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American Idol: Five Down, Seven to Go



The Idol contestants move into week six with “songs from the movies.” This theme had the potential to bring some real cheese to the table, but thanks to a couple of talented artists in this group, we were spared yet another awful rendition of some of the worn out songs performed on American Idol. We were not, however, spared of all cheese.

Starting out the night was Paul with “Old Time Rock and Roll.” Paul is not only a challenged singer, but his “dancing” drives me crazy. He needs to stop. Jerking around on the stage like he’s having some kind of fit, Paul comes across as a complete joke. The judges say he is “crazy with abandon,” and I will agree with that, though they likely don’t mean the same thing I’m thinking. Paul can pretty much do nothing at this point to change my opinion of him.

Calming things down following Paul’s spastic performance, Lauren chose “The Climb.” Jimmy is correct—Lauren sang the song better than Miley. No surprise there, really; Miley’s not that great of a singer. Lauren has great control for her age, and it says a lot when an amateur sings a song better than the “professional.” Lauren displays so much composure and control on that stage, and pardon the cliché, but she is cute as a button. Lauren has the whole package.

Proving that singing alone does not the whole package make, Stefano chose “End of the Road.” The title of that song may end up being apropos for Stefano, as this could well be the end of the road for him. There’s just something about Stefano’s vocals I don’t like. Not sure what it is, but I liken it to nails on a chalkboard. He doesn’t come across as sincere in his performances but, rather, as manufactured. Personally, I’m just so tired of his power notes and upper range, which comes across as “raspy,” but not in a good way. I simply cannot hear what the judges are hearing when it comes to Stefano.

One that I do hear is Scotty McCreery, who chose “I Cross My Heart.” Just about any country tune is going to put Scotty in his comfort zone, but that’s not a bad thing. Let’s face it: Many Americans love a good country singer, and if you really listen to Scotty, he has a really nice range. Even when he’s singing in his “chest voice,” the baritone periodically slips in at appropriate times, making it come across as completely natural. He really is a star who needs very little work post-Idol. I love his crooked smile; his “imperfections” make him that much more likable. Another contestant who continues to grow on me is Casey.

Casey wanted to sing “Nature Boy,” but Jimmy Iovine objected, suggesting instead Phil Collins. I cringed until Casey stood his ground. Sorry, Jimmy, but you were so wrong. I loved this vibe for Casey, and I love that he knows who he is musically. Scatting? Seriously? Look, Casey is likely not major label material, but man, is he awesome. Randy is correct that we do need artists in the business. If you ask me, the lack of real artists is what’s wrong with the industry today. So much of music and the performers are manufactured; Casey is the real deal. I didn’t “get” Casey at first (shame on me), but I do now. I appreciate his value and what he brings to the table.

Bringing very little to the table, Haley chose “Call Me,” something she could, once again, growl and scream on. Her first note was woefully off-key, and the rest just wasn’t good. At one point, she was YELLING (in Internet speak) her lyrics. I agreed with Randy’s assessment, but again, we’re talking about a girl who has absolutely no musical identity. Her comments post-judgment confirmed that. She referred to “Call Me” as a “feel  good” song. Really? Really? Haley, why do you think the song was included in “American Gigolo?” I guess it depends on what makes one “feel good,” no?

Though he doesn’t seem confused about his musical identity, Jacob had a bit of trouble settling on a song and eventually went with “Bridge Over Troubled Water.” I am so not surprised that Jacob did a good job with this song. It’s right up his alley. Another contestant who will likely never fit in the “pop music” category, this young man can sang. Yes, I said “sang.” When you have chops like Jacob, you go beyond just singing. He has a natural ability to take his vocals from soft to strong at all the appropriate times, making his performances extremely heartfelt. Even if you’re bored with the ballads (like my sister is), you’ve got to admit that this is one vocally gifted young man. He is what you would call a natural singer.

Another “natural” at what he does, James chose “Heavy Metal” from the movie of the same name. I’m frankly amazed that the judges don’t know metal from rock. I’ve never seen the movie, but it must be about cars or something, certainly not about metal music. What James did last night was not metal, contrary to the judges’ classification. It was hard rock, and the song is in James’ comfort zone as well. He does that genre well. Metal is a genre unto itself, marked by rhythmless, loud music and indiscernible lyrics. I didn’t hear that during James’ performance, did you?

The judges’ inability to tell rock from metal aside, they did a good job of choosing contestants this year. One of the things I like most about some of these competitors is that they are true artists. They know who they are musically, and they want to stay in that zone. Though some may qualify that as “safe,” it’s actually a testament to the contestants’ knowledge. Honestly, I would rather see them do what they do well than to try to be something they’re not and come across badly. Of course, the judges and producers push Haley to be what they want because they, like me, know that she has no real identity. That’s why she’s not coming across well. Consequently, I put Haley in my bottom three this week. Between Haley and Paul, I’m not sure who I would like to see leave first, but as long as they go back to back, I’ll be happy. The other two in my bottom three this week are Paul and Stefano. Any of these three can go, and I won’t be mad. The real artists in this group are separating themselves from the rest; I hope the people who vote saw that last night.


Rain and Fire in Sedona



Ange Alex

A rainy day in Sedona? What are we going to do. Everything we have planned is outdoors. I am pretty sure that is why people come to Sedona, for the beautiful OUTDOOR activities, like hiking, biking, Jeep tours, viewing the red rocks and photography. 

What to do, what to do.

Oh, I know. I had the privilege of meeting some great artists that work in fire and glass! The perfect indoor activity when your outdoor plans are washed away!

The Melting Point in Sedona, conveniently located across the street for the Whole Foods (two birds with one stone, yeah!), is a group of artist focusing on creating and teaching others how to create as well.

When we entered the facilities, it was like entering a fine arts gallery. So many beautiful works of glass art. Jordan Ford is the general manager and one of the Artists. He came out of the workshop and told us the rules, then brought us into the fold. 

We were about to become glass blowers! 

Jordan had a love for the natural world from a very early age. He went on to study geology in college but that is when he discovered glass. He currently has Bachelor’s Degrees in both Earth Science/Geology and Visual Arts/Glassblowing.

Jordan says , “It’s the process of blowing glass that drives me. I find the physical act of making glass so overwhelmingly fascinating. I approach most of my work with a consideration for the more classical techniques – it’s the framework that I use as a jumping point for experimentation.”

Not only is Jordan incredibly talented, he is really personable and extremely funny. He made everyone in the room feel at ease and we all often irrupted in bouts of laughter.

Another artist that was helping us is Austin Littenberg. Austin became interested in the art of glass blowing at age 16 after watching a documentary. He spent over 12 years developing his craft and learning the technical precision needed to work at this level.

Austin views the many ways Art presents itself and is in tune with it all, and it shows.

Clearly these two artist love what they do, and I for one am grateful for their expertise and their willingness to show the world their art.

They worked with us to create a beautiful cactus, complete with three flowers, one for each kid, and a Sedona rock like base. We loved the patience they showed and the skill to make us feel at ease. We never felt like  we were about to do something we just couldn’t. It felt like we had been doing this before. That is the measure of a true instructor. 

Our work of art was complete and we left there feeling accomplished and quite honestly, amazing! 

Both Austin and Jordan have remarkable skills but also wonderful comedic timing. They were a absolutely pleasure to meet and I look forward to keeping up with their art in the future.

If you find yourself in Sedona and want to meet some really wonderful people, stop by The Melting Point and say hello! While you’re there, blow some glass!

How could I forget one of them most important things; They have a studio dog! Austin brings his sweet baby girl to work with him and she is an angel! We loved her! Make sure you give her some love when you visit!

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Artists to Watch

Cry With Us! Puddles Pity Party in Orlando



Ange Alex

I owe him a poem:

Here’s a story of a sad clown who one night in February was traveling through O-town. 

He brought a suitcase and a lot of gum, he brought music and videos and tons of fun.

He sang high but mostly he sang low, and he put of one hell of a good show.

He gave a bearded guy a cupcake and danced with a lady, a wolf he would make

There is no doubt he is a boss sir, he even got love from Kevin Costner.

Fans filled the plaza for a night of delight as the 7 foot clown gave us some real insight.

He sang Bowie and Queen and even some Who, also Cash, Lorde and “Let it go” too

Videos played of pets and babies crying, also beautiful artwork and people smiling.

Last night Orlando was anything but mad as we showed much love for a clown that is sad.

Ok, I’d cry too after that poem. Here’s some more info:

If you haven’t been to see a Puddles Pity Party show, you are missing out. 

The show had me smiling and laughing so hard my stomach hurt, but I was also moved so many times by the range of Puddles voice. True entertainment never gets old and I have a feeling he is going to last forever.

I loved the interaction he had with the crowd. He pulled numerous people up to help him on stage and all of them were good sports, one man even singing the entire song, “All by myself” karaoke style! The show was so well thought out and planned but with room for some hilarious improv. Especially at the end when he pulled the 3 fans from the audience dressed like clowns. At the end of them performing together, Puddles suddenly remembers that he is scared of clowns! Genius! 

Hands down one of the best performances I’ve seen in years.


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“20/20:Visionary”: Looking Back, Looking Forward



Photograph by Charlie McCullers, courtesy of Atlanta Ballet.

Last weekend (March 18-20) the Atlanta Ballet gifted the city with “20/20: Visionary,” three pieces, including a world premiere, presented at the Cobb Energy Center.

The world premiere, “Playground,” by British choreographer Douglas Lee, belied its name by being a shadowy piece danced between upright, rolling chalkboard set pieces. Prepared for a lighthearted, joyful expression of childhood, I was surprised that the work instead exposed the darker side of childhood memories. There were some light moments, such as the towering billboard inscribed with multiple lines reading, “Jackie must remember the steps” – clearly a humorous aside about Jackie Nash, one of the most capable company members and perhaps the quickest study in rehearsal. There were some easily-seen choreographic devices–a lot of theme and variation, even more pushing around of set pieces–but there were a few exceptional moments as well, including intricate, slow-motion manipulation of a dancer’s body by another dancer.

Pen-Yu Chen & Tara Lee in “Boiling Point.” Photo by C McCullers, courtesy of Atlanta Ballet.

The opening work, “Boiling Point,” by Darrell Grand Moultrie, was playfully performed at breakneck speed. Dancers are often told to “make it look easy,” and the company took that concept to heart. Highlighted against the men in black costumes, the women wore bits of metallic fabric, providing splashes of intense color and exposing powerful bodies with long muscles. The piece began with the stage space open almost to its fullest, and the dancers running across like a rushing river. They rolled, twisted, turned, and slid like water itself. The choreography juxtaposed synchronicity with counterpoint, traditional with innovation. There was a gargouillade, rarely seen even in classical ballets. The lines of the bodies were critical to the piece, and often layers deep. The flow was almost nonstop, with only an occasional flick of a wrist or toss of a head to provide momentary stasis. The standout was Christian Clark, who sometimes nearly managed to integrate himself into the group but then something distinctive and powerful in his dancing drew the eye to him again.

“Red Clay” from “Home in 7.” Photo by C McCullers, courtesy of Atlanta Ballet.

“Home in 7,” a work by Amy Siewert, closed the concert. A portrait of Atlanta, the ballet was a rich tapestry woven from music, spoken word, and movement. Performed in 7 segments to a libretto written and performed by Marc Bamuthi Joseph and an intriguing, haunting string score composed and performed by Daniel Bernard Roumain, the dance, too, was a poem, shimmering like summer moonlight on the Chattahoochee. John Welker opened the ballet with tiny explosions of movement “Secrets.” Perhaps the most enchanting segment was “Home of the Braves:” 5 men using baseball imagery, holding their formation as they slid precisely between pitches and catches. “Red Clay” evoked August nights, intolerance, and redemption—Atlanta history, a story familiar to many. I first saw this ballet in 2011, and it has grown in depth as the dancers have matured technically and emotionally. Atlanta loves its ballet company, and never more than when it showcases its home city.

John McFall is ending his tenure with the company at the end of this season. For newcomers to Atlanta Ballet offerings, this will have been a dynamic performance. For long-time supporters, it will have been an opportunity to reflect on his legacy. There are a couple more opportunities to see the company under his watch, and then he will pass the torch to Gennadi Nedvigin, the company’s fourth artistic director. Stay tuned!

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