Disco dies; so do Lil and Anoop

All over America tonight, children were looking accusingly at their parents and asking: "You listened to THAT?!? Why?"

The medley on "American Idol" seemed determined to assure that disco, already dead, would stay that way.

I'm not talking about the opening bit, with the seven finalists dancing to Paula Abdul's choreography. That was goofy fun.

Instead, I'm talking about the decision to bring back three old disco-era singers. Two were bad; Harry Casey was much worse. Here was a man known for his group (KC and the Sunshine Band) singing "(Shake Shake Shake) Shake Your Booty" in 1976, the post-Vietnam, post-Watergate, Bicentennial year when moods were high and standards were low. It appeared that his booty had not been (shake shake shake) shaken or stirred since.

Then came the ouster of Lil Rounds and Anoop Desai. Here are a few of my comments; please add yours:

1) Lil Rounds sang powerfully, as usual. We were soon reminded how much better she sings disco than most disco people did.

2) Lil Rounds finishing seventh? There hasn't been anything that absurd since ... well, since Jennifer Hudson finished seventh. Maybe Lil will get an Oscar too.

3) When Hudson finished seventh, people were stunned. Elton John -- who had been impressed when she sang his "Circle of Life" -- even suggested racism by the voters. And that was a year in which the final five included three blacks and a Polynesian. Tonight, by comparison, Lil and Anoop were swept away. The only person in the final five who is even faintly ethnic is Allison Iraheta -- and she was alongside them in the bottom three.

4) It was fun to see Matt Giraud pull through again, though. I had pegged him as the first one to go tonight (with Lil, unfortunately, second and Anoop scraping through). I'm kind of happy to be wrong; he's a fresh, soulful guy.

5) Anoop had pretty much been in the bottom three every week, except when he sang ballads. His time was coming.

6) Besides, Anoop already got to see North Carolina win the basketball championship, which is his prime obsession. You can't get everything the same year.

7) I can't help liking David Archuleta. He's a good singer, a likable guy and, I'm told, kind of cute. When he sang "Touch My Hand," I'm sure that wasn't everyone's first goal.

8) Cute only gets you to second place, however, as David Archuleta, Justin Guarini and Diana DeGarmo all learned. Someone cute -- Kris Allen or Allison Iraheta -- might make it to second this year.

9) First, of course, is reserved for Adam Lambert. Talent prevails and he has mountains of it.

10) Whatever happened to Diana DeGarmo, anyway? Do you realize she finished five places ahead of Jennifer Hudson? Maybe Lil Rounds shouldn't feel bad at all.

It's Adam and ...

Let's imagine that forces conspired against Adam Lambert. They decided he had to return to his home planet, the one where people can sing like that, people can create like that.

If so, this would be the closest "American Idol" ever. As it is, it's still sort of close: For the first time, I have no idea who will be ousted Wednesday. I also have no idea who will be the runner-up to Adam in the show's finale.

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

1) Originality is a good thing. It is NOT, however, the only thing. Every week, Lil Rounds shows that she can sing anything beautifully, in the style of the original performer. It would be better to create her own version, but she's still terrific; the judges should get off their one-note criticism of her.

2) Speaking of creating your own version, here's a hint: It really should be better than the original. I didn't like Kris Allen's version at all. Sure, it's gutsy to give "She Works Hard For the Money" a sort of calypso, Latino feel; still, it just wasn't all that pleasant to hear.

3) The show's best judge is Randy Jackson. Its worst judge is whoever sits next to Randy Jackson. Paula Abdul sat there for years and simply put what he said into different words. Now? Sometimes I don't think Kara DioGuardi even bothers to change the words.

4) Abdul, by comparison, has become pretty good now that she's separated from Jackson. Her comment about "shopping in the women's department" actually made sense. And I enjoyed hearing her tell Anoop Desai that "real men know how to wear pink."

5) Simon Cowell claimed he didn't understand that. But then again, we've just learned that he's not a real man; I don't think he has a clue how to wear pink.

6) The trouble with disco week is basic: This is a singing competition and disco songs -- fun, bouncy, vibrant -- tend to have a limited range. To show off, you have to change the song; those changes can sometimes be iffy.

7) Most people took a few chances with their song, but not too many. They just tried to sing the dickens out of it and remind us that the disco era was -- for reason that are now hard to remember -- fun.

8) OK, it was a bit disconcerting to see babyfaced, 16-year-old Allison Iraheta sing "give me some hot stuff, give me some loving tonight." It's an uncomfortable juxtaposition, sort of like seeing photos of JonBenet Ramsey with all her make-up.

9) Two people will go tonight. My should-go picks are Allen first and Matt Giraud second, with Desai third and Danny Gokey fourth.

10) My will-go predictions? Giraud first, with the second one a toss-up. I'll reluctantly predict Rounds, with Desai third. Next week, we're down to the four-way fight to see who gets to stand next to Lambert when he becomes the new American idol. 

Heroes, spies and an Indian chief

I'm just back from Chicago, where life is good. That is to say, where the Cubs beat the Cardinals in two straight come-from-behind wins. Sometimes -- even amid foul weather and more-foul economics -- it's easy to define "good."

I'll tell you more about Chicago soon. First, however, I had a chance to do some advance TV viewing; some notes:

1) It's hard to believe, but tonight (Monday, April 20) already brings the season's second-to-last new episodes of "Chuck" and "Heroes," at 8 and 9 p.m.on NBC.

2) "Chuck" is a fun show that never quite gets noticed. Tonight, Chuck (the reluctant secret agent) and Sarah (the beautiful and talented secret agent) try to rescue his dad, played by guest star Scott Bakula.

3) This whole "Heroes" chapter has been a disappointment. Still, I had a chance to see next week's season finale (April 27), in which Sylar is a handshake away from being the most powerful man in the world. The show still has its basic flaw -- it has given both the heroes and the villains such extreme powers that there's no way to tell a satisfying and convincing story -- but next week's finale is pretty good. Catch tonight's episode, to get ready.

4) And while you're doing that, tape the episodes (9 p.m. Mondays on most PBS stations) of "We Shall Remain," the "American Experience" mini-series focusing on some key American Indian stories. Tonight tells of Tecumseh, who came as close as anyone to uniting the tribes to make a stand. Next week is the Cherokee nation, seen through the eyes of two strong-but-opposite leaders. On May 4 is Geronimo, the Apache warrior who seemed to forever be two steps ahead of the cavalry. These stories are alternately fascinating, energizing and disturbing; give them a try.  

"Idol" pulls a surprise rescue

OK, that's a twist I didn't see coming.

After Tuesday's "American Idol" (see previous blog), I predicted that Matt Giraud would have the fewest viewer votes, with Lil Rounds second-fewest and Anoop Desai third.

That much turned out to be true. What I never would have guessed was that judges would use their rescue -- the only one they get all season -- to save Giraud.

They did, which sort of makes sense. He's a good singer who just never quite got anything special out of his song this week, "Have You Ever Really Loved a Woman?"

Now he'll have to scramble next week, when only five of the seven will survive. Here are a few of my comments; please add yours.

1) There was Jennifer Hudson on stage, showing her spectacular voice. I almost thought I heard Miley Cyrus (scheduled to sing later in the show) saying, "Uh, excuse me ... I just remembered I have an appointment somewhere else."

2) I have nothing against Miley, actually. She's a bright, vigorous kid with a perfectly presentable pop voice. It's just that few mortals could safely follow Hudson.

3) That would have been the one consolation for Geraud: If he had been voted out tonight, he would have finished No. 7; that's where Hudson finished and she's now an Oscar-winner and Grammy-winner.

4) Other famous people who finished seventh are Ace Young and Kimberly Caldwell; both now co-host shows about "Idol." And, of course, Sanjaya Malukar. Bucky Covington, who has had some country hits, finished eighth.

5) Wasn't it nice of them, after the Ford plug and the long "17 Again" plug, to pause for some commercials?

6) For once, Ryan Seacrest wasn't exaggerating. He said Miley Cyrus has "dominated the entertainment media." That's true. She's had the sort domination that Darth Vader or Simon Cowell might dream of.

7) Disco week? Lil Rounds -- a terrific talent, despite Cowell's sniping -- could be dynamite on a big song, one like "I Will Survive." 

8) Adam Lambert will kill on whatever he chooses.

9) Disco could be trouble for several of the guys -- Kris Allen, Anoop Desai and Matt Giraud.

10) I'm betting the entire disco era is already whirring through Giraud's mind. He has, after all, just surivived the closest call in "American Idol" history.






It all starts with Adam

"Anerican Idol," like life itself, starts with Adam.

There are no average singers left; there are six very good ones and Adam Lambert, who is on a different level. Like the best "Idol" singers (Kelly Clarkson, Clay Aiken, etc.), he has a great voice. Like a few (Taylor Hicks, Bo Bice) he commands a stage. And then he goes a step beyond, packing originality. This guy has dared to do a song Mick Jagger did ("Satisfaction") and a song everyone did ("Born to Be Wild"); he Adam-ized them. He keeps doing that.

Here are a few of my comments, followed by my should-go, will-go; please add your comments:

1) Simon Cowell is dead wrong about Lil Rounds. She's a terrific singer who sometimes doesn't choose the right song. A few minor pokes are OK, but Simon keeps going at her. He started tonight's show by declaring Allison Iraheta as the only hope for females; with only one other female in the competition, that was a pointed (and incorrect) comment.

2) As long as Anoop Desai and Kris Allen sing ballads, they do fine. They are, let's face it, cute guys. On ballads, the camera focuses on cute guys showing emotion. They'll prosper.

3) Matt Giraud, by comparison, is a regular guy who has to sing the dickens out of a song each week. Tonight, he was OK; he's vulnerable.

4) Danny Gokey scored from the moment he chose "Endless Love." There was the young widower singing "my first love ... no one else will do ... my endless love." He felt it; the audience did, too.

5) Allison Iraheta was terrific, as usual. But no, she's NOT the only hope for female singers.

6) Am I the only person who things "Once" was an overrated movie and its Oscar-winning song was over-rated, too? Nothing much happened in the film; almost nothing happens in the song. Still, Kris Allen made it seem like something happened. People cheered; he's a good singer and (I might have mentioned this) a cute guy.

7) I kind of miss the days when there were bad singers to mock. Or bad hair or bad clothes or something.

8) OK, I'll criticize Ryan Seacrest for calling Quentin Tarantino "a legend." He's a good director, a zestful "American Idol" fan and creator of the classic "Pulp Fiction"; legendary directors have more than one classic.

9) My should-go, based only on tonight: Matt Giraud, with Kris Allen second and Anoop Desai third.

10) My will-go: Matt (I'll miss a strong Michigan singer), with Lil Rounds second and Anoop Desai third.