Oops ... I like Lacey Brown, after all

The alert reader of previous blogs will detect that I really wanted Lacey Brown out of "American Idol." Now she is and I feel silly about it. After her interview with reporters today, I realize there's much that I like about her.

I like the fact that she co-exists in both worlds; she talks fondly of growing up as the daughter of two Texas preachers, but has a sort of hot-rocker look. I like the fact that she's self-described as happy, bubbly and cheerful -- which is just how she sounds on the phone -- but digs into deep ballads. And I like the fact that she studies Patsy Cline, a great singer from before her parents' time.

I like everything except, perhaps, her singing. Anyway, here's the story that I sent to papers after today's interview:


Lacey Brown spent the first half of her
life in semi-silence.

She was a preacher's kid times two; in
the comfortable cocoon of her parents' church, she didn't need to
talk much.

“I was pretty shy,” recalled Brown,
the first person from this year's final 12 to be voted out by
“American Idol” viewers. Then “I decided at 13 or 14 that I
didn't want to be shy anymore.”

She had to force herself. In stores,
she would ask where something was – even if she already knew –
just so she could talk to strangers. And in church, she sang.

“The first note I ever sang was
there,” said Brown, 24. “I just got really involved.” She sang
in church three times a week and, after high school, began performing
around her home town of Amarillo.

She just missed the "Isol" top 36 last season,
then made this year's 12. Still, people had trouble pegging her.

The look seemed to sort of reflect
Nikki McKibbin from the first “Idol” season – bright red hair,
stylish cut, lots of eye shadow and accessories and such. The song
choice was different: “Even though I'm a happy, bubbly person, …
I really love ballads. I love telling stories with my songs.”

When this week focused on Rolling
Stones songs, she chose “Ruby Tuesday.” Brown said she used a few
touches from the plaintive version cut by Melanie (Safka) in 1970, but mostly had her
own arrangement; a former violinist, she had four violinists onstage.

Judges were guardedly enthusiastic;
viewers, apparently, weren't and Brown missed her shot at the top-10
tour. “I woke up (Wednesday) morning and had the strangest feeling
I was going home.”

By the next morning, she was back to happy-bubbly. It's a personality that she says comes from a
childhood in which her school and her after-school hours were at her
parents' church. “I loved growing up in the church …. They've
really been supportive and they'll be my family forever.”



Lacey's gone? That makes sense

Lots of times, no-surprise is a really good thing. That was the case tonight, when "American Idol" voters sent Lacey Brown home.

I was still recovering from last week -- (see a couple blogs back) -- when Lilly Scott and Katelyn Epperly were wrongly ousted. This time, there was no such shock. Lacey seems like a nice kid with a great hair stylist, but that still doesn't make her tour-worthy or top-10-worthy. Here are a few of my other comments; please add yours:

1) It was also no surprise to see Tim Urban in the bottom three. Last week, he did a great job; this week, nothing about his performance made sense.

2) It was surprising, though, to see Paige Miles in the bottom two. This week, she blasted some solid Stones rock 'n' roll.

3) It's easy to say -- as I did last night -- that Rolling Stones songs are simply too hard for mortals to perform. Then, alas, David Cook proved that wrong, doing a terrific job on "Jumping Jack Flash."

4) Incidentally, did you notice that Cook came instead of the usual, badly done group number? Let's praise "Idol" for that.

5) Or, at least, let's forgive it for coming out of commercials and into TWO STRAIGHT thinly disguised Ford commercials. Not one, but two.

6) What a contrast between tonight's other two guests. Orianthi seems like a solid, straightforward talent -- good song, good voice, good look, great guitar riffs. Ke$ha seemed like ... well, like somebody decided Lady Gaga is way too drab.

7) To do one song,  Ke$ha had two outfits, four dancing TV sets (plugged in, in what must have sent stage electricians into apoplexy) and an Indian war bonnet. It's like she had to be the entire Village People.

8) Then again, it may be paying off. Ke$ha ha$ been $upremely $ucce$$ful.

9) Each year, I make a chart of the top 12 and then cross them out. Each year, the viewers forget to consult my chart before voting. This time, at last, they did. Lacey Brown, No. 12 on the chart, has just been crossed out.

10) At the top of the chart (in order) are Crystal Bowersox, Michael Lynche, Siobhan Magnus and Casey James. Lilly would be there, too, if I had my way. And No. 11? That's Andrew Garcia, who thereby will be leaving next week. Sorry about that, bro.





Rolling past the Stones

No one did us any favors by declaring this Rolling Stones week on "American Idol."

Mostly, the Stones haven't had great songs. They've had pretty good ones, transformed via their great talent. Now the "Idol" kids -- some of them born more than 30 years after the Stones began -- had to find a way to make them fres.

Several succeeded. There were great moments from Siobhan Magnus, Michael Lynche and Crystal Bowersox, good ones from Katie Stevens, Casey James, Aaron Kelly and Page Miles. Only five of them ranged from bad (Tim Urban) to bland.

Here are a few of my comments; please add yours:

1) No matter what happens, I still miss Lilly Scott and Katelyn Epperly. Please read my previous blog, interviewing them.

2) No one yet rules the stage the way Bo Bice or Taylor Hicks did. Still, those guys were unburdened by instruments; it's harder to romp when you're attached to a guitar.

3) Some people have mastered the theatrical approach of Adam Lambert. Michael Lynche, a theater veteran, is always sharp; Siobhan Magnus turned "Paint It Black" into a performance piece.

4) The costume people must have thought they heard "Paint It Grey." From contestants to judges, everyone seemed dressed in grey, the kind you wear when you can't remember if you're going to a seminar or a funeral. Come on, people, rock 'n' roll is supposed to be fun.

5) Still, it was a splendid night for the accessories folks. This was a great batch of earrings and necklaces.

6) I haven't figured out Siobhan's tattoo yet. I think it's a guy on a horse with an umbrella, but I don't know why.

7) What Siobhan does do, brilliantly, is the primal screen. A scream destroyed Danny Gokey last season, but she's mastered it twice.

8) Yes, Crystal is still my favorite. She wasn't the best tonight, but she was terrific. And yes, I'd be much happier if Lilly hadn't been voted off.

9) My prediction? The bottom three has Tim Urban, Andrew Garcia and Lacey Brown. Then Tim goes home. 

10) Then again, I coulde be wrong. Last week, I was way wrong. Or, actually, the voters were.




Life without Lilly? That's bad for "Idol"

You may have noticed in a previous blog that I'm deeply bummed about Lilly Scott failing to make the top 12 on "American Idol."

That's enough about me, though. Now let's hear from the people involved -- Scott and Katelyn Epperly, who was also voted out. Here's the story I sent to papers. I don't put all of my stories in this blog space, but I try to include all the "Idol" ones:



For “American Idol” fans, it's time
to assess the damage.

This had seemed like a breakthrough
year, filled with women – Crystal Bowersox, Lilly Scott, Siobhan
Magnus, Katelyn Epperly – ready for independent-rock stardom. Then
Scott and Epperly were ousted.

“I thought I could break the mold,”
Scott said. “But I guess it's going to be that same old stuff.”

That mold seemed clear when “Idol”
started in 2002. This was a show for pop singers; results would be
dominated by teens and tweens who had lots of time to phone in votes.

Then that began to change. “Idol”
expanded into rock with Bo Bice and Chris Daughtry, country with
Carrie Underwood and Kellie Pickler. Indie-rock seemed next.

Even Time magazine was enthusiastic,
putting Bowersox at No. 1 on the “short list” for its Arts
section. “The husky-voiced folkie has done 'Idol' a favor by
breaking its malleable-pop-star mold,” it wrote.

This seemed like an exciting time,
Epperly said. “Seeing so many singer-songwriters this year, people
that really are credible musicians and have been working at it their
whole lives and … didn't just roll out of bed one day and wanted to
be on a TV show and have an OK voice and a pretty face.”

Then two were gone and Scott was trying
to be philosophical: “My voting demographic is probably more of the
underground scene, who probably don't even own a TV and if they do
they're probably out riding their bike or doing something more
productive than watching TV, let alone 'American Idol.'”

Epperly grants she hadn't watched
“Idol” and was reluctant to try out. “I did have some pride

Scott, however, had watched the show
and knew what she was getting into. “I … wanted to break the
mold and just kind of be that offbeat contestant who did exactly what
I wanted to do.”

Last week, she did a song (“I Fall to
Pieces”) that Patsy Cline recorded 50 years ago. It may have been a
mistake, she said. “11- and 12-year-old girls, I'm sure, don't know
who Patsy Cline is.”

In recent years, “Idol” has
expanded its range by:

– Giving singers a live band and a
chance to work out fresh arrangements.

– Letting them play instruments.
Viewers saw Epperly at piano, Scott with mandolin, Bowersox with
guitar and harmonica.

Still, the show has discouraged
original songs. “Lilly, Crystal and I would really excel,”
Epperly said.

Instead, she looked for songs that
suited her. “I kind of scrambled around last-minute …. I don't
listen to mainstream music and … I don't typically perform covers.”

Two weeks ago, judges said her version
of “The Scientist” was too slow. Last week, she chose Carole
King's uptempo “I Feel the Earth Move” and was soon voted out.

Scott was soon gone, too, along with
Todrick Hall and Alex Lambert. The damage-assessment began.

– “American Idol,” Fox

– Performances 8-10 p.m. Tuesdays;
results 9-10 p.m. Wednesdays

– This week has Rolling Stones songs
by the 12 contestants. On Wednesday, one person will be ousted. Previous champion David Cook will be back. Also, Ke$ha will sing “Blah Blah Blah” and Orianthi will do “According
to You.”


Antonio: Designing with the heart of rock 'n' roll

OK, here's the story I promised on cable's "The Antonio Project." I just sent it to papers, but I also wanted to put it here right away, because the series opens Sunday.

First, however, please promise me that you'll: 1) Read the previous blog (more of a rant, actually) on the "American Idol" ousters; and 2) Agree with me fully.

Now here's Antonio:


Antonio Ballatore had all the
qualifications for a rock 'n' roll life. He had the hair and the
tattoos, the guitar and the gusto.

He also had one flaw: “I was used to
money,” he said.

So an adjustment was needed. Now he's a
designer (albeit with a rock attitude) with his own cable series.
Fresh from last season's “Design Star” win, he has “The Antonio
Project,” Sundays on HGTV.

This is a guy who used to find limited
choices for day jobs. “I played in a band and I had long hair, so
construction was the only thing I could do,” he said.

He did well enough in rock; at one
point, he said, he even played with Murphy's Law, a successful New
York band. The music was fun; the life was so-so. “It was six guys
in a van,” Ballatore said.

This wasn't what he was used to. His
dad was a thriving designer for Macy's and others.

Then came a break: Ballatore used his
construction skills to build sets for photographer David LaChapelle.
Soon, he was designing the sets, too.

His specialty involved sets for
photographs in Vanity Fair and other magazines. A typical one photo
required a 20-foot rocket ship, with Pee-wee Herman emerging.

Ballatore eventually moved to
California, where someone nudged him onto the “Design Star.” Its
emphasis on speed fit him. “I've done a lot of hard jobs where you
really have to work in a hurry.”

Now “Antonio Project” has him work
quickly, with colleagues who resemble a wandering rock tribe.

Amid all the male bonding, there are
spectacular bursts of artistry. One moment, Ballatore is dressing up
Mario Lopez's gym with faux versions of classic boxing posters. The
next, he gives a deaf artist a re-creation of what he considers the
ultimate example of sign language – Michaelangelo's painting of God
touching fingers with Adam.

It's the kind of artistry you might not
get to do when there are six guys in a van.

– “The Antonio Project”

– 10 p.m. Sundays, HGTV

– In a change of plans, the first
night (March 14) has two episodes; Ballatore works for a deaf
cartoonist at 10 p.m. and for TV personality Mario Lopez at 11 p.m.