American Idol Top 9 Tuesday, March 31 2009, Season 8

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The theme was most popular downloads.  I was a little worried that I would hate this week’s songs, but most of the contestants were smart and chose modern remakes of classic songs. 

Paula needs a governor.  She just drones on and on.  Can’t they shut her up?

Anoop Desai, “Caught Up”– He sounded very good, and his stage presence was also good.  I did not like the background singers on this song, but that wasn’t his fault.  When he first came on the show this season, I thought he was sort of goofy.  Tonight was the first time I thought of him as a serious recording artist, and I think he could be edging his way into the serious competitors this season.

The judges did not like it nearly as much as I did.  I wonder if my opinion was affected by the fact that I could not pick out an Usher song if you paid me.

Megan Joy, “Turn Your Lights Down Low”– When I heard that she, with her affectedness, was going to be singing Bob Marley, a guy who is pretty affected himself, I was just frightened.  I just hate her nasally voice.  It simply drives me crazy (in a  bad way).  On top of that, the song was boring, safe, and did nothing for her voice.  The long note near the end, to borrow a phrase from Simon, was excruciating.

Thank goodness the judges hated me as much as I did.

Danny Gokey, “What Hurts the Most”– He was a little screechy this week.  It almost sounded like he had over-practiced.  It was not terrible, but it was probably the worst that he has done this season.  It was good, but not as great as I expect from him.

I thought the judges would be especially hard on him because he did not perform up to their expectations, but of course, the judges loved it.  What the hell do I know?

Allison Iraheta, “Don’t Speak”– I really liked her taking a little of the affectedness off her voice before the first chorus.  She sang it pretty well, as a whole, but her voice broke in a weird way at the end that did not sound very good.  I liked the fact that she was playing a guitar.

The judges liked the vocal (except for Simon), but hated what she was wearing.

Scott MacIntyre, “Just the Way You Are”– My first thought was that this would be the same thing that he always does.  He hit a big note right out of the box, and for the most part he sang the song well.  His control over the power of his voice was a little off, however.  At times you could barely hear him, but when he sang a big note it was like a horn blasting.  Simon had it right last week.  He really belongs in a lounge act somewhere.

The judges loved it.

Matt Giraud, “You Found Me”– I know the song was in some minor key, but he sounded really out of pitch at the beginning of the song, and in other places later on.  He decided to do the EMO rocker thing this week, but I thought it was a terrible choice and change for him.  In the end, it was simply a mess, and his worst performance by a long shot.

The judges hated it as well.

Lil Rounds, “I Surrender”– My first thought was, “She is not good enough to sing Celine Deon.  Honestly, it was better than I thought it would be, but it was screechy, and her big notes were flat.  She paled in comparison to Celine.

They all hated the song choice, but liked the vocal much better than I did.  To Kara: “Effortless” is not the word.

Adam Lambert, “Play That Funky Music”– When I heard that he was singing this wild song, it frightened me.  He is still in a league of his own on the show, and no one in the competition can touch his presentation.  Also, no one else would have attempted this song in a million years.  It was crazy, but still good.  I think this is what it would be like if Rush had recorded this song.  He can sing an-y-thing.

The judges liked it a lot.

Kris Allen, “Ain’t No Sunshine”– As a guy who can not play a musical instrument, I was impressed that he came out and showed that he can play the piano as well as the guitar this week.  His vocal sounded great, and the big notes were very good.  He also emoted well.  I am starting to think that he can sing the bluesy stuff better than Matt, and I already know that he can sing other things well too.  This was my favorite vocal, and second favorite performance of the evening.

The judges loved it also.

I hope Megan goes home.  Please, please, please.

Top 20 Pop/Rock Songs from 1987

There was a noticeable drop off in the quality of the music from 1986 to 1987.  Many more of the Billboard Top 100 from 1987 had a gimmicky quality to them, and as a result they were pushed off the list.  The style of music was obviously changing as power ballads with great melodies and lyrics were replaced with trite dance tunes from groups like Wang Chung and others.  I found this list much harder to compile because many of the songs with sing-able melodies were, for lack of a better term, gay.  I found myself forcing songs like, “Somewhere Out There”, “Only In My Dreams”, “Never Gonna Give You Up”, and “Lady In Red” off the list for this very reason.  I have to be honest, most of the songs on this list would not have even been considered for the 1983-1985 lists, but you have to go with what you have.

20. “Open Your Heart”, Madonna– Madonna was hitting her stride when she released True Blue.  This song typified the dance music style that dominated her music for the next four or five years.  It is upbeat and causes you to tap you feet when you listen to it.  I chose it over the title track from this album.

19. “Faith”, George Michael– Speaking of gay, coming in at number nineteen we have this little ditty by George Michael that was one of the most popular songs of the year.  It definitely had a strong melody, and you almost have to move when you hear it.  By this time, George Michael had realized that Wham was nothing without him, so he decided to destroy them by leaving the band and going out on his own.  I found his flamboyant arrogance to be off-putting.

18. “Mony Mony”, Billy Idol– I found Billy Idol’s act fairly off-putting also, but much less gay than George Michael’s.  Idol came across as the guy with the biggest case of short-man’s syndrome in the music business.  He was always taking a swing at the screen, and his music often reflected this quality.  I put this song on the list because of its staying power and popularity on movie soundtracks.  Idol shouted his vocals more often than he sang them, but his songs were catchy if also very gimmicky.

17. “We’ll Be Together”, Sting– I like sting, and his tenor vocals quite a bit, but this would probably not even make my top ten songs featuring him.  It is very upbeat and different from most of his other stuff.  It is definitely quirky, and the video reminds me of later Janet Jackson material.

16.  “Electric Blue”, Icehouse– It took an Australian group to carry on the tradition of bands like Naked Eyes, The Thompson Twins and Simple Minds in 1987.  The keyboard sound is very 1980s as is the whole tone on the tenor vocals.  The girl in the video is also Hot!

15. “Bad”, Michael Jackson– Again, I found myself trying to keep this song off the list because of the whole pedophilia thing, but it was simply too big of a song for me to do so.  The tune is unmistakable as it begins with the guitarist hammering out six heavily distorted notes before the drums kick in.  There is no other song that is more associated with Michael Jackson.

14. “Pour Some Sugar on Me”, Def Leppard– This is one of those songs that I had no idea what the lyrics were.  I don’t even remember what crazy words I substituted for the actually lyrics, but I am sure they were funny.  It is the epitome of the rock anthem, and almost forces the listener to stand up and clap his hands above his head (very ’80s).

13. “Little Lies”, Fleetwood Mac– This instrumentation in this song is very 1980s from the keyboard, to the drums and the guitar.  As I have said earlier, I did not start listening to Pop/Rock music until the 1980s, and as a result I did not know anything about Fleetwood Mac’s earlier work.  I also did not like hype, so when they had their comeback in the ’80s, I was taken aback by all of the hype that went along with it.  This set me against them early on.  As I have grown older, I have realized that their music was pretty good.  Linday Buckingham has a nice voice, and the melody of the song is easy to sing along with.  I always said back then, that Stevie Nicks must have sold her soul to the devil (yes, I heard the witch rumors) for good looks and fame, because ‘Lord knows she can’t sing.”  That may have been a little harsh too.  She was nice to look at, but her voice had a very different tone to it.  It sounded like she was a smoker, but she hit her notes, and her tone still had a full sound.

12. “Wanted Dead or Alive”, Bon Jovi– The acoustic guitar part on this song is what makes the song.  Even the lead guitar has a picked sound that conveys the old west sound that is the point of the song.  Jon Bon Jovi is very affected, but that is what you get with these guys, and you should not expect anything else.  The song is very commercial, and has been used for products as well as theme songs for television programs.

11. “Don’t Dream It’s Over”, Crowded House– For anyone who grew up in the ’80s, this is known as the “hey-now” song.  As far as being able to sing along with a memorable melody goes, it does not get much better than this.  The baritone/second tenor voice of the lead singer is also easy to sing along with (at least for me).  His vocal has a very good tone to it, and the chorus is well backed by other singers.

10. “The Finer Things”, Steve Winwood– This is my personal favorite song by Winwood.  The keyboard and sax set a mellow mood at the beginning of the song.  Winwood has a pretty high voice, but the chorus is still good to sing along with, even if you have to sing an octave below him.  It is bubbly and upbeat but he keeps it from going the way of a group like Wham, for instance.

9. “(I Just) Died In Your Arms”, Cutting Crew– The staccato keyboard with the cello at the beginning of the song set a good 80’s mood for the song.  When the guitar and drums come in, it becomes a standard 80’s power ballad, and that’s a good thing.  The vocal is good, but I was creeped out when I read the Wiki for this song.  It says, “The words ‘I just died in your arms tonight’ originally came to Van Eede while he was having sex with his girlfriend [I’ll have to try that.  Usually I just think about baseball.], ‘death’ being an often-used metaphor for orgasm.”  This would be the lyrical equivalent of too much information.  However, I find his thought processes to be strange.  I know I’m not the one who usually thinks about death while I’m making love.

8. “Mandolin Rain”, Bruce Hornsby and the Range– Hornsby’s strong piano chops are highlighted throughout this song.  This song is cool and melow.  It in no way makes you want to do anything very active while you listen to it.  Hornsby’s vocals are excellent and easy to listen to.

I have a memory of this song associated with Six Flags Over Texas.  During my junior and senior years in high school, I had a car and a season pass to Six Flags ($44.00, greatness).  I would go all summer long, once or twice a week.  That year I remember that Six Flags had ponied-up and bought Bose speakers that piped music throughout the park, especially for those standing in line.  The only problem was that they only had about 25 minutes of music on the loop that they were playing, so you got to hear the same songs over and over as you stood in line all summer long.  “Mandolin Rain” was one of the songs, and I bet I heard it 1,000 times at the park that summer.  It says something that I still can listen to it and enjoy it today.

7. “In Too Deep”, Genesis– This was the second song released off their mega-album Invisible Touch, and it is clearly influenced by Collins’ extremely successful solo albums that were released prior to it.  The song is much slower and subdued than much of the older Genesis material.  It has a very nice acoustic quality that comes from dual acoustic guitars, and a grand paino.  It has one of my favorite vocals from Phil Collins, and I chose it over “Tonight, Tonight, Tonight”.

I went to the Invisible Touch concert when it came to Dallas.  Unfortunately, I was unimpressed.  “Mama” was dark and great, but, for the most part it was just a bunch of Abacab stuff, which I did not know at the time.  He did not even sing “Tonight, Tonight, Tonight” even though the concert was sponsored by Michelob.  He didn’t sing one Phil Collins’ song, and Mike and the Mechanics did not do any of their stuff.  I learned another thing that night.  You can have too many 10 minute drum solos in a concert.  There was no encore, and finally it was over.  I later heard that Collins’ was sporting a 102 degree temperature during the concert, but I still felt short-changed by the whole thing.

6. “(I’ve Had) The Time Of My Life”, Bill Medley and Jennifer Warnes– This is one of the best duets of the 1980s.  Bill Medley is better known as a Righteous Brother, and he can definitely bring the vocals.  The song’s popularity was increased by the fact that it was associated with the huge 80s chick flick Dirty Dancing.  The harmony is great, and the chorus builds to a point where the two singers sound enraptured.

5. “Alone”, HeartAnne Wilson and Heart continued their dominance of the mid-eighties with another of their signature power ballads.  The soft start with the piano/keyboard at the beginning of the song with Anne Wilson’s softer voice sounds great.  Then, chorus the powers in and provides the signature Heart sound.   If you want to win American Idol, do a great version of this song (see Carrie Underwood).

4. “The Next Time I Fall”, Peter Cetera and Amy Grant– In the summer of 1986, I got very involved with a youth group at one of the local churches in my home town.  I also got into CCM (Christian Contemporary Music for the heathens out there), just as it was hitting its zenith.  Amy Grant was the biggest name in CCM at the time.  As her popularity continued to grow, she began to experiment with crossing-over into popular music.  First, her Unguarded album failed to mention God anywhere, and many CCM fans noted that the songs could be as much about a boyfriend as about God.  Then, she actually released a few songs onto the secular (not Christain, again for you heathens) market.

I remember that there was actually a debate on the local radio station (KOJO, later KLTY) in Dallas as to whether her music should be played at all on their station any more.  I knew that these ideas were wrong-headed even as a pompous high school kid.  Christianity can be very divisive and counter to its own goals a lot of the time.  Here we had a young woman who could have drawn more people to their station and the religion by crossing-over into mainstream music, but the first thought was to drive her away.

It’s funny to listen to CCM today.  As sad as it has become, one thing is easy to see.  They have reversed their attitudes, and any secular song that could be reinterpreted with a positive Godly message is re-recorded by Christian Artists (almost always not as well as the original).

As far as the duet mentioned above goes, it was one of my favorites of the decade.  Cetera definitely has the lead role in the song, but Grant’s harmonies are what make it great.  She also looks good in the video.  The original version with the heavily synthesized keyboard sound was good, but there is a live version with a full orchestra that sounds even better.

3. “Will You Still Love Me?”, Chicago– Fans of any successful group in the 80s would wait on pins and needles for the inevitable news that their favorite band had broken up (or a key member had died).  The worst part was that it was often career suicide for all involved.  This, however, was not the case for Peter Cetera and Chicago.  He left the band shortly after it finished recording Chicago 17 in 1985, but both he and the band experienced great success with their next albums.  Chicago replaced Cetera with Jerry Scheff and picked up right where they left off recording great love songs and power ballads.  “Will You Still Love Me” is a great example of one of these.  Scheff actually sounds a lot like Cetera on the vocal, and the keyboard/piano led instrumentation picks up right where Chicago 17 left off.  The orchestral backing on the song sounds great, but the strings and light horns do not deliver the standard “Tower of Power” horn sound that is expected from Chicago.

2. “Doing It All For My Baby”, Huey Lewis and The News– Once again, Lewis delivered the be-bop style that his fans looked for.  I love the horns and Hammond organ sound at the beginning and throughout the song.  Lewis’ vocal is as good as ever.  Topping out at #93 on the Billboard Top 100 for the year, this song is easily the most underrated song of his career.  I have a tip for anyone who wants to hear this song.  Download it from Itunes.  The video is 7:53 long, it is horrible, and you will never be able to get that part of your life or the part of you that died as you watched it back.

1. “With Or Without You”, U2– I explained on an earlier post that I was not a fan of U2 in the 80s, and I don’t even know why.  Let me say now, that if for no other reason than their two big songs of 1987, “With Or Without You” and “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For”, they are a great band.  I committed at the start of this not to put more than one song from a given group on any year’s list, but either one of these two songs would have held the top spot in 1987.  I had a hard time choosing which one I like best, and it came down to popular culture and the inclusion of “With or Without You” in the seminal episode of Friends that made the decision for me.

Top 20 80s Pop/Rock Songs (Category)

Top 20 1980’s Pop/Rock Songs By Year (Criteria)

Top 20 Pop/Rock Songs from 1980

Top 20 Pop/Rock Songs from 1981

Top 20 Pop/Rock Songs from 1982

Top 20 Pop/Rock Songs from 1983

Top 20 Pop/Rock Songs from 1984

Top 20 Pop/Rock Songs from 1985

Top 20 Pop/Rock Songs from 1986



American Idol Results, March 26, 2009 Season 8

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My favorite part of last night’s show was Stevie Wonder.  He was great, sounded just like he always had, and proved that not every singer gets gravel-voice as they get older.  On the other hand, Ruben Studdard brought out the big bag of nothing that has so far driven his career right into mediocrity.  Yawn.

The worst part of the show was when they allowed a young worthless piece of trash named Joss Stone to occupy the same stage with the great Smokey Robinson, and proceed to deliver the worst duet in the history of the show.  First, she looked like she had taken a whole bottle of Paula’s Quaaludes just before taking the stage.  Second, she looked like she thought she was the ‘big star in the duet.  Third, people who cannot stay on pitch and sing out of their throats simply sound terrible in a duet.  And finally, I realized who Megan Joy was modeling herself after, and I still just wanted it to end.  She should never be allowed to sing in public again.

After commenting earlier in the season that the group songs were noticably better that in the past, I was not surprised, but still disappointed with the news that they were being lip-synced.  A note to the producers who said “it is not the same as Millie Vanillie.”  You are correct but it is the same as Ashley Simpson and 99% of the other people who are criticized for doing it.

As far as the result of last night’s show,  I was shocked to see that Matt was in the bottom two, and appalled that Megan Joy was not.  Scott and Michael both deserved to be there, and Michael deserved to go (if we could not lose Megan).  I do think the judges would have used the save, and appropriately so on Matt if it had been him.

American Idol Top 10 Season 8 March 25, 2009

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It was Motown Night on American Idol last night, and I thought the guests, Berry Gordy and Smokey Robinson were once again great.  Early on, I found myself wondering why Paula was wearing a tutu, then when she later showed us that she had brought props (crayons and coloring books) for Simon’s benefit, I was sure that she had gone completely over the edge.

Matt Giraud, “Let’s Get It On”– This was the perfect choice of song for him.  I thought he played the piano very well, and that he showed a lot of soul as he sang the song.  The falsetto was good, but he was a little flat a couple of times, and it was nowhere near as good as last week’s performance.

The Judges liked it a lot.

Kris Allen, “How Sweet It Is”– I did not like the very beginning, but when he hit the first verse, I thought it was great.  The song only had a few different notes, but he hit the big one at the end.

Once again, the judges liked it a lot.

Scott MacIntyre, “You Can’t Hurry Love”– He started out with a slow version of the song that sounded like everything else he has done on the program so far.  It also seemed thin without all of the traditional instrumentation that one expects with this song.  The vocal was, however, very good toward the end.

The judges were very mixed both positively and negatively with Simon being a little hypercritical.

Megan Joy, “For Once In My Life”– As I heard her practicing the song, I just wanted to put my hands on either side of my head and squeeze until it popped.  The live performance was only slightly better.  The high note at the end of the first chorus was painfully out of tune.  She screamed her notes, and as always was way too affected for me.

The judges deservedly criticized it with Randy deeming it a ‘train wreck’.

Anoop Desai, “Ooh, Baby Baby”– I thought when I heard that he was singing this that he had chosen a very hard song that is hard to hold the pitch on.  For the most part, he sang it well, but it was dreary as it plodded along.

The judges were split between those who liked the vocal, and those who thought it was boring.

Michael Sarver, “Ain’t Too Proud to Beg”– I thought it was his best vocal performance yet, and I think I like him singing the blues better than country.  Unfortunately, he has the stage presence of a block of wood.

Also unfortunately for him, the judges did not like it at all.

Lil Rounds, “Heat Wave”– This week should have been right in her wheelhouse, but I thought she failed.  The song was not perfect or on pitch, and worse, it only seemed to have one note in it.  She screamed the whole time.

Paula (obviously high by this time) liked it, but the other judges did not.

Adam Lambert, “The Tracks of My Tears”– Elvis was apparently in the building last night as Lambert decided to become a heart-throb over night.  He looked much better, but that was not the best part.  His voice was amazing, and the falsetto was off the charts.  His slowed down interpretation of the song was simply beautiful.

The judges raved about it.

Danny Gokey, “Get Ready”– He showed, once again, that this is really the Adam/Danny show.  The vocal was perfect (especially his diction), and his dancing with the back up singers was fun.

Everyone loved it but Simon who seemed mad about something (maybe Paula).

Allison Iraheta, “Papa Was a Rolling Stone”– I always think she is too affected, but she sang it very well.  Her diction was great, and I thought it was the perfect song for her.

The judges loved it.

Let the Newspaper Industry Die

I have been mostly staying away from politics since Obama has taken office.  All of his real policy changes so far have been on the social side (i.e. stem cell funding), and therefore, as a conservative, I oppose them.  On the other side (the Republican side), I am even more disappointed.  My party has apparently stolen the Democrats’ playbook.  All I see is the twisting of facts to promote fear of Obama’s policies.  Never mind the fact that we can simply oppose his policies because we disagree with them.  My party is spending its time spinning everything in the direction of fear.  I, therefore, have found myself farther removed from politics than at any point in my life.  Oh yeah, and Newt Gingrich is thinking of running in 2012.  great.  Looks like we learned a lot from that McCAin nomination.

Now that my first rant is over, I will get to the reason for my re-injecting myself into the political process.  It seems that Democrat Senator Benjamin Cardin is proposing measures to save the newspaper industry.  This is the dumbest idea to come out of Washington in years.

He proposes that newspapers be allowed to become non-profit organizations.  They will not be allowed to ‘endorse’ a candidate if they do, but they will still be able to report on elections and editorialize them.

This makes no sense whatsoever.  Reporting is never, ever unbiased.  I would rather have my news provided by an organization that announces its bias up front.  That way I can filter the information that they give me in light of these biases.

Cardin said: “We are losing our newspaper industry.  The economy has caused an immediate problem, but the business model for newspapers, based on circulation and advertising revenue, is broken, and that is a real tragedy for communities across the nation and for our democracy.”

The fact is, saving the newspaper industry would be like attempting to save the steam driven engine industry.  There is no need for it.  There is something better and much more effective available to replace the newspaper industry, the Internet.  There is no information available in a newspaper that is not already available on the Internet for free.  And, even though there may be some crazy views expressed on the Internet, it is still a place where all views are available on any topic.

The great thing is that the reader on the Internet is allowed to form his own opinion on any topic by looking at many divergent opinions, not just the myopic opinions delivered by the editorial page of a newspaper.

The Federal government does not need to get into the business of supporting newspapers for several reasons.  First, they are dying a natural death because the public is no longer interested in their product.  No amount of government support is going to make people want to read newspapers more.  Second, I have serious reservations about the government injecting itself in any way in the reporting process.  This is simply dangerous, and politicians cannot be trusted not to try any control information once they start subsidizing the industry.  And three, the press does not need to feel like it owes any politician for its livelihood.  Any situation like this could not be healthy.

In the end, with the abundance of network and cable news programs, along with radio and the Internet, newspapers are simply no longer necessary.  A few will survive because they will find a niche,  The rest need to be allowed to die a natural death.

American Idol Top 11, Season 8, March 17, 2009

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This may have been my favorite episode of Idol ever.  It had everything.  The performances from top to bottom were easily the best that we have ever seen on Idol at this point in the competition, and some verged on greatness.  The show contained the strangest moment in Idol history when Adam Lambert sang what he purported to be Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire”.  And finally, we were treated to the best ‘on air’ brush up between the judges ever when Paula told blind performer Scott MacIntyre that he was using his piano as a ‘crutch,’ and suggesting that he should lose it.  Simon rightly commented that Paula’s suggestion was ‘stupid’, but rather than take a breath and realize how offensive and stupid what she said was, she told Simon that he was being disrespectful of her.

Later Paula quoted Eddie Murphy when asked about her comment to Scott saying, “You want to impress me?  Take the Wheel M&*%@$ F*%$@#!”  Later she criticized paraplegic Joni Eareckson Tada for always painting with her feet, and the late Christopher Reeve for sounding breathy in his later roles (all made up, but funny).  Scott was seen trying on tap shoes, a top hat and cane after the performance, and suddenly several tickets were available for the first three rows on e-bay.

It was country music week.  This is the one week that keeps me from completely supporting everything that Simon says.  He usually cannot get by the fact that he simply hates country music, and criticizes anyone who tries to sing it, no matter how well they do.  This week, was different.  Simon seemed much more objective, and the performances were much better, and varied.

Also, every year some contestant feels the need to be a smart ass to Simon.  First, contestants need to remember that Simon is right 90% of the time.  Second, you will look like an ass if you show disrespect for him, and the audience will send you home for it.  Third, there is no quicker way to destroy your ‘likeable guy’ (or girl) image than by doing this. Michael Sarver should have known better.

Randy Travis was one of the best advisors that they have ever had on the show.  His advice was good and positive.  He was personable, and his interaction with Adam was priceless.

On a final note, I write my opinions of the performances before I hear the judges’ reactions.  I don’t want to be influenced by what they have to say.  It makes it more interesting for me that way.

On to the performances:

Michael Sarver- “Ain’t Going Down (‘Till the Sun Comes Up)”– This week was right in his wheelhouse.  There are a lot of words in this song, and I thought he missed the intro on the second verse.  He has no diction at all.  The vocal was OK, but the stage performance looked like he was in slow motion.  His body carried none of the emotion that comes with the song, and that caused him to pale in the light of a performer like Garth Brooks.  I thought he missed his best opportunity with this song.  He could have done any country music song, but what he did was simply not good enough to make him stand out.  It’s time for him to go back to the rig.

The judges’ comments were mixed at best.

Allison Iraheta- “Blame it on the Heart”– I thought it was a little too affected, but she sang it very well.  I like her voice better in this genre than as a rocker.

The judges were generally positive with Simon somehow noting in a positive way that it was tuneless, and verged on precocious.

Kris Allen- “To Make You Feel My Love”– I thought this song sounded great, and the falsetto was very nice.  It was excellent in a Simon & Garfunkel sort of way.

The judges unanimously loved it with Simon calling it terrific.

Lil Rounds- “Independence Day”– It was nice to see a girl contestant pick a song that had low verses, but keep it in her range.  As far as the performance went, it was good, but nothing to write home about.  She also talked way too much after she sang.

The judges did not love it.

Adam Lambert- “Ring of Fire”– Wow!  Or maybe, wow?  This performance was completely crazy.  I had no idea what to say about it or whether I liked it or not.  It was way too affected, but there was still something great about the vocal.  It had a strange sort of James Bond quality to it.  If you did not see it, there is no way to describe it.  You need to Google it.

The judges seemed as confused as I was.  Kara summed it up by describing it as ‘strange in a good way.’

Scott MacIntyre- “Wild Angel”– He had a very nice tone to his voice, and looked very professional behind the piano.  I thought it was easily his best performance so far.

The judges generally liked the performance except for Paula’s specious criticism which was referenced above.

Alexis Grace- “Jolene”– I thought she was definitely the best girl singer of the evening.  She had good inflection and emotion.  I thought it was great, unfortunately, I was alone.

The judges seemed to not like it at all.

Danny Gokey- “Jesus Take the Wheel”– I’m not a big fan of this song.  The lyrics seem a little contrived.  There was a nice tone to the verses, but they were too long.  This brings me to something that I have noticed on Idol.  Idol performances are little more than sound bytes, and the audience is used to that.  Contestants need to get to the point when performing.  The problem with this song is that it told a story, so he had to sing all eight lines of the first two verses before he got to the chorus (Lil Round’s song suffered from the same problem).  However, when he got to the chorus, the vocal was transcendent.  I thought he was the best of the night.

The judges did not like the verses, but loved the chorus.

Anoop Desai- “You Were Always on My Mind”– It began very nicely, and got better.  His emoting was great.  Everyone was worried about him choosing another song that was so associated with a particular singer, but he pulled it off and more.  It was a million times better than last week, and one of my top four for the night.

The judges loved it.

Megan Joe- “I Go Walking After Midnight”– Who is Megan Joe?  What happened to the Corkrey?  Is it smart to change your name at this point in the competition, and say nothing about it?  I thought her dress was terrible, and reminded me of Clash of the Titans.  She was pitchy all the way through.  She uses the same irritating affectation on her words in every song.  It is irritating, and they all sound the same.  Her attempt at quirkiness made this even worse, and had a Liza Minelli, Broadway quality to it.

The judges spent the whole time telling us how professional she was for performing when she was sick, and how great the performance was.  Right.

Matt Giraud- “So Small”– It was very bluesy and soulful.  It was also very good, and I thought the vocal was something I could hear on the radio.

The judges loved it.

I am not sure who will go home tonight.  It could be Michael Sarver, Allison Iraheta, Kris (due to unfortunate placement in the show), Adam (due to strangeness), Lil Rounds, Alexis or Megan.  I think it should be Michael or Megan, but I think it will actually be Michael.

Top 20 Pop/Rock Songs from 1986

20. “My Hometown”, Bruce Springsteen– I wasn’t a big Springsteen fan when I was growing up, and I’m still not.  While I consider myself to be a patriotic American, I found his trademark anthem “Born in the U.S.A.” to be way too affected for my tastes.  However, I have to admit that I like some of his slower stuff.  This song has a nice nostalgic message and a cool electric organ part.  Springsteen keeps a nice tone to his vocal throughout the song.  It actually reminds me more of a Billy Joel song in style and lyrics.

19. “The Way It Is”, Bruce Hornsby and the Range– The keyboard part sets the mood at the beginning of this song.  Then, it gets even cooler (word?) when the drums and the rest of the band come in with a jazzy feel.  Hornsby has a nice tone to his voice and just enough grit to keep it serious.  The song has a very pretty, whole sound, but the tempo keeps it from being easy listening.  The most interesting thing about this song is that it tackles a very unusual subject for eighties pop: racism and the American Civil Rights Movement.  You would never get that from the tune and tone of the song.

18. “Stuck With You”, Huey Lewis and The News– This song continued Lewis’ string of hits throughout the mid-eighties.  The video for the song was dreadfully cheesy even though it did have a hottie, but the bee-bop style gave fans of the band exactly what they had grown to expect from them.

17. “Human”, Human League– This song reminds you of “Shout” by Tears for Fears with a forceful beginning and dark baseline, but then the keyboard comes in and lightens the mood considerably.  To call this band androgynous would be an understatement.  Tammy Fae is only slightly less made up than the lead singer.  The tone to the vocal and the DX7 keyboard make the song.  The spoken word in the middle a little cheesy.

16. “Greatest Love Of All”, Whitney Houston– Whitney Houston hit her stride with this song.  She is a powerhouse and the song is a showcase for her vocals.  The tender, positive message of the lyrics was refreshing and different from most of her love songs.  The song makes even more sense when you know that the writer was a mother with terminal breast cancer.  I chose over it “How Will I Know” which also charted the same year.

15. “Glory Of Love”, Peter Cetera– This was the first song released by Cetera after he left Chicago and was released on his Solitude/Solitaire and again on the soundtrack to the Karate Kid Part II for which it earned him an Oscar and a Golden Globe.  It is a power ballad in the Cetera/Chicago style, and features his unmistakable tenor vocals.  The piano and string parts round-out the song nicely.  The horns in the song are quite different from those to be found in a traditional Chicago song, and are much more orchestral in tone, but they go well.

14. “Take Me Home”, Phil Collins– The staccato percussion at the beginning of the song sounds like rain in a good way, but by the time the song hits the chorus it has sort of an anthem quality.  This is more easily understood when one realizes that the full sound of the vocals is bolstered by both Sting and Peter Gabriel among others.  Most people associate the song with fond memories of home, but Collins claimed that it was about a patient in a mental institution and likened it to One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.

13.  “Livin’ On a Prayer”, Bon Jovi– The anthem style of this song and the bass line make you tap your toes as you sing along.  It is really just a straight up rock & roll song with Jon Bon Jovi singing in his quasi rock/metal style.  This song has become the trade mark of the band, and experienced a revival during the weeks after the September 11 attacks in 2001.

12. “Alive and Kicking”, Simple Minds– It was clear from the production value of the video, that the band had a budget of about 50 cents to spend on it, but I was afraid while watching it that the bassist would fall off the edge of the cliff that he was standing on.  As for the song, it continued with the same style that their mega hit from the year before, “Don’t You Forget About Me,” delivered.  The vocal is strong and clear, the percussion continues to deliver a punch, and the piano solos are memorable.

11. “If You Leave”, Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark– The vocal is very much like the one found in the previous listing for Simply Minds.  It has the same strong whole tone to it.  However, the whisper quality that the vocals take on when they get to the chorus makes the song more interesting.  The synth-keyboards drive the song from beginning to end with a nice sax solo thrown on the middle.

10. “No One Is To Blame”, Howard Jones– There are several incarnations of this song out there.  My favorite is the one that starts out with the light percussion and keyboard.  It is really nice to listen to.  Jones voice, as always, sounds great on the song.  I think that Howard Jones may be the most underrated artist of the 1980s.

9. “True Colors”, Cyndi Lauper– She may have been hard to look at, but Cyndi Lauper could deliver a great song when she tried in the middle 1980s when she tried, before the drugs destroyed her career.  “True Colors” was the first single released of her follow-up to her mega album, She’s So Unusual, and was the title track.  It was the only good song on the album, but it was a very good one.  The soft guitar with percussion that is the main instrumentation throughout the song is very nice, as is the soft tone of Lauper’s voice and her ability to deliver emotion.  If you are going to listen to her version of the song, you need to know, that she has very little diction, and her dress in the video makes it unwatchable.  However, the lyrics are what make this song truly great, and I have sung it to my daughter since she was a tiny baby.  It has proved its staying power by being used in ad campaigns by seven different products world-wide.  I would like to know how much money she made off of Kodak alone.

8.  “Higher Love”, Steve Winwood– This song has an upbeat island quality to the rhythm and the instrumentation.  Winwood’s vocal is kind of a Bill Medley meets Huey Lewis sound.  It has a little edge, but still a good tenor tone to it. The backing vocals are great, and remind me Howard Jones’ back-up singers.  The music video, once again, looks like someone spent about a dollar on it, but for some reason MTV nominated it for an award, which it did not win.

7. “Your Love”, Outfield– This song has a cool rock & roll feel to it, and the vocals sound great.  The lead singer’s voice goes so high that it is practically impossible to sing along with, unless you sing an octave lower than he does, but it is still one of my favorite 80s songs.  It is the most tender song ever written about a guy who just wants to screw a girl behind his girlfriend’s back without any consequences.  How could a girl possibly say no to a proposal like that?

I have a memory that sort of goes along with this song.  The stars had aligned in the summer of 1986.  My favorite band, Journey, had gotten back together with Steve Perry to produce their last decent album, Raised on Radio.  It, of course, was no where near as good as their precious stuff, but I rushed out to buy it, and quickly knew every song.  Journey was coming to Dallas that summer, and I rushed out to buy my tickets.  It got even better, their opening act was slated to be The Outfield, my favorite new group.  Greatness.

Tragedy struck a few weeks before the Dallas concert.  Apparently, A bass amp fell on the head of a member of The Outfield, and they were scratched from the Dallas show.  Glass Tiger of “Don’t Forget Me When I’m Gone” fame was inserted in their place.  I don’t know why, but I have always been bitter that I had Glass Tiger foisted on me instead of getting to hear The Outfield.

To be honest, Glass Tiger was pretty cheesy in concert.  The lead singer had the whole 80s big curly hair thing going on, and the white, rocker, sequined-jacket worn open with no shirt underneath.  He sat down on the edge of the stage and blatantly pandered to the girls in the front row as if they were actually there to see him.

My bitterness was pretty focused by then.  My seats were on the second row on the left side of the stage, and there was a gangway for the singers to walk almost up to where we were sitting right in front of us.  I had my lighter, as all good fans at a concert did in those days, and when he made his way up the gangway right in front of me, I lit the lighter, and threw ‘the bird’ (flipped him off) up for him to see in perfect backlight.  He did not even make it to the end of the gangway, but immediately turned around, and went to the gangway on the other side of the arena where he sang for some time.  Giggle.

I still have hardness in my heart toward this band for upstaging The Outfield (even if they really had nothing to do with it), and that is probably why they did not make my list.

6. “Never”, Heart– Heart continued their dominance as the biggest female group of the 1980s with “Never.”  I chose this or over the softer, “These Dreams” because it was a much bigger it, but they are both great songs.  Anne Wilson’s voice dominates this song, as it does all Heart songs.  This is another song that can be heard yearly on American Idol, and it usually either makes or breaks the contestants.

5.  “West End Girls”, Pet Shop Boys– I had to have at least one song from the Pet Shop Boys on my lists, and that song had to be West End Girls.  The bass-line is the most memorable part of this song.  It has a funky quality to it, and the vocal, while spoken in the verses, has a nice tone in the chorus.  The song and lyrics are obviously concerned about something, but I was never quite sure what it was until I read on Wiki, that the song is a social commentary “inspired by T.S. Elliot’s poem The Waste Land.”

4.  “Sledgehammer”, Peter Gabriel– This song would probably make anyone’s top 10 songs of the 80s list.  It was everywhere in the summer of 1986.  The surreal quality of the video and the cool stop-motion animation make it arguably the best music video ever.  It has won the most MTV music video awards (nine), and is the most played video ever (according to MTV).  Gabriel sings with a quirky style, and is backed by a big band funky horn section that sounds great.  The Japanese synthesized flute solo in the middle of the song always makes me think of dancing chickens.  The R&B background singers at the end of the song are also very good.

3.  “Addicted To Love”, Robert Palmer– This was another great 80s song and video.  You only have to hear one Robert Palmer song to know his rock & roll style, and you only have to see one of his videos to understand his main marketing technique: Sexy girls in semi sheer black tights and no bras sell.  And, boy do they.  I was a pretty traditional guy growing up in the 80s.  I liked the hot, pretty girl, and I was always turned-off by the hot, dirty or skanky girl.  When Robert Palmer came along with his pseudo-gothic girls, I was faced with a dilemma.  Those girls were definitely not traditional, but they were also definitely hot.  Eventually, I stopped wondering why, and decided to just enjoy the show.

2.  “Broken Wings”, Mr. Mister– I made these lists a while ago, and have been writing the blurbs about each one as I prepare to publish them.  When I went back to the 1986 list, I immediately realized that I had made a mistake.  One of my rules from the beginning was that I was not going to put more than one song from any group on the same list.  However, when I opened the 1986 list back up, I realized that I had two songs from the same group at the #2 and #3 spots.  It was just a careless error, but it underscored to me how much I liked both of these songs when I tried to decide which of them to actually include at #2.  In the end “Broken Wings” barely beat-out “Kyrie.”  The iconic bass line with the brush on snare at the beginning of the song let you know what song you listening to from the first couple of notes.  Together with the keyboards, they give the song an eerie and ethereal feel.  The vocal has a whole and strong tone that is easy to sing along with, and when it gets to the “Let us in…” lyric, it soars (good effect in a song about wings).

1.  “Say You, Say Me”, Lionel Richie– This is my personal favorite song by Richie.  The lyrics have a positive message about people getting along and understanding each other.  It was in the great date movie, White Nights for which it earned an Oscar and a golden Globe, but did not appear on the soundtrack.  Richie released the song on his Dancing on the Ceiling album after it had already hit number one in December the year before (1985) as a single.  The music has a creepy, reverb quality that is highly synthesized, but it is the vocal that is great.  If I hear this song on the radio today, I can’t help but sing with it, and when it is over, I always want to hear it again.  Greatness.

Top 20 80s Pop/Rock Songs (Category)

Top 20 1980’s Pop/Rock Songs By Year (Criteria)

Top 20 Pop/Rock Songs from 1980

Top 20 Pop/Rock Songs from 1981

Top 20 Pop/Rock Songs from 1982

Top 20 Pop/Rock Songs from 1983

Top 20 Pop/Rock Songs from 1984

Top 20 Pop/Rock Songs from 1985 

Top 20 Pop/Rock Songs from 1987

American Idol Results Show March 11, 2009, Season 8

Find my latest American Idol article here.

What the hell do I know?  I tried to predict the rules change, and was flat wrong about it.  However, I may have liked my idea better.  There is something off about the Judges’ Save Rule, which I will refer to as the “America Got It Wrong Rule.”  I will wait and see what happens, but I can’t imagine this not ending in a train wreck.  And, how is America going to treat contestant after the have already been given the boot, but have forced back upon them?  We’ll see.

The Jackson Five group song, while not a terrible vocal, was simply audio and visual vomit.  I hated it.  And the guest singers were just as bad.  Kanye West came out with a song that featured an echo so long that the vocal overlapped while being sung through a voice harmonizer.  Just so you know, there is nothing cool about that, and it is worse than gimmicky.  Kelly Clarkson tried (and failed) to prove to the audience that black is indeed slimming.  Someone needs to apologize to Jessica Simpson.  Then, Kelly sang a song with the wonderful (sarcastic) lyric, “My Life Would Suck Without You.”  I am sure her album would suck less, as well as her sagging career, if she would spend a little more time choosing songs with better lyrics than this.

I was actually surprised to see Jorge go this early, but he definitely was not one of the best.  And Jasmine, though I had high hopes for her, just never had a good performance after Hollywood Week.

On another note, every time a black person gets kicked off Idol, I get hits on my “American Idol Racist?” post from last year.  I made a good case against racism being a factor on the show then.  The problem that I have now, is that I’m tired of it.  Not everything that happens to a black person is racist.  It’s just not.  And to go around swinging this ridiculous bat at times like this not only lessens the impact of true acts of racism, but is just as bad, or worse, than a true racist act.  It happens too often, and it is shameful just like true racism is.

American Idol Top 13, Season 8, March 10, 2009

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The judges’ entrance last night was the most self-indulgent thing ever seen on Idol, and that it saying something.  I guess that we can expect the show to open with Simon sitting on a throne at some point in the near future.

I was expecting that they would be sending two contestants home tomorrow, but the forecasted ‘rules change’ has me nervous.  I am afraid that it will be something like this: the top X number of vote-getters will go through, and then the judges will take the bottom three, and decide among themselves who will go home.  This sort of thing is a reaction to the “Vote for the Worsters”, and their perceived impact on the show over the past two seasons.  I am afraid, however, that the judges are not objective enough to make these decisions.  In the past, there have been many judge favorites that the public have rightly voted off because they did not perform well.  A change like this will remove this corrective element from the show, and will allow some contestants with style-over-substance to go further.

Finally, I thought that Michael Jackson was a too difficult theme at this early point in the competition.  We are still learning who these people are, and it would be nice to see the contestants get a bigger opportunity to show who they are, and how well they can do in their genre before they are forced to step outside of their comfort zone.

Lil Rounds, “The Way You Make Me Feel”– It was a little too affected, but she sang it well.  She was dressed badly.  My wife said, “Her butt is too big for pants with pockets.”  I corrected her and said, “Her butt is too big, and she should not wear those pants.”  She definitely has one of the best voices in the competition.  The judges were generally positive.

Scott MacIntyre, “Keep the Faith”– Starting the show off with a song that no one knows that also does not make you stand out is the Idol kiss of death.  I thought it was a pretty safe choice with a sing-song quality to it.  He was a little pitchy, but for the most part he did a decent job.  The judges were mixed with Simon being pretty critical.

Danny Gokey, “P.Y.T”– I hated the beginning, but when it took off, it got very good.  The gruff quality to his voice was a good addition to the song.  The judges gushed over his vocal performance.

Michael Sarver, “You are not Alone”– He showed the softer side of his vocal ability last night.  I did not know the song, and like Scott’s version, but I thought it had a sing-song quality and was safe.  I do not think this guy stands out from the crowd enough to make it very far in the competition.  The judges gave pretty positive feedback.

Jasmine Murray- “I’ll Be There”– She started well, and really brought it on the second verse, but went flat and a little nasally on the chorus.  She screamed a little toward the end, but all in all it was a decent job.  The judges were forgiving of the vocal issues, and generally had positive comments.

Kris Allen- “Remember the Time”– I thought he generally performed the song well, but it was safe, and did not prove to be a showcase for his vocal abilities.  He also screamed his big notes.  The judges, for the most part, liked the vocal but not the song choice.

Allison Irahita- “Give in to Me”– I have to admit she did a good job on the song.  I, personally, do not like her style of singing, however.  I hate the way she uses inflection and the way she makes her voice break.  To me she is simply a newer version of Amanda “Skunk Girl” Overmeyer that can actually sing.  The judges, of course, loved it.

Anoop Desai, “Beat It”– He sang the notes right, but proceeded to take all of the edge and darkness out of the song.  It was as if the Go Gos had decided to sing the song.  It in no way compared to the original.  The judges were highly critical of all aspects of the performance.  This, of course, is what happens when you choose style over substance.  Sorry, Ricky.

Jorge Nunez, “Never Can Say Goodbye”– I did not know the song but I thought he sang very well.  I thought it was something that might have been heard on the radio.  The judges, however, were roundly critical of the song choice.

Megan Corkrey, “Rockin’ Robin”– This was the first thing that I have heard from her that I have really liked.  The tiny bit of country twang in her voice really added something to the song.  The judges, however, were extremely mixed in their reviews of it.

Adam Lambert, “Black or White”– The first thing I thought was that Michael Jackson is right in his wheel-house.  He rocked it up well, and the big note was huge, once again.  He will be in the final.  The judges agreed that he is in his own class in the competition.

Matt Giraud, “Human Nature”– He looked good behind the piano, and the vocal reminded me of Phil Collins’ style.  His tone and inflection were good, and he hit the big note, until he sort of fell off at the end.  The judges all liked it.

Alexis Grace- “Dirty Diana”– I am getting used to her powerful voice now, and she proved that she can do the rocker-girl thing better than the rest of the girls.  She looked polished and comfortable of the stage.  I think she is the best of the girls.  The judges were unanimously positive in their comments.

This is the point in the season where I pick my top six, my top two and the winner.  So, give me: Lil Rounds, Allison Irahita, Alexis Grace, Danny Gokey, Adam Lambert and Matt Giraud (he was a hard choice over Jorge Nunez and Kris Allen) for my top six.  My top two will be Danny Gokey and Adam Lambert, and I predict Adam Lambert will win it all.

American Idol Wild Card Show Season 8, March 6, 2009

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I was pretty underwhelmed with the wild card show last night.  It was clear from the choices from the night before that the judges already had in mind who would move forward.  The fact that Felicia was not one of the ones to make it was a red flag to me because I thought she was the best one who had not been voted-in so far.  That being said, I picked out the judges top three easily even though it would not have been my top three.  And let me say one more thing.  Ricky Braddy got screwed.  All he did was go out there and perform two very difficult songs very well.  His tone and inflection were consistently good, and his diction was amazing on songs that were more difficult.  I think Simon needs to be reminded of one of his own mantras.  “This is a singing competition.”  Putting Anoop through instead of Braddy was ridiculous.

Jesse Langston- “Tell Me Something”– I thought the beginning was awful, and that the song as a whole was way, way too affected.  It was clear by the end that she had a high opinion of herself, however.

Randy thought that she did not sing it well.

Kara thought there were bad notes, but liked the swagger.

Paula notes her tenacity and determination.  She also likes her soul.

Simon thought it was a lot better than her first song, but indulgent.

Matt Giraud- “Who’s Loving You”– The judges requested the blues from him, and that’s just what they got.  As far as the performance went, it was pretty good.

Kara thanked him for the blues and liked his riffs.

Paula thought that he did an amazing job on the perfect song.

Simon thought it was a billion times better than his first try, but hated his clothes and likened the performance to Taylor Hicks.

Megan Corkrey- “Black Horse in the Cherry Tree”– This is where I thought the judges went off the map.  This song was a mess.  She was flat and nasally for most of the song, and screeched the last note.  I thought it was horrible, but the judges were determined to put her through so they spent most of their time afterward telling us why we should have ignored that horrible vocal.

Paula said that the song fit.

Simon liked the fact that she is current.  He thought it was not the best vocal, but it was terrific.

Randy agreed that it was not the best vocal, but a good song choice.

Kara informed us that we need her.

Vaughn Smith- “Sorry Seems to be the Hardest Word”– I thought it was dreary.  The verse was not good, but he ended it well.

Simon thought that it did not start well, and that it was boring and too serious.

Randy agreed that it was too serious and that the middle of the song was better.

Kara agreed that it was a bad song choice.

Paula told him that he was too technical, and he thought too much.

Jasmine Murray- “Reflection”– She was much better than last time, and reminded us all that she is really very good.

Randy said that she was flat and sharp, but great in spots.

Kara did not know that she had that big of a voice.

Paula saw that she was determined.

Simon said that the song was pretty special, and a brave choice that put her back in the running.

Ricky Braddy- “Superstition”– It started well and got better.  His vocals were all over the place in a good way.  Also, this guy has amazing diction that allows him to sing some difficult songs.

Kara said that he had good chops and can sing his butt off.

Paula thought that he nailed it.

Simon thought it was a little light-weight and karaoke.

Randy thought it was a little self-indulgent.

Tatiana Del Toro- “Saving All My Love For You”– She informed us all that she was “ready to sing for you, America.”  Then, she showed us that in only a week’s time, she had discovered that she has a Puerto Rican accent (thank you, Jorge).  She showed, once again that she has pipes, but the accent was just weird.  It, however, was a very good vocal.

Paul noted that she grew an accent, but liked it.

Simon criticized her heavily for singing it for the third time.

Randy thought that it started off rough.

Kara still does not know who she is.

Anoop Desai- “My Prerogative”– I thought that this was the most karaoke performance of the season, and it was not much of a showcase for his vocals.  If anyone looked like Taylor Hicks, it was this guy.

Simon said that he was not the best singer, but was likable.

Randy thought that he was better than the last time.

Kara said that it was the best he has done.

Paula said that he is a showman.

In the end, the judges gave us a top 13 and added Matt, Jasmine, Megan and Anoop to the others who had already made it through.