Crown Her. Now.

Posted March 31, 2016 by Ray Linder
Categories: Performance

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


A Trent vs. Boy Band Dude Finale?

Posted March 29, 2016 by Ray Linder
Categories: Mindless Rant or Intelligent Commentary

JPEG image-0E687340A045-1In a recent blog American Annoyances, I cited an American Idol poll of whether a guy or girl was going to win this year favored guys by a 2:1 margin. And now, even more recent indications strongly suggest that we are heading to a Trent vs. Boy Band Dude finale for the title of The Last American Idol Forever.

Five songs from last week’s Classic Rock/Sia themes were released to iTunes and the best sellers were Trent’s Sharp-Dressed Man and BBD’s God Only Knows. La’Ps cover of Sia’s Elastic Heart was the third best seller with MacKenzie’s I Want You to Want Me (Cheap Trick) and Sonika’s Loved Me Back to Life (Sia) selling the least.

In addition, Yahoo Music’s Lyndsey Parker says that Trent’s extraordinary performance of Sia’s Chandelier was his Kris Allen-singing-Kanye West’s-Heartless moment, i.e. the performance that stole the competition from the presumed frontrunner. As I don’t believe that performances change anything late in the season, I disagree with her in terms of “stole”. What I believe performances like these do is to awaken us to who the real frontrunner probably always was. A recurring storyline in Idol is the false narrative that the best singer is the one who is far ahead only to find them losing (Adam Lambert) or going out shockingly too soon (Daughtry and Pia Toscano). The truth is that they were probably never ahead with the voters at all. Trent’s strong sales of the song that wasn’t even his best of the night is surely indicative of the strength of his of support with the voters.

So is a Trent/BBD Finale reasonable? Even with my preference for La’P, I can’t find too much to fault. BBD was hyped early and often this season and I believe that his ties to Idol creator and executive producer Simon Fuller gave him a head start in the competition. He’s certainly an interesting[1] performer and studio magic can prop up his rather weak voice[2]. His God Only Knows single is actually very good and if you’re a BBD fan, you should download it as soon as you’ve finished reading this blog.

Trent has grown into becoming a very fine stage performer over the course of this season. He’s made the greatest transformation of any of the remaining Idolists.

As for La’P, the false narrative of the best singer being the frontrunner was probably never true for her, anyway, given Idol’s habit of favoring – let’s just go ahead and say it – white, male winners for seven of the past eight seasons. Yes, Candice Glover won Season XII and was an amazing singer but the Evil Genius Producers made it a point to get a female winner that season by loading the deck with really bad guys[3]. And to be fair, Candice’s post-Idol career went nowhere and it’s debatable how much potential La’P has once she leaves the Idol bubble. But if you love to hear her sing – and I do – you need to download her version of Elastic Heart as soon as you’ve finished reading this blog. It’s SOOOOOO good!

So let’s not be surprised by a Trent vs. Boy Band Dude Finale. And no matter what, it’s hard to believe that we’ll be finding out The Last American Idol Forever next week. 😢


[1] Although too affected with forced emotion for my tastes.

[2] Not having a great voice hasn’t hurt, oh, hundreds of pop stars in music history.

[3] e.g. Lazaro. Sorry I had to remind you.

Sia, Shade, Great Singing – and Bumper Stickers

Posted March 25, 2016 by Ray Linder
Categories: Performance

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.

Welcome to the Show (and today’s pop music)

Posted March 22, 2016 by Ray Linder
Categories: Mindless Rant or Intelligent Commentary, Reviews

Tags: ,

Last week on Idol My Boy Adam Lambert introduced his new single Welcome to the Show. Before you expect me to automatically love it – a completely fair assessment – let’s separate Adam’s voice which I would love no matter what he sings and the actual song that Adam is singing in this case.

First, let me thank the Millennials for blowing up the music beloved by the typical demographic of Idol and The Voice aka The Game Show With Singing. The music we knew fit into neat little categories: pop, rock, R&B[1] and country. With today’s most popular music, however, those early distinctions are irrelevant. Increasingly, the best pop music today blends genres and even eras of music seamlessly. In her 1989 album, one-time country/pop singer Taylor Swift channels late 80s pop. With Uptown Funk, Bruno Mars and Mark Ronson channel the 80s Minneapolis funk sounds of The Time. Blurred Lines recalls Marvin Gaye’s 70s disco hit Got To Give It Up. Swedish DJ/Producer Avicii teamed up with American soul singer Aloe Blacc to make the hit song Wake Me Up that combines folk, country, electronica and R&B into a dance-club song. And all of these songs use modern technology and production that make them sound current.

With interests in music as wide as mine, it’s this genre/era-spanning quality that explains why I love today’s music so much. And it’s why – above and beyond Adam Lambert’s unrivaled voice – I am addicted to his new song Welcome to the Show.

What kind of song is this? It’s certainly anthemic. It’s electro-pop[2] but it’s very dark and moody in contrast to electro-pop’s typical lightness. And it’s also meant to be inspirational which belies it’s dark and moody tone. And just when you think the beat is going to go big in a disco/house music direction, it stays big in an arena rock way. And finally because he can, Adam throws in a variety of R&B vocal licks.

So, again, what kind of song is this? It’s a rock, pop, moody ballad and a variety of sub-genres all at the same time. And, again, it’s why I love it. Much of the music I listen to today fits this kind of indescribable description but still marked by the artist’s particular talent – in this case Adam’s remarkable voice and vocal ability.

Moreover, it fits the way the business of music – and by the business I mean the industry – is done today where artists can create and publicize their work very spontaneously. In a recent interview Adam said there was really no rhyme or reason to unveiling his new single, which doesn’t belong to any particular album . . . he just liked it.

“I just want to put something new out. Why not? Why do we have to follow any sort of rules?’” he explains. “It’s spring, and it feels like a new year  . . . It also doesn’t necessarily signify that The Original High is over, by any means, either. It was just, hey – we wanted to put out a song.”[3]

As to the details of Welcome to the Show’s origin, it was written by Swedish singer-songwriter Laleh who has written big hits for Demi Lovato (Stone Cold) and Tori Kelly (Should’ve Been Us), as well as three songs on Ellie Goulding’s new album Delirium. And it was produced by Max Martin – The Omniscient and Omnipotent Overlord of the Pop Music Universe[4] – who also produced Adam’s recent album The Original High as well as the songs Whataya Want From Me and If I Had You from Adam’s debut album For Your Entertainment.

Welcome to the Show has garnered it’s deserved share of buzz. And yeah, the actual review here was 80 words. The rest was was another 600+ words of contextual musings. It’s what I do.


[1] A code for “black” music. R&B was seen as a more innocuous and accurate term (although Jerry Wexler who created the term wished he had called it “rhythm and gospel”, instead) than “race’ music as it was first known which essentially separated black music from everything else per the Jim Crow culture of that day. Thankfully Berry Gordy – building on the work of Little Richard – came along and made R&B more desired and widely available, i.e. “The Sound of America” as Berry liked to call Motown.

[2] Nearly every day a new category springs up in a feeble attempt to describe the sound of similar songs.


[4] Take about a week to go through this list:

Exit Tristan. Enter Her Career?

Posted March 20, 2016 by Ray Linder
Categories: Mindless Rant or Intelligent Commentary

Tags: , ,

In a fairly typical Idolist exit interview with the press, reports that Tristan – the Idolist eliminated last week – when asked about her future career plans, responded with a coy, “Umm. That’s . . . I can’t really give anything right now to answer that question.”

So what do we make of that?

  1. Such career discussions are quite common for an Idolist-with-Potential and Tristan certainly fits into that category. However, such conversations are not always with the primary Idol principals, 19 Entertainment (Idol’s management) and Scott Borchetta of Big Machine Records (Idol’s label). Other non-Idol related parties may be involved.
  2. Whoever the discussions are with, they are not necessarily consummated with actual deals. The talks simply could be exploratory and since they involve a minor, the conversations will be complicated and take time.

tristanBut let’s be honest. Given that Scott has to sign the winner and make their album, he surely had some influence on the Evil Genius Producers’ early season edits. As a result, Tristan was heavily promoted at the beginning of the season as a legitimate frontrunner. And she was a legit frontrunner because: 1) she’s a beautiful girl; and 2) she’s got a great voice. She ended up being derailed by not picking suitable songs for her age, voice or life experience. But if she looks like a star and sounds like a star, a smart label can give her the right songs and the right marketing to possibly make her star.

Speaking of marketing, Tristan still insists that she’s a country singer despite constantly getting suggestions to focus more on pop. Maybe she’s right or maybe she’s an inexperienced fifteen year-old holding on to a pipe dream. Either way, a good label will also figure out what she’s best at, which will certainly include a determination of where she’s most marketable.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention her comments on Adam Lambert who she said was “amazing because he’s a very kind person and very upbeat. He gave us good advice and was really nice to us.” I have consistently found that anybody who writes/talks about Adam says the same thing. [1]

In any case, Tristan is certainly worth following and by “following” I mean, I’ll follow for you. One of the reasons she was an early potential My Girl was that I saw in her a post-Idol marketability. The raw material of a solid career in music is certainly there. Time, good management and a smart label may do the rest. I’ll certainly be rooting for her[2].


[1] That includes someone I spoke with myself (over a glass of post-show Chardonnay), singer-songwriter Ginny Blackmore who worked with him on his Trespassing album. Ginny said, “There’s not a nicer person in the world.”

[2] Not only for my personal satisfaction as an early fan but to be able to say to the masses, “I believe I had that.”

La’P Has No Peers

Posted March 17, 2016 by Ray Linder
Categories: Performance


“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.

This Week’s Idol – What You Need to Know

Posted March 16, 2016 by Ray Linder
Categories: Much ado about nothing


Well, of course this week is all about Adam Lambert appearing on Idol! But wait – there’s more! During a day off from his amazing The Original High Tour, he and Max Martin – The Omniscient and Omnipotent Overlord of the Pop Music Universe – recorded a new song that will drop on Thursday. It’s titled Welcome to the Show and features the Swedish vocalist, Laleh, who co-wrote Demi Lovato’s current single, Stone Cold, and two songs for Season IX Idolist Tori Kelly’s[1] album Unbreakable Smile. The track was also produced by Ali Payami, who worked with Adam on his hit Ghost Town.[2]

And, yes, Adam will be singing Welcome to the Show on Thursday. At least we hope so. He was forced to cancel a show on Monday night in Florida due to an unspecified condition “requiring at least 48 hours of vocal rest to prevent serious vocal damage”.[3]

Oh yeah – the Idolists will be singing, too. This week’s theme is America’s Choice – songs picked by viewers. Only one Idolist will be eliminated this week, although it’s not clear whether that will be through just the viewers’ votes or if the judges will be involved again. In any case, I think Sonika has to be the most likely person to go at this point with Trent a possibility, too.

Here’s a behind-the-scenes tease of the track. Adam calls the song anthemic although the tease hides that fact. As a friend recently told me, Adam could sing the dictionary and I’d get excited. Fair enough – and I’d be especially happy if he went with all 20 volumes of the Oxford English Dictionary.

I also love that Adam’s label is doing this. In today’s music business – and by the business I mean the industry – it’s crucial to treat music like social media, i.e. staying relevant by keeping yourself “out there” and continually generating buzz. Randomly dropping new music is something artists are doing more often to maintain a presence when music consumers have so many easily available options. Good job Warner Brothers!


[1] Who was eliminated before we ever saw her. And managed to become a big star just fine without Idol.

[2] Songwriting and production info from

[3] News from Tampa Bay Times blog

American Annoyances

Posted March 10, 2016 by Ray Linder
Categories: Performance

Tags: ,

“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.

Watch Adam Lambert in Concert!

Posted March 7, 2016 by Ray Linder
Categories: Reviews


Not able to see Adam live in concert? No worries. Your friendly neighborhood Muser has you covered. Via the magic of YouTube, a dedicated fan with a great view posted good quality videos of each of the songs from Adam’s February 28 show at the Sands Bethlehem Event Center. I’ve compiled them here in the order of the show’s setlist.

His show has three distinct sections that I call: Future Rock Adam; Crooner Adam; and Dance Party Adam. A longer version of this show – which I saw the following week in Washington, D.C. – has the same three sections but includes a medley of Runnin’/Chokehold/Sleepwalker during Future Pop Adam; and Lay Me Down (Avicii song that Adam sings on) and Shady during the Dance Party.

Of course there’s nothing like being there and experiencing the energy but if you’re wondering what The Original High Tour looks and sounds like, here you go.

Future Rock Adam

Intro/Evil In the Night/For Your Entertainment

Ghost Town


Whataya Want From Me


Crooner Adam

After Hours

Mad World

Another Lonely Night

Dance Party Adam

The Light/The Original High/Never Close Our Eyes


Let’s Dance

These Boys

If I Had You

(Encore) Trespassing/Another One Bites The Dust

And Then There Were (the wrong) Seven

Posted March 3, 2016 by Ray Linder
Categories: Performance

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.