"Idol": some mixed Motown moments


It was the right advice tonight on "American Idol," even if it was given to the wrong person.

You can't just choose a great song, the judges said. You need one that lets you stand out. There has to be enough space to do something special; you need room to make moments.

As it happens, they were saying that to Lil Rounds, to whom few rules need apply. She chose "Heat Wave," a bullet train of a song; all the singer can do is run at top speed, jump on and hang tight. Fortunately, Rounds is good enough to do that; she nailed it.

Others, however, could have used that advice. There was Danny Gokey with "Get Ready," Michael Sarver with "Ain't Too Proud to Beg," Scott MacIntyre with "You Can't Hurry Love" and (rather horribly) Megan Joy with "For Once in My Life." These are great songs by (mostly) fine singers; there just wasn't much room for the singers to seem special.

Then what did I like tonight? There was:

-- Adam Lambert, once again. After all those Goth weeks, he came out looking like early John Stamos and singing ("Track of My Tears") like a current edition of Smokey Robinson. This guy is a consummate performer.

-- Anoop Desai. On consecutive weeks, he's done the classic ballads of Willie and Smokey, nailing them both.

-- Lil Rounds and Allison Iraheta. They didn't make their own moments, but they rode great songs (Allison did "Papa Was a Rolling Stone") skillfully.

A few other comments; please add yours:

1) Although I generally oppose government intervention in esthetic matters, it wouldn't be unreasonable to pass a law banning Paula Abdul's poofy skirt.

2) Everything they said about the Motown museum in Detroit is true. Go there this year, during the label's 50th anniversary. You'll marvel at the great music made in small spaces; you'll even visit the tiny apartment where Berry Gordy lived while making music history.

3) For this week, I think Megan Joy should and will go. Michael Sarver could also be vulnerable, but he brings a sort of decent-guy vibe when he takes the criticism calmly. Sarver is a good-looking guy; Joy is an immensely beautiful woman. With this voting block, however, hot-babe rarely translate into votes.

 

 

"Idol," basketball, Motown, more


This is a joyous week around Michigan, for lots of reasons. (If you're reading this from outside Michigan, just skip the first one; the rest is about "American Idol.")

1) The Michigan State University women had their sharp upset of top-seeded Duke. Lauren Aitch came off the bench to play superbly; in less than half a game (18 of 40 minutes), she scored 15 points, grabbed six rebounds and brought a ferocity to an MSU offense that had seemed hesitant. At one point, this was a 47-47 deadlock; somehow, it turned into a 63-49 rout. The crowd was ecstatic.

2) This is Motown week on "American Idol." The show is always at its best when doing Motown music; that's when Ricky Minor and his band soar. Now -- helping celebrate Motown's 50th anniversary -- Smokey Robinson and Berry Gordy will both be around for the show (one night later than usual) at 8 p.m. Wednesday (March 25) and 9 p.m. Thursday (March 26).

The only bad part is that Alexis Grace, a terrific singer, won't be there. She was ousted last week, finishing 11th and just missing a slot on the tour. Here's the story I wrote after a phone interview:

On the day after being ousted from "American Idol," some contestants offer a cheery image.
Not Alexis Grace. "I never imagined going home this early," she said.
Judges had often praised her gritty, bluesy voice and some people saw her as a top contender. Instead, she stumbled during country week.
"I feel like I let my state down," said Grace, who is from Memphis, Tenn. "I'm from the South and we're suppose to sing country well; I think I do."
But there was the question of which song to sing. Grace, 21, considered doing something current from Carrie Underwood, but decided against it because two others were doing Underwood tunes.
Instead, she sang "Jolene," a Dolly Parton hit from 1974. "I felt like everyone knows 'Jolene' and it's such a pretty song," she said.
Judges said Grace had lost her edge. Going into Wednesday's show, she said she felt she would be in the bottom three among viewer votes, but didn't expect to be last.
When she was, she had one last chance to sing for the judges and change their minds. This time, her "Jolene" sounded bluesier, but Grace said that wasn't on purpose. "That was just what I was feeling."
She cried backstage, then went back to the "Idol" mansion "and packed all my bags and packed my 30 pairs of shoes."
It was the second straight year that a woman with a bluesy voice finished 11th, just missing a tour spot. Last year, it was Amanda Overmyer.
The difference is that Grace simply doesn't look the part. Just under 5-foot and 100 pounds, she initially surprised judges with her voice. "It was, 'You don't look like you can sing like that,'" she said.
On their suggestion, she changed to a hip look, including pink highlights in her hair. The color may change, she said, "but I'll definitely keep the edgy look."
The rest is indefinite. She'll go back to Memphis, where her boyfriend and her daughter are. She hopes to sing there and do some recording, with a style that's "Joss Stone mixed with Carrie Underwood and with Sheryl Crow."

"Idol," basketball, Motown, more


This is a joyous week around Michigan, for lots of reasons. (If you're reading this from outside Michigan, just skip the first one; the rest is about "American Idol.")

1) The Michigan State University women had their sharp upset of top-seeded Duke. Lauren Aitch came off the bench to play superbly -- 16 pounts and a fierce approach that ignited a sleepy game. At one point, this was a 47-47 deadlock; somehow, it turned into a 63-49 rout. The crowd was ecstatic.

2) This is Motown week on "American Idol." The show is always at its best when doing Motown music; that's when Ricky Minor and his band soar. Now -- helping celebrate Motown's 50th anniversary -- Smokey Robinson and Berry Gordy will both be around for the show (one night later than usual) at 8 p.m. Wednesday (March 25) and 9 p.m. Thursday (March 26).

The only bad part is that Alexis Grace, a terrific singer, won't be around for it. She was ousted last week, finishing 11th and just missing a slot on the "Idol" tour. Here's the story I wrote after a phone interview:

 On the day after being ousted from "American Idol," some contestants offer a cheery image.
Not Alexis Grace. "I never imagined going home this early," she said by phone.
Judges had often praised her gritty, bluesy voice and some people saw her as a top contender. Instead, she stumbled during country week.
"I feel like I let my state down," said Grace, who is from Memphis, Tenn. "I'm from the South and we're suppose to sing country well; I think I do."
But there was the question of which song to sing. Grace, 21, considered doing something current from Carrie Underwood, but decided against it because two others were doing Underwood tunes.
Instead, she sang "Jolene," a Dolly Parton hit from 1974. "I felt like everyone knows 'Jolene' and it's such a pretty song," she said.
Judges disapproved and said Grace had lost her edge. Going into Wednesday's show, she said she felt she would be in the bottom three among viewer votes, but didn't expect to be last.
When she was, she had one last chance to sing for the judges and change their minds. This time, her "Jolene" did sound bluesier, but Grace said that wasn't on purpose. "That was just what I was feeling."
She cried backstage, then went back to the "Idol" mansion "and packed all my bags and packed my 30 pairs of shoes."
It was the second straight year that a woman with a bluesy voice finished 11th, just missing a chance to tour with the top 10. Last year, it was Amanda Overmyer.
The difference is that Grace simply doesn't look the part. Just under 5-foot and 100 pounds, she initially surprised judges with her voice. "It was, 'You don't look like you can sing like that,'" she said.
On their suggestion, she changed to a hip look, including pink highlights in her hair. The color may change, she said, "but I'll definitely keep the edgy look."
The rest is indefinite. She'll go back to Memphis, where her boyfriend and her daughter are. She hopes to sing there and do some recording, with a style that's "Joss Stone mixed with Carrie Underwood and with Sheryl Crow."

Too much of a good thing


Life seems to know only two modes -- nothing to do and way, way too much to do.

Right now, we're in that second phase in Lansing, Mich., when three basketball tournaments and a film festival collide. First, two notes:

1) If you don't live near Lansing, please bear with me; this particular blog is local. I'll be back to "American Idol" and such soon.

2) If you do live around here, things still aren't over. Coming up:

-- Another game in the women's NCAA tournament, Tuesday (March 24) at the Breslin Center, this time with Michigan State University playing powerhouse Duke. Despite zillion-to-one odds against MSU, it will be fun; Sunday's game was.

-- More from the film festival, with movies at Celebration Cinema through Thursday. (I've heard great things about Guy Maddin's "My Winnipeg," which shows at 6:30 p.m. today, March 23.) Also, the movie "Garrison Keillor: The Man on The Radio in the Red Shoes" is Wednesday at the Hannah Community Center; the Wilco movie "Ashes of American Flags" is 7:30 p.m. Thursday in Room 1281 of MSU's Anthony Hall. Check www.elff.com.

-- And more basketball to come. Next weekend, peope will be torn between watching MSU men (now in the sweet 16) on TV and high school guys at the Breslin Center -- plus interactive basketball fun across the street at the Jenison Fieldhouse, where Magic Johnson once reigned.

Life is fun in its too busy mode and Sunday was wild. There, a stunned crowd saw MSU fall behind to Middle Tennessee State 27-12, then became energized by a spectacular comeback and 60-59 win. A few comments:

1) Why isn't it "Central Tennessee"? When you say "Middle Tennessee," it sounds like "Middle Earth." You expect Hobbits.

2) For way too long, MSU coach Suzy Merchant's entire game plan seemed to be to wish Allyssa DeHaan were a different person. Merchant had DeHaan (the nation's tallest woman player, at 6-foot-9) guarding Alysha Clark (the nation's highest woman scorer at 27.3 points a game). It was a mismatch, but not in ways you would expect. DeHaan had a 10-inch edge and blocked six shots, but Clark was way too quick and slick for her, scoring 25 points in the first half alone. She finished with 34, finally contained by Aisha Jefferson. Among other things, Jefferson took three charges from Clark, the last one fouling her out.

3) I'm afraid I have to agree with the late Al McGuire, who said offensive fouls should be charged to a team's total, but should not to an individual's five-foul limit. His argument was that those fouls happen disproportionately to the game's best players, because they're the ones with the ball. I agreed with him the night Magic Johnson fouled out at MSU on a charge; I guess I have to agree after the charges by Clark (an amazing player) saved MSU.

4) MSU has so many turnovers because too many of it players diddle around offensively. Their game seems too passive, sort of waiting for something bad too happen. The team desperately needs the extra energy that comes when Keane and Aitch enter. Among the starters, only Jefferson and Cetera Washington were doing much.

5) I'm sorry, but my mind works this way sometimes. The arena announcer said, "Washington and Jefferson back in the game for MSU." I could only think, 'What? Adams couldn't make it?"

6) The game was great fun, though. I'll see you there Tuesday.

 

 

 

 

A brief thought


I just saw a CNN item that said there's a current increase in vasectomies, particularly among people in the financial industry. That's an interesting coincidence, because I was ready to advocate mandatory vasectomies for some people in the financial industry.