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Mollee_Francisco by Mollee_Francisco
May 19, 2011 | 867 views | 0 0 comments | 7 7 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink

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American Idol 11 - The forbidden land
by Mollee_Francisco
Mar 08, 2012 | 1708 views | 1 1 comments | 6 6 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink
Every year, we hear the judges tell the contestants to steer clear of both Stevie Wonder and Whitney Houston's respective catalogs so it was especially surprising to get just that for our first theme night of the season? I'll admit, I was fully prepared for a night of train wreck performances, but these kids are slowing drawing me in. There are more than a handful of contestants that could take the Idol crown and they proved their prowess Tuesday night. 

The rundown:

Joshua Ledet

I Wish

I loved Joshua last week and he impressed me again this week with an upbeat cover of "I Wish." He listened to Jimmy Iovine and Mary J. Blige's advice to really punch the song and it worked. He sounded good and he was fun to watch as he worked that stage. He's my favorite guy by far. 

Elise Testone 

I'm Your Baby Tonight

Elise got her original song choice "The Greatest Love of All" yanked away from her in favor of "I'm Your Baby Tonight." She didn't look comfortable with the change during rehearsals and that seemed to carry over to her live performance. She never really embraced the song and the performance suffered for it. 

Jermaine Jones

Knocks Me Off My Feet

While I love marveling at how tall Jermaine is, I don't think he's found a song that he connects with or a song that fits that deep voice perfectly. (Truthfully, I'm dying to hear him on "Ol' Man River" which I realize has no contemporary context whatsoever, but it would be such a great fit for that voice! Aaahhhh!) We crowned a deep voice last year. I don't think it's going to happen again this year. 

Erika Van Pelt

I Believe in You and Me 

Gah! What is she wearing? I'm so fearful that Erika is letting herself by molded by Idol producers too much. She needs to hold tight to what makes her Erika (hint: it's not donning pageant gowns or picking sweet ballads). She's a rocker chick, so rock! Whitney's catalog has a lot more to offer than just the power ballads and I wish Erika would picked something more fun than this.

Colton Dixon


Stevie Wonder couldn't be more out of Colton's wheelhouse and it showed. I remember nothing from this performance other than the strange "Inception" images on the screen behind him.  

Shannon Magrane

I Have Nothing

Oh, the innocence of youth. Shannon fell victim to a song that was deceptively bigger than her talents. "I Have Nothing" beat her up good.  She would have been much better off picking a fun number from Whitney's early years. Instead, Shannon stands alone as the real stinker of the evening. 

DeAndre Brackensick

Master Blaster

It took me most of this performance to figure out that it was the reggae vibe that was forcing DeAndre to dance like fire ants were crawling up his leg. I liked how he showcased his range on the song although I think his enunciation of the lyrics left something to be desired. I'm not sure I caught more than six words throughout his 90 seconds on stage. 

Skylar Laine

Where Do Broken Hearts Go?

I honestly couldn't be more in love with Skylar than I am just two weeks in to the season. I DON'T EVEN LIKE COUNTRY MUSIC! But I love this spunky songstress. She could have easily fallen prey to the song like Shannon did, but she really made it her own. Skylar took direction from Jimmy and Mary and it paid off. Mini Reba (that's what I'm calling her) ramped the song up so that her big notes at the end really shined. And she looked like a star throughout. I can't wait to see what else she does this season. 

Heejun Han

All in Love is Fair

Heejun cracks me up handing out signed pictures of himself. He's not going to win this competition, but he's not going to leave early either. His voice is good enough that he'll be around long enough to assure that a career in show business is inevitable. Can't you just see him doing red carpet interviews at all the major awards shows next year? 

Hollie Cavanagh

All The Man That I Need

If Hollie can show a little more personality, she can go far this year. She's got a huge voice (and in such a tiny body!). She tackled "All The Man I Need" with no problems. 

Jeremy Rosado

Ribbon in the Sky

Jeremy, Jeremy, Jeremy I fear that you may get the boot Wednesday night. This performance was just not memorable enough to eclipse the precariousness of his Wild Card slot. Jer Bear's voice is velvety smooth, but I don't think there was anything there to get people to pick up the phone this week when they didn't last week. 

Jessica Sanchez

I Will Always Love You

It's always daring to take on Whitney's signature song, but Jessica nailed it. She hit all the big notes she had to and stayed true to the song (a smart move post-Whitney's death). Jessica's is a voice to be reckoned with.  

Phillip Phillips


Truth be told, I'm sick of "Superstition" in all its various incarnations so I wasn't blown away by Phillip Phillips. Still, my poo-pooing of the song will not hurt him one bit. He is beloved. I'm just looking forward to a different theme night for him. 

Tonight, the judges will pick who stays and who goes among the bottom vote-getters for the guys and girls.  What do we think of this X-Factorish move? And who do you think will land in the danger zone? My money is on Erika Van Pelt and Jeremy Rosado with Jeremy getting the boot.
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March 08, 2012
There are only three "real" contenders. Jessica, Hollie and Philip. Joshua is WAY too one-dimensional. No shot to win. Early money is on Philip. Not because he's the best singer (that is Jessica), but because he is the best performer.

American Idol 11 - Trimming the fat
by Mollee_Francisco
Mar 01, 2012 | 646 views | 0 0 comments | 5 5 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink
Here we go again. Another year, another season of American Idol. 

It used to be with breathless anticipation that I'd wait for the season to kick off, but ever since Simon Cowell's departure, the show has lost its edge. No one I'm looking at you Randy, Jennifer and Steven is challenging these contestants to really reach for the stars. 

Love him or hate him, at least Simon kept it real which meant when he liked something, he said so, rather than dancing around his critique with nonsensical comments. And as a result, his nod of approval was the only one that really mattered. How is it that no one on the judging panel has cracked that code yet? Seems pretty obvious to me. 

In any case, we've slogged through two months of auditions to whittle the masses down to just 25. And tonight, we'll slash that number by 12. 

So who deserves a spot in the Top 13? Here's who has caught my eye so far and who I'd put through tonight.

The boys - 

Joshua Ledet - Absolutely killed it on Tuesday night with his rendition of Jennifer Hudson's "You Pulled Me Through." I don't know this song and I don't need to. He killed it. I was this close to putting my own hands in the air and saying "Hallelujah." 

DeAndre Brackensick - I don't know if DeAndre's falsetto will grind my gears once we get into the meat of the season, but that hair is a force to be reckoned with. I was disappointed when DeAndre didn't make the cut last year so I'm excited to see him progress this year. Earth, Wind and Fire's "Reasons" wasn't the most exciting song, but I think he's got potential if he can build up his confidence on stage. (It was painful to see him try to figure out what to do with the little girls Ryan brought up on stage to meet him - when in doubt, high five.)

Colton Dixon - I'm real interested in seeing more of Colton behind the piano. And I liked that he picked a Paramore song rather than some of the schlocky tunes the other guys selected. Granted "Decode" was a weird song with no hook, but he's different enough and this season needs him - if for no other reason than his off-beat song choices. 

Phillip Phillips - While I question the choice of Phil Collins' "In The Air Tonight" (there are already way to many uses of "Phil" in this sentence), I like Philip's voice. I wish he would have rocked it out Tuesday night and really showed off his guitar skills, but I have no doubt he'll be around to show those off well into this season. 

Jeremy Rosado - There is a lovely tone to his voice on Sara Bareilles' "Gravity." I could easily hear him on the radio wooing girls with his angst. Here's hoping he gets that chance. 

Reed Grimm - Gotta throw a bone to the local boy and pick Reed even if he has already driven me crazy watching him (including his version of Maroon 5's "Moves Like Jagger"). However, if he can tone down the kooky, I'll be interested to see what he can do during theme weeks. He's already shown that he knows how to rearrange a song, now he just needs to dial the rest of the whack back and sing.

Creighton Fracker - Because I don't want to be bored this season and I feel like Creighton Fracker and all his "True Colors" will make for some good entertainment and maybe a "Wow" performance or two.

The girls - 

Skylar Laine - Listen, I really want to not like Skylar because she has way too much energy for me, but her enthusiasm and efforts Wednesday night were undeniable. She was a total spit fire on Faces' "Stay With Me" strutting around that stage and punching every single note with sass. I couldn't help but love her. She was the top girl in my book.

Jessica Sanchez - Sore vocal chords, schmore vocal chords. Jessica Sanchez wrapped her hands around "Love You I Do" from "Dreamgirls" and claimed it as her own. She didn't spend the entire song waiting for her chance to hit a glory note (as others could be accused of) - she performed the WHOLE song and punctuated the lyrics with her body. It was impressive. 

Elise Testone - Love, love, love the bluesy throwback style on Adele's "One and Only." I want to hear more from her. 

Hollie Cavanaugh - Cute little powerhouse that has been largely ignored by Idol so far this season. Her version of "Reflection" from "Mulan" was more than serviceable. But the bigger question is - is she British? Irish? Australian? I can't figure it out. 

Jen Hirsch -  Yes, Elise easily bested her on Adele's "One and Only" (why the heck were they allowed to sing the same song???) but Jen showed such amazing vocals during Hollywood Week ("Georgia On My Mind) that I'm rooting for her to make the cut nonetheless.

Brielle Von Hugel - I didn't hate her on Otis Redding's "Sitting on the Dock of the Bay." I am, however, scared of her mother. 

What about you? Who's got you whipped into a frenzy already this season?
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American Idol hits the road
by Mollee_Francisco
Jul 07, 2011 | 1377 views | 1 1 comments | 6 6 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink
This year's American Idol contestants (well the Top 11) are hitting the road with a jam packed set list. Check out what they're singing below (courtesy of mjsbigblog) and tell us what performance you'd most like to see. The tour will be in the Twin Cities at the Target Center on Aug. 3. 

American Idols Live 2011 tour set list:

The girls – “Born This Way” by Lady Gaga

Pia Toscano – "Empire State of Mind" by Alicia Keys & Jay z

Pia Toscano and Stefano Langone – “California King Bed” by Rihanna

Paul McDonald – "Maggie May" by Rod Stewart

Thia Megia – “Who Says” by Selena Gomez

Pia, Thia, Haley & Naima – “Tightrope” by Janelle Monae

Stefano Langone – “Grenade” by Bruno Mars

Stefano Langone and the girls - “DJ Got Us Falling In Love.” by Usher

Guys w/o Scotty- “Animal” by Neon Trees

Naima Adedapo – “On The Floor” by Jennifer Lopez

Pia Toscano – “This Time” (new single)

Lauren, Pia and Thia – “Firework” by Katy Perry

Casey Abrams – “Smooth” by Rob Thomas and Santana

Casey Abrams and Haley Reinhart – "Moanin" by Charles Mingus

Casey Abrams – "Harder to Breathe" by Maroon 5

Group number (minus Scotty) – “Forget You” 


Lauren Alaina – “Flat on the Floor” by Carrie Underwood

Lauren Alaina – “Like My Mother Does” (new single)

Lauren, Haley, Thia and Stefano – “If I Die Young” by The Band Perry

James Durbin – “Sweet Child O’ Mine” by Guns and Roses

James Durbin – “Uprising” by Muse

Jacob Lusk – “Never Too Much” by Luther Vandross

Jacob Lusk with Pia, Naima and Stefano – “You’re All I Need To Get By” by Marvin Gaye and Tami Terrell

Haley Reinhart – “House of the Rising Sun” by The Animals

Haley Reinhart – “Bennie and the Jets” by Elton John

Scotty McCreery – “Your Man” by Josh Turner

Scotty McCreery – “Are You Going to Kiss Me Or Not” by Thompson Square

Scotty McCreery – “I Love You This Big” (new single)

Scotty McCreery and Lauren Alaina – “When You Say Nothing At All” by Alison Krauss

Scotty McCreery with Lauren, Thia, Pia and Haley – “Gone” by Montgomery Gentry

Group medley: James & Lauren – “Here I Go Again” by Whitesnake, Paul, Haley & Casey join with “Faithfully” by Journey, Stefano & Naima Adedapo join with “Walk This Way” by Aerosmith, Thia & Jacob join and everyone sings “Any Way You Want It/ Lovin’, Touchin’, Squeezin” by Journey.
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July 08, 2011
So happy to see Haley and Casey reprising their "Moanin'" duet on tour. Wondering why Pia gets to debut a single before some of the other Idols that made it further in the competition than her.

American Idol: Care-less country
May 25, 2011 | 1249 views | 3 3 comments | 7 7 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink

Confession: I didn't so much watch last night's Season 10 American Idol finale as I did fast forward through it. I couldn't help it. I'm still nursing my broken heart over Haley's departure last week and no amount of country music was going to heal me.

So I apologize for a short (yet succinct) recap here today. It goes something like this: He sang country, she sang country. The judges commented on some and remained silent on others (sooooo indicative of their season overall).

Who will win? Who cares...Need more than that? Fine. Here you go:

Scotty McCreery - Gone/Check Yes or No/I Love You This Big

Scotty reprised his uptempo "Gone" for his "Best Of..." choice. I give him points for being smart enough to recognize this as one of his best of the season and for not leaning toward a ballad. Amazingly enough, this version of "Gone" felt different than his original - a good sign for future McCreery concert-goers. Scotty is comfortable enough with his voice and the stage to create a different performance each time he goes out.

Scotty's "Idol" George Strait chose (surprise!) a George Strait song for him for Round 2. "Check Yes or No" brings me back to all the country music that tortured me on the bus rides to and from school growing up. And for whatever reason, I distinctly remember this song. But enough about me. This was cute and I'm sure it played well to Scotty's audience.

If you want to talk producer sabotage, now would be the time. I realize we live in a world of poor grammer and unusual spellings (ex. there is a Mall of America kiosk called Create Ur Emblem - or something totally ridiculous like that) but why saddle Scotty with a song titled "I Love You This Big"? This isn't an episode of "Barney and Friends" - this is American Idol - and the last time I checked, the average viewer had graduated pre-school. It was hard to take Scotty seriously with a song as stupidly titled as this. I'm not sure he could have done anything to help himself here (aside from changing the words). A bad note to end the show on and an even worse one to be forced to start a career with. Scotty is probably hoping he won't win (and be forced to release this song) as much as Lauren is.  


Lauren Alaina - Flat on the Floor/Maybe It Was Memphis/Like My Mother Does

Lauren countered Scotty's uptempo number with one of her own for Round 1, dusting off "Flat on the Floor" while dispelling rumors that her voice was too shot to perform (much to the chagrin of Haley fans around the world). It was fine - you could tell she was holding back and not singing at full power, but I'm sure we were supposed to be so impressed anything was coming out of her mouth at all that we shouldn't have noticed.

Lauren's "Idol" Carrie Underwood picked "Maybe It Was Memphis" for her and again, Lauren's vocals were overshadowed. This time, her outfit was the culprit. What the heck was she wearing? When did this become an episode of "Toddlers and Tiaras"? Is this just a launching pad for a new reality show called "Fashion Rehab"? If so, sign Lauren up post haste.

Lauren closed the show with her debut single "Like My Mother Does" and the number of shots of Lauren's (stage) mom rivaled actual shots of Lauren singing. It's really too bad this finale couldn't have lined up better with Mother's Day so Lauren's song could have acheived the ultimate product placement assistance. Oh well. At least Lauren finally found a song she could understand and connect with. Will it be enough to earn her a confetti shower? We shall see.

Best performance of the night: David Cook

Most likely to take the Season 10 crown: Lauren - she's been the chosen one all along right? And let's face it, none of the producers are ready to make her cry anything but tears of joy. Sorry, Scotty. Thanks for playing.


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May 27, 2011
I'm sure it was just me, but my favorite moment of the night was Casey signing a Queen song with Jack Black.

PS - your spam filter would not let me include the name of said Queen song.

American Idol: What Should Never Be
May 19, 2011 | 1276 views | 3 3 comments | 8 8 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink

This week's recap blog title is not only an homage to Haley's standout performance on Top 3 night, but it is also a commentary on what should never be - as in there should never be an all-country finale on American Idol. And I'm hopeful Haley did enough last night (and throughout the season) to assure there won't be - at least not this year.

To sum up Top 3 night - a night in which Scotty, Lauren and Haley each performed a song of their choice, a song of Jimmy Iovine's choosing and one courtesy of the judges - it was a lotta country and a little bit rock n' roll. I probably don't have to tell you who contributed what.

It was clear (to me) that one of these final three contestants is much more exciting than the others - even with her foibles. Steven Tyler offered the most concise, useful bit of advice last night after Haley wrapped up the night's best number - a cover of Led Zeppelin's "What Is and What Should Never Be - a performance that featured not only a stunningly sultry vocal but also an embarrassing fall. Steven reminded Haley that it isn't about how many times you fall, but how many times you get back up. It was probably the first time anything the judges had to say actually resonated with the poor girl who seems to be perpetually face down in their eyes.

We can argue that Idol producers did the contestants a disservice by forcing them to sing their personal choices first and wrap up with the judges' picks, but I think, overall, the night had one clear message - an all-country kids finale would be a total bore. A Season 10 finale without Haley should never be. And here's hoping it won't be.

Scotty McCreery - Amazed/Are You Gonna Kiss Me Or Not?/She Believes In Me

Listen, Scotty dumped out everything in his bag of tricks when he showed up at his audition in Milwaukee. Striking low voice, country charm and twang up the wazoo. He hasn't really given us much more than that in the last few months of the competition. That's not to say he hasn't performed admirably. He's a kid destined to make country music, no doubt.  

Scotty started off the night with a cover of Lonestar's "Amazed" and a shirt that had as many as two (2!) buttons undone. I saw skin. (Scandalous!) It was a pretty opening and Scotty is certainly confident on the stage. I'm a big fan of the original version though, and it didn't seem to me that Scotty delivered the punch and the passion that Lonestar does.

Jimmy chose Thompson Square's "Are You Gonna Kiss Me Or Not?" for Scotty's second number. I didn't care for it. Granted- as I've said many times before- I don't really like country music. This was way too twangy for me which forced me to tune out the singing and instead focus on how annoying Scotty's goofy eyebrow games are getting.

To wrap up the night, Scotty was given Kenny Roger's "She Believes In Me" courtesy of the judges. I've loved this song since little Jon Peter Lewis (JPL!!!) sang it way back in Season 3. I thought it was a good choice for Scotty's low register. It was nice to have him cool it on the plaid shirts and dial back the twang for a song. I don't think he necessarily delivered the ache of the song, but he's 16 and I doubt he has the life experience to make it that believable.

Lauren Alaina - Wild One/If I Die Young/I Hope You Dance

Another week, another set of crazy "what was she thinking???" Lauren Alaina outfits. Dressed like a Dallas Cowboys cheerleader out in her civvies, Lauren chose Faith Hill's "Wild One" to kick off her set, noting that it was a song she always sung with her best friend as they were growing up. I thought it was kind of a mess. It seemed less like a performance and more like a girl shouting out song lyrics with her bestie, unconscious that the world is watching.

I worried for Lauren during her performance of Jimmy's choice - The Band Perry's "If I Die Young." No, not about how much those giant earrings (her second mondo set of the night) were weighing her ears down, but was as if she had suddenly caught a case of PPAS - Pia Pageant Arm Syndrome. There was that right arm waving wildly throughout. Ick. On a brighter note, "If I Die Young" was a good choice for her. I'm not sure she felt it as much as she moved through it, though. I could almost see the wheels turning as she tried to remember her cues and hit all the notes and key changes.

Lee Ann Womack's overplayed "I Hope You Dance" was the judges' pick for Lauren. Like Martina McBride's "Anyway," this is probably exactly the kind of material Lauren's debut album should be full of. And by the time that album comes out, I hope Lauren will have found more confidence to bring on stage and certainly a better wardrobe. Top 3 was clearly overwhelming for Lauren - three songs, tremendous pressure. It all showed as she raced ahead of the music only to have to pause at the big moment to allow for everything to catch up with her. Too much, too soon - much like Lauren's Idol journey.

Haley Reinhart - What Is and What Should Never Be/Rhiannon/You Outta Know

Haley stole the show at the end of the first round last night, bringing Led Zepplin back to the Idol stage for only the second time in the show's history (Adam Lambert was first). "What Is and What Should Never Be" was stunning from the moment that spotlight hit her at the top of the lavender-lit stairs to the very end. How could you not love when she came down the stairs and broke into a huge smile as she caught sight of her dad playing guitar on the stage?  Adorable. The song itself was a beautiful marriage of her jazzy voice and her dad's guitar riffs. She owned it and you could tell she felt it as she twirled with wild abandon behind the judges' table. Sure, she fell a moment later as she tried to make her way back to the stage (I gasped and shook my head with an "Oh no!") but she just kept on singing and I loved her even more for it.

Jimmy picked Fleetwood Mac's "Rhiannon" for Haley. The opening was solid although the wind machine was a little comical. I'll admit that I couldn't take my eyes off of her when it went on, though. The hair and the dress blowing to and fro was simply mesmerizing. I'm not sure I got a good listen to what she was singing because of it, but it remains a performance I won't forget if for the visuals alone.

Haley wrapped up the show with the judges' choice of Alanis Morrissette's "You Outta Know" - a strange choice since it was just tackled last year around this time by Crystal Bowersox. The question quickly became would producers let her sing the "actual" lyrics? No way. PG'd, the song makes no sense, but Haley sung it anyway - at least the part that can be sung. The verses aren't especially melodic and as such, Haley struggled. But when it came time to hit the choruses, she nailed those suckers right to the wall.

Best performance of the night: Haley's "What Is and What Should Never Be

Most likely to go home: Lauren - in a very respectable third place

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Mollee Francisco
May 20, 2011
I'm counting Haley's third place finish along the lines of the also A-MAZ-ING Melinda Doolittle rather than the less-than-dazzling Danny Gokey.

(Mollee Francisco is a staff writer for the Chaska Herald. She can be reached at

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