Saturday, February 26, 2011

Preview of the Top 12 boys [spoiler alert]

MJ's BigBlog and Brittany Keener virtually on the set there have provided some great comments on the next show being recorded yesterday. I was wrong about 'live' by the way - it is taped, if only to give them time to put a blue oval over Steven Tyler's lips before it goes out to the oh so sensitive US viewers, some of whom even seem to be complaining about the under 18 year old girls' clothing or lack of it - but that's another topic entirely. For some weeks yet, there'll be a good few days clear between recordings and what we get to see. An interesting observation was that the performance we'll see by Robbie Rosen may be his second or third go rather than the one that the judges comment on. That'll take some editing.

Here is the running list:

1.Clint Jun Gamboa – Superstition by Stevie Wonder
2.Jovany Barreto – I’ll Be by Edwin McCain
3.Jordan Dorsey – OMG by Usher
4.Tim Halperin – Streetcorner Symphony (Come On Over) (Rob Thomas)
5.Brett Loewenstern – Light My Fire – Doors
6.James Durbin – You Got Another Thing Comin’ by Judas Priest
7.Robbie Rosen – Arms of an Angel by Sarah McLachlan
8.Scott McCreery – Letters From Home – John Michael Montgomery
9.Stefano Langone – Just The Way You Are – (Bruno Mars)
10.Paul McDonald – Maggie Mae by Rod Stewart
11.Jacob Lusk – House is Not a Home
12.Casey Abrams – I Put a Spell On You

Seems like they all do a pretty damn fine job with Casey, Jacob, Paul, James and Scotty getting particularly rave reviews.

What made me smile most, though, was the audience doing Baby lock them doors every time Scotty appears!! Hilarious.

For some reason I'm not sure Clint will be around long and one of Stefano and Jovany has to go just to stop me getting confused. Jordan gets some mixed reviews for a song that doesn't do him much good and he's going to struggle to make up for all the 'cold' impressions he started with. I'm still impressed, though, and, despite Jacob's amazing presence and style, once his novelty wears off, I feel that it is Jordan that has the longer shelf life in the industry.

Friday, February 25, 2011

The 24 move on to the live show

Finally, we have the Top 24. They're shown on the separate tab as some will be around for some time yet.

Here are the few real contenders to win from what I've seen so far, which hasn't been that much in some cases:

Tim Halperin | Julie Zorilla | Jacob Lusk | Jordan Dorsey | Lauren Alaina | Casey Abrams | Tatynisa Wilson

There are great singers who look or sound wonderful, in Pia's case both, who'll be around for a while, maybe quite a long while, but haven't yet shown that special winning quality for the main prize:

Pia Toscato | Robbie Rosen | Scott McCreedy | Jovany Barretto | Paul McDonald | Ashton Jones | Thia Megia | Clint Jun Gambao | Haley Reinhart | 

There are several dark horses this year, people with real original talent that may or may not appeal and get them up there or they could crash out early:

Naima Adedapo | Stefan Jovani | Rachel Zevita | James Durbin | Brett Loewenstern | 

Not really in the running either on performances to date or simply attracting that essential initial appeal could be:

Karen Rodriguez | Lauren Turner | Kendra Chantelle

Having said that I may well find myself completely changing the whole list around in two weeks' time when we've seen them doing their live performances, free from groups, stress of so many people around and with a week and real support to rehearse and do their best or worst.

I'm going to miss Carson Higgins and Colton Dixon who didn't make the cut and even John Wayne but, particularly amongst the guys, it's a tough year.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

American Idol 'Beatles' week

As we shall only see an hour of whatever remaining contestants make of Beatles tracks this week, I thought I'd share the excellent suggestions made by Annie Barrett for Entertainment Weekly.

Sort of thing I wish I'd written myself. In fact, if there's nothing much going on at work tomorrow I may well dig out a list of tracks and see who springs to mind. Having said that, I simply shall not be able to beat her proposed I Am The Walrus for Jacob Lusk! Brilliant. And this is Ashton Jones, by the way. She just appeared last week.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

At last, some real contenders begin to emerge in AI10

So 100 get reduced to what I counted as 48ish but probably 50 and, after the nightmare of watching the group round, we get to see what individuals can do.

Some real contenders emerged:

Jacob Lusk - here's a star all right but not sure where he fits in! Probably one of the oustanding later stage auditions of the whole series.
John Wayne Schultz - anyone with a name that combines a Western star with the Peanuts author has to have a chance and this guy has been conspicuous by his absence so far in AI10. At last we get to hear him properly and, wow. what a beautiful voice. Real country, though, and I don't see how well he'll figure in a final with the kids and skirts prancing around.
Casie Abrams - a fabulous singer and musician who, like the previous two mentioned, is very individual and it'll be interesting to see how he handles some of the rounds if he continues but nice to see another mature, settled with himself, contender
Robbie Rosen - nice range, quite individual and stand-out, a smart singer
Brett Lowenstein - one of the best youngsters, all hair and white skin but a damn fine singer
Colton Dixon - strong performer and another real contender
Julie Zorilla - an excellent stage performer, great voice and just looks and sounds like she should be there
Carson Higgins - one cool guy, just love his attitude and he can handle almost anything you throw at him. My son, Russell, will ahte me for saying so but he reminds me of him!
Chris Medina - another good artist but needs to find that something special if he's going to win against such strong male competition. The back story helps but now he needs to show he can entertain
Clint Jun something - one great performer, although this time he went a bit OTT.
Thia Megia - yes, she has talent but seemed a little boring when on for more than 30 seconds. I'm hoping it was just the song. She is good.
Haley Reinhart - great, gusty and different. She looks good and whilst not steaming up my charts I can see her getting through
Lauren Alaina - one of the strongest to date but now we need to see something different now
Ashley Sullivan - the 'emotional timebomb' has this endearing nature and I just keep hoping and hoping that she'll show us what she can do and wonder just how many more lifelines she'll get. I like her a lot.
Scott McCreery - he didn't really impress this week but will survive for another round
James Durbin - amazing range and all credit for trying but I've yet to hear a tune that'll keep him in for the distance.
Jaycee Badeaux - squeezed through with a wobbly choir boy performance
Jovany Baretto - a good, interesting voice, he'll move on
Ashton Jones - good, powerful but shouts a bit and no shade.

There are plenty more that we didn't see and, in particular, I need to have some more females on this list!!

Next week, these and whoever the other 30 are will get whittled down to just 24 with Beatles tracks.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Hollywood auditions: groups of a sort

I always struggle to see the sense of the American Idol 'Group Round'. All those hopeful people who have managed to impress the judges a couple of times on their own (although I could have sworn that the interesting Emma Henry was told it was the end of the road in Hollywood Pt 1 'the brief encounter' but she appeared again in Part 2). Now they're thrown into what appeared total chaos and find their futures highly subject to how things go with a bunch of others. The smart ones had already got themselves organised and had been working with some others they'd felt comfortable with but their plans got blown sky high when someone told them a different mix was required. So we watched them wandering around attempting to find someone who (a) wouldn't wreck their chances, (b) not worried that they'd wreck his or hers, (c) was happy with the type of stuff they had in mind and (d) the totally irrelevant matter of which day they did their previous audition on.

Whilst some sorted themselves out OK many didn't and I was amazed that there weren't more bleeps and tears as some pretty good talent was shown wandering hopelessly around trying to sell themselves to bunches of people already starting to practice all over again.

I guess the producers think it's 'good tv' but I think it's rubbish and, with one or two exceptions, doesn't help anyone much at all. It was satisfying to see the dreadful Tiffany Rios being ignored by everyone after announcing earlier that she 'had what all the others only thought they had', or something similarly rude and annoying. I'm pretty sure that that had sealed her fate anyway. She could sing, and did get support from  Jessica in the end who was either very kind or reckoned she'd look good in comparison and so stand a better chance than with the others she'd joined a few minutes before. Neither made it through. Wrong decision, Jessica.

Understandably, when you think of what's at stake, most stayed up until some crazy hour of the morning to try and get it right and looked suitably knackered when they appeared on the stage. Yes, there were a few remarkable performances and some did work really well together which, I suppose, shows some natural underlying talent that will make life easier when they have to do the group stuff in the live shows but, really, what is the point of some guy who has no interest in prancing around having to do that if his voice is so damn good that he could sell millions standing still? Or girl, for that matter? I don't recall Carrie Anderson particularly excelling at the rehearsed moves and men like Daughtry and David Cook looked really strange when they tried but brilliant when they stopped all that.

Fortunately, the judges took some, and in some cases, a great deal of, account of what they'd seen before and you got the impression that they weren't really judging any of the group stuff anyway, merely looking for that star quality and something special that whoever finally gets 50 million people dialling in a few months' time must have in spades.

I tried to keep up as names were put through or not and found myself finally writing some of the 100 invisible befores. I seem to have about 50 on the piece of paper. I was going to list them but later this evening I'll know which of those have reached the end of the road too and we saw so little of any individually that it's pointless trying to give you any names. Tonight's the night, really. Some very impressive people amongst them. It'll be very tough cutting them down to 20 or 24 or whatever the final number has been decided for the next round.

Should be a good programme after a couple of tedious ones.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Immaculate misconceptions in Top of The Pops

I miss Top of The Pops. I don't particularly miss the music and certainly not the amateur DJs of the later years but it was nice to know what was in the charts and to get some idea of who the artists were, how good they were at miming and what sort of outlay their record company had put into the promotional videos.

Now, until today, I have had no idea of who or what comprised the best selling singles, apart from the obvious ones and the occasional track that made it across the Great Divide to Radio 2. I find Radio 1 virtually impossible to listen to at the best of times so that doesn't help. But today I found a chart programme on ITV7 or something way down the digital guide and actually discovered what all those mysterious names were. I even recognised quite a few. But what an extraordinary list it has become! The majority were so-and-so Ft so-and-so. Lots of female singers and lots of black or pretty brown guys. Big expensive cars, with the guys as walking ads for Nike or whatever the latest brand to be seen in is. The guys strutted around in black suits or something expensive-looking and were invariably in a club with an abundance of expensively barely clad girls who worshipped them regardless of how ugly they might have been. Shades appear to be essential these days for black men, probably to hide the bags under their bloodshot eyes.

Where are the groups? JLS, that's where. Just one group and even they were ft-ing someone Tiny. Every girl, with the possible exception of Adele was really pretty and damn near immaculate as well as quite frightening. The guys were mostly a bit boring. Oh, I forgot The Black Eyed Peas. They're still going and the girl was OK although still pretty unclothed and the guys were doing their thing like the rest.

I was just thinking to myself how wrong all the bling and immaculate bodies must be as a guide for today's teenagers and how little I could actually do about it. So many of the angry girls' tracks were about how immaculate their man would have to be and you got the distinct impression that not only can't white men dance but they can't sell records either and probably don't have much chance of appealing to Rihanna, Kei$ha, Beyonce and friends either unless they come equipped with the requisite six-pack, gym membership and attitude reminscent of the old ex-Majors in Africa towards their worker slaves. Brains probably needn't apply. As I said, I was just thinking when I struck on a track by Pink and then another, now at Number 1 on the charts, Jessie J.

Pink's track is titled Perfect. It's about how you don't have to look right to be perfect. Brilliant. A wonderful antidote to the Mercedes with blacked-out windows. Then Jessie J trumps everyone with a great number basically taking the piss out of labels and everyone spending a fortune worrying about their outfits, tan or whether they look angry enough today.

So there is hope! Add Enrique Iglesias to the mix at 9 and some fun people called the Dragonettes singing Hello at 20 and a couple of really very well-written tracks by Bruno Mars and life does look a bit more bearable. I guess the chart really doesn't matter that much any more. I am just still amazed at how they're so inundated by solo artists.

Listening to all this made me realise why I enjoy X Factor and American Idol so much. They're more shows for me than they are for the track-buying kids. A few will land in the charts for a while but they really don't make much of a dent. And why I got so many blank faces when I thought I was being cool at College by talking about the various programmes in class - only one or two had the faintest idea of what I was talking about.

Despite all the above, well most of it, I have to say that whoever writes and produces tracks for Rihanna, Bruno, Kei$ha and the rest, with the notable exception of Wretch32, do a great job. They're good and deserve their places in the chart, no question. Yes, I'd prefer fat Celo to quit the stupid business of being oh so ruddy hip-sounding by having F*** You as his single title. Yes, I'd rather my kids didn't have to grow up wondering how on earth they'll ever meet the high standards of body perfection and sexual performance that the angry black and brown girls seem to demand and which could trickle down into the brains of the teenies now singing along to the music. But no, it's not bad music. In fact some is extremely good. Let's hope the Jessie J and Pink message gets through. And some real groups.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Hollywood auditions: brief encounter

When you saw the delight and expectation on the faces of those getting through to the Hollywood auditions of American Idol you, like they, probably expected someone to listen to a bit more than a couple of lines of a tune. But that's all we're led to believe the judges did have to decide with. One or two managed three or four lines but most seemed to get about 20 seconds max.

OK, behind the scenes Randy, Steve and Jennifer and no doubt a troupe of others will have watched videos of the usually two numbers performed at audition and seen a bit more of the many hopefuls there. And, who knows, maybe the 20 seconds was enough to move the printed photo from one sheet to another, do the two row thing and move on. A nice pair of legs would suit Steven anyway at this stage.

It was difficult in the rushed single programme to catch every name through as 300+ were whittled down to 150+ and we simply didn't see more than a glimpse of about 30. I don't know but my guess is that the producers, knowing who does get through to the live shows, are focussing on them and also keeping one or two surprises in store for us later. Being able to audition remotely via a MySpace upload has made quite a difference too. Those that took that route escaped the queues and nerves of performing in the initial rounds and probably mostly had plenty of time and enough talent to make a decent job of whatever file they eventually sent in.

So, from this very brief encounter, here's my take of those who seemed to help their cause, those who may be on our screens for longer but didn't impress me much and, lastly, the missing ones who I guess we'll see in the group section.

These did well:
Brett Loewenstein | Casey Abrams | Paris Tassin | Lauren Alaina | Chris Medina | Jaycee Badeaux | Chelsea Oaks | Jacqueline Dunford | Scott McCreery | Jerome Bell

These just did:
Rachel Zavita | Thia Megia | James Durbin | Robbie Rosen | Rob Bolin | Hollie Cavenaugh | Jackie Wilson | Tiffany Rios

Missing but known to be through
Stefano Langone | Ashley Sullivan | Clint Jun Gamboa | Julie Zorrilla | Naima Adedapo | Guitierez Bros | Molly DeWolf | 

Missing but presumed to be through
Tim Halperin | Tiwan Strong | Ashton Jones | Brittany Mazur | Eryn Kelly | Hailey Reinhard | Jessica Cunningham | Karen Rodriguez | Kendra Chantelle | Alex Ryan | Colton Dixon | DeAndre Brackensick | Jacob Lusk | John Wayne Schultz | Jordan Dorsey | Jovany Barreto | Paul McDonald | Keisha Renee | Lauren Turner | Pia Toscano | T Tynisa Wilson 

That still leaves a remarkable, and perhaps entirely unremarkable, unscreened 100! They must be feeling very pissed after all this time. Still, their photo and interviews can be seen here.

Monday, February 07, 2011

America, lock up your grannies. Simon's in town!

"Acerbic British music judge and entrepreneur Simon Cowell said on Monday that the winner of the first U.S. version of the television singing competition, The X Factor, will receive a $5 million record deal." [From Reuters, hope they don't mind me quoting. I'd never have thought of the great word acerbic.]

The new talent show on Fox television will start auditions for solo artists and vocal groups aged 12 and above in Los Angeles on March 27 before hosting more auditions in Chicago, Dallas, Miami, New York, New Jersey and Seattle.

Cowell said the winner would receive a record deal with Syco, a joint venture between Sony Music and Cowell, and the same label tied to Scottish singer Susan Boyle.

"We are going to put our money where our mouths are with the $5 million recording contract. I'm doing this show in America because I genuinely believe we can find a superstar," Cowell said in a statement.

I still don't know how he's going to do both shows but rumours abound that he may 'rest' X Factor in the UK this year. Anyway, this is going to be fun, assuming he gets the judges right. Kids of 12 could be a bit precious and worrying and quite how the cute little girl of 12¼'s mother will feel about some hairy bikers' group of rockers sharing the rehearsals dressing room will make some headlines no doubt.

Getting some group acts, though, is a good move and, despite a group never winning in the UK series, the excitement around 1 Direction in 2010 and JLS in 2008 (and, dare I say it, Jedward in between!) added a whole extra dimension that American Idol lacks. Add the ingredient of a behind the scenes or after the event type show along the lines of The Xtra Factor and it will be a winner for Fox.

One thing that will be intriguing is how many audition rejects from AI will give X Factor a try. I'm thinking those that didn't quite make the Top 12 rather than Pants On The Ground there. It could also be a superb opportunity for some British acts to get some valuable prime time TV spots courtesy of Syco.

Pity about letting oldies in, though. Nothing more tedious than watching really old folk warbling in amongst the young folk who usually look plain embarrassed. America, lock up your grannies. Simon's in town! That sign should be below the Population sign on all roads. 

OK. Now to find out about the panel.

Sunday, February 06, 2011

Does LA AI10 intro hint at ten of the 2011 finalists?

"Siobhan Magnus Fans", @krummy09 on Twitter, have noticed the montage features Brett, Lauren, Casey, Jackie, Robbie, Jacee, Paris, Jordan, Thia, Scott M Travis. Travis not in the rumoured Top 40. So could these be 10 of the live finalists?? Probably not but they're well-placed to guess.

Saturday, February 05, 2011

The winners really don't take it all

It looks likely that X Factor will kick off in the States in September this year, with Simon Cowell, Piers Morgan and Cheryl Cole rumoured as judges and Dermot O'Leary as host. It'll be interesting to see how the viewers cope with four British instead of home-grown personalities sorting the good from their bad.

Quite what the implications are for three of them, who would also be expected to be leading the next UK show at about the same time too, I can't tell. Whilst the auditions for both shows will be taking place well in advance and can be staggered so that they only appear later to be in one place at the same time, how they handle the live shows in parallel I do not know.

There is a very amateur-looking site at which I can only assume is some guy who managed to buy the name and is now making a few bucks from the ads. I am surprised that Syco haven't already bought him out and, at least, put something decent there even if all it says is 'watch this space' or something.

All this US-UK stuff got me thinking. There has always been talk of this or that British invasion of the US Charts and since the 1960s our top artists usually had a showing there, Cliff Richard excepted. We certainly continue to see plenty US artists in our charts. But just what impact do these shows really have on charts here and there? We all know that for a while now the X Factor winner tends to hit Number 1 at Christmas but just how successful really have the US Pop Idol and X Factor (and previously Pop Idol) finalists been?

In the first list here are the winners in each year and any finalists in the last 10 who seem to have had at least some singles in their own country's Top 100 since.

American Idol
2002 1 Kelly Clarkson
2003 1 Ruben Studdard | 2 Clay Aitken | 3 Kimberley Locke
2004 1 Fantasia | 7 Jennifer Hudson
2005 1 Carrie Underwood
2006 1 Taylor Hicks | 3 Elliot Yarmin | 4 Chris Daughtry | 6 Kellie Pickler
2007 1 Jordin Sparks
2008 1 David Cook | 2 David Archuleta | 4 Brook White
2009 1 Kris Allen | 2 Adam Lambert
2010 1 Lee Dewyze | 2 Crystal Bowersox

X Factor (Pop Idol 2002-3)
2002 1 Will Young | 2 Gareth Gates
2003 1 Michelle McManus
2004 1 Steve Brookstein | 2 G4
2005 1 Shayne Ward | 2 Andy Abraham | 5 Chico
2006 1 Leona Lewis
2007 1 Leon Jackson
2008 1 Alxeandra Burke | 2 JLS | 4 Diana Vickers
2009 1 Joe McElderry | 2 Olly Murs | 3 Stacey Solomon | 4 John & Edward
2010 1 Matt Cardle

Now look at who has actually been selling well since:

US (singles other than their AI winner release with > 1 million sales)
Kelly Clarkson (8)
Carrie Underwood (5)
Jordin Sparks (4)
Daughtry (4)
Adam Lambert
David Archuleta
Kris Allen
Elliot Yarmin
David Cook
Kellie Pickler

And in the UK, who has actually made No 1 (other than with their X Factor single):
Leona Lewis (6)
Alexandra Burke (4)
JLS (4)
Diana Vickers
Olly Murs

Lastly, who have crossed the Atlantic and succeeded?

Well, Carrie Underwood has been hugely successful internationally in the Country scene but only Kelly Clarkson and Jordin Sparks have had any consistently good sales in the UK. Adam Lambert is probably the only other familiar name here, mainly due to his excellent mentoring on AI9 and maybe the delightful Kellie Pickler mainly as a presenter.

Leona Lewis has been X Factor's only Stateside success to date. JLS and Alexandra Burke may break through this year. Too early to tell for America's Lee DeWyze and Britain's Matt Cardle but I'm not hopeful for either in that respect.

And that's it.

So I do hope that this year all three programmes find some artists to join the few that last and don't fade away after one highly publicised sale. Much depends on the US X Factor team, then!
American Idol 10 drags us through the auditions and with this week's broadcast from Los Angeles giving more TV time to some tuneless idiot chasing Randy Jackson than a potential live show entry (and I understand that we never even saw someone who seems to have made the Top 40!) it seemed like a good time to remind you of Didi Benami, a sadly much too early exit from last year. There are some more tracks here too.

Friday, February 04, 2011

Kseniya Simonova

I know it was 2009 but this is just so enthralling that I shall probably re-post it every year. I don't know the history but Kseniya Simonova's live, unedited, wonderful sand drawing is moving. Take a few minutes and watch in peace.

Kseniya Simonova Sand Animation ( Ukraine's Got Talent) from aaland legram on Vimeo.

American Idol 10 Top 40 rumours

American Idol 10
Although we're still just watching the auditions that took place in the Summer, the live finals will start in a few weeks' time and rumours are already circulating about which hopefuls have reached the later stages. I recognise some of the names but it's probably the case that if you blinked you will have missed some of them!

Here's the latest I can find, thanks to Hollywood Gossip:

Alex Ryan | Brett Loewenstern | Casey Abrams | Chris Medina | Thia Megia | Clint Jun Gamboa | Colton Dixon | DeAndre Brackensick | Jacee Badeaux | Jacob Lusk | James Durbin | Jerome Bell | Jimmie Allen | John Wayne Schulz | Jordan Dorsey | Jovany Barreto | Paul McDonald | Robbie Rosen | Scott McCreery | Stefano Langone | Tim Halperin | Tiwan Strong | Ashthon Jones | Brittany Mazur | Eryn Kelly | Haley Reinhart | Hollie Cavanagh | Jackie Wilson | Jessica Cunningham | Julie Zorrilla | Karen Rodriguez | Kendra Chantelle  | Campbell | Keisha Renee | Lauren Alaina | Lauren Turner | Naima Adedapo | Pia Toscano | Ta-Tynisa Wilson

Quite a mix of the very young, country singers that wouldn't look out of place in a 1970 edition of the show and a lot of very pretty girls. The Austin auditions brought a whole pile of cowboy hats and jeans into the mix and the 1 hour broadcast seemed far slicker with far fewer tedious background stories, 'it would mean everything to me's and pointless hopeless and tuneless hopefuls.

With Dallas set to return to our screens there were plenty in these auditions who'd make great extras in the new series.

Way too early to pick a winner or even those that'll make the cuts through to the live shows but Lauren Alaina, Jacee Badeaux, Thia Megia and Chris Medina have taken an early lead in the headlines. Good but not winning good from what I've seen. My guess is there'll be some surprises this year. John Wayne Schulz could be there too but the winner could well be someone who no-one knows much about and, unlike many of the favourites, doesn't yet recognise just how good they'll come across when their time comes to get the US mobile owners texting their numbes.
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