Paula Abdul, Jordin Sparks criticized, praised for Super Bowl performances

Reviews are in for the Super Bowl performances of two American Idol stars: season six winner Jordin Sparks, who sang the national anthem, and Paula Abdul, who performed during the pre-game show via videotape.

Jordin’s rendition of the Star Spangled Banner “started quiet, breathy and seductive. By the end of the lone verse, she was belting elaborately ornamented, show-stopping, contest-worthy high notes,” The New York Times says. She “[nailed] what has been called the best anthem since Whitney Houston,” according to the North County Gazette.

But TV Guide gives her a “jeer,” using scare quotes to say Jordin “‘sang’ the national anthem (though it looked suspiciously like lip-syncing).” And Page Six says, “While Jordin did sound amazing, much of that was thanks to the backing track, which was painfully obvious at several points during the performance. Fueling the lip sync fires was the fact that mere moments after Jordin delivered her rendition, a full version of the song was available on iTunes for 99 cents.” That left many bloggers asking if she lip-synced.

More people agree that Paula Abdul, who declined to show up and perform her new song “Dance Like There’s No Tomorrow” live, lip-synced. In its story, The AP offers a “Note to the next dismissed ‘Idol’ contestant: Be sure to tell Paula that at least you didn’t lip-sync.” TV Guide says she offered “a pre-taped performance so listless, it made Britney’s VMA sleepwalk look like Michael Jackson at Motown 25.”

MTV News’ Jim Cantiello says that although “it certainly looked like she was lip-syncing Cotillard-style. But I have to admit, I thought she nailed it. … Paula Abdul was never famous for her singing ability. She was always first and foremost a performer. … For critics to call her out for not singing live now — 12 years after her last album, and arguably 15 years after her last major hit — is kind of absurd.” But Page Six says that “even the dancing, which was once her strongest skill, was weaker than the drinks they were serving at the concession stands.”

Superbowl XLII National Anthem Jordin Sparks [YouTube]
The Stubborn Voice of a Troubadour [New York Times]
Jordin Sparks Unexpected Star Of Super Bowl [North Country Gazette]
Jeers: American Idol Fumbles the Super Bowl [TV Guide]
Super Bowl Singers: Out of Sync [Page Six]
Super Bowl coverage turns to ‘Idol’ for ratings [AP]
‘American Idol’ Recap, Super Bowl Edition: Paula Abdul Defies Expectations With Pregame Show [MTV News]

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about the writer

Andy Dehnart is a journalist who has covered reality television for more than 15 years and created reality blurred in 2000. A member of the Television Critics Association, his writing and criticism about television, culture, and media has appeared on NPR and in Playboy, Buzzfeed, and many other publications. Andy, 36, also directs the journalism program at Stetson University in Florida, where he teaches creative nonfiction and journalism. He has an M.F.A. in nonfiction writing and literature from Bennington College. More about reality blurred and Andy.