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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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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Idol Announces Top 36, Joanna Pacitti Disqualified

February 12, 2009

It was do or die time on American Idol as Hollywood Week came to a close and the judges informed the final 54 who made the cut for the Top 36.  Among the surviving were three that have been very visible during Hollywood Week — drama queen Tatiana Del Toro, funnyman Nick Mitchell and the emotional Nathaniel Marshall.

This final round played out slightly different than in past years.  For starters, the cut was down to the Top 36, not 24 as in years past.  And some contestants who were borderline had to perform in a sing off with one other contender in which only one survived.

Louisville and Phoenix tied for the audition city the produced the most finalists – seven each.  San Francisco and New York City also had five contenders each.

Twenty-three was the magic number for contenders – nine of the Top 36 were that age.  The next two most popular ages were 16 and 27, which had five of each.

But what you really want to know is who made the cut.  So without further ado, here is your Top 36.

Annop Desai, the 21-year-old college student that we first met at the Kansas City auditions.  We caught a glimpse of him in Round 1 of Hollywood and last night he sang “My Prerogative.”

Von Smith sang “Over the Rainbow” in his Kansas City audition.  But we haven’t seen the 22-year-old singer since Hollywood’s Round 1.

Alex Wagner-Trugman won a sing off against pal Cody Sheldon for his spot.  During the Phoenix audition, Alex told us about how he taught himself to sing in a closet, but had to stop because the mold made him sick.  Since then we haven’t seen the 19-year-old college student.

Adam Lambert was in the cast of Wicked before he auditioned in San Francisco.  But we only got to see the 26-year-old stage actor perform once during Hollywood – in Round 3.

Taylor Vaifanua’s parents moved back to the mainland so that the 16-year-old high school student could get her break.  She impressed the judges in her audition in Salt Lake City and we got a glimpse of her again during as a member of the Rainbow Coalition on group day in Hollywood.

Jasmine Murray came to the audition in Jacksonville with a lot of family support among her sisters.  But the 16-year-old high school student has wowed me during every round of Hollywood.

Arianna Afsar is the 16-year-old who told us in Phoenix about the Adopt-a-Grandfriend program she started.  While she was impressive during her audition, we haven’t seen her perform during Hollywood.

Casey Carlson is a 20-year-old bubble tea maker we met in Kansas City when she sang “A Thousand Miles.”  We got to see her again during Round 3 where she struggled with lyrics.

Megan Corkrey, a 23-year-old font designer going through a divorce, auditioned in Salt Lake City, but we haven’t seen her since.

Mishavonna Henson, the 18-year-old we met for the first time in Round 3, audition in Phoenix this year.  Last year she made it as far as Hollywood before getting cut.

Stevie Wright was told by Simon in her Phoenix audition to grow some teeth.  We haven’t seen the 16-year-old in Hollywood to know if she’s taken that advice to heart.

Joanna Pacitti was recognized by Kara during her Louisville audition as having had a previous record contest.  But the 23-year-old struggled with lyrics during the Hollywood Round 3.

Felicia Barton got a last minute reprieve and got added to the Top 36 after Joanna got disqualified.  Felicia auditioned in Louisville, but we haven’t seen the 26-year-old bar singer and mom during Hollywood.

Kendall Beard hasn’t had much screen time.  The 23-year-old college student auditioned in Puerto Rico

Kristen McNamara, who auditioned in Louisville, beat out Jenn Korbee in a sing off.  The 22-year-old survived the group day drama to sing Kelly Clarkson’s “Because of You” in Round 3.

Alexis Grace, the 20-year-old stay-at-home mom wowed us during the audition in Louisville, but we didn’t get to see her again until she took on Carrie Underwood’s “Before He Cheats” in Round 3.

Scott Macintyre, the visually impaired pianist, auditioned in Phoenix.  But the 23-year-old looked very comfortable behind the keyboard when he performed in Round 3.

Lil Rounds told us about a tornado that hit her home when she auditioned in Kansas City.  Since then the 23-year-old customer service representative and mom of three has proved that she’s a vocal powerhouse with performances in Rounds 1 and 3.

Jessie Langseth beat out Frankie Jordan in a sing off.  Unfortunately, the sing off was the first time we’ve seen this 25-year-old perform.  She auditioned in Kansas City.

Allison Iraheta is a 16-year-old who auditioned in San Francisco, but we haven’t seen her in Hollywood.

Danny Gokey recently lost his wife and auditioned in Phoenix with his friend Jamar Rogers who got cut tonight.  The 28-year-old music teacher has had solid performances through all three rounds of Hollywood.

Ricky Braddy is a new face.  Although the 25-year-old auditioned in Louisville, tonight is the first time we’ve seen him.  We have not yet heard him sing.

Matt Giraud, the 23-year-old dueling pianist, auditioned in Louisville.  During the group round he was part of the impressive White Chocolate group and he sang “Georgia” in the third round.

Ju’Not Joyner auditioned in New York City, but the first time we got to see the 23-year-old was in Round 3.

Jorge Nunez impressed the judges with his accent during the Puerto Rico auditions.  We also saw the 20-year-old during Round 1.

Brent Keith is a traveling musician who auditioned in Louisville. However, we haven’t seen the 28-year-old during Hollywood week.

Stephen Fowler auditioned in New York City, but we didn’t get to hear him sing until the first round of Hollywood.  While Round 1 was impressive, the 26-year-old struggled during Round 3.

Nick Mitchell has entertained the judges since his New York City audition with alter ego Norman Gentle.  We saw the 27-year-old don the persona again in Rounds 1 and 3 and apparently the judges like it because they told him they expected to see it during the rest of the competition.

Jackie Tohn’s start in the music business began at a young age when her father taught her the piano.  And although she carried a guitar to the audition in New York City, we did not see the 27-year-old actor/singer use it when she performed in Round 1 of Hollywood.

Tatiana Del Toro auditioned in San Francisco with a creepy laugh.  Since then the 23-year-old singer/actor/model has brought nothing but drama to Rounds 2 and 3.  She left this round with a ring from Paula.

Nathaniel Marshall beat out pal Jackie Midkiff in a sing off.  The 18-year-old auditioned in New York City, but we didn’t see him for the first time until Round 1 where he begged the judges for a reprieve.  Despite the drama of the group performance he survived to perform in Round 3.

Jeanine Vailes auditioned in San Francisco, but we have yet to hear the 27-year-old sing.

Kai Kalama plays music at night so he could take care of his ailing mother.  The 26-year-old auditioned in San Francisco and performed during Round 3.

Anne Marie Boskovich actually auditioned twice in Jacksonville.  After her first try, Simon told her to come back and show them who she really was.  We’ve also seen the 22-year-old nanny perform in Rounds two and three.

Kris Allen auditioned in Louisville, but the only time we’ve seen the 23-year-old perform was during the White Chocolate group performance.

Matt Breitzke took a chance from his family responsibilities to audition in Kansas City.  The only other time we’ve seen the 27-year-old welder perform was during the group round.

Michael Sarver auditioned in Phoenix.  Since then we’ve seen the 27-year-old roughneck sing in all three Hollywood rounds.  He’s my favorite male contender.

From here, the contestants will perform in groups of 12.  First up are Casey, Stephen, Jackie, Ricky, Anne Marie, Brent, Alexis, Michael, Stevie, Danny, Tatiana and Anoop.

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Talent a No-Show for Idol San Francisco Auditions

January 21, 2009

After the auditions last week, I was looking forward to seeing a preview of Hollywood Week potential in the third city of American Idol auditions.  I couldn’t have been more wrong.

This guy thought the coat was his ticket to Hollywood.

This guy thought the coat was his ticket to Hollywood.

San Francisco only produced 12 golden tickets – that’s less than half of what either Phoenix or Kansas City yielded last week.

And judging by what we saw in the hour-long Idol show tonight, the judges really had to push it to get that dozen.

The first candidate to get the green light for Hollywood was Tatiana Del Toro who couldn’t wait for the auditions in her home Puerto Rico.  Despite her “guaranteed” success — her psychic told her she’d be in the Top12 – she felt the need to bring her own press kit.  I think the judges let her through because she was colorful.  It definitely wasn’t because of her vocal talent.  Kara was the only one to say no.

The next golden ticket was issued because the judges – well all of them but Simon – couldn’t say no to Jesus Valenzula’s kids.  This guy didn’t have a bad voice, but he was definitely trying too hard.  But at 29, isn’t Jesus over the age limit?

The next three were so borderline that they had to show them to us in a montage.  Music teacher John Twiford sang “Overjoyed.”  His voice wasn’t bad, but it definitely wasn’t anything to write home about.

And high school student Allison Iraheta’s voice actually cracked during “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman.”  I can’t even imagine what possessed the judges to put her through.

Raquel Houghton, the waitress/bartender from Los Angeles, just didn’t have the chops to pull off “Son of a Preacher Man” with any believability.

At this point, I was really wondering if there was anyone with potential in the Bay City, especially considering the amount of time devoted to Dean-Anthony Bradford’s plaid coat and Akilah Askew-Gholston’s anatomy lesson.

But in the final moments, San Francisco pulled through with two contenders.

Stage actor Adam Lambert, who has been a member of the cast of “Wicked” for the last year and half, pulled off a theatrical “Bohemian Rhapsody.”  He had a nice voice, but those in the past with theatrical tendencies haven’t done well in the long run.  It’ll be interesting to see how long he lasts.

And the final golden ticket went to Kai Kalama, caretaker by day/musician by night.  Kai did a nice rendition of “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes” by the Platters, but I have to agree with Simon who told him he had the personality of a ship singer.  Kai will need to work on his stage presence if he wants a chance at the title.

Tomorrow, Idol heads to Louisville.