Wednesday, March 26, 2008

American Idol Elimination Prediction: Chekezie, Ramiele, Jason and Syesha in the Danger Zone

I've ranked the contestants (click here to read) -- now it's time to figure out who's going home!

Green Zone - Safe by a mile!
David Archuleta, David Cook, Michael Johns

For the first time this season, it's all boys in the Green Zone this week, with David Cook leading the way after his blistering take on "Billie Jean" (listen to Chris Cornell from Soundgarden's take on the song, which inspired Cook's rendition). Michael Johns is also a bit of a no-brainer to make it to the Top 9 after finally choosing a song that showed off his talents. And Archuleta? While the song (and his performance) were a treacly mess, this kid ain't going anywhere, anytime soon.

Yellow Zone - On Shaky Ground!
Brooke White, Carly Smithson, Kristy Lee Cook

It's possible that any of these ladies could slip into the Bottom 3, but I'm guessing all three will squeak by this week -- Carly, thanks to her Bottom 3 scare last week; Kristy, thanks to her genius song choice; and Brooke, because, well, people seem to really like her.

Red Zone - Danger, Danger, Danger!
Syesha Mercado, Ramiele Malubay, Chekezie, Jason Castro

That leaves Jason, Ramiele, Chekezie and Syesha as the four contestants most in danger of elimination. Syesha actually gave her strongest performance of the competition, but over-praise from the judges may end up doing her in. Jason, though boring and predictable as ever, still seems to have quite a fanbase, and it was, after all, his birthday, but will his present be a trip to the Bottom 3? Ramiele chose a great song, but it was the wrong song for her, and the fact that she performed first in the evening certainly did her no favors. And Chekezie, who's been all over the map this season, might find out that one shaky performance is all you need to be sent packin'.


Elimination Prediction

Bottom 3: Ramiele Malubay, Chekezie, Syesha Mercado

Eliminated: Chekezie

Thoughts? Agree? Disagree? Let me know!

READ: Ranking the Top 10 -- David Cook Rocks the Competition

VOTE: Who Was Your Favorite Performance? Who's Going Home?

Ranking the American Idol Top 10: David Cook Rocks the Competition

Move over, David Archuleta -- another David just gave the performance of the season.

David Cook stole the show tonight, delivering a stellar rendition of Chris Cornell' (the band Soundgarden) version "Billie Jean" that knocked my socks not just completely off, but actually flung them across the room. He sounded ridiculously amazing, and he looked the part of the rock star.

I've loved David Cook since the moment I first saw him, but tonight he cemented his 'favorite' status for me. Amazing.

Oh yeah -- and this is the first itunes track of the season I intend to purchase. I literally can't wait.

As for the rest of the Idols, while only other made a real impression (Michael Johns), it was nice to hear something other than Beatles music. Here's my rankings:

1. David Cook
What else is there to really say? Perfection.

2. Michael Johns
Finally! This is the moment I was starting to think would never come -- Michael Johns looked and sounded like a star. If he keeps this up, he will have made himself a contender.

3. Carly Smithson
I hate to agree with the judges, that there was something that felt "off" about Carly's performance, because I love this girl and am devastated at the prospect of her going home. She did sound amazing, but it wasn't a fun performance to watch. Hopefully her Bottom 3 scare last week will have put the scare into her fans -- and gotten them to vote!

4. David Archuleta
Was this David's audition song for the Broadway version of High School Musical? If not, I don't understand the logic of this song. Was it a Christian song? Though he sounded good, I hated it. Though on the positive side, we did get a sneak peak of what he'll look like singing the winner's song 8 weeks from now.

5. Brooke White
How about that false start? It was kinda awesome. While I loved Brooke's hair tonight, I didn't love this performance. Didn't hate it, either. It was just there. Ya know, if Brooke was playing her own songs, and they were good, I'd probably love her. But doing the cover thing in a charmingly imperfect is getting a little old.

6. Syesha Mercado
I'm not sure how this song qualifies as a song from 1987, considering Tamyra Gray sang it for the 70's theme back in Season 1, but it was a good choice for Syesha, and she sang it well. Too bad she's so annoying -- it makes it difficult to enjoy her performance. Considering how much the judges overpraised her, while Syesha was far from the worst tonight, I'd say she's there's a distinct possibility she could be in danger of going home.

7. Kristy Lee Cook
Well, who knew Kristy Lee Cook was going to go ahead and make one of the smartest decisions in American Idol history? Genius! She just locked up a few more weeks on this show thanks to her show of patriotism, and though she didn't sound perfect, she showed she's a good American, and for a good portion of the population, that actually means something. Credit where credit is due -- nice work.

8. Chekezie
This guy's all over the map -- he's either a funky soulster, or he's transporting us back to 1987 and the Luther Vandross baby-makin' era. The former is much more exciting than the latter, and though he sounded fine tonight, his performance felt dated and totally irrelevant. Definitely in the danger zone.

9. Jason Castro
His eyes are beautiful, that's for damn sure. And this performance was actually one of the more pleasant one to my eyes and ears. Still, I'm over the coffee house shtick. Get a new gig, or go home.

10. Ramiele Malubay
She shouldn't have mentioned karaoke in her intro package -- it just made me picture this whole performance taking place in a karaoke bar. Which is, unfortunately, the way I feel about Ramiele every week. And stupid song choice -- Carrie gave the definitive performance a few years back, and Carly ripped it up earlier this year. I hate to say it, but this girl's a dud.

Check back tomorrow for my picks of who will go home.

POLL: Which of the Top 10 Was Your Favorite? Who's Going Home?

Listen to Chris Cornell's (Soundgarden) Version of Michael Jackson's "Billie Jean"

This is a recording of Chris Cornell (Soundgarden) singing an acoustic version of Michael Jackson's "Billie Jean," which was the basis of what David Cook performed on American Idol tonight. It's quite similar, and both are equally affecting. Which do you prefer?

POLL: Which of the Top 10 Was Your Favorite? Who's Going Home?

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Ranking the Dancing with the Stars Women: Kristy Takes the Gold

Dancing with the Stars is ON!

The women brought the heat tonight, far outpacing their male counterparts. In fact, Priscilla Presley and especially Kristy Yamaguchi provided some of the most entertaining first-dances ever on this show. Kudos, ladies!

Here are my rankings of the women:

1. Kristy Yamaguchi and Mark Ballas
I mean!!! This dance literally took my breath away. I knew she was going to be good from the moment she was announced as a contestant on the show, but I had no idea she was going to be that good! If she doesn't win this thing, something will have seriously gone wrong with this show. I can't wait to see her perform again.

2. Priscilla Presley and Louis van Amstel
First of all, Priscilla takes the title from Lisa Rinna as Louis' 'partner with the most plastic surgey,' but I gotta say, she looks great. Well done, Doc! Also great was her dancing -- shockingly great, in fact. Precise, elegant, graceful -- she had it all. Funny thing, too, considering every time she appeared on camera prior to her dance she looked like she was going to hurl. She may provide a bit of competition for Ms. Kristy.

3. Marlee Matlin and Fabian Sanchez
You had to figure Marlee Matlin knew she could dance before coming on this show, and she certainly knows how to move her body on the dance floor, but something about watching her rehearse made it really sink in to me -- this woman can't hear the music. The fact that she was able to perform so beautifully truly is remarkable -- expect the viewers to respond, and for Marlee to have a real shot at putting that tacky disco ball next to her Oscar.

4. Shannon Elizabeth and Derek Hough
Derek was right to say that pretty girls don't generally do well on this show (Kelly Monaco and Stacey Kiebler were two notable exceptions), but Shannon may buck that trend if she keeps up the energetic and surprisingly strong dancing she showed tonight. I was ready to hate her (American Pie as your biggest credit? Really?), but she won me over with her long legs and (relatively) sharp movement. Not too shabby.

5. Monica Seles and Jonathan Roberts
I'm a tennis boy, have been since I was 8 years old, and Monica Seles was a favorite of mine from when I was just a kid. In fact, I can remember exactly where I was when it was announced that she had been stabbed. So, basically, I love her and am rooting for her to continue in the competition. Having said that, it was borderline painful to watch her tonight -- not because she was so bad, but because she was so nervous! I'm used to seeing Monica, the grunting bulldog, not Monica, the timid girl in a ballgown! I actually found the softer moments in her performance to be quite lovely -- it was the moving around the floor she seemed to be having a problem with. Hopefully there are enough folks out there like me with a soft spot in their hearts for the Grand Slam champ, and she'll be around for at least a couple more weeks.

6. Marissa Jaret Winoker and Tony Dobolani
I fell in love with Marissa when I saw her perform a song from Hairspray prior to it's Broadway opening, and it'd be difficult not to admire her for going after this show even though she's not the traditional Dancing with the Stars body type. But tonight's performance was a hot mess! Not only did it not even remotely resemble the cha cha, it wasn't even halfway competent. I love her (even though her, um, enthusiasm can at times be a but much), but tonight was not good. It'll be interesting to see if the little big girl gets the audience support.

Read: Ranking the Dancing with the Stars Jason Tackles the Competition

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

American Idol: Ranking the Top 11 -- I Am SOOO Over the Beatles!

Ok, I am officially over the Beatles.

Yes, they are the best band ever, and yes, their songs are amazing, blah blah BLAH. Two weeks in a row?!? Not cool!

And while all of the contestants claimed to be excited to have another shot at the Fab Four, I'd be hard pressed to name one of tonight's performance that could qualify as a true Idol show-stopper. It's a shame that the producers took up the first two weeks of the finals with the same theme -- how are we to get a sense of who these people are as performers if they are required to sing the same type of songs two weeks running?

Ok, enough griping. On to my rankings...

1. David Cook
Yes, every song is starting to sound a little similar from Season 7's resident rocker, but who cares when they sound as good as David did tonight? Of course, by sticking closely to his (admittedly rockin') comfort zone he's risking getting ousted early (a la Daughtry, his Idol rock predecessor), but until that happens, I'm just gonna sit back and enjoy the music.

2. Carly Smithson
I don't think I've done an especially good job of hiding the fact that Carly is my favorite this year, but tonight's performance solidified her standing at the top of the pack for me. I mean, is there anything this girl can't sing? She's also insanely likable (how about that little smile at the end of the song), and I believe her when she says she identified with the sentiment of "Blackbird" -- we know she's had a rough go of it in this industry, and I buy that she views this as her last shot at stardom. I say, you go girl!

3. Michael Johns
I'm gonna have to disagree with the judges on this one -- I quite liked this performance. Sure, it was a bit of a hot mess, and the arrangement was all over the place, but in addition to looking mighty fine in his black shirt/black tie ensemble, I thought Michael showed a connection to the lyrics that's been missing the past few weeks. After last week's snoozefest I had written him off as a contender, but now...well, I'm not so sure that wasn't a premature conclusion.

4. David Archuleta
This was a totally competent performance from mushy Archuleta, and his voice was as pure as ever, but you could practically see the thought "Don't forget your lyrics!" running through his head as he performed. Slipping back into his safe zone may have spared him a disaster of last week's proportions, but it's not going to propel him to the title. Here's hoping he steps it up next week.

5. Chekezie
He had a lot riding on this week, and though he attempted to follow up last week's revelatory performance with another showstopper, I'm not sure he quite pulled it off. Though he was more inspired, and sounded better, than most of his competitors, I'm not sure he did enough to sustain that momentum. And I gotta say --why, oh why, did he feel like he needed to play an instrument? Just because you are allowed doesn't mean you have to do it, especially if it's gonna sound like that!

6. Syesha Mercado
Syesha definitely gets the "most improved" award for the week, but I'm still having difficulty connecting with her as an artist. She sounded great, and she did reveal a heretofore unseen vulnerable side, but when is she going to show she's not just a pretty girl who can sing? Someone like Vonzell Solomon or Trenyce brought either infectiousness or uniqueness to the table -- so far, Syesha hasn't been able to bring either of those things. Unless she does, and soon, she's gonna be headed for the door.

7. Amanda Overmyer
I'd call this a B-grade Amanda performance -- not the best the rocker can do, but far from the trainwrecks we've seen from her in the past. The problem is, as Simon pointed out, it was exactly what we've come to expect from her, and on Idol you've got to constantly defy expectations to stay in the hunt for the title. Add in the fact that she had the dreaded first performance spot, and she could be in serious trouble.

8. Jason Castro
Ok, maybe I just don't get it, but Jason did absolutely nothing for me tonight. Yes, he's sweet, and he sings just fine, but when he's not strummin' on his guitar and singing a folk song, he seems like a C-grade coffee house performer. And though he wasn't as painfully boring as, say, Kristy Lee or Ramiele, I still didn't find much redeeming in this bilingual performance. Is it the dreadlocks that are making people swoon? Someone please explain!

9. Brooke White
This song didn't have to be a bad choice for Brooke -- she just didn't sell it like she has the past several weeks running. Instead of taking unexpected routes, like she did with her stripped down Love Is a Battlefield and her emotional Let It Be, she went straight up the middle with this one, and the cheesiness just didn't fly. And her response to the judges' criticism? Just plain annoying. Girl, you gotta learn when to keep your mouth shut!

10. Kristy Lee Cook
While she remains one of the most boring performers ever to make it to the Top 12 on Idol, this was definitely a big step up from last week. (Keep in mind, that's a relative comment). Will it be enough to buy her another week?

11. Ramiele Malubay
This girl is adorable, but sooooo uninspiring! Every song is exactly the same -- she stands in the middle of the stage, she gives her sideways smile, she sounds totally mediocre, and I'm left wanting more. A lot more. She's lucky this week, though -- if she had been the first or second performer of the evening, she'd almost definitely be going home. As is, performing last will likely earn her the extra couple of votes necessary to keep her in the competition.

So, there it is. Check back tomorrow for my prediction of who will be in the Bottom 3and who will be going home. And in the meantime, make sure to vote for who you think gave the best performance, and who will be going home.

POLL: Which of the Top 11 was your favorite performance? Who's going home?

POLL: Which of the Top 11 Performances Was Your Favorite? Who's Going Home?

Monday, March 17, 2008

Ranking the Dancing with the Stars Men: Jason Taylor Tackles the Competition

Dancing with the Stars -- here we go again!

What struck me about tonight's season opener (aside from the fact that I still hate Samantha Harris!) is that, at this point, the professional dancers are nearly as famous, if not more so, than their "celebrity" partners. The same folks are watching this show year in and year out, so there's no way that more viewers in the Dancing with the Stars universe don't know Cheryl Burke than Christian de la Fuente, or Julianne Hough than Adam Carolla. It should be interesting to see how that impacts the competition.

As for the competitors, I had to continually remind myself not to compare their performances to those given by last year's finalists -- growth throughout the season is part of what makes this show so much fun to watch. With that said, here are my rankings of the male competitors:

1. Jason Taylor and Edyta
Mmmmmmmm, Jason Taylor. He's gorgeous! And he can actually dance! Hopefully he'll get over this macho hangup he's got going on (if Emmitt Smith and Jerry Rice can do it, so can you, buddy), but I have no doubt this guy's got the goods to go far. In fact, without even seeing the women perform yet, I'd say he's a frontrunner to take home the title.

2. Mario and Karinna Smirnoff
I'm all for old geezers showing off their personality on this show, but when a young'in like Mario shows his stuff, I can't help but get excited. This boy's hot! Not only that, he seems like a sweet kid, and he seems dedicated to nailing the dance steps (and his partner!) The performance could have been a smidge sharper, and it took me a minute to get used to Karinna's new nose, but hopefully he'll avoid an early ouster like last year's spitfire Sabrina and go far in the competition.

3. Christian de la Fuente and Cheryl Burke
I swooned when I saw this guy's photo, but not so much once he opened his mouth. Doesn't he know that humility is what wins over fans on Dancing with the Stars, not arrogance? (Think Helio or Apolo's adorably bashful, "Who me?" smiles). His dancing also didn't bowl me over -- in fact, it made me a little uncomfortbale. I'm sure he'll be around for awhile, but he's gonna have to step it up to win my vote.

4. Steve Guttenberg and Anna Trebunskaya
For some reason, there seems to be more excitement about Steve on this season of Dancing with the Stars than any other contestant. I mean, I love Three Men and a Baby as much as the next guy, but did anyone really think he was going to be able to pull off what this show requires? To his credit, he is goofily likable, but there was nothing about his dancing that was either impressive or showed any potential. Still, he was charming, and as such there's no way he's gonna find himself under the red light anytime soon.

5. Adam Carolla and Julianne Hough
Though not exactly graceful, Adam didn't embarrass himself! Shocker! He may have spent most of the dance stumbling around the floor, but he did so in such an endearingly committed fashion, I have to admit I was charmed by the performance. And Julianne -- god I love that girl! She's absolutely luminous, and reason enough to hope Adam is not the first one to go.

6. Penn Gillette and Kym Johnson
Penn's performance was the one I was dreading the most, but he surprised me with his enthusiasm and quick sense of humor. The dancing was, predictably, pretty awful, but his extreme likability may buy him a few weeks in the competition. Or, considering his competition, maybe not.

I'll be back tomorrow to critique the la Dancing!

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Chekezie, Cook and Smithson Top List of Idol Thoughts Reader Faves for Top 12 Performances

After huggin' the bottom last week, Chekezie stormed to the top of the pac in this week Idol Thoughts Readers Favorites Poll for the Top 12 Performances. He was followed very closely by David Cook and Carly Smithson.

Bringing up the rear was this week's 3rd lowest vote-getter Syesha Mercado, with this week's eliminated contestant, David Hernandez, coming in second-to-last in this pool.

Interestingly, David Archuleta and Ramiele Malubay managed to snag the #5 and 6 position, respectively, despite weak performances.

Here are the full results from the poll:

1. Chekezie, 19%
2. David Cook, 19%
3. Carly Smithson, 18%
4. Brooke White, 15%
5. David Archuleta, 7%
6. Ramiele Malubay, 7%
7. Jason Castro, 4%
8. Kristy Lee Cook, 3%
9. Amanda Overmyer, 3%
10. Michael Johns, 2%
11. David Hernandez, 1%
12. Syesha Mercado 1%

David Out on American Idol: The Whole World Knows I Stripped at a Gay Bar and I Don't Even Get to Tour

It's not exactly a surprise of Jennifer Hudson proportions, or even, really, Rickey Smith, but the elimination of David Hernandez on tonight's episode of American Idol hurt just a bit.

True, his performance of "I Saw Her Standing There" was almostly painfully cheesy, and, as Simon said, "desperate," but he was far from the worst singer in the competition. And more than that, he had potential, something I'm not sure Kristy Lee or even, possibly, Ramiele, have. (Frankly, I would have been happier to see either the second lowest vote-getter Kristy Lee, or the third, Syesha.) David certainly wasn't going to win the competition, but he had a killer voice and would have been pretty entertaining over the next few weeks.

Alas, we won't have this gay stripper to kick around anymore. You gotta feel for the guy -- in the last two weeks everyone he has ever known now knows he took his clothes off for roomfuls of men, and now he doesn't even get to go on the American Idol tour. That's the bitch of fame, kid!

As for the rest of the show, there were annoying plugs for Horton Hears a Who (the product placement on this show can at times be absolutely shameless); we saw a painful, painful group sing; were treated to replays of Simon and Ryan's attention-getting squabbles; listened to torturous call-in questions -- "Which judge would you be?" Really?); and saw a montage of the contestants saying every cliche ever uttered on the Idol stage -- "My whole life has changed," "I can't believe how lucky I am," blah blah BLAH!)

Luckily Katharine McPhee came back to grace us with her beautious-ness and gorgeous voice. The dress was ill-fitting, but who cares -- she sounded fierce! I'm looking forward to David Foster produced Katharine McPhee/Adult Contemporary star! (In the meantime, can she please come and play Elphaba on Broadway??)

Yep, Top 12 elimination shows are back, and I'm already a little sad about a result. Oh Idol, what you do to me!

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Top 12 Elimination Prediction: Ramiele, David and Syesha in the Danger Zone

I've ranked the contestants (click here to read) -- now it's time to figure out who's going home!

Green Zone - Safe by a mile!
David Archuleta, Carly Smithson, Chekezie, David Cook, Brooke White

Despite a mess of a performance, Archuleta's still a no-brainer -- this kid won't be leaving the Green Zone for some time (if ever!) David Cook and Carly Smithson once again gave stand-out performances this week, and Brooke White has settled comfortably into her folkie groove (not to mention being likably moved by the proceedings last night), so they, too, should have no problem this week.

The biggest surprise in this group, of course, is Chekezie, who catapulted himself from the throes of elimination to the top of the heap last night. If he keeps it up he may just be a real contender in this competition.

Yellow Zone - On Shaky Ground!
Michael Johns, Amanda Overmyer, Jason Castro

Michael Johns has definitely lost his frontrunner status, but he's likely got enough leftover goodwill, and gave an adequate enough performance, that he still probably has nothing to worry about. Amanda, meanwhile, is continuing to do what she does best (rock out!), and she's still so unique in this competition that she should also make it through the week without a hitch. And while Jason Castro's folkie shtick is getting a little tired, leftover love for his performance of "Hallelujah" last week means he's not going anywhere.

Red Zone - Danger, Danger, Danger!
Syesha Mercado, Ramiele Malubay, Kristy Lee Cook, David Hernandez

With 12 contestants performing, the very worst thing you could do is be "just okay." In fact, it's better to be a total trainwreck (Kristy Lee Cook) than middle-of-the-road, which means Kristy Lee will probably live to see another week.

Ramiele Malubay gave her fourth consecutive ho-hum performance -- will it be her last? And how about David Hernandez, whose cheesy "I Saw Her Standing There" did him absolutely no favors?

Both are definitely in danger of going home, but I'm guessing it's Syesha Mercado who will get the boot. She was saddled with the dreaded first performance slot, and without making much of an impression (and getting mixed-t0-good reviews from the judges), she's in serious jeopardy of having been forgotten by the time Archuleta was mumbling his lyrics. Had she been torn apart like Cook or Hernandez her fans (do they exist?) may have been mobilized, but as is, I think she's going to have slipped through the cracks.


Elimination Prediction
Bottom 3: Ramiele Malubay, David Hernandez, Syesha Mercado

Eliminated: Syesha Mercado

Thoughts? Agree? Disagree? Let me know!

READ: Ranking the Top 12 -- Chekezie Shines While Archuleta Falters

VOTE: Who Was Your Favorite Performance? Who's Going Home?

Ranking the American Idol Top 12: Chekezie Shines While Archuleta Falters

Well, color me pleasantly surprised.

True, the amount of standout performances from the American Idol Top 12 were minimal, but all in all, the finalists proved themselves to be worthy of the fancy new stage. I had been concerned that the Lennon/McCartney catalogue, while offering undeniably great songs, was not going to translate into the Idol arena, but several of the finalists managed to shine, and only a couple were total trainwrecks.

Speaking of trainwrecks -- what the hell happened to Archuleta? Has all this frontrunner talk gone to his head? He was horrible tonight!

Conversely, Chekezie stepped it up about a thousand notches, giving a totally charismatic and soulful performance. Well done, Chekezie!

Also on the 'impressive list': Carly Smithson (love her!), David Cook (two weeks running!), and Amanda Overmyer (if she keeps this up, she's got a shot at going far). Not so impressive? Ramiele Malubay and Syesha Mercado (booooooring), David Hernandez (cheesy!) and Kristy Lee Cook (ummmmmm, no. just no.)

It's late, so I'm going to wait to give my full thoughts on each of the contestants, along with who I think will get the boot, until tomorrow, but for now, here's my rankings of the Top 12. Feel free to leave a comment and let me know how they match up with yours.

1. Carly Smithson
2. Chekezie
3. David Cook
4. Amanda Overmyer
5. Michael Johns
6. Brooke White
7. Syesha Mercado
8. Jason Castro
9. David Archuleta
10. David Hernandez
11. Ramiele Malubay
12. Kristy Lee Cook

POLL: Which of the Top 12 was your favorite? Who's Going Home? VOTE NOW!

POLL: Which of the Top 12 Was Your Favorite? Who's Going Home?

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Photo Flashback: Neil Patrick Harris Shows His Butt

After he was Doogie and before he was Barney, there was...The Man in the Attic.

Best thing about the movie? These photos.

Oh Neil, how I love thee.

Monday, March 10, 2008

American Idol Top 12: Who Will Be The First To Go?

I have to be honest -- I was underwhelmed by the American Idol semifinals. Sure, there were some stand-out performances (Archuleta's "Imagine," Smithson's "Crazy On You," Cook's "Hello"), but I felt more ho-hum then I did overwhelmed by excitement with what the contestants were bringing to the stage.

Having said that, I do think this is a strong crop of finalists, and I'm cautiously optimistic that now that we've reached the Top 12 we are in for some truly exciting performances.

Which brings me to the question -- who will be the first of the Top 12 to go? The Beatles theme will be a mixed bag -- the songs are great, for sure, but most don't contain the "money notes" and rockin' tempos often associated with killer Idol performances. So, who will thrive and who will falter? (Plus there's only 25 songs to choose from -- click here to read)

David Archuleta, David Hernandez, David Cook, Jason Castro, Michael Johns, Carly Smithson, Brooke White and Ramiele Malubay should be fine this week -- even if they don't knock it out of the park, they are each coming in with lots of viewer goodwill. I also think, to a slightly lesser extent, Amanda Overmyer should be fine -- she's still unique enough in the competition to stand out.

That leaves Chekezie, Syesha Mercado and Kristy Lee Cook as those most in danger going into the performance round. Of course, it's entirely possible that any of these three could completely knock it out of the park and save themselves. However, Chekezie came thisclose to elimination last week, and unless he starts showing some real personality, he'll be headed home very soon. I do think he earned himself some points with the viewers by being so sensitive to Danny Noriega at last week's elimination episode (how cute was that hug?), and therefore I think he'll be around at least one more week.

Kristy Lee Cook may also be livin' on borrowed time, but if she can countrify a Beatles song at least adequately, she, too, may be able to survive.

Yes, going into this week's performance I think it is Syesha Mercado who is most in danger. This girl can sing, and she's gorgeous, but she just isn't very likable. In fact, I found her reaction to being named to the Top 12 downright obnoxious. Add that to the fact that there is nothing particularly distinctive about her as a performer, and I'd say she's in serious trouble.

As I said, everything could change after the performers take the stage, but that's my bold declaration for the week. Do you agree? Disagree? Who do you think is in danger this week? Sound off below!

READ: Top 12 Only Have 25 Lennon/McCartney Songs To Choose From

American Idol Top 12 Only Have 25 Lennon/McCartney Songs to Choose From

Grrrr, American Idol.

Vocal coach Debra Byrd has gone on record as saying the Top 12 only have 25 Lennon/McCartney songs to choose from this week. 25!

Isn't the point of American Idol to determine who the best singer/performer is, not just the person who can do the best with a very limited number of songs to choose from?


Are you as frustrated by this as I am? Sound off below.

READ: American Idol Top 12: Who Will Be the First To Go?


Thursday, March 06, 2008

American Idol Elimination Prediction: Kady and Luke are Shoo-Ins to Go, But Who Will Join Them?

I've ranked the contestants (click for the BOYS and for the GIRLS) -- now it's time to figure out who's going home!

Green Zone - Safe by a mile!
Boys: David Archuleta, David Cook, Jason Castro
Girls: Carly Smithson, Brooke White, Amanda Overmyer

Archuleta's a no-brainer -- this kid won't be leaving the Green Zone for some time (if ever!) David Cook and Jason Castro gave stand-out performances this week, so they, too, should have no problem cruising into the Top 12.

Smithson and White, meanwhile, have been the most consistent of the female performers, and both should easily make it to the bigger stage. While Amanda's had a rough go of it in the semifinals, she chose the right time to step it up, and as such she's good-to-go.

Yellow Zone - On Shaky Ground!
Boys: Michael Johns, David Hernandez
Girls: Ramiele Malbubay

Michael Johns is losing his frontrunner status quickly, but he's got enough leftover goodwill to have nothing to worry about tonight. While the "stripper scandal of '08" may wind up hurting Hernandez, I think he's got the vocal chops, performance skills and the fanbase to last at least a few more weeks.

Ramiele has fallen into that dangerous middle ground of not being spectacular but also not terrible, but, like Johns, I think she has enough residual favor with the fans to make it to the finals.

Red Zone - Danger, Danger, Danger!
Boys: Luke Menard, Chekezie, Danny Noriega
Girls: Syesha Mercado, Asia'h Epperson, Kristy Lee Cook, Kady Malloy

If there's a sure thing this week, it's that Luke Menard is getting the boot. He's bland, he doesn't have the vocal chops of his competitors, and he had the dreaded first performance slot -- a sure-fire recipe for elimination. But which boy will join him?

While Danny Noriega has yet to show off the skillz he displayed in his initial audition, his buzz-worthy attitude will probably spare him at least one more week. That leaves Chekezie, who undoubtedly has a great voice, but has failed to truly connect with the audience.

As for the girls, I'd say Kady is also likely to go -- how can the audience forgive three straight tuneless, forgettable performances? Who will join her, though, is a much more difficult question.

If I was going based on performances alone, I'd say Kristy Lee Cook is getting the boot. However, being the only country gal left in the competition will likely spare her for at least one more week.

Which means it comes down to Asia'h Epperson and Syesha Mercado, both of whom have good voices but have yet to bring anything special or unique to the competition. In addition, the fact that both chose Whitney Houston songs means they will have likely split at least part of the vote. While I personally prefer Asia'h (although not by much), she, like Luke, was saddled with the first performance slot, and as such I'm afraid she's gonna be the "big, shocking" elimination of the evening.


Elimination Prediction
Boys: Luke Menard and Chekezie
Girls: Kady Malloy and Asia'h Epperson

Thoughts? Agree? Disagree? Let me know!

READ: Ranking the Top 8 Guys -- Three David's Top the List for the Second Straight Week

READ: Ranking the Top 8 Girls -- Brooke On Top, While Amanda Makes a Big Comeback

And the Winner of Project Runway Is...


Don't read if you haven't yet watched tonight's finale!


Fierce!! Christian Siriano has won Project Runway.

All three of the final designers delivered fantastic collections, but in the end the endearingly cocky and totally hysterical Christian was named the winner, with Rami coming in 2nd place and Jillian picking up 3rd.

It was a battle to the finish, with each of the final three coming up with some spectacular designs. Though a case could be made for Christian, Rami or Jillian, I have to agree with the final judges decision -- as he has been doing all season, Christian brought the drama and the flair, and the result was a total knockout.

Credit must be given to Jillian and Rami, however, for making this hands down the closest finish Project Runway has ever had. Jillian's woven looks were gorgeous, and Rami managed to get out of the drapery box, proving he's definitely not a one-note designer after all.

But in the end, it was all about Christian. Over-the-top, sure, but it'd be hard to argue with his vision or his crafstmanship. Or, for that matter, his sense of humor -- I think my favorite quip of the evening was his parting line to Posh -- "We'll be in touch." It even made her smile!

All in all, it was a wholly entertaining season, and I can't wait for the next one!

PS. How fun was it to see all the Bravo royalty turn up for the fashion show? Look -- it's Padma and Ted Allen! Jack and Dale! Nikki Taylor and Tyson Beckford! In the immortal words (or word, as the case may be) -- fierce!

Holla! Couples are Split Up On Big Brother, Allison is Eliminated and Ryan Wins First Individual HOH

What a jam packed Big Brother episode!

As expected, the couples were split up on tonight, meaning it's now an individual game. Holla!

After Ryan and Allison were "evicted" from the house, the siren rang and the houseguests were forced to choose whether to eliminate either Ryan or Allison. Not surprisingly, the chose Allison.

In the HOH competition, the first individual one of the game, Ryan won, giving him a power he certainly hasn't had thus far in the game. It had come down to him and Adam, so I say thank goodness he won!

But the fun didn't stop there -- Julie Chen then announced that one of the eliminated houseguests (Jacob, Jen, Parker, Allison, Amanda or Alex) will be returning to the game -- and the viewers get to decide. Double holla!

I'm betting it's gonna come down to Parker or Alex -- what do you think?

PS. Despite the fact that this season has been full of drama, I'm thinking now is when it's really gonna get good. Thoughts?

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Ranking American Idol's Top 8 Girls: Brooke on Top, While Amanda Makes a Big Comeback

While the theme of the week was ostensibly 80's song, it could alternately be considered "the week when all of the girls wore high waisted pants." I mean!

Most of the girls stepped it up this week, making relatively strong song choices and delivering pretty strong performances. The judges, on the other hand, were totally non-sensical and annoying. But hey -- I guess you can't have it all.

Speaking of the judges -- despite typical ridiculous comments about dependable dogs and mutts (huh?), isn't Paula looking totally non stoned these days? She's a pop star again, bitches, she's gotta be on her A-game!

As always, here's my rankings of the evening's performances:

1. Brooke White
While I was definitely not Brooke's biggest fan from the get-go, I've got to admit, the girl's growing on me. Choosing to deliver an acoustic rendition of the great Pat Benatar song "Love is a Battlefield" (my own karaoke staple), it was endearingly low-key, totally charming and shockingly authentic. If she keeps this up she could really go far in this competition.
Grade: A

2. Carly Smithson
Simon hates this song, but I absolutely love it, and Carly's rendition only made me love it more. Girl can sing! In case you haven't figured it out yet, I'm a huge fan of this girl -- she's totally charming and, to my ears, she's yet to hit a bum note. And how hot is her mom?!?
Grade: A-

3. Amanda Overmyer
Finally! After two weeks of trainwrecks, Amanda finally got it together this week, workin' the straight hair and minimal make-up, and growling the Joan Jett song with a conviction severely lacking in her last couple of performances. This is the performance I've been hoping for since she first appeared in front of the judges! The only question is -- is it too little too late?
Grade: B+

4. Asia'h Epperson
While I rolled my eyes when it became clear that Asia'h had chosen a Whitney Houston song, I do have to say, if you're gonna choose a Whitney tune, "I Wanna Dance With Somebody" is the one to choose. And she sounded great! True, there was nothing particularly inventive about the performance, but it was well sung and charmingly performed. All in all -- not too shabby.
Grade: B

5. Syesha Mercado
I don't know what's going to work against Syesha more -- the fact that she made a totally predictable (and boring) song choice, or that, due to time constraints, the judges barely had a chance to say anything about her. While there's no doubt Syesha can sing, there's absolutely nothing original about her, and, as such, she probably can't hope for better than a 11th place finish.
Grade: B-

6. Kristy Lee Cook
With Alaina gone, Kristy's now the only country-esque singer left in the competition, which should definitely work in her favor. This performance was definitely the best she's given since "Amazing Grace" in her initial audition, but it still didn't even come close to blowing me away. Still, even a little bit of twang may enough to make it to the Top 12.
Grade: C+

7. Ramiele Malubay
When you choose a song sung on Idol by everyone from Katharine McPhee to Jessica Sierra and Scott Savol, you better bring something new and different to the stage. Ramiele didn't. And is is just me, or does she always perform as though she's reading her lyrics off of a karaoke screen? Not terrible, for sure, but nothin' special either.
Grade: C+

8. Kady Malloy
This may have appeared to be a strange song choice, but Katharine McPhee sang it and knocked it out of the park back in Season 5, so the song itself can't be blamed for the lack of excitement in Kady's performance. This girl's just a non-starter -- she's pretty and does a killer Britney impression, but other than that I've got absolutely no use for her. Good riddance, girl.
Grade: C-

Who was your favorite? Who's going home? Vote now!

POLL: Which of the Top 8 Girls Was Your Favorite? Who's Going Home?

Ranking American Idol's Top 8 Guys: The Three David's Top the List for the Second Straight Week

What a strange episode of American Idol -- neither mind bogglingly amazing or torturously bad. Some of the performances, and song choices, were so strange, I almost don't know what to say.

I said...almost.

Part of the problem is that the songs seemed so damn short. Is it just me, or did every song seem to be about 30 seconds? We've got a big decision to make here, and I'm not sure such a short snippet of song from each contestant allowed each to leave the voters with the best impression.

Having said that, here's my rankings of the Top 8 guys:

1. David Cook
I know some of y'all aren't too fond of Season 7's rocker, but I've loved this guy since the moment he appeared in his initial audition, and as the weeks go on I keep falling deeper and deeper. His performance of "Hello" was a revelation -- he made the song current, relevant and totally appropriate for his performance style. Send this boy to the finals!
Grade: A-

2. David Hernandez
David's got to be having a rough week with the revelations about his stripper past, but he seemed to put it aside and performed "It's All Coming Back" quite well. While I, like Simon, prefered his performance of "Papa Was a Rolling Stone," there's no doubt this kid can really sing. Hopefully he'll get to show off some of his stripper moves in the Top 12.
Grade: B

3. David Archuleta
Is little David getting too cocky too soon? I love him, don't get me wrong, but his performance tonight was way too self-serious. As Simon said, he's got to lighten up and remind us that he's just an adorable teenager. Heck, if he keeps singing songs like this one, there's gonna be no uber-serious songs for him to sing during "Idol Gives Back"! Still, not a chance in hell he won't make it to the Top 12.
Grade: B

4. Jason Castro
I'm a bit Simon loved this performance so much -- it was genuine and heartfelt, sure, but less than impressive vocally. True, it's not a vocal powerhouse type of song, and his rendition was both respectable and respectful. I wanna love him -- and I did love his debut Top 24 performance -- but I'm hung up on the fact that this kid doesn't have the big notes in him. He presents Idol voters with an interesting dilemna -- do you vote for someone who seems like an authentic artist even if they are far from the best singer? I'm curious what else he's got in him, so I hope (and expect) he will get to the Top 12, but I wonder how long he can last without being able to really belt out a tune.
Grade: B

5. Michael Johns
How did this guy go from a frontrunner to an also-ran so quickly? His performance wasn't painful tonight by any means, but there was also nothing special about it -- unfortunately for Michael, the third straight week that's been the case. Even if he makes it to the Top 12 (which he likely will), unless he ups the ante I can't see him making much of a dent in the competition.
Grade: B-

6. Chekezie
Vocally, there's no doubt this guy's got it. And tackling a Whitney Houston song was a risky proposition that didn't result in him falling flat on his face. But there's something off about him -- he's just not connecting with the songs or with the audience (at least not this audience member). The producers clearly think he's got something worth paying attention to, as they gave him the coveted final performance slot, but will he ever seem his display some star quality?
Grade: C+

7. Danny Noriega
I'm still loving Danny's sassy attitude, but "Tainted Love" did absolutely nothing for him vocally. I remember him having a good voice during his initial audition and in Hollywood -- where has it gone? Still, having him as part of the Top 12 would certainly liven things up, so I'd be lying if I said I didn't hope he sneaks in.
Grade: C

8. Luke Menard
Egads! I actually don't think "Wake Me Up (Before You Go Go)" was a terrible song choice for Luke, but I find his voice almost unbearably difficult to listen to, and he could not possibly be any cheesier. I wish Simon hadn't so blatantly told him he wasn't going to make it to the Top 12, as that sounds like a direct challenge to his fans (if he has any), but I'm hoping he's right and this is the last we'll see of the a capella pretty boy.
Grade: C-

Which of the Top 8 guys was your favorite? Who's going home? Vote now!

POLL: Which of the Top 8 Guys Was Your Favorite? Who's Going Home?

READ: Ranking the Top 8 Guys -- Three David's On Top For Second Straight Week

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

American Idol Producer Comments on David Hernandez' Stripper Past

As you've undoubtedly heard at this point, American Idol contestant used to be a stripper. In a gay bar.

So whaaaaaat? (That's what I say, anyways) Please, there's been strippers on this show since day one! (Remember Nikki McKibbin)

Apparently it is very newsworthy, however, as even CNN reported on it today. There has been lots of (ridiculous, in my opinion) discussion about whether or not he should be allowed to stay on the show. went straight to Idol producer Ken Warwick to talk about the issue, and here is what he had to say: Will the revelations about David's stripper past have any impact on whether he stays on the show?
Ken Warwick: No, it won't make any difference. The truth is, we're never judgmental about what people do to earn a living. They've got to put food in people's mouths. We've had strippers on the show before. Nikki McKibbon was one in [Season] 1. We're never judgmental about people who do things like that. If it were some sort of heavy porn, then maybe we'd have to take action. But certainly not on this. Were you aware of his past before it was reported?
Warwick: No, I wasn't. [Laughs] But the truth of the matter is, it wouldn't have made any difference. There are a lot of people I know who'd love to have the opportunity just to make a better living by taking their clothes off. Do you feel for these kids who are suddenly thrust into the public eye and then have everything in their pasts dug up?
Warwick: Very often, I do, yeah. I mean, David Hernandez, whatever you say, is a nice guy. And he can sing. He's got a great voice. He deserves to be there, as far as I'm concerned. Have you seen him since the news broke?
Warwick: I haven't actually seen him today but I'm not worried about it. The thing is, at the end, the public will make the decision anyway. If there's a stretch of the public that thinks, "Oh, dear, he was a male stripper, so I'm not going to vote for him," then that's the luck of the draw. If the public doesn't like him, then they'll get rid of him.

What do you you think? Does it impact the way you view him? Sound off below.

Underwood, Pickler and Clarkson Nominated for CMA Awards

Three American Idol alum made the cut this morning when the nominations for the 43rd Annual CMA Awards were announced.

Carrie Underwood picked up a nomination for Best Female Vocalist, where she'll compete with Miranda Lambert, Martina McBride, Taylor Swift and LeAnn Rimes.

Kellie Pickler, meanwhile, was nominated for Best New Female Vocalist alongside Taylor Swift and Sarah Buxton.

Finally, Kelly Clarkson grabbed a nod for Vocal Event of the Year for her duet of "Because of You" with Reba McEntire. Their competition includes Tracy Lawrence With Tim McGraw and Kenny Chesney, Kenny Chesney With George Strait, Bon Jovi Featuring LeAnn Rimes, and Vince Gill With Sheryl Crow.

For a full list of CMA nominations, click here.

Monday, March 03, 2008

SPOILER: Rumored Songs for American Idol's 80's Week

Always take spoilers with a grain of salt, but according to internet rumors, these are the 16 songs that will be sung by the American Idol contestants this week:

"Everytime You Go Away"
"What About Love"
"Tainted Love"
"The Greatest Love of All"
"Father Figure"
"Open Arms"
"Rebel Yell"
"The Rose"
"Bette Davis Eyes"
"Call Me"
"Always Something There to Remind Me"
"Whats Love Got to Do With It"
"Hurts So Good"
"We Built this City
"Every Breath you Take"

No word yet on who is singing which song, although Danny Noriega has been all-but-confirmed to be taking on "Tainted Love," and David Archuleta is expected to sing "Open Arms."

Now the fun part -- figuring out who should sing what! Guesses?

BIG BROTHER SPOILER: Power of Veto Saves One of the Nominated Couples


You know the drill -- stop reading now if you don't want to know!


Matt and Natalie have won the Power of Veto competition, and removed themselves from the block. Joshuah and Sharon, the current Head of Households, have nominated Sheila and Adam in their place. They join Allison and Ryan as this week's couples up for eviction.

Remember -- Julie Chen teased "a new chapter of the Big Brother" game starting Wednesday, which will likely be a return to individual competition. The game's gonna get even more interesting!

CW Renews Top Model, Gossip Girl, Smallville, Supernatural, One Tree Hill and More

From a press release from the CW network:

"The CW announced early pickups of six series today, including the network’s signature reality hit, AMERICA’S NEXT TOP MODEL, four dramas and one comedy. All six series will return for the fall season.

The network’s most popular series, AMERICA’S NEXT TOP MODEL will return with mega-star Tyra Banks for cycles 11 and 12. Returning dramas include the buzz-worthy freshman hit GOSSIP GIRL and ONE TREE HILL, returning for a sixth season. These three series are the top-ranked shows on television with a concentration of women 18-34 viewers.

Also renewed were the long-running Thursday night team of SMALLVILLE, which will begin its eighth season, and SUPERNATURAL, which will begin its fourth season. In addition, the critically acclaimed comedy EVERYBODY HATES CHRIS will return for season four."

Video: Grey's Anatomy/Private Practice Benefit "Good Medicine"

Here's a video of the Grey's Anatomy/Private Practice benefit held last week. Entitled "Good Medicine," the benefit was to raise money for the strike-affected crews of the two shows.

In the video you'll see Sara Ramirez, TR Knight, Ellen Pompeo, Katherine Heigl, Audra McDonald, Eric Dane, Chandra Wilson and many more. Some sing -- others joke. Ramirez and McDonald sing.

The video is not great quality, but if you couldn't make it to the benefit, this is the next best thing.


Video: Carrie Underwood and Keith Urban Duet on Rihanna's "Umbrella"

The "Umbrella" covers just won't stop!

Here's a video of country singers Carrie Underwood and Keith Urban dueting on the song, from their current tour. Carrie, as always, sounds great!


New Madonna/Justin Timberlake/Timabaland Song "Four Minutes to Save the World" Leaked!

The first single from Madonna's new album, "Four Minutes to Save the World," featuring Justin Timberlake and Timbaland, has leaked. Check it out here.

IDOL MADNESS: Final Results and a Statement About the Game

What a crazy ride it's been.

IDOL MADNESS is now over, and the winner has been determined.

Before we get to that, however, a note about the game.

The idea for this game originated from an Idol Thoughts reader, and we determined that I would host it on my site. The hope was that we would be able to have a fun, spirited NCAA bracket style tournament among the Idol finalists, and determine who the Idol Thoughts readers thought was the best Idol contestant ever. Perhaps naively, we did not imagine how word would spread and the different fanbases would mobilize to support their favorites.

At first it was exciting -- in addition to bringing new readers to my blog, I thought it might be an interesting experiment in determining which finalists still had the largest fanbases. And for the first several rounds, voting turned out to be interesting. There was only one major upset in the first round (Diana Degarmo losing to Bucky Covington), and several surprises became clear, like the size of Constantine Maroulis, Bo Bice and Anthony Fedorov's fanbases. Voting was fair, results were interesting, and, by most accounts, everyone was having a good time.

As we got into the Elite 8 and Final Four, however, a bit of shadiness started to happen. Numbers started to look strange. I received word from and, who were hosting the respective rounds, that illegal scripting had taken place. Polls were restarted; numbers were watched; warnings were issued. Everything was done in the interest of fairness.

I have no vested interest in any of these contestants -- I considered myself an anthropologist of sorts, interested only in seeing how several years of Idol history would play out in a competition like this. I did not care who won. I mean, if I was going to be pulling for anyone it would have been Kelly Clarkson, and she was upset early on. Again -- I had no interest in rigging the votes one way or another -- I did not care who won.

Most of you did not cheat, but those who did really put a damper on the fun of those who did not.

I tried everything I could to keep the game as fair as possible. If you feel like I could have done more, I apologize. I tried to determine, best I could, who to move on to the finals, based on the corrupted scores. If I made a wrong decision in not just canceling the game completely at the point I realized people were cheating, I apologize. But I was trying to finish the game for those who were playing fairly and had invested time in voting. If you voted and you feel like you wasted your time, I am sorry.

So, the winner of IDOL MADNESS is Clay Aiken, with Elliott Yamin coming in a close 2nd place, Bo Bice in 3rd and Carrie Underwoodin 4th. I have to admit, very sadly, it's a bit of a hollow result, since there is no doubt the game has been corrupted by fans on ALL sides (this has been confirmed to me by

But I will say this -- Clay, Elliott, Carrie and Bo would be proud to know they have some extremely passionate and loyal fans, and even aside from the cheating, these four definitely did have the most total amount of fans vote. I believe Constantine Maroulis, Anthony Fedorov, Kelly Clarkson, Josh Gracin, Jasmine Trias, Kellie Pickler, Ace Young and many more would be pleased to know there fans are so devoted as well.

What I bet they would not be proud of is the cheating that took place for, let's face it, a fairly meaningless result (there's no prize involved, after all). Like I said, most of you did not cheat, but those who did really put a damper on the fun of those who did not. Clay, Elliott, Carrie and Bo would also likely not be proud of the level of vitriol you addressed each other and, quite frankly, me.

So there it is...the end of IDOL MADNESS. I wish it would have ended on a more celebratory note, but I thank those of you who committed to the game and participated fairly, and I hope if you've like other parts of Idol Thoughts you'll come back and check out what's going on here.