Welcome to WeeklyWilson.com, where author/film critic Connie (Corcoran) Wilson avoids totally losing her marbles in semi-retirement by writing about film (see the Chicago Film Festival reviews and SXSW), politics and books----her own books and those of other people. You'll also find her diverging frequently to share humorous (or not-so-humorous) anecdotes and concerns. Try it! You'll like it!

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Hollie Cavanagh Eliminated from “American Idol” on Thursday, May 10th


Jessica Sanchez

The inevitable occurred tonight on the elimination night of “American Idol.” Hollie Cavanagh, who had been in the bottom three so many times previously, was finally kicked off. Just before the announcement was made, you could see in her eyes that she knew she was being cut from the competition.

The remaining three contestants are Phillip Phillips, Jason Ledet and Jessica Sanchez.  The Big Question of this year’s competition is whether it is going to be an All-Male Final Two, as one steady watcher thinks it will be, or if it will be the two strongest voices, Jessica Sanchez and Jason Ledet.


Phillip Phillips has all the teeny boppers on his side, and he is, indeed, charming. His vocals are not as strong as either Joshua’s or Jessica’s, but he is certainly an original, interesting, unique performer, and he seems to resonate with the voting public, much as Scotty did last year with his bass country-and-western vocals.


I don’t honestly have a horse in this race.  I could live with any of the three winning, for a variety of reasons.  The raw emotion registering on the faces of fellow contestants (especially Joshua) and judges, alike, (Jennifer Lopez) was touching as Hollie sang her final song. She did a great job with the lyric and melody that talked about how there are always other mountains to climb.

Carry on, contestants!

“American Idol” Results for March 15, 2012: The Ides of March

Fox, Wed., March 15, 2012, 8 pm (ET)  “American Idol” contestants had a hit-or-miss night. Most of the misses seemed to hinge on the young performers giving in to the advice of their elders (Jimmy Iovine and Will i.am.) to sing alternate songs. Each performer was to sing a song from the year they were born.

Standouts of the Night

Definitely the standout performer of the night was Joshua Ledet, who has the best male voice. Singing next-to-last, Jennifer Lopez commented that the show had “saved the best for last” as Joshua delivered a soulful rendition of “When A Man Loves A Woman.” Randy Jackson even said that, somewhere, Percy Sledge, who originally sang the song (Ledet sang Michael Bolton’s version), was smiling down. “You gave it up so big God came through your eyes.” Jennifer Lopez went so far as to say it was “the best thing I’ve ever seen on ‘American Idol.’” Steven Tyler spared the hyperbole, but did note that Joshua was in the same class as Jessica Sanchez last week, when she did an incredible job with Whitney Houston’s “The Greatest Love of All.” With adjectives like “phenomenal” and “incredible” Joshua stood out.

Performers Who Did Well

The final performer of the night, the petite Hollie Cavanagh, who sang Celine Dion’s “The Power of Love,” did well, as did Phillip Phillips, who survived very recent kidney stone surgery to do his Dave Matthews schtick. Others who should be safe include Skylar Laine, (one of the few Idols who stuck to her guns and sang the song she wanted to sing), Bonnie Raitt’s “Love Sneakin’ Up On You.” Also good this night was Erika Van Pelt. She sang a bluesy version of Bryan Adams’ “Heaven” and earned kudos for her performance and appearance from two of the three judges (“You look amazing tonight.”) Shannon Magrane, who sang Mariah Carey’s “One Sweet Day”, also did well, and the judges seemed to like Colton Dixon’s “Broken Heart” by White Lion. Elise Testone scored with an Al Green song that President Obama crooned recently, and earned praise for making it her own.

Performers Who Did Less Well

Although Jessica Sanchez is arguably the best female vocalist in the competition, her choice of Gloria Estefan’s “Hard to Be Around” did not serve her well. Likewise, Heejun Han faltered with Richard Marx’s “Right There Waiting.” He seemed to be out of breath.  Randy called it “pitchy in at least five or six spots.” Deandre Brackensick of the flyaway hair let the judges talk him into “Endless Love.”  The judges all agreed it was the wrong song to showcase Deandre’s falsetto. Randy picked Heejun to get the axe.

Unluckiest Idol

The performer who definitely had the worst night was Jermaine Jones. He was kicked off “Idol” for failing to disclose four active arrest warrants. Elsewhere on the Internet, rumors ran rampant that Jermaine had also lied about being abandoned by his father in childhood. From the rehearsal tape, Jermaine’s version of “Somewhere Out There” would have been very good, but it was always odd (and unfair) that he was allowed in as the thirteenth male contestant, when no “extra” girl was allowed into the competition.

Casey Abrams “Saved” by Judges on American Idol

Casey Abrams

Fox, Thursday, March 24, 2011, 8 PM (ET) “American Idol” had one of its most dramatic nights ever when front-runner Casey Abrams received the lowest number of votes and was in danger of elimination from the show. (Surely a “WTF?” moment.) The judges stepped in to use their one “save” of the season to retain the young Joe Cocker-like musician.

Casey and Stefano were the last two standing after the other low vote getters were trotted out, one-by-one, and then rescued, one-by-one.  Stefano, Thia and Casey ended up in the bottom three. The first two: not too surprising. But the shocker was Casey’s low ranking.

No less an authority than “Entertainment” magazine (March 18, 2011) selected Casey Abrams as the ultimate winner of the whole competition, saying, “Underneath that goofy facial hair and dazed demeanor, this 20-year-old California dude (born in Wilmette, IL) boasts some serious musical chops.”  The author of this “Entertainment” handicapping at 3 to 1, Rob Brunner, added, “And he can really sing.” (I now feel better about my +18 out of 24 showing for the Oscars, and I’m glad I haven’t made any rash predictions for “American Idol’s” tenth season…yet.)  Brunner predicted, on page 48 of the March 18, 2011 “Entertainment” in an article entitled “We Pick the Winner:” “Not I-starred-in-a-school-production-of-Carousel-last-year-sing, but actually inhabit a song, infuse it with personality and emotion and a little humor.” My daughter, a Music Business graduate, only watches the show for Casey. (She had better start voting, methinks!)

Casey was interesting from the outset, showing up with a melodica during auditions so he would have perfect pitch when he began singing. On this night, to save his life in the competition, Casey began singing “I Don’t Need No Doctor” in his characteristic funky growl.  The 3 judges began waving their arms in the air after approximately 3 bars, telling Casey to stop.

“We know who you are,” said Steven Tyler, declaring that Casey’s elimination was just plain wrong. Which it was. Here’s a performer with true talent, a distinctive style, musical ability out the wazoo and America’s vast unwashed apparently tone-deaf masses kick him off?

What’s wrong with this picture! (Answer: Everything.)

Casey looked like he might pass out after the judges used their one “save” of the season to keep the bearded mop-head on the team. I assume tonight’s failure to reduce the group of eleven to ten means that 2 people will be eliminated next week. In my opinion, losing Stefano, Haley or Thia would be far less damaging to the show’s integrity than losing arguably the most talented and fearless singer in the group. He has come out and sung songs as difficult as Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” and then, on Wednesday night’s show, hit the high notes on Marvin Gaye’s “I Heard It Through the Grapevine.” What show was the rest of America watching? You had Stefano singing with little or no emotional connection to his song and Thia actually bobbling the words a bit, and then a truly great performer stalks the stage and…what….? You voted for “the cute one”? Yikes!

After he was “saved,” there was a dramatic encounter with Casey hugging his parents and overcome with emotion at the judges’ using their one-and-only save so early in the season. He could be heard saying, “I can’t breathe.” I feared he would pass out.

The rest of the show preceding Casey’s near-elimination consisted of Ryan Seacrest announcing that 30 million viewers had voted, Sugarland and Jennifer Hudson performing, Marc Antony assisting the contestants with the use of an in-ear headphone so that they can better hear themselves when they perform.  Another high point was the appearance of Stevie Wonder to play “Signed, Sealed, Delivered” and wish Steven Tyler a happy 63rd birthday.  Hulk Hogan also put in an appearance, (which seemed to thrill James Durbin more than anyone.)

Jennifer Lopez offered the startled audience and the overcome-with-emotion Casey this advice as the emotional show ended on a dramatic note:  “Let people feel your soul.  You deserve to be here.”

Lee DeWyze Takes First; Crystal Bowersox 2nd on “American Idol” on Wed., May 26, 2010

american-idol-season-9-promo-pic1“American Idol” ended its run with Lee DeWyze of Mt. Prospect, Illinois being crowned King of the Mountain, despite a very lackluster finale performance, when compared to the always-reliable Crystal Bowersox. Still, both finalists were worthy and both should do well. In fact, other also-rans like Mike Lynche and Aaron Kelly and Siobhan Magnus should do well, also.

After 14 weeks and 500 million votes, the show played out with Randy (in a wild floral shirt), Ellen (white suit), Kara (toga-style dress) and Simon (white shirt/black suit) watching the two remaining finalists who had survived 18 cuts celebrate. Crowds were pictured in Toledo, Ohio’s Huntington Center and on The Village Green in Mt. Prospect, Illinois.

The Top Ten finalists came out attired in school girl and school boy burgundy uniforms (plaid skirt, for the girls) and after that it was a pot-pourri of talent: Alice Cooper (“School’s Out For Summer’), Chris Allen (“The Truth”), Siobhan Magnus and Aaron Kelly singing “How Deep Is Your Love” with the two surviving Bee Gees, Mike Lynche singing “Takin’ It to the Streets” in a duet with a very white-haired Michael McDonald, Ricky Gervais putting in a funny bit, Christina Aguilara, Hall & Oates singing “Man Eater,” “Alanis Morissette doing “Ironic” from her “Jagged Little Pill” album in an duet with Crystal, Carrie Underwood performing a song she had co-written with Kara DioGuardi, Casey James singing “Guns ‘n Roses’” song “”Every Rose Has Its Thorns,” Bret Michaels singing and alive, Janet Jackson performing and, last but not least, Paula Abdul.

Paula came out in a short pink dress and said, “I’ve loved all the fun we’ve shared. I’ve loved all the laughter we’ve shared.  But, as only I can tell you, the show will go on.”

Simon was called to the stage and, among other comments, said, “You’ve got to know when to leave the party.” He added, “Thank you. I’m gonna’ miss you.”

A bevy of former winners, including Kelly Clarkson, Ruben Stoddard, Fantasia Barrino, Carrie Underwood, Jordan Sparks, Taylor Hicks and Chris Allen sang a song with the lyrics, “See what we’ve all become, Together we are one.” With them were a variety of also-rans, including Justin Guarini and David Archuletta, as well as many from this year’s contestants. (Beat Box Guy was in there, too).  Simon said, “The truth is you guys are the judges of this show. Thank you, everyone.  The production team.  I’m not going to name names. It’s been a blast. Thank you very much.”

Since the August 31, 2009 auditions in Chicago, both Lee and Crystal have blossomed as performers. He seemed genuinely overcome at his win and kept saying, “This is amazing. I appreciate everything everyone has done,” before he sang “A Beautiful Day,” the song by U2 that he performed on Tuesday night

There were fireworks outside and inside. Some former contestants who had been cut during try-outs came on briefly, but there seemed to be a battle going on for the microphone when the camera cut away.

Watching Lee and Crystal sing “I Get By With A Little Help From My Friends” with Joe Cocker was great, but trying to figure out why Janet Jackson thought the skin-baring cut-outs on the sides of her cat suit were attractive was more puzzling.
At any rate, it’s over for this year, Lee has been crowned, and, without Simon, “American Idol” will never be the same.  Dane Cook, the comic and actor, took some of Simon’s more outrageous comments while judging the show and put them to music.  For instance, he reminded the audience of the remark that one female contestant sounded like “cats being dropped off the top of the Empire State Building.” There was the remark, “You look like Shrek’s wife,” or the “You must be deaf” comment. My personal favorite: “You have the honesty of Abraham Lincoln and all the charm of the guy who shot him.” (John Wilkes Booth) I’m not sure that Simon really said all those things, but the bit was funny.

So, it’s over, both for Simon Cowell and for “American Idol’s season, and we can all move along now. Nothing to see here any more, Folks.

Crystal Bowersox Surges on Final Night of “American Idol” (May 25, 2010)

american-idol-season-9-promo-picThe momentum tonight, May 25th, Tuesday, may have swung in the direction of Crystal Bowersox on “American Idol’s “ last performance night. I felt it going in Lee’s direction last week, but, tonight, the comments on Lee’s singing were just “ho hum” and Crystal brought it.

The two 24-year-olds sang in front of 7,000 people and there were 3 rounds of songs: One that represented their favorite previous song of the season; one that was chosen for each by “American Idol” founder Simon Fuller; and one that would be the song each would release, if chosen. I misunderstood and thought the final song was going to be an original song, but it turned out that Lee sang U-2’s “It’s A Beautiful Day” and Crystal sang “Up to the Mountain.”

Judge Randy Jackson had on a particularly flamboyant outfit tonight, even for him. It was a pink jacket with floral-trimmed cuffs. Simon, however, was very buttoned-down, wearing a white shirt open at the collar with a black-on-black striped jacket for his final night of judging on this show.

My overall comment on the vibe from the two singers was that Lee seemed curiously lethargic and lacking in energy this night. Crystal, as usual, was on her game.  Lee’s first song was “The Boxer” from inspirational week and, afterwards, Randy said that the song was “A great way to start it off” and that the song was “nice” but that Lee needed to “get more energy.”  Ellen said, “I couldn’t be prouder of you if I’d birthed you myself.”  Kara said, “I loved that you were connected to it, “ while remarking on some pitch issues. Simon put it this way:  “You need to bring a lot more passion and excitement.  We need a kiss on the lips, not a kiss on the cheek.”

Crystal came out and sang “Me and Bobby McGee,” a Kris Kristofferson song that I will always associated with Janis Joplin. That is the kind of material that thoroughly suits Crystal and she did a great job. Randy called it “Dope” and Ellen said, “You are so compelling onstage…you and that guitar.”  Kara commented that Crystal, “Really have the fire in your belly tonight.”  Simon said, “The last 3 or 4 times, your song selections were not great, but this is you, back on your best behavior.”

Second, Lee DeWyze sang “Everybody Hurts.” Randy said, “That was definitely better.” He did, however, call the out-of-tune parts “pitchy” while commenting, “You were the Lee that I love by the end. A lot better.”  Ellen talked about how the performance was all about “pulling it back,” and Kara commented that the song was “not perfect” but that Lee appeared “emotionally accessible.”  Simon said, “That was a brilliant choice of songs for you.  You were off-melody a bit, and I understand that you’re nervous.  You need to really understand the important of tonight. I want a 10 out of 10.”

Crystal, for her second selection, did a rousing rendition of “Black Velvet” and Randy said, “This is what I fell in love with. Mama Sox is in it to win it!”  Ellen said that it was “Fantastic!” and made a joke about a Cher concert.  Kara said, “Tonight is the night to give it your all. You want it.  You can tell.”  Simon said, “I’m almost allergic to that song, but you too that song and you absolutely nailed it.  I’m very impressed.”

Lee then stepped it up with U2’s “It’s A Beautiful Day.” It was okay. Randy said, “That’s the Lee that I remember,” and Kara said he was “finally present.”  Kara felt he had “swallowed up a bit,” but added, “You’ve grown the most and have one of the most commercial voices of the contestants.”  Simon said that Lee had “made the most of it.  This is what this competition was designed for. To take a normal guy who works in a paint store and give him a chance. I genuinely wish the best for you.”

There was some talking to Lee (by Ryan Seacrest) at this point, and he said that the experience on the show had been “amazing” and, “I will be doing this for the rest of my life, one way or another.”

When Crystal finished her third song, “Up to the Mountain,” Randy said, “Yo! Culminating. This is what this show is about.  An amazing performance by an amazing artist.  That was incredible.”  Ellen said, “You have a beautiful voice.  You’re just so, so good.  I feel privileged to be witness to the rise of your career.”  Kara said, “At times your walls have been up, but you really blossomed tonight.”  Simon was thanked, by Crystal, just before he critiqued her singing, and he said, “Good luck on you.  By far the best performance and the song of the night.  That was outstanding!”

When Crystal was interviewed by Ryan Seacrest about her time on “Idol” she said, “I’m beside myself. I’m entirely grateful.”

Advantage: Crystal.

Lee DeWyze and Crystal Bowersox Will Be in “American Idol” Finals

images41“American Idol” on Wednesday, May 19, 2010, gave Casey James his walking papers and promoted the class of 2010: Crystal Bowersox and Lee DeWyze. The strike-out took 47 million votes, a season record. Watching the strike-out from seats in the front row of the audience were the other contestants, including Andrew Garcia, Big Mike Lynche, Tim Urban and Katie Stevens.

Contestants, in pre-results interviews, pronounced the experience of visiting their hometowns “surreal,” Lee said the experience had “made me a better person.” Crystal (who was hospitalized once during the show’s run with problems from her diabetes) thanked the program for medical monitoring that had made her the healthiest  she’s ever been. “Thank the Lord for this show.  I would never have the kind of care that I have now,” without her participation on “American Idol.” Crystal also said,  “It’s being pushed to work harder than you ever have in your life.” All three contestants bemoaned the loss of a private life in the non-stop madcap rush that is “American Idol.”

Crystal said, “I’m cool with whatever happens, but I would love to win.”  Casey commented on the 150 text messages daily that he cannot respond to because of the busy schedule on “Idol.” Words like “awesome” and “helpful” were bandied about.

There was film from the visits to the contestants’ hometowns. Casey revisited Millsap High School in Cool, Texas and said, “It’s a dream come true for me. For my hometown, to be able to share it with me is unbelievable.” Casey also visited Texas Health Hospital in Fort Worth, Texas, including Dr. Correye Culligan, the orthopedic surgeon who, he said, saved his life after he was in an accident. Richardson, Texas, with mother Debra James in tow was next.

Blogger celebrity wannabe Perez Hilton talked to Ryan Seacrest and introduced a performer named Travis Garland, someone he found on the Internet,  who subsequently performed and was underwhelming.

Following Casey’s visit home, Crystal visited northwest Ohio, an area that has had unemployment as high as 19%.  We didn’t get to see the new sign that her hometown of 80 has put up, which proclaims “Home of Crystal Bowersox,” but we saw her father, clad in a leather vest with multiple buttons. Crystal was shown driving down the highway to Toledo, where she performed.

Lee’s visit to Mt. Prospect, Illinois showed a doting middle-class Mom and Dad as he revisited the paint store where he used to work and teared up a lot. At one point, Lee said, “This is the best day of my life.  This is the absolute best day of my life.” He also said, in an almost Rocky-esque tone of voice, “I’m gonna’ try to win this thing, all right.” He proclaimed the experience of going home, “It’s amazing. Insane. Crazy. Awesome.”

Justin Bieber, the YouTube-driven sensation from Canada, performed next (“You smile/I smile”) and took over the drums at one point. Bieber is not much of a drummer. His almost-feminine look (especially the hair) is probably no different than the androgynous days of the young (pre nose jobs) Michael Jackson and Leif Garrett. Young girls like singers who present no overt sexual threat. A young Elvis was sexy. A young Justin Bieber is not. He is just “cute” and non-threatening and seems to have a very high opinion of himself, buoyed by adoring female fans. It will be interesting to see what happens when he outgrows the haircut.

Following the performance by new teen sensation Justin Bieber, the announcement was made that Lee was safe, and then that Crystal was safe, as well. (She kept asking Ryan Seacrest, “Am I safe?” to the point of reminding me of that old movie “Marathon Man.”) After the two best singers were promoted to the Finale we all hoped would emerge, Crystal jumped on Lee in happiness, while Casey reprised his performance of the John Mayer song with the refrain “Fathers be good to your daughters.” Film followed of Casey’s journey through “American Idol,” complete with his early removal of his shirt at Kara’s suggestion during try-outs, Simon’s calling him “Goldilocks” and the appellations “eye candy and ear candy” during judging.

America did the right thing on “American Idol” this year. The two best singers, Lee DeWyze and Crystal Bowersox, compete for the “American Idol” crown next week. Momentum seems to be swinging Lee’s way, but Crystal (like Melinda Dolittle before her) has been reliable, dependable and downright outstanding every time she steps onstage, so stay tuned for further developments.

“American Idol:” May 18, 2010 with Three Left

images4Tuesday night’s “American Idol” show highlighted what most discerning viewers have known for some time: the 2 best contestants are Lee DeWyze and Crystal Bowersox. This does not come as a News Flash for anyone who has been reading my opinions since January. (At one point, I suggested a cage match with the 5 best singers locked together in mortal combat).

I have said for some time that Casey James was (probably) going to make it to the top three, which he has, but not because he’s such a great singer. He’s not. He’s cute. He plays a mean guitar. He’s tall, blonde and handsome. He’s charming. The best singer? You have your favorite; I have mine. But there’s little dispute that it’s either Lee or Crystal and most of us have known it for months.

So, how did tonight’s hometown visits go? There was precious little film to really know, but it’s safe to say that the best singing this night was still by the 2 leaders. The judges seemed to think that Lee had bested Crystal as the contestants sang one song they had chosen and one that had been chosen for them by one of the judges.

Casey started off the night and the reaction to his choice, “It’s All Right By Me” was lukewarm. Randy said it best, “That song was just kind of all right.  It didn’t quite work for me.” Ellen agreed with Randy, pointing out that tonight was “Do or die” and saying, “I wish you would have brought it.”  Kara felt that picking a song no one knew was a mistake. By the time they got to Simon, at the end of the judges’ table, he said, “This isn’t going great, is it, Casey?” Simon went on to say, “That song will leave no lasting impression.  I think that was a dud song choice.” He also compared the performance to busking on a subway platform.

Contestant number two was Crystal Bowersox, who chose “Come to My Window” by Melissa Etheridge.  Randy said, “I did not love the arrangement. What I did like was your vocal.  It all worked in the end.”  Ellen said, “Good song choice.  Melissa would be very proud of you.   Kara, while hoping for “a moment” that she hadn’t heard said, “It was still a good vocal.”  Simon said, “From the very first, you haven’t compromised yourself as an artist, and I think you probably made the right choice (with that song.).”

Lee’s first song selection, singing third, was “A Simple Man.” Randy found it to be a brilliant song choice, saying that he had been waiting for one of the contestants to “throw it down.”  Ellen said, “You took this thing seriously,” and commented that he had gone from a lamb to a gazelle throughout the competition.  Kara said, “You showed us everything you’ve got.  Round one goes to Lee.”  Simon, after asking why Lee had selected the song, said, “You were absolutely on the money with that song choice.  You just crushed the other two.”

The second song the contestants sang was picked for them and Casey was assigned to sing John Mayer’s “Daughters.” Randy said, “This fits you like a glove.”  Ellen said, “I thought that was beautiful for you.”  Kara said, “This showed the more artistic side of you.”  Simon, while acknowledging that it was ‘a much, much better song choice” than the first one that Casey had selected for himself thought that it was “ a bit of a limp arrangement.  You sounded very very good on it.  That song didn’t have the ‘wow’ factor.”  There was a bit of a discussion, at this point, amongst Simon, Kara and Randy about the sort of song that Casey had been assigned, with Randy and Kara pointing out that the song is a quiet sort of song.

Crystal sang next, singing “Maybe I’m Amazed” by Paul McCartney, which was selected for her by Ellen.  Her rendition was Janis Joplin-ish, as she looked the best she has all season in black boots and a cleverly designed black outfit with a silver slimming design at the waist. She did a great job.  I agreed with the sign that said, “Crystal:  You Shine.”  Randy said, “Great song. Great vocals.” Ellen said, “I couldn’t have asked for more.  You did it.”  Kara said, “You really pushed.  You did a lot of risky things and I think it paid off.”  Simon thought that Crystal had shown “soul” and said, “You may be thanking Ellen next week for putting you in the finals.”

Last up was Lee DeWyze singing “Hallelujah” by Leonard Cohen, a song that was song earlier in the season by Tim Urban.  The song was picked for Lee by Simon.  Randy said, “I’ve been waiting all season to see who’s in it to win it.” He called the song, “Your biggest moment,” saying “That was unbelievable, dude.”  Ellen said, “That was stunning.”   Kara said, “You are what this show is all about.  You just owned the entire night.”  Simon said he was, “Very, very very proud of you.  Most important, tonight, with that performance, you proved that you are a fantastic singer and a great person.”

Stay tuned for the final two to be announced on tomorrow night’s show.

Big Mike Lynche Is Going Home to Florida After May 12th Elimination on “American Idol”

He didn’t quite make it into Win, Place or Show. He finished fourth, but, considering that rumors abounded, early on, that he was going to be kicked off because his dad spilled the beans to the press (his mom works for the Orlando newspaper) that he was in the Top 24, (when all contestants sign agreements not to disclose such things), and considering the fact that 5 weeks ago the viewers voted him off but the judges saved him, Michael Lynche did pretty well….better than his brother, who finished high in the pack one previous year, I’m told. Big Mike almost made it into the Top Three, the ones whose home towns are visited by the “American Idol” cameras, and he was definitely a far better singer than Casey James, who was kept, instead.

Five weeks ago Big Mike Lynche was saved from elimination on “American Idol” by the one-time use of the Judges’ save. Was it any wonder, then, that he was the one eliminated on Wednesday, May 12, 2010 by the audience? Yes and no.

 I’ve predicted for some time that American Idol’s Top Three were likely to be Crystal, Lee and Casey, but I also felt that Mighty Casey Had Struck Out after Sinatra night. It was not his singing prowess that kept him in the competition past that fateful night (Aaron Kelly was eliminated, instead).  It was his “total package” good looks, guitar playing prowess, and the teen-aged girls voting from home.

 This night Ryan Seacrest announced that a season high of 37 million votes was cast. Fantasia sang (wearing what appeared to be tights that you could go scuba diving in.) There was a Ford Fiesta commercial involving the remaining four contestants. (The pushing of the Prius-like start button on the car was repeated at least three times in the short commercial.)  The contestants were all asked about their desires, at this point, and Big Mike said that he wanted to get home to his puppy, while Crystal said she would like to go home to Ohio to play with Frankie May, her bass player.  Lee said, “I want that to be me,” of winning and Casey said, “Hearin’ a bunch of people saying my name would be nice.” (If so, Lee had a chorus of “I love you, Lee” girls in the crowd, so he realized Casey’s dream.)

 Daughtry performed their song “September” and mused on his success, despite not winning the crown the year he appeared on “Idol” (Kat won).  He said, of performing with his own band, “Daughtry,” “It doesn’t get old.  It’s an amazing feeling every night.”  Of the song “September” that his band performed he said it had to do with his childhood.  “I grew up in a small town of 100 people.  It’s about the simplicity of my childhood and how it made me who I am.”  Randy commented, “I see that Chris is livin’ the dream.  It feels good for us (the judges). I love it.” Chris Daughtry’s advice to the remaining contestants?  “Stay hungry and stick with what’s true to you.”

 After Daughtry, Bon Jovi took the stage and performed a song “Superman Tonight.” (Who’s gonna’ love you when you turn out the light. I wish that I could be your Superman tonight.”) The song sounded like a hit, to me, and I was particularly glad, since I have tickets to see Bon Jovi at Soldier Field in Chicago on July 30th.  When asked about their longevity and success, Jon Bon Jovi said, “Hard work and good luck.  We’ve crossed the generations now, at this point.” (Anyone who has seen the old posters of Jon Bon Jovi with the big hair of the ‘80s can testify to that.)

 And then there were 3:  Crystal, Lee and Casey.  Michael Lynche said, “It’s been unbelievable.  I just sit here right now and I think, I wasn’t even supposed to be here (referencing his “save” by the judges 5 weeks ago).  “I came to ‘American Idol’ to take my family’s life to another level.”

Then it was time for Big Mike to sing his last song (which he performed brilliantly) and for the selected film clips, in which Simon said, “The best performance we’ve had on these live shows so far,” and Kara urged him, “Do not stop.  Keep going.  Write great songs.  Record great songs.  Go out and keep gigging, ‘because you’ve got it in you.”

 Next week, the show will visit the hometowns of Crystal, Lee and Casey, which, if memory serves, are a town so small (80 people) in Ohio that it had no town sign until Crystal made it this far on “American Idol.” (Now, the sign says, “Home of Crystal Bowersox”); Mt. Prospect, a Chicago suburb; and Cool, TX.

“American Idol,” May 11th: Duets Are Dynamite!

Simon Cowell commented on Tuesday, May 11th’s “American Idol” that the duets were “one million times better than the solo performances.” Simon, who is British, knew very few of the movies, which was unfortunate, as the songs this night were from the movies and apparently Simon is either not that great a movie fan or has seen only British films. The other amusing part of tonight’s singing competition was Ellen DeGeneres’ response to the song “Have You Ever Really, Really Loved A Woman?” (from Don Juan DeMarco), which elicited guffaws from Simon and laughs from all others.

Considering how far along in the competition “American Idol” is, the performances, by and large, were really lackluster. Some of the blame for that can be laid at the feet of fairly lame song selections…or, in Lee DeWyze’s case, really difficult ones.

Lee started the evening off on Songs from the Movies night singing Seal’s Kiss from a Rose, which is a tough song to sing well under any circumstances.

Randy said, “For me, you did nothing with that song. It was just okay.  It didn’t work for me.” Randy suggested that a better song choice might have been something like Bon Jovi’s “Blaze of Glory.” Ellen said, “You’re so good. I loved it,” but she, too, seemed underwhelmed.  Kara, after talking about some out-of-tune issues, said, “You are still great.” Simon agreed with Randy, called the song “verging on karaoke” and said, “If you’re choosing the T-shirts, you’ve gotta’ take the one that says ‘Contestant.’”

That last remark was a reference to the night’s mentor, Jamie Foxx, who had brought black tee shirts, some of which said “Artist” and some of which said “Contestant.”

Following Lee came Big Michael Lynche of St. Petersburg, Florida.  Prior to his performance, Jamie Foxx said, “Once he lets go, I think that’s when he’s really gonna’ shine.” Earlier, Jamie had said, “Music is everything.  It really is the soundtrack of our lives.” Big Mike’s remarks from the judges were: Randy – “Once again, I didn’t love this. You’re a rhythm and blues kind of guy, but it was just all right. It started out kind of wrong.”  Ellen said, of Mike’s performance, “You are consistently good but a little bit predictable.”  Kara said, “I want to have goosebumps. I didn’t feel that from you.” Simon became very confused about the movie from which the song was taken (Free Willy) and finally commented, “At least you gave it 100% and I kind of felt that you meant it.”

After Mike’s performance, Crystal and Lee sang together. All the judges loved the duets. Randy said, “A great song by two great singers.  That’s how you do it!”  Ellen said, “You’re like the new Captain and Tennille. God, that was great!”  Kara called it, “One of my favorite moments of the season.”  Simon said, “Not a good song: a fantastic song.”

Casey James performed next and selected the theme song from The Graduate, “Mrs. Robinson.” It was an odd choice. Randy called it “curious.”  Ellen made a humorous comment about the small guitar Casey accompanied himself with saying that she wished they had given him “ a big boy guitar.”   Simon said, “That song was not the substance I expected from you. It was a little bit lazy.  I think you could have made more of an impact.  I think there have been some very strange song choice tonight and that was one of them.” (Hear! Hear!)

Since none of the first three  had done that well, Crystal Bowersox’s rendition of “I’m All Right” was a better performance than any sung by the men.  Randy said, “You are definitely an artist.  Nice job.” Ellen said that she had “taken that song and made it better,” something she called “crystallizing it.”  Kara echoed Randy’s comments about Crystal’s being an “artist.”  Simon said, “You, Crystal, are back in the game after that performance.”

The final performance of the night was the duet by Big Mike and Casey and the song’s title (“Have You Ever Really, Really Loved A Woman?”) brought the funny remark, from Ellen, “As a matter of fact, yes, I have loved a woman.”  Randy said, “Loved the guitar playing. You guys sounded really good.”  Kara said, “The duets were better than the solo performances.”  Simon agreed and was the one articulating the idea that the duets were “one million times better than the solo performances.”

Jamie Foxx urged all the contestants to change from “caterpillar to butterfly” as they face the elimination of one contestant tomorrow night. Big Mike and Casey are the most vulnerable, as they have been all along. Stay tuned for further developments tomorrow night.

Aaron Kelly Sent Home; Casey James Escapes “A.I.” Elimination

Aaron-KellyAt the top of the “American Idol” elimination show of May 4, 2010, Harry Connick, Jr., said, “Music has to be truthful, to me, and that’s what this show is about.” Connick was the mentor this week, and he did a great job. He also sang “And I Love Her” on this night’s show, nattily attired in a black-on-black ensemble, after mugging for the cameras and saying, “It’s not about them, it’s about me.”  At one point, still horsing around, Connick said, “Try to keep it on me.” A funny guy. He also worked in a joke, saying, “It’s been a great honor to be a part of ‘American Idol’ and to work with the judges, with the exception of Ellen.”

Another amusing piece of film showed Connick chatting with young Aaron Kelly and asking him how he liked singing with a three-piece combo, including a clarinet, backing him. Aaron, of course, liked it and Connick said, “Well, don’t get used to it. I can afford it. Why? Because I’m extremely famous.”

Lady Gaga did one of her characteristic outrageous performances, with many half-dressed writhing male dancers in a sort of “Eve in the Garden of Eden” motif and then the top and bottom groups were announced, with Aaron Kelly and Mike Lynche the lowest vote-getters.

In light of the horrific performance turned in by Casey James on Tuesday night, it was surprising to see 17-year-old Aaron Kelly—a very likeable young performer who had done well on Tuesday night—be the one sent home this night. It was also surprising that Big Mike Lynche, who, arguably, performed better than anyone on Tuesday night (The judges were more sold on Lee DeWyze, but I would say it was very close.) was in the bottom two.

Having said that, I’ve been predicting that the good-looking Casey “had it all” as the package that “American Idol” likes to promote. Big Mike is…well…too big. Aaron was too young. Lee and Crystal remain the front-runners, and, apparently, my earlier predictions that Casey had the best chance of finishing in the Top Three was not that far off the mark.
But, for the record, based on his performance on Tuesday night, I still think that Mighty Casey struck out.

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