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kris allen

AMERICAN IDOL Season 8 Finale–The New Idol Is Crowned

I can’t believe Kris won! Whoo-hoo! I don’t think I’ve been this pleasantly surprised in the eight years I’ve followed this show. I’d accepted that Adam would win since everyone keeps saying he would—the judges, Entertainment Weekly, his vocal fan base, many of my friends, etc. That, and the fact I only had time to vote for Kris 10 times last night made feel like he’d have to settle for second place. But I kept my fingers crossed, just maybe…

And the impossible happened! When the confetti rained down, it was Kris who was the new American Idol. He even received a little trophy in the shape of a microphone, which is a new thing this year. Only drawback to winning was he had to sing that lame song, “No Boundaries,” but he sounded much better than last night.

This result is rather shocking because I didn’t think much of Kris at all for much of the early competition. I couldn’t even remember his name since his shy, unassuming ways made him blend into the background. But as the fat started getting trimmed from the competition, this quiet boy gained confidence and started making such daring, innovative choices (“Falling Slowly,” “She Works Hard for the Money,” “Heartless”) that I had to take notice. I’m glad he won because I love an underdog story and it made for good TV!

The show was better than I thought it would be. I let the DVR get ahead an hour and 20 minutes before I tuned in ’cause I figured I’d have to fast-forward through lots of filler but ended up watching and enjoying much of it.

I liked the Kris and Keith Urban duet, “Kiss a Girl.” When they first announced Urban, I thought, “Oh no, country music,” which I do not like. But the song was upbeat, their styles blended well and the duet sounded cohesive. It was a performance that seemed rehearsed instead of thrown together at the last minute.

Other things I enjoyed: seeing Alexis Grace again, Jason Mraz, the Lionel Richie/Danny Gokey pairing, Allison and Cyndi Lauper doing “Time After Time,” Steve Martin playing the banjo while Megan Joy and Michael Sarver sang Martin’s song, “Pretty Flowers” (though Megan sounded a little wobbly), Rod Stewart doing “Maggie May” (with his 1978 hairdo intact!), and Adam and Kris dueting with Queen on “We Are the Champions.”

Moments I thought were awkward, embarrasing or downright disgusting: The Golden Idols, which wasted time on obnoxious, talentless people desperate for attention (I refuse to mention them by name); the Lil Rounds/Queen Latifah duet of “Cue the Rain,” which was a huge mess; and most of the group sing-alongs, especially “So What.” They need to brush up on their dancing and choreography skills before they start the tour.

What I Both Liked and Hated: Kara getting to show her singing prowess (she’s awesome!) and hot bod (did you see those abs?!) but having to share the stage with that skanky, porny girl.

What were the highlights for you? How do you feel about Kris winning? Whose album will you be buying? Will you be seeing the top 10 on tour?

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AMERICAN IDOL Season 8: Final Competition Night

This is gonna be a tough call. I thought both Adam and Kris performed well, but neither was perfect and they have such different styles it’s like comparing bears and chickens.

Each performer had to sing 3 songs. The first would be their favorite from the season; second would be chosen by the show’s creator, Simon Fuller; and third would be the “winner single,” co-written by Kara.

Adam went first and sang “Mad World.” I liked it, as I usually do when he shows some restraint. He gave the song a haunting lilt. Kris sang “Ain’t No Sunshine,” accompanying himself on piano. It was a heartfelt performance and both are off to a strong start.

Fuller chose Sam Cooke’s “A Change Is Gonna Come” for Adam’s next song and Adam put on his shiny suit to sing it. He hit every note and was technically perfect but I didn’t get real soulfulness from him, more like affected anguish.

Kris updated Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On?” and while I appreciated his Jack Johnson-esque take, I like the smooth groove of the original melody so much I don’t think it needed all the changes. So, both did well again but neither performance was eye-opening.

Then came the dreaded “winner single,” which is cheesy and tedious every year. If I were one of the two finalists, I’d almost want to throw the competition just so I wouldn’t have to record it. This year’s song, called “No Boundaries,” was no different and was written by Kara, Cathy Dennis and Mitch Allen.

Adam went first and the song seemed to be in the right key for him. But when he got to the chorus, I couldn’t understand what he was singing because he went for the volume and blew the words into oblivion. Not that I cared, since the lyrics to these singles are always insipid.

Kris didn’t do any better. The key was way too high for him, he strained through most of the song to hit the notes and didn’t always succeed. His face at the end showed that he knew he didn’t do as well as he’d hoped.

Based on the final performances, I think Adam’s got the edge and will win. But whatever happens, these two will most likely get recording contracts, make completely different albums for their separate fan bases and no one will have to argue again over who’s the better performer.

Who do you think will be crowned the eighth idol tomorrow night?

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AMERICAN IDOL Season 8–Top 3 Finalists

Wow, what an action-packed show. So much happened tonight, which was the complete opposite of last week’s boring results show. There was Slash performing, Paula Abdul singing and dancing, No Doubt reuniting, and Daughtry debuting a new song. I didn’t think it was all good, just that there was a lot going on.

I’m tired tonight so here are some quick reactions:

  • When the remaining contestants performed with Slash on Alice Cooper’s “School’s Out,” Slash’s playing drowned them out, making them useless. Producers might as well have had Slash do some guitar solos, which probably would’ve been more awesome.
  • Paula’s song,”I’m Just Here for the Music,” has a danceable backbeat but what’s up with the electronic enhancement to her voice? They did that with Jamie Foxx last week and it annoys the junk out of me. It makes them sound like they abused cigarettes and now have to sing through an electronic voicebox. How about this for an idea: If your voice needs enhancement, don’t sing live.
  • I usually enjoy Gwen Stefani quite a bit but thought all her running around tonight was a bit immature. She’s not a teen anymore like when she first joined No Doubt and came across like she was trying too hard to reclaim her youth and previous audience. I don’t know why that’s necessary since she’s sold loads of solo albums while acting more or less her age.
  • Was it just me or did Chris Daughtry sound a lot like Styx’s frontman, Dennis DeYoung, while singing the new single, “No Surprise”? Maybe I just have Styx on the brain from last night’s performance of “Renegade.” Still, my point is Daughtry’s sound is not unique. If you hear a U2 or Coldplay or Maroon 5 song on the radio, you instantly know who they are. Daughtry still sounds like different bands, depending on the song.
  • It was no surprise to me that Kris was the first one declared safe and Allison was voted off, leaving Adam and Danny to round out the top three. That poor girl didn’t have a chance against the guys’ rabid fan bases. But then again, her performance of Janis Joplin’s “Cry Baby” was not one of her better ones.

How do you feel about the top three? Do you forgive Danny for his last “Dream On” notes now that he’s acknowledged their awfulness? What’d you think of Paula’s performance? Were you excited to see No Doubt back together again?

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AMERICAN IDOL Season 8 – Rockin' Out with Slash

Going into tonight’s show, I was a little skeptical since I couldn’t picture two out of the four remaining contestants rocking out. But while the performances were uneven, this episode ended up being highly entertaining.

Adam went first with Led Zeppelin’s “Whole Lotta Love,” which was the perfect choice for his voice and theatricality. When I heard the opening guitar riffs, I was bopping my head and thinking, Oh yeah, this could be good, and Adam didn’t disappoint. I’m not a huge fan because of his shriekiness but on this song, that’s exactly what was needed. You can’t be shy on this song; that primal scream must be unleashed. Kudos to Adam for a very smart song choice and his ballsy execution of it.

Allison sang Janis Joplin’s “Cry Baby,” and to me, it sounded like “Yell, Baby” because she shouted through the whole thing. I love Allison and agree with Slash she’s got that rock swagger but this performance was only okay. It’s disappointing since this should be the one genre where she excels.

Then we took a break from the competition as the producers gave us something never before done on Idol: duets between contestants. First up were Kris and Danny covering Styx’s “Renegade.” Their harmony was smooth but when the band kicked in, they immediately went flat on a few notes. Kris seemed out of his depth and sounded like he was losing breath at times. He also couldn’t pull off the tough act in black leather and looked like a little kid playing dress-up. Danny fared better on the song and was at least leather-free, thank goodness.

After the break, Kris changed clothes to sing his competition entry, the Beatles’ “Come Together.” Whoa, this song is too big for him; he doesn’t have the growl. He’s usually great at picking songs so I’m surprised he chose that out of the vast Beatles catalog since there are better choices for him. He probably should’ve stuck with something like “I Saw Her Standing There.”

Danny then sang his official competition song, “Dream On” by Aerosmith. This was a gutsy choice; it’s crazy hard to sing. Most of it sounded pretty good but I was holding my breath waiting for those high notes at the end. Will he make it? Will he blow a vocal cord? Yes and no. He reached the upper echelons but it no longer sounded like singing when he did, just full-out screaming bloody murder. It was not pleasant but I’m impressed he took it on since hard rock really isn’t his forte.

The show wrapped up with another duet, this time by Adam and Allison singing Foghat’s “Slow Ride.” I liked Allison’s performance here way better than her “official” one. She was looser, having more fun and the swagger was out in full force. At one point, I thought she and Adam were trying to out-scream each other but they ended up complimenting each other quite well. And it’s cute that he shared his hairstylist with her.

I liked the duets because it took some of the stress off the contestants and it didn’t sound like they were lip-synching like during the group performances. They also have a chance to redeem themselves, like Allison did, if they screw up during their competition performance. Plus, as the number of contenders dwindle, I’d rather producers fill the hour with more singing instead of Ford commercials or inane chatter from the judges.

Which performances rocked your world? Did you like the duets?

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AMERICAN IDOL Season 8 — Results for Rat Pack Evening

Man, tonight’s results show was so boring, I barely stayed awake long enough to see who got voted off, much less write this. Why won’t they cut it down to a half hour already? There’s SO much filler, it’s annoying. Why was Taylor Hicks performing his honky tonk music when this is standards week? Natalie Cole made sense, but Jamie Foxx singing in an electronic voice that sounded like some guy who’s kidnapped your kid and calling for ransom? I’m so confused.

There was one moment that made my eyes pop open: Adam being in the bottom two while Allison was safe. I’m glad for Allison and am not a huge fan of Adam but based on his viral popularity and pre-ordained victory by some people, I was surprised. Kris being in the bottom 3 was unexpected, too. He’s got a huge fan club, evidenced by iTunes downloads and screaming girls in the audience every week, plus he did well last night so I don’t know what happened.

matt-giraudBut I do know Matt finally ended his run tonight, which is NOT the least bit surprising, considering he’s been on borrowed time for weeks now. The fat is now trimmed and the top 4 is as it should be. From now until the finale in 3 weeks, it should be a fierce fight for the crown.

Are you happy with the remaining contestants? Who are you rooting for? Have you changed allegiance in the last few weeks?

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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 5 Revealed

Lil Rounds and Anoop are gone. I’d predicted Lil and Matt and I still think that’s how it should’ve gone. When Anoop did his encore of Donna Summer’s “Dim All the Lights,” he sounded even better than last night, looser and more in control at the same time. The judges wasted their save last week on Matt. It should’ve been spent on Anoop this week.

Highlights included appearances by disco stars Freda Payne, Thelma Houston and KC with skanky dancers instead of his Sunshine Band. It was all a little rough to watch. And I’m saying this as someone who really likes disco music and once paid to see KC live.

KC and the divas could’ve benefited from Paula’s choreography skills, which she unleashed on the contestants for the first time, making them look semi-coordinated and hip in their group number instead of awkward and flat-footed. Some took to the dance steps better than others but overall, Paula taught those kids well and reminded us how she first came to fame.

What’d you think of the group number? Did you agree with tonight’s castoffs?

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AMERICAN IDOL Season 8 — Contestants Work Hard for the Money on Disco Night

There were some nice surprises tonight but waaayy too much Donna Summer. I get it, she’s the queen of disco but the way I remember it (yes, I was alive in the ’70s), there were lots of fun disco songs sung by many different artists. Why no love for KC & the Sunshine Band? Couldn’t get clearance for ABBA?

Lil went first and I was glad because we got the bad stuff out of the way. She sang Chaka Khan’s “I’m Every Woman” and just couldn’t seem to get a firm grasp on it. Her performances seem to get more panicky every week as she gets more confused about what her stage persona should be. She tried to pump up the crowd, flinging her notes all over the place, and ended up giving a wild performance but not in a good way. Kara said it best when she said Lil seems to be every woman but herself. Lil responded by saying how much fun she had but that’s no excuse for detonating a huge stink bomb on stage.

Kris went next and, whoo! He surprised me again by continuing to make the most original song choices in the competition. Following last week’s “Falling Slowly,” which had never been done on Idol before, Kris took Donna Summer’s “She Works Hard for the Money” and poured some salsa on it. And it worked! He completely reinvented the song, accompanying himself on acoustic guitar, stripping the song of its disco feel and giving it a mild Latin flavor instead. This kid has chutzpah and I like him.

Danny followed with Earth, Wind and Fire’s “September” and gave another solid, if unexceptional, performance. He was on key, even on the higher notes, and his gravelly voice added the right amount of soul. He also kept his chicken dancing under control, which was good.

Allison sang another Donna Summer song, “Hot Stuff,” which neatly labeled her own performance. This teen really is hot stuff when she’s on stage. Such control and power! The judges seem so sure Adam and Danny are going to be in the finals but Allison deserves a spot, too.

Then it’s Adam’s turn. Seeing him in the suit got my hopes up since the last time he wore one, he struck gold with his aching version of “Tracks of My Tears.” He announced he would sing Yvonne Elliman’s “If I Can’t Have You,” which I like (I’ll admit it—I like most of the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack). But I got confused when the music started slowly and then I realized he was turning it into a ballad! I prefer Adam to slow things down because he’s less shrieky that way but I didn’t want him to slow down this song because I like it uptempo! His vocals were impressive but tonight he reminded me of Sam Harris, the first Star Search winner in the singing competition. Harris was also a very talented singer with the ability to effortlessly hit high notes but ended up doing a lot of musical theater and never made it big as a recording artist. I’m afraid Adam’s headed in the same direction.

Matt followed with “Stayin’ Alive,” and, like Allison, his song title described his own performance. This was better than last week’s but it came across like a desperate attempt to stay alive in this competition. He was trying to bring disco back like JT brought sexy back. Unfortunately, it wasn’t great and I’d put money on him going home tomorrow.

Anoop closed out the show with the third Summer song of the evening, “Dim All the Lights.” It started out slowly and I thought, “A ha! He didn’t take the disco bait and is keeping it sloooow!” The song then picked up the pace a bit but stayed in Anoop’s comfort zone, veering nowhere near the scary “Beat It” territory of a few weeks back. He was in tune but overall, the performance was very safe and didn’t give me any chills, which I seriously needed in this sweltering L.A. heat.

So, best for me tonight were Kris and Allison. Who’d you vote for? Did you think Kris and Adam succeeded in reinventing their disco selections? Who’s going home tomorrow? Discuss below!

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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 — One "Smokey" Motown Evening

Tonight covered Motown hits and I never thought I’d write this but Adam Lambert turned in the best performance. Shocked? Me, too. When he appeared all cleaned up, with his hair slicked back off his face and wearing a shiny Dino suit, I almost didn’t recognize him. Then he unplugged himself by singing Smokey Robinson and the Miracles’ “Tracks of My Tears” with such ache and restraint, I had to rewind the DVR to hear it again. I’ve been trashing this guy for always screaming his songs but this soft, heartfelt performance knocked my socks off. Well done. Now please don’t go back to screaming, cheesy camera-seducing moves and tight leather pants.

Matt Giraud started the evening with a really good rendition of Marvin Gaye’s “Let’s Get It On,” which was the perfect choice. The guy was completely in the zone and he gave it that bluesy feel we’ve come to expect from him. Can you imagine what it must’ve felt like to sing for Smokey and have him say, “Marvin woulda dug that”? I would’ve peed my pants. And I was glad Matt didn’t stay behind the piano for the whole song, giving us instead just a little bit of sexy swagger. 

Kris Allen was second with “How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved by You).” His vocals are getting stronger each week but as Simon says, “To be a star, you have to be conceited. Like me.” I don’t want nice little Kris to turn into a snob but he doesn’t exude that much star presence on stage.

Scott MacIntyre sang “You Can’t Hurry Love,” once again accompanying himself but changing things up a bit by having the backup singers gather by his piano. This song is more uptempo than his usual boring choices but it still wasn’t good enough for me. 

Then came Megan Joy. You know I love this girl and have been championing her since the beginning but nothing worked for her this week. First of all, she looked like a tacky Hawaiian tourist the Love Boat left behind in her flowered outfit. Then she chose “For Once in My Life,” which was too fast for her and also sometimes too low and other times too high. When Kara mentioned “My Guy,” I thought, Yeah, that would’ve been perfect for Megan. But, like Smokey said, she’s jazzy and cabaret and unique so I still hope she stays.

Anoop slowed things down with the Miracles’ “Ooh Baby Baby” and was smoof and soulful. He also visited Lambertland and unleashed a falsetto I didn’t know he had. I thought I liked my Anoop funky but two weeks in a row now he’s shown he’s quite powerful as a balladeer.

Michael Sarver covered “Ain’t Too Proud to Beg,” which I’m afraid he might have to do with the judges to save him tomorrow night. This guy didn’t have one ounce of soul in him and he still had the slightly country twang in his voice which was all wrong for the song. He kept saying how much fun he had on stage but don’t we have to enjoy watching him, too?

Lil Rounds sang “Heat Wave,” looking all cute and retro, but she shouted through the whole song. It’s as if Loud is her default setting. She was also shaky on a whole bunch of notes and dropped a couple notches on the frontrunner meter. 

And then Adam sat on a stool and crooned that lovely rendition of “Tracks of My Tears” with just a guitarist, a bass player and a dude softly thumping on a wooden crate for accompaniment. My jaw fell on the floor and my eyes were opened wide. Every year, a performer has a defining moment that slaps you across the face and gets your attention—David Archuleta with “Imagine” last year, Kelly Clarkson with “Natural Woman” in season one—and this was definitely Lambert’s moment. 

After that, Danny Gokey came on, dancing and singing “Get Ready.” His raspy voice is perfect for this type of music and he’s sure expending a lot of energy but after Lambert’s performance, I can only call it okay.

Allison Iraheta closes the show with “Papa Was a Rolling Stone” and man, she owned that stage and everybody else was just paying her rent! That girl’s power blows me away. I hope y’all voted for her because if she ends up in the bottom three again, she might come to our houses and kick all our asses.

I missed Alexis Grace tonight—she would’ve killed with Motown hits. But since I couldn’t vote for her, I went with Anoop, Adam and Allison (hey, an alliteration!). 

What’d you think? Did you like Adam’s makeover or do you like him better with guyliner and sideswept bangs? Who should go home tomorrow? Discuss!

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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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