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

Thursday, May 3, 2012

The Top 5 Perform: No Hugs for You!

5 Things that Suck about Being an Idol Recapper:
1. Maintaining the divine judgment that guarantees my opinion is always right. (Don't question this.)
2. Finding new words to describe Randy's critiques even though he has a vocabulary of ten.
3. Watching Idol even when it's freaking awful. (Seasons 9 & 10, you owe me.)
4. Jimmy Iovine.
5. Keeping up with your recaps when you're pregnant. (So, yeah, sorry about that.)

But Dawgs, I am nothing if not determined! I will pick these recaps back up, no matter how many times I doze off or how often typing rapidly causes a bout of nausea. Someday, I'll tell Rachel Jr. that I did this for her/him. However, if I expect to actually finish my recaps (as opposed to starting one and needing a "rest" halfway through), the format has to change. So prepare for more lists and less commentary! I promise you'll still be entertained. (I hope.)

Let's do this, shall we?

Top 5 Theme:
The 60s - Because, hell, why not?
Brit Pop - Because most of that music had absolutely nothing to do with the 60s. /sarcasm

Guest Mentor:
Steven Van Zandt - Apparently called Little Stevie in the "industry" by "people" and the only person on Planet Earth with the gift to humanize Jimmy Iovine.

Seacrest Status:

In case you were wondering ...

Judging Panel Status:
Uncle Steven loves everything, J. Lo doesn't know "The Letter", and Randy owns a sea anemone pin.

The Sixties Round:

Who's "Gotta Have It"? (Damn you, Randy Jackson)

Skylar Laine - "Fortunate Son" by CCR
I love Skylar's country throwdown parties more than I love watching Ryan Seacrest expertly navigate awkward televised moments with a nervous laugh and that bossy request to poor Kieran to "dim the lights!" al-freaking-ready. That's a lot of love, Dawgs. Skylar has grit and talent, and there's something vaguely therapeutic about watching her jolt like she's standing in a lightning field. And how refreshing is it to watch a young woman on stage who doesn't find it necessary to shimmy and shake in sexy ways and play it up like Jessica Rabbit? In an industry that sexualizes women to the extreme, Skylar is a breath of fresh, real person air. I want her in the final, Dawgs. I want her in the final SO BAD. 

Joshua Ledet - "Ain't Too Proud to Beg" by The Temptations
When Josh announced to Jimmy and Little Stevie that he was singing this song, I just said to the TV, "Okay, I'm sold." Looking cool in a retro jacket and bright shirt, Joshua did exactly what Joshua Ledet does to awesome classic songs - he made it awesome in 2012. At this point, Josh really can't disappoint me. I mean, I suppose he could piss me off by acting preposterously awkward with Phil Phillips again (more on that later), but vocally? Nope! Vocally, Joshua is an angel of the highest order. If Joshua Ledet had a baby with Aretha Franklin (I know, ew, but go along with it), their child would sing rainbows and pee unicorns. 

Who's "Peaking at Just the Right Time"?

Hollie Cavanagh - "River Deep, Mountain High" by Tina Turner
Oh, I see it now, this strategy Hollie's been playing since she fluttered onto our TV screens in a blink of fairy dust one year ago. If you were the 20,000-year-old fairy queen of Sunshine and Gently Rambling Brooks, you'd play this Idol game just as wisely as she has. What other than her ageless wisdom could explain her sudden surge to the top of this sloppy heap of contestants? Hollie dominated the stage during this performance, even performing convincingly as a leader for the back-up singers. Even better, her voice was spot-on throughout. Okay, Hollie, you clever sprite, keep up the good work.

Who's Maybe/Possibly Not the Front-Runner We Thought?

Jessica Sanchez - "Proud Mary" by Ike & Tina Turner
It isn't like I get my kicks off by criticizing Jessica, Dawgs. I think she has a stellar voice. But in the game of Reality TV, she's falling so far behind. So let's give props to Jessica for shaking her hair up last night. That was cute. Also, Little Stevie really seems to believe in her. I just wish that I could believe in her. Jessica picked a high energy song that Tina Turner made memorable by thrashing around the stage like a woman on fire but also wore a restrictive white mini dress and uncomfortable high heels. Instead of running around, Jessica waddled/limped around, and that distracted me. Uncle Steven was correct when he noted that Jessica was starting to sing the blues, but is she really feeling the blues? IDK. This little dynamo will never be my favorite, and I need to get over my guilt. Sorry, Jessica Sanchez. Don't take it personally, but I'm just not that into you.

Who's Totally/Probably Still a Front-Runner Even While He Falls Behind?

Phillip Phillips - "The Letter" by Box Tops
The melody wasn't there, Dawgs. I get that Phil's an "artist" and "creative" and "only does what he wants," but damn it, I require a melody! God only knows what Phil found so distasteful about the original version of the song (you know, the one with a melody), but this effort just faltered for me. Sure, he stayed true to himself, but remaining an individual shouldn't negate melodies. The judges sorta-kinda praised and criticized Phil for having gumption, although it was clear that Uncle Steven totally preferred the original. J. Lo, on the other, was in the dark because she's never heard "The Letter" before. Nuts of wonder, J. Lo! I'd expect that from the kids but not from you! Oh, and FYI, Phil has a girlfriend. Ryan Seacrest can settle his ruffled feathers now. His girlfriend is safe.

The Brit Pop Round:
Best to worst

1. Joshua Ledet - "To Love Somebody" by the Bee Gees
Oh, I have such a soft spot for this song. Joshua's performance took an express train to my heart and parked there for all of eternity. But seriously, Joshua, I call BS on your insistence that you haven't heard the song before. If that's true, I fear that these child contestants are living in caves!

2. Hollie Cavanagh - "Bleeding Love" by Leona Lewis
Hollie was the only member of the group unafraid to pick something current, and I think she made the right choice. By scaling back Leona Lewis' bombastic original version, Hollie actually managed to show off her voice even more. I loved the quiet arrangement and the way that she calmly perched on the piano. Beautiful!

3. Jessica Sanchez - "You Are So Beautiful" by Joe Cocker
Maybe I don't connect to Jessica on an emotional level, but her vocals were stunning throughout this performance. When she split into her head voice, I got real chills. I may have gotten more enjoyment from the performance if I hadn't been afraid that Jessica would inadvertently catch on fire due to all of the open candle flames around her. Sometimes, candles don't add artistic qualities - we just call them fire hazards. 

4. Skylar Laine - "You Don't Have to Say You Love Me" by Dusty Springfield
I adore this song, and it fit very well with Skylar's country lilt. As usual, Skylar exhibited the confidence and emotional connection that make her fantastic. Alas, her voice sounded a little strained at the end. She didn't screw up, but it sounded like she may be overdoing it. Vocal rest for you, Miss Laine. You'll need your voice in the finals.

5. Phillip Phillips - "Time of the Season" by The Zombies
Here's another song that I love. Phil did us all a favor by sticking to the melody, and I was surprised when he deftly managed the higher key. All that being said, Phil didn't bring out the big guns for this round like his competitors. I get it. Big performances aren't Phil's style, but sometimes I have the attention span of a gnat. On the bright side, coming in at 5th in this ultra-competent round isn't a bad thing. It just isn't as good as the other things. 

This is a Hug-Free Zone!
Did you notice that some of these kids don't seem willing to touch each other? After Phil and Joshua's at-times cringe-worthy performance of "You've Lost That Lovin' Feeling," Phil attempted to give Joshua a brotherly pat on the back and Joshua threw a hissy. Boys, the original song was done by the Righteous Brothers. It's okay for two men to sing at the same time on the same stage and not catch cooties. What the hell was this? I mean, sure, Phil's weird, but I wouldn't deny the poor guy a hug. 

Later, after the girls outdid the boys with "(Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher and Higher," Skylar and Hollie went in for the group hug, and Jessica totally wasn't having it. Methinks she took Hollie's earlier impression of her - a vibrato-infused line from "I Will Always Love You" - personally. Either that, or her troublesome love for high heels makes it impossible to lean in for a real embrace. 

Whatever the case may be, HUG IT OUT! Even Uncle Steven said so! 

My Prediction
With Joshua, Hollie and Skylar delivering strong performances and Phil's current immortal status as Idol's Cute White Guy with a Guitar, Jessica may have to say "Au revoir!" for good tonight. The prediction site says that <spoiler>Phil Phillips is a goner and that Skylar Laine is sitting at the top of the pack. Oh SNAP!</spoiler>.

And just in case J. Lo stops by later ...


Thursday, April 19, 2012

The Top 7 Perform (Again): "She's, like, ripped."

I know I’ve been the worst for missing TWO WHOLE WEEKS of recaps, so I’ll include my recap of last week’s results show in this performance review as a token of my apology:

Argh. That was one contrived week of Idol we just witnessed, Dawgs. It’s been documented before, this thing Idol has for spoiling a mildly entertaining phenomenon by being so obnoxiously dramatic about it that you end up hating Idol and everything associated with it after the cannon fire diminishes and the dust settles. Apparently, Idol expected us to be surprised when the bottom three was revealed not to be Colton, Phillip, and Hollie, but instead Joshua, Elise, and Jessica. Nuts of wonder, it was so obvious! I correctly guessed the bottom three by using two of my trusty criteria:

1.       Follow the old ladies to doom. Where Elise goes, the bottom 3 goes. When was the last time America really fell behind a talented 28-year-old woman with real life experiences? Hollywood puts us on a shelf at 25! Everybody knows that!
2.       There is no way in that big, blue sexist sky that Idol’s overwhelming voting demographic of women who like to look at pretty men will allow Colton or Phillip to encounter even a hint of danger before the Top 4. Where the non-threatening white boys go, so go the votes.
Was it fair that judge favorites Joshua and Jessica wound up in danger? IDK. What in this world is fair anymore? Idol’s been disappointing us for eleven seasons now. Let’s take off the rose-colored glasses, J. Lo, Randy, and Uncle Steven. Was it right that Jessica Sanchez – she of the vapid stares and robotic 16-year-old determination – got Pia Toscano’d at seventh place? IT DOESN’T FREAKING MATTER! The judges were going to use The Save. They KNEW they were going to use The Save. They’ve been saving this Save ever since they helplessly watched generic little Pia slip through their cold, dead fingers. There was no doubt in anyone’s mind that The Save would be used in this situation. Hell, Uncle Steven even spoiled their decision before we learned who was in Idol Purgatory. Ryan was like, “Steven, please tell us how important The Save will be in this situation.” And Uncle Steven, with his glassy-eyed stare, basically blurted, “WE’RE USING IT TONIGHT! THIS SAVE CARD IS SAVING A CERTAIN SAVED PERSON IN APPROXIMATELY FIVE MINUTES!

Uncle Steven: "What is this thing you call subtlety?"
And then the shenanigans really got rolling. Ryan quickly put Joshua Ledet out of his misery (which, THANK GOD) by sending him to the Couches of Safety with his fellow emotionally-detached-from-these-proceedings contestants. So it was down to Elise and Jessica. Ryan, loving every moment of his beautiful job, announced that Jessica was in danger of elimination, shoved the microphone in her face, and was all like, “Sing for us, beautiful angel! You must hurry so we may fit in all the BS the judges have in store for the remainder of this episode!” Jessica, bless her little heart, launched into about two lines of some song – which sounded horrible, just keeping it real – before J. Lo, Randy, and Steven stormed the stage and ripped the microphone from her cold, mechanical hands. “Are you kidding me?” J. Lo shrieked. “Go back to the effing couches, girl!”

Oh, fiddlesticks, let’s cut it right there. They didn’t even allow her to sing. I want you to take a moment and remember all of the contestants who sang their hearts out for the trio of indifferent judges who didn’t even pretend to deliberate over saving them. And how about those lucky contestants who received The Save in past seasons? Remember their bombastic performances, desperately singing for their lives. Remember the crowds gathering behind that contestant, deciding to join the poor schlub on his journey toward future Idol infamy. Think of the volume increasing in the Idoldome, the “safe” contestants standing and cheering, the spontaneous chants to save the fallen Idol. The drama! That, ladies and gentlemen, is the only good thing about Idol’s decision to bypass democracy. At least making them sing for their lives makes the kids work for it. What has Jessica, an impressionable 16-year-old sapling, learned from the judges’ behavior last night? That she’s too good to lower herself to the rituals that every other contestant has to do? That you can croak two lines of a song and be declared “one of the best singers in America”? Speaking of which …

Once the judges steered Jessica toward the couches of safety (into the arms of some rather unenthusiastic competitors), Randy opened his stupid jaw and started scolding America for neglecting to vote for “the best.” Ear of the beholder, Jackson! You get to yap at us every Wednesday during your critiques, K? Like it or not, America gets to choose who deserves votes. DE-MO-CRAC-Y. Look it the hell up. And then he started calling Jessica “one of the best singers in America,” and nuts of wonder, I think my brain hemorrhaged a little at the suggestion. Don’t get me wrong. Jessica is a very, VERY good little singer. She has a gift, just like the other contestants on the show. HOWEVER, if Jessica was really among the cream of the crop … um, wouldn’t she already be super famous by now? Like, couldn’t she have just bypassed Idol and Beibered it out to become a pop culture phenom? I’d like to introduce Randy Jackson to a little thing called PERSPECTIVE. Live and love it, Jackson. Live and love it.

But really, how amusing was it to watch the other contestants as all this tomfoolery went down? They didn’t care at all. It was actually kind of sad (when I wasn’t laughing) that the others gave poor Jessica the reception that most people save for Jimmy Iovine. Just cold, polite smiles, tepid applause, eyes totally pissed that the judges just pulled out all of this nonsense to keep their pet in the competition. PAINFULLY obvious tension, Dawgs. When Jessica wandered back to her comrades, it was even sadder. They all stood there awkwardly for a moment, and then Elise jerked forward and gave Jessica a stiff hug. It has to be tough to compete on Idol at 16. Unlike the others, Jessica still has to take classes, and I’m assuming her mother stays with her at all times. It interferes will all of the quality bonding sessions she could share with the others.

So that’s it. No more Save. At least that’s out of the way now. I give Jessica two weeks before America sends her packing again. But that’s not important at present. I have an entire performance show to recap. Yes, I’ve been remiss in my recapping duties, Dawgs. I’M SORRY! I’ve been very, VERY sick. At the moment, I’m barely eeking this post out but persevering because I feel like I’ve abandoned you. THAT IS NOT MY INTENTION. Please forgive me. So what happened after that crazy results show?

Well, it all started on a cold Wednesday night. Ryan’s hair looked especially poofy, Jimmy wore his Best for Dinner Guests baseball cap, Uncle Steven looked a million years old while exhibiting the motor skills of a child, and J. Lo showed off some distracting slices of ab. It was Now and Then night, which isn’t really a theme at all – I don’t know why they keep pretending this theme thing is real. Basically, the kids were required to sing one #1 song from the past ten years (ooh, challenging!) and another song that was featured on/inspired by/alluded to on Soul Train (which is pretty much 50-75% of the good “old” music that Idol contestants actually know). I felt like the first half of the show was better than the second half, but that may be due to my “more than an hour of Idol makes brain matter drip out of my ears” bias.

Idol had quite a challenge last night, cramming 14 solo performances into a show where the judges just love to talk and talk and talk and talk. But they couldn’t kick off the show without covering two VERY IMPORTANT things in the first five minutes. Primarily, the montage editor was tasked with rubbing America’s face in how ruthlessly it traumatized Jessica Sanchez. Just in case we didn’t feel “guilty” enough after Randy scolded us, we were treated to hazy shots of Jessica staggering backstage, Jessica carefully dabbing away tears while reclining on some couch, and Jessica mournfully watching the results show all alone in the Idol Mansion. Do you feel ashamed yet, America? DO YOU? Then Ryan shared a few words about Dick Clark, who passed away yesterday, and that was actually touching.

So let’s discuss how this surprisingly competent group of Season 7 contestants fared last night. Spoiler: Some of them did OK, while three contestants separated themselves from the pack. This Soul Train’s about to get crazy, Dawgs! This … is American Idol!

Your. Top. 7! (Part Deux)

Hollie Cavanaugh – “Rolling in the Deep” and “Son of a Preacher Man”
Ah! It seems that our mystical fairy creature is starting to use some of that wisdom she’s been cultivating since her birth 4,000 years ago. I don’t know why she waited this long to step up her game, but since she probably created music millennia ago by blowing on a dandelion and twitching her nose a couple times, I won’t question her motivations. Hollie miraculously escaped the Bottom 3 last week, and somehow, America’s support has rejuvenated her. “Rolling in the Deep” was actually good, which surprised the heck out of me because people have been sucking at that song on TV ever since Adele released it. Although Hollie’s voice isn’t all that soulful, she had enough power to pull it off without falling on her face. Plus, she relaxed enough to show some real emotion on stage, which alternated between anger and the self-determination of a prospective gauntlet thrower. Uncle Steven seemed the most impressed with Hollie’s transformation. He thought the vocal was “perfect.” J. Lo attempted to take credit for Hollie’s turnaround with a bunch of “See? This is what I’ve been talking about! You’re actually feeling feelings when you perform now! That how I became a great artist!” platitudes. Oh, yes, J. Lo. It takes SO MUCH feeling to writhe around half-naked in music videos. You are a master-class in Art.

“Son of a Preacher Man” was the first up tempo song that didn’t cause Hollie to buzz maniacally around the stage and alternate between wonky notes and screeches (see: What a Feeling). I liked her structured little dress, her hair, and that spark in her eyes. By the end of the song, she started pulling out all her tricks like it was the grand finale of a fireworks show. Just in case we’d forgotten that one of the world’s biggest voices comes out of a fairy creature the size (in natural form) of a twig, Hollie reminded us tenfold.

Colton Dixon – “Bad Romance” and “September”
I appreciate that Colton’s trying to stretch his range. I really do. Who makes big accomplishments without taking risks? Colton’s willingness to do just about anything to a song is both his greatest strength and greatest weakness. Sometimes, it works (“Piano Man”), but other times, it’s just a bunch of noise (“Bad Romance”). In theory, a rock version of “Bad Romance” could have been awesome. Alas, I’m going to take a pointer from Jimmy Iovine and say that the frenetic pacing of the song kind of steam-rolled it. There was no room to grow and WAY too much going on. Colton looked like a vampire who’s been interned for 200 years, got rescued by a group of emo pre-teens, and fell into a Hot Topic, where the clothes attacked his body and wouldn’t release him until he looked like an infinitely less cool David Bowie from Labyrinth. The judges seemed to love it, though. I just don’t buy Colton as a rock star. His eyes are too sensitive, his voice too plaintive. He’s far better suited to his piano.

So you’d think that Colton’s rendition of “September” behind his trusted piano would impress me more. But you’d be thinking wrong. His rearrangement of the tune didn’t bother me as much as the bad singing. No amount of dramatically placed autumn-leaved trees was going to save Colton from his pitch issues. The judges panned the performance for a different reason. They thought it was the wrong song choice, that Colton could have chosen a Soul Train song that actually played to his style instead of turning a completely unrelated song inside-out. I love the original version of “September,” but that didn’t stop me from appreciating what Colton attempted with the melody. He just didn’t sing it well.

Elise Testone – “No One” and “Let’s Get It On”
Elise is starting to develop her stank-face again, and I can’t say that I blame her. This woman tries so damn hard. She lays it out every week - her body, soul, and voice - begging America to give her a chance. And God love Jimmy Iovine for his awkward attempts at pinning down why people just don’t vote for Elise. It was actually very kind of him to avoid mentioning that the massive number of 12-15-year-old voters doesn’t understand people above the age of 21, although he’ll probably make me take back the compliment by saying something snide in his review of her performances in the results show. J. Lo, for her part, thinks that Elise’s smile wins America’s love. Well, if that’s the case, then she’ll get millions of votes for her performance of “No One.” She smiled all the way through it, a laid-back Earth Mother who just wanted to sing a song for us. It was a lovely performance.

But then there was “Let’s Get It On,” a song choice that always makes me blush, and everything went to hooey. As Randy mentioned, Elise was a little too pre-occupied with throwing runs and screeches and plops and ka-chings and countless other onamonapia into the melody. A few times, she just screamed like a banshee, and I still don’t know why. But then J. Lo made a big move for the Jerk of the Night Award and totally won with her critique. Her problems with Elise’s performance seemed to center around – I kid you not – Elise’s hesitation to fall into a full emotional breakdown earlier in the show when Ryan callously made her talk about her dying dog. Since Elise isn’t willing to exploit her heartbreak over a sick pet with America, J. Lo seemed to surmise, then she clearly refused to become vulnerable enough to rise to J. Lo’s level of dry-humping paid back-up dancers in music videos. Whatevs, J. Lo. Let the girl mourn her puppy dog in peace, you bottom dweller. Nuts of WONDER.

Phillip Phillips – “U Got It Bad” and “In the Midnight Hour”
Somebody’s getting competitive at just the right time. Phillip’s a hard kid to beat in this competition. Artistically, he knows exactly who he wants to be. He sings and performs straight from his bones every time, and that type of showmanship can’t be taught. Phil was BORN with his bizarrely awkward sexiness (but the sexiness came later), and a majority of the others can’t compete with that. Who didn’t fall in love a little more with Phillip Phillips as he croon-grunted (his style of singing) the Usher hit “U Got It Bad”? He had the band going, his weird spasms flopping up at random intervals, and the coolest arrangement of the night. He also received the night’s first standing ovation from the judges.

Later, Phil put on his dancing shoes and did his Phillip Phillips things to “In the Midnight Hour.” Once again, his performance was natural and unaffected. I think the judges are starting to realize that Phil is bound to win this thing. They can ride the Jessica Sanchez bandwagon all day, but nothing is going to stop the Philip Phillips train. There are two people who I think could make a credible run for the title against him, but we’ll get to that later in the recap.

Jessica Sanchez – “Fallin’” and “Try a Little Tenderness”
Are we still really pushing for this whole Jessica Sanchez thing? Ugh. I feel like that’s so Top 10 right now. Jessica isn’t lacking in natural vocal ability. She’s doubly blessed in that category, a pint-sized child dynamo with a voice beyond her years. Unfortunately, she’s sixteen. And not very interesting. Sorry. SORRY if this makes me a bad person. Take her performance of “Fallin’” as an example. At first, I had to get over the shocking reveal that someone had either ABDUCTED OR MURDERED MARY POPPINS, what with all of the umbrellas hanging in midair. What the eff, Idol? Technically, the performance was great. Sometimes her vibrato is a little take-it-or-leave-it for me (for you), but girl can SANG. Unfortunately, her movements are robotic, her facial expressions are contrived and unbelievable, and her conviction is SO not-there-yet. And the poor thing, she can’t help it. How is she supposed to GET that when her education has taken a backseat to becoming some Beyonce-lite superstar? Jessica never got a chance to simmer and grow into her talents naturally. What could have resulted in an organic performer like Phillip or Skylar has been stunted at robotic pageant queen stage. This isn’t Jessica’s fault! But it’s SO frustrating to watch.

The worst part is that she seems slightly aware of this disconnect, in a really young, naïve way. She really pushed out of the box in “Try a Little Tenderness,” a totally fabulous song that demands SOUL. God love her, she put every bit of her soul into that performance, shaking, thrashing, yell-singing. But it was like watching a little girl pretending to put on her mom’s make-up or a little boy following his dad around with a toy tool kit. Jessica was clearly trying to create a Joshua Ledet type of moment, but it just fell short. I’m sorry. I’M SORRY, Jessica Sanchez fans. Now, while the judges are all too willing to beat Hollie and Elise over their pretty heads with the have a personality on stage stick, their criticism of Jessica’s issues with the same exact thing is muted and half-hearted. You already saved her, judging panel. It’s time to teach the girl before it’s too late.

Skylar Laine – “Born This Way” and “Heard It through the Grapevine”
This is the performer that Jessica needs to watch. Skylar, like Phillip, is a born performer, and she has the voice to back it up. Let’s just start making a big deal about Skylar Laine now, Dawgs. That plucky young woman in cowboy boots is owning this competition. She is everything they wanted Lauren Alaina to be, only so, SO much better. It’s no secret that I never listen to country music, and each week, Skylar grabs my attention by the balls and won’t let it go until she’s damn well ready. American Idol, meet your own personal goldmine. Don’t you dare mistreat her. Skylar doesn’t bother trying to shove her style into unrelated songs like some people (ahem, Colton). She has an uncanny ability to find the country in everything. Did YOU know Lady Gaga did a country version of “Born This Way?” I didn’t. But it was fabulous! I would seriously pay the price of a concert ticket to watch Skylar sing and jam out with Idol’s hot male fiddler. (The hot female fiddler is always accompanying Phil.)

Then Skylar stepped it up even more with “Heard It through the Grapevine.” It was a hard-hitting performance and made me want to join Skylar’s party. I loved her dress, too. A real woman, wearing real woman clothes, singing real woman songs. When are the judges going to start making a big deal about Skylar? Maybe they already know that she’s a force to be reckoned with. Maybe they hold back on the effusive praise to avoid sabotaging her. Or maybe they’ve already put all their eggs in one basket and don’t know how to move them. Whatevs. Skylar’s a natural, and I’m totally in her corner. LONG LIVE COUNTRY!

Joshua Ledet – “I Believe” and “A Change is Gonna Come”
Rounding out my trifecta of front-runners is Joshua. Like Phil and Skylar, Joshua was also bestowed with the Gift of Awesome at birth. I love him so very much. Strangely, I never cared for his inspiration Fantastia. I always thought she sounded like a duck. But no, not Joshua. Joshua sounds like an angel mixed with Aretha Franklin. That boy was so happy to sing Fantasia’s awful coronation song “I Believe” that I didn’t even cringe when he started singing about rainbows. He scaled back on a lot of the histrionics at first, sticking to a strong melody before letting his fabulous flag fly at the end. He’s a pro, just the best sort of pro. In this season’s long-standing tradition, the judges just couldn’t stay in their seats by the time Joshua finished.

My heart started swelling from the moment Ryan announced Joshua was singing “A Change is Gonna Come” until his emotional ending. So much glimmered under the surface of Joshua’s control in the verses, a force of emotion that threatened to spring loose at any time. Impressively, Joshua managed to resist the impulse most singers possess to oversing this song. He let the melody and lyrics do their jobs and infused the music with pitch-perfect singing and meaningful enunciation. I could gush about Joshua all day, really. He’s just so precious to me. Of COURSE the judges gave him another standing ovation. Joshua Ledet can move mountains with his voice. I’m terrified that he’ll end up in the bottom three again. DON’T DO THAT TO ME AGAIN, AMERICA!

My Predictions
I think the judges, mainly J. Lo, may have finally done Elise in for good. I’ll expect Jessica and Hollie to join her in the bottom three.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Idols Sing Songs by Their Idols: THIS EPISODE WASN'T BAD!

Ah, what these non-theme theme weeks bring to the competition! Sing Songs by YOUR Idol week is basically a free pass from the endless gauntlet of public humiliation. The kids actually know their songs, the judges just CAN’T BELIEVE how many standing ovations they’ve given, Randy is certain that every young soldier is more likely IN IT TO WIN IT than IN IT TO LOSE IT. Redemption, moments, tears, brand new fancy stage props. How is Ryan Seacrest supposed to control himself in the glow of so much delight? How am I supposed to write this recap after spending an overwhelming majority of the episode in a great mood? This feeling, Dawgs. I’m not familiar with it. I can’t quite put a finger on it. Could it be … contentment?

It's HAPPY DANCE time!
OMG! I’m turning into the judges!

But let’s get real. What, other than the super easy theme, do we have to thank for last night’s excellent quality control? Why, Stevie Nicks, of course. There she was, sitting next to Jimmy with the same hair she’s had since before every single contestant was born. A rock and roll fairy queen transported from the blissful heyday of Fleetwood Mac, Stevie mothered the contestants in a way no one else could mother them. And of all the amazing things she brought to life last night, the most miraculous was her ability to make Jimmy Iovine likable. I don’t know? It was like one minute I hated the baseball cap wearing gas bag, and the next, I wanted to be his friend because Stevie’s his friend? She worked some really strong white magic on that man, I tell you. If only she could stay on the show forever!

Ambitious song choices and emotional performances were the trends of the night. I liked all but one performance, LOVED over half of them, and only cursed at Randy Jackson once (or twice). Great strides were made! THIS … is American Idol!

Your Top 9!!!!!

Colton Dixon – “Everything” by Lifehouse
*Spoiler: This is the one performance I didn’t like!*
I’m assuming the show aired Colton’s dead weight first so the audience could forget about his stunning mediocrity when the two hours concluded. Was Stevie serious when she encouraged Colton to keep his ghastly hair? Am I seeing something completely different than she is? This must have been a tester segment or something. If a viewer could make it through Colton Dixon’s supersized ego, then he/she was entitled with rainbows and unicorns of awesomeness for the rest of the show. Colton’s performance wasn’t the worst I’ve heard on the show, but it wasn’t good. His voice strained and wobbled off pitch several times, and the band severely overpowered him. I appreciate that Colton was touched by the worship song, but even the most meaningful performance can sound like crap. Strangely – although not strangely at all because the judges have yet to criticize a performer in the First Spot of Death – Colton got heaps of praise for his self-indulgent (you know Simon would have called it that) mope fest. Then Randy created some ridiculous narrative about Colton “throwing down the gauntlet” with that performance because he was “in it to win it,” and CRAP. Randy Jackson, why must you make it so hard for me to love you?

Skylar Laine – “Gunpowder and Lead” by Miranda Lambert
Back to the good stuff! Stevie told Skylar to really tell the story of the song, a moderately pointless suggestion because any country singer worth their weight in gold knows that telling stories is Priority Numero Uno in most circumstances. This did give Skylar the opportunity to address Stevie as “ma’am” several times. Nuts of wonder, I love that Southern firecracker so much. I want to be Skylar’s friend even though I know we’ll never meet. In case you haven’t noticed, Skylar is the only contestant this season who can consistently nail up tempo performances. Her “Gunpowder and Lead” was hard-hitting and energetic. We had to wait until the end to hear Skylar’s signature wailing range, but building up to it was a good time. The judges only had good things to say about the performance, even if Randy failed miserably at noting that Skylar is just as IN IT TO WIN IT as that skunk who performed before her.

Heejun Han – “A Song for You” by Donnie Hathaway
Someone’s been eating some humble pie this week. Stevie Nicks: Mind Reader theorized that Heejun makes jokes because he’s afraid of failing and being hurt. Deep down inside, we’re all a bunch of scared softies. So this week, Heejun was like, “I know I kind of lost my mind last week and insulted the show and pretty much every person who believes in me, but today’s a new day. World, prepare for my emotional ballad!” So Heejun sang a ballad. It was nice, serious, and showed off his buttery tone. I’m not sure if it deserved the first standing ovation of the night. The judges likely wouldn’t have needed to stand four more times if they hadn’t lowered their standards so much. Regardless, they appreciated that Heejun was finally taking the competition seriously. Obviously, Uncle Steven thinks he made the transformation happen with his public shaming of Heejun last week. That’s … a definite possibility.

Hollie Cavanaugh – “Jesus Take the Wheel” by Carrie Underwood
That Hollie Cavanaugh’s a crafty 4,000-year-old fairy queen, isn’t she? After Colton’s performance, Hollie’s choice of a song with “Jesus” in the title caught Allen’s attention. Oh, yes, Allen was in the house last night. He was wandering around the living room, making me pause the DVR every few seconds so he could spout all his Allen Sound-bites. Anyway, when Hollie started singing, Allen was like, “Wow, what is this? Church Idol?” Touché, dear husband. However, I like to call it “Wily Contestants Aware of Demographics Idol.” Stevie got all choked up during Hollie’s rehearsal because her mom died, and it was all very emotional. So Hollie performed, and she sounded lovely as usual. Perhaps the song could have been bigger, as Randy noted, but I don’t understand this notion that every performance has to take off into the stratosphere. J. Lo disagreed with him, thank the Idol gods, and noted that this was Hollie’s most emotionally honest performance to date.

DeAndre Brackensick – “Sometimes I Cry” by Eric Benet
Oh, poor DeAndre. He really tries SO HARD, but his performances grow increasingly tedious for me. Lots of high-pitched tedium, hair-tossing in the air, youth never realized. I liked the performance (sort of). He sounded good (compared to Colton). But really, judges, a standing ovation? See what happens when you stand up for Heejun? You end up standing for DeAndre.

Jessica Sanchez – “Sweet Dreams” by Beyonce
Stevie appreciated that Jessica takes direction so well. What she doesn’t understand is that Jessica’s willingness to be managed by less well-intentioned people like Jimmy comes at the sacrifice of any sliver of individuality. But no! I’ll attempt to banish my negativity because I thought Jessica’s performance was very cool last night. Surrounded by creepy red dream doors, Jessica delivered a slowed-down version of the Beyonce tune. Her voice was on-point, under control, and hauntingly understated. The judges loved it but neglected to give Jessica a standing ovation. But … but … I thought it was standing ovation night!

Phillip Phillips – “Still Rainin’” by Jonny Lang
Season 11’s inevitable winner is growing on everyone now. Even Stevie Nicks. Even ME. Not only did Stevie suggest that Mick Fleetwood would have chosen Phil for the band way back in the day, but she also called him handsome. Jimmy was SO jealous of Phil after that. The insecurity he exhibited after Stevie’s pronouncement almost gives him an excuse for wearing a baseball hat everywhere. Almost. I enjoyed Phil’s performance. His guttural singing fit the song well, and he seemed totally at ease with the band. Phil’s probably the most authentic contestant this season. The judges, poor things, had to get up off their asses AGAIN to give Phil a standing ovation. By this point, I know they were cursing their foolish decision to stand for Heejun. I KNOW it.

Joshua Ledet – “Without You” by Mariah Carey
Oh, this song. This song reminds me of a youth spent listening to Mariah cassette tapes (when I wasn’t listening to Celine) and belting along with her in the basement. I LOVE this song. Jimmy and Stevie were all like, “Uh, this is a tough song buddy.” And Joshua’s eyes were like, “Yeah, no big deal. I’m the best. Duh.” And Jimmy was like, “I don’t knnnooowww.” And Joshua’s sparkling smile was like, “No, seriously. I’ve got this.” And, boy, did he ever. I can’t stop loving Joshua Ledet, Dawgs. Every time he adds some gospel flair and shouting to a song, I’m putty in his hands. He cried at the end, too! Cried his very own tears! STAND, judges, STAND! By this point, it was evident that J. Lo, Randy, and Uncle Steven were SO embarrassed to spend that amount of time on their feet. Uncle Steven apparently has a foot spa under the desk, so every standing ovation posed a great risk to his tootsies.

Elise Testone- “Whole Lotta Love” by Led Zeppelin
Okay, night called for Elise. I genuflect at the throne of a real adult on Idol. Stevie was so impressed with Elise that she insisted on singing a duet with the contestant during rehearsal. How awesome would that be to witness in full? Elise had performed “Whole Lotta Love” before, so she wore the song like a second skin. Her integration of organic rock and roll into her superb vocal control gave me so many “goosies” that my arms resembled a picturesque pond. Elise kept me on the edge of my seat the whole way to the end, when she tackled Robert Plant’s signature wailing finish. The guitars. Elise. The lights. Those pants that matched Uncle Steven’s perfectly. Nuts of wonder, I want to keep this performance with me forever! And the judges, of course, HAD to finally stand for a lady last night. Elise worked for that standing ovation, and she is rapidly presenting herself as a real contender. This woman won’t go down without a fight. One might even say that she’s IN IT TO WIN IT.

Group Performances

Colton, Phillip & Elise – Fleetwood Mac: 4 stars
Heejun, DeAndre & Joshua – Michael Jackson: 4 stars
Hollie, Jessica & Skylar – Madonna: 5 stars

My Prediction

Nuts of wonder, I don’t even KNOW, Dawgs. Um … DeAndre will probably be in the Bottom 3, along with (maybe?) Heejun and … (Gah! What the hell?) Colton? Do NOT quote me on this.

Tune in tonight to watch the results! What did you think of the performances? Do you think Jason Derulo’s bedazzled neck brace is hot or not? Who agrees that Stevie Nicks should stick around for the rest of the season?