Eclaire Fare

Enjoying Pop Culture, One Bite at a Time

Recently Purchased on iTunes October 26, 2010

Filed under: 1980s,1990s,Music — Emily @ 10:13 am
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Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve finally gotten around to buying some new music on iTunes. I received a couple of iTunes gift cards last Christmas, so it was about time! Having $50 to spend on music is a big responsibility for someone who almost never buys music (and no, I don’t “steal” it either – I just tend to listen to what I already have). So how did I decide what to spend it on? First, I listened to Pandora and wrote down the names of songs I particularly enjoyed. I also paid attention when people on Facebook praised certain groups and artists. And finally, I dug deep into my memory banks to think of some old school classics that I’d enjoy having on my iPod. Rather than buying entire albums, I decided to mostly purchase individual songs so that I could have more variety. Here’s what I’ve come up with so far, but I still have $18 to spend!:

  • Mumford and Sons – Sigh No MoreI just purchased this album this morning; in fact, I’m listening to it for the first time right now and loving it! This group is so different from anything on the radio right now – refreshing, creative, folksy, yet modern – all at the same time. I’ve always liked a good folk music sound, and it’s even better when combined with other sounds. (Think Nickel Creek, Regina Spektor, Rich Mullins, etc.) I’ve heard good things about the Avett Brothers, too, so I will be buying some of their music in the near future.
  • Sara Bareilles – “Gravity” – I first heard this song a couple of seasons ago on So You Think You Can Dance, during Kayla and Kupono’s emotional “Addiction” performance. The song stuck with me as much as the routine did, so I’m glad to own it now.
  • Muse – “Uprising” and “Supermassive Black Hole” – I like Muse enough to buy their albums, but these two songs are a good start for my collection. Muse has a sharp, satisfying sound, and perhaps sadly, they represent some of the “heaviest” music in my collection.
  • The KLF with Tammy Wynette – “Stand By Jams” – Remember this classic late ’80s song? “Their justified, and their ancient, and they drive an ice cream van…” I have no idea what it was about, but the combination of country and dance music sure was catchy!
  • The Killers – “When You Were Young” – I really like the lead singer’s voice, and perhaps this group reminds me of the best of the ’80s, since they have a synthesizer/Duran Duran-ish sound. Plus, it’s fun to play this song on Guitar Hero! 😉
  • Joshua Radin – “No Envy No Fear” – This is one of the songs I discovered on Pandora. It has a sleepy, pleasant sound. I think I’ve heard it on a tv show, too.
  • Jay-Z and Alicia Keys – “Empire State of Mind” – I was reminded of this song when the kids on Glee sang it a few weeks ago. No offense to Rachel, Finn, and the gang, but this is one of those times when I prefer the original over the Glee-i-fied version. This is a fun one to sing along to.
  • Israel Kamakawiwo’ole – “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” – This song has been played everywhere. I first heard it on the “Wizard of Oz” themed episode of Scrubs. Such a beautiful version of the classic song, and it makes me happy every time I hear it. 🙂
  • Christina Aguilera – “Ain’t No Other Man” – I admit it: I like a good Christina song every now and then! They are catchy, and the girl can sing. I’m sure I’ll purchase a couple more of her songs eventually, but for now this is it.
  • Britney Spears – “Toxic” – Let’s consider this a nostalgic purchase. Britney songs have always been catchy, so why not add a couple to my collection? For the record, though, she doesn’t have a particularly good voice – she’s just well-produced.
  • Brandi Carlile – “The Story” – This has been in my Pandora rotation lately, and when I investigated where I’d heard it before, I discovered it was featured in a Grey’s Anatomy promo, and a GM commercial during the Olympics. I love her voice – similar to Melissa Etheridge, and this is just a good song.
  • Beyonce – “Single Ladies (Put a Ring On It)” – Ever since the Glee episode where Kurt led the football team in a dance number to this song, I can’t help but smile when I hear this song. It’s fun to dance and sing along to, and that’s enough reason for me to buy it.
  • Missy Elliot – “Lose Control” – This isn’t my typical choice of genre (most of my music is of the “chill around the house” variety), but I wanted to add some songs that will be motivating during a workout. Since this is one of the songs played during my cardio kickboxing class, I know it will keep me moving on the treadmill or stair stepper, too!

So there you have it. How should I spend my remaining $18? I am open to suggestions!


Regina Spektor’s Far: A Review January 27, 2010

Filed under: Music — Emily @ 5:27 pm
Tags: , ,

Regina Spektor’s latest album, Far, was released last summer. Now that I’ve listened to all the songs countless times and have fallen in love with all the music, I am ready to share my thoughts about it. My introduction to Spektor was through her previous album, Begin to Hope, which was so good that I was sure her follow-up album wouldn’t live up to its standard. I was wrong! Somehow, she managed to top herself, turning out another brilliant blend of quirky lyrics, beautiful piano, and her distinctive pure vocals. Sometimes I have no clue what her songs are about, but I love them anyway. Here’s a rundown of the songs that make up Far.

  • “The Calculation” – This is one of the songs I can’t figure out. It seems to have something to do with a couple’s stagnant relationship, but I’m not sure. It starts off light-hearted enough, talking about kitchen cupboards and macaroni pieces, but then about halfway through these lyrics push violently through the cheery music: “So we made the hard decision / And we each made an incision / Past our muscles and our bones / Our hearts were little stones / Pulled ’em out they weren’t beating / And we weren’t even bleeding / As we lay them on our granite counter top…” Regardless what it’s about, this song is fun to listen to, and even more fun to sing along with.
  • “Eet” – Initially, I wasn’t crazy about this song, but there is plenty to appreciate, and plenty of singing along to enjoy. Do I know what “eet” means? No. But it certainly makes for an interesting song.
  • “Blue Lips” – Aerosmith sang the praises of pink, Coldplay serenaded yellow, and now Regina Spektor contemplates blue: “Blue lips, Blue veins. / Blue, / The color of our planet from far, far away.” This is one of my favorite songs on the album. It has powerful lyrics, powerul vocals, and a satisfying mix of melancholy piano and striking guitar chords. It is a song about the struggles of the human existence, or at least as far as I can tell.
  • “Folding Chair” – Maybe you prefer the quirkier, less serious Regina. She certainly shows up in this song, which is pure fun, and instantly catchy (listen to it once and it will be stuck in your head all day). From the opening line (“Come and open up your folding chair next to me / My feet are buried in the sand, and there’s a breeze”), to the illogical explanation that “I’ve got a perfect body, ’cause my eyelashes catch my sweat,” to her bizarre imitation of the dolphin’s song through a series of “ooh ooh ooh oohs,” I couldn’t imagine anyone anyone else pulling off this song, or succeeding so marvelously.
  • “Machine” – I can’t help but think of the Cylons on Battlestar Galactica when I listen to this song, which is about a humanoid machine. Just last night I watched the pilot episode of the BSG prequel, Caprica, which explores the origins of the Cylons. So, all the “machines that look and act like humans” stuff is fresh on my mind. A sampling of lyrics from “Machine”: “I collect my moments / Into a correspondence / With a mightier power / Who just lacks my perspective / And who lacks my organics / And who covets my defects / And I’m downloaded daily / I am part of a composite.” Does that sound Cylon-ish to anyone else?
  • “Laughing With” – This is definitely my least favorite song on the album, so it’s ironic that it was the first single she released, and that it was the song she sang on all the talk shows. Reminiscent of Joan Osborne’s “What If God Was One of Us,” it runs through a list of various situations in which people don’t laugh at God, for example: “No one laughs at God in a hospital / No one laughs at God in a war / No one’s laughing at God when they’re starving or freezing or so very poor…” The only shift in the music comes when the perspective changes to times when God is funny, like “at a cocktail party,” or when “presented like a genie…” – otherwise it’s a rather monotonous song. It’s still not a bad song; it’s just a bit of a downer.
  • “Human of the Year” – I love this song. It’s my favorite on the album. It’s basically a song in praise of a regular guy, imagining what it would be like if he were recognized by the world for his simple contributions to society. It’s nice to imagination a world where the man in the cubicle gets honored instead of the man with all the money and power. My favorite part of the song is an explosion of music and choral singing: “Outside the cars are beeping out a song just in your honour. / And although they do not know it all mankind are now your brothers. / All mankind are now your brothers. / Hallelujah. / Hallelujah. / Hallelujah. / Hallelujah.” Listening to this song makes me feel happy to be alive. 🙂  Take a listen:
  • “Two Birds” – This is a catchy song that deals with the theme of relationships that get stuck in one place because neither person is willing to make the first move, or one person is afraid to step out of his/her comfort zone. “Two birds on a wire / One says come on / And the other says / I’m tired.”
  • “Dance Anthem of the 80’s” – This is a highly inventive and fun song, and it reminds me of Ben Folds’ “Songs of Love,” off his Supersunnyspeedgraphic album. Both songs take a whimsical look at the teen dating game. Spektor’s song starts off: “There’s a meat market down the street / The boys and the girls watch each other eat / You are so sweet, so sweet / Dancing and moving to that beat, that beat…” Folds’ song begins: “Pale, pubescent beasts / Roam through the streets / And coffee-shops / Their prey gather in herds / Of stiff knee-length skirts / And white ankle-socks…” One important difference between these two songs is the style: Spektor’s song creatively mimics the sounds of an ’80s techno song, while Folds’ sounds more like a waltz. Both are great, though, and very worthy of an iTunes purchase.
  • “Genius Next Door” – This song has me scratching my head more than any of the others on this album, but that doesn’t take away from my enjoyment of it. Whether it’s about an Erin Brockovich scenario where a town’s water supply was tainted by industry, or simply an unexplained phenomenon, it all centers around a murky lake: “Some said the local lake had been enchanted / Others said it must have been the weather / The neighbors were trying to keep it quiet / But I swear that I could hear the laughter / So they joke, and they nicknamed it “the porridge” / Cause over night that lake had turned as thick as butter…” The melody is haunting, and it’s an interesting song to puzzle over.
  • “Wallet” – Next to “Folding Chair,” this is probably one of the more light-hearted songs on the album. It’s about someone finding a wallet and examining all the contents to figure out what sort of person it belongs to (before returning it to the local Blockbuster). It is very true that what’s in our wallets says a lot about who we are, so it’s a simple yet truthful song.
  • “One More Time with Feeling” – When I see the song title and hear the phrase in the lyrics, I immediately think of Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s musical episode, “Once More, with Feeling.” Can’t help myself. However, I don’t know if Regina was channeling Buffy when she wrote this song, but it certainly seems like it: “…hold on / one more time with feeling / try it again, breathing’s just a rhythm / say it in your mind until you know that the words are right / this is why we fight. / you thought by now you’d be / so much better than you are / you thought by now they’d see / that you have come so far.” Hmmm… that does sound a lot like how Buffy felt after her friends brought her back to life and harsh reality, and she was going through the motions, trying to pretend that everything was okay.
  • “Man of a Thousand Faces” – The album ends with this mysterious song about the man with a thousand faces who “Sits down at the table / Eats a small lump of sugar / And smiles at the moon like he knows her…” I couldn’t tell you what it’s all about, but it’s an intriguing end to an excellent album.

If you’ve never listened to Regina Spektor, do yourself a favor and check out some of her songs, soon and very soon! Granted, she’s not for everyone, but her music has many layers to discover, uncover, and decipher. Enjoy! I’ll leave you with the music video for “Eet.”


Eye of the Tiger January 17, 2010

Filed under: Music,Television — Emily @ 4:32 pm
Tags: , , , ,

What do the theme song from Rocky and the tv show Supernatural have in common? Well, they are both involved in the video that I am sharing with you today. When it comes to brothers Sam and Dean on Supernatural, I have always preferred Sam (played by Jared Padalecki). I’ve been watching the show on dvd for the past couple of months and have made my way into season four. Over time, I have come to appreciate Dean more, as well as the actor who plays him: Jensen Ackles. After watching his highly entertaining lip synching performance of “Eye of the Tiger,” complete with fist pumping and air guitar playing, I officially love him!

A few more reasons to love him:

  • He is hilarious, and seems like he’s a lot of fun on the set (based on the blooper reels that I’ve been watching)
  • He is a Dallas native (which means something to me since I live in Dallas)
  • He and my son share the same birthday (well, with about 30 years separating them, that is)

So this video was (I think) originally shown as the credits rolled at the end of season four episode “Yellow Fever.” In this episode, Dean contracts a virus that basically makes him a scaredy cat. In fact, at one point in the episode, he squeals in terror like a little girl when Sam opens a locker to reveal a harmless cat. (That moment also made me love him.) During one scene, “Eye of the Tiger” was playing on the radio in Dean’s car while he was sitting around waiting for Sam. This isn’t unusual, since Dean is known for his love of classic rock. What was unusual was that after the scene was over but the song was still playing, Jensen Ackles decided to do an impromptu performance of the song. The results are classic. Since I wasn’t able to embed the video in this post, you’ll have to watch it on YouTube:


SYTYCD Season 6: The Winner is Revealed December 17, 2009

And so the season screeched to a halt this week, just in time for everyone to go home for the holidays. The finale didn’t have as much filler as I had expected, although I could have done without one or two of the musical guests. By the end of the night, we had seen performances of some of the season’s best routines, and the remaining contestants were eliminated one by one, until only the winner was left standing.

Joining Nigel Lythgoe, Mary Murphy and Adam Shankman on the panel were Lil’ C, Tyce Diorio and Debbie Allen. They all chose at least one dance that they’d like to see again, but I think the producers do more of the selecting so that the finale ends up with a variety of styles and performers. It was strange that so many performances were chosen from the “Meet the Top 20” episode. As much as I hope they do such a preview episode in coming seasons, it seemed weird not to highlight more dances from the actual competition episodes. If I read back through my posts I’m sure I could come up with a handful that would have been very worthy of an encore in the finale.

Opening Number:

  • Top 20 (Hip-Hop) – “Scared of Me (Radio Edit),” Fredde le Grand feat. Mitch Crow – I didn’t remember seeing this one before, but apparently it was in the Top 20 episode.

Judges’ Picks

  • Lil’ C – Russell, Kevin & Legacy (Hip-Hop) – “Beggin’ (District 78 mix),” Madcon – I enjoyed seeing the three hip hoppers dance together again.
  • Adam – Ellenore & Jakob (Contemporary) – “Tore My Heart,” OONA and Dave TweedsThis Sonya Tayeh routine was one of my favorites of the whole season.
  • Nigel – Phillip, Bianca & Peter (Tap) – “Take the ‘A’ Train,” Ella Fitzgerald – I admit that I fast forwarded through this one. I was never a huge fan of the tap dancers.
  • Mary (new piece) – Ashleigh & Ryan (Jive) – “Straight to… Number One (Duck’s Radio Mix),” Touch & Go – It was fun to see them dance together in their own style, to a piece that they choreographed. They have a bright future ahead of them in the world of ballroom! I wouldn’t be surprised to see one or both of them on Dancing with the Stars at some point.
  • Nigel – Kathryn & Jakob (Contemporary) – “At This Moment,” Michael Buble – The best performance from last night got this deserved encore. And this should have been the dance that won it all for Jakob.
  • Tyce – Mollee & Nathan (Bollywood) – “Azeem O Shaan Shahenshah,” Jodhaa Akbar – It was fun to see this bollywood number again.
  • Adam – Ellenore & Legacy (Contemporary) – “Machine Gun,” Portishead – If they wanted to showcase a Travis Wall routine, there were plenty others more impressive than this one. I was surprised when Adam said it is strong enough to be nominated for an Emmy. We shall see…
  • Lil’ C – Channing, Ariana, Jakob & Nathan (Contemporary) – “Crying,” k.d. lang – I was impressed by this group of contemporary dancers when they first performed this, and I enjoyed it again this time.

Around this point in the show, a series of chaotic events occurred. Cat’s mic wasn’t working, then only 3 of the final 6 contestants came out on stage, and then suddenly a tearful Russell was hobbling out, supported by Ryan. It was a tense and confusing moment for everyone, and I felt so bad for Russell that what should have been a wonderful experience was marred by injury. But, the show went on, and the next time he came out on stage they gave him a stool to sit on. Unfortunately, Russell’s injury meant that they had to show replays of the judges’ picks that involved him. This was especially disappointing for Noelle, who missed out on her chance to have another moment in the spotlight.

  • Debbie – Noelle & Russell (African Jazz) – “Frog Dance,” Mickey Hart & Planet Drum
  • Mary – Kathryn & Russell (Hip-Hop) – “I Can Transform Ya,” Chris Brown ft. Lil Wayne & Swizz Beats
  • Nigel – Top 20 (Jazz) – “Comanche,” The Revels – I am guessing they had already planned to just replay this performance, since Billy and Brandon wouldn’t be there to perform it (since they are eligible for next season’s auditions…). It was fun to see it again, as it was a great opening to the season.

Musical Guests

  • “I See You (Avatar theme),” Leona Lewis – I only made it through the first minute or so of this song before I fast forwarded. It was boring, and the images on the big screen behind her of the creepy blue people were just too much. I’m not sure I can handle going to see Avatar.
  • “Whataya Want From Me,” Adam Lambert – I had trouble concentrating on his singing because of the giant tarantula blob on his shoulder, but from what I could tell, the song was mediocre, like most of the “hit singles” released by Idol contestants (Carrie Underwood and Kelly Clarkson being the exceptions).
  • “I Am,” Mary J. Blige – I was amused that it was my husband who wanted to watch this whole performance. I do like Mary J., but this song wasn’t my favorite. (Maybe on a dance competition they should have more dance guests and fewer singers!)
  • “Louboutins,” Jennifer Lopez – Well, she certainly knows how to make an entrance. Even after having twins, J.Lo is still diva through and through. I wondered if she lugs that big shoe around the country with her for all her performances. The song was pretty weak, except for the catchy chorus, but I started to like it more when the chorus line of former SYTYCD contestants joined her on stage. I spotted Katee and Kayla for sure, and I think Courtney as well. Jennifer Lopez seemed very nice at the end, when she walked over to talk to Cat and declared herself a fan of the show, and mentioned that she had hand-picked some of her favorite contestants to perform with her. Maybe I shouldn’t give her such a hard time…

Countdown to the Winner

  • Ryan
  • Ashleigh
  • Ellenore
  • Kathryn
  • Jakob – runner up
  • Russell – winner

Well, I was spot on in my prediction of what order the contestants would be eliminated in, and unfortunately my worry that Russell would steal Jakob’s crown came to pass. When Russell’s name was announced as the winner, I simply said in a disappointed voice, “Oh no…” It was a let down, to see Jakob lose, when I feel like he deserved to win so much more than anyone else. Who but Jakob was consistently excellent and in tune with his performances and the audience? Who else wowed the crowd every time he stepped on stage? That being said, I am thrilled for Russell, and his reaction to the news of winning was a joy to see. He was so overwhelmed with excitement, and he certainly worked hard all season. There’s no arguing that he grew from the beginning of the season to the end, but it wasn’t necessarily always forward progress. I love that his parents seem so supportive, too.

So yes, I was bummed that Jakob didn’t win, because I thought maybe this was finally going to be the season that the best dancer was also America’s favorite dancer. But, I actually loved everyone in this final six, and Russell may benefit more from winning than Jakob would have. (Like Nigel said, Jakob needs to join a dance company pronto and become even more amazing.) I should also mention that I was proud of Kathryn for coming in third. She was a solid contestant all season, but somehow stayed under the radar. I think she was very deserving of that third place. I am considering going to see these guys perform on tour, so if I do, I’ll be sure to post about it.

So that’s it for my season 6 SYTYCD coverage. I’ll be back with more recaps, reviews, and rants in June, when season 7 kicks off. Hopefully my tv viewing schedule will be less cluttered then so that I’ll have more energy and enthusiasm about the show. How did you feel about the final results?

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SYTYCD Season 6: The Top 6 Perform December 16, 2009

I wish the producers could have figured out a way to fit one more week of episodes in, so that we could have had the traditional final four performance show. Instead, we got a top six, with nine performances, no explanatory intros, no group dances, no guy/guy or girl/girl dances, and only one hour of dancing. It seems wrong that the contestants didn’t have a chance to dance their solos before the final votes were cast. I hope we’ll see some additional new performances on the final results show, but who knows if there will be time, with all the musical guests that will be appearing. I’m looking forward to Adam Lambert, but do we really need to be subjected to Jennifer Lopez? So, yes, I guess I’m a little bitter about how the show has been tossed around amidst the busy fall schedule this season. Let this be a lesson to them to stay put where they belong – in the summer!

Thankfully (for you), I won’t be Debbie Downer about the actual performances from last night, which aside from the weird post-mod one that Ryan and Ellenore did, were worthy of a grand finale. Here we go.

Round One – Russell was the winner of this round by a landslide, after his memorable lyrical jazz performance

  • Kathryn & Ryan (Samba) – “Magalenha,” Sergio Mendes – This may have been the first time all season that I was more impressed with Ryan than with his partner. He needed a strong performance to prove he deserved to be in the finale, and I think this was it. Kathryn also did very well. They were both very jungle-esque and sharp with their movements. 
  • Ellenore & Jakob (Broadway) – “I Gotcha,” Fosse – I liked this performance – no surprise, really, since it involved Jakob. But Ellenore was the main focal point. She looked great, was almost completely in character, and danced her heart out. She and Jakob make a great pair, and they looked like they were fresh off of Broadway.
  • Ashleigh & Russell (Lyrical Jazz) – “Angel Standing By,” Jewel – The moment this performance began, Russell became the star of the night, and leaped ahead of the competition. He was simply amazing and beautiful to watch. I was so moved that tears came to my eyes. I agree with Nigel and others that Ashleigh was simply a background dancer to Russell, so I don’t have much to say about her, except that the two had great chemistry and trust.

Round Two – Again, the winner is Russell, for his memorable Paso Doble. Ellenore would be tied with him for this round if the jazz hadn’t canceled out her paso doble.

  • Ellenore & Ryan (Jazz) – “Kontakt Me,” Boyz Noise – I think they did a great job with this emotionless robot number, but haven’t the choreographers learned by now that the contestants receive more votes, especially during the finale week, when they emotionally connect with the audience? I’m afraid this dance may have moved Ellenore to the bottom of the pack, where Ryan was already going to be. (I’ll be shocked if he’s not the first person asked to leave the stage…)
  • Ashleigh & Jakob (Foxtrot) – “Let the Good Times Roll,” Chuck Brown & Eva Cassidy – This was pretty, and it was nice to see this power couple back together, but I agree with Nigel that the choreography was too easy for this point in the competition. Why even throw a Foxtrot into the finale. No one votes for Foxtrots! It’s like the producers were trying to slow down Jakob’s momentum to give the other contestants a chance to beat him.
  • Ellenore & Russell (Paso Doble) – “Village Attack,” Blood Diamond – Ellenore made up some ground for her previous dance by starting off strong on this one. Her silhouetted figure was perfect, from her dress to her hand movement. But then, out stormed Russell, sliding into view on his knees, and took away her glory. I’m telling you, it really seems like the producers were doing everything they could to make this Russell’s night. But despite any conspiracy on their part, Russell consistently delivered the goods. He was excellent in this piece, and just kept his momentum going. Ellenore kept up with him and looked beautiful in the process, but he was the star.

Round Three – Jakob returned to his pedestal in this round, and at least for the moment, is at the top of the pack. His contemporary performance showcased his technique, his natural talent, and his showmanship.

  • Kathryn & Jakob (Contemporary) – “At This Moment,” Michael Buble – I highly anticipated the Desmond Richardson/Dwight Rhoden routine from the minute I spotted them in the studio audience. They are the dance legends who choreographed Will and Katee’s memorable pas de deux during season four. This dance lived up to my expectations. It was breathtaking, and chock full of emotion. (Sigh…) Kathryn and Jakob had great chemistry, but this was Jakob’s ultimate moment of the season, in my opinion. He had the opportunity to showcase his seemingly limitless talent, from the intricate movements to his full investment in the character. I was completely sold at the end when he pounded his fists (and his body) against the floor and then curled up into a ball. He is just so good. This performance, along with everything else he has done this season, is proof enough for me that he deserves to be this season’s winner.
  • Ashleigh & Ryan (Contemporary) – “I’m There Too,” Michelle Featherstone – What a special moment for this married couple. Not only did they finally get to dance together on the show, but it was choreographed by Travis Wall, the master of emotional storytelling through dance. He gave them a chance to share tender moments on the stage, and it was so tender that I almost felt like we shouldn’t be watching this intimate moment between them (even though it was completely G-rated). Obviously they were moved as well, since they were both crying by the end. All that being said, the performance didn’t blow me away. It was too intimate for me to really connect with the performance. They were totally in tune with each other, but not at all with the audience. Still, this will be a popular (and rightly so) dance on the tour, unless the producers opt to let them dance ballroom together instead. It would have given them an unfair advantage to let them dance their own style during the finale.
  • Kathryn & Russell (Hip-Hop) – “I Can Transform Ya,” Chris Brown (f. Lil Wayne & Swiss Beats) – After a couple of lackluster numbers late in the season, Tabitha and Napoleon redeemed themselves with this entertaining and hard hitting hip hop routine. Russell was totally on, and obviously comfortable in his element. (Again, the producers were giving him every opportunity to shine. I mean, not only did he get hip hop, but he got to close the show with it, so that the judges’ praise of him was fresh on the audience’s mind when they picked up the phone to vote.) Kathryn held her own, but Russell was on a different level all night.

My Favorite Performances

  • Jakob and Kathryn’s Contemporary – In fact, this may be my favorite performance of the season.
  • Ashleigh and Russell’s Lyrical Jazz – This was my second favorite of the night. It was outstanding, but mostly on Russell’s end, whereas Jakob and Kathryn were more equally matched choreography and performance wise in their contemporary piece.

Who Will Win?

If the winner were based solely on tonight’s performances, on a round by round basis, it would be Russell, since he beat Jakob two rounds to one. But, we all know that most people base their votes on everything that the contestants have done during the season – as they should! Russell was one of my early favorites, but until recently I had found many of his performances lackluster. Maybe Noelle is to blame, since she was a lackluster partner. Once the couples were split up, we saw him excel in many different styles. Jakob, on the other hand, has consistently wowed me from start to finish of the season. Kathryn has been a solid performer, but she has always been missing some of the personality that the others have. Ashleigh was one of my favorites in the first half of the season, but once she and Jakob were split up, she fell off my radar a bit. Ellenore had a string of bad luck in the early weeks as she was shuffled from partner to partner, but she was excellent these past few weeks, when it really matters. However, she didn’t stand out as much during this finale. And that leaves Ryan, who seems the only contestant out of place in this group. He probably should have gone home a couple of weeks ago, but I’ve actually enjoyed watching his performances since then, so he’s made the most of his extra time.

Here’s how I think the countdown should go on the final results:

  • Ryan
  • Ashleigh
  • Ellenore
  • Kathryn
  • Russell
  • Jakob – Winner! (fingers crossed…)

Of course I think Jakob should win, but I’m a little nervous that Russell may steal his crown! I had decided to vote for both of them last night, but to call in more times for Jakob. Well, the line was busy some of the times I called for Jakob. But here’s the thing: I was never able to get through for Russell! And I tried from time to time over the course of an hour. I’ll be shocked if Jakob and Russell aren’t the last two standing. I guess I’d be happy with any of these contestants winning, since I love all of them, but I really think the title of America’s Favorite Dancer should go to Jakob. What do you think?

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SYTYCD Season 6: The Top 10 Perform December 2, 2009

This week’s episode was a vast improvement on last week’s sub par performances and choreography. With all the “so so” dancers out of the way, we were treated to a high level of excellence, and I was also quite pleased with most of the new pairings. In my opinion, Ellenore had her best week yet, and was the star of the night, between her solo and her amazing performance of Sonya Tayeh’s jazz piece. I was also impressed by Russell’s solo, and actually much preferred him paired with Mollee than with Noelle. Ellenore and Jakob were the standout couple of the night, whereas Noelle and Ryan were the most lackluster. They may need to start packing their suitcases for the trip home…

I enjoyed the glimpses into the contestants’ lives outside the show that we saw before their solos. I wish we’d get more of that, since it helps us understand more about who they are. It is clear that most of these dancers’ parents have been very supportive in their children’s desires to have a career in dance. Russell’s mom and dad were so sweet and proud of him, and it was nice to see Legacy’s dad “dancing” in the audience, supporting his son. It’s kind of crazy that Ellenore’s parents moved to New York for her, but it does seem like they made the right decision. All these segments just go to show how important family support is in pursuing a challenging goal. (Wiping away tears now…) Let’s get on with the show.

The Couples’ Performances

  • Noelle & Ryan
    • “Give It to Me Right,” Melanie Fiona (Hip-Hop w/ Tabitha & Napoleon D’umo) – The desk motif reminded me of Sabra and Neil’s fantastic Mandy Moore jazz routine from season three, but Ryan and Noelle didn’t live up to that standard. 
    • “Jeux D’eau,” Cirque du Soleil (Smooth Waltz w/ JT Thomas & Tomas Mielnicki) – They did a good job, but I agreed with Nigel that Noelle’s neck and shoulders were too stiff. She looked uncomfortable.
  • Ashleigh & Legacy
    • “Poison,” The Prodigy (Contemporary w/ Garry Stewart) – I was surprised when Nigel raved about the choreography, because I was very bored by it! Maybe it was an intense workout for them, but it’s not very exciting to watch a bunch of rolling around on the floor. I didn’t “get” what it was supposed to be about. (I really missed the explanatory intros that we usually get to each performance.)
    • “Slow Down,” Bobby Valentino (Hip-Hop w/ Dave Scott) – Um, no. I could have done without the old school vampire cape, and the fru fru costume that Ashleigh was wearing. Last week Dave Scott gave us Alexander Graham Bell inventing the telephone, and this week he gave us a dancing Bella Lugosi. He needs to step up his game and stop depending on weak gimmicks in his routines, or he won’t be invited to the show anymore. The judges tried to tip toe around it, but they basically told Dave that this wasn’t good enough for a top ten performance show. So, it’s not really Legacy and Ashleigh’s fault, but nevertheless this performance was forgettable.
  • Kathryn & Nathan
    • “Choreography,” Danny Kaye (Broadway w/ Spencer Liff) – Aw, these two were really cute together. This performance was, in my opinion, one of the best Broadway pieces ever on the show, and they sold it perfectly. It was nice to see Nathan look like he was actually having fun, rather than the fake smile that we’ve seen in most of his performances.
    • “Walk on By,” Aretha Franklin (Rumba w/ Tony Meredith & Melanie LaPatin) – I enjoyed this one, too. I disagree with the judges about the chemistry. I thought they had a good vibe between each other, although I will say that there were moments when Nathan slipped out of character and looked nervous that he was going to forget his next steps. Did you notice the evil look on Melanie’s face when Nigel criticized her and Tony for not making this “ballroom” enough? She certainly wasn’t happy about it!
  • Ellenore & Jakob
    • “Four Brothers,” Manhattan Transfer (Quickstep w/ Tony Meredith & Melanie LaPatin) – Yay! I was so glad to see Ellenore and Jakob together. They worked really well as dance partners! This quick step was so much better than Peter and Pauline’s painful to watch attempt earlier this season, and I’d say it’s one of the best ever on the show. They kept their composure, moved their feet a mile a minute, and still managed to look like they were enjoying themselves.
    • “Tore My Heart,” OONA and Dave Tweedle (Contemporary w/ Sonya Tayeh) – What an angry song, and what an emotionally charged performance! I wholeheartedly agree with everything the judges said: that this was an amazing performance, that it showcased Ellenore’s weirdness and Jakob’s showmanship and technique, and that it was one of Sonya’s best. I loved when Ellenore was “stuck on the wall,” all the times that Jakob tossed her across the stage, and when she went into convulsions. All so weird and wonderful. This couple hit the jackpot, and will certainly be safe tonight.
  • Mollee & Russell

    • “It Must Have Been Love,” Roxette (Lyrical Jazz w/ Mandy Moore) – I love this song, and thought it was a sweet routine. Russell and Mollee worked well together (and somehow Mollee didn’t seem as doll-like and cutesy partnered with him. It wasn’t perfect – some of the strength moved seemed labored – but overall I thought they did a good job.
    • “Land of 1000 Dances,” Jimmy Barnes (Jive w/ Anya Garnis & Pasha Kovalev) – This was really fun! Of course, I’m biased since it was choreographed by my favorites, Anya and Pasha. I was surprised to see them in charge of a jive, but as long as we get to see them, I don’t care what the style is. This was a super charged, fun routine, and Russell and Mollee’s enthusiasm was contagious.

The Solos

  • Mollee Gray (“Rock the Beat,” LMFAO) – Bleh.
  • Russell Ferguson (“Outros,” Black Milk) – Loved it! Russell was one of my early favorites, but his performances had been lackluster for awhile now, until this week. He stormed out of the gates with this solo! So much intensity, matched with star power and technique. You can tell the studio audience felt his competitive energy, and I certainly felt it at home. I picked up the phone and voted for him based on this solo, which to me was the best individual performance of the night.
  • Noelle Marsh (“Every Time It Rains,” Charlotte Martin) – I don’t have anything to say about this. Noelle just doesn’t seem to be at the same level as these other dancers. Why is she still here?
  • Ryan Di Lello (“Rock You Like a Hurricane,” The Scorpions) – Ballroom solos are always difficult, but he certainly gave it his all and made it entertaining.
  • Kathryn McCormick (“Beautiful,” Bethany Dillon) – So pretty. I really do love Kathryn, so I feel bad that I thought so little of her when the season started, when all I had to go on was her silly high pitched crying. She is a beautiful girl who is so graceful and fully invested in her performances. I hope she goes a long way this season.
  • Nathan Trasoras (“Golden Train,” Justin Nozuka) – I actually liked his solo from last week better, but this one was interesting, and he was very into it. I’m thinking he had some real life issues upsetting him this week, because he cried an awful lot and looked very upset during all of the judges’ comments on his and Kathryn’s performances. Maybe he is homesick, or maybe the stress of the competition is getting to him. Poor guy. I hope that whatever it is can be resolved soon!
  • Ellenore Scott (“Beatbox Harmonica,” Yuri Lane) – Ellenore had the best female solo, and the second best overall, with only Russell ahead of her. I am loving her more every week.
  • Legacy Perez (“No Air,” Jordin Sparks & Chris Brown) – Nicely done, b-boy, nicely done. He managed to seamlessly weave his tricks in with a story that matched the song.
  • Ashleigh Di Lello (“Batucada Por Favor,” Bob Azzam) – Her solo had a lot of pizzazz. She didn’t have a great night, though. I think that she was hurt more by losing her partnership with Jakob, whereas he was able to still shine this week with Ellenore.
  • Jakob Karr (“Always Midnight,” Pat Monahan) – I was expecting more from his solo, and while it was technically excellent, I don’t think he tried very hard. He’s probably betting that his and Ellenore’s contemporary routine will be enough to get people to pick up the phone and vote for him, and he’s probably right.

Top Performances

  • Jakob and Ellenore’s Contemporary
  • Kathryn and Nathan’s Broadway
  • Mollee and Russell’s Jive

Who’s in Danger? – I can’t remember how the elimination show will work tonight. Will there be four dancers in the bottom, or six? Based on last night’s individual performances, I think the following dancers are in trouble:

  • Noelle
  • Ryan
  • Ashleigh
  • Nathan

I think it’s time for Noelle and Ryan to go home. We’ll find out what happens soon enough.


Glee 1.10: Ballads November 19, 2009

Filed under: Glee,Music,Television — Emily @ 2:32 pm
Tags: , ,

This week’s episode of Glee was one of my favorites yet. While some of the episodes have struggled to find the right balance of “funny” and “sweet,” this one was perfect. I laughed, I cried, I tapped my foot, and after the credits rolled I was singing the ballads that were so entertaining. My only complaint is that we didn’t get our weekly dose of Jane Lynch, aka Sue Sylvester. Maybe she needed a week off to get her edge back, after going soft in the last episode.

The best way to dissect this episode is to look at the ballads, since these songs reflected the characters’ struggles, triumphs, and awkward dilemmas:

Rachel and Mr. Schuester sing "Endless Love"

  • “Endless Love” – Rachel and Mr. Schuester kicked off the glee club’s ballad assignment by singing Rachel’s favorite ballad – a song that turned out to be highly inappropriate for her to be singing with her teacher, and which set off a major crush that led to many funny moments in the episode. I knew this would be a special episode when all the voice-overs started during this song; while most of the students were thinking about trivial things, Rachel was admiring Will’s eyes, and his dental hygiene. I loved Will’s reaction to the crazed look in Rachel’s eyes: his eyes got wider and wider, and the look on his face became more and more uncomfortable. It was so at odds with the song lyrics, that it was highly entertaining. Meanwhile, their duet was fantastic. All in all, this segment worked well on many different levels.
  • “I’ll Stand by You” – I like this song, and I liked Finn’s performance of it. It was silly, yet sweet, that he was singing to the ultrasound video of the baby, but for the audience it’s also a little sad, since that baby isn’t really his. The moment between him and his mom was touching – upon seeing the ultrasound video, she realized that Quinn was pregnant, and her reaction was to comfort her son, who had broken down in her arms. That was a much better parenting technique than the one we saw from Quinn’s mom and dad later in the episode.
  • “Don’t Stand So Close to Me/Young Girl” mash-up – This may have been my favorite moment of the whole episode. After Emma suggests that Will let Rachel down gently through a song, he performs a mash-up of Sting’s “Don’t Stand So Close to Me” and Gary Puckett’s “Young Girl.” First of all, what a fantastic mash-up it was, and second of all, Matthew Morrison once again gave an amazing performance. I loved how he was pleading for Rachel to understand his very clear message, through his dancing, his tone of voice, his looks of desperation, and most significantly, the lyrics. Of course, Rachel and Emma were both so enamoured with his performance that they didn’t notice the meaning. Speaking of Emma’s infatuation with Will, I am glad that the show has toned it down a bit. It is mostly a one-sided deal now, whereas for awhile Will seemed to be showing an interest in her.
  • “Crush” – What an awkward moment, when Rachel pushed “play” on the mix CD she made for her and Mr. Schuester, and started singing Jennifer Paige’s flirtatious “Crush.” The whole car ride was painfully awkward, but also amusing.
  • “Having My Baby” – Speaking of awkward, what a way to break the news of their teenage daughter’s pregnancy to two prim and proper parents: serenading the whole family in the middle of dinner with a Paul Anka song that includes lyrics like “I can see it, your face is glowing” and “the seed inside you, can you feel it growing.” In the midst of the song it was funny, but as soon as Quinn’s parents turned a cold shoulder it became very sad. It really wasn’t Finn’s place to tell them the news, but I guess we’re supposed to think that Quinn needed his support and didn’t have the strength to do it alone. Once again, Finn’s mom came through and offered to let Quinn stay with them as long as she wants to, after Quinn’s parents kicked her out.
  • “Lean on Me” – After an episode full of ups and downs, crushes and crushing moments, it was nice to end with such an uplifting, sweet moment. The whole glee club showed their support for Quinn and Finn by singing the ultimate friendship song. “Lean on me, when you’re not strong, and I’ll be your friend, I’ll help you carry on…” I loved the camaraderie that was represented through this song – despite all the people giving Quinn and Finn a hard time, they have their glee club buddies to depend on. Sniff, sniff. And they sang every last drop out of the music and lyrics. I was ready to stand up and sing along with them, but I didn’t, because then I wouldn’t have been able to appreciate their voices! After hearing Amber Riley (Mercedes) singing the national anthem at the World Series, I have an even greater respect for her voice and overall star power. Those American Idol contestants wouldn’t stand a chance competing against her! “Lean on Me” was a great ending to a great episode.

The main non-singing related aspect of the episode that I enjoyed was Sarah Drew’s guest starring role as Suzy Pepper. She was worlds away from her role as the soft-spoken and sweet, but level-headed Hannah on Everwood. I was amused that she is still playing high school student roles, even though she’s nearly 30 years old. She was great as the neurotic, hot pepper-eating, student who had never gotten over her out of control crush for Mr. Schuester. I’d love to see more of this character on future episodes.

What did you love about this episode? Am I the only one that thinks it was one of the best yet, or was it really that good?