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American Idol, Season 14 Episode 4: Jennifer Who? (Will)

For Hollie’s recap of this week, click here

It’s a 2 hour Thursday night episode and there is a lot to cover, so let’s get to it. We’re in NYC so of course we need to revisit Jennifer Lopez’s humble roots. She is somewhat dressed down and is walking through her old Bronx neighborhood and finds the one person who does not know who she is. Idol is not so subtly trying to send us two messages: (1) no matter where you came from, you can be famous (subtext is that AI can change people’s lives – and we will keep pounding this into your head from every angle possible) and (2) no matter how famous you are people who have day to day struggles have other things to worry about. I appreciate the latter sentiment but am not quite sure if JLo does as she seemed incredulous at not being recognized. It’s a double header show so we again see more “Jenny from the Block” footage late in the episode, and I honestly can’t tell if it’s another AI segment or one of those cheesy Fiat commercials.

It’s NY week and we have a sense of pride throughout much of this show – from shots of the Brooklyn bridge, to a peek into the Nassau Coliseum. Right off the bat I get psyched to see a good old South Shore Italian kid. He is a bit over the top (or so it might seem to TV viewers) but I’ve met plenty of those of his ilk growing up and like Sal, I am somewhat offended by Harry’s mocking. Harry –if you’ve never been to Mulchay’s on a Monday, Bogarts on a Thursday or Sprats, ever, keep the LI accent impersonations to yourself. Strong showing from Strong Island, so we’ll see you again in Hollywood.

I am shocked that we spent 15 minutes and only got through one contestant. We then see the Nassau Coliseum where the bulk auditions must’ve occurred in order to weed down the masses to a manageable number for the judges. Again – some LI pride as throughout the episode we see flashes of Islander banners in the background. I do feel bad for all of the rebuffed contestants who have not only the stinging pain of rejection but have to also walk through the bowels of that concrete shithole in Hempstead with a camera following them the whole way. Nothing glamorous about that. I too know the feeling of disappointment walking across that desolate parking lot, as I have been an Islanders fan for the past 30 years. Grab yourself some comfort food at the Fuddruckers across the street, kids.

If you recall, we’ve been treated already to a few kids with stage names (remember Lovey?). I don’t get it. This guy J. None is sweet and likeable but I am not sure if it is proper to anoint yourself with a nickname quite yet. I can feel Hollie’s vote for him vanishing into the ether as he signs “J None” to the whiteboard. I have the same conflicting feelings with Jax – an 18 year old from LI with a good parent backstory and compelling voice. There’s Prince, Madonna, Cher and …..Jax??? Sorry kid – I don’t think so. Or perhaps I didn’t realize that this was all acceptable. From now on, I am changing my work signature to “Dollar Bills” or “Double U Swaggy”.  Jax has a moment and who can root against a 911 hero Dad, but I am afraid she’ll be facing Angie Miller Syndrome, trying to recreate this moment for the rest of the competition.  The insanely annoying commercialization efforts by these kids doesn’t end as later in the episode we are treated to Shana or “Shi” – a shy girl who has given herself a new name, is a model and has never sung in public. We get a cliffhanger commercial break but I couldn’t care less. Hollie wants her to get a ticket so we can see her have an absolute meltdown during Hollywood week. I am on board with this and so are the judges. Only question is whether she has a sore throat and needs to go to bed early, gets into a fight with her groupmates in front of the piano player and locks herself in her room and/or cries in front of the judges. Sounds like a good AI commercial break question for the Twitterverse #AImeltdown.

Aside from the trend of amateurs giving themselves stage names, there is also a disturbing trend of panhandling being acknowledged as an actual occupation on this show. You know how that blue graphic that shows up on the bottom of the screen with the name, age and something like “waiter” or “dog walker”  or “Church group leader” or “teacher of special needs children”. I’ve noticed “busker” has now been substituted for “unemployed” this season. Obama’s America I guess….Anyway, we see another musician on the L train (although I am pretty sure everyone on the L train is a musician) and she is excellent. Najah Lewis is steady and mellifluous but also informs us that she makes $300 for every 2-3 hours on the train. Wow. Maybe I am the schmo with my silly 9-5 job. After I finish this write-up, I think I’ll change my to do list from catching up on writing Performance Evaluations for my team and finalizing business requirements to breaking out my guitar and practicing Smoke on the Water and Yellow Submarine for a few hours.

 

Before I reinvent myself, here’s a quick look at a few noteworthy contestants:

  • Eric Lopez: He’s from the East End and he’s all Adam Lamberty. I see group week dramatics ahead for him
  • 3 non descript blondes: they all get golden tickets and I don’t have the mental bandwidth to remember their names at this point. Idol has told me they are one in the same with their montage treatment so I’ll take the cue and spend my energy elsewhere.
  • Qaasim Middleton: Brooklyn in da house. Likeable kid and even more likeable Mom. His family exudes cool but with the musical Dad and the dorky musical child prodigy vibe, I feel he may be another Malaya Watson.
  • Travis Finlay: Harry is smitten with him and he has a sad story but a bright smile. More South Shore (Baldwin) LI. Go get it!

It’s now Adam Lambert flashback time. We get to revisit his initial audition and also am reminded of the terrible 4 judge Kara DioGuardi experiment. In case you didn’t get it, let me again hit you over the head with the Idol brainwash message. Remember Adam and how timid and unknown he was. Look at him now!!! This show makes stars (like no other show…ehmmm The Voice!). Got it? If you don’t I’m sure Carrie Underwood is still an Idol indentured servant and maybe they’ll cart her out again in a few weeks.

It’s time for Adam Ezegelian from…wait for it…WANTAGH MOTHER F’IN NY. He is a cross between Lost’s Hurly and Jonah Hill with a nice personality but who knows if he can sing. I haven’t been so pumped since the days of Levittown’s Kevin Covais (btw – where is he now? I really hope he is not busking outside the Tri-County Flea Market). If you told me I’d be hollering and waving signs for a parade down Wantagh Avenue in June, I’d have been certain it would be for the Stanley Cup. However, Adam is good and is sent through and I have grand visions of standing in front of Town Bagel all giddy during Homecoming Week, with a handmade sign that says “Adam is the EZ vote for American Idol”.

We’re nearing the end and I am getting emotionally exhausted. We see a duo in the “chamber” and I immediately ask Hollie which one of these kids is terminally ill. Awful. I am both relieved and annoyed that they are simply just boyfriend and girlfriend, the latter of which has a stage name, “Yanni G”. Let me guess – one makes it and one doesn’t. Not my first rodeo. Nick is in and if there are any teenage girls that still watch this show,  and if they forget he had a girlfriend, I think this guy who looks like an Adam Levine-Bradley Cooper combo will get some votes. I do actually feel bad for him as his survivor’s guilt does not allow him to fully appreciate the Golden Ticket. For you Idol historians – see the Dixon siblings for reference.

Lastly, Idol does what it has always done best at the end of these marathon shows. My heartstrings are tugged upon as Hollywood Anderson (I’ll refrain from commenting on the name) sings a beautiful original and gets congratulated by this middle aged do-gooder from the Covenant House who helped this homeless guy and got him a guitar.  Well done, Idol. Well done.

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American Idol, Season 14, Episode 3: JLo, you can have a rib! (Hollie’s take)

For Will’s take on this episode, click here

This post is late because I spent all of Wednesday night writing something for work, which ended up being torn apart and needed rewriting the next day anyway, so I wish I could get my Wednesday night back and have watched this episode fresh. I mean Jesus, Hollie, you have ONE LIFE TO LIVE, you should spend it watching forgettable mediocre singers, not churning out some crappy marketing schwag!

OK, I get the bus now, it goes to C- list cities to audition kids who stop off on their way to Denny’s.

Kansas City started off with Big Wan– Will is insisting it’s Big Ron, but I really do believe it’s Wan– who seems to have genuine swag and who I genuinely like. However I can only take so much of that Marvin Gaye shit, so long time prognosis is to be determined.

We are then made to feel uncomfortable for the first time tonight as the judges mock some Broadway-style guy with a high voice. It was one of those “are they making fun of him or not?” moments for me, as I often really don’t know if someone is good or not. Which is probably why I have not ever won my American Idol fantasy league.

A guitar folksy montage then commences, and there he is, SINGLE DAD from last season. But there are ZERO single dad references, and not even a “flashback to last year” back story. Producers do not seem hot on Single Dad!
For those of you who ride the subway:  Do you know when you’re waiting on the platform, and the train just isn’t coming, and there is some busker – for me it’s usually either one of those guys who drums on buckets, or an old Chinese man playing that horrible old Chinese man instrument—who is so goddam annoying that you wish you were more of an asshole so you could go up to him and give him $20 to STOP playing until the A train arrives?  That’s what I felt like during that entire Accordian-girl audition. Again, I didn’t know what the judges were going to say—was she good?  Did she suck?  I guess she was good, as she and her novelty instrument will be annoying her roommates at the Hampton Suites Burbank during Hollywood Week.

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eah, this thing

Then we get one of TWO Poor Man’s Crystal Bowersox of the night.  The first one is “so quirky I’m barefoot.”  The other one is “so quirky I play the banjo.”  They both annoy me and both go through.

Enter the lanky, shy cowboy Anton, hands down the most genuine, sweet, authentic person and voice… and the judges’ eyes are welling up too, so my senses are right and he’s in!  I’m mostly intrigued by the puzzling “Family Shot” outside the door… I think there were two women there with babies. Was one baby his?  Are both his but the producers didn’t want to ruin their ‘shy cowboy’ bit by showing he’s got two baby mommas?  Did an AI focus group reveal that the Single Mom story is more marketable than the Single Dad bit?  I’m nervous about what is going to be revealed.

Oh No, Deaf Parents.  The poor girl with a not-good voice has to trot her poor family in the room so that her Dad can hear her sing using a special device.  Will and I simultaneously wonder aloud, “What about the mom?!,” who is forced to sit there, reading the heartbroken expressions on the judges’ faces, not having a fancy hearing device of her own. What the hell?!  You can tell the judges HATE the producers for making them go through that sad, sad, scene. I look over at Will, whose eyes are teary.  Well played, AI.

We’ve seen the ‘homeless drifter’ routine before, and we’ve got another one in Season 1-4. Man, this kid has seen some shit.   Harry said that the kid’s ability to fit into the show “concerns me”—what concerns ME is the prospect of watching these people make this kid suffer through a terrible group dance number set to a lip synched version of “Bang Bang.”

But the best part of the show was the last scene. Did you guys see how J-Lo was looking at that plate of ribs Ryan set in front of her, while she mumbled “I can’t, I can’t” repeatedly?  And just yesterday a friend was telling me how his sister was on a photo shoot with JLo, who wolfed down craft services and then kept running in place and maniacally exercising. Did I just feel bad for JLo a little bit?

OK, Off to go to watch episode 4, which I didn’t watch last night bc I was out with aforementioned friend talking about JLo’s eating disorder.

American Idol Season 14, Episode 2: Somebody please explain the Bus to me (Will’s take)

For Hollie’s version of tonight’s episode, click here 

WILL’S TAKE

Well it’s the first working Thursday night of 2015 and with it comes the back end of a two night AI premier doubleheader. I’ve heard rumors that this year Idol will only be one night per week, as ratings have continued to decline, but I am skeptical. Am I to believe that Bones can pull in the kind of audience that an even sub par Idol elimination night draws? I, for one, want to end my week seeing some precocious kids sweat it out on the stools and then frantically search for my face to shoot across the screen amidst a slew of 50 something ladies when they flash the background montage of Facebook voter profile pics.

With the idea of a potentially trimmed down Idol viewing season haunting my thoughts, I pick up my remote and check out the Guide only to find that AI is blessing us with a 2 hour show. YESSSSS! Fast forward to 40 minutes later when H exclaims “oh F….we’ve only watched an hour”. It’s a marathon not a sprint, babe – pace yourself.

On to the show…

The intro comes on strong with not so subtle digs at the Voice. “It’s all about the kids”…”It’s not about the judges”…”It’s the only show that has produced bona fide stars”…Listen – I love that Kelly Clarkson as much as the next guy but this is all sounding pretty defensive. You’re American Goddamn Idol. Start acting like it!!!!

AI shows us a bit of behind the scenes – which frankly I love. H and I always talk about how we wish AI had their version of Big Brother after dark so we could see how things really work behind all of the staged red carpet shenanigans and kids jumping on beds in the AI mansion. (PS. – we know of Big Brother After Dark as my parents might be the only two people who have watched the Big Brother cast on off hours besides Julie Chen).

We then see this year’s version of Dexter (I cant remember his last name). The kid is 22, has a cherubic face, likeable family and is a good ole boy from Alabama. He’s also a bit annoying and I am not terribly impressed. Nonetheless, I think there is a quota for this guy every season. Great – now we have one for AI14, so can we move on…?

Then we see someone a bit androgynous who reminds me of MK Noibillete. I earnestly ask H what gender this contestant is and then immediately feel guilty as it is just a 16 year old boy. He’s geek-chic and his nerdiness reminds me of Malaya Watson. Kid is talented but not sure how long he will last.

And as soon as we see pretty Kelly on the screen for a nano second, I yell “SINGLE MOM”. AI – I know your formula and I love it. Sure as shit, she’s got an adorable little girl who sings that awful theme from Frozen to the judges and I am fully onboard the Kelly Klime bandwagon.

Montage time along with various soundbites of “I recently quit my job”, “Music is all I have”, “I won’t do anything but sing” and “I don’t have any other plans”. Then it dawns on me that American idol might be responsible for several downturns in the economy. H and I both groan and shake our heads disapprovingly. I love to play basketball but I am not going to quit my job to try out for the Knicks. Sigh.

AI is an emotional rollercoaster and after my dismay at these kids’ wonton lack of sense and responsibility, I am then again fraught with emotion watching Garrett Miles and his devoted Dad. Garrett is blind and super talented and will cause some serious choreography issues when the top 10 dress in all white and do an awkward Bruno Mars medley group number (I just cringe thinking about how painful it was to see the finalists try to all dance around season 8’s Scotty Macintyre). Despite this I am rooting for Garrett.

Moving on…there is a busker from Nashville and J-Lo gives us a classic “you have the whole package so I am sending you through”. Translation: “you’re a mediocre singer but you are good looking. Teeny bopper girls and Midwest grandmas will Facebook vote the crap out of you so I’ll throw you a golden ticket. “ I don’t remember this dude’s name and I doubt I’ll have to.

Some others to note as we round out hour 2:

  • Savion Wright is back and I do remember him as do the judges. He is talented and confident and should be in the top 24 for sure.
  • Lovey James just made me uncomfortable all around. She’s 16, has a stage name and a music video and tells us that “some guy she is working with” gave her the moniker Lovey. There seems to be a lot wrong there. I am betting either TMZ or the local authorities will dig into this pretty quickly.
  • Jess Lamb is our final contestant of the night and she is good and quirky. She’s long in the tooth for Idol and while I do fear we have another Erica Van Pelt on our hands, Jess is much more interesting and I think I recall her voice from a mysterious silhouette last night.

We wrap up the show and are teased with scenes from next week and more “best of the bus”. Both H and I catch a glimpse of some blonds guy that is “back again this year”. I shout “lives in his car!!!” while H “screams “single Dad!!!”. ….Ryan implores us to come back next week to see all of the action. “F. Yeah I’ll come back.”

American Idol Season 14, Episode 2: Somebody please explain the Bus to me (Hollie’s take)

For Will’s take, click here

HOLLIE’S TAKE

American Idol started off with what we in the corporate world refer to as a competitive analysis, hitting The Voice right in Adam Levine’s surely waxed nuts. You see, American Idol is the only show to give us bona fide stars (cut to Clarkson, Underwood, ignore Hicks, Dewyze). And it’s MORE than just raw talent. The judges are looking for the ‘whole package’ — which means ‘if you are good looking, you just might get a pass,’ based on the fact that right before anyone so-so got sent to Hollywood, we cut to a judge talking about some “star quality” je ne sais quoi, and in walks some hot guy with a guitar.

Season 13 aficionados had a shocking flash back off the bat, with an even MORE annoying version of Alabama country Dexter singing Signed Sealed Delivered.  Harry called him out for being ‘goofy’—which is a far nicer adjective than I used playing at home. Good God, he got a ticket. I’m going with my gut that America will find him annoying as well.

We continued to be delightfully underwhelmed, yet we saw lots of montages showing kids with golden tickets whose performances we never saw. I always feel bad for those kids, who I’m sure told their entire senior class at Indian Hills High School and coworkers at Espresso Yourself Café and every distant relative on Facebook that “I will be on American Idol tonight. “ Surely if Ryan Fn Seacrest filmed a whole segment riding you around in a rickshaw while you proudly displayed your golden ticket, you will have a whole feature on the TWO HOUR show. Nope, that rickshaw was just a nice photo op and something to do with an increasingly irrelevant Seacrest (I can say this because I see how I am becoming the irrelevant old lady at work, myself).

Tonight we got our first Single Mom of the season. She trotted in her cute kid and after some home footage of going into the refrigerator, I could tell the judges wanted the mom to be good, as did me and Will. My husband also said, “wow, she’s pretty” about 8 times during this segment, giving a big clue as to why this girl got knocked up at 18.

There were some 15 year olds that looked like 24 year olds, mercifully only one Go Pro, and a great montage with VOs claiming, “My hopes and dreams hinge on a life in music,” and “This is the only life I see for myself.”  This right here explains why 15 years into my career, I’m still making my own spreadsheets, filing out my own expenses and running to Staples to make more labels… all the people who should be doing this shit in any company across the United States is “not going to give up on my dream.”  Kids, learn Powerpoint, Salesforce and Marketo, and you can make a good steady salary with benefits, we’re hiring.

And then, the clouds opened up in the heavens, and out came a blind guy.  One of the highlights of my and Will’s American Idol journey was the season when the blind guy made the top 10. Watching the amazingly cheesy AI choreographers work around that poor kid in the so-awful-it’s-amazing group numbers was really something we looked forward to every week. This guy Garret is not only blind, but he is so friggin cool, really good… and the cherry on top is he comes with a super proud Dad that makes me cry just looking at him.  I’m all in.

I’d be remiss not to mention the American Idol brainteaser posed to us at the end of a commercial break. I feel for the people who have to put this together, as I think that I have the equivalent of their job. Guys, we need you to come up with something engaging to keep the viewers attention until we come back from break. Keep it light, and dumb it down to the least common denominator. GO.  Uh, how about “How many of Keith’s sexy t-shirts are on display in the Country Music Hall of Fame?” I do have to admit that Will and I actually debated it during the DVR FF.  SPOILER ALERT:  ONE.

We see a couple guys from last year who I actually recognize, Alex Sheir and Savion Wright or something like that.  In their “last year” package, they look all sorts of different, and the judges notice.  I’m frankly shocked every time this “year on year change” happens. I was looking back at college pictures from 1997, and really the only difference between then and now is about 10 pounds and sometimes I wear a necklace. How do people change ‘looks’ like this?!

We see an interesting guy who’s totally OCD and good… but with that face paint, you are not going to win over the “Ladies from Accounts Receivable” vote, kid!  And living with a neurotic person myself, I’m very concerned for his poor roommate at the Ramada Inn West Hollywood. And then this manufactured poor child who talks about her stage name “Lovey” who has some “original content out there” [cut to clip of her really poor man’s britney spears music video, which must be blowing up right now]. I’m shocked and appalled that 1) the judges put her through; 2) that if she has gone through the trouble and expense of hiring some predatory ‘manager’ who gifted her this nickname, she doesn’t have a fake story to make the name seem genuine and announces it as her Stage Name; 3) that she has some creeping predatory manager who probably paid for her bus ticket to Nashville in exchange for owning the name Lovey.

They talk about the American Idol Bus again, and I still don’t understand. Do people win automatic auditions? Do they get their plane ticket paid for? Do they go ON the bus?  I don’t understand, I don’t understand.

Anywho, props to Keith for the “What a Cluster” t-shirt, which I need to queue up for Casual Friday. And HARRY YOU ARE STILL DREAMY, so funny, so handsome, swoon. #myhusbandsahater

Yes Ryan, I will tune in again next week, I friggin love this shit.