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American Idol's new voice speaks out

by Jason Hughes, posted Aug 25th 2008 4:43PM
Kara DioGuardiEven though she just got the call about the gig a few days ago, new American Idol judge Kara DioGuardi took some time this afternoon to sit down and chat with the media via a massive conference call. As we were going along, I found myself listening as much to how she carried herself conversationally as I was to what she had to say. After all, this is going to be one of the four most listened to voices in America come January when American Idol's eighth season kicks off.

She came across as smart, knowledgeable, a bit funny and clearly overwhelmed by the enormity of the situation into which she's been thrust. She spoke about how for most of her career she's been being the scenes, as a songwriter and producer. I would say that you may have seen her on ABC's The One: Making a Music Star, but then nobody saw that. But it means she's been called to judge a singing competition before, and even saw last season's Syesha Mercado there. Hell, she's practicaly a veteran at this now.

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Randy, Paula, Simon ... and Kara? Idol adds judge

by Jason Hughes, posted Aug 25th 2008 10:42AM
Kara DioGuardiMaybe they got tired of the criticism the current panel has been getting for their devolving into piles of cliche-ridden goo. Maybe it's a test run to see if they can find someone the audience can embrace so they can get rid of one of the other three judges. Maybe it's just because they wanted to have four judges from the beginning and it just took them a long time to get there.

Kara DioGuardi joining American Idol as a fourth judge is an interesting choice. As an award-winning songwriter and producer she definitely has the credentials to be involved as a judge on a singing competition. but the show almost never features original songs. You'd think that having a great songwriter on the panel would inspire the addition of a songwriting aspect to the show. I'd love to see the contestants challenged to write their own music, or in some cases bring some of the original music they've already created to the stage.

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AI7 Report Card: The season that was

by Jason Hughes, posted May 27th 2008 1:03PM
AI7 Top 12We scoured the earth (and the archives at various record companies for failed projects that showed vocal promise) to create the greatest assemblage of singing talent American Idol has ever seen! So what happened? After last year's virtual snooze-fest, how did a season that truly did give us perhaps the greatest depth of talent we've ever seen (an argument could be made for Season Five) give us such lackluster shows?

After Sanjaya-gate last year, the biggest controversy to come out this year was that finalist David Hernandez used to be a stripper and David Archuleta's dad might be a Mr. Meany-Pants. And we got to be pissed that Kristy Lee Cook outlasted the likes of Michael Johns. Not until we got to the finale of Davids did things get really intense.

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AI OD: Congratulations to David Cook - VIDEOS

by Jason Hughes, posted May 27th 2008 11:06AM
David CookIt seems that even after winning American Idol's seventh season, David Cook still expected David Archuleta to have won the whole thing. in the exit interview with David Cook, he describes the twelve million votes he won by as a "discrepancy" and said he "thought Archie was a little bit ahead" of him.

He thanks the show for allowing him to grow as an artist, and shrink at the waistline. "I've lost probably about 10 to 15 pounds. There was definitely a progression for me on this show. Early on ... the vocal coach really hit home for me ... Going into this, I had built up a wall, sort of a protective barrier between me and the audience. She forced me to break that down and I think it helped for my performances." I can agree that there was something keeping him from standing out in those early weeks as he came to later.

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AI OD: A farewell to David Archuleta - VIDEOS

by Jason Hughes, posted May 26th 2008 10:26AM
David ArchuletaPoor Archie, he fell victim to a Clarkson-style assault. In Season One of American Idol, Justin Guarini was picked as the early favorite to run all the way to the finals and win the whole thing. Meanwhile, nobody even noticed the nondescript little waitress from Texas in there midst until Kelly Clarkson just kept growing and growing through the competition and ran away with the whole thing.

Sure, David Cook was good, but virtually nobody saw him as an early favorite to take the title, and the '50s theme in week one didn't do anything to light him up. Then Archuleta let loose with "Imagine" the following week and pretty much sealed the deal as the front-runner. He even encored with the number in the finale, knowing that it had been his season's high point.

In the exit interview with David Archuleta, he said that Cook "just proved week after week that he deserved to be the 'American Idol' ... My main priority wasn't to win the competition ... just to do my best. We both gave it our all. To make it to the top two, I don't think there's any reason to be disappointed with that."

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AI Aftermath: The Winners - VIDEOS

by Jason Hughes, posted May 23rd 2008 10:20PM
American Idol Winners
Welcome to the final installment of "AI Aftermath," where we explore Idol's past. Each installment, as one more American Idol hopeful is eliminated from the competition, we take a look back at contestants past who were eliminated at the same point. We'll examine how they did on the show and what they've been up to since their eliminations. In honor of David Cook's crowning as your American Idol, we will look back at other winners.

This week: The Winners, featuring Kelly Clarkson (Season One), Ruben Studdard (Season Two), Fantasia Barrino (Season Three), Carrie Underwood (Season Four), Taylor Hicks (Season Five) and Jordin Sparks (Season Six).

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Idol Polls: The Top 2

by Jason Hughes, posted May 21st 2008 8:03PM
David vs. DavidWelcome back to our weekly American Idol polls round-up. Each week we look at various online polls that were conducted from the end of last week's results up to the performance show Tuesday. And then a few that were conducted after the performance show, but before the results were revealed.

This way we can analyze how the week's performances affected a contestant's overall popularity, which turns out to be not very much except in a few select cases anymore. And this week we're mixing it up a bit, bringing you this column before the "Results Show" airs. As this is our last time to look at polls, why not see how many, if any, properly predict the David that comes out on top. Personally, even though you won't see her on these lists, I think Syesha still found a way to come in last on all of them.

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American Idol: Your American Idol Revealed (season finale)

by Jason Hughes, posted May 21st 2008 7:45PM
American Idol 7 - The Top 24
(S07E42)
Forty-two episodes later we're finally ready to find out who is going to take home the crown of the next American Idol. Look at all those faces up there, and now it's all come down to the Davids. The lingering question is if they're going to be Idols the likes of Carrie Underwood and Kelly Clarkson; sales in the millions with mantles full of awards; or will they find mainstream success more of a challenge, like Taylor Hicks or Justin Guarini (I know he came in second but let's face it, at this point first and second are almost interchangeable as far as getting a shot at a career)? The show's an hour early and an hour longer, clocking in from 8:00 PM - 10:00 PM Eastern Time. That means you have two hours to chat live right here with your friends and frenemies about which David should win and how stupid they are for disagreeing with you.

You can join the chat by following this link. Look for the full episode review right here later tonight.

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American Idol: Top 2 Perform

by Jason Hughes, posted May 20th 2008 7:51PM
David vs David 2008
(S07E40)
Tonight, it's wall-to-wall David as Cook and Archuleta face-off in the penultimate episode of what was once proclaimed to be the most talented and greatest season of American Idol to date. And yet, for some reason it hasn't worked out that way. Nevertheless, the Davids are both talented and in such different ways. Archie has a pure and beautiful voice but his performance technique is severely lacking. Meanwhile, Cookie is a consummate performer, but doesn't have nearly the vocal depth of his nemesis.

Tonight, expect them to sing the "Idol Songwriting Competition" winning song which should be a horribly saccharine song about "Gosh, I can't believe where I'm at and isn't this amazing," or if we're especially lucky we'll get two different songs like that. Other than that, we should get three songs from each, one possibly an encore of their favorite performance and the third ... well, who knows. Join us in our weekly live chat and we can speculate together.

You can join the chat by following this link. Look for the full episode review right here later tonight.

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AI Aftermath: 2nd place finishers - VIDEOS

by Jason Hughes, posted May 20th 2008 6:01PM
American Idol 2nd Place Finishers
Welcome back to "AI Aftermath," where we explore Idol's past. Each installment, as one more American Idol hopeful is eliminated from the competition, we take a look back at contestants past who were eliminated at the same point. We'll examine how they did on the show and what they've been up to since their eliminations. In honor of David Archuleta's elimination in the finale, we'll be looking at other second place finishers.

This week: 2nd place finishers, featuring featuring Justin Guarini (Season One), Clay Aiken (Season Two), Diana DeGarmo (Season Three), Bo Bice (Season Four), Katharine McPhee (Season Five) and Blake Lewis (Season Six).

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AI Aftermath: 3rd place finishers - VIDEOS

by Jason Hughes, posted May 19th 2008 11:04AM
American Idol - 3rd Place Finishers
Welcome back to "AI Aftermath," where we explore Idol's past. Each installment, as one more American Idol hopeful is eliminated from the competition, we take a look back at contestants past who were eliminated at the same point. We'll examine how they did on the show and what they've been up to since their eliminations. In honor of Syesha Mercado's elimination this week, we'll be looking at other fourth place finishers.

This week: 3rd place finishers, featuring featuring Nikki McKibbin (Season One), Kimberly Locke (Season Two), Jasmine Trias (Season Three), Vonzell Solomon (Season Four), Elliott Yamin (Season Five) and Melinda Doolittle (Season Six).

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AI OD: A farewell to Syesha Mercado - VIDEOS

by Jason Hughes, posted May 17th 2008 6:02PM
Syesha MercadoShe blew us all away with her tenacity and grace, but in the end she was facing forces of popularity that she just couldn't touch. Much like Kimberly Locke had to accept her fate in light of the inevitability of a Ruben-Clay finale in Season Two, I think Syesha knew the writing was on the wall as we careened toward next week's David-David collision.

You've got to give her credit, though, for not going down without a fight (though one could argue she didn't put up much of one on her last night in the competition). These past several weeks have seen a blooming of talent and presence that have been nothing short of astounding. Perhaps not since Season One's Kelly Clarkson have we had a contestant who kind of muddle around the middle of the pack for awhile and then just started to shoot for the stars (though I can't say they're in the same class vocally--sorry, Sy). In Syesha Mercado's exit interview she even stated that she considers her Top 3 finish a success.

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Idol Polls: The Top 3

by Jason Hughes, posted May 16th 2008 9:21AM
Syesha MercadoWelcome back to our weekly American Idol polls round-up. Each week we look at various online polls that were conducted from the end of last week's results up to the performance show Tuesday. And then a few that were conducted after the performance show, but before the results were revealed.

This way we can analyze how the week's performances affected a contestant's overall popularity, which turns out to be not very much except in a few select cases anymore. Of course, it's all come down to the inevitable finale everyone expected. Unfortunately, it turned out to be rather anticlimactic though it would have been a lot of fun to see our girl Syesha sneak her way into the finale. What it does accomplish is setting up a finale that's almost impossible to predict. Both Davids have been at the top of the polls for weeks now, so it may come down to what they do Tuesday. We'll be back next week on Wednesday before the results to analyze the available polls at that time and see if we can predict the ultimate winner.

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Lythgoe and son David comment on Jeff Archuleta's troubles

by Jason Hughes, posted May 14th 2008 3:41PM
Nigel LythgoeAmerican Idol executive producer Nigel Lythgoe has come out in confirmation that finalist David Archuleta's dad has been effectively banned from participating in David's rehearsals, though he stops short of saying Jeff Archuleta's been banned altogether from the backstage area. In an interesting choice of words, Lythgoe said, "He has been asked not to participate in the choice of music with David or be in the room when David is working out his routines that he wants to sing. He's fine to be in the studio -- nothing wrong with that. We just want David to be able to be free like everybody else to get on and do what they want to do." I find the use of "free like everybody else" very interesting.

Later Lythgoe said they were concerned about giving everyone an equal opportunity and taking away "some of the pressure" that David was under. It's certainly an interesting comment in that you wonder if Idol should even take on that role of reducing parental pressure. He did stop short of declaring Jeff Archuleta a "stage dad," instead saying only that a stage mom or dad is only "someone who's protective."

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American Idol: Top 3 Perform

by Jason Hughes, posted May 13th 2008 7:45PM
Idol
(S07E39)
It only took until the Final Three, but finally the contestants are going to be able to sing at least one song that is entirely their own choice. No themes, no specific artists just whatever their little hearts content. Expect David Cook to do a rock song, Syesha to do a Whitney song and David Archuleta to do a ballad he's been singing his whole life. After that, the judges get to select a song for each and the producers get to do the same. Traditionally these Top 3 episodes have featured some pretty amazing performances, as the songs are better suited for the kind of vocalists we have left. Now, this may not be your favorite Top 3 (it's certainly not mine), but stop by anyway in our live chat during the episode and talk about how they're doing.

You can join the chat by following this link. Look for the full episode review right here later tonight.

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