American Idol: Top 2

May 21, 2008

In the opening minutes of last night’s American Idol singing finale, David Cook made a telling remark: “To me, the competition is over,” said Cook, providing the antithesis to numerous boxing videos suggesting that Season 7’s penultimate showdown — between a whitebread crooner and an early-peaking rocker, mind you — was some type of Ali vs. Foreman affair. (The Thrilla of Vanilla, perhaps?) . “We’re just out here having fun,” he continued. And he wasn’t kidding.

Over the next hour, David Cook turned in three worst performances of his Idol career. The odds were already stacked against him: we knew the night’s “inspirational” song was David Archuleta’s bread and butter, and we knew his sappy take on “Imagine” would be hard to top. But what was supposed to be a classic David versus David battle quickly turned into David versus Goliath, with the little and likeable kid slingshotting the rocking beast well past his prime.

That said, it’s not absolutely impossible for David Cook to walk away with tonight’s final vote. Crazier things have happened during the Idol finale — look no further than Taylor Hicks taking the crown from Katharine McPhee for proof of that. But really, the Cookster provided about as much of an argument for himself as R. Kelly will in his impending child pornography trial.

But if you still want to see how it all went down, click through for a song-by-song analysis on three levels: first, for the track hand-selection by ever-aging and less-relevant-each-year record exec Clive Davis; second, for the inspirational track handpicked by the contestants from ten choices; and third, for the contestant’s personal choices. I’ve forgone a final prediction this week because I think it’s clear where I stand: my heart is with Cook, my money’s on Archuleta.

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AmIdol: Top 4

May 6, 2008

Autonomy returns to the Idol stage, kind of, tonight, as we abandon the work of narrowing artists to widen the breadth of options. And can I say … thank God! It didn’t seem like it could get worse after Andrew Lloyd Webber week, but that didn’t stop the AI producers from trying by bringing Neil Diamond aboard one week ago.

Today, the theme turns to rock and roll, or rather the influence of rock and roll. The four remaining contestants had a large song book to choose from — the 500 songs the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame deemed the most influential. Now, clearly, this week gives David Cook a significant advantage. But it also places on him a big bulls-eye … he must be the best. Let’s just praise the lord that Our Lady Peace is sure not to crack the top 500.

Straight from the TMZ sources, here are the song choices, as everybody goes for two:

David Archuleta: “Stand by Me” by Ben E. King and “Love Me Tender” by Elvis Presley, cover by Norah Jones.

David Cook: “Baby O’Reilly” by the Who and “Hungry Like the Wolf” by Duran Duran

Jason Castro: “Mr. Tambourine Man” by Bob Dylan and “I Shot the Sheriff” by Bob Marley, cover by Eric Clapton.

Syesha: “Proud Mary” by Tina Turner and “A Change is Gonna Come” by Sam Cooke

My thoughts on the song choices: well, you have to start with a joke about how Mr. Dreads is going with Marley. How many times has he smoked weed to that joint? How clever of me. Anyway, I actually think the Dylan song could be Castro’s chance at staying, or it will be VotefortheWorst.com. You know Syesha was thankful Tina Turner was on there. If any of you were on the fence concerning David Archuleta’s manhood, you got your answer tonight — Syesha isn’t the only female left in this competition. A Norah Jones cover? I swear this is my last season if he wins.

Long live the Cookster. Thoughts on the performances, as they happen, after the jump.

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Where’s the Starlet Union

May 5, 2008

The big TV news today is we find out that Lindsay Lohan will make her triumphant return to pop culture with a guest role in “Ugly Betty”. According to ABC, Lohan will be appearing in the show’s season finale, and has signed a total of a six-show contract with the show.

For those that care, Lindsay has started shooting, and will be Betty’s down-on-her-luck high school pal. Something tells me she’ll be able to draw from experience.

I don’t watch the show, and I never liked Lohan, so I don’t particularly care. I just find it to be one of the weakest, most visible copycat moves by TV producers in some time. Something tells me that the motivation for getting Lohan was not so much based in the starlet’s acting abilities, but by the ratings boost “How I Met Your Mother” received on March 24 when Britney Spears guest-starred.

Spears appearance on the CBS comedy was received with the most viewers the show had seen all season, almost a full million viewers more than the preceding week, which had been the first time of the season the show eclipsed 9 million viewers. It was later announced that Spears would reprise her role as Abby.

The reason “The Office” is a great show is because it doesn’t need big guest stars to win Thursday nights. It does it with, you know, the script. “30 Rock” is a great show because while they get big guest stars, the script supports them. “30 Rock” doesn’t use celebrities for exploitation. I wish all sitcoms could say the same.


TV’s Best Reality Show

April 3, 2008

Because we fancy this to be a pop culture blog, we write a lot here about American Idol. Maybe not in the traditional sense … like, for example, my hatred for David Archuleta. I mean, today we could talk about justice finally coming in the form of Ramiele’s exit. I’m not here for that, though.

Let’s think for a second about the good things that American Idol offers. It’s a show that demands, more than anything else, talent. It’s a show that demands creativity, as contestants must come up with new arrangements, or they’ll fall by the wayside. It’s a show where bad performances mean the end of the road. A demand for talent and instantaneous drama has made American Idol the reality show of the United States.

Those are the factors I love in a reality show, too. It’s probably why I spend far too much time a week listening to Paula Abdul’s attempt at sentence construction. However, if talent and results are what you’re looking for in a reality show, and “American Idol” is the only one you’re taking in, you’re missing my favorite show on television (given that the strike has “The Office”, “30 Rock”, “Mad Men”, “Big Love” on the sidelines):

Some people can’t understand watching cooking on TV, but I’ve become obsessed with it. I watch Emeril, I watch Ace of Cakes, I watch Hell’s Kitchen, I watched Kitchen Nightmares. But like my roomate Adam will tell you that Bravo does the best California reality show with “Real Housewives of Orange County”, I’ll tell you that they do the best cooking show with “Top Chef”.

Poker became a huge television hit years ago for, I think, a basic reason — it took something that we could all do (a game), and showed us people that could do it best. This is why cooking makes good TV — heck, we could cook those spring rolls. But these people, they do something different, something better than your average house wife — they create dishes. They have talent and creativity that surpasses Carly Smithson, I promise you that.

Last night, for example, “Top Chef” had one of my favorite challenges yet — the cooks were responsible for making a meal that was conceived from their favorite movies. One group used the creativity of “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” and made oompa loompas, one made duck and called “Christmas Story” a favorite movie. The losers, in true cliche form, made Vietnamese food in honor of “Good Morning Vietnam”.

I thought during the show, what the hell could I do in that situation. I thought of Sideways, a movie based on wine, but couldn’t conceive a dish. My roomate helped me realize the “Good Morning Vietnam” group got it all wrong — the group was comprised of a Vietnamese chef and a Mexican chef — why not use “Crash” as your movie and combine skills? What, I thought, dish could be made from “Juno” outside of tic-tacs and Sunny D?

But these people only had 90 minutes, and they needed to get it done. And on our screen, we see the conceptualization, we see the process, we see the end result and we see the judgment. It’s even more holistic than “American Idol”.

Next Wednesday, “Top Chef” will continue to be television’s best reality show. My suggestion is, even if Idol is shoving “Idol Gives Back” down your throat, that you turn it over to Bravo and give it a shot.


American Idol: Top 9

April 1, 2008

So this week is Dolly Parton week on American Idol, most likely because the 62 year-old country diva has an album to promote a genuine passion for guiding young talent. (She really does have an album to promote.) This means that our nine remaining contestants will pick songs from Parton’s catalogue and that the busty balladeer will appear in everyone’s lead-in clip for what’s sure to be an entertaining night.

That entertainment, however, might come more in the form of failure than anything else. Outside of Kristy Lee Cook and the recently-axed Chikezie, none of this year’s hopefuls seem particularly inclined towards country songs — which means that the competition’s worst contestant will once again slide through another week while one of its best might face an early departure. Check after the jump for live coverage of tonight’s performances, as well as predictions for who might be in trouble come tomorrow night.

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American Idol: Top 10

March 25, 2008

To audition for American Idol, you need to be between 16 and 29 years old. That explains why we’ve had a past winner age 17 — Season 6’s Jordan Sparks — as well as one pushing thirty — Taylor Hicks from the year before. This season, the spread of ages across contestants is wide: the youngest by three years is David Archuleta, born in 1990; the oldest, by more than four years, is Michael Johns, who will turn 30 later this year. So FOX decided to turn tonight into “Birth Year” night, where each contestant will sing an anthem from his or her year of birth. To my knowledge, this is the first time that AmIdol has tried this theme — and if tonight’s song selections are any indication, it will be the last.

That said, the beauty of an open night like this one is that the theme doesn’t play into anyone’s strength. It’s not Bon Jovi night, for example, where David Cook would shine; nor is it Mariah Carey night (coming soon), where most of the remaining women will gain an edge over the men. So click below for a note-by-note recap of tonight’s talent, as well as final predictions for who’s screwed come Wednesday night.

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American Idol Top 10: Preview

March 24, 2008

I love Lennon and McCartney just as much as the next guy, but two weeks of amateurish Beatles tunes on American Idol was the definition of overkill. So for this week, the producers over at FOX have managed to come up with Idol‘s most creative musical theme yet: songs from your birth year.

For some, this is an advantage. Syesha Mercado, for example, happens to be born the same year that Whitney Houston released her massively success Whitney album — meaning that Syesha has her pick of pop songs perfect for her vocal range. But for others, like 29 year-old Michael Johns, song selection might get sticky. (Johns has 1978, when disco was ending, hair metal was just starting and a little band named Journey — hasn’t Paula worked with them?…or maybe Randy? — was smack dab in the middle of a career that wouldn’t be validated until Laguna Beach, Family Guy and the Chicago White Sox played the hell out of “Don’t Stop Believin'” almost 30 years later.)

So to prepare for Tuesday night’s Idol, I’ve made some choices as to which songs our 10 remaining contestants might choose. After the jump, check out the songs I want to hear, the songs I’d absolutely advise against, and the songs we’ll probably hear tomorrow night.

UPDATE: Below are the song choices for tonight. Somehow no one picked Journey, but I still got a few right. As for the others…I think the contestants got it wrong. Especially you, Kristy Lee.

Michael Johns: “We Are the Champions,” Queen (1978)
David Cook: “Billie Jean,” Michael Jackson (1983)
Carly Smithson: “Total Eclipse of the Heart,” Bonnie Tyler (1983)
Brooke White: “Every Breath You Take,” The Police (1983)
Kristy Lee Cook: “God Bless the USA,” Lee Greenwood (1984)
Chikezie: “If Only For One Night,” Luther Vandross (1985)
Jason Castro: “Fragile,” Sting (1987)
Ramiele Malubay: “Alone,” Heart (1987)
Syesha Mercado: “If I Were Your Woman,” Stephanie Mills (1987)
David Archuleta: “You’re the Voice,” David Foster & Jeff Pescetto (1990)

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