X Factor: Top 4

13 12 2012

We are getting very close to seeing the finales for all our favourite shows… The Voice,  Factor, Survivor will all come to a  conclusion in the coming week just in time for the Christmas Yule log.

The X Factor performance show featured 2 songs by each of the Top 4 contestants, both carefully selected by their Mentors. Do we still believe that Britney Spears is making any decisions on her own at this point? I guess if we actually believe that they are showing us the real ‘rankings’ every week, we can believe anything. Neither here nor there… the Mentors are still apparently guiding the path of their proteges in their infinite wisdom.

Let’s begin with Tate Stevens:

Song 1: Bonfire

There’s nothing Americans love more, than a down-home country tune, sung by a man who loves his wife, reads the bible and wears the you-know-what out of a cowboy hat. Tate Stevens knows that. So what is his plan to win this show? Sing good ole fashioned country songs about the good ole fashioned country boys sitting around a bonfire drinkin’ American beer on a Saturday night (but tomorrow, they’ll all go to church with their mammas). . that can’t hurt his chances 😉

Song 2: Fall

Smooth, very smooth. His vocals were smooth, and so was the idea to show footage of he and his high-school sweetheart wife as he performed. It has always been Tate’s back story that has made him such a compelling individual. He knows his audience, he knows his voice, he’s ready to make an album. No, he’s not my favourite – but I have to admit that every time he takes the stage, he does so with a seasoned professionalism that every other contestant lacks. Oh, and he also has a wife and kids… which never hurts.

5th Harmony

Song 1: Anything Can Happen

I think this was the first time we’ve seen 5th Harmony work a ‘production’ – we very rarely see them step outside their 5-across formation. They were starting to remind me of the 3 Tenors, so I was very pleased to see them interact with stage settings and props. How nice of Katy Perry to donate her candyland set to the show. These girls can ‘SANG’. Every single girl could be a star in her own right, each having spotlight moments in each performance. I like this direction for them combining art, drama, fashion but never losing their ‘voice’.

Song 2: Impossible

There are a ka-jillion songs in the global songbook to choose from, Simon (the genius producer), suggests that his struggling girl group song a song they’ve already performed. He doesn’t offer any suggestion about how to make it different or better, the only obvious change was including sections of Spanish lyric – which was not even his idea. It needed to be shaken up, to show how much they’ve improved, how far they’ve come, the kind of artist they will be. This song lacked their name-sake harmonies, and it definitely felt flat after their energetic first song. No one can deny their talent, but even Simon knows they will need a miracle of biblical proportion to beat out 3 cute beach-blond boys, a country singing American dream, and a young singing-phenom.

Emblem 3

Song 1: Baby I love Your Way

I will preface this by warning you, that I hate this song. Unless Emblem3 had blown it to pieces and made it a completely different and modern version, I was always going to hate this performance. And I did. I hated the song, but I am also growing very tired of watching this group perform. It’s a formula. Wave your arms, crouch and reach out to the audience, jump, send a boy into the crowd, back to formation. It doesn’t really matter that I was not a fan, because the judges seemed to think this was the quintessential XFactor winning performance. Sigh. #idisagree

Song 2: Hey Jude

I get defensive when it comes to covering Beatles music. Some things are sacred. Every once and awhile, a performer on one of these shows will take on a Beatles song and do it justice… but when I heard Emblem3 was singing Hey Jude, I was not optimistic. The entire video segment built of the story line that the youngest beach boy needed to step up his game and take the lead on this tune – letting out a classic McCartney scream at the end of the song. I was waiting for it… he sang one line at the end of the song, and it was hardly even a decibel over the screams of the 13 year old girls in the audience. So, for Demi and LA to compare these boys to The Fab Four, is just ludicrous. In fact, it’s irresponsible and irreverant. I need to move on… #hotandbothered

Carly Rose Sonenclaire 

Song 1: Your Song

Right. Britney Spears chose Elton John for her little songbird. Carly Rose is coming off a big week – she was covering new songs and giving them the Carly treatment, knocking them out of the park with big notes and smooth runs. Your Song is a classic, but it is not the kind of song Carly Rose should be singing. She may be an old-soul, but she can’t sing old songs and stay current. Elton John had a stellar voice in the 70’s, and even he would tell you that this was not a power singer’s song… if she was adamant about choosing something from the Elton John collection, how about My Fathers Gun?

Song 2: Imagine

Right. Britney Spears chose John Lennon. I simply refuse to believe this. You now know how I feel about amateurs taking on The Beatles. The problem I had was NOT Carly Rose’s vocal on a song I deem virtually untouchable, it was the arrangement of the song. She stuck in big notes and fabricated big moments in a song that was NEVER intended to win someone a talent competition. It’s not a competition song, it’s a song that invites you to quietly reflect on the state of the world. I might be the only song that cannot be elevated by a big voice, or a big note.

I don’t think Carly Rose is in danger – I think her past performances will give her momentum. She benefits from the mis-steps of Simon’s girl-group this week.

Thoughts?





AGT: Group 4 Results

26 07 2012

Sigh of relief.

After a night full of fabulous entertainment and quality acts… I was worried about a few of my favourites as the results were read on AGT last night.

I’m also ALWAYS worried that ‘America’ is seeing something different than I am. It has certainly seemed that way at times.

So when MY Top 4 from last night made it through… sigh of relief. vindication. justice.

The audience saw the genius in William Close, the artist in Joe Castillo, the extraordinary talent of the Olate Dogs, and the mystery of the man called Dittelman.

Those were my Top 4 last night, and they were the 4 to advance to the next rounds.

We’ll have to wait a little while before that happens… The Olympics will take over your airwaves 24/7 starting tomorrow and ending in 2 weeks.

Oh, and and Sharon promised The Cloggers that they would be one of her selections for the Wild Card. I’m sure there will be a few more from this group selected for another shot at the Finals.





SYTYCD Season 9 Top 20

19 07 2012

The All-New format of SYTYCD Season 9 made it’s debut last night.

If you’ve read my blog in the past, you’ll know that I have very little patience for ‘Elimination Shows’. The results could be read in 2 minutes, yet at times, we are forced to sit through a full HOUR of ‘fluff’ – yes, shameless movie and upcoming TV show promotions, oh look whose in the audience, D- list performances by people who are coincidentally releasing a new album or going on tour, commercial breaks, video montages, recaps of what we JUST saw the night before… DWTS has this inane format down to a Japanese war torturous tee.

Results shows are useless – and SYTYCD has just proven, that the performances and the results (plus a few shameless plugs for SYTYCD: The Movie… errr, Step Up something) can all fit together in a neatly compact, 2-hour package. Ground breaking television.

So all the dancers performed in pairs again this week – and the bottom 6 from last wee’s performances were picked from the bunch to face elimination at the hands of the judges. Democracy is overrated. America always makes the wrong decision in these situations, I’m perfectly happy to give that power back to the hands of the Sovereign judging panel.

Let’s talk about last night’s performances:

Cole/Lindsey – a Jazzy/Hip Hop number about a nerd going to the dentist. Who knew there would be a perfect song for that scenario. It was a SYTYCD kinda dance. Good characters, high energy, kinda goofy but technically very sound – great way to start the show! Um, you’ve heard of Twi-hards? Cole is a little bit of a ‘TRY-hard’, and I think he needs to snap out of it. Getting into character is one thing, pretending you are NOT in character, but that the character has embodied you is an entirely different and awkward viewing situation. I did not connect with him AFTER the dance, which means I wouldn’t necessary vote for him. The dance was good, his odd personality may have been a turn off.

Amelia and Will – performed the first Sonya Tayeh routine of the evening to perfection. Both dancers were salivating at the chance to work with such a unique and quirky choreographer (Mia Michaels who?) and they embraced that opportunity with every fibre. This pair is an early favourite. They both received a lot of help from the editing crew, giving them camera time during audition stages. They also have the ability to scale up or scale down their individual oddities. When the dance calls for it (like in last weeks performance) they can be borderline kooky… but when the dance calls for honesty and true technique, both can deliver.

Amber/Nick – Tango. Who drew the short straw? To make matters worse, Amber admitted in her pre-dance video that she was having trouble ‘connecting’ with her partner “Like oil and bubblegum”. Guess what? it showed. Amber out-danced her partner, and the routine was seriously lacking the tension or sizzle of a sexy tango. One last kick in the teeth? This was Nick’s genre. Ouch.

Time for another Sonya Tayeh routine…

Audrey and Matthew were human robots in love… or something. Anyways they were wearing a lot of make up, and the style of the dance was hard-hitting and less fluid than Sonya’s previous effort. If I have to be honest, I enjoyed her first piece far better. I didn’t really see the story line (if there was any) in this routine, and the dancers did not attack each move the way ti was probably intended. The judges liked it, but then, you should hear them talk about Step Up 4 (or whatever). I wasn’t a huge fan of this piece, I don’t know if it was the dancers or the choreography.

Janelle and Dareian- danced a lyrical Hip Hop routine to ‘My Girl’. It had SO much potential to be another SYTYCD classic. The clothes, the song, the characters. The judges were BANG on in my opinion. This routine lacked material. It was too simple, too academic… a let down for the dancers. There’s not much you can do to augment poor choreography. In fact, I think they knew it was sub-par, and tried to make the number more interesting by adding a smooch at the end. This would not have been a bad performance… on season 1. The level of dance has risen exponentially each season, and this dance didn’t cut it. BUT… I still enjoyed the refreshing simplicity of a cute song, cue clothes, and a cute story.

Janaya and Brandon – picked my favourite dance style from the board… Broadway! This Sean Cheeseman routine was EVERYTHING you want to see in a Broadway performance. A perfect blend of character, story and dance. These two danced this routine to perfection – both were strong in character and pulled off some tough choreography without breaking the illusion. This was the dance I wanted ‘My Girl’ to be.

Eliana and Glitch – were put to the test with a high-tempo Jive… a style Glitch has never encountered or studied. Shocker! It was not very quick, it was not very precise or snappy (the way I like to see my Jives). He has the capacity for it, I just think a week was not long enough to build confidence in his abilities, or to work his own style into the dance. The choreographers had Eliana dance AROUND him for the majority of the time, and gave him plenty of lifts to showcase strength over technique. Good move… he did not come across as completely out of his league.

Daniel and Alexa – Can I just make an observation about this couple? They look like the dance version of Emily and Sean on the Bachelorette. Non? C’mon, you totally see it now, right? In terms of a critique, I had a few issue with this piece. First, I think choreographers need to tone down the hair flipping, body flinging back and forth style that has become standard in contemporary routines. It gives me motion sickness… and in this piece, it went a little over board for me. Also, I had never warmed to Alexa, and I feel that she was once again a little bit ‘in her  head’ and not connecting with her partner or the audience.

Tiffany and George – Drew the shortest straw and were left with the Foxtrot. The dreaded foxtrot. how can you compete with kicks and flips and “genius” contemporary pieces with an out-dated, simple ballroom routine? Well, it is slightly novelty, which can help. Also, the judges will give out HIGH praise for a decent Foxtrot. If you can be successful in channeling Astaire/Rogers , and you look good in ballgowns and tails… you might just have a winner. Last night the judges gave ‘mad props’ to this pair for pulling off a classic ballroom routine. I was slightly underwhelmed.

Witney and Chehon – were given a very difficult task. Master Bollywood in a week. Give them a lot of credit, they both put in extra hours of research and practice to ensure accuracy. And they NAILED it! There is nothing better than watching a high energy, artfully crafted Bollywood routine. It has become one of my favourite styles. Russian dancing didn’t ‘catch’, but I hope Bollywood is here to stay! What a great way to end the show…

Oh wait! Shows not over…

Results!

Nigel assures us this is all about love, not war. Or something. Dancers are not ‘eliminated’ they are just not America’s favourite. Dancers aren’t voted ‘off’ they are voted to be kept ‘on’. Get it?

So the bottom 6 vote getters…

Girls: Janaya , Alexa  and Whitney 

Boys:  Chehon, Nick and Daniel.

Based on a collaboration between the choreographers and the judges, they chose to SAVE (love not war):

Whitney and Chehon

thoughts?

 





AGT Group 3 Results

19 07 2012

I thought Group 2 was weak… AGT’s Group 3 proved that it can always get worse.

Honestly, the caliber of acts that took to the stage on Tuesday night was at an all-time low, if you ask me. There were one or two deserving of moving into the final rounds. The stand outs were obvious, because their competition was virtually invisible.

I would even go further in saying that the acts that were ‘stand outs’ got a BOOST from their fellow contestants because they performed so badly. It helped their own chances… They LOVED the drag act, the magician and the guy who couldn’t get balanced. They applauded the juggler who set fire to the stage, the kid who actually made a Britney Spears song sound worse than a Britney Spears song, and the out-of-tune Glee club. Mediocrity  lowers the bar, so that acts like The All Wheel Sports, the Comedian and the Untouchables have a chance at a birth in the finals… whether they deserve it or not.

So the acts that have made it through this round of eliminations are…

1. Jacob Williams the Comedian

2. Lightwire Theatre (the only elite level performance of the evening…)

3. The Untouchables mini-salsa-dancers

4. All Wheel Sports

 

Thoughts?





SYTYCD Season 9: Top 20 Revealed!

28 06 2012

All in one show, we saw the results of Vegas week, met the Top 20,  marveled at the first group performances of the season, and had a guest judge appearance (Zooey Dechanelle). It was jam packed, and very well executed. In the past, shows have played with the format of determining the Top 20 (or Top 10…) and there have been some pretty strange variations on the ‘big reveal’. Remember a few seasons ago, the judges actually went house-hopping to all the contestants to tell them ‘yes’ or ‘no’? It was cruel and unusual punishment for both parties involved. How do you drive a thousand miles, and bring an entire camera crew into a home for the afternoon… just to sit on th couch and say ‘you havent made it’?! That was just plain painful to watch.

Well, Last night I believe the producers at SYTYCD have found a winning formula. The top 20 was selected (on tape) by genre. Then cut to a performance by those dancers, in their own style (designed by this seasons chosen choreographers). It is a showcase of their talents, and a celebration of making it to the Top 20. There was no criticism this week, nor is there a ‘vote’. It is simply the BEST way to give each dancer a moment in the spotlight to shine, before the hammer falls. Someone always has to ‘go’ first – but it is particularly bitter when you havent had any opportunity to engage an audience and campaign for a following. If you were one of the ‘highlighted’ stories, you’ve got a FAR better chance at making it through the first rounds of the vote…it’s simple logic. There are some faces in the Top 20… I dont recall seeing throughout the auditions or Vegas week. How is that possible? They have NO footage whatsoever of a person who has surpassed hundreds (nay thousands!) of other hopefuls to make the Top 20 dancers?! Really?! Is it because they didnt think they were good TV? It does them a disservice when it comes to voting. There are two blondes I’ve never seen before, a couple of brunettes that look the same to me… I will be voting for the flapper incarnate because I saw her dance every week!

I digress… it’s my right, this is my blog.

Overall,  I thought it was a highly entertaining evening – chalk full of fabulous routines playing to each dancers strength (before they are forced to perform WAY out of their genre competancies!).

Things I LOVE about the Top 20…

1. Ballet is back baby! Yep, this year there are 3 ballet dancers… and there’s nothing I love more than watching Da Vinci chiseled bodies fly through the air in perfect form. Usually, I’m chowing down on a guilty ‘after 8 pm’ snack and kicking myself for not going to the gym for the last 5 years (maybe I’ll start tomorrow). They are magnificent, and I love having their calibre of technique as part of this show.

2. The Girl/Guy split. New this season, Nigel has announced that there will be two winners… Best Girl, Best Guy. This elvels the playing field in my opinion. Consider the demographic (mostly female and begrudging husbands), and consider the results of seasons past… there’s a bit of a theme emerging (take note American Idol). The contestants that do very well in this competition are the good looking guys, who look great without a shirt and who can dance hip hop but blossom in contemporary (unter Mama Mia’s tutilage). If a girl wins, they look like Selena Gomez or one of her friends. My point is, no longer will the votes be one-sided based on gender. Apples to apples. I like this decision, and I’m very interested to see it all play out.

3.  Variety – there have been a few seasons that heavily favour one genre over the next. Ahem-contemporary… ahem-Hip Hop… This season has ballroom, ballet, contemporary, hip hop, jazz, even a bellydancer…

Looking forward to next week for the official start of competition – but after last night, I have very high hopes for a memorable season 9!

Thoughts?





American Idol: Season 11 Winner…

24 05 2012

…is Philip Philips.

Surprised?

You shouldnt be.

A white guy with an acoustic guitar has won this competition A LOT! IT seems to be the recipe for success.

I’m not complaining, I downloaded his single after he won last night – it’s a great tune! I jsut think it’s interesting to point out the pattern that has emerged. In the first few seasons, the Whitney power singers were always considered the frontrunners and the producers were always on the hunt for the ‘full package’ Star – the tide has changed… has the audience?

Philip Philips is an artist – but he is not the ‘Star’ Idol producers want to be the face of the franchise. It wont matter if he sells enough albums… but it is going to be a painful entrance to superstardom for Philip. He’s going to make the morning show rounds and stumble over his humility on live TV. He’s going to be forced to sing songs he hates, and go on tour with the other Idols. He’s going to HATE his new single after singing it ad nauseum from now until… lets face it, forever.

I’m happy that my favourite won, I just think it will be a very interesting study in ‘making a star’ out of a pawn shop artist.





American Idol: Top 6 recap

19 04 2012

It was only fitting that on the day of Dick Clarke’s passing, the incarnation of American Bandstand and his sucessor would take the stage and the living rooms of millions across the world.

Dick Clarke paved the way for this KIND of entertainment. Music fused with dance, personalities, celebrity, and must-see TV. He will be missed, but his legacy will remain in Hollywood for the ages.

The Top 6 performed twice last night:  a Current song, and a Soul song. There’s probably only ONE person that was thrilled about the second song theme…

Let’s start with Holly.
1. Rolling in the Deep – I knew it was just a matter of time before someone decided to take on this classic Adele tune. And yes, it is classic. I’m putting in that category of songs you shouldnt touch for about 10 years, because no on can sing it like she does. Holly is a Brit, so no DOUBT she’s been wanting to sing this song since performing it infront of her mirror (like the rest of us). She did a good job, her voice is strong and she can sure belt it out when the song calls for it. She lacked sass, which is what this song really needs to be successful.
2. Son of a Preacher – everyone struggled with Soul, but Holly did better than most. Her voice is powerful and smooth so she can easily sing… anything. It was nice to see her confidently strut through a song instead of nervously taking the stage.

Next, Colton.
1. Bad Romance – really?! That was my initial thought. Then again, it’s Colton… you knew he would change it up to fit his style. He changed it up just enough to make it different fromt he original, yet it stayed true tot he melody. Colton is picking better songs to ‘play’ with now. Bad Romance is a bit of an anthem… and he nailed it.
2. September – Earth Wind and Fire, virtually unrecognizable after he ‘Colton-ized’ it. But in my opinion, it sounded like a brand new song that could be a hit record today. The judges didnt LOVE it… I kinda did.

Elise Testone…
1. No one – Interesting choice. Elise has ‘mad skills’, her runs are insane, her inflections are totally unique to her, but I wish she’s stick to the rock/blues style she’s been KILLING lately. WOuldnt it have been cool to see her come out and do The White Stripes, RadioHead or King of Leon? I SO wish she had done that instead…
2. Lets Get it On – If I had a list (and I do) of my LEAST favourite songs (dont judge), THIS song would be on it and very clsoe to the top (cue the hate mail). So I may not be the best judge of how well or how poor Elise sang it. The song can’t be saved… in my opinion. So whether Elise was disconnected for bang on, I couldnt tell you. However, I CAN tell you that the judges spent more time trying to explain why they didnt like it than any other contestant. I think Elise is in trouble…again.

Philip Phillips…
1. You Got it Bad – how does this kid, the guitar wielding son of a Pawn Shop owner in the deep south, even KNOW this Usher song? Well, it int Usher’s song anymore… it’s a Phillip Phillips song now! He threw down an unbelievable acoustic version of the song that would make Dave Matthews proud.
2. In the Midnight Hour – guitar-less Phillip has to rely on his dancing to keep his body from running off the stage. His guitar is his anchor. That’s not to say it isnt nice to see him go Joe Cocker on stage to a classic Soul song. He can do anything…

Next to the stage, Jessica Sanchez
1.Falling – Remember when EVERYONE sang this song, in any and every singing competition? Well, it has been a few years since this song was played 1 out of every 3 songs on every radio station… which is why I didnt hate it. Also, it was Jessica SAnchez singing it. This girl attacks vocal runs like none other. She absolutely came out strong from her near elimination last week and proved her talent cannot be matched.
2. Try a Little Tenderness – I thought this song was a little bit forced vocally. She shouldve tried a little tenderness! She belted or growled every note to perfection… it just wasnt  my taste.

Next up, Skylar
1. Born this Way – the Country version. I have both on my iPod and the country version actually has more plays. Skylar keeps finding ‘country versions’ of songs, the reson they are so successful is because Americans EAT UP country versions of hit songs. And she is definitely finding her way in this competition… I like HER version of country better than any other version of country on TV (I’m talking to you Raelynn on The Voice).
2. Heard it Through the Grapevine – didnt have a country version… until last night. Yep, Skylar countrified Gladys Knight and the Pips, and it was… really cool. Skylar had a good night and didnt seem to have any trouble with the Soul theme.

End with, Joshua (the Closer)
1. I believe – I hated this choice. He picked the insipid Fantasia song she was FORCED to make her first single. I has moments, and he loves the ‘moments’, I jsut thought it was a bit cheeseball and …. not current enough. It lacked cool factor, but that’s his only downfall.
2. A Change is Gonna Come – Even I was standing at the end of this song. What a PERFECT song choice, and a PERFECT rendition of an old soul classic. Joshua knows his style, knows his voice, knows his gift and consistently delievers memorable performances.

Thoughts?

 








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