Idol Chit-Chat
This is your place to discuss all things "American Idol." The performances, the judges, the past contestants — it’s all right here.

Monday, February 28, 2011

How Many Finalists Will There Be?: The Plot Thickens

The plot thickens…

Sunday, FOX started airing an “American Idol” promo that said there would be a Top 12. However, it was very careful not to say how many would be chosen by America.

Then I read a report that America would choose 10 and the other two would be wild cards chosen by the judges. I figured that made sense and considered the issue settled.

But then, this afternoon, I got an e-mail from the “Idol” PR team in response to the question I asked Friday about how many finalists there would be.

The response: “We do not have a number we can provide at this time.”

Hmmm…

Now, “The Hollywood Reporter” is reporting that America will choose 10 and the judges will each choose their own wild card, making it a Top 13. But there is still no confirmation from the network.

So why all the secrecy? I think that the final number will be determined after America votes. In other words, if we vote in everyone the show/judges want, there won’t be the need for as many wild cards—maybe none at all. That would be in keeping with this year’s total fluidity…

Stay Tuned…

Sunday, February 27, 2011

The Season's First Medical Crisis

Each season there is some sort of medical crisis, but it’s not usually this early…

TMZ.com broke the story that Casey Abrams was hospitalized and received a blood transfusion. There apparently was some question as to whether Casey would have to drop out, but he did participate in Friday’s taping of Tuesday’s show.

I think Casey is a lock for the finals, so I’m hoping he’s able to get well soon…

Photo Credit: Michael Becker/FOX

Chris Medina on "The Tonight Show"

If you missed Chris Medina on "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno," you can see it here. As usual, Rickey Minor and the band were a little overpowering...

I think his song, "What Are Words" is going to be a HUGE wedding song. It's available now on iTunes and part of the proceeds go to the Julianna Recovery Fund to help with his fiance's care...

Saturday, February 26, 2011

How Many Finalists Will There Be?

It’s almost like “American Idol” has turned into the CIA this season…

As I had told you a few weeks ago, “Idol” was planning on a Top 20 with America voting the next week on the top five girls and top five guys. The judges would then add as many wild cards as they felt necessary.

But then they went with a top 24, so I figured that meant American would vote on the top six girls and six guys with no wild cards. But when the Top 24 press release came out, there was no mention of the number of finalists.

So I asked. And here is what I was told by an “Idol” publicist: “as for the total number, historically it has been a Top 12.”

Historically? Hmmm…

So, I asked again. This time, getting more specific. Would it be six and six or was it not set in stone yet? And the answer I got: “Not set in stone.”

Interesting…

The details will no doubt come out in the next few days, so why the mystery on Friday? I have no idea, but I can’t help but wonder if there’s still some tweaking going on behind the scenes…

Stay Tuned…

Photo Credit: Michael Becker/FOX

An Interesting Untold Contestant Backstory

Each season there are always interesting contestant backstories that the show doesn’t share with us and this one is a doozy…

According to the “LA Times,” one of the contestants who was eliminated Thursday night, Sophia Shorai, is the daughter of a member of the Symbionese Liberation Army that kidnapped Patty Hearst in 1974.

You can read the entire story here.

Help JLo Finish Her Video!

Thursday night during “Idol,” Jennifer Lopez will premiere the video for her new single, “On the Floor” and you can help choose the video’s ending…

Now through Thursday at noon, you can log on to AmericanIdol.com and view the different possible endings and vote for your favorite.

The full video with the winning ending will air courtesy of Ford during Thursday’s two-hour live results show…

Photo Credit: FOX

Online Voting Comes to "Idol"

The rumors have finally been confirmed…

For the first time ever, you can vote for your favorite “Idol” online, but you’ll need a Facebook account to do it.

Votes can still be made via phone and by text for AT&T wireless customers.

To vote online, you’ll need to go to AmericanIdol.com and follow the directions to log in to your Facebook account and vote.

Creator and Executive Producer Simon Fuller said in a press release, “We have been wanting to do online voting for several years, and now Facebook has offered us a secure solution and we are ready to go. The show has always involved a high level of engagement with its viewers through texting and phone voting, and it’s great to expand on this tradition.”

This move is interesting for two reasons. Number one, the announcement comes just days after a “Hollywood Reporter” story that “The X Factor” was looking to use Facebook for online voting. The other interesting thing is that FOX is owned by News Corp., which owns Facebook rival, MySpace. By going with Facebook over MySpace, it’s almost like MySpace is surrendering, isn’t it?

Online voting begins Tuesday night…

"The X Factor": Have You Got It?

“The X Factor” has announced audition dates and cities for its upcoming season…

Auditions will begin in Los Angeles Sunday, March 27th. Then they’ll hit Miami Thursday, April 7th, Newark, NJ, Thursday, April 14th, Seattle Wednesday, April 20th, Chicago Wednesday, April 27th and Dallas on a date TBA.

Unlike other shows, the first time a contestant auditions for the judges they’ll do it in front of an audience.

Those interested in auditioning should sign up on the show’s website.

Photo Credit: FOX

Meet the Top 12 Girls

Here are the Top 12 Girls who will compete for our votes Wednesday night beginning at 8 p.m. on FOX...


Naima Adedapo
Hometown: Milwaukee, WI
Currently Resides: Milwaukee, WI
Age: 26







Lauren Alaina
Hometown: Rossville, GA
Currently Resides: Rossville, GA
Age: 16







Kendra Chantelle
Hometown: Loudon, TN
Currently Resides: Nashville, TN
Age: 22









Ashthon Jones
Hometown: Valdosta, GA
Currently Resides: Nashville, TV
Age: 24







Thia Megia
Hometown: Hayward, CA
Currently Resides: Mountain House, CA
Age: 16








Haley Reinhart
Hometown: Wheeling, IL
Currently Resides: Wheeling, IL
Age: 20







Karen Rodriguez
Hometown: New York, NY
Currently Resides: New York, NY
Age: 21







Pia Toscano
Hometown: Howard Beach, NY
Currently Resides: Howard Beach, NY
Age: 22







Lauren Turner
Hometown: Covington, LA
Currently Resides: Slidell, LA
Age: 24







Tatynisa Wilson
Hometown: Shreveport, LA
Currently Resides: Aurora, IL
Age: 20







Julie Zorrilla
Hometown: Denver, CO
Currently Resides: Hollywood, CA
Age: 20







Rachel Zevita
Hometown: New York, NY
Currently Resides: New York, NY
Age: 23

Photos Credit: Michael Becker/FOX

Meet the Top 12 Guys

Here's a closer look at the Top 12 Guys...

And my apologies for the formatting. It just did not want to work today...


Casey Abrams
Hometown: Wilmette, IL
Currently Resides: Idyllwild, CA
Age: 20



Jovany Barreto
Hometown: Harvey, LA
Currently Resides: Harvey, LA
Age: 23





Jordan Dorsey
Hometown: Laplace, LA
Currently Resides: Donaldsville, LA
Age: 21


James Durbin
Hometown: Santa Cruz, CA
Currently Resides: Santa Cruz, CA
Age: 22







Clint Jun Gamboa
Hometown: Long Beach, CA
Currently Resides: Long Beach, CA
Age: 26



Tim Halperin
Hometown: Omaha, NE
Currently Resides: Fort Worth, TX
Age: 23


Stefano Langone
Hometown: Kent, WA
Currently Resides: Kent, WA
Age: 21


Brett Loewenstern
Hometown: Boca Raton, FL
Currently Resides: Boca Raton, FL
Age: 17

Jacob Lusk
Hometown: Compton, CA
Currently Resides: Compton, CA
Age: 23


Scotty McCreery
Hometown: Garner, NC
Currently Resides: Garner, NC
Age: 17


Paul McDonald
Hometown: Huntsville, AL
Currently Resides: Nashville, TN
Age: 26



Robbie Rosen
Hometown: Merrick, NY
Currently Resides: Merrick, NY
Age:17

The guys will be performing for your votes Tuesday night beginning at 8 p.m. on FOX...
Photos Credit: Michael Becker/FOX

Thursday, February 24, 2011

My Final Thoughts on Tonight's Show

It’s interesting that during the offseason when competing magazines were reporting contradictory stories, one magazine reported that the show was abandoning the gender split because Executive Producer Nigel Lythgoe didn’t want to give up a talented singer just because of their gender. But I think that is what happened. Based on what we heard of TatynisaWilson, there is no way she deserved to be in the Top 24 over Chris Medina or even Colton Dixon…

But as a whole, I’m fairly pleased with the Top 24. I think the judges did a good job and the talent is outstanding. And I’m looking forward to seeing what they bring to the live shows next week…

What do you guys think? Are you happy with the Top 24? Did your favorite make it through?

I’ll have more tomorrow when FOX sends out its press release very early in the morning…

And the Final Spot Goes To...

We’re back...

Three guys left…Brett thinks there are two spots left, but apparently he’s been counting wrong…Jacee Badeaux, Brett Loewenstern, and Colton Dixon take the walk…Jacee’s final performance was “Gone Too Soon” and I thought it was a little weak. A few days ago, I would’ve said he was a shoo-in, but now, I have no idea…Brett did an original in his final performance. I thought it was kind of weak…Colton is so good at the piano and I really like him, but I’ve rooted for Brett all along, so... JLo tells the ones who don’t make it to come back…And going through is…Brett...JLo gives Jacee a big, long hug. I think cutting Jacee was absolutely the right decision. He needs more time…

So now, the Top 24 is set…The guys will sing Tuesday night…Cue the guys dancing in front of the logo…

Wednesday, it’s the girls…Cue the dancing girls…

Three big nights next week as the finalists are officially named on Thursday…

I’ll have final thoughts in just a few…

And the Final Girl Is...

We’re back…

Casey Abrams is up next…He says he’s just happy to hug the judges no matter what happens…He got way more compliments in Vegas than his partner, Chris Medina, did…He played the stand-up bass again in his final performance…The song was a little strange, though…But he’s so completely different…He’s got to be in, chair kick or not…He makes the walk VERY slowly…Randy says, “We’ve never had a musician as talented as you”…He’s in…And the chair fell off the stage, he didn’t kick it like the previews made it look like…And he got his hugs…

Just two spots left…One guy, one girl…

Two girls left and they’re going in together…Thia Megia and Jessica Cunningham…Jessica tells Ryan he’s the undertaker right now…We relive Thia’s experience with the “vocal coach from Hell”…She did “You Raise Me Up” for her final performance. I’m not sure about that, because it was a little off and it didn’t show off that unique tone she has to her voice...Jessica has auditioned seven times…I’m not that impressed, but Steven certainly was…Jessica is completely calm…But you know she’s going home based on the look on JLo’s face…And she is. Thia is in…So, Jessica got cut on her 25th birthday, and she flips off the camera…

One last spot for the guys. Who gets it? After the break…

Did James Durbin Scream His Way In?

We’re back…

There look to be only three girls left. Thia Megia is one of them. I can’t imagine her not making it…

Pia Toscano is next…Her final performance appears to have been a scorcher. I think she’s in and then Thia and whoever is left will vie for the last spot…JLo tells her she’s in…

Up next is James Durbin…We’re reminded that he was diagnosed with Tourette’s and Asperger’s…His final performance was a much more controlled version of “Change Is Gonna Come,” but he missed that final scream as even Randy observed…He told the camera that because he threw in his Adam Lambert screams from the beginning he had to keep doing it because they were expecting it. I don’t agree. Even Adam didn’t scream all the time…He’s in…

Up next, it’s Thia Megia vs. Jessica Cunningham for the final spot. And since we have no idea who Jessica is, I’d say it’s got to be Jessica…And there are two spots for the guys. I’m sure that one of them is for Casey, so who gets the other one?

After the break…

Randy Names the Best "Idol" Performance Ever

We’re back…

Jackie Wilson is up next…Where has she been?...She blew her final performance by forgetting the words to “Because of You”…They tell her no and she asks why? They tell her that consistency is important…

Jacob Lusk takes the walk next. His final performance was “A Song For You.” It had its bumps, but there is no way he’s not in the Top 24…Randy says he thinks his performance of “God Bless the Child” was the best performance on “Idol” ever. I don’t know about that one…He’s in…Ryan hears his scream and runs after him with the crew on his heels…And then Ryan chases after him…That hangar is crazy…

Two girls and three guys spots left…

The previews show Brett, Jacee and another guy whose name is not coming to me right now vying for the final spot. I am NOT happy about that…

My guess is that Casey and James make it, leaving that one spot open…

After the break...

Did "The One" Make the Top 24?

We’re back…

Lauren Alaina is sitting in the red room with Ryan wearing what appears to be a prom dress with flashy boots. She said everyone’s been calling her “Cowgirl Barbie”…We relive her Vegas problems…Her final performance was a very slow version of “Unchained Melody.” The judges were smiling, but I wasn’t that impressed. But I think she’s through…She hugs all the judges…She looks like a little pageant queen in that dress…I think they’re faking her out pretty good here…She looks like she’s going to throw up…She thinks she’s going home…She’s in…I know Steven was faking her out, but I do wonder how she’ll handle the pressure...JLo says she’s like Dolly Parton. Okay…

Stefano Langone is up next...His final performance was an original that didn’t appear to have very many words to it. That could’ve hurt him. I’m not sure…He’s in...JLo says, “That’s a talented kid right there”…He gets a big hug from Brett, but Brett’s got to be nervous…

Two more girls and four more guys to go. Man, they are milking this thing for all it’s worth…

Did Jordan Dorsey Make It Through?

We’re back…

Up next, Kendra Chantelle…I don’t know about her…Her final performance was a very acoustic version of “Fallin’.” It’s pretty good…She comes out to Ryan and does a huge fakeout with everyone, but she’s in…

Jordan Dorsey is next…We’re reminded that he’s a music teacher. I had forgotten. That makes his Hollywood behavior all the more interesting…JLo loved his final performance, but I thought it was a little off. Maybe I just don’t like him…He tells the judges that they were bringing the singers to him to audition. Yeah right…He’s in. I’m not surprised, but I’m not really happy about it…

They keep making us think that Lauren Alaina is going home. I know I wasn’t impressed with her in Hollywood, but I can’t believe that’s the case…

We’ve got an entire hour to find out…

One More Girl Slot Gets Filled...

We’re back…

Up next is Lauren Turner…Her last performance showed her power voice…They don’t really milk this one too much as Randy tells her she’s in…

Taiwan Strong and Erin Kelly are told no…

Up next is Rachel Zevita…Ryan says they’ve grown up together since she made it to Hollywood in Season 6…I thought her final performance was a little strange…Could she be another Siobhan Magnus? Man I hope not…JLo seems to be really lecturing her…But Steven tells her she made it…Her grandmother certainly loves Ryan…

Up next, Jordan Dorsey is forced to defend himself. It’s about time…

Four girls, six guys to go…

After the break…

Which Country Guy Made It?

We’re back…

Scotty McCreery and John Wayne Schulz join Ryan in the red room and Ryan sings a little “Baby, lock them doors and turn the lights down low…”…We relive his “I Hope You Dance” disaster…His final performance was—no big shocker—a Josh Turner tune, “Long Black Train,” with the guitar…I’m not sure…Scotty says he wasn’t the man he should have been with the whole Jacee thing…He’s in. I’m happy about that, but I’m sad that probably means John Wayne is out…Randy says he loved that he still stepped up in that moment…He gets a big hug from Jacee…

And yes, John Wayne is out. Randy says, “That’s a good dude right there”…

The holding room is pretty nervous…

Jovany Barreto is next, but first Ryan had to help him take the tags off his jacket. I don’t think he’ll make it…But his final performance was “Angel,” which he sang partly in Spanish and I LOVE it when people sing Jon Secada, so…JLo is making it sound bad…But of course, it isn’t…I’m not sure about that one. I’ll withhold judgment until I see the rest…

12 spots are left…

After the break…

Three More Are In...

We're back...

Tatynisa Wilson is next…We relive her problems with “I Hope You Can Dance.” I’m actually shocked she’s still around…She did “Unbreak My Heart” for her last song. I wasn’t that impressed…She made it. WHAT?!...I know Chris Medina was better than her…

Brittany Mazur and Jimmy Allen are told no…

Tim Halperin is next. I think he’ll make it…He did an original song for his final performance while playing the piano…He made it…

Up next, Julie Zorrilla, who sang with Tim in Vegas. I’ve got to believe she made it…We’re reminded she’s the one JLo said, “Winner?” about…I was a little unimpressed with her final performance. Didn’t recognize it…She looks pretty confident…The judges tell her she needs to feel more…She’s in, but JLo milked it for all it was worth…

Six more girls, eight more guys to go…

After the break…

One More Girl and One More Guy Are Added to the Top 24

We open tonight’s show with a quick recap of what happened last night…

Credits roll and now the scene opens on the entire production crew surrounding JLo. The judges take a short break and JLo comes back, of course…

Karen Rodriguez is next and everyone in the holding room applauds as Ryan escorts her to the long walk…Karen sang a slowed down version of “If You Had My Love” in Hollywood and a Selena song in Spanish for her final performance…Remember, she’s the MySpace contestant…I think she’ll make the Top 24. She deserves to…JLo speaks first and says she disappeared for a little while…She makes it. JLo says “You had me at “If You Had My Love”…

Robbie Rosen is next on the catwalk. We’re reminded that he was in a wheelchair as a child…His final performance was “Sorry Seems to Be the Hardest Word.” A great choice. I really like him, so I’m hoping the best for him…Surely he made it…It’s Steven’s turn to stall…He’s in…JLo says, “Honestly, you’re one of the best singers we have”…

Eight girl spots left and nine guy spots left…

And we just saw Casey Abrams knock over a chair in the previews. Was that in celebration or did he not make it? Hmmm…

After the break…

Live Blogging Tonight!

It's part two of the "Green Mile" episode tonight, so that means LIVE BLOGGING!!! WOO-HOO!

Keep checking back here for the next two hours...

Breaking News: Chris Medina to Sing on "Tonight Show"

Chris Medina will not be down and out for long…

NBC has just announced that Chris will perform on “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno” Friday night.

According to the press release, Rickey Minor and The Tonight Show Band will accompany Chris on “What are Words,” a song inspired by Chris and Juliana’s love story that was written and produced by Rodney Jerkins.

“Words” will be available online today.

The Top 24 Revealed, Part 1: Did the Judges Make a Mistake?

Tonight we got some firsts. It was the first time the Top 40 had to sing one last time before walking the “Green Mile.” And it was the first time a judge actually broke down during the final eliminations. Both were due to this year’s talent, which is looking more and more like it truly could be the best ever…

The remix continued to get remixed tonight as FOX pulled a little bit of a fast one. We thought we were getting two hours of Vegas performances tonight, with the “Green Mile” episode airing tomorrow night.

Instead, we got an hour of Vegas performances and then an hour of the “Green Mile” as we met five of the Top 24.

Yes, it is 24. Somewhere between the end of January and when tonight’s episode was filmed, the show changed its mind and decided to make it a Top 24 with the top 12 guys and top 12 girls competing for our votes. I’m guessing that was dictated by the talent. FOX did eventually make the change to its press site, by the way, but it was too late to make my column…

Sadly for me, I have the feeling it won’t be the last time the show makes a change on me…

Tonight’s show started where we left off last Thursday, with the two rooms that were going through celebrating. But then Randy ended the celebration by telling them they were going to Las Vegas for Beatles night.

The 61 remaining contestants divided into duos and trios and chose their songs (They appeared to be drawn from a box.) and boarded the buses for Vegas to appear on “The Beatles: Love” stage at The Mirage.

First, the duos and trios had to rehearse with the vocal coaches. And Melinda Ademi and Thia Megia met the “vocal coach from Hell,” Peggi Blu. Peggi told Melinda about Thia: “Bury her a-- on stage.” Okay…

There was also a problem for many of the contestants because they didn’t know the music of The Beatles. So they got to sing their songs in front of Jimmy Iovine, this season’s in-house mentor, and his team. If this is any indication of what he is going to be like during the season, it is going to be VERY interesting…

Things definitely got interesting for Lauren Alaina, Scotty McCreery, and Denise Jackson because Jimmy told them to find a different song…

The contestants went to see Cirque de Soleil’s “Beatles: Love,” but the next morning it was time to get down to business as they took the same stage to sing for their lives. The Vegas show was almost like a dress rehearsal for the upcoming live episodes. Ryan talked to some contestants in the red room and the judges gave feedback, much like they will when the live shows start.

First up were Stefano Langone and James Durbin who did “Get Back.” I thought James missed his last scream a little, but the judges loved it…

Pia Toscano and MySpace contestant Karen Rodriguez are longtime friends. They pleased the judges with “Can’t Buy Me Love.” I think Karen could be a real force to be reckoned with. As Steven said, “They jumped the fence and ran off into the field”…

Jacob Lusk, Haley Reinhart and Naima Adedapo did a great version of “The Long and Winding Road.” Jimmy had told Jacob not to oversing, but the judges disagreed and told him to let it rip every time. I wonder if this is a sign of things to come with the judges and Jimmy disagreeing with each other…

Rachel Zevita appeared to nail “Eleanor Rigby” with two other singers…

Lauren Turner appeared to nail “Let It Be” in her duet with Jovany Barreto…

Tim Halperin and Julie Zorilla did a duet of “Something In the Way She Moves” complete with keyboards…

Jerome Bell, Lakeisha Lewis and Tatynisa Wilson did “I Saw Her Standing There.” I thought it was not bad with pretty harmonies, but of the judges only Steven agreed with me…

Kendra Chantelle and Paul McDonald did a duet of “Blackbird.” Paul has an interesting tone to his voice that could grow on me…

The next groups we got only glimpses of. We saw Clint Jun Gamboa and a partner doing “Help” and John Wayne Schulz in a trio doing “A Little Help From My Friends”…

Then the scene shifted to Ashley Sullivan shopping for her wedding dress. She was totally excited because she was getting married in the same chapel as Britney Spears (Remember when she was married for like a day?). Dave, the camera guy, was her witness as she became Mrs. Suravia. But first, she had this warning for her fiancé: “You’ll go through with it or I’ll kill you in your sleep”…

The second day in Vegas got kicked off with Melinda Ademi and Thia Megia with the “vocal coach from Hell” watching. I thought Thia sounded good in their duet of “Here Comes the Sun,” but Melinda was a little weak. JLo told Randy, “That Thia is something special”…

Ashley Sullivan Suravia and Sophia Shorai did “We Can Work It Out,” which is ironic because neither one of them did. After the performance, Steven was heard saying, “Yikes”…

Lauren Alaina, Denise Jackson and Scotty McCreery took the stage with their new song, “Hello Goodbye.” Scotty showed a little range by taking his voice higher, but both the girls didn’t really show much other than their ability to run around a telephone booth, or as Steven called it the “Marx Brothers put out a fire thing.” Ironically, the judges said the song didn’t fit them. Hmmm…

Carson Higgins and Caleb Hawley somewhat butchered a song I didn’t recognize…

Casey Abrams and Chris Medina did what I thought was a fun duet of “Hard Day’s Night,” complete with the two of them bouncing on a bed. “You freaks,” Steven told them…

Aaron Sanders, Robbie Rosen and Jordan Dorsey did the great choice of “Got to Get You Into My Life” for the final performance. I personally thought Jordan was off a little and the judges seemed to agree…

The “step forward” process began and Thia, Scotty, Jordan Dorsey, Ashthon, Robbie and Lauren went through. Molly, Carson, Caleb, Denise, Melinda and Ashley did not. But Ashley took it extremely well. I think she was more psyched about the Britney Spears wedding…

Although we didn’t see them perform, Jacee and Brett both survived…

Ryan explained to us that the next round would move back to Los Angeles, where the Top 40 would take the stage one more time in order for the judges to get down to the Top 12 guys and Top 12 girls. It’s the first time that I remember that there was one more performance before the “Green Mile” episode, except for the season they did sing-offs…

The second hour was a completely separate episode complete with a re-roll of the opening credits. Ryan set up the action as the contestants would have to “walk the Green Mile,” a long catwalk to the stage where the judges waited. Personally, I really missed the elevator…

First up was Naima Adedapo. She did “Girl, Put Your Records On” for her final performance (which we saw in flashback). She made the Top 24…

Hollie Cavanagh, who wouldn’t have made it to Hollywood at all without a second chance from JLo, did “No One” for her final performance. She did not make the Top 24, but JLo told her that she wanted her in but was outvoted. She told her that in a year or two, she could come back and win…

On a side note, I would think it would be hard to walk down those steps in heels while you’re crying…

Lakeisha Lewis was also told no—much to the shock of the people in the holding room—as was Alex Ryan…

Clint Jun Gamboa did “Hello” for his final performance, but when he took the stage for the final verdict, Randy wanted to know about the deal with Jacee. Was that because the show was trying to make him look better before America votes? No surprise, he made the Top 24…

Haley Rinehart also made the Top 24…

DeAndre Brackensick didn’t make it, but JLo could be heard saying, “I hate letting him go,” as he left…

Paul MacDonald, who we hadn’t really heard from before tonight, did an original song for his final performance. But it worked and he made the Top 24…

Ashton Jones did “I Wanna Dance With Somebody” for her final song and she made it to the Top 24. I think she’s one to really watch…

Chris Medina was up next. I didn’t recognize the song he did for his final one, but it was very pretty. My hero Denise told me early on tonight that she thought he was the surprise elimination we were going to see. And, of course, she was right. I also consider this as kind of a first because it was the first time in a while that “Idol” didn’t fall for the emotional backstory. Chris would have been a huge favorite with America, so that was a HUGE call. Even Ryan was surprised. And Chris proved what an incredible guy he is by taking it so well…

But JLo did not take it as well and immediately broke down. What was interesting about her breakdown was that she wasn’t only upset for him, she was upset that she didn’t let him down in the right way. Steven and Randy tried to console her by telling her she did it in the best way possible.

As JLo continued to wipe away tears, she said, “I don’t want to do this anymore” and the words, “To Be Continued” flashed on the screen…

Tomorrow, we’ll see who will join Naima, Haley, Ashthon, Clint and Paul in the Top 24. Plus, we’ll find out if JLo will continue the eliminations or if Randy and Steven will have to do it on their own…

There are several things that I need to address here, so let me start with Vegas. I thought this was an interesting way to weed out some of the contestants, but I can’t help but wonder if maybe the performances weren’t as good as they thought they would be since we only saw an hour of them. Tomorrow’s two-hour episode revealing the Final 19 could end up being a real stallfest. And I hate those…

Now let me address Chris Medina. I think the five that have been chosen for the Top 24 so far are good choices, but it will be interesting to see who else they pick that they feel is better than Chris. And it will be interesting to see if a girl worse than him ends up making it just because they need 12 girls. Jacee Badeaux will be a VERY interesting decision. I was sure that he was a shoe-in, but now, I’m not so sure. I’ll withhold my final judgment until I see the entire Top 24, but as of right now, I think they made a mistake…

Which leads me to the final thing I need to address—JLo’s breakdown. It’s not the first time we’ve seen tears from a judge as Paula used to cry all the time. But these tears were so genuine. And that is what JLo brings to the table. She’s real. She had to tell a kind and talented guy that had touched all of them that his journey was over and she reacted like any of us would—and did in my case. And she was concerned that she didn’t do it kindly enough. It’s a perfect example of why she is working so well on the show…

So what do you guys think? Do you like the choices the judges have made so far? And what about Chris Medina? Are you sad to see him go?

Feel free to post your comments or hit me up on Facebook or Twitter

Photos Credit: Ray Mickshaw/FOX

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The Confusion Continues...

Rodney Ho, the longtime “Idol” reporter from the “Atlanta Journal-Constitution,” reported this week that the show will add online voting to phone and text voting this season.

According to Ho, Executive Producer Nigel Lythgoe told him this at an interview during a “So You Think You Can Dance” audition in Atlanta. But according to Ho, an “Idol” publicist later told him it wasn’t yet a done deal.

It’s just one more example of the confusion that has permeated this season. Another example? The confusion over how many semifinalists we will see chosen tomorrow night.

All of the January and February press releases said it would be a Top 20 (which is what I went with in this week’s column), but now people are reporting that it will be a Top 24. And Ryan Seacrest even said that at the end of last Thursday’s episode.

So what is right? I guess we’ll all have to just wait and find out…

Justin Becomes an "Idiot"

The announcement was made this week that Justin Guarini will join the cast of “American Idiot” March 1st. He will play Will.

Director and co-book writer, Michael Mayer, said in a press release, “Justin blew us away in his audition and I am thrilled to have him join the company of ‘American Idiot.’”

Justin made his Broadway debut in 2010 in the musical version of “Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown.”

I presume this means that he won’t be co-hosting TV Guide Network’s “Idol” coverage this season, but I haven't confirmed that yet…

Photo Credit: Matt Beard

Get "Stronger" With Mandisa

You can now buy Mandisa's latest single, "Stronger," on iTunes and Amazon.com. Her new album, "What If We Were Real," hits stores April 5th.

You can hear "Stronger" here...

Friday, February 18, 2011

Who Actually Made It to Vegas?

Here's something new this year...

You can actually see the entire list of who made it through to Vegas on the Idol website.

Two names that pop out at me are Adrian Michael and Jordan Dorsey. Adrian was the guy who called out the band during his final performance. Jordan was the one who was so picky about who could join his group and then ended up leaving it himself.

Also on the list are a lot of the really talented ladies we saw this week.

You can see the list with pictures here.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Hollywood Week, Round 3: The Best Talent Ever?

“Baby lock them doors and turn the lights down low…”

Sorry, that song is so stuck in my head right now…

Every year, we hear the same thing. This season is the best talent we’ve ever seen. But there’s one difference this year. It may very well be true…

The show did something a little different this year. Usually we see the contestants divided in the rooms and then get flashbacks of how they did on their last audition. But tonight, we got to see several of the performances and the rooms were pretty much an afterthought.

And that format paid off with the most really strong final audition performances I’ve ever seen on the show…

Haley Rinehart was strong on Day 1, but choked during Group Day—so much that JLo actually told her she made it through by the skin of her teeth. So she knew she had to bring it on the final Hollywood Day. I thought her voice sounded really good on “God Bless the Child,” but I thought she tried just a little too much. Of course, she was singing for her life, so I guess I can’t really blame her. The performance prompted JLo to marvel, “We almost sent her home yesterday.”

Ashthon Jones was a memorable member of The Hits with Ashley Sullivan. She did a very strong version of “And I Am Telling You”…

15-year-old Thia Megia did a great version of “What a Wonderful World”…

But then the clashes with the band started. Adrian Michael, one of the people I said to keep an eye on, committed a huge no-no by blaming the band for his mess-up that forced him to start over. Caleb Johnson sang in the wrong key, as did Francis Coontz, which made Steven stop her version of “Hey Soul Sister” to let her find her key…

Clint Jun Gamboa, who will probably be best known for kicking Jacee out of his group, nailed “Georgia On My Mind”…

Kendra Chantelle and Sophia Shorai did good versions of “Georgia” too, but they paled a little in comparison to Clint…

Chris Medina and Carson Higgins both did “My Prerogative,” but Chris did an acoustic version with his guitar, while Carson went full blown with the band. We heard very little of Chris’, but Carson’s came off a little angry…

Since this was the first opportunity for the contestants to play instruments, many took advantage. Julie Zorrila did “Love Song” with the keyboard, Caleb Hawley did “Make You Feel It All Over” with the guitar, Colton Dixon rocked “What About Now” at the piano, Brett Lowenstern played the guitar and Robbie Rosen did a really strong song at the keyboard…

Casey Abrams did a very unique version of “Georgia On My Mind” with the stand-up bass. It was really good…

When Casey left the stage, he found an upset Chelsee Oaks in the hallway. Her roommate, Jacqueline Dunford, became very ill and bowed out of the competition before she went to the hospital. Chelsee started out “Because of You” pretty weak, but rallied a little before the end. No word on what was wrong with Jacqueline…

The judges’ fave, 15-year-old Lauren Alaina, did “I Don’t Wanna Miss a Thing.” It was good, but I’m still not crazy about her…

I knew when Ryan declared him a new star last night that we were going to see something from Jacob Lusk. And boy did we ever. His version of “God Bless the Child” was crazy good and was rewarded with a standing ovation from the judges. He has a very interesting tone to his voice that I really like…

We finally saw John Wayne Schulz again. He did “Landslide” with his guitar and JLo sang along…

Ryan called Ashley Sullivan an “emotional time bomb” and the bomb went off during her performance of Michael Buble’s “Everything.” She dedicated the song to her boyfriend and then proceeded to forget the words and start over. But then she forgot the words again and started freaking out. Randy told her to go to the chorus and she did with some success until she broke down again…

Stefano Langone did “You Can Feel It All Over,” hottie Jovany Barreto did an a capella version of “You Sang to Me” (Why didn’t they show a reaction from JLo?) and Jacee Badeaux did “Time of My Life”…

Scotty McCreery completely bombed the words to “I Hope You Dance,” but at least he sounded good. Tatynisa Wilson also bombed the words to “Dance,” but she did not sound good…

Finally, the 100 contestants were split into four rooms…

In Room 1 were Ashley Sullivan, Brett Lowenstern and Jacee Badeaux. I was a little nervous for Brett because he was in the same room with Brett and Jacee and came off a little weak in his performance, but I stopped worrying when I saw Lauren in there with him. And sure enough Room 1 went through with Ashley, Brett, Jacee, Lauren, Robbie Rosen, James Durbin and Casey Abrams…

In Room 2 were Brielle Von Hugel and Corey Levoy. They were sent home and JLo ended up comforting one of the contestants…

In Room 3 were Marc Gutierrez and Chelsee Oaks. They were also sent home, but received numerous hugs and words of encouragement from the judges…

That left Room 4 as the other room going through. Going on were Carson Higgins, Julie Zarrila, Jovan Barretto, Rachel Sevida and Scotty McCreery…

The two rooms began to celebrate as the scene cut away to a preview of next week and a quick explanation of what is going to happen…

Basically, the remaining contestants will take the stage in Las Vegas to sing the songs of The Beatles. Ryan said they had only 24 hours to learn the music and it appeared from the previews that there will be also be duets and group numbers. Then on Thursday, we’ll find out the Top 24…

And then we vote! WOO-HOO!

My eye is still on Brett Lowenstern, Casey Abrams and Jacob Lusk, but now I’m also watching Ashthon Jones and Colton Dixon…

And I’m sure there’ll be some debate over why the judges chose to keep Ashley Sullivan. I think she has a great voice and we even heard it a little despite her breakdown. But I think she will definitely crack again before the Top 24…

What about you guys? Who are your faves? And what do you think of this added hurdle in the competition?

Sing it with me now! “Baby lock them doors and turn the lights down low…”

Photo Credit: Michael Becker/FOX

Hollywood Week, Group Day: Too Much Singing and Not Enough Drama?

Normally, I would complain about a two-hour episode of “Idol.” But not last night. Not when it’s my favorite part of the entire season.

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, last night we got the drama that is Group Day. And we got two full hours of it…

Personally, for me, there was too much singing and not enough drama. But then, this is a singing competition, isn’t it? Sorry, sometimes I forget…

Group Day actually begins the night before (around 8:30 p.m.) when the contestants start dividing up into groups. But this task was made even harder when they were told that the groups must be a mixture of Day 1 and Day 2 contestants—which totally screwed up the plans of the Day 1 singers who had already started forming groups and choosing their songs…

One of those groups in a jam was the Sugar Mamas, which included Brett Lowenstern and Denise Williams. They needed a Day 2 contestant and they picked up Jessica Yantz…

No big shocker that Tiffany Rios was having trouble finding a group, but I was surprised to see Scotty McCreery struggling to find one. Tiffany tried to recruit him, but he got away from her. However, Tiffany did manage to get through to Jessica Yantz and stole her away from the Sugar Mamas. So, the Sugar Mamas made a move on Scotty, but he kept on shopping, only to get shut down by an extremely picky Jordan Dorsey. Scotty kept on searching, as did Tiffany and Jessica and the Sugar Mamas…

At around 10:30 p.m., Scotty finally found a home with the Gwops, who already had a Day 2 contestant in 15-year-old Jacee Badeaux. Immediately, some group members started to get concerned about the group having five people…

Drama queen Ashley Sullivan joined the Day 1 group, The Hits, and everything seemed happy—which was a major indication that things would go south very soon…

After attempting to gain additional team members by begging into a microphone with no success, Tiffany and Jessica were told by a producer that they could have a team of two instead of the minimum of three…

The Minors, which were made up of 15 and 16-year-olds were getting a lot of coaching from their moms, which annoyed James Drubin and The Deep Vs, mainly because they were doing the same song, Queen’s “Somebody to Love”…

Exes Rob and Chelsee teamed up with their new friend, Jacqueline, to form the group Three’s Company. The original plan was to have Jacqueline’s boyfriend, Nick, be the fourth member. But, of course, he didn’t make it through, which created problems for Rob since he and Chelsee weren’t really on speaking terms. As Rob put it, “I’m screwed”…

At around Midnight, the drama finally hit Ashley Sullivan as she said she was done and wanted to go home. A producer asked Ashley to take some time to think about it, so she went off with her boyfriend to think while her group practiced without her…

Clint finally won out with The Gwops and they let Jacee go. So the 15-year-old was looking for a new group at around 1 a.m…

And Jordan Dorsey, who had been so picky about who could join his group, decided to leave his group, much to the chagrin of his groupmates, and join Four Plus One…

At 2:30 a.m., Ashley finally made her decision. She decided to stay, and even though they had been practicing pretty well without her, The Hits took her back with open arms…

Meanwhile, the Sugar Mamas were starting to face the realization that they were going to have to break up without a Day 2 contestant. But then Jacee came to the rescue and they welcomed him with open arms as they rechristened their group, Sugar Mama and the Babies. Jacee was glad to have found a group, but he didn’t know the song they were singing, “Mercy”…

At around 4:20 a.m., Three’s Company was still working as Rob continued to have problems with Jacqueline and Chelsee. Plus, even vocal coach Debra Byrd jumped his case. Personally, I think he was having trouble remembering the words because of the situation. After all, he was doing Cee-Lo's "Forget You," with his ex-girlfriend...

At 7 a.m., it was time for the 39 groups to get ready. And at 8:30 a.m., the first group took to the stage to do “Grenade.” Among the singers were Pia Toscano, Alessandra Guercio and Brielle Von Hugel. The harmonies were good, but I thought the verses were a touch weak. The judges loved it, though, and they all went through…

Then it was time for Four Plus One to take the stage and sing “I Want You Back.” Jordan Dorsey, Robbie Rosen and two others all went through, but I thought Jordan was pretty weak for all the smack he was talking…

The group Jordan left, 440, was up next doing “Forget You.” Adrian Michael and Lauren Turner were seriously good and they both went through, along with their other group members, Erica and Shane…

When Rebel Star, the duo of Tiffany Rios and Jessica Yantz, took the stage to sing their duet of “Irreplaceable,” JLo said she was “so scared.” And she had reason to be as it was hideous. I have no idea why the judges let Tiffany through to start with. Randy cut them off fairly early and sent them both home. Jessica, who made one of the worst decisions in “Idol” history pairing up with Jessica, took the rejection extremely well…

Spanglish found themselves in a bit of a jam when one of their members overslept, causing a short delay in the action. But Steven filled it by hitting the stage and playing the drums. When Spanglish did take the stage to sing “Just the Way You Are,” Jovany Barneto, Kevin Campos, Jorge Gabriel, and Karen Rodriguez were shaky at times, but had a great ending. However, the whole group didn’t make it, as Jorge was left behind—after Steven caused a little confusion by almost announcing the wrong names…

Center Stage group member Angela Cheslock of Ohio demonstrated why she’s known as Noodle Nose by putting noodles up her nose and pulling them out her mouth. YUCK! For a gimmick, the girls, which included judges’ fave, Lauren Elaina, had Steven sit on stage with them for their rendition of “Some Kind of Wonderful.” He completely played along and even sang with them. But only Lauren made it through. I thought the second girl was good, as well…

The Nashville Stars, which included Colton Dixon, Matt Dillard, and three others, were a jumbled mess doing “Just the Way You Are.” Only Colton survived…

We then got a montage of bad singers and ones who forgot their words—Shannon Livewell, Briana Tyson, Janelle Arthur, Alyson Jados, and Caitlin Koch. The montage also included judges’ fave, Paris Tassin (Her story involved her caring for her young daughter.), who totally butchered “Only Girl in the World”…

Also out were Emily Anne Reed, Alyson Jados, Adrienne Beasly, Courtney Penry, Janelle Arthur and Aaron Gutierrez. Nick Gutierrez moved on…

After a pep talk to all the contestants from Randy, The Hits took the stage with “Hit ‘Em Up Style.” It was a gorgeous rendition and all of them—Kecira Lynn Ford, Ashley Sullivan, Ashthon Jones, and one other girl—went through…

The Minors continued to get advice from their moms, which continued to frustrate The Deep Vs, who took the stage and offered a big mess with “Somebody to Love.” The rest of the group basically turned the song completely over to James Durbin, and he and Caleb went through. Danny Pate, John Jordan and Emma Henry, who JLo predicted would get eaten up in Hollywood, went home. And The Minors’ moms offered a harsh critique of the song as well…

But The Minors delivered on their moms’ promises as they delivered a killer version of “Somebody to Love.” Keonna Evans, Jalen Harris, Sarina-Joi Crowe, Deandre Brackensick and one other guy went through. Steven said it was what he “joined forces with ‘American Idol’ to hear”…

After 4 p.m., Rob of Three’s Company was almost unconscious while his group mates discussed how they need to concentrate on themselves…

Back on stage, another version of “Grenade” completely exploded. Steven Clauson had the words written on his hand, and Randy told JLo he was “definitely gone.” Corey Levoy also forgot the words, but Hollie Cavanagh was not too bad. She and Corey went through. I would’ve sent Corey home, and apparently he felt the same because he actually asked the judges why before Randy chased him off the stage…

The Night Owls did an a capella version of “Get Ready.” Julie Zorrila and one of my faves, Casey Abrams, went through, while Dan Noguchi, Lara Johnston and Melissa Lucas went home. I honestly didn’t think they were all that bad…

Four Non Blondes and That Guy did “Forget You.” Caleb Hawley, Chris Medina and Carson Higgins advanced while an angry Devyn Rush went home. And quite frankly, I can’t really blame her for being angry, Corey Levoy went through based on his earlier performances, but she didn’t get the same opportunity. And Chris Medina was pretty weak based on what I heard…

At around 6 p.m., it was finally time for the Sugar Mama and the Babies to do their version of “Mercy.” Denise Jackson, Stevie Cain, Natalie Hanson, and especially Brett Lowenstern rocked it, while Jacee Badeaux sounded good, but he had to make up new words when he forgot the real ones. But because they were so cute, it actually sounded good. After wavering a little on Jacee, the judges sent all of them through. I admit I teared up a little when Jacee teared up at the ovation he received when his teammates told everyone what had happened to him…

Next up was the group that kicked Jacee out, The Gwops. Randy made them fess up and tell what they had done. Scotty apologized for not standing up for Jacee and said he was the best kid there. Perhaps that moment explains why Scotty seemed so shaky during his group’s very moody rendition of “Get Ready.” But he, Monique De Los Santos, Frances Coontz, and Clint Jun Gamboa all went through. Scotty immediately broke down after leaving the stage…

67 people had gone home by the time the final group, Three’s Company, took the stage to do “Forget You.” Chelsee Oaks sounded pretty strong, while Jacqueline Dunford was a little weak and shocked Randy by actually singing the word s—t. But Rob was a complete mess, not even attempting the real words and instead just singing about how tired he was. The judges were completely disappointed and disgusted and sent Rob home while the ladies moved on. Chelsee was pretty upset, but she said once again that she and Rob were not getting back together. However, Jacqueline said they would. For his part, Rob said, “I’m done” and walked away…

Tomorrow, it’s the solo rounds and the rooms of people waiting. And 100 will go down to 50…

On my watch list are Adrian Michael, Lauren Turner, Casey Abrams and especially Brett Lowenstern. I would also keep an eye on Jacob Lusk, about whom Ryan said, “A new star is born”…

What did you guys think? Who were the people that stood out for you? And how glad are you that Tiffany Rios is gone?

Post a comment or hit me up on Facebook or Twitter
Photos Credit: Michael Becker/FOX

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Hollywood Week, Round 1: "You're just washed out emotionally"

GROUP ROUND! GROUP ROUND! GROUP ROUND!

Sorry. I’m just really excited that they haven’t done away with my favorite part of the show…

Tonight, our new panel got to make their first Hollywood cuts and for the most part they seemed to do a good job and handle it all well, with the exception of a few tough ones for JLo…

327 people were given golden tickets—about twice as many as usual, according to Ryan…

Steven huddled the judges and Ryan up and declared his strategy. “We’re gonna go in. We’re gonna go out. Nobody gets hurt.” Clearly, Steven is new. This is Hollywood Week. Of course, people get hurt…

As usual, lines of 10 came on stage to sing a short snippet a capella without any feedback from the judges. Then the judges do the whole step forward thing and send either the front or back line home…

First up was 16-year-old Brett Loewenstern, one of my early faves. He did a scorching rendition of “Let It Be” and moved on…

Rachel Zevita who we met in New York; Thia Megia, who did a peppy version of “Summertime” and Casey Abrams, who remains one of my faves, all went through next…

Victoria Huggins, the confident 17-year-old we met in New Jersey who had all the “personality,” sang “My Hallelujah Song” and insisted on strolling all over the stage like she owned it. You could tell Steven wasn’t feeling it and the others agreed and wisely sent her home…

Up next, James Durbin, the 21-year-old who was diagnosed with Tourette’s; Paris Tassin from the New Orleans audition, who did a very pretty version of “My Heart Will Go On;” Lauren Alaina, Steven’s “the one,” who did a country version of “Unchained Melody;” and Stormi Henley, the beauty queen Steven and Randy sent through, who did a very weak rendition of “Stay.” James, Lauren, and Paris went through. Stormi was wisely sent home…

Steven Tyler once again showed his sweet side as he asked Chris Medina about his fiancé (She was the one in the wheelchair that Steven hugged and kissed after Chris’ audition.). He did the great choice of “You and I Both” and went through…

Remember Hollie Cavanagh? The girl in Austin who could barely get through her songs without crying? The nerves were completely gone as she belted out “I Look At You” to go through. Also through, 15-year-old Jacee Badeaux, who made the perfect choice of “God Bless the Broken Road,” and Robbie Rosen.

We didn’t hear much of accountant Steve Beghun’s “Just Haven’t Met You Yet,” but what we did hear was pretty weak. He didn’t make it through. Also out, Sarah Sellers and Jacquelyn Dupree. The belly dancer Heidi Khzan also didn’t go on…

160 down, 163 to go. And I realize that doesn’t add up to 327. We apparently lost some people along the way…

After a montage of people messing up, we were re-introduced to Rob Bolin and Chelsee Oaks, the exes who still sing together. Rob did a bluesy rendition of “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry.” Chelsee did something about “I Could See All Around Me.” Both of them went through. And no, they’re not back together…

Making their stay in Hollywood more interesting, though, was the fact that Rob was rooming with Nick Fink and Chelsee was rooming with Jacqueline Dunford. Rob and Jacqueline were the couple that JLo called her favorite in 10 seasons. Nick sang something about shoes that Randy cut off very quickly. Jacqueline sang something about “Bring It On Home to Me.” It was clear what was about to happen and Randy asking him to step forward just confirmed it. Nick was going home and Jacqueline was staying…

Every year, someone makes a semi-fool of themselves by pleading to the judges for a second chance. And this year, it was Nick. He grabbed the mic and begged the judges to let him stay with his “baby,” as Jacqueline just kept walking. He told Randy he didn’t get to the goods of the song and Randy told him he only got one shot. In other words, get to the goods faster. Jacqueline just kept walking like she didn’t know him as Nick stopped in the aisle to sing “the goods” of the song. Randy told him no and Nick walked out…

Outside in the hall, Nick said something very interesting to Ryan. When Ryan asked them how they were dealing with the news, Nick asked, “How you doin’ man? Are you hurt by this? You’re just washed out emotionally because you’ve been here 10 years?” Yours is an intriguing question, Nick…

But there was no time to answer it as Scotty McCreery took the stage. He decided to reprise his gorgeous version of “Your Man” to showcase his deep voice. It worked, as he went through. Also reprising their original audition songs were Jackie Wilson (“Until You Come Back to Me”) and Jerome Bell (“Let’s Get It On”). It worked for them as well…

Tiffany Rios, who you will remember put the stars on her chest for her audition, declared, “I’m tired of hearing people trying to do what I know I can.” She went through, which I think is a mistake. She’ll be big trouble for her group.

GROUP ROUND! GROUP ROUND! GROUP ROUND!

Sorry, couldn’t help it…

Travis Orlando, who was a former resident of a homeless shelter, did a weak version of “This Love” and was sent home…

168 people went through to the next round. In a flash of several faces, I think I saw John Wayne going through…

Also going through were Clint Gaboa and Julie Z. from San Francisco, Niena and the Gutierrez brothers, White House intern Molly, and Emily Anne and Stefano from San Francisco. Plus, Ashlee Sullivan, who we met in New Jersey…

I’ll fill in the complete names as I get them…

Wednesday, it’s…GROUP ROUND! GROUP ROUND! GROUP ROUND! I’ll be rooting for Scotty, Brett, Casey, Rob and Chelsee. And John Wayne, if he’s still around…

What about you guys? Did your faves get through? Was there anyone you were hoping to see, but didn’t? Let’s discuss…

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

San Francisco Auditions: Alrighty Then...

Here we are. The end of the auditions. WOO-HOO!!!

And Hollywood can’t get here fast enough, especially with the auspicious beginning the show got off to tonight. As the cameras followed a crying, disappointed contestant, she told the camera, “Just because somebody farts, let ‘em finish singin’.”

Alrighty then…

And things didn’t get any better with our first contestant, Inessa Lee, 22, who is originally from the Ukraine. Her previous claim to fame was making videos of herself in the shower. After some belly dancing, she belted out an Air Supply ballad. When the judges said no she went storming off with her seemingly clueless husband trailing behind her.

Alrighty then…

We finally got some talent, but it went by so quickly, we didn’t get a good listen. Brittany Mazur, 21, did “Mercy.” Lara Johnston, 20, did something I didn’t recognize and Matthew Nuss, 25, did something I should have recognized but didn’t. Of the three, I was most impressed with Matthew…

I was really impressed with Stefano Langone, 21, who nearly died in a serious accident nearly two years ago. His version of “I Heard It Through the Grapevine” was fresh and fun…

Clint Jun Gomba, 26, a karaoke host, made a good choice with “Billionaire,” but he was a little too showy for my taste…

After a montage of “colorful characters,” we got three bad auditions from Kenneth Berba, 22, Weston Lee Smith, 26, and Drew Beaumier, 26, who dressed up like a Transformer. I give him points for originality, but his version of “Born to Be Wild” dressed as a car?

Alrighty then…

We got to hear three good girl singers in a row, but we didn’t get their names. They sang “Last Name,” something about not knowing why and “Smile.” I have no idea why we heard them sing and didn’t see their names. They must not stick around for very long…

Julie Zorrila, 20, did a slow rendition of “Summertime” that the judges loved, but I thought it was a little too much. I did enjoy seeing her flirt with Steven. “Even the bow in the back is slammin’,” he said as she walked away. JLo asked if she could be the winner.

Alrighty then…

Dave Combs, 25, looked like someone who was going to do well. And he had a good voice. But his version of “O’ Darlin’” was all over the place. I didn’t even recognize the song…

Then we heard some more bad auditions as Steven started to get a little irritated. He told Rick Deshammp, “Dude, did you hit your head on the way in here?” Dave Johnston murdered “Stand By Me” and Sabrina Corbett attempted “Shut Up and Drive,” to which Steven responded, “You oughta be arrested for that voice”…

Emily Anne Reed, 26, lost her house to a fire the week before her audition. She did “You’re Getting to Be a Habit With Me,” which showcased her interesting voice. Steven said not yet, but Randy and JLo put her through. However, when she played her guitar, she was much better and she won Steven over too. I think she’ll fade out quickly…

After a crying montage, we got our final contestant, James Durbin, 21, whose dad died of a drug overdose when James was 9. Also adding to James’ story was that he was diagnosed with Tourette’s and Asperger’s. He did “Shook Me All Night” and a pretty scorching rendition of “Dream On”…

And with that, the auditions end and we move to Hollywood, but I honestly have no idea what we’re actually going to see tomorrow night. I just know I am seriously looking forward to it…

What do you guys think? Were you impressed with anyone in San Francisco? And are you as psyched for Hollywood to start as I am?

Photos Credit: Michael Becker/FOX

Monday, February 7, 2011

Simon Cowell Talks "X Factor": "I’ve got a really, really good gut feeling about this"

After a big promo splash during last night’s Super Bowl, FOX released some details about “The X Factor” today. But one big detail remains—who will join Simon Cowell on the judges panel?

What we do know is that auditions for “The X Factor” begin Sunday, March 27th in Los Angeles. There will also be auditions in Chicago, Dallas, Miami, New York/New Jersey and Seattle. Anyone 12 years old and up—both solo acts and groups—can audition.

But the big announcement is that the winner of “Factor” will receive a $5 million recording contract with Syco/Sony Music.

FOX quickly assembled a media conference call with Simon Cowell today to talk about “Factor” with explicit instructions to stick to questions relating to “Factor.” In other words, no questions about “American Idol.” But, of course, someone snuck one in anyway—No, it wasn’t me—and asked Simon what he thought of the new judges. He said he had only seen a three minute recap, but that, of course, didn’t stop him from sharing his thoughts:

“It all seems to be going well. What I was more concerned about were ratings falling off a cliff and that genre was now over. But people, thank God, still like these shows. I think they’ve done a good job.”

Did he mean what he said? Yes, I believe he did because I think he was honestly over “Idol” and just ready to move on. And he’s just been too busy to worry about it…

Here’s what he had to say about the real subject of the call, “The X Factor”:

On the show: “I put my trust in the audience. I trust my gut feeling. Now that I have a choice, I make shows I like to watch. I’m excited. I think we’re going to do something different. The stakes are high.”

On whether he’s considering Paula as a judge: “I’m a massive fan of Paula. We were friends on [‘Idol’] 80 percent of the time. Now we’re in contact all of the time.”

On the judges: “I’m not gonna say today who we are going to confirm. We’re talking to a number of people. We expect to make an announcement in three or four weeks. We’ve honestly not made our minds up. It comes down to who I think is interesting. The most important things are commitment and expertise.” Simon explained that the judges will mentor three finalists each. “It is hard work. It’s important to me that I’ve got people I can trust. You’ve got people who are very competitive with each other. I want someone who is competitive. It needs to be someone who the American audience will find interesting and someone who knows what they’re talking about. It also helps if they’re cute.”

On his ratings expectations: “In America, it’s impossible to predict. We just need to make a show that’s different from the competition. That’s controversial. That’s interesting. But I’ve learned never take anything for granted.”

On whether he’s nervous about giving a $5 million dollar record contract prize: “I think we should be nervous. We want to show the people…put your money where your mouth is. It’s a massive, massive risk. And an incredible incentive. I wanted to feel a certain amount of pressure. I’m nervous but I’m also confident.” Simon explained that it’s a guaranteed $5 million paid over 5 years. He said they’ll also be offering financial support so the winner(s) will know how to invest their money.

On translating a British show to America: [One of my concerns about bringing ‘Idol’ to America] was I didn’t want there to be lots of rules. This is a fairly simple format. It’s open to all ages, groups…It must be essentially an all-American show. I’m confident I can do the same thing [as I’ve done before]. I don’t take anything for granted. A star is a star. Interesting TV is interesting TV. My commitment is to find the best producers I can find…‘Dancing With the Stars’ is brilliant. If you bring a good format with great producers with a commitment to do something different, you’ve got half a chance.”

On how he balances judging and producing: “As executive producer, I have a vision for the show. I have some strong views on that. Once the show goes into production, I become a judge and I have to put my faith in the hands of the producers.”

About making the minimum age 12: “I thought long and hard about it. Five or six years ago, I wouldn’t have done it. There are incredibly talented young kids out there. Now I think times have changed. You have to go on a case by case basis. Through my job I have started to see a new wave as to how these kids are thinking. It would’ve been wrong to exclude them.” Simon also said he liked the idea of a 12-year-old competing with a 40-year-old.

On whether he’ll be the same Simon we’ve known: “You adapt over the years. I’ve started to cringe at people being booked as the mean judge. I like to think I’m honest. I wouldn’t sugarcoat something just to be popular. People know what to expect. I don’t think anything will change too much.”

On the mentoring aspect of “Factor”: “The reason we replaced ‘Idol’ with “The X Factor” [in Britain] was I got bored with just judging. I got frustrated. [This way] I could help competitors on a regular basis. It’s what you do at a record company. It made sense we should do that on a TV show.”

With “Factor,” the contestants are competing against each other, but so are the judges since they are mentoring and making the decisions for the contestants. “It’s an interesting thing to be judged as well as the competitors. It really does become completely competitive. Maybe more than with the contestants because we don’t pretend to like each other.”

The auditions in front of the judges will be live, a la “America’s Got Talent.” “I made a decision that I couldn’t sit in an audition room with two other people. I decided each person would have to audition in front of the judges in an arena. It really helped me see who could handle the pressure. It’s also vital to get audience feedback as well. They have changed our minds.” Simon said Susan Boyle is a perfect example. “The audience lifted her. I don’t believe she would’ve gotten through with the old-fashioned audition method.” The other thing Simon likes about audience feedback? “You think you’re as good of a judge as me? Then prove it.”

On the big differences between “Factor” and other shows: “It’s like pairing ‘Extreme Home Makeover” with “Jersey Shore.” They’re both reality shows, but they’re very, very different. There’s craziness and unpredictability. It’s more raw. More competitive. More personal. There’s a point where the finalists go into the judges’ homes. You’re going to see a very different live experience than what you’re used to on American TV.”

On the judges judging each other: “I think it makes it amusing…I’m extra nice to mine… You make a decision and then you have to hear someone else criticize it. That’s why it’s important to have people I think could be genuinely better than me…When someone does a good job, you have to be honest. You do judge your own and there have been times when I’m critical of my own work. When you have to put together the entire performance yourself, it’s very intimidating.”

On what the x factor is: “A perfect example is Lady Gaga. She’s got it. God only knows what we would have said to her if she walked into ‘Idol’ three years ago with a lobster on her head.”

On making a star: “What you want to happen is that you can say I was there at the beginning. We are genuinely serious about this. And we can guarantee you’ll have the very best support around you.” Simon said Kelly Clarkson is still his favorite Idol contestant.

On the state of the music industry today: “It kind of feels like we’ve come out of this gray period. It’s a really fun time again. This is a good time. It’s a great time for people to get out of their safety mode. I’m most excited about the groups. Choirs have suddenly become very interesting. I invite them to come along as well.”

On whether a star is still out there: “I think if we can’t achieve what I’ve offered—to find a global star—then we’ve failed…If I didn’t believe it, there’d be no point in making this show. I’ve got a really, really good gut feeling about this.”

On dealing with older contestants: “It can be challenging. But you can’t put an age cap on talent. There are a lot of people who have missed the opportunity. And it makes it more interesting. It’s their last chance. There’s more at stake. Susan Boyle taught me a huge lesson. I have to be more open minded. If you’ve got it, you’ve got it.”

At the end of the call, Simon asked if he could say something to everyone. After a short pause, he said, “I miss you guys. I’m glad we’re coming back.”

After all the frustration he exhibited during “Idol” last season, it was nice to hear Simon excited about something again. And I am really looking forward to what “The X Factor” is going to bring.
Yes, it’s true, Simon. I miss you and am glad you’re coming back too…

You can find out more about the show on its website.

Photo Credits: Ian Derry/FOX & FOX

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Los Angeles Auditions: All Good Things Must Come to an End

I guess it’s true. All good things must come to an end…

One of the best things about the season so far was that we hadn’t seen any of the people who are just there to get on TV. You know, the ones who are too old for the competition, but show up anyway with some shtick. It was great to see the actual talent for a change.

But tonight, “Idol” turned the show completely over to the freaks. It was cute for a while, but by the last guy—who the show clearly thought would be someone we would all want to talk about—it was just annoying…

The show started off with such promise as we got a montage of some of the previous talent we have seen. We saw Brett Loewenstern (“Bohemian Rhapsody”), Lauren Alaina (“Don’t Wanna Miss a Thing”) and Casey Abrams (“I Don’t Need No Doctor”)—three people I think we will see much more of. AND Ryan FINALLY said “THIS is ‘American Idol’.” But then it all went downhill from there…

Victoria Garrett, 21, kicked things off by telling us that God brought the auditions to LA. After her rendition of “Precious Lamb of God,” Steven said, “You’re going to…Siberia!” and then told her she was “baa-ad.” I’m sure the #Tylerisms Twitter feed was lighting up…

Tim Halperin, 23, did a great edit of “She Will Be Loved.” Randy said no, but Steven and JLo put him through…

We didn’t even find out whether Justin Carter, 27, went through or not after JLo said he lacked the bleep underneath him. My guess is no…

Friends Daniel Gomez, 18, and Isaac Rodriguez, 18, were next. Isaac had dropped out of college to be the next Idol, but he hadn’t told his mom yet. Ryan tried to keep a straight face as she proudly told him Isaac was attending college. I certainly hope he’s told her by now. No surprise that Daniel’s rendition of “I’ll Be” was bad, but I thought that Isaac would be able to sing. I was wrong. Steven said about his “Build Me Up Buttercup,” “You set the song on fire, but in the wrong way.” Daniel and Isaac promised to keep trying and sang a duet of “When You Believe” for the cameras to prove it…

Finally, we got a real voice when one of the 16,000 people who auditioned via MySpace came in—21-year-old Karen Rodriguez. I thought her version of “You Give Good Love” was excellent…

Tynisha Roches…not so much. The 25-year-old came in with her own microphone to do a tribute to Frank Sinatra, telling the judges she already had three albums that “are ready to be composed.” She did provide a funny moment when Randy left the table and she followed him around the back of the set. Randy tried to turn her off by taking the microphone. As I suspected, Randy’s next move was to call for Security who got her to leave. As usual, Steven Tyler had the best way to sum it up: “Can you imagine you’re asleep tonight and you open your eyes and she’s two inches away from you singing?”…

Steven and Randy were completely spellbound by Heidi Khzan, who demonstrated her belly dancing for the panel, complete with Steven providing the soundtrack. Steven did eventually ask her to sing and she did a decent version of “Superwoman.” But Randy and Steven had already decided to send her to Hollywood…

Matt “Big Stats” Frankel, 27, was so deluded he actually attempted “Jenny From the Block.” But Matt was more annoying than funny…

William Roberts, 24, sang something I didn’t recognize, which prompted Steven to say, “I hear your voice, but I don’t think you’re ready for 2011, 2012, or 2013 ‘American Idol’”…

More bad auditions from Jeanette Manning, Daniel Hall, Anthony Granger and Arista Pemberton, although Arista was a pretty good dancer…

Finally, some decent voices entered the room in the form of the Gutierrez brothers, Mark, 28, and Aaron, 27. They did a blazing duet of “Lean On Me” that got them through, but I’m curious what they sound like apart…

The final contestant of the night was 59-year-old Cooper Robinson, who danced around “singing” “I Feel Good.” He told the panel he was from a dangerous place in the backwoods of Arkansas where you had to be careful of snakes. After his “dancing” display, Steven said, “You ain’t never gonna get bit by a snake.” When he stared down the judges and asked, “How you like me?” he was met by complete silence and told the panel goodbye. Ryan ran in and said “What the h—l?” and JLo snuck out to avoid him. It was a pretty bummer ending…

Next week, we head to San Francisco and we get our first glimpse of Hollywood Week. And after tonight, Hollywood can’t come fast enough…

What did you guys think? Were you as bummed about the nonsense as I was?

Photo Credit: Michael Becker/FOX