Friday, 30 March 2012

Someone Has To Go... #AmericanIdol Top 9 Review Pt2

Surely Heejun has to go tonight?

First to discover their fate are Elise, Phillip and Hollie. The replays show Elise and Phillip clearly more idol-like than Hollie on last night's showing. So it's no surprise to see Hollie getting her first bottom 3 placing.

Niki Minaj comes to entertain. The camera man must have had so many instructions to pull out and all we really get to see is a distant view of the girl miming prettily to her backing track. Sounding remarkably like Rihanna. Perhaps the same guy wrote her track as writes for the more famous girl. No doubt we'll get some of the out-takes on YouTube eventually. One thing about this girl, though: she is current and you do have to wonder how many of the Top 9 compare favourably in that respect. No matter how good they may be, there aren't many I'd call current. There again, Scotty wasn't and he did OK.

Colton, Joshua and Heejun next. Jimmy puts Colton down a bit in his recap. Fair comment actually. Joshua doesn't sound so good second time round but Heejun didn't sound good first time round. Again, predictably, it's another drop to the bottom 3 for him.

It looks like a choice between Heejun and Hollie coming up. Skylar, surprisingly, joins them briefly before being sent to safety again. Jessica, of course, is safe and sound anyway. Deandre also scrapes through once more and it is, indeed between the two Hs.

I think I would have stopped writing in protest if it had been Hollie at the bottom but, no, it's as it should be - Heejun sings again and doesn't get saved either.

That's good. Nice guy who we'll see plenty more of. Just not singing.

American Idol Top 9 Review: The One With Stevie Nicks

With the introductory tune Changes playing, I had expected a series of photos of how Tommy Hafliger had rebranded everyone but was pleasantly surprised to see one of my own idols, Stevie Nicks, sitting with Jimmy Iovine and providing mentoring this week. That sort of boosts one's hopes for performances this week too.

This was a nice production of a Lighthouse number, You're Everything , which may not be one that many know. Moody, a slow start, this suited the Colton style exactly, right through to the end where he was on his knees in some sort of plea. His voice and general demeanour suit this type of track. I'm not sure he looks right laughing or running around. This should appeal to his fans in a big, big way. He is definitely a contender now for the prize and a good start to the show. The only thing that bothered me slightly was his reference to it being a 'worship song' which it may be but I'm not so sure it needed to be emphasised. There's something not quite right in my mind when contestants make a big thing of their particular faith on stage and there's been a lot of that in this Series. If they're good, they're good and I don't really want to know what part God may or may not have played in their backing band.

I'm not too sure what the title of this crazy track was but it might have been Crazy Yet and was originally sung by Miranda Lambert, we're informed, who isn't Adam's sister. This was real country rock with plenty of style and words along the lines of some woman grabbing a shotgun and blasting her errant husband. Nice. Skylar was clearly in her element with this cheerful wordy stuff and obviously knew the track really well. The enthusiastic audience certainly seemed to appreciate her effort. With little competition in the country stakes, the voters may too. "OTT" said Steven Tyler. He was right, there. Whilst I totally approve of the idea of contestants singing what they really love, from their own idols' repertoires, there is always the risk of their then trying too hard and being over familiar with the track, thus losing some of its finer nuances. Having said that, there were no finer nuances in this one to lose anyway!

He says he ahs a new 'game plan'. I'm not sure Stevie actually 'got' Heejun but she was very polite. His track was This Is Your Song. He did a serious version, no messing around, with the husky voice prominent. I don't know what to make of this. To me it was way out opf tune and he also was trying too hard to compete and only emphasising his shortcomings as a result. Who would buy this? For some reason known only to them, the judges give him a standing ovation. seriously? Nice enough voice but very limited range and certianly not marketable. Heejun could be markrtable as an act but not a singing or dancing act.

Appearing a nice simple white dress, it was a relief that Tommy or the make-up team hadn't turned this young girl into something completely different. Taking on Carrie Underwood's Jesus Take The Wheel, though, was not a good move. Brave, but not a good idea. I'm a fan of this girl but this didn't do much for me - the production was wrong and tended to overpower her. She sensibly avoided doing the big notes this week and tried to deliver it in her way but would have done better with just a harp or guitar for accompaniment. I felt it was off market too but perhaps that was a clever move to cash in on a few of Skylar's votes with this one. She may need them.

Sometimes brought the falsetto back big time but give me the Stylistics any day of the week over this. He puts so much technique into his delivery that the whole song gets spoilt but he did seem to make a good impression on the audience again. Strangely, I can see him selling records in big numbers but not getting the votes rolling in on this type of programme. A standing ovation for him too?! So much not deserved. Nor was Jennifer's call for people to vote for him. That was out of order and, frankly, bonkers.

Sweet Dreams was brilliant. Another fabulous performance. Flawless and very, very impressive from start to finish. She clearly has edged ahead of Hollie now and, depending on how the other girls do tonight, may be on the verge of establishing herself as the female in the final. She looked good too, again, not outrageously made up or decorated. A real star. So why no standing ovation for her?! Weird.

Look Out My Window was one chunky rock track which he loved doing and, like the others, clearly knew well. This was Phillip at his best and a good night for him - if the voters do actually like this sort of performance. Stevie even says that, had he been around when she and Lindsey Buckingham were playing, he might have had an invitation to join Fleetwood Mac with them! That will have made his evening if nothing else did! I don't know how well he's going to progress in this competition as he is so different and with a particular style of his own that I can't see being readily adapted to what must be coming along in subsequent weeks. For now, though, he's safe enough. He also gets a standing ovation. That's becoming a habit and Jessica must be wondering what they've got against her.

Taking on Nilsson's Without You is quite a task. It's one of those tracks that either works or doesn't. (Annoyingly, he refers to Mariah Carey's Without You but never mind). I don't like the way he adds Uh to each s in a line but, allowing for that fault which I'm sure someone will fix before long, this was an excellent performance. He took it to a different place than anyone would have expected and opened the door to a market place for him and, I should think, a clear run through to the next week. Another standing ovation. At this rate Jessica and Hollie must be getting mad.

Hollie, Jessica and Skylar did an interesting sequence of Madonna tracks. There had been a couple of others previously in the show but, to be honest, we could have done without them, only Colton really showing any talent of note. Here, though, we had a fascinating direct comparison of the three girls. Jessica was natural, spot on vocally and comfortable on stage. Hollie was good, a little nervous for a moment but then very much the reliable performer and nice to see her performing well in a faster track which actually suited her too. Skylar was by far the most accomplished performer on the stage but her notes weren't all that they should be. Great personality but, of the three, she'd be the one to go first (if the country vote were not so vast, that is!)

Elise closes the show with Whole Lotta Love. Amazing! That must be one of the best covers of that track I've heard. Perfect in every aspect - delivery, the way she looked, and she totally rocked. You could see that this was something she was familiar with and loved doing. If she is in the bottom three after that then you do have to wonder what on Earth the American voters want from this show. My guess is that Elise may still struggle to be popular with this show's audience but I am confident she may be the first to get a decent contract from someone.

Friday, 23 March 2012

Haley Reinhart Returns as #American Idol Loses Another Girl

The results show is always a combination of the sublime and the ridiculous. Colton looks really strangely out of place doing the Let's All Dance bit with Phillip plain uncomfortable trying to smile and dance at the same time without a guitar. Let's just hope, for the sake of the Top 10 gigs' audiences that someone looks again at this and ensures they don't attempt the awful For The Longest Time again.

If American Idol were a competition for a group of ten boys and girls to do sing-a-long numbers then they'd have given the show over to InTENsity or 1 Direction and 6 random fans.

Anyway, back to the results. First up are Hollie, Skylar and Elise. Each could be vulnerable for different reasons. Elise, arguably, had the greatest performance of these three by a long way last night and, for a moment, with Hollie and Skylar breathing huge sighs of relief, Elise looks like the first in the bottom three. But Ryan's playing games again and she's (deservedly) safe as well! That was a surprise.

Elizabeth Woolridge Grant performs next. You'll know her as Lana Del Rey, a winsome girl who has become a star overnight. Video Games has been played almost non-stop on UK stations so I'd like to have heard something else from the much acclaimed album but this was pretty cool. I can imagine Colton doing that. Hmm - an idea for the final, maybe.

Then we have an embarrassing Happy 64th Birthday for Steven Tyler, with his guitarist buddy Joe Perry doing a few notes and, Lord help us, the boys and girls still standing being obliged to do the dreadful Happy Birthday To You when what they really want to do is get on and find out which three of them are not connecting with voting land.

Deandre, Josh and Jessica are picked out next. Jessica is the obvious safe one and I wonder whether the other two head to the bottom three but Josh must have just escaped this week, leaving Deandre looking worried.

Haley Reinhart returns. Now she is the sublime. Free is her new single from a well-received album. She looks and sounds fabulous but needs better written tracks if she's going to make it here in the UK. Nice to see her again, though, one of the real stars to come out of America Idol.

Erika, Heejun, Phillip and Colton are next in line. Predictably, Colton is safe. Phillip is lucky too, leaving Erika and Heejun to join Deandre as this week's bottom three.

Now Deandre should be the one to go out of these three, second Heejun with Erika by far the superior artist. But that's not the way the voters saw it - well, they had Heejun second but it was Erika who faced having to sing again. You had to feel sorry for her, in the bottom two again, having done exactly what everyone told her and singing brilliantly. She performed well again with I Believe and the crowd was all for the judges saving her. But they didn't. I guess they took the view that, despite all the compliments, all the effort she'd made, despite all that the public still didn't get what she was about. So, frankly, what chance does she have of surviving much longer? Yes, we'd all probably rather listen to Erika than some of the other also-rans who'll be gone soon enough but she'll not have made the final. So, a bit sadly, we say farewell to Erika Van Pelt.

Thursday, 22 March 2012

The Piano Man Follows Jessica's Dream

Deandre gets to start the show and this week it's all Billy Joel songs. Who's Billy Joel? someone posted on Twitter a few minutes ago. He's the guy who sang We Didn't Start The Fire which I doubt if any of the Idols will try! Quite an unusual choice of collection for them all to have to perform something from.

Only The Good Die Young
Out of his comfort zone or what! Maybe what. OK, he is pretty reliable and gets the notes right but you felt that he was doing this and prancing around because someone had told him to. It all seemed most unnatural. a bit too bouncy and I'm not so sure BJ would have approved of the pop format. the audience do seem to have loved it, however, giving him a great reception. For all know, though, they were simply relieved to have got an idol on stage singing instead of whatever stuff they had to put up with before the show starts.

New York State Of Mind
What a fabulous change of image as Tommy Hifliger has clearly used his talents on transforming her really effectively. This song was ideal for her range and personality. Very well done. Not so sure the voters will be leaping up and down about it but she certainly showed Deandre what a quality, classy performance was all about. She's not going to win this competition but that performance warranted her place here in the Top 10.

She's Got A Way
Interestingly, he had to look for the title on some papers when he was asked by Jimmy Iovine what he was going to be singing. So someone just told him that he was doing this and he agrees without hearing it? Weird. You'd think they'd get some say, bearing in mind all the previous occasions when we've heard of people rejecting the songs they've been assigned in the past. Anyway, he did a reasonable job of a track he didn't know and that shows some talent. Whether he'll get bundles of support from the voters, I don't know. He's someone the judges would save anyway so he's safe whatever happens.

I wasn't convinced by this performance at all. She's been doing well so far and getting the audience on board but this didn't work. She seemed to be attacking us with it and there was a hint of desperation. As the sole representative of country music land voters I have a feeling she'll survive but she may need to up her game considerably from here on. This was not a memorable performance and, unlike the transformations created for Erika and, to a lesser extent Joshua, by the wardrobe king and team, her strange quilted dress emphasised some lumps rather than minimised their impression visually. Not a good look and where were the matching boots we were promised? They might have made all the difference. She really did look as if she was hoping she could have picked another track and the judges weren't exactly full of praise either. As I said, she would be highly vulnerable if there were another country girl in the Top 10.

Will they get her? Not a track many will know at all? Ignoring the fashion gurus, she went for a long maroon dress and not the recommended bell bottoms. She's so very talented and produced what many BJ fans will think was a classic version of this, with an amazingly skilled control of some very difficult notes at the end. This girl is very cool. Maybe too cool for Idol, that's the only problem. She seems a bit out of place here but this year the place is full of those who could be regarded as a little off beat (in a nice way) so perhaps that cancels out any negative. She gets huge compliments. If the voters do, indeed, get her then she must survive.

I'm Moving Out
Get rid of the guitar. Don't wear the grey, instructed Tommy Hifliger, reasonably enough as Phil does seem to hide behind the instrument and fade a bit into the background. So on he comes, with a guitar and wearing grey in abundance! What he did, though, was a great interpretation of BJ's words. He's quite a unique fellow with his raspy voice, defensive gestures and bendy dancing. He gets huge compliments again from the judges, especially Randy and Steve. Will America vote for this though? However good he may be, I can't fit him in to a category that'll be popular enough to win this year.

This was not a winning performance at all. She has been superb so far but this week she let herself down. As the judges so rightly said, she was thinking about what the next line or note was all the way through and you could see in her eyes that she knew it wasn't her at her best by a long way. The makeover guys had been saying that she needed to look young but they achieved the opposite effect. 16 year old Hollie could easily have passed for twenty something! The clothes were great and made her legs seem almost unnaturally long. Hopefully she'll keep the clothes but concentrate next week on choosing a track that she either actually knows or, at least, likes. That's assuming she survives, of course. On the way things have gone so far, she could be in the bottom three and may be vulnerable if the Holliepops haven't got their act together and dialled like crazy as they'll have to this week.

My Life
I'm beginning to really like this guy. Not for his singing which is pretty rubbish but he has this great dead pan attitude and really confuses all those experts and mentors. PDiddy asked whether he was an actor, a con man and even hilariously wondered out loud whether he was Asian or maybe black!! Brilliant. Tommy put him in a very smart suit which was whipped off in a moment after coming on stage and he sang a great track that actually meant something for him too. Good words. A remarkable performance. Entertaining.

Steve was wary, though, and surprisingly serious. "Heeman," he started, "Heeman..." You expected a laugh but he continued with "... the music business will kick your ass!" It was a fair comment. But try telling that to Jedward.

Everyone Has A Dream
After trying a bit too hard last week, it was good to see Jessica listening and totally taking all the good advice her mentors and judges had given. This song could have been written for her and she's learned how much difference it makes to look straight into the camera and feel what she's singing, not just sing the words but mean them. We got that this week. This was, as Randy agreed, a flawless performance, easily the best from the young ones this week and eclipsing the older ones too so far.

This was another stand out performance and, if it were not for Colton, a second week in which she achieved the performance of the night. Second place tonight, though, will see her safely through and if she continues to accept good advice as to dress and delivery then she will be there in the final for sure. All that remains is to see just how far she can take us with her over the next few weeks to make her dream come true.

Piano Man
After Jimmy's comments at the outset we expected something special. We got something special. That was another of the best ever performances on American Idol. A perfect track for this genuine artist. This was Colton's week.

So who's going home? Well, not home now, just back to the second row seats for the next few weeks. Deandre, surely, is the most vulnerable. I'm struggling to predict who'll join him, though. Heejun should, really should, but that bit of entertainment is appealing. the question is: are there enough wacky votes in America? They don't normally back the oddballs but I'll say he makes it through this week - just. Joshua wasn't at all memorable and could be the second lowest tonight. The third - either Erika or Elise would be the first choice on the basis of previous weeks' votes, neither being popular despite some pretty good performances. They both did make huge efforts this week to do well, though and the one I'll pick is surprising, even disappointing to me personally. That's Hollie. Jessica totally smashed her in competing for the youngsters votes and genuinely looked The Star tonight, with Hollie looking quite uninspiring in comparison. It's between Hollie and Skylar. Skylar was simply not on good form but I do believe she has a good solid backing that will be loyal enough to see her through to next week.

Hollie may well benefit from the knock that putting her in the bottom three might bring and will come back fighting and wow us again. Joshua won't go either - I can imagine him being saved if necessary. So I say farewell, Deandre, hair and all.

Friday, 16 March 2012

Meet the Top 10

This is one of the key nights in the Season when we learn who has made it, not just to the Live Shows but more lucratively for them, to the tour that the top ten contestants will feature in. For some it can mean almost as much as winning, giving them a chance to promote themselves across the States and, of course, some get better and better as they go. Not all though, and audiences will still have to put up with some duds. This year they'll have several excellent people to watch for sure with Jessica, Holllie and Joshua guaranteed to get through. They'll probably also have Skylar, representing the sole country interest this year and Colton is likely to be the modern element on tour, which will do his future no harm at all.

Tommy Haflinger will be advising contestants on image, suggesting the look that's best for them. That'll be good news for all of them, although, to be fair the team haven't done a bad job so far. He gives props to Adam Lambert who really did seem to get it right.

The judges have a 'save' option that they can exercise just once between this week and week 5. This can maybe put right a single wrong when they think the voters get it wrong and someone who might have gone doesn't.

We learn that Percy Sledge is still alive and kicking and using e-mail. He sent one to Joshua congratulating him on his performance which that guy will treasure for sure.

Despite getting rave reviews from Jimmy Iovine, Elise is the first declared not safe. She must wonder what an earth she can do after such a good performance this week and looking really good too. You wonder whether voters are getting confused between her and Erica, not that Erica was at all bad but, of the two, it's Erica I'd expect to have trouble connecting with voters.

Shannon is next in the unsafe area, unsurprisingly after a less than inspiring performance of what she really should have excelled at.

Skylar and Jessica are the first two girls on tour. Joshua, Phillip, Colton and Deandre the first four boys. We're left with Heejun, who must be feeling vulnerable but may just sneak through on his undoubted popular appeal, and Hollie who must, surely be a certainty, and Erica.

Nice to see Daughtry back - a good example of how those sent home before a final do still do well and,especially in his case, last and succeed.

Heejun really does seem to have won some fans out there in voting land as, despite a pretty poor performance again, he joins the Top 10. It will be fun watching him but when he starts taking places that others deserve then it'll be time to go. So that left, Erica in the bottom three. That's fair as she wasn't great either.

Elise, Shannon are left as Elise, thankfully, is declared safe and justice is done quickly, leaving the two girls not, as the picture below shows, looking terribly happy and, if Erica does stay, Tommy Haflinger's image and dress advice will be most welcome!

Shannon is the one who received the least votes this week. Whilst she wasn't good, that's still quite surprising. She gets to sing one last time to try and impress the judges enough to convince them to save her but it's not a great performance, gaining mostly sympathetic applause rather than the instant appreciation they give to someone they love.

So that's it. She goes. For a 16 year old, however, she takes it with remarkable grace and that is much to her credit.

Thursday, 15 March 2012

Joshua wins the Hospital Radio round - songs from the year they were born

Choosing songs from the year they were born never struck me as a particularly cool idea. I mean, there must be thousands so they may just as well choose any song and there's probably someone who did it that year. Oh well, some executive had the idea so that's what we get. Better than force feeding the remaining Idol contestants something out of their comfort zone, I suppose, although some of the choices made weren't great for all that.

Phillip starts off with Hard To Handle which seemed a lot more ancient than 1990 vintage. Not the best of tracks and he took it on a bit of a cruise which I mean as a compliment. He is very relaxed and just sings and performs well every time. This was good but boring.

Jessica does 1995 and chooses Turn The Beat Around from Gloria Estefan's collection. An interesting choice which didn't seem that bright first time round but, in the recap at the end of the show I got it and think she did far better than on first hearing. She seemed to be trying hard to impress which was hardly necessary following her amazing performance last week. All credit to her, though, for not sitting back and going with the flow. 'She's ready for prime time' says Jennifer, thinking she was off mic. 'Nice pants', said Steven.

Heejun did Right Here Waiting which is about as good as it gets for him in terms of suitable tracks. Unfortunately, there were far too many bum notes and they showed in this song. It may sound easy to sing but it isn't. He is one really popular guy and has super one-liners and responses that may well see him with his own show - as long as he's not expected to sing. That popularity may just keep him around but he'll need to keep out of the bottom two and that could be a tall order tonight.

Elise's track was Let's Stay Together. Hers was a nice version and suited her well. She ended with a jazz-like run of a kind that hinted at where her true talents actually lie. She is back and will survive tonight. Randy picked up on the run at the end too.

Deandre brought us Endless Love from 1994. If the only version you've ever heard is that duet - you know the Lionel Richie and Diana Ross one - then that's still the one you'll remember as this was no improvement or much different. Whilst this guy could sing both parts easily and normally can be relied upon to hit all the right notes in the right places, slowing things down led to quite a lot of mistakes and this was a disappointing and decidedly forgettable performance. Wrong song. Wrong moves. Wrong notes. He needs someone a lot worse tonight or will be in trouble.

Shannon tried to do Mariah Carey. She made a good start and had well-designed clothes that brought her immense height back in perspective. She seemed to know what she was up against after Jessica and no doubt with Hollie to come and tried to add something but tried too hard. She's best just doing the song and not trying so hard. She is more an anthem singer at sports events and, whilst she may survive tonight, just, she won't be around a great deal longer.

Colton brought us something from 1991 called Broken Heart that no-one had ever heard of. He ditched the usual band and made it into a rock performance in his own style. Johnny Iovine reckoned he would 'slam-dunk it like Vladimir' which may just go down as one of the best quotes from the Season (after some of Heejun's one-liners and Steven's stream of references to pretty girls.) Colton is good, very good. You sort of worry still that he'll go wrong but so far so very good. The first memorable act tonight and that'll see him nicely through.

Erica did a Bryan Adams number from 1985. Well suited to her voice and rock edge that she excels in. This was OK but not 'exceuted' as Will.I.Am had insisted it needed to be. So it was neither one thing nor the other but, looking ten times better than in her own fat blue or yellow dresses of earlier shows, she beat Shannon tonight.

We then see the producers interview Jermaine. It appears that he has 4 outstanding warrants (which doesn't say a great deal for their police) and that's simply against the rules. So he gets disqualified or, as one of them puts it quaintly: 'We'll have to let you go.' I think the reason they treat him so gently is that, had he performed as he did in the clip we see from rehearsals, he would have been the act everyone remembered and certainly wouldn't have been going home for another week. It sounded like an amazing show-stopper.

Skylar does 1994 with a country rock number I didn't recognise at all. She stayed well in her element which seemed safe and sound but with such a forgettable song she didn't do herself any favours. She doesn't make mistakes, though, and is a naturally talented girl with a lively and infectious personality which always comes across on screen. She deserves to stay as I see her doing a great song - eventually.

When A Man Loves A Woman has to be one cool song for him to do. Just right. The performance of the night so far. Percy Sledge was the star for me with this track but he said he was doing the Michael Bolton version. Quite frankly that was pretty rubbish and Joshua almost out-Percied the Sledge tonight! remarkable and outstanding performance that should reconfirm his place in the final three. He also gets the only Standing Ovation from the judges.

Hollie takes us back to 1993, apparently Celine Dion, but it was Jennifer Rush whose song it really was: The Power Of Love. She has been totally reliable and really quite impressive so far and last week Jessica stole what should have been her night. This week Joshua has done it to her, but only just as this was a truly powerful and so accurate a performance from the little girl. Looking prettier each week with help from the excellent make-up team who just need to add some spray tan and perhaps add some body to her hair to finish things off nicely. This is one of The anthems. It's a bit slow which can mean it's risky as it'll show up bum notes but there simply weren't any. Excellent.

Saturday, 10 March 2012

The #AmericanIdol performance everyone is talking about

It's only the week 2 of the live shows and the others must be wondering what on earth they can do to compete.

Friday, 9 March 2012

Jeremy Jimmy And The Mary J Undertones.

This was the Top 12 Results show that you didn't really need to watch as you probably had a good idea of who would be going. In fact it was very much the Jimmy Iovine Show and none the worse for that either. Jimmy gets my admiration, not just because he dated one of my all-time favourite artists, Stevie Nicks, or even for being the key person in Lady Gaga's early years, but because he hasn't failed to talk a huge amount of sense when reviewing performances and capabilities of American Idol contestants. I agree with everything he says and, in Simon Cowell's absence, such reasoned and calm comments are all the more welcome to counter the often extraordinary and OTT remarks from the judges who I often think must be listening to a cleaned-up and tuned-up backing track rather than what is emerging from my speakers.

Jimmy said that Jeremy would be going tonight and that's exactly what happened.

After the compulsory Let's All Dance And Sing Something Bland performance that I dread every week's results shows now opening with and wondering who on earth thought that Phillip should be dressed in drab blue  sweater and brown trousers, Ryan quickly sent Jessica and Hollie to the safe seats. After their amazingly good performances the night before my guess is that they could have had 80% of the votes between them. Three girls and three boys were held back from the safety of the stools: Jermaine, Jeremy and the third J, Joshua, joining Erica, Elise and Shannon. So that gives up quite a good initial clue as to the way things could work out. The bottom two were Jeremy and Elise, Shannon being so fortunate to scrape through.

Had Shannon been standing next to Jeremy then she may well have been the one sent home as Jeremy, we feel, does have something different and possibly even modern to offer once he gets some decent tracks to work on. Shannon will be an anthem singer for the next week or two and may only really finish up being retained in order to balance the giant Jermaine, who must be causing the choreographers and stool manufacturers serious stress-related problems at the moment.

I can see now the tweets of someone announcing week after ruddy week that Shannon is singing the National Anthem at some game or another that Pia Toscano had turned down. Unfortunately, Jeremy will not be getting those gigs but no doubt he'll make enough from retainer fees for the next few weeks and, of course, the Idol tour that they'll be on during the summer.

There were two acts with high billing tonight to take our minds off the lack of suspense in all the voting: Lauren Alaina, last Season's runner-up, and Mary J Blige who had been acting as an excellent mentor with Jimmy.

Lauren has learned how to interact with the guys now and delivered a reasonable country - pop -rock number that will not exactly cause Shania Twain to lose much sleep about her UK sales. Lauren was just OK and rather instantly forgettable.

The big surprise was Mary J Blige and not for reasons she'll thank me for writing either. This usually marvellous and very experienced singer sounded dreadfully off key with her new single Why. That was actually painful to listen to. I can't see anyone over this side of the pond buying that either unless the recorded version is a lot better. Perhaps it sounded different in the judges' quarters. They did the decent thing and stood up to applaud but the audience didn't sound that impressed to me.

Thursday, 8 March 2012

Hollie's Hit Brilliant. Then Along Came Jessica...

One little girl from Liverpool in a simple black dress should have stolen the show tonight. Hollie Kavenagh is going to be hard to beat and that may be why the producers have kept her hidden for so long. I mean, the others needed a chance to gain some support, after all. But then along came Jessica...

This is really the first of the Live Shows that count, with the voters deciding which two (one girl, one boy rather than the two with the lowest votes) are vulnerable and the judges will choose who goes.

One of the fornt-runners. This is a perfect week for him with a natural Steive Wonder voice and rhythm. He was maybe trying just a bit too hard, and doing that all the way through, when providing some shade or sense of meaning to the track would have been a better idea. Having said that, I seldom get any real meaning or shade in any of Stevie Wonder's stuff anyway and, if anything, I would rather have listened to Joshua than the writer.

Randy called it a 'flawless' performance and was pretty much correct there. An excellent start which will see this guy guaranteed a place next week.

This girl is professional but I'm not sure the earthy timbre in her voice suited the Whitney track she was given (apparently at short notice). She put a lot into this and did look good on stage but this was a nervous performance in places and it didn't really work and few will remember this or dive for the YouTube video afterwards. This was not her style and the judges were fair in their lack of enthusiasm about the song. Elise is a nice girl who could be vulnerable tonight in the very tough girls' category.

An unusual Stevie Wonder track, but one that suited his low, low voice really well. the big, big guy did well and this was a great start for the guy who only just made it to these Live Shows. I even saw a bit of star quality but whether it was Idol quality I am not at all sure. It wouldn't be my sort of album he'd release nor, I feel, one that many teenagers would buy either. Nice chap, great voice and the audience liked him but that may not be enough. Listening again, there were some distinctly bad notes that I didn't hear first time around and that may be bad news, depending on who he's up against tomorrow.

She started almost as low as Jermaine. Extremely well dressed and made-up - very necessary after the combined blue and dress disasters from her own wardrobe. She is a large girl but the long red dress was perfect for her. although the Whitnet song was not her genre either, I was impressed by her style and she was absolutely spot-on with the notes and had a charming smile. The audience reaction was good, too, and this could keep her in the competition a while longer.

Lately was a good choice. He held back a lot and sung it pretty straight. That was a good move which should keep him around easily. He has bags of appeal to the younger set and showed another side to his talent which can only extend that appeal. Randy took his time but eventually said 'Well done'! Quite right too.

Another better known Whitney song that should have suited the tall girl but it wasn't without quite a few mistakes. She seemed to be trying to figure out what she'd be singing next rather than sharing emotions with us and it was all forgettable stuff. She is usually very confident and has plenty of skills to handle events like this but it may have simply not been as natural ground for her as I'd thought. The judges were all critical but sympathetic and this week sees her unexpectedly vulnerable.

Showing the girls how to own the stage and with far more style than the last few put together, this was a pretty meaningless track that you'd need a degree in Stevie Wonder lyrics to understand or make any sense of. For all that, he'll be safely through as he just knows how to perform and hit the right notes every time.

She took the Whitney words and put them into a country song and that worked nicely for her. She is a super singer and performs in a way that makes you feel she means what she sings. One of the best so far and she'll be through. Well done!

Someone doing Stevie their own way is a good thing, like Skylar before him. I hadn't expected Heejun to be the one to break the mould and impress me but I have to admit that he did. This actually suited him well and he has a lot to thank Jimmy and the producers for. His range is small and he needs to stay soft like this and within his limits. people do seem to have taken to him, though, and he may well stick around because of that.

You could see that Jimmy thinks she's The One. He could well be right. This was a beautiful performance. absolutely faultless, straight, as Whitney would have done it in her better years. Excellent. Jennifer made an interesting comment about reckoning that there could be two girls in the final, Hollie being one of them for sure.

This guy has a super tone in his voice and you can't help but like him and wishing him well. But, the difficult Stevie Wonder track that he chose wasn't easy and he got a bit lost along the way. He may very well survive as I can see that so many people back him because he is seen as an underdog but he's no pretender to the Idol throne.

She chose the Big One. Brave. Only a superb performance would be good enough as there are no half measures with I Will Only Love You. It was. and some. Amazing. Just as I thought Hollie had it in the bag Jessica floors everyone with this and that may well go down as one of the best AI performances of the series, maybe all time, and that's saying something.

The make-up team did a super job, too. The hair, the dress, the lot. We know she can also do the modern numbers and appeal to the youngsters. So, if she can keep her nerve, she is a potential finalist, presumably the other one that Jennifer meant.

Following that was never going to be easy. Very Superstitious was a welcome bit of life after an evening of good and bad ballads, apart from Joshua at the start. Phillip rocked it with a guitar and this noisy end to the show was a nice job and a good reaction from the audience who probably appreciated being reminded that we are in 2012. Good job. As Randy said, they need Phillip in the competition and I hope he stays.

Friday, 2 March 2012

American Idol - Choosing the Top 13

This time we get introduced to twelve great looking contestants and, from what we've seen of most of them so far, there could be some tough decisions to take if they're to be whittled down to a mere five. I am a bit confused about 'the judges' choices', Ryan saying that they get a wild card each. Does that mean they get to choose a girl and boy wild card which would mean 16 going through, or just one girl or boy each? That sounds more likely, producing a total of 13 going through, with any combination of 5+8 or, more likely 6+7.

Chelsea has been chosen to start off the show and does well. She's a country girl, inclined to get confused a bit in the earlier rounds with Skylar and looking nothing like the early model-pose photos we had! Watching her perform on an impressive set I had to think how cool it must be for her to have the video of that performance to keep and play over and over if she doesn't make it through. To be honest, this wasn't very inspiring. Cowboy Casanova was OK but not a lot more. I can imagine Carrie Underwood would have been a lot better and that rather defeats the purpose as most will know her version and forget this one pretty quickly. She may have a lot more to give which this song didn't show. In with a chance but the judges' reviews weren't amazing.

This the DJ girl who seemed quite a bit older than the others in the previous rounds. She should know which tracks work with the crowd and the judges. Looking so much better, too, after the makeover team, she launched into Adele's What About Love. Her voice is low but good and she's strong and faultless but ... has she got that excitement factor that will attract votes and whatever an Idol requires? Much depends on how the others do. She played it safe and may regret that.

She's been very professional so far, familiar with the stage and she comes across well with Adele's One And Only. Not as brilliantly, though, as I'd expected, sounding as if she was struggling with this far more than she ought to be. She does get by far the biggest audience response so far, though, perhaps respecting the effort she put in which was certainly a lot more than the first two. although I was disappointed, she may have given herself a chance by taking a chance - even if the result wasn't that perfect.

The first teenager of the night. And yes, she's a cheerleader! Her mum can get a bit annoying and may even lose her a few votes. Sitting On The Dock Of The Bay is not a track I'd associate with her but it is a cool song and may work. No, bad start - far too low for her. then she gets into a range she's more comfortable with and we see the more bluesy and raucous girl that earned her place here before. Too much was too wrong, however, and I can't agree with the judges' compliments at all. So far, no-one is a potential winner, or even finalist in my book and I wouldn't be too concerned at saying farewell to any later tonight.

This is one of my favourites from the very start. I cannot imagine what she's doing with that guy as a husband though but that's another matter. Feeling Good. She does a fantastic job with this moody classic and copes well with the middle bit but is best simmering with the emotion she is able to express so well. She ended well and looked very good. the crowd seem to love her too. She's the first star tonight and I hope that she keeps going like this. Note to dress department: the blue trousers really don't look cool.

The small small town country girl. Nice personality, bubbly and she's shown before that she can extend country to rock and roll. Stay With Me demonstrates that brilliantly. She rocks, looks good and is full of energy, not just auditioning but loving to perform and natural in this element. She may not have been as note perfect as Chelsea but is far more animated and another who should be through to go further in this Series 11. She needs to avoid the screech, though. Otherwise, all credit to to the wild rocking country girl, as Randy aptly described her. She gets the best reviews of the night.

Another country girl. And a cheerleader. This is her second attempt at Idol so she ought to know the score. I liked the fact that her grandad had no idea what the Top 24 was! She sang Every Little Thing. Dodgy notes at the start. She has a nice voice - more traditional with good phrasing. Just a few tuning problems really did let her down quite badly, though. She could have been a lot more popular. Steven said she was pretty. Randy came out with his first pitchy for a long time. She may struggle to stay in this competition, I feel.

Ah, Randy talks about a Top 13 so that should be clear now - five girls and five boys get voted through and the judges choose three more to rescue. Good, I understand now!

Another teenager. One conspicuous by her absence on the whole show so far. So this, at Top 24, is the very first time many people will have got to see and hear her. Reflection is not a song I know but I wish I did. It starts strangely and sounds very difficult. It does soon get going and she's good, very good when her nerves settle.

She's made up to look really pretty and gets another great audience reaction. the last half of the song worked well. Jennifer says she's one of the front runners. Randy says she's one of the favourites. She deserves the compliments and ought to be safe and sound.


this girl is so attractive and the camera adores her. Sweet Dreams. Very professional performance with a unique style that I wasn't expecting at all. We don't know this girl. She threw a lot at us tonight and it was a lot to take in. She can act too and has all the 'money shots', as Steven called them, absolutely spot-on. Randy didn't get it and, strangely, he gives her the first bad review of the Season. I hope that doesn't affect the voters as she can really do well and is another of my favourite potential finalists.


Only 16, she's been good in previous audition shows but Carry Your Candle is not that good, despite its anthemic feel. She's got a good ballad voice and can belt out this gospel number pretty well but, I don't know, is this an Idol in the making? She was far off key in places but Randy calls her 'hot'? The judges obviously love her but I'm not convinced. perhaps being the only church appeal will get her a big slice of the voters at this crucial stage which the others haven't really even scartched. There's still a big question mark for me after that performance.


I'm waiting for a pop star to emerge rather just a smart big song singer. I thought it might be this young girl but maybe not.This girl started badly and had a lot of trouble finding the right notes but her eventual interpretation of Perfect Man got a huge amount of audience rapport. She gets the first standing ovation from the judges and Randy goes yo-yo over her. He calls her one of the best singers of the two nights. Were they watching the same performance as I was? Yes, she had some great attitude and a good way of moving around but I cannot agree that the pitch was perfect. Clearly, she's through, whatever the vote.

One of the slightly more mature girls but looking just as good as the others tonight. She has that earthy sound to her voice. She sings One And Only (again) and what a difference to Jen's version earlier, which may well see the latter depart. Elise was much much better. husky may be the word I was looking for. She's good. Playing the piano and then getting up and really doing justice to this track. For me she did all the judges had said that Jessica did - but far, far better. The best of the night by a long way. But there's no standing ovation for her. She reminds me of the wonderful Haley Reinhart from last year. Muted comments from the judges - they say she's 'the best voice here' but for some reason they don't go overboard like they did for Jessica which I don't understand. Nice personality. I want Elise through.

Now it gets tough...

The votes are announced and these are the people who get the most - the Top 10, and thus automatically through to the first Top 13 show next week:


Some surprises there - Chase doesn't make it, despite the good looks and sole country guy. Hallie and Reed, Haley too, three of my own predictions failing at the first hurdle. Had Hallie been wearing that yellow dress and looking as massive next to the others (well, not Jermaine!) then I could see why she might not be selected but to date she has been both attractive and come across so well. Reed and Haley did nothing wrong - just not regarded by voters as what they wanted, I guess.

Now the judges give six of them a second chance. they choose Jen, Jeremy, Brielle, Deandre, Erica and Reed.

Each really does let loose and gives us their all. Quite stunning, especially Jeremy with a Carrie Underwood number that was absolutely in his zone and delivered to perfection. Brilliant! Well done that guy who had looked gone a day before. Brielle excels and more than makes up for a poor earlier showing with Someone Like You. I take it back. She is good, but not for the judges who don't like her.

Jen did Oh Darling but maybe tried too hard. Good, better than before but not as impressive as Erica who brought out Lady Gaga as a trump card and wowed everyone with Edge Of Glory. Tremendous, and smart choice by someone who should know. Deandre went a little crazy with Georgia, OTT but well done and not as crazy as Reed's Use Me where he put on a great show, totally original and so talented. Reed deserves his own show, no doubt, but he may be just too wild for this one.

In an emotional announcement. Erica, Jeremy and Deandre get through at last, completing the Top 13 that go forward to be with us for a while longer.

Heejun is the one who really shouldn't be there, in my view, and the Korean has now put out two cowboys. Why is he there? It can only be for the boost his humour brings to the audience but surely that can't last much longer?

It was a long night and, for Chase, Hallie, Chelsea, Baylie, Adam, Reed, Creighton, Aaron, Haley, Brielle, Eben and Jen, a long drive home.

Thursday, 1 March 2012

American Idol Top 13 Guys

Finally, the Live Shows get under way. Strangely The Daily Telegraph calls this edition the 'first semi final'. Er, a long way to go, yet, guys, as tonight there'll be 13 performing and decisions will be taken as to who progresses by telephone votes and a wild card from the judges. Votes will decide 5 and the judges one more. That means 7 of these will leave this week.

Reed gets the job of kicking off proceedings and that's not a bad choice at all. He is totally reliable, if not exactly predictable! In a home video we learn that he like cheese curds, whatever they are, in Wisconsin but it's how he delivers Moves Like Jagger that we want to know. Well, Sir Mick might not have moved like that but he certainly took the song apart and put it back together well. In tune and a brave, very brave move. Confident, cheerfuland seemingly unfazed by the big stage. Well done.

Adam talks about 'a large black woman trapped inside my body'. Hmmm. He, or she, does Think. He is confident and professional but somewhat uninspiring. I'm not sure he's Idol material but he can definitely sing well. the rasping voice would get boring after a while, I think. He's also a bit dated-looking and dated-sounding.

Deandre has a sister called Big Mouth Bertha. She'll thank him for that, I'm sure. He's got a lot of hair and appears to have had that since at least age 3, judging by the home movie shots we get. He sings Reasons. An odd start, being into showing off his falsetto range a bit too early for my liking. The next bit sounded off too. His rhythm was all over the place but then he does the very high note and gets a cheer. another warble and he's done. The audience do seem to like him, and Jennifer makes it obvious whose side she's on, predicting his 'amazing year'. Randy joins in with 'you're ready to go right out of the box now!'. Hmmm. Steven doesn't say anything that we get to hear. I was disappointed by this almost meaningless and quite unmoving performance and had expected more from the guy they've largely kept off our screens so far this season.

We get to see that he has a lot of music stuff at home and you immediately get the feeling that he is just naturally there, where he wants to be and where I had expected him to be last year, in fact. We learn about his hair, probably to balance things a bit with Deandre. His song is Decode, apparently by Paramours. Not something I recognised but he starts at the piano and is in Radiohead mode. This is impressive, though, a great track and shows him as modern and highly marketable. He does a bit standing on the piano - one cool performance that might put Reed in more shade than anyone might have thought. He seems to have woken up the judges a bit, too, and is a welcome and necessary participant. 'A relevant artist', as Randy rightly called him. Ryan shows his colours too with 'I'm liking this guy.'

Gravity is his number. a nervous start, terrible clothes. He breaths on the mic a lot and you just feel his inexperience. He's sweet and good-natured, a nice guy, but I don't see him going far. Randy and Jennifer are very impressed, though, and he gets the extra publicity of Steven and Jennifer looking enchanted during his performance in a freeze frame from the replay. Randy says 'America meet Jeremy. Jeremy meet America.' That's quite a lot of push from all three judges. Will it make any difference?

Not even half-way through, Steven announces that he is as confused as a baby in a topless bar.

Aaron the serious music teacher doesn't help much with a nervous version of Never Can Say Goodbye. It's a safe song and he's an excellent singer, spot on with notes and rhythm but he is just so ordinary. Good but not some big star. He would make a great backing singer and would be totally reliable and sound behind anyone. But he's not the front man. Sorry, Aaron.

Chase, we see, is the rich kid, with a nice clean apartment, University student who has a couple of horses. He is definitely the country singer here tonight and seemingly unopposed. Singing 'Storm Warning' we finally, after virtually the whole series so far, get to see what he's like and what he sounds like. Good, almost too damn good-looking, ideal material for country Idol voters.

In some ways he didn't stand out like Scotty did last year at the start but he'll surely get the Texas votes, even if he may not have been in the Top 5 in terms of performance. A good voice and a natural talent. I can only presume that we'll find out more about how he fits in in future.

Creighton, in comparison to the previous guy, is totally different. He has a small, not particularly smart apartment in New York and no horses. He has this whacky image and looks odd too. He sings True Colours in a very original way. Nicely done but a bit weird and I don't feel that comfortable watching him. He's a cool character, deserves to have made it this far but I'm not sure he's got further to go.

The judges all talk of 'losing guys tonight' and you couldn't help but feel they were being kind to him and planting the thought that he won't make it. there's certainly no room for him and Reed, and Reed so far, has the edge.

Phillip. I do wish they'd stop talking about him working in his dad's pawn shop. I always get the wrong idea. He is also a bit of an unknown. He's had reasonable screen time, unlike the country guy, but we still don't know where he comes in to the competition really and hasn't made that vital lasting impression. His slow, very slow, oh dear, start to In The Air Tonight is different. Where's this going, you wonder. He does a unique and gravelly version that puts him in the frame with Creighton and Reed where only one can stay. He gets to the chorus and slow kinda works. You sense he's good and has a young Boss look and feel. Maybe he should have done Born To Run which might well have kept him firmly in the running. It'll be a tough choice - he might come out on top of that group of The Odd Ones and even put Adam in the boring slot in people's minds too. He gets the first actual criticism of the night, I note.

Eben seems well out of place. So young and more like competition for the girls than the boys here. His song is Set Fire To The Rain which he ought to be able to do well. But his notes were way off at the very start. and all the way through. This was not at all good. It's Fire, not Fi-yer, Eben! Pity, I had high expectations that this kid would fly and attract all the teen votes, despite the fact that a 15 year old boy really can't identify or hope to get much meaning behind the Adele track. The judges were very gentle on him.

Heejun seems to be famous more for his one-liners and amusing escapades than his singing. He is certainly someone who we have seen plenty of before, possibly having more airtime than anyone else so far. He was muted tonight and looking very respectable too. He sang Angels. Now, if it had been Korean Idol or even Asian Idol, he might stand some chance of that performance being acceptable. As it is, though, many notes were not as Gary Barlow would have wanted and, whilst his voice can be nice and he does have that tremendous personality and, maybe, a big fan club. He'll need that fan club to get through as it won't be on his singing ability this evening.

Randy is clearly confused by all this, asking Jennifer: 'What do you think, man?'

No big back story - we just go straight in to a church-like track called You Pulled Me Through. Possibly, no, definitely, the best singer of the night.This was an excellent performance indeed. No frills, no fancy stuff, just straight, very accurate and very meaningful and heartfelt. Performance of the night, he gets the standing ovation and this was well-deserved. Now, this is American Idol!

Lastly, we get to find out that Jermaine is the one that gets another chance out of the four we were told about last week. He wasn't my choice but his performance of Dance With My Father was a fine one. This tall, very tall guy with the low, low voice is good. In a way it was like watching someone do a victory number and I don't see how he could go back home again now after that. He's not modern and not someone you can really see winning, despite the 'victory'image, but, boy, has he got the ability to sing that sort of number. Quite how he'll cope with the Abba or Rock round I'm not sure. They'll also need to think very hard about planning who he partners in any dance-and-sing-along-intro numbers they get the eventual Top 12 to do!

So, these guys will be down from 13 to 6 tomorrow? Not an easy prediction but, on tonight's performances, my guess is that Joshua, Phillip, Colton, Jermaine and Chase get through. The sixth? Oh boy. That's difficult. It ought to be Reed. Heejun is immensely popular, though, and will get more popular support. Eben may still get the teeny vote. Jeremy may also get the sweet vote. I'll guess Deandre but it's a long shot!

Of course, by the time I publish this in England the choice is about to be announced in the States. I'll just have to try and not look at Twitter for 24 hours. just like a semi-final - perhaps the Telegraph was right after all.