Archive for January 16th, 2007

American Idol, Auditions 1: Minneapolis

Not too many memorable characters tonight (discounting folks who dressed up in American flag robes and such)…but a few worth noting.

Denise Jenkins was a tiny little sixteen-year-old with this year’s requisite sympathetic backstory (mother with drug problems, this, that, and the other thing), but her rendition of “And I Am Telling You” was simply amazing. I’d love to see her advance, but unfortunately, Idol history does not bode well for hyped-up teens such as Lisa Tucker and Paris Bennett, who never lived up to the potential they displayed in their auditions.

Her hips don't lie.  And neither does her unimpressive vocal talent.Perla Menenses was another contestant who tried her hand at the poor-me card — emigrated to the U.S. with nothing but two suitcases and a guitar, was homeless for a period of time, but it’s a “survivor” story, not a sob story (yeah, which is why she’s milking it for all it’s worth…). Despite ticking me off by misidentifying her ethnicity as Spanish (as in Spain the country), then stating that she was actually from Colombia (as in…not Spain the country), then further ticking me off by flirting with Ryan, I liked the tone of her speaking voice and figured that she’d probably turn in a decent performance. But unfortunately, her rendition of Blondie’s “Call Me” was less than stellar, and her “Hips Don’t Lie” perfectly showcased curly-headed Perla’s clear desire to establish herself as a Shakira copycat. Inexplicably, the judges put her through, although I don’t expect her to make it out of Hollywood.

Matt Sato needs to fire whoever waxes his eyebrows, but lucky for him he has an intriguing, boy-band-meets-raspy-goodness type of voice. But how versatile is he? The Hollywood rounds should shape that out.

U.S. Army reservist Rachel Jenkins looks like she could be this year’s McPhee (well, sans the fact that Katharine woudn’t be caught dead in BDUs) — a pretty, fresh apple-cheeked face that could be transformed into something really spectacular once the makeup artists get ahold of her, and a voice that is lovely and pure, yet nondescript and ultimately unremarkable. She has spunk, though, and despite some minor criticisms of her vocal control, she is put through.

Nineteen-year-old Sarah Krueger turned in a smokey rendition of “Over the Rainbow.” Despite cracking a bit on her glory note, she had a very interesting, warm unique tone to her voice, and the judges put her through. I like her, and even though she sang the song nearly exactly the way McPhee sang it, her voice is different enough that I almost didn’t mind.

Josh Flom and his pretty cool father (I like a man who can admit that he wishes his son had grown up to be a sports player, but that he supports him anyway) wants to be “just like Chris Daughtry.” Groan. Unfortunately, he sounds like Chris Daughtry with a bad case of laryngitis. The judges accuse him of being “fake rock” (uhh…show me someone who’s “real rock”). Simon poses a question: “It’s week 7, it’s ABBA week; what do you do?” Josh proposes to make it his own; the judges give him 15 minutes to pick an ABBA song and come back. A nifty rock version of “Dancing Queen” plays in the background as Josh frantically tries to find someone, anyone who knows what the fuck ABBA is. I admire the kid’s grit, but unfortunately, his voice just isn’t up to snuff, and he isn’t passed through.

And at the end of the day, only seventeen people make it through to Hollywood…

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Smooth sailing can be a bad thing.

Meredith Ochs reviewed Taylor Hicks for NPR’s “All Things Considered.” She started with the general disparaging remarks (paunchy, dances like a frat boy, looks like the love child of Jay Leno, etc.) The gist of the review is that there are too many ballads –it’s just too smooth a ride. And Ochs, like most reviewers, believes that the finest songs on the CD are the ones Hicks wrote himself–especially “Soul Thing,” where the reviewer feels Hicks does his best vocal work. Ochs wishes that Hicks had recorded more of his original material and concludes “Listen up, Taylor: America chose YOU to be its Idol; let’s hear more of what you’ve got.” I agree. Listen to the review here.

Classy!Katharine McPhee wasn’t nominated for a Golden Globe last night…but that didn’t stop her from bring out two of her own. Seriously, McPhee, there’s “push-up” and then there’s “your cups runneth over.” WAY over. Or maybe pushing your boobs up so high that they look like water balloons about to burst at any second is the new classy. Kat’s the expert; she would know. Katharine will also appear on FOX News’ “The BIG Story with John Gibson” tonight. Ahh, John Gibson…I used to watch him back in the day (1998) when he was on MSNBC and relentlessly covering the Lewinsky scandal. Memories, memories.

Gear up…

Tonight’s the night — a new season of American Idol is upon us. I myself don’t care much for the audition phase — I’d much rather wait until Hollywood Week and the Top 24 are announced. Despite my sneaking suspicion (and desperate hope) that I won’t get “invested” this year, you just never know. Anyway, I’ll have the auditions on in the background for some white noise, and I’ll try to point anyone (or anything) I found interesting.

Also, with the dawn of a new season upon us comes the inevitable slew of reviewers, bloggers and critics gnashing their teeth. Harold Howard Cohen (I can never get his name right), the Miami Herald’s music critic, is back renewing his hatred for Taylor Hicks (I mean, to put it in perspective: I don’t like McPhee; Cohen hates Hicks). (EDIT: A brief E-mail exchange with Mr. Cohen revealed that his hatred for Hicks seems to be, at least to some extent, for show; he enjoyed many of Taylor’s early performances, and voted for him over McPhee in the finals. Oooh, and he loves 12 Songs. So he can’t be all bad.) But Cohen isn’t the geographically closest reviewer to me. No, that would be the FABULOUS Leslie Gray Streeter of The Palm Beach Post, my hometown paper. So what’s Leslie got to say about the new season? Well, she’s got a list of songs she wants forever banned from the Idol stage. (I’ve got my own; let’s see if we agree). (Leslie’s got a lot more to say, including suggestions for replacement songs, so be sure to click the link.)

1. Falling, Alicia Keys
Why it should be retired: It’s a fairly boring song, musically. And if you’re not an extremely controlled singer, it’s a one-way trip to Caterwaul City.

2. You Are So Beautiful, Joe Cocker
Why it should be retired: Taylor “Joe Cocker Jr.” Hicks owns it. Not you.

3. I Have Nothing and I Will Always Love You, Whitney Houston
Why they should be retired: Because you are not Whitney Houston. (Ed. note–Are you listening, KATHARINE?) Heck, Whitney Houston isn’t Whitney Houston anymore. These are her signatures, from the height of her once-storied vocal powers, and you just can’t do them without evoking that glorious memory. So don’t try.

4. Anything from the Dreamgirls soundtrack
Why it should be retired: Because it’s the hottest thing smoking right now, and it’ll be tempting to jump on the bandwagon. Stay away from the wagon.

5. Saving All My Love For You, Whitney Houston
Why it should be retired: Because it’s a boringly constructed song about having a pathetic affair with a married guy who’s obviously never leaving his wife. Every contestant who’s ever done it seems to just be singing a collection of pretty notes, completely oblivious to what she’s singing about. And when the singers are teenage girls? Ewww.

6. Unchained Melody, Righteous Brothers
Why it should be retired: It’s Simon Cowell’s favorite song, and the chip is on his shoulder the minute the kid starts singing. Also, it can get boring. (Ed. note–And plodding. And monotonous. And unending…)

7. The Queen catalogue
Why it should be retired: Last season, the righteous operatic rockers appeared as guest geezers of the week, with all the contestants singing their stuff, so it’s been done. Also, the songs are mini-operas with multiple chapters that often get edited down for time reasons, stunting their natural drama.

8. Alone, Heart
Why it should be retired: The ladies have been plundering the coffers of the Sisters Wilson for the last couple of years quite well. But why not spread the love to some of the other rocker mamas?

9. Father Figure, George Michael
Why it should be retired: Last year, Ace “Neo-Constantine” Young tried and failed to capture the previous year’s spellbinding, scary-sexy treatment Constantine Maroulis gave this song. (Ed. note–Why don’t I remember that?) So cut your losses and don’t do it again.

10. I Don’t Wanna Be, Gavin DeGraw
Why it should be retired: Two years ago, Bo Bice did a bang-up job of this then-current anthem of self-expression. Last year, my beloved Elliott Yamin did it again. Done a third time, the audience might express themselves by falling asleep. (Ed. note–I didn’t think Elliott’s version was all that. Plus, he was wearing a hoodie.)


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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. "