Thursday, February 24, 2011

American Idol, Season 10 -- Episode 12, Naming the Top 24

So many reality TV shows have their own signature way to say goodbye to a contestant.  One of my favorite moments of How I Met Your Mother was when Barney Stinson, apparently an avid reality TV watcher, ran through the list of all the ways you could tell someone to take a hike:

You are the weakest link, goodbye. Punchy, the tribe has spoken. Please pack up your knives and go. Your work of art didn't work for us. Your time's up. I have to ask you to leave the mansion. You must leave the chateau. Your tour ends here. You've been chopped. You've been evicted from the Big Brother house. Your dessert just didn't measure up. Sashay away. Give me your jacket and leave Hell's Kitchen. I'm sorry, you did not get a rose. You have been eliminated from the race. You are no longer in the running to be America's Next Top Model. You're fired. Auf Wiedersehen.
If there is one thing missing from American Idol, it is the lack of a signature kiss-off line.  Tonight, eleven contestants will be sent packing with an apology, an explanation, some comforting words and perhaps a tear or two.  But no catch phrase.  Let's see.  Exit, stage right?  Your microphone has been unplugged?  No stool for you?  We'll have to work on this.

It doesn't look like Jennifer Lopez is up to bringing down the axe on anyone else, but those are the rules.  Now, I know a lot of you think she's faking all this concern.  But, honestly, we all know she's just not that good an actress.   

First up is Karen Rodriguez, who can sing well in two languages.  I don't why that impresses me, but it does.  Possibly because I'd like to sing as well in just one.  She was the MySpace auditioner, proving that the internet is not all bad.  Where else could you be contacted by a Nigerian prince?  With her good looks, mature, solid vocals and consistency, I'd be shocked if she isn't getting good news. No shock here, she's in, and very enthusiastic about it!  She even gets the lift and spin of victory after leaving the room!

Robbie Rosen sang Sorry Seems to be the Hardest Word as his "sing for your life" song.  It was not an ironic choice.  His angelic, painfully beautiful voice is not hearing "sorry" any time soon.  What he does to a song should be against the law, or at least kept away from small children.  It's too provocative, too intimate. He has such command over his voice, he can make it do whatever he wants so effortlessly.  Can you tell I'm a fan?

Tatynisa is up next and she's had a bumpy ride to the top 40.  But they must have seen something in her and she is cute as a button, for what it's worth.  So possibly on that alone, she's in the top 24. 

I am reminded that I did not like Tim Halperin during his audition.  Not just because of his unfortunate facial hair, but because of what I thought was a snarky comeback to JLo when she asked his age.  For the record, men, replying, "What's yours?" is never the right choice.  His final song is ... okay.  It was an original which is risky at best, suicidal at worst.  He has a nice sounding voice, but this was his shot to nail it and it was a tad sleepy.  So, that of course means...he's in the top 24!  After killing it in Vegas with that beautiful duet on Something, I'm not surprised!

His equally gifted partner in that performance, Julie Zorilla, has it all.  Voice, looks, she plays the piano, her skin is flawless and she dresses cute. They worry she may not have the emotion, the feeling to connect with an audience.  Because, what audience will connect with a gorgeous, multi-talented young woman?  Oh, all of them?  Yeah, she's in.

They pit the two cowboys against each other which strikes me as unfair. It's Scotty McCreery v. John Wayne Schulz.  Ryan asks them if they're worried if there's room for both and while they say they're not concerned, it's clear they should be.  It sure is feeling like an either-or proposition.  Scotty, like, Tatynisa, had blown the group round in Hollywood, stumbling over then adlibbing the lyrics to his song, but was allowed to move on.  His final song was really country, with references to trains and, I'm sure if he sang more, there'd be dogs and guns, oh, yep, there it is, there's the lord!  He's adorable, I'll admit it.  I can see him being hugely popular if even I like him.  And, yes, Scotty's in the top 24.

But, sadly, he'll be our only country guy as John Wayne Schulz is out. 

Next is Jovany Barreto, who sounds better than he did during Hollywood week.  Very pristine, clear voice.  Nice, very nice.  In case you forgot, he was the guy who took his shirt off for no apparent reason.  After he had the golden ticket.  Comparisons to Casey James came to mind, naturally, and so it was curious that Ryan tonight used the same line in reference to Jovany that he did last year after Casey made the top 24.  "Now he's in your hands, America."  Curious.

Lauren Turner auditioned in New Orleans and she's faded since then.  But my handy dandy spoiler list from Joe's Place Blog says the unmemorable one made it, and she does.  No more cleaning other people's messes for this former maid.  Hmm, maybe JLo felt a connection because she once played a maid?  Boy, this would have been the year to audition if your name was Gigli. 

Rachel Zevita, who had made it far, but not far enough, in Season 6, is nervous about hearing the verdict from the judges.  She shouldn't be.  Her voice is so unique, so memorable, so polished, they're lucky to have her.  She showed a totally different side of her vocals in her last song, went way over the top, her desperation to make it almost palpable.  It worked, and she's in.  I question the crying with no tears, but I do feel her shock was genuine.  I hope she stays around for a while and always brings grandma with her.  However studied her granddaughter may be, that lady was real!

I remember thinking Kendra Chantelle Campbell had a sweet voice and did a nice job on Blackbird.  She's pretty and, until she was goosed in the middle of her final song, she has a strong, radio-friendly voice.  I worry she may be a bit bland, there's nothing yet that stands out about her.  But I do like her little trick on Ryan, giving him the disappointed, kiss off explanation before coming out with the great news!  She's in.

Jordan Dorsey started his final song flat and it hurt my ears.  It did not improve from there.  So why do I fear I'll be seeing -- and hearing -- more from him?  Jordan skates over the issue of his petulant, superior behavior during Hollywood week, but then being a singer is about singing, right, not being a mensch?  So he'll be around for at least another week to show everyone how it's done.

I have loved Lauren Alaina's voice since her audition and every time I've seen her since there, she's blown me away.  And it just occurred to me that she's actually younger than my daughter!  She's just a baby, with such a powerful, confident voice.  How does this happen?  I guess that's why it's called a gift.  However, as gifted as she is vocally, she is confused sartorially as her outfit is psycho cowgirl on crank.

Stefan Langone overcame a horrible car accident and now faces a tougher challenge, singing an original song that appeared to lack any melody whatsoever.  But he does have a unique sound, using a higher register than a lot of the male (and many of the female) contestants.  As long as he sticks with covers, he should be fine.

Jackie Wilson had one of the strongest voices during the audition round, but she apparently fell a little short during her last performance.  She's not taking the news that she did not make the top 24 well, as she is suspicious, as I am, that it's based on something other than her vocals.  But, sadly, TV is a visual medium.

Jacob Lusk makes me want to throw my TV out the window, but it's a really nice TV and a lot bigger than I am, so I'll have to settle for the mute button.  Oh, now he's done it!  He took one of my favorite songs, A Song for You, and destroyed it -- in a bad way.  Not in the "you killed it" way, but in the, "what did that song ever do to you" way.  Leon Russell should sue.  But the judges do not hear what I do.  They still are talking about his overwrought God Bless the Child performance like the second coming and I worry about their ears and their sanity.  It was an indulgent, unnecessarily over-the-top performance that was a bad SNL skit come to life.  The Khmer Rouge did less damage than he just did.  Awful, simply awful.

How can I go on when my faith in humanity has been put to the test like that?  I'll try to pick myself up.  Pia Toscano has renewed my hope.  Oh, this is what singing well sounds like.  She's already crying, probably because Jacob made it, which means someone great won't.  But Pia, you will!!

Now it's James Durbin, whose Tourette and Asberger combination makes him need to sing like Adam Lambert at every possible opportunity. Hide the wine glasses, he's about to sing at the shatteringly high range only he can find.  Dogs across America prick up their ears.  But you apparently need a shrieker ever year, so James is in.

Two spots left for the guys, but just four guys left, including judges' favorite Casey Abrams.  He is more of a lock than Rahm Emanuel was on Tuesday.  Casey's got a jazzy, too-cool-for-school vibe, that rubs me the wrong way, but apparently makes the judges all warm and gooey.  I want to put my foot through his face.  Why do people who sing jazz seem so arrogant to me?  It's like they're saying, yeah, I could just sing a melody, but that's for slackers.  Let me riff for an hour, to show how awesome I am.

Jessica Cunningham is having a birthday.  It's her seventh time trying out for American Idol and she's gotten this far, but no further, before.  Did I mention she's having a birthday and she's vying for the last remaining spot with Thia Megia, who has one of the best voices in the competition?  Yeah, this is not going to be a birthday to remember.  Jessica will be known for the rest of the night as American Idol bubble girl for the giant AI logos used to cover the middle fingers she was giving the judges after she learned of her fate.  Thia has a muted celebration.

There are three guys left, but only one spot.  Jacee Badeaux, Brett Lowenstern and Colton Dixon.  All have great voices.  Jacee is just a babe, fifteen, but a young fifteen.  He has a sweet voice, which cracks slightly during his last performance.  Brett has a really different sound.  He sang an original song, which is risky, but I think the risk paid off.  It showcases his range and quirkiness.  I remember being blown away by Colton during Hollywood week and as I hear him tonight, I think this is a tremendous voice.  One of the best of any guy I've heard.  All three deserve a spot, but it goes only to Brett.  Which would explain the Tweet I saw from Colton earlier.  He's fine and will keep going, so follow him here.  Jacee is young and his voice will only improve as he matures. 

So we have our top 24, which I list here from my favorite to my least:

Guys                                                      Girls          
Robbie Rosen                                        Lauren Alaina

Tim Halperin                                         Julie Zorilla

Brett Lowenstern                                 Rachel Zevita

Jovany Barreto                                     Ashthon Jones

Scotty McCreery                                  Karen Rodriguez

Casey Abrams                                      Naima Adedapo

Stefano Langone                                   Pia Toscano

Clint Jun Gamboa                                 Thia Megia

Paul McDonald                                     Tatynisa Wilson

James Durbin                                        Lauren Turner

Jordan Dorsey                                       Haley Reinhart

Jacob Lusk                                            Kendra Campbell

Guys will go next Tuesday, girls will follow on Wednesday, results on Thursday.  See you then!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

American Idol Season 10, Episode 11 -- LOVE-ing the Beatles

Tonight the remaining 61 contestants are in Las Vegas, performing on the LOVE stage, where Cirque du Soleil puts on a breathtaking show using Beatles music as the backdrop for the love story/sick display of acrobatic excess. Who will rise to the occasion, whose career trajectory will take an unexpected downward turn?  Let's find out.

Flashback to last week, when the remaining contestants learned that they would be going to Vegas -- Yay! -- to audition once again before the final cut -- Boo!  Life is so unpredictable, but American Idol isn't.  So you know that any second now Ryan Seacrest will say This is American Idol.  Ryan?  How can I tell that the show started?  I'm so confused! 

One of the most recognizable chords in music history, the first note of A Hard Day's Night, blares and it begins.  The remaining contestants are on buses to Vegas, having picked a partner to perform with and a song to sing.  No problem.  The last time they all formed groups, that went really well for everyone!

Group disasters, part deux. There's more drama and tears than on any episode of The Bachelor.  No one is happy, no one has a clue.  And they have all of 24 hours to learn and nail a new song or take the bus back to wedding singerville. 

Vocal coach = mean.  Someone woke up on the wrong side of the Strip this morning!  I didn't know that "scared straight" was a concept singing coaches used, I thought that was reserved for prison guards.  Well, at least she has another career she can fall back on.

What is wrong with the current generation? They've never heard a Beatles song.  The Beatles?  Who?  No, not The Who, The Beatles.  The Fab Four.  The boys from Liverpool.  They who launched the British Invasion?  Paul McCartney's first band?  Anything?

And here is the knight in shining armor.  Jimmy Iovine.  He is a seriously intense looking dude.  He drops the K bomb on the contestants -- he calls it karaoke.  Ouchers.  He is the expert on everything musical.  He worked with John Lennon for heaven's sake. You do not want to disappoint him, and not just because he's the mentor for the entire season and his record label will sign the winner.  He's also Italian!

James Durbin and Stefano Langone sing Get Back.  They're fine, nothing special.  Durbin screeches.  Langone was passable, C+, no more.  He is instantly forgettable. Sorry, I have high standards when it comes to the Beatles.

Pia Toscano and Karen Rodriguez are up next with Can’t Buy Me Love.  Ryan used a big word.  Those SAT prep books are working.  Pia has a nice deep voice, Karen has an interesting tone to her voice.  And they're both hot.  I bet we'll be seeing more than them (I'm a psychic!).

God bless you Jimmy Iovine -- he warns the next trio not to oversing. But, they ignore him taking on The Long and Winding Road and molesting the hell out of it.  It sorta works for Naima Adedapo, who sounds great.  Haley Reinhart is good, if forgettable.  But Jacob Lusk is almost a caricature of a Gospel singer.  If he put any more unnecessary moves on that song, it would have to get a restraining order against him.  Steven uses the phrase over-the-top, Randy says don't hold back, but they seem to think this is all positive. And somewhere, Jimmy Iovine is yelling at his TV.

Rachel Zevita nails Eleanor Rigby, almost making me forget David Cook's mesmerizing performance in Season 7.  Jovany Barreto and Lauren Turner sing Let it Be, but they mostly focus on Turner's slow and breathy take on the already ponderous song. 

Then comes the dueling pianists, Tim Halperin and Julie Zorilla, singing Something. To call this a highlight would be like calling Steven Tyler's mouth a tad wide.  They are breathtakingly good.  I could watch an entire show of just the two of them singing.  They have leapfrogged over the competition, an odd choice of a visual since it was graceful and beautiful and not at all green.

Lakeisha Lewis, Tatynisa Wilson and Jerome Bell showed just how hard it is to harmonize as they botched I Saw Her Standing There.  Lakeisha sounded off, Jerome has no depth to his vocals and Tatynisha was just a'ight.  I agreed with JLo and thought it was a cheesy, off key performance. 

Blackbird is a pretty song.  Kendra Chantelle is pretty and can sing prettily.  Paul McDonald has a weak, thin, reedy voice that for some reason Randy likes.  I guess because it's quirky and different and breaks when he sings.  I was not feeling it.  Different does not always equal good, people!

They move quickly through three groups who all sounded great, including one with John Wayne Schulz and his unnamed partners doing a great job with A Little Help From My Friend and the resident evil guy Clint "Jacee go home" Gamboa singing Help! 

Then we spend too much time with Ashley Sullivan who is going to get hitched in Vegas.  How romantic.  Oh, and she threatens to kill him in his sleep if he doesn't go through with it.  Awww. That's so sweet!

Thia Megila and Melinda Ademi take on Here Comes the Sun and it sounded like a pageant number or a high school glee club (little g, not big G).

The newlywed Ashley is up next with fellow blonde Sophia Shorai taking on We Can Work it Out.  I hate to admit it, but I really like the tone of Ashley's voice.  But when they sing together, they sound really weird, like they were in a blender. 

Denise Johnson, Scotty McCreery and Lauren Alania have wrestled victory from the jaws of defeat with their inspired version of Hello Goodbye.  Don't know about anyone else, but I'm loving this odd trio.  It wasn't a singer's song seems to be the judges' complaint, but I thought they sounded a lot better than some of the groups who took on more "singable" songs.  And that's a lot of sibilant sounds for one sentence!

Last group up is Robbie Rosen, Aaron Sanders and Jordan Dorsey singing Got to Get You into My Life.  Robbie has been one of my favorites from day one and he didn't disappoint.  He has a great voice, there's nothing fancy to say.  The boy can sing!  Aaron also impressed with his sweet, soulful vocals.

It's time now to winnow down from 61 to 40.  The first group has two of my picks, Robbie and Lauren, so unless the judges are insane, this is the first safe group.  Thia and Scotty move along as well.  But surfer guy Carson Higgins is going.  Noooo!  Wait, there is balance in the world, because after that bit of bad news I hear some good.   Molly deWolfe is gone!  Yes!!!! 

I don't like seeing the kids crying.  It's sad.  Except for Molly!  Go back to D.C., no Hollywood for you.

Back to Hollywood we go and finally Ryan says those four magical words.  All is right with the world again.

They bring in the contestants one by one to tell them their fate.  For some it's great news.  Clint "I don't want to play with Jacee" Gamboa moves on as does Naima Adedapo, Ashthon Jones, Paul McDonald and Haley Reinhart.  For others, it's the proverbial end of the line.  Hollie Cavanagh was good, but not quite ready. They said the same to Deandre Brackensick.  We bid farewell to LaKeisha Lewis and Alex Ryan, then it was time for the saddest goodbye, to Chris Medina. He had the sad back story, but not the vocal chops. 

Tomorrow night, we learn the identifies of the remaining members of the Top 24.  A lot of popular contestants are still waiting to hear their fate -- Robbie Rosen, Lauren Alaina, Brett Lowenstern, Jacee Badeaux, Casey Abrams and Jovany Barreto among others.  We'll find out soon.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

American Idol Season 10, Episode 10 -- Hollywood Week pt. 3

You've auditioned before the producers and then the judges just to get a plane ticket to Hollywood and a chance to have your named leaked on dozens of websites.  Then you stood in line eight at a time to make the first cut only to have to rely on your fellow contestants to get their act together so you could make it through the dreaded group performance.  You are now tantalyzing close to having your dreams realized.  All you have to do is wow the judges one more time.

This is American Idol.

We will start tonight with 100, then the judges will winnow it down to 40.  The instruments finally come out.

Haley Reinhart is up first.  I did not remember seeing her.  Looks like she bombed during group week, but they must have seen something in her to give her this extra chance.  She sings like her life depends on it, but that's not really that pleasing to the ears.  Too much gravelly tones for me, too much desperation, like she's passing a kidney stone. Of course, the judges love it, so I'm 0-for-1.

I love Ashthon Jones, even if her name is hard to type with that extra, unnecessary "h."  Sorry to be shallow, she's also really pretty. 

I could listen to Thia Megia sing all night.  What a beautiful tone she has, so mature and rich for someone so young.  15 years old and she sings the hell out of What a Wonderful World.

Hey, I'm supposed to be snarky.  Where are the sucky contestants?

Who says prayers aren't answered?  Frances Coombs, and a few of her fellow contestants, show that there is still some suckage to go around.

The newly-minted villain Clint Jun Gamboa continues to wow with his voice, if not with his integrity or humanity.

Georgia is a beautiful song and so it is understandable why so many are drawn to sing it. It also apparently disguises mediocre voices because it seems as if everyone who sang it were considered brilliant, which was not how my ears evaluated them.

Chris Medina chose, instead, My Prerogative, but so did his fellow groupmate, Carson Higgins.  So which version do you like better?  I vote for the Malibu dude, Carson, whose so cool and chill that Bob Marley would seem uptight by comparison.  I am still not digging Chris' voice, it doesn't seem to have much depth or personality.  But, I know the judges love him, so we'll see if he makes it.

Finally, we see the instruments.  Julie Zorrilla shined on the piano with Sarah Bareilles' Love Song, Caleb Hawley did quite nicely with his guitar on a Stevie Wonder song.  Colton Dixon totally redeemed his subpar performance from yesterday with a very strong vocal and the unique, quirky Brett Lowenstern continues to nail the inimitable crown -- no one sounds like him. I'm not sure in the long run that will work for him, though.  As he sang, I started wondering if he needed dental work or something to keep from sounding so...wet.
After four strong performances, it's a testament to just how great his voice is that Robbie Rosen blew away the competition.  Sitting behind the piano he lets his voice run wild, but never out of control.  He plays with the notes and shows off his rich, mature voice and his impressive range.  It's a wow moment.

Casey Abrams is the president and CEO of the Casey Abrams fan club.  He could not be more in love with himself if he were Narcissus himself.  I'm guessing he came from a school where you got a gold star just for staying in your chair.  He brings out a bass as big as he is and sings full of the conviction that he is the best thing the judges have heard or ever will hear.  Someone has patted him on the head one too many times.  But, yes, he sounds good.  Just not as good as he thinks.

Chelsee Oaks is the last one standing from the Bob, Carol, Ted and Alice group after her ex was kicked off yesterday and then her roomie Jacqueline leaves with an undisclosed illness. But fear not, Chelsee nails her vocals.  She doesn't need anyone else, just that microphone.  She'll be fine.

Lauren Alaina is up next and she's going for the tried and true -- a redux of her I Don't Want To Miss A Thing.  She is confident and poised, with a knockout voice.

Grabbing this one chance to be memorable, Jacob Lusk pulls out all the stops.  Every trick in his vocal book is used for maximum effect.  He has a range that seems unearthly or illegal.  It's a show stopper.  Talk about putting it all out there on the stage.  Bravo.

John Wayne Schulz has to follow that.  He sings one of my, and I'll assume everyone else's, favorite songs, Landslide.  Remember, this was a song that made even Billy Corgan sound good.  I thought he sounded amazing, but I'm not sure he really nailed it, or just was smart enough to sing one of the most perfect songs ever written. 

Ashley Sullivan has barely recoverd from her near breakdown yesterday when she thought of quitting.   She's awfully nasally for me.  And she apparently had a mental meltdown and forgot the words.  Randy throws her a rope, she grabs for it, but it slips through her fingers.  It's sad to watch.

For the first two singers, I had to look up to see who they were.  Stefano Langone  and Jovanny Barreto both sounded good.  It's probably a no brainer that'll they'll survive the cut, but they don't yet have that unique sound.  When I heard the sweet, crystal clear voice of Jacee Badeaux I instantly knew who it was.  That's a gift. 

Scotty McCreery and Tatynisa Wilson could not remember the words to I Hope You Dance, though both sounded good.  I actually was impressed with Scotty's voice, I didn't think he could sing any other song than that one he used at the first audition.  But being able to learn a song is a part of this competition, so we'll see. I'm not that excited about Taynisa's voice, it's a little thin and reedy to me.

Now it's time for the contestants to be split into smaller groups, put into separate rooms, and await their fate.

Room one has many of the favorites -- Casey Abrams, my two faves, Jacee and Robbie, and even Clint -- so it's no surprise when they all make it.   Room two hears the happy shouting and deflates a little, the rest of the air comes out as they're sent packing.   Room three joins them and it's sad.  Chelsee will be joining her ex after all.   

But Room Four gets good news, Carson Higgins, Julie Zorrilla, Jovanny Barreto and Scotty McCreery are golden.  For now.  There will be one more cut.   See you next week!

Survivor -- Redemption Island, Episode One

How do you keep a show that is in its 22nd season fresh?  Change the rules.  This year on Survivor: Redemption Island, when you are voted off, you don't go home in defeat or to chill at Ponderosa in luxury.  This time, you leave your tribe and head over to Redemption Island where you wait until the next person is voted off.  As you think about what went wrong and stew about whoever caused your downfall, you think how you'd like to have a second chance and what you would do differently.  If you're very lucky, you'll get to find out.

Because each week, the next voted-off contestant will also go to Redemption Island and the two castoffs will duel to see who remains, and who is out for good.  Later in the game, the sole survivor of these duels returns to see if they can capture the ultimate title of Sole Survivor. 

We meet the eighteen castaways vying for the million dollars, the usual array of attractive people.  They are profiled here and here.  Two are extremely familiar faces to Survivor fans: one who personifies evil, the duplicitous Russell Hantz, and one who is the epitome of the redemption story, villain turned hero, Rob Mariano. 

If you've ever watched Survivor before, you know how the first episode will go.  The contestants are transported in some interesting way, they sit quietly sizing each other up while we, the viewer, do the same.  We'll meet a few people early on -- usually those with an interesting character arc and those going out soon.  Truly, one of the few flaws of the editing is how they telegraph who is going home from that first episode by giving them more than their share of face time (I'm looking at you Francesca).  Yet, if you're a diehard fan like me, you still get goosebumps upon hearing the great dimpled one, Jeff Probst, launching the start of the show as he once again announces 39 days, 18 people, ONE Survivor. 

We're back to Nicaragua and, to be honest, I've never watched Survivor for the scenery.  If you want that, there might be a Travel Channel show on the country that will show you "the land of lakes and volcanoes."  What I want is the deception and duplicitiousness.  I want the mindgames. I want the faux friendships and soon-to-be-broken alliances.  I want the backstabbing and, a new entry tonight -- frontstabbing.  I got all of that and more in just this first episode.

The sixteen contestants who exited their helicopter transport looking all nicely-scrubbed and fully in possession of the faculties for the last time were introduced rather quickly to the twist du season, the addition of Boston Rob and Evil Russell to the game.  They were treated like rock stars at first, cheering and clapping and huge smiles -- well, at least for Rob.  Their response to seeing Russell was a bit more muted.  Like seeing your ex or that creepy high school coach.  It took little time for their fans to target them for early elimination.  And that makes sense, because if you bring Russell to the end you know he's going to...lose.  Oh, right, he's 0-for-2.  His mom wouldn't vote to give him $1 million.  Why then do you want to get rid of him?

They each are randomly assigned to one of the two existing teams, neither of which I can spell right now and I'm not interested enough to pause my DVR.  Especially when I can use the handy orange team v. purple team!  Moving on, we see Francesca, an attorney, commit an early and potentially fatal rookie mistake.  She drew unnecessary attention to herself.  She was the first to utter what everyone else thought: "they're sizing us up like we're prey."

Jeff the impish one immediately called her out.  Francesca had already begun to dig herself a hole, but she forgot the cardinal rule of holes -- when you're in one, stop digging.  So what did she do?  She plunged her verbal shovel deeper into the sand:  "They're troublemakers. They're two of the most famous troublemakers in Survivor history. I don't think they're here just to help us out." 

Okay, so if you've watched any Survivor, or any reality TV show, or if you have two brain cells to rub together, you know she's in a pile of trouble.  But, maybe all is not lost.  Sure, she's given the producers a lot to work with in her first minute, but she'll retreat and regroup and save herself.  She's a lawyer, for heaven's sake. 

Jeff explains the new twist -- Redemption Island -- and how you should be careful who you vote off because they may come back. So how does Francesca take this piece of information?  Does she keep her thoughts to herself as she should have when she saw Rob and Russell?  Will she stanch the flow of blood before it's too late?  She knows how important words are and how they can be used against you, so she'd never say to the camera:  "The good part is, if I get voted out I can get back into the game.  But the possibility of getting voted out is so not a reality to me...."

You could fast forward at this point or switch over to watch the singers on American Idol having meltdowns when asked to memorize the lyrics to songs that even Osama Bin Laden in his Afghan cave is familiar with.  You know Francesca has a fork stuck in her side.

But it's Survivor and you want to see exactly how things turn so bad for someone seemingly so smart. 

First, though, we hop over to the purple team and watch Russell salivating over the raw meat there.  He has it all planned and they're powerless to stop this runaway train.  Meanwhile, music from How the West Was Won plays (or Bonanza or some other we're manly men show) in the background as we watch the busy bees building their shelter.

On the orange team, someone actually asks "Boston" Rob, he of the "pahk your cah in Hahvahd Yahd" accent and Red Sox baseball cap, if he's from Boston.  That guy must be a Mensa member, for sure!  Natalie, the "professional dancer" is crushing hard on Boston Rob.  Watch your back, Natalie.  Amber may look cute and sweet but she'll cut a bitch who goes after her man.

We are reintroduced to former federal agent Phillip (loved the "boing" sound effect the producers gave us here) who thinks his disclosing his prior profession is this big reveal.  Francesca thinks it's a hoot.  What won't be a hoot is when Phillip the delusional is still in the tribe and you're off to Redemption Island.

Also on the orange team is the not aerodynamic Kristina (how she stays upright is beyond my comprehension of physics) who is crafty enough to start snooping around for the hidden immunity idol, yet not wise enough to do it without absolutely everyone in the camp noticing.   Nevertheless, she finds it!  Maybe she got one of the producer's clues that were meant for Russell.

Did I mention that Phillip is insufferable?  But thanks to the nonstop face time, he can't be long for the show.  He makes an alliance with the girls, the makes an alliance with Rob, he tells Kristina he's against Rob, then tells her how important his integrity is to him. 

Russell presents Stephanie with an offer she can't refuse, be the next girl he takes along to the end.  She doesn't trust him, wisely, but she's all into staying on his good side and using him.  I like that.  Meanwhile, others on the tribe are totally onto their plan, and both of them are in their crosshairs.  But will that last.  For two seasons, people have known that Russell was dangerous and yet they let him sneak through.

Kristina is targetting Rob.  She pulls Francesca and Phillip into her masterplan.  But within seconds of being part of this new alliance, Phillip shows that he has fewer people skills than Ted Kaczynski, berating, insulting and aggravating his new partners in crime.  Francesca realizes she's going down a dangerous path with her new psycho alliance, but she does nothing to save herself.  Recognizing a problem is not the same as fixing it, just fyi.

So Kristina wants to get rid of Rob now, Francesca suggests doing something smart like getting rid of the weakest player, Natalie, so they have strength in challenges. But Kristina cannot get Rob out of her mind, he just bugs her for some reason and that is enough for her to make a decision that would spell the end of her tribe in all future challenges.  I wonder what law school she goes to -- one that stresses impulsivity and irrational thinking?  Yale?  Meanwhile, Kristina is on Rob's list, too, recognizing that she is nothing but trouble -- he figures she probably already has the idol.  Ding ding ding!!

Does anyone else think that Phillip practiced his confessionals in front of a mirror?  He is way to posed for this to be natural.

Did you know that fire represents life?   Jeff, you should have told us that before.

Tribal council.  So this is how things can unravel so fast.  Jeff asks an innocent question -- Francesca, what do you think of Redemption Island?  The correct response?  I like puppies.  The wrong answer: "If Rob got voted out tonight, which he won't, but if he..."   Phillip immediately reacts.  "I have a problem with that statement she just made."  Okay, fine stop there.  Oh, wait, there's more?  "Francesca and Kristina asked me to cast my vote for Rob."

And then all hell broke loose and the six tribe members watched the three eat each other alive.  Now Phillip wants to vote out Francesca...and he says it out loud.  But he'll stop now.  He's done enough damage.   He wouldn't possibly let slip that...Kristina has the hidden immunity idol.  Everyone, guess what Kristina has!!   My favorite line?  Phillip tells Jeff "I have nothing more to say."  Perhaps you should have thought of that about three minutes earlier.

Boston Rob tries a sneaky ploy, asking Kristina to give him her immunity idol, when she proves herself smart enough not to fall for that, he then signals the rest of the tribe that their earlier agreed upon split the vote idea is still on.  Very sneaky, very smart, Rob.

So votes are cast and not surprisingly it is Francesca, who sealed her fate back on the orange mat soon after she landed in Nicaragua, who is the first sent to Redemption Island.  She should have plenty of time to replay the events of the last two days and then grab something hard to hit herself in the head with.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

American Idol Season 10, Episode 9 -- Hollywood Group Rounds

Why do I love the Hollywood group rounds?  It's probably for the same reason that you cannot turn away from a looking at a car accident.  You just have to see it for yourself.  How bad's the damage, anyone hurt?  Really, the same applies here.  Different personalities, different levels of talent, different styles -- sometimes it can blend beautifully, but other times the performance should be surrounded by police tape.

I spoke with the mother of last year's finalist Casey James about the group performance and she said that was the only time since her son first set foot on stage as a teenager that he was ever really nervous.  That's what having to work in choreography when you're used to "just" being a singer/musician can do to you.  Even the most seasoned professional will break out in a cold sweat.

After the Ryan Seacrest intro to this two-hour long episode, I'm not sure I can handle the pressure of watching. 

So here's the set up. They have one night to find their group, pick their song, rehearse the song and work in some choreography.  Those from Group 1 thought they had an edge, they had started forming their groups and rehearsing while the Group 2 contestants were still auditioning the next day. But not so fast, Group 1!  There's a twist.  Hey, it's a reality tv show, there's always a twist. The medallion of power, power of veto, U-Turn, something.  This time it's a new rule -- your group has to include at least one member from each of the two Hollywood days.  Ruh roh.

And so the scrambling begins and in the next ten minutes there is more shuffling that the first day of the WSOP main event.  Central to all the drama, unsurprisingly, is one Tiffany Rios who during the first round of Hollywood endeared herself to everyone by pronouncing that she was all that and a bag of chips and everyone else wasn't.  She does not get how no one wants to work with her.  Don't they know she is the only professional choreographer there?  Perhaps your girth confused them, dear.

Oookay, so eventually, she manages to snare Jessica Yantz and you wonder what exactly could Jessica have done in a previous life that she is now paying for it by being the only person willing to join up with Tiffany.  The two of them search for a third without which they will not have a valid group.  But wait.  For every rule there is an exception -- I present to you the Tiffany Rios is a huge beyotch exception.  If you've make yourself so repulsive to your fellow contestants that none will join with you, you can go on as a duet. 

Elsewhere the more lovable, though musically pigeonholed, Scotty McCreery is searching for a group.  He wanders for hours from group to group like the Israelites looking for the Promised Land, but can't find a place to call home.  Sometimes it's by his choice -- even he wasn't desperate enough to join Tiffany's group -- sometimes he didn't make the cut. 

There is the Bieber inspired group unironically named The Minors and they are all 15 or 16 and there with their Stage Moms who either give them an unfair advantage (according to envious James Durbin) or give them a pain in their butt (according to every teenager watching from home).

We also have the two exes and their third wheel, forming Three's Company and the original twist on that phrase, three's a crowd, seems more apt.  They are getting you would imagine two exes and someone thrust between them to stir the pot would.  Poorly.  Rob is having a meltdown and the vocal coach, Debra Byrd, gangs up with the girls against him. 

Brett Lowenstern has his own problems and he cannot find a third for his group, the Sugar Mommas.  Jessica  had been in the group, till Tiffany swooped in and grasped her with her talons.  Now he and his partner are desperate for a third.

Clint Gamboa has a four person group including adorable and talented Jacee Badeaux and their rehearsals seem to be going swimmingly, until Clint suddenly goes all Mussolini and Il Duce decides unilaterally to kick Jacee out of the group.  Jacee handles it better than someone twice his age...he is a trooper.  I'm taking it worse than he is and Clint is now dead to me.

But wait, there's hope for Jacee.  Brett is still in need of someone from Group 2 and Jacee just happens to be from that group and free as a bird (bird who was kicked out of the uppermost branch of a tree just as his little bird arms were learning to fly...but I'm not taking this too hard).  So Jacee is the newest member of the Sugar Mommas.  Elsewhere Jordan Dorsey, who was the one deciding who was or was not good enough to join his group, suddenly decides his group is not worthy of him.  So he leaves Four-Forty and joins up with the newly named 4+1 which includes early favorite (of mine, anyway) Robbie Rosen.  Will this be a choice he later regrets?

Not so much. Both groups sing, both groups make it past the group round!  Robbie sounds amazing on I Want You Back and one of my early picks is sounding good!

Will Tiffany and Jessica make it past this round, after all the drama?  Not if singing is a prerequisite.  Tiffany sounds horrific.  Jessica sounds like Aretha by comparison, but she is dragged down by the Tiffany anchor and her dreams will end here.  She takes it surprisingly well!

Pia Toscano, Allesandra Guercio and Brielle von Hugel win the contest for the best names in the same group.  Wait, no, this is a singing competition?  Okay, so they sing Bruno Mars' Grenade and they sound really good, especially Pia, and all three lovely ladies are through.

Spanglish sings and only the first, Jovanny Baretto, can sing.  They tell three of them that they're through, then change that to two, which I think was still one too generous, but it's Jovanny (deservedly) moving on along with Karen Rodriguez (much less so).

The Nashville Stars include Colton Dixon and Matt Dillard.  Unfortunately, Matt thought he was auditioning for Do Forget the Lyrics, so he won't be coming back.  Colton sounded off key to me, but he is still the best of a weak bunch and he's the only one to make it beyond this round.

Quick medly that hurts my ears.  Yes, folks, singing is harder than it looks.  Keep in mind, this isn't acappella. They have music backing them, and yet some still are murdering their tunes.

Paris Tassin was an early favorite, but her voice just falls apart vocally.  It's tough on the judges who have a personal connection with her story. There is no way to ignore how badly she's singing, so it's a no.  We say goodbye to some others who had shined their first time out, including half of the Gutierrez brothers.

Next it's The Hits, an all-girl group that rehearsed hard last night, even after one of their members, Ashley Sullivan, tried to quit.  She had some pitch problems, according to Randy, but he otherwise loved their harmonies and they are live to sing again.

I predict most of the Deep Vs will be deep sixed, that was some shaky singing.  Only James Durbin, the Adam Lambert clone, sounded good.  JLO properly says it sounded like a bad Glee audition.  I was surprised they kept Caleb Johnson, but James deserved to move on.

Next up is The Minors who have been coached to death by their well meaning moms.  Let's see if multiple moms know best.  Yes they do.  They sound amazing!  All should go through.  Wow.  Stage moms: 1 - Absentee moms: 0.

We have one group that has a member with the cojones to use crib notes and the whole group sounds just awful. But the judges let Corey Levoy and Hollie Cavanaugh through not on what they just did, but because they obviously made a big impression in earlier rounds.

Four Non Blondes and That Guy take on Cee Lo's "Forget You" and it's an apt title.  But despite that subpar performance, which includes Chris Medina whose story has touched a lot of people, all but one go through.  Devyn Rush, who was way off, does not make the cut even though Caley Hawley and Chris did despite not exactly nailing what is a pretty easy song to sing (heck, Chris Martin's wife even sounds good singing it).  I was digging Carson Higgins, though, and glad he made it.

Lauren Alaina and a bunch of other girls whose names we don't need to learn ask Steven Tyler to come up on stage so they can serenade him.  Lauren sounded amazing, the other girls were good, but, surprisingly, only Lauren was able to seduce him, and the other judges, with her voice.  All that work for nothing.  Maybe Angela should have done her noodle trick.

Now it's time to see if Jacee, Brett Lowenstern and the rest of the Sugar Mommas can pull it out. Jacee was unfamiliar with the song, Mercy, and he has to improvise the lyrics.  He still has a great voice, but will the sin of forgetting the words bring his downfall?  The group comes to his defense and they explain to the judges how he was given a raw deal the night before and they all make it!  And I'm tearing up!  I'm verklempt!

Next up is the group that treated sweet Jacee so horribly.  The judges call them on it and Scotty McCreery apologizes for not sticking up for Jacee.  I'm glad to see his reaction...he's human and seems like a good kid.  Clint, not so much.  But he has a spectacular voice, strongest in the group, one of the best in the competition.  Wouldn't you know it!  Anyhow, all of the heartless three and Scotty make it through.

Last up is Three's Company.  How will the exes, Rob and Chelsee Oaks, and Jacqueline make it?  First off, who doesn't know the words to "Forget You?"  There are like two dozen words to this song and it's been played twice an hour, every hour, on your local radio for the last four months!   Jacqueline Dunford can't sing.  Why did I never notice that before?  Come on Rob, save this horrible mess.  Oh, heck, no.  It goes from bad to really pathetically awful.  He does not remember one lyric, not one word and basically sings a plea to keep him in the competition.  It's too little, too late.  Somehow, the two girls make it through and Rob, who sounded the best in his improvisation, has to go.

That was fast and furious?  Did yours make it?  Did they even get face time?  Tomorrow the numbers get thinned even more.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

American Idol Season 10, Episode 8 -- Hollywood Week Begins

Eminem said it best.  You only have one shot, one opportunity, this is everything you ever wanted, one moment:

How will the 323 contestants handle their one shot?  Will they capture it or just let it slip?  It's a mixed bag.  Some, sadly, do blow their chance.  But others rise to the challenge.

First up is an early favorite, Brett Lowenstern, who had auditioned in New Orleans.  He's young, 16, and he's nervous, but he needn't be.  He has an amazing voice.  We hear his backstory, being picked on as a kid, but that is all behind him now because he has found his niche.  He sings Let it Be and he just pulls at your heartstrings.  Love everything about this kid. Even love his take on his past -- it's history, it's past, he's not going to be defined by that.  As expected, he makes it through.

Also sailing through, without any drama, is New York's Rachel Zevita, who looks about ten but sings like she's been hanging out in smoky clubs for decades.  Thia Megia also moves on, with an odd take on Summertime, as does fellow contestant-favorite Casey Abrams, whose appeal I'm still not seeing.

We first met Victoria Huggins in New Jersey. She was the one videotaping every moment of her life. But don't let her audition city confuse you. Victoria is a country girl. There are no two ways around it. She is bubbly and effervescent, a too chipper Miss Personality who could use an oil can to cut down on the squeaking. When she sings, it's LOUD. She yells, confusing volume for impact. If you like loud, twangy, with no finesse, you'll like her. I don't. And neither do the judges. 

The next group of four has two parents, James Durbin who we saw just last night, and Paris Tassin who auditioned in New Orleans and might already have been forgotten.  Paris is up first.  Her voice is crystal-clear and note-perfect.  James goes next and he sings the Beatles and ignores the melody.  I would have immediately grabbed the hook for that offense.  Then he goes into Adam Lambert screeching mode and I would have brought out a tractor instead.  If I can name another person who sings exactly like you, you are not original.  And if the person I names was on this very same show, perhaps you should find a new style.

Then we switch to Lauren Alaina, an early favorite of mine, and Stormi Henley, who made it for her looks and not her voice.  Stormi sings first, unwisely but fittingly choosing a song about not being able to take it any longer.   She's just making it too easy.  Then Lauren takes her breathy, pure, country-tinged vocals to the Righteous Brothers and blows it out of the water.  All but Stormi move on.

Before the break we get a reintroduction to Chris Medina, already this season's featured sad story.  Steven asks about his wife, who is slowly recovering from a serious automobile accident.  Then Chris sings. His voice is a little flat and he's not really doing anything for me.  But I'm sure the bar is lower for this guy and he makes it through.

Next are three who shone very brightly during their auditions.  Jacee Badeaux, Robbie Rosen and Hollie Cavanaugh.  All three nail their songs.  This is a really strong group.  Amazing talent and they, unsurprisingly, move on. 

Steve Beghun, the accountant, sings "Just haven't met you yet," and the question is whether the voice that was a little weird and different will have as much impact on the second listen.  Sadly, it does not. There is a lot of bad news and a lot of broken dreams and there's nothing funny or snarky to say.

It's product placement time.  What is the ratio of commercial advertisement to singing on this show??

Forgotten lyrics and cracking voices, oh my!  I guess when you invited 15 year olds to participate, you might get some going through puberty right in front of you.

Older and wiser are exes  Chelsee Oaks and Rob Bolin (who are each bunking with the lovey dovey couple who perform next).  But Rob sings the slowest, most depressing song ever and I'm glad there are no sharp objects nearby.  Chelsea sings nicely, if not memorably, and they both move on.

After them are the happy together couple, Nick Fink and Jacqueline Dunford.  He sounds like a lounge singer and Jacqueline is fairly overwrought in her singing, but at least she has a bit of promise.  We're going to commercial, but I think this will be the last we see of Nick on stage.  And I'm wrong.  Nick stays on stage, begging for another chance and this had to be really hard for Jacqueline -- mostly because she had to hear more of his 40's style crooning.

I'm not digging Nick and I wonder to what extent people get the name they deserve.

Scotty McCreery is a deep-voiced country boy who comes out doing the same song he did during his audition.  He sounds great, if that's your thing (and, no, it's not mine) and he's cute and young, so I'm digging his chances, if not his voice.  Also not taking any chances are the next two, who also chose to reprise their audition tunes rather than risk a bad song choice at this crucial juncture.  Smart, I like that.  Jackie Wilson has a nice voice, reminds me a little of Crystal from last year.  She definitely deserves to move on. Jerome Bell sings Let's Get it On and I'm liking his tone.  The judges agree with me and all three go on.

I hear Billy Corgan during the commercial and I suddenly remember there's more to music than a "good" voice. 

Tiffany Rios, who dressed up with stars strategically placed, comes with the attitude, but does she deliver?  Not to me.  I hear her all over the place and screechy.  She's memorable, like a papercut. Travis Orlando has a cool vibe and interesting voice, but I don't know if it will hold up over the long haul. Remember Andrew Garcia?  Exactly.Apparently, the judges recognized that too and let him go.  Why they kept Tiffany is beyond me. 

Nooooo, Molly is through to the next round.  Keep happy thoughts, keep happy thoughts. Clint, Julie, Stefano and Emily from last night made it as well as some other good ones from earlier rounds like Naima and Ashley Sullivan.  So not all is lost.  Nooooo, Molly made it through.  But I can't be wrong about her.  Can I?

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

American Idol Season 10, Episode 7 -- San Francisco

I remember last year, during the American Idol Live Tour, I used to do a little trivia nugget about the host city as the lead-in to that night's post.  But I have nothing cute or clever to say about San Francisco.  I know many people love that city, songs have been written about it for heaven's sake, but the city intimidates me. This is possibly because, to me, the city seems to be all ridiculously steep hills, all going the wrong way, and I'm not the most graceful person to walk the earth.  Whatever the reason, I'm not as in love with this sparkling city by the bay as I should be.  But I am not without class, so I won't lower myself to call it Frisco.  For some reason, it really sets off the natives!

So the last stop for the American Idol Season 10 auditions is San Francisco.  According to Brian Mansfield's Idol Chatter article from last year, some 9,200 people came to AT&T Park to audition on August 20th, including "people wearing wings and tutus, as well as one guy dressed as a human Transformer who sang The Beatles' All My Loving."   Brian suggested we keep our eye on "the ultimate survivor story" -- Carmina Salcido.  As he wrote at the time:
When 24-year-old Carmina Salcido was a young child, she survived a massacre when her father killed his wife and six other people, including Carmina's two sisters. Carmina, 3 years old at the time, had her throat slashed and was left for dead at the Sonoma County dump.
Wow, that is way too much reality for me.  I will be keeping my eye open for Carmina, and keep a box of tissue handy as well.  With that set up...THIS is American Idol.

The show starts with a girl crying on November 9 having not made it passed the judges.  What caused her downfall?  Apparently, an ill-timed case of flatulence.  Well, at least she left with her dignity intact.

First  up is a helium-sucking, Betty Boop wanna be, Smurf named Inessa Lee.  Is that her husband?  A real-life mail order bride who does seductive dancing and videotapes herself in the shower?  He hit the jackpot!  Somehow, shockingly, the judges pass.  Didn't they see the Shakira-Madonna-Kylie Minogue uniqueness?  But have no fear, despite being told that she will not be making it to Hollywood, this little Loony Tune will be a star, I tell you!  A star!  Famous! Wow, so many delusional people, so little time.  And, lucky me, they all come to my state!

But San Francisco, they remind us, was where we discovered Adam Lambert (putting aside the fact that he wasn't exactly an unknown or discovered, but was a working entertainer who just needed a little kick start), so keep hope alive.  SF will deliver before the hour is over or your money back.

What SF delivers, however, is more bird poop than you might expect even given its sea-side location.  But after that unpleasant detour, we hear three successful auditions in a row, two screeching women, Brittany Mazur, Laura Johnston, and one guy with a very nice, if not extraordinary, voice, Matthew Nuss.  The women singers realize that they will have amplification, right?  Microphones are allowed.  You can try and save your vocal chords, you'll need them when you're working the drive up window after this falls through.

Our next story surrounds a life-threatening automobile accident that caused serious injuries yet somehow the young man perservered.  Where have I heard this story before?  Washington State's Stefano Langone survived and thrived and is here to be the next American Idol.  He has a nice, strong voice, if a little too precious.  He has a few too many vocal quirks for me, but he has the presence and the confidence, so we'll see.  The judges love him and tell him he survived for a reason.  I, meanwhile, have a bit of a flashback to Season 9. 

Clint Jun Gaboa is a karaoke music host and everyone tells him he should be doing something bigger.  Are they drunk or sincere?  Get those karaoke patrons a job in A&R, cuz I'm digging Clint.   Really nice tone to his voice.  June bug is the real deal, radio ready, easy to record.  No auto tune necessary.  But ditch the glasses.

So pick your poison, weird or horrific singing?  I think I'd take the guy with the earphones.  But, wait, there's a life size Transformer ready to audition.  Can he turn into someone who can sing?  Sadly, no.  He may be the best sounding Transformer out there, but that's not exactly a big selling point.  But he might have booked a few kids birthday parties (JLo seems interested), so the whole day wasn't a waste.

Exactly how many gorgeous, talented female singers are there in California? 

Julie Zorrilla, who has never met a note she didn't want to molest, came to the US when she was eight.  Her parents fled violence in Colombia to start over in the States.  I guess that'll do for a hard luck story, but loving parents who do their best for you and give you a great life is not exactly making me tear up.  Let's focus on her singing.  But first.  Julie is gorgeous, startlingly beautiful.  She exudes star power.  It helps that she can sing, but I'd like to see her respect the songwriter's choices a tad more and cut down on the runs.  Randy calls them "interesting choices," I call it over-indulgent.  But she deserves to go through, and she does.

Rocker David Combs has the hair, Steven's already digging on his look, and he's taking on the Beatles, so what could go wrong?  Oh, so much.  He doesn't seem to know the words or the melody, and while that may work for Christina Aguilera now that she's a huge star, it's not the way to get discovered.  He actually appears to have insulted Steven in some way and it's odd to see the ever happy Tyler looking PO'd.  Goodbye David.

And hello Emily Anne Reed.  Between the time of the producers' audition and coming to perform before the judges, the poor girl's house burned down.  Does she need this sad story to cover for an average voice?  Not at all.  She sings "Getting to be a Habit with Me" and she is adorably quirky.  She has a unique voice that will be instantly recognizable as hers and will be fun to watch maneuver around songs.  Steven's not feeling it, Randy likes her and JLo gets the deciding vote.  She reluctantly votes to pass her along.  Afterwards, they let Anne bring out her guitar and she has this really cool, retro sound to her voice and Jennifer and Randy feel like geniuses!

The final contestant is James Durbin, raised with his two sisters by a single mom.  Hmm, not the final story I was expecting.  I guess no Carmina Salcido tonight.  James is depressing enough.  His absentee dad died of a drug overdose.  Later, he was diagnosed with Tourette's and Aspergers.  Into his mohawked life came an angel named Heidi who he impregnated and instead of having her try out for MTV's Teen Moms, he's auditioning for AI.  He instantly reminds me of Adam Lambert.  Plaster some pancake makeup on him, and it would be impossible to tell them apart.  He then wails on Aerosmith and he was already in, so there's no mystery here!  My only concern is, unlike Adam, he ventures close to Off Key land and needs to be careful of that.  But, heck, it's a lovefest, so I'll put my concerns away for now.  Welcome to Hollywood!