Saturday, April 30, 2011

May Day!

Sometimes I like to give myself little challenges. I have decided to post every day in May. It'll be good for me to get into the habit again. These might not be the deepest posts but my goal is to give you something to read everyday. At least a couple of paragraphs.

So watch this space in May. And bring your friends!

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Oh, Pia: American Idol, Part 3

The results show has lead to the dismissal of Pia and weren't we all so shocked? Outrage! Unfair! J-Lo weeping openly! How could this happen? Oh, please, if it wasn't for Lusk lecturing America, how was anyone surprised? (I really did think he was going home, even though he is one of the better performers.)

Despite the hollering and cussing, the judges have no one to blame but themselves, and not because they've already used their save for the year. Everybody is not awesome every week. I know that two of the judges are new, so maybe they need to explain to J-Lo and Steven that every week, someone is going to go home. And if all you give us is, "Baby, you know I love you and, once again, you were amazing," or "Be-bop-a-lu-la, I'm shaking a tree!" we're going to vote for our already established favorites and Casey (because we don't want that to happen again.) I'm not saying you have to tear these kids apart or pit them against each other, but Randy hasn't even used the word "pitchy" in weeks and I just find that hard to believe. Start judging!

Pia may have been one of the best singers this year, but she wasn't the best performer. She was pretty but forgettable. Another one of those female belters which "American Idol" usually loves, but she went away from her strength this week. I believe that if Pia had sung either song she sang the night of the elimination ("I Love Rock n' Roll" or "I'll Stand by You"), she would have made it through. I love "River Deep, Mountain Wide," but it wasn't Pia. Pia needs to belt. it. out. Before she sang a note this week, I said, "Pia's in trouble."

I always wonder how much control the kids have in their song choice. This week was the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. That's a gazillion possibilities! And these were the songs they picked? I imagine song choice often goes like this:
Producers: You can pick any song from the whole catalog of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame!
AI Kid: Wow! Look at all these choices! I'd like to sing "XXXX"!
Producers: Hold on there! We made you a list of three songs.
AI Kid: Um, okay. I pick that one.
Producers: Not that one.
AI Kid: That one?
Producers: Good choice!
(Later that week the judges will tell the kid he made a poor song choice. The kid will have to smile anyway.)

I'll bet the producers thought it would be a good week for Pia to "mix it up." That was not the right thing. Pia wasn't established enough to have an off week. And I don't know what she did to Gwen Stefani to make her dress her the way she did. It was not pretty. Let's sum up: a kind of boring girl best known for Whitney-type ballads performs an up-tempo, wall of sound number dressed like a train wreck and trying to work the stage (even Jennifer made a point of telling her she needs to learn how to move.) And why were we surprised she didn't make it through?

Ryan needs to force the judges a bit. Give us a couple of minutes at the end for each judge to comment on the best of the night and who needs help. Push them into picking a bottom one or two. Someone is going home. You can't cry for all of them, J-Lo.

P.S. Can someone teach Scotty how to hold a microphone? And someone tell Haley to stop holding her head to the side? Thanks.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

American Idol, Part 2

Just so you know: I wrote this post once and then blogger stopped saving (it happens: I just copy it and leave the window, then paste over the old version.) Not this time: it only copied the picture, I pasted over all that lovely text, realized that it was deleted, tried to recover, but blogger had already saved. I am cranky. Also note that because of this, this post covers a couple of weeks.

Let's talk about American Idol so far. Are we liking this season? I must admit, I'm liking it better than I thought I would. I tuned in just to see how it might shake down with the new judges and I'm sticking around. You won again, Nigel Lythgoe! Curses!
I like the mix of the new judges. Truly, they could have put anyone in place of Kara and I would have been happier with the judging situation. J-Lo needs to get tougher, but she is getting there. Steven brings a certain amount of random. I could still do without Randy, but he's not trying so hard this year, which makes him better. The best thing about the judges is that they seem to actually listen to each other, nodding at each other's comments. It feels more like a conversation than a group of people waiting to jump in with their opinion, thinking, "Me next! Me next!"

I miss the meanness of Simon, but I don't miss his "you're not pretty enough to make it in the business" comments. That said, the judges need to toughen up. The singers not all amazing every week. Someone is going home. Not every one of these kids is going to have hit records: tell them what they need to know. At this point they all have fans, they have people who will tell them they were awesome, even if they just burp out "The Star Spangled Banner." Give them something they could use. Otherwise, why are you there?

I think it needs some more real criticism by the judges, but I'm afraid they'll bring in someone "mean" next year and that would be a mistake. Three judges is plenty; four judges always felt rushed to me. I think this chemistry is working, they just need to be willing to be honest with some of these kids. They have it in them. I get the feeling that J-Lo isn't all sweetness and light, and Steven just needs to allow himself to be booed a bit. He lets his ego and need to be liked get in the way. Someone should point out to him that they booed Simon all the time, but he was the one they came to see.

More than most years, I think this group has a much better sense of who they are. There's the deep voice country guy, the guy who does gospel-y stuff, the rocker guy who seems pretty sweet, the crazy woman who's gonna try to make everything reggae, the female belter who will only do ballads, etc. On one hand, this is actually a good thing for an artist, but, from an "AI" perspective, it's kind of boring. Sometimes it's fun to watch a kid develop, figure out what they are (or want to be). These kids mostly know (especially the boys), which means you could probably call about half of the songs they were going to do. I really like the one rocker-kid (James), but, of course, on Elton John night, he picked "Saturday Night's Alright for Fighting." It would have been cool to see him nail a ballad. Or make something unexpected rock out. (Note: last night he did pick a ballad -- nice!)

Scotty is the country guy. He's got a good voice but, honestly, he does the same stuff every time. Casey's the guy they saved. He's one of my favorites and I was glad they used the save on him. I truly think he got the bottom last week because people assumed he was safe. And with only 11 people (math warning), you get 12%: you're in the top, 8%: bye-bye! I think these early rounds, a lot of people vote for folks they think might be in trouble. Say I've got 3 people I like: Casey, Scotty, and that scared 16-year-old girl. Casey and Scotty do well but the kid struggles. If I were a voter, I might just throw my votes at the kid, assuming the other two will be fine.

Which brings me to my idea of saving the ones that had an obvious good night or had a bad night but are usually consistent. (Or, like on "So You Think You Can Dance", during the first half of the season, the callers pick the bottom 3, and then the judges decide who goes home.) I'd love if, during the Top 11 or less, the judges each get to save three for the night (maybe they each pick one); Top 10 - 8, save two; Top 7 and 6, save one -- Top 5 is all America! They could even use this sort of thing to help promote it when it gets dull in the middle: "The judges can only save ONE tonight -- the rest is up to you!"

There's not enough crazy going on here, and, possibly, having these types of saves might shake that up a bit. You can't help but wonder who Steven would save. And this might let the kids step outside their box for a bit. Let's say Scotty tries a funkier thing and it just doesn't happen. Can you just see J-Lo going, "oh honey, that was not you, so we're gonna have to save you this week because we need you around." I would have absolutely no problem with that. Well, except I don't really like Scotty.

I still have a lot of the same issues with "American Idol": the show's too long (I'd rather they had a Top-18 and do some double eliminations in the early weeks), it's pretty much decided by tweens so the cute guys go further than they should. But I am pleasantly surprised by this year.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Seeing the colors

I watched "Please Give" today, a lovely, little movie about people and emotions and relationships and all that. It was a great movie, one of those films that you find yourself going over again and again in your head, little bits of scenes coming back to you. (Ahead is not so much a spoiler, but a bit about a scene -- you may not want to read about it if you plan to see the movie.)

The movie takes place in New York City in the fall, and everyone is talking about seeing the colors of the leaves changing. About midway through the movie, Rebecca, her grandmother, her date, and his grandmother drive out of the city to see the autumn leaves. Rebecca's grandmother is a bit, well, cranky. She's 91 and just not having fun anymore. They get to the park where they've been told there would be a wonderful view, and they look out and no one sees much of anything. The whole group is so disappointed. Rebecca's grandmother is looking off towards the park benches and just really upset at the whole thing. The rest of the group makes a slight shift from where they are standing, and they look out and: amazement! They gasp; they go on and on about the beauty. But grandma is still looking in the wrong direction, still mad at the world.

You have to remember that sometimes if you just shift a few steps, you can see something amazing. But if you just keep looking in the wrong direction, it just never gets any better.