Saturday, March 10, 2007

American Idol Close-up

Another season. Another blog to post. FOX's American Idol is still setting and breaking records. And while the other networks prepare to roll out their strategies to bring down the pop culture phenomenon, American Idol has already announce their Top 12 contestants and are gearing up for a few big specials in the weeks to come. From big-time special musical guests to an amazing fund raiser to benefit poor and devastated areas in Africa and in New Orleans.

But this season, most have glorified much of the bombshell drama and negative press on the show. But for a show this hot, the negative heat has only ignited the show's success to higher heights and has helped broaden the exposure of this season's contestants, as well as previous winners and potential stars.

Let's look at the AI scorecard, shall we.

Chris Daughtry, one of our big predictions from last season, is killing the stars on Billboard with his #1 self-titled album. And even though he has found his home in performing what is elementary to him (rock music). And while southern charmer Bo Bice, the popular runner-up to victory in Season 5, may have proved that AI could produce a rock star album, Dau ghtry took things to the next level with his more edgier look, distinctive modern approach and lots of sex appeal and presented an album that is being compared to modern rockers such as Fuel and Nickleback. The album reached #1 on Billboard Pop charts.

Fantasia is doing pretty good too. She just got picked up to join the stellar Broadway cast of The Color Purple - brought to life by mega-billionaire and television talk show host Oprah Winfrey. And not only that, her latest album release (this is #2 for her) is getting some love and attention from critics - calling it an album that shows depth and more personality than her debut. Fantasia calls the new album a mix of Aretha Franklin meets Tina Turner. Funny, we all thought she was capable of pulling that off when she was on the show. Her new album climbed to #3 on Billboard's R&B charts and #19 pop and is being anchored by her hip-hop club anthem single, "Hood Boy". Oddly, with all the praise her new album is getting, we should mention her first album sold more units; reaching #2 R&B and #8 pop.

All eyes are glued on Miss Dreamgirl Jennifer Hudson also after nabbing the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress for her role as Effie White in the motion picture version of Dreamgirls. Even though she has taken a new career in acting, she hasn't forgotten her roots. She loves to sing and her acting role in Dreamgirls was definitely about singing and showed the world that she definitely has pipes worth signing to any record label. And in the next couple of months, she will be working on just that and will be releasing an album sometime in the fall of this year. In the meantime, her performances on the motion picture soundtrack, a glorious showcase of 60's pop-soul swinging ballads and dance numbers, are breathtaking and also claimed the #1 spot on both pop and R&B charts. Amazing accomplishment there, especially for a movie soundtrack.

Other winners including Carrie Underwood (whom took home a GRAMMY for Best New Artist) , Taylor Hicks and Ruben Studdard are also enjoying their careers and are still visible in the public eye. Seems like everyone is reaping their rewards from Idol fame.

So this season shouldn't be different. Right? Well, sorta. Seems like the guys this year are not as macho as they need to be. Our biggest predictions on the guys' side leans on the pop-flavored looks and sounds of Blake Lewis and Chris Richardson. Lewis leans more on the edgier, urban reincarnations of Justin Timberlake. He may not be the strongest male vocalist in the competition this year, but he definitely is pop material and has what it takes to form a good sounding record. Chris Richardson also has that pop wow-factor. He's refreshing and has good vocals and handsome features. He's also picked up some love for soul and R&B music - which should win favorable results across the cultural board.

But it's the girls that are bringing home the bacon this season. Both Lakisha Jones and Melinda Dolittle are delivering the goods on performance night and are both showing their passion for victory. Jones is one of those contenders that we didn't expect. She's not a goddess of beauty, but she's charming, likeable and full of personality. Her smile definitely is a connecting force to viewers. But it is when her killer vocals exit her lips that America hears talent in powerful motion. She leans on big ballads and fiery R&B to showcase her strengths. Dolittle is also a dominating force this season with her youthful style, facial expressions and over-the-top power vocals. She works the stage and is showing a broader range of material - a big plus for viewers.

No one can really explain why the 17-year old Sanjaya Malakar remains in the competition. All three judges remained baffled and puzzled over the better male vocalists leaving the show on previous nights while Malakar, with a weaker vocal and barely any soul and rhythm, remains standing with the other contenders. This is probably one of the biggest jokes in American Idol history. And who can forget the biggest episode of drama resting on Antonella Barba and her racy nude photos? Of course, the media are questioning AI's decisions of letting her remain in the competition until she was voted off the show on March 8. Even the controversial Rosie O' Donnell decided to put AI on blast for calling the show "racist" for kicking Frenchie Davis off a few seasons ago without her even getting much time on the show.

That's probably why American Idol works. These are real people, but there is some soap opera action that looms around all of this hype and fame.

At, the fierceness continues as the All Music gang gets together for an adventure of words and opinions on the #1 show on TV. That's why I love them so - so opinionated yet they are so right. Check out the full conversation by
clicking here.

Jennifer Hudson (
The Final 12 Revealed... (
Antonella Isn't Talking (RealityTVWorld)