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May 27, 2010

American Idol finale – Simon says... goodbye

Posted: 03:52 AM ET

Keri's control panel

*Note: the "American Idol" recaps are a series of blog posts from "Morning Express with Robin Meade" Technical Director, Keri. Keri knows what every button on that giant panel (above) in the control room does, and she presses most of them while putting "Morning Express" on your TV every day. Keri is also a long-time Idol fan and provides the Morning Express writers and producers (who typically go to bed way too early to watch "Idol" live) with a recap. We get a kick out of Keri's "take" on the show, and thought you might as well. The opinions below are Keri's alone and do not necessarily reflect those of the staff of "Morning Express with Robin Meade" or HLN. Here are her impressions of last night:

Season 9 of American Idol has come to a close. Simon makes his exit, Lee takes the title, with speed texing tweens at his side, and my DVR breathes a sigh of relief as it gets a reprieve from its arduous task of recording this show’s much too long season.

I know I’ve spent most of this season wishing to be sucked, warp speed, into an alternate universe where Simon, the Han Solo of AI, still had his heart in his clever derisive witticisms, Paula remained an adorably incoherent yet always entertaining fixture holding it all together, and Season 8 was on continuous repeat as if caught in a bizarre perpetual time loop. But alas, the paradoxes of time travel have kept me and my DVR firmly fixed in Season 9.

Having said that, Lee and Crystal somehow managed to make the final few weeks of the season somewhat compelling and engaging (though as I watch the parade of Idols take the stage while writing this, that feeling diminished slightly in the relativity). As the season closes, I’m not screaming at the top of my lungs, “Simon, take me with you!” Instead, maybe now I am just speaking it in a soft but firm tone of voice.

So how did it all go down last night? Let’s talk about Crystal and Lee, since they are what the finale should be all about (though you would have never known it last night). After that, your mission, should you chose to accept it, is to continue on to read about Simon’s send-off and all the star performances, if you are so inclined. There were some pretty fun moments (the reappearance of Paula, the Top 6 girls with Christina Aguilera who were all kinds of awesome, Bret Michaels took a break from hospital visits and his new apprenticeship to sing a duet with Casey, Janet Jackson showed some serious skin with some “Nasty Boys,” and there were more Idols together on stage than I have ever seen in my life to help send Simon off), but it wasn’t exactly last season’s finale or anything. Here’s how it all played out…

CRYSTAL & LEE:
“Coming into the vote last night, less than 2% separated the finalists,” Ryan says in a statement that told us pretty much nothing. So that was the margin from last week, not the finale? And we don’t get a vote total at all. Copout!

CRYSTAL AND ALANIS MORISSETTE:
Following a look the crowd cheering her on in Toledo, Crystal sang “Ironic” and was joined by Alanis Morissette for “You Oughta Know.” It sounded pretty awesome, but I can’t figure out why they were each wandering back and forth on stage in opposite directions like they were lost.

FORD GIVEAWAY:
The reigning Idol champ, Kris Allen, “surprised” the Top 2 (come on, like they didn’t know it was coming) with their 2011 Ford Fiestas, complete with their very fitting custom graphics that they created earlier in the season (sunflowers on Crystal’s car and plaid on Lee’s). That leads into the final Ford music video of the season… not worth talking about.

LEE AND CHICAGO:
Lee sang a medley with Chicago. Umm Idol, just because the band has the same name as Lee’s hometown, doesn’t mean it is going to make for a good duet. Lee sounded good, but I couldn’t help my mind from drifting. We get a look at the crowd in Lee’s hometown of Mt. Prospect, and they all beLEEve that Lee is DeWISE choice.

CRYSTAL AND LEE DUET, JOINED BY JOE COCKER:
“Tonight is about Crystal and Lee,” Ryan states (Really? Are you sure about that?), and we get a look back at their journey. It seems like so long ago. But maybe that’s because it was. Crystal and Lee started off their duet beautifully together, singing “With a Little Help from My Friends.” Joe Cocker joined in, and it was a lot of fun, though I had trouble hearing Lee and kind of forgot about him. By the end, it became the Crystal/Joe duet.

THE RESULTS:
It came down to “our mother from Toledo and our paint salesman from Chicago.” Lee was in tears the minute they dimmed the lights. And those tears continued when, despite Crystal clearly blowing him away Tuesday night, Lee was crowned the new American Idol. “How does it feel,” Ryan asked him. “I don’t know,” he responds honestly while in shock, and it was hard not to be happy for him. He tells Crystal he loves her and tells us, “I’ve never been happier in my life.” Aww. He was kind of adorable.

BEAUTIFUL DAY:”
Idol seemed determined to get out at their designated time (which my DVR told me was 10:07), and they literally cut Lee off in the middle of him speaking as the music for his song began and he realized he had to sing. Not cool, Idol! Surrounded by a shower of sparks that continued into a blizzard of confetti, Lee sang “Beautiful Day,” which will be released as his single (And can I just say again how strange it is to have the Idol winner releasing a cover song, especially one already so popular and well known like this U2 hit). He was emotional, beckoning for his fellow Idols to join him on stage. When they decided to let him have his moment, Lee went to them and to the fans and to his family. And then… Idol cut him off again! A fitting finish to Season 9.

This would be the point I would usually head into a downward spiral of Idol withdrawal looking for distractions until January. Somehow, I don’t think that is going to be a problem this time around.

I might have joked all season that this would be my last as a viewer. But the truth is, like it or not, I am a creature of habit. If Idol is on my TV, I will watch. Well, at least I’ll give it a chance… maybe stick around to see who replaces Simon. See if maybe they can find an impressive crop of candidates and return to being the television ratings death star. It’s like a book that everyone tells you is wonderful but is really slow to get started. One that you are ready to put down, give up on, and forget all about, but you fear you might only be a few pages away from the best read of your life. Of course, that is why I have suffered through, in their entirety, some seriously mind-numbingly dull books.

So where is Idol headed? With Paula’s absence, Simon’s departure, Ryan’s wackiness, and after a seriously unexciting season… What does next season hold? And will you watch? Or will you free yourself from this television phenomenon? And did America get it right this season?

We now return you to your regularly scheduled Tuesdays and Wednesdays…

Keri's recap of Simon's Farewell (featuring the return of Paula Abdul) and the Guest performances (Brett Michaels? Wow.) is coming up on the next page... but first:

Hey there, it's Robin. I bet Keri is looking forward to a break from American Idol because she has rocked this blog all AI season! Seriously, great work Keri. Now, if you are watching our morning show going "where do I see Keri?", you don't. She is a loyal behind the scenes employee, very important to our show success everyday. But she doesn't have to write the AI blog, yet does so in a fabulous way every week! Thank you Keri!

And now... for the crazy mashup of singers and bands from Joe Cocker to the "Pants on the Ground" guy to Chicago to the Bee Gees... Read the rest of this entry »

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Filed under: Aaron Kelly • Adam Lambert • Alanis Morissette • Allison Iraheta • American Idol • Big Mike • Brett Michaels • Casey James • Chicago • Chris Daughtry • Christina Aguilera • Crystal Bowersox • Dane Cook • David Archuleta • David Cook • Ellen Degeneres • Elliott Yamin • Extras • Janet Jackson • Jordin Sparks • Justin Guarini • Kara Dioguardi • Kelly Clarkson • Kris Allen • Lee DeWyze • Mommasox • Norman Gentle • Paula Abdul • Randy Jackson • Ricky Gervais • Ruben Stoddard • Ryan Seacrest • Season 9 • Simon Cowell • Siobhan Magnus • Tatiana • U2


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May 20, 2010

American Idol recap: Who are the two?

Posted: 04:55 AM ET

Keri's control panel

*Note: the "American Idol" recaps are a series of blog posts from "Morning Express with Robin Meade" Technical Director, Keri. Keri knows what every button on that giant panel (above) in the control room does, and she presses most of them while putting "Morning Express" on your TV every day. Keri is also a long-time Idol fan and provides the Morning Express writers and producers (who typically go to bed way too early to watch "Idol" live) with a recap. We get a kick out of Keri's "take" on the show, and thought you might as well. The opinions below are Keri's alone and do not necessarily reflect those of the staff of "Morning Express with Robin Meade" or HLN. Here are her impressions of last night:

Results night! The Top 3 become 2. “Sometimes it’s good to go home… but not tonight,” the opening montage reminds us.  Gee Idol, thanks for stating the obvious.

No "Top 3" group performance this week.  Instead, we got a lengthy chat with them about their perspective at this point in the competition.  As my eyelids got heavy and my mind wandered, I astonishingly found myself wistful for the gooey cheese of the fondue pots that are the group performances.  How is that possible?  Stop the talking, and get to the hometown visits…

HOMETOWN VISITS:
TEXAS THINKS “CASEY IS HOT:” Casey headed to the hospital where he recovered from an accident 6 years ago and thanks them for saving his life. He sings for Texas, but strangely, we don’t hear a single note. There are tons of screaming girls holding “Casey is hot!” signs. He autographs a puppy. There is a horse with “Hi Simon” in tape on its butt. Ha ha! Casey’s response to it all? With a little A.I. sign covering his mouth, “Holy bleep!”

“MAMA SOX ROCKS” TOLEDO: Crystal headed to Toledo where she got a key to the city on what became Crystal Bowersox Day. There are tons of fans with “Mama Sox Rocks Toledo” signs.  She pops her head out of the limo’s sunroof like she’s playing Wac-A-Mole to tease them.  She autographs “Mama Sox” on some dude’s chest, and the guy plans to turn it into a tattoo! Performing at “Bowerstock” (Girl has the coolest name ever!), she sings an original song, “Holy Toledo.” Excited to finally have some of her original music heard, Crystal explains, through tears, that the song has become an anthem for an area hit with tough times.  She is happy to give them hope and something to look forward to, “That’s what this is all about, man.”

CHICAGO “BeLEEves IN LEE:” “One minute you’re mixing paint… and the next minute, you’re here,” Lee explains on the local news. He throws out the first pitch at a Cubs game and is overwhelmed at seeing his name on the Wrigley Field sign. He heads to his elementary school where there are scores of squealing girls and one little boy with his finger in his ears.  They all have “BeLEEves in Lee” signs.  Then he stops for a visit at his old paint store where he breaks down in tears. At a racetrack, he sings “The Boxer.” During the song, he breaks down in tears again. His parents follow suit. And then I join in too. I literally had to pause my DVR to get a tissue. As he leaves an event, he assures his screaming fans, “I’m going to try and win the thing, alright?”

THE RESULTS:
No dragging it out with theatrics since they spent too much time on the hometown visits, and we all know who is going home anyway. After over 47 million votes (Wow! Up 10 million from last week. Though still a far cry from the 88 million of last season’s Top 3), Lee is the first person headed to the finale.  Crystal is joining him. She’s not sure she heard it correctly and asks, “I’m safe?” Dear Crystal, would we have it any other way? All is right in the Idol universe.; She runs up to Lee and, literally, jumps on him (though not as gracefully as those springy gazelles that Ellen’s been talking about). Aww.

Casey managed to make it all the way to the Top 3. And as he said in the chat at the top of the show, it is like winning 10 million or 100 million in the lottery, “It can’t be bad.” He sings himself out with this week’s judges’ choice, “Daughters.” Looking distracted and without the comfort of his guitar, he walked into the audience and picked up a little girl, who I’m hoping is related to him since she was sitting with his family. He sings the second half of the song seated behind the judges with the little girl on his lap. She looked just as distracted as him. Like they were both thinking what I was thinking… Can we get this over with already?

Afterwards, we got one more look at Casey’s Idol journey. And yes, we got one more look at him taking his shirt off too. Now his journey is complete. Goldie Locks and his little lamb head home.

Despite the over-pimping from the judges this season that tends to backfire, we got our inevitable Top 2 after all.  Crystal and Lee are headed to the finale. But after the hometown visits finally left me feeling somewhat emotionally vested in these two, I’m actually kind of looking forward to it… a little. I’m not expecting anything as immensely entertaining as last season’s epic Adam/Kris/Queen collaboration, or the colossal Adam/KISS extravaganza, or even the exceptional Allison/Cindi Lauper duet (I mean, come on! Can it get better than that?), but it might be special in its own way. Here’s hoping…

*Casey's Idol journey is over... but Keri's recap isn't! Twitter's golden boy Justin Bieber and Travis Garland (who?) performed last night too: Read the rest of this entry »

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Filed under: Adam Lambert • Allison Iraheta • American Idol • Casey James • Cindi Lauper • Crystal Bowersox • Ellen Degeneres • Extras • Justin Bieber • Justin Timberlake • Kara Dioguardi • KISS • Kris Allen • Lee DeWyze • Perez Hilton • Queen • Randy Jackson • Ryan Seacrest • Simon Cowell • Travis Garland


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May 19, 2010

American Idol recap: A three way sigh

Posted: 03:07 AM ET

Keri's control panel

*Note: the "American Idol" recaps are a series of blog posts from "Morning Express with Robin Meade" Technical Director, Keri. Keri knows what every button on that giant panel (above) in the control room does, and she presses most of them while putting "Morning Express" on your TV every day. Keri is also a long-time Idol fan and provides the Morning Express writers and producers (who typically go to bed way too early to watch "Idol" live) with a recap. We get a kick out of Keri's "take" on the show, and thought you might as well. The opinions below are Keri's alone and do not necessarily reflect those of the staff of "Morning Express with Robin Meade" or HLN. Here are her impressions of last night:

“This is the fight for the finale,” Ryan tells us, as the Top 3 “battle it out” for a shot at heading to the Nokia next week.  I’m not sure what “battle” Ryan is watching.  Next week may be the finale, but I don't feel my usual jack-in-the-box-like anticipation, which I can wind up over and over but still somehow jump with a thrill each time as it pops out of that box.  No, this season is more like a winding down forgotten wristwatch.  Or one of those little wind-up dolls just barely getting one foot over the other.  But sure, OK, let’s get ready to rumble.

This week, the Top 3 got their hometown visits.  This is also marks the point when we get 2 songs from each of them (Seems to be happening later and later in recent seasons, doesn't it?  Because I'd so rather hear the forced banter of 4 judges and their replicated critiques than hear the contestants sing an extra song!  Sorry, with this season, the sarcasm in that statement might not have been obvious.  Anyway...). They each get one song of their own choosing, and one chosen for them by the judges.  Double the pleasure, double the fun (at least is isn’t double the one-hour time slot).  The judges love to critique song choices, so how did theirs fair?  And without the burden of past-their-sell-by-date themes, did the Top 3 break out their wow moments?

ROUND 1 – CONTESTANTS’ CHOICE:

CASEY: Casey chose Eric Hutchinson’s “OK, It’s Alright With Me” because it was a good representation of him.  I agree… boring.  It was “kind of just of alright” for Randy (who was wearing a very Mister Rogers-esque sweater).  Simon compared it to the “salad” at dinner and hopes for “something more substantial to come.”  He thought this “dud” of a song choice felt like he was “busking for a couple of dollars rather than competing on the most important night of [Casey’s] life… but [he] sounded good.”

CRYSTAL: Crystal chose Melissa Etheridge’s “Come to My Window” (ooh, shocker… not.).   I thought the harmonica contraption made her look stiff, and the vocals sounded forced.  Randy said the arrangement was fighting her, but her vocals “rose above it.”  Ellen thinks Melissa would be proud.  “Good vocal,” Kara felt, but she got lost in the arrangement and is lacking Melissa’s “rasp and edge.”  Simon (with a we-mustn’t-critique-Crystal-too-hard-lest-she-not-make-it-to-the-finale critique) said it wasn’t the most stunning version of the song but loves that she is “honest” and never compromises.

LEE: Lee chose Skynyrd’s “Simple Man” because the lyrics speak true to him (yep).  It was actually pretty nice and didn’t sound dated.  Randy howled, “Somebody here is feeling like they can win this! That was hot, baby!”  Ellen’s been watching the Discovery Channel too much because she thinks Lee went from being “a little baby lamb” (Sorry Ellen, all lamb references are reserved for Casey) to a springy “gazelle or an impala.” “Round 1 goes to Lee,” Kara declared.  With a song choice that was “absolutely on the money,” Simon thought he not only won round 1, he “absolutely crushed the other two.”

ROUND 2 – JUDGES’ CHOICE:

CASEY: On his hometown visit to Texas, Casey found out that Randy and Kara (separated at the judges’ table, but still lumped together with one judges’ choice) chose John Mayer’s “Daughters” for him to sing because Kara wants him to be vulnerable and know his audience, “women and girls… So give it to them.”  Umm… Can I return it?  Better than his first song, but I thought he took some of the melody out of it (and even out of the guitar solo).  Randy, however, thought it fit him “like a glove.”  Ellen thinks the “daughters, and mothers, and who knows… sons” will be voting. Simon thinks Randy was “bleating on” about arrangements earlier and thinks this was a “lazy arrangement” (Ha ha!  Did he really just use “bleating” while not referring to Casey?).  Simon wished that Kara and Randy gave him something with a “much bigger vocal moment.”  And then the judges argued.  Moving on… 

CRYSTAL: Crystal headed home to Ohio to find that Ellen chose Paul McCartney’s “Maybe I’m Amazed” to help her surprise people.  She started off sounding nervous but ended up tearing into it.  (But just how many times did she refer to herself as “a man” while singing this one?)  Ellen couldn’t have asked for more.  Kara said Crystal showed parts of her voice we haven’t heard until now.  “Me neither,” Crystal agreed.  Simon thinks she proved that she has “soul.”

LEE: Lee headed to Chicago and found that Simon chose “Hallelujah” for him.  Simon admits we’ve heard it on the show before (we forgot?) but not like Lee can do it.  I’m not sure it was worthy of the theatrical choir, dramatic drums, and over-the-top praise.  I preferred Jason Castro’s soft sentiment in Season 7.  But for Season 9?  OK, I guess it was a “moment.”  Simon looked quite pleased with himself.  Randy yelled, “I’ve been waiting all season, man, to see who’s going to throw down the real gauntlet to try and win the whole thing!” Kara thinks Lee is what this show is all about, “an incredible epic moment… owned the entire night.”

This “battle” was the last performance show before finale week… still mostly lightweights.  Lee won the night, though I wouldn’t call it a knockout.  Crystal is definitely still in the fight.  And Casey should throw in the towel (pretty please).  But those are just my thoughts.  What are yours?

Who will America send to the Top 2?  Who will be given one more chance to fight for their right to sing this season's corny coronation song under the confetti shower?  Crystal may have the most effortless talent of the bunch, but with all the little girls voting for the cute boys, she may not be a shoo-in.  Lee has a marketable voice and a humble charm, but he’s off pitch so often that he could conceivably be the most consistently inconsistent singer in an Idol finale ever.  And I think Casey should have gone home long ago, so the way this season is going, I wouldn't be surprised if he wins the whole thing.

We got very little hometown footage in this show (didn’t even see Lee get off the plane).  Maybe we’ll get more as results night filler.  Can they replace the group performance with hometown footage?  I’d go for that.  Less cheese, more tears.  Also, performing on results night will be Travis Garland (who?) and Justin Bieber (prepare your ears for the squeals).

On a completely unrelated note… Did anyone catch the promo for Glee with Neil Patrick Harris singing “Dream On?”  Ooh, maybe it will help get Season 8’s Danny Gokey shriek out of my nightmares.  DVR, here I come.  OK, sleep first.  Date with DVR later.

*P.S. – if you are new to Morning Express, hello! Please visit us on our main showpage CNN.com/Robin and get to know anchor Robin Meade, meteorologist Bob Van Dillen, business correspondent Jennifer Westhoven, sports anchor Rafer Weigel and news correspondent Richard Lui. Get your "news in the fast lane" on Morning Express with Robin Meade weekdays from 6 to 10 Eastern time on HLN!

*P.P.S. – follow HLN on Twitter @HLNTV and we'll update you as soon as Keri's next American Idol recap is up... you'll also get breaking news, and opportunities to share "your views" on the day's issues.

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Filed under: American Idol • Casey James • Crystal Bowersox • Danny Gokey • Ellen Degeneres • Extras • Justin Bieber • Kara Dioguardi • Lee DeWyze • Mommasox • Neil Patrick Harris • NPH • Randy Jackson • Ryan Seacrest • Season 9 • Simon Cowell • Travis Garland


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May 13, 2010

American Idol elimination recap: 'big' surprise?

Posted: 02:52 AM ET

Keri's control panel

*Note: the "American Idol" recaps are a series of blog posts from "Morning Express with Robin Meade" Technical Director, Keri. Keri knows what every button on that giant panel (above) in the control room does, and she presses most of them while putting "Morning Express" on your TV every day. Keri is also a long-time Idol fan and provides the Morning Express writers and producers (who typically go to bed way too early to watch "Idol" live) with a recap. We get a kick out of Keri's "take" on the show, and thought you might as well. The opinions below are Keri's alone and do not necessarily reflect those of the staff of "Morning Express with Robin Meade" or HLN. Here are her cinematic impressions of last night:

Results night! The Top 4 went to the movies, and someone’s character ended up on the cutting room floor.  So who was deemed expendable? Did someone Silence the Lambs?  Did this mean the Death of a Paint Salesman?  Did Big Mike face The Elimination: The Sequel?  Or was the leading lady cut in a surprise plot twist?  Either way, all is not lost.  You can find the deleted scene as a bonus feature on the summer release… The American Idols LIVE! Tour. (If anyone is actually going, tickets go on sale this weekend.)

But before we get to the exciting conclusion, there is a flashback sequence.  Since the Top 3 will return home next week for a "hero’s welcome," we see a montage of this moment in Idol history.  Limos and parades.  Mobs of screaming fans.  Jordin Sparks gets a day named after her.  Taylor Hicks gets a key to the city.  A wild pack of cheerleaders engulf little David Archuleta. Carrie Underwood has the most adorable number one fan ever.  Kris and Adam reach out to grasp the hands reaching back for them.  And tears.  Lots of tears.  David Cook gets choked up.  They all hide their tear-streaked faces in their hands.  Elliott Yamin’s sweet mother in awe of it all.  Oh Idol, why?  Why do you do this to us?  I found myself tearing up… nostalgia for the show I miss.  I’m such a sap.

Back to the reality of Season 9…  It is time to send someone home, but not as part of the "hero’s welcome" the Top 3 will get next week.  Ryan stresses that the results are "in no particular order."  We don’t find out who is in the top group and who is in the bottom.  I think this is code for – the results are no surprise so Idol is going to try to make things interesting by feigning a close call for a frontrunner.  But I could be wrong.  Daughtry is on the show, which reminds us that frontrunners are always at risk for early elimination.

THE RESULTS:
The Top 4 are on stage.  All of them want to be a part of the visits home next week, but someone’s trip home will be much sooner and with much less fanfare.  Their families are seated on the couches at the side of the stage for support.  After almost 37 million votes, the highest of the season (Really America? What show were you watching?), Casey is the first contestant in the Top 3. I guess those lambs won’t be silenced after all.  As Casey goes to hug his family, Idol cuts to a shot of Mike.  He doesn’t look happy.  Since he is left standing next to the two frontrunners, he has to be scared.

Mike, Lee, and Crystal await their fate.  Ryan tells us, "Lee is headed back to Chicago (long pause) to celebrate."  Saw that one coming Ryan.  The long pause didn’t even fool the audience.  Lee joins Casey in the Top 3.

Mike and Crystal remain, though that doesn’t mean this is the Bottom 2.  Are we going to get the surprise twist after all?  Or does Idol just want to make us sweat?  Turns out, it was the latter.  Predictably, Crystal is also in the Top 3.  After surviving 5 additional weeks following the Judges’ Save, Mike is eliminated.Crystal goes to hug her boyfriend, and Mike’s wife is in tears.  "I wasn’t even supposed to be here," he says about his "unbelievable" ride.  We get a look at his Idol journey, which is basically a montage of babies and bear hugs with a bench-pressed Aaron thrown in.

Mike sings himself out with an encore of this week’s song, "Will You Be There." His crying wife was holding their baby, and there was an audible "aww" from the audience as they realized that Baby Lynch was in the house.  He sang like he was trying to prove America wrong.  Ryan summed it up, "A guy who auditioned and had a baby along the way."  Thanks for that astute observation Ryan.  With plenty of time to spare, we watched, for an awkwardly long time, as Mike hugged everyone he came in contact with.  He ends up holding his crying baby.  We get to hear those adorable little baby cries as they fade out and his Idol journey ends.

Keri reviews of the Guest Performances from Fantasia, Daughtry and Bon Jovi: Read the rest of this entry »

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Filed under: American Idol • Big Mike • Bon Jovi • Carrie Underwood • Casey James • Chris Daughtry • Crystal Bowersox • Daughtry • David Archuleta • David Cook • Elliott Yamin • Extras • Fantasia Barrino • Jordin Sparks • Lee DeWyze • Michael Lynche • Mike Lynche • Mommasox • Morning Express crew • Ryan Seacrest • Season 9 • Taylor Hicks • TV Web Proudcer Grayson


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May 12, 2010

American Idol recap: Duet to it

Posted: 02:50 AM ET

Keri's control panel

*Note: the "American Idol" recaps are a series of blog posts from "Morning Express with Robin Meade" Technical Director, Keri. Keri knows what every button on that giant panel (above) in the control room does, and she presses most of them while putting "Morning Express" on your TV every day. Keri is also a long-time Idol fan and provides the Morning Express writers and producers (who typically go to bed way too early to watch "Idol" live) with a recap. We get a kick out of Keri's "take" on the show, and thought you might as well. The opinions below are Keri's alone and do not necessarily reflect those of the staff of "Morning Express with Robin Meade" or HLN. Here are her cinematic impressions of last night:

PROLOGUE
Once upon a time, in a galaxy far, far away…

There was a TV show so full of drama and excitement that it captured the hearts (and speed dial buttons) of millions throughout its journey to discover the stars.  Often there were such intense plot twists that you might have felt like a twister dumped you in Oz.  Occasionally there were moments of sheer genius that gave you chills to rival the best psychological thrillers (“Billie Jean” & “Mad World”).  Something might have escaped from a gory horror flick to haunt your dreams (Danny’s “Dream On” screech from the dark side).  Or you might’ve felt such bewildered delight as if yanked right out of Alice’s rabbit hole or Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory (Adam’s “Ring of Fire”).  There was heartbreak (Allison’s “Cry Baby”).  There were epic battles (“Guyliner vs. The Guy Next Door” & “The Battle of the Davids”).  And heroes rode in on their horses, fought to win the battle, and carried you away… directly to iTunes.

And now… There is Season 9.  Yes, some pretty talented leading characters, but not exactly the type that can carry the screenplay on their own without big budget special effects and 3D glasses to liven things up.  Even Simon, the resident antagonist, doesn’t appear to be in the fightAmerican Idol Top 4Can you blame him?  What battle are we going to have this time around?  The Mom vs. The Paint Salesman?  Big Daddy vs. Cool Mommy?  Ooh, I’m on the edge of my seat.  But who knows?  Some of the best plot twists are the ones we don’t see coming.  But time is running out…

THE SET UP:
Yeah, I know, I went overboard with the movie references.  But it is movie night, after all, as the Top 4 sing songs of the cinema.  They pair up to give us duets as well.  Mentoring them is Oscar winning actor and multi-platinum R&B artist, Jamie Foxx. He has t-shirts to challenge the Top 4.  They either say “artist” or “contestant,” and he presents one to each after the rehearsals. Music is “the soundtrack to our lives,” he tells us, and these are “big songs” so the finalists have a “big task” ahead of them.  May the force be with them…

ACT 1: SOLOS SPUTTER ALONG:
LEE:  Jamie got right in Lee’s face for his rehearsal of “Kiss from a Rose” and awarded him with an “artist” shirt. Jamie predicts, “If he lets the audience feel it, you might be looking at the American Idol.”  I didn’t feel it.  Not horrible, though there were some pitch problems, but not great either.  The judges all wanted him to do more with the song.  Kara thinks he “got lost” in the arrangement and had some “out of tune issues” (Hmm, I think Kara is taking a note from Harry Connick Jr. and refusing to say “pitchy”).  Simon thinks it was “verging on karaoke,” and he should’ve gotten a “contestant” t-shirt instead.

MIKE:  He forgot the words during his rehearsal of “Will You Be There” so was given a “contestant” shirt by Jamie. Mike refused it and said he would be coming back for the “artist” shirt.  Umm, I don’t think so.  I absolutely loved the choir, but I didn’t find anything too special about Mike.  His goal was to make it to the Top 3, but Ellen said his goal “should be to win this thing.”  She thought it was predictable.  Kara felt it was safe.  Simon “kind of felt that [he] meant it.”

CASEY:  Playing the mandolin, Casey chose “Mrs. Robinson” (Oh, here come the Kara cougar jokes).  Jamie asked Casey to seduce him and gave him an “artist” shirt after singing through all that eye contact.  Much better than last week though I was a bit bored.  Randy wasn’t “jumping up and down” for it but did jump on the chance to start the Kara jokes.  Ellen liked that he changed up the song but wanted him to go further.  Then she turned it over to Mrs. Robinson (Ugh, that got old real fast).  Mrs. Robinson never got a chance to finish her critique through all the jokes.  Simon thought Casey’s performance was “a little bit lazy” and didn’t have “the substance” needed.

CRYSTAL: Jamie gave her an “artist” shirt and wants her to use eye contact to turn the song into a testimony.  Crystal lightened the mood with a song from Caddyshack.  She sang “I’m Alright” and was cool and definitely more than just alright.  It wasn’t Randy’s favorite, but he liked that she switched up the song.  Ellen and Kara both think she made the song better than the original.  Simon said she’s “back in the game.” 

ACT 2: DUETS SAVE THE DAY:
CRYSTAL/LEE:  Both on guitar and facing each other, Crystal and Lee sang “Falling Slowly.” It didn’t quite have magic the Adam/Allison duet had last season, and I preferred the charming version Kris did of this song (also last season), but for this season, it was pretty darn special.  Interestingly, Idol captured the entire song with one continuous camera shot that just kept circling around them, but it kind of made me feel like I was falling slowly into an ocean of seasickness.  The judges loved it with Ellen calling them “the new Captain & Tennille.”  It was one of Kara’s favorite moments of the entire season.  She thought they brought out the best in each other.  “I don’t know if I’d call that a good song,” Simon said, “I would call it a fantastic song.”  Crystal said that Lee is her “musical crush.”  Aww.

CASEY/MIKE:  “Ladies, prepare yourselves,” Ryan warns, for Casey and Mike’s “Have You Ever Really Loved a Woman.” The harmonies were really pretty.  Casey’s guitar work was gorgeous.  Randy thought Casey started it off a little rough, but then it was brilliant when Mike joined in.  Ellen said, “As a matter of fact, yes, I have loved a woman.” Kara thinks the incredible duets were better than all the solos.  Simon thinks the “artist” shirts should go to the duets which were “a million times better” than the solos.

RESOLUTION
To be continued... Tune in to results night (& check back here tomorrow) for the exciting conclusion as the Top 4 become 3.  Joining the action will be special guests Daughtry, Fantasia, and Bon Jovi.

Who will succumb to the wrath of the texting teenyboppers?  Who will triumph over the speed-dialing soccer moms?  And after season 9 sputters along at its snooze worthy pace, will any of us live happily ever after?  At least no one released the Kraken this week.

EPILOGUE
Tickets for the summer tour go on sale this weekend.  Anybody going?

*P.S. – if you are new to Morning Express, hello! Please visit us on our main showpage CNN.com/Robin and get to know anchor Robin Meade, meteorologist Bob Van Dillen, business correspondent Jennifer Westhoven, sports anchor Rafer Weigel and news correspondent Richard Lui. Get your "news in the fast lane" on Morning Express with Robin Meade weekdays from 6 to 10 Eastern time on HLN!

*P.P.S. – follow HLN on Twitter @HLNTV and we'll update you as soon as Keri's next American Idol recap is up... you'll also get breaking news, and opportunities to share "your views" on the day's issues.

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Filed under: American Idol • Big Mike • Casey James • Crystal Bowersox • Ellen Degeneres • Extras • Jamie Foxx • Kara Dioguardi • Lee DeWyze • Michael Lynche • Mike Lynche • Mommasox • Morning Express crew • Randy Jackson • Ryan Seacrest • Season 9 • Simon Cowell


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May 6, 2010

American Idol elimination recap: Gaga for Sinatra

Posted: 02:56 AM ET

Keri's control panel

*Note: the "American Idol" recaps are a series of blog posts from "Morning Express with Robin Meade" Technical Director, Keri. Keri knows what every button on that giant panel (above) in the control room does, and she presses most of them while putting "Morning Express" on your TV every day. Keri is also a long-time Idol fan and provides the Morning Express writers and producers (who typically go to bed way too early to watch "Idol" live) with a recap. We get a kick out of Keri's "take" on the show, and thought you might as well. The opinions below are Keri's alone and do not necessarily reflect those of the staff of "Morning Express with Robin Meade" or HLN. Here are her impressions of last night:

*SPOILER ALERT: We will reveal the name of the person eliminated from American Idol on Wednesday 5/5 in this article!

Results night! The Top 5 become the Top 4. But there is a whole hour of filler to get through first.

And you know what I just realized? This season, I’ve actually been looking forward to the results night guest performances. Those used to just be filler, like the tissue paper and fake grass in gift baskets that you just want to rip through to skip to the good stuff. This season, they are more like double stuffed Oreos… Mmm, the filling is best part! Maybe that’s because this whole season feels like filler, mostly boring shows just taking up the prime time space once filled by a TV behemoth. Idol hasn’t been filling its purpose in my life… to supply a momentary distraction from the more important things in the world (the things I get so much of at work every day). I did enjoy performance night this week, but that was because the mentor, Harry Connick Jr., had enough personality and charisma to fill the gaping hole. But yeah, I know, “American Idol” is about the contestants, not the mentors and certainly not me, so let’s get the focus back on them…

We got a look at the hectic days that are Tuesdays for the contestants. Waking up early. Catering. Time-lapsed hair and makeup. Rehearsals using stand-in judges with the same haircuts as the real ones, but they only say nice things. The Randy stand-in says, “Say Whaaat?” Ryan has a confused look on his face. Crystal does a funny jiggley dance in her gown. And Crystal and Mike’s babies… how impossibly precious they are!

The Top 5 provide us with a Frank Sinatra medley group performance. Oh no. Please can I fast-forward? It doesn’t sound anything like them… the magic of lip-syncing I guess. Maybe they got coached on how to conceal their mouth with the mic (to better hide the lip-syncing?) because they are all shoving them in their faces. Love the fedora on Crystal though. Let’s get to the results…

Oh, but wait! Another group performance! Say it isn’t so. Please. Pretty please. (Gosh, my begging isn’t working tonight). Following a Harry Connick Jr. package and performance (which I will get to later, because now, it is all about the contestants, remember? Though you’d never guess that after this show), the Top 5 sang a medley of Harry’s songs. Not nearly as cheesy as usual. Afterward, it was back to Harry for his ‘When Harry Met Sinatra’ story. A nervous Harry forgot the words when performing at Sinatra’s 75th birthday party. And when he introduced himself later, Sinatra told his now-wife-then-girlfriend that she was beautiful, kissed her on the lips, and left. OK, now the results…

THE RESULTS:
After much praise from the judges on Tuesday, Lee was first sent to safety early on in the show.

Ryan later split the remaining 4 contestants into two groups – Crystal & Casey and Mike & Aaron. Ryan turns to Lee sitting by himself in safety. Oh no Ryan, don’t! We all know what’s coming. Lee does too and just drops his head and nods. Ryan is going to make him choose who he thinks is in the top and bottom. I hate this part. Thankfully, and strangely, Ryan just asked if he would pick the safe group, if asked. Lee simply said, “No.”

It is Mike and Aaron in the Bottom 2. Whoa! No Casey? Wow. The really harsh judging must’ve lit a fire under the frightened Casey fans. I guess we’ll have to endure more of that singing-thru-a-wind-tunnel vibrato. And since he scolded Idol in the open (“Don’t take my guitar away from me again.”), he’s sure to be back behind the comfort of the 6-string next week.

After 32 million votes, Aaron is going home. Fortunately, Big Mike doesn’t pick him up and bench-press him or anything, just gives him a slightly awkwardly long hug. Following a too cute look at his journey, Aaron sings us out with a reprise of “Fly Me to the Moon” (more time with Harry on stage). Better this time around, but still no swagger. Idol was determined to get out on time. They ran the credits over Aaron’s song and practically cut off his last note. Bye-bye cutie pie.

Next week, The Top 4 will head to the movies and sing songs of the cinema with Jamie Foxx for a mentor. Jamie again? I think I had enough of him when he mentored last season’s Rat Pack Week. Harry is an actor… Can’t we have him again? On second thought, after tonight I think I’ve had enough of him too (overkill, Idol, overkill).

And can I just ask, what was up with Kara’s outfit? Jeans and a white T-shirt tank? Thanks for dressing up for TV. Oh, I’m sorry. She added a glitzy necklace so it must’ve been OK.

GUEST PERFORMANCES:
LADY GAGA: She started off with a short “Bad Romance” intro before she got into her new song, “Alejandro.” Not my favorite GaGa song, but there were plenty of dark and twisty things happening on stage to distract from that. Her piano was decorated with so many black spiky twigs that it looked like the surface of the comet in “Armageddon.” (Or was it “Deep Impact?” Same thing.) She was covered head-to-toe, fingers-to-face, in fishnets and began enshrouded with a strange gauzy cape. There was a flaming angel, literally, an angel statue with wings that shot up fire. Oh, now I see… The flaming angel is a fountain, the black spiky things are trees, and there are benches… It was a park scene from the “Armageddon” comet. Of course, there were plenty of scantily clad male dancers too. Family show? Sure.

HARRY CONNICK JR.: In stark contrast to GaGa, there was Harry. Before he sang, he got yet more TV time with another look at his work with the Top 5. Hysterical. Harry is totally funny. Talking about working on “colors and shapes” when little Aaron didn’t understand something. Flirting with Casey. Sticking his foot in his mouth when he mistook Crystal’s insulin pump for a cell phone or pager. Explaining to the judges that “pitchy” isn’t really a word. Afterwards, he sang the Beatles song “And I Love Her” off his latest album. He sounded terrific, but as Randy might say, a little sleepy dawg. At points he looked like he was singing “I love her” to the microphone, or maybe it was just the camera angle. But oh so smooth.

Keri will be back next week with her recaps of the top 4 performances. Songs from the movies? Which stars would you cast to play characters if there was ever an "American Idol" movie?

*P.S. – if you are new to Morning Express, hello! Please visit us on our main showpage CNN.com/Robin and get to know anchor Robin Meade, meteorologist Bob Van Dillen, business correspondent Jennifer Westhoven, sports anchor Rafer Weigel and news correspondent Richard Lui. Get your "news in the fast lane" on Morning Express with Robin Meade weekdays from 6 to 10 Eastern time on HLN!

*P.P.S. – follow HLN on Twitter @HLNTV and we'll update you as soon as Keri's next American Idol recap is up... you'll also get breaking news, and opportunities to share "your views" on the day's issues.

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Filed under: Aaron Kelly • American Idol • Big Mike • Casey James • Crystal Bowersox • Extras • Frank Sinatra • Gaga • Harry Connick Jr. • Kara Dioguardi • Lady Gaga • Lee DeWyze • Michael Lynche • Mike Lynche • Mommasox • Morning Express crew • Randy Jackson • Ryan Seacrest • Season 9 • Simon Cowell


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May 5, 2010

"American Idol recap" – There's something about Harry

Posted: 02:40 AM ET

Keri's control panel

*Note: the "American Idol" recaps are a series of blog posts from "Morning Express with Robin Meade" Technical Director, Keri. Keri knows what every button on that giant panel (above) in the control room does, and she presses most of them while putting "Morning Express" on your TV every day. Keri is also a long-time Idol fan and provides the Morning Express writers and producers (who typically go to bed way too early to watch "Idol" live) with a recap. We get a kick out of Keri's "take" on the show, and thought you might as well. The opinions below are Keri's alone and do not necessarily reflect those of the staff of "Morning Express with Robin Meade" or HLN. Here are her impressions of last night:

Last night, the Top 5 took on “The Voice” and performed selections from the Sinatra songbook. Did they do it their way? Or was it karaoke on repeat? I mean, way to keep things current, Idol. Like a broken record, we spend ALL season hearing the judges tell the contestants they need to be current and relevant, but then they give them themes like Sinatra? Don’t get me wrong… I love Ol’ Blue Eyes as much as the next person, but asking some of these kids to become contemporary crooners is a stretch. Do they have the swagger or the maturity to take on Frankie and make it fresh?

Lucky for them, this week the Top 5 have modern-day crooner Harry Connick Jr. to help. He is not only their mentor, but Harry also wrote the arrangements and the orchestrations for the songs. Finally! Give the mentor actual input in the total process (not just few minutes of rehearsal time). Now, I’m guessing not all mentors have what it takes to do this (*coughs* Miley Cyrus *clears throat*), but Harry Connick Jr.? If he can handle alien attacks and Grace Adler for a wife, he can take on the Top 5. Though I suspect the arrangements will sound more like him and less like them.

Idol kept Harry busy as he wrote the “supportive” arrangements. So busy that he made a dig at Shania, “You think Shania Twain was up in here doing this?” (Aww Harry, not Shania.) He thinks it will be “great” because the contestants are “great” people and “great” singers, and it was “great” seeing how humble they are. (Well Harry, I guess it is going to be great then, huh?) He plays the piano alongside the contestants too! And his band is there, amidst the rest of the Idol band, taking his lead.

The Top 5 were all dressed up for the occasion, looking very dapper and smooth and ready for a show. So, In Harry’s own words (well, the words of his Independence Day character, which strangely are the first words that pop in my mind when I think if him), “Let’s kick the tires and light the fires, big daddy!”

THE GOOD (in order of appearance):
MICHAEL: Harry thinks if Mike can find that “moment of truth” when he sings “The Way You Look Tonight,” it will be perfect. Mike is smooth and in his element, even has the angled fedora. Randy shouted, “You threw down the gauntlet tonight, baby!” Kara thinks he “found the drama” and “took us on a journey.” Simon thinks, “Everything just clicked.”

LEE: Harry’s wife thinks Lee is cute. And I think Lee and Harry were cute. Harry kept telling him how great he is but then tells the camera otherwise. Lee was laughing and smiling. And he kept that smile going when he sang “That’s Life.” Ellen said, “If this was the last night of performances, you would have just won this whole thing.” Harry brought out Lee’s personality and confidence, Simon notes, and feels it was “by far, for all of us, the best performance of the night so far.” (So far? What show was he watching? Lee was the last one.) As Ryan tried to give out the phone number, Lee made a beeline to Harry for a gracious thank you hug. Harry said, “Way to go baby. Just stop smiling.” And Lee smiled. Man, these two… just adorable.

THE OK:
CRYSTAL: I thought Crystal looked beautiful but started off a little corny sitting at the piano with Harry as she began “Summer Wind.” She hit one key on the piano and walked over to the mic. It sounded pretty but looked uncomfortable. Ellen thought she swallowed her words and needed to loosen up. Simon thinks she’s had two “OK” weeks, and “if” she survives this week, she needs to prove she’s in it to win it. Crystal defended herself saying that she didn’t think the song needed “really big notes.” (Huh? I didn’t hear anyone telling you it did. But I love you anyway.)

THE NOT SO GOOD (in order of appearance):
AARON: “Big Mike,” Harry shouts when little Aaron walks in the room. Ha! Aww, they dressed Aaron up in big boy clothes, but it just made him look even younger when he sang “Fly Me to the Moon.” No swagger here. Ellen and Randy liked it with Ellen saying he had “beautiful vocals.” Though she had a critique for Harry, calling his piano “a little pitchy.” Simon thought it lacked conviction saying that Sinatra was a “lion” and Aaron was a “mouse.” (But he’s a cute, likeable little mouse.)

CASEY: One of Casey’s friends (who doesn’t watch “TEEvee”) called offering him a gig for Tuesday night that would pay $50 and a free meal. Sorry, he’s a bit busy Tuesday nights (Hmm, but maybe not for long). Casey looked awkward without his guitar, and the stiff goofy grin was back as he sang “Blue Skies.” Randy believes it was his worst performance, “It was pitchy all the way until maybe the last note” and even made the orchestra sound out of tune. Kara thinks his vibrato sounds like a “lamb.” (Seriously, Kara? You’re just now noticing that? WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN ALL SEASON?!?!) Simon thought Casey looked “embarrassed.” Harry admitted that Casey was better in rehearsals.

Sinatra night should be known as the night Harry Connick Jr. took over “American Idol.” He was charming and funny as he mentored the contestants, performed with them, threw in a few judging comments, took over Ellen’s comedy duties… He even took over Ryan’s intro at the top of the show and announced, “This… is ‘American Idol’” in that southern drawl. And I loved every minute of it. Not every minute of the show of course (could’ve done without much of it… Aaron and Casey… and Ryan… and Randy… and Kara), but I loved every minute of Harry! I only wish he could have gotten Simon to button a few more buttons… Too much chest hair showing buddy!

We’ll get more Harry Connick Jr. on results night when he performs. (Yay!) Also performing will be Lady GaGa! (Woo hoo!) So what wild and crazy spectacle are we going to get from GaGa this time? What will she (or won’t she) be wearing?

And oh yeah, someone will be going home too as the Top 5 become the Top 4.

So, did the Top 5 bring Sinatra into the 2000s and inspire the modern-day “bobby-soxers” into texting twitches and speed-dial spasms? More importantly, is there a number I can call to vote for Harry?

*P.S. – if you are new to Morning Express, hello! Please visit us on our main showpage CNN.com/Robin and get to know anchor Robin Meade, meteorologist Bob Van Dillen, business correspondent Jennifer Westhoven, sports anchor Rafer Weigel and news correspondent Richard Lui. Get your "news in the fast lane" on Morning Express with Robin Meade weekdays from 6 to 10 Eastern time on HLN!

*P.P.S. – follow HLN on Twitter @HLNTV and we'll update you as soon as Keri's next American Idol recap is up... you'll also get breaking news, and opportunities to share "your views" on the day's issues.

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Filed under: Aaron Kelly • American Idol • Big Mike • Casey James • Crystal Bowersox • Extras • Frank Sinatra • Harry Connick Jr. • Kara Dioguardi • Lee DeWyze • Michael Lynche • Mike Lynche • Mommasox • Morning Express crew • Randy Jackson • Ryan Seacrest • Simon Cowell


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April 29, 2010

American Idol elimination: Vampires, pizza, Shakira & Shrek

Posted: 04:16 AM ET

Keri's control panel

*Note: the "American Idol" recaps are a series of blog posts from "Morning Express with Robin Meade" Technical Director, Keri. Keri knows what every button on that giant panel (above) in the control room does, and she presses most of them while putting "Morning Express" on your TV every day. Keri is also a long-time Idol fan and provides the Morning Express writers and producers (who typically go to bed way too early to watch "Idol" live) with a recap. We get a kick out of Keri's "take" on the show, and thought you might as well. The opinions below are Keri's alone and do not necessarily reflect those of the staff of "Morning Express with Robin Meade" or HLN. Here are her impressions of last night:

*SPOILER ALERT: We will reveal the name of the person eliminated from American Idol on Wednesday 4/28 in this article!

Results night! And I think I might care for probably the first time since we said goodbye to Alex and Lilly in the semifinals. Idol actually had a good performance show this week, relatively. And those I thought were clear candidates for elimination did quite well. But speed-texting teenyboppers somehow manage to be fickle and faithful all at the same time, so who knows.

The show open had behind the scenes footage… Aaron getting his makeup done. Mike getting his forehead dabbed. And the control room! Aww, my peeps. The crew counts us down… “5, 4, 3, 2, 1. Up on two. Zoom!” And let the results show begin…

No group performance! Sure, they fit one in on “Idol Gives Back” night when the show ran 24 minutes heavy, but not on a regular results night? Well, I don’t miss the cheese.

But in case you do, there’s always the Ford commercial… Sorry, I mean the Ford music video. Ryan tells us to pay attention because “this is a good one.” I was grateful for the heads-up. I never pay attention and can’t think of a single one so far this season. Just blocked them all out I guess. But this one was fun. The contestants are vampires! They have fangs and wild contact lenses. Siobhan makes one freaky cool vampire! They try to attack Mike, but he scares them away with a giant garlic covered pizza. Ahh, there’s the cheese!

And the commercials continue… The Top 6 went to a screening of the new Shrek movie and got to attempt voicing over the characters. Antonio Banderas and Cameron Diaz join Ryan on stage to continue the promotion. After they tell Ryan he’s “the best host in the world ever” (oh please!), Antonio gets things moving with a “Puss in Boots” version of, “Dim the lights, and here we go…”

BUILDING THE BOTTOM 3:
3 GROUPS OF 2: One by one, Ryan talks to the contestants. Siobhan thought it was an honor and “wicked cool” to sing for Shania. Ryan asks Simon what he meant when he called Mike’s performance “wet.” Simon responded, “Imagine you singing.” Ryan took it as a compliment. I still have no idea what he’s talking about. Kara tried to say something about Casey, but I was too distracted by her earrings to hear a word. We end up with 3 groups of 2 – Siobhan & Lee, Crystal & Aaron, and Mike & Casey. Looking at those groups, I have no idea what’s going to happen.

THE BOTTOM 3:
Ryan walks Siobhan from her group over to Mike and Casey. And this is the Bottom 3. Hmm. At this point, my guess is Mike.

DROPPING IT DOWN TO 1:
SIOBHAN, MIKE, AND CASEY are on stage. Mike said there is “no shame” in being in the Bottom 3 this week because everyone did well. Mike is safe.

So the glassblower and the construction worker, otherwise known as Siobhan and Casey, await their fate. I thought Casey had the best performance this week. And Siobhan is just so unique. Oh well. After 33 million votes, it is SIOBHAN going home. Aww. OK, her voice tends to be all over the place, and the effort it takes to control makes me uncomfortable, but I have enjoyed her unpredictability and adorably strange quirky style. And there was even a point in the semifinals when I thought we were destined to have a Crystal/Siobhan finale. Guess not. She has been singing for her baby sisters and hopes she was able “to show them what we’re all capable of.”

I was hoping for a “House of the Rising Sun” sing out, but she gave us “Think” from Top 20 week. There were some bad notes off the top, but she got it together, and I was reminded of happier times before Idol broke her spirits. She belted out one final Siobhan scream and then was off to hug her family.

Surprise. Surprise. Idol finished EARLY. Siobhan was done, but there were still 2 minutes left. Ryan must’ve gotten the “stretch” cue because he awkwardly pulled Siobhan over to Simon for a hug. Randy told her to “keep being yourself.” With Siobhan’s departure, Crystal is the one remaining woman in the Top 5. Wait, didn’t they tell this was going to be a season dominated by ladies?

Next week, The Top 5 will sing the songs of Sinatra, and Harry Connick, Jr. will join them as mentor.

Did you vote with America? If you could pick the pairings next week... which Idol would you like to see sing which Sinatra song?

*There were some surprising guest performances last night, including a very unusual duet. PLUS, find out with what song Robin Meade serenades the "Morning Express" control room during commercial breaks: Read the rest of this entry »

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Filed under: Aaron Kelly • American Idol • Antonio Banderas • Behind the Scenes • Big Mike • Cameron Diaz • Casey James • Crystal Bowersox • Frank Sinatra • Harry Connick Jr. • iReport • Kara Dioguardi • Lady Antebellum • Lee DeWyze • Michael Lynche • Mike Lynche • Mommasox • Morning Express crew • Randy Jackson • Rascal Flats • Rascal Flatts • Ryan Seacrest • Season 9 • Shakira • Shania Twain • Shrek • Simon Cowell • Siobhan Magnus • Sons of Sylvia


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April 28, 2010

American Idol: Technically Speaking – "Top 6 ride the 'Twain'"

Posted: 04:00 AM ET

Keri's control panel
*Note: the "American Idol" recaps are a series of blog posts from "Morning Express with Robin Meade" Technical Director, Keri. Keri knows what every button on that giant panel (above) in the control room does, and she presses most of them while putting "Morning Express" on your TV every day. Keri is also a long-time Idol fan and provides the Morning Express writers and producers (who typically go to bed way too early to watch "Idol" live) with a recap. We get a kick out of Keri's "take" on the show, and thought you might as well. The opinions below are Keri's alone and do not necessarily reflect those of the staff of "Morning Express with Robin Meade" or HLN. Here are her impressions of last night:

6 down, 6 to go… We are halfway through the finals of "American Idol: Season 9."

Yes, only half. I can’t be the only one feeling like this is going by really s.l.o.w.l.y. (Oops. Did I just hit the slow mo instead of the fast-forward?). Can’t we just skip ahead to the end? I doubt we’d miss much in the way of water cooler moments (no burning rings of fire in this lot). Oh, there I go getting negative and whiney again, like a child asking, "Mommy, are we there yet?" Sorry. Many of the Top 6 are actually quite good. They are just also quite forgettable (the type that might make good recording artists but not necessarily good TV). But the halfway mark reminds me that there’s still time. Will they step it up? Or are we doomed to the boredom of predictability for the next month? (Am I being too dramatic? Well, we need drama from this show somehow!)

This week is Season 9’s version of country week, a Shania Twain themed country. She is both theme and mentor. Last night, the Top 6 sang her songs and received her advice. With all her playful pop country hits, she is "the biggest crossover artist ever" and has the "best-selling album by a woman in any genre in history." Go girl!

During the Chicago auditions, Shania’s stint at the judges’ table drove her into a tizzy bursting with unintended double entendres (Remember John’s "beautiful bottom end?"). But puns aside, Shania was delightful and constructive. Last night as mentor, she was equally delightful, always a positive presence and luminous in her blue sequined blouse. She feels responsible for the Top 6, and adorably, she’s worried whoever goes home might hate her (Aww. How can anyone hate Shania?). She looked like a nervous but proud momma all night. She wants to see her songs come alive. So… Bring on the countrified kids!

THE GOOD (in order of appearance):
CASEY: Casey was excited to sing "Don't!" because it is a "singing song." "I don’t think I’ve sang yet," he said. I don't think I’ll ever like the strange vibrato in Casey's voice, but it was kept to minimal levels. When he loses the stiff goofy grin that is almost a permanent fixture on his face, he can be really effective with a heartfelt song. All the judges thought it was one of his best performances with Kara loving that he wasn't hiding behind his guitar… "raw" and "vulnerable." Simon was happy he got the wakeup call last week and suggested he thank Shania with a kiss. Casey was happy to oblige. Ryan thinks, "We've got ourselves a competition!"

AARON: Aww. Cute little Aaron finally had a moment with "You've Got a Way." There was a rough patch in the middle, but it was soft and sweet and miles better than anything we've seen from him. Ellen liked his "maturity" and said, "This is going to be tough [on results night] because everybody is doing well" (which I think was code for – Who's going home this week if not Aaron?). Kara thinks he really felt the lyrics and noted that he changed the line about "making love." Ooh, so glad he did since 17-year-old Aaron was singing to his mom. Simon said he's been struggling but, "Tonight, you were like a different artist… sincere… believable." Wow. Everyone was counting this kid out (myself included). But now even Ryan added, "What’s going to happen tomorrow night!?!?"

SIOBHAN: Shania tried to pull some attitude out of Siobhan who's looked a little defeated lately. The first part of "Any Man of Mine," to me, sounded flat and buried in the music, but I thought the ending was powerful. She screamed, and though far from perfect, I actually thought it was fitting (But the outfit? I usually like her quirkiness, but this cutesy flowery dress with a strange leather strappy holster thing? Hmm.). The judges raved. Randy loved it and her "punk country" look. Ellen thought she closed out the show great, "Way to pull the Shania Twain into the station." Simon found it fun but was unsure of the end, "It was almost like you were giving birth up there."

THE OK (in order of appearance):
LEE: Shania suggested that Lee begin "You’re Still the One" with voice and piano only so as not to get "buried by his guitar." Oh, he started off pitchy. I wish he was buried by his guitar. He got it together, but it certainly wasn't my favorite performance of his. The judges seemed to be on board though. Ellen thought he "couldn't look cuter" (I have to admit, his smile is infectious) and said, "All aboard the Shania Twain." Simon thought it was the "perfect song" for him and then got into an argument with Kara over whether his facial expressions were just weird or actual smiles.

MICHAEL: His "It Only Hurts When I'm Breathing" was kind of pretty, but I didn't really feel the honesty. Shania sure did. She was swaying along in the audience. Ellen compared him to Luther Vandross. Kara loved that he changed the song just enough to put his mark on it. Simon thought it was "a little bit wet." Sometimes I have no idea what Simon is talking about, but I still somehow agree. But "girly" Simon? Big Mike? Really? Ryan noted that Shania looked teary-eyed during his song. She said, "He really got me."

CRYSTAL: Crystal sang "No One Needs to Know" to her boyfriend in the audience. She is "dropping hints" hoping "he’ll man up one of these days." She wasn't shy about her feelings, and she didn't shy away from the country twang either. Crystal is never bad. This just wasn't as special as her usual, and I didn't dig the little country mini dress. The judges all seemed lukewarm as well saying it wasn't their favorite but they still love her. Simon thought it was limp and added, "Shocker! We don’t like Crystal this week." Ryan added more pressure on Crystal's boyfriend. Awkward. She blushes. He just smiles and shrugs.

American Idol top 6 with Shania TwainOK, I take back most of what I said at the top of this post. Season 9 might not be predictable after all. They weren’t horrible. There still isn’t a whole lot in the way of excitement, but a Crystal/Lee Top 2 might not be an inevitability. This was the night where some of the likely 6th place finishers stepped up their game and some of the leaders fell behind. Might that actually mean we could be surprised on results night when the Top 6 will become the Top 5?

Results night will feature performances from Rascal Flats, Sons of Sylvia, Lady Antebellum… and Shakira (Seriously? For country week?).

So, did anyone drive your texting fingers into a tizzy? Or leave you with the desire to break out the cowboy boots and do the two-step?

*P.S. – follow HLN on Twitter @HLNTV and we'll update you as soon as Keri's next American Idol recap is up... you'll also get breaking news, and opportunities to share "your views" on the day's issues.

*P.P.S. – if you are new to Morning Express visit us on our main showpage CNN.com/Robin and get to know anchor Robin Meade, meteorologist Bob Van Dillen, business correpsondent Jennifer Westhoven, sports anchor Rafer Weigel and news correspondent Richard Lui. Get your "news in the fast lane" on Morning Express with Robin Meade weekdays from 6 to 10 Eastern time on HLN!

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Filed under: Aaron Kelly • American Idol • Big Mike • Casey James • Crystal Bowersox • Extras • Kara Dioguardi • Lady Antebellum • Lee DeWyze • Michael Lynche • Mike Lynche • Mommasox • Morning Express crew • Randy Jackson • Rascal Flats • Ryan Seacrest • Season 9 • Shakira • Shania Twain • Siimon Cowell • Siobhan Magnus • Sons of Sylvia


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