The journal of a Kentucky culture vulture
Apr26Filed under: dance, Derby, Fashion, Louisville, Music, Television; Tagged as: American Idol, Audrina Patridge, Betsey Johnson, Bob Costas, Chris Thieneman, Derby Eve, Fred Thompson, Illeana Douglas, Jamie Kennedy, Jennifer Tilly, Jordin Sparks, Julie Benz, Kia Hampton, Kris Allen, Linda Davis, Matt Battaglia, Miss Kentucky Teen USA 2011, Miss Teen Kentucky 2011, Nole Martin, Palace Theatre, Phil Laak, Stephanie Jones, Tom Thieneman Jr., Vicki Gunvalson
American Idol winners Jordin Sparks (Season 6) and Kris Allen (Season 8 ) top the guest list at this year’s Mint Jubilee, which will be Derby Eve (May 6) at the Palace Theatre in Louisville.
NBC sportscaster Bob Costas will be the host the event founded by actor, producer and former NFL player Matt Battaglia, along with former NFL player and Louisville real estate developer Chris Thieneman and his brother and fellow real estate executive Tom Thieneman Jr.
Joining them will be Dexter actress Julie Benz, comic and Scream actor Jamie Kennedy, former presidential candidate and actor Fred Thompson (also announced as a guest at the Barnstable-Brown Gala), actress and former Pegasus Parade grand marshal Jennifer Tilly, actress Illeana Douglas, The Hills and Audrina star Audrina Patridge, designer Betsey Johnson, Real Housewives of Orange County Star Vicki Gunvalson, country star Linda Davis, former America’s Next Top Model judge Nole Martin, professional poker player Phil Laak, Miss Teen Kentucky 2011Stephanie Jones and Miss Kentucky Teen USA 2011 Kia Hampton.
Tickets for the Jubilee are still available for $200 to $750. Proceeds go to benefit cancer research.
Since its premier following the second to last episode of American Idol last year, Glee has enjoyed a nice relationship with the “reality” TV juggernaut.
Maybe too nice.
Much has been made of the disappointing group of contestants for this year’s Idol which, along with the impending departure of Simon Cowell, is making Idol look like it’s on its last legs. That impression is crystalized in the final two on Idol.
I’m definitely backing Crystal Bowersox as the stronger artist and performer of the pair, like I did with Adam Lambert last year. But I don’t find her as compelling a stage presence as Lambert – though her Up to the Mountain last night certainly was a moment where we watched an artist find the proverbial next level. And Lee DeWyze has pulled off the feat of being even blander than last year’s winner, Kris Allen, which I why, unfortunately, I think he’ll win.
Yes, a diminution of talent, loss of a marquee judge, and a voting base that seems to be attracted to mediocrity make Idol harder and harder to watch.
And then it has Glee making it look worse.
Granted, AI is a mostly non-scripted amateur talent search show while Glee is a scripted drama with professional performers. But the centerpiece of each show is the same: reinterpretations of pop songs.
And even if the storyline on Glee has roller coastered this season, the performances are usually captivating, be it a frame-by-frame recreation of Madonna’s Vogue video or last night’s deconstruction of Lady Gaga’s Poker Face by Lea Michele as Rachel and Idina Menzel as her mother, Shelby – granted, the sex anthem was a strange choice for a mother-daughter duet.
Put that imagination and creativity next to the karaoke of DeWyze and most of his fellow competitors this season, and it seems like the best thing Idol can do to preserve some integrity next season – aside from coming up with a strong replacement for Simon – is put some distance between itself and Glee.
Los Angeles was coming across as boring as Chicago and most other “American Idol” audition cities this year that didn’t have General Larry Platt singing “Pants on the Ground.”
Then, Tuesday night, toward the end of the L.A. episode, we saw what the show needed: More Katy Perry. To be more precise, more Katy Perry going womano-a-womano with Kara DioGuardi. In the last segment, we saw a montage of little dustups between the two, including DioGuardi mocking Perry’s hit “Hot and Cold” and Perry threatening to toss the product of a primary show sponsor in her face.
But the line of the night, really of the auditions thus far — aside from “Lookin’ like a fool with your pants on the ground” — was Perry’s response to DioGuardi’s evaluation of auditioner Chris Golightly. The curly-headed Californian definitely had a tough story, having gone through more than 25 foster homes as a child. And his version of “Stand by Me,” was poignant and well sung, with some flares of individuality.
DioGuardi started praising his voice, but then turned to his story, to which Perry quipped, “This isn’t a Lifetime movie, sweetheart.”
And she was absolutely right, drilling down to one of the things that is making the audition episodes such a slog. Yes, anytime you gather tens of thousands of people in arenas across the country, there are going to be some compelling stories in there. But now, “AI” might as well cue violins if they go out to an auditioner’s home to produce a featurette, because it will be some sob story that would make the judges look like heartless clods if they didn’t give the singer a golden ticket. And while there have been some compelling stories over the years, between Andrew Garcia and Jim Ranger Tuesday night, I was starting to wonder if fathering children was the sole qualification for a weepy feature.
Jan14Filed under: American Idol, Music, Television; Tagged as: American Idol, Ashley Rodriguez, Atlanta, Boston, Ellen DeGeneres, Fox, Hallelujah, Holly Harden, Kara DioGuardi, Kris Allen, Larry Platt, Leonard Cohen, Loretta Lynn, Maddy Curtis, Mary J. Blige, Pants on the Ground, Paula Abdul, Posh Spice, Randy Jackson, Simon Cowell, Skii Bo Ski, Vanessa Wolfe, Victoria Beckham
It was easy to get excited about season nine of “American Idol,” until the shows started.
Backstage intrigue has been at a fever pitch this year, with Paula Abdul exiting and Ellen DeGeneres entering, and speculation over whether Simon Cowell would make this season his last. Monday, he announced he would.
Tuesday, the show got started with the Boston auditions, and last night, we saw Atlanta.
Each night, we were reminded that we would have to wait for Ellen.
Since Paula was gone but Ellen had not been tapped by the time auditions started, the audition episodes will be featuring guest judges along with Simon, Kara DioGuardi and Randy Jackson.
In Boston, we got Victoria Beckham, aka Posh Spice, who spent most of the episode looking … posh. In terms of what producers showed us, Boston was a bit more of a talent night with voices like Maddy Curtis, who did a very mature version of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” for a 16-year-old, and 22-year-old Ashley Rodriguez, who we can already see on album covers.
Atlanta was a bit more of an adventure with Mary J. Blige bringing a lot of personality to her guest judging stint, even grilling a few competitors and voting “no” against the other three judges’ yes votes for one competitor.
Two-thirds of the way through we got an interesting pair of contestants who walked in looking like freak shows but walked out with golden tickets. Skii Bo Ski of Orlando walked in talking a mile a minute with his name misspelled on his bowling shirt, but then he sang a nice rendition of “Heard it Through the Grapevine” that won most of the judges over. Before him was Holly Harden of Rockmart, Ga., who came in dressed as a guitar but sang an authoritative rendition of Loretta Lynn’s “You Ain’t Woman Enough to Take My Man.” Both probably don’t have shots at the top prize, but certainly need to lose their shticks if they want any hope of making the final 24.
My favorite audition so far also probably won’t make it to the end. But for a show that so aggressively tries to manipulate our emotions with stories of death and disease, I got about as close to tears as I ever have watching “Idol” seeing Vanessa Wolfe get her golden ticket. It wasn’t that she endured any great crisis or disease of the day. It was simply the emotion of watching this very small-town girl accomplish something far greater than she ever thought she would.
Of course, what everyone will talk about was “General” Larry Platt’s “Pants on the Ground.” At 62, he’s decades beyond the show’s maximum age of 28. But by putting him on at the end of the show, “AI” made him an instant Internet star.
But what this year’s audition episodes are beginning to show is that the formula is wearing thin, particularly without some interplay between Simon and Paula to spice up the judges desk. The train wrecks are just coming across as cruel, particularly the angry guy on Tuesday and last night’s kid from Anniston, Ala., who claimed he nearly died three times. The show lampooned that story in unfunny “cheap dramatizations.”
Knowing these people are selected in early auditions for mockery, you can’t help but think some of the “Idol” producers have a real sadistic streak. Of course, this has been Idol’s shtick for years, but it is more glaring without the millionaire, media savvy judges making fools of themselves too. And considering we barely got a glimpse of last year’s winner, Kris Allen, when he appeared at the Louisville auditions, it’s hard to see the value in slogging through five more audition cities. But we’ll try.
No Kentuckians appeared in either audition episode. It would appear our best chance after Atlanta will be next Tuesday, in Chicago.
Nov6Filed under: American Idol, Music, rc talk - Christian pop culture, Religion; Tagged as: American Idol, Amy Grant, Awake, BlackBerry, Casting Crowns, CCM Magazine, Gospel Music Association, Hello Hurricane, iTunes, Jimmy Kimmel Live, John Styll, Kris Allen, Larry Norman, Michael W. Smith, Skillet, Switchfoot
Switchfoot’s This is the Sound rocks the new Blackberry commercial.
During the past year, there have been public signs that Christian pop music is on the rise.
Last spring on American Idol, a pair of openly Christian contestants vied for the title and one of them, Kris Allen, won. Your TV doesn’t have to be on long to hear the rumblings of Switchfoot, one of Christian music’s top bands, on commercials for BlackBerry’s new Storm2 smartphone. Late in the summer, when Christian rockers Skillet released their latest, Awake, it perched itself atop iTunes’ rock album charts and at No. 3 overall.
Pretty good stuff for a niche genre, eh?
But beneath the surface, there have been rumblings for some time.
Late in the summer, Gospel Music Association president and CEO John Styll stepped down, saying he was sacrificing his salary in an effort to stabilize the organization, which has laid off a number of staffers. Then, in October, the GMA held an all-star fund-raiser – we’re talking Amy Grant and Michael W. Smith heading a lineup that included Casting Crowns and other chart toppers – billed as “Save the GMA.”
Even though that $1,000-a-head event apparently was a success, raising more than $350,000, there were rumors late last month that the GMA was closing its doors.
The association’s troubles come on the heels of other setbacks in Christian music, such as the shutdown of the print edition of the industry’s flagship publication, CCM Magazine, which was founded by Styll, and attendance drops at some festivals.
Christian music also has faced the double whammy of the economic downturn and the effects of a rapidly changing music marketplace less dependent on major labels for distribution and increasingly challenged by problems such as digital music piracy. (Yes, people are stealing Christian music. Go figure.)
These are problems affecting the music industry as a whole, and you know that if the top of the pops is getting battered, the foundations of a niche genre really must be getting shaken.
Aug14Filed under: American Idol, Music, rc talk - Christian pop culture; Tagged as: American Idol, Amy Grant, Brown Bannister, Chris Sligh, Danny Gokey, Harlan County, Into the Light, John Waller, Kris Allen, Man O' War Church of God, Mandisa, Michael English, Michael W. Smith, Mitchell Tolle, Phil Stacey, Reunion Records, Richmond, Russ Taff
When Phil Stacey was a contestant on American Idol, he was pegged as a little bit country.
So that’s where the Harlan County native ended up after the show, on the country label Lyric Street Records. In 2008, he released a self-titled debut.
But anyone who was paying attention and knew a little bit about Stacey could hear something in the twang: a message.
“Even on my country record, every song was based on a Bible verse, to me,” Stacey says. “People who knew Christian music would say, ‘How could you put a John Waller song on a country CD?’” Stacey adds, referring to a modern rock worship leader and songwriter, “but we managed to pull it off.”
Since then, Stacey has made what he calls “a lateral move from Disney’s country label to Sony’s Christian label.”
And what a Christian label.
On Aug. 25, Stacey’s Into the Light will be released on Reunion Records. That would be the same label as Michael W. Smith, with whom Stacey also shares a manager. And he recorded the album with legendary Christian music maestro Brown Bannister, who was behind many of Smith’s and Amy Grant’s big successes.
“It was intimidating going into the studio with someone who’s worked with such gifted people,” Stacey says, noting other Bannister collaborators such as Russ Taff and Michael English. “But at the end of the day, he started out as a youth pastor, and he has a minister’s heart, which set my nerves at ease.
“We talked about the Bible and verses behind songs, and prayed before tracking. I admire Brown more as a person than for his musical background.”
This fall, Stacey hits the road with Smith.
“He’s been so encouraging,” Stacey says. “He’d send me texts like, ‘Phil, I really like this record,’ which meant the world to me.”
So far, the Smith/Stacey tour itinerary does not include Kentucky, though Stacey says he does get back home frequently.
Well, it looks like it was well worth American Idol‘s time to come to Louisville last summer.
Kris Allen auditioned in the Derby City, and then much like this year’s Derby winner, Mine That Bird, worked his way through the field and finished first. Some Adam Lambert fans had to be like Jill Baffert, wife of Pioneer of the Nile trainer Bob Baffert, at the Derby saying “Who the (bleep) is that,” as Allen advanced through the competition. His audition barely registered on the Louisville audition episode, and early on, he seemed like one of those competitors who would probably be somewhat anonymously voted off in the winter.
But the dark horse kept his head down, worked on making some terrific music and wound up in the winner’s circle.
Give the man from Conway, Ark., a blanket of roses. He earned it.
Word came out early from the American Idol producers that Louisville had been a good city for the show. Simon Cowell dished out high praise, by his standards, telling Zap2it, “Louisville was good.”
Yes, it would have been nice to have had an actual Kentuckian who auditioned in Louisville in the final 13. That would have made the story of the Bluegrass State’s AI debut complete. But at least we can walk away from Season 8 saying Kentucky can pick a winner.
Some high notes:
- Heckuva a show for taking two hours-plus to tell us a few key words. I thought the return of Norman Gentle was great and the show kept getting better. It seemed Kiss had to be the highlight, and then Queen came out. Good Lord, Adam could front that band . . . As one who enjoys genuine surprise, Kris’ reaction to winning was delightful.
- Catch Adam Sandler’s University of Kentucky shirt in the Funny People commercial?
- Make sure to read Phil Stacey’s final Idol blog for LexGo.
- And take another look at our Louisville audition video, featuring Alexis Grace.
- Yes, Joanne Brokaw, it was the year of the worship leader.
- I was right. Wish I’d done that well at the Derby.
I’m going to take a quick lunch break here to join my fellow entertainment scribes out on a limb and make an American Idol prediction. It is a bit of a limb, because apparently this race is just too close to call. The website Dial Idol even says that, saying only 1.1 percent separates Kris Allen from Adam Lambert in their survey of busy signals for both contestants — a first in the site’s history.
And these are two very different cats, Lambert the flashy SoCal guy with a voice made for Broadway or glam rock and laid-back Midwesterner Kris.
One thing I hate seeing is this being boiled down to a Red State-Blue State thing, the presumption being the more conservative “red staters” will like humble Christian Kris and “blue staters” will like flamboyant Adam. It’s superficial and not fair to either contestant or Americans in general. Need we remind you of Barack Obama’s 2004 Democratic Convention speech. The Red State-Blue State thing is getting old, and it’s a lazy way to think.
Anyway, a matter of musical taste does drive my prediction: Kris Allen will win.
I pick him subscribing to the logic that Danny Gokey voters will naturally gravitate toward Kris. Yes, Gokey was a bit more of a vocal acrobat in an Adam tradition. But his overall vibe tracked much closer to Allen.
And Allen has been building momentum while Lambert has had a fan base for a while. Allen just feels like something of a Mine That Bird of American Idol, coming from the outside to overtake the front-runner at the end. Using that anology, will this be a Kentucky Derby or a Preakness for Allen? Remember, my limb is in the Bluegrass State.
I’d like to see Lambert win, as I have said before. He’s an amazing artist both as a stage presence and a creative force. And in the current pop landscape, Lambert is a true individual. Allen’s growth and artistry — particularly last week’s re-imagining of Kanye West’s Heartless — have been wonderful to watch. Neither of them would be an embarassing winner, but Lambert’s overall talent is still several shades beyond the rest of this year’s competition.
In the grand scheme of things Allen may be better served with the Idol victory, where Adam may do best if he’s a bit more free to chart his own course. And really, considering the Idol will be stuck with that horrendous No Boundaries song Kara DioGuardi co-wrote, the loser may be the real winner.
- For a second opinion, check Phil Stacey’s blog.
May15Filed under: American Idol, Music, rc talk - Christian pop culture; Tagged as: Adam Lambert, American Idol, Anyerin Drury, Aretha Franklin, Chris Sligh, Christian, Christopher Cool, Danny Gokey, Elvis Presley, Eyesuponus, Joanne Brokaw, Justin McCarty, Kris Allen, Lil Rounds, Mandisa, Matt Giraud, Michael Sarver, Michael W. Smith, Mike Vandemark, Phil Stacey, Quest Community Church, Scott MacIntyre, Southland Christian Church, Whitney Houston, worship leader
This year’s American Idol finals offered the nation 13 singers from across the country with different strengths, looks, backgrounds and styles. But six of them had something in common, aside from wanting to be the next American Idol: They all had experience as church worship leaders.
That included two of the final three competitors in the eighth season of Idol, which wraps up Wednesday with a two-hour season finale.
Danny Gokey, 28, was praise and worship leader at two Faith Builders International locations in Wisconsin.
And Kris Allen, 23, has worked with praise and worship teams at two New Life churches in Arkansas.
Gokey was booted Wednesday night, so Allen is the one who is going on to compete in next week’s final against Adam Lambert, long considered the front runner in this year’s race. And that was fine by several Christian music observers.
“I see the worship leader in Danny, but Kris has more of the ability to be artistic,” said Joanne Brokaw, a Christian music writer who brought the preponderance of worship leaders in this year’s Idol field to light with a Feb. 27 post on her Beliefnet.com blog that asked, “Is this the season of the worship leader?”
Other artists in this year’s final group who have Christian music backgrounds were dueling pianist Matt Giraud, blind musician Scott MacIntyre, oil rigger Michael Sarver and Memphis mother Lil Rounds.
“The thing that really struck me was not just that they were Christians, but they were church worship leaders,” said Brokaw, who has since predicted Allen will win the finale, already being characterized by some as David vs. Goliath. “These are people who have actively been working within their churches as musicians.”
And that work can give a singer a leg up on the competition. Read the rest of this entry »
So there it is: Kris Allen and Adam Lambert are the last ones standing in the American Idol competition.
At this stage, it’s tough to see anyone go. And in the Copley household, we are very happy with the finale. Adam, the longtime frontrunner, and Kris, the underdog who sang his way through to the finale, all the while maintaining a trademark humility.
Funny thing is, in letting Danny Gokey go now, he got such an appropriate exit.
From the moment we met the Wisconsin man, his story has been the recent loss of his wife, Sophia, and Danny going on to compete in the contest she wanted him to try out for. Some complained the story got overplayed. I think that’s easy to say if you’ve never had the experience of losing a spouse.
That backstory also gave him the most fitting swan song, a not-a-dry-eye-in-America rendition of You Are So Beautiful. Freed from the competition, he seized the classic and made it his . . . and Sophia’s. To AI’s credit, they did not cheese it up, flashing pictures of Gokey’s late bride on the screen or anything like that. They let the moment be, and it was beautiful.
We all knew what it was about.
And do not worry about Danny. He will be fine. His phone is probably already ringing with serious offers, and he will be able to call his own tune. We will hear from him again. What a way to finish third.
About Rich Copley & Copious Notes
Raised by opera-loving parents in a rock ’n’ roll world, Rich Copley has parlayed his broad interests into his career writing about arts and entertainment. Since 1998, he has covered performing arts, film and faith-based popular culture for the Lexington Herald-Leader, the daily newspaper in Lexington, Ky. MORE | E-mail Rich