American Idol

Why Casey Carlson didn’t cut it

Thursday, February 19th, 2009

Ultimately, there are two things a contestant needs to succeed on “American Idol”: The ability to own songs and “It.”

Both are a bit hard to define but you don’t need Randy, Kara, Paula and Simon to tell you when you see them. You know those qualities when you see them. That’s obvious from the various comments that readers have made on

Casey Carlson, our homegirl from Eden Prairie, struck out on both counts. There was nothing original about her rendition of the Police’s “Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic.” She didn’t make the song her own. She didn’t inject her personality into it. It was pretty much karaoke. Never mind that she had some pitch issues, as well.

Then there’s the “It” factor. Call it star quality, charmisa, magic. Or more often than not, Idol settles for a strong, definable personality. Being cute, as Casey was, is one-dimensional. It’s not personality. She projected theatricality (winking, smiling, etc.) more than personality.

Tatiana, Idol’s drama queen, has oodles of personality but it wasn’t necessarily likable personality. She got bounced, too, on Wednesday night.

Of the 12 singers who performed this week, Danny Gokey seemed the closest to having the American Idol goods. He took a Mariah Carey song, Hero, (probably the only Mariah song worth covering) and made it his own, taking a woman’s song and doing it from a male point of view with vocal flair. It helps if you know his back story as a recent widower — and all that kind of stuff factors into personality and the voting.

He sold the song as his own, he established himself as a memorable personality and he’s the guy with cooler-than-Randy’s glasses, a piece of identity that sets him apart from the two other kinda husky dudes who also sang on Tuesday.

Next week, our other homegirl, Jesse Langseth (or Jesse Lang as she’s been known in local clubs), gets her turn. 

In honor of tonight’s “American Idol” premiere

Tuesday, January 13th, 2009

Allow me to point you to my column/plea that ran before the start of last season. Hey, the regurgitate the same formula every year, why can’t I?

American Idols @ Target Center

Monday, September 1st, 2008

Who was your favorite Idol finalist? The answer probably begins with David. They were the top performers, by far, Sunday at Target Center.

The two ensemble numbers were OK. “Pride (In the Name of Love)” was moving until they literally introduced Michael Johns as if this song was about a star turn, not a moving message. Oh well. It’s Idol Gives Back to Show Biz. The closing “Don’t Stop the Music” was handled with more aplomb.

Here is the set list (with original artist in parenthesis):

Chikezie: I Believe in My Soul (Donny Hathaway), Caught Up (Usher), So High (John Legend)

Ramiele Malubay: I Want You Back (Jackson 5), Love Will Lead You Back (Taylor Dayne), If I Never See You Face Again (Maroon 5)

Michael Johns: We Will Rock You/We Are the Champions (Queen), It’s All Wrong But It’s All Right (Dolly Parton), Dream On (Aerosmith)

Kristy Lee Cook: Squeezin the Love Outta You (Carolyn Dawn Johnson), God Bless the USA (Lee Greenwood), Cowgirls (Kerry Harvick)

Carly Smithson: Bring Me to Life (Evanescence), Crazy on You (Heart), I Drove All Night (Cyndi Lauper)

Brooke White: Let It Be (Beatles), 1234 (Feist), Yellow (Coldplay)

Ensemble (Chikezie, Ramiele, Michael, Kristy, Carly and Brooke) doing Pride (In the Name of Love) (U2)


Jason Castro: Over the Rainbow (Judy Garland), Crazy (Gnarls Barkley), Daydream (Lovin Spoonful)

Syesha Mercado: Umbrella (Rihanna), If I Aint Got You (Alicia Keys), Listen (Beyonce from Dreamgirls)

David Archuleta: Angels (Robbie Williams), Apologize (OneRepublic), Stand by Me/Beautiful Girls (Ben E King/Sean Kingston), When You Say You Love Me (Josh Groban)

David Cook: Hello (Lionel Richie), The Time of My Life (Cook’s new single), I Dont Want To Miss a Thing (Aerosmith), My Hero (Foo Fighters), Billie Jean (Michael Jackson)

Ensemble encore (all 10 singers): Dont Stop the Music (Rihanna)

What did you think of the concert?  Please post your comments here:

Updated ranking of “Idol” finalists

Monday, May 8th, 2006

It’s down to the final four. Elvis Week plays to Taylor Hicks’ strength. So he’ll probably survive despite his hokey stage moves (falling on his back to sing — puh-leez!).

Last week, Kat McPhee finally showed some versatility, displaying sassy authority on KT Tunstall’s tune. But she clearly is the most nervous performer among the finalists.

Elliott Yamin’s continued success has frankly befuddled me. He’s the Teflon finalist. He’s never been really good (despite what Paula Abdul gushes) or really bad; in terms of vocals, stage craft and poise, he’s not in the same league as Paris Bennett. But voting on “American Idol” is never fair.

My rankings:
1. Chris Daughtry
2. Kat McPhee
3. Taylor Hicks
4. Elliott Yamin

What do you think? Please post your rankings of the “Idol” finalists.

New American Idol Rankings, Part 2

Thursday, April 27th, 2006

This is Randy Salas again, and my rankings posted before this week’s shows have changed little now that they’re over.

I had Kellie Pickler in last place, and she was voted off.

Paris Bennett should be next. Her rendition of “The Way We Huh-Were” this week hasn’t changed my opinion of her.

I’m going to switch Taylor Hicks’ and Elliott Yamin’s positions, even though Hicks is the only contestant who has never finished among the bottom vote-getters. Hicks has been making poor song choices and failing to deliver in his performances, while Yamin has finally ramped things up in recent weeks.

It’s still a toss-up between Chris Daughtry and Katharine McPhee for the top spot, but I’ll keep them as I had them for now. Daughtry was clearly the best performer last week, but McPhee was still excellent (no matter what the judges thought). Besides, she looks much better in a low-cut yellow dress.

1) Katharine McPhee
2) Chris Daughtry
3) Elliott Yamin
4) Taylor Hicks
5) Paris Bennett

New American Idol rankings

Tuesday, April 25th, 2006

After Tuesday’s love songs, here are Star Tribune music Jon Bream’s rankings of the “American Idol” finalists

1. Chris Daughtry. He’s still at the top. He had the most prudent song choice because Bryan Adams’ “Have You Ever Really Loved a Woman” allowed him to stay within his range and play to his strengths — his sincerity. Voters have trouble resisting his sincere eyes, his sincere voice and his sincere stage demeanor.
2. Katharine McPhee. She showed off her voice and her cleavage but as all the judges said, You can’t top Whitney Houston so why try? Nonetheless, it was refreshing to see Kat sing more aggressively on “I Have Nothing.” But Kat, who looks like Valerie Bertinelli’s taller sister, still has to learn not to smile when the lyrics are sad.
3. (tie) Elliott Yamin and Paris Bennett. Elliott really does have a likable voice but his attempt to do Donny Hathaway’s version of the oft-covered “A Song for You” was too busy. Similarly, Paris’ voice always shines but Streisand’s “The Way We Were” just wasn’t a winning choice for her. Nonetheless, her consistent confidence onstage has been one of the highlight’s of this season.
5. Taylor Hicks. Just once, he needs to show some range. He didn’t do that with James Ingram’s “Just Once,” which was part cabaret, part karaoke and totally forgettable.
6. Kellie Pickler. Give the girl a sitcom or resurrect “Hee Haw” around her. But after two consecutive misguided performances (“Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered” and “Unchained Melody”), I’ve soured on Pickler. She’s in over her head.

Post your comments and let us know what you think.