Thursday, April 26, 2007
'Idol' takes the cheesy way out
From CNN.com Special Projects producer -- and "American Idol" fan -- Steve Almasy:

Well, I should have seen that coming.

In a rare occurrence, no one got kicked off "American Idol" last night. In hindsight, it should have been easy to predict, and I did in fact read prognostications in a few places Wednesday afternoon that it didn't make sense to vote anyone off. But did the producers have to scare the crap out of Jordin Sparks?

Wow, by the end of the broadcast last night, Idol Gives Back had raised more than $30 million, according to host Ryan Seacrest. That is amazing, even if it does include the $5 million pledged by the parent company of "Idol" and other millions from other sponsors. Kudos to Ellen DeGeneres for donating 100 large and challenging all her rich friends to do the same. Let's hope Randy, Paula and Simon were listening.

There were some interesting moments from the show. It was cheesy, but I really liked the Celine Dion-Elvis Presley duet using a hologram or some such special effect of the deceased legend (that would be Elvis). But my favorite part was Josh Groban singing with the kids from Africa. I started to tear up. I think the song, "You Raise Me Up," will be/is available on iTunes. It’s worth the download.

The "Idol" kids did their part with a group song by Quincy Jones. Well, it wasn't "We Are The World," and they ain't the Osmonds or the Jacksons. (Some of us are thankful for that on all counts.) So we can just stop the ensemble numbers. I know they do this most weeks; I just usually fast-forward through 'em. Maybe they can bring back Jack Black to sing each week ...

On to Coach Bon Jovi and rock week. Who do you think that favors?

- Steve Almasy
Wednesday, April 25, 2007
'Idol' chatter: Agreeing with Paula
From CNN.com Special Projects producer -- and "American Idol" fan -- Steve Almasy:

This is a really bad sign for me.

Last night, while watching "American Idol," I found myself agreeing with Paula Abdul. (Watch Steve and Rodney not agree with each other)

I agreed, in particular, on Blake Lewis, who sang John Lennon's "Imagine." I thought it was a very nice version of one of the most beautiful songs ever written. He didn't try to do too much, and he believed in the song. He better not find himself in the bottom three this week.

I think we can all agree that Jordin Sparks was easily the best singer of the night. She belted the famed Rodgers and Hammerstein song "You'll Never Walk Alone," from "Carousel." If you didn't see "Idol" last night, find a way to watch her performance. She is clearly the front-runner now.

And Phil Stacey keeps getting better, doesn't he? Last night's vocal was complete and rich, but I wonder if he can avoid the bottom three. It would be an injustice, I think. I mean, he was better than Melinda Doolittle last night.

So who goes home, LaKisha Jones or Chris Richardson? That's a tough call. (Who did Steve pick?)

But right now, Paula and I are going to have a good cry over Jordin's special night.

-- Steve Almasy
Tuesday, April 24, 2007
In memoriam: David Halberstam
I feel like I've been kicked in the chest.

Yesterday David Halberstam died in a car crash. He was 73.

David Halberstam was a favorite of mine. Even when I disagreed with what I was reading -- and I'm sure he would have welcomed the skepticism -- he was so damned engaging I couldn't help but enjoy myself.

When he was on -- as in "The Best and the Brightest," "The Powers That Be," "The Reckoning" and "The Fifties" -- I looked forward to getting back to his books with a giddiness that was often completely out of sync with the material at hand.

He was a thoughtful commentator and a gracious interview.

An auto accident is a brutal and unfair way to die, but for it to happen to Halberstam -- a man who chronicled (and became enmeshed in) the two primary crucibles of the '60s, the civil rights movement and Vietnam -- it is a cruel end indeed. He should have passed in peace. He should have passed after watching a ballgame from the bleachers, with conversation happily exhausted and the everlasting promise of a long season spread out in all directions.

I will miss him terribly.
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