American Idol helps me dream big

There is just something about watching live singing competitions on national television that gets you hooked.

American Idol this year has me tuning in week after week.

As a guy who loves sports and watching my favorite local teams go for the win I feel a little corny and almost embarrassed about how much I’m really into Idol this year.

This “Idol addiction” may need some perspective given the economic circumstances facing millions of families who watch every week.

Idol is probably the best reality show on the talking box these days. With all the problems facing working families that struggle just to get by during the recession, Idol is just what folks need to tune out bills and other financial worries.

In a weird way watching these young talented performers take to the stage every week gives hope that maybe one day everyone will be in a better position to “win big” and achieve our dreams and aspirations.

Somehow by watching contestants reach for the stars, their success stories give viewers the personal confidence to take control and overcome economic problems.

Last week’s contestants certainly fit this bill. Idol candidates performed songs by the legendary Motown record label, a historic African American-led company that produced some of the biggest hits of the 20th century.

Adam Lambert from Hollywood, Calif., sang Smokey Robinson’s “The Tracks of My Tears.” He really rocked the microphone with soft yet extremely smooth and hypnotic vocals – a stellar performance. Prediction: he will be in the top three and could probably win this year for sure.

Allison Iraheta, 16, from Los Angeles, Calif. was quite good singing, “Papa Was a Rolling Stone” by the famous Temptations. Iraheta has great range and shows vocal flexibility. It’s her spunkiness and rock and roll appeal that amazes - and the fact that she is only 16! If she keeps it up I predict she could be in the top three.

Danny Gokey from Milwaukee, Wis., sang Eddie Kendricks’ “Get Ready.” I like Gokey and sympathize with his personal story but think last week’s performance was not his best: too jumpy and inconsistent. Firstly, his song choice was off. I think Gokey needs to step up his game and stick to doing what he’s good at: performing with his vocals. Don’t worry about getting the crowd’s reaction, control energy and sing songs that connect not just energize.

Unfortunately Matt Giraud’s version of Marvin Gaye's “Let’s Get It On” was, well, not right on since he landed in the bottom three last week. Giraud, from Kalamazoo, Mich., actually has a great voice and his ability to sing like Justin Timberlake is real effective. He’s got good vocals and can really hit those high notes. Lot’s of potential there. But it appears he could use a stronger fan base if he plans on moving up.

There is a lot of hype about Lil Rounds, from Memphis, Tenn. Rounds is the only African American and one of three remaining women left on the show. She sang Martha Reeves’ “Heatwave.” It was a bad song choice - too fast of a song for her. Rounds is a good singer, but needs to be more connected to her song choices. Rounds needs to show viewers that when she sings she not only can demonstrate range but that she is emotionally invested as well. Personally I don’t see all the hype but hope to see more if she hopes to make it in the finals.

College student Anoop Desai, from Chapel Hill, N.C is a favorite. Desai seems like a real cool cat, not the best singer in the competition but real likeable. He sang Smokey Robinson’s “Ooo Baby Baby.” He did a decent job rocking the falsetto but he’s playing it safe and singing the love ballads, which could help him survive during the show as long as his fans don’t get bored.

Kris Allen, from Little Rock, Ark., sang “How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You)” by James Taylor. Allen did a good job with his guitar and sings well. He has a unique popular style that I think many would agree could keep him around. We’ll see.

Unfortunately, Scott Maclntyre, from Scottsdale, Ariz., who sang Diana Ross’s “You Can’t Hurry Love,” was in the bottom three. He’s not my favorite and I don’t think he’s going to last. Scott lacks star-pop appeal and is just a little top plain sounding. Sorry Scott, but you need to sing as if you’re a pop star and not in a church choir.

Megan Joy from Sandy, Utah, has great showmanship but failed to execute Stevie Wonder’s “For Once In My Life.” Joy needs to pick her songs wisely if she hopes to advance. She’s adorable but she needs to be more confident and work her jazzy vocals.

And finally, Michael Sarver, a former Texas oil-rig worker, and his version of “Ain't to Proud To Beg” found him singing his final song on the show last week. He plans to spend time with his family and after touring with Idol this summer he hopes to pursue a career in music. Good for him.

So at the end, nine finals are left standing after 22.4 million viewers tuned in last week. Last year’s winner David Cook along with Lady Gaga are expected to make appearances on Wednesday night.

Rumors are saying Idol contestants are expected to perform “iTunes chart-toppers” this week. Not sure what that could mean since songs on iTunes vary from all types of genres.

I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.

So be sure to tune in and maybe you’ll be inspired. Hopefully Idol will move us to also reach our potential and strive for the best so long as we work hard and fight for a better future. Or at the least Idol will allow us to escape the reality of rough economic times facing many, even if it’s only for a couple of hours each week.