Posts Tagged Andrew Garcia

Idol Thoughts — 04.28.10

If Siobhan Magnus had the personality of Lacey Brown or Didi Benami, she would’ve been voted off American Idol weeks ago.

There, I said it. Somebody has to step up with a reality check.

In the blogiverse this morning, I’m seeing a lot use of the words “shocker” and “shocking” to describe last night’s ouster of Siobhan. Unexpected, yes. But hardly “shocking.”

If you were gonna make a wager, you probably would’ve felt safer saying it’d be Michael Lynche, Casey James or Aaron Kelly. But the here’s the deal. Siobhan’s performances have been uneven, self-indulgent, and have failed to show growth. These are all the ingredients that lead to someone getting voted off.

“Paint It Black” was Siobhan’s “Straight Up,” to compare her fate to this season’s Andrew Garcia. Her version of that Rolling Stones song was the shining moment that earned her the goodwill with voters that sailed her through the weeks that followed as she floundered.

In my opinion, “Paint It Black” also revealed the correct musical road for Siobhan, a road she seemingly didn’t want to travel. “Punky” and “rocker” is who she is a person. And that’s what she sounds the best doing. But for some reason, Siobhan sees herself as an R&B diva. I think. I’m a little unclear, because over the last several weeks, it’s been clear Siobhan herself is not clear who is she as a recording artist.

So, I’m OK with last night’s verdict. I won’t be joining the hysteria. This was not a “shocker.” It was just. Even so, Siobhan’s personality will be missed. She basically was the only finalist with one this season! She was an Adam Lambert “lightning bolt” in a cast of Kris Allen “nice guys.” Unfortunately, Siobhan didn’t have the vocal prowess or nuance of Lambert–or Allen. Or we’d be seeing her next week.

(Add unnecessary, self-indulgent, long scream to end blog here.)

Greg Valentine
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ldol Thoughts — 04.14.10

It seems like every time the judges on American Idol tell the contestants to “be an artist” and “take these old songs and make them contemporary,” the next night AI producers force the finalists to sing the cheesiest, Cheez Whiz medley imaginable.

We learned that again last night. But I’m guessing Elvis Presley wouldn’t have minded. He probably loved him some Cheez Whiz on those days when the provisions were running low for peanut butter and ‘nana sandwiches.

So, we found out the names of the two finalists heading home last night, in addition to learning that driving a Ford hybrid will actually lead to trees growing in the middle of city streets. Who knew? For that matter, who was the wicked genius that decided to call what’s basically another television commercial “the Ford Music Video?” Brilliant!

But I digress. Yes, it was two that had to leave, as result of “The Save” being enacted by the judges last week. And just minutes into the show, BANG! Andrew Garcia, you’re going home. Guess producers knew that viewers kinda sensed Andrew would be one of them–might as well get that out of way early.

They waited til the last minutes of the show to send Katie Stevens home. Katie was paired with Michael Lynche as they awaited news of their fates. We’re used to seeing them next each other as the “Bottom Two.” So for a moment, many people probably wondered if Big Mike had come up short in the voting again. He didn’t. Ryan Seacrest announced Big Mike wasn’t even in the Bottom Three this week.

Somebody lucked out last night. Because of the way the results were announced, nobody other than Andrew and Katie bears the stigma of being in the Bottom Three. We all have our best guesses who that third contestant might have been. But we don’t know for sure. So it’s a nice, clean slate for the remaining seven going into Idol Gives Back week, where the show may or may not eliminate another contestant. In 2007, they didn’t because of the charity nature of the week; but in 2008 they did.

Other than that, last night saw the welcome return of Adam Lambert to the Idol stage. Wearing a shiny silver suit jacket that The King himself would’ve worn, were it not for the pointy metallic studs, Lambert gave a smoke-and-laser performance of his hit, “Whataya Want From Me.”

And Season 7’s Brooke White returned for a duet with Nashville Star wannabe, underwear model and former Miley Cyrus boyfriend, Justin Gaston. They performed a version of Elvis’ inspirational tune, “If I Can Dream,” which is (apparently) available for free download on iTunes. Don’t all y’all run away from this blog at once to get that, lol.

Actually, I was wondering why none of the contestants performed “If I Can Dream.” Now I know. Too bad. Great song, well-suited for Siobhan Magnus‘ big voice. Even Katie Stevens could’ve done enough with the song to save her own butt this week. But hey, free download.

Those are my thoughts today. Yours?

Greg Valentine
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Idol Thoughts — 04.13.10

Tim Urban had the best performance of the night? Yes. And also in today’s blog, up is down, right is the new wrong, and we’re now encouraged to mix stripes and plaids.

It was Elvis Night on American Idol, and the contestants went last night where, well, Idol has gone several times before. Last season’s runner-up, Adam Lambert, was on hand, the first former AI contestant to mentor the finalists. Acknowledging to the contestants that he’s at the beginning of his own recording career, Lambert mainly focused on encouraging the contestants to make their performances more interesting both vocally and visually.

The case can made that Elvis Presley was America’s first idol. He was part rocker and part crooner, part rebel and part choir boy. Musically, there were a lot of flavors in the Elvis catalog to choose from–a little something for everyone. As usual, the finalists’ choices ranged from inspired to hackneyed.

Last  night’s performances ranked:

1) Tim Urban – “Can’t Help Falling In Love” – Yep. Tim’s breathy and tender acoustic take on this classic wasn’t perfect. But it was the performance most people will remember from last night. Tim’s tweaks were spot-on and he made the song feel “new.” Anyone who reads my stuff knows I haven’t been drinking the Tim Urban Kool-Aid. I’ve been pretty critical. That’s because I call it as I see it. Last night, what I saw was a guy with the most memorable and satisfying performance.

2) Lee DeWyze – “A Little Less Conversation” – I can’t help but say that I’ve always blamed this song for sending Chris Daughtry home prematurely because he performed this song that ill-fated week. Of course, Daughtry tried to play it straight up Elvis-style. Lee made it his own, giving one of his strongest, most confident performances.

3) Crystal Bowersox – “Saved” – Leave it to Crystal to stump me with her song choice. I thought I had a pretty good overview on Elvis tunes. But Crystal strayed from the hits most people have heard, and dove into his Gospel catalog for this one. It was something different and authentic from the woman who’s known for that. (Known for being different? That sorta makes anything “different” not different, yes?)

4) Michael Lynche – “In The Ghetto” – You had to think that this would work even before you watched him do it. And, it did. Nice, acoustic-driven interpretation of this classic, validating the judges decision to “save” Big Mike last week. Hey, maybe Crystal should’ve let Michael sing “Saved”!

5) Casey James – “Lawdy Miss Clawdy” – Another good vocal. But a missed opportunity. Felt similar to the blues rock he’s churned out in the past. This is one of those times I wish I could pick a song for a finalist. I would’ve suggested Casey do “True Love Travels On A Gravel Road,” a lesser-known Elvis nugget that Casey could’ve owned. But “Lawdy” was not interesting enough to make my iPod this week. I make a point to say that only because Casey performances the last two weeks have been showing up in shuffle.

6) Siobhan Magnus – “Suspicious Minds” – Loved her look again. Never a good thing when I mention looks before vocals. This was really two performances. The first half of the song stayed true to the original. It was okay, but she looked uncomfortable playing it straight. On a second listen, I realized I originally liked that part mainly because I love Elvis version. The second half of Siobhan’s split-personality performance had her slowing it down and pushing herself to some of those vocal histrionics we’ve heard in past weeks. This half actually worked better. But here’s the deal on Siobhan lately. She’s like a boxer who swings wildly and repeatedly, whose punches aren’t connecting.

7) Aaron Kelly – “Blue Suede Shoes” – Difficult week to be Aaron. He’s done so many ballads lately, he kinda had to go upbeat this week. But an Elvis ballad would’ve been the better choice (just ask Tim Urban). Aaron looked to me like he was in his high school’s production of “Grease.” And Aaron was shooting for Danny Zuko. But came up Kenickie.

8 ) Katie Stevens – “Baby, What You Want Me To Do” – After last week’s top-notch “Let It Be,” this uptempo, lesser-known Elvis song was the fall of the week. As a performer, Katie generally feels a little contrived–like every move had been carefully thought of in advance. I actually prefer her on the ballads, in part because she stays put. Overall, she hit some bad notes last night, and sounded to my ears a little weak-voiced.

9) Andrew Garcia – “Hound Dog” – Awful vocal. Horrible performance. I tried to listen a second time to verify my original reaction, and couldn’t even re-watch the whole thing. “You ain’t nothin’ but a…goin’ home tonight!”

So, thanks to “The Save” last week, tonight two will be packing their bags. As far as I’m concerned, that’s a complication–a “wildcard”–when it comes to predicting what’s going to happen. Predicting the one who’s the most likely to go is pretty easy (did it…see above). But that other is the harder one to nail.

Here what I’m feeling. The Bottom Three will be: Aaron Kelly, Katie Stevens, and Andrew Garcia. And heading off to Heartbreak Hotel: Katie Stevens, and Andrew Garcia.

Whatcha think about that?

Greg Valentine
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Idol Thoughts — 04.07.10

So, the will of the voters was overturned by a group of judges, who changed the outcome to one more to their liking. But, hey, enough about the 2000 election (ba-dum-CHING!).

When it comes to our American Idol, we actually look forward to this moment. I think the reason is this: anybody who’s watched more than a couple episodes has recognized that…sometimes “America gets it wrong.” So starting last season, the show instituted “The Judges’ Save” to right one (and just one) of these wrongs. It can only be used once, and only between the Top 12 and Top 5 episodes.

Last night, the judges saved Michael Lynche (“Big Mike”). It was unanimous. And it was the right thing to do.

Let’s face it. Looking at the Top 9, Big Mike is hardly a ninth-place finisher. This was probably the moment to use the save. In the coming weeks, it’s unlikely a bigger, more glaring injustice will happen. Of course, if it does…tough beans. But clearly the judges wouldn’t have used their one and only save to keep Tim Urban around. Based on his inconsistency, I don’t believe they would’ve saved Andrew Garcia (who was in the Bottom Two last night). Or even Aaron Kelly (Bottom Three last night), if he goes home in the next few weeks.

The Save is for eliminations that just don’t feel “right.” The judges must feel pretty confident that Crystal Bowersox, Lee DeWyze, Siobhan Magnus and Casey James will make the Top 5. So last night made sense. It was great TV, too. Big Mike singing almost heroically for his save, with plenty of cutaways to his wife in the audience streaming tears down her face, as he repeated his best performance to date, “This Woman’s Work.”

So next week will be a double-elimination. That’s the “hangover” to last night’s good times. Two people will go home. It’ll be interesting to see how this affects Tim Urban, who avoided the Bottom Three altogether last night, but who manages to “Brer Rabbit” himself out of the Bottom Two most weeks. If he lands there next week, it’s over.


Greg Valentine
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04.06.10 — Idol Thoughts

With 25 percent of the Top 12 gone, you’d think they could’ve taken care of business on American Idol last night in just 90 minutes. But nope. Two hours again.

I can’t help but notice they’ve been trying a bunch of new things on Idol this season. Kicking off the show last night from the control room. The backstage interviews with the contestant that just performed when the show returns from commercials. And a more casual exchange between Ryan Seacrest and the judges.

I welcome these tweaks. The show does feel looser and a little fresher. This is not a bad thing, considering the show’s nearing its tenth year. But these changes gave us a lot of filler last night. The guy whose been yelling loud from the audience all night? You’re bringing him up on stage and we get to see him? Oh, lucky us!!

So the theme was the Lennon/McCartney Songbook. The beauty of a night like this is the songs themselves. They’re some of the greatest written in the rock era. Beatles songs…at the very least, if you simply sing them as written, you have a decent chance of coming off good.

So, how did the Top 9 do? Here are my rankings of the performances:

1) Casey James – “Jealous Guy” – There’s always talk on Idol about having “a moment.” This was Casey’s. He connected with this John Lennon solo song in a way that was unmatched last night. Dressed in a white Bee Gees suit and black shirt, on acoustic guitar and accompanied by cello, Casey reached deep inside and brought out something believable and transcendent. Kudos on being the only contestant to pick a song from Lennon or McCartney’s solo material.

2) Crystal Bowersox – “Come Together” – Crystal operates on a whole ‘nother level. Her vocals are so strong, which was evident again last night. This time around, she seemed more infused with energy and had a little more fun then usual, accompanied by a guy on the didgeridoo.

3) Katie Stevens – “Let It Be” – Yes. Katie Stevens. That’s right, the same Katie Stevens that’s been in the Bottom Three the last couple weeks. She sounded great last night. Of course, the song was “Let It Be,” and she wisely stayed true to the original, while offering just the right amount of her own vocal stamp. Her best. So far.

4) Siobhan Magnus – “Across The Universe” – It’s a compliment to Siobhan that…I wanted to like this a little more than I did. She’s set the bar high for herself, with some of her previous performances and her personal style, and now I expect a lot from her. I think she made a good move restraining herself last night. No big scream. Yikes. That would’ve been a disaster on this quiet and beautiful song–which I like a little better each time I hear it. I’m looking forward to next week when Siobhan meets Adam Lambert, who’s mentoring. The rest of this season’s very “earnest” cast of contestants could learn something about “pizazz” from these two.

5) Lee DeWyze – “Hey Jude” – Wow. For me, this was a step backwards for Lee. I’m a fan. But this came off as a little corny. And ironically, not because of the bagpipes. Lee took some heat from the judges for that. But that was the best thing about it! It’s interesting. Lee’s needed to come out of his shell. And last night he did. But once out, you have to know where you’re going. And I just didn’t but into the whole “sing-along” vibe he was putting out. I wish Lee had pulled a Casey James, and looked at the solo material. I think Lee could’ve slayed with something like Paul McCartney‘s “Maybe I’m Amazed.”

6) Andrew Garcia – “Can’t Buy Me Love” –  Simon called this performance “not relevant.” Maybe. But I’d rather listen to this one again then the ones listed below. And that’s why I’ve ranked Andrew’s swing take on this Beatles uptempo pop song here.

7) Micheal Lynche – Eleanor Rigby – So “Big Mike” made the boldest changes of the night to a song. I wasn’t a fan of this arrangement. But kudos on the commitment he made to it. And there wasn’t anything necessarily wrong with the vocal. It was what it was.

8 ) Tim Urban – “All My Loving” – Tim’s not going down without a fight. He changed up the song a little, and crooned his way through this. I think the song lost a little energy with the alterations; Tim could’ve probably performed this one as written–and better achieved his goal of “having fun.” The sneaky thing that happened last night is the judges all found ways to praise Tim. I can guarantee this is no accident. As he smiles through each flogging he gets from the panel, Tim has  become more and more of a martyr with voters. So now the judges are taking away the abuse. The idea being Tim will have to live or die on the merits of his performances. We’ll see how this plays out.

9) Aaron Kelly – “The Long And Winding Road” – It saddens me to list Aaron way down here. His is still one of my fave voices. But song choice, song choice, song choice! This was a bad idea. The arrangement was old-fashioned. I’m guessing it was old-fashioned even back when it first came out. His vocals didn’t carry the song. And again, thematically, a young guy singing about a long and winding road simply isn’t believable–nor true to his life experience. If I’d have been consulted, I would have steered Aaron in the direction of the Paul McCartney solo catalog.

This week’s a tough one to call. Nobody really screwed up last night. I say there’s four guys (yes, guys) who could land in the Bottom Three. In any normal universe, Tim Urban would be going home this week. But this is the Idol-verse. So here’s my prediction. The Bottom Three will be Aaron Kelly, Michael Lynche and Tim Urban. Tim gets sent to safety. And between Little Aaron and Big Mike, Michael Lynche goes home.

What do you think?

Greg Valentine
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Idol Thoughts — 03.30.10

It was Soul and R&B night on American Idol. Yep, “timing” can be a cruel jokester; The season’s last remaining black female contestant was sent home last week. So it was up to “Big Mike” and a bunch of white folk to bring the Soul.

R&B singer Usher mentored this week, promising the contestants tough love. And he was in the audience last night to watch his students’ efforts. How’d they do? Here are the performances ranked:

1) Lee DeWyze – “Treat Her Like A Lady” by the Cornelius Brothers & Sister Rose – When you add all the crucial elements up, Lee takes the top spot this week. And what are those crucial elements again? Vocals, performance, song choice, and what I call “The iPod Factor” (would I put this on my iPod?). Lee gave a strong rock vocal and is stepping up his game on the performance side of things. He makes better song choices than most of the others this season. And he did Soul last night his way–which is the artist test of all these theme weeks on Idol.

2) Crystal Bowersox – “Midnight Train To Georgia” by Gladys Knight & The Pips – Crystal promised a surprise this week, and made good by starting this song singing and playing the piano, then getting up and singing with just the mic, no guitar to hide behind. So how’d that work out for her? Pretty good. But not perfect. She’s far less confident, and proficient, on the piano. The attention required to actually play the right notes distracted from singing, and selling, the song. But Crystal made a good move mixing things up. Viewers want to see the contestants grow and stretch. Despite marking her down a tad on performance, this was the best pure vocal of the night.

3) Casey James – “Hold On I’m Coming” by Sam & Dave – This was the most joyful effort of the night. Great song choice for him. Both Ellen DeGeneres and Kara DioGuardi felt it was too similar to his recent song choices. But here’s the only thing that matters: Casey did this song much better than those others! This one I’ll put on my iPod. Casey’s best performance yet.

4) Michael Lynche – “Ready For Love” by India.Aire – A solid effort that worked its way higher on this list as other contestants last night dropped the ball. I was a little bored by the song and sit down performance. But “Big Mike” got the message of last week’s critique: less can be more. So he scaled back on the riffing, turned in a sweet soulful vocal, and did a much better job of connecting with the song and audience.

5) Andrew Garcia – “Forever” by Chris Brown – Okay. What a difference a week makes. The fact is this is what this guy does: intimate, acoustic new interpretations of songs. Andrew should have never gotten away from that. I’ve written honestly about how awkward he’s been without his guitar. But with it…it’s a night and day difference. Does that mean Andrew’s a one-trick pony? Personally, I think so. But it’s a nice trick.

6) Aaron Kelly – “Ain’t No Sunshine” by Bill Withers – Not his best. Just OK. I wouldn’t have picked this song for him. For starters, Kris Allen did it (much more) memorably in last season’s finale. Still, one of my fave voices this season.

7) Katie Stevens – “Chain Of Fools” by Aretha Franklin – Katie ranked higher than Siobhan Magnus? Yep. And quite simply, being able to stay in key for the whole song is the reason. It’s a nice step forward for Katie, who up until now, hasn’t made it through an entire song without hitting a number of off notes. The performance suffered a little from her trying to mimic Aretha’s sass. Katie should watch for that–and make sure her on-stage persona is more organic to the 16-year old she is.

8 ) Siobhan Magnus – “Through The Fire” by Chaka Kahn – Because we like Siobhan, I wonder if many people today remember this one a little rosier than it really was. I listened to it again this morning and it was all kinds of wrong, starting with being a poor song choice for her. Her lower-register didn’t carry the parts of the song that needed it. Then she belted out some high notes that were painful (especially when you hear them again). At the moment, Siobhan’s trending down. She could use a home run next week to regain some mo’.

9) Tim Urban – “Sweet Love” by Anita Baker – Wow. There hasn’t been a soul-sapping, white bread R&B effort like this since…Pat Boone changed “Ain’t That A Shame” to “Isn’t That A Shame.” Yes, the “dot dot dot” back there was me Googling music history to come up with the Pat Boone reference. Like a Vegas lounge singer. Tim’s vocal tone was decent. But, yuck.

10) Didi Benami – “What Becomes Of The Brokenhearted” by Jimmy Ruffin – The 1966 original of this song is on my iPod. And I love it! A total classic. That may be partly why this was the performance last night I’d least like to ever hear again. Her voice and this song–not a good match. And yes, Simon Cowell‘s right. Didi’s lost her singer-songwriter vibe. She’s diving into these theme nights entirely wrong. She’s trying on the various musical styles–and losing her own style. This would have never happened to Lilly Scott. I’m just saying. For that matter, somewhere last night, I’m thinking Paige Miles was watching Tim and Didi struggle with Soul and R&B. And I’m thinking that had to a rough night for Paige.

Here’s what I’m feeling for the Bottom Three tonight: Katie Stevens, Tim Urban and Didi Benami. But as a wild card, Michael Lynche‘s unfamiliar song choice could land him in there. Katie will be sent to safety. And between Tim and Didi, Tim dodges yet another bullet, and Didi Benami goes home tonight.

We’ll see what happens. Your thoughts today? Let’s hear them.

Greg Valentine
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Idol Thoughts — 03.24.10

You have work pretty hard if you wanna “out-cheese” Wham!’s version of “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go.” So you gotta give the Top 11 credit for their group-sing effort on last night’s American Idol results show, which was apparently brought to you by new sponsor…Velveeta.

Written all across Crystal Bowersox‘s face: “Why am I singing this? WHY am I dancing? And how does someone ‘Go-Go?'”

It was a night of Disney ballads (Miley Cyrus and Joe Jonas & Demi Lovato). But no fairytale ending for Paige Miles, who was not rescued by her prince. In fact, Simon Cowell told her straight up: “We won’t be saving you.”

So it was a preempt on the “Sing For The Save.” Now, that’s a poison apple. Paige has the dubious distinction of being the contestant that made it the furthest who doesn’t get to go on tour. But, if you’ve read my recent blogs, the outcome last night was not a surprise.

The Bottom Three was also a just one: Katie Stevens (which I saw coming), Tim Urban (I said Andrew Garcia), and Paige Miles.

While Tim’s coalition of supporters is clearly not growing, Andrew continues to enjoy much goodwill with voters, probably the residual of that great version of “Straight Up” from weeks ago. For that one whole week when AI9 contestants were allowed to have individual Twitter accounts, Andrew had the most followers. He also enjoys huge support in his hometown, Los Angeles, which has the second-largest population in the country. So I suspect Andrew can continue to be less and less dazzling while sticking around for a few more weeks.

That’s all for today. Time for me to Go-Go.

Greg Valentine
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