Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Glee Music 3: I Kissed A Girl

After another week of Glee break - primarily due to Thanksgiving - here are the tunes the show will showcase in this week's episode entitled, I Kissed A Girl. Collectively, this is a pretty decent set of covers. Not sure if any of these songs will be as strong as their last episode's version of Rumor Has It/Somelike You, but we'll see..

Note: iTunes versions are up!

Constant Craving
I have to be honest, I'm not familiar with this song. I think Santana and Shelby sound lovely together, but it gets a bit monotone and repetitive towards the end. Good but not my favorite. 7/10
DOWNLOAD

I'm The Only One
Is it just me or Puck is improving on his solos? I enjoyed Waiting For A Girl Like You, but this is my favorite Puck solo (based on the audio alone) so far. Not the biggest fan of his character or his voice, but the song really suits him and he did very well. 8/10
DOWNLOAD

I Kissed A Girl
I always like a Rachel-Santana duet and this is no different. It's fun, catchy and kind of sassy. This is actually one of my least favorite Katy Perry songs, but they made me tolerate it - always a good thing in my book. It would've been better if they included some of the girls though. 7/10
DOWNLOAD

Jolene
I HATED Coach Bieste's duet with Will Schuester last season, but this is definitely a VAST improvement. So while I worried a bit for the contrast between her voice and Dolly Parton's and the fact that she isn't the strongest vocalist on the show, this actually works pretty well. Pleasantly surprised. 7/10
DOWNLOAD

Girls Just Want To Have Fun
Brilliant! This is such a rad arrangement!! It's good to hear Finn sing on something slow and stripped down. Plus, he never sounded this good before. Hands down, my favorite song of the episode. Enough said. 9/10
DOWNLOAD

Perfect
Possibly my favorite Kurt/Blaine duet. Wow. I love the fact that Kurt is actually singing the verses in his lower key, which is absolutely fantastic, and when he went into his higher register it isn't as jarring as before for some odd reason. The harmonies are surprisingly great and Blaine sounds terrific. Good job! 9/10
DOWNLOAD

(all 6 songs)

Saturday, November 26, 2011

IDOL Tournament: Results!

64 Idols. 60 head-to-head showdowns. More than 20,000 votes. Yes, after 5 long months, it all came down to this..

.. and the winner of the DAM NATION's First IDOL Tournament is DAVID..

NOTE: Just to be clear, since I've been getting lots of crap for not closing the tournament at Round 4. The tournament winner won Rounds 1,3,5,6 and 7. So closing the tournament at Round 4 would be strange right? Just saying.

Results after the jump!!

.. sorry to be too much of a Ryan Seacrest. Just click on the banner above to see the winner! Haha.

For the last time, if anyone's interested on how the matchups went on the DAM NATION Idol Tournament, click here to check out the entire 64-player bracket (then click again for a zoomed in view).

Friday, November 25, 2011

IDOL Tournament: FINALE - David Archuleta VS David Cook (Final Showdown)

.. and this is it! The last poll and showdown of the first ever Idol Tournament. It's been a fun journey for the past five months and whether people will agree on the results that will be revealed this weekend, this has been a fun activity. It maybe pointless and kind of silly, but it's one harmless amusement that's somehow enough to distract some of us maybe until a new American Idol season starts this January.

But before anything else, let's finish this one and have the last poll. No featured anything, just vote for who you like. The poll is open for 24 hours. There will be 7 rounds in this Grand Finale and the winner of every round will get a point. Whoever gets 4 points will win the first ever DAM Nation IDOL Tournament. Please be reminded though that the winner of each round will NOT be revealed until we're done with ALL 7 rounds. I mean, we need some suspense of course.

Anyway, if anyone's interested in the matchups that happened during the course of the whole IDOL tournament, click here to check out the entire 64-player bracket (then click again for a zoomed in view).

David Archuleta

David Cook

VOTE!


Thursday, November 24, 2011

Music Video: Beautiful - Katharine McPhee (SMASH TV Series)

.. and NBC is now going all out for their new musical series, SMASH, which will debut February 6, 2012. Aside from the fact that I'm into TV musicals like Glee or anything that has music in it on television- you know what I'm pertaining to - this series also stars Katharine McPhee, American Idol Season 5 Runner-up.

It's common knowledge to everyone - or maybe to just a few people - that I adore Katharine with a passion. I've been rooting for her since the auditions of Season 5 and to actually see her get a gig this big and something that's an uncharted territory for an Idol alumna, I'm quite excited. She tried so hard to make a career after American Idol - with her two albums (one of which I thought was awesome) and a couple of movies under her belt - and a starring role about an aspiring actress makes me all giddy. I hope this is it for her! Oh, and she looks unbelievably gorgeous. Just saying.

X Factor US: Top 9

I guess, the theme tonight was, umm, bad singing? Seriously. This episode was an absolute trainwreck and without a doubt, an entirely new low for reality programming: horrible singing and pimping personal tragedy. WTF!

Bring back American Idol, this show SUCKS! I'll give it until Top 7 and if things doesn't improve, I'll ditch this show. Sorry! Haha.

On with the review!

DISCLAIMER: I am no expert, but this is my opinion - to each his own - and yours will be in the comments below! Haha.  

09. Chris Rene
Let It Be
Chris, to me, has an inspiring story and, yes, I'll just leave it at that.. Haha. 3/10

08. Lakoda Rayne
You Belong With Me
Really? A Taylor Swift song? I have nothing against Taylor Swift, but her songs have zero range and little melody to actually show off one's vocal talent - more so, a group! Heck, they didn't even sound that good. Their vocals were rough around the edges, the harmonies were still bad and Paige's tone didn't blend well with the rest of the group for some reason. I don't know. This just didn't work for me. 4.5/10

07. Astro
Show Me What You Got
Astro has a lot of raw talent and he's possibly one of the more marketable acts on the show, however, his annoying behavior from last week threw me off a bit. Yes, that shouldn't affect how I view his performances after that meltdown, but can you really blame me? I just don't think I'm interested with someone who's not grateful with the opportunities he was given. To be fair, his delivery was passionate and relatively energetic, but again, I just didn't care. Of course, this is not all about the personality, but I don't think it's about the singing ability as well. So... 5/10

06. Marcus Canty
A Song For Mama
While I found Marcus' performance to be genuinely heartfelt, his vocals were too uneven. His lower register was a little wobbly and then he went slightly off pitch when he tried to hit those high notes. I wasn't sure if it was because he was getting a little emotional during the performance, but this was his weakest vocal performance to date. 5.5/10

05. Drew
Skyscraper
.. and I thought Drew was going to win X Factor US in a cakewalk. Sadly, I don't think that's the case now. I admit, this performance was a bit better compared to last week and somehow I appreciated the fact that she took some risks in her vocals, but I didn't think it was totally successful. How she tackled the verses were sensational, but when she hits the chorus and started to belt out, things just went strange for me. Then, the weird arrangement came in and she just lost me. Now, as for L.A. Reid, STFU! Demi Lovato is 19 and this song was released this year, you idiot! Why are you working in the music industry when you don't even know your stuff!! Ugh. 7/10

04. Rachel Crow 
Believe
I kind of liked this performance. Vocally, it wasn't perfect especially when the band kicked in and annoyingly overpowered her vocals, but she had enough charisma to pull this performance off. She showed great vocal range and I thought her stage presence improved a lot. 7/10

03. Melanie Amaro
The World's Greatest
WHAT THE HELL WAS THAT? Did Melanie just lost her mind? Haha. Up until all that CRAZY speech at the end, I thought Melanie sounded great. She got a tad screechy and slightly flat towards the end, but as usual she was able to deliver another good vocal performance. However, I'm beginning to think that she has no place in the world of pop music, but could make it as a Christian Contemporary artist perhaps? 7.5/10

02. Leroy Bell
Angel
Arguably, this was Leroy's best live performance to date. His tone worked well with the material, his connection to the song was palpable and I thought his vocals were quite good - even brilliant in some parts. I guess, the fact that he allowed his emotions to take over made this performance a lot better compared to the others. I could've done it without the choir, but whatever. 7.5/10

01. Josh Krajcik
Wild Horses
Wow! Who knew Josh could actually win this whole freakin' thing? I NEVER considered him as a frontrunner, but after two strong performances - and yes, he's possibly the most consistent in the bunch, though I never really liked him - this might just be the case. I thought he sang it well and while his strained vocal style wasn't entirely my thing, the way he showcased his range from being vulnerable to his usual booming voice was quite impressive. Not sure if I'll buy his album, but we'll see.. 8/10

ELIMINATION PREDICTION
Later is a double elimination, and while I don't really care who gets eliminated, I have a feeling that it's going to be between Lakoda Rayne, Astro and Leroy Bell. Chris Rene could actually be a potential "shocker" considering how the show pimped him prior to the live show.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

The Sing-Off Season 3: Mastermix Medleys and Judges' Choice (Episode 10)

written by AL
DAM NATION, Contributor 

The Sing-Off Finale is right around the corner, and this episode was the last chance the Top 4 groups had to convince the judges and America that they should be this year's Sing-Off Champion. In the first round, the contestants had to get creative and mix together two songs by different artists. In round two, the stakes were even higher as the groups had to perfectly execute songs picked for them by the judges. I can't imagine how tired the singers must have been after weeks of competition, but here it was do or die. As they made their way closer to the finish line, one more group had to say goodbye.

Group Performance: Bittersweet Symphony, Baba O'Riley, Last Friday Night, Hollaback Girl



Song ratings, ahead!

MASTERMIX MEDLEYS

Pentatonix
Forget You/Since U Been Gone
This was a fun little mastermix. I'm not sure the songs really go together that well; the chord progressions are different and when they put them together it resulted in some flat sounding harmonies. I'm not used to that from Pentatonix. The whole time my ear was a little tense, but overall they brought the songs together in an interesting way. 7.5/10

Urban Method
Hot In Herre/Fever
It was a risky decision to mix recent hip-hop with '60s jazz, but the result wasn't as jarring as it sounds. This sexy/sultry mix successfully highlighted some of the group's strengths, but it also pointed toward a major weakness of theirs: their determination to take a cappella places I'm not sure it was meant to go. Awkward. 7/10

Afro-Blue
I Believe I Can Fly / Fly
This was powerful and inspirational mix. Their arrangement had much smoother flow than the previous two mixes, and of course, they utilized some of their signature jazz chords. Mariah's little Nicki Minaj rap solo stood out nicely. As a group, I felt like their blend wasn't as precise as it has been in past performances, but it was still very good. 8/10

Dartmouth Aires
Sympathy for the Devil / Born This Way
This was the most thematically and musically coherent mix. I enjoyed the way the songs contrasted each other with the evil vs. good nature of the lyrics and how it all came together to sound like one song. The leads were solid as always, and the rest of the Aires did a pretty good job of staying on pitch, too. 8.5/10

JUDGES' CHOICE

Pentatonix
Dog Days Are Over
Amazing!! The judges picked a great song for them. It seemed to challenge them as well as play to their strengths. They covered the full range of dynamics and harmonized beautifully while maintaining the intensity and emotion of the song. It was haunting, then joyful, then vulnerable, then powerful, and overall, it was just really exciting to watch and to listen to. Shawn called it audio drama; I call it a rollercoaster of sound. 10/10

Urban Method
All of the Lights
Ok, I will admit, this was their most creative and powerful performance yet. I enjoyed the bit with the sweeping mics. The judges picked a song that really showcased Urban Method's personality. Although they have grown a lot over the course of the show, rap-appella is just not my style, and I can't say that I would buy their album if they were to win. 8.5/10

Afro-Blue
A Change Is Gonna Come
Afro-Blue shows such respect for their musical roots and it really shows. This had a more doo-wop, R&B, jazzy feel than the soaring instrumentals of the original, but it stayed honest. I kept waiting for it to peak, and it didn't until the very end. I liked the way they put their own spin on the song and the strong finish, it made for a very captivating performance. 9/10

Dartmouth Aires
Shout
This song was a perfect choice for Michael's lead, but unfortunately the bass wasn't holding it down. Like in many of their past performances, they sacrificed pitch quality for energy and theatricality. But it was still very entertaining, another epic performance from them, and that's all that really mattered. 8.5/10

ELIMINATED GROUP

The judges chose Afro-Blue and The Dartmouth Aires as their bottom two this week, but they couldn't make a final decision, so each group had to perform their best number on the spot. Afro-Blue did a quick and professional repeat of American Boy, while the Dartmouth Aires performed a pleading and heartfelt version of Somebody to Love. I guess that, coupled with their consistency won Sara and Ben (deciding vote) over, while the more talented but less consistently crowd-pleasing group, Afro-Blue, was sent home, singing We've Only Just Begun by the Carpenters as their Swan Song.

Indeed, this is not the end for them but rather a new beginning, because Afro-Blue already has two albums out (check their homepage: afrobluehu.com) and their time on the Sing-Off has only exposed their college group to a wider audience (including me! I was actually lucky enough to see them perform live at the Kennedy Center in D.C. last weekend!).

I'm really sad to see Afro-Blue go, but now I won't feel bad giving Pentatonix all my votes! The voting is officially open! I hope everyone who reads this will call, text, or go online to vote for their favorite group! You have until Sunday!

Join us next week for the Finale!!!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

X Factor US: Top 10 iTunes Versions

So, here's what you've all been requesting for. Enjoy!


Astro I'll Be Missing You
Chris Rene No Woman No Cry
Drew With Or Without You
Josh Krajcik The Pretender
Lakoda Rayne Go Your Own Way
Leroy Bell Why Don't You Stay
Marcus Canty Piece Of My Heart
Melanie Amaro Everybody Hurts
Rachel Crow I Can't Get No Satisfaction
Stacy Francis It's All Coming Back To Me Now

DOWNLOAD ALL (10 songs)

Monday, November 21, 2011

IDOL Tournament: FINALE - David Archuleta VS David Cook (American Idol Comeback)

At one point, both Davids went back to perform on the American Idol stage again. So, let's take a look back at their performances. So, who do you love?

The poll is open for 24 hours. There will be 7 rounds in this Grand Finale and the winner of every round will get a point. Whoever gets 4 points will win the first ever DAM Nation IDOL Tournament. Please be reminded though that the winner of each round will NOT be revealed until we're done with ALL 7 rounds. I mean, we need some suspense of course.

Anyway, if anyone's interested in the matchups that happened during the course of the whole IDOL tournament, click here to check out the entire 64-player bracket (then click again for a zoomed in view).

David Archuleta
Imagine
Season 9, Top 9 Results Show


David Cook
Permanent
Season 8, Finale Show


VOTE!


The Sing-Off Season 3: The Rhythm and Blues Revue Downloads (Episode 9)

So here's the latest Sing-Off downloads c/o Trev of TrevMusicXpert. Enjoy!


1. I Feel Good/ABC/Crazy In Love Group Performance
2. Ignition (Remix) Dartmouth Aires 
3. Knock You Down Urban Method
4. Every Little Step Vocal Point
5. We Belong Together Afro Blue
6. OMG Pentatonix
7. Midnight Train to Georgia Dartmouth Aires
8. It's Your Thing Urban Method
9. Ain't Too Proud To Beg Vocal Point
10. Best of My Love Afro Blue
11. Let's Get It On Pentatonix

The Sing-Off Season 3: Rocking Out & Goin' Country Downloads (Episode 8)

So here's the latest Sing-Off downloads c/o Trev of TrevMusicXpert. Enjoy!


1. Wake Up Group Performance
2. Born to Be Wild Pentatonix
3. We're Not Gonna Take It Dartmouth Aires
4. American Girl Afro Blue
5. Dream On Delilah
6. Here I Go Again Urban Method
7. You Really Got Me Vocal Point
8. Save a Horse (Ride a Cowboy) Dartmouth Aires
9. Need You Now Afro Blue
10. Before He Cheats Urban Method
11. If I Die Young Delilah
12. Life Is a Highway Vocal Point
13. Stuck Like Glue Pentatonix

Sunday, November 20, 2011

IDOL Tournament: FINALE - David Archuleta VS David Cook (Makeover)

And now, we move on to something a little silly, but interesting nonetheless. Makeovers! I featured this already in Round 5 and the responses were quite nice. People were seriously fascinated with how most American Idols changed since their stint on this show. So, yeah, who do you love?

The poll is open for 24 hours. There will be 7 rounds in this Grand Finale and the winner of every round will get a point. Whoever gets 4 points will win the first ever DAM Nation IDOL Tournament. Please be reminded though that the winner of each round will NOT be revealed until we're done with ALL 7 rounds. I mean, we need some suspense of course.

Anyway, if anyone's interested in the matchups that happened during the course of the whole IDOL tournament, click here to check out the entire 64-player bracket (then click again for a zoomed in view).

David Archuleta
David Cook

VOTE!


Movie Review: The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 1

Will you judge me if I say that the Twilight saga is actually one of my biggest guilty pleasures EVER? And am I so much of a bad person if I say that I enjoyed this film? Haha. I may be wrong, but I somehow think that there will always be a very good split of opinions about the series depending on the "group" evaluating it.

I'm a guy, who read the books and shockingly enjoyed them despite the obvious albeit insignificant flaws. But because of my understanding of the books, I somehow saw the beauty of how this was actually done and executed. True, it could've been better, but I wasn't anywhere near disappointed.

I mean, let me take the story out for a second, and Breaking Dawn Part 1, dare I say, was possibly the best one in the saga. I thought the visual effects, especially towards the end, was superb, the fight scenes, though minimal, felt a little sharper than usual, the writing was relatively better (relatively as the operative word), the cinematography was still fantastic and the soundtrack, though a bit overbearing at times, was still gorgeous.

Oh, and the make up was a definite improvement from it's predecessor. Again, the Cullens toned down their cakey make-up and every single vampire was at their perfect level of pasty. Haha. Plus, how they made Bella Swan look sickly thin was pretty impressive almost incredibly disturbing.

As far as the acting was concerned, I thought it was generally fine. No one will win an Oscar for ANY of the performances in this film, but it's not as if they were trying to. Robert Pattinson was decent, Taylor Lautner was tolerable, but Kristen Stewart, to me, was an absolute revelation in this film. Some people criticized her for being such a poker face, but intentional or not, that's how the character was actually written and Kristen was the PERFECT fit for the role. She was awkward as usual, but there was depth in her portrayal.

Now, let's shove the story back in. I admit, the story was awfully thin as it was just all about the wedding, their honeymoon and yes, the pregnancy leading to Bella giving birth, which was truly grotesque. The writing was still cheesy as heck, but what do you expect? I mean, if you're looking for a meaningful story or a thought provoking teen drama, you should already know by now that you're in the wrong place.

But despite the obvious "thinness" of the story, I seriously enjoyed the stark contrast of that light almost blissful first half to the agonizing borderline disturbing second half. It was as if I was watching a romantic comedy film that suddenly went psychotic. Haha. The abrupt shift could actually give someone a momentary whiplash, but the whole execution was actually quite interesting.

Of course, there were a couple of things that didn't quite sit with me well. I thought the pacing was annoyingly uneven. I appreciated the fact that it took it's time to show how passionate Bella and Edward were with each other, but there was just too much of it that it felt like one LONG montage of kissing and cuddling. Yes, it was sweet, but it almost gave me diabetes. Haha.

Then, when the interesting things started to happen, I felt like everything was rushed. It went from one thing to the other so quickly that I was just unable to appreciate them fully. There was also no emphasis on the struggle Bella went through when deciding to keep the baby, which, to me, was a pretty interesting part of the book.

There were also too much of the wolf pack for my taste. For one, the wolf pack couldn't act to save their lives - now, I understand Jacob! Haha - and the dogs talking to each other was actually kind of jarring. One wolf even sounded like Megatron from Transformers because of too much echo. Haha. What was up with that?

Ultimately, Breaking Dawn Part 1 was like one huge buildup for the final installment and I consider this one to really prepare me for the second part of the final book, which I expect to be absolutely intense - in all sense of the word - literally and the revelatory kind. Watch it if you've read the book. Otherwise, you'll find it boring and utterly confusing and believe me, no one really wants to hear you complain about wasting your precious time because of this crap. Just saying.

RATING: 8/10

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Glee Season 3: Mash Off Episode Review

Mash Off
Season 3, Episode 6
I wouldn't exactly say that Mash-Off was Glee's finest episode EVER, but this was surprisingly stronger than I actually anticipated. I honestly thought that there was NO WAY this episode could top last week's, and while it didn't, this was that kind of episode where it can seriously get people talking.

I mean, debates will be endless!! Was Santana a victim? Or did she just had a taste of her own medicine? Should we root for Santana over Finn? Was Finn too much of a douche to actually blurt out Santana's secret in public? Or did he just had enough of Santana's crap? You get the point..

THE GOOD:

- Let me start with the small little things, shall we? Ok. Now that Puck mentioned that he's of legal age, I can now fully accept the whole Shelby-Puck thing. No, I still don't want them to be officially together, but Puck showed massive maturity in the past few episodes and that's always a good thing. Right?

- That little scene with Rachel and Shelby was actually really cute and heartwarming. I was quite happy that it didn't take them that long and nothing much to do to actually pave the way or a closer future together.

- SUGAR MOTTA!! Move over, Brittany. You've just been replaced! Haha. She, to me, is now the funniest character on Glee!! Seriously. Her one liners were hysterical and her expressions were just priceless! Plus, I loved the fact that she's really making the most out of her scant screentime - the same way Santana and Brittany did back in Season 1. Oh, and when Will and Shelby were singing, Sugar was swaying with the music, excpet that she was WAY off the beat. Haha. No idea Glee was capable of that sort of subtlety.

- I enjoyed those short moments of sanity Sue Sylvester had, especially when the issue was serious. And speaking of serious..

- My take on the whole Finn and Santana big smackdown? Well, I figured that this verbal war between Santana and Finn was going to explode at some point, but how Glee handled this particular conflict was absolutely impressive. I mean, I love Santana to bits and she's possibly one of my favorite characters on the show, but she hit every low blow imaginable towards Finn despite Brittany and the others telling her to lay off a bit. She attacked each and every one of Finn's insecurities in a very mean-spirited way and that HAD to cut deep at him. Santana obviously provoked him, and how Finn retaliated was jaw dropping.

- Did I think Finn's action was acceptable? Not at all. NO ONE should be dragged out of the closet just like that and I thought Finn somehow did cross the line a bit. But that being said, Santana was an absolute bitch, she's nasty and a bully and NO ONE should experience that kind of constant verbal abuse in public either. I guess, it was just a very much needed reality check for Santana. It's karma and just like her, it's a bitch. Haha.

- Oh, and that slap! Nothing like a good old fashioned cliff hanger! Loved it!

THE BAD:

- Rory should get acting lessons.. stat!

- Not a fan of the whole election drama going on between Rachel and Kurt, but I was glad they're friends again. 

- Quinn is CRAZY! 

- Sue Sylvester's ad campaigns were borderline stupid. Yes, these are obviously nit picking. Haha.

THE MUSIC:

HOT FOR TEACHER was ok. I initially didn't like the song, but the performance actually made everything quite bearable. It was sassy, at best.

YOU AND I/YOU AND I. Both Will and Shelby sound good in this song, especially when Shelby belted out the Nebraska part of the song. I thought the performance was pleasant, but how both teachers suddenly came out singing and interrupting the kids' conversation was a little awkward. Haha. Just saying.

HIT ME WITH YOUR BEST SHOT/ONE WAY OR ANOTHER was really fun to watch. They all looked like they were genuinely having fun with the scene. Besides, it was nice to see them wearing shorts. Haha.

I CAN'T GO FOR THAT/YOU MAKE MY DREAMS COME TRUE was possibly one of the most entertaining New Directions numbers in a while. The costumes cracked me up! Actually, I found the performance more funny than anything else - a good thing, I guess. Oh, and Tina and Rory actually look goo together.

RUMOUR HAS IT/SOMEONE LIKE YOU.  This mash-up was by far the best, and not just of this episode, or even of the season. I dare say, one of the best covers the show has ever done, period. The vocals sounded sensational, I thought the arrangement was pretty clever and the choreography was top notch. There was a MASSIVE difference between the New Directions performance compared to The Troubletones. Maybe it's the coach? This was just epic. Enough said.
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