Posts Tagged Chicago

Idol Thoughts — 05.26.10

Was the American Idol finale last night a sign of the diminishing returns to come?

Everything about Season 9 had a feel of “lesser-ness” about it. So I guess it’s not surprising the finale would go the same way.

Instead of last season’s kick ass finale teaming of Adam Lambert and KISS, last night we got one of those 60s variety show group-sings of “School’s Out” featuring the Top 12 in school uniforms and a crusty Alice Cooper. Not as cool.

Instead of the brilliant pairing of Idol winner Kris Allen and country superstar Keith Urban, last night’s eventual winner Lee DeWyze got stuck singing with the band Chicago. Lee’s from the Chicago area. Get it? Lame.

Instead of putting some thought into booking the show, it seems like they backed a truck up to the rock ‘n’ roll old-folks home and said, “Get on! We’re taking you to bingo!”

Hall and Oates. Joe Cocker. Bee Gees. Michael McDonald. I guess you can’t spell I-D-O-L without O-L-D.

Alright, so if it were up to me, I’d get a better generational mix of guests. Adam Lambert was scheduled to appear. But producers nixed his appearance after he missed his rehearsal time. For some strange reason, producers (and censors) would like to see what he’s got planned before putting him on-the-air. The “for some strange reason” is knowing sarcasm, in case that wasn’t clear.

My favorite moments last night? Crystal Bowersox performing “Ironic” with Alanis Morissette, which felt legit and relevant. Also Casey James doing “Every Rose Has A Thorn” in an emotional performance with Bret Michaels, who despite his recent health scares seems determined to not go quietly. Good for him. It was also cool seeing Janet Jackson (who’s gone natural with her new short haircut), who, despite having two microphones at one point, didn’t appear to be doing much live singing.

The tributes to Simon Cowell were entertaining, too. I’m sure some will say they were a bit overdone. But the fact is, Simon is, and has been, the show. His departure is a game-changer.

There’s a big question that needs to be asked today: Is Idol on a irreversible slide, destined to never regain the luster and pop culture focus it once had? Or will the culmination of a lackluster season be the inspiration for a rebirth and return to glory?

Right now, it’s hard to see how the later choice above would occur. The problems seem tied to the dismantling of the dysfunction family that was the judging panel: first adding the unnecessary Kara DioGuardi; then letting Paula Abdul get away; and now with Simon Cowell‘s departure.

Only time will tell. The same can be said of Season 9, the real test of which will come in the months and years ahead. Can Lee and Crystal sell music in comparable amounts to other Idol winners and high-profile runners-up? What about third-placer Casey? And will any others from this season’s Top 12 emerge from the pack to become successful recording artists?

Now, for the thing I wanted to put in the first paragraph–but wisely decided to stick with analysis of the entertainment last night instead of the following statistics.

There are a lot of people this morning under the false impression that Lee beat Crystal by two percent of the vote. Here’s what Ryan Seacrest actually said: “Coming into the vote last night, less than 2 percent separated the finalists.” Read those words carefully. What they actually say is that number (two percent) are the votes from every week BUT the finale. The two percent has nothing to do with the finale votes.

My gut tells me Lee beat Crystal by a margin much larger than two percent.

Once again, things seem to work out in the Idol-verse. Lee has a very recordable voice and will benefit more than Crystal from being “The Idol.” As for Crystal, she’ll have an easier time staying true her artistic vision as the runner-up. Both are in good spots. As always, it’s about what they do next with the opportunity they have.

Greg Valentine
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Idol Thoughts – 04.27.10

Shania Twain. Country crossover superstar who’s lived for years in a chateau in Switzerland and seemingly “retired” from music way before her time. Meanwhile, we’ve since learned her husband and musical partner, producer Robert “Mutt” Lange, was having an affair with their secretary/chateau manager. Mutt divorced Shania to be with his mistress. Then Shania started dating that woman’s ex-husband!

Damn! What was really going on at that chateau? Sounds like that would’ve made a hell of a reality show.

As for the “Songs of Shania Twain” episode of American Idol last night, it wasn’t nearly as compelling or intriguing. But it was great seeing Shania again, who mentored this week and who was a guest judge earlier this season during the Chicago auditions. Yes, since her divorce, we’ve seeing much more of Shania than in recent years–which is always good news for my eyes.

So let’s go to the rankings and see who impressed me much, and the ones that don’t:

1) Casey James – “Don’t” – Casey got the message. That appearance in the Bottom Two last week was America saying, “Give us something different, change it up!” The thing that pushed Casey to the top in my rankings this week was “salesmanship.” He really reached inside and sold this sit-down, acoustic-guitar ballad. Yes, the song challenged Casey’s vocal limitations. He made sure not to push too hard for notes that are beyond his grasp. Smartly executed. This one goes on my iPod.

2) Lee DeWyze – “You’re Still The One” – Love this guy’s voice. That’s the only reason I’d rank this performance this highly. Lee stayed kinda close to the original arrangement. Even so, I thought he struggled a little to stay in key. After hearing the nice changes he made to the very end of the song, I kinda wished he would’ve re-vamped more of it. This was not his best, and I wasn’t entirely sold on Lee as “The Love Song Guy.” But tonight, it was good enough. The others listed below could’ve stepped up on this list. But didn’t quite get there.

3) Aaron Kelly – “You’ve Got A Way” – Finally a theme week that plays to Aaron’s strengths. And Aaron delivered a solid version of this country ballad. Of course, that was to be expected. This is exactly the kind of music he should be recording. Aaron will snag a few extra votes this week by making sure everyone knew that he was “thinking of his mom” when he sang. Based on a couple recent Bottom Three appearances, those extra votes will probably come in handy.

4) Michael Lynche – “It Only Hurts When I Breathe” – Big Mike went “Luther Vandross” on this song. Nice-sounding results. Well-played. I’m rooting for this guy to do something that I want to put on my iPod. Hasn’t happened yet.

5) Crystal Bowersox – “No One Needs To Know” – Yeah, wow. I thought this was a mess. And Crystal’s usually at or near the top of my list. Some of the problems were out of Crystal’s control. The group of musicians performing with her didn’t seem to be on the same page. The playing was sloppy and the background vocals were doing their own thing, not following Crystal’s lead. Nevertheless, Crystal’s responsible for the song choice, which could’ve been much better. Honestly, too bad for Crystal she didn’t get to “Don’t” before Casey did. Crystal needs a song like “Don’t” that reveals some vulnerabilities–that something matters to her on a personal level. I think Crystal’s going to need a moment like that to keep the momentum going before the inevitable anti-Crystal backlash kicks in. And believe, it’s coming. This is Idol. And that’s how this thing goes.

6) Siobhan Magnus – “Any Man Of Mine” – Overpraised by the judges last night. It’s like the judges were told the show’s running late, be quick with your comment, and just decided to say, “Yeah, whatever, it was good.” It wasn’t. I think Siobhan’s performance, while more fun to watch than Crystal’s, lacked the sass of Shania’s original. Lately, Siobhan’s vocals haven’t been living up to what I originally thought they were. And the return of the screaming big note at the end of the song? Totally unnecessary. But, I suspect there’s a ton of Idol viewers who are not country music fans. For a bunch of those people, I’m guessing Siobhan’s was the performance of the night.

It’s interesting that the guys fared better with the Shania songs, and that the two women came up short. That’s counter-intuitive. But that is what is was.

Now for some predictions. I honestly forget if they do a Bottom Three this week. I think so. With only six left, that’s half of them in “the bottom.” So I think this week in particular, almost anyone could end up in there. Here’s what I’m feeling. Bottom Three tonight: Michael Lynche, Aaron Kelly and Siobhan Magnus. Siobhan gets sent to safety. Between Big Mike and Little Aaron, Michael Lynche exits.

Of course, this is the third time this season I’ve predicted a Big Mike/Aaron Kelly showdown, and it hasn’t happen yet!

Greg Valentine
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Idol Thoughts — 01.19.10

Paula Adbul, you were missed last night.

We could have used a downpour of Paula tears. Or Paula trading barbs with Simon. At the very least, some garbled, unintelligible reasoning why she says “yes” to someone going to Hollywood. Something to fun up the proceedings on American Idol.

Instead, we got one of the more lackluster audition episodes in recent memory. Contrived crazy (Brian Krause, an obvious put-on who sang Tiny Tim), boring backstories (Divorce? Asthma?), and only a small handful of standouts. The math tells the story. Twelve thousand people waited in line to try out. Just 13 walked away with Golden Tickets.

In Chicago, the hometown of Barack Obama, the uplifting slogan, “Yes We Can,” became a resounding, “No You Definitely Cannot!”

Among the interesting hopefuls: Katelyn Epperly (“Syrup And Honey” by Duffy), an Earthy-voiced original; Charity Vance (“Summertime”), who has been able to mold her limited vocal range into something unique that works; And John Park, for lack of a better description, an Asian soul singer, whose “bottom end” Shania simply had to compliment (the first in string of musical comments that sounded dirty). Ah, to be John Park!

Then there was Angela Martin, who demonstrated her ample skillz (again) on Mary J Blige‘s, “Just Fine.” Anglela showed she deserves another shot. She’s been cut the last two seasons–last year after making the Top 50 (something about a traffic ticket). We’ll see if the cloud that’s been following her around has made way for blue skies.

Finally, and very briefly, there’s Keith Sample (“Heaven” by Bryan Adams). I say briefly because that’s how much screen time he got last night. Something about his voice caught my ear. Sounded fresh. Of course, that’s based on the tiny portion the Idol folks served us.

So, hey, those are my thoughts. What you thinkin’? Let me know!

Greg Valentine
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