“American Idol” airs Boston auditions

For a stadium of drenched Boston singers hoping to get national recognition, it’s a new dawn, it’s a new day.

It’s the start of “American Idol” Season Nine. But were viewers feelin’ good?

Perhaps for moments at a time.

Even with the off-season departure of nurturing show juror Paula Abdul, the triumvirate of Randy Jackson, Kara DioGuardi and Simon Cowell plus a carousel of guest evaluators combed through Beantown’s Fenway Park talent–with the help of former singer and fashionista Victoria Beckham–to dish out 32 golden tickets to Hollywood.

And former “Spice Girl” Beckham was consistent of the early season’s even-handed talent reviews.

Having promising young talent, hunky guys, a loveable goombah and plenty of backstory made the task easier. Sixteen-year-olds Maddie Curtis and Katie Stevens mixed mature chops (Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” and Beyonce’s “At Last”) with tear jerking vignettes (Downe’s Syndrome siblings and Alzheimer’s-impacted grandmother). Local speedboat tour guide Mike Davis and cancer survivor Jason Williams were built for speed–and soul–with breezy covers on The Beatles’ “Yesterday” and Michael Buble’s “Feelin’ Good.” Amadeo Diricco? Yo! Now dats Eye-talian! Good enough for family footage and a vigorous “Muddy Waters.”

Despite a degree of predictability, the action seldom lags. Leave it to Somerset, MA resident Janet McNamera’s two year tryout preparation focused on the video game replica of “American Idol.” McNamera, who exacerbated her minor case of exposed waistline Dunlap Disease through a regimine of in-place jumping, drew raves from the video version of “Idol’s” Mister Sharptongue Cowell before being bounced by the real-life Brit.

And no hokey audition pre-season is complete without one boney, flaming drama king. Enter 17-year-old Pat Ford. Panelist Jackson’s advice to “stop singing forever” will likely too end soon.

A turnstile of ladies and guys worthy of a look and a listen (with 15 seconds of camera time, consider Jesse Wolfe a dark horse) were jubilant about the invite to Callie. Most viewers (this prudish writer included) went away satisfied.

Bespectaled and snarly, impatient Andrew Fenlon won’t join the ladies. He and a cast of rejects aren’t…feelin’ good.

Release me: Top ‘American Idols’ air new hits

NEVER A SHEEPISH LAMBERT
Just like the Rod Stewart lyrics where “some guys get all the chicks” and “all the fame,” last season’s American Idol runner-up Adam Lambert is gobbling both of them up these days.

The eccentric, openly gay glam rocker has once again put his stamp on music and media with the release of disaster movie 2012 title song called Time for Miracles, a skimpily clad photo shoot for Details magazine and some back office work with pop artist Lady Gaga.

Lambert showcased his five-plus octave voice while plodding through the 2012 visual barrage, a one-day shooting for the leather coat wielding rebel during a rare day off from the summer American Idol tour.

He and model Kim Cloutier created a different kind of graphic scene during a Details Magazine photo shoot, a black-and-white series of frames showing the pair gnawing and pawing. Then the 27-year-old clarified his gender status.

“I am gay, but I like kissing women sometimes,” Lambert said in an interview in the latest issue of the  magazine. “Women are pretty. It doesn’t mean I’m necessarily sleeping with them.”

He recently told the Twitter nation of a different kind of attraction to another lady–Lady Gaga.

“I spent yesterday in the studio w the insanely talented and creative Lady Gaga recording a song that she wrote! I love her.”

Sounds like a match made in bubble land.

FISHY KRIS
Season Eight champion Kris Allen had a date with a fish this weekend. Not Madison the Mermaid but a larger sea creature–the Miami Dolphins.

Even if the pro football Dolphins floundered against New Orleans, 46-34, Allen shined with three new songs (Written All Over My Face, Can’t Stay Away and Before We Come Undone) from his upcoming debut CD at the host’s tailgate party Sunday in sunny south Florida. The singer’s self-titled debut from 19 Recordings/Jive is slated for Nov. 17.

IRAHETA’S “FRIDAY” ONLY LIGHT RED
Allen and Lambert aren’t the only American Idol top finishers releasing music lately.

Cranberry-haired Allison Iraheta, who placed fourth last season, recently released the debut single, Friday I’ll Be Over U to radio.

But it’s far from the driving rock that Iraheta–known for sporting snug leather britches, a six-string axe and growly Janis Joplin-like vocals–is capable of. Instead, Friday is more of a pale red Avril Lavigne/Demi Lovato mugging; catchy with the bubblegum chewing crowd but not much beyond that.

She is under contract with 19 Recordings/Jive Records and is currently scheduled to release her first album Just Like You on Dec. 1.

“AMERICAN IDOL” NEWS AND NOTES

A running tab of the famous and oblivious

Whether they’re changed, some Unbroken, promote a good buzz or the fodder of a texting nation, here’s a closer look at what a few are doing long after the buzz of their reality singing show days have passed.

MCPHEE’S BRINGS NEW HAIR, MUSIC TO ‘UNBROKEN’
There’s a good chance those expecting Season Five runner-up Katharine McPhee‘s latest album to be another scattershot compilation from a chestnut-haired starlet are going to be disappointed. The Southern California native changed her hair, attitude and locale in hopes of a new look and sound in Unbroken.

For her second effort, McPhee, 25, took the suggestion of Universal Music chair and CEO Doug Morris to work in Nashville; not to make a country record, but create songs focusing on melody lines “instead of another pop-driven record.”

Unbroken is targeted to hits shelves in January.

GROWN COVAIS STILL ‘CHICKEN’
Nearly four years later, one former Season Five finalist is still capable of winning a Chicken Little look-alike contest. Long Island (N.Y.) native Kevin Covais, the topic of an up-close interview with SheKnows.com Entertainment Editor Joel D. Amos, is still a bespectacled, cherubic lad. Covais has participated in online films College (2008) and newly released Labor Pains. He also made contributed on an episode of Friday night television’s popular Ghost Whisperer.

DOES BO KNOW BARBERS?
Where is the last place would fans expect to meet flowing-maned former American Idol Bo Bice?

In a barber shop.

But on Saturday afternoon, that where he was to meet fans–Floyd’s 99, a recently opened rock-and-roll barbershop in Chandler, Ariz., just prior to the his gritty, southern rocker’s performance at the Higley Center for The Performing Arts.

Bice, 33, handed vouchers out to the first 100 fans, offering two-for-one concert tickets for the event.

Floyd’s 99 co-owner Rob O’Brien said, “We are excited to give Bo and his fans a place to get together… and to get up close and personal with Bo.”

Who’s O’Brien kidding? He may have hoped to land a few of the southern rocker’s locks.

Bice better have guarded his hair.
MENU WATCHERS AND MORE
Former American Idol finalist Phil Stacey and his fans recently put their handheld wireless devices to use–and shared more than the sixth place Season Six contestant’s menu with us in cyberland.

On Friday afternoon, Stacey told those on Twitter that he and his family were “walking around to do dinner in Destin (Fla.).”  Within five minutes they were recognized by texter JAREDPETE, who shared observations of the former Navy singer’s fare and family.

“Hot wife … fried pickles, fish tacos, chocolate nachos,” the fan keyed in. Another followed “I know were Phil Stacey lives!”

Imagine if Stacey, 31, had ordered vanilla nachos.

TEXTING FOR DOLLARS
It appears there’s more to tweeting than socialized gawking, as charities are using the devices to save lives.

A recent article by Ithaca (N.Y.) Journal writer Jessica Durando Gannett, “Charities using texting campaigns to raise money” reported that according to President of the Mobile Giving Foundation Jim Manis, “nearly 500 charities are using cell phones as donating tools and have raised more than $1 million.”

They allow users to respond to an impulse, and are popping up at concerts, sporting events, workplaces and online.

Keep a Child Alive, a program to provide treatment for children and families affected by HIV/AIDS in Africa and India, raised $450,000 in minutes after singer Alicia Keys, the agency’s global ambassador, appeared on American Idol in May and asked the audience to give by texting the word “Alive” to the number 90999.

LATE NIGHT WITH ‘NOOP AND ROY
University of North Carolina basketball opened its season as coach Roy Williams danced between some of his players during “Late Night with Roy” at the Smith Center in Chapel Hill on Friday night.

According to the Raleigh News-Observer annual attendee and ESPN reporter Stuart Scott introduced former American Idol contestant Anoop Desai, then brought the Tarheel alum onto the court. Desai didn’t sing but frolicked with the men’s team circled at mid-court. Booyah.

Stay tuned for more American Idol news and notes in upcoming weeks.

For now … Happy Idoling!

“American Idol” judges see hot negotiations, cool cash

Spring has sprung and fall has fell, but for frontline personalities of Fox reality juggernaut American Idol this summer was certainly hotter than usual.

Show executives nailed down four deals and landed an agreement in principle for a fifth just in time for the latter stages of Season Nine’s audition schedule.

Host—and lead panelist instigator—Ryan Seacrest can now be called the $15 million dollar mouth. Seacrest closed a three-year, $45 million deal with CKX, the parent of American Idol producer 19 Entertainment, in mid-July. The agreement will more than triple his past earnings of around $5 million a season.

Two weeks later, composer and American Idol newcomer Kara DioGuardi also received a return invitation to return to the show’s judging panel.

Known for lengthy contestant evaluation and a vitriolic personality clash with vocally-challenged bunny Katrina “Bikini Girl” Harrell and scripting the most abominable American Idol coronation song ever in No Boundaries, it was questionable whether DioGuardi— who was added in January as a fourth judge—would see a second season.

The New York native DioGuardi is a polarizing continues to be a polarizing figure among viewers. While some such as TV Guide blogger JUSTME2003 values DioGuardi’s expert insights as “good feedback and … constructive criticism,” others like MEXGIRL and VOCALYZ find her so “annoying” that they’ll “definitely be using the TiVO skip button when Kara opens her mouth.”

Fox did not release the details of her deal.

Then there’s American Idol’s Senor Sneer, lead panelist Simon Cowell.

In his option year, the abrasive Brit and his agent, U.K. business tycoon Sir Philip Green, are presently is discussing a hefty boost of his present $36 million annual salary. English tabloid The Guardian reported the pair has reached an agreement in principle that could earn Cowell up to $144 million per year if he extends his contract when it expires in May 2010.

But after Seacrest and Cowell landed fat paydays, it appeared that show administration turned off the flowing cash pipeline, as they and Idol matriarch Paula Abdul were unable to come to terms. Abdul’s contract expired in May and she had been negotiating for an amount the NY Times writers Brian Stelter and Edward Wyatt called a “substantial raise from the estimated $2 million that she earned last year.”

Confusion by the sometimes daffy, babbling Abdul inadvertently exposed some of the show’s less-than-live practices and accusations of being medicated or drunk on the job may have made her less attractive to resign.

But for Abdul, the decision to leave television’s most popular reality show came one day after Fox said Kara DioGuardi would return as a judge next season.

Rehire of a parched DioGuardi and a revolving door of audition fill-in celebrity guest judges including Shania Twain, Victoria Adams, Mary J. Blige, Joe Jonas, Kristin Chenoweth, Neil Patrick Harris, Avril Lavigne and Katy Perry weren’t the only signals of exec’s good riddance to Abdul. They followed with a three-year deal to 51-year-old funny lady Ellen DeGeneres. A Fox statement released Sep. 9 said the entertainment giant believes DeGeneres will “offer her own unique perspective to the contestants throughout the competition.”

Sounds like a euphemism for “she’ll eek out a few punch lines.”

In agreement with Long Island Press reporter Michael Patrick Nelson, this writer also finds adding Ellen as “such a step backward” since she has no credibility and makes the series more gimmicky and “less reliant on music.”

After all, isn’t it supposed to be about the music?

Dawg Pound representative Randy Jackson was the only panelist who returned free of contract negotiations. Beyond a handful of trite idiomatics such as “but for me, for you,” bass guitar and drum player Jackson—who won some high-profile touring and studio gigs with diverse artists including Madonna, Tracy Chapman, Kenny G, Aretha Franklin, Cher, Elton John, Michael Bolton, Bruce Springsteen, Whitney Houston, Celine Dion and Bob Dylan—is all about the music.

Hopefully the performances—and not judges’ contract exploits—continue to make the country’s reality singing sensation “molten hot, baby.”

“American Idol” summer gone, but not memories

Where’d our “American Idol” summer go?

Sun-drenched days outside and scorching night performances from Season Eight’s best have given way to shorter, mostly cooler days.

But not so fast. Join me in one last, up-close savoring of a flaming 50-city fare served up by the show’s most recent Top 10 finalists.

Thanks to a generous birthday gift from an enduring spouse who pontificates Glambert-mania, this writer had the chance to practically see the pores of Allison Iraheta’s clinging leather pants, graze the spiky double-varnished hair of Adam Lambert and join in a same-bench piano duet with winner Kris Allen. Well, it seemed that close.

A more orderly review than past years, the tour programme had this season’s “Idol” finalists in reverse-order. Stocky Texan Michael Sarver and svelte songbird Megan Joy coaxed the audience and compensated them with Gavin DeGraw’s “I’m in Love with a Girl” and Corrine Bailey Rae’s “Put Your Records On,” respectively. Sarver’s steely eyes and rugged handsomeness were offset by a soft croon and light southern drawl. Joy’s curiously quirky–and quickly developing–vocals, modest demeanor and elegant pink chiffon captured a packed Phoenix house July 20.

The pair was a warm-up for hometown Scottsdale, Ariz. native Scott MacIntyre, Lil Rounds and Anoop Desai. The oft-perceived dry intellect MacIntyre was quick to crack wise on a replay classic high-five with host Ryan Seacrest and quicker to apply his Royal piano pedagogy to Keane’s “Bend and Break” followed by a smoothened Vanessa Carlton’s “1,000 Miles.” Without judge scrutiny, Rounds, a perennial Season Eight punching bag, showed a natural flow and stage comfort during Alicia Keys’ “No One” and Mary J. Blige’s “Be Without You” she had struggled to find all season. Monster bespectacled Anoop Desai offered a variety plate of soul, hip-hop and grind with “Always on My Mind,” Ne-Yo’s “Mad” and signature pelvis-shaking “My Prerogative.”

He may have taken fifth place in the competition, but Matt Giraud nearly hijacked the show with a Jerry Lee Lewis-esque rip on the Black Crowes’ “Hard to Handle” and a heart-tugging “Georgia on My Mind” that Ray Charles would have approved–houndstooth hat and all. Giraud broke free of regular-season ghosts with a driving, soul-filled, fitting comeuppance in The Fray’s “You Found Me.”

With growl, saunter and the swing of a six-stringed axe, flaming-haired Allison Iraheta torched Pink’s “So What,” hammered Heart’s “Barracuda” and gave a chillingly intimate, connected interpret of Janis Joplin’s “Cry Baby.” Iraheta’s reprise duet of “Slow Ride” with showstopper Lambert was a case that the 17-year-old is front line industry ready.

Thick with back story and Michael McDonald-like timbre, Danny Gokey showed plenty of vocal chops and versatility with Michael Jackson’s “P.Y.T.” and Santana’s “Maria Maria,” but it was the Midwesterner’s passion and message that left its greatest mark. No longer could accusers deem Gokey as a footloose, loafing goof Hicks 2.0; his sweat-laced narrative to the congregation “you can do anything…don’t let adversity get in your way” segue into Rascal Flatts’ “My Wish” was not only a sincere and compelling ode to his departed wife, but to living each day with gusto–and the Lord’s help.

And then there were two.

Adam Lambert and Kris Allen are both, in very different ways, champions of the stage. (The state of Arkansas–which some speculate rose up, outsmarted and outvoted an entire nation–may beg to differ.) One blasts away with the highest, most wailing of vocal fireworks; his counterpart delivers songs in their most bare, humble and caressable form.

Both demonstrate genius and artistry. Both are praise-worthy. And both brought fan clamoring at U.S. Airways Arena to decibel levels of a U.S. Airways jet on the tarmack.

Lambert, draped in a Road Warrior-styled leather coat from LA designer Skin Graft and reptile-covered boots cavorted across the stage as he belted out Led Zeppelin’s “Whole Lotta Love.”

A whole lotta people needed coolin’–including my eternal ride-share partner and Glambert maniac spouse. The crowd’s electricity left no doubt that Lambert is a bona fide rock star.

Hearing “Mad World” live heightened its clarity even if its hurried tempo caused it to loose some of its original stardust. Lambert’s five-octave capabilities were on cruise control during fun loving, showman-focused David Bowie songs “Life on Mars,” “Fame” and “Let’s Dance.”

Then there’s Kris Allen. The slight, cherubic-faced Season Eight champion stood center stage to the same building-rattling ovation as his predecessor–but with none of the adornments. He sported only a guitar.

Instead, the small-town Ark. resident Allen grips listeners with a vocal color and warmth on pared-down takes “Heartless” (Kanye West) and “Ain’t No Sunshine” (Bill Withers) that make it easy to understand why he’s the champ.

Oddly enough, Allen seems uneasy in front of the throng, who most have come to see him. He stammers a bit into the microphone, searching for the right words to greet the crowd while nervously shuffling between songs and instruments. It’s part of the humility that makes Allen easy to embrace.

But as the accompaniments launch into a song and Allen effortlessly merges, his Mojo returns; his body swaying to and fro, uniting the audience together in round of “Hey Jude.” Looks like the slight, brown-and-white gingham shirt clad lad in denims and tennis shoes has taught us a lesson: Superman comes in a variety of forms.

Sometimes he even wears Vans.

Tune in each mid-week for “American Idol” news and notes–until tryouts air January 2010–from me, fourth year SheKnows.com Entertainment Contributor Bob Benedetti.

For now … Happy Idoling!

Remembered and “Idol”-ized in death

For fans of “American Idol,” this summer was anything but a mid-year hibernation.

Amid show personality-related births, contract signings and record deals, a few “Idols“–both popular and notorious–were lost in the summer months.

The death and seemingly endless post-mortem proceedings of “King of PopMichael Jackson are well-chronicled. Los Angeles County Coroner’s office documents state that Jackson, 50, died from a surgical drug overdose at the hand of personal physician Dr. Conrad Murray.

With untimely passing of The Gloved One, an entire world will never see the proposed 50-show “This Is It” London engagement and subsequent album release. Many believed the feat that may have resurrected Jackson’s career, financial ledger and legacy–one that suffered in the last decade from strained personal relations, financial disarray and legal battles.

Nonetheless, Jackson, whose 1982 “Thriller” album sold more than 100 million copies worldwide, will remain one of the greatest music industry idols ever.

Although much less cool and bombastic, former Johnny Carson Show straight man showed a vision worthy of note.

Former Carson sidekick Ed McMahon was “American Idol” nearly two decades before the Fox reality television juggernaut was a twinkle in eye of X19 Entertainment producers.

McMahon headed entertainment competition “Star Search,” a highly successful variety television series from 1983-1995 that cultivated a wealth of talent including funny persons Cedric the Entertainer, Rosie O’Donnell and Jenny Jones. Notable vocalists include Broadway success Sam Harris, pop star Tiffany, plus soulful artists Aaliyah and Christina Aguilera.

The 86-year-old had been battling bone cancer before passing after complications from pneumonia in July.

Two-time “Idol” auditioner Alexis Cohen was killed when struck by a motorist fleeing Seaside Heights, N.J. police in the early morning hours of July 25.

Cohen’s mother told the New Jersey Star-Ledger the show hopeful was preparing for a callback after auditioning a third time, in June.

The 25-year-old from Allentown, Pa. achieved little success with her mediocre vocal talent but made a reputation with her feisty nature and barbed retorts to lead panelist Simon Cowell.

For a rare few, it takes no vocals to become an “American Idol.” Farrah Fawcett, a model and actress whose trademark million-dollar smile and a legendary blondish-brown curly coiffure were the splash of a generation’s pin up posters and hair stylist front pages, succumbed after battling a rare anal cancer diagnosed in 2006.

Stately “Charlie’s Angels” actress Kate Jackson, who worked along side of Fawcett during their 1980s heyday described the popularity of Fawcett’s seemingly perpetual locks as “a head of hair that needed a phone line all its own” to keep pace with its fandom.

Fawcett, 62, died at St. John’s Heath Center in Santa Monica, Calif. She is survived by her father James and son Redmond James Fawcett O’Neal.

Summer ends, “American Idol” still hot

"American Idol" singers finished a 50-night summer engagement last week. Photo/Cathy Benedetti

Shorter, cooler days. School in session. A gray-whiskered No. 4 chucking passes in another new color ensemble. The end of the year’s 50-night “American Idol” traveling jamboree.

All are proof that summertime is in the rearview mirror–and tailing off rapidly as we continue to gaze.

Like agrarian-calendared academics, pigskin passers and this writer, buzz surrounding television’s most popular television show used to taper off during the mid-summer months.

Not any longer.

Lives, deaths, deals, performances, squabbles and signings followed the show’s most talent-packed season ever, a highly controversial Finale, and an impressive Top 10 summer tour. And there’s a new bunch hoping to generate the same fanfare for the approaching Season Nine.

That’s enough to nudge anyone to put their air raft, Coppertone and umbrella-garnished beverage away–at least once weekly with updates–until tryouts air January 2010. So tune in each Wednesday for “American Idol” news and notes from me–fourth year SheKnows.com Entertainment Contributor Bob Benedetti.

For now, a memo to Razorbacks fan: Give me back my Go Phone!

And … Happy Idoling!

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