American Idol: Song choice still hampering some

“American Idol” is really heating up, as we’re now getting down to the real talent, and this season boasts at least five and maybe seven with a serious chance to win it all. Last night after the ridiculous booming voice introductions and the annoying banter between Ryan Seacrest and Simon Cowell that just never seems to end, the nine remaining contestants were asked to sing anything they wanted, so long as it was a popular iTunes download. Pretty easy, right? Well, not when there are a few singers in this thing who just simply don’t get the art of song choice. Some do, though, and they do in a big way. But more on that in a minute. Here is your Top 9 America, in my take of the good, the in-between, and the bad:

THE REALLY GOOD

Danny Gokey has an amazing ability to connect with the audience, and he picks the right song week after week. We all know the back story, that Gokey lost his wife at way too young of an age recently. And he smartly draws from the grief and channels it effectively through song, as he did last night with Rascal Flatt’s “What Hurts the Most.” And if dude gave Mrs. Mike as well as judge Kara DioGuardi goose bumps, I imagine he did that for many of you as well. Paula said that type of song is where Danny thrives (what?), Simon said no one else so far (he went third) was in the same class and that it was Danny’s best performance yet, Randy said “the show starts here,” and Kara correctly pointed out that Danny moved everyone in the room emotionally.

THE GOOD

Scott McIntyre stripped down his performance last night to take on Billy Joel’s classic “Just the Way You Are” and it was easily his best showing yet. I actually didn’t find anything wrong with it this time, and I’m not a huge Scott fan. Kara said it was a smart decision to strip the song down, Paula said the best part about Scott is that everyone forgets about his “challenge,” Simon said it was Scott’s best performance by a mile, and Randy said it was the best of the night. Um, hello Randy…Danny Gokey?

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American Idol: Say hello to Hollywood

Mercifully, the audition rounds of “American Idol” Season 8 are in the books. We have endured eight stops and seven episodes in the last few weeks, and now the scene is shifting to the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood next Tuesday. Last night they lumped two audition stops into one, and those were New York City and San Juan, Puerto Rico. The back and forth during the episode was a little confusing, but the talent was as bad and as good in both places as it had been in Kansas City or Salt Lake or Phoenix or wherever else. Here were the good and bad of the ones who had the most airtime on Thursday night….

THE BAD

Adeola, who had quit her job because she was so sure she was going to Hollywood, sang a Jennifer Hudson song and was just awful, and I mean every note was off-key. Lucky for her, Simon Cowell was nice enough to call her former employer and get Adeola her job back. Who said Simon was a tool? That was classy…..Jessica Byers, a 20 year old who sang Celine Dion, was so loud and emotive that she made the audition uncomfortable for everyone. She claimed she was just nervous, but no, she just wasn’t good….Joel Contreras was a crazy rocker dude from San Juan who called himself the “human iPod” and was more talented at being nuts than at singing…Alexis, who auditioned last season and was also a bit of a wack job, returned to the New York City auditions and claimed to have toned down her act through stuff like yoga. Yeah, okay. Alexis attempted Madonna’s “Like a Prayer” and let’s just say she can also go back to being nuts, because she is better at that than at singing. Also true to form, she gave the judges the finger on the way out. Nice.

THE GOOD

Jorge Nunez, a 20 year old from Puerto Rico, sang “My Way” and had a nice Latin flair about him. The judges started saying he may have trouble singing in English, but Simon correctly pointed out that they came to San Juan to find Puerto Rican natives with talent, otherwise they would have gone to Omaha…..Melinda Camille, who admitted she likes to dance naked in her bedroom while singing, sang “Feeling Good” and had a really great voice. No confirmation on whether or not she will bring her clothes to Hollywood….Jackie Tom, who sang Jason Mraz’ “I’m Yours,” picked an odd song but had a nice tone to her voice and got through….Nick Mitchell, who goes under the moniker “Norman Gentle,” had this cabaret thing going on, and tried to inject humor into everything he did. This pissed off Simon to no end, but even he laughed when “Norman” made a crude joke about Simon and Ryan Seacrest. Anyway, when dude stopped joking and sang “Amazing Grace,” I think I speak for all of America when I say it was a pleasant surprise. Norm is off to Cali, and he will no doubt be polarizing to everyone there….after a medley of good auditions and yellow tickets, things were winding down. Next up was Monique, a 16 year old who brought along her 9 year old brother, Christopher. The kid was like a used car salesman to the judges, and since Monique was above average but not great, an assist goes to young Chris for sending his sis to Hollywood….finally there was Patricia, a 20 year old who took on Whitney Houston. That’s never a good idea, because artists like Whitney or Stevie Wonder or Aretha Franklin are just so hard to live up to vocally for an amateur. Anyway, Patricia did earn her ticket, but barely.

So our initial auditions are over, and now we head to Hollywood for the next round. Soon we will have our Top 24 and a clearer picture of who some of the contenders will be. See you all next week!

  

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American Idol Season 8 Kicks Off in the Desert

It’s a cliche, but time really freaking flies. Not only is Season 8 of “American Idol” now in progress, but it really seems like yesterday that we were crowning David Cook Season 7 champ. Season 1 was in 2002, now SEVEN years ago. They did a little retrospective to kick off Season 8 last night, and at the end of the montage they showed a bunch of little David Archuleta fans screaming “NOOOOO” when Cook was crowned by Ryan Seacrest back in May. Funny, funny stuff. Reminded me of New York Jets’ fans at the NFL draft, but worse.

Anyway, a fourth judge has been added to shake things up. Songwriter Kara DioGuardi (pronounced Dee-o-GWAR-dee) who has written somewhere around 100 hit songs and from what we found out, has a decent voice too, gives the panel another female perspective and she definitely adds some spunk and even more humor to the already eccentric judging contingent.

The first month or so of every season begins with twice-a-week auditions from various cities, and last night was the round from Phoenix, Arizona, home of Season 6 winner Jordin Sparks. There is a pattern to this every season, and the producers of the show only show us the really great and really horrible auditions, accentuating the absurd. It’s a ratings party, and last night was no exception. To streamline, we’ll just highlight the good and bad as briefly as possible…..

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