Monday, May 21, 2012

American Idol Top 3 Week

Note mostly to self--- I had a big problem today with posts from March-May accidentally getting deleted. My only option was to find those posts thru emails I had sent and from Google's cache archive. For some reason, all of the posts I have done today, on 5/21/12 will not appear on archive by day. In order to access them, and thus all recovered entries from 3/25-5/2, go to the oldest post that can be found through the archives and then look to the right for previous entries until there is the first one from 5/21 which is an explanation about what I would be doing:

There would once again be a lot more I could write, if I were doing these posts during or immediately after viewing the episodes, but it has been several days since then and I have to rely on memory.

On Wednesday, the Final 3 sang three songs each, and saw their Homecoming videos air as part of the competition night broadcast. Before last year, that was always done on the Results Show. Showing these heavily produced video packages during the show could sway a lot of voters to support someone for reasons beyond their most recent performances. At the same time, I think most power-voters had already made up their minds at this point and would stay loyal to their choice.

In the first round, the contestants sang songs selected by Randy Jackson, Steven Tyler, and Jennifer Lopez:

1. Joshua Ledet- "I'd Rather Go Blind"

This is an oldie from Etta James that I remember being done this past season on X-Factor and had been mentioned by some Idol fans as a song they would like to see Jessica do on Idol this year. Instead, it was Joshua who took it on, singing into some old-fashioned prop microphone. It sounded good, if not predictable. Not much else I can remember. At least viewers were not saying they would rather go deaf. Grade: B+

2. Jessica Sanchez- "My All"

This is a Mariah Carey song I do not know. Typically, Idol judges have advised female contestants to not try to take on Mariah, but since Randy manages her now, I guess it's fair game. Once again, Jessica delivered a very technically proficient vocal, but I did detect a bit of tiredness in her voice. She really gave it everything she had on her final song the week before and had to do a lot of singing at home in San Diego, in addition to preparing for this show. Also, she is the only contestant who has to do go through the formal Idol school thing on a daily basis during the week, so one can hardly blame her if she has gotten a bit tired at this point. Needless to say, I hope she is in fine voice tomorrow night for the Finale. Grade: B

3. Phillip Phillips- "Beggin'"

Now from what I understand, this was his own varied interpretation of a somewhat recent different sounding remake of an old Four Seasons song. In choosing it for him, the judges easily gave him the best crowd pleaser of the night. P2's voice may not be as technically sound as the other two, but the performance itself was less boring. In fact, it was pretty decent all around and the frontrunner seemed to have rebounded momentum from earlier this season as opposed to some weak rounds more recently. I wonder how many casual Idol viewers know that his kidney problems are said to require major surgery that he is supposedly going to be having as soon as later this week. According to reports, the recovery time will be several weeks, which would mean that likely runner-up Jessica will have to do the bi-coastal media tour herself, which will bring a lot of exposure for her. In the meantime, Phillips continues to not take part in the Ford Music video shoots. Grade: B

All in all, I was not blown away by anything here. Instead of "bussing" P2 and trying to get both Jessica and Joshua into the Finale, they were really pimping him at this point. Perhaps, the Idol Powers That Be realized he was not going to be stopped for anything and it was in their best interest to make him look like as worthy a winner as possible. Or from another conspiratorial perspective, they could just have been sewing the seeds for a backlash to help underdog Jessica pull off a Finale victory.

3. Phillip Phillips
2. Jessica Sanchez
1. Joshua Ledet

Next, came time for songs the contestants picked for themselves, assuming the show was able to get them cleared.

1. Joshua Ledet- "Imagine"

This was a very bold choice. I usually scoff at those who say that Idol contestants should not attempt to do songs that previous Idols had a "moment" with, but in this case, I did wonder if Joshua was prepared to have his version compared with that of David Archuleta (now one of the most famous Mormon-Americans in Chile) from Season 7. Nobody has attempted to do the song since.

It was a very different version. While Archie's take was to sing it without runs, Joshua ran like crazy. To be sure, I thought it was an impressive performance vocally, but I knew a lot of people would say it did not feel as heartfelt as the last time it had been been done.

Unlike Archuleta in the competition, Joshua had the time to sing multiple verses, including the first one which is unmistakingly anti-religion. I found it incredibly ironic that the preacher's son, who has taken so many songs "to church" this year, attempted to do so again and tried to turn an ode to atheism into a rousing gospel anthem. I have said in previous seasons and thought again, that by singing those anti-faith lines, it could turn off enough religious viewers to cost votes. That could be part of what happened to Joshua this week (in addition to his having name checked Obama). Grade: B+

2. Jessica Sanchez- "I Don't Want To Miss a Thing"

Next, was another song that has been done to death on Idol! This was a big hit in its day and a song I enjoyed, but it feels a bit contrived on singing competition shows at this time. Didn't I read somewhere that in her YouTube videos, Jessica has demonstrated rapping ability? This would have been a great time to bust that out.

She sang it quite well, seeming to hold back until one big note at the end, and received great praise from judge Steven Tyler of Aerosmith, the original singer. The last note sounded a bit shaky to me and I just did not feel as if it were a moment. Grade: B+

3. Phillip Phillips- "Disease"

Did he pick this song to subtly send a message about his kidneys? I do not really know what to say about this particular performance of his. There is not a lot I remember, except that I thought he managed to pull it off, but it very similar to most of his performances all season. The judges did call him out a bit on this (which led me to think that maybe they were going to approach this on the up and up) but I suppose he could afford to cruise a bit at this point in the competition. Grade: B

Same rankings as before:

3. Phillip Phillips
2. Jessica Sanchez
1. Joshua Ledet

Jimmy Iovine weighs in with his selections, while we see the Homecoming videos:

1. Joshua Ledet- "No More Drama"

We see a nice retrospective of Joshua's visit home. He really did not cry though. Bad sign for him. The people of his Southwest Louisiana town (which seems to be very racially mixed) are thrilled to welcome him home, and who can blame them? (This will be the first time in three years I do not see any local sites/political types on this episode without a third consecutive suburban Chicago finalist).

Mr. Ledet takes a ride in a limo and says something to the effect of that he feels like Barack Obama or that the people in his hometown are treating him like Obama. Uh-oh. For one thing, I doubt just about any of the white people in Westlake, LA who are genuinely cheering for Joshua are going to be voting for Obama, but I will leave that up to Barone.

As for the song, Joshua sings Mary J. Blige in a bouncy fashion doing his crazy vocal runs at the end. The song does not have much melody, but it's the kind of impressive vocals we have seen so many times from Joshua this season.

With the competition for a spot in the finale so close though between Joshua and Jessica, I still maintain his association with feeling like Obama cost him votes. He sang "No More Drama", but many Americans, including those who might have previously been rooting for Joshua want No More Obama. Grade: B+

2. Jessica Sanchez- "I'll Be There"

She did not have very far to go to travel home to San Diego, landing in an empty Petco Park, which might have been a good thing, considering how bad the Padres are this year. In previous seasons, SoCal Idol homecomers have visits that look a little less frenzied by the hometown folks, but it looked like Jessica drew a nice crowd, and got to visit a military base and pay tribute to her U.S. Navy father. All of that was good, but Jessica barely cried, and admitted she was home schooled before Idol. It is true, she has been training for a singing career virtually all her life. Will people hold that against her?

I thought Jimmy picked a bad song for her. Sure, a ton of people know it, but it's not one that can produce a "moment." Unlike Round 1, Jessica did not attempt to sing it like Mariah Carey did in the '90s, but instead tried to mimic the original Jackson Five version, singing both Michael and Jermaine's parts. I did think it was quite noticeable how she changed keys and "voices" between a verse and the chorus.

Once again, Miss Sanchez was more than adequate but something just felt like it was missing from this performance and the other two she had done that evening. As someone who found myself at least somewhat rooting for her to take home the crown, I was wondering if it would be enough to get into the Final 2. Grade: B+

3. Phillip Phillips- "We've Got Tonight"

I did not think we would see him cry. He has seemingly approached all this Idol business with a bit of a cool detachment all season, but sure enough, he cried with his Daddy during the visit, and might have clinched the win right there. All of his estrogen laden fans must have loved it, and some others might have gotten on board at the sight of PP Sr. packing some serious heat at the pawn shop. The NRA would approve.

The song that Jimmy gave P2 to sing does not come across as overly difficult and while I thought he did a reasonably good job on it (while rubbing his thigh way too much, which the cougars probably loved), I could not help but notice the fact that his singing voice just is sort of weird. He has some Cookie Monster/Kermit the Frog/Bill Cosby stuff going on. I guess people like that and think it makes him a "real artist."

The judges went nuts over it and all but declared him the winner right there. Just by letting him close the show, the producers must have known he would survive this penultimate week. I thought he was way overpraised, and I bristled at bit at the manipulation that was once again being used to advance him. Steven Tyler said he could be the next Bruce Springsteen, and I actually do not mind that comparison because I don't think the Boss is that great of a singer either. Grade: B

Round three rankings are once again the same and would of course reflect my overall scoring:

3. Phillip Phillips
2. Jessica Sanchez
1. Joshua Ledet

Who should have been eliminated: Phillip Phillips
Who I predicted would be eliminated: Joshua Ledet
Who was eliminated: Joshua Ledet

So, there we have it. I know I said when we first had the Top 25 going into the first live show, that my early prediction for the Final 2 would be Phillip and Jessica, and that is indeed what happened. I might have waivered a bit on that for a few weeks when Jessica was (allegedly) voted off the show, only to be saved by the judges. She has already gone two steps further than any previously saved contestant has, which has to be considered a tribute to her resillience and fanbase. (Are we sure that Filipinos are not illegally casting votes for her.... shoutout to everybody reading this in the Phillipines, I see a bunch of hits for this blog coming from over there the past several weeks and I appreciate that. I am rooting for Jessica too and if she is a clear victor tomorrow night, I might even symbolically dial in a couple votes for her.)

Nonetheless, I see a lot of people online claiming that Jessica is going to win. I think they are likely to be disappointed as I think Phillip has to be considered a major favorite, regardless of how either does in the Nokia Theater tomorrow. I am not prepared to totally rule out a Jessica victory though. I said previously that she was best equipped to garner the "Anybody But Phillips" vote and could pull it off. I know better than to get my hopes up for that though. After all, it's only a singing competition. The U.S. Presidential election is more important of course.

Good luck moving forward to this Olympic year's Idol bronze medalist Joshua. For someone who rarely got any airtime before the voting began, he had a very strong season with some great performances. The third place finisher stays behind to work on this week's finale, soI believe he has yet tor eally meet the press in NYC and LA. I bet he has formualted a response to a couple questions that might come his way.

Jimmy Iovine and Interscope have basically confirmed that they plan to sign Joshua. I bet he will be a crowd pleaser on tour, and after that will make his debut album. It will be interesting to see if the label can successfully steer him in a modern R&B pop sort of way, or if he will eventually wind up as a gospel singer or catering to an older crowd playing theaters/Vegas as a Jackie Wilson R&B/Soul throwback.

He took his elimination last Thursday more than gracefully (a bit unlike last year's third place finisher) and closed out by bringing his Mama onstage for a rousing reprise of "It's a Man's, Man's, Man's World."

In regards to the American Idol universe, the title of the song appears to be exactly what Jessica Sanchez now finds herself up against.

May 16-May 19

American Idol Top 3 Rankings


I think it has been quite a strong season, but I felt tonight's performances, while solid, were a bit subpar. Based on past Final Two history, I expect the same next Tuesday.

In terms of song choice, producer/judge manipulation, etc, I would have a lot to analyze complain about in these final stages. These things happen every season, so I am going to just let it mostly go for now.

Anyways, I had the same rankings for all three rounds, which obviously means, that the overall rankings are the same.

Third- Phillip Phillips
 Round 1- B, Round 2-B, Round 3-B

Second- Jessica Sanchez
  Round 1-B, Round 2- B+., Round 3-B+

First- Joshua Ledet
 Round 1- B+, Round 2-B+., Round 3- B+

Needless to say, I would still like to see a Jessica vs. Joshua Finale. There just is no logical reason to think that will happen though. P2 just seems destined to win and I think the Idol Powers That Be have already submitted to that, and are trying to make the best of it, rather than trying to fight it.

Based (narrowly) on the merits tonight (and the fact that he has never been eliminated and had to be saved), Joshua (deserves the first opportunity to face him next week, but still, a part of me is rooting for Jessica to make it through. For one thing. I think she might have a better chance of uniting factions and pulling off an Idol upset over Phillip in the Finale.

It is interesting this year that the Final Three consist of a white dude, an African-American male subject to some irrelevant to his talent speculation, and a young Asian/Hispanic female. There really could be a racial and ethnic component in place to determine who is going to make it through between Jessica and Joshua.

I think it will be close and could go either way, but my hunch is that Jessica, a benefactor of the "save" makes it all the way to the Final 2 and there will be a Joshua elimination.

That's not the way I would have it necessarily, but in his Homecoming video piece, he did say that the VIP treatment made him feel like Barack Obama. I believe enough Americans caught that line and decided they would further grant him that feeling by not giving him their vote.

Conservative Democrat has left a new comment on your post "American Idol Top 3 Rankings": 

Corey, America is just NOT ready to have an Asian/Latina girl win the American Idol crown period.

I've said that Phillip Phillips will likely win the Idol crown, making it 5 years in a row for the guys and this is likely becoming the BCS.

Race for the White House


I do not really have much to write about this week. This is going to be kind of short, but hopefully, next month, as summer kicks off, I will be a bit more motivated to delve into the race in further detail including a look at many of the possible running-mates for Mitt Romney, including the likelihood of their being selected, and whom my own personal list for #2 on the ticket would include.

In the meantime, the race continues to look close nationally, and with Mitt Romney looking surprisingly strong in recent polls from the state of Wisconsin, which is a place that Barack Obama absolutely must win in order to be reelected. There are a lot of factors at play in Wisconsin and within the next couple of weeks I will look at them further as I take a look at the Wisconsin Gubernatorial Recall election. That will be a season premiere of sorts for my 2012 Race of the Day, when I will take a look at all of this year's contests for Governor and U.S. Senate.

Having won two more states this past Tuesday and rapidly approaching the "magic number" to clinch the nomination, Mitt Romney is now the only Republican candidate to be actively seeking votes as Congressman Ron Paul's campaign has embarked on a new tactic of not seeking new votes, but by trying to win over convention delegates that have already been selected. This has led to some confusion in the media as to whether or not Paul had "dropped out." His campaign insists that it has not ended, although even the candidate's son, Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky has conceded that Romney will be the nominee.

While the Presidential nominations of both parties are a done deal, there will continue to be more states that vote and this coming Tuesday, Arkansas and Kentucky will be among them. Political junkies will keep an eye out to see just how Obama does running against no-name opposition in those states. Like what happened in Oklahoma, there is a chance that he will run far worse with his own party's voters than Romney will in the GOP primaries in those states,even though some well-known Republican names remain on the ballot.

Obama and other world leaders have converged on Chicago this weekend for the NATO summit and the city is waiting on baited breath to see if full-scale riots will break out. I guess if they do, I can talk about that next week, as well as any additional inflammatory, nonsensical, or blowhardish things that will come out of the mouth of Joe Biden. The Obama campaign has started to go to great lengths to do what some of Romney's unsuccessful GOP opponents had done, involving criticism of his record at Bain Capital. If they are doing that this early, they must be quite concerned about the campaign at this point.

Speaking of Chicago, another political story making headlines around here involve a New York Times piece, of questionable accuracy in which Nebraska billionaire Joe Ricketts was said to be getting ready to put many millions of dollars into SuperPAC ads which will revisit the issue of the Reverend Jeremiah Wright, Obama's controversial former pastor.

The children of Joe Ricketts (who happen to be divided politically) are the owners of the Chicago Cubs,and when this story hit the presses, Mayor Rahm Emanuel of the Windy City, the former Obama Chief of Staff, was said to be furious and willing to blow up a deal with the Ricketts Family involving the renovation of Wrigley Field. There is a whole lot there that is unfair regarding the outrage of Rahm, but it appears that these ads (which were denounced in advance by Mitt Romney) are not going to be running anyway.

Some on the right may be disappointed about that, feeling that Wright continues to be fair game, but now the Romney campaign will be able to claim the moral high-ground when allies and associates of Obama on the left try to desperately insert Mormonism into the race.

May 6- May 14


American Idol Top 5 Week

I don't really feel like writing much about American Idol today, so let's see how much I remember from what happened and how quickly we can get through this. Sorry about the weird color stuff down below. I don't really have the patience to try to figure that out. I hate the new Blogger format and am slightly concerned that I have not "transferred" my blog correctly to Google and may lose everything I have written over the past six years anyway by the end of the month. If that happens, I guess I will either give this all up or find a way to start over...

The first part of the show had a theme of the 1960s.

1. Hollie Cavanagh- "River Deep Mountain High"

First of all, it was pretty bold for Hollie, the ballad singer, who was most at risk of being eliminated, to sing the very uptempo song that produced the extremely surprising ballad singer Pia Toscano elimination just last year. However, Hollie did quite well. She seems to have gained a great deal in confidence in recent weeks and was praised for the judges for a strong performance. As the cliche goes, she is peaking at the right time. Grade: B+

2. Phillip Phillips- "The Letter"

I think we may have found an example of an Idol performance that many will say Lee DeWyze once did better. I did not hate what P2 did with this performance but I agree with Steven Tyler who made it clear he would have preferred to have heard the original melody. The lyrics were also finagled a bit to suit whatever Phillip was trying to accomplish. The Idol cameras showed his girlfriend. Is that going to cost him some votes. Grade: B-

3. Skylar Laine- "Fortunate Son"

She sang about not being a "Senator's son", which is of course obvious on a couple levels, but there is of course an Idol alum who is a Senator's daughter.

I was not really feeling this performance by Skylar as much as the judges seemed to. She put on a typically energetic and rocking performance but vocally she felt a bit off rhythm and her voice sounded a bit shrill I suppose to my untrained ears. The thought occurred to me, a night before it was mentioned by Jimmy Iovine, that her smiling, etc, made it clear she did not really relate to the message the lyrics were conveying. Grade: B-

4. Phillip Phillips and Joshua Ledet- "You've Lost That Loving Feeling"

This was just awkward and unfortunate in a few ways, especially after the song. P2 was secure enough to clown a bit with Joshua, who was appearing very uncomfortable about the concept of singing this song with a dude and what America might have been thinking about it. I am a pretty staunch social conservative, but I could not help but feel a little bad for Joshua in that moment. I will leave the rest to the body language experts and the arm chair psychologists.

Anyway, vocally, it was pretty subpar. These voices just did not mesh well on the duet. Phillip really seemed to be hardly trying and Joshua was trying perhaps to do too many vocal acrobats to compensate. Phillip's grade: C-, Joshua's grade: B-

5. Jessica Sanchez- "Proud Mary"

This is a great performance song and I thought Jessica more than pulled it off. However, the thought occurred to me, a night before Iovine would mention it, that it was maybe the wrong song and the wrong staging, etc. for 16 year old Jessica. When you listen to her voice, you forget how young she is, but it was certainly not within the previously goal of having her sing songs more fitting for a teenager.

It has to be said though that Jessica has a great voice and an amazing ability to imitate what she has heard in a wide array of styles. Some people will criticize her for it, but not being a musical purist, I have no qualms. Grade: B+

At this point, everyone had performed once:

5. Skylar Laine (60s solo)
4. Phillip Phillips (60s solo)
3. Joshua Ledet (duet)
2. Hollie Cavanagh (60s solo)
1. Jessica Sanchez (60s solo)

6. Joshua Ledet- "Ain't Too Proud to Beg"

Very smart song choice for him. I just remember him being impressive vocally and repping the 60's Motown era with a natural conviction. Grade: A-

Now, it was time for the kids to sing songs which were not necessarily from the British invasion (a theme that has been done before) but from British artists. It seems like they were maybe told the Beatles and Rolling Stones were off limits.

7. Hollie Cavanagh- "Bleeding Love"

While Steven Tyler claimed to have never heard this song (apparently having never put on an FM Top 40 station for more than two minutes a few years back), I suppose it was inevitable that either Hollie or Jessica sing this song by former UK X-Factor winner Leona Lewis. I am pretty sure this is the first time a song has been performed on American Idol by a contestant of a foreign sister production.

To be sure, we all knew Hollie had the pipes to have a chance to do this justice, but as she sat atop a piano, I have to say I was even more impressed than I thought it would be. She seemed to know exactly what she was doing as she gave a powerful but understated, and slightly stripped down version of the song. It did very much sound like something that could have been a hit for her if she were the original artist. Wow, I thought she was going to be the one to be sent home, but after this, I was not so sure. Grade: A-

8. Phillip Phillips- "Time of the Season"

This time, Phillips stayed a bit more true to the original, which is ironic, because the only other time this song has been done on the Idol stage, the long forgotten Blake Lewis made it quite unique.

While it was maybe credible in a jam bandesque way, I thought this was overall a pretty weak showing as compared to what we have seen by most of the contestants this season. He had a nearly impossible time on the high notes and it was hard to tell whether he was even attempting to go for them. Grade: C+

9. Hollie Cavanagh, Jessica Sanchez, and Skylar Laine- "(Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher and Higher"

It was time for another trio and I was interested to hear this song performed for the first time on Idol, as we went back again to the 60s theme. As the three ladies came out, it occurred to me, that they were all about the same age, the same height, and were dressed similarly. With different hair colors though, maybe they could be like the new Spice Girls or something.

All in all, this was very well done, although Skylar did not really make as strong of a showing on what seemed like an off night for her, when compared to the belting vocals of Jessia and Hollie, who I felt pretty much killed it. Hollie's grade: A-, Jessica's grade: A-. Skylar's grade: B

Now, the had all sang twice:

5. Phillip Phillips (duet)
4. Skylar Laine (trio)
3. Joshua Ledet (60s solo)
2. Jessica Sanchez (trio)
1. Hollie Cavanagh (trio)

10. Skylar Laine- "You Don't Have to Say You Love Me"

Two weeks in a row for a Dusty Springfield song by one of the girls, and I thought this was a smart choice for Skylar and she did well, especially at the end, but still, I think her voice was not at top form tonight. Idol also took to the habit of having actors on the stage now for performances, as two people were sitting on a bench, pretending to chat, as Skylar sang. I guess I would rather them just focus on the music. Grade: B

11. Jessica Sanchez- "You Are So Beautiful"

Ok, I guess Joe Cocker is British. This is a pretty boring song to me, but Jessica still sang it about as technically perfect as could be done. It was different to see it done by a female vocalist and it was a totally different vibe from her first performance, showing her versatility. I continue to be surprised that she doesn't get as many standing ovations this season as Joshua does. Grade: A-

12. Joshua Ledet- "To Love Somebody"

I know they were born in England, but aren't the Bee Gees more associated with Australia. By the way, best wishes to Robin Gibb, who at the time of this writing continues to "Stay Alive"....

I expected this song to also be a bit boring, and even though Idol fans have all seen what Joshua can do with a song (and apparently he learned it in 15 minutes.. not so sure about it), but he really did sing the heck out of it. If not for the pimp performance, I thought he might be at risk of leaving this week, but it was going to be hard for him to not get a ton of votes after this performance. Grade: A-

British solo performances:

5. Phillip Phillips
4. Skylar Laine
3. Hollie Cavanagh
2. Joshua Ledet
1. Jessica Sanchez

Overall for the evening:

5. Phillip Phillips
4. Skylar Laine
3. Joshua Ledet
2. Hollie Cavanagh
1. Jessica Sanchez

As I mentioned, it was really hard at this point to see who would be voted off. Clearly, it should have been Phillip, but I did not expect that to happen, although seeing the Dial Idol numbers the next day gave me some hope. Otherwise, I would not have been surprised if any of the other four going home. My formal prediction was for Hollie.

Who should have been eliminated: Phillip Phillips
Who I predicted would be eliminated Hollie Cavanagh
Who was eliminated: Skylar Laine

This result had to upset a lot of people. I did feel she was not at her best that night, but conventional wisdom had been she would be the last girl standing and maybe the one most likely to make it to the Finale. I have to wonder if she was splitting a voter base with Hollie, who has been coming on stronger as of late, and had people more motivated to "save her." Also, liberals hate her for shooting animals. I have heard this personally.

Skylar had a very strong showing this season, finishing in fifth place. At the beginning of the season, I did not think she would get that far and believed that it was to her disservice that country artists were so prevalent last season.

She is going to entertain concert goers this summer and after that, I think really has potential to become a well-known name in the C&W world. That is, if she is just not seen as a Miranda Lambert wannabe. I know very little about Miranda Lambert musically so I would not be able to judge that.

So, good luck to Skylar. She made her hometown and family proud. For now though, somewhere this past week, Lauren Alaina was smiling a bit over this result.

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

American Idol Top 4 Rankings

Not a lot of uptempo tonight, but still some memorable performances.... At least it was easy to keep track of the rounds.

Some sort of California theme, minus the bankruptcy:

4. Phillip Phillips B-
3. Hollie Cavanagh B-
2. Joshua Ledet B+
1. Jessica Sanchez B+

Same-Sex Duets, Now Officially Approved by Barack Obama:

4. Phillip Phillips B
3. Hollie Cavanagh B
2. Joshua Ledet B
1. Jessica Sanchez B

Group Performance:

4. Phillip Phillips B-
3. Hollie Cavanagh B
2. Joshua Ledet B
1. Jessica Sanchez B+

Songs That the Contestants Wished They Had Written/Plagarized, Sponsored by Joe Biden:

4. Hollie Cavanagh B
3. Phillip Phillips B+
2. Jessica Sanchez A-
1. Joshua Ledet A-

Overall (same as first three rounds)

4. Phillip Phillips
3. Hollie Cavanagh
2. Joshua Ledet
1. Jessica Sanchez

I thought P2 was improved tonight, but still, would vote him off if I had the chance. Going into the night, I realized that it could potentially be any of the other three who would not be headed home with the Fox television crew to capture the tears of the emotional Homecoming Promotional Video Package. I especially thought that Joshua was very much at risk of being voted off.

However, I will once again revert back to saying that Hollie will leave.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Race for the White House

It feels as if just one issue dominated the political conversation and news coverage over the past week Can anyone guess what it was?

Starting on Sunday, while appearing on Meet the Press, Vice President Joe Biden made news by appearing to endorse same sex marriage, a reversal of a previous position he had held. This was certainly a step further than his boss, Barack Obama had been willing to make, and we later learned that the White House was quite displeased for Biden for speaking out of turn and causing a national firestorm.

It is worth remembering that back in 1996, as a first-time candidate, running for the Illinois State Senate, in a very liberal district, Obama publicly stated that he supported legalized same sex marriages. It was not until eight years later, as a first time statewide candidate that Obama said his position had become one of opposition to legally sanctioned same sex marriages. While he has tried to have it both ways to an extent on the issue, he continued to profess his opposition (the majority opinion of the country) as a candidate for President and throughout his term, at least up until this week. Based on his having changed positions now, not once but twice, on this wedge issue, seemingly for political purposes, it may be harder to effectively paint Obama as the principled, consistent politician running against a "flip flopper."

Early in the week, the White House was thrown off balance by questions raised about what Biden had said and if Obama agreed or disagreed with it. On Tuesday, voters in the state of North Carolina, a key battleground narrowly won in '08 by the now incumbent, voted to define marriage as between a man and a woman by a landslide margin, that surprised many who believed the tide was quickly turning nationally in the other direction. Adding a further twist is the fact that the state's largest city, Charlotte is the home to the already troubled Democrat National Convention, which will be called to order in just a few short months. Many on the left are now calling for a boycott of the Tar Heel State and moving the convention out of Charlotte, but for logistical reasons alone, that is impossible to happen.

There had been much talk about how both supporters and opponents of Obama alike believed that despite what he said, he really did support gay people getting married, and would be likely to say so after the election, when such a liberal position could not cause him political harm in Middle America.

The pressure of the week continued to ratchet up though on Obama by liberal activists and Democrat Party donors, especially the many wealthy members of the gay community, to take a clear stand on the issue, in wake of all the headlines. So, on Wednesday, Obama sat down with Robin Roberts of ABC News and became the first President to come out in support of same sex marriage. This was of course an historical (and proud) moment for many gay Americans and all those who support the concept of "marriage equality", but it should be worth noting that the new rhetorical position aside, the Obama Administration is not currently planning to take any steps to further advance the legalization of same sex marriage.

For the rest of this election cycle, people will be speculating as to whether or not Obama's position, which at the time in which he first took it, over 15 years ago, would have been far more controversial nationally, will help him or harm him politically in 2012. Of course, it is likely to be responsible for a lot of checks being written out to Presidential candidates, both of them, and a demonstration of a clear distinction of a position on a divisive social issue between Obama and his GOP challenger Mitt Romney. It might also be worth considering the fact that so many Americans, both on the left and on the right, already had thought Obama supported changing the definition of marriage, and thus this will not really be a major issue in the long run anyway. I do believe the economy will continue to be the main factor the decides the election, but if the recent Rasmussen Reports tracking poll is to be believed, Obama has had a horrible week politically and now trails Romney beyond the margin of error. The Gallup Daily Tracking Poll continues to show the race as a virtual dead heat.

Since this is my blog, let me briefly state my position. I strongly believe that marriage should remain the union of one man and one woman. I also think that 100 years from now, it is likely to be a moot point as the laws will have changed. However, I still believe that it is the correct public policy position to not re-define a definition of marriage that has been around for centuries. It is appropriate for a society to recognize an institution and arrangement that by and large is the best way to raise children.

I also recognize that times have changed and that many gay people (and unmarried heterosexual people as well) are in committed, long-term loving relationships and where laws can be changed to make their lives better, such as issues involving child custody or hospital visitation, then they should be changed. I do not want to change the definition of marriage, but I have no problems at all with the concept of states deciding if they want to recognize Civil Unions.

While the candidate I support, Mitt Romney, has often been accused of shifting positions (as he has at one point on abortion), unlike Obama, who has now changed twice on same sex marriage, Romney has consistently been opposed to its legalization since his first run for public office, and actively worked to prevent it's legalization in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, when he was Governor. During the past week, he has made it clear he disagrees with Obama's latest position, but prefers to focus on the economy.

The timing was very coincidental when the day after Obama's proclamation about gay people and marriage came down, the Washington Post, a traditionally liberal leaning publication, ran a huge story online in which Romney was accused of being an anti-gay bully; not anytime recently, but as a teenage High School student, nearly fifty years ago.

The Post ran an account featuring recollections from a small handful of Romney's prep school classmates (most of whom are admitted Democrats) that claim the young Mitt Romney engaged in such behavior as forcefully cutting the long hair of a young man who years later came out as gay.

When asked about it this week, Romney said he had no specific recollections of that incident (a claim which many people find hard to believe) but admitted he did dumb things in High School that he was not proud of and that he apologizes for. He also made it clear that homosexuality would not have been a reason behind anything he might have done. I totally believe that, as I do not think that such a thing was even on anybody's radar back in 1965. If there was a "bullying" incident of unsolicited hair styling all those years ago, it was far more likely to do with the fact that the dude had long dyed blond hair, and how it offended the straight laced Mittster than his having secretly been gay.

Nobody can ask the person in question about his version of events, because he happened to die a few years ago. However, his sister has taken issue with the way that he had been described by the Washington Post and said that her late brother would have been appalled to be used to further a political agenda. I suppose if 2004 saw the "Swift Boat Veterans for Truth" take issue with John Kerry's (post High School) past, these four or five Prep School alum might be tempted to run their own ads against Romney

Upon close examination, there seem to be some troubling journalistic aspects and details in the account the Post has published and many people find the timing of the story just a bit too coincidental. Rather than illumination part of Romney's biography, it all seems to be part of an ideological effort to label him as "anti-gay." This has many conservatives, including those who a few short weeks ago, openly despised Romney, rallying to his side at what they feel is an unfair smear.

It may come as little surprise to anybody that I find the tactics and those who would try to exploit this story for political purposes to be shameful. While I can accept the fact that Romney was perhaps capable of being a jerk as a teenager at times, he has lived a very long time since then, and his personal character, both private and public, seem to be above reproach. This is about as relevant to the kind of person Mitt Romney is today and what kind of President he would be as the apparent fact, written by Barack Obama, that he once publicly shoved a girl as a young student himself.

For over five years now, the media and political allies of Obama have claimed that everything he had done as a young man, in High School and for several years later, related to admitted drug use, and everything else, including political associations and actions, was out of line to be delged into and unworthy of the national debate.

If that was the case, then the same standard must apply to Mitt Romney, especially involving highly questionable allegations from suspect sources, in a highly politically charged environment, from when he was a teenager.

Monday, May 14, 2012

American Idol Top 4 Week

Starting off Wednesday's show, the Top 4 began singing songs from California artists. At least, that's what I got out of it. Let's see how well I remember what happened:

1. Phillip Phillips- “Have You Ever Seen the Rain”

He sounded like a vocal blend of Dave Matthews, Bill Cosby, and the Cookie Monster singing this. I was not overly impressed, but still, he probably fared better than previous attempts in the past few weeks.Grade B-

2. Hollie Cavanagh- “Faithfully”

Going into this week, Hollie appeared to be peaking at just the right time. I think she might have been better suited though to have sang “Open Arms”, if she had her heart set on a Journey power ballad. She sounded pretty good once again, but like earlier in the season, the vocal performance took on a bit of a Celine Dion quality, and she may have reverted back to “overthinking” during the song. Grade: B-

3. Joshua Ledet- “You Raise Me Up”

I only semi-followed this season of “The Voice” on NBC, but didn't we just hear this song a day or two before? I believe it was the first time the Josh Groban number was ever done on Idol. I think older viewers love this song while younger folks might be rolling their eyes at it at this point. Joshua started off restrained and then put his typical diva/gospel spin on it. Impressive to be sure, but we can expect no less at this point with the inevitable way he will attack a song. Grade: B+

4. Jessica Sanchez- “Steal Away”

I suppose Etta James was from California, so this counts. I did not know the song, but I thought Jessica gave a very impressive and mature, soul and blues vocal performance. There's not really much more I remember besides thinking it was very good and realizing she continues to pick songs that do not play up her youth, which is what had been asked of her. Grade: B+

Round One:

4. Phillip Phillips
3. Hollie Cavanagh
2. Joshua Ledet
1. Jessica Sanchez

Next, they moved on to duets-

Phillip Phillips and Joshua Ledet- “This Love”

After last week's disaster, the producers had the two remaining guys sing together again. Perhaps, they were counting on some more awkward tv moments, but this was actually a much better song and blending for them. I am really at a loss to remember more details, but I guess only seeing all these once and not having time to read about it on other blogs will make it more fun to go watch these episodes a second time one day. Phillip's grade: B, Joshua's grade: B

Hollie Cavanagh and Jessica Sanchez- “Eternal Flame”
I think this is a nice Bangles song from the '80s, but it may be a bit too repetitive to really make a strong impression as a live performance. Both Hollie and Jessica sounded decent, but perhaps it seemed like they were on cruise control at this point of the performance. I also realized lately that there was a whole lot of costume changes for the ladies on the night, including a change back to the first outfit they had won. What was the point of that? Hollie's grade: B, Jessica's grade: B

B's for everyone!

4. Phillip Phillips
3. Hollie Cavanagh
2. Joshua Ledet
1. Jessica Sanchez

Then, it came time for a Foursome, but instead of the Mamas and the Papas, we got some Foreigner:

Phillip Phillips, Hollie Cavanagh, Joshua Ledet, and Jessica Sanchez- “I've Been Waiting for a Girl Like You”

The ladies substituted the word “guy” into the chorus, while Joshua steadfastly clung to the original lyric. Overall, this was fairly good, with perhaps a bit more differentiation that was easier to pick out.

Phillips's grade: B-, Hollie's grade: B, Joshua's grade: B, Jessica's grade: B+

Would the weight of the four of them together equal one Mama Cass?

4. Phillip Phillips
3. Hollie Cavanagh
2. Joshua Ledet
1. Jessica Sanchez

And in the final round of the evening, the contestants sang “songs I wish I wrote” or something like that. This would have been the perfect opportunity for someone to sing the phone book and maybe shut Randy Jackson up once and for all with that line. He must say it 7 times per season, and every time he does, he acts as if the audience had never heard the expression before, but I digress...

1. Phillip Phillips- “Volcano”

I had never heard this song before and I do not know anything about the original artist or what it sounds like, but I really thought P2 was at his best on this. It was just a very effective, understated performance and I can tell exactly what kind of artist he will be after the show. He may not sell tons, but his style will be considered “relevant.” Of all the contestants that were left at this point (as well as a handful who had already gone), Phillips has the weakest voice, but this acoustic guitar playing number made it hard for me to see how anybody is going to stop him this season. Grade: B+

2. Hollie Cavanagh- “I Can't Make You Love Me”

I think this is a good song, that has its time and place, but I am not sure it translates on the Idol stage. We have seen it done before, and I think it just depresses people. Hollie had a great few weeks of picking songs, but I believe this was another misfire for her this week. She needed to go uptempo instead of singing her second ballad of the night. The tone and lyrics and all of that also made her seem too old. Of course, she can mostly deliver vocally on about everything, but we had seen a lot better from her than this in recent weeks. Grade: B

3. Joshua Ledet- “It's Man's Man's Man's World”

Well, he certainly was not going to sing “It's Raining Men.” When I heard the choice, I first thought, “oh, this was just on The Voice too”, and I also realized it was the second time that Joshua was taking on the same song that Big Mike Lynche had once done on AI. I was amazed to learn in the video piece that the judges said no just last season to giving him a golden ticket to go to Hollywood. They must have already had Jacob Lusk through at that point, but how could they have missed out on his voice all together then?

It started a little underwhelming to me, but then Joshua did his thing near the end and it was pretty powerful. There would be no doubt he would be receiving yet another standing ovation from the judges. He does things with his voice and modulations, (or whatever they may be called) that are quite impressive and I wonder how much they might be practiced and how much improvisation is at play. Jessica would have a tough act to follow, given the pimp slot for the first time. Grade: A-

4. Jessica Sanchez- “And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going”

I had mixed feelings about this song choice. On one hand, I was really looking forward to hearing he wail on it, but just attempting it felt a bit desperate, from the lyrics, subject matter, and subtle message, to the fact that she would sing such a Broadway diva number itself. While she can sing just about anything (and make it sound a lot like the original), I doubt this is how she will be marketed after the show.

This was the first song ever sang in a voting round of Idol, way back in 2002 by Tamyra Gray and it had been done since in the semifinals, but I do not think it had ever been sung on this particular stage. It also was part of what won Jennifer Hudson an Oscar for “Dreamgirls” and Jessica sang it as a jury was deliberating the fate of the man who they would shortly find guilty of the murder of her family members a few years back in Chicago.

Anyways, Jessica sang the heck out of the song, loudly and passionately, but I was a bit surprised she did not move around at all. She just kept her feet planted and belted it. A bit more emotion might have come across if she had moved around a little bit. Nonetheless, she showed off her pipes, maybe with a tad too much shouting, and appeared on the brink of physical and emotional exhaustion at the end. The judges gave her a standing ovation and I thought it all made for great television. I also bet a whole lot of people out there mostly hated it though. Grade: A-

Final Round:

Hollie Cavanagh
Phillip Phillips
Jessica Sanchez
Joshua Ledet


Phillip Phillips
Hollie Cavanagh
Joshua Ledet
Jessica Sanchez

Who should have been eliminated: Phillip Phillips
Who I predicted would be eliminated: Hollie Cavanagh
Who was eliminated: Hollie Cavanagh

Looking back to the prior week, in the somewhat surprising ouster of Skylar Laine, I do wonder if singing the anti-establishment “Fortunate Son” song cost her votes of her conservative base in the South. I think it very well might have cause some Skylar votes to switch over to Hollie, and with Skylar out, I thought Hollie could benefit even further going into the night, and it would be between Jessica and Joshua as to who would be eliminated. However, the judges went crazy in praise of both (perhaps somewhat deserved) and Hollie did not have that great of a night by comparison. She had improved a great deal as the season progressed, but ultimately ran out of chances and out of luck. I think she expected it this week.

Hollie is a real good singer. It is also hard to believe that she almost did not make it to Hollywood at all after her audition last year. I do not remember being that impressed with what I saw on the audition rounds last season and felt she seemed a bit immature and annoying at the time. J Lo must have really been prescient in saying that given another year or so, Hollie could come back and win. All things considered, fourth place is pretty close, and in a few years, she may have been able to come in first (if a girl can ever win again, which is doubtful.) I also did not find Hollie to be annoying or immature during this season's competition, but perhaps a bit guarded.

Whether she gets a big-time record deal in the near future or not, there is little doubt she will make a nice living for herself as a singer. For some reason, I have a vision of her belting out ballads on network tv during some ice skating competition.

So, now we are down to three. By this time next week, we will now who will be in the Finale and will have seen the stuff that happened at the Homecoming celebrations.

In advance of this week's upcoming show, I have to say, from a competition and vocal perspective, I would be enthralled by a Jessica vs. Joshua finale. I think that is what the Idol Powers That Be would also love to see happen (with Jessica winning), but unfortunately, it seems almost a sure bet that one of them will be cut this coming Thursday night and many Americans (especially those over 50) will be angrily wondering why.  

May 5

Race for the White House

It has continued to be a depressing week for me, sports fan wise, so I really have not been that motivated to follow every in and out of the week in politics. Thus, I do not have much to say about Newt Gingrich formally dropping out and another failed former GOP candidate Gary Johnson, officially being nominated by the Libertarian Party, where, he appears likely to finish with the bronze medal of the 2012 General Election.

Of course, the race to win will be between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney, and if the daily tracking polls from Gallup and Rasmussen are to be believed, the race looks like a dead heat in the national popular vote. This is despite the fact that Obama, who dominated much of the news cycle this past week, gained a few points here in his job approval numbers, likely a byproduct of the one year anniversary of the killing of Osama bin Laden. The Commander in Chief traveled to Afghanistan on the anniversary of the killing to address the nation.

The incumbent also had his first official large campaign rallies today in the key states of Ohio and Virginia and appears prepared to forcefully defend his office. Needless to say, his opponent and his supporters, of whom I am proud to be one (and will once again feel far more energetic about once I get past this Chicago sports funk) are also just as motivated to make the case why the President, whose poll numbers and confidence numbers remain lethargic, must be defeated.

There will of course be many battles to come over the next few months. For more than a week now, there has been talk about how the Obama Administration is reacting the anniversary of the bin Laden killing, which was a great event for America and the world, but one in which they are now being accused of "spiking the football" in regards to the incessant way they are seen as trying to capitalize on it politically.

Even some liberals, some as blogging maven Arianna Huffington have taken offense at the way the Obama campaign and the candidate himself have alleged that presumptive GOP nominee Mitt Romney would not have given the order to kill bin Laden. They have taken a lengthy 2008 quote from the then candidate out of context to make it appear that Romney had no interest in capturing or killing the terrorist leader. The Republican has made it clear that he supported the special operations action that took out bin Laden and said that "even Jimmy Carter" would have authorized it. In fact, it might be worth remembering that by his own admission, Obama's running-mate, Joe Biden, has admitted he opposed the mission and advised against authorizing it. If this is such a dividing line of judgment for Obama 2012, they should perhaps be asked why the campaign signs still have Biden's name on them.

As part of the political plot, the Obama campaign has also released an ad featuring former President Bill Clinton praising Obama for authorizing the risky mission, and in which he mused about how bad it would have been for Obama politically if the mission went bad and if the Navy Seals had been captured or killed.

That particular statement has left many Americans asking themselves, "bad for Obama? Wouldn't it have been more significantly bad for those Navy Seals and for all of America?"

So, the general election campaign will continue to inch along. For now, the incumbent is at just about 50% in job approval as a week ends and looks to be in an exact tie with his Republican opponent.

On the day of the 2010 midterm election, that prospect might have been comforting to many Democrats, but the bin Laden Anniversary buzz will pass, the employment situation once again looks to be worsening, and overconfident supporters of Obama will have to examine if he should in fact be running far stronger against Romney in the polls at this point of the game.

May 2

American Idol Top 5 Rankings

I continue to be very impressed by the overall talent this season. Sometime, after the election, I am going to have to go to my DVR and watch all of this season's performances again.

We saw a duet and trio performance tonight that I would have preferred they save until the Results Show, because I still have to rank them and it messes things up.

Round 1:

5. Skylar Laine (60s solo) B-
4. Phillip Phillips (60s solo) B-
3. Joshua Ledet (duet) B-
2. Hollie Cavanagh (60s solo) B+
1. Jessica Sanchez (60s solo) B+

Round 2:

5. Phillip Phillips (duet) C-
4. Skylar Laine (trio) B
3. Joshua Ledet (60s solo) A-
2. Jessica Sanchez (trio) A-
1. Hollie Cavanagh (trio) A-

Round 3:

5. Phillip Phillips (British solo) C+
4. Skylar Laine (British solo) B
3. Hollie Cavanagh (British solo) A-
2. Joshua Ledet (British solo) A-
1. Jessica Sanchez (British solo) A-


5. Phillip Phillips
4. Skylar Laine
3. Joshua Ledet
2. Hollie Cavanagh
1. Jessica Sanchez

If the person leaving was based on merit (and perhaps desire to stay), P2 would be the one headed home and on to the next phase of doing his own thing in his musical career.

However, I just see no way that he will be eliminated. It is going to be really tough to see anyone else get eliminated at this point. Somebody has to though, and this is the hardest prediction of the season. I could make a case for why it might be any of the other 4, but my hunch is that Hollie Cavanagh will be the unlucky one, despite doing about everything she could do on the evening (and in recent weeks) and that my parents will take it hard.