Saturday, March 31, 2007

The Inaugural Major League Baseball Civil Rights Game

I had the pleasure of attending tonight's Civil Rights Game with my wife and my best friend. It was a great night for baseball, even though it had been raining and nearly flooding all day. For some reason, though, God looked down on Memphis, decided it was wet enough, and brought out the cool after-rain calm that makes for a great evening of watching baseball.

I love this time of year. Baseball season starts tomorrow, and I'm ready for it to happen. Usually, watching baseball is plenty enough for me. I am the kind of guy who can sit at a ballpark watching two teams I neither know nor care about and be sublimely happy about it. If I have such a thing as a place of zen, a baseball park would be that place. Tonight was a one-up on all of that, though.

It's not every day that Major League Baseball comes to Memphis. We do have a Triple A team that I think is pretty great, and a ballpark that is probably the best minor league ballpark anywhere. Yet somehow, we have to drive six hours to the closest major league park. So you have to expect a lot of excitement when the St. Louis Cardinals come to town to play. This is Cardinal country anyway, and our Triple A team is the Memphis Redbirds, home to many former and future Cardinals, including Albert Pujols. If you add the Cleveland Indians into that mix, you have a good night of baseball in a town that doesn't get to see the Bigs much.

Rest easy in the knowledge that I still wore the paraphernalia of the Chicago Cubs, who I will always root for. That aside, though, I did have to root for the Cardinals win this National League vs. American League exhibition game. My wife, who is from Ohio, decided to cheer for the Cleveland Indians. We haven't drawn up the divorce papers yet.

In any case, this was no regular game. This was the first ever Civil Rights game, and EVERYBODY was there. Spike Lee, who would win an award later on in the night, premiered his new documentary on Blacks in Baseball right there for us on the stadium Jumbotron. When it came time to perform the national anthem, none other than Patti LaBelle stepped up to the microphone to put her own twist on the Star Spangled Banner. One of the ministers that worked with Martin Luther King, Jr. threw out the first pitch. Roberto Clemente's wife, Spike Lee, and Buck O'Neil were presented with awards for their contributions to the cause of civil rights. Commissioner Bud Selig was there. The National Civil Rights Museum Choir performed "America the Beautiful" during the 7th Inning Stretch, after which The Cheetah Girls from Disney sang "Take Me Out to the Ballgame." Oh...and there's these two guys you might have heard of by the name of Albert Pujols and Scott Rolen... Pujols did his hometown fans a favor by belting one onto The Bluff in the second inning. Home runs are always nice. Oh, and the game was broadcast on ESPN, and we were on TV.

Most importantly, though, the game centered around Civil Rights. It's good to be reminded sometimes how a silly little thing like racism once divided people and from time to time even still rears its ugly head. Tonight's game drove that point home. Baseball was always at the forefront of integration. And the game itself is such a pure thing that it really doesn't matter if you're black, white, Asian, Australian or whatever race you might be.

I had the privilege of sitting next to a man who was from South Africa and who didn't understand all the nuances of the game. There, in the friendly confines of the ballpark, two people who grew up very differently were able to share conversation about a game that unifies us all.

It was a beautiful night. Really.

(pictures taken by to enlarge)

Friday, March 30, 2007

Jon Peter Lewis - Stories From Hollywood

One of the beautiful things about being a music blogger and critic is the opportunity to uncover and tell people about music that they might not have heard before. It's usually a happy rarity when I run across something that's actually really good, and it's even more rare when an artist that's actually good approaches ME to get my take on his music.

My good friends over in Jon Peter Lewis's camp have been quite gracious to me lately, though, and it was only a matter of time before I would get my chance to talk to the man behind the fans and hear his debut CD, Stories From Hollywood.

Jon Peter Lewis from American Idol, you're asking? Yes. Those of you who have been long-time readers ought not to be terribly surprised that I'd tackle an American Idol CD. It's just that you might be a little surprised that I'd choose to do this one instead of more obvious ones, like Katharine McPhee or even Elliott Yamin's new CD. Why did I choose this one? Truthfully, it's because I've enjoyed it more than a lot of recent Idol fare. It's one of those rare CDs that I can actually listen to over and over again, continue to enjoy, and still get something new out of it with each rotation.

Comparing it to other Idol fare is a bit unfair... to the other Idols that is. Whereas recent efforts, such as the so-so Katharine McPhee CD and the less-than-what-we-expected Taylor Hicks release have had major studios and labels behind them dumping millions of dollars into marketing and promotion of CDs that obviously don't completely reflect the artist in question, Jon has had little more than his own gumption, a small army of online fans, and a management team that fights tooth and nail to keep him working. And they're not fighting for nothing. Jon Peter Lewis's music is worth listening to. Where you might find hits and misses on records with the 19 Entertainment label on them, you will find very few shortcomings on this indie release.

The real power behind Stories From Hollywood isn't slick production and flashy videos; rather it's the soul-felt stories that Jon weaves. It's the freedom with which he does what he does. It's the fact that you know that this is the music he truly wanted to make. It's quite obvious throughout the CD that these are songs that Jon feels. The lyrics are laced with raw emotion and tell one man's story better than you might expect. By the time the CD finishes, you've been there with him, you know what he was thinking, and you want to go back, again and again and again. Jon himself described this album as sort of a photo album for himself. Any time he wants to reflect on a certain memory, all he has to do is go to the song. We're taken along on the journey with him.

On the other hand, if you're looking for light fluff, then you might want to listen elsewhere.

This album has something for everybody. There's the ring of old 60's and 70's rockers in the title track, "Stories From Hollywood." There's a mellow love ballad in "Man Like Me." There's edgy rock in "Gypsy Queen." And there's fun in songs like "Rodeo." Jon's sentiment runs deepest perhaps on "Man From Amsterdam," which is an incredibly fun song for me, and it's also Jon's personal favorite. The CD is solid, though, with any track you might pick. Small wonder that this CD has debuted to widespread critical acclaim.

And Jon has done all this without anybody at 19 Entertainment lifting a finger. It's true that being on American Idol brought offers from major labels flooding to his door, but in the end, the appeal of doing something and making it his own won him over. Unwilling to allow himself to be crafted into something that wasn't a true representation of himself, Jon struck out on his own, creating his own label, Cockaroo Records, and surrounding himself with all the right people. Oh, by the way, this is the first time that an American Idol contestant has ever produced and distributed their own debut album.

Stories From Hollywood comes with my highest recommendation. If you want to purchase his CD, you can do so a number of ways. His entire album is available via iTunes. You can also order it from Amazon, Napster, Yahoo, Rhapsody, Sony Connect, or

And if you're still not convinced, why not go sample some of the songs at Check around the site, read about Jon, and take a few moments to say hi to my friends over at his message board. And don't forget to add him as a friend on Myspace.

Trust me: this is one CD purchase you should make. Give it a chance, and you'll understand why Jon is, indeed, the "Indie Idol."

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Here's the Story of a Lovely Lady...

Approximately a billion of you have been pestering...errr...asking me to tell the story of how Priscilla and I met. (Yes, that means you, Kristin.) So, in the interest of full disclosure and extreme self-indulgence, I shall now reveal to you the tale...

As most of you no doubt realized, prior to the last few months, I was quite the confirmed bachelor. I had the posters on the wall, the grooming of a retired county fair pony, and an apartment that was such a mess that you had to wipe your feet prior to going outside. I did have my streak of girl-craziness (shut up, Roxie) though, and a few of you bore witness to the horrors that were my dating life. (For those of you who don't know, think Fatal Attraction, but with a medicated Glenn Close.)

Anyway, in February of 2006, I got out of a four year stint in the Marines... no, wait, that would have been more pleasant. It was actually a four year relationship, which involved something that might have been an engagement, but then again, it might've just been indigestion. Either way, it gave me a rotten feeling in the pit of my stomach. So after struggling with it mightily, I gave it away in February of 2006, and then proceeded to live The Single Life. I almost had Nicole Richie move in with me, such a single life it was. (Paris wouldn't have made it here. The rats would've thrown her out in disdain.)

Of course there were the requisite flings, one date wonders, and I did manage to get shot down more than a Vietnamese person in a Rambo movie, but for the most part I was single, free-wheeling, and loving it.

However, a single heart eventually turns into a lonely one, and my thoughts turned toward the future. Unfortunately (or fortunately, in retrospect) most of the women that I would've allowed myself to commit to were busy committing to other things, like missionary trips to Budapest or basically anything that consisted of life minus me. Which is great for them, but which pretty well sucked for me at the time.

So I did the unthinkable. I signed up and actually paid for a singles website.

Now, normally my disdain for singles sites would be closely akin to my disliking of passing live ammunition through my rectal orifice, but desperate times called for desperate measures. Not that I was desperate mind you, but I... oh well, okay, MAYBE. I signed on in shame, assuring my friends that I really wasn't serious about it, but secretly hoping that somewhere, somehow, Rebecca Romijn was somehow on this site and looking for a 30-year-old, out-of-shape, tired disc jock for a long term relationship.

Of course the first few months were full of more duds than the fall TV lineup. And let me tell you, there are literally HOURS of entertainment to be had from browsing the profiles and pictures of people who are, and I am trying to be sensitive and compassionate here, uglier than horse turd maggots. There are people on there that you would swear were PhotoShopped that way, because it does not seem possible for one human being to possess that many nefarious qualities in their face alone. Still, there were cute ones, and I managed a couple of dates out of them, but yet I was left feeling like a used Coca-Cola bottle on the side of the road: empty and alone.

My three month subscription was up, and not much had happened. I did have sort of a relationship with this one girl who was nice, cute, and completely psychotic. But as I sat in front of the computer on my last day of my subscription, there was still this voice picking at the back of my brain, saying "give it one more chance."

Always listen to that voice.

I renewed my subscription, went on the chat, and there she was. Flirting with everybody. Eventually, through subterfuge and deceit and not a little blackmail, I outlasted all the other guys in the chat and got her alone. We met again the next night, and then a third night for our first "chat date." I realize that this sounds completely nerd-ish, but there was something right about her that I couldn't put my finger on.

Chats turned into phone calls. I fell in love with her voice the first moment I heard it. I felt like honey was dripping through the phone. I feared that bees might somehow burst down my door and sting me scoldingly for using their honeycomb as a communication device. And the more I talked to her, the more I liked her.

And then...she dropped the "come see me" bomb. Crisis! Panic! She lived a good ten hour drive away. Could I see myself driving completely across the country just to meet this girl I had been talking to for mere weeks on the off chance that we might click on a personal level face-to-face? I balked at first, and then she called me on it. I kept hearing that annoyingly correct voice again telling me to get off my butt and be adventurous.

It was insane right from the start. I had no clue who this girl was, nor what her family did. And then, on top of that, I was picking up her sister's boyfriend on the way up, and I had no clue who HE was. He'd never met them before either. You couldn't have come up with a more volatile recipe if you combined Emeril with a firing squad. This was either going to be really really bad or really really good.

As it turned out, the sister's boyfriend was a really nice guy, her family was really nice, and I was smitten with her from the first moment I laid eyes on her.

One moment as I apply the brakes to the story... For as much as I was immediately stricken with love, she was not so immediately enamored. I say this with as much self-esteem as is humanly possible, but I do have this physical condition that my roommate has technically diagnosed as Being Uglier Than a Butt Wart. Still, even though she was resistant at first, she eventually melted to my charms, and before the second night was through, we had our first kiss. It was actually her first one altogether, which is nice for me, though I honestly can't remember who my first kiss was with, nor when it was, probably because it wasn't all that terribly magnificent.

I left her after New Years' Day, completely in love. Not more than a few days after that, she told me she loved me. And not many days after that, she blurted out a marriage proposal over the phone. She claims she doesn't remember that, but I swear to you, it is seared in my brain like pedophilia is seared into Michael Jackson's. Not being content to let her steal my thunder, I proposed to her via the Idol Waves show for the world to hear, and she said yes.

The second time I saw her, it was to give her a diamond ring. The third time I saw her was to bring her here to Memphis. Honestly, it was supposed to only be a week-long visit. We were planning to get married in May of this year. But when the time came, I couldn't take her back, and she didn't want to go. We called our families, got their blessings, and we got married.

And there you have it. As Paul Harvey says, "the rest of the story." Any screenwriters out there who want to make us millionaires by writing a script about it, let us know.

P.S. Since it was sort of impromptu wedding, there aren't many pictures, and those that exist are of us in street clothes, so don't expect any fancy schmancy tuxedos and bridal gowns!

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

American Idol 6: RESULTS: 9 Contestants Will Remain

Final impressions from last night: Chicken-Headed Sanjaya vs. RoboHaley - UGH, I'm undecided. On the one hand, Sanjaya really needs to go so that this can be a serious competition. On the other hand, Haley gets on my nerves, and Sanjaya is a wealth of comedic whimsy.

Well, we'll all know the answer (and hope that Dial Idol was wrong about Chris Sligh) within the next 30 minutes.

The Best of the Rest are going home one at a time, and Ryan feels the need to muse on which hair-don't Sanjaya will choose to sport. Hopefully it's not one wherein he might be used to feather dust the set after the show. As it turns out, that look has been passed on to Ryan, who comes out in a wig that looks slightly less ridiculous on him than it did on Sanjaya. Seriously...Brandon, Sundance, and countless others are sitting at home and this bozo Sanjaya is still here?????

I heard that Antonella's fans had moved to the "Fanjaya" camp. Extra credit if you can remember who Antonella is. I know I had to stop for a moment, and then I had that "oh yeah, HER" moment. Fame! Such a fickle beast. I hope Sanjaya can enjoy that ever so healing feel of obscurity soon.

Also, "Fanjaya"??????? If you willingly call yourself that, you deserve the countless wedgies and swirlies that you undoubtedly are the recipient of on a daily basis within the bathrooms of whatever low-grade public education facility you attend.

I'm bored with the recap already. C'mon, it's not like everybody developed a case of short-term amnesia and forgot the rancid mess that was last night's show. Well, rancid mess save for a couple of shining stars. I still heart Gina, Melinda, and Jordin mightily. As for the guys...sorry I don't care for any of them except possibly Blake and Chris Sligh. Unfortunately, Chris Sligh is tanking on me like a White Star liner in a glacier trail at the moment. Looking to the future, though, I don't for a moment imagine that Sanjaya is going home, unfortunately, so we will get to see one more talented person get shafted so this clown can go further.

The Car-mercial disguised as a music video is slickly produced, but this year's ensemble sounds SO much like a Kidz Bop CD.

Time to reveal the bottom three: Blake is safe. Lakisha was predicted to be safe, and she is. Phil, whose hat continues to consume his ears, is in the bottom three, which only goes to prove that having a stellar night like last night still isn't enough if people hate you worse than lip fungus.

Melinda is safe. Duh. Chris Richardson is not in the bottom two this week. Sanjaya... OH PLEASE OH PLEASE OH PLEASE... holeeeeee....he didn't even make the bottom three?????? My wife just threw a shoe at the TV. I think she's being kind. Suddenly, I understand what the French knight felt in Monty Python and the Holy Grail when he said "I fart in your general direction."

Haley is most definitely in the bottom three, and she just exudes snottiness from every pore. She all but flips off the camera and stomps and pouts down to the Circle of Doom. Stupid voters, like fer sher, gross out gag me with a spoon. No hope of Sunny going home this week, so BYE BYE Haley, I hope.

Jordin is safe. Chris Sligh or Gina will be in the bottom three, and we won't find out which (Chris) until after this whole shindig. Don't sweat it, Gina. You're good to go.

Janet James won last week's American Idol challenge. Well met, Janet. And now it's time for this week's Challenge. Which of these Birmingham Idols were called the Velvet Teddy Bear. Hmmm... how about which one resembles a bear the most? Ruben. You'd sort of have to be Challenged yourself to not at least make an educated guess.

Gwen Stefani and Akon take the stage. I'm not a fan of Gwen's newer music, I must admit. No Doubt was a good band, but ever since Gwen thought it would be cool to turn into a cheesy pop diva, I've sort of jumped off the Stefani bandwagon. Gwen was dressed by Haley tonight, apparently. I would swear this isn't a true live performance. Wanna bet on whether or not the vocals were pre-recorded? Her lips aren't exactly synching up with the sound, sort of like a badly dubbed Japanese movie. If a big plastic dinosaur came out from stage left and started destroying a miniature Tokyo, it would feel right at home. It's good to know that Akon could take time out of his busy schedule to do a bunch of "woohoos" and "yeehoos" for this. Thousands of dollars for five minutes of that. I really need to talk to my high school guidance counselor and ask him why he didn't tell me about these kinds of career opportunities. Not a big fan of the song. But hey, Gwen gets to plug her tour, and all is happy within the music world. Well, at least until next week, when we're down one more talent and have to listen to a longer Sanjaya performance because of it.

Time for the third person in the Bottom Tres. Chris is in the bottom three. I hope for Haley to go, would accept Phil, and am afraid it's Chris taking the long flight back to South Carolina.

Haley gets to stay in the bottom two whilst Phil returns to the fold. Randy thinks it's too tough to call. Paula is equally noncommital. Simon thinks it's bye bye curly...and both of them have curls. Hmm...if he'd said "bye bye legs," we'd have known for sure. The camera guy thinks it's Chris.

The camera guy is right. Haley is safe, and Chris Sligh goes home. My wife, who is laying in bed sick, throws her tissue box across the room.

Rumor has it that Chris has been facing tough times at home, and speculation exists that he might've wanted out of the competition. Well, it's a moot point now, because he's outta there.

I feel a bit deflated now. You voters are out of your minds. I'm going to go listen to my Half Past Forever CD.

Here's a clip of the SNL parody of Sanjaya to soothe your senses of justice just a bit:

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

American Idol 6: Top 10 Contestants Perform

Tonight, the group that I can best describe as "The Best of What's Left" will get guidance from Gwen Stefani. This is the closest that Idol has come to being contemporary since they began.

Gwen, of course, made some really good music. The unfortunate side of this is that since she ditched the boys of No Doubt, she's mainly come up with braintrusts like "Hollaback Girl," wherein the bulk of the lyrics consist of "uh-huh that's my sh*t" and "this sh*t is bananas, b-a-n-a-n-a-s." And yes, I'm embarrassed that I know that. So the question is whether she will say "Don't Speak" to Sanjaya or help us bask in the "Luxurious" voice of Melinda. Perhaps hubby Gavin Rossdale (formerly of Bush) will come out and put some balls into Chris Richardson's performances.

Only one hour tonight, because dang it, it's time for House to finally get some air time.

Okay, so let the show begin...

Somebody actually took the time to create a "Haley For President" poster. I wonder what Haley's views on foreign policy are? Is she for or against socialized health care? Will she actually show one thread of emotion tonight? For that matter, will her clothes tonight consist of more than a single thread?

Because the No Doubt library of songs is kinda shallow, they extended their choices to "songs that inspired" Gwen. Ryan reminds us that No Doubt was influenced by reggae and ska, forgetting that these bubblegum teens probably never even heard of such music. "Ska? Is that sort of like Sugar Ray?" I can hear Sanjaya saying that. Gwen's hair is sort of played down tonight, though I miss the pink hair. She's cute, and y'know, I never realized that she's probably only an A-cup.

Proving that the theme is pretty much a throwaway tonight, Lakisha Jones is going to do an old Donna Summer song, because that song apparently inspired something that No Doubt did. Probably something that the drummer did on the toilet after 25 cent burrito night at the Taco Bell. Lakisha gets out there and does her one-trick thing, completely failing to capture what the theme of the night was supposed to be (songs that are relevant to a ska-princess-turned-pop-icon), and instead doing her own thing and showing literally ZERO versatility. It's not that it's not good, it's just that I've heard it before. There are tons of recording stars out there like this, so do we really need another? And let's not get started on the clothes. I'm sure they would look nice on SOMEONE, just not her. Let's face can't hang new curtains in a burned down shack. Randy thinks it's hot, but it's probably because he wants to bury his face in that massive cleavage Lakisha is sporting tonight. Paula mutters something. Simon thinks she made herself 30 years younger this week by singing a song that's at least 30 years old. Uh, Simon?

Chris Sligh will answer Barbara's inane question about how much down time the Idols have (answer: ZERO) and what they do with it (answer: DRINK HEAVILY.) Seriously, though, these guys have a busy busy busy schedule, especially the school age teens who have to attend classes in the morning. Chris is a bit above school age though, so hopefully he'll have something good prepared for us. Chris is going to do a song by the Police, which I guess is closer than LaKisha's choice to a No Doubt song, but from the start it's clearly not a good choice for him. It sort of comes off as a bad Sting impersonation. It's a different sort of performance for him, but I just can't feel him lately. I keep wanting him to blow me away, but something bland this way comes. Vocally, this isn't really tight, and I find myself missing the Chris we used to see. I keep wanting some magic, but all I get is Hagrid showing me the proper care and feeding of mandrake roots. Randy thinks the problem was that he was out of step with the band, and that's been a problem with him before. This is probably the most constructive criticism Pauler and Randy have given anyone ever. Simon thought it was a mess, and he's going to get cut off by the music, because the producers have this crazy thing about running a live show within the time frame of commercials and oh...I don't know...other shows. I'd love to hear the sounds (and swearing) going through the headphones of the production assistants from the switching booth.

Gina Glocksen is up next and she's emotional to the point that her face has swollen up to twice its original size in her video. Tonight Gina will dress from the "Tomb Raider" collection and sing a song that was clearly not done by No Doubt. Rather, she'll be singing the ubiquitous Pretenders ballad, "I'll Stand By You." I agree with Gwen: this song is perfect for her. I'm totally buying the performance, the look, and the whole package. It's pretty obvious who she's trying to be, and tonight's theme was right there in the sweet spot of her wheelhouse. Randy feels it's one of her best performances ever, and he also thinks it's a perfect song choice. Paula, who apparently got her hair done by Gwen before the show, agrees with the whole "best performance" thing. Simon doesn't find it to be "one of" her best performance, but rather THE best. He finds it to be better than anybody else tonight. Nice job, Gina. Ryan fails to get Simon's "chalk and cheese" comparison, despite the fact that it should've been obvious to anyone with the IQ of mayonnaise.

Sanjaya Malakar is singing "Bathwater" by No Doubt. Let's throw the baby out with that bath water, if you don't mind. Gwen de-pimps the CRAP out of Sanjaya, and talks about just how hard the song is to sing, and just how unprepared Sanjaya is to sing it...and... and... WHAT is that thing roosting on top of Sunny's head? I don't know about you, but I keep expecting Sanjaya to break out in a Foghorn Leghorn voice and say "Ah say, ah say, BOY!" I mean, seriously, Sanjaya has come out here with Cyndi Lauper growing out of the back of his head. This is a truly wretched and pitiful performance, and the fact that he forgot the words is just inexcusable. Randy finds the hairdo "interesting" in the sense of "horribly gay." He thinks this was a juvenile performance, and he wonders aloud why Sanjaya doesn't just go ahead and do the darn thing and sing the song. (answer: HE CAN'T.) Paula was underwhelmed again, and it's about time we got this clown off the stage if that one can't find a motherly comment about him. Simon comments on Sanjaya's hairdo, and Sanjaya mouths off something about him being jealous that he couldn't pull it off, which endears himself immediately to a small portion of his own cell structure and none of the rest of the universe. Simon says that it probably doesn't matter what the judges say, because America's going to vote him off tonight for sure, if there's any love and goodness left in the universe.

And now it's time for Haley. She's going to sing Cyndi Lauper's "True Colors." Gwen wasn't having it with Haley, and she made sure to let America know it. Stripperella sits squatted down on the stage and starts out whispering the crap out of the song, perpetrating like an actual emotion might escape from her botoxed brow at some point in the near future. Unfortunately, all of her emotions were reserved for her legs, since those are the only things that will be speaking to most of her fan base. Come on, Haley! Is it too much to ask you to actually PRETEND like you're feeling anything? Is it too much for you to just not spit out words that don't register within you? This song is boring, and there's that run that Gwen didn't like and I don't either. I mean, it's hard to ask you to vote Haley off with Sanjaya still around, but it's either that or throw her off the back of a moving bus. Randy was bored with it and he sort of was like uh yo dawg and stuff and all. Paula didn't like it either. Simon asks her to critique herself, but then goes back to describe it as sweet but forgettable. And Haley phones in yet another completely forgettable performance. Haley sort of rolls her eyes at the criticisms, which is why she will fail in this competition. She truly believes that she has the whole package and doesn't need to improve, and criticisms mean nothing to her. Vote her off.

Phil Stacey will answer Rebecca of Indianapolis's stupid question: "how does it feel to go from being a no-name to being famous?" Phil doesn't know. People still don't know who he is yet. He hasn't noticed that he's famous yet, because he continually has to ward off his hat from eating his head. Phil is going to sing a song from the Police. So only Sanjaya will be singing an actual No Doubt song? Was there even a point in having a theme tonight? This is slightly better than Chris Sligh's vocal, but again Phil sort of comes off like a Sting impersonator. It's boring and dull. I need to be inspired tonight, people! I'll grant you this: I can't tell that it's not Sting up there if I look away from my screen. His voice is a dead even match for Stingy-dingy-doo. Vocally, it's really well done. But jazz this stuff up folks! Randy kinda liked it. Paula thinks that he needs to pump up the verses sort of like he does the chorus. Simon purses his lips and surprises Phil with praise. He compliments Phil for trying, and I have to say, I would've expected that kind of statement a LOT earlier in the competition. It's a little late to be praising them for actually trying.

Melinda Doolittle gets all kinds of praise from Gwen, who I am liking a little bit more after this show. She's not singing a No Doubt song. But I don't care. Will somebody just burn me a CD of this chick? Singing anything, I don't care. If Melinda burped the alphabet, I'd buy it. Love it. Yes. Yes. Yes. You don't need me to tell you anything more about it. Crown the winner already. Randy compliments her for doing what the rest of this lot can't seem to do: FEEL the music. LIVE the music. BREATHE it. (Take note, Haley.) Paula parrots Randy. Simon didn't like the outfit, but that's about all the bad he could say. I like Melinda.

Blake is going to do a song by The Cure. Gwen is all "kill the beat box" and Blake is all "but that's the only reason I'm here..." He comes out singing softly, and I'm liking it. It's not upbeat, but there's just something about the sound of it that makes me happy. It could be that Melinda cleared my palette before, but then again, it could be that, clownish schtick aside, Blake is actually a very talented vocalist. I dig it. I'd buy that single. Randy didn't find it to be perfect, but thought that he did it really well. Paula enjoys him, and she sort of halfway predicts him to be in the finale. Simon calls Blake the strongest guy in the competition, compares him to Chris Daughtry, and cautions him against falling into self-indulgence. B-Shorty is actually shorter than Ryan Seacrest.

Jordin Sparkes is actually going to do a No Doubt song. Unfortunately, it's my least favorite No Doubt song "Hey Baby." I love Jordin, but I don't love her doing this song. Or wearing the tablecloth from the picnic area. This song has lows that are slightly too low for her. I think there's definitely an issue with the mix here. At times her mic sounds too low and then too high. She's got a good vocal tone for most of the performance, but I'm not in love with the whole package. I do love that she's reaching outside of her comfort zone though, and I think she deserves to go through for another week. Randy compliments her for being risky and thought it was brilliant. Paula likes it too. Simon thinks she is the most improved contestant. Not my favorite, but I love Jordin, so vote for her people.

Chris Richardson will be ruining my favorite No Doubt song, "Don't Speak." Gwen tells us how much she hates how Chris ruins her most emotional and self-revealing song ever. Chris squints into the camera. Somebody either buy him some shades or prescription lenses. Whoever did the arrangement on this song should be dragged out into the street and beaten with shoestrings. Chris sounds positively awful with this song. Seriously, each of you, before you vote for him, go listen to Gwen's original version. There's raw emotion there. It's a deeply meaningful song about broken hearts, and Chris is singing it as though it were about the ferris wheel at a county fair. Through his nose, to boot. I bet he really has to blow his nose a lot before performing so that he doesn't shower the microphone and stage with boogers. Randy doesn't think his vocal was all that. Paula thought it was cool. Simon nails it when he critiques Chris on his vocals. Again, before you vote for him, listen to him without looking at him. If you can honestly say you'd buy a CD with that voice, then you need to donate your ears to charity so that someone more worthy can use them.

Well, that's the show. My predictions: Bottom three: Chris, Sanjaya, and Haley. I'd almost keep Sanjaya over Haley, but I'm hoping for him to go home.

Melinda's still the clear winner, in my mind, but Gina and Blake are nipping at her heels this week.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

American Idol 6: Top 11 Contestants Perform

Two hours? Waaaaaaaah! Mommy! I don't mean to whine, but wowsers are these first shows way too long.

So, anyway, time to start... let's do the do.

If you read most of the commentary out there on the web, the general consensus seems to be, and I quote, "mehhh." Most people seem to pretty much agree with me that we've got a group of talented-but-not-quite-previous-season-talented kids on hand this year. Will the kids change our minds tonight? Heck no. But they can sure try.

The drama du jour is the fact that tonight's vote determines who won't be going on the nationwide tour this summer. Last year, it was Kevin Covais who just missed out. Think Sanjaya's got the juice to outdo him? Think pigs can fly?

This year's group take the stage, and save for Melinda and a couple of others, I'm not sure I see anything that will make me fork over a lot of moolah to take my wife to the tour when it inevitably comes through Memphis.

Ryan polls the judges. Randy is all "dawg" and "yo" on those that forget their lyrics, because time for that is well over and done. Paula encourages the contestants to picture Simon naked, as she so often does in her rare sober moments. Sanjaya has been doing that all along, I suspect, but most of the other contestants have chosen not to permanently scar themselves by partaking. Nobody bothers to get a comment from Attila the Brit.

And speaking of Brits, tonight's theme is "British Invasion." And representative of this music are Peter Noone of Herman's Hermits and Lulu of... something. They will coach these kids into abject failure this week. I'm noticing a theme with these "guest coaches" from all the various years. Quickly fading artist + cheap shot on nationwide talent search = extended reprieve from oblivion. You think?

Haley Scarnato sure is proud of those legs, isn't she? All nine miles of them. Lulu rips her up one side and down the other about her enunciation and technique, which is rather kind. Dr. Phil sits off to the side, waiting his turn to similarly eviscerate her personality, or lack thereof. They spend a lot of extra pimp time on Haley, because they want her on the tour. Sex sells, ladies and gentlemen. Girls want to be like her, and guys want to be with her. She struts out onto the stage nearly naked and showing off every inch of cellulite the back of her thighs can muster. I'm very afraid that her top might come flying off and put somebody's eye out. If a button burst, I'm sure it would slingshot well out of the studio on to somewhere on Hollywood and Vine. It's hard to pay attention to the actual song, when what she's quite obviously selling tonight is S-E-X and lots of it. Vocally, she sounds like Olivia Newton John Lite. There's nothing incredibly memorable or exciting. Nothing horrific. At least she's put some life into her usually drab performances, though when she snarls into the camera, she looks like she's passing an undigested and unchewed Dorito through her colon. Randy thinks she chose the perfect song and believes it was her best performance. Probably right. Paula stutters and says something that, when translated, means that she altogether likes Haley. Simon is smiling and calls her a "naughty little thing," which means "meet me in my dressing room," and he reckons that people will remember her more for her sexuality than her song. Haley says it's all about prayer, but between that and a wing, prayer is the only thing holding that top of hers on.

Chris Richardson is up next. His goal for this week is to finally nail a song straight through his left nostril. I'm picturing a different sort of nail...the kind that runs down a chalkboard. He ever so modestly wants, aside from showing us that he is, in fact, a great performer, to show us that he is, in fact, a great singer, despite that fact that he is, in fact, not. Peter Noone essentially says "dude, you suck," and then vainly attempts to coach him through one of the seminal songs of Pete's younger years. "Don't Let The Sun Catch You Cryin?" How about not letting the moon catch Chris singin'? He sits onstage with a guitarist, both of whom are desperately, yet unsuccessfully, trying to grow hair. Chris squints as though the stage lights were going supernova, then he blasts all the air in his body out through his nasal cavity. He holds his abdomen, which further confirms that he's not a bad singer; he's just suffering from some severe gastrointestinal disorder that makes him sound this way. He seriously creeps me out every time he eye-boinks the camera. It worked for Constantine and Ace Young. Not so much for young Mr. Richardson. The trailer park showed up to cheer him on. Randy thinks it was a great performance. Granted every note WAS in tune, but it was all thin and shallow. Paula thought it was all very sexy, which it was, but in a Deliverance, make-you-squeal-like-a-pig sort of way. Simon thinks it was his best performance ever, comments on the nasality, and then gets cut off mid-sentence by the theme music. Ryan chats him up, they laugh and giggle a bit, creep me out, and I need a commercial to go wash myself of all the ickyness in the air now.

Stephanie Edwards gets the Coke pimp chat spot. Wanda from Houston asks what the hardest part about getting ready for the show is. Who picks these lame questions? I don't even care what the answer is. Of course, it doesn't help that I'm sort of apathetic about Stephanie in general. This is not really her fault. It's just that she's managed somehow to get shoved into this generic bunch of performers and somehow, when among them, managed to be even more generic than the sum total of the rest. I mean, come on, Sanjaya is bad, but at least he's extraordinarily bad. Lulu is reminded of...wait for it... Beyonce. Gee, we haven't heard THAT one this year. Unfortunately, we already have a Beyonce, so I'm not so sure that we need a Stephanie. For the moment, though, we're getting one. We're also getting a backup singer that looks suspiciously like Christina Christian. Nah. Couldn't be. She's singing "You Don't Have to Say You Love Me," in the same style that Beyonce would, were she here tonight. I wish Beyonce WERE here tonight. Or better yet, Jennifer Hudson. Yeah. That's the ticket. Oh yeah, right, I'm supposed to be commenting on this performance. didn't captivate me. My mind wandered. Oh wait, it's wandering again. I suppose this is okay, but I really wish Stephanie would strike out on her own and really wow me. I want to like her really badly, and I want to cheer her on. It's just that I would never ever in a billion years pay thirteen bucks for her CD, thus far. Randy doesn't totally buy it either, and he calls her pitchy a lot. Paula's eyes are really kind of sunken in tonight, don't you think? She butters her up with compliments on the outfit, then calls her a big ol' fraidy-cat. Simon asks how she thinks she did. Stephanie answers nervously "uh...well?" Simon believes she's losing her edge, and I'm sort of left wondering where he found her edge to begin with. That kind of an edge you could let your two year old play with safely. Ryan baits Stephanie with a question about the "edge" comment, and it's just painfully obvious that Stephanie either doesn't know what to say or just doesn't want to talk. That's sort of endearing, but sort of frustrating at the same time.

Am I the only one who isn't thrilled that TMNT is a "film for all ages?" I was hoping for something more grim and gritty.

Ryan shills for AT&T Wireless, formerly Cingular Wireless, and currently the company that screws you over on every bill you receive.

Blake Lewis is up next, and Peter Noone enjoys the odd bloke that Blake is. Ladies and gentlemen, the beat box is back in the house, along with the hideous golf pants. I wouldn't wear them on YOUR butt. I like this song, and I like Blake singing it. Someone should probably turn down the backup singers just a hair, since they're overpowering him just a tad. By the middle of the sing, they have the mix down fairly well. I don't know if it's the fact that I really love this song or that I'm a big fan of B-Shorty, but I was totally down with this performance. Totally. I feel goofy for even saying it like that, but I loved it. Randy gives it the massive "yo factor." Paula makes the prediction she usually kills Simon for, essentially naming Blake the winner. Simon thinks that he did a great job with the song and rightly believes this to be the best performance of the night so far. Ryan eliminates all possibility of himself being straight with the dance moves that he busts. He really broke a move there. Broke it good.

Shockingly, Lakisha Jones knows next to nothing about the music of the 60's. Lulu thinks "You're My World" would be the most perfect song for Lakisha to sing at her funeral in a few weeks. I bet without plastic surgery, Lulu would look like Granny from the Beverly Hillbillies. Lakisha comes out looking like a big ol' sushi wrapped in seaweed, singing "Diamonds are Forever." So much for that no-talent hack Lulu's suggestion, I suppose. Do not stand in the mighty swath cut by the all-knowing Lakisha, mere mortals. Granted, she sings it fairly well, but she sort of looks like Grimace from McDonaldland slapped on a green dress and a weave. The song itself is boring. Her vocal is nice, but this is no American Idol we're looking at here. Randy didn't think it was all that great. Paula wholeheartedly disagrees. Lakisha is wearing a million dollars worth of diamonds, which Simon takes issue with. All this goes to prove that you can put up all the tapestries you want to, but if you're hanging them in a burned down shack, it doesn't really make that much difference. Simon thinks the performance was far too elderly for his taste, and he didn't enjoy it much either. Paula is sensitive about issues of age, mainly due to the fact that she's advancing way past her prime, and can't nearly do the things she did in the "Cold Hearted" Video or even the "Shut Up and Dance" dance lessons anymore. Shoot, Paula can barely still do "Sweatin' to the Oldies." Lakisha plops down on the stool, sending a few Fry Guys scampering out of her dress. Ryan pimp chats her some more, and then there's the now-requisite gay banter between Ryan and Simon. Randy emphasizes again that the performance shouldn't be all about the diamonds, but more about the Lakisha. They're spending a lot of extra time on this chick. I think we're being sold something.

In case Phil Stacey has time to sing, we'll hear him do "Tobacco Road," which, if I'm not mistaken, was performed by Taylor Hicks last year. Peter Noone enjoys it, and, Phil is gobsmacked by the praise. Phil launches into the most atonal performance of this song that I've ever heard. He's slightly covered by the raucous guitar licks, as well as the upbeat rock tempo. Essentially, he just ends up shouting the crap out of it, being neither pleasant nor compelling nor incredibly enjoyable. I find myself wanting to use him more as women's roll-on deodorant than as someone to look at on the TV. There's a lot of energy in this performance, to be sure, but most of it is spent to cover up horrid vocals. Randy thought it was pretty good, though he's not totally committed to that judgment. Paula thinks it was half in half, and she rebuffs Simon for some reason in the middle of her babbling. Simon eyes her breasts for a moment, wonders why they're sitting on her kneecaps, then looks up at Phil. He thinks it was a "bad bar band" performance. He predicts Phil will take the long road home, and that would hurt my feelings none. Phil appeals to the audience, wonders if they had fun, eats up the lackluster applause, and grimly stares fate in the face as he runs through a mental checklist of what he needs to pack when he gets back to the apartments.

Jordin Sparks is up in the Coke pimp chat spot. Ryan laments how he can't tell us what goes on during the commercial breaks, which is sort of like telling us what goes on, only not. It's nice that there's something we don't get to know, but we totally no about it now. Jordin talks excitedly about lots of things. Lulu talks about Jordin's big song, but speaking of big, is Lulu that short, or is Jordin really that tall? I thought at first she wore big heels, but wow, she's a vertical chick! Lulu is completely enamored of Jordin, and despite the fact that she's been enamored of everyone tonight, including the janitor, I choose to embrace this evaluation of our young Miss Sparks. From the opening notes of this song, I want to immediately log on to Amazon or iTunes or somewhere and get this girl's CD. This song isn't very energetic, but she's bringing a different sort of intensity to it nonetheless. This is perfect. I don't want to hear any more music after this, because I want to savor this performance for a couple of hours. I want to swirl it in my coffee and eat it with biscotti. record a CD. I'll buy it. Randy thinks it was one of the best of the night. Paula seconds that emotion. On to Simon who thinks she sang it beautifully, but he wanted to jump off a bridge because it was such a gloomy song. That's actually an endorsement of Jordin, because she made the song VERY believable. Simon makes yet another autoerotic reference to Simon, thinks better of it, and jumps immediately to Randy. And we all bask in the afterglow of the glory that is Jordin Sparks.

After the break, the wild side of Sanjaya. Put on your hard hats and your feather boas.

Ryan and Peter Noone chat it up in the audience, and Peter manages to chat it up, irk Simon, and be completely endearing.

Sanjaya Malakar can't figure out which song he wants to slaughter this week. His struggle to decide eats up precious moments of my life, so I am forced to web surf while he makes up his melon. Hmmm, it appears that the media consensus on Mr. Malakar has been quite grim, with most pundits agreeing that he sucks harder than a factory full of Hoovers. Meanwhile, even normally cheery, pink-smoke-up-your-bum, rainbow and smiles Peter Noone is looking at Sanjaya like "dude, just forget it, you're out of your league, and it doesn't matter what you pick." He's going to go with "You Really Got Me." He has neither the vocal edge nor power that he needs for this song. This is a really bad karaoke night performance. I hate this. I capital H Hate this. His pre-teen girly fans who don't quite get that he's monstrously gay are in the audience crying. Sorry girls, sexually speaking, you have about as much chance of scoring with Sanjaya as I do of sprouting wings and flying. A little blonde chick who will undoubtedly remember this in fifteen years as the central point of shame in her life, is crying uncontrollably, as though she just heard that Paul McCartney got married. Meanwhile, the rest of us who aren't teeny-boppers are crying for an altogether different reason. You VFTW people really really REALLY need to not vote this week, because we simply must be spared another week of this atrocity. Randy enjoys that he came out of his shell and conspicuously avoids any real critique of his vocal performance. Paula, who would have no room to talk, concurs. Simon thinks that the crying girl says it all, and I'm convinced that he means that in a bad way. You had to know that this chick is named Ashley, probably with an I at the end or something equally horrid. I really have had a butt full of this kid, so send him packin' this week, would ya?

Gina Glocksen is all leathered up. I feel like I could fold her up, stick some money in her mouth, and use her as a wallet. The question du jour for her is "how does American Idol make you stronger?" I mean, come on... seriously... the producers are making up these questions. Either that, or the mental power of most of this audience is nearing retard level. Lulu hesitates over the key that Gina is going to be singing in, and she ratchets Gina up a notch. She kicks Gina around a bit, and Gina proves to be the one of this bunch who will actually take constructive criticism, soak it in, run with it, use it, and become better for it. She launches into her performance, which as songs go should be right in her wheelhouse. I sort of like this. I'm actually kind of glad that the rocker this year turned out to be a girl. As always, I enjoy her energy, spark, and overall emotion. She performs the heck out of a sing, even if she doesn't nail every note. I love her rock and roll voice. She's not quite a siren, but for some reason that's okay. Randy enjoyed that she kicked over the mic stand, but he found her overall to be just "alright." Paula thinks she made a major improvement over last week. She jokingly calls "Paint It Black" Simon's favorite song, which as jokes go, ranks slightly above the one about the chicken and the road. Simon found Paula's joke to be tortuous and only slightly less bearable than Gina's performance. Gina, of course, is a fan of Simon, and she completely digs what he's saying. And that's worth a lot. I get the feeling that Gina might not start out in her career with all the advantages, but she'll open herself to growth. Simon still isn't having it with the whole "be you, do what you do" philosophy, and he instructs everyone that you should, by crikey, SING! And sing well.

As we rejoin the judges, they're all in their own little world, having some sort of confab about whatever it might be that they talk about when we're not looking.

Chris Sligh and Peter Noone gab for days and days about the song "Henry the Eighth." Peter encourages Chris to dig deep, feel the song, and not let last week's criticism affect him too much. Chris sings "She's Not There" as performed by the Zombies. Man, I miss the Zombies. Granted, I wasn't alive when they were touring, but I miss them anyway, because their songs completely rock my boxers. Chris oozes through the audience, wearing an outfit that must say "WARNING: Makes fat people look much fatter" on the inside label. I sort of like the way he's singing this, but I still don't think he's in his element. It's clear he desperately wants part of Gina's "rocker" action, but he can't begin to look the part. Altogether, I find this performance to be a mixed bag, and I am getting more and more concerned about Mr. Sligh's future in this competition. I feel like he'll make it a little ways, but he's going to be in trouble in the coming weeks. Randy hated how it started, but loved how it ended. Paula likes the fact that his clothing makes her feel skinny, and she generally likes his vocal. Simon thinks that Chris did all he could do to engage the audience. Chris starts jumping in, not realizing that Simon isn't going to rape him on the criticism. Simon is surprisingly generous and fair, and I think that Chris needs to settle down just a bit, ease on the nerves, and next time hit Paula with the mic stand instead of Simon. Fro Patrol? Spare me.

Melinda Doolittle is going to sing "As Long As He Needs Me." She does her cute little fish out of water thing, then proceeds to sing better than anybody else this year has ever sang, even in the shower. She opens up while sitting and staring into the camera. You really don't need me to say it do you? She's fabulous. Vocally, she's unimpeachable. She does manage to spit all over the microphone, which isn't the sexiest thing I've ever seen, but I forgive her. I bet even Mariah Carey spits all over her microphone. I bet Celine Dion has to mop down the floor after she sings. Is it just me, or do you all really want to punch crybaby Ashley right in the mouth? Or at least help her find some meaning to her life that is much more deep and earth-shattering than a performance by someone who isn't even a true celebrity yet? Somebody buy this kid a therapist! Randy finds this to be the best performance of the night, which...I mean... DUH!! That's why she continuously closes out the show. She's awesome. Simon wonders if she's really as nice as she seems, and then after planting that seed of doubt, immediately confirms that she is, in fact, that nice. I'm thinking that she must be, even though I have no way of objectively determining that, but I want to believe it, and I also want to buy every single scrap of music that Melinda will ever record.

Time for a recap of the dress rehearsal from before the show aired. And time for this recapper to shut up.

Who's going home? I hope it's Sanjaya, but Phil, buddy, it ain't lookin' great for ya.

Who's this year's top three? I think Blake, Melinda, and Jordin.

See ya tomorrow night for a blessedly shorter show.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

American Idol 6: Top 12 Results!

Well, tonight's the night for results. I'm a little late to the blogging tonight, but you know you sat up waiting for me. If there is any justice in the world, Sanjaya will be taking the long plane ride home. On the other hand, there are those that I wouldn't cry over losing, so let's just see where this ride takes us, shall we?

Okay, so, this is half hour show, and I don't know WHAT I'll do with all my free time after. This is such a break after 2 hour, Lord-of-the-Rings-length episodes. So...enough with my babbling...on with the show!

Do you ever wonder if maybe this group of contestants are just... well... what we have left? I know several of them have auditioned and not made it in years past. So have we possibly depleted the talent pool and come down now to the second stringers? It's an interesting theory. To quote Jeff Foxworthy: it's like a midget using mouthwash. Who would know?

The Glockstars are in the house. I honestly don't understand the goofy names these fan groups give themselves. (The Fantonellas? Cut me a break.) I understand fandom. Heck, I owe Idol fans most of the traffic I get on my website and net radio show. But these names just scream geek to me.

Simon is here and his shirt is unbuttoned all the way down to his kneecaps, exposing more hair than Diana Ross has ever bought to put on her head. Another recap of people forgetting their words. We talked about all this last night, so rewind the blog if you need to catch up. Better yet, spare yourself and just take my word for it. You'll thank me later.

Even the show is recognizing Melinda as the front-runner. Can we end the competition early?

Ryan shaved. Wow. I guess with all that money, he could afford the industrial-strength razor. For someone who seems to get five o'clock shadow at six in the morning, this is the cleanest I remember him being.

During the group number, Chris squints a lot, even though that might possibly be from the glare off of Phil's head. You know what? This just flat out sucks. I couldn't possibly be left any colder by this montage if I were sitting in an igloo in Antarctica with the fridge door open and the fan on. For some reason, all these Idol hopefuls are boring the crap out of me. If we could eliminate everybody but Jordin and Melinda tonight, have the finale next week, and get off early so I could concentrate solely on 24, I'd be okay with it. Just as long as somebody got Gina a recording contract on the side.

Oh yeah, I forgot about the retarded Ford Commercials disguised as videos. By the way, just because you put a little MTV-esque Chyron text in the corner, it doesn't mean it's really a video. Oh well, Ford sells automobiles, and Idol pays some bills. Thankfully it's over quickly.

Time to narrow it down to those with the lowest number of votes.

Lakisha stands first, and it's not a big shock that she's safe. Thankfully, she left her shower curtain at home today instead of wearing it.

Gina is also safe. Rock on!

Brandon might not be safe. And he is in the bottom three. Y'know, there's something about him that you just have to like. I kind of want to go fishing with him or something.

Jordin is more safe than Brinks.

Chris Richardson is safe, and I get to make fun of him next week. And it will be all too easy. All he has to do is squint and squat like he's constipated. It'll happen.

Melinda better be safe, or else I will never watch Idol again until after the next commercial break. She is.

Phil should be safe, but nobody likes him, so he'll be in the bottom three.

Chris Sligh put the glasses back on, and he sees his way through to another week.

Stephanie Edwards, the Jan Brady of the bunch, is safe.

Blake's safe. Duh. Gotta leave the obvious losers to fight it out for the next slot.

Haley and Sanjaya are left, and gee wonder which one it is?

We won't know which one is going home till after the break, though. Corporate animals, these Idol people.

It's time for the American Idol Challenge. I wonder if it will be as ridiculously simple as last week. Which Idol did Simon pick to sell more albums than any others? They gave this answer away last week. It ain't Taylor, that's for darned sure. Kelly would be a distracting choice, but it's Carrie who drew such deserved praise from Simon.

And now it's time for Treebeard the Ent to sing. I see Diana got Ace Hardware to design her face. I wonder if you could measure exactly how many feet that skin has been stretched with each facelift? I'm not saying Diana's old, but there's this hooded guy with a scythe that keeps peeping around from the back of the stage. She hobbles over to Melinda to give her the additional camera time she needs to completely lock down the competition. This song is okay, if you like lots of sharp notes. Paula stands and gives her an ovation, because she has to keep it up for her sisters in AARP. Diana stands up there after it is blessedly over, repeating word for word everything that Ryan says, up until the point that Ryan baits her with his sophomoric "who's going home" question that nobody in their right mind will ever answer. I mean, hey, would you? Would you want to have been the one that said Jennifer Hudson or Chris Daughtry was going home? One more break. Grrr.

Time to (Sanjaya) round out (Sanjaya) the bottom three (Sanjaya) with whom? Haley sits down. Oh my! It's Sanjaya! I never saw that coming!

One goes back to safety. Phil Stacey gets to hug his brothers and go back to the seat. You see how it's all guys in the bottom three, right? Now, it's down to Brandon and Sanjaya. Who (Sanjaya) will (Sanjaya) go home (Sanjaya) please???


Brandon goes home?


On top of that, I like this Daughtry song, but I'm afraid I might hate it once they finish beating it into the ground this year.

Alright, that's enough for tonight. See ya tomorrow with a review of Jon Peter Lewis's album and on Friday with an interview with him.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

American Idol 6: Top 12 Perform

We've whittled it down to the Top 12, and it's not really pretty! Well, some of it's pretty, but some of it is uglier than a shaved goat's left nut. Once again, it's that time of the season where there are people you love and people you hate, and that's why it's beautiful that we get to kill the batteries on our cordless phones and vote to our heart's content, pretending like it matters. And then replacing our cordless phones after throwing them up against the wall in frustration when we can't get through to vote for Chris Sligh.

I don't know what your local affiliates run before American Idol, but Fox 13 in Memphis runs Girlfriends, and if there's a stupider show, I don't know what it is. I feel like I could benefit more morally, emotionally, and spiritually from watching ritual suicide.

Two full hours tonight. Priscilla and I are settling in for a long winter's sit-down. I'm sure they're going to call it an extravaganza at some point, rather than a self-indulgent suck-fest.

And now, a recap of the Idol Winners: Kelly Clarkson, Jennifer Hudson, Carrie Underwood, Fantasia, and Chris Daughtry. Two of these things are not like the others. Sorry Ruben and guys weren't winner enough, apparently.

Seacrest points out the new stage, which looks exactly like the old stage from last year. At least it's not the horrific in-the-round stage that they have for the initial rounds. It's time for the live band, the live audience, and the unshaven and unwashed Top 12. Color me largely underwhelmed. I see they've had the makeovers already. They look nice, but they're still sort of the same. And then the judges three. I want a job like Simon's where I can be a superstar and still wear a t-shirt to work everyday. Randy reckons it's the girls who rule this year. Paula thinks the guys are about to blow up. Meanwhile, Corey Clark sits at home munching popcorn and crying while watching The Bridges of Madison County, thinking about what might have been. Back at the Idol stage, though, Simon is noncommital about anything, including the meaning of life.

Tonight, Diana Ross will be the anachronistic ancient one to try to make current pop stars out of this rabble. You know... for when disco FINALLY returns, right? Now that they're finished enbalming her, she comes out and talks to the Idols. Diana Ross is brought to you tonight by Hasbro, or rather, most of her is manufactured by them. Seriously, folks, there's less plastic at MasterCard headquarters.

Brandon Rogers is appropriately awed and slobbers all over himself while working with Diana. She sits there with her lips pursed, trying not to pop a stitch from her latest facelift. Brandon, on the other hand, is so cool, he farts ice cubes. He's going to sing "You Can't Hurry Love," which would never be my first pick for him, but someone had to do it. He's a bit flat on it, and it's lacking that this song really needs. He kind of works up into it, and his voice completely cracks about halfway through the first verse. That was rough. I wonder if he's not got the opportunity to show his range, or if he's just not able to. It sort of sounds like his voice may be hurting. Priscilla enjoyed his hip shake, and I think I may be a little jealous. Unfortunately, because I like Brandon, I still have to root for him, even though this is sub-par performance. Randy felt that he was boring, uninteresting, but that he finished strong. Brandon's really got to up his game. Paula looks sauced, but she's fairly articulate, so maybe she just stayed up too late in Brandon's room last night. She sort of says something, but nothing, and I honestly have no clue whether she liked it or not. Simon didn't like it, the sycophantic crowd boos like they always have, and Simon continues to bemoan the lack of star quality that was very evident tonight. Brandon, buddy, you're better than this.

Now it's time to find out how you can ask a question to an Idol. The answer is simple. Be me. I do it all the time. However, some gimpy fan wants Melinda to tell them what the hardest part of this competition is. Seriously, you get ONE question to ask, and that's IT??? That's the lamest, most over-used question ever. I wonder what could be hard about performing with your career on the line every night in front of millions of people who are ALL judging you? Nothing that I can think of.

Back to the show, though, I love Melinda Doolittle. I want to adopt her. I want to shrink her, put her on a shelf, and listen to her every day. Melinda chooses the song "Home" from the musical The Wiz. Nice choice. And of course, she sounds resplendent. I'd like to go ahead and skip the rest of the competition. Are you guys cool with that? Let's just go ahead, award it to her now, and that way she can start recording the album that I am going to doubtless play until the CD player in my car starts emitting green smoke in protest. (Not that my CD player will hate the CD. It will be upset because its hardware won't support the multiple times that I will play her disc.) This is just a fabulous, electrifying performance. Priscilla had to stop eating chocolate to watch Melinda, and believe me, coming between Priscilla and chocolate is about like coming between lightning and a lightning rod. Randy loved it. Paula is crying her eyes out, and I think she's sold on the fact that Melinda is a star. Either that or somebody stole the key to her liquor cabinet. Melinda cries too, and Paula blubbers, wipes snot on Simon's T-shirt, and Simon goes on to tell Melinda that she's a young Gladys Knight. I need for this girl to win, you guys. Get your phones crunk already! If she does not win this competition, I am holding all of you personally responsible.

The next person to meet the Crypt Keeper is Chris Sligh. He compares his hair to hers, which is cool, because he actually grew his, while she bought hers at the Mini-Mart on the way into town. Chris initially has difficulty connecting with his song, which might be okay, because Lionel Richie sort of had the same problem. I like him with the contacts in, but I don't really like him with this style of music. He's much better with Half Past Forever, which you guys should all look into, if you haven't already. By the middle of the song, he's singing it rather well, even if it's not even close to the original version. I don't know that this song is supposed to be sped up like this, but I can't imagine the hell it would be to have him belt it out ballad-style. He's sounding a bit Scott Savol-ish onstage tonight, and I don't mean on Scott's good nights. Not completely sold on this performance, but this isn't what Chris was meant to do. Randy didn't quite like the Coldplay version that Chris did and calls it a complete mess. I wish I could disagree. Paula thought he shouldn't have mucked up the arrangement that way. She's not crying...let's leave it at that. They're worried that he doesn't fit into anything contemporary, which is odd because that isn't a contemporary song he was singing. Have him sing a Daughtry song, and then see how contemporary he sounds. Or just pop in a Half Past Forever CD. Simon thinks it was awful, the audience agrees by not booing, and the best advice Simon could give is for him to put his glasses back on. I think Chris has the juice to get through another week, but man the guys have been wretched tonight!

One person leaves us live tomorrow. The rest leave dead. Har!

Gina Glocksen is the big beneficiary from the makeovers. She looks fabulous. Diana wants her to "pronounciate." Decades in the music industry, and the best you can get is a raggedy old hag who doesn't even remember the correct terminology? How can you teach it, when you don't even know what the word is? It's ENUNCIATE, Diana. Can I have a successful career now, too? Gina, how about you get out there and just do your thing? That thing tonight is "Love Child." Hey, Gina, where'd this low voice come from? Hot! It's not bad when she goes into the upper register either. It gets a little screamy, but not too much. She has the energy for sure, and that's one thing about Gina...she never fails to bring the zip into a pitchy performance. Doesn't hurt that she has fans that are two seasons old either. Priscilla bounces and claps for this performance. So, it's two for two for the ladies tonight. Nice performance. Randy liked other performances better, and he didn't feel excitement tonight. Paula and Gina don't really appear to like each other. Are you guys picking up on the cat-fight vibes between them? (And no, I'm not referring to Gina's band, Catfight, either.) Simon thinks it was slightly forgettable. And again, the judges were at a different show. Not that it matters. A guy is going home tomorrow. We still heart you, Gina!

If the past few weeks are any indicator, Sanjaya Malakar should keep the streak alive for the guys. Disco should be right in Sanjaya's wheelhouse. Unfortunately, Sanjaya's strong suit only consists of one a half notes on days when he really takes care of his voice. Diana, who I am becoming more and more fearful is going to sprout live snakes from her head and turn me to stone, beams and pimps up Sanjaya, possibly in the hopes of getting him to sing at her funeral tonight. He's going to sing the gayest version of "Ain't No Mountain High Enough" there ever was. I don't know if you could call this "singing," though. He's overpowered by the horns in the band, and he's sort of half-whispering it. It's boring, bland, and he's just sort of half-heartedly doing something. Priscilla is hiding her head, muttering "make it stop," and eyeing the sword in the corner of our bedroom. If she commits ritual seppuku, can I sue Idol? Sanjaya really wasn't fun, in the same sense that colon cancer is kind of a bummer. Randy is speechless at how bad this sucks. He's had a butt full of the guys tonight, and he goes so far as to say the song was unlistenable. The best he could pull out of his sizable rectum (darn near killed 'em) is that Sanjaya's hair is kinda cute, were he a five year old girl. Paula whips out the pep talk, which means that she thought he wasn't worth a flip tonight. Simon feels that Diana Ross will probably cry at this performance, and not in the same way she cries when the Fountain of Youth Plastic Surgery Emporium lets her cash in her Frequent Facelift Miles. The audience likes Sanjaya, because not liking Sanjaya makes you feel like a big ol' meanie who doesn't love the Lord, so they boo appropriately. I'm not exactly sure what would motivate you to vote for him, other than sheer masochism, but if you feel it, do it. Just don't let me find out you did. Sanjaya falls into the teenage trap and sasses Simon back, which makes him about as adorable as a canker sore. Ryan baits him with the "do you feel like you should be here next week," to which Sanjaya answers in the affirmative, which ups his adorability factor to somewhere around toxic waste scum.

It's time for Haley Scarnato. The HaleyBot looks great, but her voice is nails-on-a-chalkboard annoying when she talks. The question du jour for Haley is "what is it like singing on Idol?" Again...who asks these lame-tard questions??? Why doesn't anyone ask something like, Haley, if a sharp wind blew up that barely-there dress, would it make you finally sing with something that resembled emotion? Diana picks up immediately on Haley's lack of stage presence. She wrote this song about Marvin Gaye's death, and the best inspiration that Haley can come up with is her fiance. I hope he at least plays football or something. So not impressed with Haley's lack of depth. Haley gets to be the first girl to suck tonight. She so obviously can't feel the song. She has a sort of nice voice, but I feel like I'm being sung to buy my pedestal fan. The sad thing is that her confused, pained, want-to-feel-an-actual-feeling-but-can't look completely wrecks her otherwise good looks. Hey there, flat notes. Knew you were coming. Flat performer, flat notes. It kind of follows. After this song, I'm ready to go have my emotions surgically removed too. I wonder if Haley can recommend a place. Randy isn't having it, and he dogs her for forgetting the words and being pitchy, which is Randy for "dawg, you'll never work in this town again." Paula doesn't like it. She emphasizes that forgetting the words is inexcusable at this level of the competition. She also wrecks Haley on the pitch. Simon zooms in to the rescue because he thinks Haley is hot, and he continues to believe that he can make a star with T&A alone. Okay, so you can, but I don't like any of them, and neither does anybody else for any appreciable length of time. Haley allows some emotions to crack through her skin, in the form of tears, and she'll be calling her surgeon to go in and remove those later. I don't really care if she stays or goes, because she's not as actively objectionable as some others. Haley freely admits that this was her worst ever performance, which kind of buys her some favor points in my eyes, but I really don't think I'm going to buy a ticket to the Idol tour to see this chick.

I really cannot wait to see Blades of Glory.

Seacrest interviews an old lady who he claims to be related to. Please...everyone knows he wasn't born to a human family. Lightning struck at some Barbie factory somewhere, toxic mutagen spilled on a Ken doll, and thus was born Ryan Seacrest. He's not related to anyone. With all the jobs he has, he wouldn't have time to be.

Phil Stacey is doing his best to look like the retarded child of Daughtry. When he wears that black shirt, he sort of looks like a Q-Tip. Some white guys just shouldn't be bald, and Phil is one of them. It makes you wonder if he missed his child's birth for chemotherapy rather than auditioning for Idol. He does an okay version of "I'm Gonna Make You Love Me," even though he's not worthy of washing Marvin Gaye's jockstrap. Still, it's better than any of the guys have done tonight. Is it obvious that I really don't want to say this? I can't really find too much wrong with his vocals tonight. I just don't like him. Priscilla, on the other hand, was impressed with none of it, and offers to get me another drink, just so she can be in another room. Randy thought he was boring, but that the vocals were spot-on. Paula didn't get excited either, but she essentially says the same thing that Randy JUST said. Every now and then, I just sit here and wonder if what Paula says is scripted Mad Lib style, with various random nouns and verbs inserted that sort of sound like they could go together, but probably shouldn't. Simon disagrees with Paula, based on the principle that he must ALWAYS disagree with Paula no matter what. Simon thinks it wasn't outstanding or awful, either one. That about sums it up. I don't want to vote for him, but I wouldn't vote against him either.

Are you ready for Lakisha Jones? In a word, no. She's gonna sing "God Bless the Child," and I hope that God is blessing hers while she's out here hob-knobbing with dead celebrities like Diana Ross and the ghost of Antonella Barba. I don't know if this was the best lyric for her to sing when she had to know that her detractors were going to jump all over this one. Now, for her look... Have you ever seen those round showers with the big white curtain on a ring around the top? That's sort of what Lakisha looks like tonight. A big ol' shower curtain. Priscilla reminds me, in all her petite beauty, that if you're a big girl, you should NEVER wear white. I guess. I've got the wrong chromosome configuration to know these sorts of rules. The only fashion rule that I know is something like "I before E, except after Labor Day"... or something like that. I remember the last time a Top 10 contestant did this song. It was Mikalah Gordon. Didn't turn out so well for her. Priscilla finds this song so forgettable, she's forgotten it already. Unfortunately, it's still ringing in my ears. There's no denying that Lakisha has a powerful voice, but she keeps choosing these dreadful songs. Toward the end of the song, she really does slide into her element though, and finishes okay, but it's sort of a mixed bag altogehter. I will give Lakisha props for not being so blasted ghetto tonight. Randy thinks she was sensational, and the show continues to sell its product. Paula blabbers something. I forget what. Simon thinks she's "got it." (For some reason, I hear echoes of Gedeon McKinney, repeating "It!" over and over again.) What do you guys think...Top 2 showdown between Lakisha and Melinda? Or will Lakisha be that surprise elimination when we get down to the Top Six? Either way, no doubt she will survive this week. Again, I have to give her credit tonight for being a bit more demure, but I want some JAM with the next performance!

Blake Lewis gets the Coke Cam pimp spot. He gets another lame question: "what music do you listen to?" Well, that's slightly better. Blake spouts off a litany of bands that none of us are cool enough to have heard before. I recognized a few names, but Blake is obviously on a different plane than the rest of us mere mortals. Blake choose "You Keep Me Hanging On," and I wonder if he'll do the techno Kim Wilde version of it. Either way, I'm all set to like him. He's obviously been shopping in Seacrest's closet again. That must be difficult digging in there, especially since you have to climb over Ryan while you're in there. (End thinly veiled "Ryan Is Gay" joke.) I'm sort of underwhelmed by this performance. It lacks that spirit and spark that I've come to expect from Blake, and it makes me wonder if maybe Mr. Lewis has been style-over-substance from the get-go. You take away his beat-box, his vocal tricks, and you kind of get a plain Jane performance like this. I love his energy, and Blake is, as always the consummate performer, but vocally it ain't there tonight. Randy is torn, and he encourages Blake NOT to make it his own. Next week, he will critique Blake for not making it his own. You watch. Paula goes on a long spiel about how Blake could make that a hit too, and she actually says "you're a real good singer, too." Simon didn't buy it at all, and he correctly points out that we would turn the dial if we heard that on the radio. Simon acknowledges that Blake has the fan base to carry him through, and that's about all we need. Next!

Man, the talent pool has been heavily chlorinated this year!

We're back, and Paula is sitting on Ryan's lap, and with the way she's moving, I'd be surprised if even Ryan wasn't gettin' a little stirrin' goin' on.

Time for Fantasia-lite. Diana tries to make Stephanie Edwards sexy. Diana remembers what sexy was like, back when Kennedy was president and hot pants were fashionable. Stephanie does have a pure voice. I just don't know if she has that "dynamite factor" that will blow me away in the long term. Granted, I like listening to her now, but will I be motivated three years from now to pick up her CD out of the 99 cent bin at the thrift store? Vocally, she's really good tonight, and she really turns it out with the last half of the song. Will we remember enough about her to vote her through to the next round? Randy nails her for forgetting the lyrics, and again that's really inexcusable at this level of the competition. Paula again criticizes Stephanie's technique, encourages her to strive together, and altogether forgets that if Stephanie farted, it would still be a better vocal than anything that Paula had on any of her albums. Simon thought she chose the wrong song and exhorts the Steph to make an impact. She is so not the golden child this year, and that kind of makes me want to see her do better. I kind of wonder if Stephanie might not be this year's Vonzell, a marginal performer who turned it all around and became a superstar by the end of the competition.

Chris Richardson was alleged on some website I was reading today to be a "heart throb." Something's throbbing, but it ain't my heart. It's more like a huge pain in my rear that comes from listening to him. Seriously, which backwater redneck town would Chris ever be a heart throb in? Priscilla describes his walk onto the stage as the "gayest walk I've ever seen. Ryan would be proud." He's going to sing "The Boss" tonight. One interesting fact about Chris: he can't open his eyes any wider than a one millimeter slit. Or at least it appears that way. It makes him look permanently stoned. His nasal pitch and chicken-esque dance should make the ladies in the trailer park swoon, as usual. His voice is undoubtedly the worst of any in this competition, save for Sanjaya. Is this song ever going to end? Priscilla has her ears plugged. Oh thank goodness, it's over. We're saved! Randy thinks he over-did it, in the sense that he sprayed the judges with snot after singing that hard through his nasal cavity. Paula thinks he nailed it, compares him to Dan Hartman (which is apt, considering he is currently decomposing) and obviously has picked out the next contestant she wants to bang her like a Japanese gong. Simon found it dreadful, and he really is the only judge with brains tonight.

I don't care what you say, Emily Deschanel is STILL not hot.

Time for Jordin Sparks, who sounds like an angel in the back room there with Die-ana. I love how sweet she is. I don't for a moment imagine her to be the winner of this competition, but I'm hoping for great things for her. She should form a duo with Lisa Tucker after the tour this year. Jordin sits uncomfortably on the riser, but her voice is silky smooth. I want this CD, and I want it right now. Two words for her voice tonight: GORGE - OUS! This sort of reminds me of Ayla Brown's performance of "Reflection" last year. Spot on, and perfect in almost every way. This is getting really close to Melinda quality. Could you imagine a top three with Jordin, Lakisha, and Melinda in it? I wouldn't mind it so much. I loved this performance. It makes me very happy, and it makes Priscilla clap and bounce. Randy is impressed with her, and he echoes my sentiment about the Three Girl Race. Paula is glowing and she does her best to shove Jordin up into her womb and give birth to her right there. Simon found it gooey, but he thought it was a killer vocal and that she just might be in the finals. Jordin, you go!

The lines are almost open, and my wife Priscilla is looking fine over there...fine enough that I don't watch the recap of people who 90 percent sucked and 10 percent were the best I've heard on Idol since Carrie Underwood., since my sweetie is so cute and might not have time to vote for Idol this time. You guys get your phones and wear it out for me, okay? Vote right, or else I will send a large Italian named Vinny over to your house and have him leave a pair of Paul Kim's underwear in your bed.

If there is any justice in the world, Sanjaya or Haley will go home. My money's on Mr. Malakar.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Jon Peter Lewis on Idol Waves Top 20 Countdown

Hey fans, I know a lot of you have been itching to hear the Jon Peter Lewis interview, so be sure to tune in this Tuesday, March 13, 2007. Not only will we sit down for about a half hour and talk with JPL, but we'll also be featuring a lot of the music off of his debut album. It's a show that's not to miss!

You can hear it online at at 3 a.m., 10:30 a.m., 2:30 p.m. and 8 p.m. Central Standard Time. And don't forget, if you miss it, you can catch the podcast later on. I'll be posting the interview here later on this week, as well as a review of the CD, Stories From Hollywood.


Thursday, March 08, 2007

American Idol: Meet Your Top 12!!

Correct me if I'm wrong, but this is the last of the weeks wherein we are subjected to three nights of show, right? Please say yes! Nothin' but love for Idol, but some of us do have to have lives or a reasonable facsimile thereof. Even if that life does consist of conducting interviews with former Idols. Oh...that so conveniently reminds me to shamelessly plug my upcoming interview on Tuesday with Jon Peter Lewis! How convenient! Idol Waves Radio, same time, same place, and then the obligatory text version right here.

Okay, so it's time to get rid of some of these bozos. I say "bozo" in the most affectionate way that I know how, because I love Idol contestants one and all, but truthfully, I'm ready to narrow the field. That, and I really have no idea which of these contestants I might have to eat my words with, because undoubtedly I'll be friends with the one I hate the most by the end of the season. Kellie, Mikalah, you two continue to haunt me, and I love you both.

We get to start out with a group number, which begins fabulously with Chris Sligh, proceeds horribly with Haley-Bot 2.0, and slides straight through Jared to get to Melinda. The rest is pretty generic until Phil Stacy gets up and causes children to have nightmares by sticking his face in the camera and wiggling it around. This show is not for those of you with heart conditions. Who was it that said Chris Richardson was talented? His vocal tone makes me wonder why I ever thought Kellie Pickler was nasal. I just can't abide him any longer. Sanjaya manages somehow to look slightly more effeminate than Sabrina. Sundance forgot the choreography, or was too busy staring at Antonella's butt, because he's out of step with everyone else, and I have to believe in grave danger of going back home this week.

Wow, who bought Seacrest a tie? Who put it on him? Do you think he found a T-shirt with a starched collar to wear with it? Intro the judges, who are essentially useless tonight, save for the mindless comments they will inevitably make.

37 million votes later, and four people will be culled from this herd, which we are unfortunately subjected to in recap mode again. I liked hearing Blake again. But then they slaughtered my ears with Chris Richardson and Phil Stacy. I don't really care too much to go over what we've already heard. You can scroll down for my recaps of that crap. Sundance got to the point of being annoying with his defense of his "song." Sorry, Sunny, that ain't the way it's supposed to be sung. Just because you say it doesn't make it true.

On to the recap of the girls. Love ya Jordin and Gina! Kinda dug ya Stephanie. Not you, Sabrina. Rosie-bot Scarnato is going home. If there's any justice in the world, so will Antonella Barba. I'm sort of meh about Lakisha...wasn't bad, wasn't great, but she'll make it through. And oh there you are, Melinda!!! Far and away, the best of this whole lot this week!

Hurry up already, Seacrest. Okay...time for one to go. Lights go down. Lakisha and Blake are center stage. Obviously not. Seacrest's tricks are too old by now, and you know they're both in. Chris Sligh is down on the stage, and if he doesn't make it, I'll still buy everything he publishes. And we'll discover that he isn't going home after the break.

Back from the break, and Chris is... DUH safe.

Jordin Sparks better have made it, or I will not watch Idol ever again until Tuesday. She's safe. America shares my opinion so far.

Ah, now it's time for a guy I wouldn't mind seeing get bounced like a rubber ball. Phil's hat is eating his head again. Phil wants to move on, and somehow the cosmos shifted, and after a horrendous performance, he will remain. Until he goes home next week.

Jared Cotter may just be the one hitting the highway. Yup. He's out. Just like that. No teaser, no drama, just pack your crap and get the heck out. Paula's giving him a standing ovation, and she'll have to find someone else to slobber over this year. And it's time for him to sing one more time. I'd buy all of his CDs if he'd just do the Carlton Banks dance (thanks for that comedic gem, all my loyal readers.) Tonight is a lot better than last night, possibly because Jared left the 9th grade math teacher sweater at home. Antonella is crying. Wonder if there are incriminating pictures of the two of them floating around out there somewhere? Paula is dancing, and she should definitely be careful, or else the jiggle twins are gonna each put out an eye on Simon and Randy.

It's time for the "American Idol Challenge." The question is absurdly easy: which Idol has the number 1 album: Ace Young, Kevin Covais, or Chris Daughtry. Unless you've been under a rock lately, you know that Kevin Covais doesn't have an album, Ace Young only has a single, and Daughtry is the most popular thing in the world right now.

Time to see if Brandon and/or Melinda are still in the competition. Fortunately, Brandon and Melinda are both in. Big honkin' DUH.

Gina and Chris come in holding hands, Ryan makes some innuendo which Gina puts the QUICK kibosh on. She glared bloody murder for a second there, and I thought she might kick Seacrest in the chest. I actually would have paid to see that. This chick is super faithful to her boyfriend. And they're both through. Chris Richardson sucks, but I guess I'll have fun making fun of him next week. (I wonder if he'll be the one I have to apologize to....)

Before filling the remaining seats, we get a retrospective on Carrie Underwood, who may or may not be the most successful Idol ever. (Sorry, Kelly!) She's certainly doing the best right now. I love me some Carrie. Always have, always will. I was a Care Bear the whole way through season 4. I haven't yet met the young starlet, even though we have more than our fair share of mutual friends, but I trust some day our paths will cross. Tonight she's going to be singing her newest single, "Wasted." Speaking of wasted, she's slimmed up quite a bit, hasn't she? Don't get me wrong, she's good looking, but I like my Carrie with a bit of meat on the bones. I've loved this song for a long time. Man, this makes me long for season 4. Without a doubt, the best season ever. I miss Lindsey, Mikalah, Scott, Bo, Nikko, Nadia, Anwar, Anthony, Vonzell, Jessica, Amanda, Celena Rae, Sarah Mather, Jaclyn Crum, and all those season 4 people. Not a one of them that I hate. I guess I'll have to be satisfied with seeing a lot of them at the Reality Convention this year. Nice job, Carrie.

I still sort of wish that they'd give the judges another crack at her, if only just for show. It would be oddly nostalgic.

Okay, now for that special announcement, which, if it's that there's a songwriting contest, is stupid, because they announced that already.

Three places left, and who knows (or cares) which of these will go home. It's the middle of the show, so someone's going home out of this set. Antonella or Stephanie... no big shock, it's Antonella going home. So much for kicking her around. I sort of feel sorry for her, but I sort of don't. I mean, she IS young and a bit naive. Hopefully this will teach her a little bit about how to act in the future. She sort of slumps, starts to sing, and I can only imagine how difficult it must be to sing when you're deflated and about to cry. Still, this is probably the last time a nation-wide audience will see her, so it would be good if she could really wear it out. Unfortunately, that's not the type of girl she is, and this is probably the last we'll ever see of the young Miss Barba.

Ryan kicks her off the stage, and Haley and Sabrina go to the judgment ring. No doubt it's Haley going home. Or not... Wow? I guess Sabrina's song was just slightly more forgettable than I thought last night. Ryan says this is the most intense episode he's ever seen. Um...? No. Randy feels that Sabrina got shafted. I didn't see her as a winner by any means, but I liked her a ton better than Haley Roboto. To Sabrina's credit, she puts on her best smile and struggles through the En Vogue song yet again. Haley is absolutely gobsmacked and puffy-eyed, either because Sabrina is going home or because she knew who it really should've been and almost was. See ya in the indies, Sabrina. I was with you before anybody knew you, and I'll keep checking you out.

After the break, that elusive special announcement (you know, the one that will cause the Earth to begin revolving backwards on its axis?? or better, after all the pimping they've been giving it??)

Looks like they're saving Sundance or Sanjaya's elimination for last. I suppose Sundance is the lesser of two evils, but quite frankly, I'm not impressed with either of them.

Tonight is Idol's 200th episode. And it's time for the BIG ANNOUNCEMENT and Idol is going to "give back." Simon and Ryan went on a trip to Africa. Wow, Simon looks almost cuddly! The rough, gruff Mr. Cowell is actually a soft-hearted humanitarian, and it's actually quite fascinating to see this side of him. Simon almost sounds like he wants to cry. Randy and Paula are going to go to Louisiana to visit the victims of Hurricane Katrina. I know this is a bunch of sappy stuff, but it's really a nice change of pace. Awww, I'm really liking this. And the whole thing with the judges being softies and stuff? Positively Twilight Zone... April 24th and 25th will be the "inspirational song" theme night. (You hear that, Chris Sligh? Freebie night for you, buddy.) For each vote you cast, a contribution will be made to the charities. The Top 6 will be performing a brand new Quincy Jones song during group performance on elimination night. For some reason, Borat will be there along with Gwen Stefani, Bono, Annie Lennox, and several others who will show up for the benefit, so that we will all know that they Care(TM). Wow...not a bad announcement after all. Kudos, Nigel!

So now it's down to Sanjaya and Sundance. I picked Sundance to win the whole thing early on. I'm thinking that I just might be wrong.

Who walks away with the biggest payday on Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader? My guess is Jeff Foxworthy.

Decision time. Sundance is going home. Sanjaya doesn't deserve to be there, but neither does Mr. Head. From best of show, to worst of the bunch, his star fell mightily. You other Idols in your cushy little Top 12 seats take note. THIS is what happens when you turn in one really bad performance. This means you, Haley. And you, Sanjaya. You better pack a lunch next time you take the stage, own that bad boy, and rock our butts off, or you too will be flying coach back to whatever backwater boro you emerged from.

Don't forget, keep it here for my interview with Jon Peter Lewis! I'll be posting lots of good stuff between now and Tuesday.