Archive for the 'albums' Category

Top 5: Results

Group sing! This group’s inability to harmonize truly is mind-boggling. We’re down to five contestants, and I can’t help but compare their group number to the awesomeness that was Season 5’s Elvis medley. Now that was an amazing moment–Taylor and Katharine and Elliott and Chris all coming together, all sounding fantastic, goofing off together and missing their marks and generally dropping their bullshit personas (well, if you’re not counting McPhee wearing one of her many “Pretty Thing” shirts) for a few minutes to just genuinely have a good time and sing like their lives depended on it. It was one of the best moments of the season, especially in light of the still-persistent rumors that most of the Season 5 contestants secretly hated each other, despite the fact that they all appeared pretty buddy-buddy onstage, and despite the fact that Elliott, Taylor, and Chris all performed together at dive bars during the tour, and Kat McPhee had Kellie Pickler as a bridesmaid in her wedding, and Ace Young wrote songs for Daughtry and all that. Nope, they all totally wanted to slit each other’s throats. But if you buy the rumors, watching that particular performance was akin to peeling an onion — one layer of “oh, they’re all so cute together” revealing another layer of “but they’re so competitive!” on top of “but they totally seem like best friends” on top of “but The Advocate said only two of them were sweet and easy to get along with, while the other two were annoying divas!” And then you started to cry anyway, either because of the sheer beauty of the entire performance or because you realized just how much thought you were investing into American Idol. I’ll leave you to guess whether mine were tears of joy or of sorrow.

But getting back to the actual present, the kids are attempting a Neil Diamond medley. Syesha‘s microphone is strangely turned off for most of it, not that I’m really complaining or anything. She’s wearing an odd little Grecian-style minidress; it’s got one shoulder and is simultaneously slate gray and peach, and it is very short and shows off Syesha’s lovely legs, because she’s onto the game and is pulling out all the stops. You know, I don’t even think Syesha is a real person anymore. I’m convinced that she’s actually Katharine McPhee in a very elaborate Days of our Lives-style disguise. Oh, come on; you know you don’t seriously doubt she’d do it, and besides, being back to traipsing barefoot across the shiny Idol stage has got to be better than wearing a prosthetic pregnant belly alongside Rumer Willis. They do “Brother Love’s Traveling Salvation Show” at the end, which is one of my favorite Neil songs ever, so I wind up happy, even if I still kind of think they all suck in one way or another.

And then Ryan wants to reassure us all that despite whatever you might have read on the Internet this morning, Paula is not being fired, because she is family and they love her, even though she’s really just the cousin that no one likes to talk about, possibly because she’s batshit, possibly because no one’s really sure who her real parents actually are. Paula, for her part, looks eminently grateful in her strange porcelain-doll dress and her even stranger porcelain-doll wig.

Castro, safe. Archuleta, safe. Cook, safe. Brooke and Syesha are called out to the seal, but are never explicitly labeled as the bottom two, which probably doesn’t mean much, but at this point the tinfoil-hat stuff is far more interesting than any of the actual performances. And then Natasha Bedingfield comes out and sings about the sun, looking exactly nothing like she did the last time I saw her, when she was all boho and dancing alongside little cartoon radios. She has straw hair and sad heroin eyes now. I wonder if she and Nelly Furtado ever go out for skim frapps together and compare notes and hair products and their eternal contractual obligations to the underworld.

Neil Diamond sings one of his new songs, “Pretty Amazing Grace.” And it’s awesome. His band’s a little overpowering, and given that Home After Dark is another Rick Rubin production, I’m thinking that the album cut is going to be more restrained. In any event, I like the slight mambo swing of the song. Ryan congratulates Neil for having the energy to still stand on his own two feet, and then we cut to Neil’s mother in the audience, because nice guys like Neil bring their moms places. Ryan asks us why we should all buy Neil’s new album — I’m totally downloading it the minute it drops, by the way — and Neil says “because it’s good,” which rocks. Heh. And then it appears that Simon and Neil have some kind of history together, because neither one seems to like the other very much. Oooh, scandal. One I’m too lazy to Google, though.

Brooke and Syesha hit the seal again. Ryan asks Syesha whether it’s hard choosing what to sing every week; Syesha responds that it is, because usually she doesn’t know the songs. Yes, Syehsa wants us to believe that she didn’t know “I Will Always Love You.” Or “Me and Mrs. Jones.” Or “Saving All My Love For You.” Or “YEsterday.” Oh, just go away. Brooke is already breaking down; she’s sobbing before Ryan even calls her name, and she’s in hysterics before Ruben celebrates her home. Meanwhile, Syesha has placed her hand over her heart in her community-theater way, because she is an actress, and also because she is Katharine. Ryan hands Brooke the mic and tells her “this is gonna be hard.” Oh, thanks, Ryan. She fumbles in the beginning, but looks like she’s getting into the groove, and then my DVR decides it has had quite enough of this. So, your final four — Archuleta, Cook, Castro, and Mercado. I’m partial to Cook vs. Castro when it comes down to the bitter, bitter end.


One for the road.

From Mary Colurso:

Hicks’ voice hasn’t changed much — it’s the same whiskey tenor– nor has his way of delivering a song. A playful slide here, a showy growl there. Maybe a hint of Southern sandpaper. The instrumentation and production values are decent, as well. Notable, however, is the way Hicks’ celebrity has given a sheen to these songs they didn’t possess before. That’s a famous voice singing “Son of a Carpenter,” “The Fall,” “My Friend” and “West Texas Sky.” Those aren’t the best-known tunes in his songbook, nor are they the best written. But Hicks has a highly recognizable style, acquits himself nicely, and therefore gives them luster. Even if “In Your Time” and “Under the Radar” were embarrassing for Hicks — which they are not — the tracks they contain would be worth something as rarities.

Like extra candy in your stocking.

From Nashville Scene:

Oh, Taylor Hicks—the unlikely hero, the gray-haired warrior, the man who brought Ray LaMontagne’s soulful love tune “Trouble” to the masses (albeit in watered-down form)—I’ve decided to love you, goofy dance moves and all. Because in a strange way, there’s nothing more American than this Alabama boy’s journey from the barren barroom to the American Idol stage to the historic Ryman Auditorium. He wasn’t the best singer in the field—not even close—but up against porcelain prima donna Katherine McPhee, you couldn’t help but root for him. Hicks’ self-titled debut is a sprawling, big-budget, easy-listening interpretation of soul, but it doesn’t matter, because just like he did every Tuesday night in front of millions, Hicks is singing his guts out with a refreshing and entertaining lack of self-awareness.

Leslie Hunt is awesome; Simon, not so much.

Leslie Hunt (and fellow bootees AJ Tabaldo, Alaina Alexander and Nick Pedro are up for thier requisite Entertainment Weekly interview. Apparently, Leslie had never even watched Idol before (she says she’s not a bit TV watcher at all), but tried out for it because “You know how the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results? I was doing the same thing over and over and I thought maybe this was a long shot but I’d try something new.” Some other exerpts:

EW: Where do you think you went wrong?
Hunt: It’s really hard to say what exactly happened. I know I’m kind of quirky…Maybe it was just that everyone else is so friggin’ awesome.
EW: Not everyone. You can’t think you were the worst singer up there!
Hunt: I don’t. (Ed. note — ha!) I hope that doesn’t get me into a sticky situation. I don’t think I was one of the better ones, though, as far as pure talent and vocal abilities.

This is a wacky competition this year, in which any woman who doesn’t have that powerful, belting-type voice is made to feel like they’re less talented, and I just don’t think that’s right. Having a loud, booming voice is one particular kind of talent; so is having the type of melted-butter vocals that made me want to listen to Leslie for hours on end. Maybe Leslie wasn’t right for Idol (they rarely reward non-glory-noters; even Taylor Hicks had to hit the occasional falsetto note), but I still want to hear more from her. Anyway, Leslie also reveals that she thought her miniskirt-and-leggings combo was a “damn cute outfit” and that she and contestant Gina Glocksen became very close.

Alaina Alexander has no qualms about picking a Dixie Chicks song, because she felt like she really connected with it. She also reveals that she is not only a singer, songwriter, and guitar player. You know, Alaina might not have had the strongest voice on Idol, but somewhere in there was a nice tone (she just had problems finding it). If she’s going to pursue her musical career, I submit that she’d do much better as the folksy type, where her songwriting, not her singing, will be the true art form. AJ Tabaldo admits that he was “shocked” at being voted off, but feels that Sanjaya Malakar (who got to stay) was tough competition. And says AJ of the judges: “[t]hey told me they felt like I was one of the stronger ones vocally and I need to keep going and hopefully there will be something in the works with one of them.” Hmmm, really? Interesting. Nick Pedro says “there’s no shame in me going home,” noting that even the person with the lowest total raked in a few million votes.

Leslie Hunt talked a llittle more about her Idol run with the Chicago Sun-Times:

I would have liked to have had the chance to rock out a bit more…Watching myself perform ‘Feeling Good,’ I realized, man, I am totally white.”


As for why she was eliminated, she could only speculate. “I’m not really mainstream, and I chose songs that aren’t on the top of the charts,” she said. “It was a risk I felt I should take. I feel better and more in my element when doing things that are true to me. I guess I don’t know America that well.” (Ed. note — America wants instant gratification. They will vote for the flashiest performer and then not buy their album.)

Simon Cowell continues hating on playing a character who hates and Taylor Hicks. He bitches and moans that he couldn’t stand Taylor and that he was right because Chris Daughtry is selling more records. Well, that prove that Daughtry is more marketable, but not more talented (frankly, I think they’re both very talented young men). Also, the great thing about this is that Taylor Hicks most certainly does not give a rat’s ass what Simon Cowell thinks of him, or at least says about him publicly. You reap what you sow, Cowell. You don’t want quirky folks like Hicks running away with your precious Idol crown? Don’t put them through to the Top 24. But equating sales with talent is certainly no surprise coming from Mr. Teletubbies himself (thanks, Chris Sligh; your timing may have been off, but your accuracy wasn’t).

Have another Katharine McPhee album review from Pop Matters:

The music is….slick and seductive and plastic in exactly the way that makes so much of the exploitation in today’s mass media seem not actually exploitive or sexy at all. It says: She’s hot but she’s wholesome but she’s sooo hot but she’s sooooo unreachable but she’s the girl-next-door but her cha-cha is right there behind that striped dress. Oh, and she can sing…[b]ut no matter how many times the Idol judges say “You’ve got to stand out from the crowd”, the end-product of all that competing is to sound like this: wonderfully anonymous, soulfully generic, deeply and utterly secondary to the forgettable songs, which are themselves mere vessels for the delivery of tricked out production—beats and blips and strings and schmaltzy piano where appropriate. It is product, expertly delivered. You can buy it if you please. Like a pizza or a Big Mac…Mechanical and efficient, this album does its job with minimal soul. Simon Cowell smiles and buys a new black t-shirt, and Clive Davis rubs his hands together greasily. Katharine McPhee, on cue, sings and smiles for the camera. America yawns.

Hey, your Romulan ale is flat.

This is the first line of “Pick and Roll,” a song by the wonderful band The Gourds, whose album Heavy Ornamentals I encourage all of you to sample and purchase. NPR ranked the album as one of the top ten releases of 2006. I also highly recommend the song “Burn the Honeysuckle.”

Lots of Taylor Hicks news making its way from my inbox to your computer screen. Let’s start with an interview in the Knoxville News:

“That show is about the voice and the entertaining ability,” he says. “And if you can put those two together, it doesn’t matter whether you’re a musician or not. I really think that that show allows you to blossom as a vocalist and an entertainer”…The sense of competition was “always there,” he says. Now, however, he isn’t worried about his album sales being measured against his Season Five peers such as Katharine McPhee or Chris Daughtry or earlier “Idol” winners such as Kelly Clarkson, Fantasia Barrino or Carrie Underwood. “It’s there for others to create a storyline with, but not for me,” he says.

That’s a pretty awesome attitude for Taylor to have, not to mention a smart one — the comparisons to other Idols’ albums make for a juicy little soap opera, but have no bearing in the real world. After all, is anyone comparing Diana Krall to Nickelback, or Marc Broussard to Fergie? For those who can only enjoy the success of their favorite non-winning Idol by basking in the supposed “defeat” of the winner, it’s a fabulous storyline. But for the man who won it all, who has the unmititaged gall, being a failure and all, to get out of bed in the morning, much less continue to play his music to fans who adore him — yeah, I doubt it means as much.

The Mobile Press-Register is also carrying a lovely piece about Mr. Hicks. Some excerpts:

Whenever [Hicks] catches himself sounding like an artist who’s begun believing his own hype, he begins gently mocking himself. And nearby observers help him do it: Evidently it’s something the star encourages. An example: Asked if he knows the first three songs of the night’s set, he replies that he doesn’t. “Every night is a potluck.” He talks about mixing it up to make the best possible show for the fans. It starts to sound a little grandiose, and someone nearby — a member of the crew, or maybe a relative or friend — goads him with the words “Taylor Made.” Hicks vamps for a video camera that isn’t there. “Every show is Taylor-made,” he says, parodying the kind cheesy self-promoter he evidently doesn’t want to become.


In his pre-fame days he had a taste for classic soul music, and part of his “Idol” storyline was his emergence as a champion of the genre. He still sees himself that way, and he’s proud he’s gotten people to listen. “That’s kind of what my vision was as a kid, growing up on that stuff,” he says. “Luckily I was able to carry out that vision. “I wanted to just make sure that feeling is still there in music.”

These observations about the audience at Hicks’ shows — and the subsequent analysis — is also very interesting.

On some levels, the audience is more diverse than you’d expect from the stereotype that’s grown up around Hicks. It isn’t all middle-aged women, though they are certainly out in force. There are quite a few elementary and middle-school kids present. And the men don’t all look as if they were dragged here by their spouses or dates. But the almost total absence of African-American listeners is striking. Even heavy-metal crowds are rarely quite this white. That stands out for two reasons: The soul music Hicks favors draws heavily on R&B, blues and gospel, forms dominated by black pioneers. And “American Idol” cuts a vast demographic swath across the landscape. A theory comes to mind: Maybe Hicks isn’t so much the spiritual descendant of Otis Redding and Wilson Pickett as he is the heir of John Belushi and Dan Ackroyd, aka Jake and Elwood Blues. They’re remembered for comedy, and “The Blues Brothers” is indeed a funny movie. But “Briefcase Full of Blues” was also a blockbuster No. 1 album. People forget that, distracted by “Saturday Night Live” reruns. Belushi and Ackroyd may not have had a direct hereditary link to the greats of R&B, but they had a sincere love of the music.

I haven’t been to a heck of a lot of concerts in my day, so I can’t comment on the racial make-ups of various crowds. But it is indeed an interesting observation. I don’t think it’s unique to Taylor as an Idol — for some reason, I picture Daughtry’s audience to be as lily-white as Hicks’ apparently is — but I agree with the reviewer that while Taylor may have been inspired by African-American musical legends, his particular style (from In Your Time on up) is hardly straight-up soul. Soul music is definitely Hicks’ base, but he infuses it with hearty doses of Southern rock, Latin rhythms, the plaintive emotion of prairie-country music, some dashes of Cajun spice, and, of course, blue-eyed soul crooning. He’s never been a screamer (and I mean the term as a complimentary description) like Ray Charles or James Brown. So what the implications for audience demographics are, I don’t know, but I agree that Taylor Hicks isn’t a direct descendant of the classic soul legends. A third cousin, perhaps. And that’s not a bad thing; he’s just different, with his own style (albeit one that was a bit watered-down by Matt friggin’ Serletic).

It looks like Taylor’s tour has also inspired a slew of new reviews of his CD. From

Taylor Hicks is here to entertain you. He’s here to make you feel like you’re at a late-summer barbecue, laughing and singing along to his songs in that Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes “Havin’ a Party” kind of way. He’s here to make you dance around like an idiot, not giving a damn if the music is hokey or if he isn’t the world’s most marketable radio star…The good news is, this album is never bad. When it’s good, it’s really fun to listen to, but at times, it gets bland…if Hicks gets better over time, as he did during the Idol competition, he’s going to be putting out good music for a good long time. (three and a half out of five stars)

And from The Sunday Paper:

The Alabama native is a clear-cut pro, able to project and phrase like the gin-mill vet he is…Hicks has genuine pipes, as he proves on a worthy obscurity (Paul Pena’s “Gonna Move”) and a healthy jab at Marvin Gaye’s “Wherever I Lay My Hat.” If he’s fallen victim to a producer (Matt Serletic of Matchbox Twenty fame) who hears him less as a genuine gritty soul singer and more a lite-FM soft-rock soul man in the tradition of latter-day Joe Cocker, well, it’s a proven formula known to work. But it seems a misuse of his obvious talents. (two and a half stars)

I love when the reviewers praise Taylor’s voice. I think he’s got a gorgeous, emotive, gruff instrument, and it doesn’t get nearly enough love, because it’s too much of a chore to take the time to look beyond the image. It’s a shame.

The yin and the yang.

Seems like for everyone who loves Katharine McPhee’s music, there’s someone who hates her, too. I think at this point in time, from what I’ve seen, Taylor Hicks actually got the generally more favorable reviews…though I’d have to go back and check to be really sure. Oh well. You can’t please all the people all the time. And like I always say, no matter what critics or I personally think of her, the important thing is that she’s making music for her fans to enjoy.


[Katharine] McPhee. McDonalds. What’s the difference? Well, Mickey D’s at least offers a value meal. Meaning, maybe a limp batch of 99-cent fries leaves you disgruntled, but you can always ask for some fresh ones. Or something else. With Katharine McPhee’s debut, though, we…are left with this nagging ripped-off feeling. We can’t pay the “American Idol” runner-up another 99-cents for a new set of songs. Though we would give up our fries for them. The limp ones, of course.

Jillian: Gawd, this music is cotton candy.
Chris: Ha-ha! I feel the same way. Her voice is pretty good on it, but some of the cuts are just overly slinky and syrupy.
Jillian: Her voice is average. I mean for the singers that are out right now she doesn’t stand out at all.
Chris: I remember this all-girl group Dream from years ago, and this album reminds me of them.
Jillian: The third song is a total Xtina rip-off!!!!
Chris: It’s too bubble gummy.
Jillian: This is killing me.
Chris: I bet it’ll blow up on radio – sadly.


Be sure to check out the new Top 24’s official American Idol questionnaires — the link is in the sidebar.

From The Ithacan Online:

Katharine McPhee, the first runner-up from season five, has released a self-titled debut that is overproduced and personality-deficient, falling short of fans’ high expectations. What McPhee lacks in control of her voice, she makes up in depth and flavor. R&B tracks like “Open Toes” and “Everywhere I Go” showcase her personal vocal style, making up for the confusion caused by sad, Clarkson-esque attempts like “Over It” and “Better Off Alone.” “Dangerous” is one of the best pure pop songs on the album, with a great hook and killer vocals. The lyrics, unfortunately, land somewhere between corny and cringe-worthy… (two out of four stars)

From the Ohio State University Lantern:

McPhee’s self-titled debut album is confusing and immature. The 22-year-old has a lot of growing up to do before she can become the next Kelly Clarkson. The album definitely shows she is struggling between being a fun and sassy college girl and an adult. Some tracks are mature ballads, while others are girlie-club hits. While an album should have variety, it should not sound like a homemade mix. It was like listening to Celine Dion, Jessica Simpson and even Britney Spears all in one album. The worst is the silly, unnecessary track, “Open Toes.” Yes, we all know that the four-inch heel Steve Madden open toe shoes were very “in” this season, but there is no need for a song about it.”

October 2018
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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. "