Posts Tagged Los Angeles

Idol Thoughts: Blowing Up ‘American Idol’

Steven Tyler, American Idol, Season 10, New Judges

The new opening of American Idol says it all. I’m not sure what exactly. But I suspect it’s profound.

To the beat of the familiar theme song, and the Los Angeles skyline in the background, a bright orange laser beam comes straight down from the sky and seemingly explodes the Idol stage.

It’s clearly a metaphor. They’re “blowing things up” and starting over. New judges. Changes to the age limit. And other twists coming in the weeks ahead.

That’s what I think they’re going for. But the image of the beam also reminds of of the iconic scene from Independence Day where the aliens blow up the White House. Although we humans prevailed later, the White House was never the same.

Will Season 10 of American Idol be a new beginning? Or the beginning of the end. That’s the question that’ll be answered slowly in the months ahead. Ratings are definitely down from last season’s premiere week: Down 18% Wednesday night; Down 24% last night.

That said: I love Steven Tyler! “Shit fire and save matches, fuck the duck and see what hatches!” Did Steven just say that? He sure did. And it’s not just the words, but the way he said it–with all the rock swagger you’d expect. Steven showed up ready to put on a show, singing along with some contestants, banging the table for percussion with others. He’s a joy to watch.

But there’s no getting around it for me. The show feels a little “rootless” without Simon Cowell. Kinda like, what’s the point of all this? WWST. “What Would Simon Think?”

I wasn’t sure if I was gonna blog about the show this season. I’m still not. But here’s one. What did you think of this week’s shows?

Greg Valentine
check me out on Twitter: http://twitter.com/gregvalentine

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Idol Thoughts — 05.25.10

It was a night Crystal Bowersox did everything she needed to and a night Lee DeWyze did somewhat less than he could have.

It was the night American Idol‘s Top 2 went head-to-head at the Nokia Theater in Los Angeles.

And it was a night that I give to Crystal Bowersox. But who’ll get the Idol crown tonight? For that prediction, stayed tuned until the end of this blog.

Each singer sang three songs last night: one of their favorite songs from earlier in the season; one picked by Idol producer Simon Fuller; and a song that’ll be their first single if they win.

I’m not sure who picked the third songs (probably also Simon Fuller). But this is where Idol producers diverted from their formula of past seasons. The single has always been an original, although often schlocky, song written for the winner to sing. The songs in the past have been fairly “cookie-cutter” and not necessarily the best jump-off point for a singer’s new career. So I’m glad to see the show trying something different. Even so, the idea of a “first single” has become less meaningful ever since the show started selling studio versions of all the Top 12 songs. The real excitement for Crystal and Lee comes in about six months when the first single from their first album gets released.

Here are my rankings of the last night’s finale performances

1) Lee DeWyze – “Beautiful Day” by U2 (Lee’s single if he wins) – Right from the get, I have to admit my bias. My pick here is heavily influenced by my work in the radio biz…and my personal taste. This was the performance last night that I’d most enjoying playing on the radio. For that matter, the song last night I’d most want my iPod to shuffle into. On Lee’s third song of the night, he finally got his nerves under control, which were noticeable and palpable up to this point, and things came together. Lee stayed true to the original while hitting some nuanced vocal differences that spotlighted both Lee’s unique sound and the gorgeous arrangement of the song. The only downside, I couldn’t feel Lee’s connection to the song.

2) Crystal Bowersox – “Up To The Mountain” by Patty Griffin (Crystal’s single if she wins) – Okay, to be totally honest, my first reaction when this came on last night was, “Huh? Did someone die?” It seemed a little light on levity and heavy on gravitas–especially for a “single.” But with subsequent listens, this has become one of my favorite Crystal performances. She delivered a controlled yet nuanced vocal and seemed really connected to the song. Not to be Debbie Downer. But I still prefer Kelly Clarkson‘s version with Jeff Beck from Idol Gives Back in 2007.

3) Crystal Bowersox – “Black Velvet”  by Alannah Miles (picked by Simon Fuller) – I’m with Simon Cowell on this one. I kinda dread this song–for being so obvious, such a “bar band/audition” kinda song. But Crystal did something with it, made it her own and gave us her most confident guitar-less performance of the season. Yes, she looked a little uneasy at first as she attempted to descend the staircase in her L.B.D. as she sang. But by the end, she seemed to be having fun and interacting with the crowd, which is important because there’s been plenty of times this season when it’s been hard to tell if she’s been enjoying this whole process.

4) Crystal Bowersox – “Me And Bobby McGee” by Janis Joplin (Crystal fave from earlier this season) – Crystal’s first song of the night showed that she was comfortable and confident in front of the 7,000 people at the Nokia (significantly larger than the usual Idol audience at Television City). This was solid, if, literally, something we’ve seen before. I gave the edge to her “Black Velvet” for showing us something different.

5) Lee DeWyze – “The Boxer” by Simon & Garfunkel (Lee fave from earlier this season) – This was the first indication Lee might have an off night. Nothing wrong with this version. Except that it wasn’t as good as the first time he sang it on the show. I went back and “A/B-ed” both versions. Lee sang this with much more passion and purpose during “Inspirational Song Week.” This was a good song choice; the song’s kinda his “underdog” theme song. In a way, the song here should’ve been “Hallelujah,” if the idea is to go with a singer’s best effort of the season. But that would’ve meant ended last week’s show and starting this week’s show with the same song. I’m sure show producers either did or would’ve put the kibosh on that.

6) Lee DeWyze – “Everybody Hurts” by R.E.M. (picked by Simon Fuller) – Uggg. Terrible song choice for Lee by Simon Fuller. The result was an ill-fitting, low-energy effort that played into the general criticism that this season has been nothing spectacular. Lee seemed to be inside his own head as he performed this. I wouldn’t want to say I know what was going on inside. But on the outside, it seemed like Lee wasn’t enjoying the moment.

So, who wins tonight? One of my contentions (I have many, mind you) is that people watched the show last night already knowing who they’d be voting for. That’s a good thing for Lee, who definitely had an off-night, because his fans will remember “Hallelujah” and not “Everybody Hurts” when they vote. I also suspect Lee’s a bigger hit with Idol‘s notorious “power” voters and texters–people who vote hundreds of times compared to more casual viewers. The fact that the judges seemed to pummel Lee, while praising Crystal, will actually energize his supporters to vote hard. I’ve also said in this blog that going into last night, Lee was the actual front-runner. (That’s contrary to what most of the media has been reporting.)

Tonight, Lee DeWyze is crowned the new American Idol. It will not be an “upset,” as many will call it tomorrow. However, there will be a perception that Crystal Bowersox was the better “artist,” and with these people, a sense that she was “robbed.”

Greg Valentine
check me out on Twitter: http://twitter.com/gregvalentine

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Idol Thoughts — 01.26.10

Separated at birth: Sideshow Bob and Chris Golightly

Wow. Who knew Sideshow Bob could sing like that?

Last night’s American Idol auditions were held in Los Angeles, where we met 25-year old Chris Golightly, who delivered a strong version of “Stand By Me,” channeling the original by Sam Cooke. We also learned Chris’s compelling backstory: since age 18-months, he bounced around from foster home to foster home. That he shares a hairstyle with an evil genius on The Simpsons unfortunately went unaddressed and remains a mystery.

Chris got a “yes” from each of the four judges. But Simon Cowell and Katy Perry emphasized that theirs were “yes with a small y.” Katy went as far as to say that Idol isn’t “a Lifetime movie,” as she reluctantly agreed to move Chris on to the next round. Looks like Chris will need to show he’s contemporary and relevant to win over all of the judges.

“You’re going to Hollywood! Which is, uh, ten miles from here.”

And how ’bout that Katy Perry? I’m a big fan. But depending on your point-of-view, as an Idol guest judge she was either a straight shot of music industry truth–or a cynical pro who’s forgotten what it was like breaking into the biz. I say it was a little of both. The guest judge duties were actually split over the two-day audition between Katy and Avril Lavigne, whose approach was similar.

The other big audition came from Andrew Garcia, who’s a kind of Latino Danny Gokey. Andrew gave what was probably the best vocal of the night on Maroon 5‘s, “Sunday Morning.” He’s got a look that stands out (cool glasses). He’s a devoted family guy. And has a backstory that will earn him fans (his parents were gang members who moved to the ‘burbs to give their kids the life they didn’t have).

Others moving on to Hollywood: Jim Ranger, another dad who sang an original song (“Drive”), which almost never impresses the judges, but this time it did; Mary Powers (“Love Is A Battlefield”), who’s edgy voice and looks got punk rock props from Avril, even as Simon suggested she didn’t need the costume; And Tasha Layton, who sounded a lot her idol, Joss Stone–maybe a little too much.

It’s early in the process. But as always, carving out their own identities will be crucial to sticking around.

On the freak show side of the festivities, I gotta bestow a few words upon the following.  Austin Fulmer, who was like Mick Jagger without the swagger. Austin sang Cheap Trick‘s, “Surrender,” and has apparently mastered a dance move that I can only describe as “sitting down jumping jacks.” The judges didn’t go for Austin’s tricks, nor did they surrender. Early in the show, Neil Goldstein sang a Meatloaf song and matched the notoriously glistening Mr. Loaf bead of sweat for bead of sweat. And then there was the mess that is Jason Green, whose long locks, feminine mannerisms, and scary, Broadway take on the Divynals, “I Touch Myself,” made Katy feel “dirty” and Simon “uncomfortable.” I gotta a feeling if Katy kissed this guy–she’d still be kissing a girl.

That’s what me thinks this morning. Your thoughts?

Greg Valentine
check me out on Twitter: http://twitter.com/gregvalentine

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