Archive for the ‘David Cook’ Category

Channel Flippin’ – What a Show

May 23, 2009

The 2009 season finale of ‘American Idol’ was the program’s most impressive conclusion ever. (Spoiler warning!)

By Blake

Originally posted May 23, 2009; updated May 29, 2009.

***Spoiler Warning***
This post contains commentary about the American Idol 2009 finale. If you haven’t yet watched the finale and wouldn’t like to know who won yet, don’t read any further!
***Spoiler Warning***

I knew the American Idol contestants and crew could put on a great show. Year after year of amazing season finales and Idol Gives Back specials had proven that Fox could throw a seriously awesome TV party. Even knowing that, I was still blown away by the outstanding performances showcased on American Idol’s two-part season eight finale, which was broadcasted on Tuesday, May 19 and Wednesday, May 20, 2009.

The finale was the epilogue to a great season of talent, showmanship, and shockers.

The season started out with a new judge, singer/songwriter Kara DioGuardi. At first I had thought that the decision to add a new judge to the show would result in “jumping the shark,” though thankfully that didn’t happen at all. Instead, DioGuardi gave the contestants constructive criticism – telling it like it was without getting mean.

Kara DioGuardi was a new judge this season.

This year, the show returned to its former “Top 36” format as opposed to recent years’ “Top 24” layout. This meant that the top 36 contestants were put into groups of twelve, with one group performing each week and three of each group’s twelve contestants moving on to the top twelve. After that, a “wildcard” show admitted three more performers (that had previously been voted out) into the top twelve. However, a slight twist this year revealed that there would be a top thirteen, putting one more contestant through to the final round of the show.

Once the top thirteen contestants were established, another twist was revealed: the “judge’s save.” Through this new rule, if for any given reason a contestant was voted out and the judges didn’t agree with that person going home, they could “save” that contestant, letting that person keep competing in the show. However, this also meant that the week following the save, two contestants would go home instead of one. The save could only be used once the entire season, and could only be implemented through the week of the top five.

The judges decided to use their save on Matt Giraud. If they hadn’t used their save on him, Giraud would have gone home in 7th place. Instead he ended up staying two more weeks, going home in 5th place.

The judge’s used their only “save” for the season on contestant Matt Giraud.

Fellow contestants celebrate with Matt Giraud as the judges announce their “save.”

This season, the bar was significantly raised concerning the talent level each contestant was brought to their performances. With David Cook’s win last year, the show transitioned from finding an excellent singer to finding an excellent artist. A great voice can get you pretty far in American Idol, but now it’s unlikely that anyone will go all the way without showing their own unique style by changing the arrangements of songs to better suit their personality.

Surprisingly not present in the 2009 season was a full night devoted to Idol Gives Back. An American Idol tradition since 2007, Idol Gives Back involves contestants and celebrities encouraging viewers to donate to several charitable organizations. For two years, a special had aired for Idol Gives Back, filled with spectacular performances, as well as videos of how the money that had been raised was being used worldwide to help others. There was a brief Idol Gives Back update during one of this season’s results shows, which included a video of a trip Carrie Underwood took to Africa to help the cause and a performance by a child that had benefitted from the donations, though no full-blown special aired like previous years.

Noah (center), a child that benefitted from the Keep A Child Alive organization as a result of the donations viewers made for Idol Gives Back, stands with Alicia Keys and Ryan Seacrest after performing on American Idol on May 13, 2009.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009 saw the last night of voting for the season. The top two contestants included rocker Adam Lambert and laid-back Kris Allen, who both performed three songs on Tuesday. Concluding the show was a special performance by Carrie Underwood of “Home Sweet Home,” which was this season’s “exit song” that played as each contestant was eliminated. On Tuesday, however, the song was played while a montage of the season’s highlights was shown. It was a somewhat sentimental moment, sort of a signal that the season really was coming to a close.

2005 American Idol winner Carrie Underwood performs “Home Sweet Home” on American Idol on Tuesday, May 19, 2009.

The season wasn’t quite over yet, though. Not a bit, really.

On Wednesday, May 20, 2009, the season finale aired, and honestly was one of the overall best television programs I’ve ever seen. An all-around entertaining show with something for just about everybody, it was really amazing.

Throughout the night, there were several performances by the entire top thirteen contestants (including Jasmine Murray, Jorge Nunez, Alexis Grace, Michael Sarver, Megan Joy, Scott MacIntyre, Lil Rounds, Anoop Desai, Matt Giraud, Allison Iraheta, Danny Gokey, Adam Lambert, and Kris Allen), including the opening number of Pink’s “So What.”

Additionally, the night included performances by contestants accompanied by celebrities, including Megan Joy and Michael Sarver with Steve Martin, Alexis Grace and Anoop Desai with Jason Mraz, Lil Rounds with Queen Latifa, Matt Giraud (and later joined by the rest of the top thirteen) with Carlos Santana, Allison Iraheta with Cyndi Lauper, Danny Gokey with Lionel Richie, Adam Lambert with Kiss, and Kris Allen with Keith Urban. All of them were exceptionally wonderful performances.

Not only all of those, but the top girls also performed with Fergie, which subsequently followed with a performance by the Black Eyed Peas.

Three “Golden Idol” awards were given throughout the night to contestants who didn’t make it very far in the show, but were very memorable enough from their brief airtime. The first went to Nick Mitchell, who at first seemed very shocked, claiming that he wished he had something prepared. In mid-sentence, he shouted “Hit it!” and proceeded to take off his jacket, revealing his “Norman Gentle” attire. Hysterical.

Ryan Seacrest (left) and Nick Mitchell.

The next awards went to Katrina Darrell aka “Bikini Girl” and Tiana Del Toro. I’m not going to say much about either of their performances, but I couldn’t help feeling a little bit sorry for them, hoping that they’d both feel accepted for who they are without having to take extra measures of attention-getting.

Also included in the night’s agenda was a sentimental performance by season seven American Idol winner David Cook of his new single “Permanent,” which relates personally to him with the recent loss of his brother. After he sang, Cook announced that all proceeds from the downloads on iTunes of the performance would go to Accelerate Brain Cancer Cure.

2008 American Idol winner David Cook performs “Permanent” at the 2009 American Idol finale.

The last surprise performance of the night was the two finalists Kris Allen and Adam Lambert singing “We Are the Champions” with Queen.

From left: Adam Lambert, a member of Queen, and Kris Allen.

Lastly, it was time to reveal the winner. The lights were dimmed, the two finalists took center stage along with host Ryan Seacrest, the envelope containing the results was delivered, and the winner was announced to be . . . Kris Allen!

American Idol 2009 runner-up Adam Lambert (left) with winner Kris Allen.

You can see the obvious shock Allen felt by the win from the picture below:

From left: Adam Lambert, Kris Allen, and Ryan Seacrest as Allen is announced as the American Idol 2009 winner.

Closing out the show was a performance by Kris Allen, the newest American Idol winner, of his single “No Boundaries.”

Kris Allen (in white shirt, black jacket, and jeans, fifth from right) with fellow American Idol 2009 contestants as he performs “No Boundaries.”

As the show came to its 2009 close, this touching picture of Kris Allen with his wife, Katy Allen, was the last shot that television viewers saw as the credits rolled:

Kris Allen with his wife, Katy Allen, just after Kris was announced as the American Idol 2009 winner.

Update from May 29, 2009: Kris visited Walt Disney World on May 29, 2009, where he appeared in a parade at Disney’s Hollywood Studios with Mickey Mouse, and then performed outside of the American Idol Experience attraction. You can check out coverage of the event at DISUnplugged.com.
I was overall very content with this season of American Idol. It’s hard to believe it’s already completely over. It’s been an amazing ride.

Related BlakeOnline articles:

By Blake; posted May 23, 2009; updated May 29, 2009. All images (C) Fox.

Theme Park Headlines – They’re Going to Disney World, Part Two

February 23, 2009

Over two dozen ‘American Idol’ celebrities gathered at Disney’s Hollywood Studios last week for an amazing world premiere event.

By Blake

Originally posted February 22, 2009.

I can honestly say I don’t think I’ve ever wanted to attend a Walt Disney World press event more than I did on Thursday, February 12, 2009 as I watched live from my computer as over two dozen American Idol celebrities made their way down the blue carpet at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. What was the occasion? The world premiere of the American Idol Experience, a new attraction that gives Walt Disney World guests the opportunity to be in the spotlight and go through a pretend American Idol audition.

The attraction’s recent history can be read in a BlakeOnline article from a few weeks ago, but it ultimately led up to extravagant press event and after party that took place at Disney’s Hollywood Studios on February 12.

First, both season 7 winner David Cook and season 7 runner-up David Archuleta appeared on Good Morning America to promote the American Idol Experience along with GMA meteorologist Sam Champion, who even pointed out a Hidden Mickey on the attraction’s stage. David Archuleta toured viewers through part of the process of the new attraction, featuring a short group performance of “Life is a Highway” with him and several Walt Disney World guests. David Cook was shown performing a tidbit of his song “Heroes,” while his main, full-blown performance of “Declaration” had to end unexpectedly due to audio glitches. In the meantime, Diane Sawyer and Chris Cuomo improvised and told audiences that David Cook would be back soon, but since his performance was close to the end of the show, he unfortunately did not get to finish his performance.

Minnie Mouse and David Cook.

Later on in the day, preparations began to go into full swing to await the press event that would occur in the late afternoon. A long blue carpet was stretched out onto Hollywood Blvd., much like the lengthy red carpet at Disneyland’s Pirates of the Caribbean world premiere events.

Reports say that guests began to line up along the street around noon for the 4:30 parade that featured over two dozen American Idol celebrities. Donald, Chip, and Dale were among the many people viewing the parade, holding up posters provided by Disney with phrases such as “Sup Dawg,” “We’re Nuts About Bo,” and others. The attendees of the event included American Idol creator Simon Fuller, host Ryan Seacrest, judge Paula Abdul, season 1 winner Kelly Clarkson, season 1 runner-up Justin Guarini, season 2 winner Ruben Studdard, season 2 contestant Kimberly Locke, season 2 contestant Josh Gracin, season 3 winner Fantasia Barrino, season 3 runner-up Diana DeGarmo, season 4 winner Carrie Underwood, season 4 runner-up Bo Bice, season 5 winner Taylor Hicks, season 5 contestant Mandisa, season 5 contestant Bucky Covington, season 5 contestant Ace Young, season 6 winner Jordin Sparks, season 6 contestant Melinda Doolittle, season 6 contestant LaKisha Jones, season 6 contestant Phil Stacey, season 6 contestant Sanjaya Malakar, season 6 contestant Chris Sligh, season 7 winner David Cook, season 7 runner-up David Archuleta, season 7 contestant Syesha Mercado, season 7 contestant Jason Castro, season 7 contestant Brooke White, season 7 contestant Carly Smithson, and season 7 contestant Michael Johns. Phew!

Goofy, Mickey Mouse, American Idol host Ryan Seacrest, and Minnie Mouse.
Carrie Underwood in the parade during the American Idol Experience opening press event.

After the parade, the celebrities made their way further down the blue carpet for a hoopla of interviews. This part of the event was broadcast live via webcam to http://www.wdwnews.com/, much in the same way that the Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest red carpet event was broadcast in 2006. Although the webcam didn’t really show individual interviews, it did show the overall scene of the event for over an hour. It was very exciting to watch from my computer the anticipation leading up to the celebrities’ arrivals, and then the mania that followed each time a new celebrity arrived. Mickey, Minnie, and Goofy were dressed in their best and greeted each arrival, while Pluto and Grumpy were in the VIP section, Pluto holding up a sign that said “Yo Dawg” and Grumpy holding one that read “Simon is my idol but I always agree with Paul Abdul.”

Ruben Studdard at the American Idol Experience.

Once the interviews were over and the webcam stopped broadcasting, it was time for the world premiere of the American Idol Experience! The premiere featured a regular show as it would be performed any other day, with several park guests performing and one being named the day’s winner. However, much more than just a regular show also took place. Ryan Seacrest hosted the rest of the world premiere which featured a speech by Paula Abdul, a performance by David Cook of his song “Light On,” a performance by Carrie Underwood of her song “All American Girl,” and a duet by both David Cook and Carrie Underwood of “You Can Go Your Own Way” by Fleetwood Mac. Unfortunately, the duet is not available on iTunes or for purchase anywhere. Lastly, all seven previous American Idol winners came on stage (for the first time ever together in the same place) to each receive a very special American Idol award that was presented to them by the TV show’s creator Simon Fuller and will be presented to each future American Idol winner at each season’s finale.

All seven previous American Idol winners with their special awards, given to them by American Idol creator Simon Fuller. From left: season two’s Ruben Studdard, season one’s Kelly Clarkson, season three’s Fantasia Barrino, season seven’s David Cook, season four’s Carrie Underwood, season five’s Taylor Hicks, and season six’s Jordin Sparks.
After the world premiere, all of the American Idol celebrities took a “class picture” along with Mickey Mouse in front of the American Idol Experience, and then went to the after party! Some of them were even seen riding Rock n’ Roller Coaster.

Mickey Mouse, along with 28 American Idol celebrities including all seven winners, in front of the American Idol Experience at Walt Disney World.
It was certainly an incredible night and, even though I didn’t attend, I’m very grateful that Disney provided the great coverage that they had by setting the webcam up so that viewers wouldn’t miss a minute of the exciting event. If you missed the webcam coverage or you’d like the see more pictures and videos of the event, you can go to the following links:

StitchKingdom.com’s YouTube page for full videos of the entire webcam broadcast.

Orlando Attractions Magazine’s YouTube page for videos of the entire world premiere, including performances by David Cook and Carrie Underwood, and blue carpet interviews.

AllEars.net for pictures of the parade and the blue carpet.

Laughing Place.com for pictures and videos of the parade and world premiere, including performances by David Cook and Carrie Underwood, and pictures of the blue carpet.

MousePlanet.com for pictures of the blue carpet and the world premiere.

StudiosCentral.com for pictures of the blue carpet and the world premiere.

DIS Unplugged for pictures of the parade.

Additionally, WDWNews.com has a great compilation of press releases as well as a look at American Idol celebrities visiting Walt Disney World in the years past, plus a great slideshow of the entire press event, as seen below in the post before this one. If you look at it in full-screen mode, the pictures look excellent. All of the images are (C) Disney.

The world premiere of the American Idol Experience was an event that Disney seemed to work very hard to make happen, and their efforts certainly paid off from what I’ve seen. The attraction officially opened two days later on February 14, and a short look of the world premiere was featured on February 18th’s episode of American Idol. The spectacular event is one that I’m glad I got to see live, even if it was a portion via webcam. It was one event that will not easily be forgotten among Disney fans or American Idol fans.

By Blake; posted February 22, 2009. All images (C) Disney.

If you missed it, check out part one of this article!

Theme Park Headlines – They’re Going to Disney World

February 12, 2009


America’s favorite television show and the #1 theme park destination in the world meet in the American Idol Experience, the newest attraction at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Over two dozen ‘American Idol’ celebrities will be appearing at the park to open the new attraction.

By Blake

Originally posted February 11, 2009.

American Idol fans have been enjoying the last few weeks. The show recently began its eighth season on Fox and has been entertaining families with its first round of auditions, followed by the infamous “Hollywood week.” The top 36 contestants will be announced next and then it’s on to the live performances, which means the first opportunity this season for viewers to vote for their favorites.

Although that’s certainly exciting, today I’m excited for another reason, though it still involves American Idol. This weekend, the American Idol Experience officially opens at Disney’s Hollywood Studios at Walt Disney World in Florida. It’s an anticipated attraction that lets Walt Disney World guests see what it’s like to audition for American Idol.

The attraction was first announced in February 2008 as an unnamed American Idol-themed show that would let guests go through a pretend American Idol audition process. The attraction is part of a park-wide revamp at Disney’s Hollywood Studios that includes debuting new attractions, updating already-established attractions, and significant re-theming to the park.

Concept art for the American Idol Experience. The look of the outside of the attraction has been slightly scaled down since the concept art was created.
On May 21, 2008 Jordin Sparks appeared in a commercial on the season seven finale of American Idol to give some more details about the anticipatory attraction. It was then that the attraction’s name was announced as the American Idol Experience. Sparks appeared in the commercial on none other than the balcony of Cinderella Castle.

Jordin Sparks on the balcony of Cinderella Castle, appearing in a commerical for the American Idol Experience.
In June 2008, several season seven American Idol contestants (including David Cook, David Archuleta, Syesha Mercado, Jason Castro, and more) taped some promotional footage for the attraction that is speculated to be part of the show itself. They shared some of their American Idol stories as well as their Disney memories. Brooke White even drew an excellent sketch of Mickey Mouse, who she had learned to draw when she had wanted to become a Disney animator when she was younger.

Brooke White draws Mickey Mouse while sharing her Disney memories.
During the American Idol summer 2008 tour, a one-page promotion for the American Idol Experience was featured in the concert’s program. Additionally, the aforementioned commercial featuring Jordin Sparks was played during the concert’s intermission.

Throughout the fall of 2008, not much information or news was heard about concerning the attraction, other than the construction of the show building, Superstar Television Theater (recently renamed from ABC Theater, where Doug Live was performed several years back). American Idol decorations are abundant outside the theater, and the inside has been constructed to look like the stage from the TV show’s top twelve round.

The outside of the American Idol Experience in Walt Disney World.
In December 2008, promotion and advertising began to pick up for the attraction as its opening date of early 2009 drew nearer. Both David Cook and David Archuleta made appearances on the Walt Disney World Christmas Day Parade. Cook performed “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” while Archuleta appeared at Disney’s Hollywood Studios to give a look into the new attraction as well as give a summary of the other happenings in the park.

David Cook performs in the Walt Disney World Christmas Day Parade 2008.
David Archuleta tapes a segment for the Walt Disney World Christmas Day Parade 2008.
Additionally, in mid-January 2009, Ryan Seacrest appeared at Disney’s Hollywood Studios for reasons currently unknown to me, though I’d guess it would be to film some footage for the attraction. He also posed for some promotional images.

Ryan Seacrest in mid-January 2009 in front of the American Idol Experience at Disney’s Hollywood Studios in Walt Disney World.
Also in mid-January, sneak previews of the attraction began to get underway at the park, featuring several showtimes throughout the day and a daily grand finale taking place at the end of each day. Audience members vote for the winner, and each winner receives a “Dream Ticket,” letting them skip the lines at a real American Idol audition process.

A daily finale takes place at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.
The attraction officially opens to the public on Saturday, February 14, 2009. Additionally, a very exciting press event will take place at Hollywood Studios on Thursday, February 12, 2009 for the opening of the attraction! David Cook, David Archuleta, Jason Castro, and over 25 American Idol celebrities will be appearing in a parade down Hollywood Boulevard at 4:30pm. If you’re like me and won’t be able to attend the very exciting parade, you can catch live coverage of the event over at StudiosCentral.com. They’ll have live blog from the park beginning at 4:00pm Eastern Time.

Lastly, be sure to watch (or record) a very special appearance by David Cook tomorrow (Thursday, February 12, 2009) on Good Morning America! He will be performing live from the American Idol Experience at Walt Disney World, so be sure to watch!

You can also expect to see lots of coverage from the press event and of the attraction itself as the weekend progresses. Keep an eye on AllEars.net, LaughingPlace.com, and MousePlanet.com for some reports, as those three websites seem to never fail at bringing the latest Disney news to the vast Disney community.

So remember, watch Good Morning America tomorrow, February 12, 2009, to see David Cook at Walt Disney World and log on to StudiosCentral.com at 4:00pm on February 12, 2009 to see live coverage of the American Idol parade! It’s sure to be a very exciting day.

By Blake; posted February 11, 2009. All images (C) Disney.

Channel Flippin’ – It’s Showtime

January 12, 2009

America’s number-one TV show is back.

By Blake

Originally posted January 11, 2009.

I am so excited!

The time is almost here for the season premiere of my (and America’s) favorite TV show, American Idol! This Tuesday, January 13, 2008, will mark the first episode of the landmark show’s eighth season, and there’s certainly plenty to be pumped up about. The show’s even launched a new website look to celebrate the arrival of its eighth year on the air. Also, I’ve been getting into the American Idol spirit by posting some American Idol-related articles into the BlakeOnline archives. I’ve been having to re-post all the past articles when I changed to the current format of the web site and most of the previous BlakeOnline articles have yet to be posted here, so I’d thought it would be an appropriate time to re-post the American Idol articles. So, now you can check out the Disney’s Hollywood Studios changes article (which mentions The American Idol Experience, an upcoming attraction there), a recap of the American Idol season 7 finale, and a report from the American Idol season 7 concert.

First off, there’s a new judge to spice opinions up with Randy Jackson, Paula Abdul, and Simon Cowell. Songwriter Kara DioGuardi will join the three famous judges to give the show a little more variation and to add some publicity to the program. It will be fascinating to see what she brings to the show and how she and the other three judges will manage to squeeze in all of their comments into the already-short amount of time given to critique the contestants’ performances.

Not only will a new judge liven things up on this season of American Idol, but the contestants will have a lot to bring to the table when it comes to talent. Last season’s amazing group of performers managed to make season 7 the most memorable (in my opinion) year of the show yet. David Cook, Michael Johns, and Carly Smithson rocked the place out every week; David Archuleta’s voice had the younger and older viewers voting for him weekly; Syesha Mercado and Chikezie Eze added some soul to the show; Jason Castro’s relaxed songs were excellent; Brooke White had sensationally simple songs and a sincere personality; Kristy Lee Cook was the country performer of the bunch; and Ramiele Malubay brought some pop songs to the group. Between the ten of them, there was really something great for everyone.

Additionally, not only did last year’s top ten contestants show they had talent while they were on the show, but they’ve also continued to please audiences outside of the show. All of them toured the country last summer in an outstanding show-stopping concert and some of them have already started their careers as record artists.

Chikezie Eze supposedly has a new album in the works, though I wasn’t able to find much information about it or whether it’s really happening or not.

Ramiele Malubay has released four singles, including a new Christmas song.

Michael Johns released a Christmas single in December and the proceeds of that song will go to the Red Cross and MDA’s Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis fund. Additionally, he helped score the music and also sings in most of the songs in the new documentary of Shaun White (a.k.a. the Olympics’ “Flying Tomato” snowboarder/skateboarder). Michael also has an upcoming album being released.

Kristy Lee Cook released an album in September, called “Why Wait”, which featured her song that was on the country Top 30 Billboard, “15 Minutes of Shame.”

Carly Smithson has been working on music, as well, and will have an upcoming album.

Brooke White has become a spokesperson for the foundation that is partnered between Malaria No More and American Idol Gives Back called Save the World Summer. She has also been writing music updating her blog frequently with posts and videos.

Jason Castro recorded “Hallelujah”, which was (in my opinion) his most memorable song while on American Idol, which is going to be featured in an upcoming Mexican film Amar a Morir. In addition to that, Castro has been updating his video blog frequently with new videos and news. Castro also released a free single of “White Christmas” and is currently working on an album.

Syesha Mercado released a single with Boney James during her American Idol journey and is now working on an album.

David Archuleta released a self-titled CD in November, which peaked at #2 on the Billboard charts. The album featured several songs that were written and co-written by Archuleta and also included Archuleta’s single “Crush,” which was released in August, as well as the new single “A Little Too Not Over You.” Official music videos have been made for both singles. Consistently updating his blog, David has kept his fans up to speed about his post-American Idol experiences. Additionally, in September David Archuleta taped an episode of the Nickelodeon show iCarly, which is set to air sometime in the spring.

Finally, David Cook has had success with the winning song from the American Idol songwriting competition “The Time of My Life” (written by Regie Hamm) and his single from September, “Light On” (of which a music video has been made). Both were featured on his excellent new self-titled album which was released in November. All but three of the songs on his CD were written or co-written by him. Cook plans to have a concert tour at colleges throughout the country beginning in February.

And that’s all of last year’s top ten. It’ll be tough to top that outstanding roster of performers and their varied music and personalities. I’ll definitely expect to be “wowed” this season, but I’ll hold off on any huge expectations for now.

One thing is for sure – with all the anticipation rising, as well as the introduction of the fourth judge, Kara DioGuardi, and the new show website, I can’t stand the short wait we have until the season premiere of American Idol! It will premiere on Fox this Tuesday, January 13, 2008 at 8:00pm Eastern time, 7:00pm Central time and will continue every Tuesday and Wednesday through May. 🙂

By Blake; originally posted January 11, 2009. All images (C) Fox.

Channel Flippin’ – The WDW Christmas Day Parade 2008 "Drive-Through" Review

December 27, 2008


By Blake

Originally posted December 27, 2008.

OK, so here’s the deal. I’m about to dash out the door in a few minutes and I’ll be unable to post any new articles on here for over a week and I thought the holiday season couldn’t go by without me awarding some compliments to this year’s outstanding Walt Disney World Christmas Day Parade. Since I’m short on time and I really need to summarize a lot in this article, instead of calling this a regular review (which it’s not), I’ll dub it a “drive-through” review, since I’m not really taking the time to elaborate (simply because I can’t) and you’re really getting the bare basics of my thoughts.

But ANYWAY, this year’s Walt Disney World Christmas Day Parade was once again hosted by Regis Philbin and Kelly Ripa from Walt Disney World in Florida and Ryan Seacrest from Disneyland in California. There were a few times when I felt embarrassed for them because of the lines they were saying, but it’s Christmastime so I’ll cut them some slack.

It was a VERY Disney parade this year and it seemed like instead of featuring celebrities with the characters off to the side as with previous years, there was more focus on the characters with the celebrities to the side.

Making their debut in the parade were Bolt, Mittens, and Rhino from Bolt and Prince Caspian from The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian. Giselle from Enchanted even made a quick little appearance, which was certainly welcome since she hasn’t been seen on WDW premises for about a year now.

Since it was the parade’s 25th anniversary, there were archived “flashback” clips from previous years’ parades scattered throughout the show, including performances by Jodi Benson, Kermit the Frog, Amy Grant, and others. These features were clever and appreciated until a 2005 clip of Vanessa Williams was played again and billed as this year’s finale, which made me feel partially jipped because I was hoping for a brand spankin’ new grand finale.

However, it seems that the cash usually spent on the rousing, choir-filled finale was used elsewhere in the parade for several other superb numbers that were very satisfying. One of the highlights that comes to mind for me is the opening number featuring Miley Cyrus singing “Santa Claus in Coming to Town.” Although I’m not a big Miley fan – but I certainly don’t have anything against her – I found her performance to be exceptionally great. It was performed in front of Cinderella Castle and featured appearances by Minnie Mouse, Donald Duck, Chip, and Dale. Additionally, Miley had a brief jam session with Stitch (dressed as Santa) on the guitar, and then Mickey made his grand parade surprise entrance in true Disney fashion. It was an overall Disney-fied performance that I think worked so well because Miley Cyrus is an all-Disney girl herself and having an out-of-studio performer usually takes away from that Disney experience. It was definitely one of the best of the parade’s opening numbers I’ve seen in a few years. Miley Cyrus shared the stage equally with the characters instead of taking up the entire spotlight and interacted very professionally with them, doing a very good job to bring some Disney flavor to the performance.

Anyone who’s been reading BlakeOnline for a while knows that I’m crazy when it comes to American Idol, and I was very pleased to see this year’s winner David Cook sing “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” on Main Street. Runner-up David Archuleta also appeared, but he served as the viewers’ tour through Disney’s Hollywood Studios rather than singing.

Lastly, the best performance of the parade was undoubtedly the Mary Poppins number on Main Street. Talk about a showstopper!!!!! Being my favorite live-action Disney film, I was delighted that it would be represented in the parade. Ashley Brown and Gavin Lee appeared as Mary Poppins and Bert, respectively, from the Broadway musical and performed “Supercalifragilisticexpiaelidocious” accompanied by 500 (!) dancers. They worked their way from inside the Confectionary and then proceeded outside to fill Main Street from Town Square to the hub! I loved the way the song didn’t all stay contained in one place as it traveled from inside the Main Street shops and then transitioned its way into the Street itself. In that regard it reminded me of the parade’s opening numbers of the 1990’s where hundreds of Disney Cast Members and characters would prance around the entire resort singing Christmas carols.

Not only that, but the Mary Poppins performance also included the background dancers from the Broadway show dressed as Main Street Cast Members, which added an extra bit of Pixie Dust to the already-magical number.

Although ABC will not be re-airing the parade, you can catch clips of it, including the sensational Mary Poppins performance, as well as behind-the-scenes footage (which features the performers rehearsing at 5:00 am) at Disney.com/celebrate, but hurry before they’re taken off the page! I noted last year that I thought the parade was on its way to becoming a real Disney show instead of a celebrity concert, and I think this year’s parade made that statement even clearer.

Merry Christmas!!!!!

By Blake; posted December 27, 2008. All images (C) Disney.

BlakeOnline Special – ‘American Idol’ 2008 Concert Report

August 18, 2008

Words can’t describe the amazingly awesome feel-good experience of this year’s American Idol season and contestants, which is sensationally amplified on this year’s concert tour.


By Blake

SPOILER WARNING: If you’re going to an American Idol 2008 concert and want to be surprised by the song lineup, performances, and, well . . . surprises, then please don’t read any further. It would spoil the entire concert for you! However, if you’ve already been to the concert or just don’t care about not being surprised, then please read on! You’ve been warned, though . . .

It’s not just a reality show. American Idol is a program that the entire family can enjoy without worrying about inappropriate content, and at the same time the show expands itself beyond the television set by creating solid singing careers out of everyday aspiring performers.

So you can imagine my excitement when the moment had arrived when I would be experiencing my first American Idol concert, this year featuring this 2008’s top ten contestants: Chikezie Eze, Ramiele Malubay, Michael Johns, Kristy Lee Cook, Carly Smithson, Brooke White, Jason Castro, Syesha Mercado, and, of course, the Davids – David Archuleta and David Cook.

I had taken a visit to the American Idol message boards about a month beforehand just to read other people’s comments to get the lowdown on what to expect at the concert, how things were run, etc., without spoiling any of the show itself for me. I’m certainly glad I had read the information that I did because I found out that right as the American Idol buses pull into the venue, many of the contestants come outside to talk, take pictures, and sign autographs for their fans waiting outside. This was great news.

We arrived at the arena around 11:45am and found a small crowd waiting near where the buses were scheduled to arrive. WHAT AWESOME TIMING! Just as we got there, a group of policemen arrived telling everyone that the meet & greet would be moved to another area of the arena because the current spot would interfere with traffic on the road. So everyone relocated to the new spot, where we were among the first people behind the barriers for the red carpet-like walkway, just without the red carpet or press. It was just fans.

The contestants finally arrived around 2:30, which was about an hour after they usually come out in other cities (I learned later that they had just finished a 7 ½ – hour bus ride). If you plan on going early to see if you can meet the contestants, I’d advise to bring some snacks and water. There’s no set time for how long you’ll be waiting, and standing in the summer heat can get sweltering. Thankfully, the morning’s thunderstorm had passed over, leaving behind a shady spot of clouds which hovered over us, occasionally dropping some rain sprinkles, but nothing too serious. We could have been out in the sweltering sun for the 2 ½ hours of waiting. I’m very thankful for the weather we had. It could have been MUCH worse.

The clouds eventually disappeared, revealing the sun . . . oh, and DAVID COOK!!! I guess he could tell by the looks on everyone’s faces that we had been standing out there a while, so when he arrived he literally leaped out the arena door, landed with a stomp on the ground, and then – again literally – ran over to the fans waiting in the line. I don’t think I’ve ever heard such loud screaming in all my life. Carly and Jason soon followed.

I must say all of the contestants’ energy and enthusiasm during the little greeting was certainly contagious! As each of them came out and walked by, you couldn’t help but have a huge, obnoxious smile on your face. Some of the people around us were complaining about the heat and that they couldn’t see the contestants . . . I was thinking, HOW could you POSSIBLY not be beaming when DAVID COOK is merely a few feet away?!?!? I just couldn’t see how anyone could not be happy in that mob of people.

It was such a thrill to meet all of them. It was like, here they are. All of the people that brought joy into your home every Tuesday and Wednesday night for the past year, and you have one chance to say to them anything you want and tell them how much their work is appreciated. I just didn’t know how to express how much each of them meant to me and my family. My Disney fascination is great and all, but I can’t physically thank any one person for the happiness that Disney brings to me, except for maybe Mickey Mouse. But he wouldn’t even say anything back. With the American Idol contestants, they were all lined up right there in front of me. I wanted to thank each of them immensely for all their hard work, for being awesome role models, for taking the time to meet us right now, but somehow I never got around to saying any of that. It wasn’t that I didn’t know what to say, it was just I didn’t know how to say it. So, other than a “Thank you” to each of them for their autographs (who responded gratefully and appreciatively), I pretty much kept my mouth shut.

Beforehand I had made a collage of all ten contestants using Picasa and then formatted it sepia, and then with some help mounted it on a poster board for the contestants to sign autographs on. Carly was the first to sign. She seemed sort of rushed, but I totally understand that all of them are pushed for time on their packed tour schedule.

Next was Jason, who was talking to everyone, and drew a little smiley face with some dreadlocks next to his name on some of the autographs he was signing.

Then, while David Cook was still making his way down the line, out came David Archuleta! I take back what I said earlier – this was the loudest screaming I’ve ever heard in my life. David A. started at our end and worked his way down the line VERY slowly, but certainly not in a bad way. He took his time with each and every one of the people standing out there and signed everything they asked him to, posed in every picture, and was definitely out there longer than any of the other contestants. He was one of the first to come out and the 2nd last to leave. He still seemed to be just as overwhelmed – in a good way – with how many people adored him as he was on the show. I did manage to tell David that I was enjoying his tour blog – he seems to update it more than any of the other contestants – though my compliment was drained out by the woman next to me who said something loudly to David so he couldn’t hear me.

Next out was Kristy Lee Cook! She made her way down the line and seemed to efficiently give autographs to anyone who wanted them.

Then Chikezie came out and started at our end of the line. Although he looked tired, he also seemed to be very patient with each fan in line, and posed for more than one picture with us. (He remarked at how the many cameras everywhere “always confuses me!”)

Next was Brooke, who WANTED to stop and talk to everyone, but was being urged by one of her handlers to go inside and take a phone interview, as the interviewers were already waiting for her. Right when she got to us she started doing a countdown from ten as to how many more autographs she would give out. You could tell she was heartbroken when she got to zero and couldn’t sign any other autographs, as were the last few fans that she didn’t get to see.

Lastly was Michael Johns! (Ramiele and Syesha weren’t going to be coming out.) He too seemed to take his time with the fans, but not nearly as slowly as Archuleta. When one of his fans gave him a picture of himself to sign his autograph on, he remarked “Oh, I hate this picture!” in his Australian accent. “I couldn’t look worse in this picture!” Hahahaha.

After that, the crowds began to dissolve, as only David Archuleta and Michael Johns were left and most of the fans had gotten their pictures and autographs. We stuck around a little longer . . . eventually David made it through the end of the line and finally Michael headed on in.

And so . . . we came back to the arena around 6pm for the concert! The preshow started around 6:55 and included a walk-around Pop-Tart guy dancing through the audience. When it was finally show time, I could feel the anticipation gathering in the air. I guess it was that American Idol contagiousness again because I couldn’t help bearing a smile.

Chikezie’s set was great, and then Ramiele came out and had a bee-boppin’ pop set. I was thinking that her performance sounded like something I would hear on Disney Channel or Nickelodeon, and then later I read in the concert program that she hoped to do something with Disney Channel in the future.

Next was Michael Johns who ROCKED THE HOUSE. He sang “We Will Rock You”, “We Are the Champions”, “It’s All Wrong But It’s All Right”, and “Dream On.” It was awesome.

Next was Kristy Lee Cook, who of course had some country songs, including “God Bless the USA”, which happens to be the song that saved her in the voting process. I was a little surprised that Kristy didn’t sing her new single “15 Minutes of Shame,” especially since her album is being released on September 16. Perhaps she doesn’t yet have the necessary rights to perform it live or something.

Then it was the incredible Carly’s turn, who was jammin’.

Next was Brooke, who sang her best American Idol song (in my opinion, at least) “Let It Be”, along with “Yellow” and “1, 2, 3, 4”. I had recently taken a liking to “1, 2, 3, 4”, and was pleasantly surprised to hear it sung at the concert. When I first heard it (which happened to be on a clip from Sesame Street on YouTube) I thought “This would be a great song for Brooke White to sing.” And there she was singing it!

Then it was time for the act one finale, which included the bottom six contestants singing U2’s “Pride” white footage from American Idol Gives Back played on the big screens to promote Fox’s campaign for viewers to donate money to needy families in Africa.

The intermission was Guitar Hero central! The two Guitar Hero commercials featuring the Davids (that originally played during this season’s finale) showed on the big screens, as did a brand-new commercial that’s exclusive to the concert. It’s promoting the upcoming Guitar Hero: World Tour game and features the entire top ten decked out in 70’s clothes and hairstyles.

Then there was some live entertainment, as opposed to up on the screens. First two crew members had a live Guitar Hero competition and then two audience members had an “air guitar” competition.

After that, it was time to get back to the show! Jason Castro was up first, singing “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” on his ukulele, followed by two other songs. Next Syesha wonderfully belted out some tunes, and after that you could just feel the excitement in the audience (even way up from our 2nd floor seats) as everyone anxiously awaited David Archuleta’s performance. He arrived via a stage lift playing the piano and singing “Angels”, “Apologize”, “Stand By Me”, and “When You Say You Love Me”. Again, I was surprised that he didn’t sing his new single “Crush”. Anyway, as always he was phenomenal and, as I stated earlier, he seemed just as humble as he was on TV. And I even got to hear his laugh in person.

Lastly, it was time for David Cook to take to the stage! As he entered through a stage lift, the arena was almost silent. He calmly walked to the center of the stage, stopped, looked around, and simply said “Hi.” The crowd goes bazerk. He was FANTASTIC. He sang “Hello”, “The Time of My Life”, “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing”, “Hero”, and “Billy Jean”. He seems to have taken his instant superstardom very professionally, with having a powerful stage presence and in the way he acts in interviews, performances, and such but at the same time hasn’t let his sudden fame go to his head in any way. In the concert program interview with him, when asked who his best friend on the show was, he proceeded to list all 23 of his competitors, and when asked what he was going to do after the tour, he said “I can’t wait to do some charity work.” While not being an obsessive fan, David Cook is someone who, between last January and now, I have grown to greatly respect and admire and I sincerely hope he goes on to have a successful career and not let his opportunities slip through the cracks like some have done. He even threw his half-finished Coke bottle into the crowd.

As David Cook’s set came to a close, it was time for the big finale! “Please Don’t Stop the Music” by Rihanna began to fill the air and I was literally bouncing in my seat my now, clapping along, since everyone else in my section still neglected to get on their feet. The finale I think will be the most memorable part of the show for me, for several reasons: “Please Don’t Stop the Music” is my favorite current song. My favorite group of performers was singing it right before my eyes. I got to see the Mavid in person. David Archuleta playfully kicked David Cook’s hiney. And all this going on as I realize that with such an incredible American Idol season that took place this year, it’s unlikely that any other future season will top this year’s outstanding display of artists and their incredible voices. Right now, watching this amazing top ten, was probably as good as it was ever going to get. I just couldn’t help but getting reflective and soaking in the atmosphere, watching an excellent group of performers. I still can’t comprehend how much each and every one of them has musically impacted my family. They’re an amazing group of talented people.

As the show-stopping finale came to a close, it was time for the contestants to head on in. Everyone had one last look at the bottom nine as they walked backstage, and at David Cook as he glided back down through the stage lift.

As we exited the arena, we saw a huge mob of people waiting in the same area that we had been earlier to meet the contestants (they came out after the show, too). However, whereas when we met them the crowd was at most two people deep, this had to be at least seven people deep. It was insane, so we decided not to stay. We later found out that the contestants finally made it outside a little after 11pm (the concert ended around 10:15ish), and all of them except David Cook and Ramiele come out. I kinda wish we would have stayed, but at the same time I know it would have been crazy. Fun crazy. But still crazy. I needed sleep, anyway.

Well, the awesome night was finally over. The whole American Idol concert experience was . . . amazing. Outstanding. Phenomenal. ROCKIN’. Superb. Unbelievable. Excellent. And what’s that word that you say when you don’t know what to say? Oh, yeah. Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious. I just can’t describe it any other way.

By Blake; originally posted August 18, 2008. All images belong to Blake’s family.

Channel Flippin’ – Something’s Cooking

May 24, 2008

Yet another incredible ‘American Idol’ season has concluded and was bid a final farewell with surprises, laughs, and, of course, a new instant superstar. Oh, and guess who’s going to Disney World?

By Blake

Originally posted May 24, 2008.

Well, it’s all over. What began in January as a seventh annual search for America’s most talented singer has fulfilled its intention and has soared to record-breaking heights, with its final voting night raking in a whopping 96 MILLION votes worldwide. By now, the folks over at Fox have definitely proven that they know how to put on a show, and this year’s finale was certainly no exception.

This year’s two contestants that battled it out for the ultimate prize were David Archuleta, 17, from Salt Lake City, and David Cook, 25, from Kansas City. I was extremely pleased with the fact that these two were the ones to make it to the end. They both seem to be very appreciative and grateful of everything the show has done for them and every opportunity that they are benefitted with because of the show. They both appear to have star-quality stage presence and good chemistry while working together. Additionally, both being deserving contestants (Archuleta formerly suffered from vocal paralysis and Cook’s brother currently has cancer), I was slightly on the Archuleta side when it came to picking who I wanted to win, but was ultimately fine with either of them being crowned the champion. I had picked David A. to go all the way since his first audition (I know that sounds conceited, but it’s true!) and have been a David C. fan since the top 24, as well.

The two-part season finale, which aired last Tuesday and Wednesday on Fox, was a star-studded extravaganza that dazzled its viewers beyond belief. On Tuesday, both David’s each sang three songs: one of which was Clive Davis’ choice, one the contestants’ choice out of one of the top ten songs in Idol’s songwriting competition, and the last being the contestants’ choice of any song. Both performed extremely well, but Archuleta was definitely the judge’s favorite and exceeded Cook’s performances in quality and ‘wow’ factor. Tuesday’s show concluded with a special appearance by season two winner Ruben Studdard, performing this season’s exit song, “Celebrate Me Home,” complete with a montage of this season’s most memorable moments playing onscreen. It certainly was something special and an excellent way to signal the end of an amazing year of Idol fun.

But there was just one piece of business left to attend to: the results! Wednesday, like all Idol finales, was a two-hour spectacular. It kicked off with a medley by the top twelve. Following that, David and David sang a duet of “Hero.”

Next was a real treat. As part of a promotion for the new Paramount film The Love Guru, a tape was shown of footage that was filmed earlier this week of both David’s viewing a private showing of the movie, followed by getting to visit an in-character Mike Myers as Guru Pitka (who was playing “Sitar Hero” when the David’s walked in on him). He also gave advice to both contestants, informing Cook that it was no longer the 90’s and he needed to shave. In an interview with the David’s afterwards, Guru abruptly came over and splashed Cook’s face with shaving cream and began to shave him, much to the delight of Cook, who started busting out a belly-laugh as the shaving cream fell off his face (and into Archuleta’s hands, who quickly caught it)! This segment I think really showed some personality of both contestants that we hadn’t seen before, but I’m glad we saw now.

Next up came consecutive performances of several of this year’s contestants. Syesha sang with Seal, Jason Castro reprised his previous performance of “Hallelujah”, Brooke White sang with Graham Nash, and Michael Johns and Carly Smithson sang with each other. Later, David Cook sang with ZZ Top and David Archuleta sang with One Republic. Next, the top six girls performed a Donna Summer medley with – you guessed it – Donna Summer, and then the top six guys performed a Bryan Adams medley with – surprise! – Bryan Adams.

Somewhere in between all of that, a special message was made by last year’s American Idol winner Jordin Sparks direct from Cinderella Castle (yep, at WDW!) announcing that the upcoming American Idol attraction at Disney’s Hollywood Studios would be called “The American Idol Experience” and is opening this January! However, even though my two favorite things are finally coming together, I can’t help but think that this attraction is destined for disaster. I mean, who really wants to spend part of their WDW vacation watching regular day guests sing karaoke? Not me. ANYWAY, that’s not the only Disney/Idol news I scooped up. In an interview on the official Idol website with David Archuleta, when asked what he would do if he had 24 hours left to live, he said he’d head to WDW! 🙂

Getting back to the finale, of course there were plenty of commercial breaks, which usually aren’t worth a hoot, but this time actually held some very . . . interesting . . . promotions, including two separate advertisements for the highly popular video game Guitar Hero, one featuring David Cook and the other featuring David Archuleta. In both commercials, they each jammed out on the game, channeling a scene in Risky Business with Tom Cruise (yes, each of them in their undies).

After that particular commercial break came a completely random appearance by the Jonas Brothers performing their hit song “S.O.S.”, much to the squealing delight of I’m sure millions of kid fans around the globe. It was ultimately just pointless to have them perform. It’s not that their performance was but, it’s just that they have nothing to do with American Idol whatsoever. Oh, well.

After that was over, the definite highlight of the show (for me, at least) had arrived! It was time for the best of the worst! This year’s finale had a significantly lessened amount of best-of-the-worst coverage than previous seasons, but I was just happy that they at least had something. First was a montage of clips from some of the most memorable auditions this season (including Alexis Cohen! . . . too bad she wasn’t actually there, though) followed by – are you ready? – a live performance by Renaldo Lapuz of “We’re Brothers Forever”!!! He was even backed up by the University of Southern California marching band and cheerleaders! Ryan, Paula, and Randy also joined him onstage. It was HYSTERICAL!!!

After that, two previous American Idol winners, 2005’s Carrie Underwood and 2007’s Jordin Sparks, performed.

Next were a few aforementioned performances, followed by a final top twelve George Michaels medley, complete with a “surprise” appearance by none other than George Michaels, whose performance I’m sorry to say was boring. With just moments away from crowning the winner of the entire show, his performance just seemed too “blah” for the occasion.

Finally, the moment had arrived. It was time to crown the next American Idol! As Ryan opens the envelope, suspense builds as he reads, “Ladies and gentlemen, David and David: the winner, by 12 million votes, of American Idol 2008 . . . is . . . David . . . COOK!” I was very, very, VERY happy with either of them winning. Overall I think Cook will do better in record sales and ultimate superstardom. During Cook’s post-results performance of the winning song in the Idol songwriting competition (“The Time of My Life”), showing his supreme good sportsmanship, he even invited Archuleta and the other contestants back on stage with him.

The moment to crown the newest American Idol winner had arrived, with contestants David Archuleta and David Cook and host Ryan Seacrest on stage.

Well, that about wraps up this year’s truly amazing American Idol journey. It’s definitely been the best season yet, filled with plenty of promising new artists. I possibly might be going to the concert when it hits town and if not, I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait for January to get here so we can start the pandemonium all over again.

David Cook celebrates his American Idol win.

David Cook celebrates his American Idol win.

And, finally, guess where David Cook is headed next? 🙂 And yes, that’s him singing.

By Blake; originally posted May 24, 2008. All images (C) Fox except: “The American Idol Experience” image, which is (C) Disney. Disney Parks commercials (C) Disney and uploaded to YouTube by user DavidCookCentral.