S11E12: Every single year, Randy Jackson tells American Idol contestants that they’re the best group he’s seen. And every year, it comes down to the top 24 and I find myself thinking, “Yeah, okay. That makes sense.” Somehow, trimming the fat is always much easier than I thought it would be. There are always a few disappointments or slight shockers, but for the most part, by the time we get to the top 24, we’re all in agreement that they belong there. Of course, there’s the all-important element of reality TV editing, but we’ll let that sleeping dog lie.
In the final episode before America gets to start calling the shots, we find out who the remaining 10 finalists are after trudging through two hours of buildup to find out the first 14 on the last episode. But Idol is not one to keep things the way they are, so we start this episode with the conclusion of cruel (for the contestant – we all knew he was going through) cliffhanger and we end with yet another twist in Idol’s never-ending and often fruitless quest to truly shock us (oh, and that vision of Steven Tyler in his skivvies permanently burned into our brains). Idol, that’s what America’s votes are for – only we, the voters, can be truly unpredictable.
The Last 10 Finalists
For the first 14 finalists, check out our last recap.
Featured Eliminations: David Leathers, Jr., Jermaine Jones, Scott Dangerfield, Shelby Tweten, Ariel Sprague
Of course, as soon as the episode kicks off, we find that Adam Brock is totally and completely safe. If Randy’s hyperbolic criticisms and Jennifer asking him about his hopes and dreams with a look on her face like she was about to euthanize a kitty weren’t proof enough that they were working up to a fake out, Brock’s sheer amount of talent is. The guy has got a strong, soulful voice on him – plus, he’s got a really cute baby girl. Idol is hanging onto that goldmine for dear life. Powerhouses like caramel-voiced Jeremy Rosado, unbelievable dynamo Shannon Magrane, and instant favorite Hallie Day are clear shoe-ins – and their final performances prove that, causing Jennifer to happy dance and speak some language only a Nicktoons character could understand.
Baby Reba McEntire, Skylar Laine’s humility treads that thin line between endearing and annoying, and she fears she won’t make it because the top 24 already has a country singer in Chelsea Sorrell. Luckily, she’s wrong – because of a little something called a killer set of pipes – and she’ll go on to Reba it up in Los Angeles. My possible favorite contestant of 2012 (other than my main man Heejun Han) might be returning contestant Deandre Brackensick. I barely remember him from last year, which is insane because his bouncing lion’s mane of unruly ringlets is kind of unmistakable, but in a singing competition, it’s the voice that needs to be unmistakable and Deandre’s got that. He’s got a twist on Maxwell’s signature sweet, haunting falsetto and he made Jennifer (and me) a happy camper when he took on the artist’s biggest hit, “This Woman’s Work.” Jennifer says they’d be crazy to not keep him around – and that’s an understatement. The kid is nothing short of amazing. It’s contestants like him that make this show so much fun.
And then there are the dearly departed. Jermaine Jones, the mama’s boy with a voice like molasses (sorry for all the food metaphors, folks). After showing poor Jermaine agonizing and crying for over 30 seconds – which is a long time considering this series’ attention span – you’d think they’d at least give the poor guy a happy ending, but the judges are right. He’s just not ready. Still, it doesn’t make it any easier to see a gentle giant weeping buckets in his mama’s arms.
When we got down to the final two contestants, we got as close as we were going to get to a shocking elimination. The final pair was David Leathers, J. and Eben Franckewitz, our two favorite baby-faced young crooners. Only one could go on, and they both faltered for opposite reasons: David has an overconfidence issue and Eben lacks some bravado. In the end, it seems the judges think ramping Eben up is more likely than toning David down, because the 15 year-old with the angelic voice beats out David of the Michael Jackson timbre. It’s a bit shocking that Eben beat out David, but Las Vegas did bring him out of his gentle singing safe zone so it will be interesting to see how he handles the crowd in the Idol auditorium.
And because Idol can’t just leave it there, the series ups the ante once more: next week, the judges will reinstate of one of four potential male candidates: Richie Law, David Leathers, Jr., Jermaine Jones, and Johnny Keyser. Call me crazy, but one of these things is not like the others – Johnny Keyser is the only one who didn’t make it to the final Vegas performance. And if he is coming back, you can bet there’s going to be a stimulating story to explain his sudden return –at least, there has better be one.
Who do you think the 13th man will be? Do you think Eben should have stayed over David? Which contestant were you disappointed to see eliminated? Let us know your thoughts in the comments or get at me on Twitter. @KelseaStahler
S11E10: Now that the pressure of makeshift performances on group night and solo night is finally clear, the 70 remaining American Idol contestants are whisked away to Las Vegas to form groups once more. This time, they’ll put together costumes and work with vocal coaches to perform assigned 1950s and 1960s songs. Ryan informs us as dramatically as possible that this time, they’ll get immediate results on stage – as if it’s different than every other episode apart from Solo Night.
The wonderful thing about Vegas performances is that they tend to be colorful, theatrical and fun. We see outfits inspired by USO shows and Elvis performances, but dress-up is more fun when you aren’t sent packing in your fuchsia Diana Ross dress. And while 50s and 60s music seems like an easy task because we all know the words and the notes are clean and simple, but these harmonies and melodies are so tight, it’s terribly obvious when they’re not completely pristine.
Luckily, Idol spares us the uglier performances, delivering only the best of them. We’re also seeing the contestants quickly fall into two groups – even within the ones chosen to stay. There are your average contestants with pretty voices, decent ranges, cute faces, etc., but then you’ve got the people who – as cheesy as it sounds – have music in their souls. The split divides the backstreet boys from the people who seem to view music not as a meal ticket or a means of fame, but as part of their identities.
Cari Quoyeser, Colton Dixon, Chase Likens, Skylar Laine
Before this group takes the stage, Skylar worries her trouble with harmonies will hurt her group – yes, we found an Idol hopeful who’s actually worried about someone other than herself. The group kicks off Day 1 with “Dedicated to the One I Love” and the group was easily split into two groups: the talented ones and the other ones. Colton, despite the praise he gets from the judges time and again, just doesn’t do it for me. He’s a boring combination of 1990s Justin Timberlake and Jason Mraz. Snooze. He’s not bad, he’s just not a stand-out other than the fact that the show continues to highlight him. Chase and Skylar blow their cohorts out of the water despite putting their country voices into unfamiliar territory. Lastly, Cari was a bit “shaky” as Jennifer put it – though I have to agree – and she was the first contestant sent home.
David Leathers, Jr, Gabi Carrubba, Jeremy Rosado, Ariel Sprague
One fourth of the next group, contestant Gabi Carrubba, somehow treads an impossible line between diva and sweetheart, complaining that she doesn’t have a decent enough solo while still maintaining respect for her friends and fellow singers. But when it comes time to sing “Rockin’ Robin” she gets to rock a big note at the end. That sounds like the perfect place to show off if you ask me. As usual, David and Jeremy are incredible – no surprise there. The perfectly average Ariel comes out of the gate with a much bigger game this time – she really does belong up there. Despite their middle school glee club choreography, the judges send them all through – which is good because they’re friends and that could get awkward.
Angie Zeiderman, Erika Van Pelt, Adam Brock, Shelby Tweeten
Another split performance comes from this foursome, who spit out “Great Balls of Fire.” It’s no wonder that Adam shined as he sang and plinked away at the piano and Erika found the overboard sweet spot – the dynamic elements of the song suited her tendency to over perform. Angie is having fun and she’s fully committed, but she’s a little sharp and it’s clear she’s not the same caliber singer as her teammates. Shelby is cute and decent singer, but I’ve yet to find her engaging. They all go through, though Randy leaves poor Angie in limbo for what feels like 45 seconds.
Schyler Dixon, Brielle Von Hugel, Molly Hunt
Colton Dixon’s sister Schyler, didn’t fare as well in her routine as her brother did in his. The girls sang “Why Do Fools Fall in Love” in reimagined (see: skimpy) army costumes and Steven says he used to make out to this song, reminding us just how old he really is. The performance is over the top, and Schyler, especially, slides to and from notes too much. Brielle is obnoxious, but strong. They must have cut out Molly’s solo, because we have no evidence of her “weak” performance before she is cut. Jennifer adds that Molly is such a sweetheart. Yes, it hurts to send home the nice girl while the one who terrifies her own mother gets to continue.
Haley Johnson, Elise Testone, Eben Franckewitz, Reed Grimm
This unlikely quartet has “modernized” their song, “The Night Has a Thousand Eyes” and while I’m sure they have an official group name, they should probably change it to The Reed Show. Reed dominates the performance, and whether or not you find his personality obnoxious, his clear talent is unavoidable. Elise is fairly solid – though her voice does crack once – and Haley does alright, but her voice is remarkably vanilla. Eben is cute and sweet, but he’s not as remarkable as he once seemed to be, but at the end, he joins the group in scatting and beat boxing, proving that they’re not just singers, they’re truly musical. They carry it, even if their individual voices aren’t that spectacular. All four are moving on.
Richie Law, Jermaine Jones
After MIT kicked Richie out, the two deep-voiced singers couldn’t find groups. But even when they find each other, they have trouble syncing up. Richie once again thinks he’s couldn’t possibly be wrong and blames his vocal coach’s arrangement. Richie’s annoying qualities aside, they managed to pull it together for their performance. Jermaine sings honestly and sweetly and Richie sings like a Kermit the Frog sound-alike who’s watched too many Tim McGraw and Josh Groban videos. The judges love every bit of it – perhaps they were lulled into a happy place but Jermaine’s voice, because Richie sure didn’t have a pleasant effect on me.
Candice Glover, Jessica Sanchez, Deandre Brackensick
The trio sings “It Doesn’t Matter Anymore” and first up, Jessica, overdoes her performance with overdone vibrato, but she does prove to have a decent set of pipes. Deandre’s falcetto is a little hard to hear at first, but it’s lovely. It would lovelier without that mop, though. Candice is solid and acts as the final piece sending the whole group through to the next round.
But they can’t show every performance, so we learn of a few keepers and departures in rapid fire montaged. Strong singers Hallie Day, Baylie Brown, and Chelsea Sorrell will stick around for another day, while Wayne Wilson, Ashley Robles, Stephanie Renae, Aubrey Deickmeyer, Tonya Torrez, and Janelle Arthur are all sent home. But the Day 1 folks learn that at the end of Day 2, they’ll all be brought in for a second round of sudden cuts. Get ready for tears.
Scott Dangerfield, Clayton Farhat, Adam Lee Decker, Curtis Cray
These guys were a lot of fun, in their matching little “Jailhouse Rock” 50s ne’er-do-well get-ups, but it was obvious that the talent wasn’t even across the board. Clayton had fun by the was a little thin and Scott and Adam are the strongest. Curtis was sharp, Jennifer points out that he didn’t make use of dynamics. Curtis is out and while they’re nice as a group, none of them really stand out, vocally or personality-wise.
Jessica Phillips, Brittnee Kellogg, Courtney Williams
These over-confident ladies don’t practice with the band or vocal coaches because they sing for a living, so they don’t “need” the help. They delve into “Keep Me Hanging On” and immediately, Courtney has irregular switches between falcetto and vibrato. Jessica attempts a similar feat but with less risk. Randy calls it “A little much” – and that’s putting it lightly. The judges say both Courtney and Jessica took risks that didn’t pay off. I think that’s more true for Courtney than Jessica. Brittnee and Courtney make it through by some miracle and Jessica is sent home. I’m sorry but were we listening to the same thing? Courtney should be on the road right now. But Jessica is a poor loser, saying that she’s a real artist and calling out people who aren’t real artists, bashes the TV show saying she doesn’t care about it, she only cares about a recording contract. We loved Jessica and felt for her story, but unsportsmanlike behavior is not helping us feel badly for her.
Lauren Gray, Mathenee Treco, Wendy Taylor
This trio clashes hard with their vocal coach, causing her to make a reference to A League of Their Own which seems to do little more than confuse everyone. Lauren is losing her voice, the vocal coach is merciless, but that’s probably for the best. They sing “Will You Still Love Me” and Lauren does well, though it certainly sounds like she’s sick. Mathenee is good, but why are all of his solos in falcetto? That’s not a good way to show off. They cut Mathenee.
Jairon Jackson, Neco Starr, Phil Phillips, Heejun Han
Some Idol genius paired Heejun with Peggy Blue, but she’s actually sweet with him. Their little tete-a-tete is the best part of the coaching bits. “You were scary last year, what’s up with that?” “You’re sweet.” “You’re sweet too…now.” Isn’t that just adorable? And the reason Peggy was so nice is because the group just clicked. Neco’s performance is lovely. Heejun delivers a nice solo, but lacks his usual fire. And Phil actually has to sing sweetly – something he never really does, but he pulls it off. And it’s likable. Peggy actually gets a shout out – what planet is this? Randy messes with them, calls them forward one by one and then phrases the final verdict as if they’re cut. But duh, they all make it through. My favorite jokester lives to see another day.
Nick Boddington, Jen Hirsch, Creighton Fraker, Aaron Marcellus
The foursome is still coping with the loss of their old teammate, Reed Grimm, but they still whip out a rousing rendition of “Sealed With a Kiss.” And it would see my opinion of Creighton Fraker is pretty sealed. I liked him a bit more after “What a Wonderful World” but this week he’s back to delivering his voice as 10 shades of overkill. Jen Hirsch once again blows our minds – where has that voice been hiding? And Aaron is consistent as always. Nick is the only one who can’t really compare to the others and he’s sent home. And to be fair, if he’s overshadowed here, he’ll be overshadowed in the bigger competition too.
Also making it through are Caleb Johnson, Joshua Sanders, Joshua Ledet and Shannon Magrane.
Finally, they bring all the contestants on stage to humiliate them. They stand with groups and are eliminated or kept right then and there. It’s so cruel, but they need to get to 40 (they only make it to 42, but next week they have to get down to 24). And the major cuts are: Gabi Carrubba, Schyler Dixon (whose brother made it after JLo forced him to audition), Angie Zeiderman, Candice Glover, Johnny Keyser, Jairson Jackson, and Britnee Kellogg. But how they can keep a subpar singer like Richie around, in light of those cuts, is beyond me.
Next week, it’s the last chance before the top 24 are chosen. Who do you think will make it?
Top Story: Roger Moore Collapses on NY Stage
Veteran actor Roger Moore, who played secret agent James Bond in the '70s and '80s, collapsed on stage in New York and was taken to an area hospital on Wednesday. The London-born actor was a celebrity guest in Broadway's The Play What I Wrote, directed by Kenneth Branagh. According to British media report, Moore fell to the floor during a song-and-dance number halfway through the second act of the show. The curtain came down for a short time but the performance resumed and Moore went on through the last 10 minutes of the show. He is being treated in a Manhattan hospital for respiratory problems and is reported to be in stable condition. "I can confirm he collapsed during a performance of a play, but I have no more information as to his condition," his London agent told Reuters.
Dangerfield Goes Home
Rodney Dangerfield appeared in good shape Wednesday, just one month after having brain surgery. The 81-year-old comedian was released from the University of California, Los Angeles Medical Center on April 21, nearly two weeks after undergoing surgery to improve his blood flow for an upcoming heart valve replacement. "I feel like a new man," Dangerfield told The Associated Press, a long scar visible on the right side of his head. "I have all the doctors here to thank."
Depardieu Crashes Bike
French actor Gerard Depardieu, who starred in the romantic comedy Green Card, slightly injured his right leg in a motorcycle accident near Paris' old opera house, the AP reports. Police said Depardieu, 54, was able to walk away from the scene of the accident. This isn't the actor's first road accident. In 1998, Depardieu crashed his motorcycle when his blood-alcohol content was five times over the legal limit, escaping with leg and face injuries.
Townshend Cautioned Over Child Porn
The Who guitarist Pete Townshend, who was arrested earlier this year during a high-profile crackdown on Internet child porn, will be placed on a register of sex offenders after being formally cautioned Wednesday, Reuters reports. A DNA sample will be taken from him and he will be listed on the national Sex Offenders Register for five years. Townshend, 57, admitted using his credit card to access a child pornography Web site but said he was merely carrying out research for a future book. However, police said accessing such images for research or out of curiosity is not a defense.
Actor Robert Conrad Paralyzed
A court hearing in Robert Conrad's drunk driving case has been delayed until June 10 because the actor is partially paralyzed, Reuters reports. Conrad, who played U.S. Secret Service James West in the 1960s TV series The Wild Wild West, was left partially paralyzed by the car accident in which he is accused of drunken driving. The 68-year-old actor was arrested on March 31 after his car collided with another vehicle in northern California. Police said Conrad's blood alcohol level far exceeded legal limits. His paralysis, however, is not permanent and Conrad is expected to leave a physical rehabilitation facility soon.
Berry in MLK Memorial Ads
Oscar winner Halle Berry and TV weatherman Al Roker will star in a new ad campaign to raise money for a memorial to the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., the AP reports. The public service announcements will feature Berry being escorted to a "colored section" at the back of a restaurant and Roker not being able to find a treadmill that isn't marked "white guests only." The ads were unveiled Wednesday as part of an effort over the next year and a half to raise $40 million needed to break ground on the national memorial to the civil rights leader. The ads will be placed on radio, TV, newspapers and magazines.
Role Call: Piven Joins Moore's Road Trip, Hanks' Playtone To Fly With CGI
Jeremy Piven has been cast opposite Mandy Moore in an untitled Warner Bros. project for veteran TV director Andrew Cadiff. The pic, slated to go into production in mid-June, centers on the U.S. President's 18-year-old daughter, who runs away on a European road trip. Piven is set to play a key Secret Service agent ... Playtone Production partners Tom Hanks and Gary Goetzman will turn Mary Howitt's 1829 poem The Spider and the Fly into a CGI film for Universal Pictures. The project, written and directed by Bradley Peyton (Evelyn, The Cutest Evil Dead Girl), focuses on a fetching young fly who gets flattered by a spider who tries to charm her into joining him in the spider web.