Thursday, May 24, 2007

MAY 24, 2007

Jordin Sparks was crowned the next American Idol in Hollywood last night. Throngs of fans lined Hollywood Boulevard as the 17-year-old was inside the Kodak Theater besting her rival, beat-boxer Blake Lewis.

The two-hour season finale kicked off with Lewis and Sparks together on stage to duet the Beatles classic "I Saw Her Standing There." Then Gwen Stefani dropped in via satellite to sing "Four in the Morning," and Green Day performed "Working Class Hero."

A cavalcade of former contestants was also on hand. Kelly Clarkson performed her new single, "Never Again." Carrie Underwood sang "I'll Stand By You," and got a record-sales honor from music mogul Clive Davis. Taylor Hicks performed "Heaven Knows." Sparks and Ruben Studdard joined to sing Marvin Gaye's "You're All I Need to Get By." And Blake Lewis also had some company on stage -- Doug E. Fresh for a beat-boxing competition.

Oldies had a night back in the spotlight. Gladys Knight and the six female finalists sang "I Feel a Song," and "Midnight Train to Georgia." Tony Bennett crooned a cool rendition of "For Once in My Life." Smokey Robinson took the stage to sing "Being With You." As the festivities came to a close, Bette Midler belted out "The Wind Beneath My Wings."

And how could this season without something special from Sanjaya? The one-time national joke joined Aerosmith's Joe Perry to rock out "You Really Got Me."

Talking to JD Roberto and looking back on this season, I'm sure Sanjaya is what the season will be remembered for. I have to say, this is the most disappointed I've ever been with the show, and I'm not alone. The ratings have been dropping, and the show is no longer the juggernaut or cultural phenomenon it used to be. While it still is #1, there have been 6 to 8 million less viewers this season on average. I'm hoping next year they'll really get back to the 12 best singers they can find, instead of the 12 best personalities with good voices.

It's easier to remember a "Bill" who really fits the bill, according to a new study.

Names tend to be associated with certain facial features — Bobs have rounder faces than Tims, for example — and it's easier to learn a person's name if his face matches it.

Robin Thomas, a cognitive scientist at Miami University in Ohio, noticed that she frequently confused the names of two of her students. This didn't happen to her often, so she wondered if there was more to it than just forgetfulness.

Then she realized this. "Their faces did not fit the name they were given," Thomas said.
Intrigued, she decided to test whether Americans have common ideas about what people with certain names should look like.

She and her colleagues asked 150 college students to design faces, using facial construction software similar to the type police use, for 15 common American male names. To keep things simple, all of the faces were white and wore the same hairstyle.

Her team then asked a second group of students to rate how well these constructed faces seemed to fit their names. The group agreed that many of the constructs matched-the strongest fits were for the names Bob, Bill, Brian and Jason.

Finally, Thomas wanted to see whether, as in her own experience, better-fitting names were easier to remember and vice versa. Her team showed a third group of students the facial constructs-including both good and bad fits, as judged by the students in the second part of the study-along with their names. Later, they tested how well the students remembered the names.
As she suspected, people more easily remembered the names that fit well.

I have to say, I am absolutely impressed by Harry Connick Jr. We talked to him a couple weeks ago on the show, and he is genuinely a class act. I mentioned at the time, there are so many celebrities (98% of them, I'd say) who when they call into a radio station, have a handler do it, tells you what you can and cannot ask, and then hand them the phone. Harry's one of those guys who just calls himself.

Last night, a few hours before his concert, I got a call from the radio station saying he was pretty ill, and they almost had canceled the show. In addition, the meet and greet we gave away was probably unlikely. However, Harry didn't want to disappoint his fans. He did the concert (and got rave reviews), took pictures and talked with our winners afterward, and didn't complain once. Great job, Harry.