"Idol": Movie music; there must be more

Hollywood makes 200 major movies a year, plus lots of minor ones. Many of them have songs. And it's been making these for more than a century.

With all of this, it really should be possible for four people to each choose one good movie song for tonight's "American Idol." Instead? "There have been some very strange song choices tonight," Simon Cowell said, accurately.

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

1) The two duets were well-chosen and well-sung. In particular, Crystal Bowersox and Lee DeWyze were terrific.

2) Only one of the solos made sense. Crystal's "I'm Alright" (from "Caddyshack") was zesty and dynamic.

3) Lee's song was the wrong kind to show off a singer. As Kara DioGuardi said, it was up and down and all around. Given 90 seconds, a singer needs something relatively straightforward.

4) Michael Lynche's song -- a gospel-style Michael Jackson tune from "Free Willy" -- was big and vibrant. It wasn't Big Mike at his best, but it was pretty good.

5) I sometimes wonder if Casey James is even trying. Each week, he picks some middle-of-the-road tune and sings it in a middle-of-the-road way. This time it was "Mrs. Robinson" -- lots of fun inside a great movie ("The Graduate"), dull anywhere else.

6) Cowell seemed to claim he'd never seen a movie. People had to explain "Graduate" and "Free Willy" to him; he seemed to have only a vague concept of what "Caddyshack" might be.

7) That led to all the wrong metaphors, of course. Soon, we were talking about Big Mike and saving a whale; we were talking about Michael Jackson and freeing a Willie. It was all wrong.

8) Randy Jackson must be stopped from arbitrarily choosing a category for people. Big Mike sings powerhouse songs beautifully; somehow, Randy decided he has to sing rhythm-and-blues.

9) Wednesday's show will be fun, anyway. It will include Fantasia AND Daughtry AND Bon Jovi.

10) And it will choose the final three. I'll say Casey will and should go; of course, I've said that before. 

A good year, and good life, for Aaron Kelly

As Aaron Kelly soared on "American Idol," a feel-good story was forming.

This is a case of adoption-gone-right, of people stepping in to help family. Kelly was ousted Wednesday (see previous blogs), finishing fifth; here's the story I sent today to papers:


Fresh from “American Idol,” Aaron
Kelly could offer an endorsement for adoption.

“My mom has been very supportive,”
he told reporters today, after finishing fifth on the show. “She's
given up so much, to make sure we had everything.”

That's his adoptive mom, formerly his
aunt. When there were problems at home, his aunt and uncle stepped
in; they adopted Kelly (then 5) and his older brother.

That let them stay together and let
them still see their birth parents. It also, apparently, gave them
stability at home. “I've had a good life,” said Kelly, 17.

Born in Florida, he moved to Nashville
and then to Sonestown, Pa. The singing started when he was 9, he
said, “but it wasn't anything serious.”

It did get serious soon and he started
writing songs; original songs will be a strength in the future, he
said. “We're not allowed to do them on the show.”

Then came a turning point: At the
“American Idol Experience” unit of Disney World, audiences voted
Kelly the best of the day. That gave him a “gold ticket,” moving
him to the top of the real “Idol” auditions. “That helped a
lot,” he said.

He kept advancing – while still
having to spend three hours a day on schooling. Some people see that
as a big disadvantage, but he viewed it as a welcome distraction.
Others “had to worry about so many things. I (just) had to worry
about astronomy.”

Judges were kind; so was Harry Connick
Jr., a mentor. “He said I have a great voice and said 'it's almost

Many of them, however, did urge him to
do show more confidence and charisma. This week – focusing on
Sinatra songs – they said he had the notes without the swagger.

During Wednesday's Sinatra medley,
Kelly soloed on the line: “When I was 17, it was a very good year.”
Soon, he learned he was last in viewer votes and was off the show. At
that point, he had been 17 for 33 days; all in all, this could turn
out to be his very good year.


"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.