‘American Idol’ tries to get its groove back in upcoming seventh season
When Season 7 of Idol premieres Tuesday (8 p.m. ET/PT), the show that has shaped pop stars, Grammy winners and even an Oscar recipient ‘ and boosted sales in a sagging music industry ‘ will return to a friendly playing field. A 9-week-old strike by Hollywood writers is decimating TV networks’ lineups of scripted shows, so Idol will have less competition for viewers’ attention than usual.
For Idol, the strike comes at an opportune time. Its ratings remain huge, averaging 30.2 million viewers an episode, but it is coming off its first ratings decline (1% in 2007) and a season that even those involved with the show say was thin on talent and personality. Attendance plunged for Idol’s summer tour of live performances by the top 10 singers, going from 96% capacity in 2006 to 68% in 2007.
“There’s more personality, better stories (and) it’s a better year” for talent, says judge Simon Cowell, an outspoken Brit who can level singers with withering putdowns. “I don’t think the people last year were as good as they should have been. It was a miracle that we stayed as successful as we did. I will predict ratings will be up a minimum of 10% on last year for the whole season.”
Judge orders Sierra to stay away from cameras
TAMPA ‘ After a slight delay, former American Idol Jessica Sierra is headed to California today in hopes of beginning her one-year stint in a drug and alcohol rehab program.
Sierra was released from jail on Wednesday, but her flight to Los Angeles was canceled after California authorities wanted more time to finish the paperwork to take over her drug probation.
On her way out of the Hillsborough County Jail, Sierra made a quick comment to reporters, and that didn’t sit well with Judge Daniel Perry.
“I do not like– after I tell someone not to do something– I do not like to turn on my television and see them doing what I told them not to do, ” he told Sierra in court on Thursday morning. “Those mics are like a magnet to you, so I tell you what– you’re not allowed within 100 yards of a mic or a TV camera. You understand me?”
More Idol Headlines After the Jump…
Jessica Sierra Heading To Rehab;
After a legal snafu that almost landed her back behind bars, former “American Idol” finalist Jessica Sierra is on her way to a rehab facility in California again. According to Florida Assistant State Attorney Pam Bondi, the troubled singer ‘ who was ordered to spend a year in the Pasadena Recovery Center as a result of her recent arrest on disorderly intoxication charges ‘ had her emergency probation transfer order rejected by the California Department of Probation. That resulted in the awkward situation of Sierra, 22, being out of jail but unable to begin rehab. “She was supposed to get on a plane yesterday, but the probation department in California wouldn’t accept her transfer on an expedited basis because they take up to 45 days to review requests, so we had the unfortunate situation of a pregnant addict on the streets, ” Bondi said. Luckily, Sierra was able to get back into court Thursday (January 10), and the judge in the case gave her permission to travel immediately with her dad to Los Angeles and get picked up by a representative from the Center, where she will be allowed to stay until the probation transfer is approved.
Celebrity rehab: see the pain
It’s certainly no tea party. Watching the debauched Conaway, best known from Taxi and Grease, as he detoxes, for instance, is painful. Conaway’s slur is so extreme that subtitles are required. It’s a train-wreck experience, much like that video of David Hasselhoff, hammered in his hotel room, that circulated online last year.
The host insists the aim is purely therapeutic. “What I’m trying to do is help people in desperate need, ” said Pinsky, an addiction specialist, on the phone from Manhattan. “I sincerely want every patient that I treat to get better. But that’s not all there is to Celebrity Rehab.
“My hope is to put to rest the common misconception flying around the media that rehab is some sort of vacation celebrities take. It’s not a vacation at all. These are people that are fighting to reclaim their lives. I think it was very courageous of them to participate in this show.”
“Being on television and getting paid to be on the show certainly helped inspire these people to show up and stay around for treatment, ” Pinsky said. “This show particularly helped out Seth [Binzer] and Jessica [Sierra], who were both down and out with no money.”
Acting is not included with this version of ‘Rent’
The difference between a concert and a musical lies in the characters who bring a world to life onstage. But the touring cast of “Rent” playing through this weekend at the Citi Wang Theatre has forgotten about creating believable characters in an effort just to get the notes out.
The marketing hook for this production is the appearance of two TV “Idol” performers. Heinz Winckler, the first winner of “South African Idol, ” has a terrific voice for Roger, the songwriter trying to write “One Song Glory, ” but he can’t act his way out of a paper bag. Roger’s torment dissolves into moody pouting, and his scene with the dying dancer Mimi looks like he is mugging for a silent movie. Anwar F Robinson, who made it to seventh place in season four of “American Idol” and plays the teacher Tom Collins, is a mediocre singer at best, and as far as acting goes, he doesn’t even seem to be trying.
Supporting the Cast
Producer Oprah Winfrey (second from right) joins new cast members (from left) BeBe Winans, Chaka Khan, and LaKisha Jones at a post-show reception Wed- nesday for their Broadway debut in “The Color Purple” at the Broadway Theatre.
Interview: Diana DeGarmo has ‘Gone Country’ with John Rich
…When I saw how serious John was when we arrived, laughed Diana DeGarmo, the pretty all-American who is now part of Rich’s seven assembled celebrities, …we all really werent sure what we had signed up for, but he (John) laid it out and told us that we had been carefully and specifically picked out for a reason, he had a glimmer in his eye.
The ex …Idol finalist from 2004, Diana DeGarmo was selected as one of the seven established performers Rich handpicked from every nook of the entertainment and music industry, and according to Diana, all stand a real chance to break out as the next big country superstar.
Daughtry Working on New CD
While a lot of the “winners” of American Idol are finding themselves out on their backsides after TV fame didn’t translate into record buying interest, Chris Daughtry is one of the biggest Idol alums and he didn’t even win. The big news for Daughtry fans is that Chris and his band are hard at work on the follow up the best selling self-titled debut.
Our friends over at Gibson.com just conducted an exclusive interview with Chris and the band and we learn that the band isn’t resting on their best selling laurels, they already have 17 songs ready for their sophomore album and hope to complete writing this spring. Does that mean a double album or 2 minute songs? Who knows? But they did let some cats out of the bag about the direction of the music. Here are some excerpts:
Katharine McPhee Latest ‘American Idol’ Alum To Be Dropped By Label
Looks like the folks over at Sony BMG ‘ the mega-label that serves as the parent company to Arista, Columbia, Epic, J Records, RCA and others ‘ are cleaning house. While such a move would typically mean widespread layoffs, it seems that this time, the company is shedding artists.
Actually, make that artists who have competed on “American Idol.”
Within the last three weeks, Sony BMG has reportedly severed ties with three former “Idol” contestants ‘ the most recent being season-five runner-up Katharine McPhee, whose sole eponymous effort for the label, which dropped in late 2006, has sold only 365, 500-plus copies since its release.
Reba-Kelly Tour Is Quickly Selling Out
Representatives of the 2 Worlds 2 Voices Tour starring Reba McEntire and Kelly Clarkson have announced that several dates on the limited engagement tour are officially sold out.
The 2 Worlds 2 Voices Tour kicks off in Dayton, Ohio on Jan. 17, and concludes in Kansas City, Mo., on Feb. 16. Shows in Wichita, Kan., Tulsa, Okla., St. Charles, Mo., Rockford, Ill., and Jonesboro, Ark., are sold out with others expected to follow suit.
…Public reaction was overwhelmingly positive and swift, with concert dates selling out within a matter of days, says tour promoter Steve Moore of AEG/MEG.
Christian concert tour stops at McKenzie tonight; performer Mandisa talks on faith, fat and fame
Chalk up a new addition to the “famous women of one name” sorority: Cher, Madonna, Beyonce, Rihanna … and Mandisa.
A few short weeks on Season 5 of “American Idol” was all Mandisa (full name Mandisa Hundley) needed to prove she had a voice with star potential. Even without her booming, soulful vocals, she was unforgettable by reason of being the first woman to get a public apology from cynical judge Simon Cowell.
Mandisa just became a Grammy nominee for her first CD, “True Beauty, ” which was recognized in the pop/contemporary gospel category. The Nashville resident said in a phone interview that she’ll be on tour in Mississippi the night of the awards and unable to attend.
“I’m still expecting them to call me up and say, ‘Oops, our bad, ‘ ” she joked. “Until then, I’m living in a state of disbelief.”
Big time sports, A to Z
Maybe you have heard, but in a mere few weeks, the Super Bowl is coming to Glendale. Yeah, I know, seriously! This is very exciting for me personally, as I have never been in the general location of where a Super Bowl was being hosted.
It has always been a dream of mine to watch the game on TV, and say, …Hey, this game isnt very far from where I am right now! And it looks like this dream may be fulfilled, as the higher ups at the University of Phoenix Stadium dont seem to think that two-bit …columnists who write for the local weekly are worthy of a ticket. Nevertheless, it will be nice to see rabid football fans like Clay Aiken and Amarosa from …The Apprentice in attendance, while someone who actually writes about the local NFL team sits on his couch. Really, Im not bitter.
Jordin Sparks to host charity event in Peoria
American Idol Jordin Sparks just added a youth-friendly concert to her Jan. 30 West Valley stop.
Sparks is hosting a charity gala at Peoria’s Skye restaurant that evening. But beforehand, she will put on an informal concert. It will feature Sparks singing a few acoustic songs along with American Idol costars Melinda Doolittle, Chris Richardson and LaKisha Jones, among other local singers and deejays.
The gathering starts 3 p.m. in an outdoor tent that can accommodate about 1, 000 people.
Billy Ray Cyrus, the Bangles, among the performers for Family Gras in Jefferson Parish
Family Gras, a three-day celebration of costuming, concerts and Carnival, will be held Jan. 25-27 at Festival Plaza across from Lakeside Shopping Center. For the first time, the festival also will take place on the West Bank at Franklin and Stumpf boulevards in Gretna. West Bank festivities will run for two days, Jan. 26 and 27.
Performers already announced include American Idol finalist Elliott Yamin Herman’s Hermits with Peter Noone.
Celebrity Fit Love: Kimberley Locke Dating Her Trainer
Kimberley Locke is dating someone new ‘ just dont call him her boyfriend.
…He not officially my boyfriend, Locke says of Celebrity Fit Club notoriously tough trainer Harvey E. Walden IV, who is currently in the midst of a divorce. …[His divorce] is why were not a couple yet. That is my rule. Whether youre separated or married ‘ whatever ‘ I would like it to be cleared up. Until then we can hang out together and have fun together.
The Wild, Whacky and Serious 2007 readers poll
Swift, with one album under her belt and several hits, is going to be country’s next superstar, according to voters. She was overwhelmingly the country act of choice, besting Miranda Lambert by almost a two-to-one margin.
Among other results, Keith received a lot of good news as he had the most votes for best song, best voice, performer most capable of holding political office and best name for a pet (well, “Toby” actually).
The news was not so good for Carrie Underwood, who won by an overwhelming margin as most overrated performer and having her CDs as candidates for the trash heap and Garth Brooks, voted the artist who should have retired in 2007 or earlier.
Sir Simon speaks
…American Idol mania begins in six days. Sir Simon Cowell, the reality judge Americans most love and hate, took time out of his busy schedule in London today to talk to the press about the Fox juggernaut seventh season, among other things. …American Idol premieres next Tuesday and Wednesday with four hours of auditions, beginning in Philadelphia.
Q: Executive Producer Nigel Lythgoe recently described relations between the judges this year as …childish, …pitiful, …the same as every year. What do you say?
A: Was he talking about his relationship with us? Let me return the compliment to Nigel because that how I would describe our relationship with him: childish and pitiful. In other words, Im just kidding by the way. It certainly not pitiful. I dont think it childish. It can be a little acrimonious at certain times. That what happens when youve been together for seven years. You get on each other nerves. You scream at each other. Were not going to sit there like three robots and be told what to do. It is what it is. I think we all find the auditions harder and harder as the seasons go on because it torture. And it gets on your nerves and therefore you can become a bit argumentative and emotional. But to describe it as pitiful, certainly someone in his position, shouldnt be describing us that way. No.
A Chat With Simon Cowell, the World’s Nicest Guy!
Im not sure if the writers, like me, who took a half-hour conference call with snarky …American Idol judge Simon Cowell in anticipation of Tuesday Season 7 premiere were thrilled or disappointed that the British producer and professional dripper of disdain was so nice and polite. No one likes getting yelled at, but then again having Simon Cowell tell you that your last question was …rubbish, or that you were the worst reporter he had ever heard and that your journalism school should give you your money back, would be the journalistic equivalent of being insulted by Don Rickles: It tough. But it an honor.
…There are certain times when you watch the show back, that you hate yourself for what you just said (to an auditioner), Simon admitted. …You dont know their backstory, and for all I know their dog had died an hour ago, and they were singing in memory of their dog….You do get very bored after a while, and therefore you will say things.
Simon Cowell Talks “American Idol, ” Part One
I asked the famously caustic judge how he feels about the nastier-than-life persona that has sprung up around him and how it has affected him, aside from making him richer – do perfectly nice people back away when he enters a room? The thought drew a belly laugh.
“You mean, do they run when they see me?” he asked, still cackling. “They’re very nice to me, genuinely. I havent had any uncomfortable situations in real life. Most people who want to come up and talk to me are very nice, very civil. … I hope over the years that people, a) realize that I know what I’m talking about and, secondly, that it’s actually more cruel to lie to someone or give them false expectations rather than tell them the truth.
Simon Cowell Talks “American Idol, ” Part Two
Do you think that the judges role at all plays a part in what sort of season Idol has? In other words, do you ever think that maybe it might be good to shake up the judges ranks a little bit? Or do you have to constantly yourself sort of shake up your own perceptions of what a hit artist is in 2008 versus 2000?
Cowell: Well, it a very good point. I mean, the latter point you made, which is about trying to find a relevance and it what I said, which is I think some of the people were seeing this year just seem a lot more current than previous contestants.
In terms of letting people slip through the cracks, Im sure it does happen. Although, I cant think of one person who didnt make certainly the final stages who we let go who gone on to have a career. I think if they were that good, they probably would have done something outside of Idol. Unless Im mistaken, I dont think that happened.
You have to make a snapshot decision. You know, you have to make a decision very quickly. Up until the point where we got the final 12, were normally listening to anything up to 100 singers a day and that a lot, so you probably will make mistakes. I mean, it not science. It based on instincts I guess and emotion. I think most importantly youre trying to second-guess what you think the public are going to like.
Who are the Top 20 ‹Idol Contestants of All Time?
With Tuesday premiere of …Idol looming, I gave myself the unenviable task of ranking the 20 most significant (read: …Top) contestants in series history.
Mind you, this does not necessarily or exclusively mean most musically talented. Among the criteria I used to rate candidates were not only album sales, radio play and …Idol performances; but also pop culture and music industry impact, potential for longevity and notable career moments. And when those didnt seem to be enough, I basically just trusted my gut. My list, my rules.
The Top 20 will unfold over five days on Remote Access starting tomorrow. In the meantime, check out the Honorable Mentions who didnt make the cut after the break.
Last Year’s Top Two Struggle
Voting is free. CDs are not. These simple facts may reveal the waning popularity of …American Idol alumni.
Almost 75 million people slammed …Idol with votes following the 2007 finale to show their support for winner Jordin Sparks and runner-up Blake Lewis. But when it comes to forking over cash for Sparks and Lewis debut albums, …Idol fans seem to have forgotten their fervor.
On the eve of …Idol seventh season – a season some consider a make-or-break situation for the still hot but slumping show – many past winners are looking like losers.
American Idol Top 50 Performances #50-#41
Ive been wanting to do this for a while now, and after having such a fun time with my So you Think You Can Dance? Top 30 Performances, it was time to give American Idol the same treatment. So here it is. Over the next five days, leading up to the premiere of American Idol season 6, my top 50 favorite performances of all time! Enjoy.
Michael Slezak makes babies cry
Can this guy not sing or what?!
And get ready for Idolatry on Friday, January 18! You know you’ll be on the Internet anyway. It’s like all you ever do.