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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 — 01.13.10

“Pants on the ground. Pants on the ground. Looking like a fool with your pants on the ground.” Okay, so General Larry Platt is a few years over the cut-off age. Thirty-four, to be exact. But despite age, and dubious vocals skills, this guy was the big hit on American Idol last night.

The Atlanta auditions were more freak show than talent show.

And that’s not a diss. Some funny shiz went down. A few contenders were discovered. And guest judge Mary J Blige was excellent. Gotta love anyone that works the word “anointed” into her assessment, as Mary did when she weighed in on Jermaine Sullivan‘s re-working of Joan Osbourne‘s, “One Of Us.” Jermaine’s great vocal range and control earned him a Golden Ticket.

But about that freak show. First up on the show was Dewone Robinson. He claimed to come from a family of famous Motown musicians. If that’s the case, they’ve disowned him! Then there was Christy Marie Agronow, the host of something called 411 The Show, whose slogan is “keeping you in the know.” She got a big fat, “No!” And how ’bout Jesse Hamiliton, who says he’s almost died three times? Well, last night he almost died again. Minus the “almost.”

I’m not sure what to make of the train wreck that is, “Skiiboski.” And yes, the double-i after the k is the correct spelling, despite what it said in big yellow letters on his own damn red shirt! This dude was thrownin’ every thing at the wall hopin’ something would stick. American Idol logo fade haircut. Street hustla ‘tude, ala Snoop Dogg. The thing is, the dude turned in a solid, soulful “I Heard It Through The Grapevine,” which was totally unexpected (and at odds with the rest of his persona). Simon Cowell dissented. But Skiiboski’s off to Hollywood. Probably going to be a quick trip to Cali. Gimmicks usually don’t play well during Hollywood Week.

Hmmm. Except last season’s annoying Norman Gentle. Skiiboski, you have shot!

Finally, there were a few last night that might survive Hollywood Week. Vanessa Wolfe (“Wagon Wheel”) is an unpolished small town girl from Tennessee with a quirky, authentic country sound. She’ll need a confidence upgrade and a bit of a makeover to make the “aero-plane” (her word) trip to Hollywood an extended stay. Holly Harden (guitar dress) is a doofus with a decent voice. Lose the gimmicks, Holly. Malorie Haley sang “Piece Of My Heart,” and got over-praised by the judges. I thought she was just OK–sounded a little pinched, her range seems limited and she needs to work on her technique.

Finally, we met this season’s Michael Sarver. A cop from Tennessee named Bryan Walker. Nice blue eyed soul version of “Superstar.”  Fans will love this guy. Who doesn’t want to root for a small town cop? Same appeal propelled Sarver into the Top 10.

Those are my thoughts. Chime in! Let me know what you think.

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

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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:

mjperez

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

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Better Twitter: How To Spice Up Those ‘Blah’ Tweets

We see them every single day on Twitter. We’ve even been guilty ourselves. Tweets about our most mundane activities. Okay, so you’re going jogging (again). I get it. Unless you’ve spent the last five years in a wheelchair, not exactly “Breaking News.”

There’s a handful of insipid topics people unfortunately feel compelled to Twitter about. Traffic. Exercise. The weather. You know the ones.

But hey, I’m not here to change anyone. So if it’s REALLY important for you to know that I know you hate rush hour, let’s at least look at some ways to spice up those ‘blah’ tweets.

Instead of: “I’m stuck on 95. This traffic is the worst.”
Tweet this: “Stuck on 95. But I think all these other cars are CGI. So here I go…VROOM!!”

Instead of: “This restaurant’s the bomb–best Mexican food in town!”
Tweet this: “This restaurant’s da bomb. In fact, come to 1626 Penn Ave RIGHT NOW, cause a loud distraction at the front, and someone gets a free dinner!”

Instead of: “Seeing the new Star Trek. Spock is so cool.”
Tweet this: “Seeing Star Trek & doing shots of Jäger & Patron for every scientific wtf? I see (skydiving thru the atmosphere w/out burning up??!)”

Followed about 90 minutes later by: “Just blew chunks on some guy with glasses and pointy ears. My bad.”

Instead of: “I’m exercising. It feels so good to work out.”
Tweet this: “I’m exercising…my prerogative to FART repeatedly while I jog on this treadmill!”

Hope these examples are inspirational. Gotta run now. There’s a loud distraction at the front register…

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

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