Feb 25

American Idol: Season 9 10 Boys Who Suck (and 2 not so bad)

The ladies had the stage last night… and tonight it’s the boy’s turn.

I definitely have fewer favorites among the guys.

Todrick Hall is going to start us off. He’s a dancer who was recently performing on Broadway with season 3 winner Fantasia Barrino. “Since You Been Gone” by Kelly Clarkson is his choice. To say this is the same song is a falsehood. The arrangement is totally redone in a blues-jazz style that personally, I think works really well. He had some pitchy moments, especially in his over-used runs in the chorus. Ellen loved the reworked style, but was able to discern that it wasn’t the best vocal performance. Randy thought the song was completely obliterated. Kara thought the arrangement was changed too much. Simon thought he was a dancer who was trying to sing. He called it the “murder of a perfectly good song.”

So…. do it just the original, only different, but show some creativity, but don’t change the song.

The judges are nothing if not inconsistent.

Aaron Kelly, or as I call him, TwinkyBits is singing second. He’s only 16, but this is the guy all the eleven year old girls and 42 year old boys are going to swoon over. He’s picked a Rascal Flatt’s song, “Here Comes Goodbye.” Oh boy his nerves have got him by the short hairs tonight. Does he even have short hairs yet? He’s simply not that strong of a singer, and his nerves have stolen his breath control which makes him keep going flat. His money note was wavering and not quite in tune. Ouch. Simon thought it was “quite good.” Kara babbled on about the contest and how it inspires confidence. Randy noticed the pitchy moments, but said he’s got a great voice. Ellen thinks he’s going to be on the show for a long time. Gee, I wonder who they want to push through for next week?

Jermaine Sellers is up now. This is the guy that threw the band under the bus. I remember not really liking him up to this point. He’s picked “Get Here” by Oleta Adams… an absolutely beautiful song. This was stunningly awful. I hate his arrangement. The melody is all over the place, and there’s a point that he built up to that seriously sounded like a tornado siren back in the midwest. His head flip-topped open like a Pez dispenser and someone off camera turned a crank. Utterly unpleasant. Ellen loves his look, but felt it was over performed. Randy thought it was a weird song choice that he tried to do too much with. Kara mumbled something about his age and the unnecessary runs. Simon said it was too old and he over sang it.

Tim Urban, one of the Hair Triplets that as yet has done nothing to stand out from the pack, gets his chance to unleash some serious coiff-age on us now. He’s got a whole Zac Efron vibe about him. Apparently he wasn’t one of the original top 24. He was a last minute replacement for Chris Golightly, the white boy with Sideshow Bob hair that was one of my early favorites. Apparently Chris was under contract with a boy band and the release necessary for him to continue in the competition was not received in time to allow him to continue. Anyway, Tim is here now and has picked “Apologize” by OneRepublic. Ok look… if you’re gonna pick a song whose hook is all about a falsetto note, you should probably be able to hit that note. I’m pretty sure it doesn’t take an expert to figure this one out. Unfortunately for Tim, he never did hit the note, but he sure tried. Over and over again. Each successive attempt was worse than the previous until by the end his vocal chords just flat out gave up, packed their bags, forcefully extricated themselves from his neck and yelled, “Later, Bro!” from stage left. Simon said they made the right decision in not inviting him into the original Top 24. Kara is sure on the babbly train tonight. Said he was cute. Randy called it the wrong song, and noted that he doesn’t have the falsetto to do it. Ellen said it didn’t sound good, but with the sound down, he’s adorable.

Joe Muñoz is up next. I’m not sure who this guy is. I don’t really remember a note from him at all, and you would think those eyebrows would have made an impression on me… He’s picked “You and I Both” by Jason Mraz. The beauty in most Jason Mraz songs is the interesting rhythms that his word make against relatively simple backing tracks. Joe’s timing was really weird. The accented notes were in the wrong place which makes it seem like he’s fighting the band to go a different tempo. Once the chorus came in he seemed to fall into the pocket, but that’s when he started getting breathless. I could be wrong. He may have great breath control, and this was just his impression of Enrique Iglesias who often sounds like he’s on the verge of passing out when he sings. Joe’s pitch was pretty much ok, but there was nothing spectacular about his voice. I hate to say it, but it seems as though the Idol producers must have had an extra ~ in the budget which they decided to spent on him. Ellen thought he was very comfortable on stage. Randy didn’t think it was the perfect song choice but he worked it out. Kara thought he was the best vocal of the night, even though it wasn’t great. Simon didn’t think he showed any star power.

Tyler Grady is the next Hair Triplet up. I remember him, mostly because of his attempts to channel Jim Morrison and Robert Plant. He’s picked “American Woman” by The Guess Who, somewhat predictably. He’s done nothing interesting with the arrangement and it’s quite obvious that he has spent many hours watching concert footage from the early 70’s. He’s got the Jagger Swagger down, but what he doesn’t have is a remarkable voice. He can sing notes in key and they don’t make me want to install icepicks into my aural orifices, but there was nothing about this performance that was different than a 70’s Revue show in some Vegas Hotel and Casino where you can get a lap dance at a slot machine. Can I just say, HOLY HELL with that CHIN dude! It’s like the toe of a square cowboy boot. He could shovel snow out of the drive with that thing! Simon thought it was a memorable performance, though it was cliched and he didn’t spend enough time on his vocals. Kara made the Jim Morrison connection but thought it was too “schticky.” Randy thought it was more style over substance. Ellen thought he lacked the excitement and charisma that he’s trying to emulate.

Lee Dewyze is making his debut… for all I know for the first time on the show. I don’t remember a thing about him. He’s picked a great song, “Chasing Cars” by Snow Patrol. I absolutely love this song, but if I were a contestant, would never pick it to perform on Idol. I would have been right. This was atrocious. If I could afford a new TV, I would throw the remote through this one as penance for sitting through this off key, a-melodic raspy crap sandwich of a performance. He completely changed the melody to something I hate, and to make it worse, he didn’t even hit the notes in his new ridiculous version. He needs to go back to selling roofing tar, or whatever it was he did before, because I don’t care to ever hear another squawk out his box. Ellen thought it was a good song choice but thought he screamed it. She loves the tone of his voice. Randy didn’t like the song choice and he needed to do more of a rock song. Kara thought he was trying to get to his “sweet spot” and didn’t quite get it. Simon called it the best performance of the night. He said he’s a great singer and is authentically good.

Seriously!? What crack are they smoking? They are not hearing the same thing we are. No question.

John Park is the secret Asian brother to the Hair Triplets. He’s the guy that Shania Twain was all ga-ga over in the auditions, but I don’t believe he was shown in Hollywood at all. He’s picked the standard “God Bless the Child” probably best known by Billie Holliday. John is the first guy who has gotten on stage and actually did something close to singing. He’s got a nice 2nd Tenor/1st Baritone voice. Great vocal quality and control. His pitch and interpretation were great. That being said, stupid song choice. You should only break out a standard like this during the theme weeks when it’s called for. This first performance should have been something way more contemporary. If he’s going for the crooner style he could have easily picked something from the Michael Buble, Harry Connick, or Josh Groban songbook to sound like something that could actually be played on stations where the tween music-buying fanatics will hear him. Simon doesn’t think he has an incredible voice. He thought it was emotionless and flat. Kara agreed with Simon and thought it was loungy. Randy didn’t like the song choice either. Ellen thought he sounded great, but wished he had picked a different song.

Michael Lynche is the personal trainer who got a TON of air time during Hollywood since his wife gave birth on national television. Strangely enough they didn’t show much of him singing. He picked “This Love” by Maroon 5. His version is way too fast and he can barely get all the words out. He’s seemingly compressed a cool melody down into three or four notes with no range or movement. Think a very fast-typing Stephen Hawking and you’ll get somewhere close to where this song landed. I wanted him to do a much better job than this. Ellen thinks he has a ton of personality but he was a bit pitchy. Randy of course likes Michael, said nothing about the song. Kara liked his energy but thought it wasn’t outrageously great. Simon thought he was like the support act before the main show. He said there was nothing unique about his performance.

Fuck. There are still three more to go!?

Alex Lambert is the final Hair Triplet. He’s picked James Morrisson’s “Wonderful World.” Has this dude ever had a vocal lesson in his life? If so, did that instructor never tell him that singing through your nose is not good technique and will make people want to bitch slap you from the stage? It’s hard to tell if he was on pitch because of the incessant buzzing coming from his nasal trumpet. What the hell man? Simon thought it was the most uncomfortable performance of the night. He complimented his voice but said his nerves were killing him. Kara wants to hug Alex. She said his tone is crazy good and he has great potential. Randy also loves his tone. Ellen loves his mullet and bananas. What. The. Fuck?

Casey James, the blond Adonis is up next. He blew me away with his blues piece in Hollywood week. He picked “Heaven” by Bryan Adams. FINALLY! Someone on this show can sing! I was beginning to wonder. He didn’t change the song much, but still managed to not sound just like Bryan Adams. He’s got great stage presence, can play the guitar, and let’s face it, the boy is beautiful. He verges ever so slightly on having goat vibrato but it doesn’t quite go full bleet. He’s got an iconic rock and roll voice that will certainly keep him in the running for a very long time. Kara is off in the corner drooling and playing with the vibrate function on her phone, unable to speak. Ellen thought he sounded great. Randy thought it was a great song choice and his swagger. Kara interjected and called him eye and ear candy. Simon called him cursed with good looks. He thought Casey chose the right song and it was his best performance to date.

Andrew Garcia is the final guy to perform tonight. He was my other early favorite from Hollywood week. I will admit, I’m a sucker for a guy with a guitar. He picked “Sugar We’re Going Down” by Fall Out Boy which he acousti-fied and switched around. UMB and I are currently arguing about whether or not it was a good version. I lean towards yes, he stomps on the “oh hell no” button. Our bickering aside, Andrew’s definitely got his own sense of style and has a pretty firm grasp on where he wants to be as an artist. His voice is quite good and interesting. Unfortunately, I think the comparisons to Casey are inevitable and when it comes down to it, the beautiful blond boy will always beat the schlub with glasses. As a schlub with glasses for most of my life, I know exactly the spot he’s in. Simon was disappointed by the lack of originality but thinks he has a fantastic recording voice. Kara thought it was a strange rendition of the song but still loves him. Randy thought the arrangement was strange, but blathered on like the rest about his performance in Hollywood. Ellen is thrilled he’s on the show and agreed that he was far too serious.

Man, it’s really hard to rank these guys. Outside of the last two guys, it’s really about trying to figure out which corn kernel floated highest in this porcelain throne of suck.

  1. Casey James
  2. Andrew Garcia
  3. John Park
  4. Aaron Kelly
  5. Todrick Hall
  6. Alex Lambert
  7. Tyler Grady
  8. Joe Muñoz
  9. Michael Lynche
  10. Jermaine Sellers
  11. Tim Urban
  12. Lee Dewyze

Ok… so what do you guys think? Am I totally off base, or are the Judges right? Are these REALLY the best guys they could find this year? Do you have any predictions yet on who will win this thing?

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Feb 23

American Idol: Season 9 12 Girls Standing

You know what time it is? That’s right! It’s AMERICAN IDOL TIME!

Love it? Hate it? Whatever. I can’t get enough. I’m addicted. I’ve been watching religiously since season 2. I’ve got several American Idol alumni albums in my collection. And even if you can’t stand the show you can’t deny the popularity and success of many of the past winners (and several runners-up).

And now it’s time to finally get a good look at the top 12 girls for season 9. I have some early favorites, but of course that could all change tonight as some of the less-featured girls get the spotlight.

Simon Cowell thinks this is going to be a girl’s year. I’m not so sure about that.

Tonight the girls are singing Billboard Hits. Let’s just get right down to it, shall we?

Paige Miles is singing first. She’s from Florida. I have almost no recollection of her in the auditions or Hollywood week. She’s picked “All Right Now” by Free. This is a really strange choice. This is a total southern “FREEDOM ROCK” anthem and she lacks the vocal balls to pull this off. I’m not impressed. At. All. All around weird. Simon thinks she has the best voice of all the girls, but didn’t think it was a good song choice. Kara thought it was brilliant choice and she was able to inject some soul into the rock song. Randy didn’t like the choice of song, but thought she did a great job. Ellen thought she pulled it off. Clearly, the judges were too busy adjusting to the new seating arrangement to actually listen to the performance.

Ashley Rodriguez is from Massachusetts. This is another girl who didn’t really get much airtime. She’s picked “Happy” by Leona Lewis. Ok… first things first… this chick needs to learn how to use a microphone. You can’t whisper directly into the face of the mic or all you’ll get out of it is pops and sputters. Secondly, she has to learn how to listen to the music behind her because she never seemed to find the key once she stopped doing that ridiculous 13 year old girl breathe-singing she did through the verse. Kara thought there were some nice moments, but lots of bad spots. Randy thought she did a good job, but doesn’t compare favorably with a big singer like Leona. Ellen thought it was a predictable choice and wants to be shocked. Simon thought it was clumsy and unoriginal.

Janell Wheeler is the wine sales rep from Florida. I remember liking her in Hollywood week when she played her guitar. She’s very pretty and could definitely get by on her looks alone. She’s picked “What About Love” by Heart. Janell’s nerves seem to be getting the best of her tonight… her voice is a bit shaky and unsure. I’m not sure this was the best song choice. She’s not really a rough and ready rock singer. Randy didn’t like the song choice. Ellen liked the choice but noticed some sour notes. Simon thought she delivered 65% and got off key. Kara thought the song was way too big for her.

Lilly Scott is one of my early favorites, with her silver hair and raspy voice. Idol has to have one girl every season that comes in with strange hair and good voices… they usually go home about 6 or 8 weeks in never to be heard from again. I hope this is not her fate. She’s picked “Fixing a Hole” by The Beatles. She’s playing her guitar tonight and this is a very interesting choice. It’s perfectly showing off her quirky nature and playful attitude. She has a great sense of who she is a working musician and I hope she stays around for a long time. Ellen thought it was a random song choice that made it stand out and loved it. Simon said it was the best so far tonight. He felt that she sang the song because it portrayed her as an artist. He doubts her star power. Kara called her “believable” and thought she was comfortable on stage. Randy thinks she’s a real indie artist and thought it was honest and great.

Katelyn Epperly is from Iowa and she had quite a bit of screen time over the past few weeks. She’s picked “Oh Darling” by The Beatles. HOLY HELL WHAT’S WITH THE HAIR!? UMB is reminded of old Madonna with the hairdo. And by old Madonna he means young Madonna. There is absolutely nothing unique or exciting about this performance. I’ve seen this exact performance a million times in every karaoke bar I’ve been in. She does, however, have a good voice. Much better than Paige or Ashley for sure. Simon thought there were moments of screaming, but he likes her a lot. Kara thinks she knows her voice very well and thought she did a good job switching the melody. Kara doesn’t like her look tonight. Randy liked the tone and melody. He likes her vibe. Ellen thought there was a lot of personality in the performance but thought her voice seemed pushed.

Haeley Vaughn is from Colorado. She’s the super young black girl who sings country and is already on my short list as in the running for the “Most Annoying” contestant. She’s picked another Beatles song, “I Want to Hold Your Hand.” She’s playing her guitar. She’s switched the arrangement in an interesting way, moving some rhythms around and playing with the melody. There are some ok moments in this performance, and some real cringe-inducing squeaks that made all the animals in my house do that weird ear-flicking thing… you know the thing I mean. Kara thought there were some technical issues with the performance. YOU THINK!? Randy thought it was unpredictable and the top notes were “not that pleasing.” Ellen praised her age and presence and enjoyed it. Simon thought it verged on terrible and her smiling may have made it a utter mess.

Lacey Brown is a veteran of the show from Texas. She almost made it to the top 24 last year. She picked “Landslide” by Fleetwood Mac. This is one of my all-time favorite songs. Or at least it was before tonight. Seriously, she has turned this beautiful musical poem into a sing-along on the short bus — designed to compel the driver to aim for the nearest cliff. There was this weird lilting volume change on every 4th beat, coupled with some strange accent that I can only describe as Irish as filtered through a Texas-raised goat’s ass. Also, she’s wearing her grandmother’s curtains. Randy thought it was the wrong song for her, and said it was terrible. Ellen thinks she’s better than this performance and she seemed lost. Simon thought it was depressing that he had to listen for so long. Kara thought her voice sounded forced tonight and she should have picked something by Sixpence None The Richer.

Michelle Delamor is from Florida. She’s had quite a bit of screen time up to this week, but I can’t for the life of me remember if I liked her voice or not. She’s picked “Fallin‘” by Alicia Keys. She’s got a nice voice, is on key, and is very pretty. But plain. The song was really kind of predictable and she didn’t do much to change it up. Ellen called it “fantastic, but safe.” Simon thought she did it very well but there wasn’t a “wow” moment. Kara thinks she’s commercial looking but there were a couple of moments that weren’t great. Randy thought she did a pretty good job but she needs to take some risks.

Didi Benami is from Tennessee. Didi is another of my early favorites. She reminds me a lot of Brooke White from a couple of seasons ago. Long time readers will remember how much I loved her. She picked “The Way I Am” by Ingrid Michelson, better known as the “here’s my sweater” song. She’s got a great quirky vibe about her, the way she dresses and this song choice is absolutely perfect for her. Didi’s got a ton of personality and she definitely knows her strengths. I expect her to be around for quite a while. Simon thinks she is a good singer but thinks she’s trying too hard to sound like Adele. He didn’t see a spark. Kara thought the song was good and liked her changes to the song. Randy is missing the star factor though she sounded great singing it. Ellen thought it wasn’t the best first impression because it was too low key.

Siobhan Magnus is another of my early favorites. She’s from Massachusetts. Siobhan has that ballsy strong voice that has been lacking so far this show. She’s picked “Wicked Game” by Chris Isaak. This is a super hard song to sing, because the range from the verse to the chorus is quite wide. I know from experience. Siobhan’s falsetto is very pretty and this interpretation is quite nice and authentic. Kara liked it though she thinks she gets a bit nasally. Randy thinks she’s got a great voice and wanted her to do a bigger song. Ellen loved the song and thought it was a real performance. Simon liked the song but would have preferred a bit more energetic song.

Crystal Bowersox has been the most memorable girl of the season so far. I have been rooting for her, brown teeth and all, since she first appeared in the auditions. She’s got the dreads and the guitar singer songwriter vibe that I really like. She’s picked “Hand in my Pocket” by Alanis Morrisette. She’s playing acoustically for the intro. AND SHE’S BLEACHED HER TEETH!!! Crystal might not have the strongest voice (though it’s good) but she is definitely the most talented. This was a great cover of this song. It was original and different. Randy thought it was a real and honest performance. Ellen thinks we are lucky she’s on Idol. She adds something fresh. Simon thinks there are thousands of her outside subways everywhere. He thinks she needs to find something original but she’s refreshing. Kara thinks she has greatness in her.

Katie Stevens is going to close the show. She’s 17 and from Connecticut. You will remember her as the girl whose grandmother has Alzheimer’s. She’s performing “Feeling Good” by Nina Simone/Michael Buble. Katie might have one of the best voices in the girl’s group this year. It’s strong and fairly controlled. Her biggest problem is lack of experience. I suspect she’ll be around a while. Ellen thought she has a great voice, but she was acting a bit too old. Simon thought she needed to pick something younger too. He thought it was pageant-y. Kara thought she was pitchy and all over the place. Randy thought she was singing sharp and he’s reminded of Jordin Sparks.

Ok… so here are my rankings from best to worst:

  1. Lilly Scott
  2. Crystal Bowersox
  3. Siobhan Magnus
  4. Didi Benami
  5. Katie Stevens
  6. Michelle Delamor
  7. Katelyn Epperly
  8. Janell Wheeler
  9. Ashley Rodriguez
  10. Paige Miles
  11. Haeley Vaughn
  12. Lacey Brown

So – Who are your favorite girls? Who do you think is going home?

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Feb 22

I Can’t Possibly

be the only person on the planet that wants to see the guys from J.G. Wentworth and Freecreditreport.com die in a horrible fire only to be sent to some damning afterlife where their shitacularly hideous jingles play on an infinite loop at 180 decibels.


Feb 19

The Homogenization of the Homosexuals

I was asked recently to become a contributor on a project being put together by Lori Hahn. The website is called “Our Big Gayborhood” and as you might imagine, it features gay and lesbian writers from all over writing on all kinds of topics.

I’m happy to announce that my first article has been posted! Here’s a taste:

I was driving from my home in the east bay to San Francisco the other afternoon when a typical California jack-ass driver cut me off. I laid on the horn, cursed the driver with festering toe fungus and considered taking a picture of the car and posting it on Craigslist with a virtual “kick me” sign. While grabbing my camera-equipped cell phone I noticed there was a rainbow sticker on the back of the car.

In typical Jester “Ooh, look, bubbles!” fashion I forgot all about the near-miss and realized it was the first time in ages that I had seen a rainbow displayed on a car.

This got me thinking, “Are we not proud?”

Read the rest of the story over at Our Big Gayborhood

Comments and traffic are greatly appreciated!

Feb 17

The Birth of Aaron

I don’t remember when the idea came about… sometime in my childhood, probably around the same time that I moved away from Joplin to Kansas City and sort of got the chance to “start over.”

I like the idea of getting to “reboot.”

I decided that when I turned 35, basically the half way point in my life, I’d start going by my middle name, Aaron.

Today’s the day, and I still like the idea.

A couple of months ago there was a Facebook meme going around where you got to “grade” your parents on how they did picking your name based on the most popular names in the year you were born.

My parents got a C-.

My mom actually called me and asked me to do the meme. She said she knew that she hadn’t picked the best name for me… and then said that she never thought I looked like a “Paul.”

So, in preparation of my 35th birthday, I’ve taken to adding my middle name to my business cards and emails.

I changed it on Facebook today… and will experiment with introducing myself as “Aaron.”

I’m sure there will be those who will never make the change. But I figure people I meet from now on won’t know the difference, right?

And if this doesn’t work, I guess I could always go by “Jester” which is what a bunch of people call me anyway!

Feb 13

A quick conversation

Greetings from on board the Norwegian Sky. I’m escorting a corporate event that booked through Cruise Avenue (the cruise travel agency that I own, remember?).

Anyway – So this little conversation took place between me and one of the group members that was funny and I thought I would share:

Me: “Let me guess, you’re in marketing, right?”

Him: “No. I’m a doctor.”

Me: “A doctor?”

Him: “Yes. A doctor of looooooooooove.”

Me: “Wait, aren’t you traveling alone?”

Him: “I didn’t say I was any good.”

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