Friday, April 29, 2011

American Idol Top 6 become 5

Ryan kicked off by warning us that many fans would be disappointed. Well, I suppose that would be true whoever goes. With 30 million votes spread across 6 people then it's pretty likely that several million people will have voted for that one. What I think he meant but couldn't say was "Jacob's not going home this week, either." OK, that'll avoid me swearing quite so loudly later on and does sort of prepare me for Haley going but, at the same time, makes watching the next hour more depressing.

The 'let's all sing a song' intro was its now traditional desperate mess and I think they had just about emptied the cupboards of Carole King tracks that vaguely suited them. Haley certainly could have done with some extra practice, especially as she started and could have done without some dodgy first notes, no matter how super she looks.

It was quite a relief to hear Crystal Bowersox, last year's runner-up, after that. The camera focused initially on a strange looking fat bloke and an even stranger-looking chap with a scary beard and I wondered whether I'd hit another channel button and tuned into some 70s scary movie. She was good, though, and clearly benefiting from all the dollars being spent on her style these days.

ITV2's XtraFactor seemed another possible bit of mis-tuning for a moment when a bundle of questions for the contestants appeared and they had to come up with answers. At least we didn't get the person asking them on some scratchy mobile or, worse, some cheap web cam. I really did get the feeling that there was going to be a lot of filling in this show and wondered how on earth it would ever last an hour?

The results:

"Brilliant!" Haley's safe. Thanks Ryan for making the next viewing much more pleasurable.

Next came Scotty. We knew he'd be around next week. Well, we thought he would be but he has to hang on. Ooh er.

Lauren has to 'hang tight' too.

Casey - now he ought to be 'hanging tight' by that token too. He was.

Another reference to a 'surprise' so, as no way it's James and we've guessed it's not Jacob who wouldn't be a surprise to anyone, that was the bottom three. Could well be that voters didn't get Casey as I'd hinted yesterday...

... sure enough. Casey's reached the end of the road. But what a fabulous way to end it! He totally took over the floor with I Put A Spell On You, had the judges and most of the first few rows in the audience at least, on their feet. He ran through the crowd and maintained the tune, the notes, the whole thing. Over-running, the credits rolled and he was back on stage, still singing and looking very romantically indeed at Haley. Nice touch that couldn't have ever been rehearsed. You know, I'm almost glad he went because that was quite a special, and one of the most memorable ever, moments of AI.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

American Idol Top 6

Interesting to hear Ryan Seacrest getting more applause than the judges at the start. Carole King was a good writer and anyone who wrote Pleasant Valley Sunday for The Monkees can't be bad either but this is still an odd choice. But there you go. Jacob Jacob Jacob for the bottom three.

Jacob ♪5½ ☼6
Oh No, Not My Baby
Just stop at the "Oh no," bit, please, and go home. And take that ridiculous jacket with you. Whoever told him to move around and attempt to dance? I mean, the guy must weigh a ton and his voice is wobbling around enough already. "Hopefully America will give you some votes and you'll stick around," says Randy Jackson, not terribly convincingly. To be fair it wasn't a disaster but if this guy stays then someone who could win goes and that's silly. I just can't see who on earth any record company would market him to in 2011, 2012 and I'm sure that by 2013 he'll be just a contestant name on a list we dig out from time to time.

Lauren ♪7 ☼8
Where You Lead I Will Follow
What she was doing bringing some boy onto the stage I suppose might be revealed at the end. Weak track, uninspiring performance. When she went to hit the high notes she may have done so well but a bunch of professional backing singers gave her insurance and we didn't notice whether she did or not.  She's worked hard with the hair straighteners too again which certainly suits her. The UK audience really won't get all the fuss over the boy being 19 and her being 16.

Haley & Casey then break the monotony with a fun, cheerful and talented rendition of I Feel The Earth Move. They have a great style together and it works well. Whatever they do in their solo spot that should pull in some well-needed votes for each of them.  I presume they'll all get to duets somewhere along the line tonight in amongst the solos. Although I still find the bear-like Casey an odd sight rolling around the stage and slapping the outstretched fingers of fans in the front row when he'd probably be better fronting a band with an instrument in his hand, Haley just looks totally at home there and is really turning into a contender. Subject to what Lauren's duet is like and Haley's own performance going well, she may turn into the second favourite.

Scotty ♪9 ☼10
You've Got A Friend
Nice work. Beam him up! Really professional performance. You could tell he was trying to make this his own and this track could sell a lot. There's a weakness we haven't seen before when he hasn't got the strength in his higher notes that would make him really really good. He made you listen and understand the words Carole wrote in a way that James Taylor never did and all credit is due to this guy for that. He's becoming unbeatable in theory but, of course, this being Idol, he may well come second! Certainly one of the two in my book.

James ♪9 ☼10
Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow
Unplugged at the start was excellent. Then he really showed how good he can be with a fabulous fairly straight guitar and singing production that was simply superb. I didn't like the inevitable screech here and there, particularly the end, but that was one cool performance and with an otherwise unremarkable song he's blown my top two apart in just under three minutes!

Another duet follows - the delightful pairing of Lauren and Scotty again (well done the producers!) Sharing Up On The Roof, well, I say 'sharing' but with Scotty trying to sing to her she was permanently looking the other way and that kinda spoilt it all. It was a pretty light affair anyway. They do perform well together but The Drifters needn't worry about losing a grip on the best version by a mile, no, make that a hundred. It won't have harmed their votes, though. James has already done enough damage anyway.

Casey ♪9½ ☼8
Hi Di Hi
The Blood Sweat And Tears number and this guy was in his element. Totally natural and entertaining, cool and he just picks tracks that he really seems to enjoy performing. Again, I have no idea how he'll fit into the Idol scene but he'll have a ready market for his stuff and I can even see him creating a new wave of intresrest amongst youngsters who haven't yet caught onto jazz with a difference and scat. Nicely done. He may not get the votes, though, as it wasn't something telephone number pressers will have adored but he certainly deserves to stick around after that.

Haley ♪8½ ☼7½
This wouldn't have been my choice and she seemed to rush the slow bits with uncharacteristic nervousness. She pulled it back with lots of energy and fun in the groovier sections. I so wanted this performance to make her super safe but It didn't quite manage that. Pity. Never mind. Keep the faith. Fingers crossed too. and I won't walk under ladders until after the results show either.

James and Jacob then come on with a Herman's Hermits' number! "WTF?" as the girl who blogged at the live show yesterday so aptly said at the time! Actually it was pretty reasonable- Jacob stayed under control and James lead the way. It won't affect the votes though.

Friday, April 22, 2011

American Idol Top 7 become 6

I can only guess that this week no-one had time to rehearse the completely pointless and half-hearted attempts at entertainment in the shape of the let's combine the contestants and get them to sing something spot. David Cook and his band did a decent job of promoting his latest single, although that's something we in the UK will probably only find on some American Heartbeat Volume 17 CD at some time in the future. Katy Perry had a go at following in Lady Gaga's style with a ridiculous device that got pushed around by men wearing grey body stockings. The title of her release, E.T. had me wondering for a moment whether she was singing about the misshapen upright tortoise from the great film but apparently some rap guy was the alien that would be telling her what to do. Hope time goes more slowly on his planet, though, as her outfit would have taken some getting out of and the LEDs flashing at the end might have given him a shock too. Still, not a bad track which we will get to see at the top of our charts later this year.

Throughout most of this Jacob had been sitting on his own on the bottom three chairs. We knew he wasn't going home, though, to counter the lack of Jacobs getting through to the last six to date and there'd have been all hell to pay over the technical thing that must have put him off too. Yes, he should go but no, he won't. Next week, hopefully, although I do keep saying that.

You kinda sensed that it was Stefano's time that was up. Haley was there very briefly but Ryan did the decent thing and, in a nice touch, whispered that she was safe before the camera even had a chance to focus on her. That was a relief as I really want to see more of her. And, yes, it was, indeed, time for Stefano, last of the wild cards, to leave.

In an excellent farewell performance he really stole the whole show. Lately is his type of song and he does that well. You could feel that he'd relaxed - the stress was gone and you wished that he'd done that before and the applause and genuine sorrow that the camera picked out on James' and Jennifer's faces were noticeable.

This has been Lauren's week but Scotty's still favourite. Betfair seem to have decided that it's now between Scotty, James and Lauren, with Casey, Jacob and Haley leaving in reverse order over the next three weeks. I hope Haley can hang on. We'll see soon enough.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

American Idol Top 7

Bizarre kick-off with the people who've been voted off returning to do some rock chick number with Paul showing off his jacket again. Odd bunch and although Pia did her best to steal the limelight she may now have wished she hadn't made her tinny and rather off key voice so obvious at times. I was trying to figure out who I'd like to see around still in place of Jacob and would probably have chosen Thia or Ashton with a better hairstyle.

This week is easier to predict: Stefano or Jacob should go. James, despite the performance, may not have the support although he's never been in the bottom two yet which is interesting.

Scotty ♪9 ☼7
Great reception from the crowd. Gentle, pretty simple song that didn't challenge him at all or tell us anything more about him. Professionally presented but not something we'll look back and say 'Hey remember when Scotty sang..." He'll be safe, unless everyone else brings something remarkable out of the box, which is pretty unlikely. That didn't seem like a 21st Century track either - could have been anything from the 40s on, I guess! I think he's cruising but that won't get a bundle of extra votes that he may need in future shows to win.

James ♪8 ☼9
Super performance of the Muse track which got great reviews from the judges. Remarkable ability and he's looking like a strong contender now. Good move to pick something that would bring out the fact that he can sing as well as scream although I could have done without the latter. No-one can accuse him of cruising and that was one we will remember. Shades of Adam Lambert, although still shades as he lacks that ability to be totally original still.

Haley ♪7½ ☼8
Rolling in the Deep
Beautiful. Looks great and handles tracks like this really well. She's still not an obvious contender to win and has been losing out on votes for a couple of weeks despite brilliant performances. If she can hang on I still reckon she could surprise everyone, especially if she can survive to the last four and split Lauren's fans. She has something special and a natural talent that didn't really come across in this number but it was a familiar and definitely current track which may help keep her in.

Jacob ♪7 ☼7
Dance with my father again
He seemed to be put off my something technical at the start but controlled that well which is to his credit. He was doing pretty well by not doing the big wobble or scream and I was beginning to think that maybe he stood a chance of getting further. Then he did the scream and it was all over the place. Not very good and I can do without the emotional link stuff which is like too obvious however genuinely intended. This guy has a nice enough voice and what seems a pleasant personality but he's no 2011 superstar and I don't see him filling a stadium or headlining anything more than a Bingo convention or something for the old people. I wish he would go now.

Casey ♪6½ ☼8½
Hard to breathe
This guy loves his music and I don't actually think he means to surprise us but he still does. Vocally he has a cool style and the scat stuff is great and his character is pretty damn adorable. The move to kiss J-lo will definitely go down in Idol history and makes you wonder how many artists would have had to nerve to do that, and so well-timed. For all the show, though. this was an odd performance which I'm not sure many will identify with very easily as it was neither one thing nor the other and that whilst we're on the cusp of a movable feast whether he can capture that movable vote I'm not so sure. At times he was also way off note too and not in a way he should've been. Odd one. No idea how he'll do but my guess is he'll still be ahead of Stefano.

Stefano ♪6½ ☼8
I Just Can't Stop
Once the track got going he found what he should have been doing all the time, a young, upbeat number and he moved around well. He will appeal to the girls although some slightly off-putting looks to the camera. Generally, though, still seems an amateur to me and he hasn't brought home that special track I would have expected of him by now. His past performances have been good note-wise which this wasn't either, probably because he's simply not ready to do more than one thing at a time which the winner needs if this show is to have any meaning. Thereagain, Kris won the year before last. This could be his last performance after several weeks scrabbling for votes.

Lauren ♪9½ ☼9½
Born To Fly
That was great. OK, so it was country but she brought her own style to it and is looking better and better every week. As the judges said, she doesn't know how good she is and that lack of self-confidence could be all that's stopping her beating Scotty & James. She has to be safe this week and is now well back as a Top 3 final contender, now ahead of Haley.

Friday, April 15, 2011

American Idol Top 8 become 7

Haley, Paul and Stefano with the lowest votes this week. Well, I give up trying to predict anything on this crazy (but good) show.

Scotty and Lauren did another double act - that's becoming a habit! Haley and Casey, though, totally stole the show with a brilliant jazz, scatty number. Standing ovation from the judges for a results show performance. Now that's saying something. Haley is really impressive and looking and sounding better each week. Surely she's not the one to get the Pia treatment?

After a less than remarkable Rihanna performance we learn that Paul gets 8th place and Stefano, once more, gets another chance. He deserves that.

It really should have been Jacob going but looks like we're stuck with him for another week of wailing.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

American Idol Top 8

Opening with the replay of Pia leaving - they're certainly making a big thing of that which I don't get. We now know that she wasn't getting top votes in previous weeks either. Anyway, it's Movie Theme night. Who'll ruin what? Who'll choose something good? There sure was something for everyone. Really difficult to call - it should be Jacob that goes. Only Scotty, Stefano and Haley should be safe. James, Casey, Paul and Lauren - any could well be joining Jacob on the chairs.

Paul ♪7 ☼7
Old Time Rock n Roll
Fun, reasonably competent. Not particularly inspiring although I like his individuality and he's pretty reliable as a show opener. There's no 'moment' though. Winners need a 'moment' when you just stop and say 'wow'. Even if you don't like them that much. You feel that his voting graph over the weeks is like a straight horizontal line at a level enough to keep him safe so far.

Lauren ♪4 ☼8
The Climb
Ugh. What is she trying to do? Miley Cyrus had some teenage appeal but Lauren looks twenty something. Pretty awful note selection and, despite polite audience applause and fans cheering, that was rubbish. No-one's going to play that out of choice. Why don't the judges criticise? They must have thought 'Hey, that's not so good. She can do better.' That's when you realise how relevant Simon Cowell was. He would have panned her or probably told her to get something more suitable. She could be vulnerable but surely there can't be another girl departing this week? So she'll scrape through.

Stefano ♪9 ☼8
End of the Road
Or something like that. Brave choice for someone who might have thought that's where he was. Not my type of track but he did a good job and will have won a lot of extra support for that. Good voice, nice style. A bit boring and he still needs to find that song that defines who and what he is. Reminds me of Kris and the little David who surprised us in previous years.

Scotty ♪10 ☼9½
I Cross My Heart
Nice work, Scotty. You felt you were watching the winner. In a way, I suppose it was just a country song and not the most memorable one at that - no Carrie Anderson look or exceptional appeal - he just gets up, sings, hits the best notes and has something that you know is Scotty. The guy's a star already. AI has a habit of making the real stars come second, though, so there's still a chance for someone!

Casey ♪?? ☼??
Nature Boy
Oh boy. What was that? Jazz meets Idol. Brave move. Didn't quite work in places - he looked like he was making it up as he went along. Hated bits but loved bits. What on earth the public will make of that I do not know. One thing's for sure: neither will he lose votes to someone else nor nick votes from someone else so if he survives that'll be because he has one big following of his own. This is turning into one memorable, and slightly weird, series.

Haley ♪9 ☼9
Call Me
Excellent! So good to see her enjoying what she is so good at. Nice track, kicked off strongly unlike so many others' efforts and this should work well for her. Judges were critical of her but could have been of the others which I know someone in the audience on the night found unfair but I guess that's life. Who knows? It may even prompt a few more fans to vote for this attractive and talented girl. She certainly shouldn't be going home this week.

Jacob ♪4 ☼7
Bridge Over Troubled Water
For a moment I thought he'd made a good choice and I would forgive and forget what had been before. But, no, a few bars in and he was wailing at me, screaming words that just weren't written to be screamed like that. Paul Simon should have walked on and whacked him. Hated that and so hope he goes. This is no idol. OK, he's got something but it's not something I want. Bits were dreadful but no judge comments?

James ♪9½ ☼7½
Heavy Metal
You have to hand it to the guy - he loves singing and loves that heavy style. James brought his world to the Idol stage which will not have pleased some viewers but tonight has been a night where no-one would like everyone anyway. As usual, spot on vocals. The lengthy guitar solo from the rock ace he brought on wasn't going to help his votes, though. He'll get a contract soon enough from this publicity, whatever happens.

Saturday, April 09, 2011

American Idol 9 - emotions mounting high

Boy, quite a night. Jacob, Stefano and Pia receiving the lowest votes and you kinda guessed that either Jacob or Stefano would be bowing out, neither having done particularly brilliantly for a week or two nor looking like they had much of a chance of winning so it wouldn't be a Big Thing.

Jacob was the first to get relieved. He would have been my prediction to go but lives to warble and scream another last note before fading onto the cover of an album for Christmas. Stefano more or less had his case packed at that point and was scribbling his number on Pia's wrist in the event that none of the million men in a million bars that Steven Tyler reckoned would be wanting her actually got in touch. In fact it seemed that it was just that - the million men were in a million bars: each watching Pia on their own with a solitary glass and no credit on their phone or on the slate to use the bar's one. She was the one with the least votes this week.

You could see the shock on the normally pretty calm Randy's face and Jennifer Lopez was crying. It was pretty damned weird as there was such an outpouring of what seemed genuine sadness, maybe not so much at Pia's demise but sympathy as to how this quite tough-looking, hard-edged girl would handle what must have surprised her too. I even felt it myself which was crazy. Her contribution to the opening rubbish was one of the few (with Haley's and James') that vaguely lifted it out of the dreadful zone and showed how reliable and, perhaps, how much effort she was beginning to make now.

I've been cautious about her all the way through - just couldn't identify any individual emotional content and I'm wondering if that was felt across the States. Smart-looking, professional, reliable and fit but too two-dimensional. No-one votes for a magazine cover - which she'll surely be on next week if not sooner.

I feel a bit sorry for Jacob and Stefano who must have been thinking to themselves "Hang on, if there's all this outcry about Pia then presumably they're rating us down at the bottom and wouldn't have objected at all if we'd gone!" Not that sorry, though. I should imagine Casey and Lauren are also well pleased to get another shot at what is looking increasingly like The Scotty Show. James and Haley would now be my outside bets. In fact if Haley manages to dispose of Lauren she could surprise everyone, including herself. James is the dangerous one to watch, though. He's always there, performing strongly, with total confidence and spot-on in tune. Drop the scream and we have a real competition.

Thursday, April 07, 2011

American Idol 9

This season has to go down as one of the most difficult to predict and also with the best potential talent. All credit to the selection teams and musical advisers who not only have found some brilliant performers but also given them decent stuff to perform with. My guess is that Paul, Jacob and Casey won't sleep so well. In fact by the time this goes out one of them may have done. Lauren may get a wake-up call too.

Jacob ♪8½ ☼6
Once you stop giggling at the white wires wiggling out of the white suit it gets easier to concentrate! He kicked off the show with Man In The Mirror which is probably appropriate as if he could look at himself he would have realised that the outfit made him look more than a bit ungainly. This was probably one of his best song choices, though, and he was well advised. The support from what at times looked like a double act with Sayeeda seemed a bit unfair but I guess it'll all even out through the night.

Haley ♪10 ☼10
Piece Of My Heart. Another brilliant song choice. This was a fabulous performance. Loved it. Whereas Jacob needed Sayeeda, Haley needed no-one and left them all standing anyway. One of the best AI performances in my view.

Casey ♪6½ ☼7½
Have You Ever Heard The Rain. Almost too much like John Fogerty's voice, though. A nice arrangement but I wasn't convinced by some of his additions later. Competent but I wonder how it'll go down?

Lauren ♪8 ☼7
Natural Woman. I honestly can't think of anything to say about this. It was OK. She hit the right notes but it was just boring.

James ♪9 ☼7
While My Guitar Gently Weeps. Another strangely soporific performance. It was pretty predictable - the high screech at the end. Some passion and well sung otherwise but just a B-side in my book this week.

Scotty ♪10 ☼10
My goodness, two star performances tonight! That's All Right, Mama  worked so well for him. He enjoyed himself and entertained the audience who really went with it too. This guy is a natural on the stage and could be difficult to beat after that performance. Not, maybe, as cool as Haley's but definitely commercial.

Pia ♪9 ♪8
River Deep, Mountain High. Not at all an easy track to do and this was Pia showing what she can do when she starts to move around instead of ballad-delivery. Pretty damn good but . . . and I hate to do the but bit  . . . there's something by way of character still missing. She's a little hard-edged, both to look at and to listen to. Excellent notes, rhythm, spot on in many ways that would have left most people way behind but you don't get to know how she feels and get left with the impression you've been served by some good, talented but still one of the girls behind the expensive make-up counters in a department store.

Stefano ♪8 ☼7
When A Man Loves A Woman. I wonder if he tried just a little too hard on this number. It should just roll along but he tended to throw it at us. Good presentation and showed a great range that could actually have more appeal than Jacob's lilting stuff with whom he's competing here. Neither seem like winners yet, though. In a tough week, he may struggle against so many first class contenders.

Paul ♪7 ☼8
Can't remember the title of the Johnny Cash number but he gave us some manic version that showed off his competence and audience management well. Whilst he obviously had fun I'm not so sure he made that good an impression - possibly the poorest song choice of the night and I'm getting a bit tired of the same tone in his voice now.

Friday, April 01, 2011

American Idol 11 - now it's 9

Thank goodness we didn't have the group dance. Instead Scotty and Lauren kicked off with a faultless duet which could be released now and be a hit. We knew they were safe. Naima and Jacob tried a duet but it wasn't the best of matches and I'm getting bored with Jacob now. Haley, Thia & Pia did a very professional and competent Teenage Dream although I'm surprised they got away with some lyrics which Haley and Pia will have had to explain to Thia! The four other remaining boys did a pretty impressive rendition of Band On The Run but it did highlight just how good James is and how much like a choirboy Stefano appeared!

The bottom three were Naima, Paul and Thia. Paul was a surprise to me but survived with Naima, as predicted by most people, and Thia, less well-anticipated, leaving - an outcome that seems about right. Ryan hinted that Casey would have been proud of the proportion of the 55m votes cast which should reduce his odds nicely.

For me, the good news was to see Haley staying with another week to show what she can do. Hopefully that will include beating Jacob.
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