This single mother of one, Lakisha Jones, came out quietly from behind the pack and blew everyone else away on stage - both the guys and the girls - with her cover of the "Dreamgirls" signature tune,...
Apples and oranges. Day and night. Prostitutes and Amish people (as Yahoo answers tells me in a search for “opposite things”). Phillip Phillips and Jessica Sanchez, our final two finishers on American Idol’s 11th season couldn’t be more different if they were named Ryan Seacrest and Brian Dunkleman. One is a low-key growler with a penchant for pissing off famous fashion designers, while the other is a strong-voiced troubadour with a penchant for making you feel like you’ve broken a law just noticing her wardrobe.
The main problem with our Top 2? They have no problems. Here, at the end of our Idol road, are two polar-opposite singers so on top of their games, they might as well be battling Bowser. Of course, this makes it quite difficult for us obsessed fans, who are begging for someone to irrationally root against in the finale. But we no longer have an uneven Hollie. We no longer have the favorite son Joshua. And we no longer have terrible cowboy guy.
Instead, we’re left with two extremely likeable, extremely talented singers. And, for the first time since the Season 8 finale between Kris Allen and Adam Lambert, it’s difficult to side with one or the other. Not that it’s necessary — after all, at this point, a Phillip win is about as predictable as my projectile vomit hearing an Armageddon song on Idol.
Not only was the crowd and history on his side — with the exception of the Illinois-based Lee DeWyze, a male from south of the Mason-Dixon line has won every year since Season 6 — but poor Jessica was saddled with the atrocious original single “Change Nothing,” a name that invites far too many headline-worthy puns. (Jessica, change everything, please!) Holy “No Boundaries,” was that a clunker or what? We’re talking about a contestant who could sing the phonebook, the newspaper, or Fifty Shades of Grey — yet “Change Nothing” managed to change Jessica into a floundering singer with an inability to nail any register. True, it wasn’t as bad as “No Boundaries,” but even hangnails, paper cuts, and James Blunt aren’t as bad as “No Boundaries.”
Jennifer Lopez was right — during her one moment of usefulness last night — that Jessica had been given the wrong song to suit her R&B-worthy voice. (“You have to be able to say to someone, this is not me,” the bootylicious one told Jessica, lending advice that all of Idol’s pigeonholed former contestants would have been well-served to hear.) Instead, Simon Fuller was wise in his attempt to transform Jessica into a Whitney Houston incarnate with “I Have Nothing,” the third Houston song Jessica has sung in the past four months. That said, as much as Jessica boasts the powerhouse vocals of the late legend, Idol fans expect more than a note-for-note cover of a song more suited for the days of Season 4. Or should I say almost every other Idol season ever? After all, the song has been performed by the following: Trenyce in Season 2, Leah LaBelle and Jennifer Hudson in Season 3, Vonzell Solomon in Season 4, Katharine McPhee in Season 5, LaKisha Jones in Season 6, and Shannon Magrane earlier this Season 11. Idol needs to retire this song three years ago like it’s Leno.
Jessica’s smartest move of the evening was choosing “The Prayer” as her personal choice, reviving a pre-semifinals power ballad that was all but wiped from our memory following her “I Will Always Love You” cover during Top 13. The repeated finale vocal has always been an Idol pet peeve of mine — don’t the producers know that super-fans can recall every twitch and vocal trick of a previous performance, thanks to the wonders of YouTube and workplace procrastination? Still, only David Cook in Season 7 has been able to deviate from the directive, performing new cover “The World I Know” while David Archuleta rehashed “Imagine.” And Cook was better off for it — not only was “The World I Know” one of the most touching and perfect performances of all-time on Idol, but the originality helped bag him the win. (Let's go back to those simpler times with simpler rules, Idol, shall we?) But while our contestants may no longer be given the choice, Jessica did right by allowing us to remember what we had nearly forgotten. And it would have been a shame if we had — Jessica’s “The Prayer” blew my mind harder than the concept of Ace Young and Diana DeGarmo actually being a real-life, bona fide couple. (The American Idol fan fiction file in my brain just imploded. Nikko Smith and Julia DeMato, you better be next.)
NEXT: At home with "Home."Sadly for Jessica, she still doesn’t have a prayer come Wednesday evening. Mostly because Phillip, equipped with a pimp slot, actually delivered an original performance that was radio-ready in our contemporary music environment. Randy was right to say “Home” sounded like a Mumford & Sons hit. The friends I watched the penultimate episode with were right to say it sounded like a Dave Matthews hit. And I felt Phillip was right to throw in a little “Dust in the Wind”-esque inspiration for extra flavor. In other words, the song sounded right. It sounded appropriate. It sounded Phillip, which is typically something we cannot say about any schmaltzy victory single. You’re my boy, Phillip!
Now, following round 2, I wasn’t so sure of Phillip’s victory — “Movin’ Out” was too recent in my memory for me to be really moved, and the only part of the slowed- and stripped-down “Stand By Me,” Simon Fuller’s choice, was the sweet lick at the end of the song. (That was a gift to you Philophiles: Phillip and “sweet lick” in the same sentence. Sweet dreams.) But following his star-making turn during last week’s “We’ve Got Tonight” and “Beggin’” — and Jessica’s underwhelming “My All” and “I’ll Be There” — it’s difficult to imagine a scenario in which Phillip’s fans don’t beg the AT&T gods for a win tomorrow night. Hell, the dude doesn’t even have to speak actual words anymore to win over fans — just see his nonsensical response to Ryan Seacrest’s “Phillip, how do you feel?” The guy’s like a still-talented Adam Sandler — people will love everything he does, no matter the effort involved. Plus, Rob Schneider, as Randy’s lapel pin!
Still, does Jessica deserve to win just for having to sing “Change Nothing”? Do you hate the finale performance repetition like I do? Did you go to YouTube to watch “The World I Know” halfway through reading this? (I did.) Does Steven Tyler belong on The Bachelorette, what with his egg talk? What over-eager intern has been tasked with creating the dramatic opening numbers each Wednesday? Was Jason Derulo’s new America-collaborated song as unlistenable as it was “Undefeated”? And is seeing Derulo’s girlfriend, Jordin Sparks, making you wish Idol would release contestant dolls so you can make them all date other Idol figures? Am I too obsessed? Don’t answer that.
Follow Kate on Twitter @HWKateWard
[Image Credit: FOX]
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Now that news of Donna Summer's death has flooded the interwebs, people are looking for ways to cope with their grief. And while some may choose to express their sorrow via Twitter, others (including yours truly) prefer to journey back in time and see just how much this legendary singer has impacted the world with her classic hit songs, especially in the realm of reality television.
From American Idol to Dancing With the Stars, this singer's incredible music has been the source of inspiration for an up-and-coming talent throughout the years. Contestants from all over the world have covered Summer's songs in the hopes of captivating the crowd just as much as the late legend once did.
As these videos below prove that Summers may be gone in the physical sense, but her impact and inspiration will last forever.
Kris Allen performed "She Works Hard For the Money" during the eighth season of American Idol. He also went on to win the competition entirely. Now I'm not saying there's any correlation between the two, but you can't help but wonder...
Kris Allen sings She Works Hard for the Money
- Watch more Entertainment Videos at Vodpod.
Melinda Doolittle sang a beautiful rendition of Summer's hit "Heaven Knows" during season six of Idol. Arguably, nothing can compare to the late singer's version, but Melinda sure seemed to come close.
Jordin Sparks performed "She Works Hard For the Money" on the six season of Idol, proving that she more than earned her right to be a member of this singing competition. She worked hard, alright — and it paid off in spades.
Donna Summer even went on Idol herself in May 2008 and performed "She Works Hard For the Money" with the female contestants. Let's hope those girls knew just how lucky they were.
Other contestants who performed Donna Summer hits on Idol include: Allison Iraheta ("Hot Stuff" in Season 8), Ryan Starr ("Last Dance" in Season 1), Diana DeGarmo ("No More Tears" in Season 3), LaKisha Jones ("Last Dance" in Season 6), and Anoop Desai ("Dim All The Lights" in Season 8). Sadly, the videos for these performances were not available.
Next: So You Think You Can What?So You Think You Can Dance
Natalie Fotopoulos and Musa Cooper danced Disco to "Hot Stuff" in season two of SYTYCD, sending both the crowd and the judges into quite the frenzy. Who's hot stuff? These two are!
Sabra and Dominic managed to put together an impressive dance number to Summer's hit "No More Tears" during Season 3. The only tears they should be crying are tears of joy after this phenomenal performance.
Melanie and Marko performed "I Feel Love" during the Top 4 finale of Season 8. In the mood for something sexy and fun? Well look no further my friends.
Kathryn and Ryan made America hope that this wasn't their last dance after dancing to Summer's "Last Dance" hit on the sixth season of the show. The background is almost as eye-catching as the actual performance.
Next: I'm Seeing Stars.Dancing With the Stars
Kenny and Andrea danced the Cha-Cha-Cha to "Hot Stuff" on the second season of DWTS. And while they were the first couple to be eliminated, you can't help but enjoy this fun dance routine.
Tia Carrere & Maksim Chmerkovskiy danced the Samba to "No More Tears" in Season 2. Let's face it, ladies — any reason to see Maks shake his booty like that is fine by us.
Joey Fatone & Kym Johnson decided to slow things down a bit by free-styling to Summer's classic "Last Dance" in Season 4. You have to give them credit — they were very 'nsync.
Anna Demidova and Maksim Chmerkovskiy performed a professional (yet sexy) Samba together as they danced to "Crayons" during the eighth season of DWTS. Is it getting hot in here?
Next: Talent Is Everywhere!America's Got Talent
The girls who called themselves The Glamazons performed a rocking rendition of "Hot Stuff" in Season 2 of AGT.
Dancing Trombonist Jonathan Arons performed an incredibly entertaining version of "Bad Girls" during Season 3. If you get a knowing smile from The Hoff, you know you're doing well.
Donna Summer herself performed with Prince Poppycock during the show's Season 5 finale, which brought both the crowd and the judges to their feet. Plus, those outfits were insanely awesome.
Next: Meow!Pussycat Dolls Present: Girlicious
Carrie, Jenna, Tiffanie, Chrystina wowed fans with their sparkly rendition of "Dim All The Lights" in 2010. Now you can decide for yourself if it was a good wow or bad wow.
Katelyn Tarver performed Summer's "On the Radio" in the only season of American Juniors in the summer of 2003. She may be really young, but the girl's definitely got some talent.
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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'
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If the gods of television announced tomorrow that all original programming would be canceled and replaced with American Idol reruns, you’d find no one happier than yours truly. Since 2001, I have withstood the freezing winters through sheer Idolation, relying on Ryan Seacrest’s voice telling me that This. Is. American. Idol to survive. I have needed to hear the word “dawg” uttered at least twice a week in order to fuel myself through the weekend until the next Wednesday. And, come the warmer months of April and May, I’ve relied solely on Jennifer Lopez’s beaming bronzer to get my Vitamin C. The obsessed fan in me simply needs Idol, and will willingly argue with any detractor who thinks The Voice has caused the reality series to jump the “Against All Odds”-singing shark. (Randy Jackson sees your crazy hat, Xtina, and raises you a bananas lapel pin.)
But as much as I love you more than you love literal backdrops, Idol, I gotta keep it real with you: Please, once we have whittled down to our Top 4, shorten your Wednesday performance shows to one hour. I’m never one to ask for less Idol, but Wednesday night’s California Night was as lukewarm as a seat vacated by Kim Kardashian. It was clear the contestants had little time to prepare — while three out of the four managed to deliver at least one stellar performance, all floundered in successfully executing another. Add in two middling duets, a group performance so forgettable, I just forgot that I even wrote “group performance,” and a long commercial for Tom Cruise’s airbrushed ads, and even I overdosed on two full hours of unnecessary Idol programming.
Take Phillip, who even admitted in his introduction package that he’s “trying to push himself” through the competition. And talked to Ryan about his difficulty memorizing the lyrics to CCR’s “Have You Ever Seen the Rain?” (This sentence brought to you by Idol Conspiracy Theorists of America , a.k.a. ICTA: Was this conversation Idol’s attempt to force Phillip in an unflattering light to make family man Joshua seem more likeable? As the President of the Paranoid Chapter, I vote yes. Discuss.) But for a contestant that came into the competition as a visionary, able to rework songs like “Superstition” and “Movin’ Out” into original masterpieces, Phillip has only surprised fans in recent weeks by choosing to perform faithful versions of popular hits. And whenever you see Phillip without his guitar — as he was during “Rain” — you know he wasn’t given enough prep time to ace a performance.
NEXT: Steven Tyler Poetry Hour!And, quite honestly, it shows. Even Phillip’s grandmother would agree that “Rain” was, yes, “pretty rough,” even if the judges refused to critique the song. (ICTA members: An attempt to quell the sympathy vote for Phillip to gain more traction for Joshua? Discuss!) Steven went so far as to bring his book of poetry Wednesday night, telling Phillip, “All the mimsy were the borogoves, and the mome raths outgrabe!”
But Steven should have reserved his words for Phillip’s follow-up, “Volcano,” by Damien Rice. It was yet another faithful rendition, yes, but staying true to the song seems to make sense in this context: If Phillip had wished he had written the song, why would he change it up? Perhaps the performance just made me nostalgic for the nights I sat faux-sad in my dorm room, mourning a boy I had just unwisely taken to Closer on a first date, but Phillip’s “Volcano” simply exploded on stage, despite the odd fact that he was singing to a hologram. It was gorgeous, meaningful, and subtle — all adjectives one of Phillip’s fellow Top 4 finishers would be wise to adopt.
I’m speaking, of course, of Idol favorite son Joshua, who I’ve knocked for weeks now for being the subject of the judges’ unyielding and infuriating fervor. But I have gotten so tired of discussing the obvious favoritism that I simply cannot bring myself to criticize the show for pimping Joshua’s loving family for votes ahead of Mother’s Day. I am so fed up with describing the show’s pleas for Joshua’s win that I will not talk in detail about the fact that the producers literally raised the contestant on a pedestal during his rendition of Josh Groban’s “You Raise Me Up”… which we saw Chris Mann perform better on The Voice earlier this week. And I am so sick of mentioning Joshua’s 13+ standing ovations from the judges, I will not even address how Randy — fresh off the set of Bye Bye Birdie — called the contestant’s screechy “It’s a Man’s, Man’s, Man’s World” one of the best performances on any singing show, and how Steven told the singer “Let us leave this place where the smoke blows black and the dark street winds and bends.”
Because, sorry judges, as much as I can appreciate a brilliant run or two during Joshua’s performances, the singer does not connect with his lyrics. He’s music’s version of a serial killer, bonding with his lyrics and gaining their trust, only to end up pulverizing every phrase, stomping each lyric six feet into the floor below him at CBS Television City. Joshua wouldn’t know subtlety if it stood up with Jennifer Lopez and kissed his feet. But I can’t blame Joshua — he hasn’t received a shred of constructive criticism on this show to learn to do otherwise. If it ain’t broke enough to keep you from getting an undeserved standing ovation, why fix it?
NEXT: 50 Shades of Phillip.Instead, I far preferred Joshua’s fun-loving, laid-back duet of Maroon 5’s “This Love” with Phillip — shocking, considering I figured they’d butcher the hit to keep their NBC competition at bay. But somehow, the song — backed by Sergeant Doakes on the piano — allowed Phillip and Joshua’s voices to mesh, and gave girls plenty of opportunity to scream. Giving Phillip the dirtiest parts of the song to sing, Idol? Perhaps you are making this a fair fight. (ICTA: OR are they just counting on conservative voters to push against Phillip? Discuss!)
Surprisingly, Joshua wasn’t gifted the pimp spot tonight, though — our dear Jessica, who had yet to enjoy the enviable position, finally bagged the slot and delivered the first truly entertaining song of the night, with Etta James’ “Sail Away.” Between the powerful vocals and the much more conservative garb — was the spiky heart a chastity necklace? — Jessica proved that she should win this whole shebang. The 16-year-old’s talent is so mature, she makes an unintentional mid-song squeal sound like a gorgeous note written on the page. (If only she wasn’t surrounded by all that literal baggage.) The judges, however, didn’t quite give the glistening “Steal Away” the respect it deserved, instead opting to compliment Joshua while Steven said, “The fact that I was napping, and so gently you came rapping, and so faintly you came tapping, tapping at my chamber door.”
They did, however, grant Jessica a standing ovation for “And I Am Telling You,” which, unfortunately, was no better than Tamyra Gray’s Season 1 version, Frenchie Davis’ Season 2 version, LaKisha Jones’ Season 6 version, and Jennifer Hudson’s Oscar-winning version. (But, thankfully, far superior to Nick Mitchell’s Season 8 version.) But it was still was as powerful and passionate as it gets for a 16-year-old with no life experiences an emoticon can’t express, and will hopefully convince America to love her, unoriginality be damned.
NEXT: From The Climb to the fall.Hollie, however, might not be so lucky, having chosen a song that’s far too perfect a send-off, Bonnie Raitt’s “I Can’t Make You Love Me.” (Apparently, based on her song choices, Hollie wishes she had written the entire soundtrack to a trip to the gynecologist’s office.) After hitting her stride in recent weeks, the contestant took a step back, relying far too much on her ability to beautifully finish a song with a strong crescendo. What Hollie is forgetting is the build-up, particularly during her pitchy “Faithfully,” which dragged on longer than a Ryan Seacrest Comedy Bit ™. Hollie can’t overwhelm an audience with a strong finish if the beginning only has you wondering how Jennifer Lopez transformed Casper Smart into sequins so she could have him wrapped around her at all times. Even the judges couldn’t love “I Can’t Make You Love Me,” with J. Lo criticizing Hollie’s vibrato and Steven telling her, “New Kids on the Block had a bunch of hits, Chinese food makes me sick.”
But, friends, even thinking about the judges is making me sick, so I leave this to you. Can we talk about the "Eternal Flame" swings? Because I can't go through that alone. Is it shocking to think that J. Lo and Co., ever refused Joshua? If Joshua’s first song was dedicated to his father, and the second to his mother, who was “This Love” dedicated to? Did you, like me, laugh when Joshua admitted he didn’t have Jimmy’s phone number after the mentor so casually told him to call for guidance? Are you, like me, also ashamed to admit that you laughed at Ryan’s engagement fake-out? Why did Randy’s tie change its mind? And, finally, is it me, or does America seem very uncreative, giving Jason Derulo lyrics like “Whoa-oa-oa-oa” and “Oooh-oh-oh-oh” for “Undefeated”? Should I submit my lyric, “Ahhhh-ah-ah-ah”? Would it have a shot?
Follow Kate on Twitter @HWKateWard
Idol's Biggest Underdogs — GALLERY
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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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This single mother of one, Lakisha Jones, came out quietly from behind the pack and blew everyone else away on stage - both the guys and the girls - with her cover of the "Dreamgirls" signature tune, "And I'm Telling You, I'm not Going" during week one of season 6 "American Idol" semifinals. Judge Simon Cowell so much as told the other 23 contestants to pack their bags and buy tickets home, following Jones' rendition of the song made famous by former "Idol," Jennifer Hudson. Mother to a 3-year-old daughter, Jones, 27, grew up in Flint, MI, where she works as a bank teller. She began singing at age five, with gospel her music of choice, but she also trained formally in classical music.