Thursday, March 20, 2008

Table Topics - American Idol

Season 7 of American Idol is well underway with our final 10 named during last night's elimination show. I have to admit after a yawner of a year last season, this is definitely a breath of fresh air. I'll go on record now that my top two favorites are Brooke White and David Archuletta. But, we actually have good talent to choose from so the race should heat up quickly. I'm not sad to see Amanda (Elvira the Rocker) gone as her arrogant attitude was wearing thin. And, although Ramiele Malubay (Ramen Noodle) has her good moments, it's time for her to join the ranks of the departed. Sadly, she'll be on the Top 10 tour.

The last two weeks almost caused disaster with a repeating music theme - the Beatles. Newsflash: We're looking for the next American Idol, not the next American Beatle. The rights to the Beatles songbook were recently acquired by the American Idol team and although the first night was great, the second time around was disappointing. And, I wonder what music theme got the boot when the producers made the call at the last minute to stroll down Abbey Road again?

That brings me to today's Table Topic - American Idol music themes. This year, the two themes I've longed for have finally happened. During the top 24 showdown, we had an 80's night theme. I graduated high school in 198 - cough - 3 and am proud to be considered cool by all the college kids who think the 80s are hip. It was great to see those songs featured. Then, last night Ryan announced the upcoming music mentors and the theme I've waited 7 seasons for is finally happening - Dolly Parton. I don't care if you love Country music or not, you can't help but love Dolly Parton. She is a legend.

Although I've enjoyed the swing tunes theme and was completely pumped about Barry Manilow night a couple of seasons ago, there are some songs that need to be retired. If I never hear another rendition of a Gloria Estefan song, I won't be disappointed. The minute Ricky Minor and the band hits that first note of "Conga" I roll my eyes. Her music wears me out. And just because Simon Cowell loves "Unchained Medley" doesn't mean you have the pipes to sing it.

So, here's today's question....

What American Idol music theme night would you like to see?

I have to say that a part of me would love the producers to bust out a gospel night and really see how many of these contestants can let it fly. I still remember dancing to Mandisa's "Shackles" song even though Simon referred to it as indulgent. Maybe one season American Idol can poll the audience to submit their music theme ideas and the whole season would be developed by the fans. I mean, that's what this show is all about, right? Making fans happy?

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Save the Last Dance For Me

My parents fell in love to the music of Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, and all the other smooth sounds of the Rat Pack era. When I was growing up I thought all those songs were for "old timers" but then I heard a man named Harry Connick, Jr., sing some of those songs back in the 80s and what I once thought was geeky quickly became cool.

I love most all music genres, but the one I never tire of plays endlessly on my Pandora radio: Harry Connick, Jr., Diana Krall, Michael Buble' mixed in with Frank Sinatra, Mel Torme, and Dean Martin. Those soothing songs relax me and aside from songs that tell the gospel story, they rank at the top of my list.

About four years ago, I suprised my friend, Jan, with tickets to see Harry Connick, Jr. for her birthday. It was a fabulous concert and one of those nights that make a lifelong memory. Well, when it was announced last year that Michael Buble' was coming to Louisville on March 14, we both salivated at the prospect of going, yet neither of us had the excess funds to put towards the pricey tickets. Jan would periodically remind me, "We're going!" Yeah, right, Jan. One day, though, she shocked me. Her sweet Mom, Monica, had purchased two tickets for Jan as a Christmas present for both of us to go. The countdown began.

Last night, the evening had come to witness Buble' in action. The venue was Freedom Hall, our largest indoor arena here, but an "intimate setting" was promised for the event. We arrived, picked up our tickets and headed to our Section 338. They were about as far away from the stage as you could get (as verified by the fact there were few people in our general area.) But, we were pumped to be there and figured we could sing as loud as we wanted to and wouldn't disturb anyone. At a few minutes after 8pm, the opening act, Naturally 7, began. They were 7 guys (clever, eh?) who sang and also used their voices to create the sounds of instruments. We were laughing and enjoying the evening and ready for the star of the show.

As Naturally 7 ended, the lights came up and we prepared for the reason we were there. About that time, the usher came up to us and spoke words that forever would change our night. "Ladies, we had a group of tickets on the floor we just couldn't sell. So they asked us to offer them to those of you in this section. If you'd like to move to the floor, you can." Jan looked at me and I didn't hesitate. "Thanks! We'd love to!" We didn't need anything else to fuel our excitement, but this just about put us over the edge.

The concert was even more amazing than I expected. I'll admit that I've been a fan of Harry much longer than Michael and didn't know if Buble' could pull a concert off as well as Connick. But, he made me a believer. With a full orchestra and the almost uncanny mix of Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, and Elvis Presley, he was unbelievable as a singer and entertainer. I won't be as bold on here to give my very fleshly commentary of Michael Buble', but let me just say, you have to thank God for creating all that is Michael Buble'. If only he was a Christian, I'd marry that man.

There are many highlights from the concert, but probably my favorite was his singing of the hit song, "Home." As he dashingly sat perched on his stool crooning to me (and 6999 other folks), the video rolleing behind him highlighted various Louisville landmarks. I'm a hometown 'Ville girl, and that just hit the spot.

Until a godly man strolls into my life with an appreciation of this throwback to the "good ole days," I'm saving my last dance for Michael...

Friday, March 07, 2008

Eternal Home Makeover

A few weeks ago, Extreme Makeover: Home Edition featured a family from right here in my hometown of Louisville. The Hughes family has been an inspiration around here from the time the city heard his story. It wasn't until Ty Pennington and his team came to town that the rest of the world got to witness the story of this amazing young man.

Here's a video featuring Patrick's story...

Patrick was born without eyes and with a crippling disease that has kept him wheelchair bound. But neither of those disabilities has kept him from his dreams. At a young age, he had a love for music and became quite the musician playing various instruments including the trumpet and the piano. When he went to the University of Louisville and joined the marching band, his Dad made sure he was at every rehearsal and performance to make sure Patrick could participate like every other band member. A Dad who feels like his life is blessed, yet he gives sacrificially so his son can live out his dream.

When the team demolished and rebuilt the Hughes home, it was quite an event around here. Our local stations followed the construction, buses shipped people hourly to the site, and we watched as a 19-year old boy brought tears to all of our eyes. Although I don't normally watch Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, I made sure to record this episode. It doesn't take a lot for me to cry, so watching this episode was probably going to be a two-boxer (of Kleenex, that is).

Not only did the Hughes family get a home makeover, but the UofL marching band got a renovated practice field, named in honor of Patrick. When the final home reveal happened after the "Move that bus!" proclamation, Patrick was handed a model of the home to feel and understand how the home was designed. No more would his wheelchair scratch the walls as the entire home was wheelchair accessible. Patrick even had his own wing so he can begin to live more independently.

Patrick made a comment on the episode about his new home. He said in his mind he envisioned an extraordinary mansion and it was far beyond what he imagined. That statement has stuck with me more than anything else from that episode. As a Christian, I have the confidence that one day, I will have an extraordinary mansion that is far beyond what I can imagine...

"In My Father's house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you." - John 14:2

As wonderful as my home is here on earth, the thought of a mansion beyond what I can envision is almost unfathomable. That is truly an Eternal Home Makeover.