Tuesday, March 10, 2009

American Idol Top 13

Tonight on American Idol before anyone performed, Randy Jackson said that for the first time anyone of the contestants could win. New judge Kara DioGuardi said possibly three of the contestants could end up on the radio. Paula Abdul and Simon Cowell opened with nonsense and their petty squabbling, and then Simon and Ryan Seacrest laid on the contestants that tomorrow night two contestants will be sent home, not one. Tonight the top 13 performed Michael Jackson songs.

Hmm, does that have anything to do with the King of Pop's new tour, "This Is It," announced last weekend in London? Jackson's performing again because he's broke, lost money mostly defending lawsuits.

Lil Rounds of Memphis, TN., was up first singing "The Way You Make Me Feel." Prior to performing they showed clips of her with her husband and three children. The young couple had to move into an extended stay hotel for a while following a tornado that destroyed their home in Memphis in 2008, according to her husband Jesse.

Lil can sing her behind off and I'm sure lots of men watching closely to see if that happens. She's also been a Simon favorite from the start. Tonight she didn't shrink and do a Michael Jackson impersonation. Randy said her performance was the way AI likes to kick off a competition. "Dude you made the song new again," he told her. Kara said everyone will want to step up after Lil's performance, and she hopes people get to hear Lil on the radio. Paula talked about what she was wearing and that Lil's a force to be reckoned with. She said Lil was like angels singing, at which Simon laughed. Simon said he was disappointed because he thinks it was a lazy song choice, and he hated what she was wearing. But, he wants "five minutes with Lil" to properly dress her.

Scott MacIntyre's video profile tonight focused on his parents and Scott's blindness/visual impairment. He's been nearly blind almost from birth and has a sister, Caitlin, who's also visually impaired, but his mother said the family does not have a history of visual impairment. He played the piano tonight, and his performance was very sweet, giving me chills a few times as he sang "Keep the Faith," a lesser known Michael Jackson tune.

Kara let it be known that he just learned the song on piano this week and she was glad to see him with the piano and singing a hopeful message, but it was not the most dynamic performance. She gave him props for being true to himself. Paula said it was magical seeing his instrument at his fingertips. Then she pointed out Siedah Garrett, the woman who wrote "Keep the Faith" and "Man in the Mirror."

Simon apologized to Siedah and then said he hated the song because nobody knows the song. Scott said he was trying to be more artistic, but Simon told Scott you should not be artistic on American Idol. Paula said "Keep the Faith" was a top song in Norway, according to Simon. Simon said she was lying and he never said that. Hmm. Randy said he wanted to see more sparks and told Siedah the songwriter that "Man in the Mirror" was a better song. "Keep the Faith" was too safe for Scott, thought Randy.

Danny Gokey in his video segment talked about his father making music an important part of the household, and it looked like a fun and loving family. He said he's shocked to get this point in his life. He sang "PYT," a 1983 Jackson song (Pretty Young Thing) and I think he rocked it. But I'm partial to Danny. Paula was dancing, but she does that a lot. Simon smiled the whole time Danny was on stage, while Randy and Kara bopped their heads. Danny gave it his all in my opinion and the guy is just plain old lovable.

Paula's voiced cracked and she seemed to tear up while critiquing Danny. Simon said Danny reminds him of Michael McDonald, "a white guy with soul," said he was a brilliant singer but his dancing's hideous. Yet, Simon said it didn't matter because "well done." Randy said "when you got it you just got it," and he even liked the dancing because Danny's passionate. Kara said Danny's all about the music, that he has a joy and he should thank his parents for making him sing his homework.

Michael Sarver's video passed by guys at the oil rig in blue suits. His mother said he's had a tough life growing up without a dad. He sang "You are Not Alone." I like his voice and hope he does well enough to escape the oil rig work because that work's dangerous. I see him as a country singer. He looks like one of those big sweet country boys you meet at the church picnic.

Simon said he's not the best singer in the competition, but he makes up for it with passion, heart, and he thinks Michael gave it 110 percent. Randy said Michael had R&B swagger and he's glad to see him return to it. Kara said tonight showed her that he really can sing, showed he can hit the notes, and that he brings his game to his performances. Paula said he's likable and a regular guy with extraordinary talent.

Jasmine Murray, one of the younger contestants at 16, is cheerleader cute. She comes from a huge family with lots of sisters and looks like one brother. Her mother is with her at Idol, Jasmine said, because Jasmine's a minor. She sang "I'll Be There" and I think it was the right choice for a young girl. Jackson recorded it when he was very young himself, a cut off his first solo album I think. But I think she'll have to be careful to not look like she's competing for High School Musical. Her voice needs some work, but she's got years to work on it.

Randy thought she did a pretty good job, and he said he worked on the song himself with Mariah Carey when she recorded it and that Jasmine blended Michael's version and Mariah's. Kara said she has great stage presence and sold it, but may have done better if she'd performed in a lower key. Paula said something, but I wasn't paying attention. Simon said it was a good attempt and the big notes will always trouble her, also that she was a little bit robotic and a little bit little girl trying to be a grown-up and should loosen up and act more her age.

Kris Allen is another contestant from a church-going background. He's married and his wife said the separation's been hard for the young couple. He played the guitar this evening and sang "Remember the Time." He's got star potential and seems more comfortable with his guitar in front of him than when he sings without it. I think he did the song differently from Michael and that's good so he doesn't seem like he's doing karaoke, and he seemed to enjoy performing.

Kara said it's sure that the girls love Kris and that she was happy to see him with the guitar. A few notes were a little off but she still liked him and that he spent time helping other contestants this week. Paula said that the reason Kris helped everyone (after she told Simon to stop trying to address her) was because he knows Michael's catalog better than anyone. Simon said the performance was at times a bit clumsy, vocals okay, but probably shouldn't have brought the wife out so soon, alluding to the girls who may tune out Kris when they realize he's married. The wife looked puzzled hearing this. Randy liked the performance.

Allison Iratheta, another 16 year old like Jasmine, said her parents are Salvadorian. She said she knew she wanted to go on American Idol at age 9. She sang "Give In to Me." The girl's got a rocker quality and seems older than she is, not a cheerleader type like Jasmine. Quite a voice for someone so young. I think she's a born performer who can command her presence across the stage.

Paula asked her, "Are you 16 or 17?" Allison answered she's 16 and Paula said that she looks like she's been singing since she's 2. Simon responded that Allison has been singing that long. Later he said Allison is very good. He said something else but sort of meaningless. Randy said he knows she was doing a rocker look tonight but he thinks she can sing anything. Kara told her to keep being a rocker because she distinguishes herself that way.

Anoop Desai looked a little less geeky-computer guy tonight, but I think the only way he can really get around looking like the IT guy is to grow his hair a little wilder. He's cute though in that boy next door way. His mom said he was spoiled, an only child, and he's the center of their universe and that they taught him about Indian culture, music, and religion. Anoop said he appreciates it but sees that as his childhood.

Tonight he sang, "Beat It," brave for a guy who doesn't have the naturally cool vibe. I've seen him have more soul than he had tonight. He reminded me of a guy leading a garage band at a college party but he had a few moments. I think he'll have to do better to beat some of the others.

Simon forced Paula to go first. She said "When you pick a song, it's your gift to show us what you've got." She thinks the song is untouchable and sounded a bit karaoke. Simon said he'd go a bit farther and said it was horrible, a really, really bad impersonation of Michael Jackson. Kara said she agreed with the other judges and he didn't show enough variation of himself as a singer. Anoop, nice kid that he is, said he hopes he come back next week and show us what he's got. Simon said after that performance he regrets making it a top 13 instead of a top 12 this season.

Jorge Nunez, who was counseled in previous episodes to get rid of his accent, showed us his family in Puerto Rico during his video profile. He talked about how his family broke apart a bit after his grandfather died. Tonight he sang "Never Can Say Goodbye," which was a reasonable choice for him, I think, because he's got teen idol potential, but he sang it too much like he was going for the original rather than an updated sound. I could hear his accent in parts of the song and to me it added dulce in a good way.

Randy said he's got mad love for Jorge but he wouldn't have chosen this song because it was too old fashioned and the song had a few pitch problems. Kara said he's one of the most emotionally connected performers on the show and he should have sang something like "She's Out of My Life." He said he had trouble choosing a song. Simon said the arrangement was awful, that it was corny and Jorge was out of his depth.

Megan Joy said her friends and family shoved her up on stage, that AI is the first time she's performed for groups larger than church or high school. My god! She's 22 and already divorced. Wonder if that was a shotgun wedding, but she loves her toddler. Ryan said she was going old school, and she did, singing Rockin' Robin. I liked the color of the dress she had on but not the straps and that weird flower on the side. Anyway, she's got personality.

Kara likes her but wants to see her do more. Paula said she didn't hear enough inflection until the end and she wants America to see more than Megan's beauty. Simon hated it absolutely. Randy didn't like the song choice. Gordon Ramsay, the screaming chef from Hell's Kitchen, was in the audience and had an opinion but no mic so we don't know what he said, but Simon said it didn't matter because Ramsay doesn't know what he's talking about anyway.

Adam Lambert
the Bishonen said he moved from San Diego to Hollywood right after high school in his video. His parents said they've tried to support him but it hasn't always been easy. I can imagine he's got a lot drama going on like many creative people.

He sang "Black or White" and already the girls are treating him like a rock star (because he is). I've said before he's talented. Furthermore, he's got the look. His song choice was right for him. I think Adam made "Black or White" his own so we didn't think Michael Jackson we think Adam, hard to do.

Paula loved it as did the audience, which stood up. Paula said "never in the history all seven seasons leading up to now have (we) seen anyone so comfortable on the stage." She said he has an innate ability to know who he is as an artist and has the whole package. She thinks he'll be in end of finals. Simon said Adam was in a totally different league from everything else he'd seen tonight. Randy said from day one Adam was the most current and could make a record now. (I agree.) Kara said Adam hit notes that she didn't know existed and she hoped Michael Jackson was watching. Paula's surprised that no one snatched Adam up and recorded him before he made to American Idol.

Matt Giraud's video family profile--is he part black? His mom and some other family members in the video look like some of the lighter-skinned black Creoles down here. Doesn't matter. This wasn't in the video, but he used to be in gospel choir and was nicknamed "white chocolate." Anyway, he was at the piano tonight singing "Why, Why." He did a good job but he makes me think too much of Justin Timberlake.

Randy agreed with my assessment that Justin's a Timberlaker but he likes him. Kara expects him to get a recording contract or at least hopes he does. Paula liked him. Simon said "good."

Alexis Grace, another Memphis girl, sang "Dirty Diana" after the audience watched a video of her with her daughter. Previously the judges advised her to dirty herself up, and she did, bringing out her own rawness. In the face she looks similar to a young Dolly Parton to me but softer.

"You're a naughty girl and I liked it," Kara told Alexis. Paula advised her to "watch your over singing." Simon said it wasn't as great as others thought it was. Randy liked her personality/energy but thought vocals could have been better.

Contestants in order of appearance tonight, the top 13:
Before they ran clips of the evening's contestants, Seacrest said tomorrow night they're going to announce a change to the show that affects the judges. These reality shows love cliffhangers.

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