A Memo to VH1 Producers

I enjoyed the 50 Most Awesomely Bad Songs Ever. Funny stuff. Snark is in these days, and good for you. But the snark is much funnier when it’s true. In picking Meat Loaf’s “I Would Do Anything For Love (But I Won’t Do That)” you repeatedly tore the song down for never explaining what “that” was. If any of the idiots on your show had listened to the song or actually ::gasp:: read the lyrics, you’d see it clear as day. Meat Loaf went so far as to explain it in his STORYTELLERS special on your network, so I’ll repeat some of that here. Take a lyric:

But I’ll never forget the way you feel right now, oh no, no way And I would do anything for love, but I won’t do that, I won’t do that

The “that” refers to the previous line. He’d do anything for love, but he won’t never forget the way she feels right now.

One more example:

But I’ll never forgive myself if we don’t go all the way tonight And I would do anything for love, oh I would do anything for love

So he’d do anything for love, but never forgive himself if he didn’t go all the way that one night.

Besides, if you want to blame it on the writer, then go to Jim Steinman, since he wrote the song.

As for Billy Joel’s “We Didn’t Start The Fire,” it’s a chronological history of events that happened during the Cold War. So it’s not necessarily that the Cola Wars sent him over the edge as — ah, screw it. It’s a List Song. Deal with it.

And is that really what Rick Astley looks like? Oh, my. I never realized that scrawny English boy was him. He was the original Clay Aiken, wasn’t he?

The latest Hitchhiker’s Guide update

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy — HHGG Interview with writer Karey KirkPatrick

But I think people, especially die-hard HHGG fans, will be happy to see that it is very much the same story as the radio play, the book, and the TV series with all the well-known and beloved scenes, characters and concepts. Arthur, Ford, Trillian, Zaphod, Marvin, Eddie, Vogons, Slartibartfast, Deep Thought, Lunkwill & Fook, the mice, whales, petunias, dolphins, 42, even Gag Halfrunt; all present and accounted for.

This is the latest update of the blog covering the single biggest movie of the summer of 2005. Don’t quibble with me on that overblown title. I’m granting the movie the title right now. Disagree with me at your own peril; you’d be wrong.

An IDOL lifespan?

MTV.com – News -Ryan, Randy, Kimberley, Ruben Wonder How Long ‘Idol’ Can Last

Host Ryan Seacrest made mention of a fourth season during Wednesday’s finale, and there’s been no talk of the show coming to an end, which begs the question: How long can something this good last? Kimberley Locke, who finished third last season, thinks not long.

The second season had to happen fairly quickly, just to help stave off the competition from coming in, filling the void, and ruining it for everyone. The closest we came to that was FAME. In other words, no contest.

But they are doing the right thing in making this an event show once a year. I also think that K-Lo is right that they have to stop focusing on the bad so dang much. I love the bad auditions as much as the next one — I’m watching SUPERSTAR USA, aren’t I? — but they seem more and more forced every year. We know that the producers are letting some of them through just to make for interesting TV. And those are the ones that are blocking potential superstars from getting through.

They should also consider limiting all the extra episodes, such as the interview specials. I don’t mind FOX repeating the Hawaiian tryouts or Atlanta tryouts shows. It’s interesting to look back at the end of the season at where they call came from. And I never bother to record them to look back on later.

The AMERICAN JUNIORS show failed, and FOX has vowed to not bring it back, so there’s little chance of the series wearing out its welcome just yet. In the article, Randy says the series has about three seasons left. He’s probably right, but they might be able to keep it past that with some changes. (Please note: I didn’t say “twists.”)

But those changes are a post for another day.

Clear Channel scoops up live CD patent

Clear Channel scoops up live CD patent

Early this month, we reported on the growing phenomenon of bands selling CDs or even uploads onto USB flash drives of concert recordings right after the concert would end. One company (DiscLive) estimated that it would gross up to US$500,000 during this Spring from selling live CDs. The fans are happy, the bands are happy, everyone is happy. Unfortunately, in a move that will put the brakes on an emerging industry, Clear Channel has purchased the patent from the inventors of the technology and is asserting that it is the only entity that can sell concert CDs right after gigs.

This really pisses me off. I now officially will jump on the Clear Channel-loathing bandwagon. This was a technology and an idea that looked promising and was a win/win situation for everyone. Now, it’s another greedy patent that makes little sense. I hate them all.

Behind the Scenes

MTV.com – News -Think You Know Everything About ‘American Idol’? Think Again

Once in the finals, contestants pick their songs for the next week on Thursdays, but they’re given approximately 20 CDs of songs from the genre a week prior to that. “Sometimes it’s even 10 days or two weeks before, so that they can be making their choices over that two-week period,” Warwick said.

This is MTV’s very interesting look at the process of making an episode. Great trivia, including the bit about using video from dress rehearsals in the final review package on Tuesday nights.

It ain’t over yet

I’m looking around here and realizing I still have another four AI messages to come in the next week. I want to look back to my embarrassing early picks for this season that I made at the beginning. We’ll all have a good laugh at how wrong I was.

It’s time to look back on the season as a whole and see what changes could be, should be, or would be made.

And I’ve already picked up a couple of very interesting articles on AI in general that will appear here over the weekend.

Don’t worry — after a week or so, this will be all over, and it’ll be back to sporadic AI posting. I promise.

DDR Weight Loss Regime

USATODAY.com – Video game fans dance off extra pounds

One pediatrician is so convinced of the health benefits that he’s planning a six-month study of DDR and weight loss among 12- to 14-year-olds, in an effort to give the game credibility among physicians. Dr. Richard Adler, of the University of Tennessee Health Science Center in Memphis, said he likes the game because it “gets the kids off their butts and they lose weight.”

I thought I had posted about this before, but I couldn’t find it in the archives. People are using Dance Dance Revolution as a weight loss program. The ultimate site for information on this can be found at GetUpMove.com.

(Slashdot has linked to the story now, too.)

The Grand Finale

Congratulations to Fantasia Barrino for winning the whole thing. I’m sure she’ll sell lots of albums. You could see Simon grinning at the very thought of it.

Lots of discombobulated thoughts about the show tonight. I know I’m going to forget lots of stuff, but that’s what the comments thread is for. Feel free to add on in there.

They did a great job with the “pre-game show,” limiting it to about 35 minutes and not making it just a clips package. That said, Christina Christian and Jennifer Love Hewitt were awful. I understand the loud crowd made it difficult at times, but they couldn’t vamp enough to make it look anything near decent.

Too bad they wasted Clay in his home state. I would have loved to hear him back on stage, but I understand the decision to limit it to the winners.

LaToya was as great as ever. George was a lot of fun, singing a great song for his style. Jasmine was not so great. And I’m being charitable there. I felt badly for her.

I know Jennifer Love Hewitt is a ballerina and all, but have you ever seen someone so sickly looking? Pale and skinny. Horrible. And what happened to the huge breasts she used to have on movie posters? They’re all gone. Weird.

Christina Christian’s hair was horrible.

Moving onto the show, itself, now:

Tamyra Gray is obviously the new Golden Child of AMERICAN IDOL. They can’t get enough of her, can they? She did a stunning a capella job with the National Anthem, so long as you ignore the ending. I thought she crossed up a lyric in the middle of the song, but it was probably me not paying attention for a second and losing my place in the lyrics.

Putting together Kelly, Fantasia, and Diana worked really well, though. They had great harmony together. You remember harmony, don’t you? That’s when two or more singers work together to create a single memorable sound. It’s not when two people attempt to out-warble each other and steal the spotlight and “make a song their own.”

I still can’t believe Clay lost to Ruben. Ruben was awful on the group singalong. And in his own song? Well… It’s not my thing, but it just sounds funny to hear The Velvet Teddy Bear talking about his “crib.”

Still, it raises the ages-old AI question: “Should the perfect AI contestant be diverse enough to handle a variety of musical styles? Or is it just good enough to be great in one particular genre, and we’ll forgive him or her in the rest?”

The group singalong was a lot of fun and somewhat revealing. Camile Velasco danced like the only one on stage and still needs a lot of work with her voice. Half the time she was busy doing her own thing, it looked like. John Stevens faked it well enough to not make an arse out of himself. I think the lack of pressure and the general fun feeling of the night helped him relax enough to dance. He also stole the show for ten brief seconds. They gave him two lines to sing from his wheelhouse. He snapped his fingers, he looked confident, and he even got Simon to smile.

Jennifer Hudson sounded great. Amy Adams is the overlooked Idol of the season, I think. She got robbed just as much as Jennifer Hudson, but there was no great “racism” tag to apply to her case, so everyone shrugged and moved on. She certainly deserved better.

JPL was tolerable tonight. I would have liked to have heard more from Matt Rogers, but there’s only so much time.

65 million votes. Boy, that’ll anger a lot of people. They should have opened up the extra phone lines weeks ago, plus given the extra couple of hours. They almost tripled their normal vote totals in double the time with triple the lines. I bet there were a lot less busy signals. Always a good thing. Hopefully, the producers learned something from this. While it could get awkward to give out two different phone numbers to six different contestants for the Round of 6, I think it might be worth the effort next season.

Kelly stunk tonight. She had no lower register on her own song, from her own horribly overproduced album. And why is she trying so hard to sing like Christina Aguilera, anyway? Enough with the friggin’ warbling.

Diana nailed the Idol song again. Amazing. Kelly cried. Smart girl.

I believed Fantasia’s emotions during the Idol song this time around, even as her accessories fell apart.

They both looked exhausted by the end. In the closeups on both of them, you could see the bags forming under their eyes. AI is a grueling 3 months of work, and making it to the end like that has to be killer. Hopefully, they’ll be able to get some sleep soon between morning show appearances.

Did you catch the list of cities IDOL is visiting next year? They’re really looking for something new. While prospective contestants have been known to fly all over the country for a chance in front of the judges, it sounds like they’re really trying to find new people from different corners. More stops in Middle America this time, plus one in Alaska. Be careful to note: None in Hawaii.

That’s a wrap for Season Three. Thanks to everyone for visiting here week after week to join in the discussion. This isn’t over yet, believe it or not. I still haven’t seen Sunday night’s special, which I plan on reviewing here. And there’s always more AI news in the days after the finale to talk about and discuss. So please stick around. VariousAndSundry.com ain’t going anywhere.

Comments fixed

I think I have the sizing fixed on the pop up comments window. Clear your cache or refresh this page to get a hold of the new template. It’s a lot bigger window now. Should be easier to read and write in. If you have any problems, see anything weird, or have any suggestions for it, leave a comment with this post. (Yes, I recognize the irony.)

Looking at it another way

OK, let’s look at this a little more seriously.

Yes, Fantasia is today a better singing entertainer than Diana.

Fantasia has a more mature voice. It sounds easier coming out of her. Diana sounds like she’s straining at times, and I always have a slightly nervous feeling when she’s singing that she could louse something up. (That might be because I’m rooting for her, though, and have something to lose if she does.) Diana also has a tendency to lose notes in the lower register, but so has just about everyone else on the show at times, including Fantasia.

Diana has that all-too-perky cute girl next door look going for her, despite a couple of poor costume choices. She gets a bad rap on the Jon Benet comparisons. She’s become a better singer in the course of the competition. She had momentum going into the final week. She can, indeed, hit the high notes and hold them. Say what you will about that, but it’s become an American Idol necessity. The audience reacts to it. They demand it. It surely didn’t hurt Jennifer and LaToya.

Fantasia screams too much. She warbles and riffs instead of singing. In the times when she can control that — “Greatest Love Of All” and the original “Summertime” — she sounds great. The rest of the time, though, she’s relying on her showmanship to overcome the simple basic fact that she’s not a great singer. She changes songs up to suit her not out of some amazing technical gift, but because the audience responds to that level of surface riffing, and probably because it just makes the song easier. (“yeah yeah yeah” is easier to finish than one long syllable held for just as long.)

But that’s popular music today. Look at how Cristina Aguilera, for example, can have a relatively beautiful voice and yet still screw up a tender ballad. That “Beautiful” song could be really good if she weren’t stomping all over it with her voice. I get dizzy listening to her voice warble on every other note. But if that’s the way popular music is today, and AMERICAN IDOL is a popularity contest for pop music, then Fantasia surely deserves to be the queen.

The problem is, I didn’t see the strong Fantasia that I like on the show last night. I saw more of the screecher. And I thought Diana did a far better job on the Idol song, singing it truer to the music. Some want to call that “soulless” and “unoriginal.” I don’t think it is. I think it’s actually more disciplined to work on hitting the notes on the sheet music than dancing all around it, avoiding it in the name of “personal style” and “taking risks.” You can reinterpret the song as a Mozart concerto next year, for all I care. Right now, I want to hear a version that goes along with the music. I don’t care if that means you dance around and spin in circles or not. Diana did it better last night.

There’s another thing: Both Fantasia and Diana have a tendency to lose their voice when they concentrate on dancing. I don’t know if it’s just because they’re not keeping the microphone steady, or because they lose their breath. But I saw it with both of them last night.

In the end, the entire debate over who is “better” and who “deserves” to win was trumped for me by the godawful treatment Diana received on the show last night. Never has there been a more concerted effort by the judges to make sure a certain person got voted for or against. (OK, maybe the week after Jennifer Hudson lost this year and Ryan scolded the audience.)

I know I can’t vote for LaToya anymore, just as many of you can’t vote for Jennifer or George or (heaven help us all) Leah and JPL. So it’s down to the last two. Yes, Fantasia’s voice is more ready to be recorded. It’ll hold up better and longer. And she can take a piece of crap song and make it something her dedicated fans will swoon over. We saw that with the first song last night. Blame it on the arrangement, if you like, but it was crap, pure and simple.

If I had my choice, I’d take Diana over Fantasia in an instant. She’s good enough to record right now, plus there’s a greater upside there. As she continues training and working at it, she’ll command the stage, the song, and the audience.

The only people on the show this year that I might buy CDs from would be La Toya London and John Stevens. Yes, John Stevens. I think with the pressure of a live audience off of him, some time in the recording studio, and a couple of computer tweaks, he could put out a pretty cool album.

After last night’s treatment, Diana’s CD might be up on my shelf next to those two. I want to see her overcome that crap. And good for her for not breaking down in the middle of it and for taking it like a champ. She certainly deserves better than that.

Microsoft stumbles some more

Microsoft behind $12 million payment to Opera | CNET News.com

Microsoft agreed to pay Norway’s Opera Software $12.75 million to head off a threatened lawsuit over code that made some Web pages on MSN look bad in certain versions of Opera’s Web browser, CNET News.com has learned.

It’s a good look at how the browser wars have shifted in the years since MicroSoft stopped innovating. Not, mind you, that they ever did innovate anything in the first place. . . If IE had a pop up blocker or tabbed browser, I might not be so harsh, but the simple fact of the matter is that MicroSoft is a near-monopoly, so they don’t have to care anymore. That leaves it to the Operas and the Mozillas of the world to show how it’s done. Hopefully, that’ll lead to increased business for them someday soon.

The final performances

Being a general rambling on last night’s show, and not quite the award-winning focused recap that it should be…

Last night’s show disgusted me. Never before has the show been staged, produced, and tilted so far in favor of one contestant. Even in the first season where it was clear that Kelly was ten leagues better than Justin, the judges never owned up to that fact until the very final show, after all the votes had been tallied. This year, we have Simon trying to top himself each week in praising Fantasia to make sure his girl gets in: “What does it say behind you?” “You’re the best contestant we’ve ever had.” Puh-leeze.

Even if you think Fantasia deserves it, at least show Diana some modicum of respect.

Diana nailed the Idol song right out of the gate. Amazing. Perhaps she shouted a couple bits too much, but her voice was strong. She kept up with the song. I had the same chills when she was done that I had when Kelly Clarkson sang “A Moment Like This” at the end of the first season for the first time. And what does Randy think? After comparing her to his top echelon of divas (Whitney, Celine, etc.) he could only backtrack to a meek “You did good.” UGH It’s like he caught himself before he praised her too much. He was afraid of throwing her a vote, I guess.

If she had sung that song last, it would have been the show stopper. Sadly, she lost the coin toss. (Get your conspiracy theorist hats out: Fantasia called heads before Diana could call a side. Tamyra flipped the coin, and we all know who she wrote that song for… Yeah, this parenthetical aside is a joke. For me, at least. There’s probably someone out there on the internet who’ll take it seriously, though.)

And what’s with the penguin dance the choir was doing behind her? I laughed at that one.

Fantasia sings the same song and it sounds perhaps a bit more natural coming out of her mouth, if only because it’s more in her style. Hmmm, a gospel choir backing up the contestant on a song written by Tamyra Gray. Gee, I wonder who that’s going to favor? But even though the song favored her style more, I don’t think she did as good a job with it. It was more of the same Fantasia, being the showman first and the singer occasionally.

Seeing all the former AI contestants and judges crying after that performance? They must be high. They’ve bought all the trappings of the AI Coronation. They’ve fallen for it. They drank the Kool-Aid. They’re not even thinking anymore. They’re mind-numbed zombies. I have no clue what they were listening to. (At least with Amy Adams, we can blame all the black shoe polish she had in her hair last night.)

“Summertime” was an Idol high point this season on its first go-around. Now, on the third go-around singing it, she sounds bored with the song. She’s trying to riff on it constantly. It was almost as bad as George Huff on Manilow week. The warbles came back. The “yeah yeah yeah”s got more pronounced. It was not nearly as inspiring as the first time around. The judges, though, took long cool sips of the Kool-Aid in their Coca Cola cups and heaped the most praise they could muster without losing every last atom of air in their lungs.

Yes, by the way, Fantasia ended ALL THREE SONGS this week with “yeah yeah yeah.”

And Fantasia’s first song? You knew it was bad when the three judges came close to slamming her on it. They’ve done everything they could do to boost Fantasia, shy of killing a chicken and drinking its blood to appease the gods. So they had to appreciate her showmanship on the song, because there was nothing else to be proud of in a song that there was no fear of forgetting a lyric on. She just screamed and warbled through most of it, and repeated the lines the background singers gave her first. I was reminded of Jamie on SuperStar USA checking her hand for the lyrics she had written on them.

Diana did a professional and worthy job on “Enough Is Enough.” She faltered big time on the last song, but it was obvious throughout the night that the strain was starting to show in her voice. That’s why Tamyra got voted out in Season One, remember. Her voice was starting to crack and she lost. Diana, after 12 weeks, is starting to lose her voice. Kelly did the same after the first season ended. Clay showed the signs of strain at the end of last season. Ruben never had a problem because he never had to hold a high note, did he? Nor did he ever have any fear of having to move more than two feet in any direction on stage, yet I don’t recall Simon ever faulting him for it.

I have to give Diana a pass on the last song, though, because her first performance of “Don’t Cry Out Loud” was another AI highlight for all time, and she did such a great job on the other two songs.

She was not helped in her last song by the sound quality, either. One the first couple of songs for the night, I was amazed by how “right” the sound was. For the first time all season, they managed a live show in which the vocalist could be heard above all and the song mixed well. I was looking forward to hopping on here this morning to praise them for that. Someone happened after that first round, though, and the quality quickly deteriorated. By her last song, Diana sounded hollow and you could hear the echoes in the background. It’s a real shame.

Simon’s comments on Diana’s age made me laugh, too. You know how old Fantasia is? 19. Three years older than Diana. I don’t think Fantasia has climbed too many mountains or swum across too many lakes. She just had unprotected sex first.

I was disappointed in the song choices over all. Last year, Clay Aiken sang his Idol song and two others, including “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” which easily ranks on the Top 10 Idol performances of all time. The other song, “Here, There, and Everywhere” was a bit of a disappointment, but it didn’t help that the producers asked him to add in a verse at the last moment. Still, he had to learn three new songs for the final show.

This year, the contestants each sang the same Idol song, and repeated 1 (Fantasia) or 2 (Diana) songs that they’ve already sung before. Why are the producers going so easy on them this year?

Fantasia is probably going to win. They’ve done everything in their power to see to it that it happens. In some small way, I hope she does, if only to appease the people waiting to overturn cars and light the cities on fire if she were to lose. After the crap we went through the week Jennifer Hudson lost, I’m sure it could happen.

But you know what? After the horrible treatment Diana received this week, I want the sympathy votes to kick in BIG TIME. I want to see other people like me jamming the phone lines. I want to see the reaction against Simon Cowell coming back to bite him in the arse. I want the producers to be “stuck” with Diana.

I got ten votes in for Diana last night, myself. I almost tried calling Fantasia’s numbers, just out of journalistic curiosity to see if her lines were jammed. I didn’t, because I couldn’t bring myself to reward the AI producers for last night’s sham with even a single vote.

In the end, it doesn’t really matter. The person who was clearly head and shoulders above the rest in this competition, LaToya London, was voted out a couple of weeks ago. Everything since then has been anti-climactic. Fantasia’s going to get a recording contract, no matter what. Diana is a little iffier, but give her a year to polish up her voice and work on the trouble spots and she’ll be just fine. The thing is, I think Diana can be saved. I don’t think I’ll ever enjoy Fantasia’s warbling, riffing, and running up every note she can find. Call it a stylistic difference, much in the same way that I didn’t get Ruben last year.

The results show tonight should be fun, if only because we’ll probably get to hear LaToya sing again. And maybe Clay. Perhaps Kelly. Ah, the good ol’ times…

Pipeline #363

I’m going to start pimping my comics column on here every week. I know most of you come from there to start with, but it seems like a waste not to deliver a pointer to those who don’t. This thread will be closed for comments, though. If you wish to discuss the column, the Pipeline Message Board is your friend.

This week’s column is a look at my experiences at the Wizard World: East comic book show in Philadelphia this past weekend. I spent the day walking in circles, renewing acquaintances, and buying some comics. Panel presentations from Marvel and DC couldn’t have been more different. Also, a list of odds and ends from the show that wouldn’t fit in anywhere else.

You can read the column right about here.