Archive for the ‘Music’ Category

My Top Songs Of 2012

December 27, 2012

After a few years where country music dominated my listening hours, pop music came back this year and took all but one spot on my yearly top 10.

10. Of course, that’s because I don’t consider TAYLOR SWIFT country anymore. Taylor rocked out on “Red” with songs like “State Of Grace” and the title cut, but my favorite was a character study called “THE LUCKY ONE.”

9. You might not know it, but year after year, RICK SPRINGFIELD puts out albums full of great rock and roll. His latest, “Songs For The End Of The World,” is highlighted by “OUR SHIP’S SINKING.”

8. The “Now” series makes it easy to collect pop music’s most popular singles. One of my friends buys the English version of the series, “Now That’s What I Call Music.” While many of the songs have typical house music oriented arrangements, I usually find a few future pop classics that haven’t been released in the U.S.yet. This year, my discoveries included Little Mix’s “Cannonball,” Jessie J’s “Domino” and this song that’s just breaking in the States, “PICKING UP THE PIECES” by PALOMA FAITH.

7. How could I not love a song called “SPRINGSTEEN”? While there’s not a lot about Bruce in it, this country smash by ERIC CHURCH was melodic and nostalgic.

6. Here’s a song I missed out on until I heard it thanks to my job as a researcher on “New Year’s Rockin’ Eve 2013,” where KARMIN will be performing their Top 20 hit, “BROKENHEARTED.”

5. “American Idol” alumni brought us some great music this year. I loved Phillip Phillips coronation song, “Home,” and Carrie Underwood’s “Blown Away,” but the original was still the best, as KELLY CLARKSON dominated the airwaves with “STRONGER.”

4. Another one of my “Now That’s What I Call Music” discoveries, this artist is finally getting some attention in America thanks to his hit, “The A Team,” and an upcoming tour with Taylor Swift. But wait until you hear “LEGO HOUSE” by ED SHEERAN!.

3. BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN wrote it to commemorate the closing of Giants Stadium, but to me this song came to symbolize the tough times people have faced this year, but still fought on. “Come on and take your best shot, let me see what you’ve got, bring on your WRECKING BALL!”

2. The spirit of Motown lives in the English girl group STOOSHE’s “BLACK HEART.”

1. It was one of the most popular and most played songs of the year, yet I never got tired of it. Who didn’t sing along with this in the car? The catchiest chorus of the year came from CARLY RAE JEPSEN’s “CALL ME MAYBE.”

ACMA’S 2011: THE COUNTDOWN IS ON!

March 28, 2011

This year’s run-up to my annual trip to Las Vegas to work on the Academy of Country Music Awards has been especially hectic. It seems just when I think I’m getting close to the finish line, they move the end of the race a few miles further!

You’ll remember that the past two years have featured tribute concerts taped the night after the ACMA’s, both of which I’ve been the researcher for. Two years ago, they celebrated George Strait winning the Artist of The Decade accolade, while last year, the concert commemorated the careers of Brooks & Dunn on the occasion of their last hurrah together. This year, one act wasn’t enough. The Academy decided to pay tribute to seven artists at once, with Carrie Underwood, Jennifer Nettles of Sugarland, the Judds, Loretta Lynn, Martina McBride, Miranda Lambert and Reba McEntire all getting the star treatment on “Girls’ Night Out: Superstar Women Of Country.”

“Girls Night Out” is a bit more intricate production wise than the past two tribute concerts. Rather than just have an artist come out and talk a little bit about the honorees before performing one of their hits, we’ve prepared tribute packages about the artists. In some cases, we even sent crews to their hometowns to talk to people that knew them growing up. In fact, one of my first jobs when I started on the show a few weeks ago was to help organize the shoots and get in touch with the people we wanted our crew to interview.

A few of the tribute packages include glimpses of our honorees as children. It turns out that every one of these artists were dynamic performers long before they became superstars. I especially enjoyed the footage of Jennifer Nettles with her high school 4-H group, Clovers & Co., as well as Carrie Underwood performing at an Oklahoma TV station while she was still in seventh grade.

In addition to organizing shoots and gathering footage, I’ve also been pitching in trying to locate photos we can use in the background screens during various performances. You’d think that would be as easy as just entering someone’s name in Google Images, but it’s more complicated than that. First, you need photo files big enough to fill the screens, and then you have to be able to clear the photos. What this means is we need to get permission for every photo and bit of footage we use. Naturally we try to use video from past ACMA shows, but you also get sent material by the different management companies of the artists and every single thing you use, you have to identify where it came from, find out who owns it and get them to sign off on using it. It’s a really big job and Dick Clark Productions has a clearance department to handle it, but as I’m the person who’s getting the stuff in, it’s up to me to keep track of everything!

But don’t cry for me, country music fans! Tomorrow I’m off to Sin City for a week of hanging out with the biggest stars in country music… although I have to admit I’m more excited about some of the non-country performers. No, not presenter Robert Pattinson! I’m eager to try and meet James Taylor, who’s performing with the Zac Brown Band on the ACMA’s, as well as another rock legend who’s not officially booked yet for “Girls’ Night Out,” but I’m keeping my fingers crossed! I’m also psyched to see Vince Gill, who will be singing a Carrie Underwood classic on “Girls’ Night Out.” This will be the first time he’s been on one of the ACM country shows since I’ve been working on them, and he’s one of the first performers I really liked when I started listening to country music.

Keep your eye on my blog for more backstage scoop from Las Vegas later this week!

IDOLPALOOZA 2010

June 4, 2010

Last week was pretty much all “American Idol” all the time, starting with an interview with Bo Bice on Monday. Bo was appearing on Game Show Network’s “GSN Live,” so Fred Bronson and I headed out to the GSN Studios in nearby Glendale to meet with Bo in his dressing room. Half of the interview was devoted to Bo’s new album and can be seen on Fred’s Idols Now app for the Iphone, while the non-video portion centered on Bo’s run on “American Idol,” one of many interviews we’ve been doing for a secret project that’s due out next year. As always, Bo was the consummate Southern gentleman, and certainly one of the most charismatic Idols I’ve ever met. The big revelation of the interview was that in Bo’s justifiably praised acapella version of “In A Dream” on “Idol,” he hit a bum note that has bothered him ever since. I checked out the performance on You Tube, and if you didn’t know it was there, you’d think it was something Bo tried to do!

The next day, Fred and I headed downtown for the final performance night of Season 9. We got a late start and arrived not too long before the show started. Fortunately, Fred had a parking pass that got us in a garage right across from the theater. Our seats were in Row NN, which was pretty far back although we still had a great view of the stage. I thought Crystal won the night, although given the screams for Lee, I wasn’t at all surprised when he was crowned the winner the following night.

Wednesday, we got downtown quite a bit earlier, enabling us to have lunch at The Farm restaurant, followed by a few hours on the red carpet before the show. I took a spot near the TV Guide Network booth where Justin Guarini and Brooke White were greeting the Idols. I got a chance to say hello to Diana DeGarmo and Ace Young, using their weekly break from “Hair” on Broadway to attend the finale, as well as play the game of “Spot The Idol,” seeing such past contestants as Kristy Lee Cook, Melinda Doolittle and Michael Johns on the Red Carpet. I also got a sneak preview of the evening’s special guests with Daryl Hall & John Oates as well as Alice Cooper being interviewed. But the biggest surprise was when a limo pulled up and out stepped Raquel Welch! Here I had traveled to Pasadena to attend one of her book signings recently and there she was right in front of me.

Of course, the show itself was another triumph for the producers. For me, the highlight was seeing Bret Michaels take the stage so soon after his recent health problems. I’ve always had a fondness for Bret, as he’s from Pennsylvania and played the same bars I went to as a college student.

After the show, Fred and I stopped off at the KISS FM Viewing Party at the nearby Regal Cinemas, then got in my car and headed for the Mondrian Hotel on the Sunset Strip for the 19 Entertainment party. After getting to the party late one year and missing out on all the food, Fred and I have not made the same mistake again. In addition to chowing down, there was plenty of hobnobbing with my favorite Idols. I said hello to Kris Allen. I complimented Casey James on his amazing duet with Bret Michaels and learned that their team-up had been in the works long before Bret’s recent health problems. I congratulated David Archuleta on what a great job he does keeping in touch with his fans, thanks to his constant video blogging. In typical Archuleta fashion, he laughed off his efforts.

I told Carly Smithson how I couldn’t get “With Or Without You” out of my head after seeing her band’s acoustic version on Billboard.com. But the most enjoyable moment of the night came in two parts. Early on, we came upon Siobhan Magnus in the lobby. Someone had told her that the members of her absolute favorite music group of all time, Hanson, were at the party. Siobhan couldn’t have been more excited, but when I checked with the keepers of the guest list, they said that Issac, Taylor and Zac weren’t on the list, so I figured that Siobhan was not about to meet her heroes. But later when we were leaving the hotel, we saw her again and she told us that the Hanson brothers had been at the party and she got to talk to them for a long time. There’s photos of them together on the internet if you need the proof.

Other Idols that attended were the rest of the Season 9 crew, including Lee and Crystal, plus  Bo Bice, Scott MacIntyre and Brooke White and Justin Guarini, fresh from their TV Guide duties. I spent a little time with Brooke’s husband, Dave, who was patiently waiting to go home as he had to get up at six in the morning for work. I’d be more sympathetic, except he had tickets to the Laker game the following evening, where he was planning on rooting for Phoenix. I also spotted Randy Jackson, Ryan Seacrest and Simon Cowell, producer ken Warwick, former Idol producer and “So You Think You Can Dance” mastermind Nigel Lythgoe and Idol creator Simon Fuller, who didn’t step into the VIP area once.

A truly exciting night, but there was more Idol on the way on Friday, with interviews with LaToya London and Nick Mitchell, the real life alias of wacky Norman Gentle. I actually drove Nick down to the airport Friday night, bringing Idolpalooza 2010 officially to a close!

AMERICAN IDOL SEASON 9: TOP 24 ANALYSIS (LADIES FIRST!)

February 24, 2010

After all the advance word that a woman would win “Idol” this year, ladies’ night was a bit underwhelming. One contestant, Crystal Bowersox, does stand head and shoulders above the rest, although I’m not sure such a rough edged performer can win the whole thing. Let’s see what we got…

PAIGE MILES – “All Right Now”

Came on like a blues mama, but it was strange that she didn’t change the gender of the song. Maybe she was fishing for the Ellen vote?

ASHLEY RODRIGUEZ – “Happy”

Good energy and a Mariah style voice, but she seems to be popping her P’s in the microphone.

JANELL WHEELER – “What About Love”

I had high hopes for Janell based on her audition, but those hopes are fading fast. I still like the mixture of gravel and sweet in her voice, but her voice wasn’t powerful enough for the song.

LILY SCOTT – “Fixing A Hole”

One of the most left field song choices ever. I did like the way she controlled her vocal dynamics from soft to loud. She’ll have to pick songs that will connect with the audience if she hopes to stick around.

KATELYN EPPPERLY – “Oh Darling”

A strong voice and she’s sexy without overplaying the role. Certainly in the top three best of the night, even though the song has never been a favorite of mine.

HAELEY VAUGHAN – “I Want To Hold Your Hand”

While I’ve never been one to worry about what the contestants are wearing, I thought Haeley’s little girl outfit didn’t do her any favors. And while the song was unusually arranged, it was a bit screechy at times.

LACEY BROWN – “Landslide”

A weird vocal that didn’t do anything for the song.

MICHELLE DELAMOR – “Fallen”

A very grown-up professional performance, if a little bit Broadway in her movements.  Still Syesha Mercado did well a few seasons ago, so Michelle may stick around a bit.

DIDI BENAMI – “The Way I Am”

A very ornate vocal that didn’t match the smooth delivery of the original recording.

SIOBHAN MAGNUS – “Wicked Game”

An interesting choice of song and a great vocal tone. Could she bring even bigger emotions to the stage a la my beloved Maria McKee. We’ll see.

CRYSTAL BOWERSOX – “Hand In My Pocket”

A great voice that lifts her way above all those subway singers Simon referred to. Is talent enough for her to triumph in the competition? It worked for Fantasia and Taylor Hicks, didn’t it?

KATIE STEVENS – “Feeling Good”

I bet the producers were surprised when the judges thought she hadn’t hit it out of the park, having gifted her with the last spot and intricate camerawork. I myself find it hard to judge her based on a jazz song, so I’ll just say she has a good voice with room for growth.

MY FAVORITE TUNES FROM IDOL GRADS

January 16, 2010

In celebration of the return of “American Idol” for Season 9, Entertainment Weekly published a gallery of their “28 Top Tunes From Idol Grads.” Here’s my list, lopped down to 20… and keep in mind that I haven’t heard every post-Idol Idol album, so if your favorite isn’t here, that’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it!

20.  “I Got You” – Blake Lewis

From Blake’s first post-Idol album, “Audio Day Dream,” a great pop song that shows Lewis can always start a second career as a producer of boy bands…

19.  “The Trouble With Love Is” – Kelly Clarkson

My favorite song from Kelly’s debut, “Thankful”…

18.  “Didn’t You Know How Much I Loved You” – Kellie Pickler

A ballad so good, it’s on both of Kellie’s albums…

17.  “The Difference In Me” – Diana DeGarmo

My favorite pop-rock song from Diana’s “Blue Skies” album…

16.  “Tattoo” – Jordin Sparks

While “Battlefield” turned up on a lot of Top Ten lists this year, this is still my favorite single from Jordin…

15.  “Change” – Brooke White

Brooke put out a quality CD before “American Idol.” This is my favorite cut from “Songs From The Attic”…

14.  “Eighth World Wonder” – Kimberley Locke

Kimberley showed every Idol contestant how to launch a career without being signed by 19 after the show with this great single…

13.  “When You Say You Love Me” – Clay Aiken

There are a number of great songs on Clay’s debut like “Invisible” and “Measure Of A Man,” but this breezy love song co-written by Darren Hayes is my favorite…

12.  “Soul Thing” – Taylor Hicks

The Soul Patrol anthem, it should have been a single…

11.  “Nothin’ To Lose” – Josh Gracin

Josh does his best country speed rap, and hit number one on the country charts in the process…

10.  “I Could” – Kimberley Locke

One of the many winners from Kim’s first album, “One Love”…

9.  “Do I Make You Proud” – Taylor Hicks

Probably the least liked Idol finale song, at least until “No Boundaries” came along, but it really grew on me as time went on…

8.  “Wasted” – Carrie Underwood

Because I have trouble relating to songs about duplicitous men (see “Before He Cheats” and “Cowboy Casanova”), this blazing vocal from Carrie is my favorite from her…

7.  “Best Days Of Your Life” – Kellie Pickler

Uh, unless it’s Kellie telling off a duplicitous ex…

6.  “Vehicle” – Bo Bice

Yes, I have plenty of Bo’s songs on my Ipod like “You’re Everything” and “The Real Thing,” but this Ides Of March remake just plain rocks…

5.  “Home” – Daughtry

If you live away from the place you grew up, this is your theme song…

4.  “Forward” – Ayla Brown

A beautiful ballad from someone I wish had made it a little farther into the competition…

3.  “The Time Of My Life” – David Cook

While his album rocked out, David’s finale song crosses all boundaries…

2.  “Love Story” – Katherine McPhee

Pop candy at it’s best…

1.  “Since U Been Gone” – Kelly Clarkson

Not just the best Idol single yet, but one of the best songs of the last decade. I’ll never understand how this failed to make it to number one…

TOP SONGS OF 2009

December 22, 2009

While it usually takes an interesting lyric I can relate to for me to like a song, this list of my faves from the past year shows that a catchy melody certainly helps. As usual, country hits lead the way, with six of the ten showing at least a hint of twang.

10.  HER DIAMONDS – Rob Thomas

Heard this once while driving through Pennsylvania and started singing along with the chorus immediately.

9.  PLEASE DON’T LEAVE ME – Pink

Like it came through a wormhole from the eighties!

8.  PLEASE DON’T STOP THE RAIN – James Morrison

A friend of mine always buys the CD’s that come out under the “Now That’s What I Call Music” banner in England. Unlike the American versions, the British ones are two CD’s and usually provide either a great dance remake of an old song or some fun unheard in America blue eyed soul, like “Dream Catch Me”  by Newtin Faulkner from 2008 or this gem from the singer that previously scored with “Wonderful World .”

7.  “DIDN’T YOU KNOW HOW MUCH I LOVED YOU” – Kellie Pickler

I’ve loved this song since 2006, when it appeared on Kellie Pickler’s first album. It was never released as a single, but Kellie gave the song another shot on her latest album and it finally become the hit it deserved to be all along.

6.  “THEN” – Brad Paisley

While Brad has been churning out clever hits about such up to date subjects as the internet and tabloid celebrity, he hasn’t forgotten how to write an affecting love song, and here’s the proof.

5.  “I RUN TO YOU” – Lady Antebellum

Just a catchy fun song that’s great to sing along to.

4.  “KISS A GIRL” – Keith Urban

Another country star who’s superb on both rockers and ballads, this showed the uptempo side of Keith’s personality.

3.  “FALLIN’ FOR YOU” – Colbie Caillat

I found Colbie’s “Breakthrough” to be a big step forward from her debut album, with this song leading the charge and bringing back the sound of California rock to the radio.

2.  “FIFTEEN” – Taylor Swift

For those that complain Taylor just isn’t country enough, try to remember that great country songwriting is in the details, and no writer this year has put more of the details of real life into their songs than Taylor. Plus she’s no slouch at coming up with a memorable melody. I can’t wait until her songs catch up with her age and take on a more adult perspective.

1.  “BEST DAYS OF YOUR LIFE” – Kellie Pickler

A song I never got tired of hearing. And what do you know, Taylor Swift had a hand in writing this one too… as well as “You Belong With Me,” “The Best Day,” and a number of others that make this without a doubt the year of Taylor Swift…

GOODBYE MICHAEL

June 26, 2009

You know that legend about how celebrities die in threes? Well, when I woke up this morning and found out Farrah Fawcett had passed away, I said to myself, “I wonder who will be the third after Ed McMahon and Farrah?” I would never have suspected it would be Michael Jackson, although after hearing many stories over the years about how Michael barely eats anything, it certainly fits.

I first became a big fan of Michael Jackson in college, when songs like “Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough” and “Rock With You” were some of the most popular songs at the school dances I attended. I moved to Los Angeles around the time “Thriller” came out, so I was here for the advent of Michael’s superstardom. I remember enjoying the videos for “Billie Jean” and “Beat It” in the dance clubs I frequented back then, and even went to see Disney’s re-release of “Fantasia” in 1983 just to be one of the first to see the video for “Thriller.” I attended the shooting of the Pepsi commercial where Michael’s hair caught on fire and I even went to the Victory Tour’s stop at Dodger Stadium.

But I was able to I got a little closer to Michael Jackson than seeing him from the upper reaches of Dodger Stadium. My roommate from college, Tom Stepanchak, had just moved out to L.A. and gotten a job as a runner at dick clark productions. A few weeks after he started, he was given the job of taking the eight American Music Awards Michael won in January of 1984 to his home in Encino. Tom got a late start and was forced to bring the awards to our apartment for safekeeping overnight, planning to deliver them the next day. While we were protecting the awards, we took the liberty of getting some photographs of them… in our refrigerator, sitting beside a spare glove and with us holding the awards (while wearing sunglasses of course)!

The next day, Tom and I set out for Encino. We easily found the Jackson compound, which was just a block or two off of Ventura Boulevard. The gates opened and we drove a few yards to a parking area with the Tudor-styled house on one side and a second building in front of us.

At first, we had no idea where to find Michael until La Toya Jackson pulled up behind us in her convertible and told us we should go into the office in the building in front of us. Naturally we went in the wrong door, going up a short stairway into a rehearsal room where aside from a few mirrors, every inch of wall and ceiling space was covered by posters and photos from the Jacksons’ career.

We quickly retreated back outside and went through the correct door to find Michael’s assistant sitting at a desk at the front of the room… and Michael himself dancing around a few feet behind her, singing to himself while holding up his famous band/military styled outfits in front of a mirror. Wanting Tom to keep his job, we pretended not to notice him.

Unfortunately, Michael became caught up in trying to outdo his success with “Thriller” every time he released a new album. He became a parody of himself and his legal problems certainly didn’t help. I always thought he could make a comeback if he would just put the emphasis back on his music, but that is not to be.

The last time I saw Michael appear live was at the taping of “American Bandstand’s 50th Anniversary.” As a favor to Dick Clark, he sang “Dangerous” in a truly breathtaking performance. It was exciting to be there, as it always was when Michael let his music and dancing do the talking for him.

IDOL INTERVIEW PARADE

June 18, 2009

Haven’t posted recently, but I have been typing up a storm! Writer Fred Bronson has been working his way through interviews with all of this year’s “American Idol” Top 10, and as always I tagged along. He’s done video interviews for hollywoodreporter.com (click on TV at the top of the page, then scroll through the video interviews. Kris Allen and Scott MacIntyre have been posted so far with more to come), as well as longer interviews with some of the Idols for their official press bios. It’s my job to type up the longer bio interviews, which has resulted in more than 100 single spaced pages so far!

The “Idol” interview parade started with the two-fer of Adam Lambert and Allison Iraheta. Fred and I spent over an hour with Adam. I was fascinated to learn that for all of Adam’s confidence and mastery of the stage, his career has certainly seen it’s share of ups and downs. In fact, Adam really emphasized with the movie, “Slumdog Millionaire” because he realized that just like in the movie, all his trials helped prepare him for stardom. One of the low points was when he appeared in a production of “Debbie Does Dallas” at a Reno casino (don’t worry… we’re talking about a musical comedy version of the movie minus the sex). Adam admitted that the audience was a bit more interested in ogling the topless actresses than in hearing him sing. I was also intrigued to hear that Adam lived in my North Hollywood neighborhood when he first moved to L.A. from San Diego.

I have to admit I didn’t know much about Allison except for what I saw in her brief profiles on “Idol.” It turns out Allison didn’t quite start out as the rocker we know her as today. As a kid, she loved to sing Celine Dion’s “My Heart Will Go” on for people. More recently, one of her high school bands was known for playing a rock version of the recent hit, “Bleeding Love.” I would love to hear that and wish she had sang it on “Idol.”

Last week, we spent an hour with Kris Allen to help Fred prepare for writing his bio. There’s little doubt the humble nice guy America fell in love with is the real Kris. Did you know that Kris has traveled all over the world doing missionary work and that he and his wife don’t even own a TV? In response to a question I asked about if he thought his dark horse status on “Idol” helped him win the competition, Kris said he always flies under the radar and his time on the show was no different.

We spent the most time with Scott MacIntyre and I learned that Scott’s “American Idol” stint barely scratched the surface of his life story. The problems he’s faced (visual impairment, kidney failure) have been mountainous, but fortunately he had the intellect and ambition not to let those challenges slow him down. Amazingly, he entered college at age 14 and later obtained a Masters Degree. But maybe what impressed me most about Scott is his determination to make sure that his appearances on “American Idol” are just the beginning of his music career. While in L.A. for tour rehearsals with the rest of the Top 10, Scott is not letting the grass grow under his feet one bit. He’s been taking non-stop meetings with both recording and music publishing companies.

Yesterday during the hour long lunch break for the tour rehearsals (yes, I heard a bit of one of the group medleys but I’ve been pledged to secrecy… I will say I can’t get one of the songs off my mind so I just put it into my Itunes!), Fred completed video interviews with Lil Rounds, Megan Joy, Matt Giraud, Michael Sarver and Anoop Desai. All of them gave great interviews, as being on “Idol” doesn’t just give the contestants lessons in stage presence. They also get plenty of practice speaking to the press. I am alarmed though by how many contestants cite Michael Jackson’s “Dangerous” album as an influence on their music. For instance, if you ask Kris Allen what his earliest memory of music is, he remembers playing “Dangerous” as a kid while dancing around his room pretending to be the Gloved One.

Now don’t get me wrong… I enjoy MJ’s music as much as anyone, but I went to college when Michael was King of the Discos with “Off The Wall” and “Thriller” came out the year I moved to California so “Billie Jean’ was the big song when I first started going to nighclubs out here, so it’s hard for me to believe “Dangerous” is the album that set someone on the path to music stardom. I guess it’s the choice of a new generation!

AMERICAN IDOL SEASON 8: THE FINALE

May 21, 2009

The day started with lunch with one of my all time musical favorites, Neil Sedaka. Neil is amazingly busy these days. He has a hit children’s album called “Waking Up Is Hard To Do,” they’re doing a musical in London based on his life and he’s planning another assault on the pop charts with an album of brand new Sedaka songs. Can’t wait for that…

Neil was pulling for Adam to take home the “Idol” title, but as you all know by now, it was not to be. Still, even if you loved Adam, it was hard not to be impressed by Kris too, so I hope the Adam fans won’t take the loss too hard.

I have to say the highlights of the finale both involved Adam, as his rocking medley with Kiss got the audience on their feet cheering, and his duet with Kris on Queen’s “We Are The Champions” was the emotional high point of the show.

After the confetti flew, I headed with my friend Fred Bronson to the Mondrian Hotel for an after-party at the famous Skybar sponsored by 19 Entertainment. While it was a few hours before any Idols showed up, that was okay because it gave us a chance to sample the many dishes that the waiters and waitresses circling the party were handing out (I still have nightmares about last year’s wrap party, when Fred and I got there too late and they were done serving food, so we ended up eating at 2:00 in the morning).

The first star we saw in attendance was Janice Dickinson, but it wasn’t long before the party became a true Idolpalooza! Not only were the entire Top 13 from this year in attendance, but so were some favorites from past seasons including Bo Bice, Carly Smithson, David Cook, Diana DeGarmo, Kimberley Locke and Jason Castro. Of course, I always get a kick out of seeing Jason at these events because during an interview I sat in on during his time on Idol, he said how much he hated being asked to take photos with people. Of course, that doesn’t stop Jason from saying yes to every request with a smile. I asked Jason when we can expect an album from him. He said he’s planning on an October release and will start recording soon.

Of this year’s crew, I especially enjoyed spending a little time with Scott MacIntyre, who is every bit as funny in real life as he was on the Idol stage. And after a past Idol contestant told me how some singers in past years spent all their tour money before they even got out on the road, when I ran into Michael Sarver and his wife, I told him to be careful spending the money he’ll make on tour, but he was way ahead of me. He’s already planning some smart investments!

Of course, the party was almost like a treasure hunt, as people ran around getting their photos taken with the Idols on hand. Unfortunately, when one girl asked me to take a photo of her with Paula Abdul, her camera wouldn’t work, even after I tried five separate times. Fortunately, I didn’t have that problem when I took a photo of a friend with Kris Allen.

The most interesting conversation of the night was with Kris’s father, who was being schooled in what was ahead for his son and their family by Diana DeGarmo and David Archuleta. Mr. Allen said that people were already dropping letters to Kris on their porch (one nine year old wrote that she was single in crayon!), but David insisted that was nothing, as people had gotten inside his house! Needless to say, Mr. Allen is going to try to remember to turn on his home security system from here on out!

I also sympathized with the plight of Brooke White’s husband, David. Brooke had an early flight scheduled in the morning, but naturally she wanted to say hello to all the friends and well-wishers she could. I told Dave that he had to be the steering committe and steer her out of there. He said it was more like the tugging committee and sure enough, the next time I saw the couple, Dave was leading Brooke off to the valet parking station.

Just a very fun night. Hopefully, we’ll do it all again next year for American Idol’s ninth season finale!

AMERICAN IDOL SEASON 8: TOP TWO ANALYSIS

May 20, 2009

Tonight I have a very special report for you, as I actually attended Tuesday night’s American Idol show at the Nokia Theater (and also plan on being on the scene tomorrow too!)!

The afternoon started with lunch at The Farm of Beverly Hills at LA Live, just around the corner from the Nokia. Also enjoying lunch there was former Idol producer and current “So You Think You Can Dance” producer/judge Nigel Lythgoe.

The meal was followed by some time spent at the AT&T tent on the red carpet where many of the past Idol contestants were signing autographs. On hand were Blake Lewis, Bo Bice, Chikezie, Chris Richardson, Diana DeGarmo, Haley Scarnato, Kimberley Locke, Kristy Lee Cook, LaKisha Jones, Melinda Doolittle, Mikalah Gordon, Paris Bennett and Vonzell Solomon. I watched as Cory the warm-up comic for “Idol” hosted a promotion where each Idol was given a cell phone with an amount texted to it. A contest winner from Texas got to choose an Idol with the amounts going from ten thousand dollars to a million. I told my friend Fred Bronson that I would pick Blake. He picked Chikezie. The actual contestant picked LaKisha, whose phone had an amount of $ 50,000! It turned out picking Blake would have been worth just $ 10,000, but Fred had it right! Chikezie had the million dollar phone!

We then headed inside for the show, where we sat in Row HH (just two rows in front of fifth season Idol contestant Kevin Covais, who told us he’s just made a movie with Lindsay Lohan called “Labor Pains”). While not as close to the stage as my seat for the finale last year, this time at least I was in the center. And while many have complained that Adam Lambert has a tendency to scream when he’s rocking out, he had nothing on the girls sitting behind us. Piercing!

The show started with Adam’s reprise of “Mad World,” which was one of my favorite performances of the season. While not as emotional as Kris’s first song of the evening, “Ain’t No Sunshine,” I still enjoyed it the second time around.

Adam upped the emotional ante quite a bit with his second selection, “A Change Is Gonna Come.” This was the Adam I came to hear. An amazing voice in the service of a dramatic song. There wasn’t much Kris could do to match Adam when he sang his version of Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Goin’ On.” I’m fond of the version Cyndi Lauper does on her “True Colors” album, which is both rocking and very emotional, and Kris didn’t reach that plateau.

Next up was the reveal of this year’s “American Idol” single, “No Boundaries.” While Kris could have done a great job on this had he been allowed to perform it acoustically with his guitar, the rules said he had to stand at the mike and sing it. The arrangement seemed high for Kris’s voice and didn’t play to his strengths. While I thought it was a bit hard to understand the lyrics at times when Adam sang it, Adam definitely won the final round.

So while I would say that Adam won the night hands down, I’m not so sure Adam will be the next American Idol. At least in the beginning of the night, the audience was definitely on Kris’s side and screamed the loudest whenever he was mentioned. True, Adam got a bigger ovation for his version of the final song, but you’d have to say the title of “American Idol 2009” is truly up for grabs.

It turns out that one person who doesn’t care who wins is Kris Allen’s father, who we ran into the lobby after the show. Mr. Allen is a truly nice guy who realizes that Kris and Adam are so different as artists, they can both do well in the music business. And he’s right!

The evening ended with a wonderful dinner at another new downtown restaurant, Fleming’s, and the best news of all: the Lakers won the first game of the Western Conference Finals!

See you back here in 24 hours with tales of the Finale and the after-parties (well, if I get into the parties, that is…)!