Archive for January, 2007

Served up piping hot and fresh.

Ken Barnes likes Katharine McPhee’s album, although he alludes to the fact that his colleague Elysa Gardner does not. (Her review has not yet gone live.) Here’s some of what he has to say:

It’s not flawless by any means. There are some unfortunate choices of material, some of which make Katharine sound awkward trying to be down with the sounds of today and and others that just make for tedious listening. The overall sound is not that different from the glut of Britneys, Jessicas, Ashlees, Paula DeAndas, JoJos and so forth, but Katharine adds another dimension because she’s a fine technical singer…

Over It: The album’s first single is a standout. I’m always a sucker for those acoustic-guitar intros (my extensive collection of the works of Frankie J attests to that penchant), and this is just an immediate grabber. On first listen, I’d class it with the very best singles by an Idol…

Do What You Do: Second clunker in a row, but in a different style entirely. This strays too far into Fergie/Pussycat Dolls territory, that cutesy egotistical how-hot-am-I stuff that makes you wish Fergie or the P. Dolls would just get over themselves and doesn’t work at all with Katharine, who’s clearly trying too hard to sound like a club-banging hottie…

Overall, there’s enough borderline hackneyed material to prevent me from going any higher than three stars out of four, but I am impressed at how well she pulled off this project, and how good she sounds doing it. When you hear it, let me know what you think. (three out of four stars)

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American Idol Auditions 6: Los Angeles

Ooooh, L.A. Proved too much for…most of the contestants this evening. We open with a soft-focus-lighting shot of Katharine McPhee, last season’s California contestant, arching her back dramatically, singing her omnipresent “Over the Rainbow” while splayed out on the floor. (Oh, wait, I forgot. Katharine doesn’t want you to concentrate on her looks. Well, except for when she does.)

The kids are joined by Olivia Newton-John today. Oh, Sandy!

We start off with “fiery,” panther-imitiating Martik Manoukian, who wants to be…well, a famewhore, basically. After partially de-robing, panther-crawling up to the judges’ table, and doing a dance that makes Taylor Hicks look like Mikhail Baryshnikov, he proceeds to shriek and growl his way through a song. Aaaaaand it’s a no. Ah well. Onto acting. Or choreography. Or songwriting. Or more…prowling.

Sholandric Shallworth admires Julio Iglesias for his “romantic” take on love songs. (I…didn’t know there was another kind of take. My bad.) Unfortunately, the closest Sholandric’s version of “If Ever You’re In My Arms Again” comes to is “romance” is imitating some kind of primal mating call. He’s out.

The “peanut butter jelly time!” guy ROCKED.

Marianna Riccio is this year’s McPhee; meaning, she’s living her mother’s dream. Well, except that her mother has already apparently had a decent career, as one of Dean Martin’s backup singers. Marianna, dressed in some faux-rocker-grrrrl garb that looks like it was fished out of Ryan Starr’s trash can. She’s terrible, and when she gets rejected, she gets down on her knees and begs, but it doesn’t work. Too bad, so sad.

Next up is Alaina Alexander, a self-described “struggling L.A. performer.” She’s sweet, with quirky Marisa Tomei-like beauty. She also know that this is her last shot — it’s either this, or the horror, the terror, of…college. Nevertheless, I like her personality. Her singing, unfortunately, isn’t up to par. Simon thinks she’s great (mainly, I think, because she is very pretty); Randy calls her out on her very evident pitch problems, but she is put through. I don’t expect to see much more of her, though.

Notice how Katharine is always bathed in glowing light and butterflies and puppies playing when she’s shown, whereas Taylor is generally depicted being mocked by crazy contestants like Eric Chapman and now Phung Pham? Well, get used to it, because that’s how this show rolls, folks.

Brandon Rogers, rumored to be Top 24, has toured as a backup singer with the likes of Anastasia and Christina Aguilera. (Anyone else immediately think “Ooh, Brandon Rogers/Melissa Doolittle THROWDOWN!” Just me? Okay then.) He’s warm and personable, with a mega-watt smile. And as expected, he’s excellent, though his vocals aren’t unique.

Sixty-four-year-old Sherman Pore started a petition to get himself on American Idol as a way to give his dying “lady love,” as he calls her, a little spark of life as she battled cancer. He tells the audience, through tears, that he believes his little drive helped his love keep a positive attitude through her illness. Before the judges, he reveals that she passed away a mere two days before his audition. As Paula cries, he launches into a quite moving rendition of “You Belong To Me.” He has a lovely, old-style crooner’s voice, tinged with the slight shake of sadness and the onset of old age. Not even Simon can say a terrible thing about him. As he leaves the room, he says into the camera, “I won.” I love him. ETA: There’s now a petition to bring back Sherman for the finale. Hooray!

Grab bag.

From CinemaBlend:

It’s easy to assume that this debut record would be conjured up with lovey-dovey ballads, but that is not the case. With the exception of “Each Other” as the one straight-up love ballad and “Home,” which I think has spiritual connotations, the tracks are primarily geared toward the broken-hearted, bitter, Ben & Jerry’s-devouring single woman. You know—the type who says men are all jerks and she always has bad luck with them, despite always dating the same type of guys over and over.

So we have a contrast between the “hot” and “not” duking it out in this one. The good songs are really good and the rest are…well, not. In any case, Miss McPhee should be proud of herself and this mixed-bag first attempt, which will likely sell a lot of copies and get a bunch of radio play. The 22-year-old has a hot voice and enough sex appeal to transcend her to the pop elite, just so long as she plays her cards right. I would merely advise her to not travel down the same path of her personal idol, Whitney Houston; just lay off the rocks, sweetheart.

From The 451 Press:

The CD, which was released today, is a mix of all things pop and R&B. The music — almost from start to finish — is the kind of stuff you can expect to hear while shopping at the mall. In other words, it’s the kind of music that easily can be forgotten.

Maybe I’m a little frustrated, because I wanted to hear a ballad-heavy release from McPhee. Instead, bubble-gummish pop tunes such as “Not Ur Girl” and “Dangerous” sound more like the early work of Christina Aguilera and, dare I say, Britney Spears. It’s almost like McPhee is trying too hard to fit in somewhere, somehow…McPhee’s voice still is sweet. It’s just not the McPhee that led us to catch McPheever. Seriously, the only song that will give you faith in having supported this girl — at least if you were in it for the ballads — is “Ordinary World.”

From The New York Daily News:

“Katharine McPhee” tempers a Beyoncé album with the mall-baiting R&B of Mariah Carey. Cuts like the likable opening ditty, “Love Story,” have the same percussive attack of something from Jay-Z’s girl, but the chorus sweetens it with sugary pop…The album’s harder R&B beats give McPhee an edge she never had before, while the caramelized choruses suit her mainstream character. In “Dangerous,” there’s even a bit of crunk in the trunk (courtesy of the dance-club synth riff), but no one will mistake this for a Lil’ Jon record. It’s factory safe for the girliest of girls. More attention seems to have been paid to the first half of the album than the second, which downshifts into a bog of ballads. But overall, McPhee has made one of the most pleasing, and commercially attuned, of the “Idol” CDs.”

Gives McPhee an edge? Snerk. I’m assuming this guy doesn’t get out much.

American Idol Auditions 5: Birmingham

Birmingham, Birmingham…pretty city in Alabam’…

And away we go. Now, granted I was taking notes and watching the show while battling a searing, electrifying and inexplicable pain in my left leg. I am attributing it to the stiletto knee-high boots I trotted out today. (That’s what’s missing from “Open Toes” — the verse about Charley horses and tendonitis!)

So we start off (or at least I start off) with Katie Bernard, who has the voice of Minnie Mouse and a decent singing voice. Her style and manner is incredibly affected, though. Randy wouldn’t put her through, but Simon would. The verdict falls to Paula, who finally gives Katie her golden ticket after she drags in her husband (who looks waaaay older than Katie’s 19 years; and seriously, what the hell is a 19-year-old doing married, anyway? Oh, right; making me feel inferior for daring to be 24 and not married!).

Next up is pint-sized Tatiana McConnico. She’s fantastic, she’s spunky, she’s all the things Paris Bennett rightfully should have been but never was. And her style is adorable. I like her a lot, and so do the judges, who call her the best of Birmingham so far.

Following Tatiana is Diane Walker, who seems to have a genuinely warm personality. She’s a big girl, no doubt, but she doesn’t possess Mandisa’s elegance or, if we’re being honest, her beauty. She also has zero control over her voice, and is not put through to Hollywood.

Bernard Williams needs to lose the George Huff-esque ‘stache. He’s good, but…eh. Is it too much to ask for a man who sounds like a man? Interestingly, while Simon and Randy are a’ight with him, Paula thought he was off-key (PITCH! PITCH!) and wouldn’t have given him the thumbs-up.

Next up is Jamie Lynn Ward…or shall we say Kellie Pickler, version 2.0. But Jamie outdoes Kellie in nearly every way possible–bigger boobs, big Claire Bennet hair, and a sadder backstory (her father shot her cheatin’ stepmother, then himself; now he’s paralyzed, and she lives with her grandma). Unlike Kellie, however, who was all tears, Jamie Lynn brushes it off with a drawlsy “it’s okay.” Sure it’s okay; everything’s okay when you’re willing to whore out your family’s personal tragedy for a shot at fame! Anyway, Jamie Lynn’s singing isn’t all that fantastic, but she gets put through anyway. Naturally.

The much-hyped Chris Sligh makes his debut appearance tonight. He’s quite witty and wry, explaining that while others look at him and see Jack Osborne, he looks in the mirror and sees Christina Aguilera. When the judges ask him why he’s there, he says he’d like a shot at making David Hasselhoff cry. Hee! His singing is very good, but nothing special, nothing unique. He’s a personality contestant at best, unless he really improves in Hollywood.

While Jamie Lynn is blonde, big-breasted and vapid, adorable Nichole Gatzman is brunette, olive-skinned, and has a husky alto that manages to inject a little life into “Somethin’ to Talk About.” A little life. Still, I thought her voice was excellent, and a refreshing change from Idol’s usual cabal of screechy belters. And if Nichole were blonde and poutier, she’d either have been passed through to Hollywood immediately, or at least given an opportunity to sing another song. But, this being Idol, she’s turned away.

And that was Birmingham. Lots of talent, but nobody knocked my socks off. So far, Sundance Head is still my pony, and I tend to stand by my picks…

Spoiler update.

Some more names have been added to idolforums’ list of spoilers. Previously confirmed: Jordin Sparks, Blake Lewis, Chris Richardson, Gina Glocksen, Phil Stacey, Antonella Barba, Sundance Head, Chris Sligh, Brandon Rogers (who we’ve yet to meet). But there are a few new names in the pot now (and some previous names that were showing up on old spoiler lists haven’t made this one yet). Take a gander:

Marisa Rhodes, whose famewhoring photographs prove that she’ll need a serious image retooling if she expects to win over those Bible Belt voters. Provocative young misses sell records; they don’t win Idol, unless they couch their naughty nature in sweet prom dresses and classic songs. Just ask Katharine McPhee. She has a MySpace filled with wide-eyed photographs, but no music for your sampling pleasure, though her header proclaims that she is “a little bit blues and a little bit rock and roll.” I can’t imagine her singing the blues in a wet torn T-shirt and underpants, but…we’ll see.

Word is now that Sanjaya Malakar has made the Top 24. I didn’t think the kid was that great, myself, though he’s prime material for a Tiger Beat cover. I’m thinking he’s this year’s Will Makar.

Jared “JL” Cotter wants to capitalize on the whole Usher and Timberlake (whatever) phenomenon. His MySpace (which does have music; it’s standard R&B, breathy vocals, stupid rap…perfect VH1 music video fare) obnoxiously declares himself “the future of R&B,” and a song called “If You Were My Girl” has the dude name-checking himself. Uhh, no. You’re not famous enough to do that yet, man.

Pavlov’s pop star.

Says Katharine McPhee of her debut single, “Over It”:

It’s a good little breakup song..It’s one of those songs where after hearing it you will never ever again be able to say, ‘I’m so over this right now’ or ‘I’m over him’ without breaking into song. It’s one of those infectious songs that I just have absolutely grown to love and want to listen to all the time. Well … I don’t know about all the time, but it just is always in my head and I think it’s a perfect single to introduce to people what I’m doing with my music. [emphasis added]

Katharine doesn’t need her music to be good. She just needs it to be an involuntary reflex for the masses, like jerking your leg and cursing when the doctor taps your knee, or perhaps like yanking your hand away and howling in pain after touching a hot stove. Either analogy works when you think about it, really.

Anywhoo. From Star-Telegram.com:

Over It is a slickly-produced pop track with a kick-him-to-the-curb message that will have teenage girls, never to be underestimated in their power to make beautiful girls famous, swooning. McPhee’s voice sounds beautiful, and she nails every note. But, and I’m not surprised I’m saying this, her incredible voice talent cannot hide the fact that she might indeed just be a shimmer-cheeked singing robot. She’s a bit … generic. Technically great, but boring. For a track that’s all about the heartbreak that is moving on, there’s very little actual feeling in the song…McPhee sounds more awkward with every song. She’s so horrible at her attempt to be ghetto that it’s almost adorable. Like when your super well-behaved friends goes “wild” and orders a strawberry daqueri.

I would have worn my open toes to celebrate, but it’s 45 degrees outside.

GIRL POWER! Is that anything like TURTLE POWER?Katharine McPhee performed “Over It” on Jay Leno last night, and…eeek. It wasn’t terrible, but not even her hardcore fans are championing it as a great performance. I watched it, and I couldn’t help but notice how incredibly uncomfortable Katharine looked. On Idol, she really began to cultivate a particular image in the last six or so weeks on the show — diva belter, big glory notes, dramatic hand and body movements. That’s Kat’s forte performance and style-wise, and I’d like to see her play into that big Broadway, torchy side of her. It’s also where her voice is strongest. But she seemed to know that it would be inappropriate during this song. So while the hand movements and the broad smile came out at a few intervals, they were almost immediately pushed back in as Katharine remembered what she was singing and reverted to standing shyly behind the microphone, shoulders hunched. The most drama and passion she allowed herself to inject into the number was to rip off Beyonce’s patented “pretty girl angst” choreography — touch hand to head, make pained facial expression, run fingers through hair, make a fist and Shake It Defiantly. It didn’t work. Oh well. Here’s to next time.

From The Boston Globe:

[L]ike Kelly Clarkson before her, McPhee’s debut doesn’t do justice to what she likely has to offer. Out today, this unbalanced but promising self-titled debut follows the established “Idol” formula almost to the letter. (Mercifully, the throwaway number from the show’s finale is not included.)…The first single, “Over It,” is a soul-spiced, mid – tempo kiss-off of the sort that’s been especially popular of late — see Beyoncé’s “Irreplaceable,” JoJo’s “Too Little Too Late” (by the same writers) and Clarkson’s “Since U Been Gone. ” It’s a good style for McPhee. Yet her generic vocal makes it sound as if it could be a demo for any one of the above. An obligatory pair of big, blowsy Mariah Carey-style piano anthems should play to the core “Idol” audience , but they do nothing to illuminate who the 22-year-old California native is beyond a pretty girl with a pretty voice. A few ill-advised flirtations with the type of sister-friend soul associated with Mary J. Blige — impeccably produced by Hills — only manage to make McPhee seem squarer than she actually is, and a lite-reggae number is best not spoken of again. But for almost every ridiculous song like “Open Toes” — a slick dance track that’s supposed to be in the sassy Christina Aguilera mold but, by being about shoes, is just silly — there is a gem like “Better Off Alone.” This ruminative blues sounds relaxed and emotionally honest, and plays into strengths McPhee displayed on the show.

From The Daily Texan Online (and the answer is “because Taylor had passion and was more interesting:”)

After “Love Story,” we get to “Home,” a soft, semi-ballad that recalls Christina Aguilera’s cornball hits. From there you get to “Dangerous,” a quick up-tempo jam you could easily have pulled from a Rihanna album. But later on she belts out amazing tracks that bring back memories of her unforgettable performance of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.” Her voice shows amazing strength and growth that really sets her apart from the numerous contestants that have come and gone, failing to make even a dent in the industry. Looking back on the album, you can’t help but be impressed. The development of her voice from an untrained, at often times, strained sound to the mature, pure resonance on the album only leaves one question in your mind, “How did she not win the whole thing?”

A track-by-track review from PhillyBurbs.com, where they seem to think the only way to listen to this record is to completely blot out the lyrics:

Katharine McPhee says her self-titled album “really reflects me, a 22-year-old girl who knows what it’s like to fall in love and to have her heart broken, and also a girl who likes to have fun and enjoy life!” If the sum total of Katharine McPhee’s life experience is in fact represented on this CD, then she’s got a LOT of living to do. The truth of the matter is the album’s lyrics read as if they were swiped from the diary of an immature 14 year-old writing about puppy love…[the lyrics to “Over It”]: “You never were a friend of mine, hurt at first a little bit, and now I’m so over, I’m so over it.”
Translation: I lost my virginity to some dude I didn’t even know. But like, whatever! [The lyrics to “Dangerous”] “I didn’t see the crash that burnt the bridge. I didn’t see the missile that sank my loveship down. Oh, I felt the hit, it was as hard as a brick. It made me shift, and left me damaged.” Translation: Your enormous “missile” sunk my “battleship!” Seamen overboard!”


January 2007
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What the kids are sayin’



"I hate them all. The judges, TPTB, the blatant manipulation, the songs, the contestants, everything. I'm a die-hard Cook fan, but for the love of god, at least try to look like you're enjoying yourself up there! Please? Syesha was awesome but she ruined it by being completely shameless and disgusting. Yes, being on American Idol is exactly like the civil rights movement, except for the part where you're fighting to make the world a better place."



"All I can say after the disgusting display tonight of favoritism towards the mediocrity that is David A. - good luck trying to market and make money off of that kid, American Idol. (Not to mention good luck dealing with his father.) All the teeny boppers may buy up his American Idol coronation single, but they will quickly forget about him before the album comes out. And I shudder to think of a David A. album - song after song of unrelenting sameness and heavy breathing. Why they are pimping him for the win is beyond me."



"This show was simply a hot buttered mess tonight. And Jason "needs to be arrested for what he did to I Shot the Sheriff. But I hope he stays. He amuses me. "