May 16, 2012 7:52pm EST
Oh, American Idol. You know exactly how to get me every year. Around this time every season, I find myself reaching for the Kleenex, hoping to stop my tears from overflowing into my oversized Coke cup. And just when I think I can’t cry anymore, you give me something that makes me weep more than Ryan Seacrest peering at an out-of-business tanning salon. You force a stale performance of “I Don’t Wanna Miss a Thing” on me.
Sure, the annual hometown visits are touching and all, but watching Wednesday night’s penultimate performance episode, I found myself shedding more tears hearing our Top 3’s disappointedly uncreative song choices. Really, Jessica? After already choosing overplayed Idol songs like “Turn the Beat Around” (Season 2’s Carmen Rasmusen, Season 3’s Diana DeGarmo, Season 6’s Haley Scarnato), “Fallin’” (Season 1’s Kristin Holt, Season 5’s Mandisa, Season 9’s Michelle Delamor, Season 10’s Haley Reinhart), “Try a Little Tenderness” (Season 4’s Nadia Turner, Season 5’s Taylor Hicks), “Bohemian Rhapsody” (Season 4’s Constantine Maroulis, Season 5’s Kellie Pickler, Season 7’s Michael Johns, Season 8’s Adam Lambert), “Proud Mary” (Season 2’s Trenyce, Season 4’s Fantasia, Season 7’s Syesha Mercado), “You Are So Beautiful” (Season 5’s Taylor Hicks, Season 8’s Danny Gokey), and “And I Am Telling You” (Season 1’s Tamyra Gray and Melanie Sanders, Season 6’s LaKisha Jones, Season 8’s Nick Mitchell, Season 10’s Ashthon Jones, and Oscar winner Jennifer Hudson), you decide to sing Aerosmith’s “I Don’t Want To Miss a Thing,” already performed on Idol by Season 2’s Josh Gracin, Season 4’s Lindsey Cardinale, Season 6’s Antonella Barba, Season 7’s David Cook, Season 6’s Allison Iraheta, Season 9’s Aaron Kelly, and Season 10’s Lauren Alaina? (For those of you keeping count, Jessica’s version makes eight — none of whom have killed it like Steven Tyler.) And seriously, Joshua? Choosing John Lennon’s “Imagine,” a song so manipulative, even David Archuleta’s dad is micromanaging it? (Imagine there’s no “Imagine” on Idol!) And, Phillip? Picking a song you probably got high listening to in your friend’s den while eating cheesesteaks? Well, at least you probably had more of a connection to Matchbox 20’s “Disease” than Joshua did with “I heard it on the radio” tune “Imagine.”
It’s actually concerning — while, in years past, we were forced to suffer the judges’ faulty judgment (you can blame David Cook and Allison Iraheta’s aforementioned performances of the Aerosmith hit on the judges’ choice), this is the first season of Idol in which I found myself questioning the singers’ tastes. I’d love to give them the benefit of the doubt and simply blame fatigue (see: Joshua’s dreary-eyed, Ambien-fueled responses to Ryan’s questions), but you’d think the contestants would at least have a few magical beans in their back pockets. It’s like Top Chef contestants showing up to the competition without at least one dessert recipe in their arsenal — it’s hard to accept a delicious main course if it’s followed by an underwhelming chocolate soufflé. So why not cart with you some extra recipes for success?
NEXT: Phillip: Music’s Twin Sets and Butterfly Clips.
So as much as I want to eat up our singers’ post-Idol careers, I’m finding myself wondering if they’re even ready to dig in. Would we be satisfied with a Joshua Ledet album filled with tunes so saccharine, they could fill a candy store? A Jessica Sanchez album so predictable, you can call it Randy Jackson? A Phillip Phillips album so 1990s, you could slap a pair of Doc Martens on it?
Perhaps my 1990s nostalgic has hypnotized me with visions of Lisa Frank unicorns and gelly roll pens, but I’m totally buggin’ thinking of that last option, Tai. Because while Joshua and Jessica’s choices were roll-your-eyes predictable, Phillip has managed to carve out an audience for himself that enjoys his particular recipe. Take one tablespoon of growl and combine it with one cup quirk and 100,000 screaming 13-year-olds, and you have a combination as delectable as it is cannibalistic. So while “Disease” might have been just mildly infectious, it was easy to forgive the performance after antidote that was Madcon’s “Beggin’.” (Holy English class, so many metaphors!) I have to give Randy-esque mad props to Steven Tyler for his unconventional choice for Phillip — his foresight let the contestant to deliver his best performance of the season. The acoustic beginning, reminiscent of Kris Allen’s “Heartless,” his playfulness with the melody, the outdoor concert vibe — it’s no wonder Steven called Phillip the “New Age Boss” after whipping out his poetry: “When you’re facing the sun, the shadows stand behind you. My hands are small I know, but they’re not yours, they are my own.”
Though Phillip’s chest hair was screaming for it, the judges failed to give him a deserved standing ovation for “Beggin’” — but he did finally score recognition for Jimmy Iovine’s choice, Bob Seger’s “We’ve Got Tonight,” a lovely rendition that helped audiences remember that Phillip actually has a beautiful voice behind the guitar, growls, and dorm room move-in day wardrobe. (Even the insipid Swaybot clapping couldn’t bring him down.) Randy may be wrong calling it Phillip’s best performance yet — “Beggin’” and last week’s “Volcano” exploded on the Idol stage much more — but performing the song more than sealed a spot in the final two, especially after Steven’s praise: “Get used to it, because you never will. I still bleed and my lips still smile and my breasts won’t always be firm.”
But the pimp spot isn’t the only thing guaranteeing Phillip a Top 2 finish — his hometown footage in Georgia was far more touching than his other contestants’ visits. Watching Phillip go home, we laughed (the “Phillip, you still owe me $10” sign), we cried (the usually stoic Phillip breaking down, and subsequently breaking hearts, during the parade), and felt simultaneously touched, petrified, and eager to read up on gun laws seeing Phillip Phillips Sr., packing heat. Phillips spot in the final two is as sure as the future restraining order he will file against the rabid fan who pulled him out of his limo.
NEXT: Animal crackers in my Idol
Speaking of (pawn shop) turkeys, I have a feeling that Jessica will miss the final two, no matter how much she don’t want to. It’s too bad — the 16-year-old deserves a spot in the finals, if not a chance to soak in a confetti shower. And her approach Wednesday night was quite savvy for a girl from a generation that documents all their embarrassing teen crushes online. (The pen and paper won’t seem so lame in 10 years, kids!) Why not become the next Mariah Carey in a world all too devoid of ridiculous photoshopped albums full of ridiculously amazing vocals? So I wanted to love Jennifer’s choice, “My All,” as much as I did when I jotted down the lyrics in my eighth grade notebook. And I wanted to see the rainbow at the end of Jimmy’s “I’ll Be There,” a song Mariah herself covered dutifully and passionately. But it turns out Jessica and Mariah’s songs are as bad a fit as TRL and ice cream carts . The songs lacked Jessica’s patented pizzazz, her penchant for wowing audiences who underestimate her abilities because of her young age. Instead, her youth showed — as did the fact that she’s simply not Mariah, no matter how much Tommy Mottola is interested in her. Add to that yet another unsettlingly mature, midriff-baring outfit and a song of her choosing as plain as Liv Tyler and unfrosted animal crackers, and Jessica seems poised to settle for a Top 3 finish. That’s despite Steven’s assessment that Jessica might end up Season 11’s winner: Said Ryan, “Did you just predict a winner?” Said Steven, “Don’t I always?”
And isn’t that, ladies and gentlemen, the exact problem with our judges’ panel? Because while Steven might have supported Jessica following her performance of “My All,” he flip-flopped so quickly in Joshua’s corner, he might as well sit on an IHOP griddle. Because, once again, our panel of three cannot seem to jump off the Joshua train. Just see the trio’s standing ovation for Randy’s choice, “I’d Rather Go Blind,” a performance so tired, it just read a Nicholas Sparks chapter and turned in for the night. (I’ll spare you the “I’d Rather Be Deaf” jokes.) Not to mention their love for the uninspired “Imagine” and Jimmy’s choice, Mary J. Blige’s “No More Drama.” Look, I respect Joshua’s talent and feel for him knowing he’s been unable to score any constructive criticism, but an octave-spanning run at the end of Joshua’s songs is as expected as Strawberry Alarm Clock at one of Nigel Lythgoe’s parties. So as much as the lady who bedazzled Joshua and Jessica’s jackets might tell her cats that she hearts the contestant, Joshua’s performances are still anything but spontaneous, Jennifer. Still, the judges will continue to praise Joshua for schlocky stripping (“That’s what being a great artist is about,” says Jeff Timmons Randy?) until they’re riding with Twinkies, cockroaches, and John Cusack into the End of Times.
But with Idol’s end of Season 11 times fast approaching, can you imagine a final two with Jessica? Or do you agree that Phillip and Joshua are finals-bound? What made you cry more: Phillip’s hometown visit, or the fact that you felt jealous watching him caress his own leg during “We’ve Got Tonight”? Does Ryan deserve a raise of coping with two out of three contestants who are virtually not interview-able? Does Joshua have a future in politics, what with his skill for killing babies? And wouldn’t Stefon love West Lake, Louisiana? It. Has. Everything. Parades, crawfish, women who cry holding babies, women with pirate eye patches…
Follow Kate on Twitter @HWKateWard
[Image Credit: FOX]
American Idol: Season 12 Will Boast 'Creative Tweaking'
Idol Castoff Hollie Cavanagh on Her Bond with Joshua Ledet and Colton Dixon’s Fangirls American Idol Recap: Hollie Go-Lightly-Away
May 03, 2012 4:58pm EST
The way Season 11 has progressed, the only cut that would have been truly shocking on American Idol was if Hollie Cavanagh was sent out the door. Not only because the contestant has proven to have the staying power of a pimple on prom night, but also because Wednesday night featured a theme, British Night, that played right into her roots. So it's really not all that shocking that one of our early frontrunners, Skylar Laine, was the contestant actually sent straight out of CBS Television City. Sad? Yes. Shocking? Not entirely.
I even predicted her possible elimination following her stellar performance night Wednesday. Not that I ever wanted her to be sent packing — Skylar was one of the most consistent performers to ever hit the Idol stage. But that was precisely her problem — in order to find success on Idol, you need an intriguing storyline that extends past your love for ATVs and gunfire. The singer might be far more professional and recording-ready than the likes of Hollie, but the latter contestant is currently enjoying the benefits of the “dark horse” label that fueled previous contestants like Season 10’s Haley Reinhart and Season 7’s Syesha Mercado straight to the Top 3. Skylar, on the other hand, was simply an awe-inspiring performer week in and week out, which is hardly enough to inspire drama-loving teens to race their phones faster than Jennifer Lopez can say, "WeloveyouJoshuayoumustwinpleasesing'Blue(DaBaDee)'formesoIcaninexplicablyoverpraiseit."
Luckily, Skylar will be just fine. If Season 5’s sixth place finisher, Kellie Pickler, can use Idol to jumpstart a lucrative country career with her red high heels, so can Skylar with her diamond-studded pistol. And, dear fellow Idol fans wondering if Skylar’s cut means we are indeed “headed straight for hell” — as the outgoing contestant sang — the rest of Season 11 will be just fine too. In fact, Hollie’s mere presence might just make this season even more exciting. (I know what you’re thinking: What? No! But bear with me, friends.) As I mentioned in my recap last night, Idol viewers love to root against a contestant who they perceive undeservedly outlasted their favorite. (See: Danny Gokey, Scott Savol, Sanjaya Malakar.) From a pure talent standpoint, the Top 4 might have been better off with Skylar, but from a drama standpoint? Hollie certainly dazzles.
Thursday night’s Idol did, however, deliver a shock more stunning than Skylar’s cut: A terrible performance from Season 4 winner/superstar/owner of amazing legs Carrie Underwood, who I can only hope was braving a sickness during “Blown Away.” Country royalty or no, even Simon Cowell would call the number “dreadful” and ask Carrie if she went to the same tanning booth as Willy Wonka’s workers. Seriously, the only thing that blew harder than Carrie during that performance was the ridiculous wind machine. ZING!
So we shouldn’t fear for our dear Skylar — she managed to outperform a superstar like Carrie with “Gunpowder and Lead,” even after being dealt a crushing, not-quite-expected blow. Here’s hoping she seeks solace in faux boyfriend/fellow undeserved fallen Idol Colton Dixon. But were you surprised by the cut, readers? Shouldn’t we at least be glad Hollie will be able to dine on Twinkies and Spam after the Apocalypse? Are you, like me, the teensy bit angry that Joshua got another opportunity to enjoy standalone praise that should shoot him straight to victory? Was Jessica’s dress really almost the most damaging style choice on TV since Keri Russell’s haircut-that-shall-not-be-named? Did anyone else notice Phillips’ absence during the Ford Music Video (and feel relieved he didn’t have to dress like a fairy tale version of Mystery like Joshua)? Has Phillip stopped caring so much that he chews gum on stage?! And wasn’t Coldplay Coldplay? Follow Kate on Twitter @HWKateWard More: Phillip Phillips Backstage at Idol: 'I'm not trying to be some boy that tries to look good.' American Idol Recap: Playing Favorites Idol Winner Kris Allen on His New Album, Colton Dixon’s Defeat, and Phillip PhillipsAmerican Idol
May 02, 2012 7:47pm EST
Over the course of its 11 seasons, American Idol has produced a healthy supply of classic Idols. I’m not talking about the Carrie Underwoods or Jennifer Hudsons, superstars who, during their tenure on the show, only teased their future abilities, making us unsure as to whether they actually did have a shot to become an A-lister after the glitz of reality TV wore off. I’m talking about the classic Idols who not only accumulated an overzealous fanbase, but also managed to make an already addictive Idol even more intriguing, no matter their success level following the show. I’m referring Kelly Clarkson, Clay Aiken, Ruben Studdard, Fantasia, Bo Bice, David Cook, Kris Allen, Adam Lambert, Haley Reinhart, and, yes, I’d even say Blake Lewis, who revolutionized the series in ways no one gave him credit for. (No one truly made any song, as Randy would say, his or her own until Blake beat-boxed his way into our hearts, and then into obscurity, during Season 6.)
These Idols might not have been the most successful to grace the stage (Kelly withstanding), but they certainly were the most entertaining. They blew us away with their passion and talent, and drew us in even further with intriguing personalities. If we brought this to a rank, they might very well make up my Top 10, if we’re solely counting entertainment value on the Idol stage. So it’s surprising to hear the judges’ panel rank Joshua Ledet as one of the two best Idols of all time, when I’d be hard pressed to find him a spot in the Top 20.
Don’t get me wrong: Dude is talented and he might transform into an industry superstar, which is good since his “Ain’t Too Proud to Beg” suit made it clear he has no future as a botanist. But, unlike the judges, I can’t see what’s unique and exciting about the singer, who’s failed to garner enough criticism to encourage him to show us anything unique and exciting. Instead, week in and week out, our judges give him standing ovations for churning out performances more fit for season 3 than a post-David Cook season 11. Not only that, but they named him one of the best singers to ever exist in 50 years. So, sorry, Aretha Franklin, Freddie Mercury, Michael Jackson, and Beyoncé. Joshua, a star of a reality show on a network that made a name for itself airing a show about bored police officers that bust drunk idiots, has got you had.
Look, I understand hyperbole. It’s likely the judges don’t actually feel Joshua could be stacked against those greats, no matter how many times the ejector button shoots them out of their seats. But Joshua’s “Ain’t Too Proud to Beg” was a faithful cover of The Temptations hit that was only slightly better than George Huff’s rendition in Season 3. And, while Joshua ended “To Love Somebody” on many a high note, the performance was just as listenable as Clay Aiken’s version in Season 2, but no more. But perhaps nothing shows the judges’ unfair favoritism towards Joshua than their high praise of Joshua and Phillip’s duet of “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling,” a performance not only horrendous because of its pitchiness, but also because of the fact that Joshua and Phillip failed to play sweaty shirtless volleyball after the performance. Steven, in fact, labeled it “perfect,” despite the contestants’ inability to keep a straight face during the entire performance — they broke so often during the song, all it was missing was Jimmy Fallon.
NEXT: Phillip's Self-Sabotage?
One could even say the judges also harbor favoritism for our favorite pawn shop worker, Phillip, who brought us self-sabotage of Jason Castro levels last night. There was the aforementioned “Lovin’ Feeling,” the worst duet to hit the Idol stage since James Durbin’s and Jacob Lusk’s “I’m Into Something Good.” There was his take on The Zombies’ “Time of the Season,” which saw him struggling on high notes he should have never attempted to hit. (The judges might have been surprised with his straight-forward take, saying, “He can really sing the melody!” but they failed to take into account that he couldn’t sing it well.) Then there was the biggest Idol no-no of all: The heartthrob brought his girlfriend to CBS Television City. Phillip had to have known that would send a flurry of his fans straight to their Lisa Frank diaries, where they bitterly write down Joshua’s phone number, sniffling away the tears as they realized that maybe Phillip wasn’t singing right at them every Wednesday night after all. Sniff.
But, as much as I adore Phillip and the gray, cringe-y way he makes Tommy Hilfiger cringe, self-sabotage is hardly as dumb as pairing with the cowboy during group week. In fact, Phillip would be much better off being sent home Thursday night, a scenario as plausible as the possibility that J. Lo will wear sequins and make me wonder who her very talented doctor is. As we’ve seen over the course of the past 11 seasons, a rock star winner on Idol is faced with a disadvantage. Forced into the music scene as a solo act showered in confetti on reality television, rock winners — see: David Cook, Kris Allen, Lee DeWyze — have found it difficult to build cred in the industry. On the other hand, an artist like Chris Daughtry — who was just as recording-ready as Phillip during his tenure on Idol in Season 4 — managed to accumulate a group of fans dedicated to making sure he built the acclaim and respect he so deserved on the reality show. Because, at this point, Phillip doesn’t need Idol. He know who he is and what kind of album he needs to record — one that should include lovely and listenable performances like “The Letter.” As guest mentor Steven Van Zandt said, “Leave him alone. He’s good. Badabing, badaboom, parkway, other New Jersey stereotypical phrases.”
It’s hard to believe I’m imagining an Idol world in which Phillip goes home, and Hollie may stay. What is this, opposite night? Am I now supposed to compliment Brian Dunkleman on his hosting skills last night? Where am I? What year is it? How did I get here? Who does No. 2 work for? But not only do I believe Hollie will stay, but I believe she should stay. Granted, Idol set up her underdog storyline perfectly: After being at the receiving end of insults from judges and fans alike, Hollie began her Idol climb last week with, appropriately, “The Climb.” And now, we hand the British lass a British Night theme. Cut to: A tepid performance of Tina Turner’s “River Deep, Mountain High” that the judges conveniently failed to criticize as much as Jessica Sanchez’s Tina Turner cover, and a version of “Bleeding Love” that allows audiences to compare her with another reality show winner, the U.K. X Factor’s Leona Lewis. (Even though Steven couldn’t, since he managed to avoid all radios and doctor’s offices in 2007, having never heard the song before.) It’s no surprise the show seems to be supporting the contestant: Idol would be better off with Hollie on the show — there’s nothing the reality series’ viewers love more than to bash a contestant that undeservingly outlasted their favorite. (See: Danny Gokey, Sanjaya Malakar, Syesha Mercado, Scott Savol, etc.) To rid Idol of Hollie rids the show of some of some desirable intrigue that could make The Voice-hating ratings fairies at Fox celebrate.
NEXT: Where does Skylar fit in?
So I wouldn’t be surprised if Hollie’s reality-friendly storyline picked up the young female vote. Which means Season 11’s other young girls might also be in jeopardy come Thursday, especially if audiences failed to connect with Jessica’s spirited-but-disturbingly-sexy cover of “Proud Mary,” presumably performed against a backdrop of set items stolen from the set of Chicago. (I’ll take “Potently Inappropriate Dresses For a Teenager” for $600, Alex!) And it doesn’t help her cause that the judges criticized her for taking on the dragon that is Tina Turner, without having doled out the same criticism to supposed slayer Hollie. (Not to mention the fact that J. Lo wondered rhetorically, “How could you let this girl go home?” which pretty much introduces the possibility that Jessica could leave CBS Television City Thursday night.) But I’d find it impossible if anyone in the viewing was unable to connect with Jessica’s fittingly beautiful version of “You Are So Beautiful,” which was so alluring and perfectly executed, it’s despicable to think the young singer has never been gifted Idol’s pimp spot. (Predictably, Joshua scored the spot Wednesday night for the second time.) Come on, Nigel! She’s sitting on the floor! In the name of Fantasia and Katharine McPhee, don’t you know that floor-sitting leads to an automatic Idol moment?!
And then that leaves us with Skylar, the consummate professional who, week in and week out, offers up fun performances so contagious, I hope a trip with CBS Television City comes complete with a CDC vaccine shot. But that’s precisely her problem: Skylar lacks not only the tearful histrionics that garners votes, but the intriguing storyline that sends fans racing to their cell phones. Joshua is the anointed one, Phillip is the rebel, Jessica is the victim, and Hollie is the dark horse. But how do you categorize Skylar? Sure, her “Fortunate Son,” was a perfect song to show off her stage presence, and anyone who didn’t fall for “You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me” is as weird as that couple on the bench. But the CCR song’s counter-culture theme might not gel with her fanbase, and Skylar’s latter performance is far too perfect a swan song to quell my nerves surrounding her fate Thursday night. And after her bottom three visit last week, perhaps only luck will keep her from riding an ATV right out of CBS Television City. Perhaps she should have performed “Knock on Wood” after all.
Do you get the Joshua hype, readers? Who’s headed home Thursday? Did Jessica, Skylar, and Hollie sing “Higher and Higher,” or was the song performed by a series of American Girl Dolls? Why did Elise Testone get a goodbye montage in the opening credits, but Colton Dixon didn’t last week? And did Steven Van Zandt learn his chair-sitting etiquette from Flashdance?
Follow Kate on Twitter @HWKateWard
American Idol Recap: Order Restored
American Idol Recap: They Want to Break Free
Ryan Seacrest Re-Ups with American Idol: Why We're Thanking Our Lucky StarsAmerican Idol
April 19, 2012 6:34pm EST
Look, I don’t necessarily blame America. Colton Dixon was hardly at his best Wednesday night, delivering a cover of Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance” that was more bad than romantic, and a version of “September” that wouldn’t encourage any new fans to fall.
And I can't blame Hollie’s fans, even though they have inexplicably decided to keep her in the competition over the talented and radio-ready Colton, whose first bad performance this season was the night before his elimination. Yes, Hollie is adorable, and yes, she enjoyed her best performance in weeks Wednesday night with Adele’s (sigh) “Rolling In the Deep.” But she’s a contestant that hardly deserves to be rolling with the Top 6 homies. (Sorry, that was way harsh, Tai.)
I can also blame the show itself. After all, it’s only following his ouster that you realize how disadvantaged Colton has been in this competition. Despite the fact that he regularly turned in solid performances, he’s only enjoyed the pimp slot once, during Billy Joel week. (And not giving the piano man the pimp slot when he plays “Piano Man” is as sacrilegious as claiming From Justin To Kelly isn’t worth the $10 theater ticket. Wait, is that just me?) Elise, on the other hand, has been gifted the final performance slot a whopping three times. (That’s quite a lot for a contestant who said Thursday she feels “discredited,” disadvantaged, and picked on by the judges during the competition.) And Colton has hardly had the support of Randy & Co., who didn’t give the singer a standing ovation until he sang his swan song. Not for his heartfelt “Broken Heart.” Not for his melodic “Piano Man.” And not for his reinvented “Time After Time.” It’s tough to swallow when you remember that Joshua received a standing ovation for a milquetoast version of a corny American Idol victory song.
But without a Judges’ Save, we have to cope — and Idol must too. After all, though the elimination might have been deliciously dramatic, the season just lost one of its most consistent performers, second only to increasingly promising Skylar. (And one of its smartest performers — the well-spoken Colton boasted the best parting words of the season, telling the judges he will listen to their Wednesday night critiques and “when I’m making a record.”) Now, instead of being able to dip into its eccentric prop closet for a crowd-pleasing Colton performance, Idol will have to make do with Hollie and Elise, two consistent bottom three dwellers whose staying power is so confounding, you might as well call them Syesha Mercado.
Still, Idol must not mind the contestants’ presence, despite the judges' deservedly harsh critiques of both contestants. After all, why didn’t the reality show follow through with its patented post-Judges’ Save double elimination? That way, if we had to say goodbye to Colton, we could at least have enjoyed the silver lining of Hollie’s ouster as well. So I can say that America got it wrong, that America has an infuriating tendency to keep cute but undeserving contestants singing straight into the finale. (Ahem, Lauren Alaina.) But Idol had its chance to at least bump the wooden Hollie — but inexplicably decided she was worth another shot. It’s disappointing, but perhaps a visit from the cautionary tale that is Idol’s favorite drunk uncle, Taylor Hicks, will encourage voters to actually send season 11’s best and brightest straight into the Top 5 next week. That would certainly make me proud.
Angry about the shocking elimination, fellow Idol fans? Excited to welcome back Kris Allen — even if he was forced to play on Mark Jenson and Family’s spinning platform? Did you, like me, find Ryan Seacrest’s brief, but touching, tribute to Dick Clark Wednesday far more moving than Thursday’s longer, more produced segment? Is Elise really “discredited” by the judges? And, finally, was LMFAO’s performance of “Sorry for Party Rocking” one of Stefon’s meth-infused nightmares?
Elise Testone backstage at Idol: 'I'm not being rude.'
American Idol Recap: What’s Now Is Then
American Idol: Ranking the Top 7! (Again!)
April 19, 2012 5:20am EST
Even the most ardent fans of American Idol always have two criticisms of the reality series: It doesn’t showcase enough contemporary music — focusing on irrelevant disco hits over current songs that could actually help an artist share his or her personal style with audiences — and it favors insipid talk and lengthy ads over actual singing. (Heck, even the entire theater at CBS Television City is an advertisement.) But on Wednesday night, the series aimed to rectify its problems, offering up more music and a theme, Now and Then, that allowed contestants a wide variety of tunes to choose from.
Unfortunately, that turned out to be an idea more flawed than a season 9 judges’ panel. Though we were “treated” to a whopping 14 musical numbers, each performance would have fared better with 30 additional seconds to allow each singer to grow into their songs. And the contemporary offerings hardly helped our crop of contestants — though they had what I presume to be a much larger catalogue of music to choose from than normal, most opted to take on the past decade’s most overheard artists: Lady Gaga, Alicia Keys, and (sigh) Adele. I’ve actually grown more tired of telling reality show contestants to leave Adele alone than I’ve gotten grown of hearing reality show contestants butcher “Rolling In the Deep.” Instead, I found myself zoning out during the course of the show, wondering how in the world Christina Ricci would ever grow up to be Rosie O’Donnell.
In fact, with the exception of two solid performers, the only highlight of the evening proved to be Ryan Seacrest, channeling his dearly departed American idol, Dick Clark, via a respectable sense of somber professionalism. Out of any tribute that hit the Web today following the American Bandstand host’s death, Ryan Seacrest’s was truly the most touching, and the most fitting for his rockin’ mentor. Said Seacrest at the top of the show: “I know that he’s in a better place, saying, hey, let’s get on with the show, okay? You got it, boss.”
So instead of teasing Idol for its increasingly ridiculous opening montages — I’m pretty sure I wrote “What we call the beginning is often the end” in a junior high school poetry paper — let’s too channel Clark and get on with the show. Who is facing Thursday night’s Judges’ Save-causing double elimination? And who has Idol decided must. Be. In. The. Final. Two? I’m not sure, but every time I see a Coke can, I get a little dizzy and find myself dialing for Joshua and Jessica. Onto the performances!
NEXT: “No One” should sing “Let’s Get It On” but Marvin Gaye. They’re So Then
The struggling contestant broke two the two cardinal rules of American Idol: Never fight against judge criticism — especially if you’re already fighting an attitude reputation — and never, ever sing Marvin Gaye’s “Let’s Get It On” unless you hilariously dedicate the performance to your parents for our creepy enjoyment. (Here’s looking at you, season six’s Jared Cotter.)
But broke the rules Elise did — and it’s likely she’ll pay dearly for it. Because, frankly, the contestant didn’t deserve the praise she’d hoped for when it came to her covers of “Let’s Get It On” and Alicia Keys’ “No One.” She was disconnected during the latter song, which was only made worse by a ridiculous fan that must have gotten lost on its way back from a Beyoncé photo shoot. And “Let’s Get It On” was hardly better — admittedly, Elise’s growl fit well with the most powerful verses of the tune, but the song delivered by anyone other than Gaye is so corny, it might as well get its own palace in Iowa. (Midwest represent!) Plus, as much as I can sympathize with Elise’s dog’s ailing health (and as much as I can think it’s despicable for J. Lo to essentially tell Elise to sing as if her dog died), it’s never a good idea to play the Gokey card on American Idol. So I suppose Elise broke three cardinal Idol rules.
If I may, however, pull a Paula: Elise, who typically looks like she fell into a 6-year-old’s macaroni picture, did look lovely tonight. And now, since Idol went multi-generational tonight, I give you my Idol superfan mother’s opinion of Elise’s performances.
Critiques from My Mom: [On “No One”]: “It was good, but it’s not a song you can do a lot with. Why can’t the judges say that about about Colton, that he sang his little tushy off? His tushy is smaller!”
It’s official: Idol isn’t taking any chances when it comes to Hollie. It’s clear the judges and producers want her gone faster than you can say “What did Hollie just say?” How will they accomplish her ouster? 1) By making sure she sealed the dreaded No. 1 performance slot, hoping that viewers will pull a Memento and only remember Jessica and Joshua Sammy Jenkins. And 2) By making sure the judges deliver thin praise of her performances so not to inspire any sympathy votes that might have kept her on the show this long.
Of course, in my eyes, Hollie was handed a suitcase the minute she announced she would be singing “Rolling in the Deep,” despite the fact that she probably delivered the most solid Adele cover on Idol since Elise sang “One and Only.” Because that’s Hollie’s main problem: She lacks even one single ounce of creativity. Just see her second song choice, Dusty Springfield’s “Son of a Preacher Man,” a tune so obvious, even I sing karaoke versions of it at karaoke.
Still, though the eternally passionless Hollie has about as much soul as a communion wafer, the judges claimed they loved her. Steven called her, of course, “beautiful,” Randy said her “Rolling in the Deep” was “close to perfect,” Jennifer said simply, “I’m so happy,” and the Liverpool Football Club said something about tea and crumpets and cultural stereotypes. Of course, I might be too eager to see Hollie exit Idol — recent weeks have proved she has adoring fans, and I might just be getting impatient about not being able to use my “Hollie Go-Lightly-Away” headline. Thursday, friends. Thursday?
Critiques from (An Indecisive) Mom: I just don’t like her. I just don’t. Like. Her. It was her best performances. Karaoke.
NEXT: We “Got It Bad” for Phillip… and Creepy Violin Stalker. They’re So Now
Following his lackluster turn last week, I was fully expecting Phillip to begin going all Jason Castro on us. He appeared as though he was tired of the grind, tired of the senseless critiques, and tired of having to fight goddamn Tommy Hilfiger about his shades of gray. But Phillip is just like his kidney stones: He comes and goes, but when he is present, he tears up his music from the inside out. And it’s painful how good he really is. His performance last night of Usher’s “U Got It Bad” was the most creative and downloadable cover to hit Idol since Kris Allen’s “Heartless,” leading the crowd at CBS Television City to begin cheering before the song was even over. And it encouraged the judges to give a shocking non-Joshua standing ovation, a sight as rare as word of the day toilet paper in Randy Jackson’s house.
And Phillip proved he was on a streak with his second performance, a wonderfully chill version of Wilson Pickett’s “In the Midnight Hour.” The number was so groove-worthy, you could forgive Phillip for his guitar-less turkey walk and pronunciation that made you wonder why someone would be inside a midnight owl, whatever that is. Phillip could easily make a living reminding girls of that cute, mysterious coffeehouse singer they fawned over in college but regretted not asking for his number. Girls, you know his number now — and I’m guessing your fingers killed after dialing for the dude.
Critiques From My Mom (a documented Cougar for Cook ): “I would go buy music by him because I think he’s got a different kind of voice. I want to listen to him. No cougars. I don’t look at him in that way.”
You guys, I’ll admit: I’ve been rushing through this recap in order to talk about Skylar. Why? Well, first off, the young country singer proved she could soon be a young country star with awesome — if a bit imperfect — covers of Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way” and Marvin Gaye’s “I Heard It Through the Grapevine” that made me wonder why I had made fun of my father’s country addiction all these years. (Dad, I finally get it.)
But mostly because Skylar wasn’t the only star of the evening. You know exactly who I’m talking about: CVS. That’s Creepy Violin Stalker. You saw him — lurking behind Skylar during both her performances, keeping enough distance so she wouldn’t feel his presence creeping up the back of her neck. Part of me wonders if we were simply watching Bill Hader performance art, but all of me is hoping someone makes a CVS GIF very, very soon. I know I’ve critiqued Idol for going overusing its gospel choirs, but, please, listen to me Idol: CVS needs to be as much a part of Idol as awkward group performances and terrible stage sets. Speaking of, if your AT&T service went down during Skylar’s performance of “I Heard It Through the Grapevine,” that’s because her backdrop stole all the telephone poles in a 100-mile radius.
Critiques From My Mom: Really good. I’m not pithy with my comments, but I thought she was really good. But it was hard to focus on how good she was because of that disturbing leprechaun guy.
NEXT: I “Believe” that gospel choir has GOT to be retired. We’ll Stick With Them For Now
Following her flirtation with going home, and following her “dramatic” judges’ save, you’d think Jessica would tear up the stage with as much aggression as Marc Anthony watching J. Lo’s latest music video. Instead, it seems Jessica was missing her patented passion. Perhaps she was exhausted after an emotional week. Or perhaps the Idol machine — remember, our contestants did have to perform two songs this week — simply has worn the young teenager out. But she failed to slam-dunk Alicia Keys “Fallin’” and Otis Redding’s “Try a Little Tenderness” like she had “I Will Always Love You” and even last week’s sublime “Stuttering.”
First off: “Fallin’”? Really Jessica? Season one called — it wants its song back. And secondly, she attacked the intense “Try a Little Tenderness” with the tenderness of a (pitchy) kitten finding a string. Sure, it was adorable, but Redding takes you to church with his hit. We needed to see Jessica’s inner lion — or BeBe Chez, if you will. What we saw instead was a scared 16-year-old girl inexplicably wearing an Indiana Jones plotline around her neck.
Critiques From My Mom: “I’m not on the Jessica love train. That was the boring of nothing.”
It’s shocking how underwhelming Colton was Wednesday night, especially since he’s the only Idol contestant of the season that sounds completely radio-ready, with no need of vocal coaching or finessing. But for both his performances tonight, he was very much in need of a mentor — his low notes during Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance” were as abysmal as his angsty vampire-meets-Basketball Diaries wardrobe. Though Randy felt the entire spectacle felt like a professional Colton Dixon concert, it’s a performance I could have seen for free in a terrible loft in Bushwick, cheap warm beer in hand.
His performance of Earth, Wind, and Fire’s “September” was far more creative, but still failed to completely blow me over. And the judges were hardly impressed as well: Randy even asked Colton for the impossible by saying he had hoped he would flip a Lil Wayne song during a 1970s soul night. Still, Colton does deserve some bonus points for telling Ryan, “I plan on expanding my box every week.” Oh, Colton, don’t make Michael Scott say it.
Critiques From My Mom: [During “Bad Romance”] “The jury is still out. There were parts that were really good. The low notes you could throw in the garbage.”
Remember what I said about Idol’s cardinal rules? There is, in fact, a fourth one to not break: Do not sing any crowning Idol song. Of course, this is obvious advice when it comes to tortuous tunes like “No Boundaries.” But it also applies to charmingly inspiring — but unavoidably cheesy — songs like Kelly Clarkson’s “A Moment Like This” and Fantasia’s “I Believe.” And it’s especially difficult to recreate the magic of the latter, which probably has the distinction of being the best Idol crowning song in 11 seasons. Not only because it’s quite simply the most listenable tune, but because Fantasia owned that song.
So as much as Lakisha Jones and Syesha Mercado might have tried in season six and season seven, respectively, their covers of “I Believe” were about as magical as Harry Potter with a broken wand. As was Joshua’s version Wednesday night. Yes, it was vocal perfection, but Joshua’s tired eyes — not to mention that tired choir — couldn’t quite sell his beliefs. Instead, the contestant appeared exhausted, unpolished, and bored. Not that the judges cared — once again, Joshua received a standing ovation, proving that he could simply grace the stage, sing Rebecca Black’s “Friday,” remind Steven he cast his daughter in a music video about strippers, and request a group screening of Gigli, and still get a standing ovation.
He got one again for the just-as-lackluster “A Change Is Gonna Come,” a song that graces the Idol stage more often than a maintenance man cleaning the judges’ slobber off Joshua’s shoes. (The song has been performed by Adam Lambert, Lily Scott, and, even this year, Johnny Keyser.) But the show isn’t only putting Joshua on a pedestal via standing ovations — the beginning of “A Change Is Gonna Come” saw Joshua figuratively walking on water, thanks to a trickily placed backdrop behind him. Look, I respect Joshua’s vocal talents, and think he’s perhaps one of the best gospel contestants to ever appear on Idol. But criticism is constructive — if the judges ever want to see him grow, they’ll need to begin offering him some sound advice. (Why not switch things up, Joshua? Show us how contemporary you can truly be by ditching the gospel choir !) They should at least have told him to leave the vest in Pulp Fiction’s wardrobe closet where it belonged.
Critiques From My Mom: [Shrug. Sigh.]
Now I’d like to hear from you, readers: Did you find Now and Then to be as unimpressive as I did? Are you surprised Randy could confuse Marvin Gaye and Al Green? Has the show simply raided the Fox prop closet for all its stage sets? (Floating umbrellas?) Are you too impressed with Ryan Seacrest’s classiness? And are we poised for a shocking double elimination Thursday?
Follow Kate on Twitter @HWKateWard
Image Credit: Fox
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