Thursday, February 26, 2009

American Idol Season 8
Top 36 Group 2 Results

The next three Season 8 finalists are:

Allison Iraheta
Kris Allen
Adam Lambert

Ryan Seacrest tells us there were 25 million votes this week. Next week they'll be lucky if there are 25 viewers. Alexis Grace, Danny Gokey and Michael Sarver are sitting on their silver "finalist stools" with three empty ones behind them. Who will fill them? Well, like last week, everyone knows with dead certainty who the top boy and top girl are. The only remaining question is who came in third.

The group number this week is Ne-Yo's "Closer." The singing isn't as painful as last week's group number, but the dancing might be worse. Even some of the girls (Allison Iraheta are you listening?) can't dance. Nick Mitchell is told to decides to show up as Nick Mitchell. But we know in his heart of hearts Normund Gentle is dying to pop out. He looks about as uncomfortable as a contestant can look during the dance number. Barely dances and even looks like he only knows some of the words.

Watch video of the Group 2 dance number to "Closer" by Ne-Yo

It's time for a commercial break, but not before Ryan warns us to stay tuned because a previously "unseen audition" from Season 8 will be hidden within the break. It's a mediocre audition -- nothing outrageously bad or good -- of someone we've never seen before and will never see again. They don't even ID the person. Nobody is going to fall for this pitiful producers' ploy a second time. Ha!

After the break, we sit through the inevitable recap of Group 2's performances. Then it's time to dim the lights and find out who tonight's first finalist is. Seacrest calls Allison Iraheta down from the bleachers, goes over her judges' remarks then tells her to step to the side. Next Jesse Langseth goes through the same process and finally Matt Breitzke. Knowing there was no way that Mishavonna got a finalist spot, we are hoping that perhaps Jesse had made the finals. Our hopes are dashed when Jesse is put in Allison's group. Allison is named Season 8's fourth finalist and reprises "Alone." It might even be better than her performance the night before.

Watch video of Allison Iraheta becoming a finalist and singing "Alone"

Next, Ryan calls Megan Corkrey and Kris Allen down to the stage. Hmmm, the two contestants who were less than stellar on Wednesday, but whom Simon Cowell was trying to get viewers to vote for. But wait! Ryan also calls down Matt Giraud and Jeanine Vailes, then says one of these four will join the Top 12. Well, it's a no-brainer that it's not Jeanine, and Ryan cuts her loose first. But an intriguing group is left. It has to include that elusive third-place finisher. According to DialIdol, the three remaining onstage most likely finished (given the margin of error), third (Matt G.), sixth (Kris) and seventh (Megan). (DialIdol had Jesse placing fourth and Matt B. finishing fifth, but they're already eliminated.) So, who will it be? Matt G. is cut first. We're back to Megan and Kris. And *Kris* gets the coveted fifth finalist's stool. That comes as somewhat of a surprise. He sings "Man in the Mirror" and it's still less than stellar, maybe even worse than Wednesday.

Watch video of Kris Allen becoming a finalist and singing "Man in the Mirror"

A lovely looking Brooke White returns to the "Idol" stage to sing her first single, which coincidentally was released Thursday on iTunes. She co-wrote the tune, called "Hold Up My Heart," and accompanies herself on piano. We nostalgically recall her Carole King-ish voice as she begins to sing, and think how not one of these contestants can hold a candle to last season's fourth-place finisher. We like the song. It won't be a power hit, but has a nice shot at charting.

Watch video of Brooke White singing "Hold Up My Heart"

Ryan tells us there are five contestants, one finialist seat -- and no drama -- left. Mishavonna Henson, Kai Kalama, Nick Mitchell, Adam Lambert and Jasmine Murray are called to the stage. Ryan goes over the judges' critiques with Mishavonna, Kai and Jasmine and they are quickly dispatched back to the bleachers.

Watch video of Mishavonna Henson, Kai Kalama and Jasmine Murray being eliminated

So, it's down to Nick and Adam. Does anyone in the entire world really believe that Nick will live to sing "And I Am Telling You" another time? Especially after the judges nearly peed their pants over Adam's performance on Wednesday? Drum roll. Yes, Adam the poseur gets the sixth Top 12 seat, but not before an annoying reprise of "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction." As Simon said Wednesday, it is a love it or hate it performance. We choose the latter.

Watch video of Adam Lambert becoming a finalist and singing "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction"

Ryan then introduces the taped dance clip of the final 12 contestants, Group 3: Arianna Afsar, Ju'Not Joyner, Kristen McNamara, Nathaniel Marshall, Lil Rounds, Jorge Nuñez, Kendall Beard, Scott MacIntyre, Felicia Barton, Von Smith, Taylor Vaifanua, Alex Wagner-Trugman

Watch video of Group 3 dance

e-mail Idol Addict
© 2009

American Idol Season 8
Top 36 Group 2

We learned long ago never to say "Things can't get any worse," but we didn't think it would ever apply to "American Idol." Yet, just when we thought Season 8 couldn't get any worse, along comes semifinalist Group 2. They make Group 1 look like consummate professionals ... and, as a whole, Group 1 sucked. Ugh!

We don't understand some things. Such as:
  • How could "music industry pros" Simon Cowell, Randy Jackson, Paula Abdul and Kara DioGuardi choose such a lousy group of 36 semifinalists out the over 100,000 who auditioned?

  • How much were this season's earlier shows edited to make these contestants previously sound as if they could actually carry a tune in a bucket?

  • And if the judges' decisions were so lousy (for the most part, even they don't like what they're hearing), why are they getting to choose the three Wild Card finalists instead of us? (Not that the public did any better by placing Michael Sarver instead of, say, Anoop Desai, in the finals.)
If we were king of "Idol" world, we'd fire all four judges for their lousy choices. But first we'd fire the producers for turning Season 8 into a hot mess by seemingly making it up as they go along. Everything this year is so scattershot that rather than looking like the No. 1 TV series it is, "Idol" comes off looking like a new series that is changing and experimenting week-by-week in order to grow audience and garner ratings. To wit:
  • Who needed a fourth judge? Nothing personal against Kara, but has she really added anything to the show thus far?

  • Why do they keep changing the seating order of the judges? This week the judges were back to what we're accustomed to, with (from the TV audience perspective) Randy on the left and Simon on the right. Why was it the reversed last week?

  • Why did the order of the judges' critiques change? Randy began the review for the first contestant, Kara for the second, Paula for the third and Simon for the fourth. This is not as satisfying as hearing all the other judges then waiting for Simon's thumb up or thumb down opinion. Plus, as the night progressed, there was absolutely no sense of order as to who critiqued first.

  • Why did the post-performance interview setup change? Last week, Ryan Seacrest did the contestant interview (usually with their parents) in the upstairs holding room. This week, interviews were conducted onstage and parents were restricted to the audience (which was better anyway).
Changes earlier this season were just as bad, such as having sing-offs (bad) in the gimmicky "judges mansion" (worse); removing Joanna Pacitti from the Top 36 after telling her she made it (bad), then replacing her with someone who was totally eliminated (Felicia Barton), instead of someone who lost the sing-off and theoretically was being still being considered as a semifinalist (worse).

And no one yet knows what next week's Wild Card round is going to look like. It changes by the hour. USA Today quoted Simon as saying that the wild-card picks wouldn't necessarily even come from the Top 36, while MTV News is saying that, according to an "Idol" spokesperson, each judge can pick two contestants from the Top 36, and those eight (or possibly nine) singers will perform on the one-hour March 5 show, with three advancing into the top 12.

Producers, stop acting like corporate America. A ratings drop after eight years was inevitable. Cease and desist with changing (and destroying) the core product in order to win more viewers and make more money. You're not only not getting more viewers, you're losing the people who put you on the top to begin with and still want to believe in the show -- but you're making it real hard for us.

So what has changed? We hate to admit it, as we always called him the master manipulator, but "Idol" is badly in need of the return of Nigel Lythgoe. He might be manipulative, but he also has an equisite sense of what works for the show and what doesn't. Simon Fuller, Ken Warwick and Cecile Frot-Coutaz would be wise to give Lythgoe anything he wants to entice him to return.

Jasmine Murray led off the performances with Sara Bareilles' "Love Song." Did she do that because Kara told Anne Marie Boskovich last week that she should sing a young, fun song such as that? Whatever the reason, it was wrong, wrong, wrong for Jasmine. We previously had high hopes for her, but the beginning of the song was awful (she has no low range) and the rest was off-key. A terrible disappointment from someone we thought was a shoo-in for the Top 12.

Watch video of Jasmine Murray singing "Love Song"

Although we weren't crazy about his audition, Matt Giraud started growing on us during Hollywood Week, especially after we he saw his rendition of Ray Charles' "Georgia." So we didn't know what to think when we heard he was singing Coldplay's "Viva La Vida." After all, he's no Chris Martin and their personal styles are at such odds. It didn't work ... at all. Matt's voice sounded too high and had too much vibrato (and we won't even go into the off-pitch parts). He needs to stick to bluesy numbers. When the judges tried to point that out to him -- Randy told him that Chris Martin wouldn't be singing Ray Charles, but Matt can and that he slayed "Georgia" -- he said "This is where I want to be as an artist. I want to do that type of music." Wrong answer, dude. As Simon said, making a motion to his mouth, "You should zip it."

Watch video of Matt Giraud singing "Viva La Vida"

But the worst was yet to come, in the form of Jeanine Vailes. Perhaps overreaching her skills because she's received absolutely no face time on the show (she wasn't even shown making the Top 36 until tonight's intro clip), she went with Maroon 5's "This Love." Now this is a song we love. We can love it even when it's not being sung by Adam Levine. For instance, we loved the Blake Lewis version of the song. But Jeanine? Uh-uh. Since we haven't seen her sing previously, it's hard to tell if she's always this bad. Off-key, pitchy, just stinko. Thank goodness she wore hot pants, because Jeanine has great long, shapely legs. It was the one positive thing the judges could find to say about her. The only thing.

Watch video of Jeanine Vailes singing "This Love"

If we're being honest, we wanted to turn off the TV when we heard that Nick Mitchell was up next. Hadn't we already been tortured enough? Our only hope was that maybe he'd actually sing. Not a chance. Not only did he come out in his Normund Gentle persona, we again had to hear "And I Am Telling You." Talk about a one-trick pony. It was somewhat funny at his audition, less so during Hollywood Week, but not at all during the semifinals. (During her critique, Kara even pointed out that Nick, like Simon, even wears the same shirt every week.) Perhaps he's incapable of memorizing the words of another song. Let's face it, at best, Mitchell is a cabaret act and that's not what "Idol" is. Sadly, we all know from the few brief moments we heard of "Amazing Grace," during his audition, that Mitchell can sing. But in his heart he's a clown. And we're not laughing anymore.

Watch video of Nick Mitchell singing "And I Am Telling You"

Allison Iraheta, like Jeanine, is also pretty much an unknown quantity, so we weren't expecting much, especially after her less-than-scintillating pre-performance interview where she had trouble stringing together enough words to form a sentence. But her rendition of Heart's "Alone" was actually pretty decent, even though she's not going to make anyone forget Carrie Underwood's version of it. Allison has a raw, raspy quality to her voice that is vaguely reminscent of Amanda Overmyer, yet it's slightly refined and controlled. It's the rough rock edge that Gina Glocksen always strived for, but never quite attained. In any event, the judges went overboard with praise, perhaps because it was the first acceptable performance of the evening. Any other year, it would have been deemed good, but not great. But this isn't any other year. It's the year of the talentless semifinalists.

Watch video of Allison Iraheta singing "Alone"

Though he had little exposure prior to this week, we still had great expectations for Kris Allen. We like his voice though previously we had heard only mere seconds of it. He's also cute, so we thought he'd be a favorite of the teen set. We weren't sure what to think of his choice of Michael Jackson's "Man in the Mirror." Choosing a Michael Jackson number is usually the kiss of death, and though a hit, it certainly wasn't one of Jackson's best. However, that might have worked in Kris' favor, as it is not as imprinted in people's minds as a song such as "Thriller" or "Beat It." No doubt, it started rough and Kris never quite shook out his nerves until very near the end of the song. Plus his bobbing while singing got us a bit seasick. But he had some nice notes on the back end and might do a lot better with a more thoughtful song choice. But will he get the chance? Not unless he makes it to the Wild Card round.

Watch video of Kris Allen singing "Man in the Mirror"

Though Kris' bobbing made us seasick, Megan Corkrey's strange body movements while singing we found just plain weird (it reminded us a teeny bit of Casey Carlson. What is it with these pretty girls?). We imagine if you merged the genes of Brooke White and Carly Smithson you'd get Megan. Pretty, sweet and blonde like Brooke, she also has a hippie vibe, yet her right arm looks to have even more tats than Carly's does. It's a somewhat unsettling contrast. Unfortunately, she doesn't have a voice as good as either. The judges, who love her, call her interesting, hip, cool, relevant and current. For the most part, they love her version of Corinne Baily Rae's "Put Your Records On." Us? Not so much. She had some nice moments, but some pitchy off-key ones as well. But we did get glimpses of what Randy called the smoky jazz tone of her voice. Yet when Kara said "You're what we call a 'package artist,'" we really got turned off. Kara continued, "You're very pretty, you stand out, you're unique, and with the right song, you could be a breakout hit artist on the radio." Notice DioGuardi never said anything about having a good voice or "mad skillz." And we think that's why there are so many bad semifinalists this year. Because the judges are focusing more on the package and less on singing ability.

Two final notes: We object to the way that Simon exhorted viewers to vote for Megan even though he wasn't pleased with her singing. This is the same way that Michael Sarver became a finalist last week. We hope the American public realizes how foolish they were to listen to Simon then and ignores him now. And, did Megan look pregnant to you, too (and we're not just talking about the dress style, but what appeared to be under it, as well)? Freeze the end of the video when there are only 48 seconds left.

Watch video of Megan Corkrey singing "Put Your Records On"

Next up was welder Matt Breitzke, who sang Tonic's "If You Can Only See." Again, we found ourselves at odds with the judges. Though they all seem to like Matt as a person, they all came down on him for a boring performance. Could it have been a bit stronger? Probably. But we heard true talent in his voice (not off-key or pitchy) that leads us to believe that he could be a recording artist whose releases we'd buy. He is one of our favorites, but is probably now roadkill after his less-than-enthusiastic reviews. We'd much rather listen to him than Michael Sarver. And not for the first time in this competition, we admired him for sticking to his guns about his song choice. After Simon totally trashed him about it, Matt said to him, "I appreciate that, I just disagree." And when Ryan later asked him if Simon would have tried to talk him out of singing that song would he have done it anyway, he answered, "Yeah, I probably would have done it anyway." Good for you, Matt. The judges know nada this season, anyway.

Watch video of Matt Breitzke singing "If You Can Only See"

Though she doesn't have the best voice in this competition (or even in her group, for that matter), there is something about Jesse Langseth that we find very appealing. She didn't hit a homerun (probably just a double) with her version of Kim Carnes' "Bette Davis Eyes," but we liked it nonetheless. And there is a fearless and open honesty about her that most other contestants don't have. When Randy gave her a vague, slightly negative critique, Jesse asked him for a clarification. And, surprisingly, she got one. Jackson told her, "Here's the deal. Vocally, I wanna see you stretch yourself. I want to see where the range can go. I don't want to see a cool performance that's a five-note range. ... It's cool, but it's like OK, what can she do? Does it show me who you are?" Now why couldn't he have told her that in the first place? And frankly, we think Jesse's vibe is more current and relevant than Megan's is. We're just saying ...

Watch video of Jesse Langseth singing "Bette Davis Eyes"

We were so rooting for Kai Kalama. We loved his audition, his look, just everything from his initial Season 8 appearances. But when we heard he was singing Jimmy Ruffin's "What Becomes of the Brokenhearted?" we knew he was dead meat. Not because it's not a good song. It is. And not because he didn't sing it well. He did. But we knew with certainty that Simon was going to bash him and call it old-fashioned, especially after Kai sang "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes" at his audition. Well, Simon didn't have to bash him. Kara did it first. First she told him he had some pitch issues, then said, "I think the song was a little old-fashioned for me. I'd like to see what you could do that's more contemporary ... because we really haven't seen that." Simon, of course, added, "It was very old-fashioned, I thought the performance was corny and I thought it was the kind of thing you would hear at a wedding or in a hotel. ... There was nothing distinct, nothing original and nothing really memorable about the performance, to be honest. It was sort of capable." Then the final kiss of death: "I think you'll be a very good backup singer." Oy.

Watch video of Kai Kalama singing "What Becomes of the Brokenhearted"

Next up was our -- not America's -- favorite performer of the evening, and it came as a surprise, because Mishavonna Henson is another contestant who was among the missing, on video at least, during the early rounds. When we heard she was singing Train's "Drops of Jupiter," all we could think is, "I hope she's better than Ace Young was." And OMG was she. She not only displayed great vocals, she finessed the song to her own style. She is one of a handful of the female contestants possessing any talent. We were awaiting the kudos from the judges. We still are. Sigh. You know you're in trouble when the critiques start with Paula and she's not even in your corner. Abdul told her she sang it well, but it just didn't excite her (well, it's not a vibrator). Simon also tells her she's a good singer, but she's too serious and something left him really cold about the performance. Then he asked her age. She says 18, and Simon tells her she acts like a 50-year-old. Huh? He wants her to be younger and a bit more fun. Obviously, Mishavonna's problem is she has more talent than package. Oy.

Watch video of Mishavonna Henson singing "Drops of Jupiter"

Somehow Adam Lambert in the pimp spot seemed so appropriate, but not because of his performance of The Rolling Stones' "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction." Lambert is full of himself (are you listening Danny Gokey?) and, worse yet, so theatrical, that nothing rings true about him as a singer. He was strutting and posturing, but not in an authentic Mick Jagger way. Adam, whose background is musical theater, is a poseur. He is acting the rock star as a role. He isn't really one. Everything is facade. Of course, the judges went crazy over him. They could barely contain themselves. When Paula gave him a standing O, we did a Simon Cowell eye roll. Obviously the judges (read: producers) are conspiring to construct dreaming about an ultimate face-off between Danny and Adam. We're gonna be hating the finale if that's the case.

Watch video of Adam Lambert singing "(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction"

Tonight, the three more contestants are chosen as finalists. We predict they will be:
Adam *shock* Lambert
Allison Iraheta
Jesse Langseth

e-mail Idol Addict
© 2009

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

American Idol Season 8
Top 36 Group 1 Results

The first three Season 8 finalists are:

Michael Sarver
Alexis Grace
Danny Gokey

Ryan Seacrest tells us 24 million votes were cast Tuesday night, 10 million more than the same week in 2008. It is impossible to concieve that anyone would even care enough to vote after watching Tuesday's fiasco. We'll chalk it up to the revised format where the Top 3 survive instead of the bottom four are eliminated. Still ... 10 million more votes with nearly 4 million fewer viewers than in 2008 (Tuesday's show averaged 25.10 million viewers and a 9.5 rating/23 share from 8-10 p.m., whereas in 2008 it averaged 29.0 million viewers with a 11.3 rating/27 share)? Have the "Idol" producers found a new way to cook the numbers?

When asked by Seacrest, Randy Jackson and Kara DioGuardi have the temerity to pronounce Tuesday night's show good. If there was any doubt left (and there wasn't), now we know for sure that they're facile liars.

We are subjected to a recap of the "Idol" journey so far. (Do we not know these lame clips by heart by now?) And though we thought the singing torture ended after the performances on Tuesday, we were wrong. We failed to recall that the group songs begin on results nights of the semis. Needless to say, when you have only about four out of 12 who sound acceptable singing solo, putting all 12 voices together was like the cats yowling on the fence at midnight. Ugh! They "sang" and "danced" (possibly even worse than the "singing") to Jason Mraz' "I’m Yours." Anyone else getting sick of this song? And, not to be cruel, but how is blind Scott McIntyre supposed to do the group choreography when he performs in two weeks? Just asking ...

Watch video of Group 1 singing and dancing to "I'm Yours"

But wait! There's more! Bad singing that is. We have to view the prerequisite "highlights" clip from Tuesday's show, or in this case, the lowlights clip. It's times like this that we owe gratitude to the inventors of TiVO, DVRs, VCRs and any other device that has a fast-forward mode.

Before the voting results begin, Ryan chats with Group 1. We begin to understand why Jackie Tohn, whose singing left something to be desired on Tuesday, made the cut to the Top 36. She's animated, funny, spontaneous and totally comfortable onstage. When Ryan asks her to rate her Tuesday performance, she asks, "Like on a school report card, or like in the Olympics?" She then gives herself a 91, which she says equates to a B+/A-. Ryan asks Anoop Desai what the atmosphere is like among the contestants. Anoop tries to bluff his way through, saying he can speak for most of them and that they're relaxed knowing they've done the best they could do and now they're waiting to see if America has found them worthy. Ryan turns on the pressure: "You're relaxed?" Anoop begins to squirm. "Your results are in, Anoop. The nation has voted." More squirming and mumbling. "And they've decided that you, Anoop ..." Ryan pauses, then says, "So tell the truth right now, live on national television." Anoop folds, "I am ... the most nervous I've ever been." Ryan, getting what he wanted, taps Anoop on the shoulder and says, "God bless you." It was funny. For better or worse, Ryan was born to be host of "American Idol." He is very good at his job.

Next Ryan turns to Tatiana Del Toro, asking her a couple of times if she is alright. Seeing Tatiana acting relatively normal on live TV, it's really getting annoying just how much the producers are trying to prod her over the edge, making us wonder how much of a head case she really is, and how much was made to look like one through creative editing on the taped segments of the show. Ryan asks Tatiana if that is Paula Abdul's ring she's wearing (Paula gave Tatiana a "star" ring from her jewelry line at the judges' mansion after Tatiana said she tried to buy one but it was sold out). Tatiana says yes, then drifts into a Tatiana world conversation with Paula, until Ryan snaps her back to live TV to ask her about the plea she made to viewers the night before to keep her dream going. He tries, but the girl is sounding too normal and he can't get her to break. Hmmmm. He moves on to Stevie Wright. Maybe he can get some tears and drama from her. She obviously knows she's doomed after her train wreck of a performance the night before. Even Kara called her out on it (along with Casey and Stephen) earlier on tonight's show. Seacrest asks her what she and mother discussed after the show. Stevie reiterates what she said after her performance Tuesday: It's kinda confusing when the judges tell you to choose younger songs more of her age, then criticize her Taylor Swift song choice. Sadly for the producers, they strikeout on drama. Time for the results.

First up is Casey Carlson. She tells Ryan that she thinks she should have picked a different song, but she had the time of her life and feels great. We wish we had the guy from "Lie to Me" on the show for that comment; her face so betrayed her words (see photo). And, Sweetie, to paraphrase Simon, song choice was the least of your problems. You were off-key and never should have made the Top 36. Plus pulling faces and posturing made it 10 times worse. Needless to say, Casey does not make the Top 12. Nor does Stephen Fowler. Ryan calls him to the stage, shakes his hand, then totally embarrasses him by Stephen his hand is soaking wet. Thanks, Seacrest. Fowler says that he may have picked the wrong song, but he wanted to show another side of himself, though perhaps he should have stuck with what got him there.

Alexis Grace is next. Her outfit, complete with fedora looks really cute. She's either a great self-stylist or has been given good advice. The red lipstick is toned down, and we notice she has a yellow tongue from throat lozenges, but it's so much better than last year's green tongues. When she is declared Season 8's first finalist, Ryan tells her you may be the next American Idol. She says, "I know." No modesty there. Her dad, who looks like a '60s hippie, complete with long flowing hair and tinted granny glasses, breaks down in tears. Alexis reprises "Never Loved a Man," and, strangely, we like it better than Tuesday night's rendition.

Watch video of Ryan chatting with contestants, Casey Carlson and Stephen Fowler being eliminated and Alexis Grace becoming a finalist

Ryan starts calling duos up on the stage, beginning with Ricky Braddy and Jackie Tohn. Something odd happened at this point. As they approached Ryan, Jackie motioned to Ricky to change places with her so he would be standing closer to Ryan, as she said something to him, as if she already knew the order of things (and the results?) to come. Ryan tells Jackie, "Simon thought you played the clown too much and blew it. After watching it back, what did you think?"
Jackie: "Oh, I didn't think I blew it at all."
Ryan: "Would you have done the same thing all over again."
Jackie: "Oh, absolutely."
Ryan: "So you disagree with Simon?"
Jackie: "Oh, a 100 percent."
Ryan: "Simon, any reaction to that?"
Simon: "We'll see."
Ryan eliminates Ricky, then tells Jackie, "After the nationwide vote, Simon wins. You're not in the Top 12."

Then it's Anoop and Michael Sarver's turn. Ryan chats with them briefly, asking Sarver how he feels. He says, "My heart is pounding out of my chest. All that goes through my head is 'tomorrow's another day if not, and tomorrow's really another day if I, you know [make it].' " Seacrest then turns to Anoop and asks him if he is still nervous. "Yeah man, yeah," he says, to a titter of audience laughter. Seacrest then ends only Michael's agony. He's made it, but Anoop's been cut. Michael sings "I Don't Wanna Be," and we don't wanna be hearing it again. After Michael performs, Ryan says that only 20,000 votes separated Michael and Anoop.

Watch video of Ricky Braddy, Jackie Tohn and Anoop Desai being eliminated and Michael Sarver becoming a finalist

They're baaaack. Yes, it's time for an "Idol" promotional. In this case the opening of The American Idol Experience at Disney World. We see a short video of last week's ceremonies, which included, count 'em, all seven "Idol" winners appearing together for the first time. Then there is a glimpse of David Cook and Carrie Underwood dueting on "Go Your Own Way."

Watch video of the Disney World American Idol Experience ceremonies

Seacrest then calls down the next two contestants. Two people approach the stage, but who are they? Oh. It's a stunt. It's really Season 7 finalists Carly Smithson and Michael Johns making a guest appearance to sing "The Letter." Hate to say it, these two were much better in concert. The Disneyworld video was better than this. Carly was shrill and shouting, and Michael was, well, just bad. Waste of time.

Watch video of Carly Smithson and Michael John singing "The Letter"

Seacrest makes really short work with the next three real contestants, who aren't even invited down to the stage. Anne Marie Boskovich, Brent Keith and Stevie Wright are all asked to stand in place and are eliminated. Guess that means they don't even stand a chance of a wild-card callback.

All this leads up to what the producers hope will be the real drama of the night: Tatiana and Danny Gokey are called down to the stage. The face-off. But there was no drama here. Everyone knew Danny was a lock. That was the only sure thing Wednesday night. So we assume the producers were hoping for the big Tatiana meltdown. But that didn't happen, either. We're kept on hold for the obvious results with a commercial break.

Watch video of Anne Marie Boskovich, Brent Keith and Stevie Wright being eliminated and the Tatiana Del Toro and Danny Gokey face-off

We're back, and still having no luck getting Tatiana to have a breakdown, Ryan, almost reluctantly, decides to give us the results. It's *shock* Danny, who, we must note, was wearing the most butt-ugly pair of eyeglass frames we've ever seen on a guy. Is this going to be his style statement? Different (or no) frames every week? Also, has anyone else noticed that Danny looks alot like Robert Downey Jr.'s younger, geekier brother? Back to the action: You know how most contestants feel sorry for the loser standing by their side when they are chosen? They try to be a bit restrained with their joy? Not Danny. We see that he is just as self-absorbed as Tatiana is, whooping it up and ignoring her for a full 10 seconds, before realizing he ought to go over, put his arm around her and make believe he cares. Yuck. We're beginning to like him less and less. What's worse, we see one of his friends pull out a card as he is announced a finalist. As Danny sings "Hero," his friend shamelessly flashes the photo of Danny and his dead wife. Talk about literally playing the dead wife card. Enough already!Watch video of Tatiana Del Toto being eliminated and Danny Gokey becoming a finalist and singing "Hero"

Group 2 next week is: Megan Corkrey, Kris Allen, Mishavonna Henson, Matt Breitzke, Allison Iraheta, Matt Giraud, Jasmine Murray, Kai Kalama, Jesse Langseth, Adam Lambert, Jeanine Vailes and Nick Mitchell

Watch video of Group 2 dance

The show will air on Wednesday and Thursday next week, instead of Tuesday and Wednesday.

And if we had to guess, we'd choose Ricky Braddy, Jackie Tohn and Anoop Desai as being wild-card choices.

e-mail Idol Addict
© 2009

American Idol Season 8
Top 36 Group 1

Oy! If these are the the best and the brighest that Simon Cowell, Kara DioGuardi, Randy Jackson and Paula Abdul could find after a search of more than 100,000 contestants, all we can say is that Cowell should add a question mark to the title of his series "America's Got Talent," and the answer would be: "no."

Prior to Tuesday, it was bad enough that no one Season 8 auditioner shown out like a beacon in the crowd (though, to be sure, they were a few favorites whose names were already circulating: Danny Gokey, Anoop Desai). But we could excuse that if only because we hadn't yet seen anyone sing a full song (or at least 1 min. 20 sec. of a song). But Tuesday night was the Big Reveal of what we were already beginning to fear: This season most probably will suck.

To begin with, we hate that the producers have reverted to the old way of picking the finalists. We begin with far too many semifinalists (36) who are initially divided into three groups of 12. Each week, the top three vote-getters go immediately to the finals. But it's really not the top three. It's the top guy vote-getter, the top girl vote-getter and the third highest vote-getter, male or female. Nine finalists are chosen this way. On Thursday of Week 3, the judges each present a list of three "wild card" contestants who have thus far failed to make the finals. They perform again, and at the end of the episode, the judges will choose the last three to complete the Top 12.

This gives each contestant just one shot (or perhaps two if the judges choose them for the wild-card round) to perform, eliminating some who might have potential to develop. Think about how different David Cook was from the beginning of the semis to his championship. Remember, it was still during the semifinals that he sang "Hello," one of his most outstanding numbers. What if he had been booted after his first semifinal performance, "Happy Together"? "Hello" came a mere two weeks later.

We also don't think the judges should be picking anything more at this point. After all, their (or, more likely, the show's producers) careful deliberations already forced Tatiana Nicole Del Toro, Nate Marshall, Nick Mitchell and Von Smith down our throats. What if Tatiana is (hopefully) booted tonight and they pick her for the wild-card round? Who wants that? Or they pick the 12 contestants that the public liked least, instead of the 12 highest-scoring also-rans?

DialIdol results for Tuesday night predict that Danny Gokey is the only safe singer. The highest scoring female by their statistics is Alexis Grace, and the third highest overall scorer is Michael Sarver. Other than Alexis, America hated the remaining women pretty equally. Any of the five could have placed second. As for the guys, the only one definitely dead and gone by DialIdol results is Stephen Fowler. They have Anoop Desai, Ricky Braddy and Brent Keith in a dead heat. That kind of stinks, as Ricky Braddy was a real standout, but his lack of face time in previous episodes obviously hurt him Tuesday night. We're also surprised that Michael placed in front of Anoop, a judges' favorite and previous audience favorite. Although Anoop was not at the top of his game Tuesday night, he was certainly better than Sarver.

Here's how it came down, contestant by contestant:

Jackie Tohn kicked off the show with Elvis Presley's "A Little Less Conversation." Although we admit to a soft spot for our homie, to paraphrase Simon, if we're being honest, this was a crappy song choice that did nothing to showcase her raspy voice. And to paraphrase Randy on her outfit: "Whaaaat?" Those shiny stretchy nylon leggings were to die for, as in didn't they bury them back in the '80s? Though Tohn did look kinda cute overall, jumping around in her polka dot strapless top, wide red belt and matching kicks. If nothing else, she certainly stood out. But if this is her final performance, will we never find out the meaning behind the black-and-white cameo pin she wears for every performance? The singing, well, it was bleh. Though Tohn was so confident and full of energy, posturing all over the stage, that the judges (except Simon) all but forgave her mediocre singing. We're certain one of them will choose her as a wild-card contestant. But Simon wasn't having with any of it, saying, "I think that you actually played the clown tonight. I thought the performance was ungainly, I thought the song was a bit gimmicky ... so I don't think that you did yourself any favors tonight. I don't think the public is going to like that very much and I think that you may have blown this great opportunity by doing something silly, rather than good." BTW, he didn't like her outfit, either.

Watch video of Jackie Tohn singing "A Little Less Conversation"

Regardless of the endless praise that the final performer received, the best performance of the evening, as far as we were concerned, went to Ricky Braddy, who sang Leon Russell's "A Song for You." His parents were wearing T-shirts that read: "I'm in the Braddy Bunch." Cute. Unfortunately, Ricky is shy and doesn't have much of a personality. In addition, he's received so little face time, the audience knows nothing about him and this is going to hurt him badly. We can only hope that one of the judges picks him for a wild-card position. On the up side, he lost his glasses -- and with them part of his geeky appearance -- for the performance. Randy told him he was unbelievable, beautiful tone, nice voice, "the way to jump it off." Kara said, "You killed that. That was amazing. Your riffs, your interpretation. It was effortless. You have an incredible gift." Paula gave Ricky a standing O and said, "With so many contestants that are involved, you weren't featured in the past three weeks and I'm so proud that America gets to see how talented you are, because, make no mistake, you deserve to go very far in this competition." Yea! Agreed! Simon added, "Very, very good. I'm not jumping out of my chair like you three are." He then accurately added, "My only issue with you is, that I don't think at the moment that you have any star quality. Because you have a great voice, but I don't think you have the self-belief or the charisma right now to be what we would be looking for this year. At the moment, I think you're a nice shy guy with a very good voice. And you've got to start believing in yourself, a bit." Paula jumped in with, "Take lessons from him," pointing to Simon, to which Cowell retorted, "Why not?"

Watch video of Ricky Braddy singing "A Song For You"

We suppose we have to give the best female vocal to Alexis Grace (or at least put her in a tie with Anne Marie Boskovich), but none of the women really knocked us out. Although the judges thought Grace's performance of Aretha Franklin's "Never Loved a Man" was soulful, we were left unmoved. It was a good, strong, yet strangely unstirring vocal. And we hate to be critical of her appearance, but if you're going to wear a short, short lacy slip dress, you shouldn't be knocked kneed. As Simon would say, "Sorry." We actually like the pink highlights in her blonde hair. But the jury is still out on her RED lipstick. Can't decide whether we loved it or hated it, but it certainly made you look at her mouth. Randy said, "You worked it out, I'm loving you right now. Whaaaat?" (are we going to have to hear whaaaat all season, dawg?) Kara said Alexis is a new girl since her audition and that Kara loves it, adding "great job." Paula couldn't get her thoughts together in a cohesive sentence and decided to keep rambling just to annoy Simon. But she did tell Alexis that she has "that quiet confidence that she loves" and that she was wonderful, beautiful and fantastic. Simon said of the three singers so far, she was the best (we disagree), and told her she actually does have soul (wrong). He also told her she might be "a little dark horse in this competition" and that she reminds him of Kelly Clarkson (no way!) eight years before in the same position, and that she's "the one to watch." With all the winking he did at her, it's clear that Cowell really likes her. Whatever.

Watch video of Alexis Grace singing "Never Loved a Man"

It was a bad night for former "Nashville Star" contestant Brent Keith, who tried to stay true to his roots with Jason Aldean's "Hicktown." First, instead of playing his video, they put up Stevie Wright's by mistake. Next, Ryan Seacrest, trying to cover the blunder, says, well, let's go downstairs and have you perform. But by the time they get to the stage, of course, they've qued up the right video. When Keith finally did sing, we thought it was a pleasant performance, though nothing that we were going to remember the next day. Yet, we were put off when he had to defend his song choice to all the judges except Randy. All night the judges told contestants, "We don't know who you are as an artist with that song choice," yet when someone is definitive about the kind of music he wants to record, he gets dumped on as well. Whaaat? (sorry). We previously thought Keith's good looks and country genre would keep him in the running, but between his DialIdol score and the judges' apathy, we now believe this was his final appearance. And that he seemed pissed at the judges' comments probably didn't garner him any extra votes. Randy said he was a "new edge to country, with the old country swagger. I liked you man, I liked you. I think you'll make a very good country artist." However, Kara told him he was too safe, that she previously thought he had a lot of soul and that his song choice wasn't rangy enough for her, ending with "I think you have more in you than what we saw tonight. You're a cute guy, you've got a lot going for you and I wish you'd taken more risks." Paula agreed it was a safe song, but said she could definitely see him as a country artist, "I mean, look what's happened to Josh Gracin, look what's happened to Bucky Covington ..." to which Simon said, "What has happened to Bucky Covington?" Ha, ha funny Simon, but fact is, Bucky had a number of country hits on his first CD (possibly more than Gracin has had) and is about to release the second. Cowell continued, "You're a nice guy, you've got quite a nice voice and you did something that was not safe, it was forgettable ... so I think you may have just blown a massive opportunity by being forgettable. Sorry."

Watch video of Brent Keith singing "Hicktown"

There were two train wrecks Tuesday night and Stevie Wright, singing Taylor Swift's "You Belong to Me," was the first one. Because the judges had told her that her audition song, "At Last," was too old for her, Stevie tried to keep things young. She looked cute, but that's as far as it got. At first, her voice was so low you could barely hear it (she obviously has no lower range), then when the song picked up, she was off key, pitchy and couldn't hit the big notes. It was pitifully bad karaoke and brought back bad memories of Antonella Barba. You really had to feel sorry for the kid. But she does have a great smile and is very telegenic. Randy said, "It was not hot for me. I wasn't feeling that at all." Kara said, "We wanted you to be young, but you really picked a song that had nothing to do with you. I think you have an identity crisis going on." Yeah, OK, whatever. Paula agreed, "It was just not the right song for you. The low range was too low for you, and it wasn't the Stevie Wright we fell in love with." Simon, however, spared nothing and just put it out there: "They're being quite polite. I mean, Stevie it was terrible. The song is OK, you were out of tune, you looked really nervous, out of your depth. I mean the good news is, you've got some experience from this, I guess. But there is zero chance of you making it through to the next round, after that." Kara got upset, saying, "We don't have to kill her now, do we?" And Paula and Kara jumped in with "America votes," to which Cowell answered, "Yes, but they listen to me" (not on the David Cook finale, Simon, ha!).

Watch video of Stevie Wright singing "You Belong to Me"

We expected big things from Anoop Desai, and he didn't entirely disappoint with Monica's "Angel of Mine." It was a sensitive and soulful rendition, though we'd rank him No. 3 of the six guys singing Tuesday. The one thing Anoop does have is truckloads of charisma and likability, and even at this early stage he's dressing right for the show. We thought he looked so much better than that gangly youth in shorts we saw in his audition video. Randy said, "I got mad love for you, but the whole song for me was a little sharp ... it never quite settled. But I'm still a huge fan, baby." And, yes, he did say, "Yeaaaaah, whaaaat," again. Kara said, "I'm not sure you had the riffs or capability to kinda nail it [the song], the way it needs to be nailed. But I think there's a lot of great potential with you. And I like you. I believe you when you're up there. I feel like you're connected to what you're singing about." Paula told him, "America has connected with you in a large way already." (We thought so, too, until we saw the DialIdol numbers.) She also told him that he has a Brian McKnight feel to his voice and that she believes in him. Simon, inexplicably, told him of the song choice, "I thought it was a little too grown-up for you, in a way. ... it was just a bit too serious for you." But if he doesn't make it through on Wednesday, we'd put money on his being a wild-card choice.

Watch video of Anoop Desai singing "Angel of Mine"

Casey Carlson singing "Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic" by the Police made Chris Sligh look like a genius. Bad isn't bad enough to describe just how awful she was. We never liked her audition and wondered why the judges put her through (c'mon, being cute is never enough), and we were proven right. How to describe? Well, aside from horribly flat and off-key vocals, she was pulling faces, winking and making weird and awkward "dance" moves that were so reminiscent of Julia Louis-Dreyfus' Elaine Benes on "Seinfeld" that we started laughing and saying "buh-bye" about 10 seconds into her performance. Yikes! But when the judges began telling her the same things, her little pretty elfin face became all pouty and she looked like she was about to cry, which made Simon not nearly as cruel as he could have been. He started by asking her how she thought she did. She told him she had had fun. He then said, "I've got to find something positive here. You look good." (Actually her boots with the dress were wrong, wrong, wrong.) "Because the singing was just atrocious, to be honest with you. And you could not have chosen a worse song." He also said it was karaoke and that she got one massive opportunity and threw it away. And, yes, that was being nice, because Carlson's performance was like one of those awful auditions when Cowell says, "That was a joke, right?"

Watch video of Casey Carlson singing "Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic"

The fact that everyone seems to love Michael Sarver is serving him much better than his voice did on Gavin DeGraw's "I Don’t Wanna Be." All we kept thinking was, "When Bo Bice sang that song he just killed it. Michael Sarver is justing killing the song." In fact, we like Bo's version even better than DeGraw's. Paula mentioned in her critique that Elliott Yamin and Chris Richardson also sang "I Don't Wanna Be." We don't even remember those renditions. Sarver's, too, will be quickly forgotten. That he placed third overall on DialIdol must attest to his likability and Everyman status (he works as a rouhgneck on an oil rig) and that people relate to what he says about how doing well on the show will help change his family's lives. He's OK looking, but not gorgeous. (For some reason, he brings to mind a Siberian husky dog.) But the judges love him even with his imperfections. Randy told him, "It started out a little rough pitch-wise, the first verse was a little weird ... I might like you a little better on a soul thing. I'm not sure if it was the wrong song choice for you; I just don't think that you performed it that well." Kara added, "I don't think that was your best performance, you've got more in you. What I like is that you're singing something that's true to you ... You're likable because you are who you are and you connect with the audience." On the other hand, Paula told him he did "a real good job." (Not). Simon said, "We put you here primarily because we like you, you know. You're a good, honest guy, hard-working, who needs a break. I'm not going to lie to you and say this was the best vocal I've ever heard, because it wasn't. We've heard a lot worse tonight. So I think if you get through, it's because people like you ... But with you in particular, I hope America does pick up the phone and give you another shot." Apparently people do listen to what Simon sez.

Watch video of Michael Sarver singing "I Don’t Wanna Be"

We really loved Anne Marie Boskovich during her audition and we found her interpretation of Aretha Franklin's "Natural Woman" interesting. It wasn't great, but it was no worse than Alexis Grace's turn with another Aretha Franklin song. The judges weren't as enamored with her as we were. Randy thought the song wasn't the right choice for her, saying that others had sung the song on the show and really slayed it, but that Anne Marie fell subpar below that. Kara said, "It's feels a bit old-fashioned. It doesn't feel young," and that she would rather hear something that was a little more fun and girly. Anne Marie answered, "I think that's not as good as a classic," which elicited some whoas from Randy, but then Simon and he said, "I like that." Paula told her that she thought she did better than what they had heard from her before, adding, "I think you played it safer during your earlier auditions and this time you came out and gave it your all." Simon compared her to a hotel singer, saying, "The simple truth is, your voice is not good enough for that song. So it just destroyed you, in my opinion."

Watch video of Anne Marie Boskovich singing "Natural Woman"

Stephen Fowler was even more destroyed by his choice of Michael Jackson's "Rock With You." Mostly known for receiving a second chance after forgetting his lyrics during Hollywood Week, Fowler needed a strong comeback and this wasn't it. We've previously really liked his voice, but "Rock With You" did nothing to showcase it. In fact, we kind of agreed with Paula who said he should have resung David Cook's "Time of My Life," just to prove he remembered the lyrics. Plus that song suited his voice much better. Randy thought Fowler's song choice was all wrong: "Dawg, it's not even in the right place for you man. It's not the right song for you to be singing." He also noted that other than the high notes it was pitchy. Kara said he was more connected to the David Cook song at the piano and that this song didn't give him any room to interpret. Paula told him, "Singing "Rock With You" is like the kiss of death. It belongs to one artist, and that's Michael Jackson. I'm a little disappointed" Simon said, "I actually wish you had forgotten the lyrics, because it was such a pointless performance. ... The whole thing was just atrocious. The last 10 seconds were OK, Stephen, but you're going to watch this back and realize that you've made a huge mistake here, because actually, you know what it was? It was corny. And you're not a corny person. You're not."

Watch video of Stephen Fowler singing "Rock With You"

The performance everyone was waiting for dreading was that of Tatiana Del Toro. Her appearance singing Whitney Houston's "Saving All My Love for You" was a lot more subdued than expected -- though there was this very dramatic pose at the end -- and the judges (read: producers) seemed really disappointed by the lack of drama, even encouraging her to do her incredibly annoying laugh. If putting her in the semis isn't a setup, then what is? Her vocal performance was adequate with some really nice parts. If she was normal and more consistent vocally, she would have the possibility of being a sensation. But she's not and she isn't. She'll always be one of the jokes of Season 8. Randy told her she had some moments when he said to himself, "You know what? She actually can sing" (well if you thought she couldn't, why did she make it to the semis???) He added, "You didn't pull it all together -- that second verse the melody was very weird -- but there were moments. Tatiana, there were moments." Kara was questioning, "Who are you in the industry? Where do you fit? Is she a character or is she an artist? I don't know." Paula noted that Tatiana was the most talked about contestant on the show, adding, "You know what they say, good, bad or indifferent, at least they're talking about you. This demure Tatiana, I'm not used to. But I will say, especially your closing note, was beautiful. You had beautiful moments and then you had pitchy moments, but I don't know who you are today. Are you crazy? You know we miss the crazy." Simon said, "Tatiana, you are a complete and utter drama queen. Right? You are. I've never met anyone in my life, probably with the exception of Paula, who's wanted fame more than anyone else. ... You are desperate to be famous. ... To get back to your singing for a moment, actually, surprisingly, it was bad at all. It was better than I expected." He then encouraged her to "lose this weird thing," the demure thing, because "it's actually making me a little bit nervous. Do the weird laughing."

Tatiana Del Toro - "Saving All My Love for You" by Whitney Houston
Watch video of Tatiana Del Toro singing "Saving All My Love for You"

Last up, in the "pimp" spot was Danny Gokey. He also chose a song by a diva, in his case, "Hero," by Mariah Carey. As we expected, it was a very nice performance. Danny's got a great idea going for him: perform songs by female singers, because it's then hard to compare you with the original artist, plus it sounds like you've changed the song up. He did it with "Hero," and previously during Hollywood Week with Lee Ann Womack's "I Hope You Dance." And it works well for him. Without the exception of Simon, the judges went WILD. Too wild. It was very good, but not that good. OMG, at the end of the song they were standing, screaming, woo-hooing, raising their arms. Get a life. It didn't even approach LaKisha's Jones' performance of "And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going" during her first semifinal week, nor Melinda Doolittle's "Sweet Sweet Baby (Since You’ve Been Gone)" the same week. Randy said, "The redeemer of the night, right here, Danny Gokey, that was blazing hot." Kara shouted, "Danny, you are the hero, man. That was incredible. You give us all hope. You were great!" Paula chimed in with, "Danny, you are stellar, and I have two words with a hyphen: sold-out arenas." Simon, trying to keep it real, said, "It wasn't fantastic, it was good. You know, the end part was great, the beginning was OK , the arrangement was a bit heavy-handed. You are a very, very good singer. I like you. I'm just not buying the hype [pointing to the other three judges] right now. It's too much," as he rolled his eyes. Thank you, Simon. You are correct.

Watch video of Danny Gokey singing "Hero"

Tonight, the first three finalists are announced.

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