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 >> Wait…What Just Happened?

I could be heard throughout American Idol’s Thursday night’s results show repeating the same question, “What just happened?”

I mean, seriously, where to start? Do I start with the “Judges’ Save?” Do I start with Hulk Hogan? Or do I start with Steven Tyler turning 120? (I kid, I kid!)

Let’s start with the “Judges’ Save,” because a little more than a week ago I made what has been I believe my only prediction about season 10 so far via Twitter. It was then shown on MTV.com’s “Idol Party Live!” hosted by the super awesome Jim Cantiello live after each results show. Check out who I thought the “Judges’ Save” was going to go to this season.

Of course, if you watched Thursday night, you know that my prediction was totally wrong. Supposedly Casey Abrams had the lowest total number of votes after Wednesday night’s performances. I can kind of believe it, because he didn’t have a great performance and he went first that night, which means that with 10 other performances, people could have just forgot about him. Also, there’s the possibility of voter complacency. However, the conspiracy theorist in me thinks that Idol really wanted to create some buzz. And what better way to create some buzz than to possibly eliminate a huge fan favorite?

Even I have to admit that when the judges told Casey he was saved was a great moment. Although, I thought for sure he was going to throw up, or have to take another trip to the hospital. Casey’s reaction was truly the icing on the cake for the night.

Other than that, I hope next week’s results show can be as entertaining and unexpected as last Thursday’s was. I loved seeing the contestants singing with Stevie Wonder. More than that, I loved Steven Tyler’s reaction to Stevie Wonder on stage. As much as I enjoyed Idol pulling out the stops to celebrate Steven’s birthday, I had to wonder if Randy was sitting there thinking, “I’ve been on this show for the entire time it’s been in existence, and never has anyone surprised me with Mariah Carey serenading me on my birthday!”

I have to say that seeing Hulk Hogan on Idol is hands down the craziest thing that I have seen on this show. I loved the video of the contestants talking about James Durbin’s love of pro-wrestling. His reaction to Hulk Hogan coming on stage to let him and Paul McDonald know they were safe and going on tour was pretty hilarious. Hogan “punching” Ryan Seacrest into the crowd was also funny. I don’t care to see a professional wrestler every week on Idol, but it was a cute moment this past week.

Thinking ahead to next Wednesday, with Casey being saved this week, what does that mean for the contestants? Well, all 11 contestants will be going on tour this summer, so there’s that. But, they still have to sing their butts off next week, because it is “Elton John Week” and two of them will be eliminated. My only advice for the contestants next week is more like a plea. Please don’t sing “Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me.” It’s been done over and over and over again.

So to recap, Casey was saved from elimination, the Top 11 will tour, and two contestants will go home next week. What did y’all think about the results and Thursday’s overall show?

Originally posted on BlogCritics.

Idol Wired >> Top 12 Standings

I reviewed last week’s performances, and I think it’s pretty safe to say that the females of American Idol season 10 are having a bit of a hard time this season. Take a look at my current standings for this season’s Top 12 as of last week’s performances.

12. Karen Rodriguez

Karen’s star is fading awfully fast. Blaming her pitchy performance of Selena’s “I Could Fall In Love” on a “couple technical difficulties” during the results show last Thursday was eye-roll inducing. For Karen to survive this week, she’s going to have to step outside of her Selena/J-Lo repertoire, sing something that gets people talking, and sing it well.

11. Jacob Lusk

It’s time for Jacob to realize that his performance of “God Bless the Child” was his season 10 shining moment. He has now tried to re-create this moment twice, and it is not paying off in his favor. I think he is going to need to rein in his vocals and try something a little more subdued. Sometimes the quieter performance can be quite powerful (i.e. Kris Allen’s performance of “Falling Slowly” during season eight.)

10. Haley Reinhart

I like Haley, I really do. She’s been able to show the versatility in her voice this season in her past couple performances. That aside, she seems to lose her nerve midway through her performances, which causes all sorts of pitch problems. Haley needs to stay confident in her ability to continue to survive each week.

9. Thia Megia

I seem to be the only one that doesn’t get the weird, old fashioned tone to Thia’s voice. Personally, I don’t think she has a voice that will go over well on the radio. Singing-wise, Thia needs to adapt her style and show that she can be current. Personality-wise, I’m sure she has one, but I’m just not sure why she’s opting to operate in robot mode all the time.

8. Lauren Alaina

Oh, how quickly they fall from grace. Lauren’s problem last week was that her performance was boring. She can definitely sing, but she has to work on her stage presence. I suggest finding space in that mansion that the contestants are currently living in and practice on moving while singing. If she can match her stage presence with her singing, she will probably save herself from an early ouster.
Continue reading Idol Wired >> Top 12 Standings

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 >> The Top 24 Are Revealed!

Finally, we have 24 contestants moving onto the American Idol semifinals. We’re making progress, everyone! Of course, getting to this point meant sitting through four of the longest hours of my life to find out officially which contestants had made the Top 24.

To be honest (and this might be an unpopular opinion), I thought that first hour of Idol Wednesday night during the Las Vegas round was a huge waste of time. I didn’t care to watch group rounds again, and more than that, I don’t care to hear songs of The Beatles being sung by people other than The Beatles.

This episode we got to see Idol’s in-house mentor Jimmy Iovine sit in on some of the rehearsals, and oh my, I think he’s definitely going to be a presence when it comes to contestants working on their songs. He just got straight to the point and held nothing back. He wasn’t sugarcoating anything or sparing anyone’s feelings. His involvement on the show this season is going to be interesting.

The only two performances from Vegas Cirque du Soleil LOVE stage that I cared for were from Tim Halperin and Julie Zorrilla who performed “Something” and Paul McDonald and Kendra Chantrelle who performed “Blackbird.”

In case I haven’t mentioned it already, I am definitely a fan of Halperin’s voice. His vocals paired wonderfully with Zorrilla’s.

I also really like McDonald’s voice. There’s a James Morrison meets Rod Stewart vibe going on there, and I dig it.

The second hour of Idol Wednesday night was dedicated to revealing a portion of the Top 24. This hour and the two hours on Thursday night were so long, I felt like lifetimes were passing by as the show slowly revealed the Top 24.

The contestants got to perform one more final song, and then they walked down the ridiculously long walkway to sit with the judges to find out if they were in or out.
Continue reading Idol Wired >> The Top 24 Are Revealed!