American Idol Finale – 5/23/12: A Winner Is Crowned

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The moment we’ve been waiting all season for has arrived!

The crowning of the new American Idol would take place at the end of what promised to be an entertaining show finale.

The top twelve, minus Phillip and Jessica, energetically sang “Runaway Baby” by Bruno Mars.  Joshua’s small slip in his split was quickly forgotten as professional dancers hit the floor in the middle of the song.

Ryan Seacrest announced that a record setting 132 million votes were cast for the final two!

Phillip played and dueted with classic rocker John Fogerty, frontman of Credence Clearwater Revival.  “Have You Ever Seen the Rain” sounded great with the two of them and the audience was treated to a bonus song, “Bad Moon Rising”.

Seacrest threw to a clip of the rehearsal days, containing the good, the bad, and the oh so ugly!  He also informed the crowd that new auditions for the next American Idol would begin as early as June 7th.  Check AmericanIdol.com for details.

“Take Me To the Pilot” was heard through the pipes of the one and only Joshua Ledet, and his inspiration, former Idol winner, Fantasia!  (Why no Elton John?!)  The two unique voices sounded strong and vibrant and were cut off at the end, for lousy commercials.

A hysterical clip of Jimmy Iovine continually miscalling Jennifer Lopez as Jessica was shown.  The ladies of the top twelve, Hollie Cavanagh, Skylar Laine, Shannon Magrane, Elise Testone, Erika Van Pelt, followed later by Jessica Sanchez, hit the stage to sing a medley of “Ain’t Nobody”, “Through the Fire” and “I’m Every Woman” by Chaka Khan.  They were soon joined by the lady herself, fierce diva Chaka Khan!

Phillip’s musical mentor, Ben Neil, and Jessica’s mentor, Robert Talon, were then presented with their own Ford Escapes, courtesy of Ford and American Idol.  The final two were given Ford Fusions.

“Where Have You Been” by mega-star Rihanna heated the arena.

Country came through with Skylar Laine singing “Turn On the Radio” with look alike legend Reba McEntyre!  Both excellent!

A funny video of Steven Tyler was played.  Only this rocker would have a live sloth, a real monkey, a fake zebra, beautiful playmates, and autographed photos of music legends in his dressing room.  It was a treat to see the actual piano he wrote his masterpiece on, “Dream On”.

Jessica revisited what many considered to be the best of her performances, “I Will Always Love You” by Whitney Houston.  There’s a reason this girl is in the final running.

It was the men’s turn, as Deandre Brackensick, Colton Dixon, HeeJun Han, Joshua Ledet, Jeremy Rosado, and curiously no Phillip Phillips, sang “America”, “Cracklin’ Rosie” and “I’m A Believer” by American treasure, Neil Diamond.  (“I’m A Believer” was written by Neil Diamond and famously recorded by the Monkees.)  When “Sweet Caroline” began, Mr. Diamond came out to show them how it’s done!

An hour had passed and Ryan teased the winner would be revealed next, but anyone who’s ever watched an American Idol finale before knew we had another hour to go.

It was Randi Jackson’s time to be embarrassed by his repetitive critiques, specifically ‘you can sing the phone book’, followed by the eliminated contestants choir singing a parody song with a phone book.  Scotty McCreery presented him with a gift wrapped Yellow Pages.

Jennifer Lopez promoted her upcoming tour by performing two hot dance tracks with reggae ton duo, Wisin and Yandel.  Her songs were “Going In” and new single “Follow the Leader”.

Ace Young and Diana DeGarmo, former contestants and now a couple, returned, saying the Idol stage is like home.  Ryan then handed the mic to Ace and he went on bended knee!  The proposal was a bit shaky in his speech, but I imagine they both were a bit shaky in nerves.  Nonetheless, it worked; they became engaged on American Idol!

“You’ll Never Walk Alone” was sung by Hollie Cavanagh.  Jordin Sparks joined her for an inspired sing along.

Robin Gibb was honored by the guys, again minus Phillip, in a medley that included “How Deep Is Your Love”, “How Can You Mend A Broken Heart” and “To Love Somebody”.

Jessica performed with THE Dream Girl herself, Jennifer Holliday.  “And I Am Telling You” Jennifer gave goosebumps!  One hopes Jessica understands what a true honor it was to sing with her.

What could possibly follow the power vocals of J. Holliday?  AEROSMITH!  New song, “Legendary Child” has the old sound Aerosmith fans will love.  It was fantastic to know that despite judging a family competition show, Steven Tyler hasn’t forgotten how to be the true iconic rocker he is.  They followed up with “Walk This Way”.

Jessica and Phillip sang as a duet the Joe Cocker’s tune, “Up Where Belong”.

Hope the DVRs were set for a few minutes after ten, because the show ran late!

But it was finally time for the results.

Who would be the winner?

Phillip Phillips?

Jessica Sanchez?

Final thanks to the band, the crew, the fans, and time to dim the lights…

The Season 11 American Idol Winner is…

PHILLIP PHILLIPS!!!

Awarded the American Idol Trophy, and strapped with his guitar, he was left alone on the stage to perform his new single, “Home”.  Overcome with emotion, the winner, Phillip Phillips, was showered with confetti, joined by the marching band, and played out the rest of the song, until he removed the instrument and went off stage to his awaiting proud family.

Best wishes for a long and successful career!  Congratulations to both finalists, and to all who made season 11 as entertaining as it was!  Until next time…

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American Idol Recap – 5/22/12 – The Final Performance!!!

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They’ve shared a dream, and now they’re sharing a stage one last time for the title of American idol.

Ryan Seacrest called out to the audience for an impromptu poll on who they were voting for. Then the battle began; both young finalists, Phillip 21 years old and Jessica only 16 years old, were less than 24 hours from their fate.

Ding, ding, let the singing begin…

They would each sing three songs. Creator and Producer Simon Fuller’s choice, the contestant’s favorite song of season and the potential winning song.

Phillip won the behind the scenes coin toss and elected to go second.

Jessica Sanchez, looking lovely in a long bronzy gown, took on Simon Fuller’s pick for her, “I Have Nothing” by Whitney Houston. A line or two were a tad rushed towards the end, and the lyrics seemed too mature for an inexperienced teenager. The rest of the vocals were nicely done.

“Stand By Me” by Ben E. King was given to Phillip. A typical mellow performance from this professional looking kid ensued. It was as laid back as his attire; an open denim, button-down shirt, white t-shirt and blackjeans.

At the end of round one, we finally heard from the judges. Jennifer said it was difficult because their voices are two distinct ones; the modern day crooner versus Jessica’s big vocals. Upon Ryan’s pressing on who took the first sing off, Randi declared round one probably went to Jessica; Lopez agreed. I think Phillip had the edge. Though singing off melody, he stayed true to his style, and sang while playing an instrument.

“Undefeated” was written and performed by Jason DeRulo, while his girlfriend, former American Idol winner, Jordin Sparks, sung along in the audience. The uptempo dance song is average at best, but the lyrics are inspirational. (Parts of the chorus reminded me of “Wavin’ Flag” by K’naan.) It was good to see Jason without the neck brace, an accessory he was forced to wear after fracturing his neck during dance rehearsals for his since cancelled tour back in January.

Jessica revisited “The Prayer” by Andrea Bocelli and Celine Dion. It was the song that earned her the top 24 spot. While I thought she dragged a few unnecessary notes, and it works best as the original duet it is, the song is beautiful and she did well with it. She was pretty in a long, pink chiffon dress.

Strong bias here, as Phillip took on his favorite song from Billy Joel week, (not too mention my all-time favorite artist), “Movin’ Out” by Billy Joel. He appeared sleek, in a black long sleeved shirt and he was all business in his singing. He gave the vocal his all, especially at the final lyrics. My winner of round one & two…Phillip. Tyler said Jessica won again, Randi was convinced it was a dead heat tie and Lopez said Phillip took it.

The last round…

“Change Nothing” would be the song Jessica would release if she takes the title. A song of making it through tough times, it was decent, but not even big soaring notes could help this meek potential single. She did well with the tune, sitting on a piano in a white jacket, green top and black leather pants. Randi also didn’t care for the song, but thought she brought it to life. Lopez and Tyler agreed with the poor choice, saying it was too pop for a soulful singer like her. They wisely advised that future albums, whether winner or not, she choose songs that fit her style better. She’d have to stand with her previous two tries on stage to become champion. Was it enough to get the coveted title?

Phillip’s might-be single was “Home”. Lyrics of not being alone, combined with a rolling melody and pretty easy chorus made this song a home-run for Phillip. Simple as his style, dark grey blazer, dark v-neck shirt and black jeans, he stole the show. He got an enthusiastic standing ovation. Randi proclaimed it as similar to Mumford & Sons, brilliant and genius, while Lopez said he sounded so different than anything out there now. Tyler said he compared to Paul Simon and “you are the man.” He played guitar in all songs, making him a true artist. However, were his performances enough to be the last one standing in victory?

Scotty McCreery, last year’s Idol winner, ended the show with the elimination song of the season, “Please Remember Me”.

And now the fate of these two are in America’s hands.

Music Legend Donna Summer – Remembering the Queen of Disco

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At the young age of 63, Donna Summer, who had been battling cancer, has passed away in her Florida home on Thursday, surrounded by family and friends.  The family released a statement:  “Early this morning, we lost Donna Summer Sudano, a woman of many gifts, the greatest being her faith.  While we grieve her passing, we are at peace celebrating her extraordinary life and her continued legacy. Words truly can’t express how much we appreciate your prayers and love for our family at this sensitive time.”

I was going to write an informational piece on the death of Donna Summer.  I felt it was important for me to write something because like Whitney Houston, in my book, she was also considered to be “the voice”.  Yes, her songs were upbeat, happy, and made you want to dance.  Even the ones about heartache were disco-fied!  However, her notes soared with the best of them, a fact overlooked because of the upbeat tunes she so often sang.  I read of her passing on Facebook, searched frantically for proof of this terrible news, and then gathered articles from across the internet, plugged in my iPod and got my Donna Summer albums playing!  I couldn’t focus.  A majority of her music was among the best, and all I kept thinking was, why did they ever say disco is dead?  These songs are AWESOME!  Hardly any different than the generic beats of a lot of the house music of the 90s, or some of the club music of today.  Newsflash, music snobs, disco never died.  Good music never does.  The fashions, though…well…

Donna Summer had a pretty productive life.  Her birth name was LaDonna Adrian Gaines.  She was born on New Year’s Eve in 1948.  Donna was brought up in a strict Christian household; one of seven kids, raised in Boston.  She was influenced by gospel singer, Mahalia Jackson, and sang in the church from an early age.  As she got older, she formed musical groups with her sister and cousin in the style of Motown girl groups at the time, such as the Supremes and Martha and the Vandellas, later going more towards bluesy rock with the emergence of Janis Joplin.  Donna dropped out of school in her teens and joined a psychedelic rock group, the Crow, only to have them disband once they got to New York.  She auditioned for the Broadway musical, Hair, losing it but she was offered the European one.  Off to Germany she went, where she learned the language and began acting in more plays.  While in the Austrian production of Godspell, Donna fell in love with her first husband, actor Helmuth Sommer.  They married in 1972, had a child in 1973, Mimi, and divorced.  Donna kept the name, transforming it to the American version, Summer.  She lived with her boyfriend, artist and super jealous Peter Mühldorfer.  She recorded a song with the Brooklyn Dreams, and fell in love once more with one of the members.  “Heaven Knows” it was a good match, as she married Bruce Sudano in 1980, and had two children, Brooklyn, (named after the group) in 1981, and Amanda in 1982.  She is survived by her three children and husband.

Her first released song was in Europe, a cover of “Sally Go ‘Round the Roses”.  Summer soon met producers, Giorgio Moroder and Pete Bellotte, signed with Groovy Records and issued her first album, Lady of the Night, to limited European success.  Donna was writing for another artist, when she came up with the lyric, “Love to Love You, Baby”.  Moroder was exploring the new sound of the time, and they recorded a demo track of the now infamous song.  They wisely decided to release it, with the help of Casablanca Records, setting off a career of royal success.  Though several stations, even in the States, refused it airplay due to its orgasmic sounds and sexy whisperings, the single hit the top ten in 1976.  In 1977, “I Feel Love” became her second top ten, followed by 1978’s “MacArthur Park” and “Heaven Knows”.   It was in the movie Thank God It’s Friday, where her epic signature song, “Last Dance” featured and garnered writer Paul Jabara an Academy Award and Donna Summer her first Grammy.  Subsequent success was found with “Bad Girls”, “Hot Stuff”, “Dim All the Lights”, and “On the Radio”.  The first time the Grammys included the category Best Female Rock Vocal Performance, Donna Summer clinched it (“Hot Stuff”).  Overcome with the overwhelming rise of her early success, Summer became depressed and suffered from anxiety attacks in 1977, leading to her addiction to prescription medication.  Donna turned to the church in 1979, becoming a born-again Christian.

Casablanca and Summer parted ways when tension rose due to Donna’s desire to move her music in a different direction.  Signing with new label at the time, Geffen Rocords, Summer went for a more new wave, rock sound.  The rock edge crept in with The Wanderer, and with her second album, I’m A Rainbow, shelved and after seven years of working with Moroder, Geffen recruited Quincy Jones to serve as Summer’s producer on 1982’s Donna Summer.  Polygram Records, the parent company of Casablanca, came calling over failed contract fulfillments.  Donna Summer gave them the last album owed, She Works Hard for the Money, in which the title track hit #3 on the US Hot 100.  Back with Geffen, Cats Without Claws followed in 1984, with little commercial success, becoming the first of her albums to not reach gold status.  The decline continued with 1987’s All Systems Go, and Summer left Geffen for Warner Bros. for the 1989 release of Another Place and Time, which held the top ten hit single “This Time I Know It’s For Real”.  Mistaken Identity in 1991, was followed by Christmas Spirit on Polygram Records in 1994.  After a 17 year hiatus, Donna returned with Sony Records for 2008’s album, Crayons.  Nearly coming full circle, Summer wrote the tracks “The Queen is Back” and “Mr. Music” with J.R. Rotem and Evan Bogart, the son of Casablanca Records founder, Neil Bogart.  Her last single was “To Paris With Love”, in 2010, which reached #1 on the US Billboard Dance Chart.

A statement from the Recording Academy said she “had a dynamic voice and unique musical style that helped define the dance music genre in the ’70s.”  Academy President, Neil Portnow, continued praising Summer, calling her “an artist who crossed many musical genres, as evidenced by her Grammy wins in the R&B, rock, inspirational and dance categories.  Her talent was a true gift to the music industry, and our thoughts and sympathies are with her family, friends and fans throughout the world during this difficult time.”  Donna Summer had said she never liked to be categorized, calling herself an instrument that makes particular sounds for whatever was to come out for that color.  In a statement released by her publicist, duet partner in “No More Tears”, Barbra Streisand said, “I was shocked to hear about Donna.  She was so vital the last time I saw her a few months ago. I loved doing the duet with her. She had an amazing voice and was so talented.”  Twitter, the social medium that has become a platform for unofficial statements, had celebrities expressing their sorrow.  LaToya Jackson wrote “She will be terribly missed. She was truly the #Disco Queen!”  Quincy Jones tweeted, “Rest in Peace dear Donna Summer. Your voice was the heartbeat and soundtrack of a decade.”

The recipient of 5 Grammys, inducted into the Dance Hall of Fame in 2004, nominated for induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2010, Donna Summer leaves behind a musical legacy.

“…If you think that love isn’t found on the radio, then tune right in, you may find the love you lost…”

Podcasting

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So, I’ve been thinking a lot about creating podcasts.  I figured it’ll get me back into the swing of things, career-wise, and it’ll be fun in the meantime.  Unfortunately, it’s not as easy as I figured it might be.  Obviously I knew I couldn’t play full songs in it, but I had no idea I couldn’t even use tiny little clips.  I’ve been scouring Royalty Free Music albums, which funny enough, you have to pay for, and the tracks have all been pretty generic and horrible.  I’m also struggling with how long each podcast should be and worry whether anyone will listen to it.  Anyways, those are my thoughts for the night.  Peace!

American Idol Recap 5/16/12

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And then there were three…Joshua, Jessica and Phillip.  Tonight’s important American Idol consisted of three rounds.  In the first round, the contestants would sing songs picked by the judges.  Second round would be the idol hopefuls’ choice.  The third and final round would be a tune chosen by Jimmy Iovine.

Joshua was given Etta James’ “I’d Rather Go Blind”.  Perfect choice for him, and he did it with a throwback vibe.  He received a standing ovation.  The judges comments included Jennifer’s “another amazing performance”, and Steven’s strong words of “out of 70,000, one is the American Idol, and you sang like that one tonight”.

Jessica took on the incomparable Mariah Carey and her beautiful song, “My All”.  The judges chose it for its’ tenderness and that’s what they got.  Her words of judgement were Randi’s “excellent”, J.Lo’s “hard song” and Tyler declaring she’d be “the last one standing”.  Her voice wasn’t great on the very low notes, but she did well.

Phillip performed “Beggin'” by Madcon.  The trio said it was “great”, he was definitely “in the zone”, and Tyler made a drastic note, saying he could be “the new age Springsteen”.  Phillip Phillips?  The Boss?  Come on!

Contestants’ choice was up next, after a special clip of each of their return home.

Joshua picked “Imagine” by John Lennon.  Some songs shouldn’t be touched, but of course, he did well.  He took it to church, people.  “Preaching while singing”, there was a sense he was pulling back a bit on vocals which worked well to spread the message of the song.

Jessica had guts to sing “I Don’t Want To Miss A Thing” by Aerosmith, in front of their frontman, Steven Tyler.  He was clearly pleased with her rendition, giving her a standing ovation.  The big note at song’s end was wonderful.

Phillip did not fair as well.  He chose Matchbox Twenty’s “Disease” and sang it slightly off the melody, as he sometimes does.  The judges were not a fan, saying it was safe and he needed a better performance than that at this stage of the game.

Now down to the last round to make it into the finals.  Advisor Jimmy Iovine gave each finalist his choice.

Mary J. Blige’s classic, “No More Drama”, was perfectly matched to Joshua.  Her free spirit when singing it transcended to Joshua and church was back in session.  His ad libs at the end was good, and he seemed truly exhausted by the last note.  This guy left it all on the line with fabulous results.  The judges loved it, praising him as a natural performer.

To showcase the youth of Jessica, “I’ll Be There” by the Jackson 5 was hers.  She did a lovely vocal on the song, but like Randi, I, too, was waiting for the big moment that never came.  It was all pretty even toned.  Was it enough for votes?

Phillip returned to close out the show with Bob Seger’s heart wrenching “We Got Tonight”.  Subdued, straight vocals without guitar, sticking to the melody, staring at the camera and singing words of longing…he succeeded in achieving his moment, and all three judges gave him a deserved standing ovation.

It is clear fans of Phillip were present in the audience, as every one of his sets concluded with girlish screams of delight.  No doubt his youthful teen fan club will help sway votes, too.  Will it be enough to push Phillip to the end?  And if Phillip’s in, who’s out?  Joshua?  Or Jessica?  Tune in to tomorrow night’s show, as the final two are revealed!

American Idol Recap 5/9/12

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Tonight’s songs were California Dreaming (anything involving California, song or artist), and songs the last four  contestants wish they had written.

Phillip sans guitar started things off with Credence Clearwater Revival’s “Have You Ever Seen the Rain?”  Sounding good, it fit his style and the judges gave him high praise.

Journey’s epic ballad, “Faithfully” was sung by a nervous Hollie.  It was not her best, which may spell trouble.  The judges disagreed with my opinion, so perhaps she’ll be able to reel in the votes.

After a quick word about the lyric contest with Jason DeRulo, (check the American Idol website for more info), Joshua took on one of the most make-you-cry-in-an-instant songs, Josh Groban’s “You Raise Me Up”.  Though no one compares to Groban’s version, Joshua did an amazing job.  The beginning was a bit rushed, but it worked itself out.  The judges enjoyed it.

Jessica sang legendary jazz great Etta James with her rendition of “Steal Away”.  The song seemed way too old for her, but her vocals were on point.  The trio of judges loved it.

Phillip and Joshua were once again teamed up for a duet, performing Maroon 5’s “This Love”.  One thing was clear, the girls LOVE Phillip, screaming for him whenever it was his turn.

Hollie and Jessica sang the duet “Eternal Flame” by the Bangles.  You could tell the friendship that Phillip and Joshua shared on stage was missing from these two and both tried to outshine each other resulting in an awkward performance.

A preview of the promising movie Rock of Ages was shown, (see the musical!  It was EXCELLENT!) followed by the remaining four idol hopefuls singing “Waiting For A Girl Like You” by Foreigner.  The performance was messy as the vocals didn’t blend well at all.

“Volcano” by Damien Rice was Phillip’s song wish, and he did a great job.  He played the instrument this time around, showing how much more comfortable he is with the guitar.  He appeared to feel the lyrics and melody and the female guest vocalist added a nice tone to the song.  High praises were given from the judges, with Jennifer Lopez saying it was one of the most poignant moments of American Idol.

Hollie puzzlingly picked Bonnie Raitt’s “I Can’t Make You Love Me”.  She did a sweet job, but the judges disagreed.  Randi Jackson gave the obvious criticism, saying it was the wrong kind of song and she was a different kind of singer from Bonnie Raitt.

Joshua’s gift to his mother was “It’s A Man’s, Man’s, Man’s World” by the Godfather of Soul, James Brown.  Barring any disastrous results, the kid is mere weeks away from taking the title of American Idol.  Steven Tyler declared his performance to be the most passionate rendition of that song of all time.

Determined to have the night’s spotlight, Jessica took on the Dream Girls’ mega-hit by Jennifer Holiday, “You’re Gonna Love Me”.  I still don’t, but others do, like the judges.  It fell short of Jennifer Hudson’s Oscar show-stopper, however, feelings of arrogance aside, Jessica deserves to be in the final two for sure.  Like J.Lo said, it will be a race to the finish.

 

Justin Bieber: Unstoppable Force

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Justin Bieber is set to embark on a massive tour in support of his album, “Believe”, dropping June 19, 2012. Last night, fans finally got a chance to see his highly anticipated video to the first single from the album, “Boyfriend”, on MTV. After airing on the channel, an interview with Sway followed on MTV.com. The Biebs had leaked teaser upon teaser to his supporters, as well as funny little snippets through his Twitter account. Justin started out the video with one of those fake intros, where he was snapping in an iconic backlit pose in the moonlight and nuzzling a women’s neck in a very grown up, this-may-be-too-steamy-for-my-preteen-to-watch video clip, only to restart the song to its true footage: a more age appropriate, mature Bieber driving through the streets, ending up in a block party type of situation, playing guitar, singing to a pretty girl and showcasing slick dance moves with metallic kicks. He admitted he switched up the video from the teasers for his fans, (as millions of parents breathed a sigh of relief), and went on to say his next single will be more radio-friendly; a mid-tempo track entitled, “As Long As You Love Me”.

Fielding questions from the girls in the immediate audience and online, we learned a lot about the maturing Justin Bieber. His favorite soup is broccoli cheddar, he enjoys frosted mini wheats cereal and would like to collaborate with Rihanna and Beyonce. He’d also love to start growing facial hair, but it’s slow coming, except for his mustache. (No worries, Biebie, the scruff will come soon enough, not that it matters much too his millions of fans.) Sway asked him about the comparisons to Justin Timberlake of N’SYNC; Bieber was flattered but didn’t think his music is going the same direction as Timberlake. Like the former N’SYNC member, Justin is continuing his acting chops. He is slated to star in an upcoming movie with Mark Wahlberg, where he plays a basketball player, but all concentration is focused on his Believe tour, with tickets to go on sale soon. As a parting statement, he told his fans to buy tickets, guaranteeing special guests.

On the upcoming album, he’ll be collaborating with fellow Canadian Drake, Usher and Kanye West. Bieber will be releasing a song written for his mother for Mother’s Day, and also wrote a song about the Mariah Yeater scandal, referencing it as his “Billie Jean” song. “Billie Jean” was Michael Jackson’s 1983 hit, which had a similar theme of being falsely accused of fathering a baby.

Much like one of his biggest influences, Michael Jackson, Justin is always gracious to his fans and provides a high energy show full of skilled dancing and entertainment. Unlike the late King of Pop, Justin has the advantage of social media to help promote himself, something he has used brilliantly. With over 21 million Twitter followers, and with smartphones bringing the world to one’s fingertips, he is able to connect to his fans personally through Twitter. His video already has over 4 million views on YouTube, and “Boyfriend” has been projected back to the top 5 on iTunes. Charming and charismatic personality along with a personal outreach to fans has helped propel Justin Bieber and many others into super stardom. Of course, the kid has talent, too.

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