Tuesday, March 16, 2010

S9 Top 12

After an upsetting AI Top 16 Result Show (#BringAlexBack #LillyScott), the season 9 top 12 have been announced:

The Girls
Crystal Bowersox 5/26
Siobhan Magnus 4/28
Didi Benami 3/31
Lacey Brown 3/17
Katie Stevens 4/14
Paige Miles 3/24

The Boys
Lee DeWyze -winner!
Andrew Garcia 4/14
Michael Lynche 4/7 SAVED 5/12
Casey James 5/19
Aaron Kelly 5/5
Tim Urban 4/21 (IGB)

Note: Yes, they are listed in order of preference. But after last week's show, I don't know what to expect anymore....

Thursday, March 11, 2010

S9: Top 8 Guys Rehearsal

Ryan Seacrest joked around that there was probably an undercover reporter in the audience. Little did he know I was taking it all in to later share with the world. :)

What did I learn about Ryan tonight? He was not the same person that he was during the live taping last Thursday. Though, at first those around me agreed that he seemed 'fake & scripted,' he quickly proved to be a bit ... crazy?? Either he was pumped up on Red Bull or forgot to take his Ritalin this morning.

There is a whole different side of Idol that we don't get to see. Three sides, I think. 1) What we see on TV, 2) What the people in the live studio audience experience, and 3) Everyone's true colors: the rehearsal.

Last week I had the chance to see American Idol live during the result show. Awesome! This week, I got to attend the Top 8 Guys rehearsal. Next week ... I'll probably be tweeting live .. from my couch.

It's much more convenient getting dropped off by a Limo at the blue awning, taking a few simple steps around back and sitting with the family & friends. But, when you are one of the lucky few (more like 70+ people) who get picked from the waiting list, it's another story. We parked at The Grove & walked over to Genesse Ave. Waited for an hour, finally got walked back, only to wait in the cold wind for another 30 minutes or so. It was cold! Even then you were not guaranteed a seat. Don't be late either. Idol is strict on time and space.

Blackberry anonymous. That should be the group Ryan attends daily. When was he not on his phone, tweeting? Want proof? Check his Twitter account! He posted a picture from rehearsal (barely missed the shot).

I was excited last week to see them all live. Even more excited this week to see the boys perform LIVE! It may have only been a rehearsal, but it was good enough for me. The show takes an hour, with the talkative judges. The rehearsal took about an hour & a half, with no judge commentary. A lot goes on....

First up was Lee DeWyze (Vote Lee!) singing 'Fireflies.' I was hyped up about this performance. 1) I love this song, 2) Lee is my favorite. Watching it back, he sounds so much better live. I'm telling you guys, the TV does him no justice. It was practically flawless. I was ready to end the show there & declare a winner. The room practically floated with him as he sang. It's great to see him with a smirk in his eyes. He appears to be a deep thinker and I really think he's gaining the confidence to take this show on with full force & fight for his place.

LIE: I was always amazed how quickly they gathered footage to show during the 'recap' section at the end, especially with the last performance.
FACT: That footage is from the rehearsal!! Oh! That makes perfect sense!

Ryan dreams Idol. He won't be paying attention when the theme music starts to play, and no matter where he is, he is suddenly on the idol prowl. He jumps out of nowhere ready to ace the camera. He even demonstrated for us a night's sleep where he suddenly jerks awake and yells, "This IS American Idol."

Alex! Poor guy looked like a nervous wreck just standing there during the practice intro. Again, I wanted to yell, 'Alex, you rock!' but I didn't. To be honest, looking back at his rehearsal, I don't remember much, but I might have been on a Lee high... I do love his voice & I think he did better in the live performance. P.s. I want to give a shout out to Ellen for her bananas. Sometimes, she actually just makes sense.

Question: Do the judges attend the rehearsal? No. (Though I hear they sometimes sneak-a-peek.) Instead, the have 'fillers.' They don't get to talk much, they just help with giving some time estimates, but if they ever need a stand in, these guys know their characters (at least the 'Randy' & 'Kara' fillers). Too funny. 'Yo, Dawg, that was a bit pitchy, dawg.'

I brought my friend Melody with me (FYI, she hasn't watched this season at all) and guess who her favorite was?? Tim Urban. Let me tell you about the 'gasp' that was heard around CBS studio. 'Tim Urban is up next singing 'Hallelujah,' GASP.....
Not a closed mouth in the audience. Tim just turns around rocking his head with a smirk on his face. My thought, 'Woah, he's got to have a lot gut to pull this off.' And wow, was I surprised. I walked out of the studio feeling like I had the world's biggest secret in hand. Just wait, just wait till they hear him sing this! Way to fight for your right to ... stay on Idol. With his solid fan base that has saved him the last two weeks and the angels singing with him tonight...he just might crack the Top 12.

Random note: The girls joined the audience, as they do on the show, but one was missing! Katelyn was nowhere to be found. Some girl from the audience got to sit in her place. Um, Miss .. if you get the privilege to sit next to Siobhan Magnus put a smile on your face! Don't look so angry and bored. Maybe she was mad that she didn't get to sit by her friend, but really, you are surrounded by the future of the music industry. Katelyn later rejoined and Lilly went missing (what goes on behind the Idol stage, I so want to know!!). She eventually returned so the girl was rescued to her friend behind me.

I had this idea on Monday: How great would it be if one of the guys sang Christina Aguilera's "Genie In a Bottle?' Andrew could break it down. Now imagine me sitting in the audience when Ryan says, 'Andrew's gonna take on Christina..' Woah. I love Andrew and I wish the world wasn't so hard on him. He is not a one-hit wonder. One thing I did noticed during the rehearsal, he had this hesitation about his performance. He wasn't too sure about it. I liked it. The judges didn't. (I almost wanted to break out into my Jr. High dance moves to the song...) Back to the live taping, anyone notice him stumbling the first line? Eek. Ellen: 'The Genie came out of the bottle too late.' Agreed. Someone mentioned that they preferred the end of the song over anything else.

Ryan: "So far in this competition, Andrew has covered ... Richard Simmons."
Andrew: Looks up, confusion & panic shadow his face.

The difference between the live show & rehearsal. 1) Interaction 2) Excitement 3) My BFF, the MC. Walking into the live show, the music was blaring, the lights were on, the people were excited. Walking into the rehearsal, the lights were dim, there was no music, and everyone kept to a whisper or silence. It took a while for Ryan to warm up, though Debbie was having a blast bossing him around. I love Debbie (stage manager). She's awesome.

If you want to guarantee your way into the live taping from the rehearsal, aim to be sat in the section to the left of the stairs. Of course, you have no power when it comes to this, but a little persuasion never hurt, right? It's the 'money spot'-if you sit here, you will be on TV. And apparently, they ask you to stay for the taping, too. Rats! So those folks sitting there tonight, most of them were at the rehearsal.

Casey...Casey...Casey. You could hear a pin drop during his rehearsal. It looked like it took effort for people to get up and applaud his performance. I kind of spaced out, oops. I was reviewing the line up and/or staring off into Lee's direction, maybe. Melody's opinion ... The guitar was fantastic. Watching it back, yeah, still not a fan. Didn't they almost give him a big 'No' during auditions? Simon said no, Kara & Posh lusted, and Randy ... Let the girls have this one. Why, Randy, why??

The guys didn't interact with the audience as much as the taping. I figure it was nerves. Instead of hanging out on the 'fence' of the Red Room, they huddled on the couches till it was their turn to sing or watch the performances. Even on the stage they seemed to be wondering like a 'lost duck.' Then there is Todrick flashing his moves ever chance he gets.

Oops, during rehearsal Casey tried running off the stage with the stool. I think Aaron needed that. That was just the first mishap during Aaron's practice. He was cut off in the middle of the song by Debbie. I guess there were some sound problems. I thought she was just waving him off the stage at first. I didn't think he sounded that bad. Melody pointed out that he had tangled up some of his words. Surprised? No. At least he is finding filler words unlike Hollywood weel. I like Aaron. He's 16 and can sing. He definitely could have a future, but like Haeley he needs a year(s) of fine tuning. Wow, watching it back, he was MUCH better live. He's got an awkward stage presence, makes it uneasy to watch. Ryan likes to pick on him, of course, not on camera.

Crystal & Lilly seemed to have a blast watching the guys. They were doing some kind of leg stretches while waiting... Everyone else had this deep thoughtful expression. Worry, perhaps. If I were some of them, I would be worried, too. Ryan seems to have a good connection with them. That's nice. Speaking of Ryan, did I mention he's a goofball? Really, he is. He stole Debbie's headset and started doing the weather. He hit on older Asian lady... well, not quite, but it was funny. He tried to get her to vote for him.

Ha ha. I love Todrick. This guy is funny and very energetic. One of the guys sitting by me wanted him to do a flip on stage, "A flip? Who's paying?" Not sure if ya'll got a good look at his pants, but they had faces on them. Yes, faces. A little creepy. The best part, he sang to us. When he kneels down to sing to the audience, it was right where we were sitting. Woot! He seems like a nice, genuine type of guy. He loves life & he loves to entertain. He didn't do too bad tonight, not sure it will save him, but at least he just sang the song rather than re-make the song. Right? "1-800-Todrick."

Side note: If you ever attend an Idol taping, just ignore the dress code. 'No jeans, no heels, no white...' No, they don't care. We broke all those rules and got in. Well, not to the taping, but still.

Big Mike is 'pimping' it out tonight. Anyone notice that Lee & him switched spots from last week? Mike barely got into his first verse when Debbie stopped him. Ryan had to redo his part for the .. third time? Gestures, Ryan, gestures! Take two ... Ha ha, the mic stand went crazy during rehearsal. Big Mike has a lot of power. It almost flopped over. Wow, he can sing. Again, another one that was even better live. Can you imagine that? That was good, really good. Not sure I would cry over it. Really, Kara? Really?

During rehearsal, non-Ritalin Ryan jumps up on stage, "Did you choreograph those moves, Mike? Because you were like here, and then here. Here and then ..." Jumps on Mike's back! 'Vote for Michael. 1-800..... Whew.' Yes, he actually did jump on him during rehearsal. I think Ryan is overworked.

They do, in a sense, choreograph their steps. The camera has to know where to be, so much time is spent camera placing before they sing. Todrick: 'I'll be getting my groove on right here for ya'll.' And microphone stands... it appears they have a stand set and ready for each contestant. It's amazing what goes on right next to Ryan when he is talking into the camera. One moment the stage is clear, the next ... a stool, guitar and Casey. Out of nowhere. Don't be surprised to learn that Debbie might be standing to the left of Ryan while he is chatting up the camera. Props to everyone who works behind the scenes on Idol. They work hard!

The boys come back for one last plea for votes. Cue the pre-recorded videos. Hey, that's me! Totally made it on TV during the recaps .. Thank you, Alex & Todrick!

And it is over...

The girls run off, the boys make their way back to the Red Room & out. I've got my purse in hand, ready to fight for my spot at the tapping. Unfortunately, I forgot my plan in the midst of the rush, and it delayed me running over to the line. We were #21 & #22. After waiting, an hour, in the cold wind, with no jacket, they only took 13 people. Bummer. Just missed it. Next time.

Oh, and yes, I am sure there will be a next time. *Fingers crossed*

Friday, March 5, 2010

S9: Top 20 Result Show

Possibly one of the greatest days of my life…

For those of you who do not know, I won Danny Gokey’s new CD from KSON 97.3 in San Diego. This last Monday I was placed in a drawing to win tickets to his appearance on American Idol that Thursday. Sure enough, Danny Gokey announced me as the winner! I received a limo ride to and from LA and two tickets to sit in the audience during the result’s taping.

I will admit I spent most of the day with butterflies in my stomach and probably could have had an “Alex Lambert” moment. I was a bit anxious! So excuse these few moments while I pretend I am a 12 year-old teenager and not 24.

It is hard to put in words what last night was like. Oh, how I wish I had my camera to capture the moments that will soon fade. It was surreal and I woke up this morning wondering if I was really there, except my DVR reminds me that I was.

Arriving at the studio, we were noted as ‘Danny Gokey’s guest’ and were escorted to security, where I unwillingly gave up my cell phone & camera. We passed by all the ‘audience’ members and were left to wait outside with the Idol family & friends. We quickly pointed out Alex Lambert & John Parks families. It’s crazy to think how the lives of these families will change dramatically in the next 13 weeks.

Fortunate for us, we sat right next to Lee DeWyze’s mom!! Karalee wanted to ask her if she was who we thought she was, but I told her not to…than yes, just do it:
“Are you one of the contestant’s moms?”
“Are you Lee DeWyze’s mom?”
“You’re son is FANTASTIC! We love him!”

We talked for a bit. She is a sweetheart, very genuine. They flew out from Chicago just the other day to see him perform. Unfortunately, they can’t come often due to work & she struggles getting Wednesday nights off to see him on TV. She is very proud of her son (who is greatly talented). I admit I wanted to tell her that I would gladly marry her son., but I refrained.

Finally, we were let into the studio. Wow, it’s small, smaller than it appears. I would say about 75 people in the audience. We sat to the right of the couches, opposite of the band, second row, seats 5 & 6. I would say about 5 feet from the stage. Our seats were in the “Reserved Danny Gokey” section, causing the group in front of us to ask if we were family. To my dismay, no, we are not.

The couple sitting next to us was also a radio winner but from Chicago. In our row we had guests of Randy & Simon.

I did take note that they place the ‘pretty’ & colorful people in the front row. I saw some rearranging going on before everyone was set. It appears there is some ‘deal’ with UCLA students because they filled the section that is most viewed on TV (all those girls in the colorful dresses to the right of the stage). They made a big deal about it, “Oh, who’s here from UCLA this time?” Um, where can I sign up for this job??

I did have 4 girls sitting to my left, but by the end of the night I had a bodyguard & the eliminated idols. There are a lot of “filler” audience members that get rushed to some chairs off set throughout the show.

If you noticed, during the group song the seats to the right of the judges are filled with the audience. Later, you will find the contestants sitting there (first, the girls, then the guys). During one of the transitions, they switched it about 3 times before they decided the guy contestants should be there and not the ‘fillers’ … with 5 seconds to live feed. Whoops!

About 30 minutes before the show, the idols came out into the ‘red room’ (later to be occupied by the family & friends). They were a hoot (yes, I said ‘hoot). Todrick & Jermaine must be the life of the party because they were getting their groove on the entire time. Todrick likes to work the audience. Though, I could tell from Crystal & Lee’s look that those boys were way too much up in their personal space.

You got to see some personalities stand out while they waited. Lee often stood their staring into the set. He must be a deep thinker because he doesn’t show a lot on his face but you can see the emotion in his eyes. He was taking it all in. Andrew is pretty mellow, too, but he was doing some dance moves with Jermaine for a while. I swear Big Mike is bigger in person. Didi looked petrified. I think she believed it was her last night (No, Didi, you are top 12). My sister wanted to shout to her, “Didi, you are amazing! Don’t listen to the judges.” Crystal looked hyped and in great health! Sad to say, I didn’t notice some of the idols … I forgot they were even there. It was a lot to take in at the moment. There was so much going on.

It was quite surreal in those moments. It’s like I was plucked from my couch and dropped in the middle of something I thought only existed on my TV screen. Yet, here it was, right in front of me. Living & breathing. One of these 20 people would be the next Kelly Clarkson, David Cook, Carrie Underwood, & Kris Allen (*cough* LeeDeWyze).

Note: If you haven’t noticed, I am a huge Lee DeWyze fan. Check out his pre-idol CDs on iTunes and you, too, will become a fan!

Eventually, the “MC” of the evening came on. No, not Ryan! I believe his name was Chris. Chris & I will soon become BFF. He gets us pumped before, during & after the show. While the music is blaring, he gives us some info and starts working us vocally to get us excited for what is it come. Um, can he replace Ryan Seacrest? He’s funny, nice & quite entertaining. He had us get up & dance after bringing up three random audience members to show of their skills. It’s truly a party on the American Idol set! I imagine more so on a night where they are not losing four friends.

The great thing about Chris, if that is his name, is that he works the audience. He talks to us, hangs out with us & remembers us. This is where we became BFF thanks to Danny Gokey & KSON. He asked if anyone had bought Danny’s album yet. I ecstatically raise my hand and, once I have his attention, I point under my chair, “It’s in my purse!” He stops, “It’s in your purse? Um, Stalker … Can I get security over here, we have a stalker on set!” This results in a red and embarrassed face, covered in shame (No, not shame, I was just hoping I would get to meet him & I would be prepared). Our conversation would have continued if Kara didn’t walk in…

Be thankful that she was hidden behind a desk all night because her outfit was atrocious! She wore the tightest, shiniest leggings, from ankle to waist. It looked so wrong. Then, Randy comes out in over-sized high-tops from the 80s. Really, if this is fashion then I am glad I am not fashionable. Ellen joined the stage and showed off her dance skills. Simon, of course, arrives to his seat with seconds before we are live.

Chris quizzed us on if we voted. When our response wasn’t as big as he wanted, he replied, “This is Hollywood, you can lie!” He then went around asking who we voted for. I think Lee and Andrew won.

Later on, my conversation with Chris continued during commercial breaks. He learns that I won my CD & AI tickets from KSON. He rags me for reapplying my lip-gloss (which was actually chap stick) before Danny walked out, “Got to look good for the Gokey!” He questions if I have listened to the whole album, enjoyed it & have memorized his single “Best Days.” (Yes, yes & yes….) I even offered to sing it for him … ha, no. I was hoping that in the midst of this bonding that he would get Danny to come meet me, but no. You failed me, BFF.

Prior to the group performance, Debbie (you all met her on the show tonight when ‘live’ really becomes live), tries to pump up the idol’s enthusiasm for their group performance. The audience was even disheartened by the looks of despair. You can see it on their faces as they lip-sync the performance. Yes, if you haven’t figured out already, they lip-sync the group performance. Surprised? Not really. Why must we suffer as they suffer? During the break, Debbie tried to encourage them with our response but Lilly knew it was … less than mediocre. Note to idol: Ditch the group performance! It’s torture to the idols & audience!

So much happens on Idol when they are at commercial. Chris & Debbie take over and rock it! The judges disappear or are found hugging the eliminated, only to disappear and return seconds before we are live. Ryan reviews his ‘script.’ Couches come out of nowhere. The audience disappears and is replaced by contestants. Makeup artists attack (I was hoping I could get a touch up, but I guess not). Idols solemnly wonder the stage wondering their fate, ever so slightly interacting with audience. Family & friends are socializing up in the red room.

Danny Gokey came out about 2 minutes prior to his performance. He was greeted with at least one overly excited fan … me. (This is where Chris laughs at me) No, the crowd was great. He looks slimmer. Anybody else notice that? Ellen seemed excited to see him as well, as this was their first meeting. I could see Danny grooving with Ellen on her show. I loved this moment. He could not have been more excited to be there. He’s got great energy and those 3 minutes were awesome! Danny Gokey, you are spectacular. He was bombarded by the judges during the commercial, so the audience get neglected but still I was about 8 feet away from him… (teenage fan moment). My conclusion, if Danny was on this season, he would win … if it wasn’t for Lee DeWyze.

And cue the lights … talk about a depressing show to sit in on. I mean, when Didi & Andrew’s fate was on the line, I was on the edge of my seat! Yes, I would be the one in the audience with my hands clasped near to my face…afraid of what might happen. Then, when they announce who’s leaving I wanted to cheer … for the one staying and going (but I refrained and silently clapped my heart out). Though I admit my mouth dropped open when it was John Park over Todrick … really? Sorry, Haeley, but you are not ready.

As the idols were cast off the island (oh wait, wrong show, though I am in the CBS warehouse), the girls to my left disappeared, one by one. Eventually, it sat Mr. Security Guard, Michelle, Jermaine & John. I did get to have a quick chat with them.

Here is something you might not know: What are the two things John & Jermaine are most thankful for after being voted off? Sleeping in (they wake up at 4:30AM every morning) and the group song.

Did anyone notice the cell phone in Jermaine’s hand prior to Danny’s performance? Hey, if I can’t have mine, he shouldn’t have his! It’s okay. He got busted! Well, he was still on it seconds before we were live & the camera was on him. The cameraman was practically peeling it from his ear and security later confiscated it. Ouch. I know you want to tell your family that you are ‘frustrated’ (with a British accent) but this is a live show!

Remember when Simon said he watched back the tape and changed his mind about complementing some of the idols? The sound in that room is awesome, but it does sound so much different in person. Surprisingly, Haeley’s swan song sounded ‘okay’ in the studio but when I watched it back at home, I was glad when the recording ended mid-verse. Oh, John Park you deserved at least one more week to prove to us you are due your chances, but why did you wait until your swan song?!

One of my favorite moments during the night happened on/off set. Debbie had come over to John, Jermaine & Michelle to let them know when to walk on stage for the montage (again, I am right there). To the viewing eye, it almost appeared that Ryan was going to have Haley sing before the montages…cue Debbie screaming to Ryan, on air. You all heard it. Funniest moment. During the video, she’s looking at us all guilty yet innocent, almost tearing off her headset because the production room was a bit heated in that moment. Yes, that was Debbie who then quickly joined Ryan onstage. Oh, to love a live show! When it is live, it is live!

Some random moments I remember that you did not see: Crystal ran up to the four eliminated idols for a quick hug during their goodbye montage. Big Mike had to be the most enthused & supported person out there. He practically tackled Haeley. Kara gave a ‘pep’ talk to Michelle after she was dismissed from the show. Lacey & Haeley got stuck together when they hugged (oh, you might have seen that). The boys got some touch ups with makeup, you could see the excitement on Andrew’s face. Todrick showed off his dancing skills in the red room. Lee & Andrew had a discussion with some audience members about who they voted for. Ryan Seacrest acted a bit too scripted (anybody else notice this while watching it?)

There is this awkward feeling in the audience, as if you were intruding on a moment, as the idols hug the eliminated idol after the camera is off. When the show is over, we have to sit and wait for the idols & judges to exist before we are escorted out. I walked out thinking, ‘wow, this was awesome but depressing at the same time.’

I didn’t get to meet Danny, though I was hoping we’d get to. If I would have known it was that fun, I would have skipped work on Tuesday to attend the rehearsal with the boys. It was my turn on the waiting list from On Camera Audiences (I signed up last March).

If you ever get a chance to go, do it! And wear bright colors because you just might get a TV spot.

You can follow me on Twitter @blkeener, I try to tweet ‘live’ during most of the shows. Though I am on the West Coast, I have an east coast live feed. And …. #VoteLeeDeWyze