Wednesday, April 30, 2008

04.29.2008 - AI Review

I won't even go into detail about the debacle that was last night's show. From Paula's goof to the uninspired performances, last night's show was a disappointment, and I'm not blaming Neil Diamond. He and his songs rock. The Idols should have been able to do more with those songs, but either they were daunted by having to do two songs or their energies are flagging. Regardless, they need to do better.

I will rank the Idols in order of overall performance.

1. Syesha Mercado - She's #1 but I really thought she was going to be better than she was. Like the other Idols, she sounded much better performing in front of Neil Diamond than the actual show. Still, she's stepping it up. I think Simon's warning about her being in trouble is to encourage her fans to vote. I think he really wants her to stay longer.

2. David Cook - Yes, he's consistent but I don't get the praise of originality. There's nothing original about his performances. They're all Nickelback-ed renditions. Original for "Idol" maybe but in the bigger scheme of things it's the same treacle that you hear on the radio. I actually disliked the arrangements to the songs last night.

3. David Archuleta - I liked the arrangements of the songs but I didn't like the execution. There should have been more teenage exuberance on "Sweet Caroline." That was a song he should have hit out of the park. I also heard his voice squeak a couple of times, but I still believe in this kid. He needs polishing and a few more years of living before he can become an interesting singer.

4. Jason Cook
- I liked his low register on "Forever in Blue Jeans" but then he shifted to his moaning voice, which I now realize turns me off. It's the sound of someone trying too hard to seduce the panties off a girl. He probably should have taken lessons from Michael Johns about how to really do it, but unfortunately Johns left too soon. "September Morn" was just a snoozer.

5. Brooke White - She's back to her annoying habit of cutting off the judges before they can criticize her. She points out the bum note at the end of "I Am I Said." "I'm A Believer" was fake joy. No amount of smiling while performing can hide the insecurity that permeates through her performance. At least it wasn't as creepy as when she smiled her way through "You Must Love Me" last week.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

04.22.2008 - AI Review

1. Syesha Mercado - Her best performance. She exuded confidence and charisma, something she hasn't done the last few weeks.

2. Carly Smithson
- She could have done more on the chorus. The verses was where she shined, but she did a terrific job. She's got great stage presence too.

3. David Archuleta - The most radio-friendly of the performances tonight, but I doubt any radio station would be playing it. It sounded like something on Radio Disney, which I guess would be a station that would play it. With that said, he sang it well and made the song work to his strengths.

4. David Cook
- He sang it well but it was drained of any real charisma. The need to hit notes seemed to preoccupy him. I've heard this song performed just like this many times and while it does it justice, it is hardly memorable.

5. Brooke White - I didn't mind the do-over so much, but as Simon pointed out, it made her tense. She's a trooper for getting through it, but it was like cheering on a third grader at a Spelling Bee.

6. Jason Castro
- Bad song choice. What made him think he could sing this? The song didn't work as a simplified song. It's all about the big emotional end, which he stripped off. It almost sounded like he was trying to do "Hallelujah" again but this time the Rufus Wainwright version. I cringed throughout.

By the way, I'm in New York today. Check out this picture. Craziness!

LA Cafe Held Hostage By Film Crew

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Earth Day

Mile 11

Today is Earth Day and to celebrate I'm going to leave my car at home. I'm taking the subway today, including a trip to Pasadena after work. Wish me luck!

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Tift Merritt Interview for LAist

I've written another piece for LAist. This time it's an interview with Tift Merritt. I interviewed her over the phone on Sunday during "60 Minutes." I don't like talking on the phone as it is, so interviewing her on the phone was a bit tough. My note taking skills aren't the best and I had a hard time hearing her and her me since she was at a venue gearing up for a show. I'm going to see her show tonight.

Tift Merritt Interview

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

04.15.2008 - AI Review

1. David Cook - It was a terrific arrangement with OK vocals. The strings were the best thing about it. Like last week he went with his lower register, and while not as shaky, it is not the best use of his voice. He sounds best when on full rock mode.

2. Carly Smithson
- I'd disagree with Randy and say that I liked the beginning more than I did the shrieking. She was trying too hard to reach those Mariah notes and she couldn't. Too many bottom 3 placements has shaken her confidence and she's second-guessing herself. She should stick to her instincts and not try to figure out what the audience wants.

3. Jason Castro - Castro needs to stop with the falsetto. It failed him on "Hallelujah" and it failed him again in the beginning of the song. Thankfully the song turned out to be quite pleasant and true to his self.

4. David Archuleta - He hit some flat notes and the falsetto also failed him, but overall a good effort from the kid. This is his comfort zone but he needs to show versatility. The song that really made me a believer was actually the only upbeat song I remember him singing, "Shop Around."

5. Syesha Mercado - Pretty voice but tries too hard to be so. She does pick difficult songs to sing but whether she succeeds is a matter of debate. It's not that she has no personality, it's that it gets overshadowed by too much strain and effort showing. Her best moment was in Hollywood Week when confronted with losing her voice, she delivered a gutsy performance.

6. Brooke White - Having her sixth seems weird because I actually didn't dislike her performance. It was good, but just not particularly memorable. A little on the dull side but it didn't make me cringe.

7. Kristy Lee Cook
- Also not bad, but just merely passable. She has improved, though, from her awful early performances. I still don't think she should be here.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

AI Review - 04.08.08

1. Jason Castro - He stuck to the arrangement but was not a slave to it. He avoided mimicry and imbued the performance with something of himself. Comparatively it wasn't as good as the original, but it was unique enough to be appreciated on its own terms. The producers seem to have learned their lesson from the Chris Cornell issue and allowed Jason to thoroughly credit the the original.

2. Kristy Lee Cook - Wait, I really have her in second? Yikes! I guess it points out the uneven nature of tonight's show. Truthfully, she was at her best tonight. I'd also give her credit as being the savviest contestant left. She knows how to play to her audience and pick songs. I'd say she has been improving the last couple of weeks.

3. David Archuleta -Archuleta probably isn't as comfortable playing and singing as the others and it showed. He seemed a little unfocused at times, but he picked a great song and sang it effectively and well.

4. Syesha Mercado - She's no Fantasia. I agree with Simon's assessment. She sang it technically well but there wasn't the rich emotion that made Fantasia's performance so galvanizing. Lack of emotion has actually been a problem for her all season. There's not doubt she can sing but the substance is lacking. That high note was flat too.

5. Brooke White - Pretty performance but dull. I like her as a singer, and she performs the songs admirably, but in a competition like this they need to also be memorable. I don't think I remember anything about her rendition tonight.

6. Michael Johns - That falsetto in the end diminished an otherwise good performance. I agree with the judges that as much as he wants to be a rock guy, he really isn't interesting as one. He's more interesting as the bluesy, seductive singer of last week. I'm still in heat from that one.

7. Carly Smithson - She was out of control--and that's not good. What I love about her every week is how in control of her voice she is, but this week the song got the better of her. Flat notes, lackluster singing, and it sounded unwieldy. She might be in trouble.

8. David Cook - Just a big old mess. What was up with that beginning? The shift in the beginning from low-voiced spoken word to full-on rock voice was jarring. The whole performance seemed off and all over the place. He looked great, channeling a little bit of Chris Martin complete with a message painted on his hand. I'd almost agree with Simon that it was a little pompous, but I blame it on the song. Bad, awful song.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

It's Definitely Alright

I guess I've been smitten by Michael Johns's performance of "It's All Wrong, But It's Alright" on "American Idol" because I've rewatched the performance a few times now. I'm even contemplating actually buying it on iTunes. I still think he's older than he claims, but it certainly helped the performance. He's the only "Idol" contestant who can sing the line "Tell me sexy, lovin' lies" and not sound ridiculous. It actually sounded, well, sexy. Ultimately it might be too much grown-up sex appeal for "Idol's" main audience, but for a grown-up like myself that was definitely a treat. I might just be a puddle if he ever sings something like "Let's Get It On."

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Here I Go Again

I posted another piece on LAist. Hopefully I'll continue to be somewhat productive over there. This piece is an interview with the Morales brothers from the terrific local band, Astra Heights. Check it out.

AI Review - 04.01.2008

1. Michael Johns - Now this is the performance from him I've been waiting for. Well-rounded, mature, and just utterly soulful. One of the standout performances of the season.

2. David Archuleta - He seems to have regained his confidence and plugged into the song. It's my favorite performance of his this season.

3. Carly Smithson - Again she displays amazing control of her voice. She and Michael are showing how age can endow a singer with great emotional depth.

4. Syesha Mercado - The two-for-one performance didn't bother me, especially since she pulled off both successfully, if a bit restrained.

5. David Cook - An original arrangement, but not a very good one. His vocals here, though, remain strong and I appreciated that he saw the value in simplicity.

6. Brooke White - It's unfair to have to rank her since she doesn't have the powerhouse vocals of the others, but Brooke would probably be closer to the kind of singer I would like. I have a feeling she would be an interesting performing artist outside of "Idol."

7. Jason Castro - I look at this guy and I see boy band. He'd be the rebellious one in the group, the guy with the whacked out hair, but as his vocals prove, he's really a puppy dog. His performance of "Travelin' Thru" does nothing to enhance his persona, as this is yet another in an increasingly long line of laidback performances in the vein of Jack Johnson. The song was cleanly delivered and he has a pleasant voice, but I don't hear anything interesting here.

8. Kristy Lee Cook - Yes, another pleasant but forgettable performance. No personality whatsoever.

9. Ramiele Malubay - Lacks the concentration to sing a song through. It seems like she gets bored 2/3 of the way through a song, as she did again tonight. I doubt she thinks about what she's singing, but instead focuses on making herself sound pretty. Surprisingly, this was better than her last two performances, but that's not saying a lot.