Idol Worship: Post-show Report

For such an anticipated showdown, there wasn’t all that much going on in the media area on Tuesday night. Most radio interviews had been done on Monday in the Nokia’s downstairs lounge, where all of the Top 13 were paraded down a long hallway of stations set up for remote feeds. Fox affiliates got their own time with the season 8 bunch in an area set up outside the Nokia Theater doors and accessible to just about anyone off the street. That’s where we saw Allison Iraheta graciously pose with a couple of eager girl fans after the show, and also ran into Chicken Little himself, Kevin Covais, who was getting recognized left and right.

Meanwhile, out by the loading dock, we spotted Megan Joy and David Archuleta having a light-hearted chat before he was chauffeured away by a woman who looked very much like his mom and Megan was ushered back inside for more rehearsals.

Ryan Seacrest left the building just after eight, but not before asking a crowd of onlookers, “Who’s it gonna be?” Does that guy ever break from hosting duties?

Surprise special guest Rod Stewart made a stealth exit after a relatively quick post-show rehearsal. We couldn’t make out the song, only that it was mid-tempo, which narrows it down to a couple dozen possibilities.

A flock of paparazzi had gathered outside the backstage exit and went berserk when Extra correspondent Teri Seymour appeared. According to one such shutterbug, Simon Cowell’s ex-girlfriend was seen crying in the same spot earlier in the evening after a fan allegedly grabbed her by the neck and gave her a scare.

As for the final two’s post-show plans? A long to-do list that includes taping Wednesday night’s opener, rehearsing with the Top 11, and many, many interviews. Of course, it’s just the start of their weeks-long talk-fest. Here’s some of what they had to say on Tuesday night:

On the winner’s song, “No Boundaries”
Adam: “It’s a great song, and it actually has a really great message. There was a lot of lyrics and it was a big song. We didn’t have a lot of time to work on it, so it was kind of a rush job. The recordings are coming out soon and they’re both really, really good.”

On their best performances
Kris: “I think I did my best on ‘Ain’t No Sunshine.’ I had already rehearsed it plenty, and it was ready.”
Adam: “I wouldn’t have picked ‘Change Is Gonna Come’ for myself, but when Simon gave it to me, I looked at the words and it really moved me. Anyone who feels oppressed can relate to that song. It’s been a civil rights anthem for a long time, there’s all sorts of new civil rights issues that are coming up right now.”

On their friendship
“We’ve been roommates since the Top 13.”
Adam: “[But] we don’t get naked together.”

May 20, 2009 in American Idol | Permalink | Comments (219) | TrackBack

Idol Worship: The Final Two Face Off

Allen_lambert Between the Lakers game across the street, a 4.0 magnitude earthquake underground (the second in a week), and, of course, American Idol’s final showdown, downtown LA was literally bouncing last night. And amazingly, it was smooth sailing in and out of the Nokia Theater. For us, anyway. Who knows how long Adam Lambert and Kris Allen had to stick around for more rehearsals, interviews and glad-handing. But before we get to our post-show exploits with the guys (which lasted all of five minutes and was shared by a hundred or so other journalists) and some backstage scoop we were able to gather, we offer our final rundown of the season that brought back fingerless gloves and showed that a sparkling personality isn’t always a must when it comes to advancing in this competition. As for who the American Idol will be? Admittedly, we’re torn. We’ve always insisted that Kris will be more marketable, radio-friendly and easier to swallow on a mainstream level, but Adam pulled out all the stops last night and cemented his superior showman status. Read on for more of our take…

Round One: Kris Allen

We’re going to agree with Simon on this first round. Kris Allen’s personal choice, “Ain’t No Sunshine,” brought out that sweet spot in his voice and proved that Kris’ subtle phrasing is truly a trademark at this point. Of course, you could say the same of Adam, whose voice is undeniably recognizable, but something about his presentation on “Mad World” felt very staged, you could even say insincere (and we’re not just referring to the tawdry up-to-the-elbow gloves and trench-coat ensemble). Simon commented that it was theatrical, but what in the Adam Lambert songbook isn’t? For all the judges’ praise this whole season, you’d think they would be used to the Phantom Of The Opera vibe by now? Maybe there was no way to go up against Adam’s original performance back in the Top 8, which was truly outstanding, but the finale version lacked that emotional connection, which Kris most definitely had with his choice. You also have to give Kris bonus points for his piano skills, which proved he’s not just a singer, but a musician. We know Adam has great taste in bands, but can he play in one? We’re not so sure.

Round Two: Adam Lambert

Adam Lambert’s secret weapon has been and forever will be his range, and nowhere was that more evident than in round two. Here was Adam’s big chance to show off, with a soulful, almost Janis Joplin-like rendition of the popular Idol audition number, “A Change Is Gonna Come.” But he also took the opportunity to tone things down and exert a little more control, especially in the opening verses, which were perfectly executed. Good calls all around for Adam (including his more subdued Jonas-esque attire), which we can’t say for Kris. True, there was a Phish show parking lot feel to his take on the Marvin Gaye classic “What’s Going On?” (one guy was playing a box, for Christ’s sake!) that may have been a little too low-fi for the massive spectacle that is American Idol. And let’s face it, if you have a full orchestra at your disposal, why not use it? Still, there’s a genuineness there you can’t deny, and, again, the skillz (on guitar, this time). 

Round Three: Draw

How do we put this nicely? Kara Dioguardi, Cathy Dennis and Mitch Allan are all top-notch, super-talented songwriters, but come on! Could they compose a more difficult song to sing? Both Adam and Kris seemed to struggle endlessly with “No Boundaries,” missing notes, over-reaching, falling flat… Of course, this is nothing new. Idol has yet to produce a truly memorable winning single (though Fantasia’s “Believe” does get a decent amount of spins at our local supermarket), which makes us think they should just do away with the coronation song and transfer the buzz to both finalists’ already recorded, non-victory-specific first singles. It would be a time crunch, but if anyone can jam an already-packed schedule, it’s the Idol team. In the end, it was unfortunate that on this final performance, our two candidates seemed least confident and, when it was over, simply looked relieved. No wonder there was chatter in the press room about the finale being “anti-climactic.”

So it’s a tie, and now it comes down to that sticky question: who’ll get Danny Gokey’s so-called “Christian vote” and will it decide this contest? Is Adam Lambert simply too flamboyant for mainstream America? We have but one thought to offer: while it wasn’t considered an upset last year, David Archuleta was also the frontrunner and expected winner, but we know how that turned out. Lesson learned? Don’t count out the underdog.

May 20, 2009 in American Idol | Permalink | Comments (160) | TrackBack

Idol Worship: Finale Promises Another All-star Lineup

Downtown LA's Nokia Theater has been buzzing as season 8's Top 11 rehearsed for the big finale on Wednesday night, and finalists Adam Lambert and Kris Allen greeted the press on Monday. They were joined by last year's American Idol David Cook, who did a run-through of "Permanent," his for-charity single which hits iTunes on May 20. Who else will take the Idol stage on results show night? Performances by Carrie Underwood, Black Eyed Peas, Jason Mraz, Queen Latifah, Keith Urban, Lionel Richie, Cyndi Lauper and Carlos Santana have been confirmed by various outlets, but there are plenty of rumors, too. Us Weekly reports that Kiss will be dueting with Lambert, which we hear is true. It would make sense since the band is back in the studio, and what would a Gene Simmons appearance be without product to hawk? There's also talk of Britney Spears (denied), David Bowie and the obligatory Michael Jackson rumor, which never pans out. What we do know is that there's sure to be some interesting pairings, including Keith with Kris, Cyndi with Allison Iraheta and Lionel Richie with Danny Gokey. And, of course, you'll see plenty of your Idol favorites from past seasons. We ran into Bo Bice outside the Kodak Theater where the TV Guide Network had set up its own Idol command center. The stage is set at last. Will it be lights, camera, Adam? We'll see soon enough...

May 19, 2009 in American Idol | Permalink | Comments (131) | TrackBack

Idol Worship: The Final Three

The battle of the dudes has begun, Idol worshipers. Three contestants left, one week to go, and the title remains a toss-up, as Simon Cowell emphasized at show’s end. This is the last chance for Adam Lambert, Danny Gokey and Kris Allen to prove that they’ve got what it takes to be the American Idol, and each brought their A-game on Tuesday night with relatively few stumbles. But three dramatically different styles make this contest even tougher to call, and in the end, it feels like we’re all just guessing. Will it be the showman, the choir boy or the one who flew under the radar? If it were held today, we’d crown Kris Allen king of this sausage-fest. Read on for our final three analysis…

Kris-top3 1. Kris Allen – “Apologize” / “Heartless”
It took us this long to figure it out, but Kris Allen is season 8’s David Cook. Not necessarily in the charm or charisma department, but certainly when it comes to taking risks and, more importantly, being current. In fact, that’s something both Adam Lambert and Danny Gokey sorely lack: a true connection with today’s pop music. They gravitate towards songs that came before their time, which only makes them seem older; and each of their voices would be a challenge to market, albeit for vastly different reasons. But Kris Allen is all too aware of contemporary trends, as he’s shown time and time again. And he’s smart enough to know when not to reinterpret a song too liberally, as he proved last night with his true-to-the-original “Apologize.” Then again, for his personal pick, he did a complete 180 by opting for an open-mic night version of Kanye West’s auto-tune anthem “Heartless.” Just Kris, an acoustic guitar, and a simple melody written by one of hip hop’s greatest talents — talk about balls! He’s got ‘em. So while we know Kris is a long-shot, the dark horse, underdog or whatever you want to call him, when it comes to the mission of American Idol, to introduce a new artist who can sell a million copies of his debut album (give or take a couple hundred thousand units), he’s the best choice. That’s not to say his performance was perfect. Kris did indeed hit a bum note during the first song, but he was also playing an instrument, which means twice the effort and the pressure. Surely that’s gotta be worth extra credit, right?

2. Adam Lambert – “One” / “Cryin’”
Since there’s little doubt about Adam Lambert’s finale prospects (oh he’ll be there — with bells on!), we’re not just going to hand him the title a week in advance. Because while Kris Allen may have hit an off note at the top of his song, Adam had more than one bum crescendo during his Mary J. Blige-esque take on U2’s “One” (and he wasn’t playing an instrument simultaneously), proving that soul diva, he’s not. Now you’d think U2 would be a natural fit — after all, Bono hits the high range better than anyone — but not only did Lambert lose the essence of the song by taking too many liberties with the melody (which usually entails screeching at the top of his lungs), he managed to make a rock classic sound like something that came out of a hokey Broadway play. It was unbelievable, all right — unbelievably blasphemous. His take on Aerosmith’s “Cryin’” was only slightly more tolerable. It started out strong, but once the chorus kicked in, Adam sounded as if he was fighting the harmony (and one overambitious backup singer) and struggled to get back on track. There’s no denying the power of his voice, of course, but is it more show than substance?

3. Danny Gokey – “Dance Little Sister” / “You Are So Beautiful”
Did Paula Abdul do in the Gokes with her song choice?  Or did Danny redeem himself with the second number, at least enough to pull him through to the finale? We’re going with the first theory and blaming it all on Paula. Not that there’s anything wrong with Terrence Trent D’Arby, but, as Simon said, give us some “Sign Your Name” or “Wishing Well,” not the little-known (at least in the U.S.) first single “Dance Little Sister.” Hell, we were hardcore D’Arby devotees in the late 1980s, and even saw him live at the old Ritz in New York, but Danny didn’t exactly do the new-soul pioneer justice. Competent? Sure. Did the song fit his voice? Absolutely. But it’s nothing we haven’t heard before. Throw in the awkward dancing and that unnecessary sax solo, and this performance was far from final two material. As for Danny’s second go-round, his hushed, breathy “You Are So Beautiful” started out promising enough, but it veered into lounge act territory halfway through, and, as a result, totally lost the emotional impact. Bottom line: If he’s attempting to go toe-to-toe with Adam in the vocal gymnastics department, he may as well give up because that’s a lost cause. Will the Christian contingent vote him through to the finale? There’s a good chance, but as we said last week (and thereby lost our near-perfect prediction streak on the LA TimesIdol Tracker), Danny should go home.

May 13, 2009 in American Idol | Permalink | Comments (134) | TrackBack

Idol Worship: Best To Worst Of Rock Night

IdolTop3 Is it just us or does this year’s Idol feel like the longest season ever? Oh wait, it is! And here we are two weeks away from the finale, with a presumptive winner basically going through the motions, and it all couldn’t end soon enough. Of course, not before the last four standing desecrated all that is good and pure in rock-n-roll.

Slash mentored the group this week, offering screaming pointers and the like, but it really came down to comfort zone. Adam Lambert and Allison Iraheta were clearly in theirs, but for Kris and Danny, the theme was more of a challenge (not to mention the lack of proper run-through due to an earlier set calamity). And there was the duet aspect to kick up the ante. What a great twist! They should introduce it in the semifinals to speed up the whole process. Plus, it’s a good way to see who’s the attention whore in any given performance, and which contestant truly carries the tune. In the end, they could have gone with a whole Guitar Hero/Rock Band theme and really put their skills to the test by making the contestants play along. Ha! Maybe next year. As for our inevitable future victor Mr. Lambert, his performances didn’t make the top of our list, but read on for the third to last(!)Idol Worship best to worst ranking…

1. Allison Iraheta – “Cry Baby” / “Slow Ride”
Slash didn’t exactly pump Allison up in his pre-performance segment. “If she pulls it off,” he said of her choice to sing Janis Joplin’s intricate “Cry Baby.” But it turns out she had way more confidence on the Idol stage than her male counterparts. Even if the judges didn’t appreciate the difficultly of Janis’ verses, criticizing Allison for hanging her performance on the choruses, the fact that she pulled off such a gut-wrenching blues number (which happened to fit her voice perfectly), speaks volumes of her potential. Another example why Allison is prime Idol material? She totally gets it. An obviously astute student of the show, she knew that picking “Piece Of My Heart” would have been another “been there, done that” Idol moment. As for (finally) speaking up post-judging (and refusing to beg - you go, girl!), it may have endeared her to TV audiences even more. But in the end, it was all about the duet with Adam, where the two went toe-to-toe trading verses on Foghat’s “Slow Ride.” Dare we say, Allison out-sung the frontrunner, but it doesn’t mean she’ll win. Sill, she’s safe for another week.

2. Adam Lambert – “Whole Lotta Love” / “Slow Ride”
In case there was any doubt who the judges are rooting for at this stage in the competition, it was all put to rest following Adam’s opening number. Considering the tidal wave of compliments, Simon and the gang might as well hold up their own glittertastic Glambert signs. And forget being an American Idol, Kara and Paula are calling this guy a “rock god,” on par with Robert Plant himself. Sacrilege, we tell you. Here’s how we saw his performances: the hair and outfits bordered on ridiculous, from the skin-tight jester pants to the abundance of studs on his leather jacket (and did Kara and Adam coordinate their outfits Tuesday night?); his vocals were even screechier than usual, despite Slash’s advice to tone it down, and he took too many unnecessary liberties with the song. Bottom line: he’s not only getting old, he’s looking it, too. But, compared to compatriots Kris and Danny, it’s no contest. Adam, for all his Broadway bravado, has the goods, and with the judges’ endorsement, he’s pretty much unstoppable.

3. Kris Allen – “Come Together” / “Renegade”
Rock was considered a challenge for Kris, or at least presented that way by Seacrest, but we didn’t see it as that big a hurdle. After all, anyone who can grab a guitar out of Slash’s hand and shred competently isn’t entirely out of place. In fact, we’d rank Kris higher than Adam were it not for the duet he had to sing with Danny. The rough and tumble “Renegade” dragged them both down. As for the solo number, we had no issues with his choice or delivery. He didn’t overindulge, rather he paid respect to a classic by the world’s greatest rock band by adding his own subtleties. Plus, he played the guitar, which would’ve been a major handicap for any and all of his three competitors. And if you think about it, can’t you see Paul McCartney having an easier time sitting through that performance than if Robert Plant were watching Lambert? Poor Kris. After the harsh comments from the judges, it looked like he had the wind knocked out of him. He knows he could go home tomorrow, but he should stay.

4. Danny Gokey – “Dream On” / “Renegade”
By now, even people who don’t watch Idol have probably heard about the finale to Danny Gokey’s “Dream On,” and the last note that may have done him in. But it wasn’t just the glass-shattering Howard Dean shriek that put him in the danger zone, Danny’s performances were rough all over — from his lack of creativity to the sheer poser vibe of it all. Plus, had he been paying attention (like Allison), he would’ve figured out that “Dream On” is the kiss of death as far as song choices go, and he only had to look back one season to Michael Johns. So maybe Danny is this year’s Elliott Yamin — he’ll make it to the final three, do the hometown visit, drop by his church, etc. — or maybe tomorrow the good lord will take him away.

May 6, 2009 in American Idol | Permalink | Comments (46) | TrackBack

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