"Idol": Too close a call (again)

When they announced that this would  be Sinatra-song week on "American Idol," I promptly said Michael Lynche and Aaron Kelly would do well. I was ... well, semi-correct.

They sang well, which must have been what I was predicting. Then the viewers plunked them into the bottom two. Viewers rarely consult with me.

Fortunately, Big Mike -- an immense talent -- survived; Aaron, a good singer with a promising future -- was voted out. Here are a few of my comments; please add yours:

1) Wait, what was that Lady Gaga number, with all the topless guys? I'm pretty sure she just re-created the "Eyes Wide Shut" orgy scene in reverse.

2) How did Casey James escape the bottom two, after another bland, blah song choice? This guy has shrugged and snoozed his way into the final four.

3) There was also a lot of smoke and fog and a semi-naked Lady Gaga. I think I've seen that before, it .... oh wait, never mind, it was just in a private reverie of mine.

4) Here's an irony for you: Tonight, when Aaron sang the words "when I was 17 ..." he had been 17 for all of 33 days.

5) The best thing about being Frank Sinatra was that at 75 he got to kiss Jill Goodacre smack on the lips. Jill was then a leading model for Victoria's Secret; her husband (Harry Connick Jr.) told the story of Sinatra's sudden kiss. It's something most of us would do, if we were Sinatra.

6) Jill's mother, incidentally, is Glenna Goodacre, a renowned sculptor, best-known for the Vietnam Women's Memorial. Her father was in real-estate -- the perfect job for a guy named Goodacre.

7) I loved hearing Connick work magic with "And I Love Her." That's a Beatles tune that sort of faded out while "Yesterday" was becoming the most-performed song ever. He revived it beautifully.

8) Lee DeWyze clearly has a shot at being in the top two on May 25. Let's hope that gives him sufficient time to shave his chin.

9) OK, it's odd enough when one judge (Simon Cowell) shows up in an undershirt. Tonight, Kara DioGuardi did it, too. Really, you never see Judge Judy in an undershirt, do you?

10) Then the results came and Big Mike survived (barely). I still want to see him in the top two with Crystal Bowersox. We'll see. 


A good "Idol," a great Harwell

The first time I met Ernie Harwell, he was at a forum of sportscasters. I'd asked him about the aftershocks, when he was dropped from the Detroit Tiger sportscasts at 82. "I never imagined he was 82," Al Michaels said afterward. "I had no idea."

I wanted to chat with Harwell for a couple minutes, but he suggested I come to his hotel suite the next morning. The result was fascinating; with hints of his Georgia accent still there after all these decades in the North, he told stories and related a life well-spent. He was intelligent, observant, interesting.

The second time I met him, he was doing promotions for the conversion to digital TV. He was doing this for the old folks; he was 90 at the time.

Ernie Harwell died today at 92, after facing a cancer he had told the public about. People immediately said he was one of the greats, as a talent and as a man. People always say that when someone died. This time, they were telling the truth.

Now a few brief "American Idol" comments; please add yours:

1) Harry Connick Jr. gets the work-ethic award. He mentored the five contestants, did all their arrangements, then played the piano and organ onstage. On Wednesday, he'll sing; so will Lady Gaga. Maybe he'll also do a Ford commercial and re-arrange Casey James' hair.

2) And Ellen gets the award for finding the humor when everyone else was dead-serious. My favorite was: "I thought the piano was a little pitchy." My second favorite was when she admitted obsessing on Harry's organ.

3) We knew everyone was ready to go big. Of the five people, there were three neckties (one with a fedora) and a slinky evening gown.

4) My own view? Michael Lynche and Aaron Kelly were superb, Lee DeWyze and Crystal Bowersox (who was, incidentally, the one in the gown) were very good.

5) And yes, by simple math that means Casey is going home. Once again, he gave a bland, in-between rendition of a bland song. He'd be an agreeable guy to give an hourlong concert in a modest-size restaurant. He does not, however, have the oomph to win "Idol."


And now I miss Siobhan more

OK, now it's 19 hours later and I really, really miss Siobhan Magnus.

I was dismayed Wednesday (see previous blog) when she was ousted from "American Idol." I'm even more dismayed after talking to her today and finding her to be an immensely bright and interesting person. Here's the story I sent to papers:


Siobhan Magnus says she won't spend
much time mourning her “American Idol” departure. “I have so
many big ideas.”

That starts with being a rock singer,
but there's more. Magnus, ousted Wednesday, wants to:

– Have a role in a horror film “with
all that special effects and gore.” She's a huge horror fan who
gives her friends elaborate make-up every Halloween.

– Be in family projects directed by
her oldest brother (a filmmaker) and including all six siblings. It
would be a Magnus movie.

– Do anything funny. “I try to
bring comedy into everything we do.”

– And, especially, do musical
theater. “I do want to be in 'Phantom of the Opera' some day.”

The top “Phantom” role requires a
super soprano, hitting the high notes. For Magnus that's a cinch.

That started in high school, she said.
“I'm an avid shower singer, much to the dismay of my family.”

While toying with a song there, she
found a way to position her throat in a different way, hitting
ultra-high notes. “I started doing that in chorus and in my band.”

Some of that comes from records of
Janis Joplin, the master of the primal scream. “I learn very much
by imitation,” Magnus said.

She has no formal voice-training.
Magnus 20, did apply to the prestigious Berklee College of Music, but
only made it to the waiting list; she briefly went to Salem State,
but then returned to Marstons Mills, Mass., where she's surrounded by

Her dad sings locally; two of her
uncles have been in national groups (Stryper and Ultrasonic Rock
Orchestra). She lives in Cape Cod, encased in individuality (“I've
always been a different type of person”) and the arts.

Magnus starred in big Barnstable High
School musicals and in “Shakespeare by the sea” shows. For the
past three years, she's worked at a glassblowing shop, usually
dealing with customers and sometimes being an apprentice blower. “In
many ways, it has helped shape me (and) my work ethic.”

And she's taken her band to rock clubs.
Magnus said she likes the little ones in Hyannis (three miles from
the Hyannis Port of Kennedy family fame), but says she's happy being
“anywhere I can scream.”

Now – finishing No. 6 in “Idol”
and heading on tour – she'll have bigger crowds to scream to.


I miss Siobhan already

As I start to write this, Siobhan Magnus has been off of "American Idol" for all of seven minutes. I miss her already.

Some of this year's final five -- Aaron Kelly, Lee DeWyze, sometimes Casey James -- are good in a standard, everyday sort of way. Siobhan, by comparison, is distinctive.

She's distinctive in sound. That high-pitched note she usually saves for the end is amazing. Simon Cowell hates it, sort of like dogs hate high notes, but I think she uses it well.

She's distinctive in look. After lots of bad-hair weeks -- blame the "Idol" staff for that -- she was back to her original, great look tonight. Each week her clothes are eccentric and interesting; each week her face makes me smile.

And she's distinctive in approach. She simply feels different; I miss her. Here are a few of my other comments; please add yours:

1) Sinatra music next week, with Harry Connick Jr. as host? Michael Lynche will nail that one; so will Aaron Kelly and probably Lee DeWyze. Crystal Bowersox and Casey James may have to work a little harder.

2) I'm encouraged by the size of Crystal's fan base. Even this week -- with her only kind of bland, too-average performance -- she wasn't in the bottom three. We need her; in what was supposed to be a year of strong women, she's the sole survivor.

3) Lynche was in the bottom three, after singing his third straight soft song. Hint to Big Mike for next week: Sinatra sang show tunes, the thing that you do so well. Maybe it's time for something from "Guys and Dolls."

4) James was in the bottom two. He had a good week this time, but too often he's done bland, blah, middlin' songs.

5) Speaking of non-blah, there were great songs from Lady Antebellum and Sons of Sylvia. The latter guys have already been big on Fox, but you might not recognize them. They won the "Great American Band" competition, as the Clark Brothers.

6) And Antebellum? "Idol" contestants can consider this: Hillary Scott (the daughter of country singer Linda Davis) tried out for "Idol" in two different years -- and never got past the first audition. Her duet has reached No. 1 on Billboard's country chart AND No. 2 on the overall chart. So Siobhan -- who got way further -- shouldn't feel bad.

7) There was a wonderful cross-culture moment, when country's Rascal Flatts linked with Colombia's Shakira, backed by some people dancing in the Middle-eastern style. That makes sense, though; for all of her South American flair, Shakira is also Lebanese on her father's side. She brings cross-culture to everything.

8) In beween commercials, they had long plugs for a car and a movie. I could only hope that the show would return eventually.

9) The oddest moment tonight came when it was time for my local Fox station to put in a promo spot. It inserted one that kept telling about the features that would be on its newscast "in November." Were they getting six months ahead of themselves? My bet is that they were supposed to put in a promo for the "sweeps" ratings period. There's a sweeps (called the May sweeps) starting Thursday; there were also ones in February and November. Someone must have just plugged in a tape called "sweeps."

10) Now she's been gone for 34 minutes. I really, really miss Siobhan.





Yes, Crystal, it DOES have to be big

Somebody please get a message to Crystal Bowersox, before it's too late: Until now, you've been right every week. But you were dead wrong when you defended a mild-bland song by saying, "Not every song has to be big."

That's true in a 12-song CD. It's true in a one-hour concert. But it's wrong when "American Idol" singers only get one shot a week, then can be voted off.

Last week, Casey James sang the mild-bland "Don't Stop." Simon Cowell called it "lazy"; viewers put him second-to-last.

This week, Crystal sang the mild-bland "No One Needs to Know." Simon called it "lame"; in a week when almost everyone else went big, she'll be lucky to finish second-to-last. Here are a few of my comments on this Shania Twain week; please add yours:

1) After a so-so start, Lee DeWyze wrapped up "Still the One" strongly.

2) Michael Lynche has now done soft ballads for three straight weeks. He's done each one -- including tonight's "It Only Hurts When I'm Breathing" -- well. Still, the biggest voice in "Idol" history has kind of been in neutral.

3) There's no neutral for Siobhan Magnus. She took a bouncy, chirpy song ("Any Man of Mine") and added her primal scream. Simon wants her to skip that; fortunately, she doesn't. In a one-song-and-out competition, you havbe to go big every week.

4) Casey went from "Don't Stop" to just "Don't" and improved immensely. See what a difference one word can make.

5) Casey, incidentally, explained that he chose this one because "it's a singing song." To which we say, "DUH." People (especially Crystal) should remember that: Every week needs to show off the singer.

6) Aaron Kelly has always known that. He's best when sticking to a straight-ahead, passionate ballad. This week, with "You Got a Way," he nailed it.

7) I do kind of wish Aaron hadn't said he was singing that to his mom. It's nice for someone to be fond of a parent, but that veers way to close to Oedipus and/or Mackenzie Phillips.

8) Before her song, Crystal said my favorite comment. This was a message to her boyfriend, she said, implying that the guy should propose soon. "He'll man up, one of these days." Let's hope so, especially if he's the father of her baby.

9) After the song, however, she said my least-favorite thing: "I had a real good time tonight." That's what people say just before they're voted out.

10) Will she be gone Wednesday? I'll guess that it's close: Crystal is second from the bottom, with Casey voted out. I could be wrong, however. A great talent could be ousted by going small.

11) That's on a night stuffed with guest stars. This has been country week -- even though "Idol" tried to avoid the word "country" -- with country guess. Lady Antebellum will be there, plus Rascal Flatts and Sons of Sylvia (which was terrific when winning the "Great American Band" competition as the Clark Brothers) and Shakira.

12) Shakira? On country week? Well, Colombia is a country, I guess. And it's in the South, making Nashville folks feel like Northerners.  And if country people have believed in anything over the years, it's big hair; that makes Shakira at least an honorary member.