Posts Tagged Ellen DeGeneres

Idol Thoughts — 05.18.10

Hallelujah! Someone finally answered Idol fans’ prayers for an “Oh, Wow!” moment, something that had been sorely missing this season.

That all changed last night on American Idol when Lee DeWyze took Leonard Cohen‘s song “Hallelujah” to the promised land. Lee’s epic performance solidified him as the front-runner going into next week’s finale.

Last night was crucial. I think the week before the finale is just as important as the finale (maybe more), and here’s why. When people watch next week, they want to know who they’re rooting for. So most people’s minds will already be made up. So last night was the last chance to really change some minds or win over new fans. Lee picked the best time of all to be peaking!

The Top 3 finalists performed two songs each last night: one they picked themselves; the other picked by one of the judges. I say each finalist did better on the song picked for them, which is telling. Even at this late stage, this year’s finalists still have some things to learn about how best to position themselves as artists.

Lee took a moment after his season-stealing performance to thank Simon Cowell for choosing “Hallelujah.” It seemed Lee may have had some initial reluctance about the song. Ironically, the thanks should be mutual. Simon owns the rights to the song. One U.K. news outlet even calls the song “Cowellelujah.” The song’s already put boatloads of cash in Simon’s bank account. Finalists on Simon’s U.K. show, The X Factor, have performed and recorded it. And Lee’s version will undoubtedly add to Simon’s “cha-ching.”

So “Hallelujah” for both of them: win-win.

It’s interesting. “Hallelujah” is one of those songs that has a larger-than-life reputation, but surprisingly little airplay on the radio in America. I’m not sure if I’ve even heard Leonard Cohen’s 1984 original of the song. There’s been notable cover versions by Jeff Buckley, Rufus Wainwright and k.d. lang. Yet, for the most part, radio silence. Maybe, this is the moment for that to change. If I was running a radio station, you’d be hearing Lee DeWyze’s version today.

So here we go, last night’s performances ranked:

1) Lee DeWyze – “Hallelujah” by Leonard Cohen – Reviewing what I wrote above, it seems I’ve already said quite a lot about this. Let me add that Lee got a ton of help from the Idol crew. The arrangement, the choir, the strings and the horn-section, were all spot-on. With the buzz trending toward the negative about this season, I’m guessing it was just important for the show to have this moment as it was for Lee.

2) Crystal Bowersox – “Maybe I’m Amazed” by Paul McCartney – I was glad Ellen DeGeneres picked this for Crystal. I remember singling out this song after the Lennon-McCartney Songbook Night a few weeks ago as being a song that should’ve been performed. Crystal, performing without her guitar, used this opportunity to demonstrate her full range, hitting big notes, raspy notes, and soft and sweet notes. Bonus points for not changing the gender references in the song. For starters, the word “man” needs to hit a single beat for the best emphasis. If she’d sang “woman” instead, the extra syllable would’ve made a mess of things.

3) Casey James – “Daughters” by John MayerRandy Jackson and Kara DioGuardi chose this one. Give Kara some credit; if she were Simon, she would’ve picked a song she wrote herself and earned some extra royalties! Casey turned in a solid, nice’n’soft version that featured more piano than guitar. As a song choice for Top 3 Week, Randy and Kara were able to insure Casey focused on his sensitive side at this crucial moment. The downside was the song’s not designed for a big vocal moment. So instead, Casey had a big “quiet” moment.

4) Lee DeWyze – “Simple Man” by Lynyrd  Skynyrd – When I went to bed last night, I actually had this ranked above Casey’s version of “Daughters.” When I listened again this morning, I revised my rankings. But it’s a close one. Lee picked this one himself, and I think it was smart move. The idea that Lee himself is a “simple kinda man” doesn’t hurt his case with Idol voters, who I suspect approve of his no ego, nice guy persona, much in the way the audience responded to Kris Allen last season.

5) Crystal Bowersox – “Come To My Window” by Melissa Etheridge – So all through this song Crystal had one of those harmonica holder/harness things around her neck. She blew a few notes at the beginning. And a couple at the end. Seemed like a long way to go for the little use it got. Meanwhile, I’m guessing Idol cameramen were running around trying to find an angle to shoot Crystal’s whole face. Ultimately, Crystal might’ve had a more transcendent performance with this song if she’d gone even more acoustic with it (even used that harmonica more) instead of staying close to the original. Crystal sounded better on the quieter beginning of the song. By the chorus, Crystal was, as the judges pointed out, “fighting the arrangement.”

6) Casey James – “OK, It’s Alright With Me” by Eric Hutchinson – Song choice. Always so crucial. Especially on the week before the finals. I don’t see any benefit to picking this song. Strike that. No benefit to Casey. I’m sure Eric Hutchinson couldn’t be having a better day today! The judges said Casey was “playing it safe,” probably because this was similar to a lot of songs Casey’s done this season. I think “safe” is the wrong word. “Risky” is more like it. The week before the finals is not the best time to give the audience a song that manages to be both unfamiliar and more of the same. That said, no complaints on the vocal. I’m a fan.

Casey James goes home tonight. Lee DeWyze vs. Crystal Bowersox in next week’s Idol finale.

Those are my thoughts. Yours? Let me know!

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 — 03.17.10

It’s still early in  the game for American Idol‘s Top 12. Some viewers have picked their favorite; but many have not.

I have a theory that at this stage, the boys have an easier ride. The boys seem to build a following quicker. Maybe picking up support from female viewers? And not just viewers–but the “active” viewers, the ones most likely to vote.

So it seems to me on Top 12 results night, a female that’s not a front-runner has a “X” on her back. That’s why I predicted Lacey Brown would be sent home last night–even though I felt strongly that Tim Urban was awful this week.

Anyway, it’s just a theory. A guide I use when I watch the show. Unfortunately, it proved true for Lacey. And for Paige Miles, who ended up in the Bottom Two. And for that matter, proved true for Tim Urban, who landed in the Bottom Three–but was quickly sent to safety. Tim has a coalition of voters behind him. For now. He better get better. Or viewer patience won’t be on his side.

Last night’s results show was a winner, largely due to a hot lineup of music guests.

Idol producers dropped the “group sing” with the finalists, and brought on Season 7 winner David Cook, whose performance of the Rolling Stones‘ “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” seemed almost like an “apology” for the non-rockingness of the previous night. Now, that’s how you do some Stones!

Later, Orianthi sang her song “According To You” and showed off her blistering guitar skills. We didn’t learn to much during the quickie interview with Ryan Seacrest. Instead of just acknowledging that she was set to go on tour with Michael Jackson, I wish Ryan would’ve asked what it was like rehearsing with Michael and get Orianthi to elaborate on some of the incredible footage we saw in the documentary, This Is It.

And, the hot mess that is Ke$ha performed her latest single, “Blah Blah Blah,” with the guys from 3OH!3. Solid track–but no “Tic Tok.” There’s not a lot of singing goin’ on with this chick. Just those electro-vocals. But I say you gotta love her “doesn’t give a f*** about anything” attitude. I’m on board. Even if it means having to always hit the shift key in the middle of her name.

Finally, the Judges’ Save is back this season. One time, and one time only, between now and the Top 5, the judges have the option of saving someone who’s been voted off. (“Hey thanks for voting, America. Now, we’re just gonna do what we want.”)

This early in the game, the odds were about nil the judges would use the save. Nevertheless, we got to see the judges huddle and talk to each other while Lacey “sang for the save.” What were they saying? As Randy Jackson leaned into Simon Cowell, I’m guessing he was saying, “Yo, Dawg, where we goin’ to dinner?” Kara DioGuardi whispered into Ellen DeGeneres‘ ear: “We have to look like we’re really talking about this even though we know we’re not. Now you say something back to me.”

You got any thoughts today? Let me hear ’em!

Greg Valentine
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Idol Thoughts — 03.16.10

I recently added some Rolling Stones classics to my iTunes library. This was a few weeks ago. I didn’t know American Idol was planning a theme night for them. I just realized that I needed to hear these guys again.

I’m listening to the Stones as I write this. And one big thing is clear about last night’s Idol. The musicians that back up the contestants, led by Rickey Minor, were a disappointment, lacking the vitality and energy of these original recordings.

But, what did anyone expect? The Rolling Stones are considered one of the greatest rock ‘n’ roll bands of all-time for a reason. The contestants have no control over the band behind them. So let’s look at what they do control–their performances. I will attempt to rank from best to worst.

Best of the night:

1) Aaron Kelly – “Angie” – I’m as surprised as anyone to be typing Aaron’s name at the top of the list. The standard I’m using to determine the best performance is this: What song from last night do I want to hear again the most? This is it. Plain and simple. It’s a case of a contestant landing the perfect song among the choices available, and nailing it on show night.

2) Siobhan Magnus – “Paint It Black” – Of all the Top 12-ers, Siobhan is one the that convinced me she “gets” the music of the Rolling Stones the most. Looking great and sporting Jennifer Grey‘s Dirty Dancing hairdo, the Idol folks threw all their support behind this performance; Siobhan got the best light show. Even so, she needs some more time on that big stage to work on making every move seem effortless. And watch out on these massive notes she’s hitting to end songs. Last night’s got a little screechy.

3) Lee Dewyze – “Beast Of Burden” – Yeah, this was a safe choice. I suggested Lee should sing “Gimme Shelter” in my previous blog. Instead that song got mangled by someone else. But the fact is Lee’s Dave Matthews Band take on this song sounded great. And better each time I re-listen to it–which is why Lee’s name is here and not one slot below.

4) Crystal Bowersox – “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” – Good stuff. But I expected more from her because she’s so talented. To resurrect a complaint from earlier in the season, Crystal’s performance last night was a little “coffee house-ish.” Especially those funky little phrases Crystal tossed in between lines of lyrics that Ellen DeGeneres applauded as “showing her personality.” I disagree. That crap is lame and hacky.

Middle of the pack:

5) Didi Benami – “Play With Fire” – A great vocal that was downgraded by a tentative performance. I mean, there were split seconds where it felt like she was going to stop due to forgetting the words. Didi’s another one who’ll need some time to learn how to use the big stage. Overall, it seemed she needed some more rehearsal time.

6) Casey James – “It’s All Over Now” – Does it bug me that this isn’t a song written by the Stones? Yeah, a little, cuz I’m a geek like that. But it was a smart song for Casey. Every several years comes along a young, good-looking guy that makes blues rock “cool” again. Casey the latest “that guy.” He was very comfortable and in his element last night. And is clearly the best musician on the show–by far.

7) Michael Lynch – “Miss You” – Okay. I suggested this was a Stones song that would not be performed because it’s not a great showcase for the vocalist. So “Big Mike” made a good move by changing the arrangement, giving himself more room to “sang it.” But for me, I didn’t really like the new arrangement as much. Otherwise, I’d be rating this higher. One thing was clear, though. Big Mike is definitely at home on the larger stage; he’s one of the show’s most natural performers.

8 ) Katie Stevens – “Wild Horses” – This performance won’t make fans out of Lilly Scott fans, who probably feel Katie should be watching the show in her family’s living room. But Katie made something of a comeback. Solid version. I heard the potential in her voice last night to record country music, if that’s something she wants to do.

Lagging behind:

9) Paige Miles – “Honky Tonk Women” – Paige revised the lyrics (the song’s about honky tonk women, she sang it as a honk tonk woman). I’m not sure the song made any sense. But it did make sense for her to sing one of these rockin’ bluesy Stones songs. Paige was back in her comfort zone, and turned in a capable vocal despite some serious laryngitis.

10) Lacey Brown – “Ruby Tuesday” – I’m not sure why I’m rating Lacey so low on the list. Maybe because of the original of this song is just gorgeous. Lacey’s version seemed a little “precious.” Don’t ask me to define what I mean by that. I’m simply typing the word that best reflects what I felt.

11) Andrew Garcia – “Gimme Shelter” – Not good. A big disappointment. This song needed a bigger voice behind it. Lacking that, Andrew needed to take another route with the song. Instead, he went straight at it. And hit the wall.

Worst of the night:

12) Tim Urban – “Under My Thumb” – I hated this. Tim revamped this one in the style of some Jason Mraz acoustic reggae. The whole thing was a disaster…and came off a little creepy. I warned against doing this song in my previous blog. The only question in my mind: will general “adorableness” save him with voters this week? I say it will.

So, who will be in the bottom three tonight? I’m going with the three at the bottom of my list: Tim Urban, Andrew Garcia and Lacey Brown. Although, I’d hardly be surprised if Paige Miles landed in there.

Who’s going home? My feeling is Lacey Brown.


Greg Valentine
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PS: Oh. And my prediction for the group sing tonight? “It’s Only Rock And Roll.”

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Idol Thoughts — 03.03.10

American Idol let us know that Crystal Bowersox is a tough cookie. They made that point right away tonight, putting to rest the worries that health problems might prematurely eliminate one of the top female contenders. So, how did the Top 10 girls do?

Crystal Bowersox – “As Long As I Can See The Light” by Creedence Clearwater Revival – This is way this competition would be less intriguing without her. They pumped fluids into her at that hospital. And she came back and pumped out soul on Idol!

Haeley Vaughn – “The Climb” by Miley Cyrus – To her credit, she doesn’t just mimic Miley’s vocal or phasing. Haeley puts her own touches on it. Unfortunately, her singing is often flat. This is the contestant I want to to like the most. But she’s inconsistent and the singing just doesn’t earn that support. Or hasn’t. Yet.

Lacey Brown – “Kiss Me” by Sixpence None The Richer – Lacey takes Kara DioGuardi‘s suggestion from last week and performs this Sixpence song. For a moment at the beginning she hits a note that makes me think it’ll be another annoying vocal like last week’s. Thankfully, Lacey gets the ship back on course. The song got better as it went along. Far from a home run. But she got on base this week.

Katie Stevens – “Put Your Records On” by Corrine Bailey Rae – This is still and “old” sounding song. The judges have been asking her to “young” it up. I’m not sure Katie understands what they’re asking. I’m sure Katie feels that Corrine is closer to her age. But it’s the sound of the song that they’re talking about. And Corrine’s stuff is retro-sounding. Good vocals. Song choice still an issue.

Didi Benami – “Lean On Me” by Bill Withers – The song choice is solid and populist. I’m guessing Didi’s concerned about being too cool for the room. Didi said she picked it to show her soul. I’m with Randy Jackson on this one. Didi showed more limitations than soul. Wrong song for her.

Michelle Delamor – “With Arms Wide Open” by Creed – She takes the judges’ suggestion to “take some chances” to heart. Unexpected and potentially brilliant song choice. On paper, at least. I’m not sure her re-arrangement is one I’d put on my iPod. But I appreciate the effort. She’s thinking outside of the box. And she’s got skills.

Lilly Scott – “A Change Is Gonna Come” by Sam Cooke – Lilly probably has the most unique voice in the competition. She’s also one of the few that really understands at this point who she is as an artist. Ellen DeGeneres nailed it: Lily’s was a great performance that we all watched as fans for a moment, forgetting it was a singing contest. Nice job. Again.

Katelyn Epperly – “The Scientist” by Coldplay – I like. Katelyn did a great job of connecting with the lyric and making it believable. Her first time playing an instrument on the show (piano). She definitely knows how to sell a song. Some of the criticism Katelyn got from the judges about energy level has more to do with Coldplay than Katelyn.

Paige Miles – “Walk Away” by Kelly Clarkson – Paige has vocal skills, no doubt. But this version of “Walk Away” could be any cover band in any bar in the country. I’d suggest putting a lot more thought into her song choices. She should look for material that will really set herself apart. Kara makes a great point about Paige missing some of the feeling behind the song. Kara should know–having co-written it!

Siobhan Magnus – “Think” by Aretha Frankiln – Wow. This girl’s got some soul! Big voice tonight. Huge note at the end. I can see why they gave her the last spot on the show–the showcase slot. Tonight, she brought down the house.

Thoughts? Leave a comment.

Greg Valentine
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Idol Thoughts — 03.02.10

I don’t remember this happening before on American Idol; In a last-minute switch, the guys are performing tonight instead of the girls. Crystal Bowersox is in the hospital and wouldn’t have been able to perform. Something to do with diabetes.

Hopefully, it’s not a serious thing for Crystal. She’s on track to do very well in this competition. But how will this play out tonight? Will the guys’ performances suffer in any way by going a day early? Let’s find out (all comments live blogged during the show):

Michael Lynche – “It’s A Man’s Man’s Man’s World” by James Brown – We learn more about “Big Mike” in his video piece. The football playing, not surprising. The musical theater, maybe a little. Tackles the song right from the beginning–more determined than we’ve seen him. Nice vocals again. There’s a few phrases he stops short on–a couple notes he could’ve held longer. But some great soul going on here. Judges praising Mike’s performance. And it does feel like he’s stepped up his game–a lot! Good move.

John Park – “Gravity” by John Mayer – John Park’s backstory is still boring. Video piece not resonating. The singing isn’t doing it for me. Seems a little contrived and too “breathy.” How you do that with a deep voice, I’m not sure. But he manages. Ellen DeGeneres is right, though. Better song choice than last week. Simon Cowell says he’s in trouble, and that sounds about right.

Casey James – “I Don’t Wanna Be” by Gavin DeGraw – From the video piece, we find out that lighting hit their house and blew out the T.V. a while back and they didn’t replace it! Casey claims to have never watched American Idol…or much television at all. Playing some tasty licks on that electric guitar tonight. The vocal is not my fave from him. Despite saying he wanted to do something different, it feels about the same, but not as good as Gavin. But here’s the deal, with his guitar skills and a clear musical mission, this guy’s going to make music people buy. Just needs to settle into that musical mission, whatever it is. He’s close to it now.

Alex Lambert – “Everybody Knows” by John Legend – “I was trying to be so likable, that I wasn’t likable at all.” A good analysis from Alex’s video piece of his performance last week. Playing his acoustic guitar tonight. The prop is helping with the nerves. The vocal feels okay. Great, unique tone. But something about it’s not quite 100 percent for me. Seems like the potential’s there. More work with the vocal coaches will undoubtedly help.

Todrick Hall – “What’s Love Got To Do With It” by Tina Turner – Video piece gives us more info on his theater background–he started as a kid. Todrick’s version is another re-vamping of the original. He slows this one down. A better move than his Kelly Clarkson re-working last week. Here’s the thing, though. These arrangements are all over the place and this one’s showing Todrick’s vocal limitations. So he’s not helping himself. He’s not the strongest guy singing tonight. And that’s that.

Jermaine Sellers – “What’s Going On” by Marvin Gaye – His video piece reveals that Jermaine “rocks his Onesie.” The silliness of him jumping around in a frog-green Onesie will earn him some votes. The song choice and arrangement won’t silence the judges that this guy is coming off “too old” for this competition. I actually don’t think he’s very good. If Jermaine’s your fave, I say you’re giving him too much credit. Kara DioGuardi‘s got it: He’s doing too much. And all that “over-singing” is making it hard on the ears.

Andrew Garcia – “You Give Me Something” by James Morrison – We learn that Andrew’s a breakdancer. Guitarless tonight. This song’s not suiting his voice. Not working. Love this guy anyway. Great tone. Sounds very recordable. Randy Jackson‘s on top of it: Andrew’s not wasn’t doing his thing–he’s more of a guitar-playing, Jason Mraz-kinda guy. Judges are letting him know.

Aaron Kelly – “My Girl” by the Temptations – The song choice is kind of “talent show.” But his fans will probably dig this. He’s got some vocals in there. But still waiting for him to put it all together: the vocals and song choice. Seems comfortable performing, though. I agree with Simon. I think they could’ve made the arrangement on that more contemporary, and it would’ve had the potential to be much cooler.

Tim Urban – “Come On Get Higher” by Matt Nathanson – Video introduction shows how the judges have been piling on this guy. Tonight, he’s better than last week. That’s not saying too much. His voice seems a little lost inside the song. From the screams in the crowd, it’s clear the ladies love them some Tim Urban. I suspect the votes are there to move him forward. So he’ll get another chance to improve. Good on ya.

Lee Dewyze – “Lips Of An Angel” by Hinder – Lee went to “alternative school” during his high school days, according to his video introduction. I think he sounds great. Just a couple pitchy moments. Lee’s version is more tender than the original and his vocal more nuanced. Judges want him to be more comfortable while he performs. And that’s seems like good advice. Good stuff.

Thoughts? Leave a comment.

Greg Valentine
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Idol Thoughts — 02.16.10

Who’s in the Top 24? That’s the question that was 29 percent answered on American Idol tonight. We learned 7 of them. The other 17 will be revealed tomorrow night. And you thought it was a cheesy tease when Ryan Seacrest says, “We’ll find out after the break.” This break is 22 hours long.

Right about 9:15, I realized they weren’t wrapping this up tonight. And in honor of this episode, which was very non-chronological, I’ll be tossing out my observations in whatever order they reach my typing fingers.

BIG MIKE – He made it. Top 24. Simon Cowell wondered if Michael Lynche, the laid-back 26-year old personal trainer and new dad, has the confidence to win…before giving him the good news. As genial as this guy is, he’ll need to really step up his game to make the Top 12. He sings with more conviction than most. And he should emphasize that. But opening up a little more to viewers and letting them get to know him will earn him as many votes.

Vitamin Water cups on the judges table. Orange and white. This is not right. Red and white! Coke! It just doesn’t look right any other way. But go figure. Coke owns Vitamin Water. So for Hollywood Week, they’re using their sponsorship clout to throw some spotlight on this product. Worry not. Coke cups return for the live Top 24 shows. The affects of uncaffeinated judges on who makes the Top 24 remain unclear at this time.

SHELBY DRESSEL – No. Does not make the Top 24. Shelby’s the first to hear bad news of the contestants that remain. Her countrified version of Boston’s “More Than A Feeling” was potentially inspired, started out great, but hit a real bad note going into what was a cheese-ball chorus. The last 45 minutes of tonight’s show were devoted to those scenes where the judges deliver the news, good or bad, to the contestants. They walked down a long aisle at the Kodak Theater to the stage where the judges wait with their fate.

Also not making the Top 24: everybody in Room #2. That was earlier in the show. And not surprising for anybody paying attention. That meant no shot at performing before a live audience and being voted on by viewers for rocker Mary Powers (another Idol cautionary tale about overconfidence, a frequent source of downfall on the show). Also eliminated in this fell swoop: Hope Johnson, who sang a very pitchy version of Daughtry‘s “Home”; Charity Vance, “Gravity” by Sara Bareilles being a nice song choice, but some of her phrasing didn’t work: Lloyd Thomas, who the further he made it in this competition revealed more his limitations, was the umpteenth person to sing Michael Jackson‘s “Man In The Mirror”; Christian Spear, who hasn’t been shown much since her audition; And Bryan Walker, the singing cop.

“Performances” tonight were generally small clips–maybe a verse and chorus. Not much. Ryan Seacrest got much more “vocal time” tonight, his dramatic narration attempting to hold together this swerving-all-over-the-place episode.

TODRICK HALL – He made it. But you knew he would. That’s why all episode, Idol producers tried to fake you out by showing the clip several times of Todrick’s reaction: “That’s it?” It was a reaction to a non-drawn out, “Hey, you made it.” Not, “It’s the end of the road.”

KATELYN EPPERLY – Yes. Top 24. Ellen DeGeneres does a bit about how cruel it is to string along a contestant before telling them yes or no…while stringing along the Katelyn. Amusing. But obvious comedic terrain for a long while now.

Oh, Room #1 and #3 advanced. That was earlier in the show. And if you sensed that #2 were the goners, then you know the news was good for the others. Forty six singers survived that cut and they make up the contestants vying for the 24 slots in the judges’ final cut.

CASEY JAMES – Kara’s crush from Cool, Texas (a real place) lands in the Top 24. I never doubted this. Said so here. Simon’s the one that created this guy’s “underdog” storyline by calling his audition boring and voting no while the other judges gave Casey yeses. Seems a lock to make Top 12.

DIDI BENAMI – Top 24. She cries. A lot. Tonight. And just about every other time we’ve seen her. I don’t know if it’s entertaining, like in a hot mess kinda way. Or annoying. But I’m sure the answer will be apparent soon enough.

AARON KELLY – The 16-year old the ‘tweens are gonna love and vote for. Personally, I’m not sure he’s ready. He’s faltered since hitting Hollywood. But I get it. He’s likable, marketable, has potential to grow, and definitely good for ratings with younger viewers. He kind of needs to be in there. So he is.

What do you think about tonight’s show?

Greg Valentine
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