April 04, 2012

80's Week on American Idol: No Talent Required

Tonight's top 8 will take on the Big 80s, the MTV era, on tonight's American Idol.

Update: Didn't think it was possible to have a worse week than Billy Joel night two weeks ago. But tonight was an all-time worst.

Just goes to show how important a qualified mentor is on Idol. Stevie Nicks last week offered musically sound, expert coaching and elevated everyone's game. Gwen Stefani, by comparison, spoke like a bimbo and is without a trace of talent. She had nothing to contribute to the contestants, and this is what happens. Train wreck.

Worst performance of the night: Phillip Phillips' tuneless, atonal That's All. So bad one wonders if he didn't sabotage the song on purpose just to make a mockery of the show. And he's a double loser this week as his duet with the equally out of tune Elise Tostone on Stop Draggin' My Heart Around was ear-splitting bad. DeAndre was runnerup in the dishonorable mention category and should be the one sent home. But poor Hollie, who technically sang the best tonight on Flashdance, was the only one to weather judges' criticisms. She'll be sent home. Shame.

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The @AmericanIdol Twitter account posted the following photo of the band director's set list. If you don't want to know what the contestants are performing close your eyes fast and log out. But of course, you do want to know! Here is a sneak peek at the #idol Top 8's song list that will be performed by @RayChewLive and his band! http://pic.twitter.com/KlFe9pJG

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We'll have to see how it shapes up. But if I never hear Cyndi Lauper's Time After Time again I'd be a happy person.

Follow @HowardCohen on Twitter for live commentary on Idol at 8 tonight and Thursday.

March 29, 2012

HeeJun Han booted off American Idol

In the best week of American Idol this season, the weakest contestant, HeeJun Han, received the fewest votes and was not saved by the judges. Last week HeeJun, after delivering one of the cheesiest performances in the show's history, told America he didn't want to become a star so America wisely honored his wishes.

Thank you, America.

Next week the Top 8 Idols sing songs of the 80s.

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March 25, 2012

Stevie Nicks to mentor American Idol Top 9

X2_ba2bf38Photo: Stevie Nicks with Idol producer Nigel Lythgoe, Fox/EW
UPDATE:

Stevie Nicks must be a witch, because she transformed these Idols and was the best Idol mentor by a landslide. Her astute advice, kind and emotional, plus her nurturing delivery and concern, elevated everyone on Idol to deliver either their personal bests, or pretty near. (Jessica Sanchez was so striking on her Whitney cover a few weeks ago it would be hard for her to top but she was fantastic again Wednesday night on her Beyoncé ballad -- thanks to Stevie's advise to do it as a ballad.)

Colton was the one disappointment with his overly melodramatic delivery of a Lifehouse tune but under Stevie's guidance even HeeJun was not bad on A Song for You. When she told Phillip-squared that Mick Fleetwood would have hired him in Fleetwood Mac if he were friends with Lindsey and Stevie in 1974 when they joined that was high praise. But for the first time, Phillip Phillips on a Jonny Lang rocker convinced me tonight. He maintained his grit, but didn't overdo the embellishments, served the song and was at his best.

The night's brightest star, aside from Stevie, was Elise Testone. Elise was yet another who always missed my sweet spot but her Led Zep cover tonight embodied the essence of Zeppelin, rock and roll and everything worked for her: the look, the voice, the edge, the flair.

Randy Jackson wondered what it was that elevated everyone tonight. Simple. Stevie Nicks, who became a Twitter trending topic after the show aired, was the reason. She appeared to care and wasn't there to shill a new album. Not a word was said about her current release.

Instead, she told Hollie about how the recent death of her mother affected her and how Hollie needs to tap into that kind of emotion to deliver Jesus Take the Wheel. She told Skylar to find the harmony line in Miranda Lambert's Gunpowder and Lead and harmonized with her during rehearsals to show her how to accomplish the task. Skylar delivered. She counseled Joshua on how to stand properly so that he could deliver a proper, non-flat note to start off his difficult song choice, Without You. She didn't have much to offer Elise who was spot-on even in rehearsals so she sang her chart-topping Fleetwood Mac hit, Dreams, with a clearly delighted, and awestruck Elise. 

The Idols said earlier this week that Nicks was their favorite mentor. Unlike last week, when no one really took mentor Diddy seriously on his "advise" on how to sing Billy Joel tunes, every contestant took Nicks' advice and, in doing so, turned a train wreck season around. From the worst episode of Idol in memory (last week's Joel fiasco) to tonight's stellar two-hours, Idol had its best show of the season and was finally worth watching again.

All that and the re-teaming of Nicks and old boyfriend/producer Jimmy Iovine. The two were a natural comic duo, ready with quips, fond memories and quite the history. 

Rock on gold dust woman.

 

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EW reports that Stevie Nicks will mentor the remaining nine Idol contestants Wednesday. The theme has the finalists picking songs from their idols. HeeJun better lay off Landslide.

JimmyNicks' ties to American Idol can be traced to music producer Jimmy Iovine who produced the Fleetwood Mac star's first two solo albums, the chart-topping Bella Donna (1981) and The Wild Heart (1983) and half of her third, 1985's Rock a Little before the two had a falling out. Nicks and Iovine were romantically involved at the time.

Prior to his work in the studio with Nicks, Iovine produced Damn the Torpedos and Hard Promises by Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers (whose members have collaborated with Nicks to this day), Dire Straits' Making Movies, Patti Smith's Easter and engineered/mixed projects for Bruce Springsteen (Born to Run) and John Lennon's infamous Lost Weekend era (Walls and Bridges).

This will be the first time this season I will actually WANT to sit through the whole two-hour show.

Here's the EW item.

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March 22, 2012

Idol Erika movin' out after Top 10 elimination

HeejunIf either one of these two gentlemen, HeeJun or Deandre, earn elimination on tonight's American Idol I will be quite happy. Last night's Billy Joel Theme might well be the worst Idol performance show in history. Bland and outdated songs, poor performances made for one long two hour slog.

UPDATE: Alas, they were in the bottom two but Erika Van Pelt was given the boot and no judge's save. Clearly, the young girls who make up Idol's voting audience won't vote for another girl. This explains Deandre being saved as his charm and looks could appeal to the average young girl. But HeeJun? Shocking and inexplicable that this ill-mannered, unappealing and talentless young man should get another chance on this show. He showed disdain for the program last night with his insulting performance of Joel's already snotty to a fault My Life. He compounded the nastiness by shunning Jimmy Iovine's strong criticism by claiming "I don't want to be a star."

Don't worry, HeeJun, you've as much chance of becoming a star as Whitney Houston has of reanimating and starring in a sequel to The Bodyguard

The only worthwhile moment on the show tonight was Joe Perry's surprise appearance to toast his Aerosmith bandmate Steven Tyler with a guitar rendition of Happy Birthday on Tyler's birthday. Was nice seeing those two kiss and makeup on TV.

Last season's third place finalist Haley Reinhart returned to sing her first (and probably last) single. The song's forgettable, has no hook, and she lacks originality by trying to sound too much like the late Amy Winehouse. The first lesson in becoming a pop star is to have your OWN identity. Ciao Haley.

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Deandre

March 21, 2012

Billy Joel Week on American Idol

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The American Idol Top 10 will have to sing Billy Joel songs tonight because, in producer's infinite wisdom, they have determined that Billy Joel, who hasn't written a new pop song since 1993, before some of these contestants were even born, is somehow relevant.

Much as Joel served as a soundtrack for my high school years and other boomers, some of these Top 10 kids have never even heard of him and had a hard time picking material. And why would they care about his music? What does Piano Man mean to Jessica Sanchez or Deandre or HeeJun? And why would an aspiring singer today have to master Joel's pop songs anyway? Few are vocally demanding. They aren't Beatles songs. They aren't even Elton John songs.

If American Idol wants to remain ahead of upstart shows like The Voice, which is outranking Idol in the 18-24 age range (but not in overall viewership) according to Nielsen, these outdated pop catalogs need to be scrapped for something these kids find relevant. How about original songs? 

I'd argue that Joel's songs are better than many contemporary pop songs, but I've already heard them enough times to last a lifetime. Plus, we've heard selections from boomer acts like Joel, Stevie Wonder, Elton John and so forth over and over for 10 years. Time for some NEW themes (or just let the contestants pick whatever they want so we get some idea what kind of artist we are voting for.)

Watching the likes of HeeJun and Deandre struggle through Joel karaoke is hardly the stuff that makes for an exciting evening.

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March 15, 2012

American Idol: No Wild Card Save for Shannon

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To almost no one's surprise the judges didn't use their one-time Save for Shannon who just misses out on the Idol summer tour.

"Almost" because with Jermaine's forced elimination this week for his failure to reveal outstanding warrants this means two contestants went home leaving 10 but 11 weeks to flesh out the season. No word yet on how Idol will make up the final week. My guess is the judges will use their save at some point and the following week will eliminate just one contestant, rather than the usual 2, when a Save gets used.

Shannon's dismissal wasn't unwarranted. She's young and needs more practice to grow into her talent. What proved distressing is that the bottom three was populated by Shannon, Elise and Erika, three of the girls. The far more deserving HeeJun should have been sent packing. HeeJun has fast become this season's Sanjaya but, unlike Sanjaya, HeeJun has no flair, charisma or penchant for the outlandish. The dull young man has no voice, a rather unappealing personality and a passion for the dullest of ballads. Alas, HeeJun makes the summer tour. Bad move, viewers.

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March 14, 2012

Idol finalist Jermaine Jones disqualified

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Another season, another American Idol scandal. According to TMZ and other sites, the "Gentle Giant," booming baritone Jermaine Jones will be disqualified from competing on the show for lying about his criminal past. The announcement will be made on Wednesday's live show.

These scandals really strike of manufactured ploys to grab ratings, especially now that long-in-the-tooth Idol is losing the coveted 18-24 audience to NBC's The Voice. How hard IS it to check the public records on these contestants BEFORE allowing them on camera? WE journalists do this every day when writing stories on subjects.

Apparently Idol plans to send Jones packing on the Wednesday live show. If that's so, that's a low class way to handle the situation. A brief announcement should be made and the show ought to carry on. No, they absolutely should NOT bring back last week's booted contestant Jeremy Rosada. Jones' alleged deception has nothing to do with the fact Rosada was booted by viewers and the judges with cause. No, they shouldn't publicly shame Jones any further, either, because this -- and the previous scandals -- are the producers' fault for allowing these "sudden discoveries" to carry on this far. They hold auditions in the summer, they have SIX months to check public records on each and every person allowed on camera.

Disappointing thing is, Jones, rich, theatrical baritone and Joshua Ledet's gritty soul tone were the only two male voices I liked. It's time to pull the plug on American Idol. The show has lost its spark, it's merely slogging through the paces, the concept has run its course. Ending it after Scotty McCreery's victory last season would have been the best way to go out on the top, with ratings still high and with its first credible winner in six years. Limping into this 11th season with its generic roster of performers -- save the one true vocal talent, Jessica Sanchez -- has been a mistake. Just give Jessica the title tomorrow night and call it an early season.

Here's TMZ's report.

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March 07, 2012

American Idol Top 13 go live Wednesday

Image003Photo: Fox
On tonight's 400th episode, the season 11 American Idol Top 13 finalists (7 guys, 6 girls) perform live tonight. The guys tackle Stevie Wonder songs (for apparently the 400th time on Idol) and the girls face Whitney Houston material just weeks after her death catapulted three of her old albums into Billboard's Top 10.

Early favorites include Jessica Sanchez, Phillip Phillips and Elise Testone. I kind of like Skylar Laine, the sole country contestant for her energy and flair. Will have to catch up on the DVR as I won't be live with Idol tonight. Share your thoughts here or follow me on http://twitter.com/HowardCohen

In the meantime, here's some pre-show publicity, the 13 Idols at a photo shoot provided by Fox:

http://vimeo.com/foxflash/review/38057141/1a9d3cfccb