S10E11: While last night definitely proved that the judges have found quite a few talented people (though some are just very capable karaoke singers), it also proved that the people at Idol sure know how to stretch what should be an hour of television into two dreadfully long hours of waiting. They also proved that they can, in fact, fit in about a million references to The Beatles' Love show in Vegas into an hour. Have they been taking cross promotion lessons from Britney Spears or something?
Last night was actually two episodes. The first was a second group round supposedly invented because there were just too many good contestants this year, but really invented because Idol wanted that extra Beatles cash. Duos and trios sang (in a many cases butchered) Beatles classics on the stage at the Mirage in Vegas, where they were cut from a group of 61 to 40. Then they all traveled back to L.A. to go to the hangar of doom (seriously, it looked like the end of Raiders of Lost Ark if you replaced top secret government stuff with broken dreams and diva tears) for their final elimination and what we thought would finally be the top 24. Oh no, it’s not that easy. Cut to the end of those two hours when the screen went black and the dreaded “To Be Continued” screen came up. Really, Idol? I could have done this in 10 minutes – and I wouldn’t have allowed Clint Jun Gamboa to get through, that’s for damn sure.
“I’ve never even heard a Beatles song.” –Ashton Jones
Let me pause for a minute here. YOU HAVE GOT TO BE KIDDING ME. Ashton wasn’t the only Idol hopeful who admitted on national television to never ever hearing a Beatles song. First of all, unless you’ve never seen TV or a movie or the radio or been to a Walmart on a Saturday, you’ve heard a freaking Beatles song. Trust me. Secondly, how can you call yourself an artist/musician/whatever and not know the Beatles? That’s worse than when Miley Cyrus said she didn’t know who Jay-Z was – and I thought THAT was bad.
“This is freaking me out because Beatleland is where I live.” –Steven
I love how insane Steven is. Never change, Steven; I’m begging you. Anyway, since we’ve got so much to cover, let’s get right into the groups. First up was the duo of Stefano Langone and James Durbin. They sang “Get Back” and while they’re both technically good, I stand by what I’ve been saying all season, which is just because you can hit those high notes correctly, doesn’t mean I want to hear them.
High school buddies Pia Toscano and Karen Rodriguez did “Can’t Buy Me Love” like a couple of wedding singers, but the judges seemed impressed. Jennifer even told them they were some of the folks who really “get it.” I have to disagree. The only thing they get is how their high school show choir taught them to act onstage, and you know what? There’s no way I’d throw down 50 bucks to see either of them.
Then the groups really started to prove why forced groupings isn’t always so hot. You’ve got all these unique voices and sometimes when you smush three together, the result isn’t that pleasant. Jacob Lusk, Naima Adedapa, and Haley Reinhart all have beautiful powerful voices on their own, but their version of “The Long and Winding Road” was just too discordant for my tastes. This truly isn’t because of any faults on their parts; their voices just don’t mesh.
“One hand clapping!” –Steven
Moving right along, we caught glimpses of Rachel Zevita singing “Elenor Rigby” like the total drama kid she is (yeah, we know you’ve been saving that little hat for this for years), Lauren Turner who gave a solid turn at “Let it Be,” and finally Julie Zorilla and Tim Halperin with “Something.” I like Zorilla well enough, but why has Halperin not had more attention? He is such a lovely, lovely singer. (Plus, he’s cute as a button.)
After a few conspicuous shots of the American Idol red phone booth (really?) we moved on to Jerome Bell, Lakeisha Lewis and Tatynisa Wilson with “I Saw Her Standing There.” The judges were split here, saying that the performances were so-so while Steven cried foul. He thought they were fantastic – clearly he needs to get his ears checked. Lakeisha does have some serious pipes, but it’s clear she hasn’t learned how to use them yet and the other two were just alright.
I can’t stop quoting Steven, but someone needs to put down a record of all this. (Plus it’s fun.) The groups dragged along, with Kendra Chantelle and Paul McDonald giving us their pretty little version of “Blackbird.” Kendra’s voice is pretty, but a dime a dozen, while Paul once again showed us why he’s still here. He’s got this sweet, wonderful, honey-soaked rasp that I hope sticks around once the voting starts. He really is a breath of fresh air in the competition.
“Guess what, you’re going to die on stage in front of all those people. I’m going to be lying in my bed watchin’ you croak.” –Peggi the vocal coach “From Hell”
Melinda Ademi and Thia Megia were getting railed on by their vocal coach (that’s right, they had that much help and people still messed up this round) for their version of “Here Comes the Sun” and once they hit the stage it was obvious why. Thia’s got it down, but Melinda (as sweet as she is) was the weak link, fumbling her phrasing and lacking the strength that Thia has.
Also fumbling were Ashley Sullivan and her partner Sophia Shorai. They’re a clear example of those who have technical talent – meaning they can hit the notes correctly – but none of that extra something that makes someone pleasant to watch. Needless to say, they both went home.
“It’s like the Marx Brothers put out a fire thing.” –Steven
When Lauren Alaina, Scotty McCreery, and Denise Jackson hit the stage, they’d already been hit hard by the criticisms from big time producer Jimmy Iovine, but it didn’t seem to help. Though they’re all good singers, they just did not work together. On that same note, buddies Carson Higgins and Caleb Hawley also hit a sour note (literally, OUCH) in their duo performance. Chris Medina and Casey Abrams were actually a great pairing, but it was obvious that (as much as I like Chris) Casey was shouldering the weight in the song.
Finally, Robbie Rosen (love him!), Aaron Sanders, and Jordan Dorsey finished it off with “Got to Get You Into My Life.” Overall, they actually worked well together; it was a little boy bandy, but it worked. Robbie was fantastic as always, but Jordan really seems unable to put the money where his mouth his. He talks big, but he’s not that great. Aaron was fine, but he doesn’t really seem to stand out – then again, that could just be clever editing.
“You win some you lose some, and I just lost a big one.” –Caleb Hawley
Alright, here they are, the first cuts. From what Idol actually told us, we lost Caleb Hawley, Denise Jackson, Ashley Sullivan, Carson Higgins, and Molly DeWolf. It’s tough to see people go, but I can accept that these folks just weren’t the best of the best. Now for the real cuts – well, half of them anyway. Seriously, two hours is a whole lotta Idol.
“I used to watch In Living Color and want to be a fly girl too.” –Naima Adedapo
(Me too, honey.) Now that all that Vegas nonsense is over, we get down to business, forcing the contestants to take the impossibly long, terrifying walk towards a stark stage with four white chairs and a video loop of their last performance in the background. What kind of freaky science fiction movie is this? Naima Adedapo and her impossibly sparkly blue dress were the first additions to the top 24 while the sweet, talented Hollie Cavanaugh was sent home. Jennifer made a point to tell Holly that she was outvoted, but that if Hollie came back in a few years, she’d be strong enough to win, not just make it into the top 24. Wow, I never thought I’d agree with Jennifer Lopez on anything.
Also on the chopping block were Lakeisha Lewis and Alex Ryan, though we could have guessed that after seeing how little screen time they’ve each had. Clint Jun Gamboa was all choked up about Lakeisha’s elimination, but I’m still not buying his emotions. (Yep, I’m holding onto that Jacee grudge.) He actually made it through to the top 24, to which I offer this: WHY? He’s a karaoke host and that’s exactly what he sounds like. His voice is just unpleasant, his personality is unpleasant, and I really don’t want to have to see his face on my TV anymore. America, you know what to do. It’s up to you now. SEND HIM HOME.
“We’ve been watching you and I’m really afraid to say…it’s a yes.” –Steven
Knock that shit off, Steven. The contestants don’t like it and neither do we. Anyway, next to get the go-ahead was Haley Reinhart of the crazy eyes. I’m not sure how I feel about her; her voice kind of seems like it’s too big for her body, which is a bit bothersome, but we’ll see how it turns out.
Crowd favorite Deandre Brackensick was sent packing for his lack of consistency (but he’s young, so he’s got time to improve) while Paul McDonald was ushered into the 24 because Idol’s apparently trying to find “artists” this year. I hope they mean that because Paul is really fantastic and I want to hear as much of his singing on this show as I can. (Even is he resurrects that awful white jacket.) Ashton Jones, who rocked “I’m Telling You” last time, also earned a slot in the top 24. Once again, she’s someone I’m not totally sure of, but I’m willing to see what she brings next week.
“It was honestly a pleasure to meet you, someone like you.” –JLo
Now for the really hard part. Because this is a singing competition, no matter how wonderful and saintly the infinitely likable Chris Medina is, he frankly doesn’t have the chops for the competition. I’ve been afraid to say it all season because I love his story and I want him to stick around for that reason. Sadly, they made Jennifer deliver the news. Thanks producers, you know she was going to have the hardest time with that. Of course she’s concerned she didn’t say it right, but the problem is, there’s no right way to tell someone like Chris that they have to go home.
Boy, tonight’s going to be fun won’t it? No, no it won’t. Get ready for another hour of torture in the science fiction/ Indiana Jones hangar. Damnit, Idol.
S10E8: I’ll admit, mine and Ryan Seacrest’s buildups to the first Hollywood week episode were a little over the top, but don’t even try and tell me you weren’t the least bit stoked. The first Hollywood episode always goes quickly; it’s the sudden death round. In case you’re an Idol newbie, the sudden death round entails 10 contestants taking the stage together, each singing a few bars of a song of their choice a capella, receiving no feedback and then either getting a thumbs up or a thumbs down. By the end of the episode half of the contestants are let go and this process was made difficult by the fact that this year the kinder, gentler Idol sent double the usual number of contestants to Hollywood. That’s funny, because I’m pretty sure they still only have 12 final spots. Why would they make their job so much more difficult?
That’s all folks; they continue or get cut loose. Unfortunately for us viewers that means the judges’ antics were kept in check this round, which left a few of our contestants to pick up the slack.
“This is where…the men from the boys and the women from the girls.” –JLo
Apparently Jennifer was so excited she forgot part of that sentence, but it’s definitely an exciting time. First up was Brett Lowenstien with the crazy red hair and the newfound self-esteem. Luckily for those of us who were fans from the start, Brett kept it going with a soulful rendition of “Let It Be.” Of course he got to continue and his surprisingly robust voice continued to wow the judges (and me).
Also making it through were a few of my other favorites; fifteen year old Thia Megia with a voice well beyond her years and Casey Abrams (who you may remember as Seth Rogen/Fraggle Rock guy) with voice that skirts a line between jazz and rock. These two and young Rachel Zavia from New York made it through with flying colors, though personally, I was underwhelmed by Zevia’s second audition. She simply didn’t have the strength and presence of the others, but we’ll see if that changes as Hollywood Week continues.
“Maybe people will look at me like I’m looking at these mountains.” –Victoria Huggins
I feel a little bad for this girl, because I feel like she was sort of set up. She’s an alright singer, but her chipmunk voice is frankly a little unpleasant to listen to; not to mention when she’s not singing she’s like a human girl version of SpongeBob Squarepants and I just can’t take it. Couple those winning factors with the girl’s fierce narcissism and her pageant style showboating onstage and we all knew she was going home. Even if she’s got the pipes, there is no way America would have gotten behind her.
“I don’t think there was much hope. You had to have a spectacular voice.” –Stormi Henley
Well, former Miss Teen USA Stormi Henley may not have a spectacular singing voice, but at least she’s got a good enough head on her shoulders to know when to call it a day and move on. She was one of four people who we’ve seen before in the audition round, but she was the only face who didn’t make. She was right though, her voice just wasn’t strong enough.
Those who were strong enough were Paris Tassin (who has a disabled daughter), James Durbin (whose tragic past was explained last night in San Francisco) and Lauren Alaina (who is doing Idol for her ill cousin). All three sang fairly well, though I’m not sure about Paris. She sang “My Heart Will Go On” (yes, really) and to be honest, it wasn’t the best we’ve heard. Meanwhile James hit his crazy high notes again, and while it’s impressive, it’s not exactly pleasant to listen to. The only person I’m getting behind here is Lauren, whose strong bluesy voice reminds me of early Kelly Clarkson, who if you remember correctly was the first ever Idol. This isn’t a prediction, but I’m just saying, it could happen.
“This is where it could all change or it could all stay the same.” – Chris Medina
The saintly Chris Medina came back to improve on his last performance, which was sweet but this one blew it out of the water. We didn’t really get a chance to see the pipes he was rocking, but this time around he proved that he needs to be here.
While some folks were choking under the pressure, three more favorites were hitting it out of the park. Fifteen year old Jacee Badeaux with the voice of an angel kept the magic going, Robbie Rosen from Long Island, New York made Steven break his vow of silence with an involuntary “Yaow!”, and Brit-turned-Texan Hollie Cavanaugh redeemed her so-so performance from the Austin auditions. Needless to say, these three will be returning next week.
“Isn’t it the saddest thing in the world?” –Casey Abrams
On the not-so-lucky side of things, we saw a slew of familiar faces get the boot. Steve Beguhn, the giant accountant with the voice I questioned during auditions didn’t improve on his original shot and was sent home. Also sent packing were Jaqueline Dupree whose voice was alright, but brought her uncle and Randy’s former football coach to tip the scales; Sarah Sellars whose voice was alright, but whose lips were of particular interest to Steven; and Heidi Kazaam who only made it because she was a hot belly dancer with a tiny, adequate voice.
“Are you just washed out emotionally because you’ve been here for 10 years?” –Nick Fink (to Ryan Seacrest)
Oh young love. Idol sure has a way of forcing into an awkward box. They paired exes Rob Bolin and Chelsee Oaks with the unrealistically cheery couple Nick Fink and Jaqueline Dunford when choosing where the contestants would bunk up in the hotel. Can you say cruel?
Both Rob and Chelsee are great singers so they made it through, which means Idol will just continue to put them in situations that make Rob uncomfortable, though Chelsee seems unaware of how awful this proximity is for her ex. This was all in good awkward fun, but the real fireworks flew when Nick and Jaqueline auditioned together in matching outfits and only one of them made it through. Nick’s small range and so-so voice were sent home while Jaqeuline made it through. Instead of, oh I don’t know, supporting his girl’s success, Nick went off the handle continuing to beg the judges and singing as he walked down the aisle before insulting Ryan with that quote about his emotional capacity. Dude, you suck. Truly. How about you stop whining and support your fucking girlfriend. Ass.
“How could this girl from the Bronx, the birthplace of hip hop, fall in love with a country singer?” –JLo
Of course this means that audience favorite Scott McCreery of the crazy deep country voice made it through despite recycling the same tune for audition number two. Also making it through on their old charms were Jackie Wilson (remember, she had the really old boyfriend?) and the babely Jerome Bell.
The Jersey Shore star-bra girl was back, this time dressed appropriately and tooting her own horn. Despite her personality flaws her range can’t really be denied. Jennifer questioned her personality, as did the rest of us, but she still made it through while the sweet kid from the Bronx, Travis Orlando, was sent home with his sweet, but smaller voice.
Lastly, before we move on and prep for next week, Idol gave us a little list of other names who made it through to the end (so your favorite may still make it!). Clint Gamboa, Julie Zorilla, Stefano Langone, and Emily Anne Reed from San Francisco will all be back as will Naima Adedapo and Mary DeWolf Swenson from Milwaukee, crazy Ashley Sullivan from New Jersey and the adorable Gutierrez brothers from the Los Angeles auditions.
Now that these folks have made it, things are only going to get crazier, more emotional, and more heartbreaking as we continue towards finally crowning the top 12.