What a difference 8 months makes. Last we saw American Idol, it had just completed its 9th season and was limping toward its 10th. The show was looking toward 2011 without its biggest star, Simon Cowell, who reportedly turned down an offer of over $130 million to stay. After failed experiments with a famous star of dubious credentials (Ellen DeGeneres), and a no-name with bona fides (Kara DioGuardi) as judges, AI faced the daunting challenge of finding judges with credentials and star power. Well, at first blush, I think they succeeded.
On the surface, pairing an aging rock star with a movie star whose music career seems to be mostly behind her (no pun intended), seems odd. But if the premiere of year 10 is any indication, American Idol’s future and its reputation are in good hands, for this season at least. Steven Tyler brings the energy and indisputable credibility of experience that only 40 years of being a rock star can give. Jennifer Lopez brings knowledge and a certain sweetness and compassion to the show that I think was missing last year. Both of them have been stars for so long, that they don’t have to prove anything to anyone and they’re obviously comfortable in their own skins. This should prevent the show from slipping into the adolescent bickering that I think has hurt the show in recent seasons. (Unless Ryan Seacrest goes insane like he did a few times with Simon.) Yes, you need conflict for a show to stay interesting, but conflict can come from many different situations besides petty squabbling. I mean, the very format of the show creates conflict: every week contestants fight for their artistic lives out on that stage while the world watches.
The other thing that struck me while watching last night is that contestants will be hard pressed to tell a judge that they don’t know what they’re talking about. You know the ones, “You’re wrong, I know I’m a star—you just can’t see it. People have been telling me all my life that I’m a star.” Really? This is Steven Tyler you’re talking to; lead singer of Aerosmith, arguably America’s greatest rock band of all time. And Jennifer Lopez who’s sold over 50 million albums in her career; a reigning movie star who has spent most of her adult life in the limelight. Now that’s credibility. Throw in Randy Jackson, who heretofore has been the most legitimate musician of AI’s original judges, and you’ve got quite a formidable panel. The addition of legendary record mogul and talent expert, Jimmy Iovine, as in-house mentor completes the talent evaluators for the show and brings back some much needed credibility.
The first stop for auditions for 2011 was in New Jersey just across the Hudson River from New York City. The Big Apple did not disappoint. 51 contestants were given the Golden Ticket to Hollywood. Idol’s concerted effort to make the show younger was evident. A number of teenagers were selected to move on. Most notable:
Kinsey Palmer—15 year-old Performing Arts School student did a powerful take on a Carrie Underwood song.
Robbie Rosen—16 year-old did Backstreet Boys take on the Beatles’ “Yesterday”.
Victoria Huggins—apt last name. 16 year-old was the most huggable contestant of the night with her South Carolina twang. Belted “Midnight Train to Georgia” and won an early plane ride to California.
My favorite who might even have a shot to win the whole thing:
Kinsey Palmer—has the whole package: looks, personality, talent. Just needs a little more stage presence which will get worked on before the Hollywood phase.
Next stop—New Orleans!
It’s summer and that means there are tons of new releases from some of our favorite artists here at The Buzz. Here’s what’s new on The Buzz this week:
Misery by Maroon 5. First release from their upcoming c.d. “Hands All Over” which drops on September 21st. The band is attempting to forge new ground by adding Robert John “Mutt” Lange as producer. Lange produced Nickelback’s “Dark Horse” to great effect. Lange, of course, produced some of the greatest albums of all time: AC/DC’s “Back In Black”, Def Leppard’s “Pyromania” and “Hysteria”, and ex-wife’s Shania Twain’s hits. Frankly, when I heard Lange was producing I was looking for something a little edgier from Maroon 5, but Misery hews true to their trademark sound. Adam Levine’s vocals are front and center in another jaunty blue-eyed soul ditty.
I Run To You by Lady Antebellum. This song has already been a huge hit at the Country format, and was actually the first single that Capitol Records released to the Pop format. When most radio stations did not respond to it, Capitol released Need You Now which has become the biggest hit at Pop stations so far in 2010. I thought I Run To You was a smash the first time I heard it, so I’m glad we’re able to bring it to you now.
King Of Anything by Sara Bareilles. Bareilles proves that “Love Song” wasn’t a fluke, and she won’t be added to the long list of One Hit Wonders. (If “Love Song” doesn’t ring a bell, the full chorus line was “I’m not gonna write you a love song.” Remember now?) Bareilles’ voice is pure honey on this Pop gem. All the way down to the hand claps in the chorus, King Of Anything is one solid hook that will be rattling around in your head after the first time you hear it.
To get info on all the songs we play on The Buzz including bios, lyrics, and videos click the Playlist icon at 1053thebuzz.com.
No matter your opinion of American Idol, you gotta hand it to 'em, they know how to put on a show. Tonight’s Season 9 finale was a veritable cavalcade of stars, albeit some really old stars. From the show’s kickoff with Alice Cooper and “School’s Out”, to its final performance celebrity performance with Joe Cocker and “A Little Help From My Friends” it was basically one classic rock/oldies act after another. Check these out: Barry and Robin Gibb, Michael McDonald, Hall & Oates, and Chicago. Janet Jackson made a rare appearance, but even she hasn’t had a hit in a long time. Christina Aguilera put on a stunning performance, which she always does. The best performance of the night was from Season 4 winner Carrie Underwood who blistered through her new single “Undo It.”
Dud of the night was Dane Cook’s lame segment.
The tribute to the departing Simon Cowell was poignant. It was very cool seeing most of the past Idol winners and top runners-up come back to honor him. (David Cook was conspicuously absent.) Paula Abdul’s monologue was a little awkward, but it added to the pathos of the moment. I, for one, am sad to see Simon go; it’s going to be hard to replace him.
Have to say that I was really disappointed in the outcome of this season. Crystal was clearly the more talented of the two finalists. Her performances the night before were leagues above Lee’s. But, as I’ve said all season, American Idol is a popularity contest, not a talent contest.
My final assessment of Season 9 remains unchanged from what it has been most of the year. This year was really weak. I began to lose interest when we got down to the Top 7 or so. Haven’t decided whether I’ve got the intestinal fortitude to blog about it next seasonm; but, January’s a long way off and by that time I might catch the Idol bug again.
I don’t know that there’s ever been such a mismatch in a final on American Idol. If last night’s competition were a boxing match, Crystal Bowersox scored a final round knock-out of Lee DeWyze. And we’re not talking a TKO. This was a lights-out pile driver that sent Lee straight to the canvas.
But, it’s not a boxing match; it’s a talent competition and the result will be left up to the judges.
Each contestant sang three songs last night:
Song #1: Contestant’s personal choice
Song #2: Producer Simon Fuller’s choice
Song #3: The contestants winning song, which would be released as their fist single.
Crystal deferred when she won the pre-show coin flip, so Lee was the first to perform. He and Crystal then alternated performances.
Lee still seemed like he was bored by the whole thing. His rendition of “The Boxer” was lackluster, and “Everybody Hurts” was a debacle. He really needed a homerun with his “winning” song, but it was a complete whiff. In Lee’s defense, the song chosen for him is not exactly stellar AND IT’S A REMAKE! “Beautiful Day” is a decent song, but it wasn’t even that big of a hit for U2. Its lyrics are somewhat meandering and Lee mumbled his way through most of them. The judges even said he sounded lost.
From her initial performance—“Me And Bobby McGee”—you knew it was Crystal’s night to shine. Her performance of “Black Velvet” wasn’t outstanding, but the song suited Crystal’s bluesy style. Then there was her final performance. If ever a performer rose to the occasion, this was it. In the most stirring moment of the entire season, Crystal soared to the pinnacle of her talent on “Up To The Mountain”. THIS is how you rise to the challenge. And THIS is how you win American Idol.
This will be my shortest blog ever for American Idol, cuz there just ain’t much to say about last night’s snooze-fest.
Kara DioGuardi can rationalize the choice all day, but the fact remains that she and Randy Jackson essentially sabotaged any chance that Casey James had of winning Season 9 of American Idol. John Mayer’s “Daughters” is a fine song, but an anthem it’s not. With Casey’s disastrous personal choice of “OK, It’s All Right” by Eric Hutchinson (who?), he needed to finish strong with the judges' choice. Instead he all but guaranteed himself a 3rd-place finish tonight with his tepid performance of “Daughters”, and I blame Kara and Randy.
So, I think that Crystal Bowersox and Lee DeWyze are your A.I. finalists this year. Ho-hum.
Saw the ending coming a mile away.
Michael Lynche is out and we’re down to the Top 3. Notice I said “down” to the Top 3, as in the opposite of “up” to the Top 3. Nothing great is going to come out of this season.
So, Crystal Bowersox, Lee DeWyze, and Casey James will be visiting their home towns this week. As a matter of fact, Casey is going to be live on Kidd Kraddick In The Morning tomorrow at 7:30 on 105.3 The Buzz. The American Idol cameras will be in tow.
Decent performances from former AI contestants Chris Daughtry and Fantasia, although Fantasia’s voice is somewhat like Butterfly McQueen’s. (Butterfly McQueen’s big hit was “I Don’t Know Nuthin’ ‘Bout Birthin’ No Babies!”) Bon Jovi sang their new single “Superman Tonight”. Say what you will, Bon Jovi’s best days are behind them and this song is hum-drum.
If you’re an American Idol contestant, your goal is to get into the Top 5. From that lofty position you should immediately proceed down the fast track to stardom. Right? Not this year. Last night’s AI episode should have been called “Goldilocks and The Three Somnambulists.” These were the best movie songs available to sing? What a collection of forgettable performances. They oughta just call this year a draw and put America out of its misery
Are you beginning to see the light? Lee DeWyze is a flash in the pan. Now he just looks like he’s bored with the whole thing. And “Kiss From A Rose”? Quick! Name which movie it’s from—and no googling. It was an add-on to the “Batman Forever” soundtrack. Sure it won the 1996 Grammy for Song Of The Year, but talk about sleepy. Lee was on pitch about one-third of the song and should be in the Bottom 2 tonight.
What would possess Michael Lynche to pick a Michael Jackson song from “Free Willy” of all things? That choice alone should get him sent home. Even had his performance been stellar, you knew he was going to get ridiculed by the judges. “Michael Jackson” and “Free Willy”? I bet you can think of about 5 bad jokes right now. That’s what the whole thing was: a bad joke.
Poor ol’ Casey James. He gets to put a guitar back in his hands this week, and it’s Mini Me. (Easy joke there, too.) The judges spent more time laughing about Kara being Casey’s Mrs. Robinson than they did evaluating his performance of the Simon and Garfunkel classic from
"The Graduate". Can’t say that I blame them. Not much to talk about with Casey’s performance.
Crystal Bowersox culminated the evening with a rousing performance from that all-time cinematic classic “Caddyshack”. “Somebody step on a duck?” All I could think about when Crystal was performing “I’m Alright” was a dancing gopher.
The duets were good, but I was so bored by then I didn't care.
The only thing I know is that Crystal won’t be one of them. She was the only one awake by the end of the show.
I’m finally starting to believe my wife. She’s been calling me an idiot for years, and after last night, her diagnosis is confirmed. I am an idiot! I’m certainly not sane by Einstein’s definition: continuing to do the same thing over and over again expecting a different result. I’m idiotically insane because I keep expecting America to vote rationally on American Idol. Think about it. Casey James is in the Bottom 3 for two weeks in a row, and he doesn’t even make the Bottom 2 last night; Michael Lynche, Sinatra Week’s best performer, does; along with Aaron Kelly, who had one of the better performances Tuesday night. Ultimately, little Ed Norton, Jr., got the heave-ho.
Cathy, our wonderful receptionist, encapsulated the entire show this morning. She said, “They paid Lady Gaga $250,000 for that?!” Yep, and for a lame remake of “La Isla Bonita” at that.
American Idol is officially off the rails now. Tuesday night’s audience of 17 million was the lowest since 2002. I, for one, am not inspired by any of the remaining contestants. But, as the intrepid blogger that I am, I’ll continue to slog through to the bitter end. Don’t you know that Simon is just itching to be out of there? And it looks like just in time, too.
How I Rank Them (Idiot That I Am)
Lee DeWyze--Only because he’s the judges' pet.
Crystal Bowersox--By all rights should be the winner.
Casey James--Only because he’s so cute—whatever.
Michael Lynche--Still the most talented of the bunch.
I’m starting to feel like a TV weatherman. Trying to predict the Bottom 3 each week on American Idol is like predicting the weather; you’re going to be wrong half the time. At least there’s some science to weather prognostication, though. One thing I’m 100% sure of: Casey James is out. He may have blue eyes, but the Chairman of the Board he ain’t. Here’s how Frank Sinatra night played out:
Aaron Kelly gave what I thought was the second-best performance of the night, contrary to what the majority of the judges thought. (Again, I think the judges are irrelevant at this point anyway.) “Fly Me To The Moon” was nicely nuanced and sweetly sung. He’ll probably be in the Bottom 3, but he doesn’t deserve it based on this performance.
Casey just had his last at-bat. I thought Willie Nelson’s version of “Blue Skies” was the worst ever. Not anymore.
I actually think Crystal Bowersox will be in the Bottom 3 tonight. This is her second week of blasé performances. She picked a really inferior Sinatra song in “Summer Wind”, and it was much too breezy. The song would have been better if she’d howled a bit more.
Hands-down best performance of the night? Michael Lynche and “The Way You Look Tonight”. I thought that Big Mike would be in his element with Ol’ Blue Eyes, and he didn’t disappoint. Mike proved again that he’s the most talented of the remainder of the contestants.
I don’t care what the judges say, Lee DeWyze ain’t all that. I thought he was off-beat throughout most of “That’s Life”. The song lost all of its swagger in Lee’s bluster. He’s the judges’ pet, but he’s a scruffy mutt if you ask me.
My Bottom 3Lee DeWyzeCrystal BowersoxCasey JamesWhat I Think The Bottom 3 Will Actually BeAaron KellyCrystal BowersoxCasey James
I really thought that Casey would continue to grow throughout the season, but he didn’t. There will still be an opportunity for him as a modern-day Bob Seger, but ultimately I think he’s destined to be a side player.
Really looking forward to tonight’s show. Can’t wait to see what Lady Gaga pulls out of her hat.