New Idol Crowned During Star Studded Finale

May 21, 2009

With just under 100 million votes cast towards deciding this year’s winner, American Idol pulled out all the stops for its two hour finale.  And what a finale it was!

Two very talented men -- Adam and Kris.  Photo courtesy of American Idol

Two very talented men -- Adam and Kris. Photo courtesy of American Idol

The dark horse prevailed.  Kris Allen has been declared the Season 8 Winner of American Idol.  He’s come a long way from the guy we didn’t meet until Hollywood Week and didn’t get to know until the Top 13.

Ryan never released how close the vote came, but I can’t imagine that it wasn’t close.  We couldn’t have been treated to two more deserving candidates for the finale.  Both men are very, very talented and seem like all around good guys.

And I loved all of Adam and Kris’ performances tonight.  I had a hard time picking my favorite.

In fact, the whole finale was stunning.  Usually, I’m annoyed by all the fluff Idol parade out to fill out their two hour shows.  But this show was completely different.  It was one stunning performance after another.

The opening number of the night saw the return of the Top 13 singing Pink’s “So What.”  It was really nice to see the whole gang back together again.  I’ve already forgotten some of the faces; it’s been so long since we’ve seen them.  But it was nice to see Alexis back in the fold.

Speaking of old faces, last year’s winner David Cook returned to perform his single “Permanent,” a song he wrote with Chantal Kreviazuk and Raine Maida.  The proceeds from the sale of this iTunes song will go to Accelerate Brain Cancer Cure (ABC2), a DC-based organization dedicated to finding a cure for brain cancer.

Next we got to get a look back at the auditions with the Golden Idol Awards. 

The first trophy went to Nick Mitchell aka Norman Gentle for Outstanding Male.  I’m so glad that we got to see Nick one more time this season.  He really added some humor to the beginning of the season.

The next award went to Katrina Darrell aka Bikini Girl for Best Attitude.  Is it me or did the bikini get smaller?  But the best part had to be when Kara came out and showed her up – vocally!  I’ll let you guys be the judge of who had the better body. 

The last award, Outstanding Female, went to Tatiana Nicole Del Toro.  Either she really wants her 15 minutes of fame or she’s a good sport to play along as Idol poked fun at her. 

But then we got down to some serious singing. 

The first duet brought back Lil Rounds and paired her with Queen Latifah for “Cue the Rain.”  I was hoping without the pressure of the judging we’d see the Lil we loved during the early phases.  Unfortunately, singing with Queen Latifah proved that Lil’s voice just isn’t that great.

On the other hand, Anoop Desai and Alexis Grace sounded wonderful as they sang “I’m Yours” with Jason Mraz.  I think it says a lot about Alexis’ popularity that she got a shot at the spotlight tonight.  Last year, only the Top 6 got to perform, other than group numbers, during the finale.

Now, I don’t think of Kris Allen as a country singer, but I loved his duet of “Kiss a Girl” with Keith Urban.  They both looked like they were having a ball.  This duet was one of my favorite performances of the night.

The stars keep coming, the girls from got to do a medley with Fergie before introducing the Black Eyed Peas.

Another good pairing was Allison Iraheta and Cyndi Lauper on “Time After Time.”  I always thought of Allison as a through back to the 80s and this duet proved it.  I thought they sounded perfect togher.  And was Cyndi playing a steel guitar?  I didn’t know she could play.

And while the producers got the pairing right with Allison, I have to wonder what they were thinking with Danny Gokey.  They had him sing a solo of “Hello” before continuing the medley with Lionel Richie.  However, no one will ever compare to the David Cook version of “Hello” from last season.  I think the producers just set up Danny for a comparison he could never live up to.  The rest of the medley wasn’t bad though.

Now the next guest performer shocked me.  I’d have never guessed that they would make an appearance on American Idol.  But with Adam in the finale it seems only right he should get partnered with KISS for a medley.  Now that was a performance that rocked!

But the stars didn’t stop there.  Carlos Santana took the stage with a guitar solo of “Black Magic Woman” before performing “Smooth” with the Top 13.

Then we got one last Ford Video that was really just a clip of videos from throughout the season as Adam and Kris sang “I Will Remember You.”  And then David Cook handed the keys over to Adam and Kris for their brand new 2010 Ford Fusions.

Idol is full of surprises tonight because I had no idea that Steve Martin had musical aspirations, let alone could play the banjo.  But I liked “Pretty Flowers,” the song he wrote and performed with Megan Joy and Michael Sarver.  The song itself actually suited the pair really well.

Next up, the guys got to sing “Do You Think I’m Sexy” before Rod Stewart came out to sing “Maggie May.”

The final duet went to the two stars of the night. Adam and Kris teamed up with Queen to sing “We are the Champions.”  The rest of the Top 13 joined them on backgrounds.  What a great way to close the night.  And can I say that I think Adam and Kris actually would do well singing together!

Unfortunately, they couldn’t just give us the results and end it there.  Poor Kris had to sing “No Boundaries” again. 

What I can’t understand is if the producers can do such great pairings for the finale, why can’t they (and the judges) do a better job picking songs for the contestants to sing.

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Carrie Underwood Returns for Idol’s Shocking Top 11 Results

March 19, 2009

To round out the full hour American Idol needs to give us the one name of the person being eliminated this week, we were treated to performances by three Grand Ole Opry members – Brad Paisley and a duet by Idol’s own Carrie Underwood and guest mentor Randy Travis.  But the performances would be overshadowed by the shocking news of who was to go home.

Carrie Underwood performed a duet with guest mentor Randy Travis tonight

Carrie Underwood performed a duet with guest mentor Randy Travis tonight

It wasn’t long before we learned that Allison Iraheta, Michael Sarver and Alexis Grace were in the bottom three.  In short order, Ryan let Allison know that she was safe, leaving Michael and Alexis to sweat it out until the end.

And it probably didn’t help their nerves to know that the judges said they were willing to consider using the Judges Save for one of them – that someone turned out to be Alexis. 

When Michael was declared safe, the judges told Alexis that her encore performance would determine the judges’ vote for her safety.  Unfortunately, as Simon said, her performance was good, but not good enough.

Does this exit disprove the alleged rumors that Idol producers have already determined the Top 4?  Alexis’ name was leaked to be among the final four. 

I don’t know about the producers, but these results definitely through a wrench in who I thought would be in the final four.

The rest of the show was your typical filler.

After learning that 31 million votes were cast, being reminded of the new Judges Save rule and seeing a review of Tuesday night’s performance, we finally got to hear from our Top 11. 

Unfortunately, after the group performance of Travis Tritt’s “T-R-O-U-B-L-E,” I kind of wished they had kept quiet.  Normally, I’m one of the minority that actually like the group numbers – that is until tonight.  It sounded horrible like 11 different people were singing separately instead of together in harmony.

And my mood didn’t improve when I saw this week’s Ford video.  “Here It Goes Again” featured a water balloon fight between the Top 11.  Normally, these videos are one of my favorite fluff pieces, but I’m just not feeling it this season.

Luckily the guest performers were at least entertaining.  Brad Paisley debuted his new single “Then.”  And then recently inducted Grand Ole Opry member Carrie Underwood teamed up with the man who issued her invitation to The Opry, Randy Travis, for their first live duet of “I Told You So.”

Finally, the identity of the Top 10 – Kris Allen, Anoop Desai, Matt Giraurd, Danny Gokey, Allison Iraheta, Megan Joy Corkrey, Adam Lambert, Scott MacIntyre, Lil Rounds, and Michael Sarver – have been identified for those of you waiting to purchase your Idol on Tour tickets.

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Randy Travis helps Idol’s Top 11 Find Their County Side

March 18, 2009

It’s Grand Ole Opry Night on American Idol and that means Simon is going to be extra hard to please.  We all know how little the Brit likes country music so it’s a real test to see which of the Top 11 can impress him tonight. 

This week the Top 11 honor The Grand Ole Opry. Recently guest mentor Randy Travis invited former Idol winner Carrie Underwood to become a member of The Opry. Tomorrow the two will perform a duet.

This week the Top 11 honor The Grand Ole Opry. Recently guest mentor Randy Travis invited former Idol winner Carrie Underwood to become a member of The Opry. Tomorrow the two will perform a duet.

Who knew that it was going to be Anoop Desai who would shine the most?  Last week, he stood next to Jorge Nunez and wondered if he would be back again.  This week, he blew us away with a beautiful, heartfelt performance of a classic – Willie Nelson’s “Always on My Mind.”  My only complaint is that you don’t sing a song like that in a hoody.  Anoop stepped up his vocal game this week; now he needs to dress the part.

Also doing a full 180 was Megan Joy Corkrey.  Megan Joy was also fighting for survival last week and despite having the flu tonight, she turned in a pretty nice performance of Patsy Cline’s “Walking After Midnight.”  I’m still not a full out Megan Joy fan, but I’m starting to see what others like about her.  Now if she’d just get rid of that funky twist/dance thing.  And unlike Simon, I liked tonight’s look much better than her quirky look.

Now normally when we get to country music we have several fall flat on their face, but honestly, I can’t say that there were any real bad performances – one a bit on the weird side, but no train wrecks.  In fact, I’m having trouble picking my favorite and judging from the clips of the contestants with guest mentor Randy Travis, he did too.

Among those impressing me tonight was Kris Allen.  Kris sang “To Make You Feel My Love” which is not one of my favorite Garth Brook songs.  But Kris made it sound beautiful.  Randy Travis called him a great ballad singer and I have to say I agree.  I kind of wish he would have sang it with the guitar, but without it he took a chance, showed his vulnerable side and it worked.

Just a note to Kara, who said that she didn’t even know that Kris’ performance was Opryland material.  Opryland was a country-themed amusement park, no longer in existence.  The Opry is the longest running radio show that Idol was honoring tonight

Matt Giraud also blew me away.  Both he and Danny Gokey chose Carrie Underwood songs.  First, let me tell you I find it a little weird when male singers pick songs by female artists, especially when they do it consistently like Danny.  I’m all in favor of guys getting in touch with their feminine side, but when they keep picking these songs, I have to wonder what they are trying to accomplish.

Tonight Matt showed us what he was trying to accomplish.  I was totally wowed!  I liked his version “So Small” better than the original.  And let me tell you that this guy can really play the piano too.

Unfortunately, Danny’s performance just didn’t compare.  He didn’t really change much for his rendition of “Jesus Take the Wheel.”  He struggled with the verses, but came out soulful and big on the chorus.  However, it sounded like every other song Danny does.

On the other hand, Alexis Grace changed up her performance tonight.  The judges thought her performance of Dolly Parton’s “Jolene” lacked the “dirty” she’s had the last couple of weeks.  Personally, I liked seeing Alexis’ softer side.  Sure, she didn’t try anything different with the song, but it still came across simple and pretty.

However, pretty wouldn’t be how I’d describe Adam Lambert’s performance.  I grew up in a family that regarded Johnny Cash as a legend and you don’t mess with a legend.  So you can see where I would approach Adam’s Middle Eastern arrangement of “Ring of Fire” with trepidation.  Now, I can’t say that I think Cash would have loved it, but it wasn’t as bad as I thought it’d be – just weird. 

I think Adam would have had more success if he’d tried a rock version of the song.  But even funnier that Kara trying to evaluate Adam’s performance was Randy Travis’ reaction to Adam in general.  Talk about clash of cultures.

But fun was the name of the game for Michael Sarver.  He might not have the strongest vocals, but Michael is definitely a down-to-earth likeable guy.  During the critique about his performance of “Ain’t Going Down (Til the Sun Comes Up)” by Garth Brooks, he said “country music is about having some fun.” 

And Michael sure looked like he was having fun when he was singing that mouthful of words that make up that song.  While I like that performance, I agree that it had a couple rough spots were it sounded like he mumbled the words a little.  But when Simon rated Michael’s performance as a 1.2 (on a scale of 10), the personable Michael replied with a smile, at least it wasn’t a zero.

Another performance that I think got overshadow tonight was Scott MacIntyre.  His version of  Martina McBride’s “Wild Angels” started out very pretty and I liked it even more after he picked up the tempo.  But unfortunately, while the arrangement is beautiful, the vocals just didn’t wow me. 

We learned tonight that Scott spends an incredible amount of time on the arrangements each week – and it shows – and he hasn’t always gotten his first choice in songs, but he still needs to kick up the vocals a notch if he wants to stay in the game.  And I totally disagree with Paula, I don’t think the piano inhibits his performances at all – it enhances them.

Poor Lil Rounds just suffered from the wrong genre this week.  Lil was clearly unfamiliar with country music, but I think she made a fair stand with her version of Martina McBride’s “Independence Day.”  It wasn’t her best performance, but it was still solid.  Unfortunately, compared to the others she just paled.  But no matter how she performed, Simon really needs to learn her name by now.  He insisted on calling her Little throughout her critique.

While Lil struggled with the genre, Allison Iraheta missed an opportunity.  She chose “Blame It On Your Heart” by Patty Loveless and she put in a decent performance.  But given the bluesy/rock sound of her voice, Allison could have change that performance more to suit her voice and really stolen the night.  If she’d have experimented a little more, she would have been much more memorable.

I’m really struggling with my bottom three this week because as I said earlier no one just crashed and burned.  I think the bottom would have to include Allison and Lil.  The third spot could go to either Scott or Michael.  And I think Allison should be the one to go home.

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New Idol Rule Couldn’t Save Jorge, Jasmine from Elimination

March 12, 2009

The first elimination of American Idol’s Top 13 saw the birth of a new rule and sent two hopefuls home after nearly 33 million votes.  Now the field has narrowed to the traditional 11 contenders and the judges still have a save card they can play.

Kelly Clarkson courtesy of American Idol

Kelly Clarkson courtesy of American Idol

The biggest news of the night was the new Judges Save rule.  Up until the Top 5, the judges can save one person from elimination.  They can use this save just once and the decision must be unanimous.  That week no one will be eliminated, but the next week two will be eliminated (so in theory, the save could just be temporary).

The reasoning is that if the judges had this rule before they could have saved the likes of Michael Johns, Jennifer Hudson or Chris Daughtry from leaving the competition too early.  But you have to wonder, if they’d stayed another week would any of these contenders gone on to win the contest or would they have just lived to be eliminated another day?

I wasn’t watching back when Hudson or Daughtry were eliminated so I can’t really comment on them, but I don’t think a reprieve would have led to a Johns’ victory in Season 7.  But it would have been nice to look at him a little longer.

Personally, I think if they are going to change the rules, they should have let everyone know at the beginning of the season.  However, it’ll be interesting to see if this rule has any real impact.

It’s no surprise that the judges didn’t use their one save of the season tonight, so early in the game.  And I think it’s going to have to be a pretty strong contender for all four judges to agree.

While on whom and when the save will be used is still a mystery, the roster for the bottom four was no surprise to anyone watching Tuesday’s show – Jasmine Murray, Megan Joy Corkrey, Anoop Desai and Jorge Nunez. 

Three of these four were added during the Wild Card round which doesn’t say much for the quality of contestants we got during that round.  But in the end the Js were sent packing.  However, I would be surprised if we didn’t see Jasmine or Jorge again next season.

The evening led off with a medley of Jackson 5 hits performed by the Top 13.  Let me just say that I have high praise for Scott MacIntyre for even attempting the group number choreography.  We’ve see even those with all their senses intact struggle with the footwork before.  Didn’t someone even run into a camera last year? 

But as much as I’m impressed with Scott for stepping up to the challenge, I am equally awed by the other contestants’ willingness to help him find his spacing and direction during this numbers.  I’m so glad that they can put their competitiveness aside; it makes for a better group number.

We were also treated to performances by Grammy winner Kayne West who say his hit single “Heartless” and by first season Idol winner Kelly Clarkson who sang her new single “My Life Would Suck Without You.” 

Kayne’s performance didn’t do anything for me, but it’s just not my taste in music.  On the other hand, I usually like Kelly’s work, but this song just didn’t strike a chord with me either.  What did you think of her song

The rest of the night was filled with the standard filler, a review of the previous night performances, encore performances by those exiting and the first Ford Video of the season to Queen’s “We will Rock You.”  Normally I like these videos (mostly just because it’s less time we have to listen Ryan talk), but this was nothing special, just singing heads on buildings while a car drove by.  Ford has definitely had better videos with Idol contestants.

We also got a peek into the finalists’ new digs.  And all I can say is wow!! What a mansion!  When will they have time to rehearse with distractions like pool, steam room, Jacuzzi, basketball court, bowling alley, and home theater?  After seeing this place, I’m thinking about auditioning just so I can stay there, but the fact that I can’t sing a lick will probably axe any chance I have of taking up residence in this mansion.

 

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Adam Shows the Race for the Idol Title isn’t ‘Black or White’

March 11, 2009

Finally, we’ve gotten to the part of American Idol I love – when the real competition begins.  The performances tonight were a huge step above what we’ve been tortured with the last three weeks.

Lambert proved to be a hard act to follow

Lambert proved to be a hard act to follow

I don’t know if there is less pressure now that the mass cuts are just a memory or if there was just too much dead weight in the Top 36, but we have some real contenders here and they came out tonight singing the songs of Michael Jackson to prove that the winner if far from decided.

Rocking Out

Leading the pack in the race for the title tonight was Adam Lambert who has really come into his own in the last couple of weeks.  He turned around the judges who thought he was too theatrical at first. 

And if you don’t mind his eccentric style, he’s fun to watch and he can definitely rock out.  Tonight he proved that he could make a song his own with a slightly new arrangement of “Black or White” that had Paula and the audience dancing.  With the judges now behind him, he can be a real contender.

Also rocking out tonight was Alexis Grace and Allison Iraheta.  Alexis got down with “Dirty Diana” while Allison sang “Give in to Me.”  Both girls have a nice rock edge, but Alexis definitely put in the better performance.  This girl can sing and she can rock.  I cannot believe Alexis is the same girl that we saw audition.  She’s got confidence and style to go with her voice now. 

Allison, on the other hand, tried a little too hard tonight.  I didn’t like this performance nearly as much as her Heart number.  I thought she shouted more of the song than she sang.  She definitely has a rocker voice, but I thought she tried to do too much with this song tonight.  However, the judges loved her.

Bring out the Instruments

Tonight marked the return of instruments and three performers took advantage of this rule.

It was nice to see Scott MacIntyre back behind a piano where he is obviously more comfortable.  But let me say that I think he did a great job with the group number last week which had to be tough learning the choreography with his disability. 

That said, I think that being back at the piano gave Scott a chance to concentrate of his vocals and it showed.  “Keep the Faith” was a good song choice for him, but he’s going to have to strive harder to stand out among all the rockers.

Matt Giraud had to find out the same thing when he literally followed Adam with “Human Nature.”  Matt put in a nice solid performance and he looked great behind the piano, but as Simon put it he just paled in comparison to the previous number. 

It was a tough break in the order for Matt, but I think his performance was still strong enough to keep him for another week.

A guitar was the instrument of choice for Kris Allen who put in a fun performance of “Remember the Time.”  Even though Simon didn’t like the guitar, I really liked the rock twist Kris put on the song.  I wanted to get up and dance.  And to learn that Kris spent a lot of his time this week helping the other contestants, make me like him even more. 

Solid Performances

Aside from the standouts, most of the contestants put in nice, solid performances that made you feel good about them being in the Top 13.

It’s clear that Michael Jackson songs are not Lil Rounds’ strong suit, but I have to say that she stepped up to the challenge and delivered a nice rendition of “The Way You Make Me Feel.”  I’m not sure Lil made it as new as Randy made it sound, but she definitely put her seal on the song.  However, like Simon, I liked the second half of the song better than first.  But unlike Simon, I liked her outfit.  I thought it looked nice on her.

And when Danny Gokey started to sing P.Y.T. (Pretty Young Thing) I have to admit that I was afraid he was going to do another sappy song, but he turned it around and we got to see another side of him – both vocally and in his life.  I liked that we got to meet his family in this week’s clip instead of more about his recently deceased wife (no offense intended).  How cool was it that his parents use to make a song out of homework and chores.  I’m going to have to try that with my own kids.

In general, I’m not a big Danny fan, probably because of all the hype (I like underdogs), but I really enjoyed his performance tonight.  Seeing Danny do an upbeat song really gave us a chance to see more of Danny’s abilities and I don’t think his dancing was as bad as Simon made it out to be.

And speaking of the back stories, I loved seeing all the roughnecks cheering for Michael Sarver.  There’s something about the idea of all those tough guys watching Idol that makes me smile.  And so did Michael’s performance.  “You Are Not Alone” was a great song choice for him.  It really let him show his passion and amongst all the rockers, I think it helped make him stand out.

Standing out was just what Jasmine Murray was trying to do when she chose “I’ll Be There.”  Personally, I think she sounded more like Mariah Carey than Michael Jackson but it worked for her.  She has a powerful voice for such a young girl. 

I’m not sure Jasmine is going to go the distance, but she will have some great experience behind her when she leaves.

Struggling with Jackson

Not everyone can sing Michael Jackson and despite the overall feeling of the show being better than anything we saw the last three weeks, we still saw a couple people struggle tonight.

If you asked me which song I’d pick for Anoop Desai, I’d have said “Beat It” because it just that kind of energetic song that goes with his personality.  The judges hated that he chose that song, but I didn’t find the performance nearly as bad as they did.  Sure he didn’t do anything new and exciting with the song, but he had fun with it.  If anything, I’d have liked to see him try a few moves just because he’s such a fun guy.  But gauging the reaction of the judges, this decision is going to cost him.

Also struggling with song choice was Jorge Nunez.  I know that Jorge is very popular, but I find his performances forgettable and tonight wasn’t any different.  It doesn’t help that he was really unfamiliar with “Never Can Say Goodbye,” the song that he chose.  I almost felt sorry for the guy, but I have to agree with Simon that the performance just sounded corny.

And poor Megan Joy Corkrey.  She picked the perfect song to go with the stupid little dance she does.  Unfortunately, “Rockin’ Robin” gave us no insight into her vocal ability at all.  And this late in the game, cute dancing (for those of you that like it) just isn’t going to be enough to be save her.

Now, normally my pick for the bottom three would be Allison, Jorge and Megan.  But given the little nugget that Ryan threw in at the end, I’m going to make my bottom three as Anoop, Jasmine and Megan, with Megan and Anoop going home.

For those of you that missed it, Ryan told us that that there will be a last minute rule change announced during the results show on Wednesday that will be game changing.  Nothing like changing the rules in the middle of the game, huh?  But if I were a betting woman, I would guess that the judges are going to get a say (at least in part) in who gets booted now.

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American Idol First Result Show Full of Heartbreak

February 19, 2009

Tonight marked the first results show of American Idol’s eighth season, but instead of sending just one or two contestants home the night ended with only three survivors.

The show started liked it has many times before.  Ryan welcomes us, telling us that an unprecedented 24 million votes were cast.  He introduces the judges (four this year) and the contestants sing a group number – “I’m Yours.”

After Ryan does a recap of the night before, we are shown the three stools.  But these stools aren’t for the bottom three as they have been in years past.  Instead these stools are for the first three of the Final 12.

Despite all the hype, the show is full of heartbreak.  It was just sad to watch one after another told they are going home.  Even though I wasn’t impressed with many of them Tuesday night, it was painful to watch one disappointed face after another when they got the news. 

Each of the contestants staying got to sing an encore of his/her Tuesday night performance.

The first to take up residence in the precious stools is – no surprise – Alexis Grace.  She proved last night that she has come a long way from her audition.  And in a night full of train wrecks for the females, she was clearly the best of the night.

The announcement of the next survivor was the biggest suspense of the night.  Ryan called up both Michael Sarver and Anoop Desai and told them that one of them would be returning.  It turns out that only 20,000 votes separated the pair so it was really a close call.

When Ryan announced that Michael would be staying, I actually stood up and did a happy dance.  I definitely think both gentlemen would be a good addition to the Final 12, but there’s something about Michael that just stands out for me.  I hope that Anoop will be back in the Wild Card Round.

The final seat came down to Danny Gokey and Tatiana Del Toro.  Normally the decision would be clear cut, but given Tatiana’s staying ability anything was possible.  In the end talent won out over drama – Danny stays.

We also learned that the American Idol Experience has opened at Walt Disney World Resort and that all seven past Idol winners were on hand to perform at the opening. 

Speaking of past performers, Season 7 finalists Carly Smithson and Michael Johns were on hand to perform a duet to “The Letter.”  I thought they both sounded great, but when they sang together Carly overpowered Michael so much that you could barely hear him.

I am happy to say that I called all three of the survivors – Alexis, Michael and Danny.  The results of Tuesday’s poll had two of the three – Alexis, Ricky and Danny.

Next week we see the second group of 12.

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Alexis Finds Some Soul during Idol’s First 12

February 18, 2009

The auditions are in the bag and Hollywood is but a faint memory as American Idol begins to whittle down the Top 36 to our Final 12.  Tonight, the first 12 contestants pull out all the stops in their first live performance and Alexis Grace comes out swinging.

Alexis proves she's got a little soul.

Alexis proves she's got a little soul.

This year, the road to the Final 12 is quite different.  The Top 36 (not 24) announced after Hollywood have been divided into three groups of 12.  Over the next three weeks starting tonight, each group will perform once in a two-hour edition of American Idol.  The following night all but three – the top male performer, the top female and the contestant with the next largest amount of votes — will be sent home, leaving us with a total of nine performers.  Then in the wild card round three performers will be brought back to round out the Final 12. 

Anyone else think this process is confusing and convoluted?  Me too, but this is what we are stuck with.  Now on to the performances of the First 12.

The Great

When I first saw Alexis Grace in the Louisville audition, I knew that she had a powerful voice, but I wondered if she was going to have what it took to be a great performer.  Tonight she came out of her shell and proved, as Randy put it, that she had some soul.  Alexis put a nice bluesy feel to her version of Aretha Franklin’s “I Never Loved a Man.”  She is definitely a contender.

Also pleasing the crowd tonight was fan-favorite Danny Gokey.  He proved that he has a nice voice taking on “Hero” by Mariah Carey and earned the praise of three of the four judges.  But I tended to agree with Simon that it was a good performance, but not fantastic.  To me, it just seemed like a weird song choice for him.  However, Danny was still the best of the guys we saw.

The Good

Brent Keith decided to show off his country side by singing “Hicktown” by Jason Aldean and he might actually have a career in country music.  He sounded good, but as the judges said he chose a safe song.  The performance was fun, but we didn’t get to hear anything that really showed us Brent’s potential.

Also putting in a decent performance was Anoop Desai who chose to sing Monica’s “Angel of Mine.”  Personally, I thought the song was all wrong for him.  I like Anoop better we he does upbeat songs, like “My Prerogative” that he sang in Hollywood.  Simon told him that the song was “a bit too grown up” for him.

Wrong song choice put several good singers in jeopardy.  I’m not sure the Gavin McGraw’s “I Don’t Want to Be” was the best choice for Michael Sarver.  He did a decent job with the song, but I don’t think it highlighted his talents.  However, he seemed to really have fun with his choice.  I’m just hoping it will be enough to keep him in the game. 

On the other hand, Anne Marie Boskovich put a country flair to “A Natural Woman.”  Personally, I prefer the soul of Aretha’s version, but unlike the judges, I think that this rendition worked for Anne Marie.  She is no Aretha, but she has come a long way from her audition and I thought this performance showed that.

The Mediocre

Unfortunately, not everyone had a good night.  Jackie Tohn led off the show with “A Little Less Conversation” by Elvis Presley.  She put her own twist on the song, but it just didn’t compare to the King.  I give her credit for making the song her own, but the growl in her voice just didn’t work with this song.

On the other hand, tonight we finally got to find out that Ricky Braddy has a nice voice since we didn’t get to hear him during either of the two previous phases.  He sang “A Song for You” by Leon Russell and sounded good.  But, alas, I have no investment in him and by the end of the show I’d forgotten all about his performance.

Also not having a great night was Stephen Fowler.  No, he didn’t forget the lyrics again, but it’s not a good sign when Simon says he wished he did.  When Stephen started singing Michael Jackson’s “Rock with You,” I had images of the Love Boat.  The performance improved and turned out to be a fun song, but it just wasn’t enough.

And last on my list of mediocre was drama queen Tatiana Del Toro.  But tonight she was reserved and tried to sing “Saving All My Love for You” by Whitney Houston.  I wanted to hate it, but she didn’t do half bad.  But you can’t choose a song by Whitney and not be compared and Tatiana just didn’t measure up. 

The Bottom

But no episode of Idol is complete without at least one train wreck.  Tonight we had two – and bad song choice was the cause.  Casey Carlson tried to take on Police’s “Every Little Thing She Does is Magic” while Stevie Wright sang “You Belong With Me” by Taylor Swift.

Unfortunately, it looks like nerves got the better of the both girls.  They both had weak beginnings and at best sounded like karaoke.  It’s a shame because we have heard much better performances from both.

So the first set of 12 is behind us.  Who will be the lucky three to stay?

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