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Finale in Sight!



If anyone who watches America Idol didn’t see the obvious favoritism shown toward Haley Reinhart last night, they’re blind. Not only was she given the “pimp spot” for the fourth week in a row, but her father was allowed to perform with her on stage. If Idol isn’t going to keep the show fair, they should just give Haley the crown and save people the trouble of voting. I feel for the other two, who are just as talented if not more. No, it’s not “country Idol,” but the producers and judges knew full well who both Lauren and Scotty were as artists when they chose them for the Top 24. They shouldn’t have chosen them, only to show them such blatant disrespect at the end. Perhaps they didn’t expect them to get this far or maybe they didn’t expect the level of artistry shown by two teenagers, but they got what they bargained for: They’re both very talented. One of them, however, will likely fall tonight.

Another interesting thing about the show last night is the level of attention they gave to their mentor, Beyoncé, who showed just what Idol is about: A mediocre singer who brings sex to videos made from horrible songs. And I’m not leaving Ms. Lopez out of that. She is beautiful and a very talented actress, but her lack of singing ability is always covered by the dancing, thumping music, and audio tuning. No wonder the music industry is a mess. Haley fits right in with what they like. Since Britney Spears is dying out, they likely see her heir apparent in Haley. I hate to tell Haley, but she won’t have any choice in what she does once they own her. She will be singing through audio boxes, prancing around the stage half naked, and singing electronic-laden, thumping music. Good luck with that. Success will last as long as it takes to find a newer model.

Last night, the final three had three song choices: Their own choice, the label executive’s choice, and the judges’ choice. While the fix was obviously in for Haley, the boot was in for Scotty. He was given the first slot, also called the “death spot” by Idol fans, and the judges couldn’t have chosen a more boring song: She Believes in Me by Kenny Rogers. I couldn’t help but cringe when I heard the choice. Scotty is so much more entertaining on playful songs, and they know it. They’ve told him that enough time themselves, yet when they have the opportunity to give him a song that really allows him to shine, they chose one in the very vein they’ve downplayed over and again. Whatever. I will say this about Scotty: I would buy his CD, and I don’t like country. I appreciate that he is a real artist and not some manufactured pop fluff. He gave me Goosebumps on “Amazed,” his own choice, and showed that he can really sing. I love the way his baritone naturally slips in and out when he is singing, and I appreciated his playfulness on “Kiss Me or Not.” Honestly, I was surprised that Jimmy didn’t also try to sabotage Scotty, but he made a good choice for him. Scotty pulled out the acoustic guitar, and he looked like a real artist last night (not that he hasn’t before). Again, Scotty is the real deal. No matter what happens here, he has firmly set himself up for a long, successful career in country music.

Scotty’s female counterpart Lauren would be in the same boat as Scotty except she’s female, so she got a good choice from the judges: “I Hope You Dance.” The song was a big hit for Leeann Womack, and Lauren did a good job with it. No surprise there—the song is definitely in Lauren’s “zone.” Lauren is a good singer, but she has to be very careful that she doesn’t sound like a handful of other female country singers. Lauren is, however, only 16 years old, and she will continue to mature, both chronologically and musically. One thing that propels Lauren along is a very strong likeability factor. You can’t help but root for her. She chose “Wild One,” which is a lesser-known Faith Hill song for me. Lauren also does well with the “playful” songs, even if her outfit was a bit “whack.” She made up for the wardrobe faux pas on “If I Die Young,” which was Jimmy’s choice. Though she stumbled a bit midway through the song, she overall did a decent job. Like Scotty, whether Lauren wins the title or not, she has a solid footing in a country music career. If I’m being perfectly honest, Lauren and Scotty would both be better off not winning and landing instead in the hands of someone who specializes in the type of music they do so well. I don’t know that someone who works with the Black Eyed Peas, Lady Gaga, and 50 Cent can really do these two justice. Lauren and Scotty aren’t “top 40 pop/hip-hop” material. Both are real artists. The most moldable of this threesome is Haley, and they pulled out all the stops to make sure we know that.

For the fourth week in a row, Haley was placed in the “pimp spot.” The bias toward her is palpable. No matter how much she forgets her lyrics or mumbles when she sings, the judges heap praise on her that is so sticky sweet that my teeth hurt just listening. I really don’t have a lot to say about Haley. I think it’s obvious at this point that I’m not a fan; however, some people apparently enjoy what she does or she wouldn’t still be there. Likely, she will do well in pop music, as few pop artists have anything of any significance to say in their music, making it of little consequence that she has no musical identity. It’s all about the beat and not the content. Again, if I’m being totally honest (God, I’m starting to sound like Simon), the most entertaining part of Haley’s performance was when she skidded across the steps during “What is and What Should Never Be,” a Led Zeppelin song. Haley’s performance of Fleetwood Mac’s “Rhiannon,” Jimmy’s choice, was nasally, off-key, and just not that good. Her performance, enhanced by the wind machine, was mediocre, at best, though the judges continued to heap praise on her. Okay. I don’t, however, fault those who like Haley. As I have said time and again, music is subjective. Haley is attractive, and she comes across as a bit of a “daredevil” on stage by trying songs that are not necessarily traditional to Idol. Getting her dad a gig doesn’t hurt either. For Idol, she may well be the best winner, as I’m sure Idol producers are considering their two most (only) successful winners, Kelly Clarkson and Carrie Underwood.

Interestingly, two of the three remaining contestants resemble the most successful Idol winners: Lauren sounds a lot like Carrie, and Haley wants to be a rocker chick like Kelly (though she doesn’t have Kelly’s pipes). I won’t all be surprised if these two are left standing, as Idol has made no secret that it wants another female winner. Looking at the entire 10-year span of Idol, however, the show has had two other female winners, Fantasia Barrino and Jordin Sparks, neither of whom has fared much better than the male winners. But, looking at the male winners, it really is no surprise that they haven’t done well. Ruben Studdard tanked, Taylor Hicks was a joke, Kris Allen was a milquetoast, and David Cook was ruined by the music saddled on him. And how long has it taken them to release a second album for David? He’ll be good and forgotten, and the label and show have no one to blame but themselves. The real problem with Idol, however, all boils down to the voting. I’ve said it a thousand times, and I will say it until I’m blue in the face: Unless and until Idol producers eliminate the unlimited voting, a true reflection of who will do well in the real world will not be reflected in their winners. Taylor Hicks won, but Chris Daughtry was the star; Kris Allen won, and Adam Lambert skunked him in sales and popularity. Seriously, is Idol really a good barometer of talent? As it stands, no. It’s merely a popularity contest. That’s why, even with better talent and new judges, the show has ended up being just as boring as before. At least Jimmy Iovine remained unbiased in his song selections and chose what he thought best suited each contestant. Overall, I will say he did a good job. Will Idol try to reinvent itself again next year? I doubt it. They love the drama. In the end, it may well be that Simon was right and Idol has run its course.


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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