At long last the spring issue of Wild Violet is online.
The theme for this issue is passion, explored through poetry, essays, humor and fiction. It's an appropriate theme for springtime, when emotions surge as the ground thaws.
The spring issue (Vol. VII Issue 1 - Vernal Urge) features:
Poetry by Joanna Weston, Loraine Campbell, Emmanuel Agrapidis, Anna Sykora, Suzanne Richardson Harvey, Ricky Garni, Sheri Fresonke Harper, Chris Crittenden, Peter Layton, Dan Reynolds, Jenn Blair and Hari Bhajan Khalsa.
Fiction by Gordon Ross Lanser, David McGrath, Timothy A. Faller, Don Crawford and Raghbir Dhillon.
Humor by Vince Lowry, G. David Schwartz and James Bellarosa.
Essays by G. David Schwartz.
Flash fiction and short verse by Peggy Duffy, Alice Folkart, Robert Johnson, Changming Yuan, Phoebe Wilcox and Matthew David Wachsman.
In addition, there is coverage of the Belgrade International Film Festival and the Philadelphia Film Festival, and an interview with science-fiction author Charles Stross. So follow your urge and check it out!
This week, the American Idol finalists each performed two songs by Neil Diamond.
FOX Broadcasting, 2008
Because the show was only an hour long, the judges did not provide individual feedback during the first round but rather just a summary of observations about all five finalists. For the second group of songs, they did judging the regular way.
Kicking off the night, Jason Castro chose (perhaps predictably) "Forever in Blue Jeans." He went straight for his comfort zone, playing along with his guitar, dressed in a white patterned button-down and (of course!) blue jeans. After a bad first note, he grew more comfortable. He still had some trouble with mic technique, breathing loudly into the mic. Overall, his sweet, light version was pleasant but sounded very dated.
Next up, rocker David Cook did "I'm Alive," with his electric guitar, dressed in a black pin-striped jacket, red shirt and jeans. His version captured the energy of the original but gave it a contemporary feel. I'm sure that Neil Diamond, who has always walked the line between folk and rock, appreciated this version.
Predictably, Brooke White chose "I'm a Believer" as her first song. She wore shiny silver pants and a ruffled slate gray shirt, playing her guitar. Her version had a little bit of a country flavor but wasn't different enough from the original to stand out. Plus, she had a few rough runs in the middle and even threw in a "woo." Surely, she's no Davy Jones.
David Archuleta's first selection was "Sweet Caroline," and he sang it wearing a black button-down shirt over a black-and-white striped T-shirt, with jeans. This was a much more upbeat song than he usually does, and it was very bouncy and a little jazzy. He effectively captured the joy of the lyrics, though it wasn't his best, musically.
Syesha Mercado ended the first round with "Hello Again," in a deep purple knee-length dress, sitting on stage and smiling broadly. Her performance was sort of syrupy, and she fell flat in the middle. She also had a little trouble with the key change. I think I've finally put my finger on the reason Syesha doesn't impress me more. She's a talented actress, and more of her performances feel a little too polished, like she's playing a role. It just doesn't strike me as genuine somehow.
To sum up the first round, judge Randy Jackson said that Jason was just OK, that David Castro was in the zone, that Brooke sounded a little karaoke, that David Archuleta was the bomb and that Syesha was nice, strong and amazing. Nice judge Paula ABdula commented that she loved Jason's lower register but thought there was some charm missing from David Cook's performance. Then she got wildly off-track and seemed confused about what she was supposed to be doing. Tough judge Simon Cowell called Jason forgettable, David Cook just above average, Brooke a nightmare, David Archuleta amateurish and Syesha old-fashioned. And it was on to round two.
For his second song, Jason chose "September Morn." He sang it sitting on a stool. While he was earnest singing this ballad, there wasn't much depth to his performance. It was, however, better than his first number.
Randy called it just OK and said it was definitely not the best. Paula complimented him for taking some liberties but said that he'd played it safe. She counseled him to get outside of his comfort zone. Simon said that he didn't recognize him, that he wasn't the same guy he'd put in the competition. He criticized him for making no attempt to make the song his own, and he called both songs forgettable.
Playing acoustic guitar, David Cook performed "All I Really Need Is You." He started out with an almost breathy performance, gathering strength as the song grew. His performance was captivating in the middle, and this song could very easily be a hit on today's charts.
Randy gushed over him, saying he'd rocked the house and that it was "blazing." Paula said that he was the only one who was able to make the songs contemporary. She said she felt like she was already looking at the American Idol. Simon said the first song was OK, the second song was brilliant. He complimented him for making it feel like it was written this year.
On piano, Brooke did "I Am... I Said," which was a little better of a choice for her but still sounded dated. On Neil Diamond's advice, she made a change to lyrics which actually produced a logical flaw. She sang, "I'm Arizona born and raised, but these days I'm lost between two shores. L.A.'s fine, but it ain't home. Arizona's home, but it ain't mine no more." I didn't know Arizona had a shore. Her performance was energetic at times, more so than she's ever been sitting at the piano.
Randy told her she was very vulnerable when she's behind the piano and that this song is tough to sing. He told her she'd done a nice job. Paula agreed that she didn't have fun with the first song but that this song showed her vulnerability. Simon said he'd hated the first song because it sounded like a girls' night out karaoke performance. He said that "this is the Brooke we like" and while it wasn't incredible, it was a million times better than the first song.
For his second performance, David Archuleta selected "America." While the lyrics can be very inspirational, it was another theme park performance for me, which didn't really take off until the end. He finished with power. I've been an Archie fan in the past, but my loyalties are definitely switching to the other David. Still, I think they should be the top two. Hopefully, America agrees.
Randy said that for a young man, he's definitely in the zone. He called it another good performance. Paula said it was the perfect song for him to sing. She said she likes his joy and spirit and called him brilliant. Simon called it a smart choice of song. He said it ticked all the boxes for his audience. He called the performance very good.
Capping off the night, Syesha did a soul version of "Thank the Lord for the Nighttime." She was much more relaxed and even danced, but this version didn't do anything for me. If you compare her to great soul singers like Aretha Franklin (or heck, even former finalist Jennifer Hudson), she's certainly not up to par.
Randy said that he thinks she's finally realizing who she is and that she's in the zone. Paula said that on the first song she'd been vulnerable and that the second song was more theatrical. Simon said that what she'd demonstrated is that she's a good actress/singer. I think that was a slight dig, since he put "actress" first. He said that she's in trouble tonight because she didn't have a really memorable second song.
Kudos to David Cook and David Archuleta. The rest of the finalists, while they didn't have an off night, didn't have the wow factor.
If Syesha escapes the bottom two, she may actually have Simon to thank, because he told her she might be in trouble tonight for not having a really memorable second song. If it's Brooke and Jason in the bottom two, I think Jason will go home for playing it safe.
Make it your own.