"Idol" adds the missing element

After its first two rounds, "American Idol" was still missing a key element -- a great, black singer. Now it has at least one, maybe two.

Lil Rounds sang beautifully to close the show; she should easily zoom into the final 12. Ju'Not Joyner also did a great job, but was sandwiched in the middle; some other guys followed strongly.

Powerhouse black singers have been part of this show from the beginning. Ten the 28 people to reach the show's final four have been black; from Ruben Studdard to Fantasia to Jordin Sparks, they have enriched "Idol" enormously.

But this year? In the first two rounds, the show added five whites and a Latina; something was missing.

Not tonight. Joyner has a great voice; Rounds has that plus a vibrant personality and three kids. Here are my thoughts; please add yours:

1) Sympathy can be a powerful factor and now there's an overload. Danny Gokey is a widower and Scott MacIntyre is blind; both happen to be strong singers and likable guys.

2) On an ordinary night, Felicia Barton would also be a strong contender. She's the one who didn't make the final 36, then was brought back when someone else was dropped. She sang well and is the best-looking person in the running.

3) And on an ordinary night, Kendall Beard would be dynamite. She's a Kellie Pickler type -- blonde and buoyant and country. But she picked a song ("This One's For the Girls") with limited potential. Whenever possible in a contest, sing a Martina McBride song; just don't sing THAT one.

4) Then there were the people lost in the shuffle, particularly Von Swift, who started the show so well. Maybe they'll be back on Thursday, when the judges add the final three people to the top 12.

5) Now for my should-advance and will-advance; it's much tougher than in previous weeks.

6) Should advance? I'll go with Lil Rounds as the best female, Ju'Not Joyner as the best male and Von Swift in the third spot.

7) Will advance? Definitely Scott MacIntyre and Lil Rounds, but the third spot could go in any of several directions. I'll guess Jorge Nunez, a likable guy who sang near the end, sang well and got lots of attention. We'll know soon.




Sorry, Jimmy; it was a bad start

We really were rooting for Jimmy Fallon on the opening of his latenight talk show (12:35 a.m. weekdays on NBC). This is an immensely likable guy, doing what he's always wanted to do.

Still, it's tough to deny: This was an awful start.

Sure, there were a few good things -- The Roots as the house band, Van Morrison as musical guest, an occasional sharp one-liner. Discussing some new computer stores, Fallon said they are sort of like regular stores, "except that when you ask the clerks a question, they freeze up."

Mostly, though, nothing went right. Fallon's done some stand-up comedy, but he still has little experience talking to an audience. The opening monolog had some decent lines, but it was stiff and faltering.

The next bit -- a game called "Lick It For Ten" -- was much worse. Audience members were brought onstage, to see if they would lick things for $10. Hint: People will lick anything on camera, even with zero dollars involved; these things -- a new lawnmower, etc. -- weren't even terribly unlickable. There was little fun to be found here and Fallon found none. Given a half-year to think of something, that was the best they could do?

Robert De Niro was pleasantly uncommunicative, Justin Timberlake tried to helpfully do some musical imitations. Mostly, Fallon was lost.

Things will be better tonight (technically, 12:35 a.m. Wednesday) for his second show, with Tina Fey as a guest. She's not as good an actor as Robert De Niro (few people are), but she's more of a talker than he is (almost everyone is).

Meanwhile, please drop in some comments about Fallon and (see previous blogs) about the "Bachelor" finale and "American Idol." We'll hope Fallon's show gets better quickly; it has to. 


A botched "Bachelor"

"I don't get it at all," Melissa Rycroft said on the post-"Bachelor" show Monday (March 2). "None of it makes sense."

And that provides a concise review of this round of "The Bachelor."

Jason Mesnick had told viewers he was really fond of one finalist (Molly Malaney of Grand Rapids), but the other one (Melissa Rycroft of Dallas, Texas) is open and easy to love. He proposed, she accepted, they said they were the happiest people on the planet.

The follow-up show was taped six weeks later. Mesnick said he had changed his mind and wanted Molly after all. Melissa raged, Molly hugged, Jason said he'd go slowly this time and we didn't get it at all; none of it made sense.

Another follow-up show is set for 10 p.m. today (Tuesday, March 3), to see how Jason and Molly are doing. Meanwhile, a summary:

1) One recent bachelor ended up choosing no one. He left the show without an ending.

2) Now Jason has done this. In the show's history, there have been zero marriages from the bachelor, one from the bachelorette.

3) The only logical conclusion is that guys should never be in charge of any decision.




"Idol" so far: The worship leaders lead

Hey kids, you want to be on "American Idol"?
This year's best route is a surprising one: Become a musical worship leader.
"It's a different kind of performing, but you get a lot of practice," Kris Allen said.
He's been doing it since he got to the University of Central Arkansas, about six years ago. He's also been on church missions to Mozambique, Morocco,Thailand, Burma, Spain and South Africa.
So far, half the six "Idol" finalists have been worship leaders: Michael Sarver did that in Texas, Danny Gokey in Milwaukee and Beloit, Wis.

(For an interview with last week's three, look back a few blogs. Also, you'll find the blogs I do after each "Idol" episode.)

And what about last season's trend? That was the year when five of the final 12 had Latino roots; this year there's one Latina, so far.
That's Allison Iraheta, whose parents are from El Salvador. "All my life, I've been singing both Spanish and English," she said.
And she's been getting ready for years, at her home in Los Angeles. "I've been wanting to audition since I was 9," she said. "I would put my face on the screen."
She wasn't eligible for "Idol" until this year, but she had a handy warm-up. At 14, she won "Quinceanaro," on the Telemundo network."It was amazing," she said.
By the time she finally reached "Idol," she had a seasoned way to perform a rock song. She also surrounds her little-girl face with hair that's dyed a blazing red. "I'll probably be one of those who is red for a couple months and then maybe purple."
The look is also a key part of Adam Lambert's persona. Even when he was doing Broadway-type shows, he said, he arrived in his goth-emo style. "All the kids (in the musicals) thought I was (strange). The stuff you see on 'Idol' is my daily street wear."
He first landed a community musical -- as Linus in "You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown" -- at 10 in San Diego. Most recently, he understudied -- and got on stage occasionally -- as Fiyero, the love interest in the Los Angeles production of "Wicked."
That's his profession, he insisted, not his passion. "I finally get to sing the stuff I listen to."

Whatever happened to "Idol" surprises?

Remember when "American Idol" used to surprise us?

I don't mean happy surprises. I mean oh-my-God-they've-dumped-Daughtry surprises and Nicki-McKibbon-is-STILL-here surprises. They were the kind that made us grumble vaguely about not watching.

This year, that's gone. Last night, my three-person should-win list and my will-win list were identical. Tonight, those three all did win; a week earlier, two of my three predictions won and the third (Anoop Desai) was barely edged out.

This doesn't mean I've suddenly turned wise. In both weeks, there was a clear separation between the terrific and the others. And as luck would have it, the talented people also are telegenic; there was no reason for perverse tweeners to vote oddl.

So now we have half the final 12. The only two females -- Allison Iraheta and Alexis Grace -- are teen-agers with powerful voices and distinctive looks. Most of the guys -- Kris Allen, Danny Gokey, Michael Sarver -- are likable sorts with fine voices. One, Adam Lambert, stands out because of his unique look and music style. When he finished singing Mick Jagger's anthem, we sort of thought, "Oh, maybe that's how it should be done."

"Idol" tried to toy with us tonight, making us think Nick Mitchell might be voted through. His comic performance was clever and well-calculated -- but when Mitchell was standing alongside Lambert, we knew he'd be going.

Maybe Mitchell will be back during second-chance night (Thursday), when the judges consider several and choose three. I doubt it, though. In particular, I'm expecting to see Megan Joy Corkrey and Jesse Langseth return from this week's crowd, Desai and others from last week. Let me know which ones you're expecting.