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'American Idol': Jessica Sanchez's and Phillip Phillips' coronation singles

For years, American Idol has focused on the fish out of water, reveling in making the country girl sing Queen or the soul singer take on Bon Jovi.

But that’s changed for the better since Interscope took over the music on Idol in 2010. Label head Jimmy Iovine and the rest of the crew now wisely choose to use the show as a platform to develop the strengths and core identities of its contestants, rather than throwing them out of their comfort zones for ratings’ sake.

Not that it means confining them to their genre; it’s been more about creative adjustments, like taking Whitney Houston’s “Where Do Broken Hearts Go” and making it a viable country platform for Southern girl Skylar Laine, or giving Eminem and Rihanna’s domestic-violence account “Love the Way You Lie” a piano-pop twist for the God-fearing Colton Dixon.

Perhaps that’s why this year’s coronation songs, “Change Nothing” by Jessica Sanchez and “Home” by Phillip Phillips, are so many miles away from the one-size-fits-all schmaltz of former Idol anthems like “Inside Your Heaven,” “I Believe,” or “No Boundaries” (which, for the record, I never thought was all that bad: especially when performed reggae-style).

Interscope has sent its fledgling Idols out into the music world with viable singles that forgo mentions of a “magic rainbow on the horizon” or  “flying without wings” — you know, things that modern, non-Idol viewers might listen to.

Sanchez and Phillips unveiled their new tracks last night, and although both sounded much more current than any other Idol winners’ single,  judges made it clear that they felt that only one of them had produced a potential hit. Randy Jackson boldly told Jessica Sanchez that he “did not love the song” and wished she’d chosen something more urban in the style of Beyoncé. Jennifer Lopez and Steven Tyler agreed. (Who knows how much Interscope pushed these singles on each finalist, but Sanchez did make it clear that “Change Nothing” was her single by choice.) Meanwhile, the judges gave Phillip Phillips a standing ovation for his performance of “Home.” “You were perfect tonight,” Tyler gushed.

But what did you think of the new Idol songs?

Give the studio versions of the two tracks a listen below, read my takes on each, and then sound off in the comments. READ FULL STORY

Album Review: Haley Reinhart's 'Listen Up!'


Haley Reinhart’s debut album Listen Up! hit stores on May 22. Below check out an extended online review of the American Idol alum’s set:

If there is one word that could be used to describe the vast majority of post-Idol debut albums, it’s “bland.” Thankfully, Season 10’s resident growler Haley Reinhart has delivered a debut disc that almost entirely defies that fate. Listen Up!, a vibrant neo-soul collection filled with blasting horns and funky ’60s grooves (and even some ’70s disco), takes full advantage of Reinhart’s remarkable voice, which can flip from bell-clear coo to throaty belt in an instant.

Tracks like “Wasted Tears” and “Hit the Ground Running” showcase Reinhart’s sassy delivery, while the plaintive ballad “Undone” and hopeful breakup lament “Free” reveal a refreshingly vulnerable side. Lyrically, Reinhart (who co-wrote every song on the album except “Free”) shifts between flirtatious come-on-overs and more aggressive naughtiness. “It’s been a while since I tapped into my appetite/But that hunger’s coming back tonight,” she sings to her chosen suitor (or is he a victim?) on sexy rocker “Spiderweb,” available on Listen Up‘s deluxe edition.

Occasionally, the album suffers from overproduction — bellowing echo chambers unnecessarily obscure her voice on the B.O.B. collab “Oh My!” — but that’s a minor quibble for this ambitiously retro collection, which places the chanteuse in the same category as young old souls like Duffy, Fitz and the Tantrums, and Adele. B+

Download these:
Fiery independence anthem Hit the Ground Runnin’
Disco-tinged Now That You’re Here

More Idol reviews on
Kris Allen’s Thank You Camellia
Adam Lambert’s Trespassing
Carrie Underwood’s Blown Away

Adam Lambert's second album, 'Trespassing,' hits today: EW rides along on his promotional tour


What’s a typical day like for Adam Lambert? We tagged along with the the Idol alum turned Grammy-nominated solo star — whose second studio album, Trespassing, hits stores today — as he juiced, jogged, and hung with Jimmy Kimmel on a recent Thursday in Los Angeles.

1:06 a.m. Send early-morning tweet @adamlambert: “So excited to perform on @jimmykimmel tomorrow…er tonight. Thats my cue to get to sleep. See you all onstage! :)” Reply from @jimmykimmel three minutes later: “yes – GO TO SLEEP! (I am very demanding)”

10:30 a.m. Wake up, get juiced “I actually did a cleanse last week, and I have a juicer that I’m obsessed with. I try to have a fresh vegetable juice everyday. I did a mixture of beets, carrots, celery, apples, lemon, and ginger. All those things are supposed to be really good for you.”

11:30 a.m. Quick jog around the Hollywood Hills with his boyfriend, Finnish reality star Sauli Koskinen “I listened to some good music, moving around the neighborhood. It was dance music, to keep me on task.”


Adam Lambert announces 'Never Close Our Eyes' as second single from 'Trespassing': Is this a better direction for him?

Yesterday, Adam Lambert announced on Twitter that the second single from his delayed sophomore album Trespassing will be “Never Close Our Eyes.”

The album’s first officially released cut, “Better Than I Know Myself,” a melancholy pop-rock track that felt like a rejected Pink demo, failed to catch on with listeners and never muscled its way up the charts (it topped out at number 76 on the Billboard Hot 100).

“Never Close Our Eyes,” on the other hand, is lot more Glambert than Blandbert, and for that, we are thankful.

Granted, we have yet to hear a fully produced version of the new single, but a few acoustic live versions are floating around the net, which suggest that “Never” will fit into the Queen-esque pomp-rock style that fans enjoyed on Lambert’s debut For Your Entertainment.

Give the track a listen below: READ FULL STORY

Jury selection begins for trial of man accused of murdering Jennifer Hudson's family

A judge questions would-be jurors as jury selection begins in earnest Monday at the Chicago trial of the man accused of murdering singer and Oscar-winning actress Jennifer Hudson’s mother, brother and nephew. Selecting 12 jurors and six alternates able to set aside sympathy for the Hollywood star and assess guilt only according to evidence presented in court against William Balfour could pose a major challenge.

It’s expected to take two or three days to make final selections from among 150 prospective jurors. In a last step, each side can use pre-emptive strikes, usually around 10, to dismiss people from the jury pool without having to offer any reason. Judge Charles Burns will aim to weed out anyone who might be swayed by the 30-year-old Hudson’s celebrity, though he’s unlikely to automatically exclude Hudson fans if they can convince him their biases won’t affect their deliberations. Attorneys won’t necessarily share the judge’s goal, seeking, instead, to keep jurors likely to favor their arguments. READ FULL STORY

Kris Allen invites teens to embrace 'The Vision of Love' in new video -- See it here!


Headlines about bullying may continually dominate the news cycle, but Kris Allen hasn’t given up hope that people might learn to love each other.

In the just-released video for “The Vision of Love,” the first single off the eighth American Idol winner’s sophomore album, Allen pleads with youth to “stand for the vision of love” as clips are shown of an abused young man and an introverted teen girl.

The video suggests, optimistically, that “standing up” doesn’t need to be a dramatic, difficult action — one student puts a hand up and stops his friends from harassing another, while our lonely girl learns how to overcome her self-doubt simply by taking off her headphones and introducing herself.

Check it out below: READ FULL STORY

'American Idol' Scotty McCreery is college bound

Though he has a platinum album and was just named the Academy of Country Music’s New Artist of the Year, Scotty McCreery is still a youngster. After touring the U.S. with Brad Paisley last year, the 18-year-old reigning American Idol winner has chosen to keep it local when it comes to college — less-than-15-minutes-away local. According to the AP, he’ll attend North Carolina State University, where his father is an alum.

EW reached out to N.C. State to see about McCreery’s matriculation to “the Wolfpack.” Director of admissions Thomas Griffin admitted that McCreery’s admission was an unusual experience for the school, which has more than 34,000 students. “I don’t know of anybody coming in so well known initially. Most 18-year-olds don’t have the kind of exposure that someone like Mr. McCreery has,” he acknowledges. READ FULL STORY

Jennifer Lopez once again joins forces with Pitbull for new single 'Dance Again': Hear it here!

This season of American Idol has been weak on water cooler moments and breakout performances.

The biggest newsmakers are still the people sitting behind the judges’ table: Steven Tyler just announced that a new album and tour from his band Aerosmith, and now Jennifer Lopez has dropped a new single called “Dance Again.”

Lopez (who totally didn’t flash any of her naughty bits during the Oscar telecast) got her great career resurrection last summer with the single “On the Floor,” featuring a guest verse from Pitbull and production by RedOne. Clearly operating in the “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” idiom, Lopez once again sings over a buttery disco groove with an assist from Miami’s favorite bilingual MC.

Get hydrated, then listen below: READ FULL STORY

'American Idol' alum Haley Reinhart releases video for 'Free,' talks about her upcoming album


Last week, American Idol alum Haley Reinhart, the bluesy 21-year-old Chicago native who came in third place in Season 10, released her debut single “Free,” a hopeful breakup anthem set to a jazzy, thumping piano.

Now she’s got a snazzy new video to go along with it. Reinhart, who stopped by the EW offices earlier this week to chat about her new single and upcoming album, worked with director Christopher Sims to achieve a look that was both “very retro and modern.” Sims set the video in a vintage 1950s diner and “kind of put his spin — literally — on things,” Reinhart jokes.

The clip features our favorite growler in an array of throwback outfits pleading with her man, “I want to be free!”

Well, sorry girl, but he just really likes you (and those legs) — this breakup may take a while.  Check it out below: READ FULL STORY

David Archuleta announces two-year career hiatus

David Archuleta fans will have to start counting the days until 2014.

The American Idol runner-up is now starting that previously reported two-year break from his career to serve as a Mormon missionary in South America, he announced in an emotional video posted on YouTube yesterday.

Archuleta says he spent a “very emotional last week” with friends and family before going on to thank his fans for their support and to say goodbye (for now).

“I was able to have a lot of family and a lot of friends come. I gave my farewell, kind of last talk this Sunday to my neighbors, my friends and my family…It’s a decision everyone knows about but it’s a very personal thing and I wanted to keep it that way. So I hope you guys respect that, and you guys have so I appreciate that.”

“It’s going to be crazy,” he said. “I am going to South America, and I’m excited to be more part of Spanish culture and Latin culture.” Archuleta’s mother hails from Honduras.

Check out the singer’s taped farewell below, and say adios to Archuleta in the comments.


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