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American Idol Top 8

Many of the contestants took their performances to another level this week with songs from the 80’s.  The mentor was Gwen Stefani and did she look phenomenal, or what? My dear lord.  Her and her bassist, and Tony Kanal were an awesome addition to the show. They had some great ideas when it came to the arrangement and they were just super cool.  Here’s the breakdown on the performances this week:


DeAndre Brackensick – Yes, yes, yes.  First song by him that I actually enjoyed from beginning to end.   He covered Debarge’s ‘I Like It.’  A little raspy and low in sections and then he pulled out the falsetto in all the right places.  The performance should have been tolerable even for people that generally don’t like him.


Elise Testone – I really wanted to hear her version of ‘Hallelujah.’  I think it would have been sick.  We are so used to that song sounding angelic & soft but she could have made it into an awesome rock song with her style.  Instead she did Foreigner’s ‘I Want to Know What Love I'” & I think it was slow from the start and hard to get into.  The only thing remotely rememberable about the performance was the little run at the end, but even that is not comparable to what the other contestants accomplished this week.  Elise is always going to be fighting an uphill battle to get votes.  She has got to bring it every week to make it through.  I’m thinking this one just wasn’t enough.


Phillip Phillips – ‘That’s All’ by Genesis has such a cool vibe to it.  I thought the brother in law on guitar was a nice touch.  I have some concerns that he is doing the same thing week after week.  It’s not a bad thing, I like him and I won’t get sick of him ever.  He’s one of the only contestants that has a clear cut direction, and knows who he is as an artist.  But his style is most likely not the best fit for American Idol and his time is more limited than what I want to even think about.  I highly doubt he will be leaving the show this week but I have a hunch that he will be encouraged to reach out of his element on next weeks performance to garner support from the masses.  Now, if he will listen, who knows?  He’s hell bent on staying true to himself, which is great but what would be even better if the show and him could find some happy medium.


Joshua Ledet performed Simply Red’s, ‘If You Don’t Know Me By Now’ and sadly all I can think about is this has already been done before.  He does so many traditional songs and unfortunately because of all the music competition shows there are certain songs I don’t need or want to hear anymore.  This happened to be one of them.  Stefano Langone just did this last season on American Idol.  Which even though Joshua’s performance completely out-shined and exceeded anything Stefano did last season, I’m distracted by the past.  It’s such a petty thing to complain about but my point is… it’s been done.  I can’t sit here and deny his talent but I do not get excited by him.  There is something missing for me.  The power in his voice is all there but I want more ‘wow’ moments from him like his ‘When A Man Loves A Woman’ performance.


Jessica Sanchez – This girl and her alter ego talk about puts me over the edge.  But she has such a big voice and performs so well.  So, if she insists on accrediting her stage presence to her alter ego, I will just have to deal with it.  She did the uptempo ‘I Wanna Know’ by Whitney Houston.  Personally I appreciated the change of pace from last week.  Definitely not her strongest performance but the constant praise from the judges should put her through to next week.  It’s tough for the girls because viewers tend to vote for the guys but I’m really hoping the girls get to stick around this season because the ones that are left are pretty darn good.


Hollie Cavanagh – I wished for something like this performance, a little more movement, energy, some excitement.  She performed ‘Flashdance (What A Feeling)’ by Irene Cara.  I have a hard time criticizing her because she is putting in the effort.  I guess it just seemed so forced.  I hope she just gets some sympathy votes because the girl is trying.  If she is the one voted out I have a feeling the judges would use their save on her.  She has potential, definitely the biggest voice in the competition and deserves to hang around.


Colton Dixon – ‘Time After Time’ by Cyndi Lauper seems like an odd pairing but it worked.  The harmonies between him and Gwen during rehearsal were to die for, I wanted more of that.  Truly the minute they announced what he was performing, I knew it was going to be in the direction of Quietdrive.  Their cover is definitely worth checking out here.  It used to be one of my favorites.  I also thought it was cool that he credited the band for being his inspiration on the song.  Very cool, I dug the arrangement and it’s one of my favorite performances from Colton.


Skylar Laine decided it’s power ballad time and performed ‘Wind Beneath My Wings’ by Bette Midler.  I think this was perfect timing for a ballad.  I think her high energy was getting just a tiny bit overwhelming the past couple weeks so slowing it down was smart, really great song choice.  I thought it was captivating beginning to end.  It showed her vocal range, it was excellent.


The highlights this week have got to be the duets.  I enjoyed each and every one of them, I think they showcased the contestants talent, not to mention they were entertaining.  The contestants seem much more relaxed, which doesn’t make a lot of sense to me because the viewers at home at this point are judging their every move.  Stand out solo performances  I would say; Joshua (even though I really didn’t dig it) and Skylar.  My prediction of the bottom three is Hollie, Elise, & DeAndre.  I think Phillip is a possibility for bottom three this week, but I’m having a hard time uttering the words (but it’s bound to happen sometime).  If you’re going to watch anything from 80’s week just check out the duets, they are pretty darn rocking.

American Idol Top 9

This week the contestants chose songs from their Idols.  I loved seeing Stevie Nicks as the mentor, and getting to hear her sing in the rehearsals just melted my little heart.  Anyway, back to the competition, I think it’s always fascinating to see which artists the contestants take on.  What they decide to do this week gives us a chance to see what inspires their musical style and the direction that they might take after Idol.  And so it begins with…


Colton Dixon – A decent rendition of Lifehouse’s “Everything.”  It didn’t blow me away or anything crazy.  I’m familiar with Lifehouse, but I’m assuming the general AI audience doesn’t know this song, as I think I’ve only heard it a couple times.  What I find most interesting is the buzz going around saying that Idol has encouraged Colton to tone down his religion and yet he still makes it very clear that this is his favorite worship song.  I can certainly respect that and think its amazing that he is so open about his faith. Not sure how that translates to a general audience, so we’ll see.  With the Tim Tebow-esque ending of the song with him down on both knees, I wanted to hate it but, I felt something real.  Colton is the first AI has seen with the Christian-rock music background that I can remember, which is totally cool and could definitely play into his favor.


Skylar Laine – No surprise here that her Idol is Miranda Lambert and she took on “Gun Powder & Lead.”  I didn’t think the opening was very strong, I thought it was pitchy.  I thought she was drowned out by the background singers and band during the chorus.  She does have a lot of energy and I’m sure the live crowd felt that performance way more than we could at home.  She did nothing to make this song her own and I was not thrilled by this performance.  But she is a great performer and fun to watch.  I’m hoping she makes it through to another week.


Heejun Han – Zzzzz … He did Donny Hathaway’s “A Song for You” and this may have been his best vocal performance of the season, but this was a total snoozefest for me.


Hollie Cavanagh – I was surprised that she chose a country artist as her Idol.  Her cover of Carrie Underwood’s “Jesus Take The Wheel” was underwhelming and unusually pitchy for Hollie.  They finally dressed her a little better so she has that going for her.  The snow was slightly ridiculous, I get that the idea behind the song is the girl driving on an icy road, but I could definitely do without the snow.  I live in the midwest, it’s the end of March, I’m over the snow, come on.


DeAndre Brackensick – I was looking forward to this because I think he had a lot of potential with Eric Benet.  I had to go back and listen to the original “Sometimes I Cry” track because I don’t remember Eric Benet ever overwhelming me with his falsetto.  I don’t need a falsetto throughout a whole entire song.  And after awhile it starts to lose it’s value for me.  When I hear it I want to feel like I’m hearing something special.  DeAndre has got to be the most frustrating artist for me to watch in this competition. It’s like I hear these crazy beautiful notes come from him & sometimes they are truly unbelievable.  I just think this kid hasn’t found his niche.  I think he went a step in the right direction this week but he’s still lost, and sadly I don’t think he’s going to find himself before the competition ends.


Jessica Sanchez – She belts out Beyonce’s “Sweet Dreams”.  She talks about Beyonce’s alter ego and divulges the information that she has her own; B.B. Chez? Ooook girl, whatever you say.

Phillip Phillips – Cannot even begin to say how ridiculously happy I am that he did not go through with a DMB song because that was all the predictions for him this week.  Jonny Lang is one of my favorite artists of all time so I was super stoked to see Phillip take this on.  The arrangement of the song left something to be desired.  I have a hard time objectively critiquing Phillip because I am completely enamored with him.  When he takes the stage, I feel him.  His voice & style was perfect for this song but the arrangement warped this into more of a pop song.  The original has the coolest piano runs & fills and that was lacking in this performance.  So I was turned off by the way the track was arranged for Idol.  I also want to see him do more with his guitar, if I don’t see any exciting guitar licks that show he can play, whats the point in him having it?  I don’t know at the end of the day there is nothing this kid could do to disappoint me.  I just adore and love him.


Joshua Ledet – He took on the giant, Mariah Carey and sang “Without You.”  I wouldn’t go as far as saying it was flawless like the judges did.  If anybody saw Kelly Clarkson from Season 1 belt this out, they wouldn’t be too impressed with Joshua’s performance. But maybe that’s just my personal opinion.  When I floated around the web today to find the video to his performance I saw nothing but incredible feedback, that people were moved to tears.  So good for him, maybe he’s just not my cup of tea.  I couldn’t find his live performance on Youtube, but I have attached a studio version, which I am still on the fence about, I don’t know… you can tell me what you think about him.

Elise Testone – My girl Haley Reinhart was the first girl to bring Zeppelin to the Idol stage.  Elise performed “Whole Lotta Love” and this was completely unexpected from her, I didn’t see it coming.  I just feel like this girl is not that likable on stage.  If I put on her track and don’t watch the actual performance, I totally dig it.  I can’t deny that she was bringing it and she did a great job with the song.  I’m not convinced it was her idea to pull the Zepp card, she said she performs it with her band, but she didn’t do anything with the performance to make me believe Zeppelin is her Idol.  But either way she had a performance that was captivating, rocking and should keep her around for another week.


I really was into the group performances this week.  I think Hollie excelled with the Madonna material. It would have been so much cooler this week if she did a Madonna song as her Idol choice, that would have thrown everyone off.  It would have been edgy & it would have quickly changed her from boring old Pia Toscano… er, I mean Hollie to a potential contender.  But that’s just a random thought I felt like throwing out.


The must see performances this week are, Elise Testone & Phillip Phillips.  Nothing else, I don’t know why the judges gave five standing ovations.  The bottom 3 is a bit hard.  I’m going to make the strong assumption that Heejun Han is in the bottom three and out of the competition this week.  Joining him in the bottom three should be DeAndre Brackensick & Skylar Laine.

American Top 12

The Top 12… er, scratch that, Top 11 (more on this later) Idol contestants picked songs from their birth year for the show this week.  This is one of the few themes that I don’t mind because I think it’s a great way to introduce them and show a side of their personal life.  It also lets the contestants choose from a wide variety of genres.  So it’s a great opportunity to make song choices that fit their voices and that they will enjoy performing.  Not all take advantage of this chance, as we saw tonight many of them really struggled to find a song that excited them.  Which is perplexing to me.  If I were preparing to audition for American Idol I would be studying so much music and getting familiar with categories that I’m likely to come across.  But nevertheless you still have contestants (cough DeAndre) that essentially waste this week by doing safe songs that they are clearly not familiar with therefore end up looking very unenthused about even being on the stage.  But you can see for yourself, I stayed awake long enough that I have linked the videos of the performances to each of their names (unfortunately with the exception of Hollie, not sure why but I spent a lot of time digging and came up empty handed).


So the show kicks off with my man Phillip Phillips who is just too stinking charming, even as he’s passing kidney stones and needing surgery.  The song he did is originally an Otis Redding song, remade by the Black Crowes which apparently qualifies it as a song made in his birth year.  I won’t argue, it was a good fit for him.  He stepped out without his guitar and unlike moments with Paul McDonald last year, it wasn’t painful to watch.  This kid has it going on.  I was disappointed that he went first because it made the rest of the show seem like a chore to get through.


Jessica Sanchez – It’s certainly hard to believe that this girl is 16 years old.  She has a lot of swagger when she’s up on stage.  She’s extremely confident in what she’s doing.  I like that the judges gave her constructive criticism.  But I disagree when Steven says she shouldn’t stray far from ballads.  I didn’t mind the song choice of “Turn The Beat Around,” in fact I have never liked that song but she had my attention throughout and her delivery made me actually appreciate certain aspects of the arrangement of that song.  I like to see the contestants have fun, and to hear ballads week after week is borrrring!


Heejun Han – Oh dear, I believe this boy has planted himself in the bottom 3 this week with the subpar performance of Richard Marx “Right Here Waiting.”  It wasn’t terrible but it definitely wasn’t good either.  I haven’t decided yet if him announcing that his girlfriend was there was a sweet gesture or one that irritated me.  With the extent of my experience with young boy bands, I’m a strong believer in keeping the girlfriend out of the spotlight, haha!  Anyway I want to hear Heejun sing something in Korean.


Elise Testone – Whoa, biggest shocker of the night.  I threatened to move out of the country last week if she wasn’t the bottom girl.  And well, she was the bottom girl but she wasn’t eliminated & thank goodness because then we wouldn’t of been able to see such a dope performance from her.  I think she would be great doing a Joss Stone sounding record.  And last week is a perfect example why I hate theme weeks with artists like Whitney Houston.  Elise got buried last week, but definitely crawled up out of the hole for me with this rendition of Marvin Gaye’s “Lets Stay Together.”  It was like watching an entirely different performer.

DeAndre Brackensick – Oh what does this young boy know about ‘Endless Love?’  I just don’t know about the song.  Song choice is crucial for everyone but I think even more for him because his voice really relies heavily on emotion.  His falsetto you can feel in your bones when it’s genuine and when it’s not it is very anti-climatic and almost turns you off.


Shannon Magrane – I’m so dang proud of her for coming back this week and doing a Mariah Carey song.  She didn’t shy away from taking on a song with a big voice.  She did a great cover of ‘One Sweet Day.’  And fun fact about Shannon, her dad Joe played for the Cardinals and is from my home state.  I dig people from Iowa.


Colton Dixon – I didn’t know that White Lion song but I didn’t even care.  Steven Tyler seemed a bit crabby this evening.  He just straight up didn’t like the performance.  I wonder if it was because he was the only one who had heard the song prior to Colton’s version.  For me, there was nothing wrong with that performance.


Erika Van Pelt -ugh, girl… Bryan Adams, ‘Heaven’… really?  I hate this song.  Not sure why, never liked DJ Sammy’s techno version of it either.  There is not a singer in the world that could perform this in any way, shape, or form and make me like it.  I can’t even fairly make comments on her performance because I just plain don’t like it.

Jermaine Jones – So, search American Idol this week and most of what you will get is this guys name.  He’s getting all kinds of publicity for his 4 outstanding warrants and is it just me or is this slightly insane?  How does something like this get past the producers?  I was concerned that the show was airing the conversation where he is told he is no longer in the competition, it really runs on a fine line of bad taste to air that and could be looked at as a cheap way to get viewers to tune in.  And I think it’s shady that they brought this contestant back and just now found out about the warrants for his arrest.  So I’m not saying this all hasn’t been done for publicity however, I thought it was handled fantastically as far as what was aired.  And for the record, I’m not buying that all he did was fall down a flight of stairs and subsequently felt the need to give the police a fake name.  Onwards and upwards though, we are officially down to our Top 11.


Skylar Laine – “Love Sneaking Up On You” is not my favorite Bonnie Raitt song but in general the vibe fit Skylar really well.  She has the perfect blend of attitude and soul that she puts into all her performances.  She’s very entertaining to me.


Joshua Ledet – Uh hello!?  This cover of Michael Bolton “When a Man Loves a Woman” was awesome!  One of the few times I’ve seen the judges get out of their chairs for an actual good reason.  He blew me away, it was very cool to see.


Hollie Cavanaugh – I’m not a huge fan of this Celine Dion song.  It’s obvious that the girl can sing her butt off on any song.  She’s certainly impressive.  I thought her parents were adorable and I enjoyed seeing a softer side of her in the pre-performance interview.  I’m not sure who is styling her on the show but I am not a fan at all.  Tonight’s dress was ugly.


My bottom 3 prediction: Erika, Heejun & I guess DeAndre.  This week is slightly difficult to predict because overall I feel indifferent with just about all of the performances.  The 3 must see performances from this week are Elise, Joshua and for the last you can make the decision: Hollie, if you want to hear a power ballad, Phillip Phillips if you want to be entertained.

American Idol Top 13


Tis that time of year again folks.  Good to be back and writing in on the American Idol action… I think.  I rarely let myself suffer through the full episodes of the weeks prior to this one.  I have caught enough to enlist some of my favorites from the get-go.  I went social media crazy upon first glance of Phillip Phillips.  He makes me swoon.  I also really like Skylar Laine, and with a voice like Jessica Sanchez has, I have to put her in my top list.  Overall with the contestants this year I’m displeased and truly just underwhelmed.  Pretty sure I always feel this way but here goes another year…


There are so many successful singing competition shows now that each show has to really produce some interesting and just plain talented people to get people to tune in.  If you don’t do that there are so many other shows to tune into to get what you’re looking for.  Personality is such a huge part of being able to draw in the votes and captivating the audience when it comes to American Idol.  The other shows have a lot of production behind them, where AI is still pretty stripped down.  Which gives it sadly more of a karaoke feel I think.  However, sometimes on the X-Factor I feel like there is this whole production for an artist that is not even relevant.  The Voice probably does the best job of finding some balance and really highlighting the talent, vocally & otherwise.  But I digress, we are talking about Idol here.


Who’s idea was it for the poor girls to do Whitney Houston?  There’s a very small percentage of even the most successful female singers in the industry that can tackle such a great vocalist.  I felt bad for the girls actually, many of them hit a brick wall this week.  As for the boys Stevie Wonder is one of my favorites of all time, but his music is starting to feel a little said & done when it comes to these shows.  When is someone going to give me a TV show thats going to introduce me to new music?  I will just have to deal with the cards that are dealt, and so will the contestants.  So how did our top 13 do?  I wrote a little blip about each of them, but have not been successful in finding the performances on youtube so there are not videos to link.  As a temporary solution I have linked their AI page to their names, until I can find a reliable stash of youtube videos you will just have to take my word for it if you missed the show.


The show kicks off with Joshua Ledet performing my favorite Stevie Wonder song, ‘I Wish.’  Completely forgettable, anti-climatic and not impressive.  Could not even believe the judges were placing this at the top of the night.  Clearly they missed Marcus Canty’s rendition on The X-Factor because he killed this song.  Even though I still have my doubts and suspicions that not all of the X-Factor is done without a little technical help (i.e. I think lip-syncing could be involved) this performance on Idol did not even compare.


Elise Testone performed “I’m Your Baby Tonight” crash & burn, this was utterly painful.  I needed to go back to her audition tape to figure out how she ended up on this stage.  Her attitude did not help, she just looked mad which doesn’t translate well to getting viewers at home to vote for you.  Her voice is unique and there is not a whole lot that this show is going to do for her.  At the end of the day you’re on American Idol, and you got to roll with the punches when it comes to your song choices.  You are no longer your own artist making your own decisions.  She’s got to be one of the bottom girls or I’m moving to another country.


Jermaine Jones – “Knocks Me Off My Feet,” this was a snoozefest for me.  I think that his voice is cool and smooth and all, but I guess I don’t feel it like everyone else does.  Sadly I probably won’t appreciate him until I hear some of that Michael McCary, Boyz II Men bass.  Just sayin.


Erika Van Pelt – A Whitney song was a stretch and push for her.  She did “I Believe in You and Me,” I was prepared to hate this, and I’m not really saying that I didn’t hate it.  It was hard to love, there were parts that were shaky but overall I was impressed with her range, probably only because I didn’t know she had it.  I don’t know if there’s a lot more to uncover with this one like the judges are assuring but I do want her to stick around awhile longer so we can dig into that rasp in her voice.

Colton Dixon was so nervous for tonight but it wasn’t bad.  Stevie Wonder is way out of his element and that was something the show wanted to be made known.  His style was enough to make it sound like his own.  He was one of my favorites of the night and he’s going to be around for a long while.  He better just get used to being pushed into doing styles and genres that don’t necessarily fit in his realm, because that’s just American Idol for you.


Shannon Magrane – I was sad about this performance.  There’s something about her that I can’t help but want her to do good.  I think her nerves probably got to her, she’s young.  She missed a big note.  Did anybody really listen to her sing that in the rehearsal, it was a night and day difference.  I think she’s actually capable of big things but who knows if we will actually be lucky enough to see it.


DeAndre Brackensick – I hated whatever song he did last week but doing “Master Blaster” seemed to be right in his element.  The hopping around was a little distracting.  He was feeling it.  I guess I like his voice… but he annoys me.  I will try to be more open minded but there’s not much else to say.


Skylar Laine – There is something weirdly charming about Skylar to me.  She was crazy last week on stage, probably how I would look if I ever had to get up on stage and sing a song.  You know she is feeling every single note.  She makes everything look so darn easy and effortless.  She belt out that Whitney song like she’s been singing it all her life, and you know she hasn’t because she’s a straight up country girl.  I can’t believe I’m saying it but I dig her.  She’s definitely one of my early faves.


Heejun Han – I hope he stays around for awhile.  Is his voice spectacular?  I don’t exactly think so, but he’s got a sense of humor, he makes me laugh and makes the show slightly more interesting.


Hollie Cavanagh – She slayed a Christina Aguilera song last week so we know she has a huge voice.  I had no real concerns about her performing Whitney, I just knew her voice was one of the very few big enough that could pull it off.  And she did, it was beautiful.  I want to see her loosen up, she’s totally the Pia of this season when it comes to having the voice but lacking the strong stage presence.  She’s got a big smile, but I need to see her having actual fun on stage.


Jeremy Rosado – I couldn’t even tell you what Stevie song he sang. He has a beautiful voice but it’s just not enough.   Seems like a nice guy but, the end of the road is coming soon for him.  I literally have nothing interesting to say about this one.


Jessica Sanchez – It takes balls to step out and decide to do “I Will Always Love You.”  By far biggest Whitney song, one of the biggest ballads of all time.  I kept thinking, how darn brave.  She stepped out and just nailed it.  I thought it was pretty much flawless beginning to end.  The difficulty of this song is indescribable.  My jaw dropped to the floor watching her hit all the notes.  It was awesome.

Phillip Phillips – I have so much to say about this kid.  No surprise here that I did most of my pre-American Idol live show research on him.  Don’t get me started on the Dave Matthews comparisons because it seems to get me upset.  Let’s focus on what happened tonight.  Was there any other Stevie song for him to do?  Does no one want to mention that he already sang this in his audition?  I mean I don’t care because it was absolutely incredible.  But he had an advantage, a lot of hours put in already preparing for this performance.  At the end of the day for me, nothing can compare to someone that is as musically inclined as he is.  He used his ear and his musical style, and he made “Superstition” into his own song.  I’m so ready for the days when American idol evolves into more than just a singing competition and the contestants get some credit for picking up an instrument and making a performance more than a sing-a-long.  I’m all about a musician, not just someone with a big voice.  Phillip Phillip’s is my dream come true this year, my Paul McDonald but with more control over his voice.  I’m ridiculously excited to see what comes from him throughout this season.  He better not disappoint me!

Band Bust: Parachute


I had the good fortune of catching Parachute perform twice this past month – first as a full band and then acoustically, with only guitarist Nate McFarland and lead singer, Will Anderson.  And it has taken me weeks to come up with the right words to properly introduce them to you – to give this amazing band the justice they deserve and genuinely express my feelings without sounding cliché.

It’s ironic really, when I think about how difficult it is to write blogs about the bands I love the most. Because I go to some weird, vulnerable place as I contemplate sharing my emotion with you all (I don’t know how people write songs, when I can barely write blogs.)  But considering what Parachute has given me through their music, I feel I owe it to them to get this blog out – finally.

The band had their break-out hit with a song called “She Is Love,” which was featured on a Nivea commercial three years ago.  Since then, we’ve seen so many bands utilize TV ads and shows as an outlet for their music.  But Parachute was really one of the first and the song stuck with me.  It is a beautiful, acoustic track and I knew from the opening chords it was a song that would forever rotate on my playlist.  When I was able to hear it performed live and acoustically for the first time, it took me right back to that first moment I fell in love with it.  Here’s my video from the show (I’m not a videographer by any means, so don’t judge on what you see)… it’s all about what you hear:

I can’t honestly say that I’ve been a huge Parachute fan for the past three years, though.  In fact, outside of my obsession with “She Is Love,” I really didn’t listen to the rest of their first album – until recently.  I rediscovered the band this year when iTunes offered “What I Know” (from their sophomore album) for free.  I instantly connected to the track.  Then Amazon featured the entire album, “The Way It Was” for a price I couldn’t refuse.  And I was also being encouraged by a good friend to give them a chance.  And I remember the day I listened to the album so vividly.  I was in a park outside my church in Chicago doing some writing and was taken aback by the quality of each track.  I felt like I was swept into their world, I understood the places they were coming from in each track.  I spent weeks listening to only this album.

Parachute really won me over with their live performances and the brilliance of their lyrics.  After seeing them live it really took my love for them to another level.  “Under Control” is now always on rotation in the bar where I work.  It’s soulful (infused with a pop/bluesy vibe) that I just can’t resist!  Simply put, it brightens my mood beyond belief.  “She (For Liz)” is another one of my favorites from their first album, “Losing Sleep.”  The way they are able to express almost a desperation to have someone but the relationship just not working out – we’ve all been there at one time or another.

You may have heard “Something To Believe In,” when it was circulating various football promo’s on ABC and ESPN.  Now, it’s being played on select radio stations.  The lyrics perfectly describe how I feel about the band and their music – heres the big cliche statement, ready for it? – they give their listeners something to believe in.  Sorry I had to, but really their music serves a purpose.  Every single song tells a vivid story in a way that you can easily relate to, even if you haven’t had that exact same experience, this band takes you there.

The connection I’ve made with Parachute’s music is rare and difficult to describe.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve cried to “Forever and Always” because it’s so easy to visualize the song as it plays.  It’s a track that truly comes to life with a story that if I told you about it here in this blog, would be like spoiling the end of a movie.  It’s something that you will just have to experience for yourself.  I’m almost embarrassed to admit how many times I have danced in my apartment and down Chicago’s city streets to “White Dress,” which is my anthem! I swear, it’s like it was written specifically for me. And even though I have never been the girl shouting things out from the crowd, I had to ask the guys to play it on Friday. And they did.  It was a really cool moment for me. To hear a song that resonates so deeply, so up close and personal, made my day.  My current obsession since the full band show has been “American Secrets” which starts out up-tempo, and evolves into something soft and beautiful.  During their performance, they take the most sincere moment of the song and stand around the mic singing acapella. It was definitely a highlight of the show for me.

Nate McFarland & Will Anderson 

You know, it’s so easy for a band to jump on stage and tell the audience they have the best fans in the world.  But these guys are genuinely appreciative of all the support they get.  Parachute really reaches out to their fan base and treats them with respect.  They come off stage at the end of their set and immediately set out to meet the crowd.  Both times I’ve seen them, they didn’t leave until everyone that wanted to talk, get an autograph or picture with them, was met.  They also utilize social media exceptionally well. Parachute has 120 videos on their official YouTube page and make it really easy for their fans to interact with them.

Will & I after the Block 37 performance

I could sit here and describe all the technical aspects of the music for you, doing what you’d normally expect me to do. I could also try to place them in a genre and compare them to other bands that you like to try and get you to listen to them.  But there is so much more about Parachute that makes them compelling and different from any other band that I know.  Just take it from me – it’s not so much what you hear when you listen to their music; it’s how their music makes you feel.  And I realize this feeling won’t be the same for everyone, thats the beauty of it and the name of the game.  But for this band in particular you can’t go wrong.  It’s about everything they represent through their music and all the things in life they flawlessly capture – faith, God, love, raw emotion, sadness, excitement and beauty.

Parachute is extremely dedicated to their craft and that passion exudes through every line of every song. And even though I much prefer their newest album “The Way It Was,” both albums feel complete, like every track exists for a reason and has its perfect place.  There’s something to be said about a band that can fully develop and release a record.  I have the upmost respect for Parachute and am proud to be able to introduce you to this incredible band.

American Idol Alum Music News

Every week I have Tuesdays & Wednesdays off of work and it is always my intention to come up with blog ideas and write something for my favorite Style Bust readers.  It is now Thursday afternoon, I go into work in a couple hours and I am just opening up my computer now to share some thoughts, talk about procrastination.  I need to post something so I can feel as though my days off were used productively.  The American Idol alums have been busy lately, so I thought I would appease my AI blog followers who are having withdrawals from the competition.

Unless you have been living under a rock you are aware that Breaking Dawn (Part 1), the latest of the Twilight series premieres tonight at midnight.  In light of that I’m going to somewhat reluctantly share this track with you.  The newlyweds Paul McDonald and Nikki Reed recorded this song, “Now That I’ve Found You” together.  Its no secret how much I loved Paul on American Idol and his band The Grand Magnolias, however I’m not the least bit impressed with this release.  I wanted to love it but I just don’t.  On the other side of things, who knew Nikki Reed could sing?  I knew she had a background in writing, when she acted in and co-wrote the screen play for the movie ‘Thirteen’ back in 2003.  So she penned the lyrics to “Now That I’ve Found You,” and her vocals on this track far exceeded my expectations.  I don’t think I’m being a harsh critic when I say, the song overall is not impressive… but you should check it out for yourself:

It’s probably just me, but does it remind you at all of this?

Ok onto the legitimately good stuff.

The amount of new Christmas music being released has overwhelmed me.  I think my next blog post is going to have a list of my favorites.  But right now I need to share this gem with you.  November 21st is the release date on iTunes for this nothing short of amazing track by Haley Reinhart & Casey Abrams.  If this doesn’t get you in the holiday spirit I don’t know what will.  Haley’s voice will never disappoint me.  Check out the video for “Baby It’s Cold Outside,” its charming, captivating, and beautiful.

Today’s Playlist

Please have a listen to the playlist I’ve been listening to today, and most of October 2011.

My Current Obsession: Meiko

Oh how do I express my love for Meiko?  The editor of Paste magazine, Josh Jackson, saw her perform at Sundance Film Festival in 2007 and declared her a big success story waiting to happen.  She first came across my radar when a few of her songs made appearances on some TV shows I watch.  Actually by now her music has probably unknowingly made its way to your ears with as many shows she has been featured on in the last couple years.  Her name has been floating around the industry for awhile but I wasn’t familiar with her outside of knowing her name until recently.  After seeing her perform a couple weeks ago at House of Blues in Chicago, I haven’t been able to get her out of my head.

It has taken me a couple weeks to let Meiko settle into my musical brain in order to write this blog without sounding like a blabbering fool (which is bound to happen anyway).  I am really excited about her, and I just can’t help it.  So I will take a deep breath, and start from the beginning.   I saw Meiko perform twice in Chicago, opening up for Hanson, per usual – as you already know many of my new favorite artists come from Hanson tours.  She has already done some tour stints with Brett Dennen (whom I love dearly), Mat Kearney, Joe Purdy, Jewel, Joshua Radin and she was featured on the Hotel Café tour.  Upon moving to LA, Meiko began waitressing and performing at Hotel Café.  She was able to drop the waitress gig after her song “Reasons To Love You” made its national TV debut on Grey’s Anatomy.  She still performs at Hotel Café regularly, so if you’re in the LA area I recommend checking the calendar out.

photo credit: pinpoint music

I think there’s something to be said about a female that writes her own material.  And I guess not only writes music but makes songs that are genuine, true to herself, and about something real.  I am constantly inquiring the people I meet about what bands or artists they listen to, specifically in the realm of females.  I’m always searching for a female musician that makes me feel something.  It just doesn’t interest or captivate me to be constantly bombarded with the over-sexualized female pop artists singing about absolutely nothing relevant to the world I live in.  I can understand how it can be entertaining to people but where is Stevie Nicks when you need her?   I’m not saying that female talent doesn’t exist, rather it’s just not easily discoverable.  Music fans want to feel connected, and authentic female artists has been hard to come by.  I think that’s why Adele has become so beloved in our industry.   I have to believe that with Adele having so much mainstream success it will only help the female singer/songwriter sector grow commercially.

Meiko has a unique, soft, and soulful voice.  Her talent stands alone in her music but seeing her live changed everything for me.  I definitely think the more she tours and the more people she connects with, the more success she will have.  She walks out on stage with minimal make up on, modest clothing, and you instantly feel connected to her normalcy.  She is adorable, sweet, and funny.  Meiko has a story to tell, she speaks openly about her heartbreaks and triumphs.  Her music makes me feel empowered, inspired, and proud to be a woman.  She stole my heart and she will win yours over too, guaranteed.

Check her out here singing “Good Looking Loser” live:

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