Thursday, February 7, 2013

Oklahoma City Auditions: "She worships the devil anyway, I heard."

Bwahahaha! You thought I'd forgotten about the Oklahoma City auditions, didn't you? No such luck, Dawgs. For an episode that only featured about 6 legitimate (I use the word "legitimate" loosely) contestants, it packed more cray-cray than a crayfish boat.

The Oklahoma City auditions taught us 3 things:

1. Idol has committed unspeakable crimes at least once against a puppet.
2. Keith Urban probably weighs the same as a feather.
3. The only thing Idol knows about Oklahoma is this ...

To be fair, that's all I know about Oklahoma, too. Oh, stereotypes! How you form our everyday perceptions! This ... is American Idol!

Overly excited ginger elf Karl Skinner was picked up by the Idol bus on its small town audition tour. I truly believe that Karl lives on caffeine and candy canes alone. He never stopped moving during his audition. First, he danced through a hyper "I Feel Good" with all the joy of a child swimming in a pool of gumdrops. Randy immediately started repeating "I love this guy!" over and over the way that Randy does. Then they asked Karl to sing something else, so he broke out his guitar and sang an original tune. Strangely, he had maybe a bit of talent? That surprised me. You know what else surprised me? Karl's use of words that aren't words. "I wanna be uncomparable." Ugh. I wonder if Santa will let Karl ride his sleigh to Hollywood.

My favorite contestant of the night was Nate Tau, who's parents are DEAF. This revelation made me so emotional. Singing is the one thing Nate loves to do more than anything, and his parents will NEVER hear it. Isn't that tragic? Nate sang "For Once in My Life", and it was effortlessly pleasing. Great tone, great range, nice kid, cute face. I genuinely like Nate Tau, and that freaking sucks because Idol will ruin it. Idol ruins everything.

There was a disturbing segment in which a ventriloquist named Haley brought her yodeling puppet Oscar to the audition and sang a duet with him. The judges were like, "We'll take you, but you'll have to let us dispose of the puppet." After separating Oscar from his ONLY FRIEND AND GUARDIAN, they made him beg for food on the streets and then threw him in a dumpster. So yes, now we must add PUPPET MURDER to Idol's long list of sins. No wonder the Cookie Monster stress eats.

Pictured: One of the lucky few.
During this, the final audition episode of the season, the amoral a-holes making up the Idol production team must have decided they hadn't exploited enough mentally ill people. After all, they still have to fill the quota for the pact they made with Lucifer on that rainy night so long ago. There was Zoanette Johnson, a rambling woman who kept flashing her underwear and may or may not be stalking the President of the United States. I really couldn't tell with all the yimmer yammer expelling from her mouth hole. I have no words for Zoanette's audition, but you're more than welcome to WATCH it again and again (and again and again) below:

The weight of her awfultastic singing forced featherweight Keith Urban OUT OF HIS CHAIR. So the judges were left with a "difficult" decision.

No. This is an EASY decision.
Did they send Zoanette on her merry way or give her a golden ticket? I think the answer to that may give you a rage blackout. So CUPCAKES. They chose CUPCAKES!

Anastacia Freeman started crying during her interview with Ryan. She didn't have a sob story to go along with the tears, so I knew she was doomed. Her rendition of "Unbreak My Heart" was awful. Just the worst. The judges asked her why she auditioned, and then things got incredibly weird. "Actually, I believe God told me to come up here and audition." So the judges slowly backed away and basically told Anastacia that God had Punked her, and then out in the parking lot, Anastacia accused Nicki of devil worship. The segment was best summed up by Randall T. Jackson V, who said, "I don't know. That was strange, yo." Yo, indeed.

16-year-old Kayden Stephens made me cry my own freaking tears when he talked about having cystic fibrosis. Nuts of ... You know, I can't even write about this. It's too much. Kayden sang "I Wish", and Nicki thought he sounded like a baby Michael. The judges talked about how inspired that were, and ... damn it, I CAN'T. Okay? I just can't write about Kayden's disease. He's a nice boy, though. Very positive. And his voice hasn't changed yet, so he sounded like a little angel.

And that wrapped up the audition episode ... until Uncle Steven showed up in drag! UNCLE STEVEN! I can't decide if he's ugly or pretty as a woman. Maybe a combo of both? IDK. Who else misses his rambling streams of nonsense?

That brings the audition episodes to a close! FINALLY. Now there are all kinds of hijinks these reality TV "stars" can get into during the Hollywood rounds. Will Idol ever be held accountable for the murder of Oscar the Puppet? Does Nicki Minaj, in fact, worship the devil? Cupcakes or no cupcakes? There are so many questions!

Get ready for my Hollywood recaps. They should be more interesting than this. I hope.

In the words of Nicki Minaj, my new spirit sister: "The answer's no, but I love you."

Seacrest out!

Thursday, January 31, 2013

San Antonio & Long Beach Auditions: "That bathroom has killer acoustics."

Special note to my loyal readers: I was a horrible cow and didn't write any recaps for last week. I have no excuses, nor do I have any regrets. Those auditions were boring, uninspiring, and unworthy of the Great Idol Trainwreck we hold so dear. But I'm back now! Yay! Forgive me if you care enough to be disappointed! 

Last night's episode featured the auditions from San Antonio and Long Beach in a 2-hour long marathon of I'M TIRED OF THE AUDITIONS ALREADY. What happened, Dawgs? This used to be one of my favorite parts of the season. Now I'm just counting the days to Hollywood, wasting away with only the memories of past seasons to sustain me. I feel like I've seen all of these auditions before. We know what bad singers sound like. We know what good singers sound like. They're all morphing together into one incomprehensible Idol Blob that's seriously screwing with my memory and state of well-being. So I don't think I'm overstating things when I come to this conclusion:

American Idol is trying to kill me.

You read it here first, Dawgs.

The most notable parts of the San Antonio segment were Keith's breakfast cinnamon roll (which Randy clearly coveted) and Nicki Minaj's purple plaid hat (I like purple). I suppose there were some singers, too, but I need to consult my notes to recall them. The score is thus: Breakfast Sweets: 1, Your Possible Future American Idol: 0.

I'm skipping the boring stuff in this review. And "stuff" may apply to actual contestants. Sorry if I skip over your favorite.

Vincent Powell, dressed in - I'm thinking - jodhpurs, was so excited to meet Mariah Carey because he loves her. He went to Hollywood last season, but don't ask me to remember him. The judges adored his rendition of "Rock Me, Baby", which was the closest to blues singing I've heard on Idol in some time. Jodhpurs. Was he wearing them? Do I have the wrong word? These are jodhpurs. Yes, that's exactly it. I'll send my application to Vogue with haste.

Irritating brothers David & Derek Bacerott must have paid Idol all kinds of bucks to televise them trolling the judges. They sang like the bastard 90s love-child of every Boyz 2 Men member and Jon Secada if it was born with the tonal quality of a constipated whale. "There's a basic rule to harmonizing," Mariah carefully said, "which is to stay on pitch so the other person can stay on pitch, too." In the face of criticism, the Bacerott brothers turned contrary. Derek called the judges liars. Every time the judges spoke, one of the brothers would contradict them. They would make excellent lawyers, and I almost mean that as a compliment. Randy told them to work on their attitudes, and they were like, "We have great attitudes." By the time The Brothers Bacerott left, the judges seemed helpless with confusion. Keith, the cheeky kangaroo, quipped to the producers, "You guys didn't see that going as well as it did, did you?"

Struggling single parent Savannah Votion impressed the judges when she sang "At Last". I might be able to comment on the audition if she hadn't worn that black spangly bikini top thing. I'm not making this up, Dawgs. Her belly was EVERYWHERE. Like, it wasn't a particularly large belly. It was a NICE belly. I wish my belly looked like that. But it was just so ... THERE, you know? Like it was antagonizing me. So, sorry Savannah Votion, don't distract me with your fabulous abs next time.

Face-puller Ann Difani pulled some faces when Randy tracked her down at a University of Arkansas football game. I don't know. It must not have been a very important game because at least a quarter of the seats were empty? Sorry, University of Arkansas. So Ann pulled every face in face-pulling nation while she sang Faith Hill's "Stronger". To be fair, her voice sounded pretty, probably because of the faces. Randy was so enamored  by Ann's marriage that he started hooting and hollering (the way Randy does) about their Great American Love Story. Randall W. Jackson III: True Romantic. Ann's audition featured one of the episodes best exchanges.
Keith: There's a lot of Faith in there. 
Ann: Yep. A lot of passion.
Mariah: I think he meant Hill.
You know Mariah doodles sarcastic sketches on the contestant info sheets when they annoy her. Passive aggressive doodling - that's how Mariah rolls.

There once was a creature named Papa Peachez who liked to dance and worked to help homeless people. He was very excited when The Great American Idol auditions rolled into his village on its grand stallion named Ryan Seacrest. Papa Peachez wrote an original song for his audition. He wanted to spread the wonder and glory of music. This was his moment! So Papa Peachez sang ... like a DEMON pulled from the DEPTHS OF HELL. Did I miss something, Dawgs? Why did the judges go gaga over Papa Peachez's unsettling voice. It was so deep and emotionless, like the nightmares of a million children. Nicki thought he was a superstar? Randy caved and let him advance to Hollywood, and I just gaped at the television. My baby woke up from a dead sleep and cried when Papa Peachez started singing. For real. That really happened. Nuts of wonder.

On a happy note, Mariah Fan #58472617387 Adam Sanders delivered a gorgeous, soulful rendition of "I'd Rather Go Blind". I must have enjoyed his voice because this is the direct quote from my notes: "He is, like, vomiting soul." I'm so classy. Anyway, Adam was so wonderful that the judges had nothing to say, which led to one of Ryan's best quotes of the night: "And for once, Nicki is speechless." OMG SING FOREVER ADAM SANDERS PLEASE!

The Long Beach auditions took place aboard the Queen Mary. This means that everyone and their brother thought it would be just OH SO CLEVER to wear a sailor hat. Who am I kidding? I would have worn one, too. We learned 2 things from the Long Beach auditions:

  1. Big ships do, in fact, have foghorns. The Idol cast, crew, and contestants apparently weren't aware of that. The more you know,  young souls. The more you know.
  2. Even divas like Mariah Carey get stuck in traffic. Celebrities! They're just like us!
The first two auditions were kind of sad. Shubha Vedula had a pretty voice and all, but the boy judges couldn't remember her name. They called her Petulla. It's like they went to name a flower and stopped caring. Then Brian Martinez proved to America that he was conned by what I can only image was a trickster homeless con man with a vendetta against mild-mannered guys named Brian. In a RESTROOM, this man claimed to be a music producer and urged Brian to try out for American Idol. Why was Brian singing in a public restroom? We were never told! Brian sang "You'll Be in My Heart" in probably the most ghastly way imaginable, leading Keith to quip, "That bathroom has killer acoustics." LOL - I died. Upon leaving the audition room, and walking past his entourage with their signs and happy faces, Brian muttered, "This wasn't a good experience for me." 

Army veteran Matt Farmer shouted "A Change is Gonna Come", and the judges loved it. I wasn't impressed, but that shouldn't surprise anyone. His audition was followed up by Stephanie Sanson, a pretty girl with purple hair who intentionally/unintentionally (?) lost her bananas on national television by SCREAMING Adele's "Set Fire to the Rain" at the judges. Not only did she scream. Oh no. Stephanie carved a warpath through the audition room, screaming at every corner, screaming at every wall like the spirit of Beelzebub was trying to escape from her body. Frightened, the judges tried to talk her down. But no, Stephanie would not be silenced. Screaming the whole time, she flipped off the judges and blazed out of the audition room. It was bizarre but strangely captivating. I hope I think she was playing a prank. 

Jesaiah Baer's audition was interrupted by a fire alarm. Did you notice how entitled the Idol cast and crew acted about having to evacuate the boat? They were all, "What? WE actually have to move? But we're Idol!" I'd like them to hedge like that to a FIERY INFERNO. Nuts of wonder. Jesaiah got an easy ticket to Hollywood after scatting her way through "Settle Down". When asked about the harrowing fire experience, Jesaiah reasoned, "The boat couldn't handle me since I am the captain and whatnot." These people they find for the show. They're all special little treasures.

After a botched tonsillectomy, Micah Johnson was left with a speech impediment. The judges, who are all supposed to be REAL MUSICIANS, were shocked to find out that Micah could still sing. Now I'm not a singing professional, but I've had enough lessons to know that you sing and talk from DIFFERENT PLACES. You enunciate in a different way, too. Why Mariah Freaking Carey doesn't know this troubles me. Micah's a cool guy, though, and he has a great singing voice. I just ... Is it bad that I don't think this is as MIRACULOUS as the show is making it out to be? It's like the guy with the stutter from a couple weeks ago. Singing and speaking = different things. Why is no one saying this? 

Ah, hell, I give up. 

Micah's was the last audition I saw because the baby needed a bath and I was too bored with the whole thing to rewind my DVR when I got back downstairs. Did I miss anything earth-shattering? Chances are NO, right? 

Out of my handful of readers (sometimes I feel like I'm only writing for 4 or 5 people, but you're worth it - don't leave), 2 of them are Nicki Minaj fans. I am still not a Nicki Minaj fan. However, because I think these 2 readers are awesome in every possible way, I promised to try an experiment in kindness for every review and write something nice about Nicki. I already mentioned that I liked her purple plaid hat, but I will add a bonus for this recap. Nicki was a lot calmer during these auditions and therefore tolerable. Brava, Nicki!

Leave some comments, please! It makes me feel less lonely. You don't even need an account to leave one, you know. Just type something in the little box and press send. You can say anything. I swear.

Write something.


I need you, Dawgs.

Seacrest out. 



Monday, January 21, 2013

Chicago Auditions: "I swear I feel like a scratching post."

Chicago: Home to deep-dish pizzas, some lake, a really tall tower, and maybe one or two singers. People say it's a nice place to visit, but I've never been there. Several creepy children showed up at the Chicago auditions. Some of them were even talented.

Your average Idol contestants
So have we reached the point where we can collectively decide to ignore this Minaj thing? Remember when she wasn't even a blip on the radar? That was only, like, 2 years ago. It shouldn't be that hard to erase her from our memories. "But Rachel," you say, "Nicki's on the show whether you like it or not. You can't complain all season!" Oh, I think you underestimate me. I can complain for a long time. That's 75% of the reason that this blog still exists.

Sadly, I missed taking notes for Ryan's intro (always the best part of the show) and the first audition because of baby, getting my big dumb foot elevated, and general laziness. That part of the show went something like this:

Blah, blah, blah ... Chicago! Blah, blah - dreams and dreams. Blah, blah ... THIS is American Idol! Pretty teenager sings something country. Twang, twang, twang. Hearts were touched. Hollywood! 

Now, let's get to the real recap. Some guy named Austin Earles blinded America with his Vanilla Ice hair and didn't have the common decency to sing well. Leather-clad blond sprite (Hollie Cavanaugh's evil twin, maybe?) Stephanie Schimel, sang "Dream a Little Dream". It was pretty and very nearly had me in a sleep trance, but then the judges had to start talking. Rude buggers. Keith commented that Stephanie sounds like a Carrie Underwood/Gwen Stefani mix. I didn't exactly hear that, but Keith gets a free pass because he's the least annoying person on the judging panel. Speaking of annoying ...

Nicki brought the segment to a grinding halt when she gave Stephanie a no, only to be outnumbered by her fellow judges. Not getting her way seems to make Nicki yammer. Her jaw started flapping incoherent words. Eye shadow was mentioned. Keith started rocking back and forth in an attempt to go to his happy place. Then Mariah griped, "This is what I deal with when I come into my 'job'." With air quotes and everything. Gosh, you guys, it must suck to be like Mariah Carey and have to report to a "job" that pays 8 figures. I'm sure she gazes upon her eternal suffering daily and wonders, "What's in it for me?"

Ryan died a thousand deaths when he saw Melissa Bush's ill-fitting pink costume. Poor guy. He must clutch his pearls constantly when confronted by the sloppy people at  Idol auditions. Although Melissa's painful version of "Downtown" and costume provided plenty of fodder, the judges decided to focus on her name instead. Really. Are we that juvenile now? We've had presidents with that last name, you dimwits. Also, she brought Randy a present. So now we make fun of people who do nice things for us? Idol Life Lesson #22: Be a douche. Nicki exemplified this lesson by sending Melissa away with these parting words: "Bush, you'll always be my bush, but the answer is no."

There's an Idol Bus Tour now that's dedicated to kidnapping fresh meat from American soil. This year's first captive was Gabe Brown, who was kind enough to bring the judges cookies before screaming his lungs out at them. Sure, I guess his style of singing "Gimme Shelter" appeals to some people. I couldn't tell you if he was doing his rocker thing right anyway. I just didn't care for it. Naturally, he's going to Hollywood.Some maniac named Kevin told Ryan that his musical influences were Vanilla Ice and Ninja Rap. He couldn't sing. Shocker, right?

15-year-old Isabelle Parell made Keith sing "Baby, It's Cold Outside" with her. Her tone was beautiful, but her mom stole the segment by using her interview with Ryan as an opportunity to hit on the cameramen. "Camera guys are considered kinda hot." I'll take your word for it, Ms. Parell.

Keith had to leave for half a day to do a concert in Vegas, and I swear my heart broke a little. I was all:

Without Keith there to - I don't know - fill the panel with goodness and humanity, Minaj made it her own personal mission to sexually harass every halfway decent looking male who walked in to audition. J. Lo never did that. J. Lo was classy. Yes, I just wrote on the internet that J. Lo is classy. Minaj is the pits.

Pictured: Classy
23-year-old Griffin Peterson really caught Minaj's attention because - I'll admit it - he looks like a heartthrob. If I were 12, I'd totally tack that boy's posters on my wall. Can he sing well? Eh, he tries. According to the ladies on the panel, Griffin's face is his real moneymaker. Minaj was like, "You'll fill arenas with that face." And Mariah was like, "I hate to agree with the painted pony, but yes, you probably will." And I think maybe Randy wanted to cry in that moment? IDK. Maybe this is his punishment for Bikini Girl.

Motivational soundbite dropping Curtis Finch Jr. politely ignored Minaj's attempts to call him "Finchy" and sang "God is Able" like a gospel pro. He will never be as fabulous as my dear, DEAR Joshua Ledet, but I like him. After that, a girl named Mariah Pulice told her sad story about anorexia. She sang "Let It Be", and while the performance was pretty and emotional, I was underwhelmed. Doesn't it just seem like anyone can sing that song? 4 or 5 notes. Simple melody. People who have never even heard the song before can sing it well. Even a person who's lived in a cave without any modern technology or contact with the outside world knows "Let It Be" by heart. Mariah sure liked it, though. She cried real tears. Mariah also thought that Glitter was a movie worth making. Take that as you will.

Clifton Duffin kept his singing voice a secret from his parents. That takes a lot of effort. Like, I'd think that keeping such an extensive secret would take more work than the actual singing. Am I being unfair? Probably. He sang "Superstar", and his parents just cried and cried because their son has talent. What if he'd sucked? Think of how awkward that segment would be. "Well, son, I can't say I'm sorry you didn't let me hear you before." Ha. That would have been sad.

Season 11 cast-off Johnny Keyser came back for more of Idol's special brand of torture. Do you remember Johnny Keyser? Apparently, at one point, I thought he could win. Further inspection recovered these 2 pieces of Season 11 nostalgia. During the Black Idol Plague in Hollywood, this happened with Johnny:Area 451 – Song Unknown
Members: Johnny Keyser, Kristi Klause
BIP Victim: Imani Handy
These people weren’t even seen on Thursday’s show, and then Imani got a case of the faints. She fainted while they went over the song a final time. Then her mom had to hold her up, carry her around, probably feed her some applesauce until Imani fainted in the auditorium. Conventional wisdom would tell her to give up and go to A) a doctor or B) bed. BUT NO! Imani had a dream, and she was determined to faint all over it until she achieved her goals.

Johnny and Kristi sounded pretty good during the performance, but all of that was overshadowed when Imani fainted while she was singing. Nuts of wonder! She shouldn’t have been up on that stage to begin with, considering that she was fainting at a dangerous rate. Idol is not worth brain damage, you twit. The best part of this bit, though, was the point when Johnny realized Imani was falling and totally failed to catch her. THEN he kept on singing until Randy was like, “Cut the music!” LOL, Johnny. You really didn’t care, did you? Imani was okay, but J. Lo laid down the law. “Baby, I’m sorry. You’re going home.” Best decision of the night.
I also made this clever picture when the judges were down to Johnny and some other guys for the final semi-final spot:

Now I miss David Leathers Jr.

Johnny Keyser, who ARE you?

"I don't expect to win. Um, in fact, it would be better if some 17-year-old, cute little girl who's like, 'It's my dream!' - I would rather her win. But I'd like to go to Hollywood," rambled Kez Ban, the contestant of my dreams. She plays with fire AND makes balloon animals! "I am from North Carolina, planet Earth," Kez Ban told the judges before launching into a very impressive audition. She looks a wreck, acts like a mad woman, but sings like an earth goddess who co-writes songs with unicorns. I want her to be on the show forever. Forever and ever.

Some school is totally ripping off a girl named Ashley, who's majoring in musical theater and sings like what I can only assume a million cats sound like while dying simultaneously. What a shame. Randy, for the first time in the episode, realized he had a job to do besides yielding the entire operation to Minaj and said, "I know it's hard for us to tell you that, but ... somebody should have told you before." Maybe they should make pamphlets with that quote as the title for all the contestants like Ashley.

The episode closed with bow-tie wearing Lazaro Arbos, who suffers from a severe stutter but sings like an angel. It was remarkable. He could barely even speak to the judges, but his voice and diction came through crystal clear while he crooned "Bridge O'er Troubled Water". See? Idol isn't always terrible. There's a heart in there somewhere!

So there went another audition episode down the pits. Gah, these things are long. I LOVE Hollywood Week, but it feels so far away from me right now. Give me patience, Dawgs. Give me strength.

And please find a way to shut Minaj's mouth for, like, a minute.

This show isn't even close to being over.

Seacrest out!

Thursday, January 17, 2013

New York City Auditions: "You love me more than you love sunny days."

It's the 12th season, Dawgs. The 12th season. That's like a million in TV years. And what a surprise! Kudos to Idol for its longevity. For a show that's awful, like, 80% of the time, it still manages to keep people watching. Take me, for example. I write the worst things about Idol but always return to the cruel mistress every January. It completes me, you know? In a really awful, dirty, troubling way. But still. I can't quit Idol. Just can't.

Even if this season looks like it's going to suck monumentally.

Meet your judges!!!!!

Sir Randall Jackson XII is back to be the only judge ever who hasn't had anything to do but Idol. I LOVE Randy this year. He can never be as annoying as the staged cat-fight accompanying him on the panel, so the Dawg and I are still the bestest of buds. Remember when Simon and Paula used to bicker like children, and it was so annoying because we all knew it was staged, and Randy somehow wasn't the worst thing on the panel in comparison? We've returned to that time! Only instead of Simon and Paula, we have a parakeet and Miss Piggy.

Keith Urban is actually a nice guy, so I bet the show will act like he doesn't exist. A wide-eyed innocent, Keith was somehow manipulated into playing the buffer on the judging panel, but all that means is that the opposing parties have to screech even louder over his head to be heard. I could make some Aussie jokes now, but I have too much class for that. They will come.

Mariah Carey is sort of a legend, in case you haven't heard. She has a FIVE OCTAVE RANGE, more cleavage than Paula, and more fans than all the other judges combined. Idol wants us to know that Mariah's a diva. Like we didn't already know. I find Mariah's "hotter-than-thou" antics entertaining, but I'm sure that feeling would change if I actually had to interact with her. The other judges started calling her Regina George after the titular bitch character in Mean Girls. That was not a compliment.

IDK. I always thought Regina was kind of badass, even if she was evil.
Nicki Minaj makes crappy music for young people. She looks ridiculous ALL THE TIME, which I'm sure is supposed to be some kind of artsy "statement" but just makes her look desperate for attention. She talks a lot, especially when Mariah's talking, and I'm pretty sure her hair isn't even real anymore.

She's actually a pretty woman. I don't know why she does this to herself. Seriously. Why is she doing this to herself?
J. Lo and Uncle Steven apparently have careers that they have to get back to? I don't know. It's hard to be optimistic about their whereabouts when no one's responded to my Missing Person poster for Kara Dioguardi yet.

Recap Time!

Now that I have the unimportant (but sure to be PROMINENT) stuff out of the way, let's talk about Season 12's opening crop of talent. I can't claim to be impressed. There were some voices, a few weirdos, a couple of sure-things turned rejects, and Idol's own brand of casual racism. Ryan looks good - still kicking and ridiculously positive about the Idol experience. "History can show that Idols can produce anything," he says. "Together, we'll make the journey that defines a nation," he says. Please, Ryan. Hyperbole has never suited you.

Funniest quote of the night: "It's the best show of its kind ever in the history of television, right?" - Sir Randall Jackson XII

The first day in NYC started with a snipe-fest between Nicki and Mariah, and I won't even recap it because I honestly have no idea what they were arguing about. Nicki's voice sounds like seagulls to me. I cannot tell a lie. Fortunately, Michael Buonopane stormed into the room, stomping around and singing his own version of "We Will Rock You." He couldn't sing, but he did have the good taste to tell Mariah that "All I Want for Christmas" is the best Christmas song ever, which made Nicki all insecure. Then Camp Mariah (I can't make this up, Dawgs) alumnus Tenna Torres sang a polite version of "You've Got a Friend". It was pretty but uninspiring. Good enough for Hollywood.

Misguided 15-year-old James Bae told Ryan that he wants to be just like Justin Beiber. "I sing in my room thinking it's a concert so I can get ready for a real one," he said. So that audition went exactly as I expected. I'm not even sure he was singing. Mariah and Keith encouraged James to become a DJ. Because he has a great radio voice? I don't know? It seems like Mariah picked the first vocation that came to her head. I'm anxious to one day see what James was talking about when he told Nicki: "We're gonna do a collide together." That sounds personal.

Christina "Isabelle" apparently thinks that using a name that would never be a last name as a last name is a grand idea. She presented some lame sob story about how she lost 50 pounds, and really Christina "Isabelle", don't demean yourself. She sang "Summertime", which was lovely and soulful. They asked her who she listened to growing up, and Christina pointed to Mariah. Then Nicki was like this:

The most surprising segment of the evening focused on Evan Ruggiero. This guy came to Idol prepared. He's a tap dancer, got bone cancer, and lost a freaking leg. And he STILL TAP DANCES. Like a badass. You know this guy would have gone several rounds in last year's competition, but after a scattered, hurried version of "I'm Yours" and a slightly better though not outstanding crooning of some Bon Jovi, the judges sent him packing. Mariah talked for - I swear - FOREVER as she qualified her decision. When a dazed Evan finally exited the audition room with the bad news, his family was shocked. Dawgs, I was shocked, too. This panel might actually be tough.

Case in point: Jessica Kartalis' mom nominated her to get a fast pass to the auditions. Randy tracked her down in her hometown to give her an audition number. Then she went before the judges and messed up her own song. It was so sad. Obviously, she thought she was a shoe-in after being dragged in there by the show. But nope. Rejection City. The worst part was when she left the audition room and had to tell the bad news to, like, 20 hopeful people. I bet she didn't talk to her mom for a week after that. How humiliating.

Despite already making it big enough in Israel to have a #1 record, Shira Gavrielov wants to make it in America. She sang something pretty that really complimented her tone, and Keith was so excited over her vibrato that he spilled his drink on Nicki. Naturally, I'm now a fan. Busker Frankie Ford lives in Brooklyn and depends on tips from subway passengers to make a living. So this guy's all into the music thing, apparently. He sang "Sweet Dreams" for the judges. The vocal was strong, and Frankie emotes well. The judges enthusiastically sent him to Hollywood. Then Frankie's complete opposite Benjamin Gaisey strolled in wearing a plastic Halloween Thriller costume and skeeved everybody out. He sang "I'll Make Love to You" directly to the female judges and thrust his hips like a maniac. I would have called security. Keith hid under the desk and exclaimed, "It's not safe!" Indeed, Mr. Urban. Indeed.

A girl named Roxanna honed her vocal skills by singing for her enabling parents. Unfortunately, her voice does not make melodies, so she was a goner. Then a young man nearly pooped himself during a losers montage, and really, this show has sunk so low.

New Jersey redneck (apparently they exist) Sarah Restuccio underwhelmed Keith with Carrie Underwood's "Mama's Song" but impressed all if them by rapping Nicki Minaj's "Superbass" better than Nicki Minaj. Nicki got all excited because someone was finally emulating her instead of Mariah, so she talked and talked and talked until they gave Sarah a golden ticket. Receptionist Albert Chang followed up Sarah's audition by admitting he didn't know who the Idol judges were (LOL) and did unspeakable things to "Phantom of the Opera". After he jumped the octave, Nicki took the opportunity to pick on Mariah like an elementary school bully. "Your range is better than Mariah's. Do you know that her range is the best range in the world?" Nicki, seriously. Mariah is twice your size. Watch your back.

18-year-old Angela Miller told us that she's always had hearing problems, but I misheard that as "urine problems". And oh, did I laugh! Cool story. Anyways, her audition was great. She has a lovely tone to her voice, and the judges agreed. "Huge, huge American Idol fan" Brett Holt tries out and fails every year. We won't speak about the terrible things he did to "When I Fall in Love", but I ended up feeling sorry for the poor guy. He was so earnest and into the audition, and the gremlins in Idol's control room just about castrated the guy. They kept manufacturing these fake-out videos in which the judges loved him and at one point had a cartoon frog with a bullhorn get in on the "Brett Holt sucks" joke, and I don't think I'll ever understand why? That's a really crappy way to treat a fan.

"The Turbanator" Gurpreet Singh Salin has 40-50 different colored turbans. Damn. Those are a lot of turbans. Rocking the best beard that will ever appear on this competition, he had a nice audition. Just nice. I doubt it will take him anywhere. Keith was the only judge who understood that, though, so The Turbanator got a ticket to Hollywood. Ashlee Feliciano rode into the audition on the coattails of her parents' selflessness. What?! She did! Ashlee isn't the one that adopts or fosters kids with medical challenges. How cute was that little boy with the glasses, though? Adorable! I especially loved his little hat. Ashlee sang "Put Your Records On", a song that I'm ready to retire, but she actually made it decent. Something about Ashlee's performance "inspired" Nicki, and I'll probably die still wondering what that could possibly be. But yeah, she got a golden ticket!

So that's how last night's circus went down. How did I feel about it?

Tell me what was more annoying, Dawgs - the bickering or Minaj's faux British accent?

Seacrest out.

Thursday, May 24, 2012


Phil Phillips gets emotional after his big win
They came from all over the country, hundreds of thousands of young things. Each of them had a dream, a naive belief that TV could make that dream happen. They flocked like mosquitoes to a bug zapper, the flashing lights of that fantastical creature called American Idol luring them in with promises of fame and fortune. Dreams, they were told, were precious things that needed to be cherished and also exploited on national television. So the hundreds of thousands of young things presented their dreams to the great Idol monolith, positive that they were that one special child-contestant whose dreams deserved to come true. These people put their hearts on the line for the murky promises of Hollywood and fame and non-negotiable contracts. And try as they might, sing as they did, about 99.9% of their hearts and dreams were ultimately broken. 

The hundreds of thousands were whittled down to hundreds. Then the hundreds were whittled down to the Top 24. And from then on, America, their dreams were in your hands. Music was provided, millions of votes were cast, and each week, another dream bit the dust. And that's because there can only be one American Idol, Dawgs. 

And this year, one brave young soul scraped his way out of a Georgia pawn shop, put his serious kidney problems on the back-burner, sang some songs, made some faces, bared his chest hair for the entire world to see, probably slayed a dragon and found his way out of a fantastical forest so the Idol producers could get their kicks. He remained standing while other brave young things dropped around him, trying to remain impassive in the face of such brutal carnage. His name is Phillip Phillips Jr., and little did he know, he was destined to be the American Idol from the moment he was born with that face, picked up a guitar, and discovered he could sing kinda well. 

You see, Dawgs, some seasons of Idol have foregone conclusions. This has been one of those seasons. As sure as I am that Ryan Seacrest wakes up every morning perfectly coifed and be-suited, I also knew that Phil would win this game of shenanigans long ago. Call me psychic, call me obsessed, but don't call me dumb. Is Phil's destined victory a bad thing? Nah, not particularly. Sure, I cheered for exciting acts like Joshua and Skylar, but it's been well-established that my favorites always lose. Once Phil actually found a melody he could latch onto, I started to appreciate his low-key artistry. Plus, his refusal to bow to the wishes of Idol's commercial machine was super fun to watch. Remember when Tommy Hilfiger was all like, "Seriously, Phil, if you wear gray on that stage again, you're going to cause my imminent death and bring a permanent rain cloud over LA that will eventually wipe out Idol studios for good. Do you hear me? You will KILL Idol," and Phil wore gray anyway? Remember how he took a perfectly-fine-on-its-own song like "The Letter" and transformed it into some alien, growling, singer-songwriter Phil thing without any semblance of shame? From the beginning, he looked the judges and America in the eye and said, "Don't bother telling me what to do because I'm going to do my own thing anyway. So vote if you want. I really don't care." America loves a rebel, and Phil's apathy toward us only made us empathize with him more. So, bravo, dear Phil. Well-played, sir. Very well-played. 

Of course, the reveal of Season 11's American Idol didn't take place until only about 7 minutes remained in the telecast. That left for a lot of filler segments. As usual, Idol snubbed new and current acts for slightly aged and firmly entrenched in the 60s and 70s special guest stars. I guess that's fine. Most modern pop music is crap anyway. I fast-forward through Rihanna's performance because her voice is probably the most toneless thing I've ever heard. I hear enough of that tripe on the radio. So yeah, the finale slightly resembled an AARP benefit concert. Let's go over the things that stuck out. This ... is American Idol! 

Top Finale Moments

1. Joshua Bites the Dust: The show executed a really cute opening with the Top 12 (minus Phil and Jessica) performing "Runaway Baby." It was high energy and fun, and all went well until the moment before the troop of professional dancers took the stage. The dance fail takes place around 1:43. 

How creepy is it that the producers still insist that the finalists wear white for the finale? Are we supposed to think they look like angels? Personally, I think the guys look like rogue sailors who need need haircuts. 

2. Speaking of the White Outfits:

Meet Guy Who Forgot to Wear an  Undershirt and  Return of the Teenage Mummy.
3. Jimmy Iovine Never Bothered to Learn J. Lo's Name: Okay, Iovine, you finally got me. Each time he referred to Jennifer Lopez as Jessica, the sniveling record producer weaseled his way into my heart a little more. 

4. Joshua, Skylar & Hollie Got to Sing with Their Idols: Joshua and Fantasia abandoned the stage and took us to the Church of Fan/Mantasia in their rendition of Elton John's "Take Me to the Pilot." If you closed your eyes, it was almost enough to unsee Fantasia's glittery catsuit. Alas, we'll be stuck with the image for the rest of our lives. Skylar hooked up with her spirit animal Reba in a fun, high-energy performance that made me miss Skylar even more. They genuinely seemed to enjoy singing with each other, and I hope the future allows for them to do it again. Hollie teamed up with Jordin Sparks to sing "You'll Never Walk Alone," and although I don't remember being a fan of Jordin, I thought they sounded amazing together. 

5. The Creepiest Televised Proposal of All Time: So apparently Ace Young and Diana DeGarmo are still people who do stuff in this world. Broadway? Awesome. Since I'm hormonal right now (and a romantic at heart), the moment it became evident that Ace intended to propose, I got super excited. Yay! Love! Unfortunately, Ace Young: Moment Killer pissed all over that excitement by name-dropping his jeweler. Really, Ace? Product placement during a marriage proposal? That's so gross! Diana, who's about 75% plastic, 25% naive, didn't seem to mind, but I found the whole thing off-putting. Tsk, tsk, Ace. And you used to be so attractive, too, before you grew your hair out longer than your fiancee's and delivered the douchiest proposal EVER on national television. 

6. Jennifer Holliday Scares Jessica into Singing with Conviction: I have to give major credit to Jessica Sanchez for resisting the primal urge to cover her eyes and run offstage when Jennifer Holliday first started making faces like she literally wanted to consume Jessica's nubile flesh. Those were some crazy faces, lady! No one outshines Jennifer Holliday at her own song! This was a very rousing performance. Scary or not, Holliday forced Jessica to inject some personality into her singing, and the result was outstanding. Bravo!

7. Uncle Steven's In It To Win It: Maybe Idol's resident creepy uncle can't put a coherent thought together as a judge, but the man can still perform. His performance was far more entertaining (and way less grating) than fellow judge J. Lo's dance-a-thon. 

8. The Kids Can ACTUALLY Sing the Phone Book: Just try to lie and tell me you weren't entertained. The Top 12 gamely tackled an actual phone book and treated us with bonuses from the Yellow Pages. And of course, Joshua got all carried away on the final number, forcing Skylar to lament, "Every time!" This was actually clever, Idol. Let's have next season's contestants do this every week instead of the stupid Ford Music Videos. 

9. Phil's Finale "Formal Wear": 

Phil Phillips: Dressed to Impress
BWAHAHAHAHA! BWAHAHAHAHA! *Wipes eyes* Dawgs! DAWGS! Look at that priceless ensemble. Only Phil Phillips would take the glamour of a formal suit jacket, dress it up even more with the type of vest men only wear to weddings, the prom, or the Oscars, and then leave the look hanging with a v-neck tee under the vest. Would it kill this man to wear an actual collar? You can tell that Phil's naked chest hair is killing Ryan in that picture. Ryan, who can't wait for the week he gets to wear a bow tie to work. Ryan, who probably has every hair but the ones on his head waxed by a personal assistant. Phil dressing like that in front of Ryan is equivalent to a person sneezing on her hand and then immediately touching a germaphobe. So mean, but my god, SO FUNNY. 

10. Phil's Finale Performance: Bless him. Phil only made it through one verse of his coronation song before he broke down in tears. Even horrible trolls like me - who celebrated when Phil won mainly because it meant I've been RIGHT all season - had to be touched when the emotion of the moment overcame Phil. And since Phil's made it very clear all season that he doesn't really give a damn about playing to the cameras, he backed away from the microphone before the song was even over, handed off his guitar, and walked off the stage to share a Team Phillips hug with his family. Nuts of wonder, that was touching. I may have even shed a tear! 

And there goes another season down the memory hole. Season 11 had its own kind of charm, didn't it? I haven't seen a more talented Top 10 in years. Now it's time to amp up for summer and start brain-storming about the important stuff, like who will replace J. Lo on the judging panel. Idol gods, please let her be a good singer! Is it asking that much?

You've been a very quiet audience this season, Dawgs, but I can tell by page views that you're reading. For that, I thank you. I also apologize for my sporadic posting habits as of late. We made it through this together, though. It wasn't always easy, nor was it always fun, but we persevered like the good little soldiers we are. Take care, and I'll see you next season!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Jessica vs. Phil: When a Season Sputters and Dies

Even Ryan Seacrest can't save the awkwardness of Jessica & Phillip in a fake embrace.
These finales have been killing me the past 3 seasons. You start the season off with a freaking menagerie of compelling, albeit moderately to totally crazy, contestants, and then America chops our weekly circus show down to the human equivalent of tapioca pudding. Room temperature tapioca pudding. When you combine the eccentric voting habits of Americans across the country, you end up with mush. There's no other option. 

And no, I'm not calling Phil and Jessica mush for real. I totally accept that they're fully functioning human beings with real personalities. It isn't their fault that they are the median default for America's combined tastes, two unoffensive young thing who look nice on camera and can sing pretty most of the time. So don't take this personally, Phil and Jessica. I still love you. (Well, maybe not  you, Jessica. I tepidly appreciate you, for the most part.) I just can't help but think about how awesome the finale would be if Joshua and Skylar were the final two. Josh would sing something awesome dressed in a dapper suit and utilize the gospel choir to the max. Skylar would probably ride out onstage on an ATV, compare firearms with Phil's dad, and twitch through some spunky country songs. And the masses, Dawgs, they would be entertained!

Alas, I cannot stay in the fantasy world of my ideal finale. We must remain firmly entrenched in reality. Like it or not, Opie and iCarly Extra #16 are the last contestants remaining in The Idol Games. Let's just be grateful that they won't have to fight to the death.

Maybe Jessica could strangle Phil with the train of her dress, but he'd be totally helpless in the ill-fitting wrinkly shirt.
So who won the night? Let's figure it out in Idol Death-match Season 11! (But let's remember that no matter who won the night, Phil Phillips will still totally win this thing. No contest.) This ... is American Idol!!!

Your Contenders

Jessica Sanchez
Age - 16
Home State - California
Best Performance to Date - "Dance With My Father"
Judge Pimpage Rating - 9 out of 10
Style of Choice - Stilettos and Anything Beyonce Would Wear
Likelihood of Becoming a Superstar - Moderately Dim
Has Talked to a Boy Before Auditioning for Idol - Probably Not 
Ego Rating - 10 out of 10

Phillip Phillips Jr.
Age - 21
Home State - Georgia
Best Performance to Date - Damien Rice's "Volcano"
Judge Pimpage Rating - 7 out of 10
Style of Choice - Dirty scraps of clothing off of his bedroom floor, things a mechanic would wear to work
Likelihood of Becoming a Superstar - Moderately Dim
Public Speaking Skills - No skill whatsoever
Ego Rating - 10 out of 10

Jessica and Phillip may be as different as night and day, but they have one very important thing in common. Ego. Lots and lots of ego. These two kids definitely think they're #1, and nobody can tell them anything different. 

The Performances

Round 1 - Simon Fuller's (Who? LOL) Choice

Jessica - "I Have Nothing"
No surprises here. Jessica was assigned a Whitney Houston song, and she sang it competently while dressed in a pretty gown. Fuller should have known better than to assign Jessica one of Idol's most overdone songs - Jordin Sparks seriously would NOT STOP singing it in Season 6 - in the finale. Also, there's really no topping Whitney Houston's original version, so it didn't leave a lot of room for Jessica to differentiate herself as an artist. I'll give her credit for masterfully handling the epic key change at the end of the song, though. Even if she's dull as dishwater, the girl has a great set of pipes. 

Phil - "Stand By Me"
Simon Fuller doesn't know that modern music is a thing, does he? The Idol producers are so sad, these amoral gremlins trapped in 1995. Phil handled the song choice in stride. He refused to get too excited and molded the melody to his own personal style, which is basically a fancy way to say that he turned certain words into grunts and "AIIIIEEEEs" and "UGHs." I liked this performance, though. It was low-key and cool, and Phil sounded good. 

The judges handed Round 1 to Jessica, but I have to disagree. "I Have Nothing" was pretty, but Jessica didn't do anything particularly interesting with it. Phil managed to transform an old classic into the type of song you could imagine him recording. With that in mind ...

Winner - Phil

Round 2 - Contestant's Choice

Jessica - "The Prayer"
I'm such a sucker for this song, even if it's from over a decade ago, and Jessica sang the living hell out of it. I remember her rocking it on the Cirque du Soleil stage back in Vegas, but it was a real pleasure to hear the song in its entirety. Jessica took her time with the song, quietly singing the first verse and then transitioning to the final chorus with some BIG notes, Dawgs. Huge notes. Even I was impressed, and there have been times when I struggled to stay awake while Jessica performed. This was a gorgeous vocal performance.

Phil - "Movin' Out"
With the return of his favorite hot blonde sax player, Phil slid right into his comfort zone with this one. The combination of Phil and the band sounded good, but I was a little underwhelmed with this performance. "Movin' Out" wasn't particularly memorable the first time he did it, and the second time was no exception. 

The judges were split on this round. Uncle Steven sputtered idea fragments like, "tonight he hatched some. But I would have to say that Jessica took it again." Hatched some what, Uncle Steven? Eggs? Are you calling Phil Phillips a goose? Randy called the round a draw. J. Lo gave the edge to Phil because she'd heard Jessica sing "The Prayer" before, which made no sense because Phil performed "Movin' Out" even more recently. How do I get past the hair extensions to the thoughts in J. Lo's head? For vocal prowess alone, I'm going with ...

Winner - Jessica

Round 3 - Coronation Songs That 19 Entertainment Found in the Trash Bin After Real Artists Rejected Them

Jessica - "Change Nothing"
Oh, Jessica, JESSICA, why did you find it necessary to scrape the bottom of that trash bin for a song? What a shame this performance was, a real stinker all around. "Change Nothing" didn't even have any corny inspirational lyrics that we all love to hate in these finale songs. The lyrics were trite, the melody uninspired, and the key forced Jessica to sing far too low in the beginning of the song. At this point, Jessica definitely proved her youth. After the judges panned the song, Jessica admitted that it was a bad choice, that she chose the flaming lyrical pile of poo because she wanted to show off her voice. And that was totally the wrong answer. It proved that Jessica was playing to win the show rather than to establish herself as an artist. Sure, everybody wants to win, but artists with more maturity aren't willing to compromise their style and integrity to play at becoming America's Next Forgotten Idol. Or if they are, at least they don't admit it. What a disaster. 

Phil - "Home"
Good for Phil! He discovered the least offensive finale song to date - it even talked about HOME, you guys - and arranged it into a catchy, rousing little anthem. Sure, "Home" definitely came from the scrap pile of some struggling song writer trying to imitate the awesomeness of Mumford & Sons. But credit must be given to Phil for working that song into a game-winning success. While the song wasn't vocally challenging, Phil sounded great and, most importantly, authentic while performing it. The background singers and assorted band members were a great plus, and then "cool" got a new definition when a drum line stormed the stage, injecting a catchy beat into the song and creating a real ... wait for it ... Idol Moment(TM). This earned the only standing ovation from the judges last night, and underwhelmed as I was with this finale, I have to admit that Phil deserved it. He turned crap into pure gold and remained true to himself to the bitter end. It's easy to love a guy who goes on American Idol, of all shows, and never even makes a move to give a damn. Phil knew he was too cool for Idol, and America LOVED him for it. 

Winner - Phil

Oh. Hi, Jason Derulo.
I'm sorry, Idol (and Jason), but no one cared about this performance or the song-writing competition that put it on our TVs. Tell Jordin Sparks we said hi, Jason. 

Way back when they announced the semifinal picks, I made this prediction: Phil has two things going for him: 1) His ultimate destiny with Heejun Han and 2) the fact that he’s probably going to win this thing. I called Scotty McCreery early last year, and I’m calling Phil now. He’s cute, kind, and sometimes sings well. Idol’s core voting bloc won’t be able to resist him. I knew it then, and I know it now. Phil Phillips Jr. is your new American Idol. The prediction site agrees with me

Tune in tonight for what's sure to be an overly long, incredibly gimmicky results show. I hope Joshua and Skylar get to perform! Who do you think will win this whole game of shenanigans? Is anyone a fan of Jessica Sanchez? If you are, I suppose I should apologize. 

Bwahahaha! Okay, I kid. I KID! I'm so sorry. Kind of.
Update After Finishing Recap: So Phil's "original song," actually already exists. Watch original artist and co-writer Greg Holden sing the living daylights out of it here. WTF, Idol? I understand that Holden was probably paid out the gazoo for Interscope's use of the song, and it's nice that Holden might get some attention from the exposure. But really. Original songs are supposed to be flipping original. What. The. Hell. Idol's murky morality never ceases to amaze me.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

The Top 4 Perform: Randy's Suit Reminds Ryan of Ice Cream

I did something very bad, Dawgs. Monstrously bad. Like, I-totally-knew-better-than-that bad. By throwing my support behind Skylar Laine last week, I sabotaged her. My favorite ALWAYS gets eliminated. My perfect taste is so far outside of mainstream America's voting habits. I never should have done this to Skylar. Oh, so she seemed like a shoe-in, with her actual good voice and natural performing skill. I thought to myself, "If those two country bores from last season made it to the final, then surely Skylar will sail on through because she's legitimately talented and interesting." But no, Dawgs. NO. I was the kiss of death for the little Mississippi Spitfire. Sorry, Skylar. This won't happen again.

So, for the record, I totally DON'T want Joshua Ledet to win. That would be crazy. Who the hell would want Joshua Ledet to win the whole competition? More insane ideas have never been spoken. Pshhh!

Ahem. Now that I have that off my chest, let's get to the recap.

Songs from/about/vaguely related to/with a cousin twice removed from California
Songs the contestants really, really like/wish they wrote/are inspired by
Remember when the 12 human sacrifices to the Idol gods had to do themes like Disco and Latin music? Is this a sign of a more entitled youth, or did the Idol producers finally figure out that their specific themes sucked?

A passive-aggressive J. Lo with a really ugly up-do
Randy Jackson dressed as an ice cream sundae
The weathered husk that houses the soul of Uncle Steven

A be-hatted Jimmy Iovine

Your Top 4!!!!!

Season 11's American Idol Phillip Phillips Jr.
Sing the Phil Phillips way: If it doesn't look painful, you aren't doing it right.
"Have You Ever Seen The Rain" - I thought this was a marked improvement over both of Phil's performances last week, even if it just coasted along safely in a field with competitors who like to pull out the vocal dynamite on a boring night. It's probably safe to say that Phil's critical brother-in-law approved of this vocal far more than he did "Time of the Season," which he told Phil was "a little rough." Buoyed by his trusty female sax player, Phil did his Phil Phillips thing, remaining true to himself and looking understated while doing it. J. Lo compared him to Joe Cocker, which I suppose is fair because both gentlemen are known for making ugly faces. 

"Volcano" - Oh, geez, a Damien Rice song. Even I can't resist a moody, atmospheric performance of Rice's music. Even though Jimmy Iovine thought that Jessica's final performance would deliver a knock-out punch to the competition, I think that this pretty much sealed the inevitable deal for Phil. Which contestant hasn't been close to danger yet? Phil. Who's a white boy with a guitar? Phil. Who has the bizarre ability to seduce the audience while simultaneously scrunching up his face like he just ate some bad Taco Bell? Phil. That's how the cookie crumbles, America. Take it or leave it. (And don't fool yourselves. I know you'll take it.) "Volcano" was extremely well done, from the moody lighting to the back-up singer to the cello. It was haunting, gorgeous, and actually resembled something that I would listen to in real life. When Uncle Steven said that Phil's rendition of the song was the type of thing he'd listen to on headphones over and over, I totally got that. The level of intimacy that Phil brought to the song gave us a glimpse into the type of artist he'll be, and now all we have to do is watch the votes fall into place two weeks from today. 

The Sacrificial Fairy Hollie Cavanagh
You don't look scared enough, Hollie. The judges won't rest until they draw tears.
"Faithfully" - Ah, a tune that would appeal to Randy "This one time, I played bass for Journey" Jackson. Well played, Miss Cavanagh, or should I say Your Royal Highness. Very well played. Hollie sounded beautiful throughout this performance. Very mature and confident, crescendo-ing at just the right moment with a series of sailing "I'm still yooo-uurrrrss!" I know that we're all supposed to be SHOCKED that Hollie made it this far in the competition. Passive Aggressive-Lo noted that they maybe suspected that "even Hollie" could maybe/perhaps/possibly make the Top 4 at the episode's halfway mark. Tell us all how you really feel, J. Lo. But I'm not surprised that Hollie's made it this far at all. She's freaking adorable, always glittering and smiling. She's likable, if her interviews are to be any indication. She clearly wants the thing SO MUCH and has the gumption to work toward her dreams, which makes her America's (and England's) underdog. Oh, and she has a delightful voice that would translate well on the radio. I'm not flat-out stating that Hollie's more marketable than Sanchez, but I am implying it. Read between the lines. So what if she's flawed and nervous sometimes? Have you seen the head-cases that pass for celebrities these days? Hollie's freaking SOLID compared to most neurotic Hollywood royalty. So can we stop pretending that Hollie doesn't deserve to be here? Can we stop this silly fiction about her having nothing to offer the competition? Nuts of wonder, she's a 50,000-year-old fairy queen! I'm pretty sure that she already cast a spell back in January determining the winner. (It'll be Phil Phillips. The Queen of the Fairies has a responsibility to maintain human reality.)

"I Can't Make You Love Me" - So this point in the show was really sad for me because it seems like Hollie chose last night to bow out of the competition. The performance wasn't bad, but as Randy noted, the song didn't give Hollie the chance to really go anywhere. No, J. Lo, the problem had nothing to do with Hollie's inexperience with heartbreak. Teenagers freaking live on heartbreak - DUH. The problem was that Jimmy Iovine abandoned his mentoring duties and allowed Hollie to sing a song that wouldn't give her an Idol Moment(TM). Emotionally, Hollie was spot-on, but the only contestant who can really get away with insular intimacy on this show is Phil. And that's only because he clearly doesn't give a crap either way. 

Totally-Not-My-Favorite Joshua Ledet
Joshua shows off his invisible pineapple while singing the tar out of a song.
"You Raise Me Up" - So now that Joshua Ledet has decided to sing directly to my pregnancy (in my mind, at least), I'll probably need to stock up on Kleenex for his performances in the future. He dedicated Josh Groban's sappy, emotional ballad to his Papa Ledet. Really, who doesn't love a contestant who takes a beat to dedicate songs to his parents? Nothing very surprising happened during this performance until the awesome ending when Joshua climbed the chromatic scale while the platform he stood on literally raised him up above the gospel choir. I sniffled and nodded approvingly at the judges' praise of the performance, but it was clear that Joshua had something GARGANTUAN up his sleeve. And nuts of wonder, did he EVER ...

"It's a Man's Man's Man's World" - Switching the focus to Mama Ledet, who Joshua insisted was the only reason his father was a success, was a great idea just a few days before Mother's Day. I buy that you're sincere, Joshua, but I also know that you're sincere AND clever. What can I write about this performance? Sometimes, an Idol contestant comes along and drops a vocal performance so stunning that I have NOTHING to offer but a goofy grin, buckets of my tears, and two thumbs up. I'm floored that Joshua could sing this song with so much empathy, so much feeling, at the tender age of 20. It's like the mild-mannered, giggly kid we see in the interviews becomes an entirely new person when he takes the stage. This swaggering, growling, emotional beast slays his performances week after week, and as the judges noted, you just can't look away. Joshua milked this song for all it was worth, bombing us with a burst of guttural emotion before drawing back and starting all over again. When an Idol contestant actually has the skill to reach inside your gut/soul/whatever through the power of song alone and make you hurt and feel like a million bucks at the same time, then you have a REAL Idol Moment(TM). Nuts of wonder, you have a real MOMENT, period. But all this said, Joshua isn't my favorite at all. Nope. Totally not my favorite. 

The 16-Year-Old Powerhouse Jessica Sanchez
"I can't hear how much the judges love me yet. Oh, wait! Now I can!"
"Steal Away" - Not to be all Jimmy Iovine, who spent an uncomfortable amount of time criticizing Jessica's (I'll admit) skimpy white dress during the results show last week, but wasn't this song just a little too mature for a 16-year-old? Even if she's a 65-year-old trapped in a child's body, as Jessica quipped backstage, she's still occupying a child's body. I just want to know who is handling this girl and why they insist on encouraging her to grow up so fast. Fortunately for Jessica, she sounded great during the performance, all growly and confident. To be honest, the growling can be a bit much for me at times because I prefer her crystal-clear head voice, but the grittier tone of the song made the growling work. 

"And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going" - Fair Warning: If you're a huge Jessica fan, you may just want to skip out on this portion of my recap. I can't believe I'm about to do this. It seems mean to compare a kid's performance of a song she really thinks she gets to the original, but I'm nauseous and cranky right now, so let me be a curmudgeon for a minute. This is why it annoys me to HIGH HEAVEN when any kid (and most adults) attempts this song on a singing competition:

To be fair, there's one other person who can sing this song without annoying me:

And you know what? After hearing it performed by the Jennifers H., I really don't feel like I need to hear it again. After that, it's all overkill. Now, Jessica is innocent in all of this. The poor thing just wanted to choose a big song that would give her an Idol Moment(TM), and she sang it really well. How was Jessica's young mind to know that Mean Ol' Rachel in Pennsylvania would unfairly compare her to a pair of women who could sing circles around her? It's the grit in those performances, the ugliness and the desperation, that make "And I Am Telling I'm Not Going" a song that resonates with so many music lovers. It isn't pretty or youthful or anything to do with a televised singing competition. So, yeah, I'm a jerk. Tell me something I don't already know. Jessica sang her little noggin off (to her limits), and I think that she deserved her standing ovation from the judges. But the major difference between Jessica and Joshua (not my favorite) is that somewhere in the recesses of Joshua's soul is a pained and passionate little individual who isn't afraid to come out and sing to America every Wednesday. I'm glad that Jessica had an emotional reaction to this song. Even if I didn't feel the performance, it's incredibly important that she did. There may be promise for her yet. 

Who do you think will take it all, Dawgs? Need we discuss how majorly the boys' duet owned the girls' duet last night? There was no contest. Is anyone else totally not a fan of Joshua Ledet? (If you admit to loving him, he'll lose!)

My Prediction
It saddens me to predict that Hollie will walk the plank tonight and then dissipate into a cloud of pixie dust before ever hitting the water. The prediction site, which was pathetically wrong last week, says that Joshua Ledet is out