Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Top 10/11 - I Guess That's Why They Call It A Snooze

Are we seriously so light on material that we have to watch a musical montage recap of last week's show? We watched it, Seacrest! Just start today's show! Ugh, this is the worst kind of pandering, and I like Casey.  But seriously? We've just been given a stark white title card saying: HOPE HAS BEEN RENEWED (in serious Courier font) followed by NO MORE SECOND CHANCES.  Yeah, we get it. BECAUSE WE WATCH THE SHOW.

Tonight's theme is Elton John (or possibly Alan Parkinson, based on this early clip, but I don't think he sings).  Well, it's great that AI is keeping things so current.  I venture to guess that only 15% of the Idol wannabes could even name a song of his. But that doesn't matter right now, because we have to watch the kids go for a photo shoot. I do not care about this, and can't be bothered to recap it.

OK, singing.  Scotty's opening, and he picks the one Elton John song that has "country" in the title, "Country Comforts." I don't know this song, but at least Scotty's playing guitar, which protects us from his awkward meat hands on the mike. This sounds just like everything Scotty sings, and it's hard to imagine Elton John ever singing it. Once again, he does a good job, but I'm bored out of my mind.  I wish Scotty had dressed up in one of Elton's old outfits.  J.Lo likes it (I think--got a text from Gordon that said only "Maw," and I was distracted while trying to decipher it).  Randy praises Scotty for so quickly becoming relaxed on the show, giving little shout-outs to his grandma in the audience and playing like he's at the local bar.  Steven liked it too, but I lost his comment in the "Maw" confusion. (Still don't know what he means.)

Naima is up next. She looks good in her photo shoot (and maybe got her teeth fixed a little?). Elton John is...not going to be a huge stretch for her, presentation-wise.  She's doing a reggae version of "I'm Still Standing." This will either be awesome or terrible.  She opens by dedicating the song to "all the people around the world who struggle but are still standing," which would have been more moving if we hadn't just watched Jimmy Iovine prompt her to do so in rehearsal.  Also, she's singing in a put-on Jamaican accent thicker than a pina colada (mon).  Despite all the affectation, I actually like this version! But it's so slowed down that the audience is having trouble getting enthused--wonder if that'll hurt her? J.Lo loves Naima's "reggae swag," but isn't convinced that this song was the one to do it with. She didn't feel it paid off, but loved Naima's performance. Randy agrees, claims he loves reggae, but found it corny.  (The audience boos, but none of them were cheering during the song, so they can shut their pie holes.)  Steven says "Boom Shakalakalaka, baby!" And praises her for picking a song that fit her. I guess that means...he likes it? Hard to say.

Allow me to take this commercial break to crow a little: today I have a New York Times bestseller! Candace Camp's historical romance, AN AFFAIR WITHOUT END, hit the list today.  Yay! I am very pleased, since the first two in the series only hit the extended list.  It's a great opposites-attract romance!

We're back, and there's something going on with Taio Cruz inviting people to cowrite with him or something? I don't care. Gordon has explained "Maw." Meant to be "naw." And I can't text him more because he's at work, and the show "White Collar" is currently filming in the museum, and every time I text back Gordon's Droid makes a loud alert noise that he hasn't learned how to turn off yet! Heh.

OK, Paul is our next victim, and he'll be singing "Rocket Man." He's back in the Nudie suit, which is as close to an Elton John ensemble as we're going to get tonight, I think. Paul's nasal squeaky thing kind of works here, and he's playing the guitar again so he doesn't hop all over the stage. I can get behind this, even though there are places where I can't understand a damn word he's singing. Paul is an acquired taste, to say the least.  The audience isn't as rabid as they have been in the past, but I think they liked it.  Randy begins and describes it as "quiet comfort," but there were pitchy spots, too. He likes Paul's "tender" side--and then J.Lo interrupts to agree that Paul's voice has more range than even Paul knows. Steven asks if Paul has been watering his suit, since he thinks there are more roses this week. Steven likes the "character" of Paul's voice, by which he means Paul's inaccuracy of pitch. He's not wrong--they can autotune all that in post. Now Steven is just panting and alarming J.Lo, so we'll wrap up.

If any of you Twitter types are not following @bronxzoocobra, you are missing out.  The cobra is touring NYC and tweeting all of it (asked today if Whole Foods carried organic mice), and is hilarious. I figure he'll have a book deal by Friday. Even funnier, @AmericanExpress just tweeted @bronxzoocobra offering their services with reservations, hotel, etc. MetaTwitter!

Glamorous Pia will be singing "Don't Let the Sun Go Down On Me." She admits that she was worried about doing another ballad when the judges told her not to, but she loves the song. Jimmy I. says she has to "crush it," going "somewhere between Fergie and Axl Rose." I have absolutely no idea what terrain is described by those limits.  Ooh, she is very sparkly! Short spangly dress, heels for days. She still can't move and sing at the same time, though--she does her knees-together squat that I've just realized is basically the famous "Bunny Dip" from the old Playboy Clubs.  (No, I don't know from personal experience. I've read my Gloria Steinem!) She sounds good, and hits her killer notes, but honestly, I was more interested in her dress than her song. Steven jumps in to say that she did it...and then there's something about crying inside, and the notes she chooses to sing, and I sort of lost the plot.  J.Lo felt it as well, and appreciated Pia's efforts to reach the audience (though J.Lo begs her to work on stomping a foot next time). Randy refudiates like Sarah Palin and insists that he LOVED all those ballads, and he doesn't know what Jimmy I. is talking about.

I had Leftover Combo for dinner tonight, but it was awesome! I basically made migas--took the turkey taco meat & rice from last night, stirred in scrambled egg & sliced red pepper from brunch a couple of days ago, wrapped in leftover tortillas and voila! I feel so multi-culti. Also full. Yum.

Ugh, time for boring Stefano, who'll be singing "Tiny Dancer." I don't really like this song, which is not Stefano's fault. Jimmy doesn't seem to like it, but in his case I think it is Stefano's fault. He's really working Stefano over in rehearsal. Stefano is accompanied by a man playing a shiny red piano, which is more exciting than any of Stef's performances thus far. Also, can we explain his hair? It comes to a point in the middle that is supposed to suggest "fauxhawk," but is drifting into "Ed Grimley." Hee--my author friend Susan just tweeted: "OMG Stefano IS the tiny dancer!" It's true. Ugh, he winds up at the judges' stand, shaking their hands. Cheesy.  J.Lo thinks that he finally connected with the audience, though, and loved it. Randy agrees--basically, he loved that Stefano finally opened his eyes. Aim high, people. And Steven? Points out that Stefano can trend a little Broadway (which is actually pretty cogent for him), but he didn't think it was an issue at all.  Go, Stefano, I guess. (You're still boring.)

Ugh, Howie Mandel is here plugging that idiotic "Mobbed" show. His voice hurts my ears.  Let's move on to Lauren.  She got a very sparkly makeover, and is going to sing "Candle in the Wind," which means that I lost my wager that CITW would be tomorrow's group sing.  She starts out working the twang hard, and also sounding a little off-key.  However, her styling is cute, and she actually looks her age for once, instead of like a 47-year-old realtor! I'll take it. Ooh, I'm actually really liking this--she's pretty restrained, but working her dynamics a lot, and using the whiskey quality of her voice to great effect. I could see that really working as a country cover. The crowd thinks so, the judges? Yes! Randy says it's one of the greatest songs ever, and one of the greatest Lauren performances! Steven says "Lauren Alaina, I've loved you since the first moment you laid eyes on me." Heh. Well played, Steven. Thanks for coming tonight. He loves it too--and then makes a gently off-color remark about her short skirt. J.Lo loves it too, and thinks she's finally delivering on the promise of her Hollywood week. Well done!

So, non-Idol much do you think e-books should cost, and why? For obvious reasons, publishers are obsessed with this question, and recently there's been more print vs. e-book debating in the news than ever before.  (See Amanda Hocking and Barry Eisler for more on that.)  One of the challenges we're facing is that people who self-publish can price their wares at whatever they like (including free), while publishers bound by the "agency model" have pretty much agreed to price their e-books equivalently to their print editions. 99-cent e-books sell more volume, but do they devalue an author's effort? Do you buy e-books? Do you have a "price point" beyond which you won't buy a book, or prefer to buy it in print? Share your thoughts in the comments, please!

James talks about how Idol has allowed him to meet some legends, and then we cut to the Hulk Hogan footage that we JUST SAW AT THE BEGINNING OF THE SHOW ENOUGH PEOPLE WE GET IT.  Whew! Sorry.  OK, Buttscarf is singing "Saturday Night's All Right" and has big dreams about how he's going to come through the audience to do it. Jimmy is actually teaching him good things about how it's not as simple as that--you have to be able to get to center stage in time for the song's climax. (I confess I hadn't thought of that.) James starts at the back of the stage, atop the stairs, and it turns out there's a whole balcony of fans there! He walks down the stairs, does a rock "leap," and is beginning to bug.  Given how much running around he's doing, it seems churlish to say that he feels a little restrained here, but it actually feels phoned in to me. Sorry, dude. Sensibly, he skipped the Buttscarf tonight--probably a tripping hazard. HOLY CRAP THEY JUST SET FIRE TO THE PIANO. OK, the pyrotechnics are impressive, but that is a) not singing and b) stacking the deck a bit unfairly, show! The judges don't share my opinion, however--they loved the performance, loved the effects, loved it all.  Heh--Ryan asks James if he was nervous, and he says "Only about all my hairspray. Didn't want to have a Pepsi moment." Ryan points out, "Show's sponsored by Coca-Cola."

Time for Thia Megia, our youngest contestant (as we are reminded). She's chosen "Daniel," and Jimmy tells her to be poignant, intimate, and not overdramatic. She explains to us that the song is meaningful to her, because her older brother moved away and she cried a lot. Sigh. I begin to think that she is just...not that deep. Out she comes, and she looks good, but I think her performance still feels insincere.  One of my Twitter Idol pals says, "Give her a Disney Channel show already," and that's exactly right. She is talented and polished and soulless in the same way as Selena Gomez or Demi Lovato. [Side note: on Mark Maron's podcast last week, he interviewed a guy named Bobby Slayton, who appeared on Demi Lovato's TV show. He came right out and said that Demi was an excellent singer, but an absolute monster of a child.] Anyway, what did the judgery think? Well, J.Lo loved it, and thinks Thia had a moment. Randy's less excited--liked that it was a little more relaxed, but felt it was still safe (i.e. BORING). Steven thinks she "sang a great Elton John song well." Which sounds good, but she didn't even get a "beautiful" out of him, so how good was she really? As Ryan throws to commercial, Thia gives her brother a shout-out, saying, "I love you, Clia." Seriously? Her brother is named Clia Megia? I now hate this family. [Update: I have to take it back. Twitter informs me that she was saying "Kuya," which is Filipino for "brother." So now I'm a surly racist. My apologies.]

Ooh, my local Fox affiliate is teasing the 10 o'clock news with "which American Idol romance is heating up?" I have no idea...out of all these people, who would be the couple? Thia and Casey? Ryan and Stefano?

Casey's photo shoot is basically a series of disturbing faces, and then he smugs off to Jimmy Iovine to watch last week's performance. Jimmy asks, "Do you know what was wrong with that performance?" and Casey responds, "Um...some things?" "Everything!" Jimmy shouts at him.  Then they get down to work, practicing "My Song." Also, they urge him to ditch the beard. There's a whole bit at a barber shop, but sure enough, Casey's still got the beard when we see him onstage. They trimmed it up nicely, though, and he looks a lot better--less like a crazy person. He's sitting on a stool, accompanied by a pianist on the red piano, which seems to have survived its Viking funeral. This is another one of those songs that I don't particularly like, but I think it's a good choice, and Casey's doing a nice job with it--kept it really restrained until the very end, when he does his screamy thing a little. I suspect this will put him back in the hunt.  Randy opens by telling us that the judges made "one of the greatest saves" ever last week, and that the intimacy of this performance was terrific. Steven agrees, loved it, and says that if he'd only heard the last two notes of Casey's song, that would be enough. Randy feels that he's being overshadowed by Steven, so throws in a bullshit question about, "That last note you sang, what was that, a major 9?" Shut up, Randy.  J.Lo says that she's lost sleep over many of the hard decisions she's made on the show (jeez, lady, it's not the Libyan crisis), but this was not one of them. Everybody loves Casey again. Yay!

Next, Ryan promises us a "softer, gentler Jacob." But didn't we get that last week? (Also, every week, he announces Jacob and I go, "Who?" That can't bode well for him.)

They're still showing "Black Swan" ads around here. Have you all seen it? Anyone following the recent kerfuffle over whether Natalie did her own dancing? The dance double spoke up and complained that the studio told her not to talk to the press, and that Natalie never thanked her when accepting any of her awards, even though said dancer did about 85% of the dancing (she claims). Natalie's fiance/choreographer/baby daddy says, "Nuh-uh! Natalie did most of it, except for the footwork and the turns." (Um, isn't that basically the dancing?) But honestly, do we care? Yes, there was all the press about her training, but I read that as "She basically worked out 6 hours a day and starved herself so that she'd look like a ballerina," which she did. And I think she got the awards for acting, not for dancing--so what's the big deal? Still, it would have been courteous of her to thank the dancer in her speeches, even if she didn't say for what.

OK, Jacob. Heh--his rehearsal footage is funny, because he's doing "Sorry is the Hardest Word to Say," which he knows not as an Elton John song, but as a Mary J. Blige song. While Jimmy is lecturing Jacob, the producer cuts him off to say, "I'm so sorry, but Mary J. Blige is in the shot." Whaaa? Yes, just so happens that she showed up in the room. But Jacob is thrilled, and why shouldn't he be? Good for him.  (Mary, to be honest, doesn't seem to care, but is willing to pose for a picture or two.)  But will he really be restrained? The effects aren't--the lights come up on Jacob in a cloud of fog, as though he's standing on a cloud. (Careful, Jacob--that fog juice makes the stage really slippery!) He makes it through a verse being genuinely restrained, but here we are at the Jacob Special: Wailing, Screaming, Vibrato and Tears. Oh, and a glory note held for about an hour and a half. Meh. J.Lo loved it and praises him for making it his own. Randy, however, loved the restrained moment, but urges him to pick that one spot (and he emphasizes one about seven times) to make a statement (a la Pia), rather than two minutes' worth of vocal pyrotechnics. Steven...did he say anything? I forget. Jacob didn't wear a short skirt, so I guess Steven didn't care.

Haley gets the pimp spot this week! Wonder if they're going to throw her a bone at last by putting her where people will remember her.  She looks good in her photo shoot, but her dress is too old for her.  Haley's going to sing "Benny and the Jets." Jimmy's advice, "Every week, some part of you has been missing. We want to put all those parts in the same car and drive it to the show." Um, thanks? Oh, man...we begin with Haley reclining on top of the piano like a showgirl, and I already don't care how she sounds.  It starts croony, then goes growly, and by the end she's screaming, and I hate it. She tries this sad "get the crowd going" move, waving her arms and shouting "c'mon!", but it's still labored. I am in the minority, though, because J.Lo is cheering and shouting "That was IT, Haley!" She loved it. Randy did, too, declaring it the best of the night.  Steven says, "Goes to show you what a well-placed chorus will do. You. Sing. Sssssexy." Ick, for a variety of reasons. I guess I just hate her empirically. Sorry, Haley. Best of luck.

And that's it! Huh, makes you appreciate Elton John, because I always thought I liked him, but this was a dull night. I think his songs may be a lot harder to perform than they appear. So who's going home? It's starting to get harder to predict the losers, and after last week I don't have a lot of confidence in my opinions...but I think our bottom three will be Thia, Stefano and Naima.  And the two cuts...Thia and Naima? Maybe? Could be anyone, really. My favorites tonight were Casey and Lauren, my two early picks for front runner. Don't let me down, little quirkies!

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