Posts Tagged Ryan Seacrest

What’s Wrong With ‘American Idol’? Maybe Its Viewers

Casey Abrams, American Idol, Smells Like Teen Spirit

Casey Abrams avoided an early exit when Idol judges saved him.

Ryan Seacrest hinted during the American Idol results show last night that there was a shocker on the way. And he was right. Haley Reinhart didn’t get sent home — wasn’t even in the Bottom Three. Shocking!

Who almost got sent home was Casey Abrams, the scruffy-breaded, sometimes wild-eyed growler. I’m not saying Casey could win, or should win. But an exit this early? Hardly just.

And the judges agreed, using their lone “save” to keep Casey in the competition.

Some of the water cooler talk surrounding Idol the last few seasons has been this basic question: “What’s wrong with American Idol?” I say, maybe it’s the people watching the show.

American Idol has developed a huge credibility problem over the last five seasons. An Idol winner hasn’t become a bonafide superstar since Carrie Underwood (Season 4). My theory goes like this. As the show got higher and higher ratings, voting by viewers became less instinctive at picking the next music superstar.

Taylor Hicks, American Idol, Season 5

Taylor Hicks

In other words, right about the time your grandma starting watching the show, we started getting winners like Taylor Hicks instead of Chris Daughtry. Oh, and I’m not blaming your grandma. ‘Cuz she’s awesome!

I’m blaming viewers? I’m a really saying this? Yep.

Have voters become extremely predictable, especially favoring guys over girls? I wrote about that last season Read it here — how around Top 12 Week we often see all-girl Bottom Threes. And right on schedule,  it happened again this year. Guys tend to find “supporters” quicker. And it’s clear that favoritism continues through the season.

Four out of the last five winners have been guys (Taylor Hicks, David Cook, Kris Allen, Lee DeWyze). Interestingly, the lone female Idol winner of the last five years, Jordin Sparks, has sold the most albums of those five winners.

So there ya go. It’s the voting. It’s clear viewers of this show prefer the Kris Allens over the Adam Lamberts. I think that explains why Casey Abrams nearly departed before his time.

Most of all, I miss the days when an Idol winner was someone who could be a superstar. When it come to winners, gimme more Kelly Clarksons. More Carries. Fewer Lee DeWyzes.

Greg Valentine
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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 – 05.12.10

So, last night Michael Lynche was eliminated (again) on American Idol. Here’s a few thoughts this morning, to use Ryan Seacrest‘s careful wording from last night, “in no particular order.”

First off, those Seacrest words were kinda an important detail last night. If you missed them, you might’ve assumed Crystal Bowersox was in the Bottom Two. We really don’t know. The finalists were sent to safety (and the Top 3) one at a time, starting with Casey James, then Lee DeWyze, then Crystal Bowersox.

We don’t know who got the most votes. We don’t know who got the second least. All we know is Big Mike got the lowest amount. Some Idol fans might be frustrated by that. I’m not. In fact, I kinda like knowing that I don’t know. It adds an element of surprise to the two upcoming weeks.

This brings up another thought. Is a Lee-Crystal finale a done deal? They seem to have been the front-runners for a while now. Is there anything Casey can do next week to change that? I don’t know the answer to that. I’d be curious what others think.

I see two sides. On the one hand, yes, they’re the front-runners and it makes sense. Casey’s been in the Bottom Two a couple times. Lee and Crystal have never been. On the other hand, the last two seasons have had guy vs. guy finales, making it seem the block of females who simply vote for their favorite “cute guy” have taken over once and for all. (And c’mon, you know that block of voters exists. Don’t hate on me for pointing it out.)

And let’s not eliminate one other scenario. Casey delivers an amazing performance next week, and America responds with well-deserved votes, sending him into the finale. I honestly like all three. So whatever happens, I’ll be sad to see one leave, but happy for the other two.

Nevertheless (here comes another thought), I think I’m on board with the growing number of voices out there saying this is one of Idol‘s most boring seasons. No Paula Adbul. Simon Cowell seems like he’s already moved on mentally to his next show, the U.S. version of X Factor. And after a season featuring contestants with pipes and big-to-solid personalities (Adam Lambert, Kris Allen, Danny Gokey, Allison Iraheta), this season’s Top 12 are a bit dry.

But I think it’s too easy (and too “fashionable”) to say this is the most boring season. The fact is Crystal Bowersox is unlike any Idol contestant before, not unlike how Adam Lambert was in his way last year. In some previous seasons, the likes of Bo Bice and Diana DeGarmo made it into the finale. Heck, Taylor Hicks won the thing! I’d hope even the biggest Crystal hater would agree she’s more talented than the likes of them.

Another thought, what’s the real point of the “Judge’s Save?” Is it to give a performer another chance to win the show? I say no. I don’t think anyone who gets saved will ever win Idol. There’s some fundamental reason why people weren’t voting for that person that won’t go away just because the judge’s override America’s decision.

Clearly, the save is a ratings gimmick for the show, thought of in some brainstorming meeting as producers looked for ways to freshen the show as ratings began to dip. Whether it’s helping ratings remains to be seen. The one thing The Save does do is help a performers recording career. No doubt Michael Lynche will sell more music now then he would have if he’d gone home six weeks ago.

A couple other things we learned last night: winning American Idol doesn’t guarantee you’ll sound great my to ears six years later (Fantasia Barrino, who wowed me back-in-the-day, but not-so-much last night); Finishing fourth on Idol doesn’t mean you won’t go on to be the show’s third biggest-selling artist (Daughtry, my fave then…and now); And that Bon Jovi rocks. I guess that last one was never really in question.

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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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 — 03.17.10

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 — 02.25.10

Airtime. Airtime was the wildcard that affected the outcome last night the most on the season’s first results show of American Idol. There’s no doubt that three of the four sent home had been shown less than other singers in danger of leaving.

Did Joe Muñoz sing worse than Tim Urban Wednesday night? Absolutely not. But who is Joe Munoz? We barely know him. Little airtime. Tim Urban, on the other hand, we know as the guy who they brought back, who got a second chance. A familiar face from Hollywood Week and his audition. Plenty of airtime.

So Muñoz was sent home last night. Urban spared. Also heading to L.A.X. this morning, bags packed for home, are Ashley Rodriguez (a ghost since her Boston audition), Janell Wheeler (the exception to my thesis about airtime), and Tyler Grady (memorable audition, haven’t heard him sing much since).

The point being, at this early juncture, viewers vote for who they know. And they mainly know who they’ve seen. Airtime.

It also didn’t help that so many performers gave so-so performances this week. If you were trying to predict who was heading home, you could’ve made the case for 50 percent of the Top 24. Tough one to call. And “call it,” I did not! One for four. Ouch.

Before the results show, here’s what I said:

Here’s who deserves to go home: Girls) Ashley Rodriguez and Haeley Vaughn. Guys) Jermaine Sellers and Tim Urban.

Here’s who WILL go home: Girls) Ashely Rodriguez and Lacey Brown. Guys) Tim Urban and John Park.

Of course, Idol voters are notoriously attached to their favorites, and often push them through despite the vocal “evidence” to the contrary. That’s why I distinguish between who deserves to go–and who will.

Oh, well. At least that last sentence rings true. Here’s a recap, from the live blog version of this writing, of the rest of last night’s show:

At the top of the show, Ryan asks Simon Cowell why he was “harsher than normal” on the contestants last night. Simon denies this, giving that “I’m just Simon” explanation. And he’s right. Clearly Simon’s judging last night was not the “buzz of the nation” today as Ryan bombastically claimed. Fact is, the first two nights have been weaker than expected.

Then on to the group number (“American Boy” by Estelle). It’s really hard for the individual singers to distinguish themselves in these numbers. They’re basically lip-syncing. Hard to mix so many live mics and make it sound good. Really, that’s the reason. Idol producers have acknowledged this in the past. And with 24 contestants, “choreography” consists of following the person in front of you.

Last season’s fourth-place finisher, Allison Iraheta, is back, performing a song called “Scars.” One of my faves from last year seems more grown up. Maybe it’s the ballad she’s singing. I prefer her pop-rockin’ first single to this. This one’s getting away from her, a few reaches for notes that aren’t there. And I’m not sure Allison totally believes in the song, based on the quirky faces she’s making. Ummm, quirkier than usual for Allison.

Footage of Tyler Grady from yesterday’s rehearsal is pretty funny. Apparently he showed up in a bathrobe and boots, thinking wardrobe would have some clothes for him. They didn’t. Not a dress rehearsal. So he sings his song as is.

They take a pause to bring on Kris Allen and talk about Idol Gives Back and raising money for earthquake relief in Haiti. Kris does a version of the Beatles‘ “Let It Be” that feels heartfelt and right for the occasion. Kris’ song will be available on iTunes, the money going to relief efforts. Best performance this week–by far!

Montage of the four departing contestants is set to the song “Leave Right Now” by Will Young, the first winner of Pop Idol in the U.K. Listen here.

Greg Valentine
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