Sunday, October 16

The X Factor Wins Battle of the Bankrolls

Simon Cowell quit American Idol and currently
 judges on another reality show, The X Factor. 
All the buzz about Simon Cowell’s latest sensation, The X Factor, is not all that  buzz worthy.  What sets this self-proclaimed phenomenon ahead of the other reality singing show?  Money. Big dollars. That’s it.

Compared to other singing shows The X Factor is more about big money and high drama. The winner gets $5 million. The promotional budget exceeds imagination.  Most noticeably, the audience gets pulled into the drama of personal lives. To turn away from the show would mean turning our backs on some of the neediest people in society. Check out Dexter Haygood’s audition: . Not saying he can’t sing; just sayin’ it’s typical of the drama.
Yes, there are some great singers. BUT, we get the backstory on homelessness, poverty, my husband said I was too old—all kinds of let’s pity these unfortunate folks so we feel obligated to stay tuned.
Let’s face it. Simon Cowell is a genius when it comes to amassing large tons of money.  He knows how to poke our entertainment buttons. The music. The lights. The trailers. The talk shows. The hype. You’d think the man prepared The Last Supper and we were all invited. He brings in the huge audience and the big stage right away to make the whole process even more theatrical. Smart man.
Is any of his latest coup original?  Mostly not.
Here’s the scoop:  The X Factor adds a little bit to the premise of American Idol, rips off original concepts from The Voice and can’t compete with the originality of The Sing Off. 
Team Adam's Javier Colon
Season 1 winner of The Voice.
Think about it. Boot camp? Really? Singers who made the cut on The Voice joined their celebrity mentors for vocal coaching. Blake Shelton, Christina Aguilera, Cee Lo Greene and Adam Levine each tutored singers of their respective teams.  The X factor bootcamp? Not original.  Not even close.  BTW, all of the coaches from The Voice are singers while two of The X Factor judges are singers and the other two are in the music business.  
As host of The Voice Carson Daly remarked in an interview with,  “We hang our hat on the fact that our coaches are mentoring these artists and not judging them. The relationship between them was something that was really cool.”
Another rip off? The focus on cutting edge technology. The Voice went all out to involve social media with coaches, singers and host all involved.  They tweeted, they posted on Facebook, contestants interacted with fans—it gave an extra element to the chow.  The X Factor attempt to involve social media looks feeble in comparison. It’s like an after thought.
The X Factor admits their ultimate champion is more about being an entertainer  than a singer but their elimination rounds say otherwise.  They do allow older contestants to compete but in a condescending way.  They shove them into an old folks category instead of allowing them to compete in the male or female categories. It looks like a patronizing token.  Some of the best singers are over 30 but we shall see if they seriously have a shot at the top spot.
The X Factor also includes groups but that part is pretty much more fluff.  Producers eventually threw some individual singers cut prior to Boot Camp together to even make enough competitive groups. It seems to be an added category in an attempt to separate the show from the other singing shows. Nothing more. No way will a group be allowed to win. They just play a role.
Much the same story goes for allowing younger contestants.  It seems more for the sake of pointing out a a deviation from Idol or for show that anything else. Some of the younger contestants were chopped with a well at that young age they will have other chances compared to this old guy so what was the point?  That’s right. Separate the format from American Idol to appear refreshingly new and original. Didn’t work. Too many crying young people made it really awkward.
In reality, sure the reality singing shows must have a little drama to keep everyday people watching. We’re not all music majors or opera singer wannabes.  Of the four shows I watch (yes I said four) two are much classier for one simple reason:  they don’t collect their ratings by humiliating naive people
Carson Daly hosts The Voice on NBC.
Guess what people? You’re not laughing with them; you’re laughing at them!

Boos and hisses for both The X Factor and American Idol for all the camera time spent making fun of poor singers—many have lots of issues. It kinda feels like the bullies on the playground in grade school. You know the ones. They single out someone sad  and weak (mentally or physically) and pick on that poor pathetic kid.  It shouldn’t be tolerated at school and it sure as hell should NOT be shown on a stage in front of millions of viewers. Not showing a clip here or I’d be supporting the bullying tactic.
Regarding the twin images of Idol and X Factor auditions, Voice host Carson Daly summed it up best,
 “We won’t whore it out.” 
Gotta love it. Straight to the point. The Voice is more about the singing and less about personal drama.

Quick summary and rating for the big four singing shows (according to a non expert but somewhat normal viewer):
American Idol and The X Factor on FOX
These Siamese twins are just too much alike to separate for the purpose of a review.  They audition singers from around the country choosing contestants for the next round.   

Idol typically picks one or two types for the top 12 for the sake of controversy and improved ratings. Remember Sanjaya Malakar? There you go. The judges placed him in the top 12-not the viewers.  The X Factor judges selected a few singers for Boot Camp never heard/briefly heard on stage.  Hardly fair when it comes time for viewers to vote.  Seems like the formula is simple. Emotional backstory=lots of TV time.
Yes, of course both shows feature some true talent.  One of the best to come from American Idol’s loins, Adam Lambert, made it to runner-up status due to viewer votes. Compilation of Adam Lambert’s Idol songs . The best ever performance of Idol in my clouded opinion:

Adam Lambert, runner-up on Season 8 of American Idol.
Slight problem there. He was too controversial for viewers to objectively judge ability to entertain. Who beat him for that year’s title? Right. Lambert has broken all kinds of records with a huge fan base around the world. Yes, I am a groupie. He inspired this blog title, of course.  
Here’s a Carrie Underwood performance to give a little balance. She won the Idol title in Season 4.
And what about the judges for these twin shows?  Shucks. It’s Paula Abdul and Simon Cowell back together again. Been there. Done that.  Found it quite sickening the first time around.  Paula is not quite as flaky. I take that back (validated by hugging/crying with homeless guy and others). Simon isn’t nearly as mean (trying something new). Producer  L.A. Reid adds a little class. Nicole Scherzinger? Sell out. Caver. Left The Sing Off for greener pastures. It is all about pure talent. She is all about the drama. Obviously.

Obviously she was added for more spark, aka drama.  Her ability to drawing attention to herself gave British judge Cheryl Cole de boot to bring in the drama queen the fake accents. Right y’ll? The network said she was too difficult to understand and lacked chemistry with the judges. Sure. Whatever. She wasn’t controversial enough. Bring in the fake twang diva Scherzinger to do that trick.
Paula and Nicole are pushover judges unless Simon really thinks someone is great. Then they roll eyes at each other and vote NO! That’s right ladies. Let one of the best singers go and ship her ass down the road. Too bad for her Simon bragged about her.  Just think, in a few months she can tell her coworkers at McDonald's that the great Simon Cowell liked her.   

Idol judges? Meh. The original dawg, Randy Jackson,  is still around for consistency. Judge Steven Tyler helps draw a generation of rocker groupies into the Idol fold and JLo, well Jennifer Lopez  brings in her own fan base. Add to that the sympathy fans due to recent divorce.  Neither of them really like to be critical of singers.  They are both pretty faces who can sing so that ain’t all that bad. Not great; not horrid.
The Voice on NBC
The Voice initiated a couple refreshing ideas for singing reality shows. They also had a couple big FLOPS. Love the idea of no visual images to select a singer for their teams. You can say people don’t judge by looks but then you’d be a liar.  That part was awesome (not counting homophobia and obvious shock of less-than-model material). 

The really, really stupid? The boxing ring with two people singing the same song competing to continue. DUH. Not a good way to showcase their best qualities or a fair way to pick a winner. Sample of the Battle round:
Teams? Awesome. It was fun to see how the different celebrity’s worked with different singers.  Black Shelton seemed to adopt of couple of his too-shy girls. Kinda cheesy but turned out sincere. Christina is awesome and also thinks she is awesome-evidenced by always, always doing and recommending over-the-top loudness. Adam was also very genuine and helpful ending up with the eventual champ-great singer. Cee Lo let his personality show. His work with singers and his performances were WAY out there. In a good way. Here’s an example. It’s Cee Lo’s production with his finalist Vicci  Martinez:

Oh, and did you know the judges invited their teams to their homes? Imagine that. Here a duet with The Voice Season 1 winner Javier and his coach Maroon 5’s Adam Levine:

As far as the hosts are concerned, Simon can bitch all night long about Ryan Seacrest. It’s basically a jealousy thing due to attention. Seacrest can be a bit full of himself but so what? He does a great job. The X Factor guy? Obviously, Welsh star Steve Jones is  supposed to be “in the background” where Simon wanted Seacrest. We see just enough of him to want to hear more of his accent and take a longer look at his hunky looks. Eye candy. Doesn’t impact show much either way.
Host Carson Daley gives credibility to the show and its concept. As a well known music TV host who constantly reviews music, he brings a great element to the show.

The Sing Off  on NBC
The Sing Off? Truly by far pure talent with real people and real singers.  Some come with their own sob stories but it’s not the focus. Talent is.  Acappella music is difficult. Without all the controversy there isn’t as much to sell a viewing audience. Too bad cuz this show is the real deal.  Check out the recap of season 2 to get an idea of the quality of competition.

Okay,  so it’s not necessarily talent as in Hey I am the next Placido Domingo or  Lady Gaga-type raw talent but they are surprisingly able to find the right key and carry a tune-a task some Idol finalists can’t seem to manage.
Working in a group requires dedication and practice. Besides all the vocal parts, numbers are choreographed requiring extensive rehearsal time.  Some groups members sacrifice their time and/or personal lives for the chance to get to The Sing Off.  The financial reward isn’t nearly as attractive but the title is highly regarded.  It’s all about vocal instruments. Young. Old. Old School. Hip Hop. Diverse. Jazz. Groups adapt songs to fit their genre or adapt their style to spin a song.  Love it.

Committed won Season 2 of The Sing Off.
Judge Ben Folds is incredibly good-as in he knows music and can judge objectively from that platform.  Plus, he is hilarious. Even when he tries to be funny and fall flat, he’s still funny because he doesn’t try to be someone he’s not.  Plus, he doesn’t sugarcoat criticism but he isn’t harsh. If singers cry he didn’t cause it. Shawn Stockman . This former Boys to Men crooner  is a little less critical but still honest.  Singer Sarah Bareilles replaces turncoat Nicole. Both are singers but the difference is Sarah is slightly less ditsy and more into judging from a musical perspective. Her giddiness seems to come from genuine excitement for the performances. She gushes over herself and talks a bit much but she is a fake personality like her predecessor. Hey, she’s not the only one who can be pussy-cattie!
The minus? HOST. Nick Lachay and his pathetic attempts to reference 98 degrees and his career get sickening real fast. But, if you have to trim the budget or cut quality somewhere, better to be the host than the judges.  His cheesiness does distract a bit but he’s doable. To listen to, that is.

Stereotypes of acappella  music lacking dimension is way off.  Many of the groups sound like they are performing with a band.  Check out one of my favorite versions of RadioHead’s Creep. .  Keep in mind it’s all vocal—no instruments allowed. Last year’s runner-up group, Street Corner Symphony, gives an original twist to these lyrics. If you like their sound, Here’s a compilation of their experience on the show.
Season 10 American Idol winner, teen 
country singer Scotty McCreery.
So, let’s summarize.
More people watch the shows with high drama who support humiliating less fortunate people while fewer people watch  singing show due to singing talent. Sounds about right. Aren’t we a motley crue?
Compilation of X Factor good auditions

photos courtesy

Saturday, August 13

From butter cows to just plain butter, time for Iowa State Fair! (subtitled Blog on a Stick)

Iowa state fair goers are always up for new tasty treats served on a stick. This year the fair introduces the mother of all calorie-laden, hot-grease-drenched, edible items yet to be impaled.

It is (drumroll here) Deep Fried BUTTER . . .  on a stick! You read it correctly. Not sure of the food group but honey battered butter gets a second soaking of grease when it hits the hot oil of the deep fryer resulting in . . . viola! Deep fried butter on a stick!

On the 100th anniversary of the fair’s infamous Butter Cow sculpture on display in the Agriculture Building, the newest on-a-stick invention seems a fitting tribute.

It is the fodder of television comedians across the country. Of course, it gives our rival states even more ammunition for stupid jokes.

It definitely brings new meaning to the T-shirt slogan, "I went to the Iowa State Fair and all I got was . . . diabetes!

It had to be something colossal to outdo last year's chocolate covered bacon . . . on a stick. Deep fried butter on a stick joins newbies peanut butter and jelly on a stick and chocolate covered fried ice cream on a stick. For those who are keeping score, patrons can purchase over 80 on-a-stick foods at the Iowa State Fair.

Count on swarms of politicians

No matter what has happened throughout a given year, in addition to the anticipated foods on a stick, fair goers can count on one other constant. Politicians. They are everywhere. Presidential candidates flip burgers, sing karaoke, scoop some poop, eat stuff on a stick- do whatever they can do to convince voters they're just common folk like anyone else. 

For those crazy enough to actually still WANT to listen to politicians, come on out to the fair.  Caution. Opposing views can end up in screaming matches with threats of shoving foods on a stick in places respectable foods would never go!

As far as politicians go, several United States Presidents have graced the fairgrounds. Current President Trump was at the fair with a helicopter giving kids free rides. President Barrack Obama enjoyed a beer at the fair. With his secret service men, the beer tent was overflowing. Back in the day Herbert Hoover and Dwight Eisenhower attended in 1954. Future President, Ronald Reagan, beat Hoover and Eisenhower to the fair. Broadcasting for WHO radio as the sports director, President Ronald Reagan worked the fair during the 1930s.

The Band Perry performs on an awards show.

For those who don’t want to pop the big bucks for grandstand headliners, check out headline acts on one of the free stages! Superstars, The Band Perry, played free stages at the fair. Featuring 3 siblings, The Band Perry was named 2011’s best new artists by ACM (Academy of Country Music). After playing free stages they returned,to play the grandstand.

The same venue hosted the Oakridge Boys, and Vanilla Ice.  Anderson Erickson Dairy, Budweiser,  are other free stages. From country to rock to hip-hop, the free stages offer a variety of music.  Popular accapella group Pentatonix graduated from free stages to the grandstand.

Over the years the fair has featured the top acts in the country.  A few include: Elvis Presley, Garth Brooks, Johnny Cash, Sonny and Cher, Wayne Newton, and Janet Jackson. Alabama has the record for the numbers

For those longing to dole out more dollars, Grandstand acts include: The Incredible Machine Tour featuring Sugarland with Sara Bareilles, Ronnie Dunn with Steel Magnolia, Train and Maroon 5, Doobie Brothers with Kansas, Deff Leopard with special guests Heart and Evan Watson, Reba with Jerrod Niemann, Janet Jackson, Casting Crowns with Sanctus Real and Jason Aldean with guests Thompson Square and Chris Young.

If you prefer mobile entertainment there is always Bandaloni the One Man Band! He performs several times each day.

Records related to fair entertainment show the biggest crowds attending the Sonny and Cher concert in 1972, Johnny Cash in 1970 and the Beach Boys in 1975 with attendance ranging from 25,300-26,200 fans.

Other interesting Iowa State Fair tidbits?

• Attendance in 2002 topped a million for the first time with 1,008,174 visitors while 2008 holds the record at 1,109,150.

• The hottest day recorded at the fair was August 16, 1983 when the temp climbed 108 degrees Farenheit.

• The first fair in Iowa in 1854 had a budget of $323.

• The fairgrounds cover over 445 acres of land.

Notoriously hot temperatures are expected for those 10 days in August. When I force myself to partake, I like to cheat and ride around on a cozy granny scooter and scare a few visitors. First stop? the air-conditioned Varied Industries Building to pick up free stuff and register for more free stuff. Second? Find favorite food on a stick (AKA a corndog) followed by a beer tent visit.  
Repeat step two as needed. Cruise over to a wine tasting tent. Check out a free free stages. And, avoid deep-fried butter.
Fried macaroni and cheese prior to adding the stick.

Wednesday, August 3

Adventures of a drama queen wannabe

Sometimes you gotta admit defeat. That time hasn’t come for this old lady! I will not give up my car keys without a fight . . . or a binding court document.

Summer proved to be a series of perilous adventures as I set out to prove my competency to travel independently. ('Mom, maybe you shouldn’t drive so far by yourself, or Mom, maybe it’s not safe to be on your own in a big city or You are getting pretty old to go there by yourself'). Thanks for the support guys.

After all, I am a good driver. In my driveway. As long as I don’t have to back up very far.

Plus, I have a cane and I know how to use it . . . as a weapon (well, I've heard about it).

Somehow my presence often turns simple tasks into high drama and/or minor ‘accidents’.

Like the case of walking from the car to my house, aka as example # 1: Free Falling

  • Opened front door, musta forgot to step up, fell forward face down on hardwood floor, managed to crawl to base of stairway, tried to pull self up many times, (all while giggling uncontrollably), attempting—without success, not to urinate. Remember daughter trying to help asking, 'Mom, are you okay?'
  • The more I laughed the more puzzled/frustrated/concerned/impatient she became. Then the scolding. 'Mom, you need to pay more attention. Someday you’re going to get hurt and no one will be around to help you and you won't think it's so funny!' Really? Well, guess what people? I didn’t ask for help. I can find clean unders all by myself.
  • *No one was actually hurt during this event unless you count family’s embarrassment at the site of wet spots on floor. But hey, clothing and rugs can be laundered.
I can’t help it if I find soiling oneself to be funny. It’s right up there with watching people fall on the ice . . . or my son with ankle in cast slipping and falling at grocery store when crutch hit wet spot. Too funny. I still giggle just thinking of it . . .

Crutch flies into fresh vegetables, worker dashes over to help, son curses under his breath managing a, 'No problem, I’m okay, thanks for your help' to the employee as he stands up, takes back crutch and hops right by me as he shoots me a dirty look.
How rude. He coulda waited for me to compose myself. That kind of belly laugh with tears streaming down face takes a minute of recovery time.

Or the biking incident known as example #2: No Brakes & Breaking Bones

  • I recall that lazy Sunday afternoon in August . . . Hauling out our new bikes, practicing in the alley before heading to the street, turning the corner and down a hill, gaining speed, gaining more speed, going way too fast, trying to apply brakes on pedal, hearing husband shout, 'the brakes are on handlebars, PJ use the brakes, use the brakes' . . . For some reason I didn’t/couldn’t/wouldn’t. I just remember heading for the cement curb and hoping for the best as I squeezed my eyes shut. I didn’t want to see what was gonna happen. That was before the dreaded trip to emergency room when I sounded kinda like a newly wiened puppy whimpering and howling all the way there.
  • After the event of flying over the handlebars, splatting on the sidewalk, bumping my head, looking up to see husband reaching down while laughing . . . my usual calm sensitive self unraveled just a bit.
  • Maybe it was my thoughtful daughter-in-law’s comment upon hearing the news, 'OMG I wish we had it on tape. You flew over handlebars? We coulda won $10,000!' Or other supportive remarks like, 'Now I know what to get you for Christmas—training wheels! or What were YOU doing trying to ride a bike? or Way to make a fool of yourself in front of new neighbors!' or seeing my daughter shake her head while commenting, 'I’d tell you to stick to your stationary exercise bike but you’ll probably figure out a way to tip that over.' Thanks for the props everyone.
  • Or just maybe my pitiful tears were related to a broken collarbone! I can’t always deliver spectacular stunts without a few injuries/broken bones.
  • After a week in a sling (dr: 'These things usually heal on their own, take these pills and you’ll be fine'), teasing from fam ('C’mon suck it up, Geez I didn’t know you were such a baby, or There’s no crying in bicycle riding') I gimped back to the clinic. Hmmm. Still broken apart.
  • Next I went under the knife, with insertion of platinum screw in shoulder, then sent from recovery to room for overnight hospital stay. I sorta recall the nurse saying, . . .'expect some pain, lots of poking and prodding, hard to get bone back together again.' First, I giggled thinking of Humpty Dumpty. Then I remember staring at the long hand, waiting for it to get to the 12 so I could press my trusty morphine pump. Next came sleeping and itching, and itching some more. Yet, all of it paled compared to the REAL drama about to unfold that fateful night.
  • I opened my eyes in time to get flashed by new roommate’s tattoed butt as the nurse helped her stumble into bathroom. Next, I overheard loud phone conversation with boyfriend ('I’m so strung out, you need to get tested, they put a tube in there, my vagina . . . dripping'). Lovely. Besides discovering roomie/homeless/stripper/delinquent teenager possessed nasty STD AND my pain meds she discovered on my tray, the blaring sounds of Saturday morning cartoons jolted me awake at 5AM. That was it. Time for confrontation!
  • ME: 'Could you please turn down the TV? I just had surgery and I am trying to sleep'.
  • ROOMIE: Nothing. Then TV got louder.
  • ME: thinking to self  'I should pull back curtain and kick her ass', I repeated: 'Hi there, excuse me. Don’t you think the TV is a little loud'?
  • ROOMIE: (my stinging words caused action as she flung back curtain) 'Hey stupid old hag. If I thought it was too loud I woulda turned it down! Duh'. Curtain closed again.
  • Okay then . . . well, the big hand on the clock went past the 12. Squeeze.
  • I probably scared her away cuz when I woke up the bed was empty. The nurse entered room.
  • ME: 'So, is it safe to use the same toilet seat considering roomie has STD'?
  • NURSE: 'I can’t share confidential information about another patient’s diagnosis'.
  • ME: 'Um. Well, did you know she asked me if I would give her my script for pain pills'?
  • NURSE: Sits on edge of bed like we’re old buds, leans over. 'Doesn’t surprise me. She’s been in here before. No insurance. No money. Problems with drugs and alcohol. Works across the river as a stripper, probably a hooker. Long, long list of partners'.
  • Great. So much for confidential info vs. the urge to gossip.
Anyway, sure I’ve experienced a few setbacks. Most people are not perfect. All of us slow down a bit as we age. Okay, maybe not as slow as hitting the ball all the way to the left field fence and still getting thrown out at first slow but then I was never known for my speed on the bases.

Sure, a few embarrassing moments happened to me. Maybe every teacher doesn’t leave the restroom with her skirt tucked in to the back of her panty hose revealing a bulgy backside to the world (twice at two different schools) but it does happen.

Maybe every single mom doesn’t empty contents of large purse at checkout in search of checkbook to discover a dirty fork stabbed into a half-eaten moldy dill pickle.

Maybe every mother doesn’t have the ninja thinking skills to implement a quick kick to the object when her two-year-old’s hard ball of warm poop drops to the cold tiled floor in the center aisle of the packed clinic. But, it pretty much worked. Rolled under a chair.
I planned to rescue the lonely poo to flush it after we saw the doctor only to find it missing. Hey, that was back in the day of droopy cloth diapers way before the fancy disposables.
Everybody poops. Ask Forest Gump. It happens.

As usual, I ramble. Back to the summer of two aught aught and eleven. But now it is three in the morning. Must close eyes and tell those tales another time.

Wednesday, March 2

Andy's recent encounter or Ways not to recover from brain cancer treatments

One night during her last set of chemo treatments, Andy decided to move from the couch to get some water. That doesn't sound like a traumatic incident. It was.

Feeling weak and a bit dizzy, she remembers putting her hand out to find the counter. Sometime later (anywhere from 20-50 minutes) she opened her eyes wondering where she was, what the hell just happened and why there was something wet on her face and hands.

As she regained more awareness, she moved her hand around enough to find her trusty cell phone on the floor next to her. She remembered her mom's speed dial number and pushed it. If that didn't work, plan B was 9-1-1.

I answered the phone, grabbed my keys, hopped into my clunker van and headed northeast. My grungy pajamas and I managed to push in the key and turn the doorknob. Taking a deep breath in an attempt to stay calm, I stepped in and turned on the light.

Andy had managed to crawl back to the couch. Dark red dried blood kept her fingers stuck together; seeping blood was still an issue somewhere on her head and/or face.

A wet white washcloth showed the truth of what I suspected. She split her forehead open just between her eyes. It didn't matter how much we pressed and dobbed at it, the cut was too deep for a band aid to make it all better. So, I did what any concerned mother would do. I called my son and told him to take his sister to the emergency room. NOW.

Skipping through the next several hours of tests (to be expected when a brain cancer patient slams her head and blacks out), the girl ended up with nine stitches and some rough looking bruises from her fight with her kitchen counter.

A few days later she was all about putting the ordeal in perspective. She did have a few good points related to her incident:

1. Now people could stare at her new stitches and bruises. It might detract from her larger brain surgery incision on her now-bald head.
2. What could have happened. Coulda, shoulda, woulda stuff. Coulda been her eye. Coulda been closer to her tumor. Coulda caused worse injuries.
3. Two-fer-one special. Not on beers but on medical services! When she went to her podiatrist to check on how her big toe was healing since he'd removed the toenail, his assistant also removed the stitches from her forehead! Sweet!
4. She didn't have to go to the clinic the next day for blood work. The hospital sent their results. Time saver!
5. Bonus visit from friends who were concerned about her head's most recent abnormality.
6. Stepdad changed cat litter and delivered fast food of choice (to Andy, the cats avoid fast food).
7. She didn't mention this one but she got to have HER MOM stay over a couple nights. What fun to bond over the memories.

Currently, Andy says she feels about as decent as she's felt since pre-brain surgery last August. She has had enough stamina to leave the house and feel "normal' for 4-5 days. Hopefully, the next round of chemo won't be much of a setback for her.

This time when she is stubborn and states that no one needs to stay with her at night during her chemo treatment days--her mother will win the argument!

TIP OF THE DAY: It's better to put up with a hovering mom than a vicious countertop with a sharp edge.

Wednesday, January 26

Must you wear a slab of sirloin to make it as a singer?

The December 14, 2010 release of the first CD by Crystal Bowersox, Farmer’s Daughter, drew mixed reviews from the professional pool. It sounded like a few writers wanted Bowersox to transform her laid back personality into some over-the-top flashy persona in order to bring in sales.

She didn’t cave.

Good for her.

In a way.

*First single makes top ten

Five weeks after its single release, Farmer’s Daughter ranked #9 on the VH1 Top 20 Countdown.

*Will the real Crystal Bowersox please stand up?

In contrast, does the album show off the gritty unique voice of a singer who can vocally own Janis Joplin, Sheryl Crow and Alanis Morissette songs? Not even close. All singers don’t need to double as entertainers. They don’t have to fly in the air on a trapeze or sport a slab of sirloin on their head to make it to the top.

Crystal Bowersox can survive on the power of her voice and raw talent but somebody’s gotta step up and produce a better mousetrap. Give her a brand; develop her sound.

*Farmer’s Daughter, the album

Much like her resistance to bend to the American Idol elite, Crystal avoided the material of other writers. The 2010 Idol runner up wrote most of the music on her debut CD. She opted to keep her own true voice and tell her own stories.

Nowhere is that more apparent than the title track, Farmer’s Daughter. The first line should grab the attention of anyone ever confused about life.

*Farmer’s Daughter, the song

Half way to crazy, not far from sane, locks in the emotion, the guilt, the pain reflecting on the singer’s struggles after her parents split up when she was little.

Crystal is the farmer’s daughter with a personal message for her mother. When Crystal says "I’m sick and tired of all your games", she’s talking about a messed up mom. Staying at Mom’s house caused some mental and physical pain. Check it out:

I remember back in high school my brothers and me Willy put his head through the door to find clarity You’d come home with bourbon breath, Jack in the air, and when you broke my bones I told the school I feel down the stairs.

Versions of the refrain all I ever wanted was you to take care of me, make Mom as selfish as she was cruel and Crystal as sad as she was forgiving.

The farmer’s daughter survived all the struggles. She’s gained strength because she’s no farmer’s daughter, anymore Mommy dear.

Maybe singing the lyrics was therapeutic. Crystal Bowersox sang Farmer’s Daughter live on VH1 saying she and her mom had a troubled relationship and damage was done. She also said she loves her mother and that parents do the best they can.

*A cover worth a listen

Another song of note on the album is a better-than-original cover of Buffalo Springfield’s For What It’s Worth. The song shows off the Bowersox power voice. Even full out upper range notes sound deep and rich. No screechy thin vocals, just all out powerful by way of control, vocal variety and good energy. Great job on a decent song.

*Another possible hit

Holy Toledo embraces the city yet the singer wonders how in the hell she will get to heaven from her start in Toledo, Ohio. Great vocals again. This tune grates with a rock edge—just enough to grab attention. Different connotations for the word Holy add some depth to the lyrics. This song could go be a keeper.

*The meh tracks

Ridin’ with the Radio and Arlene show some potential but the few remaining songs . . . meh. Meh, at best.

One of the duds should be the top dog. Written by former Idol judge Kara DioGuardi and Nickleback’s Chad Kroeger, Hold On is a cliché ridden song she should have let go. Reeks of cheesiness.

Speak Now gives a message of independence and shows off Crystal’s acoustic guitar sound. Mine all Mine hints of that missing intimacy she longs for in her life. Mason plays some good harmonies but not much of a song.

*Buy the CD

Farmer’s Daughter is worth the 12 bucks for the few songs that do work. Buy it to keep in a collection to compare Crystal Bowersox’ first record with the platinum records in the years to come.

*For the country music poo-pooers

It doesn’t matter if she has some songs with a country sound—ever heard of Taylor Swift, Sugarland or Carrie Underwood? Cross overs (when it comes to music) can be a good thing. Crystal Bowersox can top the pop charts and sideline on the country charts.

She’s got the goods; she just needs the right vehicle.

Monday, January 24

Bowersox: She ain't no farmer's daughter anymore

Farmer's Daughter by Crystal Bowersox. First CD released by 2010 American Idol runnerup. I'm thinkin' the big goal for future contestants should be to aim for second place! With the exception of the exceptionally talented duo of the very first Idol, Kelly Clarkson, and the top selling Idol, Carrie Underwood, second place is the hot spot. Hmmm, Clay Aiken? Adam Lambert? (yes, I am glambert groupie) David Archuleta? I'm guessin' they fared waaaaaaaay better than the "winners". What happened to that creepy white/gray haired guy anyway?!

The Bowersox CD pulled in mixed reviews. Considering she wrote most of the music AND she's not an over-the-top attention grabber, some reviewers didn't get it.  As a Miranda Lambert groupie, I heard a tiny teeny touch of a spark of comparison in a couple songs (lyrics and style). Both women fend for themselves and the lyrics show it. You feel it.

Farmer's Daughter is simple and straightforward and powerful. Love her voice. Admire her talent. Impressed by her survival skills.  My favorites on Farmer's Daughter at this point:  #1 Farmer's Daughter- somehow I recognize how that first line feels . . . Halfway to crazy, not far from sane. Just one more been there, done that moment. #2 Holy Toledo & #3Arlene.   Check out the Farmer's Daughter video . . .

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Holding on to photographs and fairy tales

Grandma Marge shows off her modern coffee percolator while Deb (left) and I hold the dolls we got for Christmas. When it’s time ...