuleta tried to rearrange "Think of Me" from "Phantom of the Opera," changing it from a diva's aria into a pop ballad. We were actually surprised that Simon Cowell, who at the top of the show said that the contestants should try to make the music contemporary didn't credit him for that. For us, however, being emotionally wedded to "Phantom" and all of its music, it was just OK. It was just another rather bland pop ballad, another theme-park performance. It lacked the character and strength of the original and the elements we were looking forward to going into this theme night. Webber in the video said he was looking forward to seeing what a young boy would do with a song normally sung by a diva. Judging from the look on his face as he mechanically applauded at the end of performance, he wasn't thrilled with the results. He also gave Archuleta two suggestions: 1. Open your eyes when you sing, and 2. Open your eyes when you sing, saying he couldn't watch someone who keeps his eyes closed. Archuleta succeeded on this. Although squinty, he pretty much kept his eyes open throughout the performance. And has anyone else noticed that none of the contestants seems to be using an earpiece any longer?

Randy enthused, "You're exactly what this show is about." Then, using his same line from last week, he continued, "If you can sing, you can sing anything, and I knew this would be a big night for you, and you even put your own personality into it with a little Stevie riffs here and there. Dude, it was da bomb! This boy's the one to beat!" Paula said, "I think it was absolutely perfect, David. And the reason I think it's perfect is that you took a risk with a known theatrical song and were quite able to turn it into a pop ballad. I think that's perfect." Simon said, "David, I thought it was pleasant, one of your weakest performances over the live shows. It's just not one of those performances you're ever going to remember. It's absolutely going to get you through to next week, but it was all a bit forgettable to me. Sorry."

Watch video David Archuleta singing "Think of Me" from "Phantom of the Opera":

We were looking forward to listening to the other remaining Big Female Voice left in the competition, the one belonging to Carly Smithson. Carly was originally planning to sing "All I Ask of You" from "Phantom" until Webber advised her it was not the right choice for her "great big chest voice." He convinced to perform her second choice, "Jesus Christ Superstar," and she decided it was much better suited to her vibe and personality and that she was "just going to go out there and have the best fun I ever had." She certainly gave it her all, even if she was, as Simon correctly pointed out, a little shouty in the middle. However, we found it disconcerting that she seemed to be out of sync with the backup singers. It was so distracting we wished she hadn't been backed up on the number. Otherwise, the performance was fine. And, she no doubt pleased her tat-hating audience by again wearing a sleeved dress, this time one that actually blended in with the bottom part of the tattoo that remained exposed.

Randy said, "I don't know if this was you best performance (we agree), but it was definitely good. It was definitely good, it was definitely good. And I like the outfit. I think the outfit's kinda fly." Paula said, "I thought at first that it might be in too high a range for you, I love what you did in the chorus." Hmmm, for us, that was the out-of-sync part we found totally distracting. Simon said, "Other than the fact that it got a little bit shouty in the middle, it was actually one of my favorite performances of the night." Carly, screaming "yes! yes!" after getting Simon’s feedback, ran back to the piano and grabbed a blue T-shirt and held it in front of her. It read: Simon Loves Me (this week). It was hilar-
ious. Ryan Sea-
noted, "The parenthetical 'this week' is very appropriate, right?"

"Watch video of Carly Smithson singing "Jesus Christ Superstar":

Yes, we are an unabashed David Cook lover. Have been from Day 1 of Season 7. When we found out he would be singing "Phan-
tom's" trademark song, "Music of the Night," we were thrilled and actually hoped he would sing it straight, just so he could prove that he's not a one-trick pony. Well, saddle up, cowboys, 'cause David's leading the herd. We know others will disagree, but this was actually our favorite David Cook performance of the season (and we adored almost all of them), probably because of our passion for "Phantom." His phrasing was impeccable, his emotion shone through his eyes like laser beams and we didn't even mind his tiny bit of change on the final power note. We were captivated and rewatched the performance at least five times. It was an exceptional rendition and by far the best of the evening. Bravo!

Randy said, "Dude, that was an amazing vocal performance. Unbelievable. Another hot, molten hot lava bomb tonight! Right here!" Paula said, "This song just proved more and more that you are so well-rounded as a performer, and you have a beautiful instrument. And I thought it was fantastic." Simon added, "David, I think you made the most of the song. This is not the side of you I like. I much prefer the grittier, more raw. It was too rounded off, but you made the most of the song you were given." Not given Simon, claimed, took, possessed.

Watch video of David Cook singing "Music of the Night" from "Phantom of the Opera":

Best: David Cook
Worst: Jason Castro

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© 2008

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

American Idol:
The Top 7 Results Show

Bottom Three:
Syesha Mercado ("Vanishing")
Brooke White ("Hero")
Kristy Lee Cook ("Forever")

Kristy Lee Cook

Watch video of Kristy Lee Cook elimination:

To no one's surprise, a girl was eliminated tonight. As Simon Cowell called it Tuesday night, "I think the guys, funny enough, are going to have an easier time than the girls tonight because there's not the comparison." Ryan Seacrest said the finalists received almost 36 million votes, the highest total of the season to date.

Interestingly, the amount of money the show received for "Idol Gives Back" week may have been a disappointment, as, unlike last season, they didn't say a word about the total this week. The last total announced was $60 million last week, down from the $76 million collected in '07. The show's producers had projected they could reach $100 million year, but apparently were overpredicting the success of their year's fund drive for needy children in Africa and the United States. The "Idol Gives Back" show drew the least number of viewers for an Idol-related telecast in more than four years.

This week, the Top 7 finalists performed the Mariah Carey-Boyz II Men duet "One Sweet Day." Perhaps in an omen of what was to follow, Kristy Lee Cook performed a horribly pitchy solo.

Watch video of Top 7 group medley, "One Sweet Day":

Next, Ryan Seacrest pimped the songwriting contest, telling viewers there was only one more week to vote for the no-doubt ickily-sweet coronation song. Titles of some of the 20 finalists include "Believe," "Dream Big," "Something Like Heaven" and "The Time of My Life." The song titles are SO original, there's even a "You Believe in Me" and a "You Believed in Me." Thanks, we'll take a pass on the voting. Hearing the coronation song numerous times during the finale will be too much.

Time to begin the eliminations, and it's the old seven remaining finalists game. Ryan first sent Jason Castro to one side of the stage, then David Cook to the other. What? Everyone just knew that Cook was safe. Did this mean that Castro was in the Bottom 3? We're stunned, being sure it was going to be three ladies. Next out, Carly Smithson, who tells everyone that the judges have been hard on her, singling out Simon, who tells Carly he's hard on her because she has the potential to be great and he expects more from her. She is sent to stand with Jason. OK, that seems logical, her Tuesday night performance being sucky. Kristy Lee Cook comes onstage and continues the Simon bashing, calling him a butt. Interesting night, the women are getting daring. Perhaps they all think they're leaving and figure it's their last time to take a shot at the judge who's tormented them with his comments. Kristy Lee is sent to join David Cook.

We go to commercial break and come back to the Ford com-
mercial. In it, the finalists are puppets in an office environment singing "I Want to Break Free." They then cut their strings and escape. Hmmm, we can relate to that sentiment.

Watch video of Ford commercial "I Want to Break Free":

Season 5 third-place finisher Elliot Yamin, who, sadly, lost his mom last week, returns to the "Idol" stage to perform "Free," the lastest single from his freshman CD. Elliot tells Ryan that it's the first time he's taken the stage without his mom, but he knows she's watching him. It's hard to remember the buzzcut, fanged-toothed Elliott who originally appeared on the show. Though a little shaggy in the hair department, his makeover is still working for him. He wears jeans and a velvet jacket over a white shirt and long white scarf that almost looks like a tallis under his jacket.

Watch video of Elliott Yamin performing "Free":

Back to the results. Syesha Mercado actually looks pissed and upset when she is sent over to join Jason and Carly, who we're sure she knows is the Bottom 3 group, while Brooke White, who, unlike Syesha, actually deserves to be in the Bottom 3, comes out and is told to join the Cooks -- David Cook and Kristy Lee.

We pause the results again to go to the viewer Q&A's. We learn that the man who Kristy Lee sold her horse to won't sell the horse back to her. Ryan makes an on-air appeal to the guy to sell Kristy Lee her barrel horse back. Next, the judges recall the first records they ever bought. For Randy Jackson it was Led Zepplin, the Beatles and James Brown. Paula Abdul says she bought the Jackson 5, Earth Wind and Fire, and Carole King's "Tapestry." Witty Simon answers that as a 10-year-old he purchased Paula Abdul's "Straight Up," cracking Ryan up. Paula then takes a question from Megan, who tells Paula, "I was the Megan your TV show." Paula gives a completely blank look to the camera, obviously having no idea what Megan is referring to. Megan, oblivious, continues, asking Paula what song of hers best describes her relationship with Simon. On a roll, Simon immediately jumps in with "Straight Up," to which Paula gives a you wish retort, while Randy jokes that it's "Cold Hearted Snake," which Paula says is too obvious. She finally tells Simon it'll never be "Forever Your Girl."

And the questions continue. Simon is asked what the difference is between all of the various adjectives he employs to describe contestant performances. He obviously is annoyed by the question which sets off Randy and Paula laughing at him, so he mocks the caller with faces as she continues, then replies that all of his descriptive adjectives mean the performance was horrible and not something you want on the show. The last question is to David Cook. The caller wants to know if he's single. David asks which camera to look into, then gives an emphatic "yes." Good for him. That makeover has made him a real hottie.

Watch video of viewer question to David Cook:

Mariah Carey performs "Bye Bye" from her just-released CD "E=MC2." She then talks to Ryan about mentoring and Ryan tells her that Randy always takes credit for her success. She laughingly agrees that it is all Randy. Unlike the Tuesday night contestant videos, she comes off a bit full of herself and diva-ish on the results show, the Mariah Carey personality we hate.

Watch video of Mariah Carey performing "Bye Bye":

Finally, back to the results with the two groups. Ryan tells us that there are too many Cooks in the kitchen, and has David C. exchange places with Syesha. Now it all makes sense. David C., Jason and Carly (which is a surprise) on the safe side; Syesha, Kristy Lee and Brooke on the Bottom 3 side. Ryan calls David Archuleta out, tells him he's safe, then asks him to join the group he thinks is safe. As in previous years, David sits down on the stage, refusing to make the choice. Ryan moves over toward David, Carly and Jason, telling Archuleta that to move toward the safe group he'd have to move in that direction. Archuleta remains seated, so David C. sits down next to him, followed by Jason and a standing Carly, who can't sit because of her tight skirt. Ryan has them stand up, and declares them all safe.

The Bottom 3 ladies have to wait through another commercial break. Ryan releases Syesha to safety, then asks Randy is America picked right. Randy says it's tough every week now and he can't make the call. Paula does her patronizing BS about how she's proud of all of them. Simon, never shy, says "No surprises, maybe Kristy. You know, your time's up this time, sweetheart." Randy injects, "Oh, so positive," and Simon answers, "Well, it has to be one of you." Randy says, "Yeah, it's true." Well, duh, yeah, Randy. Kristy answers Simon, "Well, I made it past the Top 10," getting herself a round of applause. Meanwhile Brooke keeps protesting, saying "We don't know what's happening." She must have checked out, which had her almost in a dead heat with Syesha for last place, while Kristy Lee was fourth from the bottom. Finally, Ryan tells Brooke she is safe. After her journey video, we see Kristy sitting on the judges' table singing the beginning of "For-
ever" to Simon, a cute and classy depar-
ture move.

Next week, the 6 remaining finalists will be mentored by and sing the music of Andrew Lloyd Webber. We would love to see David Cook do one of his daring takes on something from "Phantom of the Opera."

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© 2008