“Male Prima Donna” by Subtle Sexuality

October 31, 2009

I haven’t talked about The Office for a while, and there’s good reason for that. Aside from Jim and Pam’s wedding episode (which was just about perfect), the writing hasn’t really been that great this season. I mean, the whole episode with the “Mafia boss” was just stupid. Not Michael-stupid in its painfully awkward yet hilarious way. Just stupid.

Still, even subpar Office writing is better than pretty much everything out there, and I have high hopes for the whole Michael-dates-Pam’s-mom storyline. Meanwhile, here’s this from Kelly, Erin, Andy, and Ryan (he runs away with this–they’ve really gotta start giving him more scenes): “Male Prima Donna.” It’s pure gold.

EDIT: Stupid NBC has taken the video down. Well, NBC, I would have been happy to watch this and other webisodes on your site if it wasn’t for the advertisements you run about every five seconds!!! Okay, rant over. Sorry about the lack of video; here’s the audio file.

Male Prima Donna – Subtle Sexuality


Here Are Your American IDOLS: Kris AND Adam!!!

May 22, 2009

Adam and Kris

Okay, let’s get the bad out of the way. Neither Adam nor Kris were at the top of their game for their final performances. They were clearly and very understandably tight, feeling the full pressure of the finale, and their respective weaknesses were very apparent (Adam’s overscreeching, Kris’s limited range). And they were burdened with one atrocious mess of a finale song (seriously, Kara, WTF???).

And now, for the REALLY bad. That final two-hour results show was an overbloated, made-for-profit mess, that was an embarrassing culmination of what had been a truly great season filled with great personalities and memorable moments. As great as it was to see all the finalists again, all the duets with the big stars just seemed contrived (the group numbers with just the finalists were far better). And worse, American Idol’s “comedy” moments were even more mean-spirited than usual, embarrassing bad auditioners once again in the name of an “award ceremony” and bringing back the bitchy Bikini Girl just to embarrass her one more time (you may argue she deserved it, but it was still classless). The Tatiana and Norman skits were somewhat more amusing, but it all seemed so unnecessary (the beginning of the season feels like a lifetime ago) and ways to pad the show and sell more commercial time.

Fortunately, it was the duo who mattered the most that came to the rescue: Adam and Kris. Free from the previous night’s pressure, they delivered performances that reminded everyone just how they got there in the first place. Adam, resplendent in a Matrix-meets-Mad-Max get-up, was at his glam rock best, his star power turning KISS into a mere backing band. Kris wasn’t quite as show-stopping, but his duet with Keith Urban was high-energy, and Kris was clearly enjoying every moment of it, which was infectious. Similarly, Adam and Kris made a point of singing WITH each other and not AGAINST each other for “We Are the Champions,” which was a nice way to salvage the taste level of the show just before the results were announced.

As we all know by now, Kris Allen was declared the winner. Was it the right choice? You know what; who’s really to say? People are free to like what they like and vote accordingly (for what it’s worth, I personally would’ve voted for Adam, but Kris was my favorite; if that makes sense). I think what matters the most, and what people need to remember (before starting backlashes or hurling accusations of homophobia or religion or conspiracies or whatever) is that from the beginning, both Kris and Adam were nothing less than class acts. Their grace under pressure was every bit as impressive as their talent. Their fondness and respect for each other never wavered until the end, and they both not only showed what it takes to be a great singer, but also great human beings.

I can’t wait for both of their albums to come out, and I bet they’l have awesomely productive careers. They’ll deserve nothing less. Thanks, Kris. Thanks, Adam. You guys rock, pure and simple.

Here are my favorite studio versions of the songs each of them performed over the season (overall, I think Adam reached greater heights, but Kris was more consistent):

Kris Allen – She Works Hard For Her Money (Studio)
Adam Lambert – If I Can't Have You (Studio)


TV Round-Up (American Idol, The Office, ANTM): Holy Crap, It’s Happened!!!

May 15, 2009

AMERICAN IDOL:

One of the truisms of life is that the more expectations you have, the more you’re likely to be disappointed. I definitely take that to heart. For example, I always feel a surge of relief whenever I buy something (like my recently acquired mp3 player), and the thing actually turns on. Everything else is just gravy!

So when I found out that the two final American Idol survivors were Adam and Kris–just the way I wanted–well, it was almost too much for me to handle. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s go back, shall we?

It was definitely an interesting night of performances. Danny got the ball rolling with an obscure Terence Trent D’Arby song (I liked “Sign My Name” like a lot of people, but I’m not sure Terence is quite “iconic” like Paula declared). To my surprise, I actually kinda dug it. It was in the perfect range for Danny; the song didn’t have any soft parts (Danny’s major weakness) nor parts that would get him to start screaming (Danny’s most annoying habit). He just rocked out and kept up the beat without overdoing it. He even pulled off the tricky “doo-doo-doo”s in the middle, which was impressive. And though the judges called him out a little, I didn’t mind his “dancing,” since I don’t think his moves could actually be considered dancing. Besides, the lyrics were a call to dance, so it’s not like he could just stand still while singing it.

KrisKris followed with a heartfelt rendition of “Apologize,” and he sang the song cleanly and sweetly. He stayed pretty true to the original musically, but I think he really put his heart into the vocals, and it worked. The judges may not have liked it (and I, for one, did not hear the bum note that Paula referred to), but I definitely did.

Then came Adam with U2’s “One,” one of Simon Cowell’s (and my) favorite songs. He started off pretty well with the verses, but then came the chorus, and Adam started his shrieking thing again, and I’m sorry, but for me, the performance just fell apart at that point. “One” is not the right song to scream and shriek out. It’s so ironic that Adam later referred to the song’s amazing lyrics, when he was so busy screaming that people could barely take the words in. Adam’s got so much gusto and so much range, but his major weakness is to know when to (and when not o) use them to his advantage.

In the second round, Danny sang “You’re So Beautiful,” and he followed the same formula that he’s used much of the season: start off all soft and sensitive, then build up to the screaming climax. Again, it didn’t work. The beginning sounded just plain weak as opposed to vulnerable, and the ending was just plain too much. The guy’s got a really powerful voice, no doubt, but he just lacks versatility.

Kris followed with “Heartless,” and it was simply a revelation. He GAVE that song a melody, and he rocked it out in true, toe-tappin’ style. It was awesome, awesome, and awesome. Even the judges, who have been SO pulling for a Danny-Adam showdown, had to give it to him.

AdamThen Adam gave the final performance with “Crying,” and he rebounded to greatness. Aerosmith IS the right music for screaming and shrieking, and Adam and the song fit each other like a glove. It was, though very different in style to Kris’s “Heartless,” just as kick-ass.

So the “three amigos” (as Ryan dubbed them) all had their moments, but looking at their performances throughout the season, Adam and Kris have, in my opinion, clearly proven themselves as the most talented two. And, much to my wonder and delight, America agreed.

Danny handled himself well, and I must say, I did feel guilty over having criticized him pretty severely at times. That being said, America was most definitely right. And so next week is the finale, and I can’t believe how much I’m looking forward to the Adam-Kris showdown. Personally, as much as I’m a fan of Kris, I’d actually vote for Adam. That’s for several different reasons. One is that Adam has given the greatest performances of the season out of any performer (the much-acclaimed “Mad World” and “If I Can’t Have You,” which I liked even better). Another is that the mantle of being THE American Idol may prove to be stifling to Kris with his humble demeanor and less flashy musical style. In contrast, Adam has made no bones about seeking the limelight and wanting to be a STAR. So I actually hope Adam wins the war, while they both win the battle by both having great musical careers. They certainly deserve to do so, no doubt about that.

AMERICA’S NEXT TOP MODEL:

Teyona won. There’s not much to say. It was pretty obvious that she was Tyra’s designated pick, especially she escaped from her Cover Girl commercial breakdown (it was actually quite disturbing to watch) at the expense of Aminat who actually delivered the BEST commercial as well as her first-ever great picture (Tyra had to pull out the “your film wasn’t good” card to justify her dismissal).

Still, Teyona deserved to win, with a number of good photos. As a winner, she’s certainly no embarrassment (i.e. Saleisha) but neither is she up there with the best (i.e. Danielle, now Dani). She’s pretty much middle-of-the-road, which can also be said of this cycle of ANTM. Still, it was good to see the quirky, jittery Allison make her way to the final. Despite some bizarre comments in the past (the whole “nosebleed” fixation and the “You’re pretty!” moment with Tyra), she handled her loss better than any runner-up in ANTM history as far as I recall (I think she’s the first one who didn’t cry).

My favorite moment: Tyra topped herself with the whole covered-with-mud-writhing-on-the-runway final walk. Teyona’s weave coming off and seeing her brandishing it as a whip was just icing on the cake.

2nd favorite moment: Paulina (who’s apparently no longer on the show) describing Allison as the “little, stiff, weirdo robot.”

THE OFFICE:

Well, the writers decided to go for bittersweet romance as opposed to barrel-of-laughs for the season finale, which was rather a letdown. Still, it was good to see Holly again, as Michael and her interactions were ten times funnier than the ones Pam and Jim have been having for a while now (the whole “oh-wow-I’m-pregnant” scene was too by-the-numbers). I actually thought Jan might make an appearance at some point, and her absence was another disappointment.

For me, the only real laughs from the episode came from the too-long-absent Stanley. I don’t know what he was on, but his uncharacteristically giddy state of mind (“I’m not usually into the theater, but that was just delightful!”) was contagious. Stanley, you rock! Just like Adam and Kris.

2nd Favorite Moment: Dwight’s friend’s math lesson to Angela: “One fiance and one lover equal one whore.”


TV Round-Up (American Idol, The Office, ANTM): Alison’s More Than Just a Rocker Chick

May 1, 2009

The Dream TeamThe Office:

I got what I asked for with this episode; namely, a return to the ensemble dynamics that made for the show’s best moments. The writing was a bit uneven at times (what was the deal with the Kevin’s chili opening?), but some moments were right on target. My Favorite Moment: Phyllis staring daggers into Pam while saying, “Close your mouth, sweetie. You look like a trout.” Runner-up Moment: This golden rhyme from Andy, “Oh, it is on like a prawn who yawns at dawn.” Honorable Mention: Toby’s sad allegory of how he came to be the H.R. Director at Dunder Mifflin.

America’s Next Top Model:

It’s was time for Fo to go, but not before giving us a classic “Gollum” expression in her photo shoot. She also had a great quote: “Everything in my life has been half-assed.”

But the best moment came courtesy of Nigel, who set off the gaydars of viewers across the country as he oh-so-reluctantly caressed the man-boobs of the Brazillian extra. Oh, Nigel, the lady doth protest too much…

American Idol:

I fully expected Matt to be dead man singing this week (he’s had good moments, but he’s just not at the level of the other four), and in the end, my prediction bore out, but not before giving everyone quite a shock or two.

Kris started the show out, and he was quite shaky initially. I was worried for him, thinking that maybe he had chosen a song that was just too big for him (in the video intro, he refreshingly admitted that he didn’t “measure up” to the other contestants vocally; and in terms of sheer vocal power as compared to Adam, Alison, and Danny, he’s right). It was kind of like watching a boy trying to put on his father’s tie for the first time, i.e. uncomfortable. Then the beat picked up, and Kris found his groove just in time. He found the rhythm, pulled off some great runs, and finished with a flourish. All in all, a bit uneven, but the second half was solid.

Alison followed, and to me, she gave the most surprising performance of the night for me. I don’t know what it was, maybe the fact that she turned a year older, but she really showed a vocal maturity and sensitivity that showed that she wasn’t just a one-trick rock girl. It was the first time that she sang as a WOMAN, not a girl (she even looked like a woman, a beautiful one at that, for the first time), showing raw power as always but also showing great control and knowing when to hold back. To me, it was her personal best performance, and not only that, it ended up being my favorite performance of the night.

Matt was next, and my worries that Kris might be going home dissipated in a matter of seconds. His rendition of “My Funny Valentine” was just wrong, wrong, wrong. Some of the blame has to be shared by the week’s mentor, Jamie Foxx, who was seen telling Matt to lower the key so that he could sing with the “full” voice. Again, wrong, wrong, wrong. The song is wispy and smoky, full of longing and vulnerability, and for Matt to try to belt it out; it just ended up a big, overblown mess. When Simon actually heaped praises on the performance, I kept waiting for him to skip a beat and add, “… NOT!” In fact, much of what Simon said was just really bizarre (Describing Kris’s performance as “wet”: Huh? Ex-squeeze me?? Baking powder???).

Danny then performed “Come Rain or Shine,” starting off singing cleanly without his trademark huskiness then going full out and bringing out the bombast near the end. It was definitely an impressive display, and everyone seemed to love it. But my problem with him again is that he didn’t really deliver the SONG. It’s all about showcasing his voice and what it can do; the lyrics might as well have been gibberish for what they’re worth. I never got the feeling that Danny was singing to or thinking about anyone that he loved (come rain or shine) while he was on that stage. In that aspect, he’s the polar opposite of Kris, who has a sweet but limited voice but sure knows how to deliver the essence of a song.

Things came to an end with Adam who strolled down the stairs with supreme confidence and proceeded to sing away with his usual theatricality and panache. Unfortunately, this week, it was just too much of it, for my taste. It was showy and entertaining in that unique Adam way, but I was trying to imagine listening to his performance as a record, and I just couldn’t do it. If it came on the radio while I was driving, for example, I would seriously have to say that I’d turn it off. It was just too shrieky and way over-the-top. Of course, that’s kind of what Adam is known for, but a little of that goes a long way; too much of it just makes everything grating and annoying.

Still, having said that, it was definitely a gasp-worthy shock when Ryan told everyone that the Bottom Three were Adam, Kris, and Matt. Even Alison seemed dazed and confused, having to let it really sink in before she headed over to the safety zone chairs. By the way, her candid and sincere attitude and comments were a stark contrast to Danny, whose smugness officially crossed over to pomposity during the results show as far as I’m concerned. Ugh.

In the end, Matt FINALLY sang his goodbye, taking the last of the frosting and leaving the cake, i.e. the Final Four: Danny (the only one to never be in the Bottom Three), Alison, Adam, and Kris. Next week is going to be must-see TV. Most likely, Kris and Alison are the two most in danger (I expect Adam’s fans to rally behind him in a major way after his near-elimination, unless he engages in another shriek-a-thon). If form holds true and there are no shockingly bad (or shockingly good) performances, Alison will probably be the one going home, though I actually rate her higher than Danny at this point (slightly in terms of vocals, by far in terms of their personalities). Regardless, she’s given viewers quite a few fantastic moments this season, none more than this week’s magical “Someone to Watch Over Me.” What a difference a birthday can make.


TV Round-Up (American Idol, The Office & ANTM): Aminat Tells It Like It Is!

April 25, 2009

AMERICAN IDOL:

In many ways, this was the week that American Idol got serious. With two contestants being eliminated, the overall vibe was let’s-get-to-business. There were no cute video profiles before performances, and even Ryan kept his babbling to a minimum.

Lil started the show with a good rendition of “I’m Every Woman.” Just one problem: good simply isn’t good enough at this stage. With seven genuinely talented singers (no what-the-hell-is-he-or-she-doing-here in the bunch), you have to wow ’em, and well, Lil didn’t. She hasn’t given us a reason to choose to listen to her when we can just put on Mary J. Blige or Beyonce.

Kris was next, and he emphasized Lil’s weakness–lack of originality–by displaying his individual style in abundance. His “She Works Hard For Her Money” sounded fresh and completely modern. He made it his OWN, as the judges often say. Well done, Kris.

Also solid this week was Danny, whose performance was filled with energy. Up to now, Danny’s followed pretty much the same formula every week: start off slow and sensitive then build things up to a big, husky crescendo. With each succeeding week, that big payoff became less and less effective because you knew exactly what was coming. This week, he changed things around by keeping things uptempo throughout, and the change really helped. The judges seemed to love Alison, but I think she has the exact same problem as Danny. She’s great, but she’s become predictable. She needs to show another side of her, perhaps something softer, something more vulnerable.

As for Adam, no one would ever accuse him of not showing range. Seriously, has he EVER. This week, he just stood there as he sang, but he was simply, in a word, MESMERIZING. There was a moment in the middle when it dawned on me, “He’s going to win,” pure and simple. I started feeling for Kris upon realizing this, but I believe Kris is going to have a solid career as a MUSICIAN regardless. Adam’s destiny is to be a STAR, and as such, it would mean more for his career to win as well.

The final two performers were Matt and Anoop. And they were both good, but similar to Lil, they’re just not at the level of the others. Matt sang and danced up a frenzy–at times looking he was having a seizure–but that something-extra quality was simply not there. I can certainly understand people liking him; but I can’t imagine anyone being awed by him. And ditto for Anoop, who’s again good but not great, at least not yet. And those botched notes at the very end certainly didn’t help.

In the end, it was the end for Lil and Anoop as announced on the result show (For Idol Conspiracy Theorists: Did anyone else catch that it was Danny and Adam who were flashed at the end of the split-screen montage introducing the results show?). I’m certainly going to miss them (more for their personalities than for their performances), but really, it was their time. And next week, I predict it will be Matt’s time. After that, it’s not gonna get good; it’s gonna get GREAT!

THE OFFICE:

So we saw the end of the Michael Scott Paper Company. I guess it couldn’t go on forever; still, I was sorry to see the storyline go. It made for some awesome moments, including the Breakfast Club-style bonding moment shared between Michael, Pam, and Ryan. Things seemed to get wrapped up a bit too neatly, a bit too fast. Regardless of what happens from now, the show needs to put more focus back on all of the supporting characters. How I miss Angela’s bitchery, Toby’s weariness, and Chet’s dementia.

Favorite moments: The Korean church bus gag (I can confirm that the bus read “Scranton Hallelujah Church”) and this yet-to-be-completed quote from Michael: “Oh, how the turntables…”

AMERICA’S NEXT TOP MODEL:
Aminat
Like I’ve said before, the show is about modeling as much as Superman is about the mechanics of flying, so I don’t exactly concern myself with the actual aspects of modeling when watching the show. Still, I have to mention how much it boggles me that Aminat can look so stunning in interviews and judging then look so downright plain in her photos. With her features, I wouldn’t have thought it possible even if she were trying to do it on purpose. Regardless, she is honest to a fault, and her interviews are far more than interesting than any one else’s.

In the end, Aminat survived and Natalie is now gone, ostensibly for her lack of variety but more probably for the sin of being even more arrogant and full of herself than Queen Tyra. Quite a feat, that.

Favorite moments: During judging, Natalie was trying to shift the blame to Mr. Jay, which brought on Interrogation Time from Officer Tyra. “For fifty frames. Did Jay want you to do the exact same thing for fifty frames?” Natalie brazenly answered “He DID,” which Tyra answered with an “Uh–kay” and a classic oh-you-are-SOOO-going home look on her face. The other moment? This just-a-bit-blunt quote from Aminat: “I want this more than a fat kid wants cake.” She should win for that quote alone.