i’m a beLEEver : )

Well America, like it or not, your American Idol is….(cue unnecessarily long pause where Lee nearly vomited on himself and Crystal appeared to stop breathing) LEE DEWYZE! The paint salesman from Chicago beat out the single mom from Ohio by a close margin, capping off what some claim to be the worst season of Idol thus far. I wouldn’t say worst…maybe more like most boring? Most phoned-in judging?

I was never a huge Crystal fan, so I was happy with the results. Going into the show last night, I honestly had no clue who would win, because I don’t put much faith in stuff like DialIdol, but I think it came down to the fact that Lee’s fans were more likely to mobilize and vote because he appealed to a younger audience.Regardless if you were a staunch MamaSox supporter or not, you had to smile just a teensy bit at the outpouring of gratitude and pure excitement from Lee after he won.

It will be interesting to see how well Lee does in his post-Idol endeavors; Entertainment Weekly posed the question, “Will Lee be the next Kelly Clarkson or the next Taylor Hicks?” I think it’s wayyyy too soon to tell; let the guy tour, soak in his new life, figure out what kind of music he wants to make, and then pass judgment. I urge any haters to check out Lee’s pre-Idol stuff on YouTube or iTunes before they make any snap decisions.

I made it through 42 episodes of American Idol, which probably means I lost about 60 hours of my life to this show. I will never get to reclaim those lost hours, but I had fun watching and recapping. From the shocking elimination of Alex Lambert to the misused Judges’ Save, and all the way through to the finale, it was an interesting ride.

Thoughts on (the second hour of) the finale:

-LOVED Casey James and Bret Michaels singing “Every Rose Has Its Thorn.” Did not love a celebrity who nearly escaped death and had a minor stroke last week performing without telling his doctor.  Bret is the ultimate Comeback Kid, though.

-Not gonna lie, I was enjoying Larry Platt’s dance moves during “Pants on the Ground.” When William Hung came out, however, he just ruined the fun.

-Paula Abdul looked great, but her “roast” of Simon was so awkward.

-All of the past Idol winners and top 12s from past seasons coming back to sing to Simon was a great TV moment. It’s easy to forget how many people have experienced success from this show.

-Joe Cocker kind of scared me…

-Departing musical director Rickey Minor did not get any acknowledgment from the show, which is a shame and kind of embarrassing on the producers’ part.

Photo courtesy of Reuters.

‘american idol’ top 16: eight girls is enough.

I first need to acknowledge the wonder that is one-hour episodes of American Idol. All the filler was gone and the viewers were left with an emphasis on performances, as it should be. Last night was the final episode before the top 12, as we were reminded every five minutes.
Katie Stevens began the night with Kelly Clarkson’s “Breakaway.” I really should like Katie, considering we share the same home state, her mother is an alum of my college, and her brother is currently a sophomore at my alma mater. However, I find that Katie brings nothing new to the Idol stage. This performance was the youngest she’s ever seemed, which is about 30. She started the song too low, and then her voice just went flat on the chorus. Based on the judges’ comments, they seem to have given up on her. I think Katie may be traveling back to Connecticut at the end of the week. Simon’s comment that she “kind of sucked….the air out of the room” was classic Cowell.
Siobhan Magnus, however, won’t be returning to her home state of Massachusetts for a while. I don’t care what Simon said; her performance of the Animals’ “House of the Rising Sun” was brave, on-key, and showed the amazing amount of vocal restraint she has. Starting the song a cappella takes guts and confidence in your vocal abilities. I hope Siobhan goes far into the top 12, because she’s the only female contestant I really enjoy.
I’ve been rooting for Lacey Brown since Hollywood week, and I think last night was the first time she picked the right song for her voice. Brandi Carlile’s “The Story” highlighted all the uniqueness of Lacey’s voice, and while it wasn’t a performance I’ll remember in six months, let alone six weeks, I think it’s enough to carry her into the top 12.
Katelyn Epperly may not have done enough. Her performance last night was the epitome of “phoning it in.” I don’t care if she claimed she was trying to be less cheesy; the girl stood behind her Wurlitzer with the same kind of enthusiasm I muster for folding laundry. Her vocals on Carole King’s “I Feel the Earth Move” were okay, but it was like Laurie Partridge 2.0 with the plaid jumper and the lackluster musicianship. I think she might be in danger of going home tonight, unless the buzz from last week’s “The Scientist” can propel her into next week.
Watching Didi Benami‘s performance of “Rihannon,” I was sure that the judges were going to rip her apart. It was like a bad coffeehouse performance, and I’m not sure if Didi was actually playing her guitar. Poor Stevie Nicks; after Taylor Swift murdered this same song at the Grammys and Lacey murdered “Landslide” a few weeks ago on the Idol stage, she’s probably not very willing to lend her songs to others. I already aired my grievances about Didi’s tone and lockjaw, but tonight I realized she over-enunciates her words to boot. And seriously, enough with the waterworks. I don’t care if they’re happy tears or not, just stop. This woman is one criticism away from a mental breakdown.
Someone who rightfully shed tears last night was Paige Miles, who definitely reached the end of her Idol journey with a whispery, shaky take on Charlie Chaplin’s “Smile.” I don’t know why she picked the song if it evokes such strong emotions in her, because clearly her emotions got in the way of delivering a good performance. It was hard to watch a verklempt Paige try to explain her song choice to Ryan, when she clearly knew the song was her death sentence.
Unlike seemingly every person on the American Idol payroll, I’m not drinking the Crystal Bowersox Kool-Aid just yet. Her semifinal performances, including last night’s version of Tracy Chapman’s “Give Me One Reason,” are good, but they’re a bit predictable. I know what I’m getting each week, and while the judges like to think it’s because Crystal “knows what kind of artist she’ll be,” I think it’s because she’s a one-trick pony. Just wait until the top 12 theme nights, Miss Bowersox. I can’t wait to see how she puts her girl-with-a-guitar spin on the Barry Manilow catalog, or better yet, disco week! I think Crystal may soon suffer from the backlash that comes from being excessively pimped by the judges. Despite what Simon claimed on Leno the other night, I don’t think this competition is Crystal’s to lose.
Closing the show was Lilly Scott, with a take on Patsy Cline’s “I Fall to Pieces.” She carried a mandolin, but I couldn’t discern it among the horrific sounds made by the Idol Karaoke Backing Band, nor did it appear that she played it very much. Instruments are not props, Idol contestants, but rather a privilege. The whole performance was weird, from the arrangement to the weird ensemble Lilly was wearing: balls of yarn hanging from her ear lobes, granny boots and a gray patchwork dress. The vocals were so-so, but none of the judges touched on that, maybe in their haste to end the show. I think Lilly is going to have to break out of her “look at me! I’m quirky!” box to be a true contender in the top 12.
The boys perform tonight at 9 – tune in for another hour of performances from men with middling talent. Seriously, this season kind of sucks.

american idol top 24: boys on the side

After Tuesday night’s two-hour torture session with the girls, I was anxious to see if the top 12 guys could deliver more entertaining performances. There were some standouts, but it was mostly a sea of mediocrity, with the judges being as hypocritical as ever.
Before I get to critiquing Todrick Hall‘s performance, let me take a moment to ask the judges, “WTF are you smoking?” During Tuesday night’s show, they chastised the girls for singing carbon copies of songs instead of making them their own. Then, we have two male contestants, Todrick and Andrew Garcia, who are inventive enough to take two well-known songs and completely, creatively rework them, and suddenly the judges are crying foul and boo-hooing that the songs are unrecognizable. Stop the hypocrisy! Todrick was brave enough to take on Kelly Clarkson’s “Since U Been Gone,” which I would argue is the most well-known song from any Idol alum. He took the pop-rock anthem and turned it into a jazzy R&B-style jam. It was hard to remember the original while he was singing, but I took that as a good thing. Apparently the judges did not, because they all panned it. Regardless of what they think, Todrick’s performance was 10 times better than anything the girls sang last night, so we’re already looking up.
Aaron Kelly, the less-annoying David Archuleta type, sang Rascal Flatts’ “Here Comes Goodbye.” The performance is mediocre at best, but his voice is well-suited for country. Simon had encouraging words for him, so hopefully Aaron can shake the nerves and pick a better song next week.
Jermaine Sellers picked Oleta Adams’ “Get Here,” a song that should be retired from the Idol canon ASAP. His version was sharp and full of show-offy runs that just emphasized the sharpness of his notes. Randy thought he looked great; I thought Jermaine looked like Charlie Chaplin gone wrong. I have a feeling he’ll get through this week, but he’s going to need to pick more interesting songs to make it into the top 12.
I wondered why the powers that be chose Tim Urban to replace the ousted Chris Golightly. I soon found out it wasn’t for his talent, because his performance of OneRepublic’s “Apologize” was stiff, awkward, and hard on the ears. The song’s chorus has a prominent falsetto, notes that Tim could not reach. It just became embarrassing after a while. Even the judges gave up on trying to help him, telling him that he’ll get votes because he’s cute. Ouch.
Joe Munoz, seen very little prior to last night, has a terrific voice. His choice of Jason Mraz’s “You and I Both” was a smart one. I’ve always thought that song would do well on Idol, and Joe was the perfect fit. I really hope his lack of screen time doesn’t lead to his elimination tonight, because I think he has a lot of potential, and a great, rich tone to his voice.
Oh, Tyler Grady. I think you and your ’70s swagger are just fabulous, but the schtick wore a little thin last night. Singing the Guess Who’s “American Woman,” it came off as a paint-by-numbers Jim Morrison performance. Stage presence is not a problem for Tyler at all, but I think his vocal abilities got lost in his stylings. America knows Tyler is talented, so now he needs to come out and wow us with something unique.
Lee Dewyze may have been plucked out of a frat house; someone give this boy a makeover, please. The graphic tees and knit caps have got to go. His version of Snow Patrol’s “Chasing Cars,” however, can stay. Lee wisely tweaked the melody, but not to the point of unrecognizability. He has a pleasant rasp to his voice, and his sound is very radio-friendly. I’m not sure if he has enough momentum to crack the top 12 as of this week, so he’s going to have to be very smart with his upcoming song choices.
John Park also needs to smarten up when it comes to picking songs. Billie Holliday’s “God Bless the Child” suited his baritone well, but my god, that was the slowest, most drawn-out performance of the night. Nothing screams, “Take me seriously as a modern recording artist!” than a song that most people’s grandparents fondly recall from their youth. There’s definite talent in John, he just needs to modernize himself if he wants to go far into the top 12, which I have no doubt he’ll make.
Mike Lynche chose Maroon 5’s “This Love,” which I thought to be an odd choice for him. It was, as it forced him to use his guitar as a prop instead of actually play it, and his vocals seemed forced and breathy. At this point, I think his personality will send him farther in the competition than his talent, and that’s just disappointing to whoever gets booted in favor of the new dad. (PS – go spend some time with your newborn, will you?)
Alex Lambert (whose name I initially typed as Adam) is confidently rocking a pseudo-mullet that he doesn’t seem eager to part with. Get this child to a barber. However misguided his hair style may be, his choice of James Morrison’s “Wonderful World” was perfect. Alex was awkward as anything on stage, but his vocals were great, and he’s got a nice, soulful tone that sounds a lot like Morrison’s. Ellen’s analogy about ripening bananas was spot-on about Alex; the talent is there, he just needs his confidence on stage to ripen.
Casey James’ performance of Byran Adams’ “Heaven” was passable but bland, except for the shenanigans going on behind the judges’ table. Can we drop the “Kara loves Casey” thing, please? It’s awkward to watch, and from the look on Casey’s face during his judging, is awkward to experience too.
The male recipient of the pimp spot is Andrew Garcia, which I saw coming from a mile away. He took Fall Out Boy’s “Sugar, We’re Going Down” transforming the song from high-energy to low-key and jazzy. Being a huge FOB fan (go ahead, make fun of me,) I loved Andrew’s take on the song. Hands down, he has the best song picking sensibilities in the competition. The judges, however, HATED IT, which once again made me declare that the judges are stupid.
I would say that collectively, the guys were better than the girls, but not by much. Hopefully everyone can shake the first-week jitters and start churning out some water cooler performances next week.