Archive for the ‘Performance’ category

A Finale Bright Like a Diamond

April 6, 2016

“You guys are singing like it’s the Final!” (K-Urbs)

BEAST VS BEAST. (Michael Slezak, via Twitter)

“FINALLY! After 15 frickin’ years, America got it right!” (My Daughter Diandra, who somehow has been able to block the Kris Allen/Adam Lambert thing from her memory. Good for her. I can’t. I won’t. #NeverForget)

It seems that the Evil Genius Producers were able to work their evil genius one last time by giving America a pathway to find two amazing singers. Has there ever been an Idol Finale with this level of quality? I think not.

And with that, herewith are my final Idol performance musings.

Round 1: Winner’s Single

These were the songs written for each Idolist for the purpose of being released to radio (Ryan’s words) should they win. “Released to radio” is a technical term that means Ryan’s radio station is the only station in the country that will play these songs. Not just because they were awful but because an Idolist has a better chance of making a hole-in-one on Augusta National than getting a new song on the radio, i.e. the real world of music as opposed to the reality TV world of music[1].

Trent Falling. The song fit his style but had a very dated sound. A for performance; D for currentness[2].

Boy Band Dude Strike A Match. He’s just not a good singer. And the song was more Adult Contemporary rather than Top 40, which was surprising given who his most likely fans are. C for performance; C for currentness.

La’P Battle. This had the most anthemic hook and therefore would be the most memorable if you heard it on the radio. But the song doesn’t grab you right away, which may turn off radio programmers. They should have paid Sia to write a song for her. B+ for performance; B for currentness.

After the initial round, Boy Band Dude got his bad news (and a certain muser got his good news). In spite of having twice the Twitter followers as Trent and La’P combined, BBD’s vocal deficiencies given the competition eventually caught up with him. Unlike Jax’s horribly rushed and insensitive send-off last year, at least the Evil Genius Producers allowed him to have his moment and a proper goodbye.

Round 2: Simon Fuller’s Choice

With a show created to discover a current pop star, Simon mystifyingly chose songs from the 70s and 80s. Is the demographic really that old for that to be necessary? These song choices had a stunning lack of vision. “Old” people will buy songs like Uptown Funk (or anything by Bruno Mars) or Happy or big diva songs by Beyonce or Rihanna. At this penultimate juncture, we should have been imagining Trent and La’P as radio-ready artists rather than people we’d see on Soul Train re-runs.

Trent If You Don’t Know Me By Now (Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes). Somehow, this was energetic and lifeless at the same time. Too full of faux-soul. C+

La’P A House Is Not a Home (Dionne Warwick). She actually started singing the epic Luther Vandross version before just flat out making it a La’P version. In concert, I’d LOVE to hear this. I just wish Simon had picked something with a more recent vintage. A-

Round 3: Idolist’s Reprise aka The Sia Round

The show finally began here.[3] Current songs both written by Sia – a current hit songwriter. Imagine that! If such a thing is possible, they both did their respective songs better than they did the first time.

Trent Chandelier (Sia). Critique-proof. A++

La’P Diamonds (Rihanna). Critique-proof. A++

After 15 years, it’s perfect that American Idol will end with America having to choose between two extraordinary singers going out with two extraordinary performances. One – La’P – was consistently amazing all season. The other – Trent – seemed to come out of nowhere as he got better and better each week. Either would be a good choice to be The Last American Idol Forever.

Who are we kidding? La’P is the best singer in the history of this show – yes, consistently better than My Boy Adam Lambert and with more epic performances, too. In the words of Kelly Clarkson, “You’re gonna win . . . if you [La’P] don’t, there’s something wrong.”

Tomorrow, we’ll see if the first American Idol is right about the last American Idol.


[1] Home written for Phillip Phillips was a notable exception. Ironically, P2 hated the song.

[2] Yes, I know that’s not a real word.

[3] I neglected to mention the show began with the season’s first Cheesy Idol-Sing-A-Long! It wouldn’t have been a proper season of Idol without one of those.


Crown Her. Now.

March 31, 2016

One Idolist is a transcendent singer. One is a unique vocalist. And one charms audiences with an alluring personality, great stage presence and evocative lyrical interpretation. The XVth and last season of Idol may have been something of a rushed and muddled mess but the process certainly gave us as good a final three as Idol has ever had.

As always, I love the hometown visits. Because Idol represents an archetypal hero’s journey, I think it’s only fitting that the Idolists get to return home and receive their hero’s welcome.

But a part of my Idol experience I’ve missed over the four seasons since “My Mom”[1] passed away is her phone calls immediately after the show. And when she was excited about a performance, she would call right after the commercial break following that performance.

Well, My Mom would have called THREE times tonight! I can hear her saying after the first call, “Ray” in the way that she would when she was feeling moved. And by the third time she would have been saying “Ray” through sobs and choked up voice. Because that’s how good La’P was tonight.

She may not win this – see the cases of Hicks/McPhee/Yamin vs. Daughtry and Allen vs. Lambert but she surely has to recognized as one of the greatest Idolists ever. Period. End of Story.

But Trent and Boy Band Dude are their own forces to be reckoned with and have special qualities that could serve them well in the post-Idol world which the show was always supposed to be preparing the winner (and losers) for.

MacKenzie, for his part, left the show with great class, grace and dignity. His was the right elimination and he knew it. He gets an an A+ for his exit.

Here’s how I thought the Idolists did tonight.

Songs Dedicated to Hometown

MacKenzie and The Swaybots[2] Hallelujah. I can do without ever hearing this song on a reality show again. Nothing really wrong with the way he sang it. Nothing really right, either. C+

Boy Band Dude Blue October Calling You. Great song choice by BBD and well done. Very controlled and emotionally connected without false dramatics. I wrote in my notes, “maybe we just saw the winner.” A-

Trent Tennessee Whiskey. His voice is so unique, and in the business – and by the business I mean the industry – that’s a real strength because with a singular voice like his, he can never be compared to anybody else. It’s even better when you’re good, too. A

La’P Common and John Legend Glory. I took no notes. I was screaming, gospel hand waving, standing and crying. A++

Songs Chosen by Scott Borchetta

Boy Band Dude Bruce Springsteen Dancing In the Dark. Both verses were good but I wish he had done the whole song uptempo. He’s having a good night and HCJ is right – his ability to interpret and bring the listener into the lyrics is his superpower. A-

La’P Lorraine Ellison Stay With Me. She is transcending the game. A++

Trent Justin Timberlake Drink You Away. I didn’t like this as much as I thought I was going to. I thought this would be a good song for his swampy, soul voice. It had plenty of fiber but lacked snap, crackle and pop[3]. Was there a problem with the mix or was it just a muddy arrangement? B

Songs Chosen by the Judges

Boy Band Dude Tears for Fears Everybody Wants to Rule the World. TERRIBLE song choice. I like how the judges blamed him for the key and the arrangement rather than having him sing a song that wouldn’t have fit him and his personality no matter what key he sang it in. No grade for BBD. F for the judges.

La’P Adele Hello. When somebody sings Adele – which nobody should ever be allowed to do – and you don’t even recognize that they’re singing Adele, you automatically get an A++

Trent Parson James Waiting Game. GREAT song choice K-Urbs!!! This song fit Trent like a glove and had a radio-ready feel to it. A 

The Last Week of Idol Forever

So here’s what I understand about next week’s three-night extravaganza. Tuesday night is a retrospective of Idol history. On Wednesday, somebody goes home, and the remaining two Idolists sing for our votes in a one hour show. Finally on Thursday, the last show of American Idol will air. There is a LONG list of ex-Idolists that will appear for solo and group performances and I’m praying the long list includes My Girl of Girls Alexis Grace. And there will be special performances by Kelly, Carrie and Jennifer Hudson.

And in the end, La’P will get the confetti shower as The Last American Idol Forever. As the poker players say when they’re hoping that the last card will give them the winning hand – “ONE TIME!!!”


[1] As she was known to blog readers. She was also known on the blog as the person to set Ray straight.

[2] They even followed him to his hometown!

[3] And where else can you get musical performances compared to breakfast cereals? #IdolMuesli

Sia, Shade, Great Singing – and Bumper Stickers

March 25, 2016

There were so many great performances tonight by the Idolists, Sia and David Cook. But I can’t get past the nerdy Idol staff guy whose 7th-grade crush on Katherine McPhee back in Season V led him to make bumper stickers with her name on them. But what do I know about these things? To me, life is too short to spend even five minutes watching the Hallmark Channel. And I did a Google search on romance books + bumper stickers and came up empty. Perhaps this guy’s move was so brilliant, nobody else has ever thought of it and I just can’t wrap my brain around it. Why not a mixtape of songs that make him think of her?

Speaking of mixtapes, since I know nothing about romance, let me get back in my lane and review the music. But first, let me invoke one of Ray’s Idol Rules: performances at this point in the competition are irrelevant. Interesting, no doubt. Inspiring at times. But irrelevant. Everybody who votes knows who they like. The actual performances don’t change their minds. So the winner has probably already been decided but we just don’t know it yet. It’s a frustrating but real aspect of Idol[1].

But my job is to review those performances and give them a stamp of relevancy by comparing them to the competition the Idolists will experience once they get out of the Idol bubble and start competing in the real world.

This week’s songs certainly looked like they would give me much to muse about. I certainly had some strong reactions positively and negatively about this week’s song list. But I had forgotten about one of Idol’s Golden Rules: They who chooseth a song outside their strengths but performeth that song according to their strengths may be given power from on high to make miracles. Remember Adam Lambert singing Ring of Fire? Or Blake Lewis beat-boxing through Livin’ On a Prayer? And David Cook doing Chris Cornell’s moody, rock version of Bille Jean during Michael Jackson week? Each one of those out-of-their-genre moments produced epic Idol memories.

Tonight’s perceived mismatches of songs to singer produced a few such moments. To that end, I’ll also include my initial thoughts about the song choices with my performance reviews[2].

American Rock Songs

La’P – Bon Jovi Wanted Dead or Alive. I was really looking forward to this and I was not disappointed. However, I was waiting for this song to arc to a BIG ending and she never took it that way. Still, her vocal had a ton of soul and feel, and it was a total performance – something I would really get off on if I was at a live show. B+

MacKenzie – Cheap Trick I Want You to Want Me. I was not looking forward to this. I hate the original and he did nothing to make me feel different about it. I actually hated his version more. C

Trent – Z.Z. Top Sharp Dressed Man. Like oil and water, I thought trying to mix Trent with Top was a blend that couldn’t happen. And, oh, was I ever wrong! This was an amazing arrangement of the aforementioned miracle-making variety. It was fun and I had written in my notes that it would be a great concert song before K-Urbs said that. A+-[3]

Boy Band Dude – The Beach Boys God Only Knows. I was on the fence about the song choice. In some ways, the Beach Boys were both America’s first great boy band and first emo band and so this song could suit Dalton if he managed to reign in his (annoying) tendency to over-emote. Which he went and did. I guess I like singers who can create the emotion naturally in their voice and not have to act it out. It feels forced when that happens and that’s the way he happens to sing. This had way too much drama for my taste. C

Sonika – Patti Smith Group Because the Night. I liked that she wanted to go back to a dark, anthemic rock song to try to recapture the magic of Evanescence Bring Me to Life, which was a pleasant surprise for me. Sadly, as the Idolist eliminated this week, she never got to sing it.

Sia Songbook

My thoughts on the Idolists singing Sia were more general. Sia writes radio-friendly pop songs. Allow me to digress for a moment on that. To me that was the root of HCJ’s unfortunate shade at Sia regarding her advice to MacKenzie about going for “the high note” and saying how he hates it when Idol becomes like a skating competition where the audience just waits for the suspense of the big triple axel, i.e. the big note in a song. HCJ is an interpreter of songs and we’ve seen how much he wants Idolists to focus on lyrics. Sia is a great lyricist but she has freely admitted that her goal in the business – and by the business I mean the industry – is to get songs on the radio. Therefore, she knows exactly how to create moments in songs to grab a listener’s attention in such a way that they won’t change the station when they’re listening in their car.[4] A well-placed vocal moment in a song really matters to her. And it should matter to the Idolists who are trying to become pop stars on the radio. And with all due respect, Sia and her songs have been all over the charts in recent years while HCJ has been sitting behind a table on Idol.

End of digression. The challenge with Idolists singing Sia is that she writes anthemic pop songs. And MacKenzie, Trent and BBD hardly fit the description of that type of singer. Sonika didn’t really have the personality for Sia-type songs. Only La’P – who apparently can sing everything – had a shot of succeeding with Sia’s songs. Or so I (wrongly) thought.

La’P – Elastic Heart. Simply beautiful. Like many Idol winners before her, La’P really has made the transition from singer to performer. A

MacKenzie – Titanium. This was way better than I expected. It was brave to put his own spin on a Sia song and it worked, especially with the high note. A-

Trent – Chandelier. Whoa. THIS was a MOMENT, boys and girls. A moment as stunning and captivating as anything La’P has done this year. With the right songs, Trent can really sing. This was so the right song. A+

Boy Band Dude – Bird Set Free. For me, this was BBD’s best performance of the year. It was tender, personal and mostly emotionally appropriate. A-

You’ll notice all A’s in the last round. The Idolists certainly deserved them but this also points to Sia’s brilliance as a songwriter that amateurs could perform these songs so effectively. “Good songs stay sung,” as Jackson Browne says. Indeed.

If performances did matter, Trent won the night with La’P finishing second. If there is justice, it will be the two of them in the Finale in two – just two? – weeks. They have consistently been the best all season and have shown the kind of growth as artists that the best Idol winners demonstrated in their seasons. Hopefully the voters agree.

[Correction] In a sign of increasing mental incompetency, my last blog entry contained two major errors. First, I referred to Billboard writer and eventual Atlantic Records partner Jerry Wexler as the famous songwriter Jerry Lieber. Secondly, I should have said that Wexler wished he had called R&B (rhythm and blues), “R&G”, i.e. rhythm and gospel, instead.


[1] It’s actually worse on The Voice aka The Game Show With Singing. With their voting rules where top songs on iTunes get votes multiplied by 10 and votes are cumulative week to week, the person ahead in the first week often has a lead that can’t be made up by the other contestants. Talk about the irrelevancy of the performances.

[2] A long-time and loyal reader asked. I’ll do almost anything for my long-time and loyal readers. Except make bumper stickers for them. Sorry, J.L.

[3] I couldn’t decide between an A+ or an A so he gets something in between.

[4] Yes, many of today’s popular songs are produced with that process of keeping you glued to the radio station in mind. Record executive LA Reid actually prefers to listen to artists’ demos in his car rather than in the recording studio.

La’P Has No Peers

March 17, 2016

“Welcome to the show,” sang My Boy Adam Lambert but between his reveal of his banging new song of the same title and two superb performances by La’P, it was hard to know who the headliner of the show was.

I think even My Boy would want me to start my musings with La’P. I will say it again – she is one of the greatest performers Idol has ever seen. The image of J-Lo crying after La’P sang My Girl Mary J. Blige’s No More Drama is all the review that performance needs. One of the boys will probably win this final season and that would be a travesty of the Kris-Allen-over-Adam-Lambert level. Include her exquisite performance of Indie.Arie’s Ready for Love; her scintillating version of Come Together last week; and all of her other amazing performances this year, and she is fully in a class by herself in this competition which is ironic since the last time an Idolist had that status – and the judges said so at the time – it was about the guest performer tonight.

The other big deal to me tonight was the elimination of Tristan. It wasn’t surprising given her lackluster string of performances befitting someone who is “good for fifteen[1]” – which she certainly is. It was disappointing in that it was her and Sonika in the Bottom Two, which basically means it’s a La’P vs. the guys situation per the voters. However, I’m happy to see that the voters are supporting Trent who is clearly more talented than Boy Band Dude and Mackenzie.

And speaking of voting – are we voting based on who has the more tragic backstory? In this rush to judgment season where we’ve barely spent any time with the Idolists and learned very little about them, why did the Evil (maybe not so) Genius Producers decide before their most important performances of the season to bring out the mini-Hallmark inspirational bios of each Idolist? This is not to belittle their very real struggles. As viewers of reality TV we understand that we’re being manipulated and as long as the manipulation is minimal, we can live with it because it’s expected. But when the manipulation goes too far, I feel like my intelligence is being insulted. We should have been learning about the Idolists earlier and more often and not be made to emotionally invest in them in the space of a teary, sixty second story.

OK, I’ve held off long enough. Can we just talk about how amazing the show started with the clip of Adam’s Mad World moment – which is still regarded as one of the great moments in Idol history – followed by the live reprise? And I am fully addicted to the new song Welcome to the Show. I can see him opening the rest of his tour with that song which makes me happy for the people who will get to hear that. Actually, no it doesn’t. I hate them already.

One last thing before I get to grades. By and large, America is as bad with song choices (America’s Choice Week) as they are with voting. So bizarrely bad were some of the choices, they were solid evidence of why letting the public pick an American Idol is an adventure that hasn’t always worked out so well.[2]

Round 1

Trent: Counting Stars OneRepublic. Horrible song for him. Too bouncy and poppy for his croony voice. C-

Boy Band Dude: Numb Linkin Park. Terrible song. BBD brought none of the drama that Chester Bennington’s voice brings to the original. D

La’P: Ready For Love India.Arie. Completely and utterly captivating. I was simply watching and not even thinking. Mesmerizing. A+

Mackenzie: Wild World Cat Stevens. Once again, a horrible song choice. In addition, it was terribly arranged for him and he was pitchy and completely off rhythm. D

Tristan: Independence Day Martina McBride. She has a beautiful voice but this lacked the emotional force of an empowerment song. C

Sonika: Let It Go Demi Lovato. She’s a shy fighter and it wasn’t clear which one of those two won. B

Round 2

Boy Band Dude: Sound of Silence Simon and Garfunkel. This was his best performance. He was very emotionally connected which made up for the fact that he’s just not a very good singer. B+

Mackenzie: Billie Jean Michael Jackson. My Daughter Diandra said, “I’m gonna go do some laundry.” I was tempted to join her but I thought I couldn’t responsibly give it a grade unless I tortured myself by listening listened to the whole thing. Where did the melody of the song go? Where was the emotional drama of the original? What was that? And why were the judges so moved to praise it? C (for effort at “swinging for the fences” even though he struck out)

Trent: Simple Man Lynyrd Skynyrd[3]. This song perfectly suited his twangy soul voice. A

Sonika: Clarity Zedd. Bad song choice. She doesn’t haven’t have enough stage personality or punch in her voice for a dance-pop song. C

La’P: No More Drama. Mary J. Blige. Reviewed above. And you can’t put a grade on that level of artistry.

I have a lot more musings on La’P to come soon as well as a brief review of Adam’s new single. So I’ll leave it here for now. I need to go listen to Welcome to the Show a few more times. And I’m guessing my “few” is more than yours.

See you next week.


[1] The best two young teenagers ever for me were Allison Iraheta (4th place Season VIII, i.e. Adam’s season) – who we see each week among the backup singers and is starting to get some buzz for her band Halo Circus; and My Girl Lauren Alaina who has a solid career following her runner-up finish in Season X.

[2] See the cases of Allen vs. Lambert and Dewyze vs. Bowersox. And even Fradiani vs. Jax.

[3] Although his arrangement and vocals were far closer to the acoustic version by Shinedown.

American Annoyances

March 10, 2016

“The only show that turns everyday people into global icons.” In the cases of Kelly Clarkson, Carrie Underwood, Chris Daughtry and Adam Lambert – Ryan’s statement tonight regarding Idol is true – but I wonder if such a thing is possible anymore. And I’m really skeptical after seeing an Idol poll of whether a guy or girl was going to this win year favored guys by a 2:1 margin.

Are these people, like, leaving the room when La’P sings? Are they aware that she’s in the contest? While Global Icon Status is not likely to be in her future, apparently many people think Kelly Clarkson’s favorite Idolist won’t even see Final Winner of American Idol Forever in her future, either.

As long as I’m talking about things that are annoying, the Evil Genius Producers conveniently ignored not one but TWO opportunities to mention that Boy Band Dude Dalton had actually been in a boy band – and one created by Executive Producer and Idol creator Simon Fuller. The first time was before BBD’s Backstreet Boys duet with Mackenzie when he said, “I enjoy boy band music.” Yeah, duh. And then in his min-bio, his mom mentioned that “he started performing live” without ever getting to the part about his band.

One of my many grievances with The Voice aka The Game Show With Singing is that they have too often withheld facts about the professional history of its contestants. It really bothers me to see Idol going that same route in it’s final attempt to create one of those global icons much less a successful recording artist.

And speaking of recording artists, it’s been nearly a year and all we have from last year’s winner Nick Fradiani is the new single he introduced tonight? Where is the album Scott Brochetta? As to that single:

  • I’m more than a little surprised to hear Nick doing a blued-eyed soul song.
  • It’s actually a good song.
  • I can think of at least two dozen people I’d rather hear sing that song instead of Nick mostly because I’d rather not hear him sing the song at all[1].

And can we put a ban on Whitney Houston songs? Please?

Alright, enough airing of annoyances. With the justified eliminations of Lee Jean and Avalon, we are down to the final six and quite quickly. These two-per-week eliminations are way too fast and the shared responsibility with the judges for the results are weird, too. Oh, I’m starting to air annoyances again.

OK, if we are to believe the early polling, the winner will either be Boy Band Dude, Mackenzie and The Swaybots[2], or Trent, as opposed to La’P, Tristan, or Sonika. Here’s how I would categorize them at this point in the competition.

Should Win

La’P Come Together (The Beatles). What a killer performance! Yes, I was whoopin’ and hollerin’ again. I’m at the point where she’s not only giving the best performances this year, she’s giving some of the best performances in Idol history. A+

And her duet with Trent (Wiz Khalifa and Charlie Puth See You Again) was immaculate, too. A

I also thought the backstory of her teacher’s inspiration and the teacher surprising her by coming out for the filming this week is a full-on attempt by the Evil Genius Producers to influence the voting in La’Ps favor.

Could Make Comeback Win

Tristan A Broken Wing (Martina McBride). While the performance was nothing special, it was her best country performance due to Tristan finally making a good song choice. The Evil Genius Producers promoted her early for a reason and the Idol demographic loves country singers which may be how she overcomes her obvious vocal disadvantage when compared to La’P (a disadvantage that all the other Idolists have, too). B

Her duet with Lee Jean (Aerosmith Don’t Want to Miss A Thing) was better for her than him but still showed how she struggles with big high notes. B

Will Probably Win and I’m Already Starting to Get Angry

Boy Band Dude Eleanor Rigby (The Beatles). I thought this was terrible. I cannot fathom what the judges were thinking with their praise. He is simply not a good singer and his stage prancing doesn’t make up enough for that. C-

And I thought his duet with Mackenzie was terrible, too. F

Mackenzie and the Swaybots You Are So Beautiful (Joe Cocker[3]) This was adequate. He’s just not that good of a singer, though. B

And I thought his duet with Boy Band Dude was terrible. F

Shouldn’t Win

Trent Stand By Me (Ben E. King). I do like his quirky voice although he hasn’t quite mastered how to use it to best effect like La’P has with hers. I also agreed with HCJ that his sense of rhythm doesn’t always match the intensity of the band’s beat. Hence, he can sound lounge-singery at times.[4] Like tonight. B

And A+ for his duet with La’P.

Sonika I Have Nothing (Whitney). All the mini-divas always think they can sing Whitney. They can’t.[5] Sonika is pretty. She dresses fabulous. She has a really nice voice but not the kind of vocal fierceness to take on these big Diva songs if she’s not willing to “release” as K-Urbs likes to say. B-

And C- for her duet (Andra Day Rise Up) with Avalon.

singing adamIf I muse any further, I’ll be airing even more annoyances so I’ll just leave it at this. ADAM LAMBERT IS GOING TO BE ON NEXT WEEK!!!!!!!!!!!! 

p.s. Wouldn’t a duet with he and La’P be amazing? Not in the place of him singing solo, of course.


[1] You have no idea how upset I still am that he won.

[2] Who were out in full force tonight.

[3] Written by Billy Preston and first appeared on his 1974 album The Kids & Me; and released on the B-side of his single Struttin’. Joe Cocker’s hit version appeared later that year.

[4] What other writer would dare use “hence” and “lounge-singery” in the same sentence?

[5] Jessica Sanchez was the exception.

And Then There Were (the wrong) Seven

March 3, 2016

idol2In case you forgot because you stopped watching Idol in favor of The Voice aka The Game Show With Singing, Idol wants to remind you that they launched Kelly Clarkson who made over 100 million people grab a tissue over the last week with her song Piece by Piece. And in case you forgot what the point of reality singing shows is – hint: it’s not cute judges – Idol wants to tell you that People magazine just released a special issue called American Idol: Farewell to TV’s Greatest Talent Search. Oh, you’re the type that needs evidence? No problem. Idol wants to remind you that their artists have 54 Grammy nominations and 13 wins.

Nothing like reminding viewers of stuff when that other show – the one where the winners’ careers consistently go to die – started their season this week.

And then La’P who should be The Last Idol Forever sang the Idolists vying for the honor of being proclaimed The Last Idol Forever sang. Unfortunately, Olivia Rox won’t be around to sing next week which is a crying shame. But then it wouldn’t be Idol without my experiencing some early outrage. And neither will Gianna who deserved her fate as her I’m-15-but-want-to-think-I’m-25 act failed to work with the voters, including this Muser who really likes her voice, although her song choices not so much.

As to Olivia, I’m VERY disappointed the voters didn’t have her automatically in the Top 7. Yes, her cover tonight of Pink’s Trouble lacked Pink’s attitude[1], but her body of work to this point in the season was certainly superior to Lee Jean (who I like) or Mackenzie (who I don’t like) or Sonika (one good week) and even Tristan (good start and hype by Evil Genius Producers but had been fading). Unfortunately, in the sing-off between her, Gianna and Avalon, I suspected correctly that the judges already had a pre-determined preference for Avalon that I don’t get[2].

As to the other seven Idolists – you want evaluations? You get evaluations!

Boy Band Dude – Imagine Dragons Radioactive. Not as good as it should have been. It was an interesting arrangement but it also lacked energy. He’s not a good enough singer to continue relying on changing up songs each week. C

Lee Jean – Kings of Leon Use Somebody. So he finally decided to stop doing Ed Sheeran songs. And then sang KOL as if he was Ed Sheeran. C

Sonika – Kelly Clarkson Since U Been Gone. Ugh. Where was the release of anger in this song? Where was the middle finger attitude in this song? D

Mackenzie – Whitney Houston I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me). This singer-songwriter arrangement could have actually worked but vocally he didn’t make it work for me. Kris Allen could have made this work and I didn’t like Kris Allen. B-

La’P – Beyoncé Halo. I agree with HCJ that she understands Idol as a singing competition, i.e. how to “arc” a song, i.e.[3] how to start a song slow and finish with a bang. Not as great as it could have been but still really good. Especially in the second half of the song. B+

Trent – Percy Sledge When A Man Loves A Woman. I’m just bored with this song but it was better than I expected. B

Tristan – Vince Gill Go Rest High on That Mountain. Scott Borchetta really called her out during rehearsal for singing something that didn’t sound credible. That was telling in that I find this move to being a country singer hasn’t been working for her. Having said that, she was much better this week – something about being behind a piano works for her. Still, if we can agree that country and R&B are two different versions of “soul” music, Tristan seems to be opting for country when I think she’s actually some combo of both that she needs to figure out. B

So who goes home next week? And what kind of stunts will the Evil Genius Producers pull with the eliminations? I can’t speak to the latter and it’s folly to predict how the viewers will vote. So I’ll just wait and see.

Back at ya next week.

P.S. Didn’t HCJ used to be able to sing? What happened to his voice? He’s not old enough to have lost it.


[1] Whereas I’ve always wanted to be friends with tonight’s special guest Demi Lovato, I’ve always worried that Pink could beat me to a pulp. And then pour the rest of the drink she was holding while she was beating me up all over my broken body.

[2] Most of the time this year, the judges have been on the same page with me but not as it relates to Avalon.

[3] I’m sure using multiple i.e.’s in a sentence is inappropriate so go ahead and turn me into the Writing Style Police.


February 26, 2016

No. I’m not going to bury the lede. La’P. La’P. La’P.

One of the best Idol performances ever. Ever.


She was the cream cheese frosting plus whipped cream topped with bananas and cherries, and a bottle of rum poured on top of an already spectacular Idol cake tonight. Here’s what I loved:

  • Lee survived. Annoying, unintelligible Thomas did not. (I was fine with the eliminations of Manny, Jenn and Jeneve Rose, also.)
  • Kelly Clarkson flashbacks. Whoa. Chick could sang!
  • Kelly as the unrestrained and unconfined judge.[1] Gotta love her proclaiming a winner in front of the viewers and the other Idolists. And just rambling in general. And unlike Paula Abdul, somehow always making sense. I’m not sure I could take Kelly-as-judge every week but she was so much fun this week.
  • Kelly as the wise and experienced judge. Having been The Original Idol and a consistent fixture at the top of the charts since then, who knows more about the Idol journey than Kelly? Her insights were spot-on all night.
  • Idolists sharing their Idol memories. It was fun going back in time with them.
  • Something that Original Idol Kelly said that is a reason why Idol has been the show that created stars while others did not: “I got my work ethic from Idol.” Adam Lambert has said much the same thing. The Idol process prepares the Idolists for the real world.

OK, let’s evaluate the performances.

Possibly My Girl But Whoa La’P! Olivia (Unconditionally, Katy Perry). Superb. Controlled. Passionate. Heartfelt. Tasteful. A-

Gianna (Listen, Beyonce). Too big a song for her. When will she sing songs for teenagers? It wasn’t credible and she was pitchy, too. And once again, Gianna would have done better with the song Avalon chose. C-

Lee (Skinny Love, Bon Iver). Not a good song choice and he was pitchy, too. I’m so happy he got this far but at this point it’s getting harder for him to stay. C

Avalon (Stitches, Shawn Mendes). Bad song choice plus sounding more nasal and throaty than usual equals the soul in her voice never showed up. C

Boy Band Dude (Hey There Delilah, Plain White T’s). Finally – a great song choice! And a nice punked up arrangement. I’m still not sold on his voice – especially versus some of the big singers in the competition – but he is a completely comfortable and confident performer on stage. A-

No Longer My Girl Tristan (Nuthin’ Like You, Dan + Shay). Who stole My Girl Tristan and has her in hiding? Terrible song choice and she was completely disconnected from the fun of it. She’s just not believable to me as a country singer. She was amazing as the girl at the piano with the Alicia Keys vibe and the edgy, Rihanna-style look. She once sounded and looked like a pop star. Now she’s become so ordinary. C-

Mackenzie (I See Fire, Ed Sheehan). Like a lukewarm glass of water when you wanted an ice cold glass, he’s not bad but he’s not good, either. B-

Sonika (Bring Me To Life, Evanescence). Oh, it’s SOOOO hard for me to be objective when Idolists (try to) sing My Girl Amy Lee. But I really enjoyed this. First off, she came out dressed like My Girl Amy Lee. Second, she finally sang with real conviction and emotion. Finally, she somehow followed the otherworldly performance by La’P with a strong one of her own. B+

Trent (Like I Can, Sam Smith). Trent reminds me of Van Morrison in that he has a highly stylized voice that doesn’t come off as annoying. He brought a lot of soul to this and made me forget that it’s a Sam Smith song. B+ 

You may have noticed that I skipped over La’P (Diamonds, Rihanna). I was screaming. I was crying. I was shaking. I was waving hands. I was stomping feet. I was gasping for air. I was trying to maintain consciousness. That was simply one of the highest points in Idol history and the loooooooooonnnnnnnng audience applause validated that. How does one grade phenomenon?

So now we have a cliffhanger as we wait until next week for the results. I can’t recall a year where I thought it would be difficult for me to cut someone from the Top Ten. What makes this year even more difficult is that there are so many young Idolists with such great potential. But with such a short season, there’s little time to realize that potential. The kids that don’t grow up quickly will go home quickly. I would cut Mackenzie and Avalon and give the kids another week. However, I suspect that it will be Gianna and Lee. I hope I’m at least partially wrong.

La’P. Dude.


[1] It was fun watching J-Lo continually failing at trying to hang on to her Alpha dog status.

A Rush to Our Judgments

February 24, 2016

Whew! My head is spinning! Ten performances in an hour show had Ryan rushing Idolists off the stage after what seemed like 60 second performances – many of them reprises of prior performances – and the briefest of complimentary feedback from the judges.

When there’s a lot going on, my mind likes to try to make sense of things by arranging the data chronologically. So here goes.

First, we learned who our fast pass Idolists were and I believe I had this: Boy Band Dude, Possibly My Girl Olivia, Trent and La’P. I’m saying I had this because I preferred Trent over Mackenzie and The Swaybots who I was sure the judges were going to pick. Since The Evil Genius Producers had him sing in the Glory Spot, it’s fair to say there is still much love for him.

OK, on to the performances – all 60-90 seconds of each one.

Manny (Master Blaster) – Cheesy, karaoke and a bad song choice. But really, I don’t think there’s a good song choice for him. C-

Gianna (I Put A Spell On You) – This girl can sing and she is maturing artistically right before our eyes. I’d still like her to sing more contemporary songs like Alessia Cara’s Here or anything by Justin Bieber because she’s not going to the real world singing adult songs. In any case, this was the best of the night for me. A-

Thomas (Story of My Life) – What language was he singing in? His indie pop voice thing is really annoying and he can’t be gone soon enough – which means the young voters will keep him around over the more deserving Lee Jean. Sigh. D

Maybe Not My Girl Tristan (What Hurts the Most) – So she’s a country singer now? She doesn’t seem to know who/what she is yet. She even came out looking rather ordinary rather than striking as she had each week. She was pitchy, her voice sounds thin at times and she didn’t really connect with me as a country singer. I’m still willing to keep an open mind, though, but she’s going to have to show me something really soon. B-

Avalon (You (Excuse Me Miss)) – Avalon is doing great job of showing herself as a contemporary singer and she really upped her stage presence this week. And I really wish Avalon would choose songs for Gianna. B+

Jenn (True Colors) – Good song choice, competently delivered without over-dosing on indie pop voice. B+

Lee Jean () – He’s so good. He’s such a natural. He’s so musical. And he’s not ready yet. His confidence and naturalness on stage isn’t there – yet. But he’ll be really good when it all comes together. And I’d still rather have him in the competition than Thomas. B

Sonika – (I Surrender) – I don’t want any young girls not named Jessica Sanchez (Season XI) to sing Celine Dion. Sonika was fine – no obvious flaws – but in a beauty pageant way. There’s just no sizzle when she sings. B

Jeneve Rose – (Ring of Fire) – Everything I said about Lee Jean is true here. Plus I agree with HCJ that her style is polarizing. And if you’re going to be polarizing, you have to, as K-Urbs said, “Let it go!” When Adam Lambert did his polarizing version of Ring of Fire, he was unhesitatingly and fully committed right down to his dress, staging and sinuous body movements not to mention the TNT-packed vocal delivery[1]. She’s VERY talented but too young and inexperienced right now. C+

Mackenzie (oddly without The Swaybots this week singing his original song Rose) – I am really surprised that he wasn’t picked by the judges although I prefer Trent. I think Mac and Trent are occupying a particular lane[2] and I’m curious how the voters will be divided between them. Regarding his performance, I couldn’t find anything wrong with it but nothing that said “pop star”, either. I’ll give him credit for his songwriting, though. B+

In general, I thought the judges tended toward being too nice tonight which was likely circumstances more than anything. First, it’s easier to say something nice but banal when there’s little time too expound further. Even my grades were higher than usual. Second, I think it would be unfair for the judges to influence the voting at this stage since it’s the first vote. They already had their say by granting the four fast passes.

With that, our votes will cut two Idolists. For me, the ones who need to go at this point are Manny and Thomas. But with America voting, anything can happen.

See you tomorrow.


[1] Simon called it indulgent. But indugent is what it takes if you’re going to be polarizing and still be successful.

[2] The whiny, sensitive guy lane.

Duets – and Duelling My Girls?

February 19, 2016

Just like last week, tonight’s Nights of Duets With Past Idolists, Round II was intriguing. In general, the Idolists struggled to keep pace with the more seasoned ex-Idolist professionals. However, just as last week when La’P more than held her own with Fantasia, this week a couple of Idolists managed to do the same. But unlike last week, I feel the duet performances affected the results.

Because of our history with them, it is hard not to give all of your attention to the ex-Idolists. It really is a trip down memory lane, especially when they sing songs they performed during their seasons. OK, OK, OK, can I go back and change my votes for Carly Smithson and then to My Girl Syesha over to David Cook? He really is a talented singer and it’s evidence of how cruel this business – and by the business I mean the industry – is that he was not able to sustain the same level of success as Daughtry has.

Haley Reinhart (along with Joey Cook from last season) has been touring with the group Post-Modern Jukebox that rearranges old songs into new styles or new songs into old styles. It shows in her singing. She’s less bluesy and more jazzy in her approach to songs as compared to her time on Idol. And how can you not want to be friends with either Jordin Sparks or Kellie Pickler? And, wow, Jordin can sing!

But Jordin did more than sing great. She was an amazing mentor to two Idolists who needed her help. She got Manny to drop the fun-loving but too fun-loving to be serious persona and finally got him to connect with a song (the fabulous No Air which is actually a duet with her and Chris Brown) and the audience. And she got Trent to tone down the annoying over-use of vibrato and sing with more restraint. In Manny’s case, I believe his performance made the difference between moving on in the show instead of moving back home.

Random Thoughts on Teen Idolists

There are a lot of teens this year and we saw three of them tonight: Lee Jean, Tristan[1], and Olivia. In his biography Sing to Me, music mogul L.A. Reid says how important is to him to not just see an artist’s talent but that the artist – even if they are young – has a clear vision of what they intend to be. That’s look, clothing style, singing style and intended audience. Some came in with it, e.g. Usher, TLC and Avril Lavigne. Some figured it out really fast, e.g. Outkast and Pink. Outside of those people I just mentioned from L.A.’s book, you could clearly include erstwhile teen artists like Rihanna, Taylor Swift and Lorde as other examples.

When I see this season’s teens, I feel like all of them have potential but none has that vision yet. And really, who among us did? But what I’m learning is that there are young pop stars that did indeed have that vision of themselves. So what I’m waiting for is to see which of them will figure it out the fastest, if at all. This week I saw a sharp contrast between two of them. I think Tristan is still searching. And I think Olivia might be getting there the fastest.

Best Line From a Judge

K-Urbs talking about Daughtry’s song Home after the Daughtry/Lee Jean duet: “That’s a classic song written by someone who came from American Idol.” Seriously, people. Yet another reminder that stars have come from this show!!!!

Best Line From Somebody Watching the Show

In reference to Boy Band Dude (Dalton) saying that his first album was Daughtry’s first album, MDD[2] said, “Daughtry was his first album?? Celine Dion was my first. Talk about making me feel old! Just dig the pit and bury me now!”

The Cuts

No real surprises in terms of Amelia, Kory, C.J. and Adam as they were on my list of probable cuts. The big surprise was Manny over Shelbie Z. Again, Jordin really helped him a lot with her coaching. Shelbie Z. didn’t do enough last night or tonight to distinguish herself from the pack and opened the door for somebody who made a big impression which turned out to be Manny.

Random Thoughts on The Survivors

Jen had enough goodwill to survive a bad Solo Round and a lousy duet with Constantine Maroulis on My Funny Valentine. I like her so I’m OK with that but I expect her to be an early out once we start voting next week.

Gotta talk Boy Band Dude. Of all the duets from both weeks, his with Daughtry joined La’P with Fantasia as the ones where the Idolist held their own with the pro. Moreover, he looks really Idol-like in that he does have that clear vision of himself. Whether that’s a winning vision remains to be seen.

The other person I need to mention is a strong candidate to be My Girl, Olivia Rox[3]. While I thought she was over-praised by the judges last night, I thought she was spectacular tonight singing with David Cook on his first hit Light On.[4] While I was saying she sounds like Grace Slick, MDD was saying she digs the Heart vibe. Like Tristan, she’s also very pretty and looks really comfortable in front of an audience.

I’m getting concerned about Tristan. This week she showed a tendency to get squeaky at times which could be evidence that she’s choosing bad songs for her voice, i.e. not having found her identity as a singer; or not being sure of what she can do with her voice. She could be the usual Idol early frontrunner that never wins.

Alright, we finally get to vote next week. It will be interesting to get our first glimpse of who the viewers like. Happy National Wine Drinking Day! Tonight’s blog was brought to you by Gordon Estate 2013 Merlot from Columbia Valley in Washington state.


[1] Wait a minute. Where is the “My Girl” title? Stay tuned.

[2] My Daughter Diandra.

[3] Yes, I’m capable of changing My Girls in the middle of the season. Why not? Happens all the time on The Bachelor.

[4] Written by Chris Cornell who I’m a big fan of.

Are There Idols to Be Found? One Even?

February 17, 2016

It’s a good thing that a host of ex-Idolists will be on tomorrow night to remind us of how many great performers came from this show. Because tonight’s Solo Round II was far more of an argument in favor of cancelling Idol than leaving us wondering why the show can’t go on. I saw only one potential Last Idol Winner Forever. I’m hoping the survivors do better next week.

Here are the grades.

Shelbie Z.Work Harder, Play Harder (Gretchen Wilson). I’d been saying all season that she reminded me of Gretchen Wilson but now not so much. I expected this to be better. It wasn’t a good song to show off vocals and K-Urbs was right about the key being too low. Her voice never brought the sass to match her spirited attitude. C+

Manny TorresAdventure of a Lifetime (Coldplay). Bad song choice and Manny never connected to it or the audience. C-

Kory Wheeler – Let It Go (James Bay). Weak. Sleepy. Dull. C-

Amelia Eisenhauer – Wake Me Up (Avicii). What was this? She turned Avicii’s so-strange -it-works combo of country-meets-EDM[1] into a so-strange-it-didn’t work nearly unrecognizable cruise ship hootenanny. F

Jen Blosil – Sorry (The Biebs) Sigh. I really like her but: 1) Where did the actual melody go?; 2) Was she singing in a foreign language? I’ll come back to that later. F

C.J. Johnson – I’ll Be (Edward McCain). He’s so Lee Dewyze, i.e. Off-Key Lee Dewyze. And when will the statute of limitations run out so that nobody can sing this song again? C

Lee Jean – Runaway (Ed Sheeran). This Lee is good but not as good as he’s going to be. He is so skilled and so naturally talented but he needs more time on stage to learn how to use it and move his body more. B

Trent Harmon – What Are You Listening To (Chris Stapleton). His voice is not my cup of tea (especially compared to Chris Stapleton!) but this was a good, sensitive and very credible performance. B+

My Girl Tristan McInstosh – Good Girl (Carrie Underwood). Great physical energy and stage presence. Great looks.[2] But Carrie’s big rock songs are deceptively hard to sing (I’ve noted this in the past) and My Girl was pitchy and never got her breathing right. Both sucked some life out of her vocals. B-

Adam Lasher – Black and Gold (Sam Sparro). He chose an obscure song that most Idol viewers won’t know. And he did nothing with it to make it or him sound interesting or set himself apart. C

Boy Band Dude aka Dalton Rapattoni – Rebel Yell (Billy Idol). He has three Adam Lambert things going for him: 1) the striking look; 2) best stage performer in the competition – like Adam, Boy Hand Dude forces you to watch him; 3) best in the competition at changing up the songs (K-Urbs: “You’ve got your own genre.”). But he doesn’t have Adam’s voice – who does? And to me he makes everything sound like The Backstreet Boys. It is clever given the range of songs he’s doing from Olivia Newton John to Billy Idol but I’m wondering if he really is his own genre or rather makes everything fit into a particular genre. Still, I think he’s a lock to get to at least the Final Four and I’m watching him with an open-minded curiosity to see if he is more than a one-trick pony. B+

Olivia Rox – Confident (Demi Lovato). Olivia is yet another teenage beauty and she got the Glory Spot tonight. Not only that, Idol pre-released her performance on Twitter prior to the show so you know they thought this was a big deal. It didn’t live up to the hype for me. I thought the song was a bit too big for her. But the judges lavished her with praise, so it’s obvious that right now she has the blessing of the Evil Genius Producers. B-

J-Lo made it clear that the solo performances get more weight than tomorrow’s duets. Given that, the people I would cut (five are going home) are[3]: Manny, Kory, Amelia are easy. Jen is at risk for her dreadful performance but could get a pass based on scripting and judges’ goodwill; and then either C.J. or Adam. I could see Lee being at risk, too, if the judges don’t think he’s quite ready yet.

OK, I promised to say something about Jen’s pronunciations. Thomas Stringfellow is another Idolist this season singing with a highly affected – I’d call it contorted – vocal style. Apparently this is a thing now and it’s called pop indie voice. Go ahead and Google that and read away to your heart’s content. It’s dipthongs on steroids, dragging out single vowels into 36,621 syllables. And it’s annoying (except when Sia does it). Wasn’t it enough that the boy bands and My Girl Britney turned long E’s into long A’s:  me = “m-ay”; “bay-bay”; and “everybod-ay”?

See you for the duets tomorrow and the return of Kellie Pickler! And now I think I’ll go listen to some Sia. 🙂


[1] Electronic Dance Music

[2] Somebody needs to investigate her birth certificate. 15?

[3] These are NOT predictions as I don’t have enough data, i.e. producer scripting and rehearsal history to make informed predictions.