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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Funnyman Norman Gentle Shines during Idol’s Hollywood Round 1

February 4, 2009

The most memorable performance of American Idol’s first round of Hollywood Week was not that of a vocal powerhouse.  Instead Funnyman Nick Mitchell – aka Norman Gentle – wowed the judges with his humor. 

Nick Mitchell aka Norman Gentle makes the judges smile.

Nick Mitchell aka Norman Gentle makes the judges smile.

But under all that jesting lives a bit of vocal talent, at least enough to send Nick through to the next round.  And for all you that have waited with baited breath – bikini chick will be returning too.  Kara and Paula still aren’t fans of Katrina Darrell, but apparently they were outvoted.

Given the choice between the two, I’d take Nick over Katrina in the Top 24 any day.  At least Nick entertains you.

Season 8 Hollywood Week is now if full swing, complete with boot camp and Barry Manilow as a guest mentor, but alas not much more singing time than before.

Over the last three weeks, we got to meet 61 of the Hollywood contender in eight cities – that’s less than half of the 147 that made it to the Kodak Theatre.  So, we should get to meet some of the rest now that we are in Hollywood, right?

Wrong.  In this round, we got to hear three – yes a mere three – new people sing.

Tonight we met Nathaniel Marshall from the New York City auditions.  He tried to wow the judges with his rendition of “The Anchor Holds” by Ray Boltz.  I think he might have been better served with a more well known tune.  And personally the tears did nothing to win me over, but apparently the judges saw something I didn’t.

Also new to the screen from Stephen Fowler, another New York City auditioner.  Now this guy impressed me.  He had a nice solid voice.  I’m definitely looking forward to hearing him sing some more.

Unfortunately, the third person we met for the first time – FBI agent Erika Wesley – did not make it through to the next round.

Much of the show’s time was spent showing us the judges’ comments for singers we never heard.  But we did get to see a few of our favorites from the auditions.

My picks for females in Round 1 were 16-year-old Jasmine Murray from the Jacksonville auditions and Kansas City auditioner Lil Rounds.  Lil’s got a nice powerful voice, but I hope she doesn’t limit herself to ballads alone.  Jasmine is the whole package – cute, talented, and sweet. 

Rocker Emily Wynne-House and Rose Flack, the orphan from Idaho, still show some potential, but the pressure is clearly getting to them.  Rose struggled in boot camp and Emily switched her song at the last minute.  But they hung in there for the next round.

Jackie Tohn also made the cut.  She has an interesting growl to her songs that might prove enough for her to hang on.

We saw a lot more guys in this round than the girls.  I’m not sure in that’s a sign that the guys are stronger though because there were several I don’t think should have made it.

Roughneck Jeremy Michael Sarver continues to be my favorite.  I don’t know there’s just something about such a tough guy have such a soft voice that if very appealing.  I also liked the aforementioned Stephen Fowler and David Osmond, although we only saw a glimpse of David.

Widower Danny Gokey and Puerto Rico-native Jorge Nunez showed potential.  Hopefully we’ll hear more of them in the next round.  I’m totally undecided about Anoop Desai who auditioned in Kansas City.  We didn’t hear enough of him to gauge.

A few of the guys really shouldn’t have made the cut in my.  Danny’s buddy Jamar Rogers was just over the top and Von Smith is still shouting at us.  The next round should be critical for them.

Although we didn’t get to see them perform, we learned that the sight-impaired Scott MacIntyre, moms Frankie Jordan and Alexis Grace, traveling musician Brett Keith Smith, nanny Anne Marie Boskovich and actor Adam Lambert will be returning for the next round.



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American Idol Launches Season 8 in Phoenix

American Idol Launches Season 8 in Phoenix

January 14, 2009

After nearly 15 minutes of fluff, American Idol opened its eighth season with auditions in Phoenix, Arizona in 106 degree heat in tonight’s two-hour premiere.

We were treated to a flashback sequence of the last seven seasons and a recap of last season’s finale where 55 million Americans watched 97 million votes tallied to name David Cook the newest American Idol.  But this is old news, on with the new.

After a montage of nameless hopefuls and an ode to the desert, we were introduced to the newest addition to Idol, Kara DioGuardi who will be take up residence as a fourth judge.

But a new addition doesn’t mean that life on Idol has changed much.  By the third on-screen audition, Paula and Simon were at each other’s throats after he made a dig about her song “Straight Up” and she responded by flipping him off.

Seeing this example of life as a judge, Kara jumped right into the fun the second day when she told a bikini-clad contest to “hang on a minute, bitch.”  And Season 8 is off and running!

Let’s just talk a minute about Ms. Bikini, because I’m sure she’s going to get a lot of press.  Model Katrina Darrell banked on her assets and her gimmick got her a ticket to Hollywood.  You can’t fault the girl for that.  But she’s not going to be able to wear a bikini throughout the whole season and insulting a judge is not the best way to win points in the long run.

But Katrina’s talents weren’t the only ones in question tonight.  In these auditions episodes I’m never surprised by the number of people who butcher songs – everyone overestimates their talents once in a while.  However, I was honestly surprised by the number of these people who listed music-related careers as their profession.

Oakland-resident Shawn Vasquez, Oakland listed musician as his job.  But I think Dionne Warwick might disagree after hearing his version of “I’ll Never Love This Way Again.” 

Performer Aundre “Xray” Carawy professed that music was his thing.  He might want to rethink this claim after getting four vetos from the judges.  

And Tears for Fears’ “Mad for You” was butchered by music student Will Kunick.  Stay in school Will.

Many others with be remember for more than their meager vocal abilities.  Tuan Nguyen, the Michael Jackson fan with the gigantic Afro showed us that you can combine ROTC moves with tap.  We still aren’t sure if that’s a good thing or not.

Randy Madden, the Axl Rose look-a-like who works in an office, proved that just because you look like a rock star doesn’t make you one.

A heart-to-heart pep talk with fan and songwriter hopeful Lea Marie Golde showed us that Kara has a softer side.

And of course, we learned the lesson that auditioners still can’t seem to grasp – asking to perform another song doesn’t change that resounding no to a yes.

But Phoenix wasn’t all duds.  The four judges found a few diamonds in the rough – 27 in fact.  And we got to see 11 of the winning auditions – three the first hour and eight the second.

The first to grab a golden ticket was Emily Wynne-Hughes who sang “Barracuda” by Heart.  Her mom, singer Patty Wynne-Hughes probably isn’t surprised by this accomplishment, but the rest of Emily’s all-girl rock band will be because she didn’t tell them she was putting her membership in the band on hold for a chance on Idol

Sixteen proved to be a “golden” age for J.B. Ahfua, Arianna Afsar and Stevie Wright.  J.B. is hoping that his ticket would be his chance to change his life.  He’s 16!  How much life has he had to want to change it?

Arianna, who definitely could cash in on the cute factor, picked a perfect song with for her voice and age with “Put Your Records On.” 

And Stevie’s – yes she was named after Stevie Nicks – bubbly personality made me want her to go onto Hollywood even before I heard her rendition of Etta James’ “At Last.”  After I heard her sing, she because my favorite female of the night.  Simon told her she needed to “grow some teeth” if she’s really going to compete.

Bartender Deena Brown also had plenty of personality to go with that bluesy sound she had when she sang “Sitting on the Dock of the Bay.”  It’s a good thing she got her ticket if not she was going to come back next year for this “once in a lifetime opportunity.”

Some of our better auditions were a bit of a surprise just because the voice just didn’t seem to match the person in front of us. 

Roughneck Michael Sarver’s rendition of “Thank You” by Boys II Men proved that just because you have the fifth most dangerous job in the world doesn’t mean you don’t have a soft side.  He was my favorite male singer of the night, but I have to say that I secretly expected him to sing “Leaving on a Jet Plane” and then announce that he was headed to outer space to save the planet from an astroid.

High school student and horror film producer Cody Sheldon showed us that he has a lighter side with “Wonderful World” by James Morrison.  Cody’s friends told Ryan that Cody has “wanted this for a really long time.”  It’s a good thing Cody made it this time because at 17 he’s all but washed up.

Meanwhile college student Alex Wagner-Trugman, 19, overcame a case of mold sickness after teaching himself to sing at night in a closet to produce a perfectly pitched (according to Randy) rendition of “Baby, Come to Me” by James Ingram.

The only contestant of the night to squeak by with only two votes, including a tie breaker by Simon, Brianna Quijada gave us a new nickname for the Brit that we all love to hate – Simy.

And closing out the evening was the touching audition of blind pianist Scott MacIntyre.  Although he might be visually impaired Scott’s audition of “And So it Goes” by Billy Joel proved that he’s musically capable.  This guy’s got lots of potential.  His biggest challenge will be building a stage presence without his piano.

Although the first hour looked a little thin, Phoenix came through with some interesting talent with a lot of potential heading for Hollywood.  One city down, seven more to go.