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Archive for March, 2011|Monthly archive page

American Idol: Top 11 Double Elimination Show Reviews and Predictions

In Music, Television on March 31, 2011 at 6:21 am

After last week’s shocking vote, which would have sent Casey Abrams home if not for the judges wisely using their one save of the season, the Top 11 all got to perform again this week.  From here on out, the judges will be powerless to do anything if the voters get it wrong again.  The pressure is now on the contestants to choose the right songs each week and connect with the voting audience if they want to remain in the competition.

Because the judges used the save last week, two contestants will be going home this week, but all 11 will be going on tour this summer.

This week, each contestant was asked to perform an Elton John song.  Almost every contestant chose a song that was one of Elton John’s well-known hits, but not everyone chose the best song for their voice and style.

Here is this week’s breakdown (in reverse order):

[11]         Paul McDonald – You would think that it would be an advantage to perform a song that you have covered already before trying out for American Idol, but for McDonald, this was not the case.  The only thing that stood out about his performance was his Elton-esque wardrobe.  Other than that, it was just more of what McDonald delivers every week.  His rendition of “Rocket Man” was fine, but certainly nothing special.  He would have been better served if he chose to perform “I Guess That’s Why They Call it the Blues” instead.

[10]         Scotty McCreery – It is very surprising that the judges seem to lambaste everyone who tends to stick to the same style every week, but when McCreery does it, he gets praised.  Ever since the first season of Idol, the judges regularly accuse contestants of being too safe with their song selections.  They should have been all over McCreery for choosing a song called “Country Comfort” this week.  It wasn’t like it was one of his favorites.  In fact, he knew nothing about the song except that it had the word “country” in the title.  Even though I am a lifelong Elton John fan, I have to admit that this song didn’t even seem remotely familiar.  McCreery’s performance was fine, but American Idol is a competition, and this was one of the least competitive song choices in the show’s history.

[9]           Naima Adedapo – Like McCreery, Adedapo took an Elton John song and made it her own.  However, she did so by drastically changing one of Elton’s most popular songs.  Her reggae version of “I’m Still Standing” was interesting and somewhat entertaining.  However, it came off as trying to force things when she sang it with a faux-Jamaican accent.  Adedapo is at her best when her singing complements her stage performance (which was virtually non-existent this week).  She gets an “A” for originality this week, but a “C” at best for her singing and interpretation of an Elton John classic.

[8]           Jacob Lusk – As one of the judges’ favorites since the beginning, it seems that Lusk can do almost nothing wrong.  To his credit, he always does his best to connect with the song and show how passionate he is.  But he often times comes up short when it comes to delivering the song with style.  His choice of “Sorry Seems to be the Hardest Word” was based on Mary J. Blige’s cover version rather than Elton’s original.  If Lusk really wanted to shine this week, he should have chosen “Take Me to the Pilot” and made it his own.  It may very well have been viewed as one of the best of the evening instead of just rising high enough to avoid elimination this week.

[7]           Haley Reinhart – It was very surprising that Reinhart wasn’t in the bottom three last week since she was the previous two weeks before.  Her rendition of “Benny and the Jets” was, by far, her best performance of the season.  She looked more comfortable than ever on stage, and she showed off the bluesy style that she is capable of singing.  It is highly unlikely that Reinhart will be able to go toe-to-toe with the top singers in the competition, but it looks like she may go further than most would have expected just a few short weeks ago.

[6]           Stefano Langone – For the first time ever, Langone finally took the judges’ advice and opened his eyes to connect with the audience.  There is no doubt that he can sing, but he needed a better stage performance to help sway Idol voters.  The judges seemed pleased with his progress.  Although he did what they asked, his version of “Tiny Dancer” was only slightly above average, but it is not entirely his fault.  In order to showcase different parts of the song, the arrangement was done very haphazardly.  The song had no flow whatsoever, and it didn’t even come close to tapping into the emotions that Elton does when he performs the song.

[5]           Casey Abrams – On the heels of the most shocking vote in American Idol history, Abrams was mercifully saved by the judges.  Clearly, the brush with elimination has shaken Abrams.  His decision to perform a safe, mellow version of “Your Song” was disappointing.  Although he performed it well, it showed that he is more concerned with doing whatever it takes to stay in the competition rather than delivering a performance to show that he’s in it to win it.  With a trimmed down beard and new haircut, Abrams looked much more mainstream, but if he doesn’t try and recreate the magic that made him stand out in the competition, he will likely find himself going home sooner than he anticipated.

[4]           Lauren Alaina – Each week, Alaina seems to be gaining confidence and delivering performances that show why she was one of the early favorites.  Her country pop version of “Candle in the Wind” was nicely done.  She made the song her own without changing it drastically like Adedapo did with “I’m Still Standing.”  After a few rough weeks early on, Alaina is now showing that she can be a factor in this competition.  She may not have enough to compete with James and Pia on a weekly basis, but she is showing that she has good potential just the same.

[3]           Thia Megia – It wasn’t surprising to see Megia end up in the bottom three last week.  For some reason, her performances since the Top 13 was announced have been average at best, and sometimes below average.  She made up for it this week by choosing to sing “Daniel, a song well within her range and a very good fit stylistically.  This performance was one of the best of the evening, and was definitely Megia’s best in several weeks.

[2]           James Durbin – It’s hard not to root for Durbin even when trying to be objective.  But he is either light years ahead of everyone else when it comes to stage show, or the producers desperately want him in the finale.  Choosing the upbeat “Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting” lent itself well to creating a lively performance, but the piano on fire and the blinding light show made Durbin look like KISS and the rest of the contestants look like KISS’ warm-up group.  That being said, Durbin is absolutely the most polished stage performer in the competition, and it is understandable why the producers want to keep him around for as long as possible.  His vocals this week were not nearly as impressive as they usually are, but he stole the show anyway.

[1]           Pia Toscano – With each passing week, it certainly looks like Toscano and Durbin are destined to meet in the finale.  She didn’t leave her ballad comfort zone this week, but she did try to connect with the audience more than she usually does.  The only one who can come close to her vocally is Durbin.  Every other girl pales in comparison.  Once again, her vocals shined as she performed “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me.”  It would have been nice to see her tackle one of Elton’s songs that aren’t so close to her style, but as long as she keeps nailing every song that she sings, there isn’t much to complain about.

WHO’S IN THE BOTTOM THREE?

Naima Adedapo

Stefano Langone

Paul McDonald

WHICH TWO WILL GO HOME?

Naima Adedapo and Stefano Langone.

Adedapo’s decision to do a reggae version of “I’m Still Standing” is ironic because it will likely knock her down and out of the competition.  Langone deserves to stay, but he isn’t unique or special enough to inspire voters to support him over others.

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Will the Cavaliers Ever Retire LeBron’s Number?

In Sports on March 30, 2011 at 2:57 pm

When LeBron James was interviewed before returning to Cleveland to play against his hometown team for the second time since his departure, he was asked about eventually having his number retired by the Cavs.  “That’s something I don’t know and something I can’t control,” James said. “Anytime you get a jersey retired anywhere it is a tribute. I had my jersey in my high school retired and when that happened it was unbelievable. If that happens here, I’ll be grateful.”

Gratitude has not been LeBron’s strong suit when it comes to his former team, or for the people of Cleveland for that matter.  Had he remained in Cleveland, he would have had his number retired and most likely would have had statues erected in his honor.  Had he left Cleveland with a modicum of grace instead of publicly humiliating his former team, he may have been able to mend fences down the road and be honored as the best basketball player to ever wear a Cavs uniform.

Based on his performance on the court, LeBron absolutely deserves to have his number retired by the Cavs one day.  But since you can’t honor the player without honoring the man, LeBron should resign himself to the fact that the only way that his number will ever be retired in the NBA is if the Miami Heat choose to do so when his playing days are over.

Time heals all wounds, but people don’t often forget being disrespected.  When LeBron made “The Decision” to leave Cleveland, he burned a bridge that will never be rebuilt.  He instantly transitioned from the greatest sports hero that the city has ever known to the prodigal son who was no longer welcome in his hometown.

If the people of Cleveland were somehow able to forgive LeBron at some point, there would never be enough of a public outcry to have his number retired, and it wouldn’t matter anyway because Cavs owner, Dan Gilbert, has nothing but contempt for the former king of Cleveland.

After the Cavs defeated the Heat last night in Cleveland, Gilbert tweeted “Not in our garage!!” (a reference to LeBron and his entourage being stopped when trying to enter the garage underneath the Quicken Loans Arena before the game).

Long before his Twitter message taunting LeBron after the Cavs exacted their revenge by upsetting the Heat last night, Gilbert issued an open letter to Cleveland fans, which illustrates the depth of the betrayal that he felt after “The Decision.”

{Click here to read the letter}

Perhaps LeBron regrets how he left Cleveland.  Perhaps he has hopes of being welcomed back to his hometown someday.  But the reality is that his betrayal will linger for many years to come, and it would come as a total shock to see him honored in any way, much less something as monumental as having his number retired.

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A Fight to the Finish

In Family, Life, Sports on March 28, 2011 at 6:51 pm

When fall pee wee football ended in November, the long wait until spring football began.  After four months off, we finally had our first game of the season this weekend.  As anxious as the kids were to get back on the field, I think that the coaches were even more excited for the season to start.

Because of spring break, we didn’t get to practice as much as we would have liked, but every coach faced the same challenge in getting their teams ready for the first game.

Even though the boys are still very young, the competitive juices in all of us were flowing, and we wanted to start the season off with a victory.

Our team controlled the ball for most of the game, but somehow we still trailed by a score of 6-0 with less than five minutes to go in the fourth quarter.  Every time we came close to scoring, we were turned away.  Although our struggle to score can be partially attributed to our opponent rising to the challenge, mental errors, missed opportunities and a key injury played a much bigger role in keeping us out of the end zone.

Aside from one broken play where our opponent scored on an 85-yard touchdown run, our boys did an outstanding job on defense.

With less than five minutes to go in the game, it was starting to look like our dominance on the field was not going to be enough to secure the victory.

To the credit of a team playing their first game together, none of our boys ever gave up.  They never looked defeated, and they continued to play hard on every single play.  Despite the fact that one of our top running backs was injured, no one made any excuses.

Our other starting running back had never played the position in a regular season game before this weekend, and yet he ended up having to shoulder most of the load for the entire second half, while also playing a key role on defense and special teams.

With the clock winding down, we needed to make something happen quickly.  In a game that was filled with frustrating moments, we finally got the break that we needed when our defense caused a safety and cut the lead to 6-2.

We got the ball right back and marched down the field, but time was not on our side, and we only had two timeouts remaining.  With less than 30 seconds to play in the game, we finally punched it into the end zone, and took an 8-6 lead, but our defense still needed to come through one more time to secure the victory.

After the kickoff, our opponent had about ten seconds left to go 60 yards.

They snapped the ball and my son blasted through the line and made a solo tackle in the backfield.  As an elated coach and proud parent, I jumped in the air and started to run onto the field to congratulate him and the rest of the team.  But then I realized that our opponent had called a timeout with two seconds left on the clock, giving them one more play.

On the final play of the game, their running back took the handoff and quickly blasted through a hole in our defense.  But as he started gaining momentum, our boys stepped up and made the stop before he could break free and score.

It was only the first game of the season, but this hard-fought victory felt as good as winning a playoff game, and it set the stage for what promises to be an exciting season.

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American Idol: Top 11 Review and Predictions

In Music, Television on March 24, 2011 at 9:26 am

The Top 11 American Idol contestants each had to perform a Motown song this week.  For the most part, all of the contestants chose songs that they were capable of singing.  Every week is important for the contestants, but with the exception of the finale, this week is the most critical as the contestant that gets voted off does not go on the American Idol tour.

If history is any indication, the contestant that gets voted off this week is not likely to be heard from again, and will be forgotten fairly quickly.

Because this week is so critical, the contestants who have built up a loyal following will likely make it into the Top 10, regardless of their performance or the judges’ comments.  The only way that the judges would use their save this week is to protect someone who they feel is special or someone who is so unique that losing them would hurt the tour.  This bodes well for some of the contestants, and not so well for others.

Each week, Television2Day will review American Idol and rank the contestants based on their performance for the week.  After the rankings, a prediction of the bottom three will be made, along with a prediction of who will be voted off the show.

Here is the Top 11 Breakdown (in reverse order):

[11]       Haley Reinhart – Performing “You Really Got a Hold on Me” by Smokey Robinson, Reinhart had her best performance since reaching the Top 13.  Unfortunately for Reinhart, it was still nothing special, and there is no reason to believe that it will be enough to move her up in the rankings.  Her overall look was better this week, but the decision to have someone who is not comfortable on stage walk down potentially hazardous stairs wearing stiletto heels was questionable.  It’s very hard to focus on singing when you’re trying not to fall.  Reinhart has talent, but screams at times when hitting the power notes and her lack of stage presence is detrimental when it comes to generating votes.

[10]       Thia Megia – It is unfortunate that Megia cannot seem to deliver the kind of memorable performance that she did to make it into the Top 13.  In an effort to listen to the judges’ advice, Megia stepped out of her ballad comfort zone with her performance of “Heatwave” by Martha and the Vandellas.  It was good to see her loosening up a bit, but her performance felt a bit forced.  The talent is there, but Megia seems to be overwhelmed by having to compete on the big stage.

[9]         Paul McDonald – After stating his interview that he grew up on Motown music that “makes you move,” McDonald smartly chose not to showcase his frantic movements this week as he performed “Tracks of My Tears” by Smokey Robinson with an acoustic guitar.  If Rod Stewart didn’t exist, McDonald’s voice would be much more intriguing.  But Rod Stewart does exist, and McDonald’s weekly performances merely serve as a reminder that there is a much better version of him out there.  This was his best performance in the Top 13, but overall it was just more of the same old, same old that has become very predictable.

[8]          Scotty McCreery – If there was one performer who was at a disadvantage with the Motown theme, it was absolutely McCreery.  He did what he could to make Stevie Wonder’s “For Once in My Life” his own, and for that he should be commended.  But the fact of the matter is that the original song is powerful and emotional, and McCreery’s version, while original, did not even come close to capturing the essence of the song.  Pushing himself beyond his deep register seemed to satisfy the judges to a degree, but this was his weakest performance yet in the Top 13.

[7]         Stefano Langone – One of the bigger surprises of the Top 13 so far has been Langone’s ability to show off his vocal range.  That being said, this week’s performance was a big drop off from last week, and Langone continued to struggle with keeping his eyes open and connecting with the audience.  His choice of “Hello” by Lionel Richie was bizarre for a few reasons.  First of all, the song was recorded in 1984, which is not exactly Motown’s heyday.  But more importantly, Langone admitted that he didn’t really know the song, which makes it a very questionable choice.  This is especially true given the fact that he said that he grew up listening to Motown.  Langone shined at times, but he spent too much time with his eyes closed, and the condensed version of the song was awkwardly arranged.  It wouldn’t come as a complete shock if the judges’ comments end up pushing Langone into the bottom three.

[6]         Casey Abrams – There was nowhere to go but up from last week’s Nirvana performance.  Aside from the fact that his cleaned up look was reminiscent of Zach Galifianakis in “The Hangover,” Abrams delivered a solid performance of Marvin Gaye’s “I Heard it Through the Grapevine.”   Abrams knows how to work the stage and the crowd, and his sound is definitely unique, and thought this performance was not even close to his best, it was more than enough to push him into the Top 10.

[5]         Naima Adedapo – More than any other contestant, Adedapo needs to deliver memorable stage performances because she simply is not a strong enough vocalist to compete with the best singers in the Top 11.  Two weeks ago, her performance of “Umbrella” by Rhianna turned heads, even though the vocals were not outstanding.  Last week, her subdued performance of Tina Turner’s “What’s Love Got to do With It” landed her in the bottom three.  With a spot in the Top 10 on the line, Adedapo delivered her best overall performance to date with “Dancing in the Street” by Martha and the Vandellas.  Her look was spot-on, her vocals were very solid, and her stage show was very entertaining.  Adedapo will never be one of the top vocalists, but her command of the stage gives her a chance to be a successful entertainer.

[4]         Pia Toscano – Vocally, the only one who can compete with Toscano on a regular basis is James Durbin.  Once again, her singing of “All in Love is Fair” by Stevie Wonder was incredible.  But from an entertainment perspective, it just didn’t measure up to some of the other contestants.  Toscano is a beautiful girl with an amazing voice, and she doesn’t need to do much to stay in the competition at this point.  But as the competition moves forward, she is going to have to deliver more than just great vocals if she wants to make it to the finale.  Because her vocals are so perfect, she has some room to turn it down a notch and focus on connecting with the audience.

[3]          Jacob Lusk – If there was a contestant who was made for Motown week, Lusk is it.  His performance of Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell’s “You’re All I Need to Get By” was his shining moment in the Top 13.  He always delivers the big notes, but doesn’t always do it with style.  This week he did.  Even though it was a Marvin Gaye song, Lusk’s performance was much more reminiscent of Luther Vandross (which is not a bad thing).  He worked very well with the background singers, and you could see that his comfort level was higher than it has been in weeks.

[2]         Lauren Alaina – On the heels of her admirable performance of Melissa Etheridge’s “I’m the Only One” last week, Alaina delivered her best performance to date with “You Keep Me Hangin’ On” by The Supremes.  For the first time since reaching the Top 13, Alaina showed why she was considered to be one of the early favorites in the competition.  This was her best look by far, and her confidence was at an all-time high.  Her singing and performance this week launched Alaina right back to the top of the competition.

[1]         James Durbin – During the Season 10 tryouts, Durbin stood out early on because of his great voice and the challenge of overcoming Tourette’s and Asperger’s Syndrome.  Since making it into the Top 13, Durbin has proven that he not only belongs, but he has a very real possibility of winning it all.  More than any other contestant, Durbin continues to choose songs that are ideally suited for his voice, and with each passing week, his confidence seems to grow.  His performance of Stevie Wonder’s “Living for the City” this week was flawless.  No one has shown the combination of amazing vocals and engaging stage presence like Durbin.  He hits every note almost effortlessly as he commands the stage and works the crowd.  At this point, the only one who can stop Durbin from reaching the finale is Durbin himself.

BOTTOM THREE PREDICTION:

Haley Reinhart

Thia Megia

Paul McDonald

WHO GOES HOME?

Haley Reinhart – After ending up in the bottom three each of the last two weeks, Reinhart had to deliver the performance of her life to make it into the Top 10 and go on tour.  She improved, but not nearly enough to compel Idol fans to pick up the phone and start voting for her this week.  Many of this year’s contestants bring something unique to the table.  Reinhart does not.  She is merely a good singer who needs a lot of work on her stage presence.  The fans that have put her into the bottom three for the past two weeks are the same fans who buy tickets to see the American Idol tour.  It would be very surprising to see anyone other than Reinhart going home this week, but then again, Idol voters are often times unpredictable.

WILL THE JUDGES USE THEIR SAVE?

Highly unlikely.  Unless one of their unanimous favorites somehow ends up with the lowest amount of votes, it would be very surprising to see the judges do anything to give someone another crack at making it into the Top 10.

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New Music Spotlight – “White Trash Millionaire” by Black Stone Cherry

In Music on March 24, 2011 at 9:21 am

When you think of “white trash,” you usually don’t think of millionaires, but Kentucky’s Black Stone Cherry has blended the two worlds brilliantly with their new song “White Trash Millionaire.”  The song is the first single from their upcoming album “Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea,” which will be released at the end of May.

The raw, dirty guitar sound is the perfect backdrop for the message being delivered in “White Trash Millionaire,” a song that seems destined to become a modern-day rock anthem.

Money has a tendency to change people, especially those who seek out material possessions for status as much as for need or desire.  But it doesn’t change everyone, and it doesn’t buy happiness.  Since the economy crashed, many people have learned to live with less while focusing on the things in life that really matter to them.  Some may call it simple.  Others may call it practical.  Either way, “White Trash Millionaire” shows that wealth is in the eye of the beholder.

It has been nearly three years since Black Stone Cherry released their sophomore album “Folklore and Superstition,” which featured their hit song “Blind Man,” so BSC fans are undoubtedly anxious for the new album to hit the streets.

Black Stone Cherry will be hitting the road in April as the supporting act for Hinder, and will also be doing shows with Alter Bridge.  They are one of the many bands slated to play Carolina Rebellion on May 7, 2011 in North Carolina.

After just one listen to “White Trash Millionaire,” the song was already stuck in my head.  Check out the video below, and you’ll see why.

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You Can’t Kill Rock and Roll: 29 Years After his Passing…Randy Rhoads’ Guitar Legend Lives On

In Music on March 19, 2011 at 5:45 pm

This morning, Ozzy Osbourne posted the following message on Facebook29 years ago today I lost my best friend, business partner and the greatest guitar player I have ever worked with. Loss is meant to get easier with time, it doesn’t.” Considering the talented guitarists who have played with Ozzy since Randy Rhoads’ untimely death in 1982, his message speaks volumes about what an incredible guitar player the world lost on that tragic day.

Over the years, Ozzy has put out numerous albums with a variety of different musicians, and while they were all memorable in their own way, none have come close to the legendary status of the two albums featuring Rhoads on guitar – “Blizzard of Ozz” and “Diary of a Madman.”

Because he died so young, Rhoads is not always mentioned as one of the greatest guitarists of all time, but even with his limited body of work, he belongs in the discussion.  There is no doubt that he would be right up there with every other guitar hero if he were still alive today.

Rhoads could play shredding solos with the best of them, but that isn’t what made him unique.  His songwriting ability and infectious riffs are the reasons why “Blizzard of Ozz” and “Diary of a Madman” are a level above all of Ozzy’s other solo records.  The chemistry between Ozzy and Rhoads is something that is nearly impossible to duplicate.

By combining the beauty and elegance of classical music with the power and energy of heavy metal, Rhoads created a sound so unique that it has never been captured again.  Many have learned to play the guitar parts that he created, but none have been able to create his magical sound in all of the years since his passing.

In an interview with Ozzy on the anniversary of Rhoads’ death a few years back, he talked about what it was like to hear him play guitar for the first time.  “It was so good that I thought that I was dreaming” said Ozzy.

After only three years and two albums together, Ozzy’s dream turned into a nightmare.  On March 19, 1982, a plane carrying Rhoads from Tennessee to Florida crashed into Ozzy’s tour bus.  The crash took the life of the rising star at the age of 25 and deprived music fans around the world of the chance to see him evolve into one of the greatest guitarists of all time.  No one knows for sure what Ozzy and Rhoads would have created over the years, but there is no doubt that it would have been legendary.

Although Rhoads died long before his time, his work still lives on today, and will continue to do so for many years to come…

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American Idol: Top 12 Breakdown and Predictions

In Music, Television on March 17, 2011 at 7:18 am

The Top 12 American Idol contestants were given a wide variety of songs to choose from this week as they each performed songs from their birth year.  Once again, the song choices were not always great, and though the judges seemed to be pleased overall with this week’s show, it was actually a huge disappointment, and a big step down from last week’s performances.

As the weeks progress, it is becoming clear that the contestants fall into a handful of different categories.  There are those who are loved by the judges, those who are loved by the voting public, those who are loved by both, and those who are likely to be leaving the show sooner rather than later.

The contestants who are loved by the judges and the fans have the liberty of taking big risks, knowing full well that they are unlikely to go home in the next few weeks.

Here is the Top 12 Breakdown (in reverse order):

[12]        Paul McDonald – A favorite of the judges and of many fans, but it’s hard to understand why.  His vocals are unique for American Idol, but they are nothing more than a poor man’s version of Rod Stewart.  His stage presence continues to border on absurd.  Although it was partly due to being under the weather, his version of Elton John’s “I Guess That’s Why They Call It The Blues” simply was not very good.

[11]        Casey Abrams – As one of the favorites of the fans and the judges, Abrams was able to take a huge risk by performing “Smells Like Teen Spirit” by Nirvana.  His performances to date have been stellar, so he’ll likely get a pass on this week’s performance, but it was not good at all from a singing standpoint.  The bass playing was cool, but American Idol is not a competition to find the best musician.  Hopefully Casey will return to form next week.

[10]        Haley Reinhart – This far into the competition, contestants should have carved out an identity, but Reinhart has not.  Performing “I’m Your Baby Tonight” by Whitney Houston was not a smart decision.  Her voice is too weak in the lower register and she screams to hit the high notes.  As usual, her performance was nothing special.  If you had to compare her to another contestant, the closest one would be Lauren Alaina who consistently outshines Reinhart, so there is nothing to make her stand out in the crowd.

[9]          Karen Rodriguez – If not for the fact that fans never seemed to like Ashthon Jones on a personal level, Rodriguez would very likely have gone home last week.  Her saving grace is that she has positioned herself as the Spanish singing contestant, so she has a niche audience of voters to help keep her around.  It was a mistake to try and tackle “Love Will Lead You Back” by Taylor Dayne because her voice is far too weak to do the song justice.  Once again, Rodriguez awkwardly crammed Spanish singing into a song that didn’t need it.  Aside from appealing to JLo and Spanish-speaking fans, Rodriguez does not do anything to inspire the average Idol fan to pick up the phone and vote for her.

[8]          Naima Adedapo – Last week, Adedapo’s stage presence was so good that you were able to give her a pass when the vocals fell short at times.  This week, the stage presence was no better than average, and neither was her version of Tina Turner’s “What’s Love Got To Do With It?”  Adedapo cannot compete vocally with the top girls, so she must rely on delivering memorable stage performances if she plans on sticking around in the competition.  Simon Cowell surely would have called this week’s performance “forgettable” if he were still a judge.

[7]          Jacob Lusk – Once again, Lusk’s passion keeps the judges firmly in his corner, but his risky choice of “Alone” by Heart did not pay off.  It almost doesn’t matter what Lusk sings now because he’ll get votes based on his personality and the judges’ praise.  While his performance this week had its moments, objectively speaking, it was no better than average.

[6]          Thia Megia – With one of the best voices in the competition, Megia should be soaring, but her consistent bad song choices are keeping her from putting her best foot forward.  At some point, when there are less contestants, Megia is going to have to step up and showcase her talents with the right song choice, or find herself leaving the competition while singers that don’t have her talent remain.

[5]          Scotty McCreery – The judges seemed to think that McCreery pushed himself beyond his comfort zone this week, but in actuality, it was just more of what is expected from him every time that he takes the stage.  It made perfect sense for McCreery to sing Travis Tritt’s “Can I Trust You With My Heart?” because it is right in his wheelhouse.  As usual, McCreery was solid but not spectacular.  He may very well be the most middle-of-the-road performer in the show’s history.  He never has the kind of performance that blows you away, but also never does a bad job.  He’ll stick around until he has to face the top singers.

[4]          Lauren Alaina – Another contestant who performed under adverse conditions with the flu.  However, aside from some weak spots in the lower register, Alaina did an admirable job with Melissa Etheridge’s “I’m The Only One.”  After weeks of choosing questionable songs, she finally got it right this time.  It would have been interesting to see how well she would have sang the song if she were healthy, but it was one of her best despite the challenge of singing with the flu.

[3]          James Durbin – One of the biggest problems with American Idol is that contestants must condense songs into a very narrow window so that there is time for useless banter.  As usual, Durbin did a great job with song selection, singing “I’ll Be There For You” by Bon Jovi, but it seemed a bit awkward because he started in the middle of the song.  However, he is looking more and more comfortable on stage each week.  And though this was not even close to his best performance, he definitely remains one of the favorites to win it all.

[2]          Stefano Langone – Although he still has not carved out a niche for himself, Langone delivered one of the best performances of the week with Simply Red’s “If You Don’t Know Me By Now.”  His voice is always very solid, and he has moments of greatness.  His stage presence is fine, but he needs to learn how to deliver the big notes while keeping his eyes open to connect with the audience.  Langone is definitely a sleeper who can be there at the end as long as he remains consistent.

[1]          Pia Toscano – Arguably the most powerful female vocalist in American Idol history, Toscano continues to impress with her performances.  It is clear that there isn’t another girl in the competition who can come close to her, as evidenced by her rendition of Whitney Houston’s “Where Do Broken Hearts Go.”  Toscano is the total package, which makes her wardrobe choice this week particularly puzzling.  One can’t help but wonder who came up with the idea to have Toscano dressed like Latka Gravas on Taxi.  Was it done on purpose to help level the playing field for the other girls?  Maybe, maybe not.  But the fact remains that no one has delivered as many memorable vocal performances as Toscano, and unless she slips up along the way, she should cruise into the finale.

BOTTOM THREE PREDICTION:

Haley Reinhart

Karen Rodriguez

Naima Adedapo

WHO GOES HOME?

Naima Adedapo – She is the best of the bottom three, but she doesn’t seem to have enough of a dedicated fan base to carry her when her performance isn’t great.  It wouldn’t be a shock to see any of the three go home this week, however, Rodriguez appears to be the safest based on supportive comments by the judges and the connection to the Spanish community.

WILL THE JUDGES USE THEIR SAVE?

There is an outside chance that the judges will be forced to use their save this week on Casey Abrams after his terrible performance.  If they are lucky, Casey’s fans will not force them into using it.

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Will the Top Rookie Prospects Attend the NFL Draft?

In Sports on March 16, 2011 at 4:26 pm

The game of chicken that is being played between NFL owners and the NFL Players Association has taken a ridiculous turn.  You would think that decertified union would be powerless, but clearly the NFLPA’s decertification was nothing more than a legal technicality based on their attempt to prevent highly ranked college players from attending the NFL Draft in April.

Players only get drafted once.  Those who are invited to attend the draft with their families have earned the right to be there.  Most college players don’t get drafted at all, and only a small percentage ever get the chance to play in the NFL.  Making it to the top of the draft is an honor that should not be tainted by negotiations that have nothing to do with these players.

As it is, the NFL Draft is going to be very anticlimactic for the players selected because they will not do anything with their new team until the next Collective Bargaining Agreement is completed.

The irony of the request by the NFLPA is that the players who are likely to be hurt the most under the next Collective Bargaining Agreement are the ones who are being asked to take a stand against NFL owners.

When the posturing ends and negotiations begin in earnest between the NFL owners and NFLPA, it is no secret that a rookie wage scale will be put into place.  This makes fiscal and logical sense, but the fact of the matter is that the rookie wage scale is going to cost the players at the top of the draft millions of dollars in guaranteed money.

College players are not a part of the NFLPA, which technically is nothing more than a trade organization at this point since they are no longer a union.  It is unfair of the NFLPA to try and use this small group of players as leverage in contentious negotiations.  Quite frankly, even if the players succumb to the pressure being put on them, it will serve no purpose.

The NFL Draft is going to happen with or without the top players in attendance.  The fans who were planning on attending the event will still do so, and the television viewership will not be affected at all.

ESPN and NFL Network can easily allow their analysts to evaluate each pick and show footage of them in college with missing a beat.

Ultimately, the only ones who will suffer if the top players do not attend the draft are the players and their families who will miss out on a once-in-a-lifetime experience.  Their attendance (or lack their of) will have absolutely no bearing on the next Collective Bargaining Agreement.

Current NFL players should step up and tell the NFLPA to back off of this ridiculous request because it is making the players look bad in the court of public opinion.

Eventually, a deal will be worked out regardless of what happens with the NFL Draft.  Those who choose to succumb to the unfair NFLPA pressure will ultimately regret the fact that they allowed themselves to be used as pawns in childish game.

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Stairway to Heaven

In Family, Life on March 13, 2011 at 10:51 am

It’s hard to believe how many years it has been since I got to celebrate my father’s birthday with him.  Time really does fly by.  He would have turned 69 today if not for a tragic accident that took him from us way before his time.

As I was driving in the car this morning, “Stairway to Heaven” came on the radio.  Although it is a classic song that everyone knows, most of the lyrics are very cryptic, so it doesn’t evoke the same type of emotions as many other songs.

However, some of the lyrics stood out to me given the frame of mind that I am in today…

“It Makes Me Wonder”

I have thought about my father every single day since his passing, and I probably always will.  But his birthday always seems to be a time of reflection, and “it makes me wonder”

      Why we lost him in such a senseless way
      How different my life would be if he were still with us
    What it would be like for my kids to actually know him instead of knowing about him

“And the Forests Will Echo with Laughter”

When I’m not reflecting and wondering what might have been if he were still with us, I remember my father with a smile.  By sharing all of the funny stories about him with my kids, it allows them to get to know him as much as possible.

There was always a lot of laughter with my father, and I try my best to do the same with my kids.  I know that they would have laughed a lot if they were around him.  And they would have made him laugh just as hard.  No matter what the situation is, we always seem to have a house filled with laughter.  I have my father to thank for that.

“In the Long Run, There’s Still Time to Change the Road You’re on”

My father always had this calming effect on everyone.  He had a way of making you believe that everything would be okay.  As long as everyone had their health, he truly believed that the rest would work itself out in the end.

Since his passing, I have taken many roads.  Sometimes it has been the right road, sometimes is has been the wrong road.  Thanks to my father, I know that traveling down the wrong road is nothing more than a temporary setback.

“And as we Wind on Down the Road”

Life has not been the same since my father passed away.  Even the most joyous milestone moments have been bittersweet without him, and I imagine that it will always be that way.

His birthday is always one of the hardest days of the year, but I do what I can to honor his memory on this day every year.

Happy Birthday Dad!  I love you and miss you more than words can say!

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American Idol: Top 13 Breakdown and Predictions

In Music, Television on March 10, 2011 at 3:46 pm

It looks like the change of judges has breathed some new life to American Idol, as evidenced by the performances of the Top 13 contestants.  One of the interesting changes this week was watching the contestants working with producers on their upcoming performance.

Having each contestant choose a song from one of their idols was a great idea, because it meant that they would be singing songs that would allow them to shine (in theory at least).  Despite the freedom to choose the right song and the help of industry executives, many of the contestants still chose songs that put them at risk of going home this week.

Each week, Television2Day will review American Idol and rank the contestants based on their performance for the week.  After the rankings, a prediction of the bottom three will be made, along with a prediction of who will be voted off the show.

Here is the Top 13 Breakdown (in reverse order):

[13]        Karen Rodriguez – Performing “I Could Fall In Love” by Selena, Rodriguez struggled to find the right notes, and left the judges unimpressed.  She created the right look, but the vocals never came close to where they needed to be.

[12]        Paul McDonald – McDonald chose “Come Pick Me Up” by Ryan Adams, but it almost didn’t matter.  Because of his unique voice, people seem to really like him.  While his vocals were adequate, his performance on stage is awkward at best, and often times bizarre.  Ryan Seacrest, who is usually annoying when goes off script and tries to inject himself into the show, was actually entertaining as he did his impression of McDonald’s on-stage moves.

[11]        Haley Reinhart – Reinhart’s performance of “Blue” by LeAnn Rimes was nothing special.  While the judges seemed to like her ability to yodel, there was nothing else that makes her stand out from the crowd of contestants.

[10]        Thia Megia – As one of the early favorites based on last week’s performance, Megia took a big step backwards with her performance of “Smile” by Michael Jackson.  It’s unfortunate that she seemed to be talked into choosing a song that wasn’t what she had in mind because of a recommendation from the mentors.  She is one of the most talented singers, but her song choice did nothing to show off her abilities this week.

[9]          Ashthon Jones – Poor song selection is likely to hasten Jones’ exit from the competition despite her talent.  She made the right choice by picking a Diana Ross song, but made the colossal mistake of picking one that wasn’t well known (“When You Tell Me That You Love Me”). In all honesty, her performance was no better than average.  It was nice to see Jennifer Lopez point out the danger of doing songs that are not known by the masses.

[8]          Lauren Alaina – It is very puzzling that Alaina has relied solely on upbeat country songs the past couple of weeks because it is not what got her into the Top 13.  Her likability and performance will most likely keep her around for a while, but if she doesn’t start showing off the talent that got her to this point, she will be gone before too long.  Choosing a Shania Twain song was fine, but like many other contestants, she chose the wrong one (“Any Man of Mine”).

[7]          Stefano Langone – It’s kind of difficult to get a grasp on what Langone would be if he should ever record an album.  While pigeonholing himself into a specific genre might not elevate him against the competition, his lack of identity is likely to hurt him in the coming weeks.  His performance of “Lately” by Stevie Wonder was pretty good overall.  He had some moments in the song where he showed his range, but nothing that made the performance memorable.

[6]          Jacob Lusk – Personality-wise, you can’t help but root for Lusk to do well.  He brings so much passion into his performances that even the judges can’t help but be swayed by the emotion.  His ability and range is as good as any other contestant.  That being said, his performance of R. Kelly’s “I Believe I Could Fly” was good, but not great.  The notes that he hits are very impressive, but other than the way he connected with the song, stylistically, it was not his best performance.

[5]          Scotty McCreery – There is no doubting that McCreery is ready to record a country album right now.  His performance this week was much better than last week because he looked a bit more comfortable on stage.  Garth Brooks’ “The River” was a very good choice for McCreery.  Unless there are a ton of country fans voting, McCreery’s one-dimensional style will not elevate him into the top of the competition, but his consistent performance will keep him around for a while.

[4]          Naima Adedapo – If not for some issues with pitch and breathlessness, Adedapo might have had the top performance of the night as she performed “Umbrella” by Rhianna.  She wisely chose to do a modern song that is known to virtually everyone, which came as a bit of a surprise being that she has leaned toward the classics previously.  Her stage presence was the best of any contestant, and she showed this week that she has the potential to be a star if developed properly.

[3]          Pia Toscano – It was going to be difficult to top last week’s stellar performance, and Toscano did take a small step backwards.  However, her performance of Celine Dion’s version of “All By Myself” showed why she is still one of the favorites to become the next American Idol.  She has proven once again that she is the most powerful female vocalist in the Top 13.

[2]          Casey Abrams – It came as no surprise that Abrams chose to do “A Little Help From My Friends” by Joe Cocker.  It was the perfect song choice, and his stage presence is always engaging and very entertaining.  With or without an instrument, Abrams consistently delivers memorable performances.  He is clearly one of the favorites to be the next American Idol.

[1]          James Durbin – One of the biggest criticisms of the contestants every year is that they choose songs that don’t fit their voice or songs that are not known by most people.  To his credit, Durbin always chooses songs that fit his style and that everyone can sing along to, although certainly not to his level.  Durbin’s rendition of “Maybe I’m Amazed” by Paul McCartney was, by far, his best yet.  This was the first time that he showed off his near-perfect voice without adding in Adam Lambert-like vocal gymnastics that don’t always fit the song.  If Durbin can continue to mix power, melody and control like he did this week, he may very well be the contestant to beat.

CLICK HERE TO SEE THIS WEEK’S PREDICTIONS

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