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Friday, March 16, 2012

American Idol Recap: Two for the Price of One!

Surprise! American Idol kicked off Jermaine Jones before performance night this week, because they discovered he had four outstanding warrants. In the past, Idol has skipped eliminating another contestant if someone had to go due to unforeseen circumstances. 

Not this time, though! This week was a two-for-one special. Not only did Jermaine go, but so did the contestant with the lowest number of votes. And with that, American Idol has their Top Ten, meaning these contestants go on the tour, picking up a paycheck and music industry experience.

On Wednesday, contestants sang songs from the year they were born, and since most of the contestants are essentially infants, the songs selected were fairly current. All in all the night was filled with mediocre performances. Skylar at one point told the judges, "ya'll are bein' mean." No, poor, sweet, Southern Skylar, the judges were actually just doing their jobs (for once!) and being critical. And it's not mean if, in general, the performances are lackluster and forgettable. 

The Guys
Phillip Phillips started the night with an okay (almost karaoke) performance of The Black Crowes' "Hard to Handle." The judges were gracious to Phillip because he had surgery that week and still performed quite well. His song selection was within his wheel-house, and while he seems to be almost mimicking Dave Matthews at times, a lot of folks like Dave Matthews and that style of music, so it's no surprise he's a crowd favorite. His baby blues, easy smile, and relaxed stage presence probably helps, too.

Later in the show Colton Dixon took a daring step and performed "Broken Heart" by White Lion, a not-so-well-known song. While none of us knew the tune and we're not so sure traditional rock is his style, we thought Colton's delivery was believable and enjoyable. Shockingly, Steven Tyler had more to say than his usual "that was beautiful" dribble. He actually hated the song selection. Randy and J. Lo loved the performance, though. 

While Colton and Phillip did fine, the real standout among the guys (heck, among all the performers!) was Joshua LeDet. Oh sweet Moses! That boy brought the steeple down with his emotional, gospel-ish rendition of "When a Man Loves a Woman" (Michael Bolton's interpretation). To quote Best Week Ever, "I rewatched this performance 3 times while fanning myself in the Baptist church I just built in my living room. This was amaaaaaazing...It was like Sexual Chocolate sings James Brown. When he took that jacket off? Chile I nearly fainted." When he finished, the crowd had two choices: applaud excessively or sit in silent amazement! 

Heejun and Deandre, on the other hand, were deplorable. While normally charming in his pre-performance promo pieces, Heejun was awkward while interacting with Will.I.Am. His performance was breathy, full of whispers, and slightly pitchy. Not to be outdone, though, Deandre looked like a dread-locked deer in headlights as he struggled through a horribly arranged "Endless Love," a song far too mature for him. Deandre is a bit too green for this competition. And based on his demeanor before and after the performance, he doesn't really seem in it to win it. Can it be curtains for Deandre already?

The Gals
Alas, though, it cannot be curtains, because we have the women. Far more forgettable than the men, the ladies' performances were plagued by pitch problems, bad arrangements, and poor song choices.

Front runner Jessica Sanchez did well, but we agree with the judges that her voice isn't made for up-tempo songs like Gloria Estefan's "Turn the Beat Around." The judges gave her the most constructive criticism out of any contestant. Why don't they do this all the time and for everyone? It seems like the judges are desperate for a girl to win, so perhaps they are playing favorites with Ms. Sanchez

Hollie Cavanagh received a lot of praise from the judges, but we weren't really blown away. Celine Dion's songs are too dated for the competition. She also sings these epic love ballads that require a lot of passion. The tune just didn't fit young, happy-go-lucky Hollie. And to be honest, the true great "Power of Love" song is by Huey Lewis and The News from Back to the Future. Too bad you weren't born that year, Hollie.

Skylar played it safe and did an easy country song. For a contestant who performed so well and chose such a risky song last week, she sure was disappointing on Wednesday. The judges said nothing of value, so we're sure she'll continue to choose simple country songs and dole out predictable performances. What a shame. She is from the South, though, so she'll probably go pretty far in the competition.

The Bottom Three (i.e. The Gals, Continued)
Elise did her best, singing a seductive and raspy "Let's Stay Together." The judges seemed to enjoy it, but it was simply golf clap-worthy. 

As for Erika Van Pelt, she sang a really badly arranged "Heaven," and it almost seemed as though she didn't actually know the song. Why was she singing the chorus that way? J. Lo coined her this season's Janis Joplin, which is weird because the folks backstage seemed to want to make her look like an Adele-knock-off. Unfortunately for Erika, she's no Adele

And then there's Shannon Magrane. For someone who started out with so much promise, she really took a nosedive. In addition to constantly choosing songs that are too big for her, she consistently struggles to deliver on performance night. Like Deandre, she's too inexperienced and lacks some training. America must have noticed this, too, because dim the lights! Adios, Shannon. 

There you have it, your top ten, America. Next week's theme is Billy Joel, and for the love of the Piano Man, we sincerely hope these performers all step up their game.

What were your thoughts? Did America get it right? 

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