Tuesday, April 17, 2007

American Idol Running Diary: April 17

It's country week, and they couldn't have chosen a better vocal talent than Martina McBride to coach. Seriously, she is fantastic. Phil, however, is creepy, and not in a fantastic way. The strangely-detached-from-the-situation-that-is-this-show bald dude is first up this week.

Phil Stacey: "Where the Blacktop Ends"

What more do you write about Phil? It's better when he wears a hat, as his baldness weirds me out. I can't explain why, so don't ask. But as always, he's mostly in tune, but it seems like his head is in a different place. Keith Urban rules, and he's got a lot better songs than this that could be used in a singing competition. "You'll Think of Me" comes to mind. Anyway, this is unremarkable.
Rating: **

Jordin Sparks: "Broken Wing"

Jordin has the chops to do this song, but it's either going to be awesome or a complete disaster. There is no in between. The dress she is wearing is a disaster, though I usually don't comment on the attire of our fair contestants. It reminds me of a kimono. But anyway, the song. The first half was a disaster, but the second half was really good. Also, I just want to point out that I quoted the first part of Randy's feedback before he said it. I've seen this show a lot. So yeah, Jordin is really good, and with the toss-up that this season is turning out to be, she's got a serious shot at making the finals. Good stuff.
Rating: ***

Sanjaya Malakar: "Something to Talk About"

Now it's time for our weekly dose of obnoxious. Sanjaya makes my head hurt on so many levels. He's doing Bonnie Raitt, which is decidedly un-fantastic. His goal is to do her justice, so he says, and he will fail. He is curiously dressed like an Indian Bruce Springsteen with a perm, and it does not work at all. Also, neither does his lower register. You know, I could kind of understand when he was getting voted through earlier, what with the shy demeanor and the huge white teeth. But now, count me among the confused masses that watch this kid get more full of himself every week, for Lord knows what reason, while teenage girls and their moms continue to fall all over themselves to vote for him. Lo and behold, this is another horrible performance. Simon is so annoyed that this guy is still on the show, and it's hilarious. His feedback is the one good thing that comes from suffering through a minute and a half of aural cruelty.
Rating: negative *

LaKisha Jones: "Jesus Take the Wheel"

I've never been a huge fan of this song, as I find it a bit corny and contrived, but it's a good way to show off the vocals. LaKisha nailed the first verse, showing great control and restraint, but she got a little shaky on the chorus, and it sounded like she was trying just a little too hard to pour everything into it. That's actually okay for this song, though, because it was obvious that she was "feeling it", as they say. So it was a little shaky, but the voters will probably respond favorably anyway. Jesus is popular, after all. I didn't think it was as bad as the judges did, but it certainly wasn't her best. Rating: **1/2

Chris Richardson: "Mayberry"

He sounds exactly like the lead singer of Rascal Flatts (read: nasal), so this should be pretty "good", as far as that goes. But then he comes out and butchers the first few notes. Of course, it's not helping that the fiddle is WAY out of tune. Seriously, my ears are bleeding. That's embarrassing. They should turn off the fiddle's mic. Chris seems to be distracted by the disaster that is the group of instruments surrounding him, and I can't say that I'm hearing anything he's singing at all. I can't rate this debacle.
Rating: I need a nap. If a song could perform a lobotomy, this one just did. I don't know what that means, other than some of my brains just leaked out of my ears.

Melinda Doolittle: Trouble is a Woman"

Not to sound like Paula, but Melinda looks great this week. I like the song she's singing, too. Julie Reeves isn't all that well-known, but she's good. She's a Gretchen Wilson-type that filled that niche before Wilson was well-known. But anyway, Melinda is nailing this. Shocker. The band is a bit loud, and drowns her out at times, but she's just money. The only problem I see is the fact that this is such a niche song, and it's hard to sing it in a way that's universally appealing. Melinda is tremendously likable, though, and she'll be fine.
Rating: ***

Blake Edwards: "When the Stars Go Blue"

I like this song, but the one that Bono did with The Corrs blows this version out of the water. That version was actually a cover of the Ryan Adams original, and this is the Tim McGraw version. I'm just sayin'. Blake gives a relatively solid vocal, but the instruments are way too pronounced in this arrangement. This is more of a soft song, and the band is killing it. It's rushed, and it just didn't work at all on the whole. It was in tune, but that's about all I can say. Randy compliments the arrangement, and sometimes I wonder how he's a producer.
Rating: *1/2

So altogether, not such an impressive night. There are so many country songs that can really show off vocals, and Jordin was the only one who really took advantage of that. The ratings are out of 5 stars, by the way, so as you can see, I was pretty underwhelmed. I don't know how much I'll re-dedicate myself to the live blog of this show, but it's fun to check back in to this particular blog. As for predictions, you heard it here first:

Should be in the bottom three:

Sanjaya (eliminated)

Will be in the bottom three:

Chris (eliminated)

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Music (Concert): Pearl Jam at the United Center; Chicago, IL

From pearljam.com:

Set 1 Release, World Wide Suicide, Life Wasted, Severed Hand, Comatose, Given To Fly, Low Light, Corduroy, I'm Open, I Got Id, Even Flow, Unemployable, Daughter/(W.M.A.), Present Tense, Do The Evolution, Jeremy, Save You, Porch

Encore 1 You've Got To Hide Your Love Away, Better Man, Come Back, State Of Love And Trust, Black, Alive

Encore 2 Go, Blood/(Atomic Dog), Indifference, Baba O'Riley, Yellow Ledbetter

I’ve seen a lot of concerts in my day.  All sorts of rock, country, blues, etc.  Big venues, small venues, indoor and outdoor venues.  I’ve never been to any show quite like the Pearl Jam concert I attended with Zimm three weeks ago.  

You may wonder how I remember a concert well enough to review it 3 ½ weeks after the fact.  The answer lies in the best idea conceived since live music and the internet came together.  Pearl Jam, in case you haven’t heard, makes every single one of their concerts available for download a couple of days after the show.  I don’t know who thought of this, but it’s absolute genius.  There are always moments at good concerts that you remember fondly, but after a while you don’t remember them quite as clearly.  Not so here, for obvious reasons.  So let’s get into why this concert was so awesome.

If you’ve ever read anything I’ve written, you know I tend to throw around adjectives.  I’ve called more than a few things “awesome” (see above).  However, I don’t throw around phrases like “emotional experience” very often.  That’s what the Pearl Jam concert was.  I don’t mean it changed my life or something; I just mean that in a musical sense, the crowd at the United Center that night (and most nights at a Pearl Jam concert, I imagine) were taken on a ride, and Eddie Vedder was the driver.

It goes without saying that the supporting players in Pearl Jam are stellar artists.  Mike McCready is seldom mentioned when people talk about great guitarists of today, and that’s a gross oversight.  It’s a fact that Matt Cameron is makes extremely complicated drumming look easy.  But you don’t hear about these guys because Eddie Vedder is the one who garners the attention for the band, and that’s a good thing.  Vedder pours everything he has into every song, every time they play, and it shows.  From the opening strains of ‘Release” to the end of “Yellow Ledbetter”, the audience was enraptured with everything Ed was telling us.  I think another reason for that is passion of the fans themselves.  

If you don’t know the lyrics to a lot of the songs, I can’t imagine it would be the same kind of experience.  So much of what Pearl Jam is about comes across not only in the intensity of the music itself, but in the lyrics.  And the fans know all the words to almost every song.  During the first song, when we all cried out “Release me!” together, we were all on the same page with Eddie and the band.  That’s a major difference between Pearl Jam and a lot of other bands I’ve seen.  Pearl Jam seems to perform with the fans in addition to for them.  We were as much a part of the show as anyone else.  Off the top of my head, we sang by ourselves on eight songs.  Some of those were at least a chorus, and sometimes more.  And whereas other bands stop playing when the crowd sings so that the crowd can hear themselves, Pearl Jam kept playing with us, as if we were a many-voiced lead singer, and enough people were singing that we were easily heard.  It’s an unreal feeling to have that happen.  And it wasn’t always with words.  In “Jeremy”, for example, one of the most intense moments of the whole concert for me was the end of the song, where the crowd did the telltale screaming that closes the song out.

The first set had a lot of great songs, and had it ended with the new alternate version of “Porch”, that would have been a great evening of music.  As it was, it was almost like the set was just a warm up for the encores.  Eddie Vedder came out alone with an acoustic guitar to lead us in Beatles cover “You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away”, after which we sang “Better Man” (a chorus by ourselves, which also happened on the preceding song and “Even Flow”).  This first encore contained songs that, whatever they were inspired by, are very intense and personal, and Vedder plays them accordingly.  I’m referring to “Better Man”, “Black”, and “Alive”.  All three of these songs were unbelievable.  Vedder ended “Black” with the heartbreaking “we belong together” tag, which I haven’t heard for a long time.  And from the heartbreaking to the heartbreakingly inspirational (a weird combination of words, but I think it describes the song well), they transitioned into “Alive”.  We sang along with every word, and then during the final guitar solo, we started pumping our fists and chanting “Yeah!” on the downbeat.  I know fist-pumping is totally 1995, but maybe you had to be there, alright?  It was surreal.  Maybe something like that happens every time they play this particular song, but it was one of those concert moments that’s stuck with me and I see it vividly every time I listen to that version of the song.

When they came out for the second encore and rattled off two of their hardest-hitting songs from the Vs. album in “Go” and “Blood”, it was like they infused adrenaline straight into the veins of an exhausted crowd that had been on its feet for the better part of two hours straight.  Then, of course, it was straight into the mellow, introspective “Indifference” (also from Vs.).  Of course, even though that particular song was considerably slower than the first two, everyone knew the part was coming where we would all yell out the lyric “I will scream my lungs out/till it fills this room”.  And of course, what’s a Pearl Jam show without the rousing Who cover “Baba O’Riley” and “Yellow Ledbetter” with the house lights up to finish the nigh?  

So all in all, it was a concert I won’t soon forget, and you can now count me among the Pearl Jam faithful.  This is a unique band that puts on an unbelievable and powerful live show.  If you ever have the chance, go see them.  You won’t regret it. Just make sure you study up on the lyrics first, so that you can get the full effect.

Final Score: 5 cents.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Finale Exam 05-06

**Caution: Spoilers ahead!**

I liked the first season of “Thief”.  I think it showed a lot of promise.  But the season finale presents a unique dilemma, if you will, for a reviewer not on the inside of the TV business.  I’ll explain:  the finale wrapped everything up very tidily.  That’s fine if there’s no season two (which would be disappointing, because as I said, the potential is still there).  If there is a season two, we got no indication of that, or in what direction the season would head, should it indeed happen.  If the show is supposed to continue, a hook of some sort would have been nice to at least let us know there’s more to come.  We’ve got a couple of team members leaving town, one going to jail (probably for quite a long time), and one that looks like he might even die.  So is that the end?  The problem is that if it is the end, I could deal with it.  I don’t want to be able to deal with it if there’s more to come.  Make me want more.

Season: 3 cents
Finale: 3 cents (if the series is over), 2 cents (if it’s not)

I really enjoyed this finale.  The big confrontation with the demon was expected, but the guys getting broadsided by a semi totally took me by surprise.  I think the episode was just kind of cruising until the big ending.  That’s what made it so effective.  This is another one that could be the end of the season or the end of the series, depending on what the new CW network does with it.  Should it end like this, it would be a fitting ending for a show with this theme.  Obviously, though, I’m hoping they bring it back, because I was a big fan this year.  (Edit: The CW has it on the fall schedule.)

Season: 4 cents
Finale: 4 cents

“Veronica Mars”
A season finale should always be a special episode if you ask me, especially in a drama or mystery series.  And as excellent as the first two seasons of “Veronica Mars” have been, the finales have both been exactly what they should be.  The big mystery was solved, and while it came completely out of left field, it also made sense.  Who would have suspected Beaver?  On the other hand, the part with the plane seemed a little forced.  I never really got the feeling that Keith was in any danger, and the fact that the plane blew up in full view of Veronica and Cassidy was a little goofy.  But other than that one element, everything else was absolutely stellar.  And now we’re left wondering what’s so important that Keith would leave Veronica at the airport without going there to tell her what’s up.

Season: 5 cents
Finale: 4.5 cents

“The Office”
This is a unique show.  It’s hilarious (the funniest show on television right now), but it also has a coherent plotline, and they play it out better than a lot of dramas do.  At the end, when Jim and Pam kissed, it was like two people you know who should totally get together finally do.  And with Jim’s pending transfer, there are all sorts of directions the show could take next season.

Season: 5 cents
Finale: 5 cents

“My Name is Earl”

“Earl” is also hilarious, and also has a coherent plotline, but it’s more like a bunch of mini-stories, told within the confines of a big premise (like most sitcoms), whereas “The Office” is one big story where funny things are always happening (the events of previous episodes aren’t forgotten).  But anyway, in this situation, you don’t expect much from a season finale (as far as your cliffhangers, major developments, and other finale-type fodder).  So for what it was, the finale was very good.  We had a potential premise-changing development, some more funny things happened, and the situation got better.  Good stuff.

Season: 3.5 cents (it started off slow I thought, but got better)
Finale: 4 cents

“How I Met Your Mother”

Well, at least they killed the possibility of Ted getting together with Robin, since we already know they don’t end up together.  Oh wait.  They didn’t do that.  Well, at least Marshall and Lily’s wedding was nice.  What?  We’re supposed to think they’re breaking off the engagement?  Oh.  Well, Barney is always entertaining.  (Disclaimer: Yeah, I know this show targets women, but it’s actually pretty funny.  No, seriously.  It’s worth watching with your wife/girlfriend.)

Season: 3.5 cents
Finale: 2.5 cents

“Prison Break”

If you thought Fox would try to stretch this show into a second season, raise your hand.  Okay, now that you’ve all got your hands up, if you thought it would actually work, keep your hand raised.  Personally, I didn’t think it would.  After seeing the season finale, I’m still not sure that it will, but it’s possible.  I just don’t know how they can do it.  Once we find out what happens immediately following the events of the finale, where do they go?  I can see it lasting a couple episodes, but it’s going to take some good writing to get another season out of this premise.  Luckily they can still get some mileage out of the Vice President killing the President.  It’ll definitely be interesting to see what happens.

Season: 4 cents
Finale: 4 cents


This was definitely an up-and-down season.  It started out kind of okay, then got pretty good, and it ended up being kind of okay.  It felt like everything they did could have been done with one episode fewer than they actually ran.  The finale was alright.  We had the hybrids getting caught by the military, the fools irrationally going after Tom (with one of them coming to their senses), and Larkin even got shot.  So that’s our hook for next season.  Did Tom make her a hybrid or didn’t he?  And where do we go from here?  I think this is another one that could have told its story in one season.  So depending on what happens in the first episode of next season, I might be done with this.

Season: 3 cents
Finale: 3 cents

“Law & Order: SVU”

Pretty much a regular episode, which is really all you can expect from this show if none of the characters are leaving.  These guys can only get shot for a cliffhanger so many times.  So it was fun to get a Tom Cruise “psychiatric drugs are poison” shot in, even though it’s hardly a hot topic right now.  

Season: 3.5 cents
Finale: 3.5 cents

“The Unit”

David Mamet’s creation topped off a stellar freshman season with an outstanding finale.  We got an ending to the small picture, but the future is wide open for all the members of the unit, and so much so that the show could literally go in any direction.  Dennis Haysbert has a thing for ending his seasons being injured, but this time it doesn’t look life-threatening (also, there’s no way in the world that they would kill him off with how valuable he is to the show).  And we still don’t really know if any of the wives were shot.  I’m really looking forward to the next season..

Season: 5 cents
Finale: 5 cents


Call me a sucker, but I believed every second of what I watched on “24” this season.  At least while I was watching the show.  I know that a lot of things are implausible when you think about them, but seriously—why think about them?  Sure, he infiltrated a helicopter that was carrying the President.  But he didn’t ridiculously rob a convenience store, right?  This was the best season since the second one if you ask me (and the fact that Kim didn’t play a major part is no coincidence), and with the premise of the Chinese coming back to get Jack, there’s a lot of promise for season six.  You had to know that was coming when the Chinese guy told him that Kim was on the phone, right?  That was great stuff.  

Season: 5 cents
Finale: 5 cents


“House” is always solid, but every now and again, the show is capable of extraordinary episodes, and this was one of them.  Dr. House is a brilliant, deep character, and that provides a lot of potential for great storylines and development.  Delving into that character while also having an “is it or isn’t it real” theme to the episode was fantastic.  The whole episode had a surreal type of feel to it, but not to the extent that it would have been a shocking if everything had been real.  (The events themselves would have been shocking, of course, but not so much the fact that they were real.  Everyone still with me here?)  Of course, the big shocker came in the beginning.  It’s not a surprise that someone would want to shoot House, but that it actually happened, and in the beginning of the episode at that, was great.  

Season: 4 cents
Finale: 5 cents


Maybe I’m in the minority, but I’ve come to terms with the fact that nothing, or at least very little, is going to be resolved on this show until the very end.  Developments can happen, just like in this season finale, but where do the resolutions lie?  I think it’s in the nature of the island.  And if we find that out, that’s the end of the show.  So I’m satisfied with Kate, Jack and Sawyer being held by the Others (we’re bound to get some background on the Others now that some main characters are there with them).  Finding out more about the hatch was great.  So there were some questions answered, and we’ve got a bunch more material for next season.  I’m excited for that.

Season: 4.5 cents
Finale: 5 cents


This turned out to be the series finale on what turned out to be quite a decent show.  We got legal’d out with the “Law & Order”s and “CSI”s of the world, but we ended up keeping this one.  Anyway, the finale was very good.  It was a two-hour affair involving a couple of guys taking a courtroom hostage and the events that unfolded (obviously that’s a simplification).  No cliffhangers (thankfully), but there were quite a few interesting character developments and some great action.  I won’t be losing sleep or anything about this one being cancelled, but it was a good show.

Season: 3.5 cents
Finale: 4 cents


The series finale was satisfying. I liked how Sloane ended up, and it was fine to see Sidney and Vaughn end up together with kids in some remote location, with Dixon still occasionally coming by to commission them for some special mission.  That was all fine.  That having been said, the last few seasons were disappointing enough that the series finale was a bit anticlimactic.  It’s like I wasn’t expecting much, so I’m just glad that things got resolved, regardless of how.

Season: 3 cents
Finale 3 cents
Series: 4 cents


This show never gets boring, just like any good comedy.  Every episode is good, and the finale was no exception.  But did we really need to get everyone pregnant?  It’s fine to have Dr. Cox have another kid, and of course Carla wanted one, but what’s the advantage of making JD’s new girlfriend pregnant?  A baby can kill a show, but if anyone can pull it off, it’s these guys.  The writers have never given me reason to doubt, so I guess we’ll see what happens next year.

Season: 4 cents
Finale: 4 cents

Not reviewed: SNL, Amazing Race, American Idol, King of Queens, Everybody Hates Chris, Simpsons.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Quick Predictions

I figured I’d get a quick prediction in before the American Idol finale here.  I just watched the performances from last night. I think Taylor’s going to win pretty handily, but it would have been more of a sure thing if he’d done “You Are So Beautiful” instead of the obnoxious “Levon” for his second song.  But the final songs (the singles that each performer will release) sealed the deal.  Neither song was any good (as is always the case with the finalists’ first singles), but Taylor made his song awesome while Katharine just kind of sailed through hers, making it painfully mediocre.  That’s about all I have to say about the finals.  

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

American Idol Running Diary: 5/9

Ah, Elvis week.  This should be interesting.  I’m expecting Chris’ healed vocal chords to help him have a good night, and Taylor will also excel.  Note: Priscilla Presley is frighteningly plastic surgeried, as we found in the opening vignette.

Taylor Hicks: “Jailhouse Rock”

Pre: Should fit him pretty well; Tommy Motolla moved the key up half a step, which should really turn out to be a good idea.

During:  What is with the hair?  I hope everyone doesn’t dress retarded this week.  Taylor sounds great, and his dancing is still pleasantly spastic.  He lost his earpiece toward the end and still nailed the finish.  Impressive.  

Post: That was excellent.  Hopefully the rest of the show measures up.  His style fits Elvis very well.  Simon called it a terrible impersonation of Elvis, but I thought it was good because he wasn’t trying to impersonate Elvis.

Chris Daughtry: “Suspicious Minds”

Pre: They’re talking about Chris’ “fan clubs”.  This whole conversation is disturbing.  I won’t go into detail.  This song should be good for him because it’s not one that he has to belt out.  He really does well when he just does clean vocals.

During: We’re rocking the hangover sunglasses tonight, and the backdrop is still red, although not on fire this week.  That’s at least slightly more pleasant.  This song is indeed good for his style, but honestly this has never been one of my favorites from Elvis.  

Post: He did it well, but the song itself is just lackluster to me.  Randy said the vocal wasn’t great, which I can’t understand.  How a producer can be so wrong about pitch sometimes I will never know.

Elliott Yamin: “I Can Dream”

Pre: I don’t know this song, which makes me happy.  The problem with songs like “Jailhouse Rock” is that they’re so totally associated with Elvis.  This one shouldn’t have that problem.

During: This is great for him.  The vibrato was a bit much in the beginning, but he’s totally killing it now.  Fantastic.  And the ending was absolutely perfect.

Post: Awesome again.  Perhaps his best so far.  If he can pull out another one like this, he could very well escape elimination this week.  I really really liked that.  Simon called it the best of the show so far, and I absolutely agree.  The nervousness seems to be gone, and he’s picking up his game at the right time.

Katharine McPhee:

Pre: I’m hardly Mr. Blackwell, but her wardrobe has been awful.  She could look so much better with better clothes.  Anyway, this song should be really interesting.  I would not have guessed she’d pick this song.

During: She’s really doing well with this one.  Ohhhh!  She forgot a lyric.  That’s suicide in the early rounds, but she’s earned some points throughout the season, so I don’t it’ll be too bad.  

Post: She showed a great range with that song, and I liked it a lot.  Simon is saying it was “manic and shrieky”.  I’m not sure I agree, but I can see where he’s coming from for sure.  I say range, he says shrieks.  Potaeto Potahto, if you will.

Taylor Hicks:  “In the Ghetto”

Pre: He’s talking about a “magical golf cart ride” with Pricilla Presley.  And it’s making me uncomfortable.  I don’t know this song, but the title rules.  Motolla is telling him to ditch the spaz dance for this one, which is a good idea now and then, like he did with the Beatles song last week.

During: He’s pulling this off well, but it’s hard for me to take a song with this title seriously.  Especially with the background singers repeating “In the Ghettoooooo…”.  But again, the vocals are solid.

Post: Meh.  Pretty good, but honestly the way Motolla was talking, I was expecting more.  I think I would have liked it better without the background lyrics.  But that’s just one guy’s opinion.

Chris Daughtry: “A Little Less Conversation”

Pre: I dig this song.  It’ll be very interesting to see how he pulls this off.  

During: Ah, the white man’s overbite.  We got a glimpse of it for the first time this season.  Luckily Chris has a good lower range, because that’s all it is before the final hook.  This is alright, but he’s trying to be too intense, and this isn’t a serious song (to me, anyway).  Good ending, though.  That wrapped it up well.

Post:  Good stuff.  Not great, but good.  This is a good week.  Paula thought it showed personality, and I thought the exact opposite.  And Simon agrees with me.

Elliott Yamin: “Trouble”

Pre: Hmmmm.  If he does this one well, it’ll do wonders for him.  At least if this is the song I’m thinking of.  It seems like more of a departure from his usual style, which he needs.

During: I like this a lot, but he should not be smiling during a song with the lyrics “I’m evil”.  Oh, man.  If he gets voted off this week after these two performances, I call shenanigans.  This is great.

Post: Great, great choice.  He really should not have smiled during it, and I think that would have helped, but he was perfect.  He needed a huge week, and he totally pulled it out.

Katharine McPhee: “Can’t Help Falling in Love”

Pre: I think this is a mistake.  This is a great song, but she’s got to make it sound original or it could be bad news for her.  Please don’t make me think of UB40.  I’m begging here.

During: Her voice is superb as always, but she’s over-enunciating.  This song is about being weak.  You’ve got to show that I think.  No smiles.  It’s about helplessness.  She’s not showing that.
Post: She had some good runs in there, but she actually did have a couple of pitch problems this week.  Also, the runs weren’t needed.  The song should have been more simple and heartbreaking.  I think her confidence was wavering, really.  It seemed like she was throwing all the runs in there to make up for something when she didn’t need to.


Instead of the bottom three (since there’s only four left), I’ll just rank the contestants, with number four being my prediction to go home.  Before this week I had Elliott on the bottom.  Not so anymore.  In fact, I had Katharine McPhee winning the thing last week, and this show totally flipped my rankings on their head.  In any other week, Katharine would cruise through.  But now that it’s down to a stellar final four, she’s going to have problems.  Her only savior could be the sympathy vote, but honestly I don’t think she’s going to get it.  Everyone is great at this point, and any one of these four could win in a season prior.  But all of that is moot.  Here are the rankings:

  1. Taylor Hicks

  2. Elliott Yamin

  3. Chris Daughtry

  4. Katharine McPhee

Elliott had a huge week when he needed it, and Katharine choked.  That’s the harsh reality.  It remains to be seen whether the voters will agree (or admit to the truth).

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

American Idol Running Diary: 5/2

I noticed after reading last week’s running diary that it’s pretty unintelligible.  It made complete sense to me while I was writing it, but of course you’re not watching the show as you read it, and hence the unintelligibility.  So sorry about that.  To make it more readable, I’ll be doing some modifications this week.  I’m doing thoughts before, during, and after the song.  If it helps (or not), let me know.  If anyone’s reading, that is.  Enjoy.

Elliott Yamin: “On Broadway”

Pre: Not sure what this song choice is all about.  A funkified version of “On Broadway”?  Whatever.  Good thing they’re doing two songs tonight, because I don’t know who’s supposed to connect with this one.  

During: But man, is this guy good.  He could sing the phone book, to use an annoying cliché, and it would be awesome.

Post: Loved it.  I hate the song, but I love listening to Elliott.  Still, hopefully he picks a better song for the next one.  

Paris Bennett: “Kiss”

Pre: Very intriguing.  Paris covering Prince just doesn’t sound right, but we shall see.

During: Not sure what to think here.  I think had I never heard the original, it might be alright.  But I can’t help hearing Prince’s falsetto, and this version doesn’t work for me.  And honestly, it’s always bothered me when a woman takes a man’s song (and vice versa), and changes all the gender-specific pronouns.  Maybe it’s just me.

Post:  Paula still likes the old songs (so do I), and Simon didn’t like it.  I didn’t either, but I don’t know whether that’s because it was bad, or because of the version.  Just didn’t work.

Chris Daughtry: “Renegade”

Pre: I dig this song, and it should show off his vocals, which is good.

During: I’m glad they did the first part of the song.  It would have been blasphemous had they skipped it, but American Idol is not above blasphemy.  Chris picked a good one tonight.  He’s right on and nailing every bit of it.

Post: Awesome.  Not much else to say.

Katharine McPhee: “Against All Odds”

Pre: I hate this freaking song.

During: Ouch.  Started flat, but that won’t continue.  And it doesn’t, but even though she’s hitting the notes, I’m not getting anything from this one.  No feeling, really.  It seems like she didn’t even want to sing it.

Post:  Good thing there’s another one coming up, because that was not great at all.  The difference between her performance and Elliott’s is that I don’t like either song, but Elliott made me forget that fact.

Taylor Hicks: “Play that Funky Music”

Pre:  Very interesting.  This song rules no matter how many times you hear it, and I don’t care what anyone says.

During:  Seems like Taylor’s happy to be where he is again.  I was wondering the last few weeks.  The man’s enthusiasm is infectious when he’s on, and he’s on tonight.  The dancing is painful, but also hilarious.  

Post:  Way too shortened.  He didn’t actually sing much during the performance, but I still thought it was still enjoyable, which is cool.

Elliott Yamin: “Home”

Pre: I’m not a Michael Buble fan.  Let’s see what happens.

During:  But again, I like Elliott.  The problem with this one, though, is that it feels a bit rushed.  I’ve never heard the song, but it’s…decent, I guess.  It’ll be enough to get him through, for sure, because the vocals are just gold.

Post:  That definitely could have been slowed down some, and Simon’s probably right when he says the song didn’t really have enough of a hook or anything to be memorable.  But I still think he’ll be alright.

Paris Bennett: “Be Without You”

Pre: n/a

During: I love that she’s doing Mary J. Blige, because it shows off her awesome lower range.  This girl has got some kind of voice.  She’s nailing everything, but I could really do without the little “Hey”s and “Come on”s and other adlibbing.  

Post:  I think she did really well for the most part.  

Chris Daughtry: “I Dare You”

Pre: Chris is a better singer than the lead singer of Shinedown, if you ask me, so this should be interesting.

During:  You know, they really could use a different background during rock songs on this show.  I don’t need the flames every time.  Jessica just asked why we’re in hell.  I’d like to know too.  He started off pretty well, but after the high notes it seems like he lost his breath.  It looks like he’s screaming his way through it.

Post:  Yeah, that wasn’t so good.  He said it’s about the fifth time he’s done it today, and that song can definitely take a toll on the voice.  (After-show note: When they played back the recaps—which is what happened in dress rehearsals—this song sounded waaaay better than what he actually did during the show.)

Katharine McPhee: “Black Horse in a Cherry Tree”

Pre:  What?  That’s the weirdest song title I’ve ever heard of.

During: But I can dig it.  Not sure what the dancing on her knees is all about, but I like the box drummers.  Also the song is interesting for sure.  It doesn’t feel like your typical Billboard top ten song, which is refreshing.  

Post:  I actually liked that quite a bit.  I don’t have any idea what it was about, but it had a cool groove to it.

Taylor Hicks: “Something”

Pre: n/a

During: This is the kind of song he needed to do after the first one.  He picked one to show the vocals, and it’s working really well for him.  

Post:  That was great.  Solid vocals, nothing fancy, and it was exactly what he needed to do.  

I really enjoyed tonight’s show.  Simon was right when he called it “erratic”, and I think that’s not necessarily a bad thing.  Taylor definitely had the best night.  Elliott’s stock fell a little bit, so I hope that doesn’t hurt him, because I always hate to see someone suffer for picking a less than stellar song and singing it well.  


Bottom Three: Paris, Elliott, Chris.  Tough to pick a bottom three anymore.  This is by far the best top five the show has ever had.  No one was really bad, so here’s where it becomes a popularity contest.  I don’t even know if they’ll do a bottom three, really.  But if they do, I can’t imagine Katharine and Taylor in it.  

Going Home: Paris.  She’s good, but she’s too one-dimensional at this point.  

Sunday, April 30, 2006

If You're Not Watching: "Thief"

This is something I’ll do every once in a while for lesser-known cable shows, or quality shows that aren’t getting the viewership I think they deserve.  

During my hiatus, there hasn’t been much of note as far as new TV shows, but there is one that has shown promise.  “Thief” is a show on FX about a group of—you guessed it—thieves.  This isn’t your mustache-twirling, devious scheme-hatching group of thieves, and it’s also not your fun-loving, non-violent, Ocean’s Eleven type of thieves either.  This is their job, and they take it very seriously.  In the pilot episode, they had to “fire” one of the group because he screwed up and compromised a job.  And by “fire” I mean “shoot”.  But thievery and murder aside, these guys are the protagonists, and as such they are rather likeable.  Andre Braugher plays Nick, the leader of the team.  Week after week he has turned in excellent performances that help carry the show.  In the pilot, Nick’s wife is killed in a car accident, leaving him to take care of stepdaughter Tammi (Mae Whitman, also known as Ann from “Arrested Development”, who gives another MVP performance on the show).  

The relationship between Nick and Tammi is strained at the very best, and it obviously complicates things with Nick’s job to have a teenage girl that is continually prying in his business.  But business continues, and the scenes involving Nick’s “job” are always intense and entertaining.  All in all this is a pretty good show right now that has potential to be great.  For some reason the first season is very short (the season finale is this week), and I’d recommend checking out the sure-to-be-released DVDs before the next season starts.  

Final Score: 3 cents.

In other “if you’re not watching” news, CBS’ “The Unit” just keeps getting better and better.  If you’re not watching this one, you’re really missing out.  It’s been a good performer ratings-wise, but I know there’s still a few of you out there that haven’t checked it out yet.  Do it, and you’ll be glad you did.  

“Veronica Mars”, on the other hand, has not performed as well as it should in the ratings.  As I said in my “Top Ten” post a while ago, this is easily one of the best shows around right now, and I highly recommend you check it out, whatever your TV watching tastes may be.  “Arrested Development” has already gone the way of the dodo, and I don’t think I can handle if this one doesn’t come back next year.  That having been said, I think it will in fact have a home on the new CW network. But if the ratings don’t pick up then, I fear for its future.  So check out the season one DVDs now, and likewise the season two DVDs when they’re released.  That way when season three starts, everyone will watch, and balance can be restored to the TV universe.  (At least as much as possible without “Arrested Development”.  Yes, I’m bitter.)

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Ameircan Idol running diary: 4/25

Here we go with the latest semi-live blog of “American Idol”.  Looks like this week we have Andrea Bocelli.  I’ve heard of him, but I’m not a big classical fan.  Sounds like he’s got a great voice, though.  And it’s a shame they didn’t mention that he’s blind, because people might wonder why he never opens his eyes.  David Foster is the producer this week who’s telling the idols how much they suck before the performances.  About time someone didn’t sugarcoat everything they do.

Katharine McPhee: “I Have Nothing”

I hate it when people do Whitney Houston songs because it’s so cliché, but she’s allowed.  Unfortunately you’ve got to have a hell of a lower register for a song like this, and she’s a bit flat sometimes.  On the bright side, she’s absolutely nailing the chorus.  And the bridge is fantastic, making her dad cry again.  All in all a little shaky, but the good parts were far more memorable than the bad parts.  Randy of course can’t tolerate it when someone sings Whitney Houston, and he brings out the old “she’s one of the best singers in the known world” line.  They’re all tearing her apart, and I don’t get it.  I thought it was good.

Elliott Yamin: “A Song For You”

He’s been waiting his whole life to sing this song onstage, according to him, so hopefully he doesn’t screw it up.  I don’t know what this song is.  Let’s have a listen, shall we?  Again, he’s taking a difficult song and making it look like it’s nothing.  He really excels at doing these highly stylized, if sometimes little-known songs and just blowing them out of the water.  I loved it.  I may just have to check out more from this Donnie Hathaway guy.  Randy didn’t like the arrangement because it was confusing, but it was freaking piano, and I really liked it.  Paula is in tears and Simon is laughing at her. Hilarious.  But they’re all showing Elliott love tonight, which makes me happy because he’s always been one of my favorites this year.  In fact, if I could pick the winner myself, I’d pick Elliott.

Kellie Pickler: “Unchained Melody”

Listening to her is making me dumber.  She says she’s doing the “Leann Rimes twist”, but there is no twist really.  She does a carbon copy of the Righteous Brothers.  But back to Kellie, if my prediction holds true, this song will kill her.  The arrangement does her no favors, as it starts in the middle of the freaking first verse.  Also she’s flat as a tire with a nail in it.  Not to mention that David Foster mentioned in the pre-song vignette that if the song is done without passion, it’s very boring.  We are seeing that his statement is absolutely true.  I’m getting nothing here.  That was horrendous.  The judges are killing her, and rightfully so.  Hopefully…hopefully people don’t vote for the poor little hick girl who got ripped by the judges.  Because she should be finished.  It was a nice run while it lasted, and she could be entertaining at times, but it should really be over now.

Paris Bennett: “The Way We Were”

Streisand?  Seriously?  The theme is love songs, and this is what we get?  Ugh.  But let’s see how it turns out before I get too harsh.  She hasn’t even started yet.  
Okay.  Perhaps I was a bit rash.  She’s in the lower range of her voice that I really enjoy with her.  Maybe it’s not Streisand’s songs that bother me so much as it is Streisand.  Imagine that.  See, the difference between this and Kellie’s performance is all in the emotion.  This girl is seventeen years old, and still manages a truckload more passion for the song than Pickler dreamed of.  Pretty good, but not outstanding.  Sounds like the judges feel the same way.


A side note here…I’ve mentioned that I TiVo this show and skip through all the banter, but I catch a little of Simon and Ryan’s banter as I’m typing here.  It’s stupid, and the first word that comes to mind is “catty”.  Pretty ridiculous.


Taylor Hicks: “Just Once”

Bocelli says he probably picked the best song for his voice, and I’m tending to agree.  He started off a touch flat, but it looks like he’s pulling out of that.  And the personality element with him is absolutely priceless.  That and the fact that he absolutely nails every big part of the song makes this an enjoyable performance.  That having been said, he was still a bit flat sometimes.  Randy is thinking maybe it’s just him tonight, thinking that everyone sucks, and it is indeed just him.  I don’t know where his ears are sometimes.  Of course, now that Simon is agreeing, maybe it’s just me that thought it was a solid performance.  Guess we’ll see.  Actually no we won’t.  No way people aren’t voting for this guy.

Chris Daughtry: “Have You Ever Really Loved A Woman”

I’m not a huge Bryan Adams fan, but I like Chris.  And it looks like they’re teaching
him the mechanics of singing in the vignette, which is helpful.  Gotta love the two classical guitarists to start out the song, by the way.  I don’t have too much to say here.  He’s in tune the whole song, but the song itself doesn’t do too much for me.  You know who does like the song, though?  Women.  And that’s the important part.  He’s sailing this week.

Bottom three:  Kellie, Paris, and Katharine.  I would love it if Katharine wasn’t in the bottom three, but who else do I put here?  Everyone is good enough at this point that (if the right person is eliminated tomorrow) the top five will be a total crapshoot.  

Going home:  Kellie.  Honestly I fear that it will be Paris.  I like her a lot sometimes and she does nothing for me at other times, and I don’t think she has the fan base that Pickler has.  But I have to go with predicting Kellie out of principle.  She was the only one that couldn’t be classified as “good” tonight, and she was far, far from good.  Should be interesting to see how this plays out.