Category Archives: Talent

American Idol, May 22 – Perfection or Uniqueness?

There’s an extra element of stress on tonight’s American Idol performance finale. Not only is it down to the final two contestants, but Phillip Phillips is having a serious medical condition. He’s been due for kidney surgery since around the time the finals started, but he refused to leave the show and has just been dealing with the illness as best as he can. He’s been missing from photo shoots and Ford videos while he rests up. It’s a foregone conclusion that after tomorrow night, whether he or Jessica Sanchez wins, he’ll be headed to a hospital. That’s how dire it is. It should make tonight extra tense.

There are three rounds for Phillip and Jessica to make it through. The first round is Idol creator Simon Fuller’s choice, the second is the favorite song the contestant has performed this season, and the third is the potential winning song/single. Phillip won the coin toss last week and has elected to go second.

This leaves Jessica kicking things off singing Simon Fuller’s choice I Have Nothing. She of course sounds great on this, and she’s dressed appropriately for a teenager. She belts the song out great, but again the subject matter in the song is one that is perhaps too advanced for a 16-year-old to be singing. She gets a little too screechy in it a few times at the end between her growls. Nevertheless, that’s being picky as it’s extremely good. The judges stay in their seats though. We won’t hear from the judges until after Phillip sings.

Phillip is singing Simon Fuller’s choice Stand By Me, a song that is somewhat overdone on the show. Yet it’s Phillip, so he abandons a little of the melody and sings a beautiful acoustic version. He’s sitting on a stool and playing the guitar, but it’s unclear whether it’s his illness forcing him to sit or the acoustic tone of the song. It’s a great rendition.

As Phillip leaves the stage, it’s time to hear from the judges. Jennifer Lopez calls this a tough one, as it’s a battle of the opposites. With Jessica you have this amazing vocal prowess with power and control, and grit and beauty. With Phillip you have a modern day crooner with soulfulness, originality and, artistry. At the end of the day America has a tough job to decide who will make them pick up the phone to vote. Asked who won round one, Randy Jackson thinks it probably went to Jessica; however, he doesn’t seem happy about it for some reason. Jennifer agrees, and we don’t hear from Steven Tyler.

Jason Derulo is onstage to sing the song the viewers helped him create. He was injured a few months ago rehearsing for a world tour, but is now here to sing Undefeated. He’s wearing an interesting outfit of cargo pants, a red and black leather jacket, and what looks like rain boots. Jordin Sparks is in the audience singing along, seemingly enjoying it, but the song isn’t my normal cup of tea. For those of you it does appeal to, you can download the song for free on americanidol.com.

Jessica has chosen to perform The Prayer, the song that helped earn her a spot in the final 24 as her favorite. She has gorgeous earrings on; I just have to say that. It’s a very beautiful song, and I don’t know if I have ever heard her sing better. She’s leaving BeBe Chez completely out of the performance, and shows great range as well. Yet again, no standing O from the judges.

Phillip is singing Movin’ Out, his choice from Billy Joel week. The interesting thing is that it sounds a little different than his other performance of the song. This shows that he does something a little different each time he sings, which I always love. He looks like he’s loving every single moment of this, and isn’t showing any pain or illness whatsoever, yet does seem to have that thing inside him clawing its way out.

Steven finally gets a chance to speak and says that when it comes to Phillip, you don’t always have to be a good egg, either hatch or go bad. Tonight he’s hatched some, but he would have to say that Jessica took it again. Randy begs for a shot at speaking, and getting it, says he calls round two dead even. Jennifer says Jessica blew it away so hard in the first round, that she believes Phillip took this round. She’s heard Jessica do this song before, and this was authentic Phillip.

Jessica takes the stage for the last time tonight to sing Change Nothing, the song that will be her single, should she win. She sings while perched atop a white piano. She sounds okay, but if you’re going to have your Idols singing stunning songs in the first few rounds, then you can’t give them crap to sing in the third round. Just saying. She also gets pitchy a bit on the chorus.

Randy tells Jessica she has come a long way. To be straight up, he says he did not love the song, but he did feel she made more out of the song than what was there. He wants her to remember when she’s making her record that she has the Beyonce swag with urban in it, so to do a straight pop song without flavor is a little odd. Jennifer thinks she sang the song really well, but she doesn’t think she’d pick this as Jessica’s first song, as it’s missing her soul. She felt her putting that into the song, but she feels what Randy is saying. When Jessica goes to make a record, she needs to be able to say “this isn’t me” as the artist.

Steven knows how good she can sing and so do millions of people across the world. He also didn’t think it was the right song with the places she’s taken other songs. Jessica agrees that she wishes the song would have been more urban, and when she goes to make a record, she promises it will be much more her. Is she planning on losing? If she wins, she won’t have much control over that at all!

Phillip is out to sing what will be his first single should he win, Home. It’s an acoustic song that he backs with his guitar. It has a definite mountain/folk flavor, and much more flavor overall than Jessica’s. Hers could have been any pop song sung by any young female. His is definitely different. I don’t know if I have heard folk like this since my mom sang with other moms in a folk singing group in coffee houses and N.O.W. meetings in the 70s. It’s different, and that’s it’s appeal. And it gives him the only judges’ standing O of the night, including hoots from Randy.

Randy addresses “Dude,” and says he loved the song, he loved Phillip, he loved the production, he loving the marching band, and everything about that, as it was perfect. It was his best performance of the night. It was amazing and a true artist’s performance and reminded him a little of Mumford and Sons. He calls it genius.

J-Lo says what was so moving about Phillip’s performance was that it was so different. She couldn’t think of any other singer or band he sounded like. It’s just Phillip Phillips, and there’s nothing else on the radio that sounds like that. Steven comments that by virtue of vulnerability and style, Phillip has made the world his home. He heard a little Paul Simon in there and other un-godlike creatures on this planet. He was perfect tonight, and he thinks he’s the man.

Jessica offers some last words to Phillip, saying he’s an amazing artist, and that’s why he’s in that position in the final two. She loves him so much and it’s going to suck when it’s all over. She’s so glad she’s here with him now. Phillip says the obvious, that he’s not good at talking in front of a lot of people, but Jessica is an amazing person and deserves every bit of this. She’s one of the best singers he’s heard, especially at 16 years old, and has a huge future ahead of her. He’s going to miss her.

Last year’s winner Scotty McCreery sings us out with Please Remember Me and clips of the past season playing behind his head. We get to see favorites, some that we’d forgotten, some that we remembered, and some that we wish we’d forgotten.

Now all that’s left is the vote. What it comes down to is if those voting prefer the perfect voice or uniqueness. Jessica has a stunning voice, but she isn’t much different from what’s out there now, especially not if they market her as a young pop princess. She showed tonight that she isn’t who they think she is. They haven’t figured her out yet, but Phillip’s song proves they know exactly who he is and what to do with him. Maybe it’s better for him to get the winner’s contract, as he’ll be putting out a great album by people who understand him, whereas she’ll be better with something where she won’t be pigeon-holed into something she’s not.

And somewhere in there he can work in that surgery he needs to save his life.

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American Idol, May 16 – Outlook for the Final 2

What strikes me the most looking at the final two for season 11 of American Idol is the resemblance to season 5. The male R&B artist is sent home in third place, leaving the young female pop star, who has appeared in the bottom group of vote-getters before, and the male rocker with a unique sound who has never appeared in the bottom two, as the final two standing. We know how that season ended up.

That’s right. Season 5 that crowned Taylor Hicks as the winner and Katharine McPhee as the runner-up, and sent Elliott Yamin home in third place, looks the most like our emerging finale for season 11. And season 5 is recognized widely as a bust. What will make the difference for season 11? Will it be because Phillip Phillips and Jessica Sanchez, and Joshua Ledet for that matter, are different artists?

I think the difference will be Jimmy Iovine. As much as I don’t always agree with him, I think the difference with the Idols now is that they work with the producer every week leading up to the finale. He understands the artists he’s working with. Taylor, Katharine, and Elliott didn’t seem to be understood very well originally, and none were extremely successful, especially Taylor.

Much more could have been done with Taylor. It’s not like he’s a non-talent. What the Idol machine often misses out on is the personalities they’re given with their winners. The winners that never appear in the bottom two have a way of winning over audiences, not necessarily selling records. Jennifer Hudson opened it up with Dreamgirls. No one said you had to start out with a chart-topping album. She’s now an Oscar-winner. Katharine is now on a successful series. Realize the talent that you have instead of forcing them into the Idol winner and runner-up box.

Hopefully Jimmy will do that with Phillip and Jessica, as well as Joshua. Obviously there’s a market out there for his R&B, just as Elliott eventually found. But you can’t market him as a pop artist. Jessica can’t be marketed as the second coming of Mariah Carey, despite having the vocal chops, because she’s too young, She needs to be marketed like Jordin Sparks. Phillip needs to be marketed as an alternative rocker and singer/songwriter. That’s what he is. It’s a style of artist the Idol machine hasn’t marketed yet.

That’s the key to the success of the Idols, not the Idols themselves. It’s all in the marketing. Look at what’s on the radio today and who is successful. Listen to their voices. They aren’t any more talented than the Idols. But they’re marketed correctly for their talent and personalities. The most successful Idols, Kelly Clarkson, Carrie Underwood, Daughtry, while all being extremely talented, are all marketed correctly.

But first, before Phillip and Jessica are marketed, one of them has to be crowned a winner. While the Idol machine works behind the scenes, probably already putting everything in place to sign Joshua before someone else does, as they did with Elliott, Phillip and Jessica will be putting everything in place for the finale next week. Here’s a look at their chances next week.

Phillip Phillips – Randy Jackson kept telling Hollie Cavanagh she was peaking at the right time. He was obviously off the mark, since she’s out of the running. The person who was actually peaking at the right time was Phillip. He wowed us early with his talent, but got too predictable in the middle rounds. Last week, he reached a new level by dropping that protective wall he had up, and allowed us inside his performances. This week he kicked the door open with We’ve Got Tonight.

If Phillip steamrolls over the building next week, letting us see that tender singer/songwriter inside of him that has been trying to crawl out every week, he’s the winner. The competition is already his to lose anyway based on existing votes and audience screams. If he crawls back inside himself and plays it safe, he might lose.

Jessica Sanchez – This girl has done the insurmountable. She lost the viewer votes early on, then clawed her way back. She has proved she’s a fighter. And that’s something that even losing this thing won’t take away from her. She’s been wanting and fighting for this since she was 5. She isn’t going to give it away next week.

Yet, Jessica’s undoing will be in something she has no power to change. Her talent doesn’t match her age. She has vocals that can pull off Mariah Carey, but her maturity level is at Miley Cyrus in her Hannah Montana days. Those two don’t match up. She’d simply look ridiculous singing Disney songs. We know her talent far surpasses that. Yet she comes off unbelievable singing Mariah songs.

This is why Jessica needs to be marketed carefully. If the producers are smart, they’ll double market her. They’ll let Jessica Sanchez put out an album, and a few months later they’ll let “BeBe Chez” put out an album. She has that split in her, let her do it. Just don’t dress her like she belongs on a street corner. And the time to start setting that up is now. Let her perform in the finale as both Jessica and Bebe. It will get people talking and make them remember the performances. And if they remember the performances, she just might get the votes. But she will not win singing Mariah and Whitney songs.

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American Idol, May 16 – Three Very Different Singers

I wish Jennifer Lopez wouldn’t have been so honest. It’s right at the crux of the season when everything is getting really exciting, down to the final three. She picks this time to announce to Ellen DeGeneres that she’s not sure if she’s coming back. What? I wasn’t in any way comfortable with this group of judges two years ago, but now I think it’s worked it’s way into a comfortable spot. I sure hope it’s just a momentary lapse in judgment for J-Lo.

As usual, there are three rounds of songs tonight for final three night. The first round will be judges’ choices, the second round contestants’ choices, and the third round Jimmy Iovine’s.

Joshua Ledet is leading us off, and it was judge Randy Jackson who chose for him. He picked an Etta James song, I’d Rather Be Blind, for him since he’s become known on the show for his classic R&B style. It’s how he’s excelled on the show in the past, and why fix what’s not broken?

Joshua is using that old-style microphone again which I really like on him. It’s just something different. He does really well with the song, and exactly as we all knew he would. It isn’t my most favorite ever that he’s done. He seems a little subdued even … for him. This song, to me, needs more passion. And all I can think of is little Rachel Crow singing the snot out of it last fall on The X Factor. The judges, of course, give him a standing O.

Steven Tyler feels it’s another Joshua moment to hear him sing those old songs and deliver them and hear the audience scream in just that right spot. Out of 70,000, there’s only on American Idol, and he sang like that one tonight. Jennifer explains they struggled to pick songs for the Idols, especially Joshua, and one of the reasons for that was wondering if they should give him something more up-to-date. But he’s such a throwback and always brings down the house with them. They just fed him him what they knew he would feed back to them, and he brought down the house once again.

Randy tells Joshua that he’s such a classic stylist, and thinks the song fits him like a glove. He’s hoping in the future he can take what he does and bring that into modern time, “which deserves a lift, because it’s aching right now.” Ryan Seacrest compares tonight’s show to a sporting event and asks Joshua how it’s different for him. He has no other answer other than he just keeps remembering how badly he wants this. As a funny aside, the Kraft commercial on afterwards is playing I’d Rather Go Blind.

Jennifer mentions that when it came to making a pick for Jessica Sanchez, right away she knew she needed to hear her sing a song like this. They’ve only heard her sing the big ballads, and they want to hear her sing this softer ballad, going after a tenderness in the song that she’ll kill. She’s singing My All.

Tenderness is great, but Jennifer doesn’t seem to get that this younger girl should not be singing such older lyrics, no matter how many times others bring it up. She indeed sounds exquisite, but her face is a blank slate. There’s nothing there as she just fights through this very difficult song. There’s a part of it, too, that completely buries her.

Randy thinks it was absolutely beautiful and perfectly the right song for Jessica. He brings up again working with Mariah mentioning that they usually say not to do Mariah, because it’s a lesson in the most difficult things to sing. Yet, he thinks this is one of the best times a Mariah song has been done on TV. Jennifer agrees it’s a hard song, and she realized in the middle it was, but she felt Jessica did it beautifully and in her own way. She didn’t even go to the big part at the end, and Jennifer loved that, to prove she could do it.

Steven thinks Jessica makes people hang on every note when she sings. He hopes she gets used to encores, and in a crazy way, he believes she’ll be the last one standing there. Ryan goes back and asks about him predicting the winner, but Steven only asks, “Don’t I always?”Jessica loved the song and loves Mariah Carey, but agrees with Jennifer that it was a really hard song.

For Phillip Phillip’s judges’ pick, Steven picked Beggin, because it has a melody that they’re trying to drag through Phillip and get him to come to his senses and hit a little stronger. He’s done it in the past, so they want to see him do it again.

I’ve never heard this song before, but it’s a great song choice for Phillip. It’s definitely in his wheelhouse. He once again accompanies himself on the guitar. Part of what I like is it’s not a song I’ve heard so many times before on the radio or on shows like this. It’s completely unique. There’s no judges’ standing O, but Steven is turned around telling someone how good it is, and Jennifer is raising her fists triumphantly in the air. Steven asks the crowd, “Can you believe this guy?”

Jennifer tells Phillip he’s very funny, as they listened to Steven say he picked this song because of the melody, but Phillip couldn’t help it. He had to mess with it. But he catches a groove in a song that is all his and he just rides it all the way home, and it was great. Steven thinks it’s beautiful to watch him unfold from the guy who was trying to crawl out of himself to a guy with a spotlight in his face where it belongs. When you’re facing the sun, the shadows fall behind you. He’s hoping he writes his own songs, as he could be the new age “Boss,” aka Springstein.

Randy likes the poetic-ness of Steven’s thoughts. Predictably, he isn’t poetic himself, saying we were “just at the Phil Phillips concert right there, y’all.” He is so in the zone and has been since day one. He doesn’t care what’s going on around him, has a good time, takes the song, the challenge, and the melodies. It was another incredible performance by him. Phillip is who he is and we love it.

Ryan approaches the judges and points out that Joshua got a standing ovation, and wonders if there was a clear cut winner of round one. Randy isn’t sure the winner was so clear cut, and thinks they all did exceptionally well. Vocally, Joshua probably did his thing at the end and has a slight edge. Jennifer really loves Joshua, but she has to (begrudgingly) admit that Phillip’s performance really moved everybody. Steven points out how he comes in and takes a chance and crawls into a song, and Jessica can sing like an angel. He’s still on the fence.

American Idol, May 10 – Outlook for Remaining Final 3

Since very early on in this American Idol season, it’s seemed very probable that the final three would end up being Phillip Phillips, Jessica Sanchez, and Joshua Ledet. Despite the surprises throughout the season, that’s exactly what we’re ending up with.

It almost always turns up that the final two are exactly how it should have been all along. The only season it seems that didn’t happen was the year Chris Daughtry went out in fourth place. Everyone seemed to think afterwards that people were just so worried about who would face him in the final two that they forgot to vote for him. Since then, it’s been more on people’s minds, and they invented the judges’ save, hoping to prevent that, even though it can’t be used that late in the competition anyway.

As much as Hollie Cavanagh’s fans were very vocal in their claims that she belonged in the final two, as much as they enjoyed her, it wasn’t likely. She had been in the bottom two nearly every single week. Regardless of what they think of her talent, she wasn’t connecting with the voters. Some others may think she lasted longer than she should have. But in the end, it doesn’t matter, as the people who are getting to the end are the people most figured would make it there.

It’s not to say Hollie isn’t talented, because she definitely is. But maybe Jennifer Lopez encouraged Hollie’s entrance into the competition one year too soon. She didn’t make it last year, and Jennifer was very vocal that she thought Hollie deserved it after she grew a little more. She thought this year was that necessary growth year.

But a big knock against Hollie’s performances were that she didn’t have the maturity to understand the lyrics she was singing. Another year could have made all the difference for her. You can’t just have a great voice to make it to final two. You have to be able to connect to your music, and Hollie always seemed to pick songs she thought she would sound good on, no matter the content. More than anything else, that’s why she went home tonight.

Each of the final three have the potential to fall into their own traps to not make it to the end. Here’s a look at what they have to do to ensure they make it to the final 2 and the finale.

Joshua Ledet – This guy sings with such ease. It just oozes out of him. But that’s not where his potential problems lie. Again, it has to be more than just the voice. He has the potential to focus on that side of him too much. Jimmy Iovine is right that the whole gospel thing was just too much on You Raise Me Up. It sounded great, but it was just too much, like putting spoonfuls of sugar into your frosted flakes. Less is more.

Yet on the second song, Joshua got it all right. He added all the extra into the song at just the right place. It seemed to put the punctuation on his emotion in the song. That’s what he needs to do. He needs to be careful to not put too much in, and just do it at the right places. At this point we all know he can do it, and we’ll be far more impressed by seeing him use it creatively to bring out just the right emotion out of us, as it does him.

Phillip Phillips – The best thing Phillip has going for him is that he’s truly unique. People want to say he’s just like Dave Matthews, but he’s really not. If you’ll notice, when he sang the Dave Matthews, he didn’t really sound identical to him. They just have a similar style. He can’t “sing normal,” as when he does, it doesn’t go over well. That was the problem with the past few weeks. He stopped being himself and tried to be “normal.”

This week, though, Phillip finally dropped the wall and allowed himself to fully be seen, and sang what was deep in his soul. As much as they keep saying Phillip doesn’t care what anyone else thinks, I don’t buy it. I think the opposite is true. I think he cares too much about what everyone else thinks, and that manifests into that “cool” vibe that makes it appear he doesn’t … until this week when he decided to let us all in to that last song. That’s what he tried all season for us not to see. But he finally realized to get to the end, he had to show it to us.

Jessica Sanchez – Jessica is definitely one talented girl. My big problem with her, though, and it’s now starting to become a bigger problem, is the same thing that was present in David Archuleta. They were both raised to do this. This is what these kids and their parents have spent every waking moment doing, managing this career and working towards this one point. The growl is cute on this 16-year-old, but to see that she’s been doing it since 5 tells us it’s not natural. Someone either taught her to do it or told her early on it was cute when she discovered it on her own.

And now that we know that, it kind of ruins it. It’s no longer something that is going to awe us. It’s reminiscent of when Simon Cowell used to mention “like a kid entertaining for the grownups at a party.” That’s exactly what Jessica has become. She has a gift that has been almost exploited with that growl thing since she was little. It’s time to be effective and wow an audience without it. The outfits, the heels, and the growl do not belong on a 16-year-old girl.

Here’s something to think about when looking at Jessica next week. She has a big similarity to my 15-year-old daughter. They both have the same space in their teeth on the side of their mouths when they smile. My daughter has had that space for the past month. It was created when she had her last baby tooth pulled. She’s missing the adult tooth that is supposed to take its place. The dentist told me it’s the most common teeth to not come in. Some people just never get those teeth. So she had to have the baby tooth pulled. It keeps making me wonder, did Jessica just get her baby tooth pulled as well? Is that really how young she is? Did that girl with the short, tight dress, four-inch heels, and the growl just get her last baby tooth pulled?

If so, whoever is allowing the growl, the outfits, the heels, etc., has to remember she’s barely out of the little girl stage. And she’ll never get that time in her life back again. Let her be a girl and stop forcing her to be a woman just so she can win a competition.

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American Idol, May 9 – The Four Swingers

I was wondering how they were going to stretch the final four of American Idol out to two hours, and I have my answer. Two duets, a group performance, and an Adam Shankman mansion visit, and it seemed like nearly thirty to forty–five minutes. What will they add on next week? Three songs apiece is still only an hour. Tonight they’re doing two songs apiece, one a song song by an California artist or about California, and the other a song that so inspires them, they wish they wrote it. They’re also reflecting back on their road to get here.

Phillip Phillips is up first, and says he never even expected to make it through the judges in Savannah, GA. They saw some amazing singers, so he surprised himself then to get through, and continues to surprise himself learning two or three songs in a week. His family and friends tell him he’s getting better and he believes them, as his brother-in-law was honest enough to tell him that Time of the Season was kind of rough. He tries to perform like every song could be his last.

For Phillip’s first song selection tonight, it’s Have You Ever Seen the Rain, and he’s out onstage sans guitar. He’s back in his groove tonight. He’s singing the melody, which Steven Tyler should like, and he seems to be missing that awkwardness he picked up last week. He also has that thing trapped in him again that’s clawing it’s way out. He’s back.

Steven can’t even talk at first as the screams for Phillip are too loud. He finally gets an opening and tells him he’s living proof the road to success is always under construction. He’s something else. Jennifer Lopez then interrupts and asks him if he sang with cottonmouth. She thought it sounded pretty good and like it had a Joe Cocker type of quality they hadn’t heard from him before. The vocal quality was perfect for that song.

Randy thought it sounded a little rough in the beginning as Phillip tried to find the pitch, but as soon as he started to smile when he hit the chorus, Randy knew the vibe was setting in and that the pitch would be there and he was right on the money. He wants Phillip to remember if he has a good time the judges and the audience have a good time too. Ryan Seacrest brings Phillip out a bottle of water, then mentions that in rehearsal, Phillip had been worried about getting the lyrics right. Phillip got it and didn’t even have to write them down.

Hollie Cavanagh remembers walking into the auditions last year with no confidence and Randy thinking she wasn’t ready. When she sang another song for the judges and sang The Climb, it was a turning point for her, and she knew it was what she wanted to do the rest of her life. She didn’t make it last year, but he faith that Jennifer had in her that she would make it in a year or two inspired her this time. She has a hard time believing how far she’s come. She believes if you want something you should just go for it.

It’s not too surprising that Hollie chooses to do Faithfully for her first song choice, as she can’t seem to help but choose the big songs. She’s horribly off in the beginning of the song and never really seems to find the correct pitch. Maybe the wind machine on her is preempting that. She does have one helluva note at the end though when she finally does find the pitch.

How Randy could find the pitch off with Phillip, but not find that with Hollie, I’m not sure. He tells her she’s peaking at the right time and says he’s so amazed watching her clip and realizing how much Jennifer had championed her. The song is near and dear to his heart with all the time he spent with the Journey boys, and he thinks Hollie did Steve Perry proud. She’s right in the zone, and he thinks she wants to take this thing. Jennifer got a little emotional seeing how far Hollie has come, and how she was so laid back in the beginning of the song with such a confidence. It’s something they’ve been waiting to see from her.

Steven watched Hollie two years ago and she was so young, but he’s watched her creativity come around. Creativity is a delicate flower, but you can make it bloom by giving it positive affirmations as Jennifer did. Hollie does it every night as her choice of song was over the top again. Seriously I’m about to pull my hair out as Hollie admits she wasn’t 100% sure of the true meaning of the song but other people helped her with it. If you don’t understand the lyrics in a song, don’t sing it just because it’s a power ballad.

Jason Derulo is still working on that Idol coronation song for this year, and we get a chance to see him working on the song. He’s been working so hard on it he’s in a neck brace. His engineers have been helping him find the right sound to go with the lyrics the audience has suggested. He wants the fans to keep on voting for the favorite lyrics. And … that was a use of another five minutes or so.

Joshua Ledet gets non-stool chat and discusses his first song choice. He wanted a song with some meaning to it, and in fact he wants to dedicate it to his dad because he goes through so much and carries the burdens of so many. If he gets to go on the hometown visit next week he’s looking forward to the people, the environment, and the humidity.

He remembers auditioning for season 10 and that everyone turned him away except for Steven. Joshua was going through so much and had just lost his grandmother, so knew he wasn’t ready. Randy thought he could come back and slay it, and in fact he did and made it this year. His whole family has overcome their fear of flying just because he’s on the show. And now, he’s top four, which he calls ridiculous.

Joshua’s first song choice tonight is You Raise Me Up, which we just heard on The Voice this week as well. I’m not sure if you can compare the two versions of the song, though. Chris Mann sang it classically, while Joshua is singing it with his R&B and gospel influence in it. Both seem just as good to me.

Jennifer thinks the whole world knows what she thinks of Joshua. She also thinks it will be interesting from now until the end, because they do have such amazing singers who she feels are great artists. Watching the final four walk out tonight, these are the ones she thought would be there at the end. This was another great performance for her, and she loved the drama of it. Sh thinks if he stays consistent, he could end up right there.

After it was mentioned in Joshua’s film clip that he almost didn’t get on the plane to come to Idol, Steven is glad he did. He sang his little tush off again. Courage is fear that has said its prayers, and he has said his prayers and the world is accepting him like nobody’s business. Randy is also extremely happy he came back, as he’s validating what they say. If you are a great singer and artist, you can sing anything. He never would have thought the Josh Groban song could have been taken to church. Joshua is just an amazing artist with a ginormous career ahead of him. While that song was for Joshua’s father, he admits that his second one is for his mom for Mother’s Day.

The Voice, May 8 – And the Winner is … Purrfect the Cat Edition!!

They came, they sang, and now tonight we find out who will be crowned The Voice.  But not before the producers stretch out what could be handled in a five-minute program into a two-hour event.  For those of you who can’t remember, here are the finalists:

Team Adam: Tony Lucca

Team Blake: Jermaine Paul

Team Cee Lo: Juliet Simms

Team Christina: Chris Mann

(Does anyone else find it kind of funny that the only woman left is on Team Cee Lo?)

Tonight will feature performances by Flo Rider, Hall & Oates, Lady Antebellum and Justin Bieber. (Oh boy.)  As Carson Daly goes through the coaches for their thoughts at the beginning of the evening, I have to give a shoutout to Cee Lo who is wearing a t-shirt with all of the members of his team from this season on it.

Jermaine Paul performs I Want You Back, with James Massone, Jamar Rodgers and Pip. (The bow tie is back!)

We get an outtake reel that is pretty funny, followed by Juliet Simms and Flo Rida doing a medley of his hits.  I think I would have rather seen more outtakes.

Now it’s Beautiful Symphony with Chris Mann, joined by Katrina Parker and Lindsey Pavao.  The end wasn’t as painful as the beginning.

There’s a bit about the Bromance between Adam Levine and Blake Shelton.  The end result is: they love each other, everyone else loves Cee Lo Green, and Christina Aguilera wonders why nobody loves her.

Jermaine Paul, Chris Mann and Tony Lucca join Hall & Oates on stage. I’m sure Tony was wondering if Christina was going to complain when John Hall sings the B-word during their rendition of Rich Girl. I much prefer this to Flo Rida. Can we just call it a night and go out on a high note?  No? Didn’t think so.

We get Cheesa, Matthai, Kim Yardbough and Sera Hill singing Superstitious.

Juliet Simms takes the stage with Jamar Rodgers, Rae Lynn and Erin Willett to sing With A Little Help From My Friends.  Okay, this wasn’t too painful.

It’s a bit on Purrfect the cat.  Really? I mean, really? This show has really gone to the dogs.

Next up is a wonderful performance from Lady Antebellum debuting their latest single Wanted You More.  

Tony Lucca performsGo Your Own Way/em>with Jordis Unga.This is my favorite of the performances of the night from Voice contestants.

An Saturday Night Live skit on Cee Lo and cats. (Again with the cats?)

We also see all four finalists get their choice of Kia cars.  While drinking champagne.  There’s a screen shot for MADD.

And now, as we’ve been told umpteen times already by Carson Daly, Justin Bieber sings Boyfriend.  Is it too late to bring back Purrfect the cat?

Now it’s time to find out who is The Voice. (If I see that cat take the stage, I’m changing the channel!)

Carson goes person to person, giving them a chance to get in a few last words. Did he also get a dig in on Christina while talking to Tony Lucca?  (Not one-dimensional and a more than a member of the Mickey Mouse Club?)

fourth place Chris Mann

third place Tony Lucca (Wow!)

second place Juliet Simms (Wow! Pt2!!!)

The winner is … Jermaine Paul!!!!!!!

So much for the odds!!!  I thought Jermaine was great, but I never thought he’d win over Tony or Juliet!!!  But you gotta give it to him.  They hand him a mic and ask him to sing I Believe I Can Fly while crying and hugging everyone in sight. Needless to say, it’s not the most elegant performance, but you can’t help but be moved by him.  

So that’s it for The Voice, Season 2!!  Congratulations to Blake Shelton and most especially, Jermaine Paul!

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The Voice, May 7 – Final Showdown (Christina & Tony) Edition

And then there were four.

Jermaine Paul

Tony Lucca

Chris Mann

and Juliet Simms.

Juliet Simms is the favorite to win 1/2, while Tony Lucca is right behind at 5/2.  Paul is down at 15/2 while Mann is the long shot at 10/1.  This according to The Spread.

According to me, I think it’s going to come down to either Tony Lucca or Juliet Simms.  At the outset, I’ll say Juliet has the edge, but we’ll see what happens as the night progresses.

Tonight, we get a song from each, a duet with their coach, and then something else that they aren’t telling us.  Juggling?  Probably not.  Curling?  I wouldn’t hand out the brooms just yet.

Jermaine Paul ~~~ I Believe I Can Fly

Really? Hasn’t anyone passed a law outlawing the use of this song for either a singing competition or a political campaign?  If not, they should.  Jermaine is rocking the after-wedding look of a white jacket with the tie and black tie unbuttoned.  He’s actually standing on something that makes him look like he should be on a really big wedding cake; he’s just missing a big plastic bride. But I digress.  He sounds wonderful.  He takes his time and builds the song into an amazing climax.  It was an intense performance and a good way to start the show; however this song should still be persona non grata.

Christina Aguilera: You just sing with so much heart and emotion.

Cee Lo Green: I think it was the perfect song choice. You look strong, a handsome man.

Adam Levine: You’re so powerful; you are an incredible singer.  It was so elegant.

Blake Shelton: My heart is in my throat. I’m speechless.  I’ve listened to that song so many times, but I don’t think I’ve ever heard it until tonight.  (We’ve all heard it so many times. People have gone into diabetic comas from this song.)

Juliet Simms ~~~ Crazy

As a tribute to her coach Cee Lo Green, Juliet performs one of his songs. (As they all will do tonight.)  I’m not that familiar with it, but she sounds great.  It was pretty rocking.

I’m noticing as we go on that there’s little rhyme or reason in the order tonight.  Also, earlier as Jermaine Paul was being interviewed, we were getting tweets from famous people.  Most were about the fantastic performance just delivered by Jermaine Paul, (From Jordan Sparks, Alicia Keys and maybe even Barbara Walters.) Justin Bieber tweeted about how he’s going to be on tomorrow night.

Chris Mann’s Duet with Christina Aguilera ~~~ The Prayer

Under a red arch, with an amazing stain glass backdrop, Christina and Chris sing to one another.  It’s powerful and emotional and mostly in another language.  It was amazing.  You can buy this on ITunes, but they (any of the duets) don’t count as votes. 

Tony Lucca ~~~ 99 Problems

Tony is ambitious.  He starts out standing behind a kick drum, with a guitar and singing.  Maybe he really should juggle too?  Whatever, this feels like a performance that belongs in a stadium. It’s big, bold and pretty damn bad. (I mean that in a good way) A crowd pleaser.  So far, the best of the night.

Blake: That was a lot of fun and a really cool version of that song.

Christina: I thought it sounded great. The lyrical content was a little derogatory towards women. (This after she points out that his wife and daughter were in the audience.)

Cee Lo: Tony Lucca. (In what I guess is his Italian Godfather voice?) I thought it was hard. (I think that’s what he said. I think it means he liked it. Cee Lo certainly seemed to like it.)

Adam: (Adam defends the song choice. Christina still isn’t happy, but Adam doesn’t back down. Good for him. ) The intent behind the song – the use of the word “bitch” –  isn’t directed at women. Christina doesn’t relent, and Adam responds: It’s a metaphor.

Me: Song lyrics aside, it was great.  I don’t know that Christina should have made such a big deal on air about it either.  Sounds like this is something that has been a bee in her bonnet, so to say. Not sure how true it is, but judge for yourself.

Uh oh, trouble in paradise?

Chris Mann ~~~ The Voice Within

This is Christina’s song.  There are words scrolling above Chris as he sings. Not sure how they’re doing that, but it’s cool, even if a little distracting.  Of course, Chris doesn’t put on a major show.  His voice seems flawless as he makes his way through this song.  Christina is glowing as she watches.  Chris hits the big note at the end. Then Christina runs up for a hug and gets in another dig at Tony Lucca.  Was that really needed? We got the point; you didn’t like the lyrics of Tony’s song.  Did you complain when Jay Z did it? Or is this reserved only for other former members of the Mickey Mouse Club?

American Idol, May 3 – Outlook for Remaining Top 4

Every American Idol season has one. A person who everyone expects to go each week, but who manages to hang on week after week. They appear in the final two or three week after week, but never go home. Sometimes they hang on until the bitter end at final three, but they never make final two. Season one it was Nikki McKibbin. Last season it was Haley Reinhart. Sure, she had a lot fans, but she also had that vacation home in the bottom two or three.

This season that spot belongs to Hollie Cavanagh. She’s had many weeks where she just wasn’t cutting it, but she’s always hung on. The question tonight didn’t seem so much “who will go home,” but “Will Hollie go home tonight, and if not, who will it be?” No one enjoyed the answer. Hollie fell in the bottom two again, but she once again lasted, this time watching her best friend on the show, Skylar Laine, go home. The judges seemed to feel everything we were feeling watching her leave. They didn’t want Hollie to leave, but they also knew Skylar deserved to stay.

Just like the natural-born performer she is, Skylar went out on a high note. She took that stage and rocked it out to Gunpowder and Lead. She gave it every ounce she had, and instead of going up and thanking the judges like other ousted Idols, she gave it to the fans, shaking hands with as many as she could in the first few rows of the audience.

One thing I know. Skylar leaving makes it that much more likely that Phillip Phillips will stay. He’s the only different one left. This isn’t to take away the talent of the other three, they’re all extremely talented, Jessica Sanchez and Joshua Ledet have talent that far exceeds anthing you’ll hear on the radio, and probably more than you’ll hear on any other talent show. Hollie is very talented as well, just without the maturity of the others. But they aren’t unique. You can find similar. You won’t find another Phillip, and you won’t find another Skylar either.

Aside from that, Phillip is the only one to not appear in the bottom two or three. The last time a winner had appeared in the bottom was season three with Fantasia. Season five Chris Daughtry, who had never appeared in the bottom, went home in fourth place. But, Taylor Hicks was still there, and he hadn’t ever been in the bottom either. Hollie, Jessica, and Joshua have all appeared in the bottom two or three. Most likely the race is between Phillip and either Jessica or Joshua. Still, Jessica needed a save to stay, and no one needing a stay has ever made it as far as final two before.

Here’s a look at what the top 4 have to ensure they make it to the final 3.

Hollie Cavanagh – This girl is still living on borrowed time. Make no mistake; she was absolutely fantastic this week. And I was sitting here primed and ready with my red pen to mark off all her faults. However, I didn’t find any. But this is the first week for that. Randy Jackson can say she’s peaking at the right time all he wants. Final five is not the right time. Voters have already made up their minds about her, and that’s why she is now living in Elise Testone’s permanent vacation home in the final two. It’s too late to get it figured out, but I give her a lot of credit for doing so.

Joshua Ledet – Both Steven Van Zandt and Jennifer Lopez issued warnings to Jimmy Iovine that he not screw this one up when it comes to giving Joshua a contract and getting his first album released. It’s pretty much a given. No matter where he finishes, Jimmy is signing him. He doesn’t need this win. I think with the talent residing in the top 10 this year many of them will go on to make records, be it with Jimmy or someone else. Joshua has already earned that just be being himself. He hasn’t ever made a mistake with song choice or performance. He has a good shot at final two.

Phillip Phillips – Phillip is still really sick. He wants this thing so badly, though, that he’s still hanging in there. It might be earning him a few sympathy votes, but I think the majority of them are for his talent. After one of his performances this week, the judges were underwhelmed to say the least, yet the crowd went crazy for quite some time, and the judges had to wait to be heard. Jimmy is right, though, that Phillip had some very subdued performances this time. That means next week he has to rock it hard. If he brings it, he writes his own ticket to stay.

Jessica Sanchez – Jimmy was 100% right that it was a mistake to have her dress sexy and try to pull off Tina Turner. However, He and Jennifer were saying middle America could have been offended. I wasn’t offended; I just felt it was flat out wrong. I have a 15-year-old daughter. I wouldn’t let her dance in a short tight dress like that onstage. When you see her perform that, you almost fall for it, then you look at her baby face that still has the space of a tooth missing on the side, and you say “huh uh.” It’s not right.

She has the talent to sing older songs, but it’s just not right to do that to her. The worst part was the look on her face tonight when Jimmy was saying this. She was very hurt as she thought she looked beautiful. She shouldn’t have been put in this position. She needs younger songs and a younger image.

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American Idol, May 2 – Your Choice: Different or Best?

I’m thinking when Elise Testone left last week, she gave Hollie Cavanagh the keys to her summer house in the bottom three. I think she’ll be there no matter what she does tonight.

To start the show, a girl with medium-length blonde hair is holding a sign that says, “Ryan, will you do my hair?” He tells her he will right after the show. I thought his request line on the radio meant something a little different. Ryan moves on to discussing our two themes of the night, 60s and Brit pop. Jimmy Iovine brought in Steven Van Zandt, aka Little Steven from Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band, to help him mentor this week. He’s looking forward to meeting these Idol singers.

Meeting first with Jimmy and Little Steven is Hollie. She wants to sing River Deep Mountain High this week, and Steven tells her it’s probably one of the most exciting records of all time. She chose the song because she thinks people want her to come out of her shell more. He advises her to get rid of that part of her that just wants to please people. Jimmy agrees if she thinks she has to entertain, she’s dead. Right. Why would I want to be entertained watching American Idol?

Hollie starts the song from deep in the audience, then walks up to the stage with her backup singers following her. She looks a bit like the Pied Piper. She’s definitely better on this than I’ve heard her in a while and has so much more confidence. She gets a little screamy for a bit, and the 60s dancing she throws in looks definitely forced. Randy Jackson and Steven Tyler give her a standing O while Jennifer Lopez stays seated.

Steven Tyler tells Hollie it’s the first time he’s heard her really step out and use her blues. You can always learn how to shake it off a little, but the blues are something you have to learn through experience, yet she showed him she had it in her with some of the runs. Jennifer thinks it was nice to see her surrounded by the bigger production and was glad to see she could lead that. She loved when in the second verse Hollie was attacking the song and biting into the words.

Randy confirms the others loved it, then makes it unanimous. What they said about Hollie not caring if any one else was there is true. She has to keep doing it that way. Jennifer was right about the second verse, as Hollie wore it out and was digging in. Ryan tells us her second song is great, too, judging from the rehearsals. Sounds like the judges might be worried about her chances too.

Phillip Phillips is singing The Letter, which is a song perhaps sung by every rocker on this show. He’s not real crazy about the original version, so changed it up a lot. Steven calls it very cool, then Jimmy asks if he’s bothered that Phillip doesn’t go for the high note in the bridge. Stevie tries to tell him that’s the way he hears it and says he watches the show, but now wonders if Jimmy does. “Leave him alone. He’s good.”

It’s definitely a different version of the song, which is good since we hear it every year, and I have to say I’m really digging it. I’m just enjoying the hell out of it. Who cares about the high note he ignores. I’d rather hear this thing that is different than hear it the same way every time.

The judges can’t even talk because the crowd is going so crazy. Randy eventually says they were discussing it amongst them, and he understands the conversation between Steven and Jimmy, but what he’s loving in this minute is that it’s down to the wire and while some do a typical version of a song that isn’t as good, Phillip came out and made it his own, vibed it up. It might be missing some melody, but he made it new for Randy. He loved it.

Jennifer doesn’t know the original song and didn’t know what to compare it to so was asking about the melody, because she knows Phillip tends to take the melody out of songs and “Phillip Phillips it.” He’s so compelling to watch, and she just wants to get up on her feet at the end as he’s really a dynamic performer.

Steven has good news and bad news. The bad news is that he did miss the melody, but the good news is that Phillip gets away with it, and that should make him proud. The Stones got away with it too. Rarely does someone come around who actually wears it proud and wears his freak flag. Randy agrees that the best part about Phillip is that he strives to be original. His girlfriend’s in the audience, and she’s cute as a button. Ryan’s just glad that that leaves his girlfriend, Julianna Hough, out of Phillip’s range.

Skylar Laine is singing Knock On Wood, but Steven doesn’t really like it on her. They go through a few other choices and end up with Fortunate Son. Without even hearing her sing it I know it’s a better choice for her. Jimmy likes it on her as it’s a song of rebellion, and that’s how he sees Skylar. He knows she needs a jetpack on this week to stay out of the bottom three.

Oh yeah. Skylar is totally rocking this one out. Forgive my 80s vernacular but it’s the only way I can think of to phrase it right now. And talk about confidence. Wow. If Phillip “Phillip Philliped” his song, she “Skylar Laines” this one. And I love her sparkly boots.

Jennifer asks Skylar how she’s feeling, as she pictures her backstage with people holding her while she begs to be let out there until she finally gets out and gives us all that energy. It’s amazing, as she attacks every single song and makes everyone go crazy for her. Each week we see how much more willing she is to be fearless.

Steven knows Skylar loves music, and music loves her. He particularly likes when she boot scoots out there and takes it up a bunch of notches. He loves her voice, the way she dresses, everything. Randy calls CCR one of the greatest bands ever, and believes Fogerty and the others would be very proud. She was born to be on the stage. He knows she’s born to do what she’s doing, and she was so in her element, it must be what she loves the best. He also likes that she calls him Sir.

Joshua and Phillip are teaming up for their first duet. This ought to be very interesting. They get non-stool chat with Ryan, and Phillip explains that when he first found out they’d be doing this, he was dreading it. Joshua admits it was horrible news. Joshua doesn’t know it, and Phillip messes him up all the time. Ryan suggests it could be purposely.

The Voice, May 1 – Last Elimination Before Finals Edition

It’s that time again.  Time to see who goes home and who lives to sing another day.  That day being next Monday for the big finale.  That’s right, tonight is Elimination night on The Voice.  And there are no more saves left, no more last chance performances.  (Thank God.)

Since they start off with their own recap, let’s do our own, but without the overly dramatic music between clips.

Team Adam: Katrina Parker vs. Tony Lucca

Team Blake: Jermaine Paul vs. Erin Willett

Team Cee Lo: Juliet Simms vs. Jamar Rodgers

Team Christina: Lindsey Pavao vs. Chris Mann

See?  Isn’t that better without having to fast forward through the recap?  

Last year’s finalists are in the house.  Kidd Cudi and last year’s finalist Dia Frampton (Team Blake) take the stage.

So the coaches rated their singers, dividing up 100 points between them and then America voted.  Both scores were merged, so once again, it’s not up to us who stays or doesn’t. At least not totally. Unless they all give their singers 50/50.

First up: Team Christina: Lindsey Pavao vs. Chris Mann

Christina Aguilera’s score: Lindsey Pavao 50% vs. Chris Mann 50% (That’s the way to wimp out, Christina!)

America’s vote: Chris 104%, Lindsey 96%.

Chris Mann moves onto the finals; Lindsey Pavao is eliminated.

This was a little hard to call for me.  Chris was better, but Lindsey was more contemporary.  So even though I just called her a wimp for doing it, I can’t really blame Christina.

Next, former finalist Vicci Martinez (Team Cee Lo) takes the stage with her mentor Cee Lo Green.

Now we’re up to Team Adam: Katrina Parker vs. Tony Lucca

Adam Levine’s scores: Katrina: 40%, Tony 60%. (Ooh, that’s gotta hurt.)

Add America in and … Katrina 92%, Tony 102%.

Tony Lucca goes on to the final, Katrina parker is eliminated.

Adam summed it up, Tony gives him a better chance to win.  Can’t argue. But Adam not used the 60/40 split, Tony might not have been the one moving on. Katrina’s 92% minus 40% is 52%. Tony’s 102% minus 60% is 42% Katrina had more votes from America. If Adam had pulled a Christina and gone 50/50, Tony would have been eliminated.

Cyndi Lauper takes the stage with Beverly McClellan .

Last year’s Voice Champ, Javier Colon performs.  My local affiliate seemed to have missed his intro and the little The Voice place card that follows each commercial break.  Oh well.

Team Blake: Jermaine Paul vs. Erin Willett

Blake Shelton’s Scores: Erin 50%, Jermaine 50%

Tallying in America….. Erin 77%, Jermaine 123% (Wow, that wasn’t even close.)

Jermaine Paul goes to the final, Erin Willett is eliminated.  

I think America got it right here.  Sorry, Erin.

Last up, Team Cee Lo: Juliet Simms vs. Jamar Rodgers

Let me say, it’s hard to see anyone but Juliet getting this, but we’ll see what happens once Cee Lo stops prattling on.

Cee Lo Green’s Scores: Jamar 40%, Juliet 60% (Hard to disagree.)

Add in America’s vote … Jamar 79%, Juliet 121%

Juliet Simms goes to the final, Jamar Rodgers gets eliminated. This is one where Cee Lo’s 60% advantage to Juliet didn’t matter. Without it, she would have still had 61%, while Jamar would have had 39%. It’s clear Juliet was Cee Lo’s and America’s choice.

And there you have it. Going into next week’s final are:

Team Adam: Tony Lucca

Team Christina: Chris Mann

Team Blake: Jermaine Paul

Team Cee Lo: Juliet Simms

Is it too early to call it yet?

I think that the right ones are going through, although I still think the Shield Brothers got robbed and I miss Pip and his bow tie.  Any thoughts?

See you next week at The Voice Final!

Watch http://vincentmorrone.com/ for information on my debut novel, Vision of Shadows, to be published as an E-Book by http://www.writers-exchange.com/home.php

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