Wednesday, February 29, 2012

American Idol 11: Ranking the Top 12 Girls

After the boys, it's time to rank the girls based on vocal ability, airtime, Idol historic trends, and of course, personal preference in order to gauge who currently has the best shot of entering the final set of 12/13. But before anything else, let me just say that the girls have a shockingly strong line up this year that I seriously had a hard time ranking them. There were a couple of strong contenders and maybe two or three fodders. I changed my list a couple times and this is the best I could come up with. Haha.

Also, coming up with the list, I noticed a couple of things:
* this is the first season EVER in American Idol history that not a single black woman entered the Final 24
* 3 of the 12 girls (25%) are country singers
* there's Hollie, Haley and Hallie in this bunch and I wonder if this will affect the voting in terms of recall from America.
* 8 of the whole 24 contestants are repeat auditioners. Wow.

Without further ado, here's how I personally rank the Top 12 Boys based from whatever we saw from them. (I've decided to separate the post - it's TOO long. Haha)

Let's go to the rankings, shall we?

12. Brielle Von Hugel
Due to the edit she got during Hollywood Week - with her agonizingly annoying stage mother - Brielle could be the next Kelly Clarkon and it wouldn't matter one bit. She was cast a villain and America wouldn't back her up because of that. It's such a shame because she actually has a pretty good solid voice, but at this point, her ouster is already a forgone conclusion. LONG SHOT

11. Chelsea Sorrell
Her own take on Carrie Underwood's I Told You So was mesmerizing, but she's competing against two other country singers who, quite frankly, have better odds of making the finals. That said, I wouldn't count her out yet because she has a pretty strong and clear instrument that's quite impressive. If she picks the right song, she could surprise everyone. POSSIBLE UPSET

10. Shannon Magrane
This girl has tons of potential, but she's too raw for American Idol. She's too vanilla for my taste and I'm not really sure what she'd bring to the competition. Amazing vocal talent? Not quite. Sex appeal? None. Shannon, to me, reminds me of Ayala Brown - good voice, great vibrato, but she's way too robotic and her pitch is uneven. I don't think she's quite ready for this, but who knows? POSSIBLE UPSET

09. Haley Johnsen
Haley is gorgeous, undeniably marketable, young and has a good attention to vocal details. A couple of snippets through out Hollywood also showcased her wonderful tone and a surprisingly impressive range. Plus, she can change vocal registers with great ease - it was pretty apparent in her gorgeous version of The Story during her audition. It's such a shame though that she never got enough airtime prior to the live rounds to make a bigger impression to America. So unless she creates her own moment this week a la Pia Toscano, she may just have to settle to be another Kendra Chantelle. Sad. POSSIBLE UPSET

08. Hallie Day
Big voice. Awesome phrasing. Strong contender. Yes, that's my first impression when Hallie audition back in Pittsburgh. But somehow, she became a little less visible in Hollywood Week and I immediately forgot that she even existed. Good thing, she was slightly featured in Las Vegas with Tell Him and that reminded me why I considered her as one of the strongest vocalists in the competition. Here's hoping that Hallie's memorable and strong earlier performances stuck with America. POSSIBLE UPSET

07. Elise Testone
I like her. I personally think that Elise, along with a couple of other ladies, is one of the strongest vocalists this season. Her smoky, gritty voice is easily recognizable, she has a remarkable ability to pick songs that fits her voice perfectly, and she has a vibe that's totally non-threatening to the general "viewers" of the show. That said, there's something about her that screams Melissa McGee, a Season 5 Finalist, which mean a fodder despite the undeniable talent. I hope I'm wrong because in the "Era of Adele", she could easily be marketable. POSSIBLE UPSET

06. Jen Hirsh
To be perfectly honest, I'm still not sold with Jen. Yes, she has a fantastic voice and an undeniably impressive range, but I'm not really a fan of her tone or even her phrasing. Her Georgia On My Mind cover was part outstanding - the way she focused on subtlety and melody at the beginning of the song was gorgeous - but when she started hitting those high notes, I felt like there were more shouting than actual singing. I don't know. I think she has an amazing placement of notes, but I just can't get past the oversinging. At this point though, if Jen can maintain a strong on-screen presence, she will easily find herself in the Top 13. MOST LIKELY

05. Skylar Laine
There's something about Skylar that's oddly refreshing. Sure, she has that typical country voice, but it has a rock and roll edge to it - something we've never seen before on American Idol. There's also a certain rawness to her voice that's quite interesting and her upper register is unbelievably strong. Plus, she's very confident for her age. So as far as vocal talent and presence, Skylar has what it takes to make the final cut. I'm not sure though if they will cancel each other out, since they're catering to the same genre - and yes, I'm talking about... MOST LIKELY

04. Baylie Brown
No, she doesn't have the strongest voice in the competition - in fact, I sometimes find her country voice a bit generic - but there's something about her that screams STAR. Baylie auditioned in Season 6 (Jordin Sparks) but got eliminated during the group rounds. She then took some time off, worked on her vocals, and came back a credible contender for the title. I mean, since her audition, she never hit a single bad note and despite her generic country voice, it's a STRONG country voice with impeccable phrasing. Now, until she starts making stupid mistakes, I don't see her going anywhere. But she should try to be more of a girl next door type than a sex kitten, because she's WAY too beautiful, almost to a fault, that viewers would be unable to relate to her. Remember Pia Toscano? There! MOST LIKELY

03. Erika Van Pelt
Unflattering wardrobes notwithstanding, I think Erika's raw talent is unbelievable. Her alto voice is beautiful, she has a good mix of pure and gravelly sound, which I think is rare, and I feel like she has got a really good command of when to do what with her voice. Heck, I would even love to hear her belt out some serious rock songs because, to be honest, she has way more of a potential to do rock than Colton Dixon could ever imagine. Haha. Oh, and she looks eerily like Kelly Clarkson (at least on that pic) no? I hope she and Elise Testone wouldn't cancel each other out despite the fact that they're almost like the same type of singer. POSSIBLE UPSET

02. Hollie Cavanagh
She would've been dead on arrival a la Joe Munoz of Season 9 (Remember him? That's my point!) for the utter lack - or even zero - airtime prior to the live show if it wasn't for her BRILLIANT performance of Carrie Underwood's Change. Hollie almost made it last season, but the judge decided to cut her and improve more on her vocals because they can see her as a potential contender. Now that she's back, it's pretty obvious that Hollie did her homework as she's more confident and her voice has more power and conviction than I remembered from last year. I'll have to keep an eye on her, because if she killed her first performance like Pia Toscano did despite the lack of screentime, Hollie will stick around for a while. POSSIBLE UPSET

01. Jessica Sanchez
Two words: The Prayer. That performance was just sublime and could have been a game-changer for Jessica. I mean, her version was seriously a refreshing change from all the belting we got from Jen Hirsh and Creighton Fraker. Haha. Sure, she may not make the kind of music you like or still raw for the picking, but her sheer talent is undeniable. She has an outstanding voice - all registers are firing really strong, she has great vocal control, her transitions are impeccable, she's not afraid to rough it up, she can emotionally connect with the material (regardless of the subject matter of the song) and she has some serious moxie. The use of her vibrato is a bit too much, but that's something she'll figure out in the long run. Usually, contestants like Jessica don’t have that extra something to win the crown, but this one might be different. She has some spunk and edge. SHOO IN

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Movie Review: This Means War

[The DAM Nation]
The film had a completely ludicrous plot, but it never took itself too seriously and that somehow made it far more refreshing compared to it's contemporaries. The acting performances were surprisingly relaxed and I thought the chemistry between Chris Pine and Tom Hardy was shockingly palpable. Reese Witherspoon, to me, seemed youthful and relevant, but it was the hysterical Chelsea Handler who completely stole the show. This Means War wasn't a monumental achievement in terms of movie making, but if you're looking for a film to keep you entertained - just don't expect anything clever or life changing - then this will do the job. 7.5/10

At first I watched this only to see Tom Hardy, but after the film finished, I was overwhelmed. Yeah, the premise was simple, two men fall in love with the same lady, but this time both of them are CIA agents. It was great to see how they can mix action, comedy, and romance in one movie. The chemistry between Hardy and Pine was a little bit odd, but whatever, I just love bromance. One thing that wasn't really good was the linear story-telling that was so easy to predict. 8/10


*2012 DAM NATION movie reviews will be a consolidation of capsule reviews from people who signed up before the year started. Ratings will change once the reviews start to come in.

American Idol 11: Ranking the Top 12 Boys

.. and here we are again. I know. I know. It seemed like I completely ditched this show because I didn't write any reviews after the fourth episode, but I'm back and there's no turning back. I wouldn't miss this - at least the live shows - for anything.

So, just like last year where I ranked the Top 24 based on their auditions down to their Sing For Your Life performances, I'll stubbornly do it again this season hoping that I'll get things right this time. Haha. Last year, I was ridiculously off when I ranked Haley Reinhart last for the girls only to find myself rooting for her a couple of weeks later. I guess, you could never really predict anything on this show no?

But while I've learned to wait for the live shows to form a definite opinion of any of the contestants - I somehow got it right last year - but there are a few who have already piqued my interest and as of this moment, it's all about that proverbial guessing game of who will enter the Top 12/13.

Without further ado, here's how I personally rank the Top 12 Boys based from whatever we saw from them. (I've decided to separate the post - it's TOO long. Haha)

Let's go to the rankings, shall we?

12. Chase Likens
Remember him? Haha. To be fair, we saw Chase's audition and he has a generically good country voice. Sadly, that's all there is to him. I think he is very likeable, but at the same ridiculously forgettable and in this show it's somehow better to be awful than forgettable. LONG SHOT

11. Aaron Marcellus
On his third attempt, he finally got a spot in the Final 24 and the show even featured him for like, umm, thirty seconds! Yay! Haha. Aaron is a fantastic singer and I actually like his strong soulful voice, but he has also been struggling for airtime since Joshua Ledet broke out in Hollywood.  To me, he's an obvious fodder despite the talent. LONG SHOT

10. Jeremy Rosado
Is he a real contender? Hardly. But Jeremy is a solid vocalist with some serious talent. His rendition of I Know You Won't was actually quite beautiful  and touching, which suited his warm and very down to earth persona. One big thing that's working against him though is the fact that singers like him simply have a terrible track record at winning American Idol. Case in point: Ruben Studdard. LONG SHOT

09. Adam Brock
He has a soulful and powerful voice that commands attention, but somehow he reminds me so much of Danny Gokey - only bigger and slightly less annoying - and that, to me, is not a good thing. Haha. He's a bit dated, his marketability in the real world is questionable and I'm not sure if he'd be able to sell many records. Then again, Danny Gokey came close to winning Season 8, so what do I know right? Haha. POSSIBLE UPSET

08. Creighton Fraker
Not sure if I'd be able to learn to love his voice or if it will make me want to jump off a cliff. Haha. Yes, Creighton to me is an absolute enigma as I couldn't tell really if his voice is terrible or amazing. Sure, he have a massive range, but he sounded more like a siren than an actual recording artist. I wanted to like his rendition of What A Wonderful World, but the oversinging and his nasal tone really rubs me the wrong way. He's a bit polarizing so he may have trouble gaining traction with a lot of the audience, but he happens to be one of the judges' favorites, so I'm terrified that the they'll let him through via Wildcard. POSSIBLE UPSET

07. Eben Franckewitz
Watch out for this kid! No, I'm not saying this because he's the strongest vocalist in the competition, but because Eben is going to lock up the legendary "Grandma/Teens/Tweens" vote that managed to put John Stevens, Aaron Kelly, Kevin Covais and David Archuleta into the Final 12. Of course, there's actual talent in Eben - a good voice with an impressive range and decent stage presence - but I'm not sure if he's perfect for this show. Maybe Disney? MOST LIKELY

06. Reed Grimm
Reed, to me, is more of style than substance. I don't know. He's quirky and entertaining with a good singing voice, but I'm still not convinced of how talented he actually is. I mean, he's been more on playing his instruments and scatting more than the actual vocals. Right? I'm not going to lie though, I thought his version of Georgia On My Mind on drums was impressive and I saw him sing rather well with an actual melody behind his voice. All Reed needs is to focus to sound very strong. If anything, he reminds me of Casey Abrams and Taylor Hicks, and yes, you may look at it in anyway you want. Haha. MOST LIKELY

05. Colton Dixon
He's like the second coming of Constantine Maroulis in terms of locking eyes with the camera! Haha. I've never been a fan of Colton even from last season. That said, I can't deny the fact that he has a certain charisma that makes him relevant in the competition - other than making a certain type of song into something more mellow, which David Cook already did a couple of years ago. Good thing, his Fix You rendition somehow made me believe - despite the uneven vocals - that he's worthy of a spot in the Finals. SHOO IN

04. Joshua Ledet
While I'm getting a little of Jacob Lusk's vibe off of him - his vocals are sometimes way too much for my liking - Joshua is obviously a lot more cooler and modern than Jacob. His take on Hit 'Em Up With Style during the group rounds proved that he can be a relevant recording artist. He has this certain ability to transcend a material into something memorable. Arguably, Joshua is the strongest male vocalist this season and with his powerful instrument, his chances of going far in the competition is pretty high. I just wish he's smart enough when to reign it in - something Mr. Lusk was unable to do with all the wailing! MOST LIKELY

03. Phillip Phillips
Truth be told, I like him, but the fact that he reminds me of Lee DeWyze, Kris Allen, David Cook, Taylor Hicks with the accent of Scotty McCreery kind of scares me. Haha. No, Phillip Phillips isn't the best of the bunch, but there's something oddly refreshing about this guy - even if he reminds me of ALL (save for Ruben) male winners of the show. I like that he has a remarkable ability to pick songs to re-arrange from Thriller to Usher's Nice And Slow, which was pretty brilliant, and make it sound new. Of course, I figured that not a lot of people would "get" him, but he's charming with a good if a bit polarizing voice. He should look out for Reed Grimm though, as I have a funny feeling that they will cancel each other out one way or another. MOST LIKELY

02. Heejun Han
Heejun. I'm not sure if he's being weird on purpose or if he has an actual touch of mental illness, but the whole shtick works for me! He's hilarious and it's pretty impossible not to love this guy!  But aside from the fact that he's extremely likable, Heejun has a beautiful tone, which was further showcased in his Las Vegas performance and his solo New York State Of Mind. He has some diction issues to work on, but that's just a nitpick. If he continues to improve on the singing and make people take him seriously, he could easily be a serious contender for the crown. SHOO IN

01. DeAndre Brackensick
I was upset when he got cut last year, but this somehow gave him time to figure his own sound and work on his talent even more. So, now that he's back, his vocals are far more superior and he now has a distinct sound that's completely his. DeAndre's impeccable falsetto is his most powerful weapon and it's pretty obvious during Las Vegas round and even in his outstandingly rousing cover of This Woman's Work. If he manages to mix things up with his voice and not just with his signature falsetto, I don't see him going anywhere. But of course, song choice will be the key for DeAndre's success on this show. MOST LIKELY

Glee Season 3: On My Way Episode Review

On My Way
Season 3, Episode 14

No, I'm not going to say that this was the worst episode of the series EVER, but this was possibly one of the weirdest. I liked parts of it, but there was just WAY too much stuff going on - it felt like I watched three different episodes put together. Heck, I even had to re-watch it again to assess how I really feel about the whole thing.

My main issue with On My Way episode was mainly the fact that it's still supposed to be Glee and I watch this show to be entertained - mostly for it's humor. It's supposed to be a guilty pleasure, something I look forward to after a stressful day and just laugh and enjoy the music. I admit, everything was done decently and fairly inoffensive, but to use an overused phrase, 'I did not sign up for this!". Glee shouldn't just smack us with being this heavy. Sigh.

Two years ago, Glee established itself as a series that satirized high school life in a snarky and smart way complete with show tunes. The portrayals were indeed over-the-top, but the characters were human enough that it didn't make the series just about stereotypes. But as soon as the fans ate it up and confessed to have identified themselves with the characters, the show became self-conscious and turned it into a life long mission to be a one hour PSA.

Sure, there's nothing wrong with that, but that little snarky, satirical show with a heart of gold that had the power to inspire people, WITHOUT EVEN TRYING, was gone. I loved Glee for the fluff, and not this!

Ok. That introduction went a little too long than usual, but whatever.


- To be fair, the whole Karofsky subplot was handled surprisingly well. I was worried that it would be too smarmy or flippant for my liking, but I appreciated what they've done with his character no matter how somber and heartbreaking it was.

- Despite the depressing and humorless episode, this was one of the most well acted episodes EVER thanks mostly to Karofsky and Kurt's performances.

- Shocked at the further progression of Quinn's character to a decent human being. Who knew? As for what the writers did to her, of course that's another story. Haha.

- I like the new and loving Sue, but this show needs a villain. Agree?

- Tina just wants a song. HAHAHA. Burn! 

- Will Schuester notwithstanding - Sorry! I can't stand the guy - the auditorium scene with New Directions was actually quite lovely. Even watching Rory eat peanut butter for the first time reminded me that even mundane experiences can provide joy.

- I know that I'll be discussing this below, but how they used Karofsky's storyline and Blaine's solo of Cough Syrup was brilliant. I normally don't care for Dave, but I felt for him.


- I honestly thought the whole "Finn photoshop" was pointless and lame, moreso Sebastian's blackmail threat to Rachel.Oh, and Finn's reaction when Rachel didn't want to negotiate with the "terrorists" was plain selfish. Get a grip, you know it's completely edited. The body is too sexy to be you, Finn. HAHA. 

-  It came off so heavy handed that I had a hard time believing Sebastian had a sudden change of heart. He didn't even budge when he physically assault Blaine causing injury that needed surgery. But now, one minute of remorse and Sebastian's not a villain anymore? Seriously?

- I mentioned that I was impressed at how Glee handled Karofsky's suicide attempt, but this was in the wrong episode. Really? A suicide attempt in a Winter Finale of a show called Glee?

- Still, the Berry dads are not working for me. Sorry.

- The whole Finn-Rachel wedding left me annoyingly cold. Ugh! Do they should just do whatever they want, get it over with, I don’t care!

- I also hated St. Kurt Hummel preaching Quinn how her problems are nothing compared to what gay men go through. Look Porcelain, you have NO idea what Quinn really felt that time so shut up! 

- Quinn's accident made me furious. At one point, I felt like it was a cheap effect only to create a cliffhanger, and it felt very insensitive after the incredibly sensitive story of a gay teen's suicide attempt. Yes, the scene made my heart jump, but was it necessary?

- Warblers being the "hero" because they are the one doing something for Karosky when the only "connection" David had with them was when Sebastian dissed him in a club or whatever. Unbelievable! If anything, it should be the New Directions right?

- REGIONALS WAS A HOT MESS! Where was the EPIC feel that I had when they competed against Vocal Adrenaline in Season 1 with the Journey setlist? Heck, I didn't even feel like it was New Directions on stage. A lot of random dancing, rapping and songs that lacked power and coherence. I was even furious at how they made everyone leave the stage for Troubletones instead of just having the New Directions girls back them up. It just didn't make sense.


COUGH SYRUP somehow saved this episode from being a total train wreck. I did love the way they intercut the song with Karofsky' humiliation and suicide attempt. Possibly one of the more powerful performances editing in Glee's history - next to Bohemian Rhapsody with Quinn's labor, which to me was brilliant. Blaine's vocals were lovely and Karofsky's acting was outstanding that I wanted to cry with him.

STAND. Sebastian's vocals sounded a little less auto-tuned, but I was really bored watching it for some weird reason.

GLAD YOU CAME. Musically, this was better than Stand - mostly because this is a stronger song than that - but I didn't like Sebastian's voice here. Good thing the choreography was pretty solid and Sebastian was quite the dancer.

FLY/I BELIEVE I CAN FLY was interesting. It was a decent copy version to The Sing-Off's Afro Blue rendition. Rachel and Artie were good and somehow I enjoyed Santana's rapping. I love Blaine, but he should just let someone else do the rapping. Just saying.

WHAT DOESN'T KILL YOU (STRONGER) made me furious. Why did the New Directions had to give way for the Troubletones? The girls should've just joined them since they were actually the Sectionals winner right? On it's own merit, the vocals were good and the choreography was stunning, but I can't even!

HERE'S TO US. Another odd performance. Yes, Rachel sounded amazing, but aren't the solos supposed to be at the beginning. It sort of ruined the upbeat momentum, totally anticlimactic and made the whole New Direction set list a bit of a mess.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

The Voice Season 2: Blind Auditions (Episode 4)

This episode was actually a lot better than last week. The talent are generally better and these judges/mentors seriously crack me up. I somehow dig the way they all rib each other. The banter will get a little stale though, so they need to mix things up.

Anyway, let's start..

U Got It Bad

Sue me, but I think this guy sounded so much like Usher. Of course, he's not as good, but his tone down to his inflections sounded like the original, even to fault. I thought he had the presence, though I wonder if there's anything more to him than that. 6/10

Monique Benabou
Mr. Know It All

Hmm. I didn't think this girl was that too good. Yes, it was a passable version of the Kelly Clarkson tune, but she probably shouldn’t have attempted it in any way. I think Monique is just born to die during the battle rounds. Haha. 5/10

Naia Kete
The Lazy Song

Blake loves the indie type of artists no? Naia, to me, is like Xenia from last season because of her interesting tone and the lack of dynamics as a performer. She has a sweet quavery tone though and a cool vibe to her. 7/10

Charlotte Sometimes

Just like Naia, this girl reminds me of Xenia, but with way more confidence and a bigger range. I actually got a little bit of a Florence and the Machine crossed with Ingrid Michaelson vibe off of this girl. Not sure if I'm sold on her yet, but her organic delivery is something I should look forward to. 7/10

Tony Vincent
We Are The Champions

Eh. Good vocals, but no originality whatsoever. Sorry. 6/10

Anthony Evans
What's Going On

I thought he was the weakest of all who sang on this episode. He was really shrill and that vibrato was way too much. Oh, and I agree that his quavery vocals sounded close to crying, but when was that a good thing? 4/10

Jamie Lono
Folsom Prison Blues

Wow. Jamie is one of these people that if you close your eyes and just listen, then you might enjoy what you are hearing. I didn't expect that kind of voice honestly as he got some serious soul! Awesome arrangement. Good voice. Adorable. 9/10

Justin Hopkins

Generic. I don't know. He sounded like the original if a little less compelling. I'd probably forget about him in a couple of day. Haha. 6/10

Nicolle Galyon
You Save Me

While her audition wasn't the best, I really thought she's got nice phrasing and a relatively nice voice. Her voice cracked a couple of times towards the end, but that's maybe due to nervousness (?). 7/10

Rumour Has It

WOW. I'm growing tired of Adele covers, but how she turned the song into something like that was very impressive. I love her tone and when she's not belting, she's got great modulation. I'm really interested to see how she handles other songs. With that unusual name, a great look, and some geniune talent, I can see her going really far. My favorite contestant this season YET. 9/10
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