Over the weekend, I was invited by Children’s Hospital Los Angeles to serve as an all-access blogger for their big charity fundraiser walk that was being held in honor of their brand new building. This meant I got to spend much of the day hobnobbing with such celebrities as Heidi Klum (!), Melanie Griffith, Jamie Lee Curtis, and Crystal Bowersox. Of course, by “hobnobbing,” I mean awkwardly hovering nearby and smiling, but when don’t I do that? Fear not — I did have some interaction. Check it all out (plus lots more fun stuff) in the video above, taken by my incorrigible co-podcaster, Lisa Timmons!
If you’re like me, you sat and plodded patiently through this past, awful season of American Idol knowing that at the very least we’d receive some sort of consolation in knowing that Crystal, the immensely talented busker from Ohio, would win it all and thus preserve the one thing this franchise had left: a thread of legitimacy. But alas, it was not meant to be. Lee DeWyze took the crown on last night’s show, thus serving up yet another upset in the hallowed history of American Idol. I wasn’t feeling the choice, but was I tremendously upset? Nah. Not really. Like many other people, I just didn’t really care who won ultimately. I was pushing for Crystal, but eh, Lee’s fine too, I suppose. Granted, he can’t quite hit any notes, and granted, he looks overwhelmed by the mere sight of a tulip, but hey, if there’s anything we learned about the reappearance of Taylor Hicks last night, it’s that star power isn’t necessary to win Idol. All you need is a strong blue-collar fan base, and you’re golden.
How else to explain Lee’s victory? It certainly wasn’t because of musicality or talent or any semblance of a dynamic personality. Clearly his Everyman from Chicago persona resonated a bit more strongly than Crystal’s Earth mother, feathers-in-the-hair, coffeeshop look. Besides, she lacked Lee’s humble nature (and perhaps some decent quality toothpaste), and that can work against you.
You might not realize it, but tonight marks the season finale of American Idol. Even more significantly, it will serve as Simon Cowell’s final episode before he jumps ship to his other franchise, X-Factor. However, buzz on Idol has been so low that it’s difficult to imagine that either of these things are about to conspire. Heck, it’s hard to even believe that our two finalists squared off just last night. There’s been no talk, discussion, or excitement about this finale. Even lame seasons have created some sort of fervor in pop culture by now — intense debates about who should win versus who will win. But not this year. The experience has been tepid at best, and last night’s showdown between Crystal Bowersox and Lee DeWyze was no different. It’s not to say there weren’t noteworthy moments, but the excitement that’s usually there for an Idol finale — that unique feeling like you’re taking part of a significant pop cultural event — was completely absent. Instead, last night’s show felt simply like we were just watching two people sing songs. Nothing more. Nothing less.
Maybe it’s also because Crystal Bowersox is and has been so much more massively talented than anyone else that it simply feels redundant to pull for her. I do understand that this is Idol and her victory is not guaranteed; however, watching her duke it out with Lee is like witnessing a professional basketball player shoot hoops with, well, me. Not thrilling.
We’re down to our final three on American Idol, and in just over a week, we’ll have a new recording superstar. And by that, I mean the next featured artist at Starbucks. Casey, Crystal, and Lee are all very talented musicians, and they certainly do love strumming their geee-tars, but man oh man do they lack charisma. It’s just hard to get excited about them. This wasn’t the case a year ago when we had the polarizing Adam Lambert, the affable Kris Allen, and the detestable Danny Gokey. Our final three now are all good, but eh. I don’t see anyone getting impassioned about who’s going home tonight. Sort of sad that this is the way Simon’s final season has to play out, but then again, it’s kind of his fault. After all, maybe if he and the other judges had ushered in something beyond a bunch of singer-songwriters, we would actually have a season to crow about. Oh well. Continue reading
With only four performers left on American Idol, the producers threw two wrenches into the mix. First, the final contestants would have to sing duets with each other — a nifty device started last year. Second, they’d have to endure the bombastic mentoring of the insufferable Jamie Foxx — a not-so-nifty device also started last year. The result was an uneven movie-themed episode which perhaps did not speak highly to Mr. Foxx’s mentoring skills. On the other hand, the Oscar winning thespian proved that he IS quite adept at launching a short-lived t-shirt meme. You see, as a way of motivating the kids, he brought two groups of shirts for the singers. One set said “Contestant” and the other “Artist.” Foxx would then dole out a shirt to each singer as he saw fit, but who were we kidding? Of course he’d give everyone an “Artist” shirt (except Big Mike, who managed to be the only one all night to be stuck with a lowly “Contestant” shirt. Sucka).
In the wake of this gimmicky little approach, the judges spent the entire night framing their critiques in t-shirt terms, which was sort of amusing, but a little annoying. However, it wasn’t quite as annoying as the bulk of Jamie Foxx’s mentoring, which predictably featured a surfeit of histrionic silliness and a dearth of constructive criticism. The actor, who appeared skinnier and a touch more aged than usual, attacked each contestant with such techniques as the old “I’m gonna get right in your face like Michael Mann (WHO I WORKED WITH)” and the “we gonna dance together to loosen you up.” In the end, Jamie Foxx was all sound and fury signifying nothing because with perhaps the exception of Crystal, all the singers he mentored pretty much flopped. At least he didn’t bust out the Ray impersonation though. For that we can be thankful.
Start spreading the news: Frank Sinatra night on American Idol sort of sucked. It’s not Frank Sinatra’s fault. And it’s not guest mentor/composer Harry Connick Jr.’s fault. Really, it’s the producers’ fault. I know people love their standards, and I know they love their Sinatra (my mom excluded), but on a show that’s about finding a current, radio-friendly music star, this seemed like a step in the wrong direction. Some might argue that a night of old fashioned crooning is actually the sort of high-level challenge that the contestants should face this late in the season, and some might also reference that Tony Bennett week from a few seasons back where all the singers did magnificently; however, I’m not buying it. This was a poor choice, and it makes me wonder if the producers have any interest in reaching a young demographic anymore.
Another poor choice by the producers: selecting this crop of contestants. Yeah, I know the responsibility falls squarely on the judges for the top 24, but consider this: first, the producers weed out choices before sending them through to the judges during the first round of auditions. Second, let’s not act as if Ken Warwick & Co. don’t have ANY say in the top 24 selections whatsoever. The point is, this cast has totally failed to capture America’s imagination, and the decline in ratings proves it. A reality show lives and dies by the casting, and this bunch overall lacks impressive talent, charisma, or both. Now, at this point of the game, all the singers left have good voices, and many of them have talent too (Crystal Bowersox, for starters). The charisma factor, however, is still missing. This was evident on Rolling Stones night, Elvis night, and now with Sinatra. There’s just a general lack of swagger with this bunch. Sure, there’s preening (Big Mike) and feistiness (Crystal) and sex appeal (Casey), but no swagger. As a result, Sinatra night was something of a bore, saved only by occasional funny outbursts from Harry Connick, Jr.. Let’s just put this bad boy to sleep and move on to next season. Continue reading
I took a week off from American Idol coverage last week because of deadlines elsewhere in my life, but that’s okay because really all we missed was the lame “inspirational” week, which somehow left us hearing Casey James singing theme-inappropriate Fleetwood Mac and Tim Urban taking on a forgettable Goo Goo Dolls song. Sure, there were standout moments, such as when Crystal Bowersox broke down in tears at the end of her performance, but ultimately, the night was more noteworthy for the duds, such as Big Mike’s horrendous cover of the already horrendous tune, “Hero,” from Spider-Man. Simon maligned him for choosing a song about the webby superhero, but let’s not forget that Siobahn’s tune came from The Prince of Egypt, and of course Aaron Kelly’s “I Believe I Can Fly” is from the one and only Space Jam. Sounds like those two got off the hook easy.
Point is, the week was kind of lame, and it was made lamer by the Idol Gives Back bonanza, which was really only notable for the hilarious skewering Wanda Sykes gave the show midway through. When the dust settled and the poor kids shuttled back to Appalachia, it was Tim Urban who got the boot, thus bringing an end to a charitable week by destroying one person’s dreams. Way to go.
Idol got back on track last night, however, with an evening of Shania Twain’s music. I can’t say I was terribly enthused by this theme, but I did thoroughly enjoy Shania as a guest judge earlier this season, and as such, I felt she would serve as a solid mentor. Turns out I was right. Unlike others (cough, Miley Cyrus) who gave generic advice, Shania seemed both enthusiastic and well-informed in her interactions with the contestants. She’s definitely television-ready, and had the producers not already settled on Ellen as a permanent guest judge, I would advocate strongly for Shania to be on the panel. At least Shania wouldn’t make repeatedly dumb puns about her last name (“All aboard the Shania Twain,” was one of Ellen’s not so wonderful nuggets).