Hey dude, they HAVE a piano player

On a night filled with great "American Idol" performances, the only mistakes came when people didn't do enough to show off their talent.
Two judges (Randy Jackson and Kara DioGuardi) chose "Apologize" for Kris Allen, expecting him to deliver beautifully muted emotion. Instead, he buried himself behind a piano. He played competently; he sang competently. It wasn't the kind of thing to do when everything is at stake; dude, they have plenty of other people to play the piano for you.
Another judge (Paula Abdul) inexplicably chose "Dance, Little Sister, Dance." It was a good showcase for the sax player and had a nice closing riff for the trumpeters. All Gokey could do was shout out the melody adequately.
Adam Lambert had no such problem. Simon Cowell chose the perfdect song for him ("One"); then -- as usual -- Lambert chose the perfect song for himself.
As it happens, the other two bounced back when they could choose for themselves. Allen's "Heartless" was a good, gutsy choice -- forsaking a brilliant band and great back-up trio to sing alone on that big stage with his guitar.
Gokey did even better, choosing "You Are So Beautiful." Cowell summed it perfectly when he called it "a vocal master class."
Cowell also summed up the night neatly: There's a danger that people will assume Lambert is in the finals and will try to choose his opponent; he'll accidentally be voted out.
Let's hope not. This guy is already a complete rock-pop star, ready to happen. We'll say Lambert should and will be in the finals next week with Gokey. It will be a great night, a fine time to crown Lambert as champion.

Valuable life lessons

Here are things I've learned today:
1) You know that old myth about how if you spill Pepsi on a computer, the whole thing will be ruined? (They even had a "Saturday Night Live" sketch once, with a NASA disaster.) Well, it turns out that it's not a myth.
2) One really needs a computer. Especially if what one does is write and send newspaper stories.
3) One also needs Pepsi (or Coke), of course; those two needs will remain in constant conflict.
4) Many computer-repair places don't answer their phones or return voice-mail messages. That may be a promising field to be in -- far more promising than newspaper work.
5) Dusting off the former computer is a narrow solution, at best.
6) One REALLY needs a computer ... and a Pepsi. Maybe one has a drinking problem.

"Idol" has homecoming week

This is homecoming night for the final three "American Idol" contestant. We'll see Danny Gokey in Milwaukee and Kris Allen in Arkansas; chances are, crowds will go ga-ga.

And we'll see Adam Lambert in Los Angeles or San Diego. Hopefully, someone will notice.

Being from California sometimes seems like not having a home town at all. We sort of noticed that when Katherine McPhee returned to LA in 2006; it was the exact opposite of the civic glee that greeted Taylor Hicks in Alabama.

Maybe that's the one good thing about Allison Iraheta being undeservedly dumped last week: Had she survived, there would have been two California homecomings.

Anyway, here's the story I wrote after interviewing Iraheta, the day after she was dropped:

Allison Iraheta's final "American Idol" week was surrounded by chaos.
"That day was not going well," Iraheta said of the Tuesday events. "A lot of things were not going the way they should."
The most serious came when stage manager Debbie Williams fell from near the top of the set's massive stairs, about two hours before show time. The contestants worried -- "Deb is a friend of ours," Iraheta said -- but eventually got word that she was recovering.
After that fall, part of a stage tower collapsed and there was no chance for a final run-through. Still, Iraheta doubts performances were affected.
For her, this was a typical time. "I've been in the bottom ... so may times," she said. "I was really prepared for anything."
On Wednesday, she learned that she was through. She finished fourth for the season -- the same spot Chris Daughtry finished three years ago, before launching a string of hits. "Which is really cool for me," Iraheta said. "I'm like, 'Yeah ... maybe something will happen for me.'"
Daughtry was a guest star Wednesday. A few minutes later, Iraheta was ousted and got to sing one more time. "It was funny, because I was crying and singing a song called 'Cry Baby.'"
This strange week did bring some good for her. She was mentored by Slash, one of her guitar heroes; she also formed an alliance with Adam Lambert.
The singers got to choose their duet pairings, Iraheta said. She paired with Lambert (whose hair stylist she also borrowed) on a powerhouse song. "We're even planning on doing it on the 'Idol' tour."
With rehearsals -- for the May 20 finale and then the tour -- coming soon, Iraheta plans to stay close to the show. "I really like the classes at the 'Idol' school," she said.
Iraheta had been home-schooled and expects to take her GED exam. Then comes her career, including recording in Spanish and English; she had already won a national contest on Telemundo, a Spanish-language cable channel.
"Idol" judges praised Iraheta's singing, but one (Simon Cowell) criticized her lack of personality. There is, apparently, lots of personality to unveil. "From the minute we wake up, she makes me laugh," Megan Joy, her "Idol" roommate, said after being ousted.
Now they'll be back together on the tour, along with Lambert and seven others. The laughter can resume.


Yo, what a show

I very rarely take guidance from Megan Joy.

This, however, was a worthy exception. I watched "Yo Gabba Gabba" and kind of agreed with her.

"The second the show came out, I fell in love with it," Joy said, the day after being ousted by "American Idol" viewers. "It's just pure genius."

Well, maybe not genius, but it is pure kinda-clever-and-original.

A man strolls in with a case and pulls little figures out. They soon become people in odd costumes, bouncing aroud. This might seem way too much like "Barney" and such, except that it has a redeeming sense of irony and wit.

It also has lots of sub-categories, all of which Joy and her 2-year-old son have apparently memorized. She said she'd like to do anything on the show.

"I'd do 'Cool Tricks' or 'Super Music Friends,'" he said. "I'd do anything. I'd do the 'Dancey Dance,' anything they want me to do, I would do it. I think they're brilliant."

Someone who reached the "Idol" top-10 really should aspire to more than "Dancey Dance," of course. Still, we have to credit Joy's taste. Watching he show with a 4-year-old who provided narration and explanation, we found the whole thing to be oddly, almost perversely entertaining.

Allison is still a rock star

Allison Iraheta is an amazing show-business package. Look past the surface -- the big hair, the bigger voice and the leather jackets -- and you have someone who just turned 17, by way of 13. She's the kewpie doll of rock, Shirley Temple gone punk. And she has the voice to match the flash and flair.

Now, inexplicably, she's gone. Allison never seemed to engage the little girls with telephones. She spent a lot of time in the bottom two or three, then was bounced tonight.

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

1) That puts Allison at fourth, which is, of course, an honored spot. It's been the spot of Chris Daughtry and LaToya London and Tamyra Gray and LaKisha Jones and now Allison.

2) Daughtry was terrific, as usual, in his guest spot tonight. No Doubt was fine, too.

3) And Paula Abdul? She said it all with one line from the song: "I'm only here to dance." She did a dandy dance routine -- much better than most people can expect to do at age 46; we also heard some singing that she may have recorded herself, sometime previously.

4) Danny Gokey should have gone tonight, but we can't help liking the guy. There he was, mocking his own primal scream from the night before: "My own aunt muted the TV." He's a good guy, just not one of the three best singers.

5) Kris Allen? Every time we have doubts, he seems to have them, too. He flashes that wonderfully apologetic smile; little girls run to the phone.

6) Adam Lambert? This guy needs no doubts. He is THE talent of this or any season.

7) These make-up people have immense skill. One clever touch with Allison is to give her clear lipstick, contrasting perfectly with the bright hair. It's all part of her fascinating look.

8) Then why is she gone? In part, blame pageant syndrome: When people start performing so early, they never really develop a personality beyond the song. Allison was singing in public at 4, won a national Telemundo contest at 14. She has it all, except the personal backdrop to go with it.

9) But hey, the same thing was true of Diana DeGarmo and David Archuleta, both of whom made it to second place; Allison had to settle for fourth in a tough year.

10) Speaking of surprises, catch this one for a moment: This week, Constantine Maroulis received a Tony nomination for best leading actor in a musical. Yes, Constantine -- No. 6 back in the 2005 "Idol" -- is on a new Tony list that includes (in various categories) Jeff Daniels,Angela Lansbury, James Gandolfini, Jane Fonda and Stockard Channig. Life is full of odd twists.