Archive for the 'taylor hicks' Category

Most mixed-up non-delinquent on the block.

Taylor Hicks made a big announcement today — he’ll be spending this summer playing the Teen Angel in Broadway’s revival of “Grease.” I happened to catch this show last year when I was in NYC, and while I’m no theater critic, the show was definitely a lot of fun (although I’m not entirely sure that the Danny and Sandy who won “You’re the One that I Want” are necessarily the Danny and Sandy I would have cast…but, whatever). The Teen Angel role, while small, is traditionally stunt-cast, so Taylor should fit right in.

And according to People, Taylor’s new album — which he’s considering self-releasing — has a country flavor to it and will have political undertones. (Note — the “country” part seems to be speculation on People‘s part; the political stuff is a quote from Hicks). That’s interesting — quite a 180 from the happy-go-lucky Soul Patrol-shouting dude who pirouetted up and down the Idol stage, no? Let’s just hope that his political rants are of the heartfelt, truly-disturbed-about-the-state-of-the-country variety and not of the condescending Sheryl Crow variety (you mean to tell me that gas is expensive because it is sold by corporations that want to make money? ZOMG, you’ve just blown my mind!).


Final 3: Performances

Ryan tells us that last summer, three people took a chance and auditioned for an obscure little cable-access show they call American Idol: “A high-schooler…” (David Archuleta grins), “an actress…” (Syesha makes a stupid face), “…and a bartender.” (Cook laughs.) Randy has crazy sideburns tonight, Paula’s hair is looking fierce (if not a bit shellacked), and Simon’s hair still looks like a Brillo pad. And good Lord, after seven years, Randy is still booing Simon. Make it stop, please.

The top three come out, looking polished and divalicious. Syesha still has that awful weave and is wearing — brace yourselves for this — a sparkling gold dress. We cut to Murray City, Utah, where the mayor has THE. MOST. AWESOME. MUSTACHE. EVER. It’s some kind of combination of handlebars and whiskers. It’s inhuman. The mayor is wearing an awful star-spangled jacket to compliment Dadchuleta’s awful newsboy cap.

Archuleta starts us off with Paula’s choice — Billy Joel’s “And So It Goes.” He begins the song a cappella, and he’s doing a fairly nice job with it in the beginning, but he completely breaks the emotion toward the end. You don’t song the “…and so will you, I soon suppose” line like it’s your biggest, bestest glory note ever, because it’s a very, very sad line. Do you know sadness, David Archuleta? Or has your father rendered you numb to all emotion? Randy and Paula love it; Simon calls it good, but predictable.

Shill for iTunes. The judges are all drunk. Unlike David Archuleta, who got a whole day named for him, Syesha is in the back of a car somewhere in Tampa when she gets a text message telling her that she will be singing Alicia Keys’ “If I Ain’t Got You,” as selected by Randy. I am telling you guys, I am just bowled over by the unpredictability of these choices tonight! Yawn. It’s a serviceable job; Syesha can’t resist flashing those Katharine McPhee-esque Love me! grins at the camera. It’s a much-improved version over her attempt to do this performance on “The One,” but it’s completely uninspired. Randy disagrees with me, thinking it was “amazing.” Paula applauds Syesha for tackling Alicia and says that she looks “stunning,” but refrains from commenting on the actual performance. Simon says Syesha sang it well, but he slams Randy’s song choice as unoriginal. Heh.

David Cook is on some local television show or something when he gets his text — Simon’s pick for him is “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face.” It is a Gaines-ian arrangement, as I predicted a few posts back, but this is Idol, so he gets stirring violins to make it kind of Neil Diamond-ish. The camera keeps cutting to an attractive, middle-aged woman in the audience, who I’m going to assume is David’s mother, unless it’s the head of his fan club or something. David gives a lovely, understated performance, but Randy manages to make the critique have nothing to do with David and everything to do with some little feud he has to do with Simon, saying that he wished David would have rocked it out more. Simon said it was one of David’s best performances, and I have to agree — it was very reminiscent of when Taylor Hicks sang “You Are So Beautiful. Simple, elegant. Ryan says that their stage manager had tears rolling down her eyes, and then they cut to that woman again, so maybe she’s the stage manager? But then Ryan says that David’s mom was crying, too, and David wishes her a happy Mother’s Day, and they cut back to the same woman, so there you have it, and clearly Idol has hired another technical genius to replace Bruce Gowers.

Kiddies’ choice! Archuleta chose “With You” by Chris Brown, which he gasps and wheezes was incredibly difficult for him to learn. He sings one damn note and the mosh pit goes crazy. Isn’t this a song about sex and women and cars? Why does David — and this arrangement — make it sound like something that would appear on Kidz Bop? Oh, and also, he forgets the lyrics. Twice. I have to say…this is pretty bad. He’s just not pulling this off. He tacks on a stupid run at the end, making things even worse. Randy applauds David’s courage but says that David singing lyrics like “my boo” is about as believable as McPhee rapping about not being able to wait to sleep with some guy at a nightclub. Well, he doesn’t say that, but that’s where it is on the scale, really. Simon also finds the different song choice refreshing, but says that it was a bit like a chihuahua trying to be a tiger, or something to that effect. Yeah, just about.



Also? A chair has been placed in the center of the stage for Syesha to “work.” She’s sexing up Rickey Minor again, which is just all kinds of weird, and she actually has a great little sexpot act going on (except when she breaks character to flash that stupid “See how great I am?” smile of hers). Generally, her voice sounds great on this, except for the end when she shrieks up an octave. I don’t know, I thought the song fit her range well, and her acting wasn’t as obnoxious as it usually is, but the response from the judges is tepid at best. Randy and Paula offer lukewarm praise of the “you sang it well” variety; both express surprise that she would pick this song. Simon calls it a “lame cabaret act” and expresses disappointment that Syesha would use her one chance to showcase the type of record she’d like to make to choose a fifty-year-old song. Which, I get that point, but how do we know that that’s not the type of record Syesha would like to make? Actually…do we know what kind of a record Syesha would like to make? (Answer: She will record whatever she is told will win her a Grammy). And why even bother asking, since the record she’ll make will be the record Sony/BMG tells her to make?

Straddling the Syesha Chair, Ryan chats with Cook about his personal choice — Switchfoot’s “Dare You To Move.” Which is a nice song, but a little boring. Eh. Okay, I don’t think he’s doing that great on this song, at least not in the beginning. He’s mumbling, and he’s off-pitch. He is also not daring us to move so much as he is daring us to moo. Then he hits the glory chorus, and it gets a little bit better, but he still seems kind of off — he’s sliding flat on all his notes. There’s a red rose tacked to his guitar. Randy loves the song choice, but calls it pitchy. That it was, my friends. Paula — this takes a bit of translation — critiques the arrangement, saying that it didn’t really build until the very end, and then it was over. Simon doesn’t really have much to add; he proclaims the middle round mediocre. Someone in the audience has a “Cougars for Cook” sign. Heh. Somewhere in Alabama, Taylor Hicks sees it and makes a mental note to give David Cook a phone call.

With the producers’ round under way, we are back to classic schlock for David Archuleta — he’s got Dan Fogelberg’s “Longer.” Blech. It’s okay, classic Archuleta, nothing new. Randy says it was “another hot one,” which is a lie. Simon hated the song choice but says that Archie probably did enough to get into the finale.

For Syesha, the producers’ choice is “Hit Me Up,” which is interesting — I thought this was her personal choice, but this makes more sense. SHE IS WEARING ANOTHER SEQUINED OUTFIT, because she is trying to kill me. Ugh, this song is awful. And either Syesha really let Simon’s criticism of “Fever” get to her, or she is royally pissed about having to sing this song, because at some point during the song she says “eh, fuck it,” and stops hitting notes on pitch, and her hip wiggles become really listless, and I even think I see her roll her eyes. Paula says that she’s not sure that this is the song that defines Syesha, and Syesha says “yes,” because really, who wants to be defined by a song about penguins? Simon tells Syesha that she’s never going to top her Sam Cooke moment and that this song isn’t going to get her into the final two. Syesha, this would be a good time for a little backtalk, because you didn’t pick the song! But instead, she just stands there and grins like an idiot. I actually feel kind of bad for her now, because she just got steamrolled badly, and even though I’ve had my issues with her personality, she’s scrapped her way through this entire season, whereas others (coughcoughARCHULETA) have been able to coast through on mediocre performances.

Well, we know that TPTB want David Cook to win this whole shebang, because for him they have chosen “Don’t Wanna Miss a Thing,” which is like Nigel Lythgoe’s perfect musical climax. He even gets an entire half-moon of violinists surrounding him. It’s rough at the beginning, but he works it out at the end. DIANE WARREN is in the audience, waiting to sink her vampire teeth into Cook. Randy is unimpressed, calling it “predictable,” because that is somehow David Cook’s fault. Paula loves it, and Simon declares that Cook wins the night, which yeah, he did.

Recap: Archuleta cannot comprehend love (via Billy Joel) or sex (via Chris Brown), but can comprehend sexlessness (via Dan Fogelberg); Syesha derives energy from sequins, because the less she wears, the more she sucks; and Cook does subtle and understated better than he does, well, David Cook.

Will go home: Syesha, because it has been decreed.
Should go home: Archuleta, for giving us one completely misguided performance, one atrocious one, and one boring one.

Top 4: Results

Oh, results. We need a good fourth-place shocker boot this year, don’t we? And the only ones that would fit that bill would be David Archuleta and David Cook. Well, it ain’t gonna be Archie, because after rambling incoherently in response to Ryan’s rather simple questions, he gets sent off to the couch of safety.

Something happens involving dolphins and makeovers and a Cirque du Soleil show. Wouldn’t it be funny if dolphins got makeovers and performed next week on American Idol? It’d be more exciting to say the least. David Archuleta’s makeover almost makes him look like an adult. David Cook moans and groans about getting a manicure. Syesha is wearing an ugly green dress, and her natural hair is back, but it’s parted all weird. Meh.

David Cook is quickly sent to safety, which means that there will be no shocking boot this season. Yay, because based on performances those two deserve to be in the final three, but boo, because I like my drama. Jason Castro is the one who deserves to go (seriously — I like the kid a lot, and I think it’s rather obvious that he sees right through this show and has had quite enough of it, which is cool, but it’s definitely his time to go), and even though Syesha had a decent night last night (relatively speaking, anyway), she’s hit the seal so many times that her departure wouldn’t be shocking under any circumstances, really. Anyway, Syesha seems to have raided Kristy Lee Cook‘s closet of spangly shirts. Is it just me, or is her tank top on backwards?

Pimpmercial. The Family Cash won’t release “Ring of Fire” for hemmorhoid-relief commercials, but shilling for Ford and the decline of American culture is cool. The final four are all dressed up as matadors. Cook looks smug, Archie is just golly gosh g-g-g-g-grateful to be there, Castro is at least having fun with it, and Syesha think she’s at an America’s Next Top Model shoot. Blah.

The Taylor Hicks postage stamp is introduced and passed over as quickly as can be, just as you knew it would. Didn’t all the other past winners get a full screen to showcase their stamp? Did they get applause? I haven’t been paying attention.

Stupid question time. Emily from Pennsylvania wants to know if David Cook will go out on a date with her. Emily is only 24 but has a full-on smoker’s rasp in her laugh. Some moron in the audience screams “do it!” Cook plays along for a while, but looks tremendously uncomfortable and pissed throughout the entire thing, especially when Emily says that she’ll do whatever David wants. Scary. Sweet Sarah, only 14, wants to know what everyone’s biggest challenge has been. Syesha’s is stage fright (gag, but it might explain her over-reliance on pageant poses, so okay), Archie doesn’t know what his is, and Castro’s is “the brain being dead,” because he’s just given up. Someone else wants to know why Simon hasn’t been knighted by the Queen. “Good point,” Simon snots. Thirteen-year-old Mara wants to know how Syesha feels being the only girl in the top four. I like when the little kids and tweens call in; it’s cute. When you see “76-year-old Margie” flash on the screen, it’s a little weird. Marla makes some comment about Simon being the next James Bond, and Simon turns to the camera to tell “Mr. Broccoli” that he’s available. I’m assuming he didn’t mean this Mr. Broccoli.

Maroon 5 is going to sing now, and I’m going to stab myself in the ears. The lead singer is just…oh, my goodness. He has this shrill little voice, and I remember him making some list of Men You Should Find Sexy, and I almost lost my lunch. I am sure he is a perfectly nice gentleman in real life, but…sorry, but twiggy, pencil-legged little men who wear eyeliner and high heels just aren’t my idea of sexy. But hey, maybe it’s my problem. Anyway, this song sucks. Adam Levine speaks, and his speaking voice is just as high as his singing voice, hee. But as it turns out, he has a sparkly, lovely personality. Oh, I like him. Maybe I jumped the gun on this one. Still not sexy, really, but cute. Witty. Oh, you sneaky little man, you! Ugly suit though. What? I’m feeling like I need to balance out my compliments tonight.

Oh, it is time for Bo Bice! Bo has stopped conditioning his hair, which is great. Remember the last time he performed solo on this show, how shiny his hair was and how tight his pants were and how very, very angry he seemed to be with the whole thing? Good times, those. He’s singing “Witness,” and as far as I can tell, these are the lyrics:

Garble garble garble
Needle deedle do
Garble garble zazzle blurgh
I need a witness
When you talk to me
(twing-twang Peter Frampton machine)
Naudle waumagh nee, naudle waumagh ow
Garble dwabble dwee, garble dwabble dow
I need a witness
When you talk to me
I need a witness, baby
Won’t you set me free

And hey, it’s already better than the coronation song they’re going to foist upon those poor kids, so score one for Bo Bice. He is very sweaty. He’s happy that everyone gets to play instruments this year. Bo pimps his not-so-new album See the Light, which is actually pretty good — far better than the drivel of The Real Thing.

FF through commercials. I think I see Ace Young singing something, but whatever. Bottom two. We run through Castro’s performances, and he makes some stoned comment about shooting a tambourine or something. Recap Syesha’s performance. She’s still friggin’ smiling, but it’s a smile of fear. Jason says that his inexperience is shining through, and Syesha tries to explain that she was emotional because she’s living her dream, and also because of the meaning of the song and how it’s changed because we might have a female president or a black president. Yes, Syesha. I’m sure that’s what you were thinking up there while you were on stage being critiqued on national television! I see Syesha! the Cylon is back — and she’s here to stay, because mighty Jason has finally struck out, and he’s sent packing. He mumbles something about being happy that he doesn’t to sing three songs next week. I think. And he looks really, really happy. Wow. This is the most ecstatic sing-out I have ever seen. Hahahaha. I adore it. So long, Jason Castro! Your time was up, but I’ll miss your smile and your awesome attitude.

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.

Top 6 Results

Not much to note about the opening number, really. I guess it’s funny to note how Syesha and, to a lesser extent, David A. manage to know where the camera is at all times, whereas the other contestants are either too caught up in the moment or too petrified (or relieved) that their time in this funhouse is ending. They’re all dressed a lot more casually tonight, too. Carly is back in sleeveless, Syesha looking like hot dog condiments, and Archuleta’s in an ugly T-shirt.

Lord Webber comments that “among” the top six are some very talented kids, which implies that also among them are some untalented singers, which is hilarious.

Recap: Syesha looking dynamite but not wiping that smirk off her damned face; Jason having given up a long time ago; Brooke completely losing it; Archuleta doing absolutely nothing different, but doing it competently; Carly being fun and energetic; and David C. going all Rawk Opera on us.

Time for a chat with Lord Webber, who is asked by Ryan about Brooke’s meltdown. We cut to her a few times, and the look on her face is…discomforting. There is nothing but absolute terror in her eyes. But Webber praises her rehearsal as “flawless,” which seems to ease the tension a bit. ALW manages to get another dig in at Jason, chastising him for not taking any of ALW’s sage advice and again using all his inner restraint to not take off on an old man tangent about the kids these days. Man, I cannot wait to hear what Neil Diamond has to say about this lot next week.

The commercial has the Idols doing a really awful rendition of “Tainted Love,” but the concept is cool — “Take On Me” meets Heroes, with David A. as the comic-book artist and the rest of the gang looking like the cast of The Fifth Element.

Laura Bush looks more and more like Jack Nicholson’s The Joker every day, doesn’t she?

We’ve pared down the group enough to have a bottom two instead of a bottom three. We remember how Randy described David C.’s performance as a “molten hot lava bomb,” which sounds like something I’d buy in the candy aisle of Walgreens, but not necessarily something I’d download off of iTunes. David C. is asked why he sang the song straight this week, and his answer manages to merge his love of Andrew Lloyd Webber and his desire to be unpredictable by being predictable, which makes a lot more sense coming out of his mouth than it does on this blog, I’ll tell you that. Archuleta whimpers something unintelligible, but it doesn’t matter, because both of them are safe. They are sent off to the couch with promises of working with Neil Diamond (yay!). Ryan then tells us that After The Break, we will be treated to a performance by Leona Lewis (…snore).

Rundown of Idol contestants who are now on Broadway. Tamyra Gray in Rent, Clay Aiken in Spamalot (in which he is supposed to be quite good). He has a lot of foundation on, but at least he has about a metric ton less product in his hair than he usually does, so points for that, I guess.

And here we have Leona Lewis. They’re talking all about how she’s the best artist ever in the history of the world, which is funny, because her debut album only sold 200,000 copies here in its first week–not bad, but not great for the money that Sony invested in her, and it’s widely rumored that her disappointing numbers were the last straw for Clive Davis. Well, anyway, I have to say that this is the first time I’ve seen Leona live on anything, and I’m surprised by how…real she looks. I mean, sure, she’s got the Tyra weave goin’ on, and she kind of looks like what you think Jocelyn Wildenstein would have looked like if only she’d stopped one or two surgeries in. But she’s surprisingly curvaceous, and by curvaceous I mean that she’s bottom-heavy and has cankles. She can really sing, too; not that she does much singing of the actual melody of the song — most of that’s synthed, and most of her lovely notes come in the form of Mariah-esque melisma, but whatever. Her singing style consists of a lot of thrusting her chest and stroking the microphone stand, which I’m sure Syesha is studying with the most critical of eyes. But overall, I like her more than I thought I would, even if her song really sucked.

Syesha and Brooke are brought onstage — the yin and the yang; Syesha is all obnoxious winks and eyebrow waggles and babbling about how much fun she had last night because she got to pretend to be someone else, because have you heard? She’s an actress! Brooke says that she probably wouldn’t start over again if she had a second chance, and she apologizes for her habit of talking over the judges. And Brooke…is safe! She’s completely stunned; Syesha attempts to giggle it off, but you can see the what the fuck in her eyes as she takes her place on the stool. And yeah, I’m not a Syesha fan, and if takes an elimination for her to finally get the message that the voters aren’t buying the community theater routine then so be it, but if we’re going on performance alone, it’s Brooke who deserves to be on the stool, not Syesha.

Becky O’Donahue, one of the first Top 24 cuts in season 5, is shilling for Verizon now. Maybe they’ll do a segment one day about Idol alums who ended up in commercials? Oh, I also forgot to mention earlier that you can now buy Fantasia stamps if you’re so inclined. I don’t think the in-house audience is, as this news is met with only the most tepid of applause. I totally can’t wait until they have to pimp the Taylor Hicks stamp…which should be two weeks from now if we follow the schedule.

Syesha is in tears on the stool. It’s sad. But at least it’s real, instead of the coquettish bullshit. Carly’s praise is recapped, as is Jason’s “trainwreck,” in which he “learned a lot about cats.” Carly makes some very honest admissions about how throughout the competition she’s been choosing songs to showcase her technical proficiency, but she hasn’t been showing her personality, which is a nice self-aware moment. But no matter Carly’s spiritual awareness, America don’t care for Jesus Christ Superstar, and Carly hits the seal along with Syesha. Simon pipes up that the voters probably liked Brooke’s humanity and Jason’s charm, despite his awful performance. The two repeat their performances, and I’m grateful to hear Carly’s performance again. She’s royally pissed at the beginning, but she finds her grove about a third of the way through. Syesha is up next, and she immediately assumes Diva Starting Position #1, because unlike Brooke, Syesha’s greatest fear is that we will discover that she IS human, and for whatever reason, she simply cannot have that. She has forced that awful smile on her face for the first half of the song, but then she gets out into the audience and improvises more, and the condescending fake smile becomes a real, genuine smile, and it’s a very nice moment. But being completely honest, I really just don’t like her voice. She’s technically very good, but she has no soul, no depth, no warmth. It’s the shell of a much better singer’s voice, but there’s nothing on the inside. And I think the voters know this, and this, I think, is why despite some very proficient performances, she has failed to connect with her audience.

During her performance, we get a brief cut to what looks like some kind of disagreement between Carly and Ryan. Sadly, it’s far more interesting than anything Syesha is doing.

Randy calls it a “popularity vote” because both girls sang very well last night. I don’t think that Syesha sang well last night; maybe more people agreed with me than I thought. But not enough, apparently, because Carly gets the axe. Now, I know that a lot of people had their problems with Carly. You take a girl who previously had a two-million-dollar recording contract with a major record label, a girl who was promoted to the hilt but whose album still flopped so spectacularly that her story now serves as an example of how the labels can really screw things up, and then you ask America to believe that she just happened to make it through an audition process that is widely known to cast characters, not talent, and there are bound to be some problems. And a lot of people viewed Carly as rather disingenuous about the whole situation. And really, she seemed kind of desperate for a while there, didn’t she? So it’s a shame that just when she started to loosen up, people stopped caring about her. But I wish her good luck, and I hope that her prior failings — which, really, are her label’s prior failings, not hers — don’t hamper her now that she’s gotten this exposure.

Clean sweep.

Despite my long and comfy hibernation, I felt compelled to author a post after the recent spate of Idols parting ways with the Sony/BMG behemoth. Unless you’ve been hibernating right along with me (and if you have, I tend to kick when I’m dreaming, so I’m sorry about that), you know that Ruben Studdard, Taylor Hicks, and Katharine McPhee are no longer footsoldiers in the Dark Lord Clive Davis’s empire.

The Studdard news is hardly new; he and J Records haven’t been working together since May of 2007. The Hicks and McPhee news comes as more of a…well, not necessarily a shock, but at least it’s fresher. To date, Hicks has sold 699,000 copies of his self-titled work, while McPhee has moved 366,000 copies of her also-eponymous debut.

While the media reports regarding Hicks’s and McPhee’s statuses differ in their headlines, billing their departure from J Records as a mutual split, a parting of the ways, or a one-sided kick to the curb, here is what the actual suits have to say. Regarding Studdard:

The exec noted that Studdard put out three albums, “but there comes a time when we have to recognize the market for adult-oriented albums is tough. We allowed him to be a free agent, to make the record he wanted to make.

And with regard to Hicks:

“The same thing with Taylor Hicks (above, left). We didn’t want to shove any songs down his throat. We wanted to make an album in the style he was comfortable with. We mutually agreed that he’d work on an album [on his own], we’d listen, and we’d see where we go from there. There’s no acrimony.”

It sounds like at least Hicks, and possibly Studdard, still has some kind of deal with Sony, wherein Hicks will be recording his next CD on his own (and likely without any financial support from the label), but if J likes what they hear, they’ll have an opportunity (probably the right of first refusal) to distribute the album. Depending on where you fall on the coin of Hicks, this is either good news or terrible news. If all you care about is Taylor putting out a good album (perhaps something more along the lines of his earlier indie releases), then you’re probably raising a glass of champagne and toasting this recent news. If, on the other hand, your dream for Hicks was for him to obtain million-mark sales and the fawning approval of the blogosphere, start rending your garments: Unless a new Hicks album spawns Daughtry-like sales, he’ll likely remain a popular punching bag.

Perhaps more interesting is the exec’s commentary regarding McPhee:

We put millions behind Katharine. Many of us at the label still love her songs. But we’re in the major leagues. We didn’t think she could break into the mainstream. We would rather be honest. (McPhee is talking with another label and is due to star in the movie “I Know What Boys Like.”)

I’m a little confused by this — why would a record label spend millions on an artist that they never thought could have top sales in the first place? — but it’s interesting to note that there is no mention of McPhee having the same right of first refusal deal that it looks like Taylor got. Whether this was simply an oversight in the interview I don’t know, but I will have to say that even though I am not a fan of Ms. McPhee, her record label is extraordinarily stupid if they don’t have a similar arrangement with her. The girl does have a small spate of movies coming out (even if her oft-hyped “starring role” in the abovementioned Anna Faris comedy is reportedly only a small part with minimal speaking and her other “starring role” was handed to her by her boyfriend/fiancee, who also happens to be the film’s producer). On the off-chance (or on-chance, if she really can act) that McPhee becomes a box office darling, why in the world would RCA want to cut its ties with her? Wouldn’t they want to keep her contractually bound? Then again, it’s possible that RCA could always rerelease Katharine McPhee if her movies pick up steam and see if the album gains similar momentum.

It’s also worth noting that some of McPhee’s fans grumble that RCA never invested anything into her album and that she was never truly given a chance to take the market by storm. I don’t know who was pumping the money into McPhee’s coffers, but given that she did have a hit single (“Over It”), two videos (one of which did very well on rotation), a major endorsement deal (Big Sexy Hair), an almost endless stream of obnoxiously open-mouthed magazine covers (including Lucky and Shape), several fashion spreads (including Cosmopolitan, OK!, and In Style magazines), a weeklong hosting gig on TRL, and very in-demand producers like Ryan Leslie and Danjahands (who don’t come cheap) behind her, I’m hard-pressed to say that her album sales (which, really, weren’t all that terrible for a first-timer) were the result of lack of promotion. Again, whether she was financed and pushed by RCA or her management company, I don’t know, but it’s not as though you had to look hard to find her face.

I’m curious to see what the future holds for these three, though. Katharine, who I still maintain makes a better Madelaine Peyroux knockoff than a Fergie knockoff, probably has the best shot to keep her fifteen minutes going just on her looks alone. If she can add a truly good musical or acting performance to her physical appearance, she might have some legs in the industry. Hicks, in my opinion, might want to consider collaborating with the artists who have always supported him (and who still played with him despite him bearing the nasty Idol stigma) — Keb’Mo’, Buddy Guy, Earth Wind & Fire, Warren Haynes, and Widespread Panic, just to name a few. While I’m a fan of Hicks, I think his songwriting needs to be polished, so collaborations can probably only help him. And Studdard seems to be taking different career roads already. Wherever they wind up, whatever levels of commercial success they obtain, and however they are labeled by the Internet, I wish them all — and their fans — good luck.

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.

January 2019
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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. "