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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Competition Close as Final 2 Sing for Idol Title

May 20, 2009

It’s the last competition night of American Idol’s eighth season and the competition couldn’t be closer as the Final 2 take on three songs in their quest for the Idol title. 

Carrie Underwood returns to Idol stage to perform this year's farewell song, "Home Sweet Home," live.  Photo courtesy of Idol

Carrie Underwood returns to Idol stage to perform this year's farewell song, "Home Sweet Home," live. Photo courtesy of Idol

Each contestant will sing a favorite song from earlier in the competition, a song chosen by producer Simon Fuller and an original song co-written by Judge Kara DioGuardi.

Round 1 – Returning Favorites

For his first number, Adam Lambert decided to reprise his very popular performance of “Mad World.”  After last week’s mediocre performances, the decision to bring back this favorite was strategic.  And if you loved it the first time, it was even better this time.

But Adam isn’t the only one playing to favorites, Kris Allen has a little strategy of his own.  For his opening number, he brought back “Ain’t No Sunshine.”  I think his original performance of this song was the first time many people sat up and noticed Kris.  Tonight, it was just about reveling his talent.

After the first round, I’d call it a tie.  Simon gave the round to Kris. The gloves are off and both guys have come out swinging with their best performances. 

Round 2 – Simon Fuller’s Choice

I’m not sure that I would have picked the Sam Cooke classic for Adam, but I think producer Simon Fuller proved that he knew what he was doing when he chose “A Change Gonna Come” for Adam.  For those that think Adam is too theatrical, this song stripped away the dramatics and showcased Adam’s voice.  And I got to say, he nailed the song.

I think Mr. Fuller was in an activist mood when he picked his song choices.  He picked out another socially conscious tune for Kris.  I don’t think that Kris’ rendition of Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On” was as strong as his opening number.  But it had that folky fusion sound we’ve come to love from Kris.

I’d give the second round to Adam, but just barely.  I think he got the better of the two songs.  Simon also gave the round to Adam.  I think the boys reverted back to their safe ground with these songs.

Round 3 – “No Boundaries”

For the third and final round, both contestants had to sing their version of an original tune co-written by Kara.

Kris clearly won this round with a much stronger version of the song “No Boundaries.”  The song itself seemed to lend itself more to Kris’s style than Adam’s.  It’s not that Adam had a bad performance.  It just wouldn’t have stood out if it was all you heard from Adam.

Overall though, I wasn’t a fan of the song itself.  And I think it was interesting that the judges really never graded either contestant on this particular performance, instead commenting on the contestant’s season as a whole.  Do you think the judges weren’t that taken with the song either?

The evening closed out with a live performance of this year’s farewell song, “Home Sweet Home,” by Carrie Underwood.

I think the competition was very close tonight and that it’s really going to come down to personal preference.  Both guys are very talented and did extremely well tonight.  Personally, I’m favoring Kris.

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David Cook Wins it All, Named 2008 American Idol

May 22, 2008

Welcome to the two-hour Fox promo machine – I mean, the season finale of American Idol.  And believe it or not among all the stars, a new star was crowned in what had to be one of the closest finales in seven seasons.

Cook rocks his way to victoryIt was easy to forget that the purpose of the night was to award the Idol title as Fox paraded star after star among this season’s Top 12.  But never fear, the answer to your long awaited question of who is the next American Idol is answered.

With a fairly narrow 56% of the record-setting 97 ½ million votes, David Cook beat out David Archuleta for the 2008 American Idol title.  Who knew that the cougar vote was more powerful than the teen vote?

Seriously, I was sure that Archuleta had the crown cinched especially after the judges gushed all over him last night.  But just before the winner was announced, Simon apologized to Cook saying that after rewatching the performances from Tuesday night, he didn’t give Cook enough credit and that the race was closer than he thought.

As the new Idol, a very emotional Cook closed out the show with a performance of “Time of My Life,” the songwriting contest winner.  This song was worthy of the award and suited Cook to a tee.  It was a nice finish to a busy night.

Individual Performances

But if I was Cook, the highlight of my night would have had to been jamming with ZZ Top to “Sharp Dressed Man.”  Second on the list would have been doing the Guitar Hero commercial a lá Risky Business – which for me was the best cross-promotion of the night (sorry Archuleta, your boxer version just didn’t cut it).

But sing with a star was the name of the game tonight.  Archuleta sang the hit “Apologize” with One Republic.  And I actually liked him with this group.  Maybe there is hope for him yet.  But did anyone else notice that he seemed to have a little trouble keeping up with the group?  I think the multiple performances were taking their toll on him.

Syesha Mercado returned to sing “Waiting for You” with Seal.  I’m not sure if it was the time off, the song or her duet partner, but I thought she sounded great.  Guess it’s easier to perform without the pressure of being judged.

But apparently the producers couldn’t find anyone willing to sing with Jason Castro, who gave us an encore performance of “Halleluiah.”  My husband kept wondering if he’d remember the words.  I think the song was handpicked for him because they knew it was his best performance all season.

Brooke White teamed up with Graham Nash to sing “Teach Your Children,” a song that suited her style well.  She seemed more relaxed than ever.  Maybe she wasn’t struggling with stage fright afterall, but with the stress of the competition.  Either way, I was impressed with her performance.

Carly Smithson rounded out performances of the Top 6 by teaming up with fellow contestant Michael Johns to perform “The Letter.” 

Group Performances

The finale was packed with so many performances by the Top 12 that it seemed more like a preview of the upcoming tour with special guests.  But if the confident performances we saw tonight are any indication then the tour shouldn’t be as bad as I once imagined – at least for the more individual performances.

The group numbers weren’t quite as impressive.  The finalists of So You Think You Can Dance joined the Top 12 to liven up the opening number.  Clearly the producers are saying they don’t expect the Idol contestants to have any dancing abilities.  Do you think the dancers will be going on the tour too?

The two Davids treated us to a duet of Chad Kroeger’s “Hero,” a performance that clearly exaggerated the differences between the two and why Cook deserved the title.  As my husband said, Cook has a rocker sound that is more interesting to listen to.

The Top 6 women did a medley with Donna Summer featuring her new song “Stomp Your Feet.”  I was not impressed with this number.  Amanda Overmyer looked totally uncomfortable – maybe it was all the red outfits for “She Works Hard for Her Money.”  Somehow with these outfits the song wasn’t bringing to mind a woman working as a waitress.  But even with the prostitution undertones, Brooke still managed to look pure and innocent. 

And then there was the aging Donna Summer who had to be helped down the steps.  Couldn’t they come up with a better entrance that didn’t make her seem so feeble?

The Top 6 men had a better outing with their Bryan Adams medley.  They all looked sharp in their dark suits and Adams aged better than Summer.  He sang his new single “I Thought I’d See Everything.”

And finally the Top 12 performed a George Michael medley with the man himself.  Who knew that the Wham alum was resurrecting his career with his first American tour in 17 years?  Personally, I can do without the medley numbers.

Additional Filler

The musical side of the show was rounded out with performances by past Idol winners Jordin Sparks and Carrie Underwood.  The Jonas Brothers also performed.  I guess they had to have someone on the show that was within Archuleta’s age range.  But even the Jonas Brothers made Archie look young.

While I expected to see the array of singers, I was a little shocked by the number of comic acts.

Of course, we’d be treated to a promo for the new Mike Myers’s movie The Love Guru.  The mock advice of the guru was cute, but it was when Ryan almost drove his “flying pillow” off the edge of the stage that I laughed.

Surprisingly, Jimmy Kimmel (not a Fox product) put in an appearance to give us a season recap monologue.  Unfortunately, his Simon video just didn’t compare with his Ben Affleck video.

My favorite comic act of the night was the try outs for Gladys Knight’s Pips which featured funnymen Ben Stiller and Jack Black, and the surprisingly stoic Robert Downing Jr.  This skit was my favorite bit of the night.

It definitely beat out the return of Renaldo Lapuz who got to perform his original “My Brother” song with the USC marching band.  This Best of the Worst feature was still better than last year’s “awards.”

Overall, the two hours of fluff could have been worse – at least most of the time was filled with performances and a few of them were even good.

What do you think?  Did the best David win?  Was the show a complete waste of two hours or have the producers finally found a good mixture of fluff and performances?

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Davids Duke it Out for Idol Title

May 21, 2008

Tonight the Davids faced off in the finals of American Idol in a battle that pit a rock star versus boy wonder.  But who will pull away with the title?

David and DavidGoing into this final night of competition I still believe that David Cook is the better choice for the Idol winner because he offers the whole pop star package.  Even in the cheesy eight-minute Ready-to-Rumble introduction David Archuleta couldn’t muster up enough character to make the whole “fight night” ambiance believable.

This final battle was fought in three rounds before 7,000 fans in the Nokia Theatre with Clive Davis and Andrew Lloyd Webber helping the Davids prepare.

Round 1 – Clive’s Choice

Songs for Round 1 were chosen for the contestants by Sony BMG Worldwide Chief Creative Officer Clive Davis.

In the first round, Cook proved that he was in it to win tonight, opening with a slowed-down rendition of U2’s “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” that started the show off on a high note and caused Randy to forget the year when he called this the Dual of 2007. 

But if you liked Archuleta coming into this show, then you loved his version of Elton John’s “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me.”  It was his every performance personified, then amplified.  I’ll agree that it was one of his best performances.

Although the judges gave this round to Archuleta, I’d say that Cook won it.  While both sang well, Cook worked the stage and the crowd better.

Round 2 – Songwriter Contest Choice

This round was for those of you that wanted to see what the contestants could do with something original. 

And what Cook did was rock a song with only mediocre lyrics.  In fact, I think his rendition of Emily Shackleton’s “Dream Big” could actually become a hit for him despite second-rate words.  The arrangement was likable, fun and easy to rock out to.

The lyrics of “In this Moment” by Ryan Gilmore might have been better, but for me Archuleta’s performance was forgettable.  As I listened, I kept wondering what Cook could do with this song.  We all knew what Archuleta would do – sing it as a ballad, squint his eyes and hold out his right arm as he sang.

While I thought it was cool to see some original work, I have to wonder at the wisdom of choosing from songs that weren’t good enough to win the songwriting contest.  The judges also gave this round to Archuleta.  But was it because they liked the lyrics better?  I still think that Cook did more with what he had.

Round 3 – Contestant’s Choice

The songs selections in the Contestant’s Choice round were better than last week.

Cook showed his versatility by slowing things down with Collective Soul’s “The World I Know.”  For me, his performance felt intimate despite the venue.  I think it was a cool move on his part that, even on the last night with the title at stake, he didn’t take the easy way out with a song he’d already performed.  Instead he challenged himself with a new song.

On the other hand, I was not impressed with Archuleta’s “Imagine” the first time he sang it.  And an encore performance did nothing to improve his standing with me.  But on a similar note, I wouldn’t have been more awed if he’d chosen a new song since I think all of his performances sound the same. 

Again the judges gave the round to Archuleta, but it was Cook who proved his range and his flexibility with his choice.

If anyone had any doubt that Archuleta was being set up to win had to just listen to the judge comments tonight for proof.

Cook clearly out sang Archuleta showing his versatility and originality while Archuleta’s songs were all alike – right down to the hand gestures.  But still he got the praise.

What do you think?  Who sang better?  Who deserves the title?

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The Davids to Battle it Out in Idol Final

May 15, 2008

And then there were two.  In a very predictable finish to the American Idol Top 3, Syesha Mercado is eliminated leaving David Cook and David Archuleta to vie for the title next week.

Syesha MercadoWhile the pairing of the Davids in the final is something fans have been predicting for weeks, I am surprised by Syesha’s third place finish.  For several weeks in the middle, I was sure that she was marked for an early exit.  But the last few weeks, we have seen Syesha pull out all the stops with Broadway-worthy performances.

Although I’d much rather see Syesha over Archuleta in the final, I’m not surprised to see her go.  Cook has stood out as a favorite among fans looking for originality and the complete package while Archuleta is a favorite of the judges and teenage girls.

In addition to the group number to “Ain’t No Stoppin’ Us Now” – an appropriate title for the night if not a mediocre performance –  the Ford “Heaven” video and a performance by Idol winner Fantasia, we were treated to videos of each contestants tearful homecoming.

Archuleta headed home to Murray, Utah where he performed at his high school and, of course, visited the mall where he was surrounded by – what else – throngs of teens.  His big concern – where did they all park?

Syesha was so welcomed in Sarasota, Florida that the mayor was doing handstands.  She rounded out her very emotional visit with stops at Bradenton and her alma mater Booker High School.

Cook’s trip to Blue Springs, Missouri read like a wish list – he did the weather on the local TV station, gave a concert downtown where even the rain didn’t dampen the spirits of the masses, got to thank his elementary school music teacher for inspiring him to get into music and threw out a pitch to for the Royals.

It should be interesting to see how next week pans out.  I still think that Cook deserves the title more, but that it’ll be Archuleta walking away with it.

What do you think?  Was Syesha the right person to send home?  What are your predictions for next week?

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Related articles:

Who Could Actually Win Idol?

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