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Oct 3 04 5:19 PM
Quote:During his appearances In `Idol' tonight, Aiken sports his 3rd makeover
During his appearances on the hit Fox TV show "American Idol," judges have raved that UNC Charlotte's Clay Aiken gets better-looking every time they see him.
Aiken's fans -- particularly teen girls -- continue to increase as he progresses through the ranks of the show's singing competition.
Aiken, 24, is one semester short of a degree in special education but has put off the requirement to compete for a record contract and fame on the show. The Raleigh resident is in the top 11 finalists. Viewer votes will eliminate one each week until a victor remains.
In early auditions, Aiken's hair was red, glasses obscured his hazel-green eyes, his ears jutted prominently, and the best way to describe his look wardrobe was "rumpled."
Since then, he's donned contact lenses, dyed and restyled his hair (he even traded quips about hair-care products with the show's host, Ryan Seacrest, last week), and revamped his wardrobe.
Aiken's unconventional look will evolve further tonight, as a stylist gives each contestant a makeover. Steven Cojocaru, West Coast Style Editor for People Magazine and style correspondent for the "Today" show and "Access Hollywood," will show the new looks during tonight's two-hour broadcast at 8 p.m. on Fox 18 (WCCB, Time Warner Cable Channel 11).
"He has transformed his look to modern from collegiate comfortable. There was nothing wrong with his casual shirts and pants, but it was just that -- casual and for the collegiate world. (There wasn't any) pizzazz, no personality. The rumpled look does not transfer well to the screen."
"He appears to be lean and linear, so his look of tailored (clothes) is edgy and smart. His coloring is unique. He may be able to wear some of the rich fashion colors that are alive in the market right now -- from the rich burgundies to the deep blues.
"I'd like to see his tailoring a little sharper and cleaner. The idea of no glasses works for me. I'm not sure who he is wearing right now, but we could recommend suits by Kenneth Cole, shirts from Banana Republic and shoes by Gordon Rush."
Oct 3 04 5:26 PM
Quote:'American Idol' Monday 'Halfway
Home' Show Recap
Recap by Greg Council
April 21 was an extra American Idol special, Halfway Home. It was a recap of the show so far and a perfect 'jumping on point" for anyone who may have not seen the show or at least missed a part of it this year.
Host Ryan Seacrest introduced the show without the panel of judges; explaining that the show was an opportunity to talk with the six remaining contestants and to have them perform their favorites songs from the show so far.
A recap was given of the talent competition showing how the auditions went from 69,766 to 234 to 32 to final 12. Gone now were the first six contestants Vanessa Oliverez, Charles Grigsby, Julia DeMato, Corey Clark, Rickey Smith and Kimberly Caldwell. This brought the show up to the point of tonight's special.
Up first was the youngest contestant and one of the remaining wild card choices Carmen Rasmusen. Carmen who has somehow yodeled her way into the hearts of America was interviewed by Ryan, denying any romantic rumors with fellow contestant Clay Aiken and commenting on her self-convictions. She sang "You Can't Hurry Love" from the Motown themed show.
Next was fan favorite Joshua Gracin the married American Marine with the country attitude. The studio audience asked Josh about his plans after American Idol, which include returning to the Marine Corp and to continue working on his career. Josh sang the ballad "Amazed" by Lonestar showcasing his love of country rock that the audience definitely seems to loves about Josh.
Kimberley Locke followed next. Kimberley is the female contestant who has definitely evolved the most during the competition with her looks and style. As she was interviewed by Ryan the audience got to see her evolution from her first audition to today. Kimberley sang, "I Can't Make You Love Me" a song which convenes her soulful rich voice.
Ruben Studdard the ï¿½velvet teddy bearï¿½ from Alabama was next. R-U-B-E-N got to explain his love of manicures and pedicures and his close friendship with former contestant Rickey Smith. Ryan then gave Ruben a "pop quiz" with every answer being his signature "205" home area code. Ruben sang "Superstar" proving once again he is a superstar in American Idol 2003.
Next up was Lashundra Trenyce Cobbins, Paula Abdul's wild card contestant who has risen above adversity in this competition. Ryan interviewed Trenyce who explained that her own idols are God and Whitney Houston, and that in five years she would still like to be in the music business or writing. She sang the Whitney Houston classic "I Have Nothing" proving why she is still in the running at this stage of the competition.
Finally fan favorite Clay Aiken the male contestant who has definitely evolved the most during this competition with his looks and style. From reddish hair and glasses to contacts and his hot iron hairstyle, Clay has gone from geek to chic. Clay the southern boy with the big voice was interviewed by
Ryan. He talked about his work with children with special needs and his sudden fame. Ryan asked Clay where he got his present hairstyle from which is obviously fashioned after Mr. Seacrest himself. Clay then sang "Somewhere Out There" a song that showcases his big voice and amazing talent.
The special ended with all six contestants singing "All Night Long" from the Lionel Richie themed show.
After watching tonight's special, I strongly believe the competition this year will be a Men's Club finale. The first year of "Pop Idol" in Great Britain came down between two gentlemen, and I think the same thing may happen this year with American Idol.
In stores now the American Idol CD single "God Bless The U.S.A.", Kelly Clarkson debut CD "Thankful" and a People magazine Extra special on American Idol with backgrounds and photographs on all twelve finalists and the judges themselves. The People magazine special magazine is a good read, and I was really surprised with Kelly Clarkson's debut CD. I have to admit I wasn't expecting much, but I was pleasantly surprised with her CD. It is definitely worth buying.
Tomorrow night it's back to the regular performance show and Wednesday night the results of America's voting. It's American Idol, the Search for a Superstar on FOX.
Oct 3 04 5:32 PM
Quote: IT'S SHOWTIME! -- Only the sensational six left "halfway home" as
the remaining contestants performed again tonight on FOX's #1
television show American Idol.
The evening began with host Ryan Seacrest introducing the returning
six contestants and the judges Simon Cowell, Paula Abdul and Randy
Ryan announced that the American Idol contestants have the new #1
CD single in America this week with "God Bless The U.S.A" and that
last year's winner Kelly Clarkson has the new #1 CD in America with
her debut "Thankful". Congratulations to both.
The theme for the evening was the music of songwriter Diane Warren
who just happened to be on hand as the guest judge. After a video
recap of Miss Warren's career so far, she joined the judges next to
her good friend Simon Cowell. Then the performances for the evening
01 Kimberley Locke "If You Asked Me To"
Kim chose to sing one of Diane Warren's songs made famous by both
Patti LaBelle and Celine Dion. Kimberley looked good and she sang
great, putting a lot of emotion into her performance. Randy said that
after watching last week's performances he knew that Kim Locke was
the best last week and she just might be the best again this evening.
He called her performance brilliant "dawg". Paula said it was nice to
see Kim's competitive spirit emerging and she agreed with Randy that
Kim's performance was brilliant. Diane said it was awesome and that
every week Kimberley has gotten better. Simon stated that ever since
Kim had gotten rid of her "weird hair" (she went from curls to
straight hair) that she has gotten better and looks cute now. He said
she was totally there voice wise and now one of the front-runners. I
would have to agree with Simon. Kimberley Locke looks like she is
having fun now and it shows in her performances. Good job Kim.
02 Clay Aiken "I Could Not Ask For More"
In the video introduction Diane Warren said that Clay chose the
right song with this Edwin McCain and Sara Evans tune. I don't know;
it was good, but I have seen Clay do much better. Randy said the
competition was about finding the best in America and every week Clay
comes back as one of the best in America "dawg". Paula said another
wonderful vocal performance and said that Clay was a definite
contender for the finals. Diane said it was wonderful and she loved
Clay's voice. Simon said as a Broadway artist Clay will make a
fortune, but he's not sure he's the recording artist they are looking
for right now. But in the end Simon said well done. Again I have to
agree with Simon. Clay in the finals, but does America want a
Broadway style Idol? Also is Clay getting a little cocky in the
competition? Don't let it all go to your head Clay.
03 Trenyce (Lashundra Trenyce Cobbins) "Have You Ever"
Trenyce chose a Diane Warren song made famous by R&B singer Brandy.
However Trenyce was not Brandy, in fact see looked more like Baby
Jane Hudson with her curly locks. Randy said it was all right and it
wasn't bad and she did her thing. Paula said Trenyce has found
herself as a performer and complimented her once again on her unique
style. Diane said Trenyce was getting better each week and called her
performance "amazing". Simon complained that Trenyce was the one
performer in the competition that he knew absolutely nothing about
and if she was a bit more expressive and open she would do really
well. I have to predict Trenyce in the bottom three once again
04 Joshua Gracin "That's When I'll Stop Loving You"
Josh sang a little known Diane Warren song that he said he sang to
his wife in high school. I think Josh made a big mistake in singing
such an unfamiliar song in front of America this far in the
competition, also in front of America with cooper bronze hair? Randy
was honest when he said Josh was out of tune and the performance
was "weird" for him. Paula complimented Josh for taking risks and
being vulnerable with his performance. Diane said he sounded great
and was sincere in his performance. Simon said Josh had three
problems: 1) he sang the song through his nose 2) he changed his
genre and vocal style once again and 3) he was a Marine with bronze
ice hair color! I think Josh made a mistake in his song choice and
hair color, and the price he may pay is a visit to the bottom three
for the first time tomorrow night.
05 Carmen Rasmusen "Love Will Lead You Back"
A very blond Carmen sang a Diane Warren song made famous by Taylor
Dayne. Randy wasted no time in stating that the search was for the
next superstar, the best in America, and Carmen was not even close!
Was that Randy Jackson or Simon Cowell talking? Paula said Carmen
bounced back from last week and redeemed herself. She did? Diane said
it was the best she had heard Carmen sing. Simon said, common sense
talking, that she did perform better than last week but "you can't
win this competition" (quote of the night) however she has done well
to get this far. I think Carmen has been receiving the votes of the
young teenage girls everywhere who envy her and can identify with
her. Hopefully other Americans will vote and send Ms. Rasmusen home
06 Ruben Studdard "The Music Of My Heart"
After last week R-U-B-E-N took Simon Cowell up on his challenge and
tried something a little different, a pop ballad made famous by `N
SYNC and Gloria Estefan. Ruben proved that he can sing any song even
without his signature "205" shirt on. Randy said Ruben was up there
with Clay, one of the best singers they have found in America, and
Randy was certainly glad that Ruben was here. Paula said Ruben took a
risk and proved Simon wrong breaking out of the "Barry White zone".
Diane said he made the song his own and every time she hears him sing
Ruben is great. Simon said he did challenge Ruben to change his style
and he (Simon) was right and Ruben was fantastic. Simon did give
Ruben one more piece of advice. He said for the last few weeks both
Ruben and Clay have been "walking through" the competition but after
tonight they both have to now "watch out for Kimberley Locke."
Simon's statement was a perfect cap to tonight's competition and
So to recap Ruben and Clay now watching out for Kimberley Locke,
who shined once again. I'm predicting Trenyce, Josh and Carmen in the
bottom three tomorrow night. I have been asking for this for several
weeks, but I REALLY hope America will vote and send Carmen Rasmusen
home tomorrow night. It's obvious she is now out of her league in the
competition. But as we know from the past, anything can happen with
The final six will find out their fate Wednesday night 4/23 at 8:30
PM eastern during the half hour Results Show. Don't forget to watch.
It's American Idol, the Search for a Superstar on FOX.
Oct 3 04 5:34 PM
Quote:Amanda writes: Mary Russell is fortunate enough to be traveling this week and thus miss parts of the carnage of this week's elimination round. She'll be back next week for the whole shebang, but we'll just try to make do without her where we must this week.
Molly writes: I have to admit, I was looking forward to tonight's theme. While I don't embrace all of Diane Warren's oeuvre, I do like a lot of her songs. So I was surprised that tonight's show fell as flat as it did for me.
Kimberley Locke - ï¿½If You Ask Me Toï¿½
Amanda writes: I agree with the judges that Kimberley is getting better every week. It's like she's finding her footing. I'm trying to think back to last year to remember if we had this sort of growth in the performers between the beginning and the ending of the finals, but I don't know that we did. Maybe the pressure was greater this year due to the huge popularity of the show last year, but it seems that people this time around have taken more time to get their bearings about them and truly sing their worth.
Molly writes: First warning sign of the evening was how terrible the music was tonight. Not that AI has ever been seen as a leading contender in the technical emmys, but when Kimberley started to sing, I had a very hard time even hearing her over the raucous background music. However, by the chorus everything had settled out nicely. I thought she did a very competent job, but I wasn't feeling a lot of emotion from her tonight. Her final harmonic was lovely, but it also felt manipulative.
I think she actually suffered from having had the non-competitive episode of AI last night, where her performance of "I Can't Make You Love Me" was even more impressive than it was in the competition. Tonight seemed rather (to borrow a Simon-ism) cabaret by contrast.
Trenyce - "Have You Ever"
Mary writes: I think she did a nice job with the song. Decent pacing. There is something about her singing style that doesn't grab me, but she's much better than Carmen so I hope she stays awhile longer. I think the theme this week did not do any of the singers any favors. I wasn't pleased with any performer particularly and I think Dianne Warren's songs aren't well-suited to any of the remaining contestants.
Amanda writes: Trenyce is a good performer. She's quite diva-esque, which worked well for Whitney Houston and Celine DIon. Trenyce's voice isn't as strong, but she has the moves down just right. I disagree with Simon to an extent that Trenyce is wearing a mask. She does sing with emotion, which is not something we see from all of the contestants this year. I would not be disappointed to see Trenyce last another week.
Molly writes: A very strange song choice for Trenyce. Her voice is so well suited to power ballads, I was surprised she didn't go in that direction. She didn't have a particularly outstanding performance, and I think that this will hurt her again this week.
Clay Aiken - "I Could Not Ask for More"
Amanda writes: I wish Clay would revert to being a dork. That was his charm in auditions, that he was so unapologetically dorky. He's not a teen idol, he's not a hunk, he's just some dude from North Carolina. I have to wonder if he'd just stop trying so hard and just be who he is, if he wouldn't look like he's just muddling through every week. He sings with the correct facial expressions and song. Quickly, tonight is shaping up to be a night of tough choices.
Molly writes: I like Clay. I keep liking Clay. I thought this was a very good song for him, allowing him to showcase the big power of his voice, but also allowing for some more ethereal lyricism. And it looked to me like Clay was really attempting to control some of the facial and vocal mannerisms that Simon had commented on last week -- to good effect, I thought.
I was interested that Simon's comment this week was that he'd hire Clay for a Broadway production, but not as a recording artist. One would have thought that Clay's non-traditional looks would have pigeonholed him for being OFF stage, not on. But I think that Clay would be great on Broadway, and personally I'd love to see him go in that direction, so while I was puzzled by Simon's remark I wasn't upset by it.
Joshua Gracin - "That's when I'll Stop Loving You"
Mary writes: Well, this was not a good performance. I thought his singing was barely passable and his performance took on a humorous quality because of his facial expressions. I must admit that I still don't have a problem with Clay's facial expressions, but Josh's are comical. He needs a bit more training in shaping his face while singing. The grimaces have to go.
Amanda writes: I am embarrassed for Josh. He was just atrocious. He slipped from falsetto to country to off-pitch to nasal to back again and then all of these terrible things wrapped up in one. This is the worst, by far, I have ever heard him, and if he's not in the bottom three at least this week, it'll just show how little the American public actually cares about singing. Ugh. Honestly, one of the worst performances I have ever seen on American Idol.
Molly writes: Oh my heavens. What a horrible night for Josh. After last week's surprisingly good job on "Piano Man", I never would have predicted such an awful performance. He was really straining to reach a lot of the notes, making the song actually uncomfortable to listen to.
Carmen Rassmussen - "Love Will Lead You Back"
Molly writes: She was bad. Bad bad bad bad bad. Please U.S.A. Please vote her out this week. I'm pleading. I've been a good woman this year. I paid my taxes on time. I call my parents. I contribute to the economy and give money to charity. Vote her out please. Her bleating and her off-tune singing have got to go. I agree with Randy that she can't (shouldn't) win this competition. I don't agree with Simon and Dianne that last night was the best she's ever sung! Wow.
Amanda writes:Carmen could have been worse. She wasn't as bad as Josh was, but she wasn't good enough to stay either. If there were any justice, they'd both be sent home this week. Simon's correct that his little protege can't win this competition, but to tell her that flatly on national TV does nothing more than garner her more sympathy and thus more votes from the public. I sort of feel like they want to keep the cute blondie on for as long as possible, and with her lack of talent, the only way they can guarantee that that'll happen is to decimate her onstage.
Molly writes: Well, cheer up, Josh and Trenyce. If you're feeling bad about your performances, at least you can be comforted that you aren't Carmen. Once again, she sounded terrible, despite the huge background vocals in her arrangement. She said she chose that song because it offered her the chance to do high notes AND low notes; unfortunately, they still weren't the RIGHT notes.
Ruben Studdard - "Music of the Heart"
Mary writes: He was better this week than last week when I found him hoarse, but I wasn't jumping up and down like the judges were. I hope Simon is right that Kimberley might challenge him and Ruben for the win. Kimberley's voice is really wonderful and I'd love to see her in the top 3. I'd like Ruben to step into the game a bit more next week and really wow me again. I think he can do it, but I started off thinking he was just okay, then I was wowed, and now I think he's just okay again.
Amanda writes: I remember last year hearing Kelly Clarkson sing "I surrender" and knowing that she was going to win the competition. I felt the same way hearing Ruben sing tonight. He's just consistently good. And though he does seem to stuck in certain genres (his "Sweet Home Alabama" was the only performance where he seemed to challenge himself), he chooses his songs well and knows his range. He sings with emotion we don't see from many of the other contestants, and seems genuinely appreciative of and surprised by the praise the judges lavish upon him. He's a great singer and seems like a really nice guy. I hope he goes far.
Molly writes: I hate to say it, but I thought this was awful. At least half the time, Ruben was just singing backup to those awful singers on the tape. I'm sorry, Ruben, but every week is an auditioin to be the Lead Singer, and coming up with minutes of "You-You-You" just is not the way to pass the audition. I was amazed the judges gave such a positive performance, because to me it sounded lazy and not especially inspired. However, Ruben's enormous popularity and his previous successful songs mean this shouldn't hurt him too badly.
Mary writes: Josh and Carmen definitely should be in the bottom three this week. I figure Trenyce or Kimberley will be the third. Carmen absolutely should be the one to leave. It's beyond time.
Amanda writes: For the first time in a long time, my choice to go is not Carmen. It's Josh. Carmen and Trenyce round out the bottom three.
Molly writes: Bottom three: Carmen, Josh, Trenyce. Selection to go: Carmen. It's so wrong that she's in the top half of the compeition -- surely she can't go much further!
Oct 3 04 5:41 PM
Quote: Clay Aiken: Pulling Ahead In The American Idol Marathon Competition?
Another Tuesday night American Idol competition. This weeks guest judge was award winning composer Diane Warren, whose vast music portfolio gave the remaining Idol contestants much to choose from. As Simon Cowell, Randy Jackson, and not Paula Abdul have pointed out repeatedly, "proper song choices are critical". This week Clay Aiken, the popular North Carolina product, listened to the judges, and may have pulled away from the pack.
Aiken sang Warren's "I Could Not Ask For More", made popular by Edwin McCain and Sarah Evans, but "Made it his own (Dawg)". Besides doing justice to the song in the Aiken style, he actually LISTENED to the advice given to him in the previous weeks, and made several subtle changes that only emphasize the fact that Clay is...moldable.
He made a concerted effort to stop the "weird faces and eye flutters" that Cowell mentioned in the previous week's competition, changed his wardrobe to reflect the gradual change that he has made from Geek to Chic. He continues to master dramatic stage presence, and knows he owns the stage, without coming off as arrogant. Plus, Aiken shows that his sense of humor, even if it's self deprecating, only bonds his current legion of fans, and may recruit new ones whose prior American Idol favorite has been eliminated.
Which brings up the competition from the remaining AI contestants. Ruben Studdard, while garnering a large section of the American Idol viewers, does not change. Yes, he's given the infamous 205 jerseys a break here and there, but hasn't taken Cowell's advice about mixing it up a bit. He will have success in the R&B world, has a great personality at times, but also doesn't seem able to interact with the audience when given the opportunity. Perhaps he's shy, or needs some help with the public speaking aspect of his persona, but that can be helped in the future. He sang "Music of the Heart", which was a slight change from the same old, same old, but not as dramatic a change as the AI judges proclaimed. But has he "hit the wall", reached the apex of this competition? Or could he bring more to the table, and outdo himself in the few weeks to come? I have my doubts because I think he's still comfortable in the Barry White/Luther Vandross/Velvet Teddybear mold, and may enjoy those safe places.
Kim Locke is chameleon-like, and changes week to week. Her song choices stay in that Celine mode, yet "The Powers That Be" seem to want her in the Clay/Ruben mix. Some of her performances are awesome, some not. But she has a sense of phoniness I usually spot a mile away, a little too precious for my taste. Her stylists must dress her according to their moods. One week, she looks great, clothes are figure flattering, other weeks, they dress her like she went diva on them, and this is their revenge. Or is SHE the one dressing herself?!
Carmen? A Debacle. Josh? Frightening. Trenyce? Is she still there? Get thee to the county fair...
It's obvious that Simon Cowell is great at reverse psychology. "Clay, You're Broadway...not pop", (as the Clay lovers throw things at their televisions..), viewers getting the message, rebelling with an "I'll show Simon, Clay IS more than Broadway!"...making Cowell happy by keeping Clay in the mix another week. The Ruben love is obvious all over the show, no Psych needed. And Simon's warning to Clay/Ruben about Kim Locke's movin' on up only shows that Simon's no longer trying to push his beloved Carmen along any further. Even Simon's not that deaf or blind, dumb he is not, so the lead in "TOMMY" is not in his future!
The next crucial weeks will prove whether Clay Aiken continues his progress toward becoming the next American Idol. His odds are great, since he takes all the constructive criticism and makes it work for him. It should make for interesting viewing in the weeks ahead.
Ray Courtright Jr.
Oct 3 04 5:47 PM
Quote:Molly writes: What a difference a week makes! I think this was the strongest set of performances we've seen this season.
Ruben Studdard - "Ain't Too Proud to Beg"
Mary writes: I love this song. I think Ruben did a decent job with it, but he seemed to not quite hit some of the high notes. I liked hearing him do a song that was a bit more lively than some of the ballads he had been doing very recently.
Amanda writes: Ruben was good as usual. Not as good as I've seen him, but good nonetheless. He seems to have recurring issues with his breath control, and he had one really sour note that made me cringe, but he wasn't, to be sure, bad.
Molly writes: I thought Ruben did a good job. He gets a lot of credit from me for the change-up in style, and while the performance wasn't perfect, I thought it was very good, and I have no doubt that with polish it would have been even better.
Trenyce - "Proud Mary"
Mary writes: Although I like Credence Clearwater Revival's version of the song, I *love* Tina Turner's version. I was hoping Trenyce would do something like Turner's version and I was not disappointed. This was the best I've seen Trenyce sing in a few weeks. You go girl! That was a very nice performance and Simon can just go suck on some lemons.
Amanda writes: Trenyce looked like she was having a great time singing this song. I thought the performance was quite good. Simon's comment that he was reminded of a drag act was unnecessarily cruel, I felt. One of my viewing partners for the evening commented that Simon always rips Trenyce down, and it's true. Even when she's good, he seems to have something crass to say to her. I felt badly for her, and I thought she might be malaffected by this in her second performance.
Molly writes: This was a great performance from Trenyce. It was the perfect song for her, and she did a terrific job. I was particularly impressed with the restraint and light touch she showed in the first half of the song, which really lent a nice contrast to the rev-em-up second half.
Joshua Gracin - "Then You Can Tell Me Goodbye"
Mary writes: Okay, Josh is squarely back in country territory. I thought Josh did a pretty good job with this song. He sang better than he has in the previous couple of weeks. Randy said he was a bit pitchy, but I didn't quite hear that. Despite the face that Simon was a bit mean to Josh, I must say I didn't really like his comment about Simon liking drag queens. That seemed a bit snarky and unnecessarily so. Is Josh getting tired of being on this show every week?
Amanda writes: One of my viewing partners said, when Josh came out, "Is this a country song?" The other one said, "It is now." We all laughed. It was the only funny thing about Josh's performance, though. The rest of it was pretty sad. Josh needs to be sent home, quickly. He doesn't look like he's having fun anymore, and certainly nobody's having any fun listening to him.
Molly writes: I thought Josh did a good job with this song. Of course, compared to last week, most anything would sound better, but I think that this song would record very well for Josh. Once again, though, he can't manage to walk and sing at the same time.
Kimberley Locke - "I heard It Through the Grapevine"
Mary writes: I think she did a very nice job with this song. Her voice is well- suited for this version of the song. I thought she did a great job. And she looked like she was enjoying herself. Good for Kimberley.
Amanda writes: I like this song, because you have to. It's like a law. But they funked it up for Kimberley so much that we were annoyed. Was she good? How can we possibly know when the arrangement of the song was so deeply, deeply bad?
Molly writes: I like the Marvin Gaye version of this song too much to enjoy this version. But Kimberley did well, and, in particular, her stage presence for this song was excellent. She's really blossoming as a performer.
Clay Aiken - "Build Me Up, Buttercup"
Mary writes: Okay, I hate this song. I heard it far too much. Despite that, I think Clay did a nice job with the song though. Nice to see him sing something that is a bit faster. No way will Clay be in the bottom 2 or 3 this week. Nice job.
Amanda writes: When they announced what Clay would be singing, I said, "ooh, this has the potential to be great." One of my viewing partners said, "Yeah, in a high school play." We really think Clay should be on Broadway. We do not think Clay should win this thing. He was good, yes. But when Neil Sedaka said that he'd like to write and produce Clay's CD, we commented that Neil hasn't had a hit in quite some time. Neither, we think, would Clay.
Molly writes: I hate this song too, and cringed when I heard that Clay would be singing it. But I thought he did a stellar job with it, and would put it as the performance of the series for Clay. When you add in that it was not his usual style, it was a banner night for Clay.
Ruben Studdard - "Breaking Up Is Hard to Do"
Mary writes: Despite the fact that his facial expressions are really inappropriate when he is singing sad slow songs (why does he smile when he is singing all the time no matter what), I just thought his performance on this song was just great. I believe he hit it out of the ballpark and I'm glad. It's been awhile since I was wowed by Ruben.
Amanda writes: I thought this was better technically than his first performance, but I was kind of bored by the arrangement. A nice job, I guess. Certainly he was the best performer tonight.
Molly writes: Ruben had a very good performance. Personally, I liked his first song better; it was fun and a change of pace, and this was back to business as usual. But it's hard to argue with success.
Trenyce - "Love Will Keep Us Together"
Mary writes: When I was 7 years old or so, I just *loved* this song. I used to sing along to it on AM radio. Yes, I feel old. I think Trenyce did a decent job with the song, but I really liked "Proud Mary" better. I think maybe she seemed like she wasn't trying so hard during PM. This was the best night for her in awhile. I really hope Trenyce gets to stay another week.
Amanda writes: Unlike during "Proud Mary," Trenyce looked stiff and like she wasn't having any fun. Maybe she did take Simon's critique to heart. I thought she was less fluid, here, and though she was good, she wasn't great. She should be safe this week, regardless.
Molly writes: I thought Trenyce did a good job, but agree that she was better with "Proud Mary". I was quite surprised that Simon gave her "fabulous" on this performance and not the other.
Joshua Gracin - "Bad Blood"
Mary writes: I definitely think Josh's first song was better despite what the judges said. I think Josh was trying too hard with BB. Kind of like what Trenyce did with her second song. I also think that Josh needs to stop running back and forth across the stage. I don't think he's developed that level of fitness and/or breath control. He clearly is fit but it takes different training to run back and forth and sing at the same time.
Amanda writes: Bad blood, bad performance. Josh is so obviously not on the level of the rest of the finalists. It's like work for him to be there. It's like work to listen. I think we deserve Hazard Duty Pay.
Molly writes: I agree with Mary that Josh's first performance was better tonight. He gets some points from me for making it through the "do-ron-duh-duh-do- ron" portions, because that's not natural for him. But with everyone stepping up to the plate tonight, even a good performance from Josh comes out as lacking.
Kimberley Locke - "Where the Boys Are"
Mary writes: There was just one note that made me say "oops!" but the rest of the song was great. I do feel that Kimberley is in the top 3 and I hope she stays for another week. I think she's got a great voice and she chose her songs well this week. Unlike Josh and Trenyce, I think her second song was better than her first. I think Kimberley clearly does better with slow songs. I like her pacing with them and her voice control.
Amanda writes: Kim was so cool during this song. She absolutely embodied it; outfit, facial expressions. One of my viewing companions mentioned that Kimberley is "this year's belter, like Kelly was last year." Like Kelly, I think Kim will go very far in this competition.
Molly writes: Kimberley did a terrific job with this song. She really wow-ed me with her unabashedly old-school rendition, and she made it work.
Clay Aiken - "Solitaire"
Mary writes: Okay, I nearly died laughing because of the dramatic lighting behind Clay at the beginning of the song. Was that lighting really necessary given how the other four were lit? Clay did a nice job with this song. I think he really did well. I think both of his performances were well done this week. Go Clay!
Amanda writes: Clay's backing visual looked like the a ring (you know, from the movie "The Ring"), so we cracked jokes about that. He looked a bit stoned, so we made fun of that, but then realized he always looks a bit stoned. We made fun of Neil Sedaka a bit. We commented more on Clay's Broadway talent. And then it was over. I think we were bored. It wasn't anything different, really. It was all the same Clay. Even the uptempo Buttercup didn't belie his drama queeniness.
Molly writes: After being so impressed by Clay's first song, I was disappointed that I didn't love his second one. I just didn't feel it. To me, it sounded like he was getting back to some of the overstylized mannerisms that have been distracting in the past. But frankly, "Solitaire" is a strange song, so my guess that it would work better with a smoother delivery is just that -- a guess.
Mary writes: I like the final five this year MUCH better than the final five in AI 1. Nikki was so horrid for so long that it was painful for me to watch week to week. Now that Carmen is gone, it will be tough race for the remaining 5. No one was terrible and the whole evening was a pleasure to watch. In my opinion, I think Josh should be the one to leave, but I think Trenyce and Kimberley may be at risk. I think Clay and Ruben should be safe. Josh should leave, in my opinion, because he doesn't look like he is having fun any more. He also has had the weakest set of performances of those who are left.
Amanda writes: Go home, Josh. Everyone else deserves to stay.
Molly writes:This was really a banner episode, with everyone stepping up and giving personal-best performances. I think they've all shown that their qualified to be in the top half of finalists this week. But, since someone has to go, it should be Josh who leaves. He doesn't have the all-round performance skills to make it as a headlining American Idol, and, particularly looking at this week and last, he's consistently being outperformed by the other four competitors remaining in the contest. Based on previous voting patterns, though, Trenyce is still in danger.
Oct 3 04 5:48 PM
Quote:LOS ANGELES -- In 2003, is there any more essential prerequisite to idol-status than the ability to interpret Neil Sedaka? Granted that Sedaka is a true legend (of sorts), but he hasn't really had a hit in the lifetime of any of the "American Idol" finalists. It's a good thing, though, that the "Idol" producers think of Captain & Tennille as the latest in popular music, because Sedaka, a Regis Philbin sound-alike, proves to be one of the most entertaining guest judges yet. He doesn't have a mean thing to say about anything or anybody, but the quality of his compliments is daffily out of left field.
Down to five finalists, the Tuesday night (April 29) "American Idol" gives each contestant the opportunity to sing twice -- the first, a totally random song from the 1960s, and the second a composition by Sedaka. As a side note, the lengthy tribute to Sedaka makes no mention of Howie Greenfield, who co-wrote most of Sedaka's most popular hits.
Ruben leads things off, clad in what looks like a massive full-body Glad bag. Vocally, his take on "Ain't Too Proud to Beg" is only so-so, but he seems downright physically mobile. He snaps his fingers and even walks around the stage a bit, though he misses several notes completely, a rarity. Randy comments that Ruben sounds like a winner. Sedaka opines, "You are a hitmakah ... Sometimes I hear a new singer, I get nervous. I don't get nervous ever with you." Paula, somewhat disgustingly, observes that Ruben shook what his mama gave him. Simon makes no comment on the song, but says something about Ruben causing a cow shortage in California, suggesting his outfit is actually leather, rather than plastic wrap.
Trenyce is next, covering "Proud Mary." Trenyce lacks Tina Turner's animal energy, despite practically begging for the comparison. She still looks good and for one of the first times in this competition, she's entirely in tune. Randy observes both that she brought it and also that she did her thang. Sedaka, using terminology cribbed from a brassiere ad, describes Trenyce as "positive and uplifting." Paula says she has confidence the size of Ruben (the second fat joke of the night directed at the bear-ish 205 denizen). Simon calls it a drag act. Ryan inevitably jokes about where Simon does his drag research.
Joshua "The Sometime Marine" Gracin is next, countrifying "Then You Can Tell Me Good-Bye." Josh still misses many (or most) of the notes, but he's vastly better than last week. Randy praises the song selection, but says the performance was just OK. Sedaka gushes about the "nice shy quality" about him. Simon says it was dreary and that Josh has only one song left to save himself. Josh and Ryan make a new joke about Simon and drag queens.
Kimberley Locke is up next with a solid rendition of "I Heard it Through the Grape Vine." She takes a Gladys Knight arrangement of the song that, unfortunately, starts too low for her and it takes a while for her performance to kick into gear. Randy is tepid, but Sedaka rushes to her aid, calling her "ear-delicious" and praises her "blues licks." Paula is pleased, but Simon agrees with Randy.
"Build Me Up, Buttercup" is Clay's song of choice. It's his most vocally energetic performance, which helps to cover how fundementally silly the song is. Randy says that he was actually entertained. Sedaka, in simile mode notes, "Clay, you sing like Andre Agassi plays tennis." Either he means that Clay was good, or he's praising the Woodstock-looking crooner for his superior return of serve. Hard to tell which, but Sedaka adds that he would kill to write and produce Clay's first CD (probably be a good deal for each of them). Clay looks concerned about the killing part. Paula wants to hug him. Simon doesn't understand the song. "Build me up, Clay!" yell some girls in the audience.
The shift into the Neil Sedaka portion of the program finds Ruben, now swathed in a deceased brown cow, singing a solid rendition of "Breaking Up is Hard to Do." Again, it's not his best work, though he provides some nice grace notes that impress Sedaka, who calls him "radio friendly and terrific." Randy says that in his eyes, Ruben has already won. Simon calls it sensational. Ryan calls Ruben "Big Boy." How now, brown cow?
Trenyce opts to cover "Love Will Keep Us Together" in an outfit that would make Daisy Duke blush. Trenyce relishes the fact that she's the most conventionally attractive finalist left, even if that means wearing silly costumes that wouldn't be appropriate for any social occasion. That being said, it's another good performance. Randy calls it fantastic. Paula calls it a brilliant night for Trenyce. Simon calls it fabulous.
"Bad Blood" was apparently a No.1 hit for Sedaka in 1975, but you'd sure never know it from listening to Josh. He's still not as bad as last week, but he doesn't feel bound by little things like the tune or the lyrics, which he stumbles over more than once. Randy calls it a different and better performance. Sedaka calls Josh a "feel good singer" and, with a leer, tells him to relax a little more. Paula loved it. Simon says that Paula doesn't know what she's talking about and that Josh isn't good enough to stay in the competition. Josh, clearly getting frustrated, says Simon is lucky he's under Marine restraints. America loves a bully, Josh.
The performance of the night comes from Kimberley Locke on "Where the Boys Are." This is the best combination of looks, lyrics and lungs of the evening. She can do things vocally that nobody left can do. Randy calls her hot. Sedaka says, "You are sugar sweet, never change." Simon says Kimberley has gone beyond the bar, which sounds positive.
In a brief sojourn in the Coca-Cola Red Room, Ryan reveals that Trenyce does a shot of olive oil before each performance, which would only be informative if Coca-Cola starts to manufacture olive oil.
Clay closes the night with a stone-postured version of "Solitaire." It's not an exciting rendition, but it should be noted that more than any finalist remaining, Clay's pitch and vocal strength are always flawless. "Bravo, Clay," says Sedaka, "I have lost my song forever to you." He appears genuinely sad. Simon calls it a grown-up, fantastic performance.
Wednesday's bottom three will be interesting because while Trenyce and Josh are locks, one of the favorites will also make an appearance. On the basis of this week's work, it may actually be Ruben, though it shouldn't matter. Somebody has to go home on Wednesday night and there's no question that it should be Josh.
At this point, having made the final five, it shouldn't be taken as an insult to say that he's not good enough to go any further. He's just not as good as the others in any way, shape or form.
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