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AMERICAN IDOL Season 8 — Top 5 a Classy Pack

When I first heard tonight’s theme was standards of the Rat Pack, I groaned. I thought these kids were gonna murder the songs and I didn’t feel like being a witness. But this episode was much better than I expected! Turns out the top 5 contestants knew how to sing their parents’ (grandparents’?) music. They put on some classy duds and belted out some really good tunes.

First was Kris, who sang “The Way You Look Tonight,” one of my all-time faves. You cannot hear that song and not feel sexy. Kris changed the arrangement by picking up the tempo in the middle of the song but made it all work. His vocals were strong, his rhythms were right on and his song choices continue to entertain me.

Allison followed with “Someone to Watch Over Me.” I thought it was sweet how she said in the interview she’s too young for a boyfriend at 16 (she turned 17 yesterday). I sometimes forget how young and innocent she is when she sounds like a 45-year-old woman who’s been thrice divorced and drowning her sorrows in cigs and whiskey. I thought her performance was technically perfect but she didn’t have enough life experience to communicate the emotional depth of the song. Interestingly, I liked her better during the recap at the end (which was taped during rehearsal) than during her actual performance.

Matt sang another one of my faves, “My Funny Valentine.” He started out with really nice control and made me feel like I was watching him in a smoky bar while sitting on a red leather banquette. But then he started doing his trademark runs and ruined it for me. This song should be simply sung; it’s sultry because it’s unadorned. Matt frustrates me because he can definitely sing but he needs work on his interpretation, in figuring out when less is more. Every song can’t be sung with the same runs every time.

Danny covered “Come Rain or Come Shine.” He started out singing it in a pretty traditional way but then mid-song, he changed it up, busted out and belted the rest of the song, ending in a big, sustained note. It was definitely impressive vocal work but for whatever reason, Danny doesn’t excite me anymore. On a side note, I thought Randy’s comment about not caring whether or not a singer connects with the song as long as they can sing was ridiculous. That’s like saying you don’t care if an actor connects with a character as long as they can act. How can you have one without the other?

Adam closed out the show with “Feeling Good,” replete with dramatic entrance down a long flight of stairs a la Babs or Cher. The judges had a hard time describing his performance and I do, too. His talent is not in question; it’s whether or not you like his kind of vocal styling, which inevitably ends in some shrieky high note with his mouth open so wide I always fear he’s going to come right out of the TV and swallow my whole head. I think a song called “Feeling Good” should be kinda jazzy and groovy but he turned it into the “throat Olympics,” as guest mentor Jamie Foxx would call it.

Speaking of Foxx, I enjoyed him as mentor. He always makes me laugh because I still think of his Ugly Wanda character from In Living Color every time I see him, but tonight he got to show off his considerable musical knowledge.

No one made a huge misstep tonight so it’s hard to predict who’s going home but my guess is it’ll be Matt. Then again, he’s survived so many times, I fear Allison might be in grave danger.

What did you think? Who was best? Worst? Who’d you vote for? Put on your judging hats and leave your insightful and clever comments!

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AMERICAN IDOL Season 8 — Top 9 Stay Current

You’d think that on Top iTunes Downloads night, the nine remaining contestants wouldn’t have any trouble picking some great songs, considering the vast number of choices available. But there were very few high notes tonight, with only Danny Gokey, Allison Iraheta and Kris Allen turning in dynamic performances.

Anoop went first and I was happy to hear he would funk it up again with Usher’s “Caught Up” after singing ballads (very well) two weeks in a row. But, man, it was weak. The song overpowered him and it looked like he was trying to just keep up with it.

Megan chose a Bob Marley/Lauren Hill song, “Turn Your Lights Down Low,” and I thought, Wow, she’s ambitious tonight! Unfortunately, her risk-taking didn’t pay off. I’ve been fighting for this girl to stay because she’s so unique but this performance was disastrous. For the first time, I thought maybe it’s time she goes home.

And then Danny came along and kicked the show into gear. When he said he was singing the Rascal Flatts’ “What Hurts the Most,” I groaned since I don’t like country music. But he came out, gave a beautifully heartfelt performance that was his best since “Kiss from a Rose” during Hollywood week. He reminded me why he should be a front-runner, something I’ve lost sight of in recent weeks.

Allison tackled No Doubt’s “Don’t Speak” this week and played guitar, which I didn’t know she could do. This girl just gets more awesome each week, despite her misguided wardrobe choices. She sings and performs like a 40-year-old woman and I mean that in the best way. There is nothing tentative or insecure about her when she’s on stage.

Scott got himself a makeover, looking much more masculine in black leather than last week’s pink pants. Musically, however, he was less compelling than the piano player at my local Nordstrom’s. He sang “Just the Way You Are” but sounded more Barry Manilow than Billy Joel.

Matt was another singer who stumbled. He tried to be all sexy and tough, also in black leather, but his rendition of the Fray’s “You Found Me” was wonky and  unimpressive. It sounded like he was trying too hard. The first few notes were too low for him; he lives best in his falsetto. He was on fire last week so it’s frustrating how inconsistent he is.

Lil put on yet another wig (love how her look completely changes from week to week) to sing Celine Dion’s “I Surrender.” Oy. I’m no fan of Dion’s music but that woman does have an incredible voice and Lil never came close to what Dion can do with that song. Paula said it best when she said she didn’t want to see an Adult Contemporary Lil. Me neither. Funk it up, girl!

Adam went back to his screeching, flamboyant persona with an over-the-top version of Wild Cherry’s “Play That Funky Music,” one of my favorite party songs. I can never hear that song and not start shaking my booty. But Adam’s rendition scared me so much I probably won’t be requesting it from the DJ any time soon. My ears are still ringing three hours later from the screaming he passed off as singing. I will say, though, that as soon as he finished the song, he turned into a completely humble guy, giving due credit to Ricky Minor and the band. It’s as if he has dual identities like Beyonce and Sasha Fierce.

The headliner spot went to Kris Allen and he stepped up! I’ve never thought of him as a front-runner but tonight was a small revelation. He went with Bill Withers’s “Ain’t No Sunshine,” one of my faves ever, and made it sound fresh. This kid is definitely growing on me. His performance was both tender and powerful and I didn’t know he could play piano so it was smart of him to change things up.

Bottom three? Scott, Megan and Matt are my guesses. Agree?

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AMERICAN IDOL Season 8 — Grand Ole Opry Night

As someone who has very little love for country music, I was not looking forward to tonight’s episode. Two hours of twangy songs about people whose wives/girlfriends/husbands/dogs/kids/mothers have left them? Surprise! It was better than I thought it would be. Maybe it was because I had such low expectations, but I was glad I wasn’t driven to throw myself out the window from boredom.

I liked Randy Travis as a mentor. He was skeptical of all the contestants until he heard them sing and then gave them useful criticism. My favorite comment of his was about Adam Lambert: “I just don’t know what to say about this boy.” That sums up how I feel about Lambert, too, but let’s start at the beginning.

Michael Sarver went first and sang Garth Brooks’s “Ain’t Going Down (‘Til the Sun Comes Up).” He looked like he was having fun but the performance was just okay for me. I thought the dude playing harmonica was more interesting to watch. And, like Simon, I couldn’t understand a single word Sarver sang. He said “country folks” understood him so I guess I’m not country enough. He also talked back to all the judges tonight. He kept a smile on his face the whole time but I thought, “What is going on?” He’s usually so humble.

Allison Iraheta went next with Patty Loveless’s “Blame It on Your Heart.” Whee, doggie, she rocked it out! I love how she made it more rock than country. She also looked hip and edgy tonight, not awkward like in previous weeks. 

Kris Allen was third, singing Garth Brooks’s “To Make You Feel My Love.” The stripped-down arrangement showcased his vocals, which were surprisingly strong (I hadn’t pegged him as one of the better singers).  This performance was also not very country, with only piano accompaniment, and I was grateful for that. I like how he changed things up by not performing with his guitar tonight to show that it’s not a crutch.

Lil Rounds sang Martina McBride’s “Independence Day.” She was a little wonky in the beginning with a couple low notes but I like how restrained she was. My problem has always been how she wails on every single note instead of giving them nuance and moderation. She really tried to “honor the country” and for that, I was impressed and completely disagreed with the judges when they said she should’ve given them more of her usual sound. Random question: Didn’t she look like she was going to cut Simon when he repeatedly called her “Little”? 

Adam Lambert performed a sitarific version of Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire.” If you’re a regular reader here, you know I have no love for this guy. But I have to give him props for tonight’s performance. He took a huge risk in doing that arrangement, previously done by Dilana on CBS’s Rock Star: Supernova. I still can’t stand how Lambert thinks he’s being seductive by following the camera around with his eyes and he oversang the song as usual but hey, I got to listen to exotic Indian-flavored music instead of a country song! 

Scott MacIntyre sang Martina McBride’s “Wild Angels,” cementing his position as a one-trick pony. It’s the same every week: He plays the piano and gives decent but forgettable vocals. Paula spoke my thoughts out loud when she suggested he changes things up because the piano was interfering with his ability to connect to the audience. I do like how he replied, “We can move it a little closer!” 

When Alexis Grace appeared talking to Ryan, I thought, “She looks a lot like a young Dolly with that hairdo.” Lo and behold, she announced she was covering Ms. Parton’s “Jolene”! This girl went so far as to style her hair to fit this week’s theme! Alas, her performance wasn’t one of her best. She’s a gritty, dirrty, bluesy kind of gal and I don’t think country suited her. But she’s still got a lot of talent to show us so I hope she sticks around.

Danny Gokey, wearing a white parka fit for South Pole livin’ (odd fashion choice considering it was 87 degrees today), sang Carrie Underwood’s “Jesus Take the Wheel.” Wasn’t one of his best performances, either, but still solid. Like Alexis, he’s got a soulful voice that’s incongruous with country music.

Anoop! He sang a lovely, heartfelt version of Willie Nelson’s “Always On My Mind.” I already love the uptempo Anoop but he showed he was just as compelling taking his time, singing each word like he meant it, unlike what he did with last week’s “Beat It.” Anoop is back and here to stay!

My girl, Megan Joy, picked Patsy Cline’s “Walking After Midnight” and gave it her usual funky retro touch. I know some people can’t stand her but I root for her because she’s so unique. If I were station-surfing on the radio, I’d recognize her voice instantly and would stop and listen. Sometimes it isn’t about perfect vocals but more an attitude or personality that comes through. Bob Dylan and Tom Petty would never win any singing contests but there’s no mistaking their sound. Megan’s entertaining and gorgeous to look at and she’s a trouper for performing while sick.

The last spot tonight went to Matt Giraud and he didn’t disappoint. He sang Carrie Underwood’s “So Small” with only his own piano accompaniment and thankfully uncountrified it. This guy is growing on me, as long as he picks the right songs and keeps up that bluesy sound. Random question: When Paula told Giraud, “There’s nothing small about you,” did anyone else think, “How does she know?!”

I ended up voting for Megan, Anoop, Alexis and Allison. I think either Michael or Scott should go home. Who’d you vote for? Are you glad country music night is over?

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AMERICAN IDOL Season 8 — Top 13 Compete

I went into Michael Jackson-theme night with high hopes because whatever you may think of him as a person, the guy’s had tons of good catchy hit songs. But does that mean the contestants chose those good songs? No. Some of them chose such dreary, obscure ones that I was sure Barry Manilow wrote Scott MacIntyre’s selection, “Keep the Faith.” But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s break it down.

  • Lil Rounds, aka Loud Rounds, started the night with “The Way You Make Me Feel.” I like the energy and the song but every note was sung exactly the same way—loudly. The way she made me feel was to turn down the volume. It’s too much of a good thing. The girl’s got pipes for sure but some moderation and variety would be nice.
  • Scott MacIntyre accompanied himself on piano while singing “Keep the Faith.” Which? Yeah, I didn’t know it, either. That’s because it was never released as a single and there’s good reason—it’s utterly forgettable. If you offered me a new Buick to hum it right now, I couldn’t. It’s awesome how well Scott can play piano and overcome his visual impairment but I realized tonight that every performance will probably be exactly the same because it’s not as if he could do an uptempo song and dance around. He could still have a career as an Elton John-type of artist but he’s not the kind of “package” performer the producers are looking for.
  • Danny Gokey. Ooh, I was scared when he did those slow runs at the start of “P.Y.T.” I thought, “Please, no, don’t put me to sleep.” But then he ripped the mike off the stand and funked it up! He sang the crap out of that song! The dance moves made him look like a spastic chicken but I didn’t mind because he looked like he was having buckets o’ fun. 
  • Michael Sarver went next, showing his sensitive side with “You Are Not Alone.” Well, I can’t be alone in thinking the performance was completely vanilla, right? He’s got a solid voice and seems like a stand-up guy (reminded me of Josh Gracin from season 2) but has no star quality.
  • Jasmine Murray. That girl sure is pretty and her sisters are gorgeous, too, but her cover of “I’ll Be There” was safe and unspectacular. I was just thinking how she came off a little Stepford-ish when Simon said, “You’re a little robotic” and I freaked. Simon’s inside my head! Jasmine needs to show me more of her personality before I can get more excited about her.
  • Kris Allen. I like this kid with his guitar! Makes him so much more interesting to watch. “Remember the Time” is not the most riveting song but he made it more fun by John Mayering it up.
  • Allison Iraheta, doing another obscure song, “Give In to Me.” She’s got such a great, gravelly voice, though, that she managed to rock it out. That little girl’s a powerhouse! But she’s got to stop making those goofy, awkward faces while listening to the judges’ feedback. Put on a game face and own it, girl!
  • Anoop Desai, bravely taking on “Beat It.” I was excited when he announced this song choice but oops, what happened? The vocals weren’t great. That song needs a whole lotta ‘tude and Anoop didn’t quite bring it. I dig the makeover, though, and still want him around for next week.
  • Jorge Nunez sang “Never Can Say Good-bye” in a cheesy, ’70s-style arrangement. But his vocals are consistently passionate and if you close your eyes, he sounds just like Marc Anthony in places. My favorite comment of the night came when Jorge said he wasn’t going to sing “Bad” and Simon retorted, “You sort of did.” Ha! 
  • Megan Joy Corkrey. She sang “Rockin’ Robin,” which is a really quirky choice but perfect for her persona. She’s so wacky and fun and retro and Duffy-ish with the funky dance moves and I love her. Not the best singer but my favorite entertainer. And her mom is stunning! No wonder Megan’s gorgeous.
  • The Hellmouth aka Adam Lambert tackling “Black or White” in a bombastic, seizure-inducing manner. He’s got an impressive falsetto but I can’t deal with his shrieky style. He’s never met a note he didn’t want to kill, and I don’t mean that in a cool, slangy way. Judges loved him. Even Simon betrayed me. Sadness.
  • Matt Giraud, playing the piano and singing “Human Nature.” It’s an underwhelming performance but the song is underwhelming. The guy is talented; I think it was just a matter of bad song choice here.
  • Alexis Grace. Her baby said, “Seacrest. Out” in the video package! Cutest. Thing. Ever. (The baby, not the catchphrase.) I thought Alexis shredded “Dirty Diana.” She was a little bit dirty and a lot hot mama as she slinked across that stage in her shorts jumper and high heels and confidently belted out the song. I was completely confused by why the judges thought she oversang it when they praised Adam Lambert for being over the top. 

Random thought apropos of nothing: Did Paula have some kind of plastic surgery gone wrong? Her face looked different tonight, like a younger Joan Rivers on bronzer. Something was too sharp or too tight or something. 

Anyway, I voted for Megan, Anoop, Danny and Alexis. I think bottom two will be Michael Sarver and Jasmine Murray.

Who’d you vote for? Who’s saying buh-bye tomorrow? Discuss!

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AMERICAN IDOL Reveals First 3 of Top 12 for Season 8

WTH?!! Anoop is gone? Argggghhh! Most shocking and upsetting result of the night! Man, I thought he was a sure thing. I voted for him about 30 times and he’s still going home. What happened?! This is such a bummer. What a huge loss to the show. They’ve got to bring him back for the wild card round.

Tonight’s elimination show was a bloodbath compared to results shows of years past. Nine people were sent home instead of the usual two at this stage in the competition. (Bolded names are the ones who made it.)

The first person asked to face the music was Casey Carlson. No suspense there; her campy act was a disaster. She’s gone. Stephen Fowler was next with his “soaking wet hands” and was sent home, too. Then it was Alexis Grace’s turn and I knew she was safe. That girl killed last night and was by far the most impressive female. America agrees—yay! She’s the first one in.

Ryan asked her to reprise her performance, which was better than asking eliminated people to sing like they’ve done in the past. I mean, if someone’s getting kicked off for sucking, why would I want to listen to them repeat their sucky performance? Conversely, Alexis, with a shot of confidence from being the first one named to the top twelve, upped her game in her encore of “I Never Loved a Man the Way I Love You.” She burned it up! This Kristin Bell-lookalike is definitely one to watch. She keeps getting better and better.

Next up were Jackie Tohn and Ricky Braddy. Jackie said she disagreed with Simon 100% that her performance was cheesy. Loved Simon’s response: “We’ll see.” Yup, she’s gone and so’s Braddy. No surprises here.

Then the shocker. Anoop was asked to step forward with Michael Sarver. I was just thinking, “It’s a no brainer. Sorry, Michael” when Ryan dropped the bomb that Sarver was the one who’s safe and Anoop was eliminated. I had to rewind the DVR to make sure I heard Ryan correctly. America let Anoopy down!

At this point, there were five people left vying for the last seat available tonight. Ryan took a break from dishing out results by bringing on Michael Johns and Carly Smithson to do a duet to the Box Tops’ “The Letter.” Johns looked spiffy and Smithson went on about some emergency weave-shopping incident. Then they started singing and oof, it was not good for me. Johns was all right (I loved his Michael Hutchence-ness last year) but Smithson was shrieky. They went for volume instead of emotion regarding that letter. It’s a good thing they couldn’t be voted off for this performance.

Back to the eliminations. Ann Marie Boskovich, Brent Keith and Stevie Wright were asked to stand up. Since they weren’t even asked to come down to center stage, it wasn’t hard to predict they were all goners.

And then there were two—Danny Gokey and Tatiana Del Toro. It was so obvious Danny would be the victor but Tatiana took it hard. I must say, I wasn’t rooting for her but I got no joy from seeing her dreams crushed like that. At the end of the day, she’s still human and I felt kinda bad seeing how devastated she was.

So, 2 out of the 3 people I voted for made it; I’m just disappointed about Anoop. If the producers have any common sense at all, they’ll bring him back. This kid will boost their ratings.

Next week, the second group of 12 will perform: Megan Corkrey, Kris Allen, Mishavonna Henson, Matt Breitzke, Allison Iraheta, Matt Giraud, Jasmine Murray, Kai Kalama, Jesse Langseth, Adam Lambert, Jeanine Vailes and Norman Gentle. (Dude, I’m begging you—buy a new shirt.) Based on their past performances, I’m rooting for Jesse Langseth, Megan Corkrey and Matt Giraud.

What did you think of the eliminations? Were they too harsh or fair? Do you like this year’s new voting system? Post me some comments!

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AMERICAN IDOL Season 8 — First Batch of 12

Oh wow, so many people crashed and burned tonight. I went in thinking, “How can we pick only 3 for the next round?” By the end of the evening, I could barely find three to vote for.

First up was Jackie Tohn, singing Elvis’s “A Little Less Conversation.” I like her raspy vocals a lot and she sure looked like she was having fun working the stage, but those tight “trousers” were just wrong and the song was bad for her. I wouldn’t mind seeing her again in the wild card round but for now, I think there’s gonna be a “little less” Jackie around.

Next was Ricky Braddy‘s turn. He seemed like a really nice country boy but man, I fell asleep during his cover of Leon Russell’s “A Song For You.” He can sing but, like Simon said, he has no charisma or star quality. After a few bars, I decided it’d be more fun to watch my fingernails grow. I think it ends here for Braddy, too.

Third was Alexis Grace performing Aretha’s “I Never Loved a Man the Way I Love You.” Wow, this girl has completely transformed herself. During her original audition in Louisville, she was a nice, Brooke White-type and Kara and Paula told her to dirty herself up. She took their advice to heart and became a soulful grrrl. The vixen makeup and pink-streaked hair definitely gave her an edge but, thankfully, her talent remained unchanged. I just love how this little blonde girl would open her mouth and a big black woman’s voice would come out. It’s like she was dubbed by Patti LaBelle. She was my favorite female of the night.

Brent Keith came up next and the crew just didn’t seem to like him. His turn started out with a tech snafu that played Stevie Wright’s instead of his video. Then, after he sang, they played him off the stage with the Idol theme song when he tried to respond to the judges’ comments. This guy is awfully cute with his left dimple and good ol’ boy charm but he lost me with the country song “Hick Town.” I applaud Keith for being true to himself but I don’t have to buy what he’s selling.

Then it was Stevie Wright‘s turn and this girl really disappointed me. Her smoky rendition of  “At Last” during her original Phoenix audition was as memorable as this performance of Taylor Swift’s “You Belong With Me” was forgettable. The song just didn’t do anything to showcase her voice. I had such high hopes but won’t vote for her after this debacle. Girl, you do not belong with Idol.

When I heard Anoop was next, I hollered, “Finally! Let’s get this show started!” Man, I love this kid. He’s just so cool. Every time I see that clip of him singing “My Prerogative,” I keep wishing they’d show that whole rousing performance. But then he announced he was gonna sing Monica’s “Angel of Mine.” Wait, what?! I wanted him to funk it UP, show us his personality, not sing some unfamiliar slow song. Well, it wasn’t a great choice but his voice was as smoof as ever and he’d better move on to the next round. He also gets extra points for giving credit to Ricky Minor and the band for making him sound good. I don’t hear a lot of contestants acknowledging the band.

Next, Casey Carlson was at the bat and boy, did she strike out. As a singer, she’s a very pretty girl. She chose The Police’s “Every Little Thing She Does is Magic,” but everything Casey did was definitely NOT. She vamped her way through the song, touching her neck and winking like she’s Sarah Palin at the VP debate. Her voice was too thin and small to sustain most of the notes and she attempted a misguided run at the very end that couldn’t save this trainwreck. I don’t know what happened because I liked her a lot when she sang “A Thousand Miles” in Kansas City. Sorry, Casey, I’m pretty sure it’s over for you.

Michael Sarver was the eighth singer, rocking out Gavin DeGraw’s “I Don’t Want To Be.” This song needs some ‘tude because it’s like saying “I ain’t changing for nobody” but Sarver just kind of bounced happily through it. It wasn’t a bad performance but not good enough to move on. Paula pointed out that Elliott Yamin, Bo Bice and Chris Richardson also sang it and I thought, “Yeah, and none of them won.”

After Sarver, Ann Marie Boskovich sang “Natural Woman.” When Kelly Clarkson sang this in season one, she slapped America across the face, woke us up and made us pay attention. I was hoping for the same kind of revelation for Boskovich because I thought she had a crystal clear, Carrie-Underwood-crossed-with-a-young-Dolly-Parton voice during her audition. Unfortunately, she couldn’t make this song soar. It needed soul and passion but she gave it a country feel which didn’t work for me. It was frustrating because I really wanted her to move on.

Then it was Stephen Fowler‘s turn and he chose “Rock With You.” I thought, Oooh, this could be good. Wrong. I like the tone of his voice but he slowed it down and bored it up. He was occasionally flat and by the time he got to the line, “When the groove is dead and gone,” I agreed.

Side note: I hate how the judges tell contestants they don’t take enough risks but when they do, they’re told they shouldn’t touch Michael Jackson or Police or Whitney or Mariah songs because those are too hard. These kids have to sing somebody‘s songs because they don’t have their own catalogs. Maybe they should only choose from Paula’s songbook since they’d be more likely to improve on the original versions?

OK, on to the final two. Tatiana surprised me with Whitney’s “Saving All My Love For You” when she did way better than I expected. She impressively hit some high notes and afterwards, was demure and kept her mouth shut during the judges’ comments. Simon and the gang were confused and tried to goad her into doing her wacky laugh and exhibiting her over-the-top behavior and I was screaming, “No! Why are you inciting the crazy?!” Thankfully, she didn’t go there. I think she’s been studying her tapes from the past weeks, thought, “Wow, I’m a freak” and tried to redeem herself. But her ladylike behavior came too late and I’d be surprised if she makes the top three.

Danny Gokey brought up the rear as the last contestant tonight. I groaned when he said he’d sing Mariah’s “Hero.” That song is overwrought and overused. But Gokey just stood there, Archuleta-style, and sang it beautifully. He didn’t need to prance around the stage to keep us entertained. I wondered why I was compelled to watch him while I was bored during Rick Braddy’s performance and then realized the difference was Gokey has stage presence.

When the phone lines opened, I voted for Gokey, Anoop and Alexis Grace. Who did you vote for? Who was awesome for you and who disappointed?

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AMERICAN IDOL Season 8's Top 36!

Tonight, 54 contestants found out if they made it into the top 36. Producers made some changes to the ritual (no elevator, nicer mansion, better chairs, sing-offs) but it was still nerve-wracking for the wannabes.

I have mixed feelings about the sing-offs. It’s always nice to hear some singing in a singing competition but I hated who they chose for them. It seemed they picked good friends and pitted them against each other, making the victory bittersweet for the one who made it. I mean, wouldn’t you want to go out and celebrate with your friend if you’re in? Nope, he/she didn’t make it so you’d better find someone else to party with.

There wasn’t a lot of suspense in tonight’s show. Generally, if you’d never seen a contestant before, he/she wasn’t going to make it. Let’s break it down. (Bolded names are people who got through.)

Anoop Desai was shown going into the Chamber of Fear first. He’s awesome so he’s in. I think he’s gonna crack the top 10, at least. Next was Von Smith, cute as a button but a mass murderer of notes when he sings. He was given another chance to “blast” us all (his word).

The first sing-off was between good friends Cody Sheldon and Alex Wagner-Trugman. Alex was clearly the better singer (he sang “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down”) so he won. I hated how the judges put Alex in a position where he just couldn’t give in to his joy because his friend was crying beside him.

Adam Lambert, who wears more makeup and hair products than most of the girls, made the cut. Taylor Vaifanua walked in next and looked so much better with her makeover. The bangs actually made her look her age (17), whereas she looked 30 in her original audition with the big hair. She’s through to the next level.

Next was a montage of a bunch of very pretty and talented girls who made it: Jasmine Murray, Arianna Afsar, Casey Carlson, Megan Corkrey, Mishavonna Henson and Stevie Wright. I was happy to see Megan, who needs more air time, and Stevie, too, because I love her fresh-faced, free and hippie vibe.

Then came Joanna Pacitti‘s turn. They let her through and I thought that was B.S. Unlike some people, I’m not hatin’ on her because she’d already had a recording contract and failed album. I was annoyed because that girl repeatedly forgot lyrics—sometimes a whole chorus, it seemed—and Simon had announced his strict rule that if you forgot the words, you were done. That’s why he sent home really interesting singers like Emily Wynne-Hughes and Rosa Flack. But they let Pacitti stay, who’s attractive but in an unremarkable way and has a forgettable voice. UPDATE: The producers have just disqualified Pacitti and picked Felicia Barton to take her place! Yay! Give some other girl a chance.

A montage of guys being rejected came next: T.K. Hash, Chris Chatman, and Reggie Beasley. Except for Hash, who sang “Imagine” with too many runs in his original audition, I’d never seen the other guys before so I knew they were toast.

Kendall Beard came in and was put through by Paula saying, “It isn’t great [news]. It’s fantastic.” Huh? I hate when they play those stupid word games to mess with contestants’ heads. If something is fantastic, it isn’t great?

Time for another sing-off, this time between Jenn Korbee and Kristen McNamara. I’d never seen Korbee (or her fine husband Tom!) while McNamara had been given lots of screen time during group day so it wasn’t hard to figure out how this would go. Korbee is very attractive, like Simon kept saying, but McNamara was obviously the better singer (with a few notes of “I Will Always Love You”) so the right girl was chosen, even if Simon pouted about it.

Three more people made it through: Alexis Grace, who stands out with her pink-streaked, jagged bob and adorable Gerber baby girl; Scott MacIntyre, whom I’m just not crazy about, despite my respect for his overcoming his handicap; and Lil Rounds, whom I haven’t been that impressed with since her original audition.

Then a bunch of people got kicked out: Felicia Barton, Ashley Hollister and Devon Baldwin. I had no idea who they were so I had nothing invested in their leaving. But like I said in the update above, Barton is coming back after producers disqualified Pacitti for reasons they won’t reveal.

Next up was another sing-off that really annoyed me: Frankie Jordan vs. Jesse Langseth. Both girls were talented and shouldn’t have been in the position where one had to go. That said, I knew Langseth had to make it. That girl came out of nowhere to wow me in a brief snippet singing “Some Kind of Wonderful” on group day and tonight she impressed me even more with her soulful voice and funky vibe. She’s a confident, fiery female amidst quivering, crying girls and I like that. I was sorry to see Jordan go, though it was ridiculous how she said she was getting older and wouldn’t get many opportunities like this. She’s 23, for goodness sakes! She could come back next year and 5 years after that if she wanted.

Another two were sent home: Shera Lawrence and Derik Lavers. Who? Exactly.

But next up, red-headed Allison Iraheta was the exception to the rule. They’d never shown her before but she made it. She sounded good in the few clips shown tonight so I’m okay with her staying.

Then it was Danny Gokey‘s turn. C’ mon, was anyone even wondering if he’d make it? This guy was a sure thing. Shockingly, his BF Jamar Rogers was cut, which was so sad. Jamar used to be one of those REALLY LOUD singers who make me scramble for the mute button but he’d gotten much better at moderation. Plus, he’s got stage presence and puts together cute ensembles. This was easily the biggest upset of the evening.

Next, several guys were shown getting yeses: Ricky Braddy (who?), Matt Giraud, Ju’Not Joyner, Jorge Nunez, Brent Keith (what happened to the Smith?), and Stephen Fowler.

And then a rude thing happened: Nick Mitchell/Norman Gentle made it through. They cut Jamar to give this guy a spot? He said, “I’d do anything to get through to the next round.” Really? How about taking the competition seriously and just singing for a change?

I have no objection to the next person who made it: Jackie Tohn. She’s like a brunette Sheryl Crow and she’s a bit quirky but I like her energy.

The next person, though, has too much energy. Tatiana Del Toro made it through, which was no surprise because the producers have already given her so much air time, but it was disgusting nonetheless. She screamed so loudly you’d think she was being assaulted, which is what happens to my eardrums every time I hear her sing. My only consolation is that after tonight, the judges can’t keep her safe anymore. America is gonna kick her to the curb.

Another sing-off: Jackie Midkiff vs. Nate Marshall. Oh goodness, Nate cries way too much but his mama is in prison so I’m not gonna say anything else.

Jeanine Vailes, Kai Kalama, Anne Marie Boskovich, and Kris Allen are shown in a montage of yeses.

Final sing-off of the day: Matt Breitzke, the welder, vs. Michael Sarver, the roughneck. It was such a cliche to put these guys against each other and there was no suspense. If you were keeping tabs, you would’ve known there were two spots left so both of these guys would make it through and that’s what happened.

Now that the top 36 have been determined, 3 groups of 12 will be performing in the next 3 weeks for America to vote. First up: Carlson, Tohn, Braddy, Boskovich, Keith, Grace, Sarver, Wright, Gokey, Del Toro and Desai. This is a really strong bunch and I predict the bottom 2 will be Del Toro and Braddy.

UPDATE: I just learned that only 3 from each group of 12 will move on! That’s crazy! They’ll take the top male and female vote-getter and then the next person of either sex who got the most votes. This is grossly unfair. This means we may have to choose between Danny and Anoop or Anne Marie and Alexis or Jackie and Stevie. I know producers are trying to change things up but this is nuts. Lots of really talented people are going to be eliminated before their time.

What do you think this new voting system and the semi-finalists? Did the judges get it right? Who do you think will be first to go next week? Post a comment!

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AMERICAN IDOL Season 8 — Final Audition Day

I’ll try to keep this short since the top 36 still hasn’t been revealed, though a bunch of people got cut tonight. We did get more singing and less drama so that was good.

Some Safe Ones: Danny “I Have Most Air Time” Gokey, Jamar “DG’s Best Friend” Rogers, Matt “JT Lite” Giraud, Anoop “Dawg” Desai, Adam “I Sound Like a Woman” Lambert, Jorge “Secada” Nunez, Jackie “Tortured Faces” Tohn, Joanna “Do-Over” Pacitti, Scott “Legally Blind” MacIntyre, Kendall “Bouncy Blonde” Beard, Lil “Loud” Rounds, Kristin “Anna Faris” McNamara, Mishavonna “Season 7 Reject” Henson, Alexis “Pink Streaks” Grace (I’m glad she’s still safe ’cause it looked like she had been cut last week due to confusing editing), Jasmine “Sweet-Voiced” Murray, Nate “I Can’t Stop Crying” Marshall, Casey “I Forgot the Lyrics” Carlson, Stephen “Walked Off Stage” Fowler, Matt “Welder” Breitzke, Nick “Norman Gentle” Mitchell, Anne-Marie “Makeover” Boskovich, Ju’Not “Never Seen Him Before” Joyner, T. K. “I Love My Runs” Hash, Kai “Rough Voice” Kalama, Michael “Roughneck” Sarver (who dropped the Jeremy from previous weeks) and Tatiana Del Toro. I’m afraid that calling her crazy would be insulting to people who are truly suffering from mental illness.

M.I.A.: Where were Megan Corkrey and last week’s discovery, Jesse Langseth? They haven’t shown Corkrey singing at all since her original audition and, after showing us how awesome Langseth was, the producers benched her this week without a glimpse or mention.

Some Who Were Cut: Michael Castro (we hardly knew ye!), India Morrison, Kaylan Loyd (never seen her before) and Leneshe Young. Man, I hurt for Leneshe. I didn’t love her funky version of “Love Song” but she deserved a spot more than some people who made it. Nick Mitchell pulled out his tired, cheesy Norman act with the shiny shirt again and they kept him. Joanna Pacitti completely blanked on several whole lines in her song and made it. Stephen Fowler tried singing his song twice, screwed up both times, gave up and they still let him in. Why they gotta hate on Leneshe and then show her crying? That was just rude.

But I have hope. More cuts will be made Wednesday so Nick/Norman, Tatiana, Nick Marshall, Joanna Pacitti and others can still be sent home. And then there are wild card spots, so maybe we haven’t seen the last of Leneshe, Emily Wynne-Hughes, Rosa Flack, and Deanna Brown.

Come back tomorrow to discuss the top 36!

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AMERICAN IDOL Season 8 — First Night of Hollywood Week!

I was really looking forward to the competition finally kicking into high gear but the first Hollywood edition was kinda dull. We were told 104 made it through to the next round (out of 147 who came to Hollywood) but got glimpses of only about 28. For the first time, the wannabes were sent to “boot camp” to get makeovers and advice on song selections (Barry Manilow was there talking to them; I thought producers were only bringing in younger mentors this year?) Looked like some listened and some couldn’t be helped. Some highlights:

Person Who Most Renewed My Early Faith in Him: Danny Gokey, the Robert Downey Jr. lookalike whose wife passed away right before his original audition in Kansas City. I remember loving his rendition of “I Heard It Through the Grapevine” and was hoping he wouldn’t prove to be a fluke. When he said he was taking on “Kiss from a Rose,” I thought, “Dude, that’s a hard song.” No worries. He hit all the high notes beautifully and is through to the next round.

Other People Who Kicked Butt: Lil Rounds, who pulled off the Whitney version of  “I Will Always Love You;” Anoop Desai, whose rich voice is full of soul (notice how he was less preppy last night?); Jasmine Murray, precocious beyond her years; Jorge Nunez, who sang in English much more confidently than he did during his San Juan audition; and Rose Flack, who did a pretty good version of “Sittin’ on the Dock of the Bay.” Her voice has a really interesting quality but she’s got to get her nerves under control and purchase a pair of shoes. She’s gonna pick up a disease walking down Hollywood Boulevard barefoot. Didn’t someone tell her this in boot camp?

Speaking of Catching a Disease: That girl Katrina Darrell is sooo skanky, I can’t deal. She’s not that talented, not attractive and has a bad attitude. Why is she still there?! I hate that Kara and Paula are made to look like they’re being catty or jealous by not liking her. What do they have to be jeaous of?! When Kara said, “Bring a pole tomorrow,” I thought, “And antibiotics and hazmat suits for everyone.” She needs to go.

And He Should, Too: I’m so over Nick Mitchell/Norman Gentle. This guy is a joke. I’d be kinder if he were at least funny but he’s just obnoxious and tiresome and I hate how he’s hijacked this singing competition. Let’s just say for argument’s sake that he ends up winning. What’s he going to release—a music album or a comedy one? He should go away and try out for Last Comic Standing instead.

Saddest Cut: Jessica Furney. I liked this girl when I saw her original Kansas City audition. Anybody who can sing a Joplin song well has my respect (I’ve tried during karaoke parties but it’s never gonna happen for me). Tonight, there was only a brief mention that she was cut and we didn’t even get to see her perform. Oh well, I guess I don’t have to worry about her 93-year-old grandma any more ’cause Jessica’s coming home.

Most Deserved Cut: That Dennis Brigham was a pill. I didn’t like him the first time and completely disagreed when the judges put him through in Kansas City. He wasn’t good then and he certainly didn’t get any better. When he was cut this time, he started dissing Simon’s wardrobe, which had nothing to do with anything. His tirade convinced Simon he made the right decision. A little late, Simon, but I’ll take it.

What did you think of the people who got through tonight? Picked out the Top 5 yet? Any of your faves got cut? Post in the comments section.

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