Friday, March 28, 2008

Leona Lewis tops Billboard Hot 100

Leona Lewis has become the first UK female solo artist in more than 20 years to top Billboard’s Hot 100 chart.

Her single Bleeding Love, which is released through Syco/J Records in the US, has climbed 8-1 on the newly-announced chart to make it only the second single by a British act in the last decade to lead the countdown.

Bleeding Love’s chart-topping triumph follows Lewis last week performing the song on Oprah Winfrey’s hugely-influential TV show in the States. Lewis was introduced by Syco founder and X Factor/American Idol judge Simon Cowell on the programme where Winfrey also interviewed her.

The last UK act to top the Hot 100 was James Blunt whose You’re Beautiful spent a week at number one in March 2006. However, the clock has to be turned back to June 1987 when the last UK female solo artist reached number one on the chart. That was Kim Wilde with her cover of the Holland-Dozier-Holland evergreen You Keep Me Hangin’ On.

Watch the video as Simon Cowell talks about his protege's success.

Lewis, who appeared on NBC’s The Tonight Show with Jay Leno on Monday night, is due to return to the States around the release there of her debut album Spirit on April 8.

Watch Leona perform in Oprah show.

Leona's Official Website:

Piers Morgan Wins The Celebrity Apprentice

Los Angeles - In the end, evil bested good on Celebrity Apprentice .

At least that's how Donald Trump chose to spin the finale showdown Thursday between country singer Trace Atkins and British tabloid editor turned America's Next Got Talent judge Piers Morgan.

During a live two-hour finale, about half of which was devoted to the charity gala the finalists presided over, with the final segment reserved for clips and more boardroom bickering, Trump picked the brash, outspoken Brit to be the Celebrity Apprentice.

This season the winner couldn't really be Trump's apprentice, of course, considering Morgan already has a job and the point of this inaugural edition of the Mark Burnett-produced competition show, its seventh cycle overall, was to raise money for the stars' respective charities.

The biggest beneficiaries of this 13-week experiment were Morgan's cause célèbre, the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund, which raises money for the families of U.S. troops killed or severely injured while serving their country, and the Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network, Atkins' pet charity since his 6-year-old daughter was diagnosed with multiple life-threatening allergies.

More than $1 million was raised through the various tasks the 14 B-listers (and Omarosa, whose list usually includes four letters) were asked to perform, ranging from peddling tickets to Broadway musicals to dressing windows to showcase Vera Wang mattresses.

For philanthropy's sake, it was lucky that most of the tasks turned into three or four-person games of "whose rolodex is the beefiest?"

And more often than not, it was Morgan who came through with the big donors, like Virgin mogul Richard Branson, who cut a check for $10,000 during the Broadway task, and Talent executive producer (etc.) Simon Cowell, who during the final challenge bid $100,000 for a shopping date with Ivanka Trump.

So it didn't matter that four out of five moralists—not to mention most of his fellow contestants—would have sent Morgan packing, preferring Atkins' quiet confidence and gracious demeanor.

"This would have been a much shorter boardroom if you had a better bedside manner," Ivanka Trump informed the former Daily Mirror honcho before he was named the winner.

"You don't know about my bedside manner!" quipped the cheeky father of three, who took a decidedly war-like approach to each task, rooting out and destroying weak links with undisguised pleasure—particularly when he laid waste to Omarosa in week 10.

All of which made for a much-needed injection of oomph into the tired Apprentice format that was reflected in the Nielsen ratings. This season averaged 9.2 million viewers per week as opposed to season six's 7.4 million, when a plain-old defense attorney was the last one standing.

"Surprise" appearances by celebs such as Alec and Billy Baldwin (Stephen's bros), David Hyde Pierce (Taxi star Marilu Henner's New York theater pal), Bob Saget (just hanging out?) and porn star Jenna Jameson (Ultimate Fighting champ Tito Ortiz's girlfriend) probably helped, although it's interesting to note that the guests tended to be of a higher star caliber than the friends or family members they were helping out.

Trump also threw in another $250,000 for the Intrepid fund, and NYC-based brokerage house Cantor Fitzgerald promised to match up to $250,000 the amount raised from viewers' text-in donations.

Cantor Fitzgerald, the firm that on 9-11 lost more than 700 employees who were working in the North Tower of the World Trade Center, also made a strong showing during Thursday's finale, with one of the partners bidding $100,000 apiece to have tea with the Duchess of York, Sarah (the original "Fergie) Ferguson, and spend an evening with Sharon and Ozzy Osbourne, both lots benefiting Morgan's effort.

Considering it was all about the dollar bills y'all on this go-round, Atkins probably didn't stand a chance, even though he maintained his southern-gentleman stature throughout, was on multiple winning teams (although 0-2 as project manager, while Morgan was 2-1) and patiently babysat the Backstreet Boys during the final task.

The "Honky Tonk Badonkadonk" singer looked downright stunned when Nick Carter asked for wheatgrass juice for their dressing room—although not as mortified as when Morgan, reacting to Omarosa's absurd assertion that he was gay, walked back into the boardroom and kissed Atkins on the cheek, calling him a "beautiful cowboy."

He really did not get that one. ("Brokeback boardroom," boxer Lennox Lewis astutely called it.)

And in the end Morgan just made more money, which is what Trump is all about. That and gold. And pink ties.

But, then again, if this is actually "the toughest thing [he] has had to do in a long time," as Trump always claims it is when it comes time to fire "two terrific people," then who's really the big winner here?

American Idol eliminates Chikezie Eze, reveals Top 9 finalists

Chikezie Eze was revealed to be the third finalist eliminated from American Idol's seventh season during last night's live results show broadcast on Fox.

The 22-year-old from Inglewood, CA was ousted from Idol's seventh season after host Ryan Seacrest said "over 30 million" home viewer votes -- "the highest this season for a single show" -- were cast immediately following Tuesday night's live performance episode broadcast that saw the Top 10 finalists perform songs from the year they were born.

"I'm just really proud to be here. I feel really blessed," Eze said during a video montage of his Idol journey. "It's been an amazing ride."

Eze sang "If Only for One Night" by Luther Vandross during Tuesday night's performance episode. Judge Randy Jackson said he "didn't love it" and criticized it for not being "that vibey Chikezie that I love with all that energy" and instead "just kind of boring." Paula Abdul disagreed with Jackson and said Eze did a "great job."

"Chikezie I think you sang it well. Having said that, I thought the performance actually was very cheesy," commented Simon Cowell. "It's that you have to show originality. I didn't see anything original other than somebody trying to copy the original. I don't think that's what you should be doing. I miss your personality now."

Prior to Eze's elimination, Syesha Mercado, a 21-year-old from Sarasota, FL who currently resides in Miami, FL, and Jason Castro, a 20-year-old from Rockwall, TX, were revealed to be the other members of this week's bottom three vote-getters.

Castro was the last finalist to learn he was among the bottom three.

"I knew it. I knew it because I've never been [called] this late. I was like, 'It's going to be a big shocker!'" said Castro. "I've been thinking about it since last night. I just had this feeling. I've just been thinking about it so much. I was freaked out about it all day today. That's okay... I was ready for it."

Seacrest than revealed Castro was safe, leaving it down to Eze and Mercado.

"Let me tell you why you're here Chikezie -- because you chose the wrong song last night," said Cowell. "It wasn't original. Same with Jason. Don't underestimate how smart the public are who watch this show."

"But that doesn't hold true for Syesha I don't believe," said Abdul.

"No, Syesha... I don't know. [Home viewers] just didn't quite get it, because you were brilliant last night," agreed Randy.

"I don't think she was brilliant," said Cowell. "I didn't like the song."

Seacrest then revealed Eze was ousted.

Former Idol second-season third-place finisher Kimberley Locke also performed "Fall" -- a current single from her second album "Based on a True Story."

In addition, Seacrest mentioned Apple's Idol sponsorship prior to a video segment about the contestants recording their weekly song that is available on iTunes. However unlike other content sold via the store, where shows and musical tracks are ranked by popularity, Idol's iTunes site does not release any sales information.

"We can't allow these downloads to actually chart because it would affect the competition," explained Seacrest before boasting, "but if we did, they'd probably take up the Top 5 positions on iTunes."

Idol's Top 9 seventh-season finalists -- Brooke White, Carly Smithson, David Archuleta, David Cook, Michael Johns, Ramiele Malubay, Kristy Lee Cook, Jason Castro and Syesha Mercado -- will all take the stage and perform during next week's live one-hour performance episode broadcast beginnning Tuesday at 8PM ET/PT. Country singer Dolly Parton will serve as the mentor.

On Wednesday beginning at 9PM ET/PT, another finalist will be eliminated from the competition based on home viewer votes, revealing the season's Top 8 finalists.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

American Idol's Top 10 seventh-season finalists take to the stage

American Idol's Top 10 seventh-season finalists took the stage during last night's live performance episode broadcast, with each singing a song from the year they were born.

Some of the early frontrunners took another step backward; a new dark horse emerged among the females; one of the original favorites delivered his best performance of the competition so far; and a new finalist cemented his standing as the one to beat.

The following is Reality TV World's recap of the performance broadcast in the order which the Top 10 finalists sang. Also included are comments from each of the three judges -- Randy Jackson, Paula Abdul and Simon Cowell -- as well as additional information about each performance.

On Wednesday night beginning at 9PM ET/PT, one finalist will be eliminated based on home viewer votes cast immediately following last night's broadcast, revealing the seventh-season's Top 9 finalists. In addition, former Idol second-season third-place finisher Kimberley Locke will perform.

Ramiele Malubay, a 20-year-old from Miramar, FL

Song: "Alone" by Heart
Randy said: "Alright, so I hear you're a little under the weather like me, but still it wasn't the right song choice for you for me. It was a little too big of a song for me for you to sing. (boos) I remember... Who did it before? [Carly Smithson] did it before. It's not quite your kind of thing. It was a little pitchy all over the place. It wasn't a good luck for me."
Paula said: "I'm really glad that America's heard you sing and how big your voice is. People don't know you barely have a voice right now, and I think that you... It's not about picking it because I'm sure you picked it healthy. However I still give you a tremendous amount of credit and you're brave to do what you did. because you're really sick, and I know that. I hope you stay through and keep going because you're a very big talent in a little, small body."
Simon said: "I don't think it was as bad as Randy said. (cheers) The first part of the song was okay, maybe it's because you're not feeling well in the middle it all got a bit shrieky and shouty. The truth is Ramiele, after what you sang last week -- which I thought was appalling and you managed to survive -- than you're going to get through again this week on that performance. No question about it."
Additional Info: Ramiele was born September 6, 1987 in Saudi Arabia. She said she "liked to get into a lot of trouble" as a little kid... Ramiele said she "stepped it up" this week because she feels "lucky" to have made the Top 10... Idol host Ryan Seacrest asked if Ramiele had the flu, and she said no, her voice just went "bye-bye" earlier in the week. Randy defended his criticism. "When Simon listens to it back at home he'll find that the pitch was all over the place."

Jason Castro, a 20-year-old from Rockwall, TX

Song: "Fragile" by Sting
Randy said: "Dude I love that song. That's one of my favorite songs. That's a very good choice of song. I don't know if you did anything different with it vocally, but I liked the little Spanish touch and the whole thing. I thought it was alright -- it was very nice and pleasant. I don't know if it did anything for me vocally. I'm still waiting to see that jump-out vocal performance, but it was nice. It was nice."
Paula said: "I think you're staying true to who you are, and those are the songs that are your niche. I love Sting, and that's a beautiful song. I agree, I don't think that we saw anything different that makes us go, 'Wow! Jason did something different we either love or we don't like.' So you're kind of playing it a little safe in your zone, but that's who you are."
Simon said: "Jason, I think you've had two bad weeks. (boos) I think it's time that you start taking this a little bit more seriously. That was the equivalent of someone busking outside of a subway station. (boos) It was. The way that you played the guitar on the track was clumsy. Everything about it was too laid back -- too much in your own world. You are somebody Jason -- as you proved when you sang 'Hallelujah' -- who potentially may be even a winner. But you're not going to win if you keep doing that week after week. I'm telling you. Sorry."
Additional Info: Jason was born March 25, 1987, meaning last night was his 21st birthday... When he was little, Jason said he was "a lot smaller, pudgier, cuter" and always received compliments on his eyes... Jason played the guitar during his performance... Ryan asked Jason if he was taking it seriously. "Yeah," answered Jason. "I too felt my playing was probably a little sloppy. I could have spent a little more time practicing if I'm going to do this."

Syesha Mercado, a 21-year-old from Sarasota, FL who currently resides in Miami, FL

Song: "If I Were Your Woman" by Stephanie Mills
Randy said: "You know this is great. This is a good moment for you for me. I think this is the best I've ever heard you sing, including when you auditioned. (cheers) I think this is the best you ever sounded to us. I think it was stellar. I think it was unbelievable. I'm shocked. I'm loving it. Yes! Yes! We've got another competitor in the competition... Blazing hot!"
Paula said: "What's great about this performance Syesha is that this is going to be the moment that everybody remembers where Syesha flipped it and became the dark horse who's going to sail on through. (cheers) Everything about it, your upper register, your lower. Everything was pitch perfect. It was your most brilliant."
Simon said: "Syesha it was definitely the best so far, but we're only three in. I don't think the end part of the song was as good as Randy thought actually. I think there is a limit on your vocal, and I think that song stretched it. I do."
Additional Info: Syesha was born January 2, 1987. She said she was a "big cry baby" as a child... As a youth, Syesha said she was part of an acrobatic dance team, complete with "corny looking costumes"... Following Simon's comments, Paula said she disagreed. "That's why there's three of us on the panel," retorted Simon.

Chikezie Eze, a 22-year-old from Inglewood, CA

Song: "If Only for One Night" by Luther Vandross
Randy said: "For me it's interesting, you following Syesha with that other oldie-but-goodie jam. Not that I like making comparisons, but for her, she moved it around. She made it at least younger feeling. This went back to a very old-school kind of just... I don't know man. I didn't love it for you. I didn't love this for you. (boos) It's very old-school. It wasn't hip and cool. It wasn't that vibey Chikezie that I love with all that energy. It was just kind of boring for me."
Paula said: "I disagree Randy. (cheers) You are throwback -- that's what we say all the time -- but it's a good throwback. I do think that by you upping the tempo... I think you did a great job. I think you did amazing with the textures of your vocals. You're a great, great singer."
Simon said: "Chikezie I think you sang it well. Having said that, I thought the performance actually was very cheesy. (boos) You know, all the putting your hand to the audience. ['But that's who I'm singing for,' replied Chikezie.] It's not. I'm going to pick you up on that. You're not singing it for them -- you're singing it for yourself along with everybody else. Come on. It's true... It's that you have to show originality. I didn't see anything original other than somebody trying to copy the original. I don't think that's what you should be doing. I miss your personality now."
Additional Info: Chikezie was born September 11, 1985. He grew-up in a household with Nigerian parents and listed to lots of cultural music as a kid... Chikezie said song selection this week was "pretty crazy" since he was "torn apart" following the first ballad he sang. However he said he decided to "follow his heart" and picked a song that "resonates really deeply within me"... Randy agreed with Simon's criticism of Chikezie.

Brooke White, a 24-year-old from Mesa, AZ who currently resides in Van Nuys, CA

Song: "Every Breath You Take" by The Police
Randy said: "Very interesting song choice. Great song. I thought the front part of it was pretty good. I like that you started and then you go, 'Wait a minute. This is not right.' I loved that -- lot of good professionalism there. But when you got to like the bridge, I did not like the arrangement with the band coming in. I was waiting for something else with it to happen. I almost would have loved it if you would have stayed without the band and made it more interesting on your own. It was just okay for me. It was alright. It was alright."
Paula said: "I enjoyed this performance so much more than last week's. What's great... This is the great thing. This season we really wanted... We've always wanted contestants who are unique and have their own niche. You do. I can hear your voice -- one note -- and know it's you Brooke. That's a great thing, and I think you're consistent."
Simon said: "Brooke, I'm going to agree with Randy. If you would have stayed with you on the piano, that would have sounded much more cool. The minute it picked up tempo and the band joined in it made it very old-fashioned. Definitely good enough to keep you in for another week, (cheers) but you've just got to work this out. I thought -- as Randy said -- the first half when it started, even with the mistake, it was fantastic. Better than last week."
Additional Info: Brooke was born June 2, 1983 and is the oldest of four children... Brooke said she still remembers the day she received her great-grandmother's piano and immediately took to it, learning to play by ear... Brooke played the piano during her performance... Brooke started the song incorrectly and stopped before restarting. Ryan called it a "brave move." "Generally you shouldn't do that," said Brooke. However the judges said the move reflected Brooke's personality.

Michael Johns, a 29-year-old from Los Angeles, CA

Song: "We Will Rock You/We Are the Champions" by Queen
Randy said: "Finally -- finally -- you believe in yourself and you use that big old voice you've got. (cheers) That was the best performance for me since you've been on the show."
Paula said: "Anytime that anyone of us ever said you haven't found your right song, well we can all shut our mouths on this one. (cheers) This was your moment -- your shining moment -- and I'm so proud of you... You were probably dying knowing that you could [sing this song from the year he was born]. It was fantastic."
Simon said: "Michael this is the first time with you I saw star potential. (cheers) Tonight you just got it right. You look like a front-person. You were confident. You performed well. For me, it's the only memorable performance of the night so far."
Additional Info: Michael was born October 20, 1978 in Perth, Australia... Ever since he was a kid, he said he was "competitive" in everything from sports to playing cards with his sister... Michael said he thought he'd be a professional tennis player until he turned 15, which is when he found music... Randy had to wait a few moments before he could deliver his comments due to the screams and cheers from the studio audience.

Carly Smithson, a 24-year-old from San Diego, CA

Song: "Total Eclipse of the Heart" by Bonnie Tyler
Randy said: "Very interesting song choice for me. I didn't love it -- I liked it -- I didn't love it. (boos) I didn't like the note at the end, it went a little sharp. I think that wasn't quite the right song for you. It was just okay for me."
Paula said: "I don't know how you can say that. She picked this song from the year she was born that inspired her. [Randy commented he just didn't like the whole 'rock thing,' which brought boos from the audience.] Carly, what I so admire about you is you could probably take every song that I'm not crazy about and make me a believer and make me go buy it, and that's the truth. I love what you did at the end, because that shows me that you're willing to get out there and just go and stretch yourself into areas that you haven't showed us. ['That run at the end was not in-tune though Paula,' commented Randy.] Ugh... Carly, you could do no wrong tonight."
Simon said: "Carly, something didn't quite work. I think it was because you were so tense and almost uptight during the performance, I didn't enjoy it as much as I thought I was going to enjoy it. There were parts of the song you sang very well. But I'm kind of again with Randy on this -- something didn't quite work there. I think you've just got to lighten up a little bit."
Additional Info: Carly was born September 12, 1983 in Ireland... Carly said while her mom was on the way to the hospital in labor, a Carly Simon song was on the radio, so she decided to name her daughter after the singer/songwriter... She said she had very curly hair as a kid... Carly's mom commented she never had any doubts her daughter would grow-up to be an entertainer... Carly's husband and her friends were in the studio audience... Following the judges' comments, Ryan asked Carly if she was tense. "I went to the bathroom before and I ran out," she answered with a laugh. "I had fun. I love that song, so..." Never one to miss an opportunity, Ryan asked Carly, "Did you flush?"

David Archuleta, a 17-year-old from Murray, UT

Song: "You're the Voice" by David Foster and Jeff Pescetto
Randy said: "It was a strange song choice for me. But guess what man? It proves once again that if you can sing, you can sing whatever. (cheers) So David's got mad skills. Very nice, very nice, very nice. I don't know the song, but very nice."
Paula said: "I think all of us were trying to figure that out... [Simon interjected it was first released by Australian singer John Farnham.] You couldn't have picked an American composer? (laughs) I'm just kidding. David, you could sing the phone book and we'd fall in love with that too. (cheers)"
Simon said: "David, you know, you sang it well in parts. But I'm going to be honest with you, and this is not going to make me very popular. I actually didn't like the performance at all. (boos) I thought it was actually reminiscent of a theme-park performance. (boos) I did. It's one of those ghastly songs you sing when you've got animated creatures with you and everyone joins in together. That's what it reminds me of. I don't think that is you at all. I'd be amazed if you chose the song yourself, because it's not you."
Additional Info: David was born December 28, 1990 and is really close to his oldest sister, whom he described as his "partner in crime"... David said he frequently danced as a child, which was "kind of embarrassing" but "fun"... Since he's participating in Idol, David hasn't been attending his high school and has instead been being tutored. Ryan asked if he's missed anything. "I've missed a few dances. I might miss prom," he answered, which brought a round of, "Aww" from the studio audience. Ryan asked if David had anybody in mind he wanted to take, and David was hesitant to answer since he was unsure if he could go. "Is it somebody that's here in the studio?" persisted Ryan. "Maybe close to your father?" The Idol cameras then caught a girl sitting in the audience next to David's dad, presumably the young lady Ryan was referencing.

Kristy Lee Cook, a 24-year-old from Selma, OR

Song: "God Bless the USA" by Lee Greenwood
Randy said: "Great song choice. I love that song. Other than some little pitchy spots in the middle, I thought it was a very nice performance from you. (cheers)"
Paula said: "A very poignant and respectful song. It was a good choice -- a very good choice for you. To me, I've seen better performances from you. But your voice is sounding much stronger. Watch the pitch problems. But you're growing."
Simon said: "Kristy, your best performance by a mile I think. (cheers) I have to say that was the most clever song choice I have heard in years. I've got to tell you -- and I believe I'm right in saying it -- Lee Greenwood wrote that song. Brilliant writer. Brilliant song. I thought it overall was a good performance and that's going to keep you in the competition."
Additional Info: Kristy was born January 18, 1984 and said her parents always say she "came out smiling"... As a youth, Kristy said she was signing all the time, which she said got on her parent's nerves... Kristy pumped her fist and jumped around following Simon's comments.

David Cook, a 25-year-old from Blue Spings, MO who currently resides in Tulsa, OK

Song: "Billie Jean" by Michael Jackson
Randy said: "I've got to say, you're probably the most original -- the most bold -- contestant we've ever had. That performance right there tonight on that joint you just did? Dude, you might be the one to win the whole lot! (cheers) That was hot! Blazing, molten hot!"
Paula said: "I was blown away. I can't sit down. I've got to tell you how smart you are, how brave you are and how willing you are to stretch the boundaries. You do it right to the edge without going over. I think you're brilliant."
Simon said: "David that was brave. It could have either been insane or amazing, and I have to tell you it was amazing. (cheers)"
Additional Info: David was born December 20, 1982... When he was a kid, David thought he had a "massive skull" and thought he looked like a comic book villain... He received his first guitar when he was 2-years-old... Ryan introduced David from a spot in the audience surrounded by female fans. A sign close by read, "Seacrest is sexy"... Paula delivered her comments on her feet... The studio audience once again went absolutely crazy after the judges' comments.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Project Catwalk 2008 Winner Jasper Garvida

Jasper Garvida is announced as the winner of this year’s Project Catwalk

After a nail-biting ten weeks, we can proudly reveal that Jasper Garvida is Project Catwalk’s winning designer. The announcement was made in the season’s finale of Project Catwalk, which was broadcasted last night, 19th March, Sky One 9pm.

In the final episode of the series, Project Catwalk’s Jasper Garvida, Viv Whelan and Chelsey Oliver, carried out their last and most challenging assignment of the season, after 9 tough weeks of bitching and stitching.

The 3 remaining contestants had to each create a 12 piece women’s wear collection inspired by an inspirational visit or destination, to be presented on the catwalk as part of On I Off London Fashion Show, during London Fashion Week.

Each of the three finalists were given £5000 to purchase all of the necessary materials including fabric, accessories and any additional labour for specialist elements of their garments. Furthermore, each contestant was taken to the place of their choice which they found would inspire their collection. This place, its architecture, atmosphere, colours, and history needed to be in some, or all of those ways, inspirational for their final collection.

The judges faced a very tough decision, but Jasper Garvida’s talent, meticulous detail and passion shined through in his collection, making him Project Catwalk’s triumphant designer.

Kelly Osbourne, presenter of Project Catwalk said, "This year we’ve had some incredibly talented contestants which made our decision very difficult, but Jasper’s talent and passion for design has stood out throughout the competition and his final collection was dazzling. I really do think that we have found the UK’s next biggest designer."

Jasper Garvida has won every fashion designer’s dream -- An exclusive deal with online style boutique Oli -- leader in new media fashion, a £25,000 cash prize to the winner courtesy of Oli, as well as a spread in the world renowned iconic fashion magazine covering top designers and trends, Grazia.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

American Idol cuts Amanda Overmyer, reveals Top 10 finalists

Amanda Overmyer was revealed to be the second finalist eliminated from American Idol's seventh season during last night's live results show broadcast on Fox.

The 23-year-old from Mulberry, IN was ousted from Idol's seventh season based on home viewer votes cast immediately following Tuesday night's live performance episode broadcast that saw the Top 11 finalists perform songs from the John Lennon/Paul McCartney songbook.

"It's been a run," said Overmyer after her elimination. "I'm not going to go on the tour, but No. 11 out of all them people is more than I could have ever expected."

Overmyer sang "Back in the USSR" during Tuesday night's performance episode. Idol judge Randy Jackson had felt there were a "couple of issues with it," including that it was "just a little pitchy in the beginning," but thought it was "good" overall.

While fellow judge Paula Abdul complimented Overmyer's "authentic" style, she also agreed with Jackson about the pitch being off and added Overmyer was ahead of the beat at times.

"Amanda it was what it was. It was predictable. It was a bit of a mess in parts," said Simon Cowell, not mincing words. "It's just the same thing week after week after week, and I think Paula -- to a point -- is right, I think you've got at least one week do... something which is a bit of a surprise. Otherwise, you are in danger of becoming actually a bit boring."

Prior to Overmyer's elimination, Carly Smithson, a 24-year-old from San Diego, CA, and Kristy Lee Cook, a 24-year-old from Selma, OR, were revealed to be the other members of this week's bottom three vote-getters.

When host Ryan Seacrest revealed Smithson -- who sang "Blackbird" on Tuesday night -- was the first member of this week's bottom three, it brought boos from the studio audience.

"America definitely got it wrong," said Abdul.

"Got it wrong man," agreed Jackson. "It was a tough song to sing. It wasn't the smartest choice. It was a tough song to sing. It didn't let you show your power. But she's one of the best singers in the whole thing, dawg."

Former Idol fifth-season finalist Kellie Pickler -- whom Seacrest commented has "grown in so many ways since leaving us" -- also performed her single "Red High Heels" during the results show broadcast.

In addition, Seacrest revealed Idol's seventh-season music mentors will be country star Dolly Parton; singer Mariah Carey; musical composer and How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria? creator Andrew Lloyd Webber; and singer Neil Diamond. He also announced the launch of the songwriting contest that will find the song that will serve as Idol's seventh-season winner's first single. Entries can be submitted until March 31 and addition details are available via Idol's website.

Idol's Top 10 seventh-season finalists -- Brooke White, David Archuleta, David Cook, Michael Johns, Jason Castro, Ramiele Malubay, Syesha Mercado, Chikezie Eze, Carly Smithson and Kristy Lee Cook -- will all take the stage and perform during next week's live 90-minute performance episode broadcast on Tuesday at 8PM ET/PT.

On Wednesday beginning at 9PM ET/PT, another finalist will be eliminated from the competition based on home viewer votes, revealing the season's Top 9 finalists.

American Idol's Top 11 seventh-season finalists take to the stage

American Idol's Top 11 seventh-season finalists took the stage during last night's live performance episode broadcast, singing songs from the John Lennon/Paul McCartney songbook.

Despite choosing tunes from the famed songbook for the second week in a row, the majority of the finalists couldn't recreate their memorable performances from last week -- however the seventh-season's early frontrunner did return to original form.

The following is Reality TV World's recap of the performance broadcast in the order which the Top 11 finalists sang. Also included are comments from each of the three judges -- Randy Jackson, Paula Abdul and Simon Cowell -- as well as additional information about each performance.

On Wednesday night beginning at 9PM ET/PT, one finalist will be eliminated based on home viewer votes cast immediately following last night's broadcast, revealing the seventh-season's Top 11 finalists. In addition, former Idol fifth-season finalist Kellie Pickler will perform her single "Red High Heels."

Amanda Overmyer, a 23-year-old from Mulberry, IN

Song: "Back in the USSR"
Randy said: "Alright Amanda. Paula and I were sitting here, we were saying that was the perfect song choice for you. I did have couple issues with it. When you started it -- you've got that bluesy thing, it revolves around four or five notes all the time -- but it was just a little pitchy in the beginning. By the middle of the song, I think you started feeling the crowd and the energy and you picked it up and it was really cool at the end. But just watch the pitches. So for me, I've got to give you a seven out of 10 for that one. But it was good!"
Paula said: "It was a little sketchy at first because I also felt besides the pitch that you weren't hearing the timing... You were just a little ahead of the beat. But when you connect you are quintessential, authentic, who you are. That is something that we look for in this competition -- being unique. You don't have to be different from who you are. I'd love to see you do a vulnerable ballad at one point, but I love you and I think that you're going to continue keep going up."
Simon said: "Amanda it was what it was. It was predictable. It was a bit of a mess in parts. (boos) It's just the same thing week after week after week, and I think Paula -- to a point -- is right, I think you've got at least one week do what [David Cook] did a couple weeks ago with the Lionel Richie song and actually do something which is a bit of a surprise. Otherwise, you are in danger of becoming actually a bit boring."
Additional Info: Randy was caught yawning as host Ryan Seacrest introduced him at the beginning of the broadcast... A sign in the studio audience read, "Simon is Sexy," which prompted Ryan to comment, "I see you're holding sign-making class at your house again," to Simon... All of the contestants discussed their most memorable moment so far, and Amanda said it was performing on the "big stage." "It's a hell of a lot better than the flatbed trucks I used to play on," she said... Amanda said she chose the song because it's "very upbeat" and will "put my little Southern rock kick on it"... After Simon's comments, Amanda said she thinks "ballads are boring" and further defended herself. "I figure I have a minute-and-a-half to show America what they would see if they came to my show ands bought a ticket to see me. I've got a minute-and-a-half a week, so that's what I'm doing. I want people to come and say, "Hey, that chick looks like fun, I want to go see that show." The studio audience cheered, and Simon countered. "Amanda, your tickets aren't on sale yet. So we might be jumping the gun a little bit here."

Kristy Lee Cook, a 24-year-old from Selma, OR

Song: "Hey You've Got to Hide Your Love Away"
Randy said: "That was one of my favorite Beatles songs right there, I love that song. It was an interesting arrangement. At the end when you hit the high note, I was like, 'Yeah!' The whole song should have been a little more emotional from you, and you could have gone there quicker and sooner, because it felt a little boring and really safe. I'm not even sure the melody and the chorus you were singing right."
Paula said: "You did some choices on the melody, and sometimes with songs it's safer to just stick to the melody. I've got to tell you though, this is the best you've ever looked. You look gorgeous tonight. (cheers) It was a little safe. It was good. I agree with Randy on the high notes. If you could just take those liberties a little more, it will be a little more interesting."
Simon said: "Kristy I think you need something like hypnosis or something. The problem is you're not a good performer. The last two seconds were okay (boos)... Oh be quiet! It's like musical wallpaper so much as you notice it, but you can't remember it. That's what you're doing week after week. You're making no impact, apart from when you were terrible last week. You were better this week, I will grant you that."
Additional Info: Kristy keeps a couple of small photos albums with her and flips through them at night, and one of the pictures includes a horse making a funny face. Kristy explained she had just sprayed it with vinegar to keep the flies off. "Paula that's the trick -- vinegar," said Ryan, referring to Simon... Kristy said she's always "the last man standing" during results shows. "That's a lot of stress... It's really scary," she said... Kristy said she heard the song for the first time this week and basically picked it because of its title. "I'm just going to stand up there and sing with my heart and hopefully America will like it."... Kristy said the Beatles are new to her so she just tried to "have fun with it." "Hopefully I'm here next week because I can blow you out of your socks and you know it!" she said, a comment that brought laughter from the judges and Ryan. "It's hot, turn on the air," said Ryan. "It is hot!" agreed Kristy.

David Archuleta, a 17-year-old from Murray, UT

Song: "The Long and Winding Road"
Randy said: "They're right to clap because David Archuleta's brought the hotness back to his game tonight with that right there! (cheers) One thing, let me give you one piece of advice... That's the kind of song where you could have sung a couple runs and gotten by with it. So you played it a little safe -- it was still brilliant -- but I'm saying, take the liberties on joints like that. Very nice though man, very nice."
Paula said: "This probably for me is the most exciting and wonderful performance because the purity of who you are and what your sound is is very identifiable, and the fact that you can rise above adversity, come back strong -- that challenge doesn't build character, it reveals your character. You're wonderful."
Simon said: "David, last week was a complete mess. This week I thought you were amazing. (cheers) Absolutely you made my point -- what I was trying to say on the previous contestant, which is that it's so important that you sell a song and that you remember a performance. That was a master class."
Additional Info: David said he's had "amazing" moments like singing "Imagine," and "not so good moments," like forgetting his lyrics last week. "You just have to concentrate on the positive side of everything," he said in moving past his flub. "Hopefully I'll remember all my words tonight. It doesn't look to good when you don't."... David's dad was in the audience applauding his son following the performance... After the judges comments, a group of girls in the front of the audience yelled, "We love you David!"... David said a song like "The Long and Winding Road" is the kind that people can "connect" with him the most.

Michael Johns, a 29-year-old from Los Angeles, CA

Song: "A Day in the Life"
Randy said: "Michael, you know what's cool? You just looked at me, you know already what I'm kind of going to say right? It wasn't one of your best performances, and I'll tell you there were a bunch of things with it. I still don't think you've chosen the right song. These Beatles songs are amazing -- I don't know if that was the right Beatles song for you. The thing is, you've got to remember dude you've got that big old voice -- we saw it when we first auditioned you. You of anybody up here can just sing and let your voice do its thing, but you haven't found that vehicle to do that yet. So wasn't one of your good ones baby."
Paula said: "I was able to catch a little sound from the dress rehearsal and you were pretty phenomenal then. I don't know if it's because you guys are working with monitors in your ears right now and a lot of you may not be used to it. It's something that takes a lot getting used to, and I know you're just experiencing that. You lose a connection a little bit with the audience because you're worried about how you're sounding too. So it's a balance. I don't know. It's a big stage."
Simon said: "I don't think that makes any difference whatsoever because the long and short of it was that it was a mess. (boos) It was. It was. You didn't hit the right notes, the song went all over the place, it was a very complicated song. It doesn't work as a minute-and-a-half Michael. I've got to tell you, you have got to start sorting yourself out now. If you want to do well in this competition, you have got to nail the song like David did before you. That was not good enough. Sorry."
Additional Info: Michael said his most memorable moment so far was singing "Bohemian Rhapsody" during the Hollywood Round because it was a "pretty risky thing" but he was "proud" of the rendition... Like last week, Michael once again gushed about the Beatles. He said "A Day in the Life" is one of his favorite Beatles songs, but difficult for Idol since it's such a long song and needed to be compressed... After the judges comments, Ryan revealed Michael wasn't wearing ear monitors. "This is very embarrassing," said Simon. Paula tried to defend herself. "Now there's no excuse and you are a phenomenal performer and you've got to raise your game."... Michael said he dedicated the song to a friend who passed away last year.

Brooke White, a 24-year-old from Mesa, AZ who currently resides in Van Nuys, CA

Song: "Here Comes the Sun"
Randy said: "That performance was really awkward for me for the first time for you. Even when you came over and did the, 'Woo!' I don't know. ('I shouldn't of done that, I agree with you,' answered Brooke.) You know what, you made a great point right there. You know what it was for me, that's what the whole meaning of the thing was -- you were never really connected to that song for me. You were kind of moving awkward, dancing... It never quite gelled together for me. It was not hot for me."
Paula said: "What was hot for me was you can't help but smile when you watch you and when you look at you sing. (cheers) I love the yellow for the sun. What it did show is that you have really good low tone to your voice. Those low notes showed a different side to you and a different color other than yellow. I think that it could have been a little more challenging and you could have not played it as safe. But Brooke, you're a lovable girl."
Simon said: "I just knew Brooke when you were choosing that song that you'd be dressed in yellow and the lighting would be yellow. I thought the performance was terrible. (boos) From the horrible dancing to the absolutely lack of conviction, it was wet, it was forgettable... But Brooke, that's what it's all about, song choice. There's a vast difference between 'Let It Be' and 'Here Comes the Sun.'"
Additional Info: Brooke visited her family at home this weekend because relatives from Nova Scotia were in town, including her 5-week-old niece...Brooke's husband was in the studio audience... Brooke was "a little overwhelmed" about doing the Beatles again because she did so well with "Let It Be" last week. "The moment was bigger than me," she said of the performance... She chose "Here Comes the Sun" because it's "very well written" and the melody is "incredible."... "You guys have been really nice to me, so it's okay," said Brooke after the harsh comments from Simon, calling the criticism "inevitable." "I tried something," she added. "If I get to remain, I'm returning to what I feel I do better. I have a plan."

David Cook, a 25-year-old from Blue Spings, MO who currently resides in Tulsa, OK

Song: "Day Tripper"
Randy said: "You know what this is like? You know why I love seeing you every week? You keep it interesting. It's like going to another sing at a David Cook concert. You've got your Eddie Van Halen amp, you've got your Les Paul [guitar], you're throwing picks out into the crowd, you've got the voice-box solo. I don't know if it's your best performance but it's another solid look for David Cook. I loved it."
Paula said: "There's really not much else anyone can say because you're ready to go sell records. You chose using the voice box in a very cool way. I think you probably could have... You could probably get a Geico commercial now. Geico commercials are next."
Simon said: "David I don't think that was as good as you thought it was actually. (laughing) Seriously, you looked a bit smug throughout and I thought [voice box] in the middle was just stupid. (boos) Just an opinion! You've lost your element of surprise a little bit. I think last week you were terrific, you know I was a big fan of you when you did the Lionel Richie song. This again was a bit predicable and I didn't like that version."
Additional Info: David said his most memorable moment so far came last Tuesday when he sand "Eleanor Rigby" because it was the "epitome of what he wanted to do" as a rock performer, plus the judges liked it... David performed "Day Tripper" with a guitar and voice box, using the White Snake version of the song with a "rock/funk vibe"... After his performance, David said he only learned how to use the voice box this week... Paula's Geico comments were a reference to a commercial for the insurance company in which Peter Frampton uses a voice box... Ryan almost knocked David to the ground with the microphone after the judges comments. David then gave Ryan a demonstration on the voice box, and the crowd implored the Idol host to try it. "We don't have time for that," he said.

Carly Smithson, a 24-year-old from San Diego, CA

Song: "Blackbird"
Randy said: "Yo, another great performance for Carly Smithson. Very nice, very controlled, very emotive. I love that. Very heavy cooliosis factor Paula, cooliosis right there."
Paula said: "Is that a new word? You have an amazing tone to your voice. The inflections that you do throughout the song, the choices that you make, the arrangement was beautiful. I love this season so much because all of you are challenging each other to be greater at what you do... You stand right in there with a capital 'F' for 'fantastic.'"
Simon said: "So Beatles songs -- Week 2 -- and you choose a song about a blackbird. I don't think that was a very smart thing to do. I thought the song was indulgent, I didn't like the song at all."
Additional Info: Paula said Simon had whispered in her ear that "Blackbird" originated as a song called "Sparrow" and "the sparrow fell from the tree into a pile of oil." "I don't know what she's talking about," said Simon... Carly said her most memorable moment was last Tuesday when Simon compared her to Kelly Clarkson's Top 12 performance, a similar comment to the one he made during her first Idol audition during Season 5... Carly said her brother used to sing "Blackbird" growing up, so it was one of the first songs she tried to learn. "I haven't done that kind of soft, ballad song yet, so hopefully 'Blackbird' will be a good choice," she said... After Simon's comments, Carly explained the song choice. "Blackbird, fly, broken wing -- I just like we've all been trying to break into this industry for so long. You get beaten down so hard that you feel broken, for me, it's like blackbird fly. I know that's corny, but I was very afraid to come audition for this show. Now I'm here and I'm so happy." Simon said the comment made him feel "uncomfortable." "I now think that you're all broken birds. That's what you're saying to me. Well you're now free."... As Ryan was saying Carly's call-in number, she showed that she had the number "7" tattooed on her knuckle. "It's permanent and I got it this week," she said. "It's Season 7. The biggest things for me are my marriage and American Idol right now."

Jason Castro, a 20-year-old from Rockwall, TX

Song: "Michelle"
Randy said: "Alright, good choice 'Michelle.' I mean I love the song, it was a little interesting for me for you because it was very subdued by you this time. I don't know. I don't know. I don't know if I really, really got it. It was just all right for me man. I didn't feel like you were really connected with it that much either."
Paula said: "Jason you have a very distinct charm about you and that's why a lot of these girls are falling in love with you. (cheers) I feel like you get a little disconnected when you're away from your guitar, and I feel that gets a little uncomfortable for me. It's an intimate song that became more like a polka almost -- it was very sing-song. It was a little awkward for me. I think that you've got to work a little bit on that. It just didn't connect with the audience."
Simon said: "This is a very weird show tonight. I'm not sure it was such a good idea doing Beatles again because we have such a great memory from last week and this is all getting a bit strange. Where you're lucky is that this is a TV show and not a radio show. You're face sold that. (cheers) As Paula said, what you have Jason -- and I like you a lot -- is that you're very charming. You're not obnoxious. (cheers) There's a whole kind of goofiness that makes it work, because if I was just listening to that French/English version of the song on the radio, it would be off."
Additional Info: Jason said his most memorable moment came when he sang "Hallelujah" but remembers it most for flubbing the final note. However the performance was praised by the judges... Jason said "Michelle" is "dynamic" but added the song is a "challenge" because he's never spoken French before... "This week just kind of came really fast. I didn't have a lot of time," said Jason after Randy's comments... "It could be Beatles night every night. They just need to sing these songs like there's no tomorrow!" said Randy after Simon's comments.

Syesha Mercado, a 21-year-old from Sarasota, FL who currently resides in Miami, FL

Song: "Yesterday"
Randy said: "So you took some liberties, you worked on the melody, changed some things around a little bit. In my estimation, very, very, very good performance tonight." (cheers)
Paula said: "It's great to see how you change and how you let yourself be very vulnerable... I have to tell you, that vulnerability is really where you need to be because that sets you apart from everyone else. The only thing I would work on is connecting more with your eyes and looking at the audience. Other than that, you've got a beautiful voice."
Simon said: "Syesha I thought that was probably your best performance so far. (cheers) It wasn't incredible, but you chose the best song. You chose the song actually Brooke should have sung. But I like the kind of Eva Cassidy-type arrangement. Actually I thought you sold the song very, very well. I think that song and that performance should keep you in the competition."
Additional Info: Last night's performance episode was the first time Syesha's parents were in the Idol studio audience... Syesha said being in the bottom three for the Top 12 was memorable, but said it "happened for a good reason" because it provided her "inspiration" and a "kick in the butt"... Syesha performed a Beatles medley in middle school, and "Yesterday" was one of the songs that touched her... Syesha was accompanied on stage by an acoustic guitar.

Chikezie Eze, a 22-year-old from Inglewood, CA

Song: "I've Just Seen a Face"
Randy said: "So there were some good parts for me and some bad parts for me. It sounded like it could make a good country song, I liked it when it went to the fast part. The slow part I didn't quite get. But the fast part, you need that up tempo stuff to use all that energy you've got. So I like that. Harmonica was a very weird, strange arrangement, but hey it could be a good country song. I don't know. It was strange for me."
Paula said: "You know Randy I disagree. I think that you're showing who you are and the depth and the scope of your vocals. I think that when you sing a ballad, it is so pure, on pitch, beautiful. Then you show a whole different side of you in a minute and 30 seconds. I get a whole scope of who you are, and I love it. (cheers) You did it again! Two weeks in a row, I love it."
Simon said: "I thought it started off okay, and then you played the harmonica, which was literally atrocious. (boos) Then it turns into 'Achy Breaky Heart' at the end... All this nonsense with Paula saying, 'This is the artist you should be.'... It was like a lot of different artists, I don't know what that was all about, it wasn't as good as last week. I actually thought it was gimmicky."
Additional Info: Prior to Chikezie's performance, Ryan shamelessly used an elderly man in the studio audience to plug Idol's Apple sponsorship... Chikezie said his most memorable moment came the first night of the Hollywood Round when he received compliments from all three judges... Chikezie was excited to revisit the Beatles and said John Lennon was his favorite since he's an "imaginative" songwriter... Chikezie played the harmonica during his performance. "I know a lot of people have been playing instruments this season and I haven't done it myself," he said. "So I figure I'll go out and pick one up -- I have no idea how to play it yet -- so don't harp on me for it."

Ramiele Malubay, a 20-year-old from Miramar, FL

Song: "I Should Have Known Better"
Randy said: "Alright so I wasn't jumping up and down, but I liked it. What I loved about this performance for you is you showed that confidence that I know is in there. It was kind of a happy-go-lucky kind of a joint, but it was alright. You did your thing. It was alright. it was alright."
Paula said: "Definitely better than last week, and even though last week you don't feel was good and you thought you bored us, there's something about your voice when you sing ballads that allows you to really show your range. I want very much for you to get back into that zone when you sing the... and show what you got. Now's the time to just pick the right song."
Simon said: "It sounded like Chikezie was on harmonica. (boos) Honestly, the problem was that I like you a lot. I think you've got a fantastic personality, you're lots of fun. The track sounded terrible. It sounded very amateurish, the whole thing. But you are in a boat along with a lot of other people tonight, which was you chose really mediocre songs that didn't show the best of your ability. So it is what it is."
Additional Info: Ramiele said one of the best things about Idol is making a bunch of new friends who are going through the same experience as her... She called Brooke "the mom of the apartment" and David Cook the "big brother." "It's like a really big family," she said. "It's nice to have people that kind of take care of you away from home."... Since she bored the judges last week, Ramiele said she chose an up tempo song this week... Ramiele said she tries to pick the right song, it just didn't work.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Sport Relief: Leona Lewis diary tells of heartbreak at African aids orphans

Leona Lewis is the girl with the world at her feet, multi-million pound deals and a future as one of our brightest singers.

But the 22-year-old X Factor beauty tells today how a heartbreaking visit to Johannesburg in South Africa with Sport Relief has changed her life.

Her new double A-side Footprints in the Sand/Better in Time is the official Sport Relief single.

And now she has seen for herself the devastation HIV and Aids wreaks on families, meeting starving orphans in filthy houses and talked to young domestic and sexual abuse victims.

Leona kept this heart-rending diary of her three-day trip to the continent where 11 million children have been orphaned by Aids and where 4,500 people die each day because of the disease...


Morning: We drove to a township where I visited Lethi Themba, a project caring for people infected and affected by HIV and Aids.

I'd prepared myself for an emotional time but when I arrived I was met by a sea of beaming faces of children dancing and singing to us. Seeing their joy but knowing the sadness and tragedy they face was overwhelming.

Lorraine, who is one of the carers, introduced me to children happily playing.

Immediately they were holding my hand and sitting on my lap and soon we were all hugging, singing and dancing together. They were so joyous and beautiful.

Knowing they were all orphans having lost one or both parents to Aids just about broke my heart.

The surrounding roads are dusty and dirty and the housing is abysmal - no windows, and drainpipes on the street leaking murky water. The conditions were far worse than I'd imagined. I couldn't believe what I was seeing.

I stayed, playing and laughing with these wonderful children.

They taught me African nursery rhymes - one was about Aids.

Of course, it's so important to raise awareness of the dangers but it was so sad to see such small children singing about something so serious.

Afternoon: I was invited to one of the children's homes. I took a package of food and gave it to the grandmother. It contained a bit of rice and a small amount of meat. Barely enough for one, never mind this family of five.

Gran welcomed me into the tiny house like I was one of the family.

It had three rooms, no inside toilet or anywhere to wash. It was total poverty.

The brothers and sisters had lost their mum to Aids a year before and were being looked after by their gran. I started to cry as she told me about the family's day-to-day struggle.

Tears rolled down her cheeks too.

There was something utterly devastating about an old lady breaking down like that.

She told me how she desperately missed her daughter.

The death has torn the family apart. And gran told me they sometimes go for days without food. She held my hand and said: "If it wasn't for the centre, we wouldn't eat today."

It was an emotional moment. And that poor woman always makes sure the children eat before her. If there isn't enough left, she goes hungry.

There was so much suffering yet so much courage. As well as being moved I was also inspired.

And if it wasn't for the fundraising of Sport Relief, many families would not survive.

Carers give skills, time and unconditional love to children and families devastated by this disease.

I hope people back home help in any way they can. It could be the difference between life and death for a lot of people.


Morning: I visited Tembise township, which has a centre where disadvantaged children can learn journalism skills.

I did a radio interview with two eight-year-old DJs. The set-up was good, with mics and computers. They were very articulate and spoke more than two languages.

They'd done their research on me and asked some great questions: What was it like to release an album? How did it feel to be number one? Why was I a vegetarian? And what is Simon Cowell really like?

That made me giggle!

This project shows with programmes like these, children's growth is unlimited and could take them into careers that they'd never have had prospects in.

Afternoon: I met a young girl called Nandipha. She was 13 and invited me to her home - in a tiny garage. I also met her grandmother who had recently lost her daughter, Nandipha's mother. She had lost two other daughters to Aids too.

It broke my heart as I walked round the tiny room with no lights and one small bed shared by the grandmother and four children.

They too often go without food and again there was no bathroom or toilet. The roof was leaking and the electrical wires were exposed.

I can't believe people are forced to live like this, it's not right.

Later I visited a settlement in the most horrendous conditions.

I don't think I was quite prepared for what was to come.

I met Anette, who is working with lawyers to establish clean and safe living conditions for the community of 900 people, who all live in appalling, unsafe and unsanitary conditions.

I met the village elder who showed me around. As I walked, the people came out of huts with roofs of plastic held down with rocks. Small children crawled along a rubbish and glass covered dirt floor.

Their clothes were filthy and full of holes. I felt ill with sadness.

No running water in a community of 900 people. Disease, dehydration, depression. We need to support these people.


Morning: We were invited to watch a girls' football match in a small township near Johannesburg - and they all played with skill, athleticism and stamina despite the heat.

I spoke to Kona, founder of the football team programme, Happy Hearts. She said all its children and young adults are from households suffering domestic violence.

And she said many of the girls had been raped. I was stunned.

These poor, poor girls had suffered traumas so awful I can't even begin to think about it.

But, through the project, which also provides counselling, they had found some joy in their lives.

Kona set it up after her sister was raped and killed 10 years ago. Everything is done in her memory and Kona is determined to help other women.

I found her extraordinary.

The project is a great example of how Sport Relief uses sport to help people in desperate situations and to shatter taboos of issues such as domestic violence, HIV and Aids.

I've only been here a short time but it has been a life-changing experience. Seeing what these brave, humble, remarkable people have to endure on a daily basis has put a lot of things in perspective for me.

We have everything. They have nothing. I feel so moved and so saddened but also hopeful that we can all help in some way.

Suzanne Shaw wins 'Dancing On Ice 2008'

Former Hear'Say singer Suzanne Shaw has won Dancing On Ice.

Shaw beat fellow contestants Zaraah Abrahams and Chris Fountain to take the third series crown.

Shaw and partner Matt Evers danced to 'Time to Say Goodbye' and Madonna's 'Music' before receiving a clean sweep of sixes from the judges, the first in the show's history. Her performance brought judge Karen Barber and host Holly Willoughby to tears.

Ex-Coronation Street star Zaraah Abrahams was the first contestant to be voted off by the public.

"We've had the best time. I can't even explain how amazing tonight has been. Thank you to everyone for being so amazing," Zaraah said.

Favourite Chris Fountain had no complaints about Shaw's victory, saying: "I don't mind. I've got to the final. I want to thank my mum and everyone. I want to thank my coach and everyone."

Shaw admitted she will miss dancing with partner Matt, adding: "I have loved every single second of this show. I want to thank Torvill and Dean and everyone on and off the ice."

After seeing Shaw dance to Madonna's 'Music', judge Jason Gardiner praised the Popstars winner, saying: "You are the total package and gave a champion performance. Unbelievable."

Thursday, March 13, 2008

American Idol 7 Top 12 seventh-season finalists take to the stage

American Idol's Top 12 seventh-season finalists took the stage for the first time during last night's live performance episode broadcast, singing songs from the famed John Lennon/Paul McCartney songbook.

The seventh-season's early frontrunner delivered his worst performance of the competition so far, a couple finalists performed boring renditions of their songs, while others were finally able to come into their own.

The following is Reality TV World's recap of the performance broadcast in the order which the Top 12 finalists sang. Also included are comments from each of the three judges -- Randy Jackson, Paula Abdul and Simon Cowell -- as well as additional information about each performance.

On Wednesday night beginning at 9PM ET/PT, one finalist will be eliminated based on home viewer votes cast immediately following last night's broadcast, revealing the seventh-season's Top 11 finalists.

Syesha Mercado, a 21-year-old from Sarasota, FL who currently resides in Miami, FL

Song: "Got to Get You Into My Life"
Randy said: "Nice arrangement of that Beatles' song -- kind of the Earth, Wind & Fire arrangement, yes? It started a little rough for me at first because there were some little pitch problems, but by the middle of it you kind of got into it and started having fun with it. Because it's a big old fun song -- I mean you've got to just loosen up and fly with it. Sometimes I feel you're thinking vocally, like right before you hit that big note at the end, you hit a note that was a little pitchy and I was like, 'Ahhh...' Keeping it real, but it was alright for me. It was alright."
Paula said: "Syesha, you know you're a good singer. In fact, you're a very, very good singer. It started off pitch, but midway through you found your zone and then it's like there's Syesha -- this big voice and you look fantastic. You sounded great from the midway through to the end."
Simon said: "I thought it was better than alright Randy. I thought it was a great choice of song. (cheers) I just think you looked very, very nervous. You've got to get past that. But I thought you were much better than you were last week."
Additional Info: Idol's new set was unveiled at the beginning of the broadcast, and it included Ricky Minor and the band situated on a balcony above the stage as well as a "mosh pit" in front of the judges table... Syesha said she's currently a student and actress... She was "always surrounded by music" as a youth... Syesha said she chose "Got to Get You Into My Life" because she "loves the song" and thought could show a little more of her personality on... Syesha had family members and friends in the studio audience... After her performance, Syesha said she just tried to "feed off of everybody else's energy."

Chikezie Eze, a 22-year-old from Inglewood, CA

Song: "She's a Woman"
Randy said: "Dawg let me tell you something man. I was thoroughly entertained. Who knew?! First of all, let me just say this to you. I loved the arrangement, it was dope starting it with the whole kind of down south -- like almost I was looking for the jug. Who knew you had the falsetto?! Chikezie smashed it!"
Paula said: "Chikezie, when [host Ryan Seacrest] asked me the question, 'What should they do?' and I said, 'Those who take a risk, the greater the reward if they can change it up.' You started with an Oh Broth Where Art Thou-type of vibe (laughs), then you turned it into this rock vibe, and that's the Chikezie I knew... I knew once you hit the Top 12 this was probably what was going to happen! I've been waiting for this. The reward paid off."
Simon said: "I'm really surprised that I actually agree with these two. (cheers) What I loved about it -- other than the fact that you looked like you were completely drunk halfway through the performance -- is that unlike the first singer, you actually have changed within a week. You kind of took control over the stage, the stage didn't control you. It was certainly a unique version of the song, but I thought you were terrific."
Additional Info: Chikezie said prior to Idol, he worked as a T.S.A. (Transportation Security Administration) screener and a cashier at LAX... He said Paula is always "very good at the airport" whenever she's at LAX... During last Thursday night's results show, Chikezie said he thought he was going home. "Honestly I did.... When it came down to it, I was like [Danny Noriega's] such a lovable guy. I could see a lot of people would want him to keep going. I made my peace with the situation. I was ready to go home."... Chikezie said he'd be "putting my own funk" on "She's a Woman"... Chikezie performed the song with banjo, fiddle and tambourine players onstage with him... His family and friends were in the studio audience... Ryan and Chikezie jumped around the stage following the judges' comments. "You got us all fired up now baby!" said an out-of-breathe Ryan.

Ramiele Malubay, a 20-year-old from Miramar, FL

Song: "In My Life"
Randy said: "It was kind of pretty, but it was also kind of pretty boring for me. I kept waiting for you to do something special and interesting to it -- because it sounded like that's where you were kind of going -- but it just kind of laid there for me. It didn't move any earth for me. I'm sorry."
Paula said: "Ramiele you look lovely tonight. You look really pretty. It was pretty safe. I want you to know that you are an amazing singer and your voice allows you to go many different places and you need to take advantage of that. Even thought it's a very simple, beautiful song you could have really gone more melodic. I feel like you're holding back. The whole world needs to see what we hear in your voice."
Simon said: "The whole world needs to see what we hear? Okay, right. Ramiele, I was bored to tears throughout the entire song. (boos) From the awful standing on the stairs to the walking in the middle with the dreary song choice -- which did absolutely nothing for you -- it was forgettable, boring and I expect a lot better from you because you're better than that."
Additional Info: Prior to Idol, Ramiele said she was working at a sushi restaurant and smelled like soy sauce when her shift is over... She said she also comes from a musical family and has a sister who plays the drums... Ramiele said she chose "In My Life" for her "close friends who have the left show already"... Her family and best friend were in the audience... Simon hammered home his point. "She sang it in a very boring way, it was a boring arrangement and it was a boring song." Ryan asked Randy if Ramiele did enough to make the Top 11. "I don't know man. That was pretty boring right there." Paula said Ramiele "should go through."

Jason Castro, a 20-year-old from Rockwall, TX

Song: "If I Fell"
Randy said: "Listen, I liked it. I didn't love it, and the reason I didn't love it is that's one of my favorite songs of all, and sometimes with a melody that classic and a song that great, you just need to sing it with more of a heartfelt thing. I liked you going into the [falsetto], but the switches in the melody just kind of threw me a little bit. I found myself kind of tuning out. But it was alright. It was alright."
Paula said: "I disagree with Randy. I disagree. (cheers) What is so special and unique about you is I do feel your heart. I feel your heart. I feel like the audience feels your heart, and that is such a special connection that makes you truly unique. (cheers) You don't do all the riffs and the runs, and you don't have to because you have an emotional connection with the songs that you pick. That's what I think America connects to."
Simon said: "How do you know there was an emotional connection? Jason last week you were incredible. Tonight -- if I'm being honest with you -- it was all a little bit student in a bedroom at midnight... I thought the song actually was quite boring. Very unique, very different -- big, big fan of Jason -- but is he going to make the same impact this week as he did last week? No, because it was the song that made it so special last week. You can't keep doing this week after week. You've got to choose brilliant songs that suit your style. Good enough to stay another week definitely, but not as good as last week."
Additional Info: Jason is in his second year at Texas A&M University, where he recently declared a music minor. It was the only class he failed... On making the Top 12, Jason said, "It's been pretty cool."... Jason revealed his family's from Colombia... He said he chose "If I Fell" because "it's a pretty song" and one he can "really relate to"... Keeping Up with the Kardashians star Kim Kardashian was in the studio audience... Jason played the guitar during his performance... Ryan and Simon shared some banter after the performance about Simon's bedroom comment... "Do you want the dreads back for more?" Ryan asked before giving Jason's voting information.

Carly Smithson, a 24-year-old from San Diego, CA

Song: "Come Together"
Randy said: "You know what I loved about that? You were strong, you were confident, you were having a good time up there. You sounded amazing -- there wasn't a note out of tune. Stellar performance. Stellar!"
Paula said: "Carly it was really strange watching you up there. I felt like I was already watching a star. (cheers) You know what? I couldn't wait until you got into the Top 12 so you could really shine who you are as a performer. You're a great performer."
Simon said: "Okay Carly. Week after week so far, I think that you have chosen the wrong song -- until now. (cheers) Carly I've got to tell you something, this reminds me of six years ago -- exactly the same week -- Kelly Clarkson."
Additional Info: Carly said the Top 12 finalists moved into their new apartments last on Monday night and she's sharing a room with Amanda Overmyer. Carly added her "must haves" on the shopping list were orange juice, eggs, celery, ranch dressing and -- of course -- potatoes... She described San Diego as a "really chill, laid-back city" but misses her family and friends back in Ireland... Carly said "Come Together" is a regular part of the Saturday night set she performs at a local club... Her friend and husband were in the studio audience... "This is so amazing!" said Carly after the studio audience went absolutely wild after her performance... Following Simon's comments, Ryan stated the obvious. "Not that we need to connect the dots, but she did okay that Kelly Clarkson."

David Cook, a 25-year-old from Blue Spings, MO who currently resides in Tulsa, OK

Song: "Eleanor Rigby"
Randy said: "You can definitely rock out on Idol, see, that proves it right there. You can rock out on Idol, you can rock out on the Beatles. You're doing your thing. It started a little kind of unsafe for me. You had a little pitch problem in the first part. But dude, once you hit that chorus it was rocking! Let go. You got this!"
Paula said: "I've been telling everyone you're the dark horse. This is proving there's more than one horse in this race. You're a thoroughbred. I think you're fantastic each week you come out. I love seeing you as the frontman -- we all know you're the frontman with your band -- but you are the frontman here on American Idol."
Simon said: "David I thought it was brilliant. Paula's right, if this show remains a talent competition rather than a popularity competition, you actually could win this entire show."
Additional Info: Ryan was sitting in Randy's chair to introduce David... David said he had a "pretty standard upbringing" and prior to Idol worked as a "drink slinger" (aka bartender)... David decided against performing with a guitar because he thought it might be "overkill"... Prior to David's performance, Ryan was whispering something in Simon's ear. "No I would not! No!" answered Simon to whatever Ryan said... David's family was in the studio audience.

Brooke White, a 24-year-old from Mesa, AZ who currently resides in Van Nuys, CA

Song: "Let it Be"
Randy said: "So listen, I don't know if it's your strongest performance, but I'll tell you what I like about you. I was sitting here, imagining you at home practicing this as kid growing up thinking, 'Man, one day I'm going to make it. I'm going to get on some show.' This is kind of like a dream come true for you right? I love the fact that you have all of this conviction. You come out, you take this big song -- people have sung all these kind of runs and riffs on it -- and you gave a very heartfelt performance. I love that! I'm a fan! The dawg's a fan!"
Paula said: "This is your niche, this is your niche Brooke. Picking songs where we can feel your heart -- America can feel your heart -- and it's having that connection, an emotional connection, that makes people fall in love with you."
Simon said: "I thought Brooke it was -- again -- one of the best performances of the night. (cheers) I thought it was a brilliant choice of song. I think you've done it three weeks running now. Actually, it's believable. There's a difference between karaoke -- which we've seen tonight -- and actually making it believable and showcasing your talent. Three weeks running, great."
Additional Info: Brooke moved to Los Angeles from Mesa to work on music and is also employed as a nanny for twin girls, which she called a "wonderful job"... Brooke said she chose "Let it Be" because she "really connected with the story" of the song... She played the piano during her performance... Brooke's husband and family were in the audience holding a sign that read, "We [love] Brooke (But we miss our nanny)"... After her performance, Ryan gave Brooke a tissue to wipe her tears and commented she was "literally shaking"... Brooke also performed barefoot, and Ryan fetched her shoes once she was done. "Ryan, they're hers," Simon reminded the Idol host.

David Hernandez, a 24-year-old from Glendale, AZ

Song: "I Saw Her Standing There"
Randy said: "You know you've got a big voice. You can really sing. But here's the deal. On a song like this that's really simple, for me it was a little too overdone. You were trying to do too much with it, so I kind of was lost from the jump. (boos) I was a little lost because there was just too much going on with it."
Paula said: "David, you know I love your voice. ['I love you too,' David replied.] I feel like you kind of overdid it a little bit. I think you needed to scale back... You're a brilliant singer and I just felt not too many runs."
Simon said: "David no, no, no. I thought it was corny verging on desperate to be honest with you. (boos) It's true. It was all a little bit rabbit in the headlights. It just wasn't very cool... I didn't think it was a particularly strong performance. Sorry."
Additional Info: Prior to Idol, David said he "got fired" from his job at a pizza bistro -- not surprisingly, making no mention of his male stripper past... David is also a broadcast journalism major at Arizona State University, where he said he took a class on the Beatles. He said he chose "I Saw Her Standing There" because it's "fun" and "upbeat" and he planned to "work the stage"... David's best friends were in the studio audience... Randy corrected Simon that the expression is deer in the headlights, not rabbit... Ryan said he knows David had a "stressful week" and asked if he overanalyzed. "I did the best I could," answered David. "You can't go back in time. It's easier to pull back than to give more. So the next time I'm up here -- which I hope I'm up here next time -- I'll just turn it down a notch."

Amanda Overmyer, a 23-year-old from Mulberry, IN

Song: "You Can't Do That"
Randy said: "I'm telling you man, that is the true mark of great songs -- because these are some of the greatest songs in history as I said before -- and guess what? You took a Beatles song and you brought it to like a Southern club, a Southern bar, and you rocked it out in a Southern bar sort of way. I've got to give you props for that. Good looking out. I loved it. I thought it was cool, very cool."
Paula said: "First of all Amanda, you're smiling, you're having fun, you look fantastic. You are a star up there. This is like the best competition -- the best season -- of talent. I'm blown away -- blown away by you."
Simon said: "I didn't think it was as good as last week actually Amanda. I understood about 30% of what you sang. It was like you were slurring a lot of the words and it got a little bit shouty. Having said that, I think it's a very good thing that you're here... I think it's a good thing you're in this competition because I think you're a breathe of fresh air when you come on. But, if I'm comparing week on week, it wasn't as good as last week."
Additional Info: Prior to Amanda's performance, Ryan plugged tonight's live results show broadcast. "It's a full hour of one result!" said Ryan with a laugh... Amanda said everyone in her family rides a Harley Davidson, so it's a good way for them to get together... The first time Amanda heard "You Can't Do That" was this week when she chose it as her song, so she was "hoping and praying" Simon liked it with her own "Amanda spin on it"... During his comments, Paula interrupted Simon and he told her to "shut up." "Don't be disrespectful," she said. "Well than don't be disrespectful to me Paula," he replied.

Michael Johns, a 29-year-old from Los Angeles, CA

Song: "Across the Universe"
Randy said: "I don't know if it was your best performance. I thought it was good. I was waiting for something big to happen once again -- it's a great song -- I thought you would have... You could have taken a little liberty and changed a couple notes around. But it was okay for me -- a little sleepy -- but it was alright. (boos) A little sleepy."
Paula said: "Wow. I disagree with you again (cheers) It takes an inner strength and an inner, quiet confidence to be able to stand center stage with a microphone and do nothing but sing brilliantly. Just your quiet confidence and the way you connected, I thought that was a brilliant performance."
Simon said: "I've got to agree with randy. (boos) He's absolutely right, you should have done -- what's the Irish girl's name? Carly! Carly did something brilliant with the song, and that's what you should have done. It was a little bit monotonous. It was solid -- it was good -- but now is the point where you've got to let yourself go a little bit. I'm still a big fan of yours, and I'm frustrated still that we haven't heard what you're capable of doing. It was all a little bit like that."
Additional Info: Michael's wife and friends were in the studio audience... As a musician, Michael said he's "done everything you can think of" for employment, including some tennis coaching on the side... Michael said he chose "Across the Universe" because it really helped him through a "painful" family experience... "You're not a real musician in my opinion if you haven't been affected by the Beatles," said Michael... Paula defended her comments. "We've seen other sides of Michael. It's about showing us all the textures of performance. I thought it was brilliant."

Kristy Lee Cook, a 24-year-old from Selma, OR

Song: "Eight Days a Week"
Randy said: "Alright look. This is kind of wild for me. There were some parts about it that I liked -- I actually liked the arrangement and the idea of the song. Just vocally, I just felt like you were trying to force some runs into it. You could of left it just like a country jig, it would have been cool. I don't know. I'm kind of torn with this one. Half of me likes it, half of me didn't like it."
Paula said: "Um... Kristy I didn't enjoy it and I'll tell you why. I know you did like the [country singer] Lorrie Morgan type... I just feel like you can't take what we say -- like go for the country thing -- too much to heart. You've got to be able to make it your own. I just didn't get it. I didn't get it. I'm sorry."
Simon said: "Kristy I thought it was horrendous actually. You sounded like Dolly Parton on helium. (boos) It was. Sorry... Kristy, it was a very brave but probably foolish thing to do. That song just doesn't work in that style. It was like being at some ghastly country fair or something, you know, a couple of banjo players and you. I didn't like it. Sorry."
Additional Info: Kristy said she's for a community of roughly 500 people, so Los Angeles is "totally the opposite" for her... She's from a "big music family" and listened to the Beatles growing up... Taking Simon's advice, she changed "Eight Days a Week" to a country song. "I know Simon said he likes taking risks. So I'm going to take this big risk and I'm just hoping and praying he likes it and I'm able to impress him."... Simon said the "arrangement of the song was hideous." "To change that song like that was just wrong," he added... Ryan asked Paula if he thought Simon gave Kristy bad advice. Simon thought the comment was "obnoxious" and asked him to go back to the contestant. "I'll tell you what. I'll build you the old set and you can play host in your backyard," Ryan told Simon... Paula said Kristy's "huge" fan base might save her from elimination.

David Archuleta, a 17-year-old from Murray, UT

Song: "We Can Work It Out"
Randy said: "You know I like your voice, you know I'm a fan of yours. This week dawg it was not on point. (boos) This kind of vibe is not your vibe for me. It felt very forced and it really didn't quite work. All I'm hearing in my head is that Stevie version and ain't nobody going to do that better. It just didn't work for me quite."
Paula said: "You know what this wasn't your best week. But David you are a frontrunner. You're a strong person in this competition. Just forgetting the lyrics, it gets a little tough. You can never let it show on your face... It's okay thought. We love you."
Simon said: "David we've got 12 people here all in the same position -- all want to win the competition -- so I'm going to treat everybody fairly. That was a mess. (boos) You stumbled over the lyrics at the beginning. Randy's quite right, you shouldn't have done the Stevie Wonder version. It was just all over the place and at this point of the competition, I expect incredible performances. It wasn't. It was your weakest performance so far."
Additional Info: "David revealed his mom's from Honduras and is into salsa music while his dad is a jazz musician... David said he actually "wasn't too familiar" with the Beatles so he was a "little nervous"... He instead performed Steve Wonder's version of the song because he's familiar with it. "This is the most nervous I've ever been just because I'm a little scared doing this song. It's a pretty difficult song for me. I'm just kind of getting a little stressed thinking about it."... David stumbled over the lyrics at the beginning of the song... After his performance, David said he "wasn't really too sure" about the song choice, but did his best and had fun with it.