"Idol": For guys only?

I really do like females, you know. I like the way they sing, the way they look, maybe even the way they smell. So this year's "American Idol" is getting tougher for me.

The finals started with eight men and only five women. Since then, it has shed Jorge Nunez, Jasmine Murray and now Alexis Grace; that makes it 7-3 and way out of kilter.

I expected Jasmine to go last week, but Alexis was a jolt. Tiny (not quite 5-foot and 100 pounds), she has a big, bluesy voice that's been molded in her years in Memphis. She's a real talent, sort of Kristen Bell without the acting.

Alas, for country week she chose "Jolene," a terrific Dolly Parton song that doesn't give much extra room for the singer to show off. Her version Tuesday was too muted; on Wednesday -- going for a reprieve by the judges -- she gave it a gutsy, gritty, passionate try.

The circumstances were perfect -- singing "I'm begging you please" to judges who could spare her. They didn't.

Here are a few other comments; please add yours:

1) It was logical to see Michael Sarver at second from the bottom. He's a likable guy and a good singer, but the jet-paced song he chose offered no opportunity for individual initiative. All you can do is grab the song at full gallop and hope you don't fall off.

2) It was disturbing, though, to see Allison Iraheta as the next-lowest. She belted powerfully; this is a tough year for women.

3) Sometimes you hear that a song is kinda-country. Well, make note of this: "I Told You So" -- the song Carrie Underwood and Randy Travis sang tonight -- is WAY country. All the ghosts of "Grand Ole Opry" could cheer that one.

4) The show keeps jerking around with people's emotions. This time, it made Sarver think he was safe, then sent him to the bottom three.

5) Sarver shouldn't have told that story about his 3-year-old daughter wanting him home. Next week, viewers will feel no guilt about skipping him.

6) Next week, incidentally, could be a good one for Matt Giraud of Kalamazoo. The shows -- pushed back to Wednesday and Thursday, because of a presidential speech Tuesday -- feature Motown music, something he grew up on.

7) Motown? I hope Lil Rounds and Iraheta unleash the best Gladys Knight songs around. (Aretha Franklin, alas, hasn't recorded for Motown.) We can't afford to lose any more good women.



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.