For once, Simon is wrong, wrong wrong

Until tonight, Simon Cowell was having a great year. Time after time, his comments have been strong, to the point and correct.

Now, alas, he's been terribly, brutally wrong. In particular, his Adam Lambert comments were the exact opposite of the truth.

Sure, we're used to the Johnny Cash version of "Ring of Fire." But when you listen to the words, you realize that Lambert's version fits. Cash sang of mild discomfort, Lambert sang of writhing, Hellish pain; both served the words beautifully.

Cowell was way off when he called it "indulgent rubbish" and "really horrendous." He was also wrong when he assumed that "Lil" is short for "Little." (I assumed that, too, but I asked her; she explained that "Lil" is her complete first name since birth.) He was also wrong in not remembering to change into one of his going-out-in-public T-shirts.

 Here are a few other comments and my should-go, will-go. Please add your comments; also, please check my previous blogs on "Idol," basketball and St. Patrick's Day:

1) It's tough to sing a story song in 80 seconds. Lil Rounds, a great singer, got nowhere with "Independence Day," a great song. There simply wasn't time to set it up.

2) Danny Gokey also chose poorly with "Jesus Take the Wheel." The first half was quite bad; the second half saved the song and Danny. Also, there was subtle brilliance to the notion of dressing him in a pure-white jacket and bathing the stage in white; sub-consciously, it looked and felt like a one-man choir.

3) Speaking of attire, Allison Iraheta looks wonderful in leather. And she sings powerfully. This is how Elvis would have done it, if Elvis came back as a tiny Latina teen-ager. Maybe he did.

4) What a strange group this is, when all of the great ballads were sung by guys, none by women. Anoop Desai, Kris Allen and Matt Giraud each sang beautifully.

5) I didn't particularly like Scott MacIntyre's performance and I hated Megan Joy Corkrey's performance, but I'm under no illusion that either will be voted out. Megan gets most of the sympathy votes this time, including a hospital trip and missing the run-through.

6) My should-go, based strictly on tonight: Megan Joy, followed by Michael Sarver, then Lil Rounds, then Scott MacIntyre.

7) My will-go -- Michael Sarver. He tackled a song that doesn't really show off the singer. This isn't a spelling bee; no one wins for showing a good memory. There's an outside chance, though, that Alexis Grace or Lil Rounds will go. I hope not; they're terrific singers who had adequate nights.






St. Patrick's Day notes

A few St. Patrick's Day comments, while waiting for "American Idol" to wrap up. (Also, please read and comment on my previous and upcoming blogs, both on "Idol"):

1) It's very difficult to play the bagpipes. It's impossible to play them well.

2) Midway through a song, I realized it was "Danny Boy." Ideally, that realization should come much sooner.

3) Anyone who goes out to eat on March 17 has no right to do a blog that grumbles about St. Patrick's Day things.

When "Idol" meets Nashville

There might have been a musical milestone tonight (Tuesday, March 17). That was averted,  however, when Jorge Nunez was ousted last week from "American Idol."
If Nunez had lasted one more week, he would have faced tonight's country-music theme. "I would have been ... the first Puerto Rican in the history of Puerto Rico to sing country music," he joked by phone.
He had even started picking out a song -- possibly Martina McBride's "Anyway" or Carrie Underwood's "I Know You Won't." Then Nunez and Jasmine Murray were ousted; the country nights (with Randy Travis as mentor).
For a moment, consider the people who were ousted during country week. In orter, they have been: Julia DeMato, Matt Rogers, Anthony Federov, Mandisa, Sanjaya Malukar and Ramielle Malubay. Most of them had roots and homes far from Nashville.

Murray -- who had been pondering several Underwood or LeAnn Rimes songs -- sounded somber. She was upbeat about some things, however, including being with "Idol" when it moved to its larger setting. "That stage is so amazing -- the lights and the audience; it's amazing, all the energy you feel."
As for Nunez, his mood was unvaryingly upbeat.
"I've got lots of text messages saying wonderful things," he said. "That's how my family is and that's how I am."
Before this, he had been comfortably into his final year of college, studying comparative literature and planning to be a lawyer. He had sung with school groups, but little more. When he tried out for "Objetivo Fama" -- sometimes loosely called "the Spanish 'American Idol'" -- he didn't survive the first round of auditions.
In the actual "Idol," however, he reached the final 13 and was praised, via text-message, by Marc Anthony and Jennifer Lopez.
He'll definitely finish college, he said, but he'll also take advantage of the waves of publicity in Puerto Rico. And yes, he's planning to be there soon. "I can't wait to go back and finally eat some real Puerto Rican food."
For Murray, it will simply be a return to the life she's long known. She's been singing since she was 3 and is a high school junior at the Mississippi School of the Arts; she's also a pageant veteran.
Last year, Murray finished in the top 10 for Miss America's Outstanding Teenager. The year before that, she sang the National Anthem at the Miss America pageant.
By one view, that experience hurt her: Pageants emphasize poise and precision; "Idol" viewers often want something looser and more vibrant.
One judge (Simon Cowell) even called Murray "robotic." She prefers an alternate view: "Paula (Abdul said) I had poise on the stage. I think it's a good thing."  

MSU is playing whom?

So now there's one big question around Michigan: Who, exactly, is Robert Morris?

That's whom Michigan State University will play Friday, to start its run in the NCAA basketball tournament. That still leaves people wondering who Bob Morris is.

Well, he starred in "How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying," on Broadway and in the movie. Roundish and bright-eyed, he was instantly likable. Now, in his 70s, he plays quirky roles, including Truman Capote on Broadway and the boss on "Mad Men" and ...

Oh wait, that's Robert Morse; I guess I don't know who this Robert Morris is. He'll probably have trouble playing MSU by himself. Maybe he can form a five-person team by combining with other colleges. It could be Robert Morris and George Mason and Oral Roberts and ... well, William and Mary.

Sorry Jasmine, it's not enough

How much has "American Idol" advanced in the past five years?

Consider this: Jasmine Murray and Diana DeGarmo were essentially the same person on "Idol." Each was a cute teen-ager with a big voice, belting out high-volume finishes.

Back in 2004, that was enough to take DeGarmo all the way to the top two. This time, Murray didn't reach the top 11.

There were plenty of reasons Murray and Jorge Nunez were eliminated tonight, but one is the steep improvement in the competition.

The third season, in 2004, had three strong talents -- Fantasia (the winner), LaToya London (fourth) and Jennifer Hudson (seventh). The rest? Well, remember Jon Peter Lewis and John Stevens and ...

There are no such weak spots this time. The only problem Tuesday involved people whose songs left little potential to display their talent.

Anoop Desai did a solidly forgettable job on "Beat It," but scraped past Nunez, whose ballad was only adequate.

Megan Joy Corkrey did a so-so "Rockin' Robin," but at least she's distinctive and memorable. Murray sang "I'll Be There" as if we were enmeshed in a beauty pageant; it seemed cold and calculated, it had precision without passion. She can win any Miss Teen Sings Nice competition; she just can't win the 2009 version of "American Idol."