AMERICAN IDOL 3
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In the world's ultimate talent search - where the eyes of a nation are upon the best undiscovered singers in the country, where the audience has the power to make or break you, and where a million-dollar recording contract is on the line, there is only one rule: If you can sing it, bring it.

Recaps by Gordon Pepper and Chico Alexander, GSNN


FACT FILE:
Host: Ryan Seacrest
Judges: Paula Abdul, Simon Cowell, Randy Jackson
Creator: Simon Fuller (based upon "Pop Idol")
EP: Cecile Frot-Coutaz, Simon Fuller
Packager: 19 Entertainment, FremantleMedia North America
Airs: Tuesdays at 8:00pm ET and Wednesdays at 8:30p ET on FOX


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February 10/11 - Group 1

The 3 weeks worth of auditions are over - now it's our turn to judge. We vote, we decide, and we get to savage the singers. I for one, will be enjoyting the savaging. Will this be the best group ever? Or will I be pining for the return of Scootergirl and WIlliam Hung?

Just as a recap, for the next 4 weeks, we get the top 2 from each group of 8 - then the wild card round where anyone in any stage of the competition could come back - including Scootergirl (could happen) and Mr. Hung (probably won't happen - but it could be an improvement if he replaces the host).

There are some differences this time around. For starters, the backstage and the frontal stage area is nicer - and there is also now a live audience surrounding the stage. What doesn't change is that the judges go after everyone - and we start with Simon attacking Diana DeGarmo's pink and black outfit. She sings "I Got the Music In Me", and for 16 years old, she sings very well. Not as emotional as I would have expected, but a very solid and in tune effort to start off the show. Randy and Paula was feeling it, while Simon says 'You remind me when Christina Aguilera was nice.' Uh, thanks.... I think.

Singer #2 is Marque Lynche - and the African-American classically trained dancer has a tough act to follow. He is much more emotional than Diana and he takes a page out of the Clay Aiken book and makes sweet facial love to the camera - but he doesn't have that power in that voice when he sings 'Beaches'. The judges eat it up - but Simon says that it feels a little different than what he thought. Marque counter that he sang it for his mom, which gets another round of AwwwwBarf from me - but the singers are 2-0 in the performance rating.

Do we get three straight good performances with Ashley Thomas? She wants to show off her fun side - but I'm not sure singing 'Crazy' is exactly the way to do that - or to stay on pitch. She has a good voice, but she is not on key - and on this sort of song, if you're not on key, it's like listening to screaming cats. The judges liked it - but they weren't blown away and Simon equates it to Rodeo Idol. She does have that country sass, and it wouldn't surprise me, because of the country demographics, to see her sneak in as a dark horse.

Singer #4 is Katie Webber, a 22 year old blonde dance major who sings 'Orange-Colored Sky'. That's an interesting choice of song - but she nails it and she is my favorite so far. Randy was feeling it and Paula loved her stage presence - though she wanted it a little younger - but Simon now calls it Smoky Bar Idol. She thought it was a fun song, and I liked it a lot.

We get through the threat of a Simon/Paula halftime show and move on to #5 - Erskine Walcott, a dancing African-American stagehand who had to learn English as he moved to the states. He doesn't want to be too emotional when he sings 'In Your Arms' - But he should be worried more about his pitch, which was flat. He only did one chorus, which was fine for me. I thought he was ok - but just ok. The judges liked it, but Simon thinks that it was bland and safe and like CHinese food - 'I'll love it at the time, but it will leave you hungry...we're looking for Spaghetti Bolonaise, that was Sweet and Sour Chicken.' I continue to agree with Simon.

Singer #6 is Jennifer 'You look like something you would wrap a turkey in' Hudson, an African American cruise director who cries every time she heard Marque sing. Do we have romance going on? She sings 'Imagine' and that was just not a good choice of song. She sounds like she would sound better in the lower register, because she is clearly struggling in the higher register. She does get out of it nicely, but she didn't pick the right song. Simon and Paula thought it was just ok, but Simon says that she made love to the audience. As a cute barb, Jennifer asked Simon how he liked the outfit - heh. I liked her outfit better than I liked her tune.

Singer #7 is Matthew Metzger, a 23 year old substitute teacher - but you may remember him as 1. One of the final 48 that got cut last year, or 2. One of the members of the peroxide blonde trio who mangled their words this year. He does make me happy by singing one of my favorite songs which is weird, because 'Walking in Memphis' - but I like the version that was done much better by Scooter. Matthew brings the same pitch that he sang as a member of team Peroxide - and that's not a good thing because his pitch was awful and easily the worst singer there so far. Randy agrees with me - but Paula doesn't and says that he was an improvement. Simon likes his stage presence, but if that's the best that he could say, that's not exactly giving a ringing endorsement.

Fantasia Barrino is the last singer - and she doesn't want to be known as Macy Grey. She has a personality (bordering on ego), and she definitely makes a different song with 'Let's Give Them Something to Talk About.' She does hit the pitch, but I don't like her tone and she doesn't really seem to be interacting with the audience. Randy says that she is what the competition is about, Paula says that Fantasia has to be in the finals - and Simon says that Fantasia wouldn't need the competition to get a recording contract. This is my first major disagreement here - because I am not feeling her. Do I think that she will get into the finals? Definitely. Will I be voting for her? No.

This is going to be weird, because my 2 picks are completely different than what I think the audience will pick. The fact that we have a lot of different people with potential to get in says a lot about the level of talent for this season. The 2 that I voted for is Katie Webber and Diana DeGarmo. The 2 people that I think the audience will pick is Fantasia Barrino and Marque Lynche - with DeGarmo being the third person. We'll see how right I am tomorrow.


We are back - and we get to see the audience's opinion for the first time this season! We already have the controversy with Paula fondling Simon - and Simon gaining weight while Randy is losing some.

Simon: "Kind of like (Ryan's) head". Ouch.

We start with 11.5 million votes coming in - and a recap of yesterday's activities. Going to the Idolers, Marque says that he sang well for his mom, Katie had no problem with her jazz selection, and Fantasia says that she would marry Simon. Way to suck it up, Fantasia.

The judges consensus? Randy says Diana and Fantasia, Paula says Diana and Fantasia, and Simon says Diana and Fantasia. We have a unanimous decision. But what did the audience say?

We start with Marque - and he is not in the top 3. Wow - I immediately get shot down. Ashley doesn't get in either - but Fantasia gets in the Top 3, so I feel a little redemption. Erskine does not make the top 3, but Diana does - and 2 of my 3 get in. Katie doesn't get in, which leaves Matthew and Jennifer Hudson. The person going on is....Matthew? Huh? Simon and Paula isn't surprised, but Randy, who trashed Matthew, still says that the voice isn't good enough. I agree with Randy, and I would be shocked if Matthew got into the final two. Even if Matthew doesn't make it, it just goes to show that the audience isn't always voting according to taste - and that charisma (and being the token white boy) still plays a major part of the voting.

With 23% of the vote, the first person to be accepted in is... Fantasia Barrino, who sings a little more of "Something to Talk About". I still don't like the tone in her voice, but I'll give her this - it was an EXCELLENT choice of song, as it gives her a great country cross-over for people in different voting cross-sections to vote for her.

Joining Fantasia will be.... Diana DeGarmo. Fortunately, America has come to it's senses and voted in Diana. She sings her reprise and we are out of here.

Next week - Group 2 - Lisa Leuschner, Matthew Rogers, Noel Roman, Jesus Roman, Briana Ramirez-Rial, Camile Velasco, John Preator and Kara Master. This certainly looks like Matthew and Lisa would be heavy favorites here, but this audience is the same one that stuck Matthew Metzger in the top three, so you never know...

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