Thursday, March 27, 2008

More on Cook's Covers of Covers

I was farting around on YouTube last night during the results show (adios, Chikezie) and found some of the "original" cover arrangements of the songs David Cook has been using on American Idol. (If you're reading on Bloglines or via an RSS feed, click through to view the videos)

Here's Incubus doing Lionel Richie's "Hello"

And David Cook's version from Idol's Top 16 show:

Here's Chris Cornell performing his now infamous "Billie Jean" cover during a 2007 concert appearance.

And David Cook's performance of the same version from Tuesday night's show.

Seattle band Doxology, the artists behind the arrangement of "Eleanor Rigby" that Cook sang on the March 11 show and subsequently recorded for iTunes, issued this statement on their official MySpace page following Cook's performance:

Doxology Speaks Out on American Idol’s / David Cook’s Outright Music Piracy

Seattle, WA – March 14, 2008: After much deliberation, Doxology is releasing a statement to the press. There are many reasons that the Seattle area band feels it is necessary to shed some light on recent events. First and foremost, Doxology is not angry with David Cook or American Idol. They are, however, troubled by the lack of public acknowledgement that the arrangement of "Eleanor Rigby," used by David Cook on American Idol’s March 11, 2008 episode and its’ subsequent iTunes studio recording, is a near note-for-note copy of a unique demo arrangement recorded by Doxology in 2006. The band feels that David is a great performer, and they are also supporters and fans of American Idol (Blake Lewis, a good friend of the band, was last season’s American Idol runner up). Secondly, Doxology is in disagreement with Idol’s decision to post David Cook’s performance and studio recording on iTunes. This allows American Idol to profit from the David Cook, March 11th performance and studio recording, without crediting the source for the recording’s arrangement. This is not the first time American Idol has had to deal with this type of issue. During season 5 of Idol, Chris Daughtry used an arrangement from a band without crediting his source. To listen to Doxology’s original demo recording of "Eleanor Rigby" and additional original song selections visit

Quote from Doxology lead vocalist Luke McPherson: "Our main issue is that when given the opportunity to speak up and reveal where the arrangement came from, David Cook did not. His silence on the issue implies that the arrangement is his own. It is not." Luke goes on to say, "We were even more surprised when the studio recording, released Thursday morning, was even more of a note-for-note instrumental copy of Doxology’s recording. I want to be clear. We are not seeking royalties. That’s not what this is about. The compensation we are asking for is the easiest and least expensive around – we, at minimum, want David Cook and/or American Idol to admit that the arrangement he performed on March 11th, and then went into the studio and recorded for immediate sale, was not only inspired by, but almost completely carbon copied from our arrangement. We just want David Cook and American Idol to do the right thing and acknowledge these facts. It’s that simple."

A sampling of Doxology's recording of Eleanor Rigby is also available on their MySpace page. Give it a listen. And lest you think these guys are just anti-Idol, they're good friends of last year's runner-up..."Beat-Box" Blake Lewis.

I enjoy Cook's performances and think he's a talented musician, but it's pretty vile not to give these artists the proper credit for their work.
Not to mention that the Simon-Randy-Paula triumverate, supposedly the industry experts here, have failed to highlight in their commentary that these arrangements were not authored by Cook. This sin of omission leads the audience to believe that they are indeed Cook's creations and it is, no doubt, reflected in the voting.

The plot thickens. I'm curious to see how the producers will handle Cook the next time he pulls another band's cover version out of his hat.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

American Idol Wednesdays: Billie Jean's Not My Cover

This week brought the episode that makes me feel more craggy and dated with every passing season-- songs from the year you were born in. So basically… it’s 80’s night with the early nineties thrown in there for good measure by wunderkind David Archuleta. Even worse for these budding C-list celebs is that all of them have to deal with their humiliating childhood home videos receiving a viewing audience of more than 20 million. Embarassing moments, home movies, the cheesy Ford commercial-of-the-week? How will FOX torture these kids next?

Ramiele Malubay "Alone" (1987) Ummm... when the wailing black woman who is singing background for you upstages your own performance, you know you're in trouble. (Seriously… those are high G’s and she was right on top of them.) Unfortunately, Background Girl wasn’t standing center stage, and instead we were left to contend with Ramiele, who was shrill and sharp and prone to shouting in her higher range, while her lower notes were poorly supported and flat. As she went into the second chorus, I kept thinking about how much I would have rather heard the Carly version. Or even the Gina Glocksen version from last season. Look, I know it’s a hard song. I sing it really badly in my car all the time. But it’s crunch time, people. Nevertheless, Ramiele is inexplicably popular. Even Simon Cowell has mentioned that fact in a number of media outlets. I’m just not sure who she’s appealing to at this point with so many other diverse choices.

Jason Castro "Fragile" (1987) Barefoot and playing his acoustic guitar, dressed in worn slim-cut corduroys, Jason Castro looked like he should be playing in a college dorm lounge rather than on the #1 TV show in the country. Cowell even went to far as to accuse him of not trying hard enough. I kind of have to agree. He tried to charm the pants off of us again with those pretty blue eyes and that dreamy smile that could melt an ice shelf… but it just wasn’t enough. Until he turns out another “Halleluljah,” Castro’s skating by on personality and a pretty face. Perhaps a trip to the bottom three this week will give him the kick in the pants he needs.

Syesha Mercado "If I Were Your Woman" (1987) Finally, Syesha just stands there, and sings, and she's fabulous. This was the right song performed the right way at the right time for her in the competition. Syesha turned it around for herself tonight and could be a contender if she continues to step up her game. She’s unfortunately been toward the back of the pack in terms of votes over the last few weeks, but maybe this turn will win her a few converts.

Chikezie "If Only for One Night' (1985) Chikezie is like Luther Vandross in an embroidered hipster blazer and a $300 graphic-printed button-down. He certainly has the chops to be in the top ten, delivering a strong, layered, controlled vocal, but his song choice was, I dunno, kind of un-hip? In seasons past, a nice throwback soul song like this might have flown, but not with the competition he's facing right now. 5% of what we’ve seen from Chikezie is original, electric, even balls-to-the-wall risky, but the other 95% is just a good wedding singer. Unfortunately, that’s what America saw tonight and I think it will reflect in the vote.

Brooke White "Every Breath You Take" Brooke did might have been an Idol first-- starting the song over again—which is certainly a by-product of her choice to accompany herself on the piano on this Police song. I like Brooke’s vibe but she could have set off more fireworks on the bridge and the final chorus. In that sense, her version was sort of one-dimensional. I don't think she's in any danger, though. At this point I see Brooke hanging around all the way to the top four.

Michael Johns "We Are the Champions" (1978) Johns has undeniable charisma and this was better than his last couple of performances. But even as Pauly said "he's like, one of those gay guys that should be singing at the hooker bar in Vegas." Johns had a good moment tonight but in reality, it's probably his peak in the competition and as far as he's capable of going as a singer. Johns is so the close-but-no-cigar guy this year. But he’s still dreamy.

Carly Smithson "Total Eclipse of the Heart" (1983) Seriously, who shit in Randy's oatmeal this morning? I totally dug this song choice, dawg! I thought it was perfect for her, and it was remarkably controlled given how easy it is to go overboard on this piece. A big song for a big voice and a good week for her.

David Archuleta "You're the Voice" (1990) "OH MY GOD! THEY CAST HER! THEY STYLED HER! I'LL GO BLOW THAT KID MYSELF!! " screamed Showcase as Archuleta's Daddy Rose trotted out some lip-glossed teen queen into the audience to play the part of young David's potential prom date. Seriously, you know once this kid turns 18 he’s gonna be cruising Santa Monica Blvd. with every other young singing prodigy. Take a cue from Danny Noriega and embrace it! As for the performance, well, he looks like he'd be the perfect male foil for Hannah Montana on the Disney Channel (He dances! He sings! He's so clean-cut! So subtly ethnic yet All-American!) This performance was very All-Star Kids Variety Extravaganza for me. I really felt his age for the first time. And were the fuck did he get that song? I mean, has anyone heard that before, or is it only available in “Songs for Young Tenor Prodigies, Volume 1?”

Kristy Lee Cook "God Bless the U.S.A." (1984) OK... a lonnnnng time ago back in another life, when I was a singing cocktail waitress on a cruise ship, I used to have to sing this song while we sailed past the Statue of Liberty. And usually we were so half in the bag by then from pounding glasses of cheap Chardonnay in the galleys in between running cocktails to corporate groups from New Jersey that we’d completely mangle the lyrics. I am completely with Simon when he called it "the most clever song choice I've heard in years." Kristy Lee made the incredibly shrewd choice of pandering to the Middle American, rural-dwelling, Mike Huckabee-voting American Idol dialing bloc. I wouldn’t be surprised at all if she completely avoided the bottom three this week, even though she is easily the weakest remaining contestant. Nice hand, Kristy and see you next week. Will we be hearing “America the Beautiful?”

David Cook "Billie Jean" (1982) David Cook may be winning over the nation with his slick modern rock versions of classic songs, but I’ve officially fallen off the bandwagon. This week, Cook borrowed Chris Cornell’s downtempo, acoustic version of “Billie Jean” that appeared on the Audioslave frontman's 2007 solo release. But here's the thing. Most of America isn't going to know that. And everyone who didn't listen carefully to Ryan Seacrest's introduction to the song is going to think that Cook came up with this arrangement on his own. But he didn't. He just performed a very good cover of Chris Cornell's cover. Just like he did with Doxology's version of “Eleanor Rigby.” And Whitesnake's version of “Daytripper.” So that's three covers of covers in a row now. Hey, even I was fooled until I did a couple of searches on iTunes and You Tube. While the competitor in me admires his shrewd strategy and song choices, there's a taste of deception to the way 19 Entertainment is playing off these arrangements on the show and in the media circus that surrounds it. This morning, people were calling in left and right to Seacrest’s radio show to comment on how original David Cook is. I’m not denying his talent, but I wish the judges would draw some attention to the fact that he’s using other artists’ arrangements and (albeit unintentionally) passing them off as his own. But hey, who are we kidding. It’s all about making money and selling records, riiiight?

My prediction for the week: I thought last week would be it for Chikezie, but I think I was a bit hasty. But this vote should do it.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Don't Forget!

I'll be playing while watching the March Madness games in the background, much to Showcase's chagrin ("Can we not listen to sports for like, two minutes?" he pleaded last night as we sat down to dinner.) But I have my Pauly's Pub title to defend! It's true... last year I was that girl who totally knows nothing about hoops but sucked out to win the whole pool by taking Florida all the way and picking mostly favorites in a year where mostly favorites won. I took a similar strategy this year and did OK in the first round picking 24 of the 32 games correctly. I guess there are more on today and we'll see if I can continue to suck out-- in bracketology and in pot-limit Omaha, where I continue to play this tournament almost solely by poker instinct and not with any serious knowledge of the game's fundamentals. Luckily for me, a lot of those instinctive plays have turned out to be mathematically correct. And here, I thought I was just flinging the proverbial poo. Viva la Omaha.

My beloved will, no doubt, spend the afternoon crunching numbers and free-throw percentages and pacing around Derek's living room nonstop with a furrowed brow and a head full of haze . I've missed him terribly in the month we've been on opposite coasts and luckily that will come to a crashing halt in two days when he stops in the Slums of Beverly Hills on his way to Las Vegas. (Yay!)

See you all at 4:20.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

American Idol Wednesdays: The Beatles Redux

Last night, the Idols tackled The Beatles. Again. I don't care how much they paid for the right to the catalog, but it's a pretty bad idea if you ask me to do Beatles two weeks back to back. It definitely diluted this week's performances when compared with the outstanding turns last week by David Cook, Carly Smithson, and Brooke White. So immediately these kids are going in as underdogs given that they've already done so well with Beatles songs. Couldn't it be like, Metallica night? Chikezie could totally do Enter Sandman.

So how did our future pop stars and C-list tabloid celebrities of America do this week?

Amanda Overmyer "Back in the U.S.S.R." I dunno, this was sort of more of the same from Overmyer. The song choice sounded like a natural thing for her when I first heard it announced, but this didn't deliver the way she has in weeks past. She sold the song, but most of the time she shouted rather than sang. There were a lot of pitch problems. And like I said last week, I'm needing to see another side of Amanda. The shtick is wearing a little thin.

Kristy Lee Cook "You've Got to Hide Your Love Away" I hated the arrangement right off the bat and it was over for me once she started venturing off the melody. Kristy has a nice voice, but unfortunately she's just very boring to watch onstage and has a very schizophrenic idea of who she is as an artist. She had one solid money note at the end, but everything before it was just vanilla and average. And yeah, the sparkly black babydoll dress was nice, but it didn't fit the performance at all. Kristy's definitely walking the line this week.

David Archuleta "The Long and Winding Road" Well, Archuleta has planted himself firmly in the Clay Aiken camp with this performance-- a warm, near-perfect, acrobatic vocal, but it all sounded very LITE-FM to me. I mean, the song is kind of a downer. I thought it was a safe pick for Wonder Boy even through Simon Cowell jizzed all over it, calling it a "vocal master class" And the crowd goes wild... what is it about this guy?

Michael Johns "A Day in the Life" Johns chopped one of my all time favorite Beatles songs to bits with his arrangement and rendered it into merely passable karaoke. The frenetically changing tempos and complex melody wreaked havoc on his voice, which is much more suited to those big rock anthems full of big sustained notes. Not a good week for the dreamy boy from Perth but I hope it's enough for him to get through the vote.

Brooke White "Here Comes the Sun" Brooke dropped all the instruments and allowed her voice to take center stage tonight. Unfortunately the melody's range didn't do a thing to show it off. Ergo, a poor song choice. Brooke was an ethereal hippie girl all full of smiles tonight, but seemed awkward and out of place when trying to dance her way across the stage. I totally get why she wouldn't want to play guitar on this one (the picking is pretty hard), but again... bad song choice. And bad yellow dress to go all matchy matchy with the yellow lighting and sunny lyrics was just way too much for me, and the judges.

David Cook "Daytripper" Cook pulled out another memorable, radio-ready cover this week with his modern-rock treatment of "Daytripper". This was a polished, professional, performance from an artist just waiting to make pop records. That clip could have been from a concert tour. Again, can't wait for the iTunes download. Cowell was pretty harsh on him, essentially calling him a one-trick pony, but both Showcase and I couldn't have disagreed more.

Carly Smithson "Blackbird" This is really not one of my favorite Beatles tunes and agreed with Cowell that of all the Beatles songs out there available for them to choose from... she picked this? Still, Carly managed to deliver a controlled, focused performance with a delicate guitar and string arrangement that allowed her lower range to shine. The high notes delivered, but were subdued compared to Smithson's usual vocal acrobatics. A good, solid turn from her and she should sail through.

Jason Castro "Michelle" Dreadlock boy was wayyy boring with this one. It was a middling, weak vocal that lacked emotion and he was really only able to skate by on charm and good looks tonight. But hey, this is the guy who got a dead guy's cover of Halleluljah to rocket to #1 on iTunes overnight. The ladies love sweet sweet sensitive Jason and his squealing pre-teen fanbase should wear out their thumbs dialing and texting enough times to keep him around for another week or so.

Seyesha Mercado "Yesterday" Seyesha seemed uncomfortable with the tempo of the song and was behind her acoustic guitarist the entire way. I dunno... I didn't dig it. She had one good money note in there, but it wasn't enough to really capture the audience. Granted, it was better than what she's turned out in weeks past and it'll probably let her skate through to next week, but Seyesha is one contestant that is starting to fade to the background for me. She really hasn't done anything to really make me sit back in my seat since her now-infamous "I have laryngitis, but can still blow it out" performance during Hollywood Week. Seyesha needs to try on a big-girl song and really wow us to get back in this competition.

Chikezie "I've Just Seen a Face" Just as I was about to type the sentence "Chikezie smooth-jammed it out yet again", his cover of this McCartney classic took an abrupt turn toward the hideously twangy as he whipped a harmonica out of his pocket, blew into it like he was performing CPR on a drowning victim, and went into a full-on hoedown rendition of the chorus. Seriously, this was some weird shit. I mean, is he going for the country black man thing now? Is there such a thing as the country black man thing? I just don't get it.

Ramiele Mulabay "I Should Have Known Better" Honey, this is a competition. It ain't no kum-bay-yah. This was Vegas, it was beauty pageant, it was cruise ship, it was decent karaoke. It wasn't nearly in the same league as her biggest competition on the show. Without a strong identity to go with her big vocals, Ramiele's days are numbered on this show. And seriously, the fedora and vest thing was so Britney in 2004.

My prediction for the week: I think it's curtains for Chikezie.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Spring Awakening

So I didn't go to Langerado. After a February that took me from New Zealand to Las Vegas to Denmark and back to the warm spring breezes of the Los Angeles basin, my wallet and my psyche weren't in shape for a four-day trek into the Everglades. Over the months that led up to the festival I heard whispers about costumes and RVs and the absolutely stellar crew and felt pangs of regret and thought about where I could scare up the money, but ultimately, my decision was made for me when I realized the weight of the situation.

There would be camping involved. No hotels. No air conditioning. Potentially heavy mud and rain conditions. Not to mention a bug population that necessitated the use of preventative sprays and repellants and the like.

Homie don't camp. In my 30 years I never have. That's not to say I never will, but I don't know if poor Pauly would want to handle my maiden voyage into the wild. My outdoor sleeping experience is confined to one night spent on a very comfortable lounge chair in the backyard of a house in the south of France and another spent on the upper deck of a houseboat on Lake Powell, Utah when I was about 12. Though reading all the trip reports now makes me wonder about all the fun that might have been, in my heart of hearts I know that I probably wouldn't have survived. Though Otis' bacon biscuits looked mighty fine.

While Pauly's been away I've been doing a lot of two things. Going to the gym and playing poker. I know, I hear all of you gasping around the globe and it's not about me donking around on Full Tilt. I haven't belonged to a gym in well over 5 years and since I had more or less a 3 month block of time where I'd be traveling minimally, I went and got myself a month to month membership at a small, semi-private gym in West Hollywood where they actually allow such things. They're used to gypsy actors coming in and out of town for films and on the first day I worked out there, I ran into a girl who's a new series regular on a quirky medical series. We were both in our college theatre program at the same time and had one of those "where do I know you from?" moments before we figured it out. It's quiet and never crowded there and definitely not a see and be seen sort of place. Though I ended up so sore I could barely get up out of a chair after the first week, I'm sort of getting back into the swing of things and remembering how to work out properly. Way back when I was just a 24-year old D-Girl, I used to see a personal trainer twice a week and thankfully all the pot I've smoked since then didn't kill off the brain cells that held onto that information.

Hitting the gym again is an absolute necessity given that it's almost time for me to gear up for another long summer at the WSOP. Last year I started walking every day for the few weeks leading up to the Series. It certainly helped, but this year I want to take it further so I don't end up being a total wreck at the end of it. Being as healthy as I can right now will certainly pay off when I'm keeping vampire hours and living off of Asian chicken wraps from the Poker Kitchen.

I've also played a fair amount of poker as of late. I guess I'm on an online binge since I've barely had the time since before Christmas to play. Mainly I've been sticking to grinding it out at SNGs and have shown a slow but steady profit and a good ROI for the stakes I'm playing. It might go faster if I played more tables like these 8 and 12 tabling robots I compete against every day, but I really can't profitably play more than 3-4 tables at a time. So I'll stick with what's working for the time being. I've picked up tokens on Full Tilt here and there and played the $28,000 and $32,000 guaranteed a few times and made some small cashes, the best of which was forty-somethingth out of 1100 or so. I've also played a few BBT3 tournaments but am not really sweating leaderboards or anything. Though I bombed out about halfway through the field in Miami Don's Big Game, I made the final table of the Mookie the last two weeks, finishing 9th and 3rd. I feel that I'm playing well and have been more vigilant about analyzing key SNG hands. Reading Lee Nelson's Kill Everyone while I was in Australia certainly taught me volumes about optimal bubble and late-stage play and I'd recommend it to anyone.

Though at this moment, it is 70 degrees outside, breezy and crystal-clear. I think I've been inside for too much of today.

(And a rousing Happy St. Paddy's Day to all my Irish, Catholic, Irish-Catholic, American ex-pat Irish, and amateur alcoholic friends of all faiths and backgrounds!)

Thursday, March 13, 2008

American Idol Wednesdays (on Thursdays): Lennon-McCartney Catalog Released to Idols, America Squeals With Delight

After seven years of Beatles'-less shows, American Idol was finally granted the use of the Lennon-McCartney songbook this season. We've already heard a taste of the catalog so far in the competition (David Archuleta anointing himself the front-runner with a cover of '"Imagine") but this week, it was wall-to-wall Beatles, and the contestants' renditions ran the gamut from inspired re-imaginings to country-fair nightmares.

Seyesha Mercado "Got to Get You Into My Life" When Seacrest announced her song choice, I thought it had potential, but Showcase started "UGH"-ing as soon as she opened her mouth and I'm joining him within seconds. The arrangement was horrible, I mean, just torture Normally I'm a fan of a horn section, but they were totally misplaced here. This song is all drama-- in the melody, in the lyric-- and she turned it into a number worthy of a dinner show on Princess Cruises. Though Mercado tried so hard to infuse it with some semblance of energy, it totally fell flat and thrusts her into the elimination-danger zone right off the bat.

Chikezie "She's a Woman" Well, hello Chizekie! We thought you might have something like this in you! Working an arrangement that vacillated between twang-heavy country and hard rock, Chikezie finally stood out from the pack with this performance. There were no sleepy smooth jams in sight from him tonight-- this was a huge risk that should pay big dividends. However... and I said this last season and it bears repeating: black men should not wear argyle. Especially argyle vests.

Ramiele Mulabay "In My Life" With the cut to the audience's swaying arms... it was over and we were dying with laughter (and not just from the OG Kush we were smoking). Seriously, is there some idiot with a headset out there cueing the screaming teenage fans in the "mosh pit" to start swaying? This was pretty, but boring turn from Ramiele. Though it started out promising, the song never really went anywhere and did nothing for her voice. We still haven't seen anything original or exciting from Mulabay, and though this performance miiiight just left her fly enough under the radar to advance to next week, she's looking at an 10-11th place finish max the way she's going.

Jason Castro "If I Fell" Dreadlock boy is so adorable, even if the falsetto was about 50% on pitch. There's sort of a Jack Johnson vibe about him, but this was still just a little... boring? But, no worries, Paula "feels his heart" when he performs so it's all OK. I was more into his version of "Halleluljah" last week that I was with this. It's getting time for Castro to think about switching it up. We know he can do the sensitive guitar-boy thing. Now it's time to surprise us.

Carly Smithson "Come Together" Girfriend blew. It Out. I'd totally buy the single on iTunes (and lo and behold, it should be available next week! Thank you corporate partnerships!). America, say hello to our new female frontrunner. Irish lassie clearly had command of the song, sustained a nice build, and slayed the ending. Not to mention that the organ-infused arrangement kicked ass. Keep 'em coming Carly.

David Cook "Eleanor Rigby" Again, I loved it and immediately thought it could be a single. Cook's performance was consistent with his vibe and sense of musicality and boasted some AWESOME orchestrations on the chorus that modern rock radio would wet their pants over. However, I'm not digging the turned up collar on his leather jacket. Seriously, that was a bit vampire for me.

Brooke White "Let it Be" This was not my favorite thing from her, but that doesn't mean she stunk up the joint. And Paula can feel her heart too, so she too is OK. Brooke turned out another solid effort this week. She didn't try to overdo the song, and I think that was appropriate for the piece she chose. We've had piano and guitar already from Brooke-- what's coming next week? Fiddle? Jazz flute? Sitar?

David Hernandez "I Saw Her Standing There" Well, after a nice run of well-thought out cover renditions, David Hernandez takes us right back to karaoke-land. Ever since he threw it down with "Papa Was a Rolling Stone" a few weeks ago, he's come at us with performances that are better suited to a lounge act at Harrah's Lake Tahoe than mainstream American pop audiences. Anyway... I'm so over the stripper.

Amanda Overmyer "You Can't Do That" So much of Overmyer's phrasing is pure Janis. And I love that. And it's been a good strategy for her so far in the competition, this week included. But it's that time when the set needs a slow song. Or at least something not quite as hard-dribing as her choices so far. So, nice job this week, Amanda, but let's see another side to you. Oh, and as much as I dig her style I'd like to roast a hot dog over the burning embers of those black and white striped pants. And seriously, girl--why the return of the skunk hair? I thought we just got that under control!

Michael Johns "Across the Universe" Though it might not be the showiest performance Johns has given, I think it was his best pure vocal to date. I'm afraid, though, that he might ultimately meet his end on the show when America has to decide between the two male "rockers"-- he and David Cook-- and I think Cook is better. John's rendition was a bit straightforward and solid enough, but not a big enough risk with the arrangement and style compared to what the top of the pack has delivered this week.

Kristy Lee Cook "Eight Days a Week" Well that was 120 seconds of two-stepping redneck hell. Look, everyone who reads these recaps knows I'm not the biggest country fan, but this arrangement was ATROCIOUS. Now this, kids... this is the risk that doesn't get paid off. This is the risk that sends you home. Even on the country scale of awfulness, this was putrid. Seriously, there were about 20 fiddles and 10 banjos too many in this one. Kristy, why did you have to take the Country thing to such an extreme? Can't you at least find some nice alt-country chica to try and emulate? Lucinda Williams? Kathleen Edwards? Gretchen Wilson? I think Lennon is spinning in his grave and McCartney is forgoing green tea and tofu for steak and scotch after hearing this horror show of a performance.

David Archuleta "We Can Work it Out" Wonder Boy fucks up his lyrics!! OMG, he IS human! Everything was off about this performance. The falsetto notes were off. The phrasing was off. Showcase thought he looked lost. For a kid who usually sounds like such a pro, something was going on with him tonight. He just couldn't hit those notes that he'd normally belt out effortlessly. Even though he had a bad night, I think Archuleta is in no danger-- his rabid fan base might even vote for him more just to ensure he stays on.

My prediction for the week: Kristy Lee Cook will two-step her way home.

The actual results: David Hernandez will be getting back on the pole.

Friday, March 07, 2008

Saturdays with Dr. Pauly with Your Special Guest Host.... Me!

Since Pauly is at the Langerado Music Festival this weekend (me=so jealous), I'm taking the reins and hosting his tournament while he trips out to heady tunes with the unwashed hippie masses in South Florida. Same time, same place, same buy-in, just a cuter, blonder host(ess) who has much less of an idea of how to play PLO than her better half.

I hope to see you all there. Come relax, sling some chips, forget about TOC seats and bust my donkey ass.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

American Idol Wednesdays: The Return

It's Season 7 of American Idol already. 7 years this monster has taken to the airwaves each spring and dominated pop culture and American television viewing habits. And this year, some of the contestants are young enough to boast that they started watching the show when they were 10. Welcome back to American Idol Wednesdays, where I'll re-hash and re-cap the week's performances and make my predictions as to who will be voted off all while skewering these poor young things' fashion and styling choices.

Yeah, I know it's Thursday, but by next week, we'll be back to one Tuesday performance show and one Wednesday results show. So I'm keeping the name.

We're down to 16 contestants this week, four of whom will be eliminated this week and won't even get to become C-list celebrities, just asterisks and anecdotes. It's 80's week, so let's get down to it!


Asia'h Epperson, "Somebody to Love Me" They're cautioned against it over and over again, but still these kids try on Whitney songs. Epperson is full of the youthful energy the song demands, but her performance was rife with pitch problems on the bigger sustained notes. This song was too big for its performer-- just like she did last week by attempting a Celine Dion tune. Listen, for once! She'll probably squeak into the Top 12, but just barely.

Kady Malloy, "Who Wants to Live Forever" I've heard this Queen song done really well by women-- British stage diva Elaine Paige comes to mind-- but why go so for the super-dramatic ballad when it's 80's night for Christ's sake? Not to mention that you're a cute blonde girl, one of like, four of them in the Top 16, and you desperately need to separate yourself from the pack and define your niche as an artist. This song did none of that for poor Kady. The big notes on this one were either hopelessly flat or cringe-inducingly sharp. Ms. Malloy is our bad choices Barbie of the night and this performance should send her home.

Amanda Overmyer "I Hate Myself for Loving You" This Joan Jett song was a perfect choice for rocker-chick Overmyer (right), though I think the melody has been permanently killed for me due to the horrible "NFL Sunday Night Football" re-do of the song. (Seriously, all I hear is "I've been waitin' all week for Sunday night...") Overmyer slayed the song and cleaned up her look a bit as well after last week's strong critique. Most of those horrible white streaks were out of the front of her jet-black hair and her makeup was significantly toned down while remaining appropriate for her rocker vibe. I can't wait to see what she'll do next.

Carly Smithson "I Drove All Night"
This Roy Orbison song was re-recorded by Cyndi Lauper in the 80's, then re-re-recorded more recently by Celine Dion-- and that's the version Smithson went with. Simon & Co. seemed to take issue with that choice, but I could have cared less. I love this girl. This Irish lassie had me from the auditions and she knocked "Crazy On You" out of the park two weeks ago. She's easily one of the top 2-3 female vocalists and unlike most of her competitions-- can sing a wide variety of genres. Smithson has proven herself as a solid rock/pop vocalist thus far... I'd love to hear her take on soul and blues.

Kristy Lee Cook "Faithfully"
Cook comes at us with a slightly country-fried version of a Journey classic...and I decide to take out the trash, I'm so bored. Kristy Lee is one of that pack of attractive yet forgettable blonde girls that have made it on the show this year. Maybe the "country" aspect defined her a bit, but I just didn't find it interesting at all. The judges were talking about how to package it as a single, but if I heard it on the radio, I'd be like, "next!"

Ramiele Mulabay "Against All Odds" Seriously, it's starting to sound like LITE-FM in here. IT'S 80'S NIGHT! And you're a young, cute girl! So... start acting like it! Mulabay has impressive vocal chops-- I put her up there with Carly Smithson and Brooke White-- but what is she doing picking something this... stale? Song choice, people, song choice! It's really too bad she fell short this week because I think it will cost her a spot in the Top 12.

Brooke White "Love is a Battlefield" Brooke White (left) is another contestant that impresses me week after week. Our resident earthy guitar-playing chick, White is never content to go with the traditional, recorded version of a song. She constantly changes it up, like she did here, singing an up-tempo, stylized 80's number accompanied only by acoustic guitar. White's varied musical background is always reflected in her performances--there's nothing "karaoke" or "cabaret" about this girl at all. She's clearly a frontrunner among the girls and should sail into the Top 12.

Syesha Mercado "Saving All My Love for You" OMG... another Whitney song? Do these girls ever learn? Syesha is probably the only one that has a big enough voice to handle Whitney/ Celine/Mariah/etc., but that doesn't mean she should set herself up to be compared to those artists, like she did tonight. Like the judges said, it was "good, but predictable"-- but is it enough for her to squeak through?


Luke Menard "Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go" I just don't see this guy in pop music. In a Vegas show or in the Broadway company of "Beauty and the Beast," sure. I'm not saying the guy should hang it up and get a job as a Dealertainer, he's definitely talented and has a great voice. I'm just not seeing a great artist here. But definitely, definitely go and audition for Les Mis. Or maybe The Producers.

David Archuletta "Another Day in Paradise" Another solid performance from this year's Idol Boy Wonder. Props for playing piano on it too. I didn't dig it as much as I did last week's much-lauded rendition of "Imagine" but this kid will be a front-runner in this competition for weeks to come. Cowell even acknowledged that we'll likely see Archuletta "in the final two."

Danny Noriega "Tainted Love" Danny Noriega (right) is so very very young. And so very very gay. Like, the audience needs flame-retardant vests gay. And he's doing nothing to hide it whatsover-- major props to Danny for being so confident and self-assured at such a young age! And props to him for at least attempting to re-think the arrangement of the song and taking a risk to make it his own. But that was a disaster. Every growling, hip-swiveling moment of it. Just wasn't my thing... or the judges' either. But make no mistakes, Noriega has a young, thriving fan base. He'll be back next week fo sho. Do we have this year's Sanjaya?

David Hernandez "It's All Coming Back to Me Now" OK, now the guys are going for Celine songs. Seriously, it's your funeral. Though, of all the "big" songs this week, Hernandez's rendition was probably the most successful. Though he struggled on some of the lower passages, the money notes were just that.

But that's not what people were thinking about while Hernandez sang. They were thinking "OMG! That's the one that was a male stripper in Phoenix!"

It's true-- Hernandez danced for three years at an all-male totally nude cabaret with a mostly gay male clientele. And yet... he's still on the show. And staying on the show, according to FOX. OK, so last year, Antonella Barba has naughty pictures discovered on the internet... and she gets to stay. Hernandez is a confirmed stripper... and he gets to stay. But Frenchie Davis shows her boobies on the 'net to help pay for college and gets thrown off for fear of not being a proper role model? Now that's a serious double standard.

Michael Johns "Don't You (Forget About Me)" There's something about dreamy Aussie tennis aficionado Michael Johns. He's not the best male vocalist in the competition, he's not the most original performer, and though he always makes smart song choices, they're not always the most interesting picks. But still, I enjoy him, the way he attacks a song, his formidable presence onstage tempered with his obvious good looks. Even so, Johns is probably better suited for singing in a cover act or a bar band. Like, a really good bar band... but a bar band. Whatever, he's still dreamy.

David Cook "Hello" Even Lionel Ritchie himself gushed over Cook's rock rendition of his hit song. When I talk about separating from the pack, about putting a stamp on the song, this is exactly what I'm referring to. Though Middle America may be drooling all over David Archuletta, Cook is my favorite among the guys. Like Randy said, this version of the song could be a hit single on the radio tomorrow. And isn't that what the competition is all about?

Jason Castro "Halleluljah" The Jeff Buckley version of this Leonard Cohen tune is one of my favorite songs of all time. And I'm happy to report that dreadlocks-boy did it justice. Though he's been accompanying himself on acoustic guitar the last few weeks, he put it down tonight and let everyone focus on his vocals. Good move, and great song choice. He's one to watch for sure.

Chikezie "All the (Woman) That I Need" Seriously, who told these kids it was Whitney week? Chikezie can sing, but this was an unfortunate song choice for him. Yeah, he hit all the notes, it sounded OK, but it was totally forgettable in a week where it's imperative to stand out. When you've got David Cook, David Archuletta, and even Danny Noriega re-arranging their songs... Chikezie needs to pop out with something really dramatic in order to go much further in the competition.

My predictions for the week: Kady Malloy and Ramiele Mulabay will bite the dust amongst the ladies, while Luke Menard and Stripper Boy will be dunzo for the guys.

Tune in tonight for the results!

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

The 3rd Annual L.A. Issue of Truckin'

Pauly just put out his third annual L.A. edition of Truckin'. For obvious reasons, it's always my favorite issue of the year and I was lucky enough to have a piece included. My beloved has an intense little Laurel Canyon-centric story in there, and some of my favorite writers in the blogosphere are featured as well, including Joe Speaker, Johnny Hughes, and Betty Underground, as well as enigmatic Brentwood resident Dan Keston.

Enjoy! And if you're thirsty for more stories about my hometown, check out the two previous L.A. editions:

Truckin' L.A. Edition I, March 2006
Truckin' L.A. Edition II, March 2007.

Truckin' - March 2008, Vol. 7, Issue 3

1. Next to Mama Cass by Paul McGuire
Dulce was an attractive peppy girl from San Diego. She diligently saved up for grad school and her first job funded her future. Her second job funded her addiction to weed, whiskey, and cocaine. She loved all three when her shift ended at midnight... More

2. The Drug Store by Change100
I walked down a cement pathway into the shade of unkempt trees and saw a cloudy glass door that led into a deserted elevator lobby. It was open. Someone was here. The lobby walls were covered in cheap faux-oak paneling and the floors in decades-old linoleum. Next to the elevator doors hung a building directory. And there it was. Dr. Jerry Greenblatt, M.D. Fourth floor. I gingerly stepped into the sketchiest elevator in Los Angeles and prayed it wouldn't drop me to the basement... More

3. Today's Special By Joe Speaker
Brad's last night on Planet Los Angeles started at El Caballo, clutching his beer like a dog eared paperback. Starched white shirt glowing red in the bloody lights of the place, same color as the naugahyde booths behind him jammed against the textured and cracked yellow walls... More

4. Smoking Is Cool by Dan Keston
As a man, I truly believe that if you feel comfortable walking down the street with a Coors Light in your hand then you probably feel comfortable wearing your fraternity letters well past your 35th birthday. I also believe, contrarily, that walking down the street with a cigarette in your hand makes you look suave, debonair, independent and just aloof enough to be mysterious... More

5. California: The Garden of Eden by Johnny Hughes
It seemed Los Angeles was in this artificial super-Technicolor, compared to West Texas. The first thing I saw was a grade school class with black, white, and Asian children. I had never seen that, since our schools were segregated... More

6. My LA by Betty Underground
Accidents happening all around you on the freeway. The world's biggest spectator sport! Traffic is not because of the carnage in the road, it is from the rubberneckers trying to catch a glimpse of the blood and guts, only to be disappointed when it was a minor fender bender... More

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Marijuana Commercial

First of all, don't forget to play in Saturdays with Dr. Pauly this afternoon at 4:20 EST on Poker Stars. I'll be there donating and trying to suck out on my friends that actually know how to play PLO. Also, I won a $75 token and therefore will be playing in Miami Don's Big Game tomorrow night at 9:45 EST on Full Tilt. I heard it's the first event of some big blogger tournament series or something.

Showcase found this gem of a video and we've watched it a dozen times already. Except for the brief jab at Phish, it's pure hilarity (and even the Phish jab was kind of funny... sounds like something my dad would say).

Enjoy, and see you at the tables.