New Releases For July 27th, 2010

Bill Cody-Alive And Risen
Alive And Risen EP
Bill Cody

Penny’s Gang Records
Soft Rock
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Chris McClarney-Defender
Chris McClarney

Kingsway Music
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Esterlyn Call Out
Call Out EP

Vertical Shift Records
Pop Rocks
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gileah taylor What Kind Of Fool for ep
What Kind Of Fool EP
Gileah Taylor

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gileah taylor A Crooked Line ep
A Crooked Line EP
Gileah Taylor

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Peace 568

Illect Recordings

Andrew Peterson-Counting Stars
Counting Stars
Andrew Peterson

Centricity Records
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ivoryline vessals

Tooth & Nail Records
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Fred Hammond-Life In The Word
Life In The Word
Fred Hammond

Verity Records
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Lowell Pye-Finally
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Miralex Entertainment
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Mark Tedder-The Door Live Worship From Bejing China
The Door; Live Worship From Bejing China
Mark Tedder

Kingsway Music
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Michael Sarver
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Dream Records
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Let Love Win
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BEC Recordings
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AI9 Christian Hollywood Week Hopefuls

American Idol Season 9 Hollywood Week is upon us. Now the show gets good. Over the next two weeks we will find out who makes it into the Top 24. One21music focuses our American Idol coverage on Christian music artists trying to make their dreams come true by running the American Idol gauntlet. Last year we followed the triumphs of Kris Allen and Danny Gokey, the inspiring stories of Michael Sarver and Scott MacIntyre and the way too early ousters of Mishavonna Henson and Felica Barton.

American Idol Hollywood Week Season 9 should feature several Christian music artist favorites and we want to help you keep an eye out for them. We have already featured, Alex Nestor (who for some reason was never seen in the audtions), Ben Honeycut and Jermaine Sellers

But we continue to look and we have found seven more Christian music artists for you to follow through American Idol Season 9 Hollywood Week.  We believe that it is likely you will be able to vote for these Christian music artists in a few weeks:

Lacey Brown

Lacey BrownThe 24-year-old, who the show identified as a church event director from Amarillo, sang “Over the Rainbow” in Orlando, Fla., before the four judges unanimously voted her through to the next round. Lacey Brown is the daughter of David and Connie Brown, pastor and co-pastor of Victory Church in Amarillo. She shared that the first time she sang was in church for her parents anniversary party while she had hiccups, and went on to say that her relatives were as shocked as she was that she could sing

Lacey Brown made it into the Top 50 of American Idol Season 8.  She was cut in a chair scene with Meagan Joy.

Ashley Makailah Rodriguez

Ashley Makailah RodriguezAshley’s journey as an artist began at the age of four when she started ballet, jazz and tap lessons. Loving the art of performance, Ashley Makailah Rodriguez joined the drama club in high school, took piano, taught herself guitar and sang in the school’s chorus to hone her skills as an all-around performer. It was there at Chelsea High School that she was introduced to the City Music program at Berklee College of Music, which eventually awarded her a full four-year tuition scholarship.

During her four years at Berklee, Ashley Makailah Rodriguez not only worked to improve herself as a vocalist, but also majored in Music Business Management in order to fully immerse herself in the industry. As a performer, Ashley was offered many incredible opportunities, which included traveling internationally with the gospel group Overjoyed and singing at the Berklee Performance Center with artists such as Philip Bailey, Chaka Kahn, and Berklee alums Lalah Hathaway and Paula Cole.

Chris Golightly aka “Orphan”

Chris GolightlyChris Golightly performs under the name Orphan. He born in San Pedro, CA. and by the age of three he was placed in the social services system. Growing up without parents Chris Golightly struggled to find himself.  As a child it was very rough and Chris Golightly had to stand up on his own two feet.

Running away from foster homes etc… every five months made Chris Golightly come to realize he had stories to tell. Ever since he was six years old he was singing and performing. At the age of twelve Rich Mullins inspired him to started writing. Today, Chris Golightly attends Calvary Church in Santa Ana, CA and performs there regularly.

Vered “Didi” Benami

Vered BenamiVered Benami lists her influences as “First and foremost God.”  When you listen to her original music her faith is clearly apparent, as in the chorus of her song “Lullaby”- “He wants to comfort you. He wants to save you.”  Ever since she was old enough to speak Vered Benami was inspired, energized, and fascinated with the groove of life in ever-changing motion. She immersed herself in all kinds of jazz, blues, southern rock, folk, country, R&B and pop music. Throughout her life she has harmonized, danced, and written to any music that moves her.

Vered Benami attended Belmont University where she met her biggest inspiration, Rebecca Joy Lear. Rebecca was a singer/songwriter from Wichita, Kansas who began to help Vered capture and sharpen her ability to sing, and combine vocalizing expression with writing music.  Not too long after these two met they became close friends and decided to stick it out at school, (even though all they were really passionate about was writing and performing music) Rebecca’s Journey was cut short by an automobile accident in December 2005.  This was an eye opening experience for Verdad Benami, and made her realize that life is too short to waste not doing what you love.

Michelle Delamor

Michelle DelamorMichelle Delamor dreams of conquering two worlds: music and fashion. In a Miami Herald article, she said of the two passions: “The moment you step on stage, the transformation is amazing. You can go from crazy nerves to becoming the music. I want to be huge, I want to tour around the world, sing for millions and millions of people. But another dream of mine is to have my own clothing line. My style is funky-glamorous.”

Michelle Delamor is a 20 year-old a music major at Miami Dade College-Wolfson. Michelle credits Michael Jackson, Lauryn Hill, Pink and Mary J. Blige as being some of her biggest musical influences. She also has a strong gospel background and is a soloist in Miami’s Unity on the Bay church choir.

Michael Lynche

Michael LyncheLike many great artists in the R&B tradition, Michael Lynche was first exposed to music through the church. Both of his parents were pastors and the Lynche Family or “Lynche Mob” (as they were known) was well known for its energetic act, which featured a young Michael performing gospel.

Michael Lynche excelled in high school, earning a full academic and athletic scholarship to the University of Central Florida, where he played NCAA Division I football as a defensive lineman. Michael was sure football was his ticket out of the poverty of his youth, but while in college, his beloved mother fell ill with cancer and Michael saw it as his duty to go home. As he recalls, “My love for football was enormous, but when my mom got sick, I started really rethinking about my journey in life and I got to thinking that this was all happening for a reason.”

After the passing of his mother, Michael Lynche stepped back to where he started – with his love of music and specifically, the guitar. He recounts, “When I was a kid I picked up the guitar that was stashed in the back of my mom’s closet and learned to play it. I loved the sound of blues guitar. When she died, one of the first things I did was get a new guitar and start writing. At first, I was just writing music for the church. Then it became a singer songwriter thing. But nothing was groundbreaking.”

Moving to New York in 2006 to pursue his dream, Michael Lynche then hooked up with hip-hop producer Ming (of Ming & FS). Ming started adding beats to the more traditional singer/songwriter and soul songs that Michael was writing, and for Michael, it was like lightning struck. He exclaims, “I’m a soul singer at heart and a story teller, but I realized through Ming that it was the beats that make the songs fun. I was thinking about what kind of music that would be and one day I came up with a new genre name: ‘Dirty Blues,’ where gritty southern soul meets dirty south hip-hop.”

So watch for these Christian music artists starting next week in American Idol Season 9 Hollywood Week and don’t forget to follow American Idol Season 9 on when we start live blogging when the show goes live on February 23rd.

In the meantime help us find more Christian music artists competing on American Idol Season 9.  Here is a list of some Hollywood Week participants we are researching.  If you know anything about these artists’ faith background, please share.

Aaron Kelly
Haeley Vaughn
Tyler Grady
Alex lambert
Paige Miles
Casey James
Katy Stevens
Andrew Garcia
Katelyn Epperly
David Duke
Jose Munoz

Next week we review the first two shows of American Idol Season 9 and start predicting the Top 24.

American Idol Season 8- The Year In Review

It would be a short article if we did an American Idol Season 8 Top 2 Power Ranking, so I thought we could take a look back at the Season 8.  The top story of the year is the very visual presence of Christian music artists in American Idol Season 8, followed by the emergence of Christian music artist, star Kris Allen.  I will also share a couple of my favorite moments.  We will finish the article with the Top 15 Performances of American Idol Season 8.

Christian Music Artists on American Idol Season 8

Season 8 enjoyed the largest, most visible group of Christian music artists in the history of American Idol. There was much attention in the press about their participation in American Idol and Christian music artists experienced unprecedented success with two of the Top 3, three of the Top 5 and four of the Top 7.   See our mid-season update in American Idol Season 8- The Christians. Here are the Christian music artists, in order of finish, who competed on live television of American Idol Season 8:

  • Kris Allen (he is gonna win)
  • Danny Gokey (3rd)
  • Matt Giraud (5th)
  • Lil Rounds (6th)
  • Scott MacIntyre (8th)
  • Michael Sarver (10th)
  • Ricky Braddy (semi’s)
  • Felicia Barton (semi’s)
  • Mishavonna Henson (semi’s)
  • Kristen McNamara (semi’s)

American Idols Season 8- Favorite Moments

Norman Gentle

A two stories stood out for me this season. The first was the the surge of Norman Gentle (played by Nick Western) into the Top 36. He was an unlikely candidate to move this far, because his campy, over the top performances seemed to mock American Idoland few competitors achieve success with that strategy. However, Western was so unrelenting in his commitment to the Norman Gentle character that he could not be denied. Here is his audition

The best part was that he neverrelented. WithSimon trying to run him off the show, he continued into Hollywood Week with crazier performances and in his brief stint on live television he called Simon “sassy pants”. Classic.

Michael Sarver’s Back-story

There were some very compelling back-stories on American Idol Season 8, but Michael Sarver’s transcended all. We heard about his dream to sing his way out of one of the most dangerous jobs in America, oilfield widcatter. What most of America did not see was the impact he was having on his hometown of Jasper, Texas. For 10 years Jasper had been the national symbol for bigotry and racial hatred because of the horrible murder of James Byrd Jr. Michael Sarver’s success on American Idol Season 8created a rallying point for the citizens of Jasper, Tx and Michael took on that responsibility and is using his new fame to try to bring healing. See our article American Idol Season 8- Michael Sarver.. Here is a funny clip of one of Michael’s post Idol promotional activities. He is in a TV studio in a mall in Beaumont, Texas, there is a crowed watching them.

Top 15 Performance of American Idol Season 8

I guess if you receive virtually no coverage during the auditions or Hollywood Week you really need to bring it when you get your chance. Kris Allen and Allison Iraheta did just that during American Idol Season 8. Kris Allen snuck into the Top 12 with the 3rd place spot in Round 2 of the Top 36.   Kris proceeded to deliver 4 of the Top 6 performances of the Season 8.  Each performance was fearless, with unfathomable arrangements, cool soulful vocals and a compelling ,if understated, stage presence. Allison Iraheta, on the other hand, used a huge, mature, powerful, bluesy voice to establish herself from the start then continually surprise everyone with her roof raising vocals and creative arrangements. Danny Gokey is well represented with four songs in Top 15.  The two performances that should be in the American Idol Season 8 Top 15 , but aren’t, are Adam Lambert’s “Tracks of My Tears” and Danny Gokey’s “Stand By Me”.

  • Kris Allen-”Heartless” (May 12-Top 3)
  • Kris Allen- “Ain’t No Sunshine” (March 31-Top 9, iTune Top 100)
  • Danny Gokey- “You Are So Beautiful” (May 12- Top3)
  • Adam Lambert-”Mad World” (April 7- Top 8, Year of Birth Songs)
  • Kris Allen- “She Works Hard For The Money” (April 21- Top 7 II- Disco Songs)
  • Kris Allen-”Falling Slowly” (April 14-Top 7- Movie Songs)
  • Allison Iraheta- “Papa Was A Rolling Stone” (March 24-Top 10, Songs of Motown)
  • Danny Gokey-”Come Rain or Shine” (April 28- Top 5, Rat Pack Songs)
  • Allison Iraheta- “Hot Stuff “(April 21-Top 7 II- Disco Night)
  • Danny Gokey-”Hero” (February 17th-Top 36 Round 1)
  • Adam Lambert- “Feeling Good” (April 28-Top 5, Rat Pack Songs)
  • Allison Iraheta-”Alone” (February 25th-Top 36 Round 2)
  • Danny Gokey- “Stand By Me” (April 7-Top 8, Year of Birth Songs)
  • Matt Giraud-”Have You Ever Really Loved A Woman” (April 15-Top 7 Save, Movie Songs)
  • Lil Rounds- “The Way You Make Me Feel” (March 10-Top 13, Michael Jackson Songs)
  • Download these songs or make you own best of American Idol Season 8 mix from iTunes

    Apple iTunes

    American Idol Season 8- Rock Performances Review

    What happened tonight?  Debbie Williams, the American Idol stage  manager was injured and taken to the hospital when those retractable stairs retracted while she was on them.  Early reports are that her injuries were minor.  Then the stage started falling and one of the giant American Idol orbs and columns partially collapsed.  Dress rehearsal was cancelled.  MJ’s blog crashed and the MTV live blog stopped at 8:38 edt (I later read the rest of it).  I am grateful that no one was hurt tonight.

    I am at a loss for words to describe how much I hated American Idol tonight.  I hated the duets.  I think Slash was a waste.  I thought the judging tonight was meaningless jabber.  The song choices, for the most part. were terrible.  I thought the American Idol rock song performances were vapid.  The arrangements were cookie cutter.  I was so disgusted with American Idol tonight that I went to my office, made a mix of my American Idol Rock Song predictions and played them at a disturbing volume.  That would have made for a fascinating show.

    Now that my temper tantrum is over, time for a little empathy.  Missing the dress rehearsal obviously bothered the performers.  We don’t know how much of the dress rehearsal was completed before the accidents but some of the American Idol performers looked uncharacteristically uncomfortable.  Also, someone they know was injured and taken to the hospital before their eyes.  Allison was timid in her performance and then argumentative during her judging.  That is just the opposite of her usual demeanor.  Kris Allen seemed mad the whole night.  Danny Gokey was irritated during the judges comments.  I must believe that they were shaken and concerned about their friend and maybe a little nervous about the set. Too bad we can’t give the American Idol performers a pass tonight.

    American Idol Season 8 Rock Song Performance Ratings
    I am ignoring the duets tonight. They were meaningless filler. Really, what did you learn about Christina music performers Danny Gokey or Kris Allen from “Renegade”? What did “Slow Ride” tell you about Adam Lambert or Allison Iraheta, other than 17 year old girls singing inappropriate lyrics at 9 edt on national television is apparently something to be applauded? The only time rockers did these stupid duets was on stupid 70′s variety shows.  “The Weight” is cycling through my song preview mix for the second time.  I am feeling better. Remember last week when I said all of the performers earned an “A” in my Rat Pack performance review, well everyone gets no more than a “C” tonight so I am ranking on a curve.

    1. Danny Gokey, yep, that mess Danny Gokey threw out there tonight was my favorite Americna Idol rock  performance.  Why?  The opening to “Dream On” looked to be a struggle for him, his breathing seemed off and he fought to find a groove.  Toward the middle he cut loose with his voice and then he built the song until–The Scream.  So far, everyone hates it.  I liked it.  I don’t know how many notes he stumbled through on that final scream but we could probably score a few scrabble points with those letters.  But I don’t care, it is was guttural, primal, cathartic and insane.
    2. Allison Iraheta picked the right song but she held back.  “Cry Baby” is an angry, hurting rant at a former boyfriend.  Allison need to wring the emotion out of the song but, instead she sang the set-ups and transitions while avoiding the meat of the song.  I had high hopes but Allison played this American Idol performance uncharacteristically safe.
    3. Adam Lambert took the show by storm by cranking through Zeppelin’s “Whole Lotta Love”.  I am sorry, from the first moment all I could hear was Robert Plant screaming through he phone to Jimmy Page, “NEVER AGAIN WILL WE ALLOW THAT BLOODY, LAME SHOW TO GUT ONE OF OUR SONGS”.  I played the original for my wife and then replayed Adam’s American Idol version and she nailed it.  “He doesn’t believe in the emotion of the song.”  This was another in a long line of big, loud, brassy empty American Idol performances by Adam Lambert.  I don’t know what everyone is buying but I am not interested.
    4. Kris Allen seemed off tonight.  From the opening verse of his duet with Danny to his placid walk through of “Come Together”, Kris seemed angry and uninterested.  “Come Together” was a terrible song choice.  For the second week in a row, Kris Allen has kept his magical arranging skills under wraps.  There is just very little you can do with this song.  We have seen many others fail (isn’t this song the last one Carly Smithson did last year) with “Come Together”.  Kris sang well but you did not get the feeling he really cared that much.

    Just in case you did not notice, I was disappointed by American Idol tonight.

    Given all of the accidents and distractions tonight and given that Slash was such a terrible mentor, I think we should skip elimination this week and eliminate two next week. American Idol producers, don’t you agree? Just in case 19 Entertainment does not clip this blog for the producers, here are my predictions:

    Bottom two Allison Iraheta Kris Allen

    Going home Allison Iraheta

    On Thursday morning the studio performances will be available for iTunes and we will be able to see how much of tonight’s show was attributable to the dress rehearsal accidents and how much was Slash’s fault.  In the meantime download some of the great performances dating all the way back to Felicia Barton and Mishavonna Henson from the Top 36.

    Apple iTunes

    American Idol Season 8- Top 8 Power Rankings

    It is unprecedented.  Of the Top 8 performers on American Idol Season 8, five are Christian music artists.  Kris Allen, Danny Gokey, Lil Rounds, Matt Giraud and Scott MacIntyre are all still standing and Michael Sarver is the only Christian music artist to be voted off so far.  What is going on?  I would like hear what you think.

    I think there are a couple of factors.  First of all, these guys are very good, if not great, music artists who just happen to be Christians.  Secondly, the American Idol judges seem to be more supportive of the artists of faith than in the past.  I don’t think it has anything to do with their faith but the judges seem to be more open to a variety of artists than in past years.  The judges support of Scott MacIntyre has helped him and Simon practically called on America to keep Michael Sarver on American Idol Season 8.

    The third reason Christian music artists are doing so well on American Idol Season 8 is the experience they have singing on stage.  If is most evident with Kris Allen and Danny Gokey, both worship leaders, as they make great song selections, create interesting arrangements and deliver the emotional center of the songs in their performances.  You can also see that Lil Rounds, Matt Giraud and Scott MacIntyre were comfortable when they stepped on the American Idol stage.  They are used to singing to large groups of people with a band.  Finally, have we ever dug this deeply to identify the Chrsitian music artists on American Idol?  In the past two years, I saw some sites who identified Jordan Sparks and Chris Sligh as Christian music artists, but not so much as this year.

    Regardless, we, at One21music, are enjoying the emergence of these believers who make great music.  We look forward to following their careers.

    On to other things.  If you read my Top 9 Performance Recap you know that I was surprised by Meagan Joy’s departure.  I thought the three voting constituencies supporting her would keep her in for a few more weeks.  In my Top 9 power ranking I said she needed to go straight one week and just sing a song.  She never did and I think that cost her.  We overheard her talking to Simon after the she was eliminated and she admitted to him that she had never held a microphone before stepping onto the  American Idol stage.

    American Idol Top 8 Power Rankings

    If you read my  Top 9 Performance Recap you know that I think Kris Allen had an American Idol break out performance and established himself as a serious contender.  The blogosphere agreed with me as blogger after blogger raved about Kris Allen’s take on “Ain’t No Sunshine”.  I urge you to go to iTunes, through the icon below, and download that performance.  It was masterful.

    That was the best performance of American Idol Season 8 and it has vaulted Kris Allen from third (see Top 9 power rankings) to first in the One21music American Idol Season 8 Power Rankings.   Allison Iraheta, last week’s number two had her first stumble and I worry about her ability to pick a great song for herself this week.   Scott MacIntyre moves up based on last week’s performance of “Just The Way You Are”.  Lil Rounds needs a strong performance this week and I think it will difficult for here to find a great song.  American Idol Season 8 remains fluid with a strong group of contenders, so week to week  performances are increasingly crucial.

    1. Kris Allen- I said it in last week’s power rankings and he went out and did again.  Week after week Kris Allen has taken well known songs by Michael Jackson, Marvin Gaye, James Taylor, Garth Brooks and, last week, Bill Withers and created completely new versions.  Last week was the topper.  “Ain’t No Sunshine” is fully ingrained into the fabric of America’s soundtrack and has been covered by dozens of artists.  Kris Allen’sAmerican Idol version on , is arguably my favorite version of this song.  Kris made me believe he wrote this song about a loss in his life.  Until March 31, 2009, Kris Allen was flying under the radar on American Idol.  He is firmly on America’s radar now.
    2. Danny Gokey- Danny’s stripped down performance of “What Hurts Most” was typical of all his American Idol Season 8 performances: cool arrangement, emotionally connected and well sung.  Danny has performed at the highest level all season long.  I worry that he has set a bar of expectation that he cannot exceed.  I think Danny Gokey has proven he was a fully baked pop star when he auditioned.  I don’t know what he can do for a break out performance to separate himself from the pack.
    3. Allison Iraheta- She stumbled last week and looked like a 16 year old on American Idol.  The judges were correct in telling her she looked like a kid dressing up to look like a rock star, when she is a rock star.  No Doubt’s “Don’t Speak” was too small a song for her and the guitar was an obvious prop.  It pushed her back into the bottom 3 of the voting.  Allison needs to another rocking, blues performance to right her journey on American Idol. Check out our Top 8 performance preview tomorrow to see what I would have Allison sing.
    4. Lil Rounds-  I may have been the only one in the media to have enjoyed Lil’s performance last week.  I thought it was a soulful take on Celine Dion’s “I Surrender”.  She has had three week’s in a row of well sung songs, but she has not been able to put her stamp on a song yet.  Lil needs a performance this week to get the American Idol judges singing her praises again.  Does anyone have a suggestion for Lil Rounds from 1984?
    5. Matt Giraud- He is the poster boy for American Idol inconsistency this year.  When he picks R&B songs he delivers.  When he chooses piano driven rock songs like “You Found Me” and “Viva La Vida” he loses his identity.  Matt is starting to remind me of Michael Johns.  The judges are telling him what to sing to soar and he stubbornly clings to his image of himself as a rocker.  He has a ton of good songs to choose form this week, let’s see if he makes the right choice.
    6. Scott MacIntyre- If Scott were to pursue a career in pop music, and let’s hope that he pursues his true talent as a jazz or classical musician, we saw last week what he will be like.  Scott recaptured his magic with “Just The Way You Are”.  He is a fair singer and a wonderful performer.  His fate depends on his performances each week.
    7. Adam Lambert-  I cannot begin to describe my difficulty with his stiff, screaming, staged performance of “Play The Funky Music”.  It showed everything I dislike about Adam as a performer.  He is a great singer, but he panders to the American Idol judges.  Each week’s performance becomes an amalgamation of all the compliments he has received in previous week’s.  I do not want to paint Adam Lambert two dimensionally, he is a young man feverishly pursing his dream.  I just do not connect with him as a singer and I think the judges are wowed by his technical excellence.
    8. Anoop Desai-  It is funny that Anoop came out of Hollywood as a favorite to win it all and, over his past six performances he has proven that he does not have the charisma to be an American Idol.  Anoop is a fine singer who does not have the soul to be the R&B singer he wants to be.

    There are two voting blocks to watch.  The blue-eyed soul singer group of Kris Allen, Matt Giraud and Anoop Desai may hurt one of them this week.  I question whether Matt or Anoop can survive a bad performance.  The second group is the “pure in spirit” group of Danny Gokey, Kris Allen and Scott MacIntyre.  These three tend to all react with humility, respect and sometimes humor to the judges criticism and praises.  I don’t think this will impact the voting too much this week, but let’s see.

    Everyone but Kris Allen, Danny Gokey and Adam Lambert could go home on a bad performance.  I think only two of that group make it to the Top 3.  Everyone needs to bring it.

    Check out the performance that drove these power rankings by downloading full song recordings and the live performances at iTunes.

    Apple iTunes

    Join us again in the morning as I preview the Top 8 performance show.  The American Idol performers will be singing songs from the year of their birth (1980 to 1992).  I have some interesting song predictions.

    American Idol Season 8- Top 9 Power Rankings

    Michael Sarver is gone and we are down to 5 Christian music performers on American Idol Season 8.  What happened? In this group of talented American Idol performers Michael Sarver was definitely in the bottom half of the Top 10 and probably was one of the bottom three.  I had him ranked ninth in our Top Ten Power Rankings article last week.  There is a groundswell of appreciation for  Michael Sarver on both faith oriented and secular American Idol blogs across the Internet.  He is generally regarded as one of the nicest contestants ever on American Idol. Here is an excerpt form his exit interview that shows why:

    “Do you really smile as much as you do on the show?
    I do, I really do and I’m going to tell you why: I’m a very fulfilled man. I’ve been screwed up just the same as anyone else, there are things I’m not proud of. But my life is so good right now. I’m blessed beyond words. I have nothing to frown about. My smile? I mean it from one end to the other, I’m just a happy man and I just fulfilled a lifelong dream of mine.”

    Before we move on from Michael Sarver, I also found this quote from him that reveals a side I did not know (the writing part, not the hard living part (see our post on Michael “7 Chrsitian Performers on Amerrican Idol”)):

    “I am a serious writer,” Sarver told reporters. “I have written over 890 songs since the age of 14. There is a lot of stories, a lot of life, a hard-lived life and a good-lived life … and I’m going to share it.”

    I hope that we will see Michael Sarver again.  Maybe he will follow the route of Chris Sligh, also a 10th place finisher, and pursue a career in the Contemporary Christian Music business.  Best wishes, Michael.

    The American Idol  Season 8 Top 9

    We are down to nine performers on Season 8 of American Idol and five of them are Christian music artists.  Danny Gokey, Kris Allen, Lil Rounds, Matt Giraud and Scott MacIntyre will all perform Tuesday night as part of the American Idol Season 8 Top 9.  Here is how I rate the Top 9 based on the performance I have seen so far in Season 8:

    1. Danny Gokey has been consistently, consistently, consistently good.  Michael Jackson, Motown, Grand Ole’ Opry, Danny has delivered every week with every genre.  There continues to be a DannyGokey backlash on the Internet but that will not derail his American Idol train.  The biggest challenge he has is the success that keeps him at number one in the power rankings.  American Idol winners tend to have improvements throughout the season usually have a breakthrough moment (Jordan Sparks with “I (Who Have Nothing)” and David Cook with “Music of the Night”).  Danny needs to find a performance to shock people, in a good way.
    2. Allison Iraheta blew us all away last week when she remade “Papa Was A Rolling Stone” into a Janis Joplin blues romp.  did you hear the note she blew out at the end?  She is one of the best blues/rock singers to ever hit the American Idol stage. She is better than Carly Smithson from last year or Gina Glocksen form Season 6 and without the uncomfortable desperation.  I would really like to see her take on a big ballad, but I agree with Kara’s foaming at the mouth praise of her after last week’s performance.
    3. Kris Allen once again last week took a well known song “How Sweet It Is” and created a new version of an iconic recording.  he has now taken on Michael Jackson, Garth Brooks, Marvin Gaye and James Taylor and created Kris Allen songs.  The arrangements are subtle but the phrasing and meaning he brings to the songs transform them.  I agree with Simon, sort of, that he is being a little quiet.  I want him to drop his guitar and show us some dance moves and stage presence.  If  he can step out a little more, he can make it to the American Idol Top 3.  If not, he may be a shocking casualty in the next couple of weeks.
    4. Lil Rounds better get her groove back.  Her lack of musical training in starting to show as her last two American Idol performances were weak renditions of songs that great singers would be able to sing.  It is almost like she is overwhelmed by her respect for the music.  Lil, quit being grateful for performing these great songs and make the writers grateful you are performing their songs.
    5. Matt Giraud has the talent and he has the musical skill.  His last two performances have been exceptional.  For some reason, he is not connecting with the audiences.  Is he too closely associated with Danny Gokey, Kris Allen and Anoop Desai? Maybe he needs a change of pace.  Leave the piano behind and sing a rock song?  That did not work for him in the American Idol Top 36 elimination shows.  I think he needs to just press ahead with his best stuff, hope some of the others stumble, but get ready to leave over the next few weeks.
    6. Adam Lambert can sing, no doubt about it.  He performed  “Tracks of My Tears”  exceptionally well.  It is the first time I have seen a glimmer of connection with a song all season.  I still think Lambert is a contestant  that the American Idol judges love much more than we all do.
    7. Meagan Joy can really sing.  I wonder if she will ever set aside her affectations so we can hear that.  If she allows us to see her talent just one week, she will have plenty of time to show off her experimentations.  I place her above Anoop and Scott because of potential, not because of her performances.
    8. Anoop Desai is still boring.  He has yet to deliver a performance that rivals performances of the other American Idol Top 9.  I just do not think he has what it takes to compete on this American Idol stage.   He does have a fan club that could carry him a few more weeks.
    9. Scott MacIntyre is not a very good singer and I do not like the lite FM rock stylings he arranges into every song.  Scott is the most acclaimed musician on American Idol this year but pop music is not his bailiwick.  I would pay good money to hear him in a jazz club or on the classical stage.  It is time for his pop adventure to end soon so we can enjoy his true talent.

    Look back on the all of these American Idol’s performances and download full length recordings of their performances songs at iTunes:

    Apple iTunes

    Check in with us in the morning when I will preview Tuesday night’s show and make some predictions about how the American Idol voting might go over the next few weeks.

    American Idol Season 8- Top 10 Results Wrap-up

    It is 11:00 and I am just sitting down to watch the results show.   For Valentine’s, I gave my wife tickets to the one year anniversary of Austin’s performing arts center.  The party was highlighted by a concert with Pulitzer Prize winning composer Marvin Hamlisch, who wrote “The Way We Were” and A Chorus Line, and great, great singer Linda Eder.  A wonderful evening with my wife caused this article to be late.

    American Idol’s Motown performance show was a disappointment for me (see our American Idol performance wrap-up).  Adam Lambert gave his first sensitive performance of American Idol Season 8 and Allison Iraheta blew everyone away with her version of “Papa Was A Rolling Stone”.  Christian music performers Danny Gokey and Kris Allen also delivered, but everyone else disappointed.

    I think Michael Sarver, Scott MacIntyre and Meagan Joy will be in the bottom 3.  I predicted, unfortunately, Michael Sarver will go home tonight.

    So I am watching this live three hours later, compliments of  DVR technology.  The American Idol guest performances have a chance to be great tonight with Joss Stone and Smokey Robinson singing a duet, Reuben Studdard singing and Stevie Wonder performing.   According to Ryan, 36 million votes were called in, the most in American Idol Top 10 history.  Will there be a surprise?

    The Top 10 group performance looked like it was taped.  Yep, no audience. Everyone sang better than they did last night.  This is a nice medley arrangement, interspersed with classic photos of Motown greats.  It looked like Lil got a big chunk of the solos in this number.  The Ford commercial was more  lame than usual.

    Reuben Studdard strolled up to the mic a little too slowly and had to lunge to hit his opening.  I am not a Reuben Studdard fan and I did not enjoy this.  Everyone else liked it.  Why was he sweating like he played four quarters of basketball?

    I know why I don’t live blog the American Idol results shows.  So much fill.

    Wow, Adam Lambert was the first to safety.  What a shocker!

    But, Matt Giraud in the bottom 3?  That was a true shocker.  Michael Sarver and  Scott MacIntyre joined Matt in the bottom 3.  Scott was immediately sent back to the safe couch.  Matt Giraud looked ticked off.

    Others safe: Lil Rounds, Kris Allen, Allison Iraheta, Anoop Desai, Danny Gokey, Meagan Joy (concentration of voting constituencies saved her)

    Time out.  I am giddy, Joss Stone and Smokey Robinson singing together.  Unfortunately, I fall on my giddy sword.  What a terrible song.  American Idol should have turned their mic’s up?  Why were they whispering?  Boring, disappointed!

    Two disappointing guest performances were followed by a Motown medley performed by Stevie Wonder.  They show Meagan Joy trying to dance to Stevie Wonder and she can’t dance.  Stevie delivered as usual.  Is he great or what?

    Why did they make Michael Sarver and Matt Giraud sit over by themselves during the Stevie Wonder performance?  They are in the bottom 2 but did they need to be in timeout?

    michael_sarverSo we come to the elimination of Michael Sarver.  Did we really need to do the save ritual?  They pretty much told him last night.   Goodbye Michael, we have enjoyed your presence on this year’s American Idol.  We appreciate the sincerity and integrity you brought to American Idol. We are proud of your commitment to your community (see our article on Michael Sarver).  God’s blessing on your future music career and see you on the American Idol tour.

    Check out Michael’s journey and all of the other performances by clicking on the iTunes logo below.

    Apple iTunes

    Look for my power rankings on Monday, my Top 9 performance preview on Tuesday morning and then my live blog on Tuesday night.

    American Idol Season 8- Motown Performance Wrap-up

    Before we talk about the past, let’s look to the future with anticipation.  Smokey Robinson and Joss Stone, Reuben Studdard and Stevie Wonder, American Idol tomorrow night could be “blazin hot”, “dope” and “da bomb” all rolled into one.

    I must say that tonight’s American Idol performances were more disappointing than exciting for me.  See our live thoughts at the Motown live blog. There were more bad performances than any show since the Wild Card, there were two great performances and I had two major shockers.  To the shockers first:

    • Matt Giraud, we have been promoting you as a Christian music artist and, based on what I have read, you are quite open about your faith.  What are you doing singing “Let’s Get It On”? I am disappointed in your judgement.
    • Lil Rounds, you may be able to sing the phone book but evidently you cannot sing “Heatwave”.   I never, ever thought I would hear Lil Rounds struggle singing a song.  I am flabbergasted.

    I guess these Motown songs are harder to sing than they sound on the surface.  Several of the American Idol singers struggled to live up to the originals.  Is anyone surprised that no one sang “Midnight Train to Georgia” or “I Heard It Through the Grapevine”?

    It was cool having Smokey Robinson as the mentor.  I am not sure how much he helped.  We would have all appreciated him throwing his body in front of Meagan Joy to stop her.  Danny Gokey ignored Smokey’s advice.  It was cool that Lil Rounds understood the Motown’s place in the civil rights movement and expressed her gratitude for the trails that have been blazed for her.

    Now to the performance ratings:

    1. Allison Iraheta tore down the house.  She has no business singing a song with as much emotional depth as “Pappa Was A Rolling Stone”.  Not only did she sing it, she drove it down to the Stax Studios in Memphis, dipped it in a little Aretha Franklin brew, turned up the smoke and even threw in a little mid song rap.  And the note she hit at the end.  Forget the night, I think this was the best performance of the season.
    2. Adam Lambert really did a masterful job tonight. His interpretation of Smokey Robinson’s “Tracks of My tears” was outstanding.  The singing was almost perfect. with a beautiful falsetto.  His interpretation of the song was revelatory without destroying the song.  He updated the song yet still left room for the beautiful, innocent message of that song.
    3. Danny Gokey delivered another brilliant, fun performance, even though he did not implement Smokey Robinson’s suggestion that would have made it even better. Great phrasing, wonderful arrangement and the dancing.  Oh, my. Once again Danny Gokey stands at or near the top.
    4. Kris Allen continues to assert himself as a contender.  He sang Marvin Gaye’s “How Sweet It Is”.  He delivered a cool, smooth vocal, but he once again demonstrated stellar interpretative skills.  The judges were right when they said he created a new version of the song.The performances really drop off after this so I had to put a space here.

    5. Matt Giraud delivered a wonderful performance of a song he had no business performing.  His arrangment was stellar.  The change of pace brought the song to life.  His pacing brought uniqueness to the song.  His falsetto was outstanding.
    6. Anoop Desai’s interpretation of Smokey Robinson’s “Oh Baby Baby”  showed-off his skills as a singer.  It also showed that he is not as good a singer as Smokey.  Anoop just did not bring anything to the song.  It was boring.
    7. Boring is better than Lil Rounds did with Martha Reeve’s “Heatwave”.  Lil’s Achilles heal is that she does not possess the music background to create interesting arrangements, but I never thought I would hear her sing badly.  What has happened to her?  It seems that the last two weeks she was overwhelmed by the import of the institutions she would be representing.  Just sing Lil.  That will bring honor to the Grand Ole’ Opry and to Motown.
    8. Michael Sarver is beginning to fall behind the competitions, but I do love this guy.  After being absolutely filleted by the judges he expressed gratitude for being in the Top10.  I would like to be Michael’s friend.  I thought Simon’s body language was amazing tonight.  Simon looked truly pained to deliver his bad news to Michael, but his performance of The Temptation’s “Ain’t Too Proud To Beg” just was not up to par.  Randy was right.  Michael wants to be an R&B singer and he doesn’t  really have R&B chops.
    9. Scott MacIntyre tried to sing “Can’t Hurry Love” by The Supremes and it was pretty bad. His tempo was rushed, he missed a lot of notes and the song did not seem to fit him.  The thing is, I don’t want Scott to be a pop singer.  I want to listen to him play some jazz piano.  I would have liked a jazz arrangement of this song better than what we heard tonight.
    10. Meagan Joy brought me no joy tonight.  Her version of Stevie Wonder’s “Once In My Life” was just awful.  She needs to quit trying to squeeze every song into her quirky style.  I suspect that she could have done this song straight up and performed it better.  It was off key, off rhythm, off everything.  She tried to make it unique and she made me want to forget it.

    Overall I was disappointed in the night.  I think Meagan, Michael and Lil could have done better with different songs.  While Danny and Kris were great, I was hoping for more.  Here are my predictions:

    Bottom Three: Meagan Joy. Scott MacIntyre and Michael Sarver.

    Voted off: Michael Sarver

    I don’t see any surprises from the top 7 in my performance rankings making into the Bottom 3.  If Allison Iraheta’s performance tonight does not keep her out of the Bottom 3, I will be outraged. I think the judges could use their “save” if Allison is voted off tonight.

    Meagan Joy should have enough votes from Vote for The Worst to make it back another week and I think Scot MacIntyre has enough of a fan base to survive one more week.   I will be disappointed to see Michael go.

    I will also be disappointed to miss the results show live tomorrow night.  Is DVR the greatest inventions since television? I am taking my wife to see Linda Eder, so my analysis of the results show will be late.

    Don’t forget to download all of the American Idol performances at iTunes:

    Apple iTunes

    American Idol Season 8- Motown Preview

    On Wednesday night (not Tuesday), American Idol will perform the music of Motown.  We celebrate the 50th anniversary of Motown this year.  We look back at Hitsville, USA and think about the nice soul classics by Marvin Gaye, Diana Ross, The Jackson 5, The Temptations, Stevie Wonder and many more.  We have lost the historical significance of a black-owned, black-run business achieving true cross over success in 60′s America.  Motown was more than just a hit making machine, it was a revolution making “black” music accessible to middle class white America.  Maybe only Barry Gordy could have imagined the success and impact Motown would have when he started it in 1958.

    The Motown Family

    The Motown Family

    Smokey Robinson will mentor the American Idol performers.  Along with Bob Dylan, John Lennon and Paul McCartney, Smokey Robinson must be considered one of the greatest songwriters of the ’60′s.  In addition

    Smokey Robinson & Barry Gordy

    Smokey Robinson & Barry Gordy

    to his own hits “Tears of A Clown”, “Oh Baby, Baby” and “Tracks of My Tears”, he also penned many of the great Motown hits such as “Get Ready”, “My Guy” and “The Way You Do The Things You Do”.  He has nearly 4,000 songs to his credit.  Bob Dylan called Smokey Robinson “America’s greatest living  poet”. The American Idol performers visited Motown this week in a highly publicized trip.  I would have been thrilled to make that trip.  Given the R&B leanings of all the American Idol performers (except rocker Allison Iraheta and hair metal guy Adam Lambert), this should be a very good week. I am sure every one of the American Idol performers has a Motown favorite.  The trick is to see if that favorite song is the best one for them to perform.  I am pretty sure we will see the American Idol judges skewer one of the contestants for song selection only to have them respond, “this has been my favorite song forever and I just had to perform it.” Song Selections If it is on the list, I am sure someone will perform Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On”.  I hope this song, probably the best in all of the Motown catalogue falls into the hands of Kris Allen or Danny Gokey.  I would like to see their interpretation of this surprisingly timeless piece (check out the remake of that entire album by the Dirty Dozen Brass Band The Dirty Dozen Brass Band featuring G. Love - What's Going On).  The one who does not sing “What’s Going On” should take on one of The Temptation classics like “Get Ready”, “Ain’t Too Proud to Beg” or “(I Know) I’m Losing You”.  There are so many songs in the Motown catalogue, who knows what American Idol will have for them to chose from. Here are my wished for song selection:

    • Kris Allen can turn “What’s Going On” into a modern, relevant song of substance.
    • Danny Gokey should take the chance to show off his riffing skills with “Ain’t Too Proud to Beg”
    • Lil Rounds needs to perform one of the bigger songs in the Motown collection, like Martha Reeve’s “Dancing in The Streets”.
    • Scott MacIntyre needs an easy ballad, like Lionel Richie’s “Hello” ,to pour himself into.
    • Matt Giraud must use this opportunity to flex his R&B skills with something like Stevie Wonder’s “Signed Sealed and Delivered”.
    • Michael Sarver should grab Jimmy Ruffin’s “What Becomes of The Brokenhearted”.  I can just see the television falling in love with him again as he sings “I’m know I’ve got  to find some kind of  peace of mind”
    • Look for Adam Lambert to grab some rave-up like The Temptations “Psychedelic Shack”, Edwin Starr’s “War” or, the best yet, Rick James’s “Super Freak”
    • Allison Iraheta needs to show her other side with a ballad like Smokey Robinson’s “Oh Baby Baby” . She will probably grab something like the Vanilla Fudge arrangement of The Supreme’s “You Keep Me Hanging On”
    • Anoop Dedsai can do anything from the catalogue but he needs to right his funky self so I suggest he grab Marvin Gaye’s “I Heard It Through The Grapevine”.  Please Anoop, don’t try anything from Rick James, no “Super Freak” or “Dance Wit U” .  You funk is not as funky as you think.
    • Finally, Meagan Joy needs to show her singing chops by taking on the Gladys Knight classic “Midnight Train to Georgia.”  No funny stuff, just sing it straight up so we can see what you got.

    Of course, none of them will probably sing these songs. As far as Wednesday night goes anyone, but Danny, Kris and Lil , could go home based on a bad performance.  The Motown catalogue is fun and it fits the American Idol Season 8 performers like a glove.  It should be a good show. Join me as we live blog the American Idol Season 8 Top 10 performances. Be sure to grab the live performance videos or the American Idol studio recordings of these songs by clicking through to iTunes below

    Apple iTunes

    American Idol Season 8- Top 10 Power Rankings

    American Idol Season 8 Top 10

    American Idol Season 8 Top 10

    Congratulations to the American Idol Season 8 Top Ten.  You have earned as spot on the American Idol tour, a nice contract to finish out the year and even more chances to present yourself as an artist to the industry.  American

    Idol’s Christian music performers: Kris Allen, Matt Giraud, Danny Gokey, Scott MacIntyre, Lil Rounds and Michael Sarver will be joined by Anoop Desai, Allison Iraheta, Meagan Joy and Adam Lambert in extending their dreams through the rest of the year.  Good job to all, this is the most talented group since I have started watching American Idol, so this is a real accomplishment.

    American Idol Season 8 power rankings change every week based on last week’s performance.  Matt Giraud made a big move this week; Kris Allen continues to move up each week and Scott MacIntyre continues to move down.  These are not my predictions for how they will finish on American Idol Season 8 (see below) but my biased opinion of them as performers I would like to see.

    • Danny Gokey has been one of the top two performers each week.  He has been consistent and has raised his game every week.  He needs to be careful to keep his “fun factor” at maximum., but I have yet to see him flinch under the “front runner” pressure.
    • Kris Allen has quietly dominated every week’s performance.  He is not flashy but he is funky.  He is a great song interpreter and last week’s complete re-work of a Garth Brooks song was masterful.
    • Lil Rounds weakness as a song arranger showed through last week, but she is a super singer.  This should be a good week for her.
    • Matt Giraud performed beautifully last week but he still has not shown me enough to think he can make it to the final three.
    • Meagan Joy (Corkery) needs to demonstrate her singing abilities and, for one week, cut the cutesy song arrangements.  It makes her fun and quirky but she has yet to demonstrate the skills that will make her anything other than a novelty act.  I think she can go far in the competition but she still has something to prove.
    • Allison Iraheta is probably the best singer in American Idol Season 8.  I lover her stage presence and her moxie.  She needs to sing a “blow it out da’ box” ballad to demonstrate some range.
    • Scott MacIntyre,is just not a great singer and he tends to reduce every song to a soft rock anthem.  The country loves him but I think we are nearing the end of his American Idol run.  Maybe he can then get back to making the really great music he was creating before American Idol.
    • Michael Sarver seems to have some magic on television and I am thrilled he made it to the Top Ten, but I think the competition is surpassing him.
    • Anoop Desai made a little comeback last week but I don’t think he is as good as the judges seem to think.  I still have not seen one performance from him that is good as any of the other performer’s best and he certainly has the worst performance of the remaining group.
    • Adam Lambert will probably be the American Idol performer for which the judges use their “save”.  I just don’t get his over-the-top screaming performances.  This is what I said last week and I have decided that he is my least favorite performer of the last three seasons.  My only hope is that he never ruins another song that is in my all time favorites list, like “Ring of Fire.”

    I don’t have predictions for who will win but I do think that there are some characteristics among the performers that could cause the famous “American Idol voting surprises”.  Kris & Danny are starting to call on the same pool of voters.   Matt & Anoop will start to split votes unless Matt begins to demonstrate his superior musical skills.  Allison, Megan and Adam need to show some versatility in the next few weeks or America will begin to look at them as novelties.  I think the charm that Michael and Scott have displayed will start to run out on them.  With all of that said, it looks like Lil Rounds has the best shot to make it to the American Idol Season 8 Top 3.

    American Idol will air on Wednesday rather than Tuesday and they will be celebrating “50 Years of Motown” with legendary singer/songwriter Smokey Robinson serving as guest mentor.  The American Idol performers will, of course sing the songs of Motown.  See my article tomorrow where I talk more about Motown and expresses some hopes about song selection.

    Check out all of the American Idol’s performances so far by clicking on the iTunes link below

    Apple iTunes