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Idol Worship: 'Idol' 8.3 Redux

Whew! It's over. All told, the Season 8 auditions were fairly painless and went by relatively quickly, and for that, we can't complain. But the talent pool certainly seems to be shrinking, considering the Idol producers jammed four audition cities into three one-hour shows. And so we wrap up this third and final pre-Hollywood week with a bunch of so-so's from Jacksonville, good manners and sunshine smiles from Salt Lake City, plenty of groveling from New York City and a couple of bright spots out of Puerto Rico. Here's hoping Hollywood kicks things up a notch, but for now, our recap of week 3's most memorable performances...

1. Megan Crokrey (Salt Lake City)
The judges unanimously declared their love for 23-year-old Megan, a recently divorced single mom from Big Love territory of Sandy, Utah, and we second that emotion. From the scat to her tats, Megan has an edge that Idol desperately needs, and an old soul voice that's all too welcome. We predict she'll go far.

2. Jasmine Murray (Jacksonville)
Sometimes unassuming is the way to go, and adorable little Jasmine Murray had it down. Her hushed version of Fergie's "Big Girls don't Cry" captivated the judges, prompting Simon to say the two magic words: "cute" and "commercial." With that, off she went to Hollywood, and we have a good feeling about this one.

3. Frankie Jordan (Salt Lake City)
Like a breath of fresh air, 23-year-old waitress/stay-at-home mom Frankie Jordan not only sounds like Amy Winehouse, she kind of looks like her, too (minus the ink, scars and wig). There's no doubt the sparkle in her eye got Simon's attention, and her confidence clinched that golden ticket. So Frankie goes to Hollywood, but imitation will only get you so far.

4. Anne Marie Boskovich
The blogosphere had already been buzzing about Anne Marie, who got a do-over so she could sharpen her look. As for her voice? Impressive and controlled. We found it somewhat ironic that she chose to sing Colbie Callait's "Bubbly," the same song Colbie herself auditioned with and was rejected(!) Well, what do the judges know anyway?

5. David Osmond (Salt Lake City)
No one seemed the least bit surprised that a member of the Osmond clan would show up in Utah, but we'll admit, we were a little thrown by David's story. The son of the eldest Osmond, he and his father have both been battling MS, a condition that often confines him to a wheelchair. But standing tall dark and handsome in front of the judges, you'd never know it. Still, David got a panel full of criticism (even Paula had something constructive to say) and there's no guarantee his family name will carry him through Hollywood (though the Dancing With The Stars door is always open, and happens to be right next door).

6. T.K. Hash (Jacksonville)
Finally some soul got squeezed out of Jacksonville, thanks to one T.K. Hash who put a velvety, R&B twist on John Lennon's "Imagine." We're not entirely sure what key it was in, but have to hand it to him for the effort. A little Hollywood polish (for the second time, he also made it through on season 7) will do him a world of good.

7. Jorge Nunez (San Juan)
Considering they barely devoted a half-hour to the San Juan auditions, one has to assume stand-out Jorge Nunez was among the cream of the crop. Of course, with so little context, it's hard to know how he'll stack up to other Hollywood-bound contestants, but one thing we do like about Jorge is that he's bilingual. We see lots of Marc Anthony songs in our future, and that's not necessarily a bad thing.

8. Taylor Vaifanua (Salt Lake City)
At nearly six feet tall, island girl Taylor towers over the competition, but like all the other Idol hopefuls, she's still standing in line, waiting for that elusive big break. Randy instantly compared her to Jordin Sparks and declared Taylor's smooth vocals as one of the best he'd ever heard. We see potential, too, but also a long road ahead. 

9. Kendall Beard (New York)
She only got about 15 seconds of airtime, but considering Kendall could easily be  a Cameron Diaz clone, we anticipate she'll advance far. The little we heard, we liked. Plus, she has that Idol-ready name, don'tcha think?

10. Rose Flack (Salt Lake City)
Poor Rose, the focus of night two's closing segment, had the sob story beyond all sob stories — so tragic we don't even care to repeat it. But there was something inexplicably upbeat about this dreadlocked, barefoot beauty from Idaho — a happy sunshiny glow that charmed the pants off of the judges. Her vocals, however, need some work (even Paula said so), but when it comes to overall vibe, Rose has our vote.

11. Melinda Camille (New York)
Here's what we know about Connecticut native Melinda Camille: she likes to dance around in her room naked. This, of course, could be a problem if she makes it to the Top 12 house... or not. For now, the "Feelin' Good" free spirit whom Kara described as "a vitamin boost" is moving on to Hollywood. And if that doesn't work out, there's always Top Model.

12. Jackie Tohn (New York)
Rockers have been noticeably absent from much of the audition process, but husky Jackie Tohn was representing, not just for the rock, but for the girls. With a rendition of Jason Mraz's "I'm Your's" that could only be described as ballsy, she was the surprise send-through of the night, but may soon hit the end of the road. 

13. Sharon Wilbur (Jacksonville)
A graduate of the Britney school of "Bayyyy-by," we were surprised the judges didn't relegate Sharon to the "needs more practice" league. But then again, Simon sure does like the pretty ones, while Randy, who complimented her tone, must've heard something we didn't.

14. Julissa Veloz (Jacksonville)
Another head-scratcher from Jacksonville, this Miley Cyrus look-alike flubbed her way through Whitney with more than one bum note, then irked the judges with her annoying laugh, yet Julissa still made it through to Hollywood. That's what we call a sympathy pass, but she'll find no such leniency on the Kodak stage.

15. Austin Sisneros
(Salt Lake City)
We wish we hadn't read some blog post comparing Austin to David Archuleta, because as far as we're concerned, that's an insult to Archie. Sure, this Austin kid has student government credentials, and may very well be the most popular kid in his school, but we're not drinking the Kool-Aid. "Perseverance," said Randy, got Austin another shot, but we say the buzz stops here. — Shirley Halperin

January 31, 2009 in American Idol | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Broooce Is Comin' To Halftime

Some folks watch the Super Bowl just for the ads, and we'll be doing that too (keeping our eyes on the music and music stars involved) on Feb. 1. But the sonic highlight is always the halftime show -- for better or worse. In a special section on, we counted down the 10 Best Halftime Moments Ever and by best we meant most spectacular (Diana Ross being airlifted off the field in a helicopter in 1996!), but this year we've got Bruce Springsteen bringing his show to the gridiron for the first time. His shows always fully rock the stadiums he plays, and it's hard to imagine this one won't do the same come Sunday.

January 30, 2009 in Bruce Springsteen, Super Bowl | Permalink | Comments (11) | TrackBack

Idol Worship: Catching Up With David Archuleta

Archie David Archuleta within driving distance? We're there! Since Archie was back in Hollywood last weekend to shoot a performance for the Nickeleodeon hit show iCarly, we decided to pop by the set and catch up with last season's American Idol runner-up. We arrived to to find David and iCarly star Miranda Cosgrove knee-deep in taping promos for his guest-starring role (airing Feb. 7), which can only be described as moments of acute awkwardness. But he got the hang of it soon enough, and even hinted later that there could be more acting gigs in his future. After performing two songs for the network's "Crush Night" (his first hit, "Crush," and second single, "A Little Too Not Over You"), David sat down to talk to us about this new phase in his life, and what may come next (a duet with Miranda?!). Read on for our exclusive (and classic Archie) Q&A... 

First off, how were your holidays?
It was so nice to be home because I haven't hung out with my brothers and sisters for so long. They've changed a lot over the year, and I didn't even notice. My 12-year-old sister has really matured. And my 9-year-old sister, well, she's kind of the same, but my brother's even taller. It was great to catch up with them and see what they're into because I didn't realize how out of the loop I was. It's like, you don't appreciate how busy you are until you come back and realize, "Woah, I missed a lot of my family life!" So I've been spending time with the family. My birthday is between Christmas and New Year's, so we all went to Las Vegas together, saw "Blue Man Group," you know...

And you were at the inauguration in D.C.?

I sang the National Anthem at the Latino gala, which was fun. Obama didn't come by, but there were a lot of cool people there. I got to meet Jennifer Lopez and Marc Anthony and they were super nice. They're some of the most well-known Latino people and were just so warm, welcoming and embracing to everyone. I was shocked that they knew who I was, but they watched the show! Marc was saying, "She calls you her other man and normally, if she did that, I would kick their... But you're OK." I was, like, "Awesome!"

So here we are on an entirely different kind of stage. How did you like your guest-starring experience on iCarly? Did Miranda give you pointers?
I didn't really ask for any. It's kind of like, the more you do it, the more you get the hang of it and find your own way of acting. I hope to do more acting — nothing too fancy or serious, more fun like this. But it's amazing to see how Miranda is in person, because she plays pretty nasty characters sometimes, like on Drake and Josh and in School of Rock. But we had a great time and I love hanging out with her. It's nice to work with someone who's in a similar situation, because Miranda has a record deal, too.

She's hoping to have an album out this summer, and told us she'd love to do a song with you.
Like a duet? That would be way cool.

Speaking of duets, you had your younger brother Daniel play with you at Sundance. Can we expect to see a repeat on your upcoming tour?
I don't know. That was kind of an experiment to see how it would go, and my brother still has some work to do. But it would be cool to have him come out on tour and play with me. It's more special that way, when you have someone who means a lot to you up there on that stage. And the thing about Sundance was, he got to experience a little bit of what I went through.

Any plans to pull a Jason/Michael Castro move on a future season of Idol?
Idol is not his thing, really. He just likes to play guitar and stuff, he doesn't have that big American Idol voice. Plus, he already has his own fans. A video he put up on YouTube got over 100,000 views, which is crazy.

How are you liking the more positive Idol so far this season?
I like it a lot. I still feel bad for people who do bad, but I'm so happy about the new setup and that Kara Dioguardi is there, because she has a lot of knowledge, experience and spunk. And she knows what she's looking for.

You've called her tough before. Was she like that working with you in the studio?
She just told it like it was. She's that kind of person — really forward, but easy to talk to and work with.

She and Simon do seem to clash a lot. When it comes time to voting, who do you think viewers will listen to?
Simon. People still put their trust in Simon, where they've kind of built their foundation on what Simon says. Like even if they like something, they'll change their mind if Simon says it's terrible. Or vice versa. He has a strong influence on people. But I think will Kara will shake that up a little because she's new and has really caught people's interest. Plus, she has a lot more experience with writing. But we'll have to see whether they agree with each other. I'm sure they'll try to have some tension there to liven things up. No matter what, it'll be good for the show.

This year, they're also having the Top 12 live in one house. How do you think that would have played out on your season?

A house together with, like, guys and girls? That's kind of risky. I think it would've been tough. We had roommates, but I like my privacy. Especially with performing; you're out there in front of everyone and meeting  so many people and smiling for so many pictures, it's nice to have a moment where it's no one but yourself. The we-all-live-here-it's-all-fair-game kind of thing? I don't know.

Any plans for you to perform on the show this season?
I haven't been approached yet, but I'd like to, even though it will be kind of weird to be back on that stage.

-- Shirley Halperin

January 29, 2009 in American Idol, Television | Permalink | Comments (31) | TrackBack

Idol Worship: Battle Of The Book Deals

"Move over, David Cook! Since Season Six of American Idol, pop culture has been lacking a certain something…and his name is Sanjaya Malakar!"

So reads the opening line to a press release announcing American Idol also-ran Sanjaya Malakar's memoir, Dancing To The Music In My Head, which officially came out last week. A tad ostentatious? Maybe not in the eyes of the so-called Fanjayas, but what about the rest of the Idol-loving community? Do we care enough about a guy eliminated two years ago in the bottom half of the Top 12 to buy his book? Is out-there hair reason enough for a memoir?

Granted, we haven't read the thing (yet), but it got us wondering: how much are publishers shelling out for these Idol memoirs? After all, Sanjaya's not the first Idol cast-off to try the author route. Season 5's Mandisa put out a book last year that was part-life story, part-self-help guide, and at least one runner-up, Clay Aiken, has found massive success with his publishing debut, 2005's Learning to Sing: Hearing the Music in Your Life, which was a New York Times best-seller.

Simon Cowell's 2004 autobiography, I Don't Mean To Be Rude, But... was another hit.  Randy Jackson's What's Up Dawg?: How to Become a Superstar In the Music Business? Not so much. Some winners have fared well, like Fantasia, who not only told her rags-to-riches story in print, but starred in her own Lifetime movie adaptation of Life Is Not A Fairy Tale, while others have floundered, like Taylor Hicks, who, a year after his season 5 win, released Heart Full Of Soul. Even Idol bandleader Rickey Minor has a book out, There's No Traffic on the Extra Mile, though it's too early to judge its performance. Same with Randy Jackson's second effort, the health-focused Body with Soul.

Of course, in the publishing world, it's all relative to one key number: the author's advance. And much like the stock market over the last six years, Idol alumni have seen some tremendously inflated highs. Hicks, for example, landed a book deal worth almost $800,000, and Aiken pocketed around $700,000 for his, according to a source (Aiken stands to make significantly more for a post-coming out follow-up).

Simon Cowell was paid upwards of $2 million for his autobiography, estimates one industry insider, who puts Fantasia's pay at closer to $500,000. But while Cowell's and Aiken's books performed exceptionally well, Hicks' was an unequivocal bomb. "If you sell a book for $100,000, and it sells 50,000 copies, that's a huge hit," explains one agent who specializes in celebrity book deals. "If you pay close to $1 million and it sells 100,000, you've got problems. It's all about creative financing." Sanjaya, by his own admission, received around $100,000, which makes him a relatively low-risk author, but can he move 50,000 copies to recoup that advance and earn some income? This agent thinks not: "It will not work. His 15 minutes are up."

Which brings us to our original question: why Sanjaya? And at 19 years old, does his life experience thus far even warrant a memoir? We asked last season's runner-up David Archuleta, who just celebrated his 18th birthday, whether he'd consider putting out a book. "I've been approached about doing one," he said, "but I just feel, like, you need to have enough to talk about. What is there to say about my life? Hopefully it's just beginning and I'll be around for a few more years to have stories to tell."

We couldn't have said it better, Archie. But what say you, Idol Worshippers? Would you shell out 20 bucks for the story of Sanjaya? Are there other Idols more deserving of a permanent spot in the Library of Congress?

-- Shirley Halperin

January 27, 2009 in American Idol, Books | Permalink | Comments (54) | TrackBack

Idol Worship: Joanna Pacitti By The Numbers

Joanna The heat is on Joanna Pacitti. The American Idol hopeful wowed the judges in Louisville, and in the two days since we learned her name, has ignited a flurry of Web chatter about her pro past, reality TV history, who she's dating and whether she should even be eligible to compete.

It's nothing we haven't heard before. Just last year, the artist formerly known as Carly Hennessy, season 7's Carly Smithson, was criticized for having a previous major label release. Were it not for a Wall Street Journal article detailing the astronomical cost of promoting a new artist ($2.2 million for Hennessy's Ultimate High album, which sold 378 copies in its first months out), it may have taken a lot longer to make the connection. But once Smithson reached the Top 12, she quickly came clean, no doubt at the urging of the producers.

This time around, Pacitti's major label past was disclosed up front. She had a deal with Geffen/A&M (to which she was reportedly signedby Ron Fair), which resulted in a 2006 debut, This Crazy Life. The album peaked at No. 35 on Billboard's Heatseekers chart, but despite some steady soundtrack work (including a song later covered by Britney Spears for her Circus album), Pacitti's career failed to gain traction.

So for comparison's sake, let's look at the numbers. We know Smithson/Hennessy debuted pitifully. In the six years between its release date and her appearance on Idol, it moved an additional 2,400 copies. Since 2008, it's sold another 3,200 copies, bringing its tally to just shy of 6,000. As of Jan. 18, Pacitti's album has sold 15,000 units, which in today's sales climate, almost qualifies as a hit. In fact, a former Geffen staffer tells us Joanna "was a big priority" at the label, contradicting the belief that she wasn't given a chance and got dropped unceremoniously.

And there are more rumors — that Pacitti is dating Dancing With The Stars' Mark Ballas (that's true, which should make for some interesting run-ins in the soundstage hallway both shows share) and that she's already made it to the Top 36 (this, we can't confirm) — along with facts: that in the mid-'90s, she was branded "Little Ousted Annie" after losing a starring role in a national tour of the production (her mother later filed a $50 million lawsuit and the scandal was covered by Barbara Walters on 20/20 as well as mocked on Saturday Night Life) and that she appeared on MTV's True Life series, as — what else — an aspiring singer.

Does any part of her resume give Pacitti an unfair advantage? We're inclined to think not, because, let's face it, prior to Wednesday, we'd never heard of the girl, and we're in the music business. But what do you think, Idol Worshipers? Please, pipe in.

-- Shirley Halperin

January 23, 2009 in American Idol | Permalink | Comments (42) | TrackBack

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