Wednesday, 28 August 2013

At least Ryan Seacrest is still around.

So the auditions are over and the producers, if not the judges, 'cos no-one is too sure who they are yet, have chosen who we'll be seeing more of from the July and August auditions.

Spoilers aren't appearing in the usual places I find them yet but as soon as I do find something it will be published, with a warning, of course.

Jennifer Lopez and Keith Urban seem more or less confirmed as judges with Scooter Braun hovering around. It's a brand new production team faced with pulling back what some say were 30% less profits in Season 12 than Season 11.

Something I have never understood was why Simon Cowell didn't develop the American Idol brand of which he was part and grow that instead of there being two competing shows. X Factor USA has worked and found some good people but generally, apart from giving groups an opportunity or rescuing some by putting them in a group, the format is pretty much the same. Identifying the differences is more suitable for a PhD thesis. Looking at how the public have loved the groups that have emerged - 1D, Fifth Harmony, Union J and Emblem3 all doing well at the time of writing - including a group facility in Idol wouldn't have been impossible.

So it seems reasonable that there would be some loss of revenue as advertisers either shift to X Factor USA or fees, based on potential audience, fall a bit. My guess is, though, that both companies are still making a handsome profit, just not as much as some greedier people may have desired. If the massive fees that some say were awarded to judges had been a little lower then the profits would have been higher too.

Nicki Minaj turned out to be an excellent judge of ability and fairly entertaining on screen but one season of her is probably enough. Mariah was really not good and very disappointing all round. And disappointingly all round too which may have appealed to a limited fan base but not music fans.

We're losing the dog, Randy Jackson. He had probably come to the end of his vocabulary anyway and was beginning to get very repetitive. He'll still be coaching performers, I read, in place of Jimmy Iovine who really should not be going but seems to have done. His advice was so good. He'll be missed in the background and also as a fearless foil to the judges' rambling on occasion.

Now, remind me who won... ah, yes, Candice Glover. Well, we've certainly heard a lot from her in the last few months, haven't we. No. In fact, none of the Live Show contenders have made much of a mark at all. That should be worrying someone somewhere. For now, I shall not pursue that line and put it down to their all being heavily involved in the Idol Tour and the stress of trying to keep calm when Lazaro Arbos gets the notes wrong or forgets the words.

I say bring back alumni like Adam Lambert and others who will not cost a fortune and could give great advice and also pull the show back to centre on the contestants. If Idol don't then there's an idea for you, Simon. Oh, you've brought Sharon Osbourne back for X Factor UK. And Louis. Right, that'll be nice and modern then. I can see why you're sticking with X Factor USA.

Friday, 17 May 2013

And the winner is...

So here we are at the Finale and it's the last show of the series.

Janelle Arthur looks fabulous and in her element matching The Band Perry in stage presence and performance of some rock country number.

Then the boys and Frankie Valli do some numbers from the past that suit their vocals, Deven providing most of the safe lead vocals and nice to see Curtis again, resplendent in white. Lazaros can't resist giving the girls in the front seats a closer view of his blue suit but that may have been part of the production so that he didn't need to sing.

Amber returns with Emeli Sande, sounding almost exactly like her. Amber was wearing some grey patterned tights with an unfortunately placed darker seam that I am pretty sure the cameraman was asked to move away from. Even Emeli seemed to be focused on that area throughout her song.

Mariah Carey entertained with several of her numbers, delivered standing still inside some mermaid outfit. You tend almost to want to feel sorry for this multi-billion dollar star - as if she has become disabled or something, Randy, who started the evening like a massive Pooh in a bright yellow-brown jacket, was playing guitar on stage with her. Nor was it live. What? How much is she paid?

Keith Urban proved he could sing well and perform with a great rock and country number. looking cool. That was his new single. Also pre-recorded. Come on, guys!

Candice Glover comes on stage now to sing an old-style number Inseparable very nicely. She introduces Jennifer Hudson and they demolish the track together. No-one should take on Candice. She is not a stage sharer.

I don't remember all this "and now, ladies and gentlemen, so and so..." in American Idol. I thought it was just an X Factor thing. Maybe my memory isn't functioning. The Candice and Jennifer thing developed well and worked out pretty impressively in the end. Not my kind of song but damn good performances for all that. Candice does strike me as the consummate star.

Now, the one who many thought is the winner, Angela Miller singing Titatium with the wonderful Adam Lambert and then along comes Jessie J with Domino. Angie looks pretty overwhelmed and gets an even bigger surprise when she gets a nice offer from Jessie J to come to the UK to promote her single. Apparently, she couldn't do her single on this show because Jessie had asked to come and sing with her and some last minute rearrangements to the schedule were required. All good stuff. Great to see Adam out there too.

By my calculations, that just leaves Kree.

There's a great sketch about the judges and then Randy and Keith take to the stage with Kree doing some Country number about kicking shoes off or something like that. This is not that good, to be honest, and you ahve to wonder how much better Janelle would have been at this stuff. I don't see Kree as the Country rocker. Even Kelly Pickler is more watchable and interesting, and she came 6th in Carrie's Season.

Will Nicky get to show what she can do? I can't see how they can avoid that now. And after the Deven impression, let's hope she's not in leopard skin tights! This is quite a good show - it does feel as if the result is being dragged out a bit but some worthy stars and decent quality performances this year are a great improvement on last year.

A mini tribute to Randy Jackson who leaves the judges' bench this year. I don't know why but he is the only surviving first judge so I guess his time is up. A bit amateur, with dogs doing stuff.

Aretha Franklin nearly announces Candice as the winner before performing at a distance over a video link with the Top 5 girls. This doesn't work very well. The five girls are merely backing singers (and that's being generous!) and the big video kinda makes Aretha remote. The Queen of Soul is also pretty old now and, frankly, shouldn't be doing this sort of show. There are plenty more super acts that have come along since the Sixties.

Jennifer Lopez and Pitbull perform their big hit and bring us into the 21st Century again with a smart act that only Amber could really have competed with. And that brings us, at last, one and three quarter hours later, to the result. Well, after some adverts for yoghurt, mayonnaise and hair colouring.

All my logical brain cells are saying it's Kree, with traditional huge Country state vote but watching the two of them on stage together, it seems so much more the case that Candice is the natural stage star. She looks the part. So who does win?

Kyran dim the lights. After the Nationwide vote the winner of American Idol Season 12 is
Candice Glover.

Good choice, folks, Well done!

The Finale: And then Candice sang I Who Have Nothing.

It's Kree v Candice. In the introduction they both seem surprised to be here - I am sure that each expected Angie to have taken their place but here they really are. Candice makes the comment that tonight is it - I either win or go home. Er, no, I don't think so! Runners-up often do as well if not better than winners, Candice! Remember someone called Adam Lambert? Uh huh. And who came 1st that year? No, nor can I.

So back to tonight. Kree starts with Angel. It's an ideally-suited country song that Kree just flowed through beautifully. That was a very believable performance. Not exciting or particularly different - just top quality and exactly what you'd expect to hear from her at concerts or on her album.

Candice does Chasing Pavements. Now this was a disappointing and unchallenging track for Candice. She made no mistakes but that didn't inspire me either. I kept thinking how other contestants could have done that or entertained, inspired us more than that.

Round 1 to Kree, whatever the judges may say.

Carly Rae Jepson is on stage next. Now she is 2013 and makes the two finalists seem quite 1993. A nice performance of her new single about her boyfriend taking pictures of her taking pictures of him. She's cute and her long legs seem extremely long for such a short girl which has nothing to do with singing but you just can't help noticing on a generally covered-up night for Kree and Candice. What I did admire, too, was the lack of false tan - she was distinctly pale and natural which added to her youthful appeal on a slightly 'older-style' evening.

Kree again and All Cried Out is the single to be released if she wins. A good one for her. It sounds very familiar and I can see it doing well across the charts. Hers is an understated but totally believable and honest performance that I like. It will appeal to the huge Country audience.

Candice's single is, I think, called I Am Beautiful - a more demanding track to listen too and, to be honest, quite tedious. Candice sings well enough but, no matter how much she puts in to this, it will remain a boring song that needs re-writing and has too many ohs.

That's two rather underwhelming tracks from Candice - sad, as she deserves better tracks.

Round 2 to Kree too.

The third performance is one of their favourites from the series and Kree starts with one that I think is called I Love You. She looks good in red and has the demaeanour of someone wh is expecting to win. Very confident and this is  marvellously controlled and an excellent performance. Much too short, though. I wanted that to continue. The song of the night so far.

And then Candice sings I Who Have Nothing. Well, until now it was Kree's night and I was writing the next post to congratulate her and wonder out loud whether anyone in the UK would ever hear of her again. And then Candice sings I Who Have Nothing.  Wow. That was superb. I wuld give her the title now for that performance alone. Brilliant. That was genuinely emotional and could be game-changing if the vote lines were not yet open. Kree may have easily won the first two rounds but that was what an American Idol should sound like and that, for me, was the song of the night and, possibly, the whole damn series.

So, it's down to the American voters now, who I seldom agree with, mainly because there are so many of them living in huge expanses of Country country and distorting the figures. That may well mean that Kree walks away with the title but... but Kree has not excelled this year and has been in the lower band of votes in the past. So Candice has a chance still.

We'll find out soon enough.

Sunday, 12 May 2013

America decides the two who compete in the Final

I missed these two shows. Here are the video recaps of three girls, all producing excellent performances.

Jimmy's thoughts on the Producers' Round songs:

Jimmy's thoughts on how they handled his own choices for them:

And Jimmy's thoughts on the Judges' Choices:

And, finally, the results. Who goes through to the Final, with some nice reminders of runners-up in the past.

So there you have it - farewell Angie and it's Kree v Candice next week!

Friday, 3 May 2013

The one where we see Constantine again

Top 3 decided tonight., David Cook and Harry Connick Jnr perform.

Only Angie and Amber looked comfortable doing Beyonce's Crazy In Love, not that that matters much really. The producers do like the sing-a-longs. The difference between Top 3 and 4 is that whoever goes 'home' doesn't get the 'homecoming' nonsense next week. They miss out on being filmed being carted around amongst screaming locals and being awarded various honours by strange, and usually shouting, local dignitaries that no-one would have heard of before. We have to sit through all that stuff next week. I guess it must be pretty special for the contestants but coming 4th still seems pretty reasonable o me and I am also sure that if someone hired a nice smart car for them and drove them through town and booked the local ball park it would fill up for the 4th place person in a matter of hours. So she could still have something pretty close to a home-coming after all.

Jimmy gets to air his views as they review the eight performances. He says that Angie had the opportunity to 'shut down the whole competition' but didn't chose songs that enabled her to take it. He had Amber sounding karaoke and he was right listening to the replay. Funny Valentine was 'magnificent'. Was that enough to pull her from 4th (where we all assume she was last week)? Candice he puts on top with both tracks which could well mean farewell Amber. Jimmy's not sure about Kree, though. So... nothing is set in stone at this point at all.

David Cook won in Season 7. A great performer, with his line in currently popular emotional rock and roll, with a couple of successful albums but nothing has caught on over here yet. This new track is a bit tedious - all well-intended stuff and some commercial bits here and there but just a bit too many oh wo oh wos for my taste. He was one of the few I have actually correctly predicted as winning. I always seem to get the runner-up. now shows people just what putting on a show is all about and this is a 21st Century track with a 30s feel and a touch of The Black and White Minstrel Show for good measure! Nice job. He's rushing back and forth a fair bit and will be on the Voice UK tomorrow. You have to wonder which of the four girls would be likely to give that sort of wild and modern original performance at some point in time.

I suppose Harry Connick Jnr's song was very well written and performed and it's difficult to criticise someone as expert as this guy but the backing seemed to be interfering at every junction and totally wrong for the track. It made a song with too many lyrics and song with too many lyrics and too many other things going on too. When he got up and started walking around that was almost too much to take in. Nice guy, though, with a great, instant sense of humour.

That's the entertainment done and dusted so next it's the vote results. Well, all we'll get told after whatever device Ryan is told to use to stretch it out at least to another ad break will be that Amber is in 4th place, probably...

Yes. Sad to see her go and she really shouldn't have attempted the farewell song but we'll remember her for the past great performances. And her legs.

Thursday, 2 May 2013

The one where we discover that Ryan Seacrest doesn't watch Top Gear

Songs from 2013. Well that'll be something different. And standards. OK. That won't be. Harry Connick jnr is the mentor. I am struggling to think of anything he's had in the Top 100 recently. The guy's had a string of albums and written a pile of stuff in the past so I guess that qualifies him for the slot but doesn't fill me with confidence.

Angie starts the evening, Nice bit of fun with Harry beforehand. Her choice is Rihanna's Diamonds. At the piano again and sounding excellent, She works the camera man well and seems comfortable on the stage. I think she would prefer to be moving around and showing off a little more but that was a great start.

The reviews were not so good. Interesting, as she was so far ahead of everyone last week. Having said that, the criticism is only about pretty minor aspects and nothing to do with singing, such is the standard this year at this stage. Any of these four could take on most of the previous winners and survive. Nicky spots that she's playing to the camera more than usual and Mariah agrees - one of the few occasions when they've said the same thing about someone (other than generally being complimentary).

If the votes are, indeed, carried forward from last week then my guess is that she'll have a big enough stash to get through this week. The real battle may well be between Candice and Amber. I think Kree's Country people will pull her out of trouble - provided, that is, she does actually keep them on board by picking some good ol' boy tracks.

Amber is the one in most difficulty, especially if Candice does the big gospel stuff. For now, she's doing a beautiful version of Pink's Give Me A Reason. Confident but a bit bash-bam-bash, emphasised even more by the drummer. Amber always looks wonderful but, as Nicky says, she's quite tense on stage compared to being so relaxed in preparation. Randy and Mariah pick up on this too - she's not enjoying herself as much as usual. Mariah does, however, hint at something to come next round! We'll see. Keith makes a fair point that Pink writes some pretty damn difficult songs so she did pretty damn well with that.

Candice is presenting Bruno Mars When I Was Your Man. That's tricky because the words relate to a bloke. It's a super track and her voice is great. This is a superb performance. She is totally in control and commanding the stage, the band and, unless Kree has something remarkable up her sleeve, it's Round 1 to Candice.

Good reviews too from the judges. Love Keith's suggestion When I Was Your Giraffe. She gets a belated standing ovation. But, what is it with Mariah? She seems to have trouble getting up. This week she seems to be in a sensible dress too and actually one that makes her upper half less wide and almost in proportion so why can't she stand up?

Ryan tells us that Kree will be doing a Carrie Underwood track. That's a good choice in many ways so maybe she will find a way to stop Candice stealing too far ahead of her. The track is I Will See You Again and she performs it immaculately. I don't agree with Harry that she sings it better than Carrie, And there's something about Carrie that is sensational that Kree simply doesn't get across. A nice performance - obviously perfectly in tune but Keith makes a good point about the ballad being a powerful track but it didn't come across that way. Nevertheless, that should have pulled in a good number of votes, And she gets Harry coming out on stage to congratulate her which the others didn't get.

In the second part of the show it's all about 'standards'. I do feel that they've already been pretty much done but it's a pretty broad range so hopefully they'll choose songs that they can really impress with. You just know that Candice will excel in this section, don't you? Why? No idea. Anyway, first Angie sings Someone To Watch Over Me. Beautiful red dress and they're finally getting her hair right. Just tone down the whiteness on the teeth sometime. This song suited the Broadway Angie so well. It's a bit boring and not likely to set the voters alight. It was a great way to show off her voice, if a little old-fashioned. Nicky talks about Broadway too! Whatever happens she'll be getting hundreds of offers. Nice work but she'll get through based on the overall tracks last week and this.

Keith is wearing an I Am The Stig T shirt and Ryan clearly hasn't watched Top Gear!

Amber is singing another oldie. Harry, fascinatingly, helped her (and me) understand the lyrics of My Funny Valentine. That helped in how she presented the song and she was made up perfectly for the period. Is that, though, where I'd have put her to garner votes this crucial week? She's lovely, and gets all four judges up on her feet (well done, Mariah). Some genuinely emotional reviews for this one. She is fearing that she'll go, which is a shame.

Candice is singing a Billy Holliday track. That was unexpected. Even older than some of the others. You've Changed. Fabulous. I was expecting a gospel church job but this was true classic and even beat Amber's period piece with marvellous notes picked out perfectly. Mariah is a huge fan. It now seems like Angie's track wasn't that old after all, and I would say they're all pretty even this Round, which gives Kree another great opportunity to steal this thing tonight.

Stormy Weather is probably the oldest of all. It's a tricky song and Harry tells her to sing it straight. She still seems to put a few bits in there that didn't belong but that was good. Odd choice, though, as if the others had picked the best tracks before her. So I'm not so sure she's advanced her cause tonight. The judges all respect her vocals and talent but wonder about the song choice too.

That all promotes a great debate with Harry Connick Jnr arguing well with Randy about wh and what Kree should be doing! Randy would do well to watch that back and learn!

All good stuff tonight, that's for sure. I would put Kree in 4th place but suspect the American voting public for this show will disagree and send home Amber or, shockingly some will think but still possibly, Candice.

My vote goes to Amber this week, for what it's worth and, in my view, it ought to be between her and Angie for the title this year.

Friday, 26 April 2013

The one where nothing really happens at all.

The judges enter and I wonder whether Mariah is wearing a dress that will enable her to stand up from time to time. You would have thought that, as one of the richest stars in the world, she would have a wardrobe that suits the role which might actually occasionally require her to stand up.

Ryan Seacrest reminds us once again that there is a shocking development. "It will turn the contest up-side down", apparently. What - are they bringing everyone back again? Does Charlie stand a chance after all? No. I have no idea but doubt if it will be quite as dramatic as he makes out.

The group sing-a-long is an Adele track Girl On Fire which is good. Candice really is not at her best and Amber struggles to decide which note she should start on. Having said that, she did find it reasonably quickly but we probably didn't notice as her legs were once more on display and I swear they're getting longer.

Ryan does the summary of last night's performances. Amber first, with Jimmy's criticism of MacArthur Park  once ringing out and Ryan refers to finding out her 'fate' later. Sounds like she may be going.

Kree doesn't fare a great deal better in Jimmy's summary.

Stefano returns to the Idol stage after a couple of years' away (Season 10). Nice guy and working hard to break through. I can't remember exactly when he left but he must have managed an 8th or 7th position which is still a credible finish for anyone and should encourage all those who have had to leave so far. Winning this thing really isn't that big a deal. You get all the admiration for a while, and plenty of publicity and a guaranteed contract. However, the good ones will also get contracts and some record companies can do a better job promoting their people than the winner's! If someone's got star quality and their agents do their job well, some great songs get written and plugged then we'll know about them for sure. Stefano tends to come and go. I can't see him breaking into the UK market with that material but wish him good luck anyway and you can tell he's having a good time anyway.

Candice gets the same scrutiny and we get to see Jimmy getting excited, Her song was by this guy called Drake and she gets a recorded message from him. And then he appears and that's another few moments taken care of. Nice touch, Arranged by Nicky Minaj.

Next Lee Dewyze, winner of Season 9 in 2010, next with his single from a new album. He is an example of someone who hasn't exactly been prominent since winning. Indeed, I doubt whether many outside the States will know who is is. It's a decent performance and he can write good stuff. I still don't think we'll get to hear or see a great deal more about him, though. And he won the damn show!

Eventually they'll get round to Angie Miller, who everyone, I predict, will say how wonderful she was and how, of course, she is 'safe' and through to the Finale, Final or whatever. i still wonder whether they'll not put all of them through.

OK. Ad break over. Angie's on. She gets great reviews. Here's why:

Two pairs on the stage. Amber and Candice, Angie and Kree. Amber and Candice are the bottom two and Kree and Angie go through.

Ryan starts: The person leaving tonight is... no-one! The votes will continue through to next week and a fresh total calculated so that's good news for Angie and Kree who start off with the highest count. So, pretty much as I'd expected, the 4 continue. And I think that's fair, too. No-one deserves to go home. My guess is that the judges simply made it clear that whoever was declared bottom would be saved.

So that's that. A rather uninspiring show that isn't one people will be rushing to view again on YouTube.

Thursday, 25 April 2013

The one where Angie Miller stakes her claim to the title.

So far the results have been pretty much as predicted but this week is more difficult. If Kree hadn't been in the bottom two then I would have put Amber in 4th place with American voters (2nd in mine, incidentally) but now, who knows?

Amber starts with The Power of Love. Nice track. More Jennifer Rush than Celine Dion, Ryan. This is very 70s, though. She looks like a Three Degree and this is not one of her best performances, being rather bland and without character. Keith seems to think it was a perfect song choice. Eh? Keith normally talks sense but I think he was doing some promotional stuff there. Nicky and Randy go pretty much in the same direction, Mariah too but not quite as crazily. Mariah is back in dresses that make her look gigantic again.

I have seen good reports about tonight's show on Twitter. 'One hit wonders' later, with some interesting and surprising choices.

Jimmy noticed some voice strain in Amber's performance but seemed to think she'd be hard to beat too! Oh well, looks like I'm very much in the minority there then!

Candice picks a track I didn't recognise. As always, she is note perfect and delivers a first class performance although, similarly to Amber, this is not memorable or stunning. More like a B side or album track. She is also looking very wide tonight. Nicky is spot on with the old-fashioned comment but then so too was Amber.

Kree is back on top form with a bluesy-Country Hurts So Bad. Well, I thought she was because I had this down as another track entirely that has the line hurts so bad in it which would have suited her really well. This was OK but, apart from looking great, and certainly appealing to her fans, I'm sure, not anything outstanding either. An intriguing night. Have they all relaxed and stopped competing? Angie currently has an open door...

The judges weren't ecstatic either. I think I detected the 30 second editing being used as Nicky (quite rightly) suggested that Kree take little notice of those who were blowing smoke up somewhere! Jimmy agrees with the judges - with some quite strong criticism this time.

Angie looks like the 80s Susie Quattro! That's My Home or Don't Lose Who You Are? I'm not sure what the title was of the Jessie J track but this suited her brilliantly. She sat at the piano again and you can't help but admire her efforts. That was easily the best of the four - by a long, long way! The straight hair works for her.
Very impressive stuff. They still mention her diction which, this time, I thought was genuine and not as if she was in the West End or Broadway. This was Angie's moment. Ryan even brings her grandma on the stage.

Jimmy has her 'neck and neck' with Amber,

Next come some duets which we can probably ignore. Rumour Has It is a great track for these two to sing to each other! Quite a good production with some massive drums. Kree led quite a lot of the way but that doesn't mean Amber wasn't any good by any means. However, as Keith asked - it would be great if they'd cut loose a bit!

Angie and Candice is quite a mixture. Doing Stay from Rihanna's songbook. These two were competing as if this was the deciding track for the whole competition! They were both damn good! Angie certainly was not drowned by Candice either and they came out even, working together and performing excellently and very credibly. In fact I'd put Angie slightly ahead and, if she's getting some of the Kree vote too that could be quite - no, very - significant. This could be the week that Angie stakes her claim to this Season's title.

Amber plays the Donna Summer card with MacArthur Park. She looks right and pretty much sounds right. A bit dated again but there could be a market for this. I'm not so sure it was that impressive but she gets great reviews. Nicky makes a great point when she says that of all the four girls, Amber is the one that people would want to get to know. Randy says he'd sign her right now. She's giving confidence, says Mariah. To be honest, I think she's playing it well.

Jimmy disagrees big time! Interesting. Not with her chances but with the song being that great.

Candice sings Bee Gees. That's a good idea - she ought to match well with their range. She could have chosen better than Tears On My Pillow or whatever that one's called. A song from the Streisand-Gibb Guilty album would have taken the place by storm. Never mind. She should get through - but she hasn't excelled tonight apart from the duet.

Keith makes a good point - every song so far is quite old! So true. Apart from the Jessie J track.

They get Jimmy up on the stage and it all gets a bit confusing but, basically, he's making a fair point - the judges do seem to get a bit carried away!

It's beginning to emerge who is supporting who. Mariah is a Candice supporter. Nicky backs Amber. Randy has switched from Candice to Angie this week. Keith backs Kree.

A Whiter Shade Of Pale - Kree knows how to appeal to my vote for sure with this 1967 number from Procol Harum. Cut ridiculously short, the lyrics made even less sense than they did in the 60s. A reasonable job. She can sing and may have puled some votes back. Keith says she hasn't pulled people in with the 'middle ground' tracks and needs to do something special next week. Nicky actually says 'if you leave tomorrow...'

Angie closes the show. What will she choose? So far she's had an excellent night and hasn't got much to beat to survive - but she has to keep those new found fans with a second cool and memorable performance.

Cry Me A River is even older! But nicely done - that's Angie in her zone and produced an elegant (nice word from Mariah) performance. Nicky says that tonight was her night. Randy agrees, hands down! Very true.

Ryan says there'll be a surprise twist in the competition tomorrow? What on Earth is that about? It seems a little late for twists - maybe no-one's going home and all four will be in the Final. Or Finale. I can never figure out which is which for Americans.

Friday, 19 April 2013

The one where we hear more from Seasons 2 and 3 artists than 12

So this is the one where a girl finally gets sent home. All the expectations are that it will be Janelle or, possibly, Amber. I would prefer both to stay and would put Kree in 5th place but I know that is very unlikely to happen as she is predicted to win this.

An annoying sing-a-long but at least it's in tune. Well, just, as this not the sort of stuff any of them should be doing. Like Phillip Phillips doing a Cliff Richard number. It's a medley of Donna Summers tracks so ends with She Works Hard For The Money which only Amber and Kree seemed comfortable with, the others looking as if they were hoping their parents weren't paying too much attention to the lyrics.

Ryan pulls Angie out. My guess is that she's 'safe', i.e. top three. No comment. He pulls Candice out. She has to be safe. No question about that. 'Really smart', says Jimmy, about Candice, more cautious about Angie. Paula appears looking as attractive as ever and memories of her on the panel flood back. It's strange to recall that she was there with Simon Cowell when Carrie Underwood soared to victory. And, of course, the first X Factor USA days when she was managing the groups and lost them a bit too quickly.

It looks as though they'll drag the votes out - there's an hour to fill and they dig out Clay Aitken, Season 2's runner-up, who warbles through Bridge Over Troubled Water and looks even stranger than he did 10 years ago. Any of the five girls would have embarrassed him had they had a go at that.

Janelle gets the summary. She gets a note of support from Dolly Parton.

Amber gets her summary. Jimmy thinks she was so brave to approach both the near impossible Mariah Barbra tracks and shouldn't be left in the bottom two as she seems to have been so often. I'm surprised she hasn't appealed too and would have now had her as the front runner.

Kree is last to get reviewed. This is really quite a repeat of last night and feels like they really are stretching out this show tonight. Jimmy was not so impressed but it may not make any difference,

Going back in time to the third Season, Fantasia returns to promote her new single. First, though, Latoya London who came 4th or 5th, I think, gets a pile of time for no particular reason. Fantasia put on a tremendous show and showed everyone how she'd deserved that win all those years ago, setting a standard for this year's girls to meet. To Win Again is one fine song and that helps.

First safe is Candice. And Angie. And Amber. Excellent! Kree is 4th and Janelle is fifth to go.

She sings You Keep Me Hanging On as a 'save me' song and it's a lovely rendition. It would be nice if the judges kept her in - they've nothing to lose really - but I don't see that happening. So she goes and now there are just four. The loss of support for Kree is interesting. It is getting more unpredictable now.

Thursday, 18 April 2013

The one where 5 girls gave us 10 excellent tracks for a Divas album

So one thing is sure - the performances will be good. These are five talented girls. Whilst I don't see any setting the UK charts alight, one will be a worthy winner so the next few weeks should be easy going and without injustice or incident.

Ryan eventually quietens the crowd for long enough to recognise the Boston tragedy this week. To that, I guess he'll need to add Texas tomorrow. Bad times.

Candice's song from the year she was born is Paula Adbul's Straight Up. She brings quite a unique jazzy feel to this. She's good. This is just album track material but well presented for all that. In many ways she's done more with this than Paula ever did. Masterful start. Thanks to Janelle, interestingly, who suggested that track for her.

Janelle chooses a Vince Hill track - a good ol' Country number. Probably not the Vince Hill that I know (Edelweiss)  but a pleasant enough little track I suppose. She gets a lot of good reviews and it was nice to see her being complimented and smiling.

Kree performs a rather deeper track She Says She Talks To Angels and I can imagine that she'll get a lot of credit for this. It's a lot more modern and marketable than Janelle's number. Straight off the stage, every note in place and a very professional job indeed. She is still the favourite to win and this won't change that.

Angie does the lovely I'll Stand By You by The Pretenders. Quite a dramatic performance. Sitting at the piano, I felt she might have taken longer to build as there didn't seem to be any vulnerability which the song needs. Another good track. Another very good performance. Dedicating it to her home town, Boston, as she did, will have made an impact.

Amber goes last. She's the one I am most looking forward to hearing at this stage. You kind of know now what the others will do but it's difficult to pigeon-hole this girl. Oh boy, she's doing Without You. Mariah made that her own after Nilsson. That's a difficult song. Fabulous! She deserved all the praise she got for that. Really good and she looked good while she sings too.

It's Divas night and Candice hits two targets - Mariah and Whitney Houston - with her track. When You Believe is a bit of a drag, however nicely it's sung. You tend to pay more attention to the gorgeous purple colour produced by the lighting people. Randy worships this girl, as does Mariah. Nicky is full of praise too and, despite Kree having that favourite spot, Candice is looking like a winner too. That was impressive, not something I'd buy but an awful lot of people would.

Janelle has a Dolly Parton song. Dumb Blonde. I haven't heard this. It's fun and she gave it a strong performance and enjoyed what she was doing. Not my choice of track to keep her in the competition, though. Looks like she can choose for other contestants better than she can for herself.

Kree.  Celine Dion. Yup. That makes a lot of sense. Another very accurate and pleasant performance. No mistakes, beautifully interpreted but just a little boring. It suited her well. Another good album track.

Angie is doing Halo, a great song by Beyonce. What a great track and a superb performance. To me that was the best of the night and established her back in the running, so far with Kree and Candice getting reined in a little. That was excellent, exactly what was needed and this girl was spot-on and far more exciting than anyone else has been.

Amber has a Barbra Streisand track. That may steal the night back again for her (she was just leading in Round 1) and she is on determined form too, with perfect dress choices. This was a wonderfully emotive and clever interpretation of a track that must have been so difficult to do, let alone do that well. Stunning stuff.

I guess it will be Janelle finishing 5th tomorrow. Just slightly behind the others. I give the night to Angie and Amber.

Saturday, 13 April 2013

Videos of the Top 5 this week.

Here are examples of the girls' talents this week, in no particular order. You know - I don't think it matters now who wins. There is something special about each one. Definitely a year to remember. American Idol seems not to produce winners nowadays who set a new style or race up international charts but there have been notable runners-up, 3rd, 4th and 5th place artists who have made a wider impression, as I hope some of these will do in years to come.

For now, we can just sit back and enjoy the ride for the next few weeks, knowing that the performances will be rehearsed, in tune and genuinely entertaining, albeit in a middle-of-the-road kind of way perhaps from time time to time.

Friday, 12 April 2013

The one where justice is done - at last.

Tonight six become five. There is an outside chance that the lowest in the poll is one of the judges' favourites and gets saved so six could theoretically remain six but I reckon someone's going.

After all the praise and compliments heaped on Candice, and to a lesser but still significant extent, on Amber, Kree and Angie, it simply has to be between Janelle and the hapless Lazaro tonight and hopefully performances from Kelly Clarkson and Scotty will keep our minds off what could be a very wrong outcome.

First, it's sing-a-long time. The girls are all so damn good that this is easy and genuinely reasonable to listen to. Until Lazaro starts, that is. Oh dear, this is all so cringe-worthy. Candice and Amber to the rescue. They don't blend so well at the start but later they do start working well together and put on an excellent show. Janelle I still find has a remarkably clear voice that grabs your attention and I have yet to see why Kree has gained such an advantage over her. I can only guess that there is a difference between studio acoustics experienced by the judges and the recorded show that I see. Or perhaps there is some Janelle back history that they know and we don't!

Jimmy summarises Kree, Angie and Lazaro's performances. He places Lazaro 10th. Out of 6!

Scotty McCreery returns with some good ol' Country number that was probably a big hit but passed most of us by on this side of the Pond.

In some bizarre move meant to make us wonder who goes where tonight, Ryan had placed Angie, Lazaro and Kree, last week's Top 3 (yes, I know how ridiculous that sounds now) in separate spots across the stage. Presumably representing middle two, bottom two and top two respectively. Next we'll get Amber, Janelle and Candice placed similarly. Whether the Top 2 or 3 are identified, I think we can assume that, however the producers spin this out, it's between Janelle and Lazaro. Heavens, surely not Janelle and Amber? Whichever way it's all presented, I still fear for Janelle and I am not sure the judges will save her either. They really should - in view of this being the last time they can use it and so future evictions would be purely by the public and thus not actually giving them anything much to be criticised for.

I wrote all this in what seemed an interminably long ad break between Scotty and Kelly. I wonder of the girls are still spread out over the stage?

Yes. They are.

Hmmm, she joins Angie. That wasn't where I expected her to go. Now, Candice is not going anywhere so whoever she's place with is safe too. So who's the lucky person? Kree. OK, some sense. that would put Amber with Lazaro. Worrying. Jimmy says he doesn't understand why America doesn't get her? Is he giving something away there?

I was right about the splits - just got the mix wrong. Let's assume Kree and Candice are #1 and #2. Amber #3 and Lazaro #4 is all too possible with #5 Angie and #6 Janelle. But Jimmy's comment may mean #5 Lazaro and #6 Amber with Janelle finding some welcome extra support after all. They'll save Amber if that's the case.

Kelly has some great people writing her songs these days. She actually sounds so much more modern and 'today' than this year's contestants! And Scotty, and last year's winner for that matter. We see Mariah standing up for possibly the first time ever as she chats with Ryan and Kelly. Everyone seems to have forgotten the two girls who are working out that they may have been stuffed by Lazaro sympathy votes. I said last week there'd be a riot. No, there won't. It'll just be embarrassingly quiet.  A bit of outrage. Someone will say She wouldn't have won anyway. 

Kree and Candice, 1 and 2
Now the big news
Lazaro and Amber are the bottom 2!
Angie and Janelle 3 and 4

Yes!!!! Amber is, indeed, safe. Lazaro has to sing. I don't care what he does, he's gone. He had a good run but bye bye and at last a proper outcome.

Thursday, 11 April 2013

The one where Candice gets the biggest praise ever

This week starts with some sentimental tosh about Brunel's departure. I think what everyone really wants to know is what the stats look like that have kept Lazaro on the show and may even see him sending one of the girls home this week - Janelle, on recent voting, which would evidence this show's voting having become as bonkers as X Factor UK's.

Songs from Bacharach and David are the first section's theme. Let's hope they drop the silly duets and things.

Angie kicks off with Anyone Who Had A Heart. So much better than the Cilla Black version we had to put up with here in the UK. She seemed to be straining on the top notes and it was still a bit clinical at the start. Keith Urban talked sensibly about wanting to feel some passion in her performance and in that respect he's dead right. She is good but everyone is saying the same thing and, although they say she'll be around until the final, I wonder whether that's going to be the case?

Amber is increasingly looking like a winner to me - the most natural performer who seems to have been doing this for years and looks fabulous too. I Say A Little Prayer was OK but not as impressive as I'd expected. In a way I'd apply the same criticism to her as they did to Angie as I didn't see much emotion in this. Nevertheless, I want to see her in the final. Nicky went over the top with her praise, however. Randy followed with a couple of 'Yows' and everything building up to 'In it to win it' which Mariah Carey actually voiced. They were impressed all right. I hope she gets the voters' support in the same way.

Angie must have been wondering just what she needs to do! Lazaro is next. He may only have to get through the track without falling over to get through to the Top 5. That's wrong but, as the only recipient of the girlie votes, he has a distinct advantage which only some major boob will lose.

Telling America he shoots ducks and owns a quad bike may have been one boob. His song is Close To You. Now that's a simple enough track and not particularly demanding so he made it through. There were some horrible wobbles and he is totally out of his league now but we'll just have to see how things go. Randy doesn't really know what to say. He likes the person, as I am sure we all do. But he is very honest and real and says it as he should. Mariah follows and reminds us that she has been criticised for her support for him over the weeks. This time she pulls him apart over what she says is quite a big deal - something about a key change that he didn't make. She was even more critical than Randy. This is interesting. They want him to go. Keith says the same. Nice guy but... They're probably hoping that he'll resign rather than let someone else go. Nicky makes an excellent point and tells Ryan to move on!

Difficult times for everyone - you can almost feel how embarrassed people are. I didn't actually think he made big enough mistakes to warrant all that and there is the possibility that all that will do is enhance his sympathy vote. I do hope that Kree, Candice, and Janelle in particular, put in super performances that also bring in enough votes as this week will be close I feel.

Kree says that all people in Texas do is go to rodeos! That won't do her Country vote any harm, though. Her track is What The World Needs Now Is Love and sings it very well as she always does. Pretty effortless and I'm not so sure she shouldn't get the same Angie criticism but she doesn't. For me it was just a bit bland. Mariah goes on almost as long - she is certainly making up for lost time in earlier editions this Season. Compliments all round, basically. She remains the favourite. Randy lays it on the line, almost pleading to America to vote for the singer - someone who can sing!

Janelle has a cool personality. I love her relaxed, friendly and so natural presence on stage. Her track is I'll Never Fall In Love Again. She looks lovely. Some notes were not perfect but she's highly likeable and the camera loves her. I just wish the judges would be more enthusiastic about her. If any girl is going this week, it's Janelle which would be sad.

Candice does Don't Make Me Over - a nice song, very professionally and accurately delivered. Again, I didn't get the emotion but that was a powerful and excellent delivery by yet another first class act. It is going to be really difficult to choose between these five girls. Whatever the judges say, or voters decide, I see them all with decent careers. Amber in the commercial market. Candice as the professional with big album sales. Kree as the Country artist that may win but I'm not convinced we'll hear that much more about. Janelle as the Country artist that, like Kellie Pickler, has that extra personality that will keep her on our screens longer than the others. Angie, possibly, as the big name in future if she succeeds in writing more wonderful tracks and, perhaps, gets some useful Broadway-type or even film support too.

For their second performances they choose songs they wish they'd written.

Angie's choice is not a track I recognise but it is a good choice for her. I Am Yours I think, Powerful and so well sung. I got her emotion too as she stayed at the piano and big support from Randy this time. That might see her through fine. Nicky laid it well on the line - most impressively - pointing out that Amber, Kree and Candice were walking away with the prize when she was away from the piano but, when she plays and sings, that;s when she wins. Fascinating. I don't know if Mariah got a look in! I really do not want to call it this week.

Assuming Lazaro isn't sent home, it can only be a surprise whoever goes. It will also probably be for all the wrong reasons. The Big Country vote will save Kree. I feel Janelle should survive too and believe Angie has a pretty loyal following. Between Candice and Amber, Candice is the least likely to have a big fan club but I am not sure how far Amber has actually reached out to people who vote. So, if pushed to make a prediction at this point, I would say Amber. I really do hope America sees sense and sends Lazaro home, though.

Back to the second songs. Amber does a Beyonce track  Love On Top. It was a strange start and I was wondering where she was going but she sort of recovered and actually turned it round completely and seemed to enjoy herself whatever anyone might have thought. Totally natural. And those legs are good. She gets an 'In it to win it' from Randy and lots of love from the others.

Lazaro sings Angels. This is such a popular song that I can imagine his fans will love him for doing it. Oh dear. It was not very good, helped along to a large extent by the backing and backing singers. The judges really don't want to say anything. If only he could get sent home. If not then this show could start t get embarrassing. I can just about imagine the judges and audience letting Janelle go but anyone else? No, that would cause a riot. In my view, they should riot if Janelle goes too.

Kree's choice. I think she has a free pass though so it doesn't matter too much what she does. As it is, this is a classy Help Me Make It Through The Night which will go down as one of the great Idol Season 12 tracks.

Janelle sings Garth Brooks. She has to follow the judges saying how Kree was better than her. The Dance. That was beautiful. I do hope she doesn't go. That was the first time that I had heard the song - so too Mariah, which was quite surprising. She thought it was beautiful too. Keith reckons that it would have been great if she had just performed with a guitar and nothing else - and that's probably right although I will still say that the camera loves her so much more than it does Kree - which the judges don't see until later. He also tells us that someone else actually wrote it - Garth just sang it. Nice work, Keith. Nicky still thinks that she is 5th amongst the girls.

Candice to close the show. She chooses a number by The Cure. Now that I hadn't expected. Nor had they, I suspect, as quite a hefty performance cheque should be heading their way. Love Song is an interesting selection for sure. Wow, that was excellent, the song of the night. I didn't recognise that at all but that delivery was good enough to go out as an Adele-trouncing single tomorrow. A very impressive audience response too. Randy announces that as one of the best ever performances in all 12 years. That's saying something.

Friday, 5 April 2013

The one with bad news for Burnell

A sing along version of Somebody To Love was a reasonable enough start, Candice getting the chance to show off and the two guys, as usual, almost unnoticed in the whole thing.

Top three - the judges pick Kree, Amber and Angie. The voters chose Kree, Angie and Lazaro!! Good grief!! What is happening? This is like a repeat of X Factor when Old Baloney kept getting through.

That has to be bad news for Burnell.

Carrie Underwood brings some class to the show. This Is Not Where It Ends is not the most commercial track she's sung but a pleasure to watch and listen to. She is such a great reminder of what this show can produce. Truly inspirational.

Candice stays safe. Amber too. So it's between Janelle and Burnell. Ryan asks for the judges' reaction and Nicky does her best but there's not really a great deal she can say. It had better be Burnell who is going home. Janelle certainly deserves to stay.

Burnell is bottom. He has a go at the song to be saved but I can't see that happening. It doesn't.

Thursday, 4 April 2013

The one with Amber in those jeans and the heels

Down to 7. That's 5 girls, Lazaro and Burnell. I can only assume that next week it'll be 6, 5 girls and Lazaro and then, finally, it will be a straight competition between the girls for the top spot.

So let's see how they get on tonight. It's rock night. I would be good to see some of them actually waking up and getting a bit excited perhaps.

Burnell starts with You Give Love A Bad Name. Hmmm. Seemed to me that he was just singing the words. No real rock feel to that at all. Accurate enough representation - and credit for that to the guy - but it was pretty bland. Just not his style and you could see he was acting a part!

Keith found it hilarious and noted how uncomfortable he looked. Unless one of the girls really drops the ball this evening that performance may well be Burnell's last. He really hasn't shone since the Live Shows started.

A duet between Angie and Lazaro, murdering Queen's Crazy Thing Called Love. Angie simply blew Lazaro off the stage and supported him all the way through from what I heard. This was not a good duet.

Kree has chosen a good track - Janis Joplin's Piece of My Heart. I remember Crystal Bowersox doing this or something similar some years ago and I have to say that Crystal was far more convincing. Kree was accurate and quite a smart presentation, but not as well acted as it could have been. Again, she was just singing the words, admittedly a lot better than Burnell's effort, but still not convincing. She should be perfectly safe, though, and is on track to win this from the comments and reviews tonight.

I don't know when The Letter became a rock track but it seems that Candice and Burnell will be doing it their way as the next duet. Strangely, this is a track that you could just sing and get away with as that's all The Box Tops did. It had some atmosphere which made it appeal so it shouldn't be difficult for these two to do reasonably well. The production was completely different - very bluesy and jazzed up at the same time. Burnell seemed like he was singing with his mum. Candice was doing her thing well enough and he just sang along. It was all neither one thing nor the other. Totally forgettable.

Janelle takes on a Billy Joel number. From the very start, this was excellent - she turned the track into something she could handle and this was the first performance of the night that I felt was even vaguely genuine. Nice job. I know everyone is putting Kree and Candice out front but I like her and see her in the final. Great reviews from all the judges.

Now Lazaro pulls the show back off track again and the producers must be so regretting pushing him forward and assuming the sympathy vote would bring the audience in. I think they're dropping off because Lazaro is simply not up to this. He has shown no signs of improvement at all. It's all very embarrassing and, of course, no-one wants to say the obvious. However, he seemed to have rehearsed this one well and managed Queen's We Are The Champions pretty well. That may well see off Burnell as there were no bad notes and generally he did a good job, entertainment-wise.

Amber, Janelle and Kree complete the secondary performances as a trio. Amber is on amazing heels and with some sexy clothes that made Kree look positively ancient! Nice enough job of another Billy Joel number, Janelle leading quite well and certainly maintaining a balance with Kree vocally. Amber didn't seem to suit the song so well but actually performed just as well so no harm done. Janelle has had a good night as she came across as the helpful and considerate one and was praising Amber and also the first to answer questions but not in a pushy way.

I Can't No Satisfaction is more like the sort of rock we want to see. Candice belts this out in pretty confident style but it seemed to be missing something. Well done, in tune and all good enough, just not inspiring. We gather that she has a broken toe so that explains why she didn't move around so much and may have appeared a little stiffer than usual. I still just rate that OK.

So what will Amber and Angie bring to the stage? Amber is first. What About Love is a good choice for her and she performs well. Another girl who can be trusted to deliver all the right notes and she is seriously good-looking on stage too. I think the judges will have seen more of the technical compliments than the average voter so whether they'll put her top of the list I don't know. I often feel she's the most vulnerable of the girls and yet also, possibly, the one with the best chance of future long-term stardom.

Angie closes the show. She needs something a bit special to make up for last week's shambles. I think she's smart enough to recognise that and also to take advice. Taking on Evanescence is a tough call. If anyone can do this, though, it's this girl and she does Wake Me Up Inside proud - just a little sexless, that's all. But then none of the acts really have any sex appeal - even Amber only scratches the surface - so in terms of voter appeal she should be safe.


Friday, 29 March 2013

The one where Kree gets the credit and Deven gets Lazaro'd

Janelle and Angie looking sultry in jeans and black tops. That'll help their Country votes! Now, by rights it should be Lazaro going home but we know he has all the girls' support out there so it should be between Burnell and Deven. I have a feeling, though, that one of the girls is going to be at the bottom of the list and also that the 'save' will be used,

The Top 8 sing-a-long emphasises the difference between the girls and three boys. It is still a bit sad and something they could usefully drop fairly soon, like next week.

Kree gets an endorsement from Aretha Franklin (arranged by Smokey Robinson). Quite a nice touch. Jimmy Iovine's summary tells it like it is and Candice, Janelle, Amber and Kree must share the top 4 positions this week, Angie's surprisingly bad performance putting her somewhat at risk. He seems to think that Deven and Burnell performed well in their individual rounds and would expect to see Lazaro going home. I still think we could be in for a surprise, with either Angie or poor Amber struggling for votes against Lazaro.

Colton Dixon has had a good year. I had to smile at the Ryan commentary announcing that his first album charted at #1 ... in the Christian Music and Gospel lists!! I would have been more than impressed with #43 on Billboard or US Top 100, or wherever he featured. Nice performance and another reminder of how rubbish this year's remaining boys are. I keep asking myself how it could have happened. Although he needed some work, I feel that Elijah could have brought something more modern to the show and, of course, Charlie Askew would have kept us entertained and, at least, had some star quality.

Candice and Kree, I think we can assume, are in for the long haul. Janelle will be safe this week but it'll be week by week for her from here with all the Kree love going on. Amber is lovely but i can see her just being ignored. Angie, talented as she most certainly is, may finish up as an older Carly Rose Sonenclar, on Broadway, getting rave reviews but not the Idol winner.

One Republic I Lose Myself Tonight - very smart performance with another (much further back contestant) Katherine McPhee joining them but not actually contributing as much as she might to the excitement. Still, a nice break.

Keith Urban gets a slot, too, in this busy show. He writes good Country rock numbers that flow along and have a good catch too. Nothing particularly memorable but preferable to listening to any of the boys again!

It must be time to get the votes. We only got the old-style Bottom 3 last week. Will we get the Top 3 and placings thereafter this week? No. Old style stuff again.

Candice -safe
Kree - safe
Janelle - safe
Angie - safe
Amber - my recording missed her announcement - it jumped to the Bottom three:
Burnell -he's safe
Lazaro - again, he scrapes through
Deven has the bottom position and, despite a pleasant ballad effort which Mariah loves, he isn't going to be this year's Idol and so I don't think he's worth the save. That would be better used should Lazaro put someone like Amber or Janelle in the danger zone (as I thought might have happened this week). For a moment I thought he'd got it but it wasn't to be.

Thursday, 28 March 2013

The one where Smokey Robinson looks quite young

The Music of Detroit is the theme this week and there's an intro from Smokey Robinson who provided the guidance for the last 8 contenders.

Candice gets a bundle of compliments from Jimmy and Smokey during rehearsals. She does her take on I Heard I Through The Grapevine. Some take it was too. One of the best versions I've heard! Superb. This girl is ready to record now. She is showing herself as a clear potential winner of this thing - in normal conditions, Of course, there's the Country vote to handle yet.

Kree and Janelle do a joint version of Madonna's Like A Prayer. Pretty nice and commercial. Randy and Nicky give Kree all the compliments and Janelle gets all the criticism from those two. Mariah takes ger time and actually makes the best observations, recognising that Janelle has something that appeals to the crowd even if Kree may have the better technicalities. There was a point at the end where Janelle's arm went up - that said it all for me. I wonder how they're all going to fit in duos or whatever?

Lazaro gets told to go out and do what he feels comfortable with by both Jimmy and Smokey. He picks For Once In My Life by Stevie Wonder. It's another from his album of well-rehearsed numbers and whilst he doesn't actually go anywhere with the song, it is one of his better performances. He could even survive with that. Which does beg the question Who goes?

Janelle now, on her own. You Keep Me Hangin' On could be good or it could go wrong. It's been done by so many people from The Supremes to Vanilla Fudge! She knows this well and had been working on her own version since age 14!  And that was very very good. Mariah says that was her at her finest and anything the others had said had just been proved wrong! Super arrangement and quite brave, bringing out the darker side of the track which The Supremes missed. She even gets an 'in it to win it' from Randy.

Deven brings the beautiful Tracks Of My Tears to the stage. What a mess. He shouldn't have bothered and it's even worse when the master is right there trying to be polite and considerate. I would actually say that Lazaro deserves to stay this week - provided it's Deven that goes. This guy has been just disappointing in the Live Shows.

Amber, Candice and Angie do The Supremes I'm Going To Make You Love Me. Good job, especially Amber who just suits this era so well.

Burnell does My Cherie Amour. It should work well for him. My Cher Free Amour emerges at one point and it gets a little tedious - all at the same phrasing volume. He seems to remember to ease back at the la -l -la bit but then he's off again. Still the best guy by a mile but that still only puts him 6th.

Angie is doing Shop Around. Hope it works for her. This isn't a song for proper pronunciation or best diction, as Jimmy tells her. It didn't work well. She wanted to show another side to her but I don't think we need to see it and Mariah gives her good advice. She could have easily romped home this week with any number of Motown classics. Nicky gets it spot on too.

Ryan reminds us that Amber is trying to get out of the bottom three. Odd remark as the votes start all over each week. She does Lately and should do that well. She puts a lot in and does certainly do that well. Excellent reviews from the judges so something very wrong if she is still struggling tomorrow.

The three boys tried a Four Tops performance. Luckily, Deven rescued them as only he seemed to have a clue about what was going on! Hilarious and Nicky tells them off big time. Justifiably too.

Finally, Kree has the spot and the chance to seal the deal with the last spot and a good idea of what she needs to do to stay in. Aretha Franklin's Don't Play That Song was an excellent choice and everyone loved it.

Friday, 22 March 2013

The one where you realise how old-style this Series seems!

How much we need the Jimmy Iovine summary! He talks such sense and cuts out a lot of the rubbish that the judges (Keith Urban excepted) deliver after the performances.

Amber gets the Seacrest invite but it's only to run a recording from rehearsals when she was giggling at the ridiculous smoke machine making her performance impossible. It's ad time so she has to sit down again. If she were top 3 material this week then he should have told her. That was not well handled.

Next, in fact we get one of those forgettable sing-a-long spots with the 4 guys doing a crap version of Gotta Get You Into My Life.

Paul Jolley gets pulled back. He has some silly Name Day certificate presented to him and also the news that he is in the bottom three..

Casey Abrahms shows the guys what they should have done with a great and refreshing version of I Saw Her Standing There. He's looking strange but there's talent all right!

The five remaining girls show how good they are by avoiding disaster with Here There And Everywhere which was a brave shot requiring absolutely precise tuning.

Deven is also in the bottom three.

Lazaro really ought to be joining Paul and Deven. This feeling sorry business is getting a drag. He is not in the bottom three, though. Lovely character but I can see his continuing story taking so much time and space away from the others.

Jessica Sanchez returns to the Idol stage and presents her single with Ne-yo. It's nothing like as catchy as the brilliant Jump In whihc never did get released but that'll do well and was an interesting reminder, following Casey, of just how straight, respectable and nice the current competitors are. There are some fine voices and talent but the mix hasn't yet shown us true originality to stand out. If anything, whilst Kree and Angie get the credit for singing and writing, it's Janelle and Amber who have the personalities and are coming over best. (Candice wins anyway.) This is the year of the serious, planned assault on the show, to win and make money, have kids, retire. No Casey or Jessica here this year.

Time for the votes:

Paul's out. That's wrong. Amber was also bottom three which is also wrong.

Paul does a good, sold version of Alone which is ideal for his range and style. It won't save him, though.

Thursday, 21 March 2013

The one where we see how restricted some people's radio channels must have been

Billed as Our Top Nine take on the Fab Four. Unbelievable how many contestants (and a judge!) didn't know the Beatles' tracks they were given. So it was no contest really. If they'd really wanted to take on the Beatles, here's what one of them should have done:

The 11th slot on the Idol Tour goes to Aubrey Cleland. I guess Charlie doesn't cut it with voting people over there. I still think he'd have been great on the shows - especially tonight.

Kree starts with her fairly predictable With A Little Help From My Friends. Well sung and she seems just totally reliable, performing naturally. She strikes me as the one who could be around all the way through but never quite exciting anyone. The judges give her credit galore and she's clearly a favourite of theirs now.

Burnell tackles Let It Be. He says he doesn't know the track so you do have to wonder two things. One - so why choose it!?? Two - where on Earth has he been and which station does he tune in to day by day? I reckon Jimmy fixed this one as it has the gospel stuff and works well with his tone. I still find the way he does low notes quite disconcerting. Good, but still a but uninspiring.

Mariah finally has a dress that suits her. Well dome make-over team in that area.

Amber picks She's Leaving Home. Nice track. This girl keeps surprising me. She doesn't look old or big enough for such great voice and notes and is really making her mark on the show. Mariah says she didn't know the song. Amber didn't know the song. God what is going on. Randy was annoyingly and quite rudely dismissive saying that she 'ended well.' Keith was the one to give her the credit she needed. Thank heavens someone seems to care. Best track so far tonight, but it's fair to say that none of the three have been at all bad!

Lazaro seems to know what he's doing - a great song My Life. The start is dreadful. No, he can't do this any more, folks. Lovely fellow but he does struggle with the notes and his breathing. He ended a lot better than he began but this is not Idol material. Time to go, even though I'm sure he won't.

Mariah is polite and talks about courage a lot. Keith is all technical, another way to avoid saying anything bad. Nicky is honest and great, telling him off. Randy - hey, he comes straight out with it and says that was his worst performance ever. Lazaro makes some excuses about only learning the song the day before. Hmmm.

Candice should wake us up. A track from Abbey Road they say. Come Together. Another fine choice when there may have been many simpler and more popular alternatives. That was impressive. Again. Boy this woman is on the final road all right. Just great. She takes the lead with that.

Paul seems to live in the middle of nowhere and construction techniques are greener than green which is nice. He does Eleanor Rigby. That's difficult. Well done to him for that. He has a slightly annoying tone at the start and you get the feeling that he's trying hard to get things right, which he did but without as much connection as I wanted. He looks like a classic cruise ship entertainer and somehow I can't see him getting far. He's done well and makes some interesting choices, seldom lets us down but still No 8 or 9 in this competition is a great prize for him. He shouldn't be at risk this week but could be for all the wrong reasons.

Angie chooses, or someone does, Yesterday. So many people have done this. I can't think of anyone who have done it that well, though. Another brilliant performance. Someone has finally sorted her hair - not sure about the colour change, though. Great comments from Randy, in particular. She has to be another potential finalist.

Deven goes for The Long And Winding Road. Never liked this one much. His singing this time matches Burnell's and is better if you don't look at him. The track suits him but, like the road, never really gets anywhere I felt happy with. Mariah is right behind him. This is someone who simply hasn't shone since making the Live Shows. I don't see him as any long-term performer we'll be paying to hear in years to come.

I do wish the crowd would shut up in the middle of tracks. What is this need to applaud and interrupt whatever is seen as the 'high point' of the song?

Janelle closes with I Will which is not the sort of track you'd expect someone to pick given the whole Beatles catalogue to select from. That was a nice, honest Country track which everyone likes. Randy has it down as one of the best of the night. I was impressed and reckon this should pull her back up from a low position last week. She certainly looks fabulous. So far, Kree seems to have stolen her Country vote. She needs that back and this week may be her chance.

I like the review at the end and here's how I reckon they finished up.

9th Lazaro tired and boring
8th Deven very boring
7th Burnell odd noise
6th Kree trying too hard
5th Paul something good going on there
4th Amber just a little more emotion needed
3rd Angie not as good second time around
2nd Janelle nice, this works for her

1st Candice attacking the competition

I may change my mind again tomorrow, of course!

Saturday, 16 March 2013

The one where Charlie and Aubrey get another chance and Nicky doesn't go home.

Ryan starts by saying there'll be a sing-off between one guy and one girl. I'm hoping I didn't hear that correctly. Not that it matters - it will be a guy going tonight, however they work it.

Another odd tweak by the producers has Ryan telling them how many votes they got in their home territory. I'm not sure how useful that is. More interesting is the announcement of who is in the Top 3 each week - a bit like X Factor USA's ranking but without a more specific rank.

He starts with Deven, Janelle and Candice. Candice is in the Top 3. Deven and Janelle aren't. I thought Janelle might have been but imagine two of the other girls must have pushed her out.

My last article ended with: So, who will America throw out in Week 1? I would put Lazaro, Curtis and Deven in the Bottom Three but suspect it will be between Paul and Deven. I don't know if we'll get a Bottom Three as such now - it looks like we will get the 4-10 ranking with the 10th going home.

Some huge bloke comes on and gives Kree a key to some place in Texas. So will there be some award each week for the others? That was odd, especially as his back, covered in some equally gigantic tan coloured jacket almost filled the screen. Kree is also the second person in the Top 3.

Eh?? Now I'm confused, Charlie is back!!?? Oh, the 'sing off' Ryan was talking about appears to be between one girl and one guy who were rejected at the Top Ten stage. God, this is confusing! He sings Sky Blue Diamonds beautifully - a straight act from this guy with a stunning tone and that was extremely good, far, far better than any of the guys last week. That was his own song too - a brave move and it would be so good if he does get on to the Live Tour.

Oh boy, my other favourite, Aubrey Cleland, is the other contestant for this spot, On My Own she delivers nicely - and I do like her voice and looks - but she gets some notes wrong and it really doesn't match Charlie's performance. She does pull things back a bit at the end but I fear that she won't get back in. Now, I am still assuming that someone will be going home tonight, with 11 going on the American Idol tour instead of ten, including whoever gets kicked off tonight.

Last year's winner, Phillip Phillips does his new single Gone Gone Gone. He hasn't had any success over here in the UK but he sounds remarkably like Mumford & Sons who are now really popular here so perhaps he could break through now. It's a professional and naturally great performance. I still think Jessica should have won and would have been a more internationally successful representative of this show but the guy certainly has his fans over the water with 'quadruple platinum' for Home based on USA sales alone.

Lazaro and Angie. One has made it into the Top 3. Angie is the third member of that group. Three girls in the Top 3. That figures. I'd have five girls in the Top 5 from last night's efforts. Lazaro apparently beat her in Florida. Interesting. Presumably he's polled well across the States so won't be in the risk zone this week.

I am still trying to figure out what's going on. I guess the judges will be deciding between Charlie and Aubrey for the Idol Tour space but will they also be back in the Live Shows? The judges will also, presumably, be deciding between the two lowest ranking on the votes list too, with one going home.

4th Lazaro! Good Grief - that makes him the #1 Guy, even with a very average performance
5th Amber 
6th Janelle
7th Burnell
8th Paul!

So it's Deven and Curtis in the bottom two, which was what I'd initially thought but I reckoned Curtis would have had a lot of gospel support.
9th Deven!
10th Curtis!

Wow. I didn't expect that. So now I figure out how this works: the bottom performer will sing again but will only get to continue if all four judges use their one and only 'save' in the series to keep him in. Nicky has already said that she's going home if he goes home. My guess is that they'll agree to keep him, recalling all the OTT comments they made in the past, especially Randy's, and that will be the end of their ability to save anyone else. 

I was wrong again. Randy says that they were not unanimous! Nicky wants extra time but she doesn't get it. I am expecting at any moment a change of mind or even rules but no, he's gone. It wasn't a great version of the annoying I Believe I Can Fly. He had bags of passion but the fact that the public haven't taken to him does say something and all credit to whoever did vote against him to preserve that valuable option for someone who really could win but trips up one week.

I was also wrong again about the Charlie - Aubrey thing. Maybe there's a vote going on for them which we'll find out about next week.

Thursday, 14 March 2013

The one where we get to see what the make-over teams have done.

Just in case you've just started following this, it's the first Live Show and the ten competing for the title American Idol 2013 are:

The GirlsAngela | Candice | Janelle | Kree | Amber

The BoysPaul | Curtis | Burnell | Lazaro | Deven

From here on it's the voting public that'll be deciding who stays in the competition, one leaving each week (unless they change the rules!).

It's Idol Week which means they choose a track by a previous winner which narrows the field a bit.

Curtis sings the song that Fantasia won with way back. He's wearing a curtain made into a jacket which actually suits him. Not a brilliant track, sort of off the shelf, written by someone for the programme, by the sound of it. Pretty boring and, although he did his best, that never went anywhere and some notes even sounded quite dodgy. I should think he's got plenty of support out there so should be safe on this first night, with several others likely to get fewer votes, whatever they sing.

It's also Makeover week and we get to see what sort of a job the teams have made of rebranding their charges. Good job with Curtis. Not that he needed much more than a polish as he looked smart and cool before.

Janelle has loads to choose from and that must be to her advantage. Add the fact that any cheerful Country stuff by this attractive blonde - even more so with an excellent makeover - will attract the same voters who put Scotty and many before him at the top. It's always a good idea to look like you're enjoying yourself when doing something cheerful and she manages that well. She is a confident performer and a natural in front of the camera. Nicky finally arrives but seems to have forgotten to take her sunglasses off which makes you wonder what she was doing to make her late. 'Traffic jam' isn't convincing. Randy didn't like the song choice. Mariah caught the experience point and reckons she's on target all right. Keith likes her anyway.

I'm glad she got through as she adds a sparkle to the show but she'll need to do something a bit special at some point after the weaker contestants have gone in a few weeks' time to avoid being vulnerable.

Deven's new portrait black and white photo makes him look decidedly odd and not like a winner at all but he can certainly sing well. He's doing Carrie Underwood and she has had some amazing writers working for her as well as being a brilliant writer herself so that ought to be a good choice. However, Temporary Home, which I think is the title, is not one of the best without some real passion and belief that she can produce but Deven fails to impart. He also tries a bit too hard to hit the right note at the end and it's all a bit obvious. That was not a good performance and Keith picks that up straightaway, saying that he hopes they get to hear him sing again. Nicky thinks the opposite which is a bit strange. She thinks that's his comfort zone. Well, if that's his comfort zone then he's not going to sell any records. It was, as Randy points out, not the sort of thing expected of someone who has made it through after so many amazingly good people have already fallen by the wayside on the road here. Mariah doesn't actually say anything at all.

Angela is doing a Celine Dionne track that Kelly Clarkson did in what I reckon must have been Idol 1. Now that's quite smart. Jimmy Iovine says she needs to avoid looking as if she's at a beauty pageant. I like that guy. Her voice is exceptional and all the notes are not only in the right place but you feel she is actually adding something to them and this is excellent. Expect Randy to announce that 'This girl's in it to win it!' because she certainly is and certainly could. Wonderful. I'd actually like to hear that again and once the video is available I'll add it here.

Keith loves her, you can tell. Nicky likes the leather dress and style. Her hair is still a bit 70s and the teeth too white but this is one fine contestant. Randy says what we expected!! Mariah has one word: 'Stellar'. Nice.

Paul is following Scotty as well, with Amazed. Jimmy Iovine tells him to cut the theatrics. That's a good point - Paul would be great on stage and may well make a great career on Broadway. I can't remember who first did this track but they had a special quality that neither Scotty nor Paul were able to bring to it. This was, how can I say it, a nice performance. Nicky says he whetted her sexual appetite! Surprised they let her get away with that. Keith was fairly non-committal and both he and Randy acknowledged he had taken good notice of Jimmy's advice. Mariah summed everything up nicely by recognising that and just telling him just to get on with it, relax and enjoy himself. He comes across as such a decent chap. He's not going to win but he doesn't deserve to be first to go.

Candice is another magnificent singer and I like the way she proposes to feel the lyrics. She does the excellent I Who Have Nothing which Jordin Sparks won over America with a while ago. This was a superb performance and must put her firmly in the running for the final. That was a 'moment', all four judges giving her a standing ovation and the crowd very enthusiastic. Great. That could have been a concert performance. I still prefer Angela's interpretation and tone but this girl would be a worthy contender. Nicky is so good with her comments, too, saying that that song should never be performed on Idol again as no-one else would be able to touch it! Actually, that's an interesting challenge and I wonder whether one of Angela, Janelle or Kree might take that up at a later stage. Apparently Mariah didn't stand up - explaining that she would have done but her skirt was too tight. Oh dear. perhaps it's not the skirt that's the problem but the expanding body in it.

Lazaro next. He's been very photogenic in the past and I'd thought he'd be possibly the one that the camera likes best of all the contestants. Strangely, though, his makeover seemed to have taken something away from him. He does Kelly Clarkson's Break Away and it's OK. Just OK. Not an Idol performance. All very average, I'm afraid. Nicky's right - he was nervous and maybe Jimmy's advice made him think a little more than he should. The thing is, though, the courage that this guy shows, as Mariah mentions in her comments, makes everyone feel for him and he may well have more fans voting out there than Paul and Deven, he really shouldn't stay but I would be surprised if he goes this week, despite that very average performance.

Kree has all the talent needed to win this. It's all down to the songs she chooses. Carrie Underwood had done Roy Orbison's Crying in 2008. Perfect. Carrie was good but still learning in those days. In some ways Kree is more experienced than she was then. It'll be an interesting comparison. The first part isn't as good, although her notes and tone are good there is something missing, Kree has a purity of tone that is nice but I'm afraid she lost out to Carrie on that one. Part of the problem is that, without Simon Cowell, that extra bit of spark and presentation can be missing. Just standing there didn't work. Carrie sat down in dim lights and brought the atmosphere. There was none of that for Kree. She's lost to Candice (of course) and also Janelle this round. She should stay but will need to try another 'perfect' song next time. Something longer, too.

The judges were quite careful in their comments - all saying how well she can sing but none actually going out f their way to promote her to the voters.

Burnell next. He needs to establish himself as the preferred alternative to Curtis as a start, as that;s his initial competition. Then he needs to blow away Paul and Deven and try and grab Lazaro's votes. He can do it if he does the kind of performances we've seen so far. What I'm noticing about the Live Rounds is how some shine and some just glimmer in these early stages. Some seem to get an extra kick from the audience and turn nerves to quality and know that they are there to entertain, inspire and roll with whatever the mood brings. Others are just remembering their moves, camera spot, words and notes first and, if we're lucky, we get included near the end. Few have grabbed us so far: three of the girls have but none of the guys. I think Burnell might. 

He's been turned into a trendy kid with the hat turned around. Oh dear, it sounds like he's doing the ruddy Flying Without Wings one. I can't recall the big fellow that did it first on Idol but an awful lot of people have done it so very well elsewhere. It's like an anthem that I wouldn't touch with a barge pole. It's also a bit boring now. The range he requires for this key is wrong for him - bringing out the tinniness in his voice. He throws in an uh-uh-h bit on one note and that weird low tone which sound odd to me. Not what I'd expected and nowhere near as good as I'd hoped.

Nicky says he's well on his way but not exactly over the Moon. The word 'nice' is used a lot. I still think he has the best chance of all the boys and will survive this first week. Needs to try harder next week.

Amber, interestingly is left to close the show. She's the unexpected Top 10 Live Show star. I like the girl but haven't yet seen anything that justifies her being there. She's got very tough competition in the girls but, at least, now doesn't have to worry about them while there are some weak performances from the boys. She'll need to distance herself big time from Candice, though, and choose a different sector to appeal to. No-one's doing anything very young - that's one chance she might try. Ballads and anthems could be dangerous territory tonight.

A Moment Like This is not what I would have given her. She messes about with the timing and that's not good. She looks good and you do get the feeling that she does appreciate the words she's singing. That was a good point and she sings pretty well. It was just a little tired. Nicky calls it the best performance of the night! Good grief. Has she just walked in? Did she miss Candice? Weird. Randy was very complimentary. Mariah too. Perhaps she's one of those acts that works better for those nearby. Hopefully she'll do something for the small screen next week as she ought to make it.

So, who will America throw out in Week 1? I would put Lazaro, Curtis and Deven in the Bottom Three but suspect it will be between Paul and Deven.