Backstage With ‘American Idol’s’ Paul McDonald

Last Wednesday, hours before the Top 11 from American Idol season 10 took the stage at the HP Pavilion in San Jose, I had the opportunity to talk with one of the more unique and interesting voices from this past season.

Cool, calm, and collected, 26-year-old Paul McDonald from Nashville, spoke candidly about the American Idols Live! Tour, including which contestant fell victim to the first tour prank of the summer, and working on his solo music while out on the road.

How has the tour been going?

It’s been excellent so far. We’re only like, I think, five shows in, and we got about a thousand more to go. [laughs] We go through September, and we do a handful of Canada dates, maybe one or two. Then they take us over to the Philippines.

Wow, I’m pretty sure that’s a first with taking the tour overseas. What has been the most fulfilling part of the tour for you so far?

Oh goodness. I guess it’s just the whole vibe of pretending that we’re real rock stars for the summer. We’re singing karaoke and stuff, but the production is like a huge tour. We have six buses, six semis, we have catering, we have the whole VIP kind of like a very pro tour. That’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience, unless you’re the Rolling Stones, or Bruce Springsteen, or Carrie Underwood, or one of those, you know? So, it’s kind of cool to be in that for just a little bit and see how this grand scale of venues and touring works. It’s cool.

Do you have any kind of fun bus stories from the tour so far?

Fun bus stories? Oh gosh, I’m trying to think. We really don’t hang out on the bus too much, because they literally have us working from [about] noon. This morning I got up at like eight-thirty, we went to the Ronald McDonald House, me and Casey. We did some charity, we hung out with the kids, came back and had hair and make-up, which I don’t do any of that stuff. After that we have lunch, and then we have sound check. We go from normally from 12 noon to 12 at night. The only bus time is after the gig we go in there and like have a drink and pass out, but there has been a good story.

The first gig in Salt Lake City, Jacob Lusk decided to take a shower in the locker room — we’re playing all these big basketball arenas and stuff — and I was like, “Let me show you how it’s done fellas.” This is like “Band Pranks 101.” I got the bucket of ice, and all of us, Scotty and everybody, filled it up with ice-cold water. Jacob’s in the shower singing, you know, doing his thing. We walked in there and Casey’s filming it, and came in and just busted him with an ice cold bucket of water, and he was like, “Ahhhhh!” I was like, day one, the tour pranks begin.

Continue reading Backstage With ‘American Idol’s’ Paul McDonald

Concert Review >> American Idols Live! in San Jose, CA 07.13.2011

This week the American Idols Live! tour rolled through San Jose, CA to the delight of the masses who showed up to see one particular Santa Cruz native by the name of James Durbin. Just the mere mention of his name at the top of the show by season 10 runner-up, Lauren Alaina, resulted in an eruption of cheers from the crowd.

And I must say that Durbin didn’t disappoint. He appeared in a couple group numbers during the first half of the show, but it was his entrance for his two-song set that had the audience at the HP Pavilion on its feet.

Entering from the back of the building wearing a San Jose Sharks jersey, singing Guns N’ Roses’ “Sweet Child O’Mine,” Durbin shook hands as he made his way up to the stage. Towards the end of the song he held his microphone out to the audience and, without any real prodding, they sang the chorus back to him. I have to hand it to Durbin. He’s charismatic, has great stage presence, and absolutely relished every moment of his solo performance, wherein he took the time to thank the fans for voting for him and for the overall support he received from the Bay Area.

But Durbin wasn’t the only Idol who amped up the crowd. Paul McDonald got the people on their feet in the first half of the show during his lively performance of Rod Stewart’s “Maggie May.” Naima Adedapo’s rousing rendition of Jennifer Lopez’s current hit, “On The Floor,” complete with an African dance break, was one of the most well-received performances of the night.

Continue reading Concert Review >> American Idols Live! in San Jose, CA 07.13.2011

Idol Wired >> One Last Growl

You know, I was all set to praise how wonderful this season’s American Idol Top 5 is, especially since for the first time since season seven, two girls are in the mix. I mean, it seemed like nothing could get in the way of the best possible Top 5 that we could have with the remaining contestants. And then this happened.

Are you kidding me? Casey Abrams goes home, instead of Jacob Lusk, who was predicted by most Idol fans to be heading home. I’m not going to hide the fact that I’m disappointed. Was Casey going to win? Probably not. But, I can tolerate his personality and his performances a lot more than Jacob’s.

Let’s face it, the ship sailed on me ever becoming a fan of Jacob a couple weeks ago when he boldly told America, “If I end up in the bottom three, it won’t be because I sang the song bad, it won’t be because I sang the song wrong, it will be because everybody in America wasn’t ready to look at themselves in the mirror.”

Sorry bro, I’m totally over you being on this show.

After last night’s Idol results, my Twitter feed was full of angry fans wondering who in the world is voting for Jacob? Personally I don’t care who you vote for, that’s your decision. My hope is that people are only voting for one contestant, instead of splitting their votes among several contestants, because that is how you take part in eliminating someone that had at the very least one more week left. Just sayin’.

I have to say that Casey definitely went out with class, and had put on quite the show during his final Idol performance of “I Put A Spell On You.” Plus, how adorable was he when finished the song off by singing directly to Haley Reinhart? I’m on board with Team Caley!

Moving on, next week the Top 5 will each sing two songs; one current song and one song from the 1960’s.

So Idol fans, what did you think of last nights results? Did the right person go home? And what would you like to hear the contestants sing next week?

Originally posted on Blogcritics.

Idol Wired >> Everyone’s In It to Win It

I never thought I would ever make the following statement this season, but I thought each of the remaining contestants actually did pretty good last night. Who knew that “Carole King Night” on American Idol would bring out the best in the contestants? I surely didn’t.

Let’s just go down the line and start with Jacob Lusk, who sang “Uh Oh Not My Baby” last night. Other than the last note getting kind of weird at the end, I thought this was the best Jacob has sounded all season. I don’t think singing first last night is going to do him any favors, in fact, it will probably send him packing tonight. And taking a nose-dive into Steve Urkel’s closet wasn’t help him out either. What in the world was that outfit? Definitely plaid gone wrong.

Following Jacob up was Lauren Alaina, who sang “Where You Lead,” which once upon a time served as the theme song to the show Gilmore Girls. What was it with the outfits last night? Lauren looked tragic. I thought her vocals were alright. I think this was a great song choice for Lauren, but I think she needs to let go and stop trying to please the judges. And if anyone else’s voice would have cracked trying to push for a high note, they would have been called out for it in a in a non-loving fashion…last season, anyways.

Continue reading Idol Wired >> Everyone’s In It to Win It

Idol Wired >> Stefano is LanGONE

I figured as soon as the first guy was eliminated from season 10 of American Idol that they would start falling like dominoes, and as it turns out, that’s the only prediction I’ve made this season that’s been on point.

Following Paul McDonald’s exit from Idol last week, Stefano Langone was
eliminated from the competition last night. I’m not too surprised that Stefano was eliminated this week, it’s just too bad that it had to happen the night after he had what I considered to be his best performance in weeks. It takes me back to when Carly Smithson had an amazing performance of “Jesus Christ Superstar” during season seven, then got knocked off the next night, except I definitely wasn’t as upset.

This may be a little surprising to most who read Idol Wired, but I would have preferred Stefano to stay one more week if it meant Jacob Lusk was going home. I cannot believe Jacob has made it as far as he has in the competition. And Jacob’s performance in comparison to Stefano’s was definitely the weaker of the two performances.

Alright, I have to say it; I was super disappointed to see Haley Reinhart in the bottom three. C’mon, America! Haley had the best performance the other night, she deserves your votes.

Also, did anyone else catch Stefano totally snubbing Scotty McCreery when giving out hugs last night? What in the world was that about?

Switching gears over to the return of David Cook to the Idol stage. David performed the first single, “The Last Goodbye” off his highly anticipated sophomore album, This Loud Morning.

I thought that once David shook off his initial nerves, his performance was excellent. It must be a trip to return to the show that made him “more than a name or a face in the crowd” to debut his new single. I love that he’s kicking off his album with something upbeat and lyrically catchy. I’m really hoping that you, yes you and everyone you know hopped on iTunes and downloaded his single. I am all in favor of supporting former Idol contestants, especially ones named David Cook.

If you didn’t get a chance to watch David’s performance of “The Last Goodbye,” or you just want to watch it again, check it out below!

What did you think of last night’s Idol results? Are you liking David Cook’s new single? Also, what do you think of the Idols singing Carole King songs next week?

Originally posted on Blogcritics.

Idol Wired >> Shock Elimination!

I’m sitting here in just absolute shock. Pia Toscano has just been eliminated from this season’s American Idol.

ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!

Pia should have made it all the way to the final two this season. But instead she went out in ninth place. American Idol is now down to two women and all six men. C’mon now.

Pia was in the bottom three tonight with Stefano Langone and Jacob Lusk, who was my prediction to bite the dust this week.

Earlier today, I re-watched everyone’s performances and the last person I would have predicted in the bottom three was Pia. Granted, she needed some work in the stage presence department, but her vocal performances, including last night,  have been absolutely flawless this season.

I think a lot of people are going to blame Pia’s elimination on voter complacency, which to be honest, definitely must have something to do with tonight’s shocker. However, the judges need to accept that part of Pia’s elimination is on them.

During Wednesday night’s performance show, not one of them said anything overtly negative to the contestants about their performances. Part of the judge’s job is to let the audience know which contestants rock and which ones need to get it together. When everyone’s receiving praise, the voting public doesn’t know what to do.

That said, judges get your heads back in the game and do what you are overly paid to do, which is to critique these singers. Jennifer Lopez needs to find her inner “Jenny From the Block” and let the contestants know what’s what. Steven Tyler needs to altogether wake up and start making comments that are useful. Not every performance is “beautiful.” And Randy Jackson, I expect you to call it how you hear it. Don’t dial back your feedback; it is so needed.

Pia has been receiving high praise from the judges all season long, and maybe her fans thought they could ease up on the power voting.

Whatever the case may be, it’s was completely disheartening to see such a huge talent be sent home way before she should have been. It is unfortunate that the “Judges’ Save” had already been used this season, but that’s the nature of the game. I don’t think the judges ever thought that Pia would ever need to be saved. I guess they haven’t been watching the past couple seasons, where female contestants have been picked off before the men repeatedly.

So, the moral of this story? Judges, please do your jobs and judge the contestants. Fans, vote to keep the talent in the competition. Don’t ever think your contestant is safe.

My last thought for the night: It’s now Scotty McCreery’s competition to lose.

Alright Idol fans, let me hear your thoughts on tonight’s insane results.

Originally posted on Blogcritics.

Catching Up With Tim Halperin, Part Two


In the first part of my chat with American Idol season 10 Top 24 contestant, Tim Halperin, we touched on the earlier rounds of his Idol journey, from his initial audition in front of the judges in L.A. to making it into the Top 24.

During the final part of my interview with Halperin, we talked about Top 24 from his song selection to the Wild Card round, what he took away from his American Idol experience, and what lies ahead for his music career.

How did you go about selecting your song for Top 24?

I had a list of about five or six songs that I thought would be really good. And the thing that I wanted to do for Top 24 was show off the fact that I wasn’t a one-trick pony; I wasn’t kind of pigeon-holed in one sound. Up until that point, I had really done slower kind of ballad type songs, which is definitely probably one of my strongest types of songs to sing, but there’s also this soulful part of my voice. I love doing soul/pop-rock kind of tunes.

I was looking at Gavin DeGraw, I was looking at John Mayer, and of course that Rob Thomas song. We rehearsed, and felt the Rob Thomas song was just a really good fit for my voice.

Rehearsals went well, I was able to fine-tune it, and I felt like even the on stage rehearsals were going really well. I thought the performance, to be honest with you, went really well. If you notice when you watch the crowd, they really loved it. I thought that it went really well, and the judges thought that it wasn’t my style. Maybe it wasn’t, and I can see where they’re coming from, just because all they’d really heard me perform were ballads. Maybe I should have stuck with that sound for my first round, before I ventured off into something else.

For me, I have no regrets with that song choice. The other thing that was kind of hard to deal with was when Ryan asked Steven what type of song I should have picked and he said John Mayer or Jason Mraz, when in fact, John Mayer co-wrote that song that I sang and played guitar on the track. So that was kind of frustrating to hear.

I felt like all the way through I had good performances. I feel really lucky to have done that.

You play piano, so I am wondering at what point did they tell you that you guys were not going to be using instruments for that first performance?

They told us well in advance, and you know it’s hard, but at the same time I don’t think I would have used the piano even if I was able to. In my mind looking back on it, if I was able to it probably would have been a good thing, because piano kind of set me apart. But, I wanted to show the fact that I wasn’t stuck behind my instrument. A lot of flack that contestants have gotten in the past that play instruments is that they can’t perform without it. I wanted to show that I was very comfortable on stage and very comfortable performing without [playing piano], which I feel like I was able to prove. I thought the performance was for sure really good. Yeah, we knew well in advance that we couldn’t use instruments.

Was it that you couldn’t use it for that one performance or was it a stipulation for the season?

It’s decided on a round by round basis. I’m not even sure what’s going on this time. It’s the same as it’s been in the past, certain rounds people are allowed to use instruments and certain rounds, and certain rounds they’re not.

My thought is just because last season, there were so many people using instruments, and the responses were that they were using them as a crutch. So, my thought is that they probably won’t let people use instruments as much this year.

I was just wondering about that, because we saw a few people that had used instruments in earlier rounds get eliminated last week. And I figured because the last three winners (David Cook, Kris Allen and Lee DeWyze) all fall under that blanket category of singer-songwriter is possibly why Idol seems to be looking for pop star, rather than the singer-songwriter type this season.

Yeah, that could be it. But at the same time, the people in the Top 13 are definitely all extremely talented. Is it hard being a singer-songwriter and not being able to use your instrument? Yeah, you know it is. At the same time, I feel like I got what I wanted out of it. Because I do play an instrument and I have experience, now it’s going to be really easy for me to make the transition back into putting out a record and doing shows again.
Continue reading Catching Up With Tim Halperin, Part Two

Idol Wired >> The Top 12 Guys Kick Off the Semifinals

I have to be honest, the Top 12 guys made me fairly excited for this season of American Idol. After the show ended tonight, I felt better about this show than I have all season long.

The guys, who pre-taped their performances on February 25, brought a lot to the main stage, including big stage jitters and every so often, some talent.

Up first was the Hollywood round bad boy himself, Clint Jun Gamboa. Gamboa chose to sing Stevie Wonder’s “Superstition.” This song needs to locked away with Phil Collins’ “Against All Odds (Take A Look At Me Now),” and Elton John’s “Dont’ Let The Sun Go Down on Me,” and never be allowed to be performed on Idol again. “Superstition” has not done any favors for contestants in the past couple seasons.

Gamboa’s vocals were nothing special. At this point of the competition, the contestants should be showing the audience why the judges picked them. I think Gamboa failed to prove the judges’ point with his performance. Of course, based on their praise of his performance, one had to wonder what concoction had been mixed in their Coca Cola cups.

Gamboa picked an overused song that I believe will send both him and his Harry Potter eyewear packing. He will be the boy who didn’t live to see the finals.

Next up was Jovany Barreto, who performed Edwin McCain’s “I’ll Be.” For someone who exudes so much personality on his Twitter account, this was such a boring song selection.

I must say for the most part Barreto had an okay vocal; I did really like his final note. He was met with a divided judges’ panel. Steven Tyler and Jennifer Lopez loved him, whereas I sided with Randy Jackson, who found the song to be “karaoke.”

I am not entirely sure what possessed Jordan Dorsey to pick one of the most obnoxious and auto-tuned songs to sing in the semifinals. His performance of Usher’s “OMG” made me just cringe. From his vocals to his outfit, OMG indeed.
Continue reading Idol Wired >> The Top 12 Guys Kick Off the Semifinals

Idol Wired >> Hollywood Drama

This week’s episodes of American Idol were packed with talent, tears, and drama that make “Hollywood Week” the must-see episodes of the season. It also lets you see a very real side to the contestants. However, seeing some of the contestant’s candidness was not always very flattering. In other words, Clint Jun Gambia, dude you’re toast. But we’ll get to him in just a bit.

Idol chose to mix it up this year with the group rounds. Contestants had make up their group with participants from both group one and group two from the first round of “Hollywood Week” auditions.

Remember the days of Idol when contestants would just group up and make it work? Yeah, that wasn’t flying this week. Contestants were making other contestants audition to get into their groups. It’s a brilliant move, but at times just seemed kind of rude.

I have also never seen so much footage of parents in Hollywood with their underage child/Idol contestant. I think they should have let their kids work a little more independently on their group routine and wait to be asked for pointers, but a couple of these moms were a little too much to handle.

James Durbin (totally over him, by the way) weighed in on the stage moms, and told the cameras that there shouldn’t be young kids in the competition. Really showed a little bit of a cocky side to him. I think he was just jealous that the group of teens were about to wipe the floor with his group, as they were both performing Queen’s “Somebody To Love.”

A quick word of advice to Mr. Durbin: You really need to stop inserting the screechy note into every one of your performances. It’s not necessary. But if you’re going to repeat the path of Siobhan Magnus and toss that note in during each of your performances, you should aim to be on key.

I think the biggest foul of the group rounds was Clint Jum Gambia kicking young Jacee Badeaux out of his group in favor of Scotty McCreery. Gambia didn’t think that Badeaux’s voice fit with the rest of the group, so he sent him on his way. Badeaux ended up joining up with Brett Loewenstern’s group.

If Gambia makes it past the Las Vegas round next week into the Top 24 where the viewers vote, I don’t think he has a chance in hell making it to the main stage. He completely shot himself in the foot by kicking Badeaux out of his group. Plus, he’s managed to come off as completely obnoxious this week. Good work, Gambia.
Continue reading Idol Wired >> Hollywood Drama