Category Archives: Talent

American Idol, Feb. 2 – Honoring the Dads in St. Louis

Have we met this year’s American Idol yet? If not, we only have one more city of auditions to do so. St. Louis is the last of the auditions, meaning, if we don’t meet the winner here, it was one of the other warblers we were already introduced to. Who do you think it will be? Any early guesses? Or would you rather wait and see what St. Louis has to offer?

Interestingly, before the auditions begin, the show reminisces a little bit, taking us back to season four in Oklahoma where we first met Carrie Underwood … on her tractor. She went to St. Louis to audition. They ask us if we’re glad she made the trip, and I think that’s a rhetorical question, as they also show all the awards, albums, and appearances she’s done since winning the crown.

Walter the taxi driver drives around, talking about the congestion the audtions has created. He read about it awhile back, that this was going to happen. He figures auditioning beats the hell out of working. Yeah. That is, in case your job is writing about the other people who are auditioning.

The first contestant up is Johnny Keyser, 22, a server from Pompano Beach, FL, who has lived with his dad since his parents divorced when he was three. He thinks he’s a good mom and dad, as his dad has to admit he does make a mean PB&J. They go out on the boat together, and sometimes they’re more like brothers. He sings A Change Is Gonna Come, and it’s apparent his dad has raised a very good singer.

Jennifer Lopez has to interrupt the song to ask how old Johnny is and what he’s doing right now. She asks if he knows he’s going to be a star, then tells him to keep singing. Steven Tyler asks what he thinks when he sees the show, and Johnny admits he thinks he can do that. There’s no sense in drawing it out. He’s going to Hollywood. He just might be my favorite so far. J-Lo thinks he’s sexy. Take THAT Marc Anthony.

It’s more reminiscing. Not only were we treated to reliving Carrie’s audition at the beginning of the show, but now we get to do the same with William Hung, the Statue of Liberty guy, and more. This leads into a silent movie treatment of tonight’s auditioners who are better seen than heard. This includes David Coleman, 28, a seminary student from St. Louis Park, MN. What makes it very amusing is the sub-titles they use. They’re very formal sounding, except for adding in Dawg to Randy and Baby to J-Lo. Amusingly, the editors choose to un-mute and add color to Steven’s “What the …”

How can this be? In a collage of auditioners who Ryan Seacrest claims all have a story to tell, one girl says her parents auditioned in season 4. What? I have to do the math to figure this out. That was seven years ago. Technically, they could have been 29 then, meaning they’re now 36. If she’s 15 or 16, that would mean they were 20 or 21 when she was born. Alright, it could happen. It has to be the first multi-generational auditioner.

Rachelle Lamb, 26, in the construction industry in Mountain View, MO, is doing the show for her daughter and herself. She’s going through a divorce and feels her husband held her back from her dreams. There seems to be a theme of that this season. She wants to show her daughter to not let anyone hold her back, and wants her to know she should always chase her dream, as “Mommy will always be behind you.” She walks in for the audition with her daughter Maddy holding her hand. I do believe Steven even has a way with the really, really young ladies.

Rachelle sings Find Somebody New, a song her husband didn’t like, and her daughter jams along with her doing a little country dance. Mommy sings pretty good. Steven thinks she sings great and has a great sense of melody. He also enjoys her moxie. J-Lo appreciates her energy and passion, and Randy is impressed, telling Maddy that Mommy is good. It’s three yeses for Maddy and Mommy going to Hollywood.

Walter is still driving around discussing the show, as he mentions it’s just 20,000 people with good pipes. Oliver McCrary, 27, a musician from Minneapolis, MN, is not one of the 20,000. Apparently he had said somewhere in his notes “music is my wife.” Randy thinks his wife will be looking for a divorce. After more bad auditions, the judges hold hands and try to channel some good energy.

Reis Kloeckener, 20, a student/pizza maker from St. Louis, mentions it was difficult for him growing up in high school, as he was pushed around and bullied. He came from a small Lutheran school into this huge public school, and was so small and young that people thought they could take advantage of him. He debated dropping out, and was singing in the hallway when a teacher told him to try out for choir. He did and found friends, support, and confidence.

American Idol, Feb. 1 – Portland Shows Some Character

Admittedly the auditions so far haven’t knocked anyone’s socks off. Yet they’re also going by very quickly. This is the last week already. Usually by the time we get to the last week, it seems as if they have dragged on forever. This must be because of an increased effort to not focus on the bad auditions. They seem to be following suit with the other talent shows.

The judges, Steven Tyler, Jennifer Lopez, and Randy Jackson, are in Portland, Oregon, tonight to see what they have to offer. Host Ryan Seacrest mentions that you never know who or what they will find here with such an eclectic mix of auditioners.

First up is Brittany Zika, 21, a nanny and social media tech from Portland, who had a dream that she was on stage with Sara Bareilles singing Gravity. She was bummed to wake up and find it was just a dream. For her birthday, she got two tickets to a soldout concert of Sara’s, and took along a homemade sign asking Sara to sing Gravity with her. Sara read it and allowed her onstage with her to sing. From that moment on, she knew she needed to follow all her dreams. She trips walking in to see the judges, and Steven quips, “Did you fall for me?” recognizing that he is too young to be saying things that make him seem that old.

Brittany sings The Story, and has a delightful delivery in her voice, one that is very unique. Jennifer tells her she has one of the prettiest voices they’ve heard. What Randy loves is that she looks nothing like she sounds. She takes off her glasses and says she isn’t as nerdy as they make her seem. He requests that she take off her hat too, and as she does and shakes out her hair, Randy turns into a horn dawg and asks her to take her boots off. It’s three yeses (to Hollywood, not taking her boots off), and she asks if it’s for real, wanting to make sure they weren’t just playing a trick on the girl who tripped.

Maybe I spoke too soon about them not focusing on the bad auiditions. The next one up is Ben Purdom, 18, a cable TV salesman from Philadelphia, who spends most of his time blowing his nose and wiping it, saying he’s not feeling good. He tries out his cable TV sales pitch on Ryan, who tells him if his singing is anywhere near his pitch … then sends him in front of the judges. He tells them he sang for his one of his coworkers one day, who they said he knows talent when he sees it and wanted him to audition.

Ben sings an unrecognizable Born This Way, and it seems like maybe his coworker was putting him on. Jennifer gives an “aye aye aye.” He stops once the notes get too high, then launches into Super Bass, just as unrecognizable. Randy admits that in the craziest, weirdest way, it was actually better, but still terrible. Much of it is bleeped out, but Steven tells Randy to take the rubber band off something and lay off. Jennifer tells Ben he’s cute, but he already knows it’s a no, which it is. He blames this on him being sick. Right, that’s what the trouble was.

Jermaine Jones, 24, a music teacher from Pine Hill, NJ, mentions that his family is all music. He began singing in church when he was young. It’s his life; he eats it, he breathes it, he sleeps it. He’s also a Mama’s Boy. The night his mom delivered him, she did a whole church service and a concert, so he came out singing. The gift God has placed in them is amazing, and she thinks the world needs to know it. He feels it’s his turn. Randy asks how tall he is, and his reply is “6’8-1/2″, and don’t take away my 1/2.”

Jermaine sings Superstar, and everything he and his mom said about the influence of music on his life is absolutely correct. He feels it through every inch of his body. That’s apparent. Randy tells him when he showed his dynamics with the low, the power, and the softness; he loved it. J-LO calls it a natural gift you don’t hear every day. Steven recognizes his spiritual sound and says it took him away. He also recognizes he’s really nervous, yet he still heard the song through that, making him realize Jermaine has the gift. Jennifer also wants him to loosen up a bit. Regardless, he gets three yeses, and barely makes his head through the doorway on the way out without having to duck. When he calls his mom, he thinks her shouting in excitement is going to break the speaker on the phone.

On day 2, J-Lo is late, because she is missing her black tights. She borrows some from a crew member after Ryan jokes about taking them, and the show is ready to start.

Britnee Kellogg, 27, a banker from Vancouver, WA, has a whole entourage with her, including her two little boys. She was always told she couldn’t do it, but her little boys think she’s the next American Idol. Explaining to the judges why she’s there, she starts to cry and says she has two beautiful boys, and was married, but her husband held her back from what she wanted to do. He’s pursuing his dreams as a basketball player, then started pursuing other women too.

Fittingly, Britnee sings You’re No Good, with Steven recognizing her sense of humor. She’s not only gorgeous, but has a gorgeous voice as well. J-Lo seems to feel every bit of these words along with her. Randy likes her attitude and vibe, and J-Lo agrees, also mentioning Britnee’s rasp and tone. She gets three yeses, as Randy tells her to keep the passion. Before she leaves, she asks J-Lo how it is being a mom when so many people tell you if you’re a mom you can’t do this and leave your kids. J-Lo tells her you never leave your kids. J-Lo’s kids are here with her too. You have to be happy so that your kids are happy. Amen, Sister.

Season 2 of The Voice Preview – Grab the Popcorn!

It almost reads like a script for sugar free gum.

Three out four judges from NBC’s hit series The Voice say that this season, Adam Levine will not be the one to have mentored the winning contestant.

Christina Aguilera, Cee Lo Green and Blake Shelton all insist that this year’s winner will come from their team. And just like that fourth dentist, Adam no doubt disagrees.

What they all do agree on is that the second season of The Voice, premiering Feburary 5th, right after the Super Bowl, will be bigger, better, more focused and leave last season in the dust. Aguilera says they are going to “Up the ante.”

Well, what would you expect them to say?

Not that Season one was anything to complain about.

Over 11 million viewers tuned in to see what singers the above stars would press the button for, turning their seats around to try and get that aspiring star to join their team. If you were like me, there were probably more than a couple of times where you yelled at the TV screen for someone to hit the dang button already, often throwing food at your TV in the process. (Use popcorn folks, never raisinets!)

This time, it sounds like we’re going to need a bigger bowl of popcorn.

The judges will each get twelve contestants to work with. We’ll see more of the Blind Auditions and the judges promising to be more critical.

However, unlike other singing competitions and talent shows, The Voice isn’t known for the Judges skewering their contestants.

The Voice is far more about mentoring singers than it is about criticism. They’re invested in finding artists whose performances really speak to them, not obnoxious divas who talk back, or nutcases who think auditioning in a banana suit is going to get them their fifteen minutes of fame. In the Blind Auditions, it’s never a question of if the singer will be good, but rather how good. Or rather, what size goose bumps will we get when we hear their voices for the first time?

We aren’t subjected to people who saunter in, screech a song in every key but the right one and then stand there dumbfounded when the judges tell them that they sounded like a cat getting electrolysis and then walk out with a camera following them, bleeping their incredulousness as they go.

No, on The Voice, the judges seem to genuinely care about their charges. Usually the only mean things said are towards one another, like Blake Shelton saying Cee Lo Green “dresses like a peacock.”

And while last year’s winner Javier Colon hasn’t exactly become as successful as the show itself, that doesn’t mean that we won’t see the birth of a superstar. More than a few artists who started on reality shows have gone on to some pretty successful carriers. In fact, at least two alumni from other singing competitions are planning on stopping by.

Blake Shelton has managed to nab his wife, Miranda Lambert, as well as Kelly Clarkson, while Christina Aguilera has netted Jewel and the iconic Lionel Ritchie. Adam Levine has recruited Alanis Morissette and Robin Thicke. Cee Lo Green manages to round it out with Kenny “Babyface” Edmonds and Ne-Yo.

In addition to all of that, Christina Milian will be joining returning host Carson Daley as the new Social media Correspondent. So this season will certainly have its share of star power.

Of course, that’s to say nothing of the new singers that we’re about to discover. Me? I’m ready to feel those goose bumps. And I’ll have plenty of popcorn to throw. So sit down, take a handful and get ready for The Voice, season two.

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American Idol, Jan. 22 – Rock Star, Dawg, and Fly Girl on the USS Midway

Well, this is a really nice extra for this weekend, ending it up with an episode of American Idol. Well, it should have been, but the football game ran an hour too long, so this episode of American Idol is actually keeping us all up a little later than we planned. Hopefully the talent in San Diego tonight will be exciting enough to keep us all awake.

For the first time ever, the auditions aren’t taking place in a hotel or other big building. They’re being held inside an aircraft carrier, the USS Midway. It was decommissioned in 1992, and has since been a museum. Steven Tyler asks how the show is going to top last year and thinks this could be the answer. With Danger Zone from Top Gun playing in the background, we’re introduced to “Rock Star,” “Dawg,” “Fly Girl,” and “Ryan (not very creative there),” the judges and host for tonight’s show.

First up for the day is Jennifer Diley, 19, a sushi bar waitress from Columbus, OH, who calls herself a patriot, All-American, and perfect. She’s in hot pants and a tube top. If singing weren’t her passion, she’d be working with animals or kids. When she walks into the room, she is hoping to shock the judges, and isn’t worried about the female vote of Jennifer Lopez, as she wants to get two votes, not one. Ryan watches her ass walk up the stairs and asks for her to do it a second time, just to watch her again. Randy Jackson asks what she’s wearing. Since it’s American Idol and hot today, she though she could tan at the same time. Steven puts on his flying goggles to inspect it better, and asks if she knows it’s against the law to be that cute. Seriously, does that line work on the groupies?

Jennifer sings With You, and isn’t bad, but definitely isn’t American Idol quality. Steven thinks she lacks some fire that her getup has. Randy agrees that if you come in dressed like that, you have to blow them away. Jennifer Lopez informs her that even if she were dressed from head to toe, it wouldn’t matter, as her voice still has to be up to par with everyone else. She offers to sing again, and Randy makes a deal with her that if it’s not good, they won’t comment, and she’ll just go away. J-Lo winces when Jennifer sings again, and Randy doesn’t seem thrilled either. It seems worse. She gets blank stares and leaves.

As Steven works on his limericks, Ashley Robles, 26, an insurance account manager from San Diego, discusses life as a single mom. Her daughter is 5 years old, and she admits taking up to five jobs at one point trying to support her. The young girl tells Ryan she’s going to be on the show with her mom and be her dancer. Asked by the judges what she likes to sing to her daughter, Ashley tells them J-Lo’s On the Floor. For the judges, she sings I will Always Love You and is a raw talent, but has some nice things there to work with. When she belts it out, she hits it on the mark.

Randy tells Ashley it was very nice, and asks where she’s ben all this time. She says she was at home being a mom. He feels her; she’s got that great voice and is a natural. Steven tells her she’s going to be big. On a count of three they give her a big quick yes. She’s going to Hollywood. Ashley’s daughter covers her ears when the screaming starts, then holds her mom’s golden ticket and says, “I’m going to Hollywood.”

Jayrah Gibson, 25, of Long Beach, CA, is a songwriter and has the worlds, and hopefully the voice too. He has no B Plan, because if you put your energy into that, you won’t succeed. He has just one goal, and that’s to succeed. His life goal is to be an artist, meaning the next American Idol. He tells the judges he wrote “Miss Jennifer” a song called Shake Your Moneymaker. He sings a little bit of it. For his audition, he’ll be singing Just Friends, and has a decent voice. Randy thinks he’s mad, mad good, and appreciates his soft R&B sound. Steven thought he was the whole ball of wax, and J-Lo is looking forward to hearing him sing more melodic songs. He gets three yeses and is in.

Aubree Dieckmeyer, 20, a receptionist from San Clemente, CA, is at the auditions with her parents and little sister. She appreciates her mom supporting her in her dream of being … “America’s Next Top Model.” Umm, wrong audition, Honey. She can’t even figure out that it should really be “American Idol,” no matter how many tries she gets. She sings Feeling Good, and is actually quite suited for being an American Idol, even if she has that Freudian Slip of wanting to be the next Top Model.

J-Lo loves all three parts of Aubree’s voice as well as the runs. Randy loves her voice too, but thinks she loses a little power in the upper range. She needs to naturally connect it with her voice. Steven tells her he hasn’t heard anyone sing with that flavor in her voice. She did go upstairs and it was then, then went up again and nailed it full on. J-Lo loves everything about her. It’s four yeses, as Aubree votes herself in as well.

Ali Shields, 19, of Lodi, CA, has been on TV before; she was on the Ellen DeGeneres Show after writing a song for her. Ellen then sent her to the American Music Awards to interview celebrities. She then got her first kiss from Mike Posner, and by that I mean her first ever, and her second by Usher. Ryan then takes her around the ship kissing men for numbers three and four.

Ali tells Randy she’s so happy because she likes Steven. She decides to rap for the judges, and Randy cracks up. He asks for ghetto dancing and gets it, embarrassing poor Ali. She sings Like a Star for her audition and has a very unique tone. J-Lo cracks she can sing a little. Randy likes her as does everyone else and she gets in and does more ghetto dancing for Randy. She’s hoping to make kiss number five Steven. It looks like that will have to wait for Hollywood week though.

At the beginning of day two, Steven says he can’t wait to hear forty people sing the same Adele song for six [bleep] hours. I’m guessing Kyle Crews, 19, of San Diego, won’t be singing Adele. He’s in college and belongs to a fraternity, and talks about playing pool and serenading all the pretty girls he sees. His fraternity brother considers him a ladies man. The only thing Kyle can think of just before his audition is Jennifer and her lips.

Obviously still focused on the lips, Kyle sings Angel of Mine, and dedicates it to J-Lo. He sings to her jjust like she’s a sorority girl. Steven tells him he’s the best male voice they’ve heard yet, and Kyle actually covers up his mouth in shock. Randy tells him it’s crazy, and J-Lo tells him it was good. Randy mentions that Kyle sounds nothing like he looked like he would. Kyle admits to the judges that he does struggle with his confidence sometimes. Steven is already seeing, “Kyle Crews, American Idol,” but he does want him to lose the plaid shirt and work on the look. He’s in.

Joanne Childers, 26, an interpreter for the deaf from Huntington Beach, CA, finally gets her shot with the judges, and a big foghorn from a cruise ship interrupts her audition. Another contestant is drowned out in a flyby, and more from foghorns are shown. Somtimes it’s a blessing. To one particularly bad contestant, he asks if he sat through getting hair and makeup to listen to this [bleep.]

Jane Carrey, 24, of Los Angeles, is a mom first, then a waitress, and has been doing that off and on for about six years. She’s also a musician. She considers herself a ham. No wonder; her dad is Jim Carrey. It was fun growing up with him as a dad. He’s not the most extravagant celebrity, and what she considers to be fairly normal, although he did overshadow her a bit. It needs to be noted that she still works for a living … as a waitress yet, so must not support her. She worries that people will only think she makes it because of her dad. Randy asks if “Father” knows she’s there. He does. J-Lo, who worked with Jim, says she remembers Jane as a little girl, but Jane doesn’t remember, as she was like 2. Jennifer asks how that happened. The same way I have a song in college. I don’t get it either.

Jane sings Something to Talk About, and she has a decent voice with a lot of vibrato. Randy likes her potential, and Jennifer likes the sound of her voice, but thinks she needs to think more about performing and not always close her eyes. Steven likes her melody but wants her to work on volume. It’s three yeses. Her famous dad is not out there waiting for her, but she does call him and gets a “Yea!” He can’t wait for the world to understand what she has to offer.

The last up in San Diego is Jason “Wolf” Hamlin, 24, of LIvermore, CA. He’s a mechanic and works on the machinery on the golf course. His “Git-Fiddle (a guitar),” was built by his dad. He decided the more he sings, the more he plays it, and to give it to the world. His father passed away in February of 2010, but Wolf knows he’d be giggling like a little girl to see his son do this. He also tells Ryan that every girl that found out he was going to audition said he had to give Ryan a kiss … yet he’s not going to do it. Ryan is excited they said that, and that he’s not going to do it.

Wolf explains to the judges that his dad was a guitar-maker, and shows the git-fiddle off, getting a little sympathy when he mentions he passed away. He sings Midnight Special and is absolutely fantastic, and this is all sans git-fiddle. Steven wants to hear something else, so Jason asks for permission to play the git-fiddle, to which Steven answers, “Hell yeah.” Wolf sings a little Johnny Cash with Folsom Prison Blues. and is amazingly good. Three quick yeses and Wolf mentions “No werewolves in London, werewolves in Hollywood!” He fixes the background while posing, and is glad he’s a mechanic to do that for them. On the way out, he kisses Ryan for the girls.

Maybe he should be Ali’s number five.

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American Idol 11, Jan. 19 – “We Need to Be Entertained”

It was a good start to season 11 of American Idol with the Savannah auditions last night. There were quite a few good singers that were put through. And the ones that were bad weren’t too much of a joke. They were just severely disillusioned. I’m hoping that’s a sign of things to come, and that it’s not just setting us up for a big fall. What happens with the auditions tonight in Pittsburgh should tell a little more of the story.

It’s the show’s first time here to Pittsburgh. Apparently Steven Tyler is looking for big things here, as he walks in and says, “We need to be entertained.” That’s why he’s on the panel. He knows what the viewers want to see. Randy Jackson tells the waiting crowd that they get one shot at fame, and that shot starts today.

Steven, Randy, and Jennifer Lopez settle in to their judging chairs as the first auditioner is up, Heejun Han, 22, a non-profit organizer from Flushing, NY, but originally from Korea. He lacks a little excitement. He can only say “I don’t know” when he’s asked questions, and thinks everyone else is crazy good, and that he’s not that good. When he meets Ryan Seacrest, he tells him his head is really small in comparison to his own. He was nervous, but drank plenty of tea, so thinks he’s okay now. Meeting the judges, he thinks they look like wax figures, and when Randy suggests they’re supermodels, he replies just one, obviously Jennifer. Interestingly, his family has never heard him sing. It could be the first sign of trouble for him.

Heejun sings How Am I Supposed to Live WIthout You, and is much better than it seemed he was going to be. And then he gets even better. He has some great emotion thrown into his performance as well. It’s surprising in the way Clay Aiken was. Steven tells him he sings great, Jennifer tells him he has a beautiful voice, and Randy admits to being surprised. Heejun tells Randy he looks better in person. Randy appreicates that, but also tells him he’s shocked and impressed. Jennifer likes his control, and Steven feels he has a great understanding of where notes can go. He gets three easy yeses.

In between auditions, Steven spends the time asking Jennifer how his ass looks and reading limmericks. He decides against the one that starts “There was a young man from St. Pauls.” Wise choice.

Reed Grimm, 26, a nanny from Ellsworth, WI, is up next. His mom and dad met in a band, fell in love, got married, had kids, and just added the kids to the show, so he’s been onstage since 2 years old. Yet, with all that to pick from, he chooses the theme song to Family Matters for his audition. Interesting. He’s got a great jazzy thing going on and can’t sit still, reminding me of Casey Abrams and Phillip Phillips from last night.

Steven tells Reed he is crazy and genius, and Jennifer brings up him being onstage since he was 2. She thinks the mark of a good performer is never knowing what they’re going to do. He has that and it’s exciting to watch. It’s time for the vote, and Randy gives him a zillion percent yes. Jennifer gives him gazillion percent yes, and Steven supercalifragilistically. He’s in, and they’re still impressed with him after he leaves.

After Reed paved the way, there’s more good news for Aaron Marcellus, 27, a voice teacher from Teaneck, NJ, who sings A Change Is Gonna Come, and is told “You can saaang!” Also getting good news is Chase Likens, 20, of Point Pleasant, WY, who sings Love Don’t Live Here, and gives Jennifer the goosebumps she’s always looking for. They’re both through, along with a whole host of other singers.

Patty Novacek isn’t a singer, but a planker, and she’s planking for her younger sister, Samantha, 19, a server from Sutersville, PA, today. She’s known as Patty the Pittsburgh Planker, but it’s possibly only a handful of people who know her that way. Planking is a yoga position, and she teaches it to Ryan. She feels Samantha sings better when she planks. Really? Or is it just your way of getting on TV? Samantha sings Like We Never Loved at All, and is better than the setup would have implied. However, she needs some emotion in there instead of just singing notes.

Jennifer loved the performance, and felt like there were some guts behind the voice, and it made her pleased and happy. Steven agrees. He liked Samantha’s tone and voice, and calls her sweet, clever, and a great nose. Randy liked the vibe, calling it pure. It reminded him of Faith Hill, yet was also Carpenter-ish. She gets three yeses and is on to Hollywood. Does her sister have to go with to plank? The whole family planks together afterwards.

Creighton Fraker, 28, of Queens, NY, calls himself a starving artist. There are a lot of people in New York trying to do what he’s trying to do, singing and writing music to get him to the next level. He uses the nine-hour bus ride to Pittsburgh to come up with something to sing for the judges. He tells the judges he couldn’t decide what to sing, so wrote a song on the way there. It’s a song about the Idol judges, and while the writing isn’t that great, his singing is somewhat good, but really out there.

Jennifer compares Creighton’s style to if Jamiroquai and Justin Timberlake had a baby. Randy calls it a wild thing, but also admits to there being something he’s intrigued by. Steven calls it genius and feels he has the bleep to just spit it out the way he did. He asks Creighton to sing something with a beginning, middle, and end, and he’s better on this, as he launches into Who’s Loving You. Jennifer can’t put a finger on who he reminds her of. I wasn’t sure about him at first, but now I’m loving him. Randy thinks he has a weird kind of crazy voice, but he loves it. Steven calls it the most amazing thing, as he went from singing something he wrote to Michael Jackson. Randy votes a million percent yes, Jennifer two million, and Steven three gazillion. This is why he joined Idol, to say, “Dude, you are so Hollywood!”

American Idol 11, Jan. 18 – “One of the Best Starts We’ve Had”

I am absolutely giddy with excitement tonight! It’s season 11 of American Idol. I was unsure how last season would be without Simon Cowell, but it turned out to be okay. Then again, I don’t remember any time that I haven’t enjoyed a season of American Idol, although I have definitely had a few seasons that weren’t my favorite. Will season 11 end up being a favorite?

The season opens up with them showing us a group of auditioners who have grown up with the show. For many of them their enjoyment of singing coincided with the first season of American Idol and seeing Kelly Clarkson win. For us older folks, we remember singing being a profession without the promise of American Idol someday. For these kids, it’s an automatic response. If you want a singing career, you wait until you are 15 or 16 to audition for this show. It’s their first stop.

The judging panel stands the same as last year. It’s original judge Randy Jackson, along with singing stars Jennifer Lopez and Steven Tyler. Jennifer is glad to be back with the guys, saying, “They’re like my family now.” And of course, Ryan Seacrest is back again as host. Tonight, they’re heading for the first time to Savannah, Georgia, for the auditions. When Steven is asked how Savannah is treating him, he cracks, “Savannah’s treating me great, but I didn’t know you knew her.”

David Leathers Jr., 17, of Fayetteville, NC, admits that his friends call him, “Mister Steal Your Girl.” People say he’s somewhat of a ladies man because he’s always talking to the girls, and they love him. He tries hitting on someone obviously older than him in the auditions and tells the camera he doesn’t have an exclusive girl right now. He was in a local contest with Scotty McCreery a few years ago, and he won, while Scotty placed second. Meeting the judges, J-Lo tells Steven he must identify with David stealing girls when he sings.

This lady killer sings Remember the Rain, and I can see how he beat Scotty. The judges seem just as impressed. Steven tells him it was beautiful. Jennifer makes a request to hear some Michael Jackson, and David launches into Never Can Say Goodbye, and it’s equally impressive. Randy asks if they should make it really simple and easy, and on the count of three, they all say yes. David is going to Hollywood, the same place that saw Scotty McCreery win.

Gabi Carrubba, 16, of North Haven, CT, has shaky hands, but can’t say the same about her feet. She’s a champion tap dancer. She’s always had a lot of energy and has been dancing since she was 1. Yet, she’s been waiting to audition for American Idol her whole life. She wants to meet Ryan, and when she does, he asks about her meeting the judges. She brings up Steven, saying he does this face thing when he hears someone he likes. Yet, when she walks in for her audition, she runs over and hugs Nigel Lythgoe. Perhaps she wants to audition for So You Think You Can Dance when she’s 18.

Singing Sunday Morning, Gabi is quite pleasant to listen to, and Stven does the face she was waiting to see. Steven calls it wonderful, and J-Lo beautiful. She loved the choices that she made. Randy calls it “very very nice.” Steven adds that she “nailed it,” and “it was like thank you God.” He believes it could be her magic moment. She gets three yeses, with Randy adding in she was born to do this. After she leaves, Jennifer keeps going, saying she had one of those natural voices like Luther Vandross, and Randy mentions how she took her time and wonders where she’s been hiding.

Adding to the good auditions are Brianna Faulk, 15, of Monroe, GA, singing I Wanna Dance With Somebody, Neco Starr, 20, of Atlanta, singing Grenade, Molly Hunt, 15, of Franklin, TN, singing You’re No Good, Elise Testone, 28, a musician/vocal coach from Charleston, SC. Every single person so far has gotten a ticket to Hollywood. Ryan thinks it’s one of the best starts they’ve ever had.

Jessica Whitely, 19, of Cuyahoga Falls, OH, started singing around 10 years old, singing the national anthem at basketball and footballs games, and has done a lot of talent shows. Singing is everything she wants and all she thinks about, but not entirely, as she loves Steven’s hat. Jessica sings In This Song, and it’s just not a good audition. Maybe her voice didn’t grow with her when she got older or something. She gets blank stares after, and that’s never good. The only things missing are the crickets.

Randy finally says it was awful and that all Jessica did was shout. He wouldn’t even call it singing. “Baby this is not your vibe; this is not your groove.” Steven analyzes that she’s got the ball and got the shot; it’s just not going through the net. She asks to sing another song, but Steven laughs and pleads no. She thinks she’s just tired, and promises to see them in Texas. Randy asks if they can tell her not to come to Texas.

After a montage of people, mostly little boys, uttering Ryan’s favorite line, “This is American Idol,” there’s a guy who shows up in a suit looking a lot like Ryan. People tell Shaun Kraisman, 26, a sales consultant from Mount Pleasant, SC, all the time he looks like Ryan Seacrest. They ask if he tries to look like him, but he doesn’t. He does his hair like this every day. The judges get a big kick out of him. Ryan comes in and they do a side-by-side. He even does the dim the lights line for them.

Shaun sings Oh Girl, and sings almost as good as he impersonates Ryan. Randy, though, thinks he would have liked it better if he sung it like Ryan Seacrest. Steven tells him “as a singer, no, but your personality, man, is over the top.” He doesn’t make it through, telling his family and the real Ryan, that they said yes to Ryan and no to singing.

X-Factor, Dec. 22 – Justin Bieber, 50 Cent, and a Very Worthy Winner

No one knows what to expect from tonight’s two-hour The X-Factor finale. It’s uncharted territory for the fans in this country. Having guest stars perform duets with the finalists was completely unexpected. Will there be a lot of surprise guest stars tonight as well, just like on American Idol,? Will we see a return of the past finalists like on American Idol

The four judges are announced, and not only are Nicole Scherzinger and Paula Abdul both wearing stunning dresses, but Simon Cowell and LO.A. Reid are in suits. Simon is sans tie, but that goes without saying. It’s a goodlooking judging panel.

The final twelve take the stage again together as well for a group song, and it’s so nice to see them all again. They sing Edge of Glory, and all sound great. It’s so great to see Rachel Crow happy again, or seemingly happy again. And Drew is now a brunette. I didn’t even recognize her at first.

L.A. states that just watching all twelve tonight brought back so many memories, and every one of them is a winner in his book. Nicole thinks it’s beautiful to have everyone back and just wants to enjoy the night. She agrees with L.A. that all of them are winners. Paula is overwhelmed to see her groups again. She got to see them shed their blood, sweat, and tears, and says the stage is their gift to them, and what they do with it is their gift to “us.” Simon sees more than one star up on the stage … genuinely, and admits to feeling nervous.

Steve Jones, in a tux, announces that all three finalists will sing songs celebrating the holidays tonight. He’s intrigued about what Simon’s plans are for the holidays. He replies he’s going to the North Pole to play with penguins. More seriously, Simon announces Melanie Amaro. She, wearing a beautiful glittery red dress, and sings All I Want for Christmas Is You. She’s making it even more tough to not make comparisons to Mariah Carey. She sounds great as usual, but is lacking a little bit of the fun factor this song needs, but we can probably chalk that up to nerves.

L.A. tells Melanie she did the song justice. That beautiful voice she has is the best friend a song has ever met. All Nicole wants for Christmas is a Melanie Amaro album. She also says she looks impeccable and gorgeous and beautiful, calling her a Princess Goddess Warrior. This is the happiest Paula has ever seen Melanie. With her hair off her face, she’s gorgeous and beautiful, and sang the song beautifully. She wants her to celebrate tonight. Simon tells her she has been an absolute pleasure to work with. He’s very proud of her massive progression both as a person and singer and is praying he’ll be seeing her right to the end of the competition, as she deserves it.

It’s back to her high school, as teacher, and the rest of the school wishes her good luck. Her ex-boss at a salon is wishing her well too, just like her best friend, Amoi. Her aunt cries every time she hears her singing. Her cousin calls her an inspiration to make her dreams come true. Her brothers used to complain about her singing, but now millions of people don’t want her to stop. Her sister misses her so much and sees her as a role model. Her mom cries every time she looks at the clips of her from the show. She wants her to live her dream. Her dad wants to be there for her more, but can’t. He hopes she forgives him. Her grandmother in the British Virgin Islands chimes in as well. I don’t know what she said, as I’m just busy looking at the beauty of the islands.

L.A. introduces Chris Rene, who has a more tender moment than usual and sings Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas. He’s looking quite dapper in a hat and suit and is accompanied by the piano tonight.

Nicole tells Chris that he, no matter what, is a star from the inside out. What she loves about him, and always has, is that the music that comes from him comes from another place that no one else can compete with. It’s from a deper level. He is that voice, he is that hero, and he makes us all believe. Paula thinks Chris is the most original and has such a great style about him. He stylized a classic song and made it all Chris Rene style. He’s a star on the stage and she’s so proud of him.

Simon thinks it was very cool and admits he likes Chris. He was thinking about it last night watching the show bac; he is truly and insiration to a lot of guys out there. He messed things up and was given a second chance. He’s a man of his word, and the competition wouldn’t have been the same without him. L.A. calls the journey with Chris a belssing. A lot of people talk about changing the world, but his experiences and the outcome of his experiences can truly change the world.

It’s a cut back to Chris’ 3rd grade teacher who remembers him as a sweet little guy. His first grade teacher is there as well. His best friends chime in and think it’s great to see the people who always doubted him now boe amazed. His counselor sees wanting to be a sober dad is a big part of him being in recovery. His brother agrees it’s a good oprotunity to inpsire his son and the rest of the world. His best friend sees a lot of Chris’ dad in him, and he knows he’s looking down on him from above. His sister thinks their dad would be ecstatic to see how much he’s grown. Another brother is just waiting for Chris to fly and spread his wings. His mom has seen him blossom and become the man he was meant to be. The mother of his son sees him as an amazing father and an amazing person. Chris feels blessed to be here tonight and receive it in his fullness.

X-Factor, Dec. 21 – Who Had the $5 Million Performance?

There has been surprise and sorrow along the way, but this is the final three I figured we’d end up with. I knew Josh and Melanie would be there, and figured the third person would either be Chris. They’re really talented, and they’re contestants that each one of the judges like. The burning question that will be answered this week is which one of them has The X-Factor

Remote crews are set up in the hometowns of the final three as they watch the show. Interestingly enough, someone in the crowd of Josh Krajcik’s hometown of Wooster, Ohio, has a mask of L.A. Reid on a stick. L.A. isn’t his mentor, he’s Chris Rene’s. There is also a remote crew set up in Santa Cruz, California, in a club where Chris used to sing. There is also a crew in Melanie Amaro’s church in Sunrise, Florida.

L.A. is feeling proud of all three contestants, and especially his guy Chris, who has put in the work and come a long way. Nicole Scherzinger believes these are the three that were meant to be there, and she gives them all her love support, strength, and energy. She wants them to kick some butt, and tells Josh, “I got you.” Paula Abdul is proud of all three of them and sees them as separate unique, brilliant stars. Simon Cowell thinks this is going to be the closest final they ever had. It’s their first season, so I’d agree that it will be the closest final in a field of one.

First up tonight is Josh, and Nicole promises it will make Columbus, Ohio, look and sound good. He sings Uninvited,< and in the middle of song, introduces Alanis Morrisette to sing the song with him. His version of it is a bit more haunting than hers. It’s kind of spooky. I’m not sure I like them rolling out special guests on the voting night. Will someone get more votes because of the popularity of the established career of the person they’re singing with?

Asked what it’s like working with Josh, Alanis says he’s a very soulful man (although at first I thought she called him “smokin'”), and she figures of all songs for him to sing, this would be the most appropriate for someone so soulful.

L.A. calls the performance surreal, and found the pairing of Josh and Alanis to be natural. He refers to her Jagged Little Pill album as his favorite of all time. He thinks Josh seemed right at home with her, and predicts it will be a long night, as they started right at the top. Paula couldn’t think of a better way to open up the competition. Alanis was remarkable, and always has been remarkable. Paula knows Josh recognizes he was singing with rock royalty, but she’s most proud that he didn’t just hold his own, he kept his identity, dignity, and integrity throughout.

Simon points out they have to judge this. Alanis was great and looked cute, but he felt Josh seemed a little bit intimidated in the beginning, and feels he would have been as well. But as the song went on, he felt the old Josh was back. He gives him an 8 out of 10. Josh answers that, saying that Alanis is completely disarming in her beauty and talent, so he’s not surprised Simon felt that way, but it was an honor for him. Nicole thinks the sign of a great artist is when they can not just give to the audience, but the other artist, and acknowledge the others. She feels it shows how wonderful and giving he is.

Josh’s grandma and uncle are there watching in Wooster. His grandma’s heart is swelling up with pride, and she doesn’t think Josh would believe what’s going on there. They love him so much. His uncle hopes Josh can feel the energy there, and notes they’re behind him all the way. He requests that for his second song, he “kick it.”

L.A. introduces Chris, who he notes reached his eighth month anniversary of being sober just yesterday, and he couldn’t be more proud. Chris sings Complicated, and of course that means Avril Lavigne comes out to join him onstage. The song does well with an increased hip hop sound to it. The not only sound great together, they look cute together as well. This guy is 100% loving where he is. He has to be so grateful to have cleaned up his life. This is what it’s all about.

Avril calls Chris amazing and wants everyone to vote for him. Hearing someone else sing her song, and a dude on top of it, she thinks he kicked ass. Steve Jones recognizes that Chris clearly has the Lavigne vote.

Nicole notes the song was a little shaky in the takeoff, but he came out on top, and she couldn’t help it but feel his energy that is so flipping infectious at the end. She just loves him and loves that he puts himself out there and is vulnerable. He makes the songs her own. Paula knows that’s what it’s about in this competition, not being perfect note for note, but having an energy that connects with an audience and is relevant. It was wonderful and feel-good perfect, and the song is the antithesis of what his foundation is built on, simple transparent truth, and that’ what has carried him all the way.

Howard Stern’s Take on Being Named America’s Got Talent Judge

It’s been a few days since the announcement that Howard Stern would be the new America’s Got Talent judge. Still feel the same way? Yeah, me too. Unlike American Idol, I don’t watch AGT to find new talent to enjoy. I just watch it to be entertained, and I have never been entertained by Howard Stern. 

Listening to his view on joining America’s Got Talent didn’t do much to change my view. He believes his viewpoint will be the only one people listen to, believing that that’s how people viewed his predecessor, PIers Morgan, and that no one will be listening to Sharon Osbourne or Howie Mandel.

Howard claims to have only taken the job because he wants to improve it. He is not doing it for the money, and only because he cares about the show. He said he is tired of the Frank Sinatra impersonators winning, and he definitely means Landau Eugene Murphy Jr.

Howard will find once he starts his term that it isn’t as easy as it looks. Landau had the talent to be put through, and once he’s put through, it’s up to America on who they choose. Their choice this year was Landau. It doesn’t turn out any better to give the judges a larger part in deciding who stays and goes. That’s what we’re seeing on The X-Factor. And I don’t see Sharon and Howie laying down and letting Howard have his way. It’s a majority ruling, and if they want to put people through they will, no matter how much money he is making to be there.

Here’s what Howard had to say when he made the announcement on his show.

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X-Factor, Dec. 15 – No More Saves Left

Although everyone did really well last night, it really is Marcus Canty’s time to go tonight, and if everything falls right, he’ll finally leave with no chance for a Save Me Song. He is a great entertainer, but I think we could find a Marcus in every major city. We might be able to find a Melanie if we look really hard, and we never would find another Josh or Chris. I think the votes will probably end up supporting that. 

The final four combine on a group song, and it’s an interesting song that has the verses of No Diggity and the chorus of Tears for Fears’ Shout. It’s a fascinating combination. I love how they do these blends like this. They have someone very creative working behind the scenes.

Simon Cowell speaks up about the show last night. He watched the show back and was very happy with what he saw, but is left nervous after what happened last week. It would be his worst nightmare to happen again. Being the only impartial judge, Paula Abdul has to say they did an amazing job last night. If she had to pick two performers she was most impressed with, she would first choose Josh Krajcik. He was riveting, and not only is his voice unique, it’s raw and exquisite. He reaches everyone’s heart. She also looks back at Chris Rene’s transformation. Nicole Scherzinger agrees, saying Chris had a really special moment last night, and Josh took it to another level. For the first time L.A. Reid is a little nervous. He has two guys here, and only three people can go forward.

After a commercial break, the four remaining acts are backstage with their mentors. Paula is somewhat of a woman without a country and starts wandering around. Then she moves her way through the shot with L.A., Marcus, and Chris, and makes her way down the line kissing everyone while Steve Jones is trying to interview them. It’s a bit odd. Steve figures L.A. must be feeling a little smug, as he’s the only judge who is guaranteed of having an act in the final, since he’s standing there with two. He calls it a proud moment, and believes in both.

Florence and the Machine takes the stage singing the worldwide premiere of Spectrum. I just want my results. I don’t want the filler tonight. I am using this time to take a bathroom break, and get another Diet Coke and a handful of pretzels.

Instead of immediately going to the results, it’s a package comparing the four finalists. Paula points out that they’re all unique, with each one having something the others don’t. What Simon likes about Marcus is that he’s spent three weeks in the bottom, yet hasn’t sulked or complained, coming back as if he’s won the show every single time. Paula again calls him the ultimate entertainer, as he can sing and dance, and knows how to work it onstage. Nicole also sees him as the whole package. L.A. sees him as the most soulful.

L.A. names Chris as the most original artist in the competition. Paula sees him win with his heart every time. Nicole recognizes that he’s the one holding the torch telling everyone if you just believe, everything is possible. Simon has seen him remain himself and thinks it’s possible we’ve all underestimated him.

L.A. thinks Josh is in the competition because he has a mainstream voice that falls somewhere between pop and rock with a touch of blues. Paula sees him as bold and daring, and notes he just lets you in. Nicole thinks he’s able to emote on another whole level, and she knows no one can compete with that. Simon has always said he might be the one to beat.

Without a question, Paula believes Melanie Amaro has a beautiful technical voice. She can hear some of Leona Lewis and Mariah Carey, those artists who have rich voices, in her. L.A. compares listening to her sing to drinking warm honey. Nicole calls her voice limitless and adds that she makes it look easy. Simon always wonders what it would have been had he not brought her back.

It’s time to hear who the first safe act is. The first act moving on to the finals is Chris Rene. Also safe is Melanie Amaro. This means it’s between Josh Krajcik and Marcus Canty as to who makes it along with Chris and Melanie. Josh has a lot of hope and knows he has a lot of great supporters and wants to just keep working towards the finals. Marcus has been saved three times before and is just hoping America gave him another chance.

It’s another live performance, this time from Nicole. She sings Pretty from her upcoming album. It looks like it’s time for a pretzel refill. I ate them all waiting for those results. I wonder if it’s hard for her to sing not knowing if Josh is safe or not. I have to say I do like the song.

Simon, sitting in Nicole’s chair is asked what he thinks of her performance, so he critiques as she would, saying he believes in her, she believes in him, she transcends the universe, God is smiling on her, life is a waterfall, and she is the ultimate rainbow. Hey, his act is safe. He could be a little nicer to her right now.

After Nicole has a quick change into her third outfit of the night she takes the stage along with Josh, L.A., and Marcus to hear the last of the results. Steve Jones wishes everyone luck. The third act making it to the finals is Josh Krajcik. As expected, it’s finally Marcus’ time to go. He asks Steve why he’s looking so sad, promising it’s not the last we’ll see of him. God has blessed him so much, and he gave it his all. L.A. would be lying if he didn’t saying he was a little sad, but he knows Marcus is going to continue to do great.

It certainly isn’t a big shocker to see Marcus leave, and it’s also somewhat of a relief after the past few weeks. It’s nothing against Marcus personally. It’s clear he’s a really great guy, as you just can’t get saved that many times and still be in good spirit if you’re not. And regardless of not making it to the $5 million, he’s proven himself. I hope his mom gives him a break and realizes this is what he needs to do. He’s a singer and entertainer and should be doing that instead of mowing lawns.

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