Top 4

I know this is starting to look like an Idol blog, I promise more meaningful posts will be returning I just have had a few writing projects that needed to be turned in only to the persons they were written for. More on that later (hopefully). Between that and some household projects, vacation and JC learning how to break expensive things I have just not gotten to anything substantial lately. So, lets see how they all do tonite.

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is such a huge and broad category. So many artist whom have made it into the Hall would not be considered rock by many. This should be David Cook’s night.

David Cook. Hungry Like the Wolf. He was flat several times and his timing was a bit off on the doo doo doo’s. It was a great SOUNDING arrangement (adding distortion without changing anything else does not make for a great arrangement) though and could be a great studio track, just was not a fantastic performance.
Certainly a let down given he is the rocker on rock night.

Syesha Mercado. Proud Mary. Of course Syesha would choose another powerhouse song. Regardless of what the judges say she just keeps choosing songs beyond her quite substantial capabilities making her seem less talented than she really is. It ended up coming off like a decent impersonation. She shouted alot of the big notes during the dancing. It was a fun performance, not the best vocals but certainly a lot of fun. She has a very good voice and if someone else was calling the shots (as in the theater) she will be great.

Jason Castro. I Shot the Sherrif. It sounded a lot like the band was playing the version everyone knows of this song (Eric Clapton’s) while he was singing Bob Marley’s version. The timing was bad and the vocals were average. Anyone who argues with the judge always sounds bad as well. Lets hope song 2 saves him.

David Archuleta. Stand by Me. A perfect song choice for his voice and style. Anytime he can get one of these vocalists R&B tracks with simple music where can do lots of runs he nails it. Sounded a bit strained on some of the high notes, perhaps too much practice this week but really did fantastic. Adding the contemporary flair by throwing in the Sean Kingston stanza really was smart in terms of the competition. Best performance of the first set of songs.

David Cook. Teenage Wasteland. The other David also has his zone that everytime he steps into it he does well. Dynamic songs with the crescendos and decrescendos with the indie rock feel to it. And he did. Not sure how this song showed us his soul (as Paula said) but he gave a great performance with solid vocals.

Syesha Mercado. A Change is Going to Come. An interesting time to do this song as it was the theme of the NAACP’s annual meeting where Reverend Jeremiah Wright delivered his controversial address. She said she thought it was a good analogy for her being on AI. The song was written in the midst of the Civil Rights movement. A bit pompous to compare the two I think. She then went on to perform the song pretty poorly. Could not hit a lot of the notes she tried for. Again she picked a song that was too big for her and it really was not fantastic. Randy was right on though.

Jason Castro. Mr. Tamborine Man. A perfect song for his voice and style. A simple arrangement that suited well the song and his fan base I would imagine. Couple the forgotten lyrics with the bad first performance and this is probably his night to go. I really did like the second song, it just isn’t enough at this stage of the competition. He cannot sail thru with those dreamy eyes and goofy smile anymore.

David Archuleta. Elvis Presley. Love Me Tender. Again, a perfect arrangement that allowed him to showcase his voice. He was number one for the night no doubt. He is the ballad king. If things go the way I think they will, when the David’s face off in the final whatever the final song is will determine the winner like the Blake vs. Jordin final of last season.

Top 5

A short entry….

Syesha or Brooke will go home. Neither one of them gave a great performance nor do they have the huge fan base that votes inspite of a lackluster song.

Syesha has now shown she is not a pop star but a theater diva. That is fine but will not connect with a lot of the AI fans,

Brooke is now out of her league. She will go on to make a greaqt singer song writer album and have a fine career but she will not win.

David and David both did pretty well. Jason was just ok but he has such a following he will be fine for now.

Top 6

So the biggest news here, and the news I will never live down now that it is immortalized online, is that I am a big musical fan so I was excited to hear that Andrew Lloyd Webber would be mentoring. That being said these songs are hard and do not sound like pop songs. It will be interesting to see who can make it contemporary and do a good job. For many of the contestants whom have already show they cannot come up with original arrangements this maybe the night that seals their fate. Texting 13 year old girls are not going to text a million times for a typical broadway performance. And a Kristy Lee Cook style bad arrangment will not be much better.

Syesha Mercado. One Rock and Roll Too Many. She missed a couple notes but it was a very fun and sassy performance. Dancing with the conductor and guitar player may have verged on cheesy. It was a good piece of theater but not a great American Idol performance.

Jason Castro. Memory. Really tapped into the emotional core of the song which is funny given that is largely about growing old and he is the second youngest contestant. He hit most of the notes so the “trainwreck” comment from Randy seemed unfair. He probably could have found a better song for his style but I do not think he bombed just was not his best.

Brooke White. You Must Love Me. Messed up and started over. Thats not cool. Had trouble on a few of the low notes. Did manage to capture the emotional component that Webber talked about in the begining and because of house powerful that is, it may save her. But really, wow messing up and starting over is hard to recover from.

David Archuleta. Think Of Me. This is tough for me because its one of my favorite songs. I think he did a good job bring it a bit more pop like. Sounded like an older R&B song to me. He was also too stationary to a song that had a bit of a beat to it. Was a little boring. Should have really had fun on the build up parts.

Carly Smithson. Jesus Christ Superstar. This is a song that is already pretty fun and modern. A great fit for her voice and personality. She performed it very well catching the breaks and solos and moving around the stage well. Song could be a bit irreverant for some but watch the whole play and get over it to them.

David Cook. I have been looking forward to seeing what David would do and how Webber reacted all week long. I just knew it would be very interesting. It was not. He did it like every high school and college performance of the Phantom I have ever seen. He did fine. But for someone who has seen Michael Crawford perform at the Pantages and loves Cook’s ability to make songs his own, it was a letdown.

Top 7

Mariah Carey Night. Rather than write this 7 times I will just note if it doesn”t apply to anyone. The problem with Mariah Carey night is that no one else has a 5 octave range, a great body and a million grammy”s. Thus, everyone who tries to do a Mariah Carey song without making big changes to it winds up sounding boring.

David Archuleta. We Are Not Afraid. He did a great job. His falsetto was a tad lacking but it feels authentic and adds to the emotional factor when his voice is slightly off. Not everyone could do that.

Carly Smithson. Without You. She looked really good. The performance was fine, but she didn”t do anything special with the song. It was a tad boring.

Syesha Mercado. The begining was pretty. Towards the end the runs were a bit excessive and she took Mariah”s coaching to hit the minor note on the one line and did it on several lines. The dischord probably didn”t sound great to all but maybe the jazz fans.

Brooke White. Hero. Very cool arrangement. Love that she played it so low key until the bridge. Hit a few sour notes, A very heartfelt performance.

Kristy Lee Cook. She finally found an outfit that doesn”t look silly. The song worked out very well as a country tune and she sang it well. Of course I found myself missing the big notes. She is getting better and better every week. Still probably the least likely winner but she keeps sticking around.

David Cook. Always Be My Baby. An incredible arrangement. The use of the strings was amazing. It was a great performance and that big note towards the end was perfect. David seriously knows music and how to work with a band. He took a big risk and it rocked. I would buy his album. Sounds silly I know but there is only one Idol album that I have purchased so far.

Jason Castro. I Don”t Want To Cry. A fantastic performance. Very laid back. Great song for a bonfire night at the beach. I really like Jason”s ability to make all songs so relaxing and chill.

Bruce Lee Christians

Bruce Lee, martial arts expert, actor and of course Christian Leader. Ok he may never have come out as and said he was a Christian nor did he say many Christian things, but I believe he may have delivered one of the most powerful lessons for the Church since Jesus and Paul made the same point in less cool Yoda/Confucious/Buddah-like ways. Check it out…

“Empty your mind, be formless, shapeless like water. Now you put water into a cup, it becomes the cup, you put water into a bottle, it becomes the bottle, you put it in a teapot, it becomes the teapot. Now water can flow or it can crash. Be water, my friend.”

In 1 Corintians 9:19-23 Paul says while maintaining his standards he “became all things to all men” so that he could experience what they experience and meet them where they are at to help bring the into a relationship with Christ. Not only did Paul talk about being water, he lived it.

Take a look at Acts 17:1-3 and 10-12. Paul met with lots of Jews in the Synagogues. He talked to them about the Torah, the prophets and the Law. This was an area of comfort and strength for him coming from a conservative and orthodox Jewish background. This is the approach of most of our churches today. We assume people are very similar to us and believe very similar to us and talk to them accordingly. If they are too different we speak out against them or ignore them. And this is all totally acceptable in a homogenous enviornment according to Paul. But take a look later in the chapter…

In Acts 17:17-34 Paul does an about face. He is no longer in his comfort zone. The idols that he told the Jews were disgusting are everywhere. There are tourists, intellectuals and everyday citizens. So what does he do? Boom! Paul suddenly starts befriending important community leaders, getting speaking opportunities in potentially hostile enviornments, talking to people on the streets, etc. He tells people at public gatherings he was fascinated by their shrines (as oppose to disgusted by their idols).

Now here is the kicker–Most of our communities look a lot more like Athens, than Jerusalem. The days of Christendom are long gone. If you want great art, great music, great poety, theater or film, none of these are considered strongholds of the Church. Even social justice and advocacy problems are now largely handled by corporations and world governments. Just the other night American Idol raised millions of dollars to fund all sorts of amazing programs that history recognizes as the traditional role of the Church. Stats show traditional Christian values only seriously influence around 30% of the population and even less are consistent in applying them in their lives.

Our world is not Paul’s world in Jerusalem, it is Paul’s world in Athens. Paul and Bruce Lee agree that we need to change to be effective.

Jesus too seemed to have believed in this concept. He didn’t speak much on it but throughout his ministry one can see the application. He healed those who needed healing. He ate with tax collectors, prostitutes, etc. He hung out in the synagogues as well and taught from the torah. When speaking to the religious he spoke “religiously” but otherwise he was a day labororer getting to know people and sharing with them the answers he had regarding Life. With the Samaritan woman at the well he made apt comparisons between their belief systems and showed an understanding of what she believed. And he talked about meeting tangible needs of people who you come into contact with.

It seems like this paradigm for ministry that may seem somewhat new and radical has its roots in ancient scripture. Paul and Jesus and Bruce Less all agree, how can I not?

So, be water my friend.

My Vacation Writings

So, I went on vacation thinking that the beautiful Caribbean enviornment would be awesome for writing. We as it turns out it was. The problem is that vacations are the perfect enviornment for forgetting things like chargers. Thus armed with little more than the Bible provided in my stateroom on the ship and a notepad and pen I accomplished little more than some scribbles in a notebook which I have pieced together in the following post. Do keep you eyes open for some cool pictures of my son in the slideshow at the bottom of this page.

The Top 10

80’s theme tonight (actually from the year their birth which mostly means 80’s). The top ten starting tonite means we get lots of bios.

Ramielle Maluaby. How Do I Get You Alone. She was flat thru most of the song and she was virtually stationary even with a big 80’s song. Simon and Randy’s little tiff was fun.

Jason Castro. Fragile. Sting doesn’t connect well with the kids of today. I dug it but I don’t know about the texting crowd. He did it well but it was boring.

Syesha Mercado. If I Were Your Woman. She sang it really well but I still didn’t think it was fun. The 80’s were such a fun a poppy time but so far all ballads? She is going to sail thru the next few weeks regarless though.

Chickizie. If Only For One Night. His jacket was so cool. I asked my wife to buy it for me. He is completely in his element with an r&b arrangement. He still will have trouble relating with the kids on this one. But everyone has been dull so he may be fine. Could be in danger.

Brooke White. Every Breath You Take. The false start heard around the world. She is going to be fine because she did well the rest of this song. Finally, someone brought in some fun. She didn’t do the best performance of all time but it was good stuff still.

Michael Johns. We Will Rock You. A great performance and a ton of fun. Rocked everyone’s socks off at the house I was watching it from.

Carly Smithson. Turn Around. An great performance. She nailed the ending. Really did well with the rock edge second week in a row. Hopefully the obvious stress she was feeling won’t affect her to much next week.

David Archuleta. He sang a pretty obscure song. It was very happy and fun, but a bit cheesy.

Kristy Lee Cook. God Bless the USA. She got to do her country song and it went well. Sounded great and no one hates God Bless the USA. You can’t say you dislike it even if you did.

David Cook. Billy Jean. Played it up as a rock ballad. It was incredible. The big note was amazing. Very original and a huge risk and it worked. Risks, new arrangements and solid performances thats how you win AI.

Family Mission Statement

About a year ago at the prodding of some wise friends from church my wife and I set out to establish our family mission. I helped with a lot of the wording and my wife supplied a beautiful and creative way to display it so that all who enter our home can know what we are all about and hold us accountable. It has been very useful to look at from time to time to make sure that our decisions are in line with our values. Personally, I find it especially useful with regards to parenting decisions. In light of comments by friends and family who liked the idea as well as it being featured in some premarital and marital counseling curriculum I thought it may be useful to post here. Most businesses set out to determine what they are all about pretty early on, but our families tend to shoot from the hip and play it by ear.

Obviously should your family decide to do something like this you would want to sit down and talk with everyone to decide what is important to you and how you envision life together. For us, what follows is our family’s mission…

We desire to passionately pursue…

Creativity in all areas of life…

Justice and Mercy with a focus on the disenfranchised and ignored both locally and globally…

Knowledge and Wisdom seeking to grow in maturity and ability…

…and to cultivate…

Independence-working towards personal growth and integrity; taking initiative.

Peace-a spirit of contentment and satisfaction.

Community-an enviornment built on trust, openness and fun.

…And above all…

We will love God and love people.

Could your family use something to help you all focus and unify, help to guide in decisions? Maybe take a Saturday coming up and set aside sometime to talk about your thoughts. The impact can be pretty profound.

The Consequences of Learning How to Fly

I am standing at a fork in the road in my life. For quite some time now I have recognized how I want to spend my life and why, but always ran into obstacles and could not quite get there. Quite suddenly and relatively unexpectedly I am in a position to realize my call and pursue the vision that others, and myself at times, have seen in my life.

And yet, there is fear. Why fear? For so long I have been stuck on the ground and yet now, I can fly. I can go where I feel led and pursue my passion. This should be the most exciting week of my life. But fear? Fear is the antithesis of what I expected to feel should this day ever arrive.

Do big and exciting opportunities ever make you fearful? How do you deal with these feelings? What do you think they mean?

I think that with any big change, and especially if there is risk it can be scary. But do you push on? Do you use that fear to be smarter, wiser, stronger? Or do you clip those wings and kick back, hanging out on the safe and solid ground?

I think this is what seperates the greats from goods. Many never take the big jump, the big risk…And they do just fine, but never fly, they never soar. I think I am ready to deal with the consequences of learning how to fly. How about you?

The Top 11

The Beatles are the theme for the evening, a bit different than last week but for most people pretty much a rehashing of the Lennon McCartney theme from last week. A very cool mini documentary on the Beatles. It will be interesting to see what happens this week as song choice and arrangment last week was so hit and miss. The Beatles is a tough theme as they are almost all iconic songs and many of them are bandcentric rather than vocalcentric. Right now strategy isn’t as important but starting next week contestants need to start thinking about fans. People will all have chosen their fave from the top 10 next week. This means that everytime someone is eliminated about 3 million people will be looking for a new favorite. The contestants have to start looking at song choice and arrangement even more closely to make sure that they keep their fans and bring in some of those from the outgoing contestants.

Amanda Overmeyer. Back in the USSR. Amanda is great at setting up arrangements that highlight and complement her bluesy rock vocal style. I still think that she is going to struggle for relevance. She won’t win, but if she did would go the way of Taylor and Reuben. Simon mentioned something I have mentioned several times with regards to changing things up.

Kristy Lee Cook. You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away. She never heard this song before. That was a shock. Seems like she worked a little bit better with the band to make the arrangement her own but still sound good. She messed with the melody a bit and didn’t hit all the notes. It was a tad dull, but all in all it was a good performance and the ending was excellent. It was pretty safe though, so if someone else does poorly she will do move on, but again, she will be at risk.

David Archuleta. The Long and Winding Road. What can I say? He is amazing. Just absolutely nailed it. Hit every note, showed some emotion, took some risks with some runs but remained true to the song, wow. David will probably be the next American Idol unless he has a repeat of last weeks performance blunders. He has not just the performance and the skill, but also the youth and boyish good lucks that will drive young girls to text 6 million times a piece.

Michael Johns. A Day in the Life. This is such a long theatrical and multi layered song his arrangement ended up sounding a bit schizophrenic and difficult to understand. A few pitch problems as well made for a pretty blah performance. He will be ok tonite, but needs to pull off a great song next week. Not wearing an earpiece on a stage that size and with that huge of an audience seems crazy to me especially since they don’t have any stage monitors. Could explain the pitch problems.

Brooke White. Here Comes the Sun. She always adds a touch of folksy coffeshop sensibility to the songs. Its fun and so is she. The performance might have overpowered the vocals tonite which can then appear cheesy. She can’t dance. I think that she could be in danger if there are alot more great performances, but she certainly was not bad. She should be doing more emotional ballads. She has a lot of potential after the show ends whether she wins or not.

David Cook. Day Tripper. Awesome choice to find someone else’s unique arrangement that the vast majority of AI viewers probably haven’t heard. I mean really, aside from me how many American Idol fans are listening to White Snake. The talk box solo was awesome. The arrangement was awesome. A ton of fun and a workable single. To Simon’s point, David is predicatable. He comes out and does a fun rock and roll show. This was not a song with a ton of vocal range as last weeks was. So while it was a great performance it didn’t stand out as better than previous performances or even neccesarily as good. Again, song choice and arrangements make the difference between the good and the great. He definitley has the arrangements down. Not totally consistent on the song choice.

Carly Smithson. Blackbird. Ballads are always a risk as they can come across boring. She did it in such a low key that it didn’t give her a chance to show off her skills up until the key change. It was pretty good after that but still not that much fun. Very understated and low key. She has a great voice and the vocalists were probably pretty impressed but the general viewing audience were probably using it as an opportunity to run to the restroom or grab a beer or a soda. She didn’t gain any new fans tonight. But she will be fine.

Jason Castro. Michelle. No guitar tonight. He has a great voice. Sounds a bit like a Jack Johnson or a Ben Harper. Add to that the language of love and his looks and I am sure the ladies are swooning. He did the song very laid back and relaxed. He will be just fine this week but needs to nail the next performance to keep it going to battle David A. in the end.

Syesha Mercado. Yesterday. Very cool to bring the guitar player up front and do the song as such an understated ballad but then nail some of those high notes. She has no concerns for next week. A lot of emotion. She really put a lot of thought into how to do a big song and sell it well. Many times songs like this bite contestants in the rear because you either do a carbon copy of the original and come across kareoke or you flub the arrangement and it doesn’t hold a candle to the original but she nailed it.

Chickizie. I’ve Just Seen a Face. Did really well vocally, but it seemed a bit like he just rehashed last week. The two parts didn’t really match up. His harmonica playing was silly. Came across as being all over the place. He may be at the bottom next week. I like Chickizie alot but he doesn’t seem to have a knack for arrangement and song choice. Since every liked last week he just tried to revisit it rather than catch on to what everyone liked, which was uniqueness and excitement. Its no longer new and exciting the second time in a row.

Ramiele Malubay. Should Have Known Better. She sang it really well but their was a disconnect between the arrangement and her vocals. She doesn’t work well with the band. They played the song just about identical to the original but she was singing more of a country feel. She needs to work on song choice and arrangement big time to stay in for more than a few weeks.