Posts Tagged Michael Jackson

Idol Thoughts — 05.11.10

I’m surprised by this. But as a theme week on American Idol, “movie songs” doesn’t hold up very well for me.

Sure, it’s a way to put some limits on what song the contestants sing. But genre-wise, movie songs can be every and any genre. So musically, it really isn’t a “theme” at all.

On top of that, I never feel any connection between the performance on the Idol stage to the films the songs are from. Maybe they could show some footage from the movie on the screen behind the singers as they perform? Just thinking out loud. I’m sure that costs money Idol producers would rather not spend.

For that matter, it’d be somewhat dubious to resurrect some of last night’s movies. Helping a giant killer whale find freedom? The second worst Batman movie? A 40-year old AFI Top 100 classic–that 80% of Idol‘s audience has never seen?

Jamie Foxx returned last night. With success in both the films and music, you couldn’t book a guest mentor that makes more sense. Even so, there was a tinge of “been there, done that” seeing that Foxx was on just last season. Foxx got in the finalists faces (literally) and pushed them to be “artists,” not “contestants,” even bestowing tee shirts to the singers with those words on them at the end of his time with them. Big Mike seemed a little put off when Foxx tried to hand him the “contestant” tee. Mike said no, he wouldn’t take it. Foxx didn’t argue. Hey, it’s “Big” Mike…probably wasn’t the right size, anyway!

In addition, the duets were back last night. To save the night, I should say. They turned out to be the highlights. I guess I’m not surprised. On a season where there’s been a shortage of personality, there’s a better chance of getting some when you double these finalists up. Here’s everything ranked, individual and duet performances all together:

1) Lee DeWyze and Crystal Bowersox – “Falling Slowly” by Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová (from the film Once) – Probably my favorite performance of the entire season. This really worked. Lee and Crystal sang as if something really mattered. Not that they don’t on their own. They do. But the passion was stronger here than ever before. I’ve always felt the best duets allow the individuals to spotlight their vocal strengths while finding some shared, harmonic area. Lee and Crystal nailed that. They made a strong argument for a Lee-Crystal finale.

2) Casey James and Michael Lynche – “Have You Ever Really Loved A Woman” by Bryan Adams (from the film Don Juan DeMarco) – Another solid duet with some tight harmonies and skillful guitar-work from Casey. Although after singing the opening verse, it seemed to me Casey became Mike’s back-up singer; Casey sounded lower in the vocal mix. That said, “Big Mike” was clearly better suited vocally for the song. And Mike made the most of it, getting more mileage out of his singing here than on his solo song.

3) Crystal Bowersox – “I’m Alright” by Kenny Loggins (from the film Caddyshack) – Hey, at least it wasn’t “Footloose.” Can you imagine someone doing that? I can. He name is Tim Urban, and he got voted off weeks ago. So, this was kind of a cheesy song choice for Crystal. I’m guessing Crystal loves the comedy goldmine that is Caddyshack (as should everybody!!). As such, Crystal probably has fonder thoughts about this song than are really deserved. On a night where the other finalists’ solo efforts came up short, Crystal made the most of this one, giving it an energetic, bluesy-rock, Janis Joplin vocal.

4) Casey James – “Mrs. Robinson” by Simon & Garfunkel (from the film The Graduate) – Oh, c’mon! You know Casey was talked into performing this song by someone behind-the-scenes, right? So the show could play up the whole “Kara DioGuardi is Mrs. Robinson” storyline. Hey, I’m not saying that’s a bad thing. But outside of that particular  storyline on AI9 (like in, you know, the real world), I’m not sure how Casey doing this song is relevant. At least that’s what I was saying as I was tapping my toes and diggin’ this sit-down, ukulele version. It all came together and worked.

5) Lee DeWyze – “Kiss From A Rose” by Seal (from the film Batman Forever) – This is a complicated song to sing. If you don’t believe me, you try and sing it! The vocal range needed is huge. Bigger than what Lee has. So he did what he could. I happen to love his voice. So I enjoy even a lesser Lee performance. This was a lesser Lee performance. Good thing for Lee he had the duet tonight.

6) Michael Lynche – “Will You Be There” by Michael Jackson (from the film Free Willy) – My problem with Big Mike is this. He usually sounds good. Just fine. Nothing really wrong. And yet, I’m just not excited by it. Ever. Well, maybe not ever; “Woman’s Work” was great. So my problem with Big Mike seems to be…I’m not a fan. And it’s beginning to look like that’s not gonna happen. But there’s absolutely nothing about what he’s doing that offends my musical senses. Odd moment: we learned that Big Mike’s goal is to make the Top 3. Really? Not…to win this?

Here’s some predictions. Yep, I continue to make them, even after three consecutive misses! Hey, Shaq doesn’t stop shooting free throws, does he? The Bottom Two tonight seems clear: Casey James and Michael Lynche. Not making the Top 3: Michael Lynche.

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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Michael Jackson: TMZ vs. CNN vs. Perez

TIMELINE: 5:20PM ET — TMZ reports that Michael Jackson has died. 7:15PM ET — CNN reports that Ed McMahon has passed.

Both clever and condeming. I wish I could take credit for the above. It was a friend’s Facebook status update last Thursday. The observation gets right to the heart of the matter. Why did it take CNN almost two hours to confirm what TMZ had reported, definitively (and what had spread ferociously across social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook)? And, why did so many people refuse to believe the story until a ‘legit’ news organization confirmed it?

“Michael Jackson Dies” was the TMZ headline. That doesn’t leave much room for interpretation. Yet, there was papable doubt for many people. My suspicion is that many lump TMZ with the likes of Perez Hilton and other celebrity bloggers. Yes, TMZ’s content, their fascination with Britney, Lindsay, “Speidi,” and whatever famous person dined at The Ivy today, is in line with the “Perezinistas.” But their organization has more in common with CNN. TMZ is owned by AOL, who in turned is a subsidiary of Time-Warner, the country’s third largest media conglomerate. If TMZ blew the Michael Jackson story, they would’ve literally destroyed their franchise. The moment I realized what was at stake for them was the moment I realized the sad news of Michael’s passing was true.

There’s a reason every episode of TMZ ends with that silly graphic of Harvey Levin saying, “I’m a lawyer!” It’s a message that what’s being reported will stand up if tested in court.

Up against the likes of Entertainment Tonight and Access Hollywood, TMZ does like playing the “litte guy card.” That’s great branding on their part. But as I’ve pointed out, they’re just as much part of a media conglomerate as anyone. Time-Warner also happens to own CNN. Interesting that CNN never acknowledged its cousin during those two hours as it stubbornly attempted to report the Michael Jackson story on it’s own terms. Even FOX News noted the TMZ report, as they attempted to confirm with their own sources.

What CNN did give us was a disservice. Updates like, “Michael Jackson Hospitalized.” And the later, erroneous update, “Michael Jackson In A Coma.” The fact is Michael Jackson sadly arrived at hospital deceased. EMT’s who arrived at his house say Micheal was dead when they arrived. So CNN, the “sources” you chose to report and felt were more reliable then TMZ clearly had it wrong.

Now about Perez Hilton. In the immediate minutes after the general news broke that Michael Jackson was taken to the hospital, the controversial celebrity blogger through up on his website what in retospect  appears to be a  particulary insensitive post (below). Working as I have in a medium where immediacy is crucial, I can sympathize with anyone who’s trying to get information “out there” fast. You’re a hero when you get it right. But it can backfire if you fumble. At the very least, Perez should have read the actual words he wrote and thought about what they meant before posting this one:


It’s easy to take shots at at Perez. Especially if you’re among the people that think he’s an ass. But in his defense, Perez is a commentator, not a reporter. If you don’t like his views, don’t read. But with the above post, there was fiery highspeed crash at the intersection of “comment” and “legitimate news.” A statement like Perez’s that Michael Jackson “supposedly went into cardiac arrest” and then to create a theoretical motivation for why Michael would fake such a hospitalization suggests Perez  might want to get out of his mother’s basement more often. He appears to have limitations when it comes to understanding the real world. For starters, Perez might want to bone up on the seriousness of cardiac arrests.

TMZ: Win
CNN: Fail
Perez Hilton: Bigger fail

Greg Valentine
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