Category Archives: american idol

What’s Right is Right

…and what’s fair is fair. 

While I was a HUGE Taylor Hicks fan when he was sporting that lovely paisley shirt, purple velvet jacket and getting funky on American Idol a few years ago, I lost interest after a while.  His over-produced, Idol infused “debut” CD, the obvious malfunctions in his marketing and the insaneness of the online “fan wars” caused me to put some distance of my own between me and the Silver Fox. 

Also, the whole Grease thing really shattered my illusions of the nitty, gritty, “real”, all about the music, soul singer.  I had envisioned Taylor with the likes of Marc Broussard, Norah Jones, Widespread Panic and Grace Potter, not prancing around in a teased up pompadour singing Beauty School Drop Out.  While I still don’t like the move, it appears that the Teen Angel part has kept him out in the public.  In the summer, he released Early Works, full of older pre-idol material that was self-produced and had limited distribution, mainly via Target.  Not sure of the exact count, but let’s just say that it didn’t storm up the Billboard charts. 

Taylor has been working on a new CD, titled The Distance.  It will be released via Taylor’s Modern Whomp Records and distributed via the indie-promotiong Artists2Market.  While quite a challenge to go it alone, Taylor has asserted that this CD will be a true representation of his music, without interference from “others”.  So, today the first single from The Distance drops — a smooth, easy tune called What’s Right is Right.


Click HERE to listen to What’s Right is Right

As much as I may have seen Taylor, and his music through rose colored glasses previously, the pendulum swung hard the other way over the last two years with my disappointment in the music (or lack thereof) of Taylor Hicks.  Where was the John Mayer collaboration?  The Ray Charles studio session?  A Muscle Shoals revival?  The Yabba Dabba Soul Patrol Mojo Dive Tour, for Christ’s sake? 

However, lately, I have wondered if I have simply been too hard on poor Taylor.  After all, his was an uphill climb out of the chute.  Not really Country, not really Alternative Rock, not really any specific “genre” for the suits to throw him in.  While he certainly made missteps and was, at times, lazy…did I throw the baby out with the bathwater?  I decided to really give this new CD a try.  So, I have started with What’s Right is Right

While there’s nothing here that will set the world on fire, the song is good.  It’s James Taylor-esque to me, with simple instrumentation and vocals I can actually hear.  Not sure that he’ll get much radio play on anything other than Adult Contemporary stations, but I don’t think that’s the point.  James Taylor has had VERY few “hits” over his career, yet is certainly a respected musician and singer.  If you can make money pleasing a fan base, over time, you will be able to sustain yourself and leave a lasting legacy.  I like What’s Right is Right and I think that I will like the rest of the CD that drops March 10th, 2009. 

 The track listing is promising, with a little of something for everyone. 

Wedding Day Blues
Seven Mile Breakdown
What’s Right Is Right
Woman’s Gotta Have It
New Found Freedom
The Distance
I Live on a Battlefield
Maybe You Should
Once Upon a Lover of Mine
Keepin’ It Real

There is a potential solid Country hit in Nineteen, along with one that I have a feeling will be a Music Maven hit — Bobby Womack’s Woman Gotta Have It.  I have adored this song since 1976, when my brother gave me my first LP album — James Taylor’s In the Pocket, arguably one of his best albums.  But THAT, my friends, is another story for another day.

If I may — give Taylor just one more chance and try to listen to this new CD without rose colored glasses or bias from unrealized expectations.  Try listening to it like any other emerging artist I might throw out there at you and then, we’ll give it a proper review.  Just keepin’ it real.

It will be available on Amazon, March 10th.  The single is available today on iTunes.  My Libra Dragons is predicting an American Idol appearance in mid-March.  Don’t they at least owe the guy that much?


Posted by on January 27, 2009 in american idol, new releases, taylor hicks


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Here We Go Again…

ETA:  It’s worse than I thought.  Rather than dramatic changes that would assist in torpedoing the most watched television series in history, the initial show was EXACTLY THE SAME drivel as previous years.  Hideous singers, exploited women, and Ryan’s tired-ass schtick.  The demise may be faster than I initially predicted.  The only bright spot in the whole show was blind musician, Scott McIntyre.


Many of you know that I have profusely extolled the fact that the favorite American pasttime of American Idol has jumped the shark.

One of the first signs of the piroueting fish is substantial changes to format.  Well….Season 8 opens with a new judge (Kara DioGuardi), a promise that the spasmatic, William-Hungistic performances will not be exploited, and an expanded number of “idols” in the Hollywood round.  I’m sure there are more surprises as the season goes on, as well.

HEAR ME NOW….American Idol will suffer it’s lowest ratings ever this year.  Of course, I’ll be watching and commenting just to prove that I AM RIGHT, dammit.

Interestingly, I was watching the NFL play-off game between Philly and the Giants this weekend, when the following promo for AI came on.  Even though it goes by fast, take note of the :14 mark and the :23 mark.   He’s grey-headed and skinny with some funky moves.


More to come…


Posted by on January 13, 2009 in american idol


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Mea Culpa (of sorts)

It has been 90 days since I posted my unmistaken disappointment  in Taylor Hicks taking the role of Teen Angel in the Broadway production of Grease.  I vowed that if this turned out to be a good thing that I would happily admit that I was wrong.

Well, I have to say that I am floored that this whole Grease thing has been nothing but positive for Taylor.  Somewhat magically, once he donned the sparkly blue suit and descended the ice cream cone for the first time, substantial and positive press surrounded him.  Of course, this is the total opposite reaction I was anticipating from the less than kind industry press.

While I think that Taylor made chicken salad out of the proverbial chicken shit and seems to have virtually saved the production from closing early, I have to wonder about the sudden shift from cowpies continually flung in his direction (if he was even talked about at all) to the literal toast of the town (a really big one).

I don’t know if this gig was his idea or not; if he finally acquiesed to AI minions; or if he just wanted to summer in NYC, but he certainly has embraced the role and seems to be having a high time.  Again, I still don’t really “get it”, as I’d prefer that he be doggedly working on a “real” CD, however I must admit that this part has given him some definite positive traction.

With the demanding schedule, I highly doubt that he’s been recording anything.  So, I think it’s unlikely that we’ll see the new CD before Christmas.  Particularly since the Early Works CD is being released today in an exclusive Target offering.

For $9.98 you can own re-mastered tracks from In Your Time and Under the Radar.  While not the normal CD price, I think the $9.98 deal through Target is a great distribution deal that will end up saving Taylor money and ensuring that the CD is highlighted in a very effective channel.  (For example, EW makes it’s debut alongside the very popular Jonas Brothers CD ^^^^).  It’s also “priced to sell”, which means more people will consider buying it. 

In case you’re wondering about which songs are included on the Early Works CD, here you go:

1. Soul Thing
2. The Fall
3. Hold On to Your Love
4. The Deal
5. Heart and Soul
6. In Your Time
7. West Texas Sky
8. Somehow
9. Tighten Up
10. Son of a Carpenter
11. My Friend
12. Georgia (with Billy Earl McClelland)

While these are well known to many who have followed Taylor for a while, there are many who have never heard the early stuff, i.e., the good stuff.  Hopefully, this CD will show those who are unfamiliar, Taylor’s grittiness, talent and range.

It appears that some fan groups are doing a bit of guerilla marketing, as well…

  by PayTheDevil661

I’ll be glad when the Grease thing is done and a new CD with new tracks hits the street.  Will we finally see that collaboration with John Mayer?  How about Robert Randolph?  Norah Jones?


Posted by on August 12, 2008 in american idol, new releases, taylor hicks


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Colette’s Corner: “Cook”in’ Wid Gas

Consider this post a testament to my Libra tendencies for fairness and balance.

Somewhat reluctantly, I watched American Idol this year even after I expressed my outrage at the “fix” AI was trying to put in to improve the talent and to avoid jumpin’ the shark for another year. I never did really land on a “favorite” and sort of ended up on the side of David Cook because I would have been for anyone but David Archuletta.

However, I noticed that many people went ga-ga (technical term) over David Cook and I really don’t know why. Really. I think he’s O.K. and can carry a tune, but I don’t see him as a particularly special talent. But, I respect other’s opinions and certainly, Colette’s, so…..Mr. Cook has a forum.

David Cook & His Idol Songs

Yes, I got roped into watching American Idol this year. I hold David Cook responsible.

The guy has an extraordinarily agile and expressive voice. He’s a genuine musician, seasoned and soulful. He blossomed before the eyes of viewers, getting more interesting, vocally various, likable and attractive as the contest ground on. And he knew how to pick a song, and make it his own.

The last quality is particularly special (and rare) in this kind of talent jamboree, which forces an array of young singer contestants to hack good (and mediocre) tunes of their choosing down to two-minute wonders. And many times, as Bobby McFerrin mentioned in a concert I recently saw by him, they feel encouraged to “over-sing” and imitate the vocal acrobatics of such uniquely gifted singers as Stevie Wonder or Whitney Houston.

But Cook figured out how to win by doing his own thing superbly, and much of the fun this season was wondering what he’d perform next and how.

A good song withstands many interpretations, in many styles. And once I started digging back to find clips of the tunes he sang, renditions by their composers and other major interpreters, I renewed my fascination with how an artist puts his/her own stamp on a melody and words sturdy enough to withstand many interpretations. So here are some of Cook’s songs, delivered by himself and others. I post them not in the spirit of, “Who did it better?” but “How does an artist shape a song to his or her own musical dimensions?”

“Billie Jean” was a mega-hit for Michael Jackson, his first really adult solo smash to me. It went to #1 on the charts in 1983, and told a dark, haunting story of being seduced and wronged. Legend has it that Jackson recorded his remarkable hiccupy vocal in one take, for producer Quincy Jones. Here is his most famous performance of the tune, on a TV show saluting Motown:
— “Billie Jean” — Michael Jackson

The remarkable Chris Cornell of Soundgarden, a seminal Seattle grunge band, seized upon the Jackson two decades later. He had the smart and gutsy notion to slow it way down, and sing it with an acoustic guitar and a mournful wail in an “unplugged” concert in Sweden. Here’s a beautiful live version of a tune he also recorded on his first solo disc:
— Chris Cornell

David Cook was inspired by Cornell’s version, and in a brilliant move adapted it for American Idol. Though he made sure that host Ryan Seacrest credited the arrangement to Cornell, Cook caught (unfairly) some flak from fans who felt Cornell was slighted by one the lavish praise by Idol judge Randy Jackson, about Cook’s creativity. Sorry, but I think Cook was very creative just for finding this arrangement, and singing the hell out of it in his own way:
— David Cook

“LITTLE SPARROW.” During Dolly Parton Week on “Idol,” Cook surprised many (including Parton) by turning to “Little Sparrow,” a tune often performed a capella by Parton. Very much in the style of an Old English ballad, on the archetypal theme of advising a young woman to retain her virtue and be wary of men, the song has a lonely beauty in this live version by Parton (clip has bad visuals, but fine vocal):
— “Little Sparrow”

But “Little Sparrow” also got a very different, deeply wrenching airing by the fabulous soul singer Bettye Lavette. She squeezes every ounce of emotion from the tune, here in a live performance of keen intensity:
“Little Sparrow” — Bettye

What distinguished Cook’s arrangement, despite his audacity and the novelty of having a man sing it, was his use of a high, ethereal falsetto. AT first hearing, I didn’t think he nailed it. By the 10th listen, I knew I was totally hooked:
— “Little Sparrow” — David Cook

“Day Tripper” is one of my favorite Beatle songs, in the “Ticket to Ride” vein of strutting rock. The 1965 Lennon-McCartney classic, about a “Sunday driver” of a gal, who is “a big teaser” and “left me half the way there” — presumably, got him very hot and bothered, and then didn’t come through sexually. Hey, whatever– it’s got a killer guitar riff, a great vocal with Paul on leade. And here it is with a lot of silly go-go dancers, lipsynched by the Beatles:
— “Day Tripper” – The Beatles

The 1970s band White Snake grabbed the tune, and gave it a harder-edged rock treatment. That really cooked. Here’s a rare video of them performing it:
— “Day Tripper” — White Snake

Cook had great fun tweaking the White Snake version, with a streak of heavy metal and a totally hip wha-wha voice box solo. He seems to be having a blast, and it’s infectious:
— “Day Tripper” — David Cook

“Happy Together.” Early in the season, Cook showed his originality by taking on a peppy novelty tune that just exudes good vibes. It was a huge 1967 hit for The Turtles, and wound up in the soundtracks of numerous movies. The Turtles were never the greatest live band, but they’ve kept on going to this day, and here they are doing their biggest single on a TV gig in the ’60s:
— “Happy Together” — The Turtles

Though Cook wasn’t yet the heart-throb he evolved into this early in the Idol contest, his version of the song was a favorite for me. I love the playful slyness, the flirty quality, and the audacity of the final note that goes on forever. And that lifting up the mikestand like a sabre! Too too cool:
— “Happy Together” — David Cook

“I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking for.” I’m not very conversant with U2’s music, mainly because around the time they really hit I took a long vacation of pop music. But I’m so glad that Cook re-introduced me to “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” — which anyone who was listening in at the time recognized as a mesmerizing, questing yet enigmatic ode (as I’ve discovered many U2’s songs are). Here’s the inimitable Bono and band, on a VH1 telecast performing it with Bruce Springsteen:
— U2 with Bruce Springsteen

How do you follow that? Very credibly, in Cook’s case. The swooping soaring note at the end, and the fervent intensity throughout justifies the cover completely. At the very end of the contest, and his assurance and power are hot:
— David Cook

“My Hero”: Formed by Dave Grohl after the death of Kurt Cobain and break-up of their band Nirvana, the Foo Fighters have reflected Grohl’s interest in blending music with political activism, and also provided a showcase for his songwriting skills. The hit tune “My Hero,” recorded by the Foo Fighters in 1997, is so touching, in its elevation of humble, “ordinary” people to heroic status. Here’s the band’s acoustic version:
— “My Hero” — Foo Fighters

Cook did not sing “My Hero” on American Idol, but he did his own sensitive acoustic version during the three Idol finalists’ visit home week. It wasn’t aired on TV, but it’s available on youtube, and I really hope he’ll cover it in concert and/or on disc later. The sincerity of the vocal is lovely:
— David Cook

“The World I Know”: I really dig it when people turn me on to great music I’m unfamiliar with, and I knew nothing of the Georgia-based band Collective Soul until I heard this thoughtful song of theirs on “Idol.” Once again, it demonstrated Cook’s preferance for tunes with inspiring lyrics, about things that matter — in this case, the search for meaning and tenderness in a troubled world: “Has our conscience shown? Has the sweet breeze blown? Has all the kindness gone? Hope still lngers on.”
— “The World I Know” — Collective Soul

David Cook’s rendition, clearly from the heart:
  — “The World I Know” — David Cook

“Always Be My Baby”: Finally, this is the song I believe sealed the deal for Cook winning American Idol, even though it was quite a few weeks before the finale. For him to be able to rearrange a pleasant but not remarkable 2006 Mariah Carey hit into a soulful anthem of love and support triumphing over heartbreak, was really breathtaking. I hope Cook the worthy new American Idol winner, becomes Cook, the constantly evolving recording and performing artist in his own right.
— “Always Be My Baby” — Mariah Carey

— “Always Be My Baby” — David Cook

So, there. Welcome to the Music Maven “No Spin” Zone. Fair. and Balanced.


Dial Idol Don’t Lie

Marc Mainz/AP/Fox

As I explained in the previous post, Dial Idol predicted a landslide David Cook win on American Idol. A clear winner, despite the comments of the judges (picked up by major media) of “knockout”, “clearly the best singer”, etc. Simon Cowell presumably set the world right when he vehemently apologized to Cookie right before the big reveal, citing that after a closer look at the replay the “knockout” was not so evident.

Really? Gee, thanks, Simon for affirming the actual truth and not the fabricated fantasy to try and force a close contest and enrapture the viewers. Puleeze.

Now, don’t get me wrong…Little Davie Archuleta has talent and with all of his contest experience, I think that he will be tapped for musical theater and be great at it. I hope he chooses that path and does not try to conform to the pop star mold. The last few months on Idol should show him that the public won’t buy him as such, but will gladly accept his powerful voice in Disney movies and The Great White Way.

As I explained, Cookie won because he picked up votes as other contestants were voted off, whereas Archie did not. Cook was also the most consistent over the season, despite high blood pressure and panic attacks over mounting pressures of his brother’s illness.

I guess congratulations is in order for Mr. Cook. He certainly will receive some very pointed attention over the next few weeks and then there’s the slave tour before having to crank out his CD before Christmas. Surely, his brother’s illness will impact his upcoming tour. I don’t think he’ll be able to replicate the success of Daughtry because it’s been done and he’ll have the responsibilities of being the winner and fulfilling all that comes with it. Also, the choice of producer will be a critical one for the neophyte Cook. (Please tell me that Tuesday night was Clive Davis’ swan song…wasn’t he officially put on the shelf?)

As for American Idol. I think we’re seeing the beginning of the end. The show, as we know it, will not be recognizable in future seasons, if it survives that long. The winds are changing. Reality TV has overloaded the senses of most viewers. The music business is also changing and beckoning for real, raw talent in lieu of synthesized, over-produced nonsense.

As finales go, this one was decent. Highlights of the evening: Seal performing with Syesha, Graham Nash performing with Brooke White, and David Cook’s Sharp Dressed Man, with no other than ZZ Top. Also, Cookie’s Risky Business Guitar Hero commercial was superb. But perhaps the best performance of the night goes to the irrepressible and totally resilient, Mr. Robert Downey, Jr.

Dude’s got moves.


Posted by on May 22, 2008 in american idol


Knockout? No so fast….

Photo by Zamoraography

Simon Cowell delivered the script with perfect timing. “David, you came out here tonight to win. And, what we have witnessed is a knockout”, after Little Davie Chimichanga delivered his saccharin version of Lennon’s Imagine.

I’ve told you guys since the beginning that the pint-sized balladeer was Idol’s choice for unfettered commercialism this year. However, I am still amazed at the disingenuousness that the “judges” and producers display in trying to manipulate the public into crowning their designee. Yet, the only time their “pick” has really ever won was Carrie Underwood, and maybe Jordin Sparks but I don’t think ANYONE really cared about that one.

Well, even American Idol fans are not as naive as the establishment thinks they are. Usually, the winner is chosen in the spirit of WHAT THE FANS think the contest is….to choose the singer they like the best. Yes, they will be talented but may not be the best technical singer. If someone gives off a vibe of insincerity or being contrived, they are toast. The fans simply won’t vote for that contestant or will actually vote against that contestant.

Cue DialIdol was established a few years ago to measure the voting on American Idol and basically predict who will be voted off by measuring call ins through your modem using their free software. It boasts a 91% accuracy rate and has never been wrong in the finals pick.

And, the results for this year’s final are in.

Surprise, Surprise. Also, here is DialIdol’s commentary on the vote:

Let’s be clear – DialIdol is definitively predicting that David Cook will win American Idol. No ifs, ands or buts about it. No crazy margin of error claims or anything. The DialIdol scores are significantly different enough to wash all that out the window.

This comes as a bit of a surprise to me given that David Archuleta “knocked out” David Cook during the performance show so before you decide to skip the results show tonight you might want to consider that I myself will be watching with the usual uncertain anticipation that has become habit for me!

As you can see, David Cook is predicted to win by one of the largest margins ever. More than Carrie over Bo, more than Taylor over Kat, and more than Jordin over Blake. So, all of that over-pimping by Randy and Simon (Paula was actually subdued), will provide yet another “eat crow” moment for the great AI powers that be.

How now will they backtrack on Simon’s “knockout” remark, much less Randy’s seizure about how Archuleta is “what this contest is all about. Finding the best singer. And the best singer from Season 7 is right there.” Now, what do they do with their American Idol, David Cook? Haven’t they now cheapened his win. Was that their intention? I think the dwindling viewing public has tired of “the game”.

You see, the guys just don’t get that contestants like David Archuleta do not win fans over the competition. He’s very narrow in his scope of performances and attracts a certain kind of fan. He absolutely repulses alot of other fans who will vote for anyone but him. Therefore, once David Cook made it to the finals, he basically won because all of Jason, Syesha, Carly, and Brooke’s fans are voting for him.

Regardless, I stand by my contention that American Idol has “jumped the shark“. I read an article yesterday that producers are already looking for ways to “spice it up” and bring some new twists to the show. Look for Simon to show up to the auditions in Fonzie’s jacket.

The death knell is ringing….loudly.



Posted by on May 21, 2008 in american idol


The David Wars

More on the whole American Idol “slide” later, but tonight pitts Cookie against Archie.  The first all male final since Ruben vs. Clay.  I think everyone that I know is clearly on the side of the adult, but I could be over-estimating.

As if I could like David A. any less, we find out that his father is a stage dad who shamelessly promotes his kid to the point of aggravating the AI producers.  Now, if the AI producers are displeased with your over-promotion, you know you have a problem.

Here’s my favorite performances of each.  You tell me.

  Billie Jean, David Cook

A little background article on Cookie….

  Imagine, David Archuleta

A little background article on Archie…

My prediction?  It’s a done deal.  David Cook is the 2008 American Idol.  But, where he goes from here, I just don’t know.  I’m envisioning mediocre sellers for their debut CDs as AI will pimp them for all they can get, but the sophomore efforts will be dismal for both Cook and Archuleta. 

There’s always Broadway. 




Posted by on May 20, 2008 in american idol