We learned so much on "American Idol" on Wednesday night, when the final five contestants took the stage to sing two solo songs each -– one from the '60s and one by a British artist -– plus either a duet (the boys: Joshua Ledet and Phillip Phillips) or a trio (the girls: Hollie Cavanagh, Skylar Laine and Jessica Sanchez).
Just to name a few of those things:
1. Jimmy Iovine and his old pal Steven Van Zandt (this week's guest mentor) are like a couple of backslapping, noogie-exchanging teenagers cracking each other up and making silly trouble when they get together, as the contestants noted when they attended hilarious rehearsal sessions with the duo.
2. Phillip Phillips has a girlfriend, whom Ryan Seacrest, still apparently uneasy that his own girlfriend found Phillips "yummy," pointed out in the audience. But those who were disappointed to learn that Phillips is off the market might take heart that he had the decency to look uncomfortable when Seacrest reduced his female friend to a hair color. "He's into brunettes," the host, whose girlfriend is blonde dancer Julianne Hough, said.
3. Phillips and Ledet, who did a sort of peculiar though ultimately good duet of "You've Lost That Lovin' Feeling," don't have the smoothest rapport. Phillips looked dyspeptic (sure, could have been the old kidney acting up) when Ledet said something about him messing him up on the song before they took the stage together. But then Ledet looked seriously uncomfortable when Phillips jokingly moved to put his arm around him at the end of the song. Phillips naughtily pressed on. I guess he really does like brunets.
4. If one of them doesn't win this thing, thus becoming, as Seacrest reminded us, the first female "Idol" winner in years, Jessica Sanchez, Hollie Cavanagh and Skylar Laine -– who seemed to have a lot of fun with Jackie Wilson's "(Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher and Higher" -- could form a powerful/adorable girl group. It did seem a bit diminishing when Jennifer Lopez said they looked like "three little dolls," though.
5. "Idol" really seems to be pumping up the production values this year: lots of big backing bands onstage and backup singers and dancers -– and even the occasional set, as Laine had when she took the stage with Dusty Springfield's "You Don't Have to Say You Love Me."
6. Steven Tyler had never heard Leona Lewis's hit "Bleeding Love," which Hollie Cavanagh -– seated on a piano, emoting, and singing spot-on and crystal clear -- really shined on.
7. Lopez had never heard the Box Tops' "The Letter," which is why she had no idea how much Phillips had changed it up and flattened out the melody.
8. Seacrest, A, doesn't know a tulip from a daffodil and, B, thinks we've all been waiting to see him put on Jessica Sanchez's ridiculously high-heeled shoes.
Oh, we could keep going like this all night, but we have many performances to discuss, so let's get to it:
“Randy Jackson Presents: America's Best Dance Crew” 10 and 11 p.m. Wednesday, MTV: Drake: Dance crews from around the country compete. (N)
“American Idol” 8 p.m. Thursday, Fox: A finalist is eliminated; performances by Carrie Underwood and Coldplay. (N)
“Live! With Kelly” 9 a.m. Monday, ABC: Cameron Diaz; the latest “American Idol” castoff performs; co-host Michael Strahan. (N)
“The Ellen DeGeneres Show” 4 p.m. Wednesday, NBC: Carrie Underwood performs; Anna Kendrick. (N)
“American Idol” 8 p.m. Wednesday, Fox: The finalists perform. (N)
“Randy Jackson Presents: America's Best Dance Crew” 10 and 11 p.m. Wednesday, MTV: J.Lo: Dance crews from around the country compete. (N)
-- Compiled by Ed Stockly
Photo: Phillip Phillips, left, Hollie Cavanaugh, Josh Ledet, Skylar and Jessica Sanchez. Credit: Michael Becker / Fox
Ryan Seacrest has joined forces with NBCUniversal in a multi-platform agreement that will feature him working in several capacities, including as a correspondent for the "Today" show and at the Olympics.
The deal with Seacrest, who is a producer and the host of "American Idol," extends his current on-air presence with E! Entertainment into having a presence on NBC.
Steve Burke, chief executive of NBCUniversal, said the company looks foward to Seacrest's "continued role on E! and to having him appear on many new places across NBCUniversal, including the 'Today' show and at the Olympics."
-- Greg Braxton
Photo: Ryan Seacrest. Credit: Matt Sayles / Associated Press
As we approach the finales of "American Idol" and "The Voice," the cuts get tougher. On "Idol," it was Show Tracker favorite Elise Testone who ended her run this week, while on "The Voice," Adam Levine sent home Mathai and Cee-Lo said goodbye to Cheesa.
That leaves five "Idol" hopefuls and eight "Voice" performers to carry on. Our "Idol"-"Voice" rankings also continue, taking all the singers from both shows and putting them head to head each week. I'm choosing my top five performers from among the two shows, along with Times music writers Todd Martens and Chris Barton -- and you can cast your votes too, at the bottom of this post.
Below are my picks for the week. To see what my co-judges have to say, and to view the performances, click here.
1. Jamar Rogers, "The Voice"
The flames flickering at his back and the projections of pulsating speakers above and below him certainly heightened the sense of intensity, but Rogers' take on Bon Jovi's "It's My Life" would have felt plenty urgent even without all that impressive stage business. Rogers is a survivor, a fighter and a seriously compelling performer, and he sang as if it were his own personal anthem -– and as if his life depended on it.
2. Katrina Parker, "The Voice"
With her heartfelt rendition of Christina Perri's "Jar of Hearts," all lush and raspy and round-toned, Parker stepped away from all those Adele comparisons that have been beating around her and claimed the heart-shaped spotlight all on her own. It was as if she were proclaiming a resounding "Me!" to her own question: "Who do you think you are?" Her "Perfect" the next night was a perfect follow-up.
3. Elise Testone, "American Idol"
I love it when Testone really rocks out, feeling the music and letting her voice leap, skip and bounce as if the notes are smooth stones she's expertly skipping through still water, making hypnotic melodic ripples. Her performance of Queen's "I Want It All" was a perfect example, even if her "Bold as Love" didn't quite work. I'm sad to see Testone leave the "Idol" stage, but I trust this is far from the end for this talented singer. Here's hoping she gets all she wants.
4. Tony Lucca, "The Voice"
It wasn't very nice of Christina Aguilera, with whom Lucca shares a "Mickey Mouse Club" past, to call him out in front of millions of people the other week. It was one thing to label his performance style "one-dimensional," but quite another to accuse him of trying to sneak by on his Disney past. So it was truly gratifying to see him slyly hit back at Aguilera with this song by their fellow former "MMC" castmate Britney Spears. Plus, he conquered the song as if it were a hit of his own.
5. Jessica Sanchez, "American Idol"
Of the three "Idol" judges, only Randy Jackson loved Sanchez's take on the Queen classic, but I thought she captured the song's strangeness, sounded beautiful without sounding "pretty," and proved she really can sing pretty much anything. Yes, even rock. To me, it was far more interesting than watching someone sing Luther Vandross' "Dance With My Father" on "Idol" for the umpteenth time, even if it was sweet of her to dedicate that song to her soon-to-be-deployed dad.
Each week our experts and readers rank the best of the best between the two blockbuster singing competitions. Last week, "American Idol's" Phillip Phillips came out on top. Who will be the favorite this week? Use the poll below to vote. Check out last week's performances and see what our judges had to say at latimes.com/idol-voice.
Photo: Jamar Rogers on "The Voice." Credit: Lewis Jacobs / NBC
Well, fellow "American Idol" watchers, I am a little sad. I realize Elise Testone might not have been among everyone's favorite contestants – clearly she wasn't, since she was voted off Thursday night -- but she had definitely grown into one of mine.
In this week's "Idol"/"Voice" rankings, where her performance of Queen's "I Want It All" slid into my list at No. 3, I compared the way Testone's voice leaps around the notes to the skipping of stones in the water, making graceful melodic ripples. And now that she's been told to pack up her groovy clothes and go home, my heart has sunk like a … oh, you know.
But of course there's no way we couldn't have seen this coming (yes, yes, Haley Reinhart, I know). Testone had been in the bottom three so many times mentor Jimmy Iovine joked that she'd built a vacation home there. Plus, the judges were hot and cold on her, and even Iovine sometimes piled on.
Still, after Ryan Seacrest delivered the bad news to Testone, did he have to rub it in by suggesting it might be time to consider Stevie Nicks' offer to make her one of her back-up singers? That seemed gratuitous. Surely Testone can carve out a successful career as a solo artist. If nothing else, Stefano Langone's performance of his (long, busy) song "I'm on a Roll" on Thursday's show proves you don't have to win the competition to get a record contract and to take advantage of the "Idol" platform. Langone came in seventh last year; Testone just finished sixth. Nervous giggling aside, she may yet get the last laugh.
Kardashian matriarch Kris Jenner is seated on a stage inside the Beverly Hilton earnestly talking about how she finds it strange when camera crews — which have been part of her family's life since 2007 — aren't around.
She needn't worry any time soon, of course. Those cameras will be around for three more years now that E! network, which airs "Keeping Up with the Kardashians" and its spinoffs, has inked a deal with the family that would keep them on the air. "I'm just hoping for 23 more seasons," Jenner quipped. These days, though, Jenner's facetious statement might not be entirely out of the realm of possibility. But is that the problem — when shows or a concept become stale?
Jenner, along with other reality TV heavyweights — Mike Fleiss ("The Bachelor," "The Bachlorette"), Conrad Green ("Dancing with the Stars"), Brent Montgomery ("Pawn Stars"), Bertram van Munster ("The Amazing Race"), Eli Holzman ("Undercover Boss") — took part Thursday in the Hollywood Radio & Telvision Society's "The Unscripted Hitmakers" panel to discuss the genre wieldy imprint on television — but they agreed the reality TV needs some newness to keep viewers interested.
Ryan Seacrest nearly didn't make it to "American Idol" on Wednesday night. The genial host hasn't missed a night on "Idol" in the show's 11 years on the air. But a stomach bug almost made the man with the superhuman work ethic call in sick.
Almost, but not quite. Because Seacrest isn't one to let a mere illness keep him away from a studio full of singing amateurs. Though his complexion was pasty, his normal enthusiasm was flagging and he had to lean on the judge's table for support, Seacrest kept his perfect "Idol" attendance record intact.
But some fans seemed to react to Seacrest's ill performance the same way office workers react when a sick co-worker shows up in the office -- by suggesting maybe he should have just stayed at home.
Infinity8 wrote, "Ryan Seacrest was supposedly sick last night, so when he kissed and breathed on every person on the stage I CRINGED. DUDE!?"
Others took offense at the next day media coverage of Seacrest's illness, such as Socratic, who wrote, "And another MSNBC: "Sick Ryan Seacrest soldiers through 'Idol' show" My god! What courage! What heroism! America!"
Not every "Idol" fan ragged on sick Seacrest. Some actually preferred him that way, like Carl Dayandante, who wrote, "Promise, I think I love the sick Ryan Seacrest. He's not that giddy. Still the same antics."
Despite the brief bit of human weakness, Seacrest quickly rebounded post-show, tweeting fans, "Feeling better now. Thx throat coat. Fun show tonight."
Nothing can stop the Seacrest train. Nothing!
-- Patrick Kevin Day
Photo: From left, Steven Tyler, Ryan Seacrest, Jennifer Lopez and Randy Jackson. Credit: Michael Becker / Fox
Who would have imagined the songs of Queen would inspire better performances from the "American Idol" contestants than songs of their own choosing? But, with a notable exception or two, that proved to be the case Wednesday night, when the six remaining "Idol" hopefuls tackled the music of Queen and then sang a second song they felt suited them.
I have to admit, I had my doubts, and the contestants seemed to initially have had doubts too. Meeting with Queen's Roger Taylor and Brian May, Phillip Phillips asked about tackling such big songs. Freddie Mercury, they assured him, "was very shy" and the songs of Queen quite human, "very personal." Just feel the songs, Taylor and May told the contestants, and they would do fine.
The advice seemed to pay off. It was apparent from the moment the top six took the stage, backed by Taylor and May, to sing a medley of Queen anthems that they were having fun with the material.
In the end, the judges said, the candidates had nearly all turned in at least one top-notch performance. Then again, in a rare show of judge discord, Randy Jackson, Jennifer Lopez and Steven Tyler didn't agree in every case about which songs worked and which didn't. They did, however, continue to agree that Joshua Ledet warrants a standing ovation every time he opens his mouth to sing. Ledet racked up two more standing O's from the judges Wednesday. We'd say he now had too many to count, but apparently Skylar Laine has been keeping track: According to her calculations, Ledet now has had 12 standing ovations from the judges. Wow.
Here's how the rest of the night played out:
“American Idol” 8 p.m. Thursday, Fox: Contestants face elimination; Katy Perry performs; the Queen Extravaganza performs. (N)
“Jimmy Kimmel Live” Midnight Thursday, ABC: Adam Lambert performs. (N)
“The Bernie Mac Show” 9:30 a.m. Friday, BET: Bernie's performance in a commercial is critiqued by “American Idol” judges Paula Abdul and Randy Jackson, guest starring as themselves.
“CMT Crossroads” 10 a.m. Saturday and 10 a.m. Sunday, CMT: Steven Tyler and Carrie Underwood perform in Indiana before Super Bowl XLVI.
Movie: “Selena” *** (1997) 10 a.m. Sunday, Lifetime: (PG) Jennifer Lopez. A beautiful Mexican-American singer's skyrocketing international career ends abruptly.
“Live! With Kelly” 9 a.m. Monday, ABC: The latest “American Idol” castoff performs. (N)
“Late Show With David Letterman” 11:35 p.m. Monday, CBS: Carrie Underwood performs. (N)
“American Idol” 8 p.m. Wednesday, Fox: The finalists perform. (N)
-- Compiled by Matt Cooper
Photo: "American Idol" Top 6 contestants Jessica Sanchez, left, Skylar Laine, Phillip Phillips, Elise Testone, Joshua Ledet and Hollie Cavanagh. Credit: Michael Becker / Fox
"American Idol's" ratings may be going down, but Ryan Seacrest's paycheck is going up.
The ultra-tan MC will continue serving as host of "American Idol" for the time being, Fox announced Monday. Although terms of his deal were not disclosed, the deal will carry him for two years and will see him taking home $15 million a year, sources confirmed.
That's a $5-million jump from his current annual salary, which expires after this season and had him making $10 million per season. And in that contract, he also received a bonus of $15 million for merchandising rights.
The deal keeps his TV presence in full force. The in-demand TV personality, who moonlights as a radio DJ and an entertainment news anchor on E! network," was recently courted by NBCUniversal (E!'s parent company), signing a separate pact with it which will have him covering the Olympics for "Today. " He is also part of a Mark Cuban-backed venture to launch an entertainment cable channel.
Seacrest, who also produces a number of reality shows ("Shahs of Sunset," "Keeping Up with the Kardashians"), has been a constant on "American Idol" since it launched in 2002 — at which time, he co-hosted with Brian Dunkleman before taking all the hosting glory for himself.
“For the last 11 seasons, I've had the privilege to be a part of one of television's most iconic shows. It's been a wild ride, and I'm excited for my journey with 'American Idol' to continue,” Seacrest said in a statement.
Interestingly, this time around Fox and "Idol" producer Fremantle Media will be paying all of Seacrest's salary. In previous years, "American Idol" producer 19 Entertainment was on the hook for Seacrest's contract with the show — although the network did cover a portion of it.
Ratings for "American Idol" have dropped more than 20% in total viewers compared with the previous year.
Photo: Ryan Seacrest on the red carpet at the 69th Annual Golden Globe Awards show at The Beverly Hilton on Sunday, January 15, 2012. Credit. Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times
On "American Idol" this week, Colton Dixon got voted off, and the judges had no power to save him. Over at "The Voice," there was a surprise elimination — Jesse Campbell — who joined RaeLynn and Ashley De La Rosa in going home this week.
It's the end of the line for those three contestants, but not for our "Idol"-"Voice" mash-up, which takes all the singers from both shows and puts them head to head each week. I will be choosing my top five performers from among the two shows, along with Times music writers Todd Martens and Chris Barton — and you can cast your votes too, at the bottom of this post.
Phillip Phillips, "American Idol": Phillips, long my "Idol" favorite this season, briefly fell off my list last week. But this week he reminded my how bad I have it for him, first strumming and singing just as sexily as Jennifer Lopez said he did on Usher's "U Got It Bad," and then all itchy-twitchy, chicken-dancey (sans guitar) with "In the Midnight Hour." When he really gets going, Phillips seems almost electrified by the music he's making, and we, too, get caught up in the current. A real musical thrill.
Elise Testone, "American Idol": Testone boldly tackled the Marvin Gaye song "Get It On," showing off her vocal texture, sensuality and soul. Who knows why the judges didn't like it? Maybe it made them uncomfortable to see a woman growling and grooving and getting her moves on up there. (Steven Tyler excepted.) Or maybe they are harder on her because she's older than the other contestants and they think she can handle the criticism, as Testone posited on Thursday night's show. Regardless, "Let's Get It On" was one of my favorite performances of the night. Testone's take on Alicia Keys' "No One" wasn't too shabby either.
Joshua Ledet, "American Idol": Ledet is an immensely talented singer, and early in the season, he was among my favorites. Not long before we started these weekly rankings, however, a few overwrought performances made me lose my taste for him. Happily, in the last couple of weeks, he's gotten his vocal excesses back under control and renewed my appreciation. His restrained "A Change Is Gonna Come," though not pitch-perfect, was nevertheless a pleasure to listen to, perhaps because it was less polished and precise than previous performances. It was no less passionate, though.
Jesse Campbell, "The Voice": Though "Halo" was definitely not Campbell's best song, he was one of the best singers — if not the best singer — on "The Voice" this season, and if the song didn't suit him, I blame his coach, Christina Aguilera, who appeared to press him into singing it even though he expressed discomfort. Campbell may not have hit all the notes spot-on, but even Aguilera had to acknowledge he brought emotion to it, evoking his experiences being homeless, inspired by his daughter to persevere. I'm including Campbell on my list in part to protest his early ouster. And he's the only "Voice" contestant on here (sorry, Jermaine Paul and Lindsey Pavao) because I'm mad at the show for not giving its audience a say in the matter. At this point in the competition, "The Voice" shouldn't deprive its audience of its voice.
Jessica Sanchez, "American Idol": Sanchez seemed understandably affected by her shocking near-ouster last week. She didn't come back with quite the same power we've seen from her some weeks, but she didn't lose her lush tone or playful musicality either. Somewhat chastened, perhaps, by the voters' spurning, she seemed to approach her songs — Alicia Keys' "Fallin'" and the Otis Redding hit "Try a Little Tenderness" — with a new caution. But then she got as caught up in them as ever, prompting many of us to fall for her all over again. I understand what Jimmy Iovine is saying about her tackling songs that may be too old for her. On the other hand, her vocal maturity is just startling. She may look 16, but she sure doesn't sound it.
— Amy Reiter
Photo: Phillip Phillips performs on "American Idol." Credit: Michael Becker / Fox.
"No more second chances, no more safety nets," Randy Jackson reminded us at the outset of the "American Idol" results show Thursday night, on which Kris Allen and LMFAO performed. Since the judges had used their one save of the season to bring Jessica Sanchez back from the brink last week, from here on in, week after week, someone would head home.
This week, Colton Dixon got the bad news. And though the show's lead-in had promised that the results would be "another shock," to me, at least, Dixon's ouster was really only mildly surprising.
The judges loved Dixon, the faithful, skinny-pants-sporting piano player with the tuftily interesting '80s hair. The 20-year-old Tennessean had some of the showmanship of last season's James Durbin, but more softness and polish and style. But while I admired Dixon's comfort with a keyboard and melodic control, I never found him terribly exciting. To use the current judge parlance, I never connected with him on an emotional level. Colton Dixon, as far as I'm concerned, is no Phillip Phillips.
INTERACTIVE: Who's the best? "Idol" vs. "The Voice
Not that I was comparing. That was mentor Jimmy Iovine's game. Iovine once speculated that Dixon, who had not previously been in the bottom three, was splitting the teen heartthrob vote with Phillips. Iovine contended that, at some point, that voting bloc would swing one way or the other. This week, that may have happened.
Of course, we'll never really know why the voters turned their backs on Dixon. But certainly he had not had a good night on Wednesday. (Phillips had.) Lady Gaga's "Bad Romance" was probably not the savviest choice or the most suitable for a guy whose strongest moment on the show may have been when he sang his "favorite worship song." His fan base might not have been Lady Gaga devotees. And anyway, his performance of the song was strange. Iovine called it "completely wrong." Ol' Jimmy didn't have very kind things to say about Dixon's onstage look, either, comparing it to "1985 Billy Idol on MTV'" and "'Spider-Man' on Broadway."
Dixon's second song, Earth, Wind & Fire's "September," on which he accompanied himself on a leaf-strewn piano that matched his hair, was, to put it plainly, a total snoozer.