America Gets it Wrong, Idol Sends Chikezie Home

March 27, 2008

Popularity won out over actual vocal talent and performance skills tonight as American Idol said goodbye to one of the Top 10.

I’m not naïve enough to believe that Idol is strictly a talent competition, but occasionally I’m lulled into a comfort zone where I forget.  Tonight’s bottom three results rocked me out of that false sense of the right choices being made.

ChikezieChikezie was robbed tonight.  I will grant you that his performance last night was not his best, but personally I was digging his Luther Vandross vibe.  And he can’t always do the bluegrass mix thing to every song.

But the man did do some really original things over the last couple of weeks.  He took some big risks – things that other contestants haven’t even ventured – and done them successfully.  How could America let this underdog go so early in the game?

Chikezie had real potential.  He was the guy with no experience coming into the game and he was making real progress on becoming a star.  So he had an off week that was no reason to show him the door.  I could have believe Chikezie showing up among the trio in jeopardy just to remind him of what was at stake, but there’s no way he should be saying goodbye.

But I was disappointed in more than Chikezie’s exit; I was shocked by the entire bottom three.  Only one of my picks made for the in peril spots made the list and he – Jason Castro – was deemed safe right away.

Sure Syesha Mercado’s rain of ballads is wearing thin, but her performance this week was one of her better ones.

More importantly, who was missing from the Bottom Three that should have been there?  Well, we know that Kristy Lee Cook’s patriotic song choice gave her a bye this week.  But why wasn’t Ramiele Malubay courting the bottom rung? 

She hasn’t done anything to impress me in weeks and last night was no different.  In my opinion, she should have left with her buddy Danny Noriega.  Exactly what is it about her that the voting public finds so endearing?  Her timid cuteness wore off on me five forgettable ballads ago.

And what about David Archuleta?  I know he’s a favorite of the judges.  But I think it’s becoming clear that while he might have a nice voice, he doesn’t have star power.  He’s limited to soft, slow songs.  He has very little stage presence and has done nothing truly original.

Then there’s Jason.  This guy survived tonight’s threat after openly admitting after his mediocre performance Tuesday that he should have practiced more.  Except for his rendition of “Hallelujah” he’s done the same acoustic guitar type song every week.  Is he taking this competition seriously?  Is he even trying?  And why are we giving this guy a free ride.

I don’t know about the rest of you, but I was very disenchanted with this week’s results.

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American Idol Top 10 Theme was Flawed

March 26, 2008

Tonight on American Idol the Top 10 contenders got to choose songs from the year they were born.  Besides making me feel old with only one contestant sharing the same birth decade with me, I had to wonder if the contenders could really maximize on the cool theme.

Top 10

I was very impressed with the idea for the theme – songs from the contestants’ birth year.  I thought it was a very creative concept that left the door wide open on song choices, a necessity after the limits of the last two week.  But several of the song choices don’t seem to match the theme.

And in the end, I’d have to say that only a handful used their song choice to make themselves stand out from the crowd.

At the top of that list is our favorite rocker – David Cook who performed the Chris Cornell version of “Billie Jean,” a rock alternative to Michael Jackson’s 1983 hit.  Not only did Cook’s rendition top Cornell’s but I will never again be able to list to the Jackson version again without thinking about how much better Cook performed his song. 

I was blown away.  Cook continues to amaze me with his originality week after week.  He really knows how to calculate his risk and push the envelope.  However, I do have one pet peeve.  Cook was born in 1982 and since Jackson didn’t come out with the hit until 1983, I fail to see how the song qualifies under the theme let alone the Cornell version that came out more than 20 years later.

Next on the list Michael Johns born in 1978.  We’ve finally found Michael’s niche – he can only do Queen songs.  You already know I loved his “Bohemian Rhapsody” during Hollywood week.  Tonight he paired two Queen hits from 1977 “We will Rock You” and “We are the Champions” to finally showcase his vocal abilities. 

But the big question is what will he do next week when a Queen song isn’t an option?  Also notice that neither of Michael’s songs are from his birth year.

Also impressing me this week was Carly Smithson.  I finally found a side of Carly I liked – her version of “Total Eclipse of the Heart.”  I will agree with Simon that she looked a little stiff during her performance.  But this time was one of the first where I actually enjoyed her rocker vibe.

By the way, Randy’s got a new term – he called her last note sharp.  Is “sharp” the new “pitchy?”

Lee Greenwood’s “God Bless the USA” was a clever song choice for Kristy Lee Cook and she rose to the song putting in one of her best performances (I still liked the Journey number better).  However, I had a little trouble watching her perform because she kept doing this weird head shake thing that was distracting.  Still, the performance is enough to save her for another week.

Those four are really the only ones that I think really made an impression this week.  The others just seemed to skate by.

I think I might have been more impressed with Syesha Mercado’s “If I Were Your Woman” if it hadn’t been yet another romantic song from a strict balladeer.  There’s no question that Syesha nailed her performance, but we know she can do the soft slow songs.  What else can she do?

By the way “If I Were Your Woman” was released in 1970 by Gladys .Knights & the Pips nowhere near Syesha’s birth in 1987.

On the other hand a ballad was a nice change of pace for Chikezie.  I like Chikezie best when he’s doing upbeat songs, but I think he channeled Luther Vandross tonight for his rendition of “If Only for One Night.”  This performance was not his best, but it shouldn’t earn him a spot in the bottom three.

Then we have Brooke White.  The misstep at the beginning of Police’s “Every Breath You Take” will cost Brooke a little, but she recovered and came through with a solid performance.  We all know that Brooke can sing, but can she perform without a piano or keyboard in front of her?

Also playing it safe was Jason Castro.  “Fragile” by Sting seemed like it would be the perfect match for Jason’s laid back persona if you don’t mind that it came out in 1988, a year after Jason’s birth.  But at this point we need to see Jason step outside his comfort zone.  His performance was fine for a coffee house show, but he can’t expect safe songs and his quirky expressions will charm his way to victory.

Conversely, it was nice to see David Archuleta do something other than a ballad.  That said thought, I didn’t like his rendition of “You’re the Voice.”  It didn’t help that no one knew the song.  Simon called the performance theme parkish, but I thought it was something you’d hear in a pageant.

And what was Paula’s comment about choosing an American composer?  Especially after two weeks of the Beatles!

Finally, I continue to be underwhelmed by Ramiele Malubay.  Her performance of Heart’s “Alone’ confirms my opinion that she should have been voted off weeks ago.  The beginning of the song was another boring ballad and I’m not even sure how to describe the mess that was the rest of the song.

The outstanding performances tonight made it worth the show, but the rest were a bit of a letdown.  My bottom three picks are Jason, Ramiele and Archuleta.

Ryan closed out the evening telling us that Kimberley Locke, a finalist from the second season, would be performing tomorrow night.  But I had more pressing questions:

1.  What was Paula wearing?  The gloves looked like they were out of the ‘80s, but I don’t even know what to make of the asymmetrical shirt.

2.  What was up with Randy?  He was really breaking bad tonight.  He made Simon look like a teddy bear.  Is he tired of no one listening to his opinion?  Or did he just decide to stray from his “dawg, it was a bit pitchy” lines?

3.  First of all, I think that the idea of a mosh pit on Idol is a little silly.  But who decides who gets to be in it?  Apparently there is a girls only rule.

4.  Why were we told each contestants astrological sign?  Is voting now being aligned with the stars?  It felt a little more like a dating show than a singing competition.

So who impressed you most tonight?  And who should we send home?

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Will Guest Mentors Nuture a Star Among Idol Contenders?

March 20, 2008

Finally, American Idol announced the Season 7 guest mentors on the Top 11 results show.  Expect to see Dolly Parton, Mariah Carey, Andrew Lloyd Webber and Neil Diamond mixing it up with the Top 10 over the next few weeks.  No word yet on which show each mentor will appear.

American Idol logoSo what do you think of this year’s guest mentors?  Do you think they are a good match for this year’s contenders? 

Will these mentors bring out top-notch performances like some of the ones we saw during the first Lennon-McCartney night?  Or are we in for more stale, mediocre performances like this week?

Too bad Amanda Overmyer is gone.  Wouldn’t you have liked to see her teaming up with Andrew Lloyd Webber?  Which musical would you have like to see her chose a number from?  The balladeers – Brooke White, David Archuleta and Ramiele Malubay – will shine Webber night.

Dolly Parton night should be a hoot.  I hope it’s soon before Kristy Lee Cook’s luck finally runs out.  Maybe Dolly can fine tune Kristy Lee’s country influence in her songs.  And what will Dolly do to help Chikeze with his bluegrass arrangements?  Can Dolly trade Carly Smithson’s Irish accent for a country twang?

I am dreading Mariah Carey night.  Not because of the diva herself, but because we will be subjected to everyone trying to belt out her songs.  No one does it as well as she does and we are left with a bunch of subpar performances. 

Weren’t we subjected to enough of these during the auditions and then we had a surge of her songs again during ‘80s week.  Syesha Mercado is probably the only one who has half a chance and succeeding on Carey night.

On the other hand, I think Neil Diamond has the most potential.  Neil has a host of hits that would be great choices for the contenders to customize to their benefit.  I can see Jason Castro doing “I’m a Believer” and David Cook rocking to “America.”  Could Michael Johns finally find a song among Neil’s hits that suits him?  Who will sing “Sweet Caroline?”

So tell me which mentor are you looking forward to?  And what songs do you hope to hear?

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American Idol says Adios to Amanda

March 20, 2008

Whoever thought that the girls were the stronger of the two genders on Season 7 of American Idol only has to look at tonight’s bottom three to rethink that assessment.  Apparently a second night of singing songs from the all-male Beatles did not bode well for the ladies.

Amanda OvermyerAlthough I never expected Amanda Overmyer to go the distance in the competition, I was not expecting her exit this soon.  Yes, Amanda’s style has a very limited appeal, but she does rock her niche.  And quite frankly, I thought there were at least two singers who consistently performed worse than her.

I was even surprised by Amanda’s cohorts in the bottom tier – Carly Smithson and Kristy Lee Cook.  My prediction to go home tonight (Ramiele Malubay) was deemed safe early on.  And I only correctly named one in the hot seat tonight. 

While Kristy Lee is now a staple in the lower trio, I was honestly surprised to see Carly there tonight.  She has been a favorite of the judges since the beginning.

But as Simon says this is not just a singing competition, it is a popularity contest. And so boring performances from the likes of Ramiele and Kristy Lee continue while the unique Harley-riding nurse from Indiana says good bye.

The rest of the night was filled with the typical fluff.

  • A performance of “Red High Heals” by Season 5 contender Kellie Pickler.
  • The “Should I Stay or Should I Go” Ford Video.
  • A montage on the making of the Ford Video (we are getting desperate for filler now).
  • An update on “Idol Gives Back.”
  • More viewer call-in questions (don’t ask me what they were, I don’t even pay attention to this part anymore).
  • Announcement of this season’s mentors.
  • So what do you think America, did we send the right contestant home?

    —————

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    American Idol Lennon-McCartney Night Part Deux

    March 19, 2008

    Tonight the Top 11 celebrated The Beatles – again – on American Idol with even more songs from John Lennon and Paul McCartney – and one by George Harrison.  But who would stand out this week?

    Top 11It’s as if the contestants took their cue from the producers of Idol who erred on the side of caution by repeating the theme from last week.  Tonight the name of the game was safe and the performances reflected with reliable standby sounds for the most part.

    Where last week there was a clear cut line between the top performers and those that didn’t measure up, this week few stood out.

    It’s clear I’m a David Cook fan.  So, it’s no surprise that I enjoyed his performance of “Day Tripper.”  He got a sound that I’d pay to hear again.  Plus, he did a great job of mixing it up by adding in the voice box this week.  As far as I’m concerned Cook is the guy to beat.

    But giving Cook a run for his money is Chikeze.  When he started “I’ve Just Seen a Face,” it sounded like just another tired ballad.  But then he kicked it up a notch and out came this cool, funky bluegrass tune.  Sure it wasn’t as good as last week and I’m not sure that Chikeze has a career as a harmonica player, but it was the lone attempt at originality this week.

    Right on the tail of these leaders is Jason Castro who literally charmed his way through “Michelle.”  Jason stepped out from behind his guitar, took on a foreign language and still looked like he had a good time.  The performance, not necessarily the singing itself, was captivating in an adorable way.

    Another night, another ballad from Syesha Mercado.  But she did manage to make it stand out by taking some risks with the arrangement.  The acoustic rendition allowed her to showcase her vocals, but will the performance stand the test of time?  It should at least keep her out of the bottom three.

    “Back in the U.S.S.R.” was a great song choice for Amanda Overmyer but it was also a safe choice.  The performance was what we’ve come to expect from Amanda.  Therein lies the problem – predictability.  She’s going to need to find a way of talking a risk, but still playing to her strengths.  Overall a decent performance, but not my favorite of Amanda’s.

    Carly Smithson continues to dazzle the judges, at least some of the judges.  She put in a sound, if not safe, performance with “Blackbird.”  Unfortunately, her voice itself does nothing for me, even if I’m in the minority.

    Also playing it safe after last week’s lyric-forgetting train wreck, David Archuleta chose yet another ballad.  Sure Archuleta did a nice job on “The Long and Winding Road,” but I’m beginning to wonder if all he can do are the soft, slow songs.

    “Here Comes the Sun,” the lone George Harrison penned song, was a predictable, but perfect song choice for Brooke White.  She looked like she was having full all dressed in sunshine yellow.  That said, the performance itself was lackluster.  You could easily tell that she felt out of her element with dancing substituting for her keyboard.

    Michael Johns needs to stop picking songs that have special meaning for him and pick a song that will accentuate his vocals.  I know I keep harping on the “Bohemian Rhapsody” performance, but that’s the only song that Michael has done that blew me away.  Tonight’s “A Day in the Life” just didn’t do it.

    Kristy Lee Cook did not “blow me out of my socks” with You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away,” but I thought it was one of her better performances. It might have been a little safe, but after last week I can’t fault her for going with what she knows.

    And finally, Ramiele Maluba promised to pick up the tempo after “boring” the judges last week.  But all her performance of “I Should Have Known Better” did was remind me of a bad version of some kind of one-hit wonder from the ‘80s.  I for one am ready to say so long to Ramiele.

    And that pretty much wraps up the Top 11 performances.  Of course there was more shameless promotion of the iTunes downloads and we were told that Kellie Pickler will be performing at the results show this week.

    I think he bottom three should be Ramiele, Kristy Lee and Michael with Ramiele going home.  Who do you think should be in the bottom three?

    —————

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    Trailer for Lost Boys Sequel Promises to Raise the Stakes

    March 14, 2008

    Sleep all day.  Party all night.  Never grow old. Never die.

    Every child of the ‘80s knows this tag line.  It’s from the cult hit The Lost Boys — one of my favorite guilty pleasures.

    Edgar FrogFor the last 20 years, I have enjoyed the tale of Sam Emerson (Corey Haim) partnering with Edgar (Corey Feldman) and Alan (Jamison Newlander) Frog to save his brother Michael (Jason Patric) from becoming a vampire and joining the likes of David (Keifer Sutherland) and his bloodsucking friends.

    So when I heard about a sequel last April, you’d think I would have been ecstatic.  But then I read that it was going to be a direct-to-DVD release and involve surfing vampires.

    Since I can’t recall ever being impressed by a direct-to video sequel and the thought of surfing vampires (I thought they couldn’t be in the sun) seemed absurd, I put The Lost Boys 2:  The Tribe out of my mind.

    That is until I saw the trailer for the new movie.

    The trailer looks like a second-generation of the first movie, complete with the Frog brothers to the rescue.  Sure the movie doesn’t look it’s going to score high in the originality category with blood being substituted for wine again and more vamps on motorcycles, but it still looks like a fun movie.

    Besides the movie stars Autumn Reeser who I came to love as the chatty, but insecure Taylor Townsend that eventually wins the heart of Ryan Atwood (Benjamin McKenzie) on The O.C.  I would enjoy seeing her again.

    The Tribe picks up 21 years after its predecessor.  Feldman and Newlander reprise their roles as the Frog brothers, who have embraced their life as vampire slayers, becoming the leading authorities in their field (I’m not sure Buffy would agree).  In addition, word is that Haim will return as Sam, although he is not seen in the trailer. 

    Recycled plot aside, the film links itself back to the original through character connections.

    In the sequel, Sam’s niece and nephew lose their parents in a car accident.  Would that make Chris (Tad Hildenbrink) and Nicole (Reeser) Emerson Michael’s children?  I wonder if Star (Jami Getz) was their mom.

    Needless to say, as orphans they are sent to live with their Aunt Jillian (Gabrielle Rose) in Luna Bay, another small seaside town.  I’m not sure who Jillian is – Sam’s wife or a maternal relative.  But either way, you can expect the brother-sister duo to run into an undead problem.

    And who’s the big bad in this movie?  A vamp named Shane (Angus Sutherland, Keifer’s younger half-brother).  When Nicole falls under his spell, Chris turns to the Frog brothers for help.

    Although the movie continues to be listed as direct-to-DVD, Feldman said in an interview with MTV that it hasn’t yet been decided whether it will be a theatrical or a DVD release.

    If the movie does go to the theaters, although I think Feldman is just being optimistic, I’ll be shelling out my nine bucks.  I’m not really buying into the tag line “Raising the Stakes” and I know I’m probably in for a let down, but the thought of a Lost Boys franchise is so appealing.

    The movie is currently scheduled for a July 2008 release.

    So what do you think?  Is the movie worth seeing?


    What’s Your Favorite March activity?

    March 14, 2008

    March is one of those strange months that are more about transitions than about a particular event or season.  But that doesn’t mean the month should fly by without a little adventure.  What is your favorite activity to do in March?

    When the twins were born, we started a new March tradition – the Henrico County Kite Festival.  We’ve done it every year, but this year – it was extremely cold and rain last weekend when the festival took place. 

    It seemed like the festival came early this year, probably because Easter is early this year.  But I digress.

    The festival is a great family affair.  You go to this park in the county and everyone is out there with their kites.  You can see all the kites in the sky as you approach the park.  Kites of every shape and size soaring through the air.  It’s beautiful.

    We always pack a lunch, meet some other friends and make a day out of it.  We might fly our kites for a bit, sit and watch the other kites for a while, have a snack or play some ball.  We always bring a few other activities for the kids.  And the Parks and Rec Department always has a few activities for the kids too.

    Last year, for the first time, the kids really got into the kites.  They helped daddy put them together.  Sure the process would have quicker without their help, but it was cool that they took such an interest.

    Then they wanted to hold the reel that releases the string.  They didn’t quite understand what they were doing and often crashed the kite with their efforts.  Still it was fun to enjoy a “family” event in the fresh air.

    I felt a little like the family at the end of Mary Poppins (I promise not to strut around with a sash chanting about women’s right to vote).  They had finally found time for each other and were truly enjoying each other’s company. “Let’s go fly a kite . . .”

    Since we missed the festival this year, I think we will have to take the kids out another day later this month or early in April.  April would be good since it’s National Kite Flying Month

    I’ve never really been good at flying a kite.  But I’ve never had so much fun trying as with my kids helping.  When was the last time you flew a kite?