Last night was the night. The top 24 was completed. It’s the last show before the judges turn the decision making power over to the voting public. After 6 weeks of auditions we finally got to see who made the cut for season 10 of American Idol. Just one more hour and…wait a minute. You’re kidding right? Another 2 hours of Idol? God help me, these two-hour shows are cutting into my beauty sleep…
Oh well – the show must go on, and so must I. The question is – will Jennifer be able to go on? After the heart wrenching (but correct) decision to send Chris Medina home, Jennifer was struggling to pull herself together. As the drama unfolded, my son piped up from the couch – “Maybe they should have given her ‘saying no’ lessons.” I’ll say it again; my son is a genius.
Jennifer eventually collected herself and the road to the top 24 continued unabated. Here’s how it all went down:
From the very first notes of the very first track of Stryper’s latest album, “The Covering”, you know you are in for something special. The first full length studio release to feature the original four members of the band – Michael, Robert, Oz, and Timothy – since 1990’s “Against the Law”; “The Covering” erupts from your speakers, grabs you by the neck, and takes you on a no-holds-barred exploration of ‘70s and early 80’s rock. But this isn’t just a random collection of cover tunes. If you listen closely, you can hear the threads in these songs that run through Stryper’s own music. It’s a roadmap of how Stryper became who they are musically. It’s also an exceedingly good album.
Let me get one thing out of the way up front – I am a HUGE Stryper fan. Their rise to prominence in popular American metal music occurred just as I was taking the first steps out of the musical shadow of my parents, and into a world where I could call the bands my own. I grew up listening to Stryper – in many ways, they were the soundtrack to my adolescence. Still today, theirs is the music I turn to when I’m at my lowest and need to find a reason to smile.
Stryper was the first band I ever saw in concert without chaperones – just my friends and I. (For the record, it was at the Atlanta Civic Center on February 21, 1987). “To Hell With The Devil” was the first CD I ever purchased, after finally convincing my parents to let me buy a CD player from Service Merchandise. I decided to grow my hair out in high school because I wanted to look like Michael Sweet (and Bobby Dahl from Poison – but that’s another story). I had a denim jacket sporting a “To Hell With The Devil” patch on the back. I sang “Honestly” at my high school talent show. When I got married, I wrote and recorded a song for my wife and I to have our first dance to. Listening to it years later, I realized it perfectly mirrors the structure of “Honestly”. I was in the audience when Stryper recorded “7 Weeks: Live In America” at EarthLink Live in Atlanta. And, in a world where I was a rock star putting together my own version of “The Covering” – “Calling On You” would be cut number one on the album. As I said – I’m a big fan.
Tonight’s episode promised to take us from the top 61 to the top 40, and then on to the top 24. In a very nice new twist for the season, we also got even more performancesl. In seasons past, Hollywood week marked the end of singing until the live shows. This year, the contestants had to sing not once, but twice more before finding out if the made the top 24. It made the reveal of the top 24 much more entertaining (and also allowed Fox to stretch it out over two nights, and three hours…)
Just after the top 61 were announced, they found out they would be boarding buses and heading out to Las Vegas. Once there, they had 24 hours to divide into duos or trios, and learn a Beatles song. They then had to perform them on the “Beatles: Love” stage. These were performances that included props, stage sets, and multiple cameras. It was a good dry run for the live performance shows, and gave the judges a chance to see how the hopefuls all performed under those conditions.
After the performances, 21 singers were sent home and the top 40 made their way back to LA. In yet another change, each one performed one last time for the judges, then waited for the top 24 to be announced.
It was an action packed show – a full two hours long. I have all the performances, all the insights, and all the snarky comments you are looking for. Dig in and enjoy!
After two action packed episodes, we have come to the end of Hollywood week. The initial solo performances cut the field down from 327 dreamers to 168 contestants. The group performances reduced the field to an even 100. Now it was time for one final moment on the stage before the judges cut the field to the lucky 61 who will travel to Las Vegas to battle it out for a spot on the live shows in two weeks.
This episode also marked the first time we were able to see the contestants with instruments. Who were the musicians and who were the singers? Who crumbled under the pressure? Who rose to the occasion? And most importantly – did Casey Abrams really play the upright bass for his song? Questions abound, as do answers. Read on faithful followers…
The Sunset Strip in Hollywood was the epicenter of metal music in the ‘80’s. Heavy Metal, Glam Metal, Hair Metal – whatever your flavor, the music had it’s roots in the clubs of Southern California. In 2006, a show about the love, the dreams, and the excesses of the Sunset Strip club scene debuted in LA – “Rock of Ages”. It opened off Broadway in 2008, then on Broadway in 2009 – scoring five Tony nominations, including Best Musical. “Rock of Ages” is now on tour and last week, made it’s triumphant return to the city that gave it birth.
“Rock of Ages” is a delicious blend of hedonism and heart. It does not shy away from the excesses or clichés of ‘80s metal, but it also understands the genesis and appeal of that music. At its core, the music has always been about having fun; about being in, or falling out of, love. The music was rarely intentional social commentary; rather it was commentary by virtue of its very existence. It was uncomplicated. Is that a naive view? Perhaps – but I lived those years and, in hindsight, my experience was one of fun first. It’s the same experience you get from “Rock of Ages”.
It’s the second night of Hollywood week and 168 contestants are left in the shark tank. The water has been chummed and it’s time to begin on of my favorite episodes of each American Idol season – group numbers. Who will soar? Who will crash and burn? Who will forget the words? Who will be sent home? It will only take two short hours to find out. Buckle up, get your popcorn ready, and let’s get this party started.
With so many people put through to Hollywood this week, it took two full days to winnow the field down to the remaining 168 singers. Those who performed on the first day of the culling assumed they had an advantage, and began forming and rehearsing in groups. Not so fast. In a true Survivor “drop your buffs moment”, Ken Warwick (an executive producer on Idol) informed the contestants their groups had to be a mix of both day 1 and day 2 contestants. You could hear the proverbial needle scratch across the record. It was beautiful.
What followed was an all out scramble for the contestants to break-up and reform their groups under the newly clarified rules. It had to be one of the most drama filled and stressful group weeks in recent memory. With people abandoning groups, reforming groups, and almost leaving the show – the first 40 minutes of the night stressed ME out. I can’t imagine how the contestants felt.
I also can’t begin to recap every single thing that happened. I just don’t have the necessary Soap Opera scripting skills to do it justice. I’ll wade through the things I found interesting or disturbing, and share my thoughts about this marathon episode that was the second of Hollywood week. Here it goes folks – two hours of drama in 30 minutes or less – or your pizza’s free. Dig in!
Most people were introduced to MiG Ayesa six years ago on the show “Rockstar:INXS”. An accomplished performer with a strong, clear rock voice; MiG exuded both a calm confidence and an electric stage presence during the show. While he could command the stage with a manic, almost reckless abandon; MiG still managed melt hearts and turn in one of the best performances of the season with his restrained and nuanced piano rendition of “Baby I Love Your Way”. It was that performance that made me a MiG fan.
Born in the Philippines and raised in Australia, MiG started his music career long before he appeared on “Rockstar:INXS”. He worked on both the stage and in TV in Australia, before moving to London in 2001 to pursue his dream of being a recording artist. While in London he appeared in “Rent” and played the lead in “We Will Rock You”. It was that show he left to take a shot at “Rockstar:INXS”
If you haven’t kept up with MiG since “Rockstar:INXS”, you’ve missed a lot. He was signed to Decca/Universal and released his debut album, the eponymous “MiG”, in 2007. After a stint in Los Angeles, he and his wife decided to move to New York. MiG toured with the international company of “We Will Rock You”, appeared in “Handel’s Messiah Rocks” and made his Broadway debut last year in “Burn The Floor”.
These days, MiG is busy with the national touring company of “Rock of Ages” playing the part of Arsenal front man Stacee Jax. I had a chance to talk with him last week. We had a great conversation, covering everything from the tour, his upcoming album, the inspiration for his characterization of Stacee, his plans for the future, zombies, and some of the things you just can’t do on Skype.
It’s here. Last night was the first Hollywood Week show for Idol this year. The week that separates the men from the boys, the women from the girls- at least according to Jennifer. The week that starts the journey towards superstardom for some, and crushes the self-confidence and dreams of others. The week that gives us the meltdown maker that is the group number. The week when we finally get to see the contestants perform with backing music for the first time. It’s going to be a lot of fun!
Tonight marked the last night of auditions before Hollywood Week. San Francisco was the city, and the promos promised some of the best voices and best stories of the entire season. After last week’s less than stellar showing in Los Angeles, could California redeem itself with the talent in San Francisco?
That would have to wait to be seen – we had an opening to watch, and what an opening it was. As much as I have loved Steven this year, tonight’s opening might have been the best of them all. The camera followed a heartbroken young woman out in the parking lot; distraught about telling her mother she didn’t make it past the audition. When asked if she had any message for the judges she said something so profound, so insightful, I was stunned into speechlessness. “Just because someone farts, let them finish singing, okay?” Yeah – not making the show is what she should be concerned about telling her mom…
After careful consideration, I can think of no better description for the Black Eyed Peas’ Superbowl Halftime Show than this: an overly wrought production lacking in musical skill, emotional intelligence, and entertainment value; filled with self-indulgent posing, embarrassing lighted costumes, and laughable auto-tune usage; insulting both music fans and the very “youth” it was designed to bring to the table. Even Slash and his mirrored top-hat couldn’t save them.
If you want to see an artist who respects his audience and delivers entertainment in its truest form, look no farther than Prince’s 2007 Superbowl performance – the best halftime show in Superbowl history. Even in the pouring (purple) rain, he had the crowd completely engaged and eating out of his hand; his passion evident in every note poured out of his guitar. The Black Eyed Peas were, at best, middle school garage band by comparison – and even that could be construed as insulting to middle school garage bands the world over. (I would even sit through Tom Petty again if it meant I didn’t have to hear the Black Eyed Peas.) 2012 Superbowl – I hope you treat us better.
P.S. – A note for Miss Aguilera. It’s much easier to remember the words to a song when you are actually singing the melody from that song – not participating in a vocal gymnastics display.