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Tag: Randy Jackson

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.

Girls’ Night at American Idol (2/24): Dull, Dreary, Depressing

american-idol-judges22Thinking back over Wednesday night’s “American Idol” girls-only show from Hollywood, my overall impression? Dull. Dreary. Mostly boring.

That doesn’t mean that there weren’t some strong voices on display, but the ones that were strong chose songs that the judges almost universally pronounced to be “the wrong song” and the entire energy of the show just felt washed-out, dried up, blown away.


The singers who impressed me this night were Siobhan Magnus, who sang “Wicked Game” by Chris Isaak. She began the song in a nice, very low register and soared to the “I don’t wanna’ fall in love” refrain with a lilting voice that was great. Ellen DeGeneres probably echoed my thoughts the best when she said, “I loved it. I really liked it a lot.” Simon followed up saying, “You really are a funny little thing, aren’t you?” He asked her why she had chosen that particular song, and she responded that she found it “haunting” and “memorable” and “I have a softer side, too.” Simon called it “a very, very dark song,” while Randy encouraged her to “reach for bigger things, but the short snippet that showed her being whispered about as “ a dark horse” were interesting, because Siobhan said, quite disingenuously, “What’s a dark horse?” as though she had never heard the term.

Another singer who has consistently impressed me was the multi-talented Crystal Bowersox, age 24, from Elston, Ohio, who auditioned in Chicago. Crystal sang a song by Alanis Morissette, accompanying herself on guitar and harmonica. The best summation of her performance was, “You were good tonight, but you have greatness in you.” Ellen DeGeneres said: “We are lucky that you auditioned for ‘American Idol.’ You add something fresh to the show.” This on the heels of Crystal’s admission that she had not been a big fan of the show in prior years. Other comments: “Originality. I loved the honesty. I like what you do. I like that honesty. I’m a fan,” from Randy. Crystal, A.I. watchers will recall, is the mother of a young son and got his name tattooed on her back after winning. Her back-story is interesting, too. The only negative remarks were, as usual, from Simon, who, while saying, “I really, really like you. I think you’re refreshing,” urged her to try a song by someone like David Bowie, to present herself in a different light.

Another standout performance was that of Littleton, Colorado’s Lilly Scott, who said, “It means so much to be here right now.  Everything I’ve done musically has led up to now.” Lilly has the gray hair and the look of a vampire bride, but she sang, quirkily, with her guitar “Fixin’ a Hole” by the Beatles. She wears eye shadow that makes her resemble a raccoon, but she has a very different quality. Ellen said, “I think that’s what we’re talkin’ about. You sounded great.” She praised Lilly’s “random song choice” but other less positive comments were: “I’m still not feeling much Star Power.” Both Simon and Randy commented on Lilly’s honesty and believability. Simon: “Best so far. Well done. You’re believable.  You come from your heart.” “ I could feel you were comfortable in your performance,” said Kara and Randy chimed in with, “I love the honesty.  I thought it was great.”


Worst of the night, for me, was final contestant Katie Stevens, singing Michael Buble’s “Feelin’ Good.” Katie was way sharp when she went up for the high notes. When she sang, “Birds feelin’ high”,that was the sharpest off-key note of all of the many. She was pitchy and off-key throughout the song, (Grandmother with Alzheimer’s or not, she seemed to be channeling Granny this night in her performance and her appearance). She  looked “old.” Her hair was done in an old-fashioned way, her dress, her demeanor: antique. Ellen DeGeneres said, “I want to see you be 17. The song was a little old for you.” Simon agreed, saying, “I totally agree with Ellen. So much so that it started to become annoying. Very pageant-y.” Kara finally pointed out the elephant on the dining room table, saying, “You were all over the place” on the pitch, and Randy finished up the same critique I would have given her singing saying, “You were pushing so hard that all the notes were going sharp.” Another comment: “Wow! That was not on key.” (Kara) This is never good in the finals of an “American Idol” competition.

Others that were not good: Lacey Brown (Dull. Bad outfit.) Simon said, “It was quite depressing. After about 15 seconds I wondered how much longer we’d have to listen to this. It was just boring. Sorry.”  The Dixie Chicks need fear nothing here.

Haeley Vaughn: I have not been a fan of Haeley’s since the would-be black C&W singer made it through to the Final 24 over the far superior (vocally) Angela Martin. I found her song, her voice, her rendition of the Beatles “I Wanna Hold Your Hand” to be just a little too chipper. I made the note, “Painful” at one point, and then Simon started in saying, “I’m being honest.  For me, it was verging on terrible. A complete and utter mess. It wasn’t very good.” (Don’t hold back, Simon. Tell us how you really feel.) Ellen DeGeneres countered, “If it was a mess, it was a hot mess,” as she had previously praised Haeley, the person, saying, “Sixteen and so much presence.  You just shine.”

Ashley Rodriguez, who was so promising initially, disappointed with a Leona Lewis song. Kara pointed out “Moments that weren’t great. I couldn’t really see you take a risk.” Simon called her performance “clumsy” and said he “didn’t like the arrangement.” He accurately said, “I think you are going backwards from the first time we met you Just someone who sings other people’s songs not that well” was how he characterized the Chelsea, Massachusetts college student’s performance (Ouch!). Ashley had said in previous clips, “This is the dream. It’s the opportunity of a lifetime.” The dream may have to be deferred to another year if Ashley doesn’t step up her game.

Paige Miles, 24, from Naples, Florida had the dubious honor of going first.  It wasn’t a memorable performance and telling us that she was sewed into her black dress with the white sash and had been “waiting 5 hours to pee” was a little bit TMI for me. She sang “All Right Now” and, although she was told she “had the best voice out of all the girls” by Simon, and told “You’ve got a ridiculous voice, girl” by Kara, the consensus seemed to be “It’s about self-belief.  You have to believe you’re a star.” Paige was not a star this night, but, in all fairness, she had to sing first (always a disadvantage, I feel).


Janell Wheeler, 24, of Orlando, the wine representative who is supposed to be quarterback Tim Teabow’s girlfriend tried a “Heart” song while wearing skin-tight black leggings of some sort. Randy felt that “the song choice didn’t work for you. I like your voice.” Ellen said, “I like that song. I thought you sang it well and I like you.” Simon brought some reality to the bleating of “What about love?” by saying, “You gave it 100% effort and delivered 65%. (Leave it to Simon to articulate the thoughts of the masses.)  He did say there were “moments in the song when I did like your voice,” while telling her she had gone off-key at times.  He advised Janell, a fairly attractive (but not stunning) blonde, to “try to do something that makes you original” and both Simon and Kara warned her that taking on an Ann Wilson song was “too big” for her voice.

Katelyn Epperly, age 19, from West Des Moines, Iowa is a personal favorite (as an Iowa native). I put her in the “okay” category tonight, because she adopted a black strapless dress with a chanteuse look, a thing in her hair (feather, I think), big earrings, and a much “dirtier girl” look. I liked her better when she first auditioned with her wild fly-away “Witches of Eastwick” hair, and so did Kara, who commented on her look. Simon said, “I actually like you. You’re quirky, interesting, brave. I like you a lot.” Kara said, “You know your voice very, very well, you switched it up in a way,” but Kara was the judge who (also) pined for Katelyn’s fresh-faced look. Katelyn defended the many facts of her personality to Kara’s desire that she be “a little bit more natural.” Randy said, “Here’s the thing I really, really like about you. You concentrate on tone, not runs. I think you can go places and do stuff.” Ellen found her performance “interesting,” but said, “I felt like it was pushed, but you have an amazing voice.” Has the potential to be in THE GOOD category next time out. I think she will stay around.

For me, Didi Benami was also “okay.” She sang in a terrible outfit…a multi-colored vest-like garment, but the judges did not find her memorable, as she wanted the audience to “Take Me the Way I Am.” Her performance was pronounced, “Dreary. Missing a spark. In the real world, I think that would be totally forgettable. You’re just so sleepy for me.” Ellen probably phrased it the most diplomatically, saying, “First impression: A little low key.” I definitely liked her better than the judges seemed to like her.

Michelle DelaMor described herself as “a corporate singer” prior to her selection by “American Idol.” She is tall, dark and sexy. She is 23, from Miami and works at a clothing store.” I’m so excited because I know my family will be there in the audience, and I just hope to make them proud.” She sang Alicia Keys’ “Fallin.” She wore a cute black top and gray pants, but was criticized for mainly doing a cover version of the song that was not unusual or original. (I, in fact, couldn’t remember her at all and had to go back on my TVO and watch her performance for a second time, which means that she wasn’t very memorable.) She has “the look” and is a beautiful girl. Ellen said, “That was fantastic. I feel like it was safe and it seemed so easy for you. I feel like you have more in you. I think that you were great, but I know that you can do better than that. I thought it was amazing.” Simon said, “It sounded close to the original. Not as good as the original. There wasn’t one moment in the performance that I went, ‘Wow!’ I think you’ve done enough to get through to the next round, and you look fantastic by the way.” Kara said, “There were moments that it wasn’t great.” She urged Michelle to be technically immaculate every time she stepped on the stage and she felt that Michelle lacked believability but could “get there.’ Randy said, “You actually did a pretty good job doing it. You’ve got a great voice and a great look. All that is hot and dope and cool. But take some risks. Show me something nobody has showed me yet.”

I think that Simon’s comment about things being “a mess” (countered by Ellen DeGeneres’ saying, “But a hot mess,” followed by Simon’s saying, “Seems to be the way it’s going tonight”) was accurate for the entire program. The girls—who seem stronger than the boys this year— (even Simon was quoted this way in the New York Post) didn’t deliver. It may have been nerves, as the talent is definitely there. My top 3 for the evening may soon be joined by the likes of Katelyn Epperly or Michelle DeLaMor, but, overall, the evening was disappointing, and, without Simon’s caustic honesty, the comments of the other judges would have been fairly insipid.

Lament for the Lovely Brooke White

Oh, woe to all the “Idol” fans

Who cheered for poor Brooke White

She’s voted off.

She’s gone for good.

It just was not her night.

It really was a sad departure;

Tears did freely flow.

But when all was said and done,

It was time for her to go.

You can forget your words on one occasion,

Maybe even twice,

But when you do it three times running

You’re gone,— although you’re “nice.”

So good luck, Brooke.

Your hair did shine,

Your smile was great as well.

But lousing up those lyrics, Girl,

It made them sound like hell.

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