Tuesday, March 31, 2009

American Idol Season 8
Top 9 Digital Download Week

Groan! It's another one of those "Idol" performance nights where what the audience and the judges hear is totally at odds with what home viewers hear. This week's "theme," if you can call it that, is popular digital downloads, otherwise known as sing any damn thing you want. While the contestants think this is a great opportunity to finally sing the songs they love the most, what many don't realize is that there's a difference between loving a song and being able to perform it well. Sometimes the songs you're best at singing are not necessarily the ones you'd choose to listen to.

It's become really obvious that the producers need to get a handle on time management this season. First they s-t-r-e-t-c-h the opening of the show with a useless clip of the contestants visiting Ryan Seacrest at the studio where he does his America's Top 40 countdown radio show, but by the end of the night they're rushing the judges on the last two contestants who receive one-sentence appraisals. Of course, time management this week became a bit tougher when the scheduled one-hour time slot increased by 25 minutes after the network cut the premiere of "Osbournes: Reloaded" nearly in half. Still, someone needs to budget the time better.

And a final note: What was up with Paula Abdul's eyes? They haven't looked this glassy for at least two seasons. Although she wasn't slurring her words, she definitely looked like she was stoned.

The evening started out on an uneven note (and rarely left it) with Anoop Desai's rendition of Usher's "Caught Up." Like many other artists Tuesday night, Anoop tells us he chose a song that he would want to hear as a viewer. He also said he wanted to up his energy level from the past two weeks as Randy Jackson had suggested. Instead of adding energy, he nearly sucked the air out of the room. Boring? That would be generous. Though his look this week had swagger, with restyled hair and a Michael Jackson-ish jacket, we just don't think he has a distinctive enough voice to be a successful recording artist. But then we feel that way about most of the Top 10 this year. Randy thought the vocals were good but it wasn't the right song choice for Anoop. Kara DioGuardi thought he played it too safe and says it felt like a bunch of frat guys dared him to get up and sing Usher. Paula loved that Anoop returned to the playful side, thought the vocals were good, but advised him to work on his stage presence. Simon Cowell called it "a complete and utter mess," saying he came over as a wannabe, there was no originality, the arrangement was a mess and that it actually gave him a headache. Anoop's expression at that last comment was priceless. But he handled the criticism politely. Charm is one thing he doesn't lack.

Watch video of Anoop Desai singing "Caught Up" by Usher

But as bad as Anoop is, Megan Joy makes him look like a master after she sings Bob Marley's "Turn Your Lights Down Low." We want to turn the lights -- and the TV -- off after listening to that. OMG, she is so off-key that the dogs in the next house start to howl. Even her beauty can't distract from it anymore. It's really time for her to leave. Kara tells her "I really like you, but I think you're in trouble," then goes into her "it's not the right song choice for you." An audience member yells out, "Broken record." It was pretty funny. Kara then tells Megan that part of her register was getting irritating. She gets booed and sasses back to the audience, "Allllll right. You get up here and do it, then." Simon tells her, "Don't fall out with our audience." Paula goes into some blather about Megan needing to sing a sensitive ballad while just sitting on a stool with a spotlight on her and no distractions. When she's done, Simon says to Paula, "So she needs a chair." LOL. Paula says, "It would be nice to see her on a stool." Simon: "OK, a big chair." He then tells Megan, "The song was boring, it was indulgent, it was monotonous and all the things we liked about you are disappearing." Randy tells her "It was like watching paint dry. ... it took forever, and I like the song." Then Randy says the most profound thing of the night, "The thing is, you can love a song, but it doesn't mean you're going to sing it great." After all this, Megan tells Ryan, "I think that the audience was feeling it and that my fans were feeling it." What fans?

Watch video of Megan Joy singing "Turn Your lights Down Low" by Bob Marley

Danny Gokey says he wants to switch up what he's been doing with a song that would emotionally connect with the audience. He sings "What Hurts the Most," by Rascal Flatts. We didn't like the arrangement and thought Danny was pitchy in places. And even though we could tell he was feeling it (his eyes were watery at times), we felt no emotional connection to the performance. It actually left us cold. We think that Danny was connecting more to his own emotions -- since he lost his grandfather this week -- rather than to the emotions of the audience. But that's not the way the audience or judges heard it. The audience went wild. Paula tells him, "You leave me wanting more. This is a performance [where] I definitely hit 'repeat' in my car." Simon tells him it was his best performance of the series so far. "Just brilliant. ... That's what it's about: Get a great song, sing it brilliantly and do your version." Randy says, "Dude, you definitely brought it crazy with the vocals, right here." Kara says "You moved everyone in this room emotionally (but not everyone at home, heh). ... You gave so much of your heart and soul. And that's when you really connect with the audience."

Watch video of Danny Gokey singing "What Hurts the Most" by Rascal Flatts

Each week, Allison Iraheta delivers a solid performance, yet, with the exception of last week, she is always in danger of being eliminated. This week, DialIdol.com places her second from last. She surprised everyone by playing guitar and her vocals on No Doubt's "Don't Speak" were, as usual, spot on. Yet the judges, beginning with Randy, decided to focus -- negatively -- on her outfit, instead of her singing. Er, Randy, wasn't it you who only last week uttered those immortal "Idol" words, "This is a singing competition"? Did Allison look a bit quirky in the getup? Perhaps. But Gwen Stefani's outfits have always been quirky, too. Randy says, "Vocally, you can sing, you've got the voice, the whole thing, I like the vocals, but you were a little ahead of the beat, you were rushing the band a little bit ... and I like that you came out and played the guitar ... but dude! What are you wearing? What is with this outfit?" Someone in the audience screams out, "I like it." Randy says, "You like it?" then continues to Allison, "Baby, I've got mad love for you, but I did not get the ensemble tonight." Kara continues the theme with, "The rock in you comes out no matter what you're wearing, so you don't need to dress the part. You are that. ... So it was a little distracting, it felt forced. Like you were trying to be something. And you don't have to try. You just are. ... It was a good performance. For me, not your best, but good." Paula, normally the queen of fashion critiques, focuses on Allison's musicianship instead: "I'm glad to see you brought your 'axe' out with you, it added a certain edge. ... I think that your vocal prowess rivals singers that are twice your age ... And I think you are skating by and going right to the finish line." Na-uh. Not with the judges focusing on her clothes, she's not. Simon, laughing, says, "Allison, look, we can't ignore the outfit. It was like something out of 'The Addams Family' or something." Actually, she looked more like Pebbles from "The Flintstones," but who cares? He also says, "It was something like a little precocious daughter trying to dress like a rock star and sound like one ... plus, you shouted the song." Not.

Watch video of Allison Iraheta singing "Don't Speak" by No Doubt

Next, it was time for a nap Scott MacIntyre to perform. He decides to forgo the band and just accompany himself on piano. Perhaps regretting the nasty pink pants trick they played on him last week, the stylists decide to dude him up this week with a new coif. But it looks more like a "do" from the '70s. They also cooled him out with a leather jacket. But Scott is still Scott, just in a new costume. Although this performance is his best so far in the competition, it is still a hotel lounge lizard version of Billy Joel's "Just the Way You Are." All that was missing was the brandy snifter sitting on top of the piano with some dollar bills in it. And we're shocked when Simon doesn't call him out on it. Kara tells him he made some very smart decisions by picking that song and stripping it down and just singing to the audience in a moving performance, ending with, "And I love the new look." Of course, Scott can't even see the new look. Paula goes into her "Of all the contestants that have graced the stage, I'm most proud of you," saying it has nothing to do "about your challenge and everything to do that makes me forget about that challenge." Damn! Then why don't you let everyone else forget about "that challenge" and not bring it up every single time you critique him? She also says he took a risk by not using the orchestra, making it more of a legato kind of performance, but that it paid off for him. Simon, who looks impatient waiting for Paula to finish every single one of her critiques this week, says, "Your best performance by a country mile so far." He then cracks snidely about Scott's "Ryan Seacrest hair" ("of yesteryear," Randy notes) and how lucky Scott is to not to have followed (pointing at Paula) "madame's advice about not playing the piano." This leads to a time-wasting debate between the Abdul and Cowell, with both saying, "rewind the tape." Randy calls the performance, "one of the best of the night," but he says it so frequently tonight, he might as well have said, "one of the best nine of the night," heh.

Watch video of Scott MacIntyre singing "Just the Way You Are" by Billy Joel

Last week, Matt Giraud listened to the judges and stuck to their preferred R&B vibe for him. They loved it, but he still placed in the "Bottom 3." (Well not really, but reread the results night blog from last week.) This week Giraud decides to tempt fate by singing to please himself, going very current with The Frays "You Found Me." He plays keyboard right in the middle of the mosh pit. At first, we weren't sure if he could pull it off. He sounded and looked nervous and there was a lot of vibrato in his voice, but he picked up steam -- and confidence -- along the way and by the time he finished he made a convert of us. We thought it was a job well done. But the judges weren't haven't any of it. Paula says he aborted the things that they love most about him -- his riffing and his falsetto, calls him a sound-alike, then gives him the kiss of death, comparing tonight with his Coldplay song performance, ending with it wasn't a great performance. The audience loudly boos her. Simon says he didn't get it at all and that it was somebody trying to be somebody else and felt very put on and uptight. He then calls it not a good commercial song. Huh? It's a current hit. In fact, last month when Billboard reviewed "The Fray," the album on which it appears, they wrote: "It's testament to the band's appeal that "You Found Me" became a Top 10 single before The Fray was even released." Does Simon know anything about the music market in this country? Cowell tells Matt he should be like Danny or Scott (???) and just pick a great song and do what he does best and he'd have a better shot. Oh shut up! If Scott wasn't challenged, you'd have wiped the floor with him. He ends with "This was just uncomfortable. I didn't get it." Obviously! Randy goes into "it's the wrong song for you" refrain, and suggests that Matt should have instead picked something like Justin Timberlake or OneRepublic. Simon interrupts with, "That would have been a great song, 'Apologize.' " Yeah, why? So you could have said that Matt didn't do it as well as David Archuleta did it on last season's finale? Jackson tells Scott, "You've got more chops than that. You're not a rock singer. You've got all that soul in your voice. You've got to let all that flavor out, baby." They are actually giving Matt a worse ass-kicking than they gave Megan. This is unreal! Kara tells him he keeps going between the rock side of pop and the R&B side of pop and that he has to pick one or the other. Why? She ends with, "But I believe you're a talented guy and don't deserve to go home." Well, if he does, all you "knowledgable" judges can take credit for it. You killed off Alexis Grace by trashing her the same way. And she didn't suck either.

Watch video of Matt Giraud singing "You Found Me" by The Fray

We winced a bit when we heard that Lil Rounds was taking on Celine Dion's "I Surrender." Like many of the other contestants, she is grasping at straws after getting trashed by the judges (but not the public) for last week's performance. Her version of "Heatwave" during Motown Week was was no better -- or worse -- than tonight's mediocre rendering. Yes, Lil has great vocal chops, but she just can't compare to Celine Dion. This was not a song where she could really shine and, for us at least, there was a lot more shouting than singing going on. We did, however, love the wig she was wearing this week. A great look for her. Randy calls her out on song choice, because he wants her to have a little bit more swagger, but says she sang it really, really well (actually she sang it really, really OK). He also wants her to young it up a little bit: Mary whaaaat? Keyshia Cole whaaaat? At which point Kara jumps in with her first (but not only) stupid pronouncement of the night: "Mariah, Eric Carmen." Eric Carmen? Eric "freaking 'Hungry Eyes' " Carmen who is going to be 60 in August? Huh? Kara then says we got a glimpse of a singer who can let it out and wow us, but we need to see more of that. Paula says, "I don't want to see an Adult Contemporary Lil Rounds, I want to see the joy that you brought to us when we first saw you." OK, whatever that means. Simon says this was just Lil singing to stay in the competition with a safe sound and that it was quite similar to a wedding performance (can't disagree there) and old-fashioned, adding that all her personality is being sucked out of her. Of course, it's the judges doing the sucking with their sucky suggestions. He ends with, "You've got to stop this. Because you're too good." We hated, HATED, what comes next. Ryan plays the kiddie card. He goes to Lil's family in the audience and actually carries one of her kids over to Randy to punch him for his negative review of mommy. Of course, Jackson snuggles the young 'un in his arms, Ryan says he looks ready to be a grandpa, Lil sheds some tears and it was all worth at least four million unearned votes. Bah!

Watch video of Lil Rounds singing "I Surrender" by Celine Dion

You've got a give Adam Lambert credit. He digs into his little big bag of tricks each week and pulls out something that you might not love, but that you'll certainly remember. That was the case again this week with Wild Cherry's "Play That Funky Music." His look was more Eddie Munster than Elvis -- the hair was slicked back again, but this week there was a widow's peak. The black nail polish, which returned on Results Night last week, was again removed for his funked out contemporized version of the tune. Truth be told, we really didn't love it. It was way too theatrical and screechy for our taste. On the other hand, we might want to, but won't, forget it. An enthralled Paula pronounced, "True genius does not fulfill expectations, true genius shatters it. There are artists who have longevity in this business because of their unique and riveting performances. I'll name a few: Mick Jagger, Steven Tyler and Adam Lambert." Pretty large prediction, given Lambert hasn't even produced a single recording, much less a hit. In spite of her lofty appraisal, Adam was not even listening to her. He's waiting to hear what Simon has to say (why do they even bother having more than one judge?). "That was very brave Adam," says Cowell. "I've got to hand it to you. At least we get rid of some of this karaoke nonsense tonight. It was original. I don't think it's going to make you as popular as last week, but I don't think it matters with you now." Randy says when he heard the song choice he thought it was going to be corny, but that Adam worked it out and is in "the star zone." Kara, ramping up for her next verbal gaffe, says, "Every week I cannot wait to get to the show to see what you are going to do next. And that's a big compliment. It was like Studio 57 up in here, tonight." Er, Studio 57? Is that the club down the street that you went to Kara, when you couldn't get into Studio 54?

Watch video of Adam Lambert singing "Play That Funky Music" by Wild Cherry

In a show of, at best, mediocre performances, Kris Allen was well chosen for the pimp spot. It may not have been the best pimp-spot performance of the season, but it was certainly Kris' best performance of the season and the best performance of the night. Proving his musicianship by accompanying himself this week on keyboard instead of guitar, his arrangement of Bill Withers' "Ain't No Sunshine," was different and current. Except for a faltering falsetto note at the very end, the vocal was excellent as well. We kept thinking that Kris' version could have easily been subbed into the seasonally changing walking scene featuring Hugh Grant in the film "Notting Hill." He has certainly become the dark horse in this competition. Randy tells him for the last couple of weeks, Kris has been slaying it and that he is in the zone right now. He calls it "definitely one of the best (nine) performances of the night. So creative. So cool. I'm loving you, loving you." Kara, carefully counting this week on her fingers, says, "I've got three words for you (uh-oh): That is artistry! Wooooo!" Does the wooooo count? (Later, Ryan tells her, "I always get nervous when you start with the numbers, Kara. Artistry, two words. No, kidding." Heh.) Paula says Kris is pacing the competition to play to his strengths and that he took a 30-year-old song and made it so it's like she's hearing it for the first time. "That could be the first cut from your album," she says. "It was your best performance to date." Simon tells him he's brought confidence to the performance and that it is a "very, very good arrangement of the song. It was very clever, very cool. I like seeing you behind the keyboards. And I agree with the guys: It's your best performance so far. Well done."

Watch video of Kris Allen singing "Ain't No Sunshine" by Bill Withers

Our Top 3:
Kris Allen
Allison Iraheta
Matt Giraud

Our Bottom 3:
Megan Joy
Scott MacIntyre
Anoop Desai

Should be eliminated: Megan Joy
Will be eliminated: Megan Joy

e-mail Idol Addict
© 2009

Thursday, March 26, 2009

American Idol Season 8
Top 10 Results

Bottom Three:
Matt Giraud (!!!)
Michael Sarver
Scott MacIntyre

Raise your hand if you think this list is total B.S.

Where the hell is Megan Joy? Dialidol.com had Matt placing 4-7, with no possibility of being the Bottom 3. On the other hand, Megan placed between 7-10 They have rarely, if ever, been that wrong. Does anyone on Earth really believe that Megan's not in the Bottom 3???

Eliminated: Michael Sarver

Last week, Alexis Grace sang "Jolene" on the Results Show and the song's poignant pleas changed from trying to save her man to trying to save her "Idol" existence. This week, Michael Sarver's "Ain't Too Proud to Beg," held more meaning, yet rang hollow. He was one of the happiest looking people we've ever seen voted off "Idol." We still hold to our analysis that because he knew he couldn't win, Michael would rather do the Regis-Ellen circuit now, then kick back at home and be a local hero for the next seven weeks until rehearsals for the finale and tour begin. What's the fun of living in a mansion when you have to work so hard and can't even win? He probably learned that working as an "Idol" contestant was cleaner but no less grueling than working as an oil rigger. Besides, Sarver's real payday was making the tour, not working for scale until he was eliminated.

As for Matt and Scott, if you listen very carefully throughout the show, Ryan Seacrest never says that the Bottom 3 are the contestants with the least amount of votes, he only says they are in the Bottom 3. The only time vote totals are mentioned is when Michael is eliminated, and Seacrest intones: "After the nationwide vote, that record-setting vote from over 36 million, the person with the lowest number of votes tonight is Michael. Matt you're safe." But Matt was probably always safe. Never does Ryan say that either he or Scott were among the three lowest vote getters (though Scott probably was). The producers are very cagey about this.

But why would the producers place people in the Bottom 3 who don't actually have the lowest vote totals? It's hard to say. To create drama? To manipulate how the public will vote the following week? Perhaps both. All we know is that they do it. For example, last season Syesha Mercado didn't appear in the Bottom 3 on weeks when she should have clearly been there, yet on the week when five contestants remained, and when according to DialIdol Mercado scored the highest amount of votes -- even more than David Cook and David Archuleta -- she was placed in the Bottom 2 with Brooke White, who was eliminated. Ryan actually confirmed this two weeks later when he said that the remaining three finalists (Cook, Archuleta and Mercado) had all come in first at some time during the season. There was no other week that Syesha even came close to being the top vote getter.

This leads us to believe that the producers are hanging Megan Joy -- who, according to DialIdol, had the second lowest vote total this week -- out to dry next week, while trying to keep Matt -- who the judges now consider a front-runner, but who placed fifth according to DialIdol -- in the competition. As for Scott, his number will probably be up a week or two after Megan departs. And we bet that the producers judges will make no attempt to save either one. It's all part of the "Idol" circus, folks. We're just saying ...

The show began with Ryan telling us that 36 million votes were received this week, the highest vote total ever for 10 remaining contestants. It's interesting that the vote total was 6 million higher this week (after being down 3 million last week)
when "Idol" didn't have to compete directly against CBS' "The Mentalist," which tends to attract the same 40ish female audience as "Idol" does. ("The Mentalist" aired out of its normal time slot, at 10 p.m. instead of 9 p.m., on Tuesday night, while "Idol" aired on Wednesday and Thursday instead of Tuesday and Wednesday because of President Obama's Tuesday press conference).

This was followed by the now obviously lip-synched group number, which was a Motown medley. We are hearing complaints from friends and fans as the show increasingly becomes prerecorded and less live. First, it was the Ford commercials, but that's OK, after all it's a commercial. However, this week the contestants weren't even singing during parts of the commercial's song. Then, some of the Results Night performances were prerecorded either during the rehearsal, or even weeks earlier. Now, it appears it is spreading to the group dance, which was at least good for laughs when it was live. Last week, it was lip-synched. This week it was prerecorded and spliced together really poorly. It's like the Ford commercial without the car. What's next? Prerecorded "live" performances?

Watch video of the Motown medley group number

The Ford commercial, set to Nastasha Bedingfield's "Pocketful of Sunshine," is up immediately after. The Top 10 barely sing, as they lay down floor tile puzzle pieces illustrating a road that the cars eventually drive away on.

Watch video of Ford commercial set to Natasha Bedingfield's "Pocketful of Sunshine"

The first of three guest performances features Ruben Studdard in the ugliest navy suit -- the jacket is ridiculously long, has big white buttons and seriously wide white piping around the collar and down both sides of the front -- we've ever seen. It looks like something you'd put on a 2-year-old. It's hard to take him seriously in that getup. He's here to sing his new single, "Together." Studdard's still got great pipes, but the song is boring. He's sweating profusely by the end.

Watch video of Ruben Studdard singing "Together"

Ryan chats up the contestants about their trip to Hitsville in Detroit before starting the eliminations. He first asks Lil Rounds a question, then zeroes in on Matt, who comes from Michigan. As we learned last week, Ryan talking to you before the eliminations can prove to be a bad sign. We'll have to keep an eye on whether the producers continue this "give" every week. Ryan begins with Adam Lambert, who is safe, next is Matt, who is told, "You sang 'Let's Get It On.' The judges all thought you had a solid performance and called you a front runner in the competition. America voted, and they did not agree with the judges. Matt, you are in the Bottom 3 tonight." Note, Matt placed fifth according to DialIdol.com, which put him squarely in the middle of the pack. So technically, Ryan didn't lie. From the public's point of view, Matt wasn't a front runner. But Ryan also never says that Matt got one of the three lowest vote totals. He just says, "You are in the Bottom Three tonight." Matt takes a stool onstage. Ryan then plays a cruel trick on Kris Allen. He reads the judges critiques, then tells him, "America voted, Kris, and, wow, you, too (pause) (as Kris starts walking to the stage) are safe." What a nasty fake out. Lil and Michael are asked to stand. It's time for more producer cruelty. Ryan tells Lil, "You sang 'Heatwave' ... Now in past seasons, Jennifer Hudson and Kimberley Locke sang that exact song and they ended up in the Bottom 3. Tonight, after that vote, believe or not, you, also, (pause) sang 'Heatwave" (pause) and are safe." Michael, who knew Lil was being played, kept saying to her through all of this, "Sit down, sit down." He is then sent to the stage.

Watch video of Matt Giraud and Michael Sarver going to the Bottom 3

We cut away from the sadism for some "entertainment." Joss Stone and Smokey Robinson duet on "You're the One for Me." Frankly, we've never understood the appeal of Joss Stone. Her vocals are little better than Megan Joy's as far as we're concerned, and the coupling of her voice with Smokey's just doesn't work. Besides, it was downright creepy having a 21-year-old sing that song to a 69-year-old. Smokey still has it, however, and listening to his high voice, we realize why "Tracks of My Tears" was a perfect choice for Adam.

Watch video of Joss Stone and Smokey Robinson singing "You're the One for Me"

Let the torture continue! Allison Iraheta, thankfully, is safe, as are Anoop Desai and Danny Gokey. That leaves Scott and Megan. Megan seems shocked when Ryan tells her the judges called her performance a "horrible trainwreck" (was she not listening Wednesday night?). Who is safe, who isn't? It's a toss-up, but we guess wrong, and Scott is assisted to the stage. Ryan is going to release someone back to safety. Randy Jackson says it should be Matt, while Michael, who no doubt peeked at DialIdol and seems to know he's a goner, keeps pointing at Matt. But it is Scott who is returned to the bleachers.

Watch video of Scott MacIntyre joining the Bottom 3 then being returned to safety

Before the ax is dropped, Stevie Wonder gives the only musical performance of the night worth listening to, doing a medley of his Motown hits, including "My Cherie Amour," "Superstition" and "Overjoyed." He even slips in an "I love you, Barack Obama." Stevie was incredible then, he still is now. Why couldn't he have been given the time spent on Ruben and Joss Stone/Smokey Robinson? We could have listened to him all night.

Watch video of Stevie Wonder Motown hits medley

Finally it's time for the obvious. Matt is told he is safe, and Michael is told to sing for survival, the same song that he told the judges the day before he knew wouldn't be good. We perceive little change in the reprise, but Kara (I don't know how many words 6 is) DioGuardi and Paula Abdul make a play at grooving and dancing to it, while Simon Cowell and Randy make dinner plans believe they're discussing it. When Sarver finishes, Alexis Grace is dealt another indignity. Whereas Simon immediately told her she wasn't good enough last week, he lyingly tells Ryan that they judges haven't yet reached a decision on Sarver. This after they made it clear last week that they wouldn't even consider saving Sarver, only Grace. So why the false dramatics? Ryan indicates they are running out of time, so Simon tells Paula to make the decision. She says, "You're not doing that to me." Simon then "valiantly" steps up to the plate and says, "I'm going to make a decision. Michael, you're going home. Sorry." Cut to journey video. Who cares?

Watch video of Michael Sarver elimination

Next week's theme has yet to be announced, but rumors are that it is the iTunes Top 100 (talk about patronizing to get their music sold). On Results Night, David Cook performs his new single "Come Back to Me" and Lady Gaga sings "Poker Face."

e-mail Idol Addict
© 2009

American Idol Season 8
Top 10 Motown Week

We grew on classic Motown music, so we weren't particularly excited about this week's theme. Why? Because we feared this year's crop of singers wouldn't do justice to the music. And for the most part, we were right. In spite of mentor Smokey Robinson thinking this year's group is more special (well, they are, but in bad ways), than previous seasons, there were only two performances that shined and held their own. That the first belonged to Adam Lambert doesn't surprise us at this point. Though still over-theatrical, he is turning into this season's David Cook, crafting each performance very carefully and finding -- or inventing -- nontraditional versions of classic songs that become identifiable solely with him. Does anyone even doubt at this point that he is winning this competition, fer sure?

The night's other very pleasant surprise was Allison Iraheta. Not that we were surprised she could be burning hot -- we've been feeling her power for weeks. But because she earned and owned the week's pimp spot, plus sung a much-more recognizable song, we're hoping that the rest of the country is finally catching up on her incredible talent. That Paula Abdul and Simon Cowell had to steal some of her limelight by acting as children during her critique (more on that later) is inexcusable. But according to DialIdol.com, which places Allison second this week, the judges' escapades didn't seem to impact her phone calls as we feared they might.

Aside from a bunch of other mediocre-to-outright horrible performances, our biggest disappointment was the Motown artists on display. This was a group that encompassed Mary Wells, The Marvelettes, Jimmy Ruffin, The Four Tops, Tammi Terrell, The Spinners, The Isley Brothers and Gladys Knight, among so many others greats. Yet we heard three songs by The Temptations, two by Marvin Gaye, two by Smokey Robinson, and one each from The Supremes, Stevie Wonder and Martha and The Vandellas. Yes, they are all superstars, but we were hoping for more variation and, in some cases, a far better song selection.

Watch video of Motown restrospective and the Idols visiting Hitsville in Detroit

As with a number of this week's contestants, Matt Giraud sounded better in rehearsal with Smokey Robinson than he did during the actual live performance. We were hopeful about his choice of Marvin Gaye's "Let's Get It On." We agree with the judges that his shift from beginning at the piano and then doing the rest of the song standing is a nice change. But as the song progresses, we find it pitchy in parts and the falsettos not nearly as pure as they are at the beginning. The worst part is that it lacks the pure sensuality of the Gaye version, which gives us chills. We're not sure what ruins it for us, whether it is Matt's appearance (when singing and smiling he shows too much gum and his teeth are yellowish -- a smoker?) or that he just doesn't exude sexuality. We think it is just OK, and by the recap we realize we have forgotten the performance completely. Randy Jackson likes the run at the end and the strength of the falsetto, enough that he says that Matt is challenging the other boy front-runners for the top spot. Kara DioGuardi, who has to convert everything to sex, says, "I think there are a lot of girls out there saying, 'Yeeeeah, let's get it on. Let's do it.' " If they are, they're aren't saying it to Matt, heh. Kara also likes that Matt's losing his shyness and coming out of his shell, but would like him to push the envelope more. Paula, twisting her thoughts (what else is new?) says, "I'm glad that you're as comfortable behind the piano as you are coming out here," when she obviously means the obverse (after all, professionally Matt is a dueling piano player). She also says Matt has a sexy-cool vibe and that his riffing is tasteful, classy, spot-on and fits the melody. Simon calls it a brilliant choice of song, says it is a cool performance and that Matt's voice exactly suits that kind of song. He also reiterates what he said last week, that Matt is now one of the front-runners in the competition.

Watch video of Matt Giraud singing "Let's Get It On" by Marvin Gaye

Simon had it right the week he called Kris Allen a puppy. He is sweet and pleasing, but lacks the soul to really give Marvin Gaye's "How Sweet It Is" the oomph it needs. It tends toward the James Taylor version but isn't even that soulful. And sue us, but when Kris plays the guitar, he looks as if he is strumming way too fast and out of tempo with the song. It's becoming a distraction and as much of a crutch as the piano is for Scott. What's weird about Kris is that he has a good voice, but there is absolutely nothing distinctive about it. It sounds like a million other good voices. The performance has some moments, but overall we found it lackluster. And what was up with that shirt? It looked like something a military prisoner would wear. The judges, however, jump aboard the Kris Allen train. Kara thinks Kris put his mark on the song with different phrasing, different rhythms and riffs and did everything right. Paula thinks he picked a great song and that his personality is infectious. Simon says it was smart that Kris did his own version of the song but that he needs to believe in himself. Randy says Kris is now very consistent, has hit his zone and that he should keep his stride 'cause it's all good, baby. Yawn.

Watch video of Kris Allen singing "How Sweet It Is" by Marvin Gaye

Things go from bad to worse. The only soul that Scott MacIntyre possesses -- he is so refined that he makes Wonder Bread seem like a whole-grain product -- is in his fingers. He can really rattle those keys. But what comes out of his mouth still reminds us of dentist-office music. With the exception of his excellent piano skills, his version of The Supremes "You Can't Hurry Love" could be heard at any karaoke bar. And that he tried to make it inspirational by saying that he's a single guy and relates to the sentiments of the song was laughable. Fortunately, the judges for the most part are no longer looking at him and Megan through rose-colored glasses. Paula says Scott brings a whole new light to his performance by having the backup singers stand the piano. Apparently we're still in the dark. Simon makes us LOL when he begins with, "Oh dear. There was a line in song when you sang, 'How much more can you take.' " He continues with it wasn't a great version of the song, plus he hated the honky-tonk piano (we kinda liked it) and the backing singers, thinks it was the completely wrong song for Scott and that it was a bit "cheap." Randy calls it a very hotel kind of performance and says that Scott needs to start taking some risks ending with, "It was just average for me." Kara likes that Scott brought tempo to the song but doesn't like that he took liberties with the melody but didn't nail it, saying he had good ideas but bad execution.

Watch video of Scott MacIntyre singing "You Can't Hurry Love" by The Supremes

And just when we think we've heard the worst, the light at the end of the tunnel is the freight train. Barreling down that tracks is the train wreck named Megan Joy (Corkrey) singing Stevie Wonder's "For Once in My Life." For once in our life we wish we didn't have to listen. Our only question: How have the judges not heard how bad she is before this week? Her horrible phrasing because she has no understanding of the lyrics, her pitchiness. These are not new phenomenons. Yes, she's got an interesting tone to her voice (this, however, does not make her a great singer) and, yes, she's one of the most beautiful women we've ever laid eyes on (though we think it's a bit weird that she matches her dress to her arm tattoo every week). But we've suffered enough with her and Michael Sarver. Can't they both go home this week? Randy comes right out and declares it a train wreck. He says it was rushed and hectic and mad-crazy. Kara tells Megan she should have sung "My Guy." Why? So she could ruin Mary Wells for us, too? She also tells her she hit bad notes all over the place (as she does every week, Kara), the phrasing and rhythms were weird (and this is different from last week how?) and that the song dominated her instead of Megan dominating the song. Whatever. Paula starts with the kiss of death: "Your stunning beauty just takes my breath away. And the camera loves you." Pause. "But I'm gonna have to agree, this wasn't the right song for you." She tells Megan that she just didn't find the pocket and wasn't as comfortable as she normally is. Simon again resorts to, "Oh dear. Oh dear, dear, dear. Megan look, the good news is you look good, the bad news is it was horrible. And whoever is advising you, I would fire. Seriously. Because you're getting some really, really terrible advice. It was an atrocious song, it was a horrible arrangement and the vocals were just all over the place. And you know what? I think you could be in serious trouble after tonight's performance. I really hate to say that [WHY!!!!], but you really could be. Sorry." The only part of Simon's critique we didn't get was his regrets. Give her the hook!

Watch video of Megan Joy (Corkrey) singing "For Once in My Life" by Stevie Wonder

We take a break from the terrible for Anoop Desai, who brings sweet poignancy to Smokey's "Ooh Baby Baby," but also s-l-o-o-o-o-w-s it down so much, we can't wait for it to end. Yes, we'll take it over "My Perogative," any day, but Anoop really knocked it out of the park with last week's "Always on My Mind," and this didn't play quite as strong. Still, it was a good performance and reinforces his length of stay on the show. Kara says overall it was a hard song to sing and that Anoop did a pretty good job. But she wants him to be more creative with how he changes up the melodies. Paula says Anoop's phrasing, delivery and falsetto are not only spot-on but sweet and tender. Simon calls it a great vocal, but says Anoop looked like he was half-asleep throughout the song. He adds that Anoop has had two good weeks in a row. Randy wants Anoop to turn it back up next week and get the party on (sounds like the recipe for disaster Desai was previously adhering to). Jackson wants more energy with the great vocals, but says it was nice to hear him "croon and swoon."

Watch video of Anoop Desai singing "Ooh Baby Baby" by Smokey Robinson

We've officially had enough of Michael Sarver. We had a moment when we felt bad for him last week when his critiques were going badly, until he decided to sass back at the judges. And this week, during his post-performance interview, he pretty much tells Ryan Seacrest that as long as he's made the Top 10, it doesn't kill him that he might not have what it takes to go all the way. It doesn't matter whether the judges get him or not, as long as he stays true to himself. Then let him sing to himself. Though Simon still seems to have this man love for Sarver and his All-American virtues, on "Idol" his work ethic sucks. He's lazy and mouthy. He knows he can't win so he'd rather take the next eight weeks off and then join the tour where his payday is. The one small comfort we have is that he'll probably never get a recording deal. And if all that isn't bad enough, his version of The Temptations "Ain't Too Proud to Beg" is Las Vegas cheeeeezy. And what's with all the glad-handing with the mosh pit? You're hardly a star Sarver. Paula calls his performance Las Vegas loungy. Simon tells him that he couldn't wait for it to end because Michael was screaming and shouting the song. He adds that Michael has no chance of winning the competition with that type of vocal. Michael, of course, has to answer back, telling Simon he knew it wasn't going to be good, but he gave it 150 percent and wasn't playing games. Simon says he knows that Michael is a sincere guy (he is???), but he's just got to take the criticism for how it's meant. That it's supposed to help him. Randy thinks the song was too big for Sarver and that he made it a little bit corny because he was trying to do too much with it. Kara went off on her artistry rant again, which we've already heard at least three times this night.

Watch video of Michael Sarver singing "Ain't Too Proud to Beg" by The Temptations

We know that Lil Rounds is making a sincere effort to pay tribute to the ladies of Motown with her wig and flapper-fringe dress, but it somehow comes off as old-fashioned, costumy and almost patronizing. In that getup, the performance feels more like musical theater, as if Lil is treading into Adam Lambert territory. Though her voice is a breath of fresh air based on most of the acts that precede her, Rounds version of Martha and The Vandella's "Heatwave," -- an "Idol" kiss of death song -- sounds shouted and is way too fast and frenetic. It falls well short of being great. Randy calls the front of the song torture for him and says, "It just wasn't the right kind of song for me for you" and that she was rushing through the song. Kara tells her it wasn't the right song for her and that she was screaming in certain parts. Paula disagrees completely with Kara, saying that Lil made a classic song fresh without really changing anything. Simon says it was an authentic Motown tribute, but the song was the wrong choice because it didn't give her a "moment."

Watch video of Lil Rounds singing "Heatwave" by Martha and The Vandellas

Though we hated how Adam Lambert slicked back his hair with oily looking gel, looking like a Vegas Elvis for Smokey's "Tracks of My Tears," we absolutely loved what he did with the vocals. Smokey said he's heard many versions of the song, but none the way Adam sings it. Its irrelevant whether Lambert borrowed this unplugged version from someone else or arranged it himself, it is amazing either way. He has the "moment" that Simon was speaking about. It is like how we all held our breath as we listened to David Cook sing "Hello." It is standing O time all the way, With Smokey the first one up on his feet. Kara says, "I don't stand up a lot, but I've got to stand up for that." She then pulls a Paula (who is actually beginning to sound smart next to Kara), by saying, "I have just six words for you: 'One of the best performances of the night.'" Er, dear, that's eight words. But then, you think that an amazing singer can, ahem, sing the alphabet (instead of the phone book). Paula loves his handsome and classy look (no, it's oily), then says that Adam's exciting and "it." Simon says he's going to disagree with Kara, "because it was: the best performance of the night." Well, at least that's six words, ha! He ended with, "And you tonight really have emerged to me as a star. Congratulations." Randy calls it "Unbelievably hot. Da bomb tonight."

Watch video of Adam Lambert singing "Tracks of My Tears" by Smokey Robinson

There's a veneer of arrogance about Danny Gokey that we just can't get past. Tonight it exhibited itself in the video segment preceding Gokey's performance of The Temptations' "Get Ready." In rehearsal with Smokey, Danny didn't sing the ends of the verses, leaving it for the background singers. Robinson advises Danny that in order to strengthen his interpretation of the song, he needs to sing them, too. Danny says in the video, "At first I was like, 'Oh man, is that gonna work?' It is going to work, because he [Smokey Robinson] knows what he's talking about. And he's been in the industry way longer than I have. So I really trust him." Guess Danny lost that thought onstage, 'cause guess who decided not to sing the ends of the verses? Er, that would be Danny, who apparently reconsidered and decided he knew better than the man who's been in the business way longer than he has. It isn't the best of Danny's performances, but, as always, is solid and very energetic. Running short on time, Paula tells Danny he's undeniable, identifiable and always reliable on giving a first-class performance every week. Simon calls it "clumsy and amateurish." Randy says Danny's got a dope voice, that it isn't his best performance, but he loves the energy and feeling of it. Kara thinks it is good but not great, adding "but I'm still a huge Danny fan."

Watch video of Danny Gokey singing "Get Ready" by The Temptations

Last up is Allison Iraheta. Though Adam earned the pimp spot, Allison definitely held her own with a dynamic version of The Temptations' "Papa Was a Rolling Stone." Please, we no longer need to hear "she's only 16," but the fact is she brought raw emotion and wisdom way beyond her years to the song. It was her best performance to date and showcased her growling vocals beautifully. The last note was amaaaazing. Randy calls her one of the dopest singers this season, saying "That was blazing hot." Kara says, "Oh ... My ... God! 16 years old and you were in the Bottom 3 last week? Whaaaaa? America, you've got to vote for her! Are you kidding? Amaaaazing. You sing like you've been singing for 400 years. That is from God, You can't teach that. Wooooo!" At this point the camera pulls back and we see that Simon is doing something to Paula's face. But what? Well, at the beginning of the show, Paula said if Simon was going to act like a child, she had something for him. She reached under the judges' table and came up with a coloring book and a box of Crayola crayons. Simon is now drawing a black mustache on Paula's face with a crayon. What a pair of idiots! Did either of them listen to Allison knock the house's socks off? As she tries to rub the crayon off and hits Simon, Paula says, "You look fantastic, you kept your rocker edge and I just want to say [covering her upper lip and mouth] you are awesome, you belong in the competition, you are amazing. Beautiful. Simon can't stop laughing at his prank, and spits out between guffaws, "Allison you are a survivor. You had a terrible week last week (not!), a very difficult song to do and that was really one of your best performances that you've ever done. Very good." Gee, thanks for your time, Simon. Sorry we interrupted your coloring.

Watch video of Allison Iraheta singing "Papa Was a Rollling Stone" by The Temptations

Our Top 3:
Adam Lambert
Allison Iraheta
Danny Gokey/Anoop Desai (Tie)

Our Bottom 3:
Michael Sarver/Megan Joy (Corkrey) (Tie)
Scott MacIntyre

Should be eliminated: Michael Sarver and Megan Joy (Corkrey)
Will be eliminated: Michael Sarver

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© 2009

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

American Idol Season 8
Top 11 Results

The Bottom Three:
Alexis Grace
Michael Sarver
Allison Iraheta
Eliminated: Alexis Grace

Ryan Seacrest
opens the show by telling us there were 31 million votes this week. Hmmm, that's 2 million less than last week. Normally, the vote totals go up as the season progresses, not down. Is the public's enthusiasm for Season 8 on the wane because of the contestants or because of all the rule changes? Will more fans defect after seeing the results of tonight's show? Probably.

Seacrest also says tonight's results might shock us. Well, no. We've seen DialIdol.com and the results are actually right in line with what they predicted. What will shock -- and dismay -- us is the cruel way that Alexis Grace is forced to "sing for her life" and then told by Simon Cowell she is good, but not good enough. You gotta be kidding. They'd rather kick Alexis to the curb this week than let her stay and hopefully eliminate Michael Sarver, Megan Joy or Scott MacIntyre from the tour next week? One thing's for certain: They've saved us the ticket price of this year's tour. Bleh.

The group number, Travis Tritt's "T-R-O-U-B-L-E," once again focuses on Scott's limitations, as he plays piano while the guys first gather round him and then take to the dance floor with the girls. There are no solo vocals and the entire thing comes off as lip-synced. In fact, we're pretty sure we notice Scott not singing in a couple of shots.

Watch video of group number "T-R-O-U-B-L-E"

We waste no time getting to the Ford video this week, sung to OK GO's "Here It Goes Again" and involving water balloons. While introducing it, Ryan tosses a water balloon at Simon. After the video Ryan tells us it went over Simon's head and hit a studio audience member. Cool. Does she get free tix to the finale for getting drenched tonight? On second thought, would she even want tix after tonight?

Watch video of Ford commercial "Here It Goes Again"

Before the night's cruel- ness begins, it's time for a heart- warm- ing spot and a few hints to who is going to land in the Bottom 3. Ryan presents a clip of the farewell dinner held for Jasmine Murray and Jorge Nuñez. It opens with *surprise* Alexis Grace talking about how she hates Result Night because in the back of your mind you always think it is going to be you. Ha! After the clip, Ryan goes directly to Alexis and asks her, "Did you ever think it would be this emotional?" Why is he toying with her? He couldn't ask someone who was obviously safe? His next victim is Michael. Do you see a trend here? Those are the two who with face the chopping block at the end of the show. Everyone chokes up and gets teary when Ryan asks, "Michael, how is it being away from the family and the kids," and Sarver says his 3½ daughter, who doesn't understand why he is away, asked him last week, "Why don't you want to be with me anymore?" Of course, Michael then has to follow that with, "So being away from your family is really tough. It's worth it in the end and I still want to go on real bad." Ryan then encourages Michael to say hello to his daughter McKenna, on camera. It's a Hallmark moment, as he says, "McKenna I love you ... with all my heart." The audience audibly "aaaaahs." Ryan then goes to Megan to ask how she's feeling and shows a clip of her from that day with her head enshrouded and other contestants wearing face masks to protect them from her germs.

Watch video of Jasmine Murray and Jorge Nuñez's farewell dinner and Alexis Grace, Michael Sarver and Megan Joy chatting with Ryan

Now it is time to start the torture. Ryan begins with Danny Gokey, who, of course, is safe, as are Lil Rounds and Anoop Desai. Allison and Michael are asked to stand. Allison is told she's in the Bottom 3 and to take a stool onstage. Michael, thinking he has escaped danger, sits. Ryan has him stand again and tells him that he, too, is in the Bottom 3. So now, before we're told, we know who is taking the third stool. Alexis had the lowest vote total on DialIdol.com. But Ryan won't reveal Alexis' fate just yet.

Watch video of Allison Iraheta and Michael Sarver put in the Bottom 3

The first guest performance of the night is by Brad Paisley who performs his new single "Then." We like Paisley, but restlessly wait for the results to continue. It feels like a long night already.

Watch video of Brad Paisley performing "Then."

Back to the nail-biting. Scott MacIntyre and Megan Joy are safe and we're wishing they were in the Bottom 3 along with Michael. But, after all, this is "Idol." Also safe are Matt Giraud (yea!) and Kris Allen. Alexis and Adam Lambert are asked to stand. Ryan asks after watching back on TV, whether Simon still thinks Adam's performance was "horrific, indulgent rubbish." Simon says after watching it back, he thought it was even worse. Ha! Randy says he loved Adam's "Jeff Buckley take" on "Ring of Fire," a version that only seems to exist in Randy's head, not on video or MP3 anywhere on the Internet. Do we even need to type that Adam is safe and Alexis is heading to her doom? Alexis joins Allison and Michael onstage and Ryan immediately decides to send one back to safety on the couches. It's Allison. We're relieved.

Watch video of Alexis Grace joining the Bottom 3 and Allison Iraheta being sent back to safety

Back from the break and it's time for the second guest performance of the evening, by Carrie Underwood and Randy Travis. But before that, Ryan presents a video tribute to Carrie's career to date, from Oklahoma farmgirl to country superstar.

Watch video of Carrie Underwood career tribute

Before their performance, Underwood and Travis chat with Ryan. Carrie, who looks awful in a modern-day Minnie Pearl getup, says she is flattered that the contestants sang her songs (and happy for the royalties, heh). The red dress is bad enough, but we can't stop staring at the bouffant hair and what looks like a black lacy wrapping- paper decoration sitting on her head. The duo perform "I Told You So." Carrie's vocals soar and we are reminded why she won Season 4. Her voice never fails to impress. That's why Lil should never have attempted "Independence Day," and Danny sounded lame on "Jesus Take the Wheel." They can't touch Carrie's vocals. Travis even looks over in amazement a time or two at the notes Underwood hits. She's an "Idol" treasure. Right before the break, Ryan asks the judges if they'd consider saving either of the Bottom 2. They say, yes, there's one they'd consider saving. Any question who it is folks?

Watch video of Carrie Underwood and Randy Travis singing "I Told You So."

It's the time of reckoning. And, sadly, Michael is safe. He really needs to be back home with his daughter. Simon tells Alexis that, yes, she was the one they were thinking of saving, but first she has to sing for her life. And she does, turning yesterday's softer version of "Jolene" into one of desperation, pitchy power notes and cracking vocals. The words take on a new meaning as they echo Alexis' own situation, begging the judges not to take her out of the competition. It's so sad, especially as we get the feeling that this was all predetermined and the show the judges make of deliberating are probably, in reality, just them making dinner plans. In the end, Simon, with a seriously contrite look on his face, tells Alexis that "We're kind of unanimous on this. It was good, but it was not good enough. Sorry. It's the end of the line, I'm afraid." Emulating her last name to the end, Grace tells the judges "I wish I could have done better. But things happen for a reason, so, you know ..." We watch her journey video. We cry. The end.

Watch video of Alexis Grace elimination

Next week, "Idol" will air on Wednesday and Thursday, as the show is pre-empted on Tuesday for a presidential press conference. The theme will be "50 Years of Motown," with the contestants performing classic Motown songs (sigh, Alexis would have done great with that). Berry Gordy, the man behind the Motown sound, appears on Wednesday. On the results show, Motown legend Smokey Robinson performs and Season 2 winner Ruben Studdard sings his new single, "Together."

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© 2009