Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Las Vegas Round: "I was excited until you almost took my neck off."












(Special Note: Blogger's being a bit of a jerk this week. I've been trying to post this for days, and I finally found a way. Unfortunately, it won't let me format my delightful pictures the way I wanted. Since I figured you'd want to see my hard work - especially my Richie Law cartoon - I added them as a cluster at the beginning. With luck, they'll figure out the glitch soon so I can return to my old formatting.)

Dawgs. Dawgs! I’d lost hope in this thing, this Season 11 of American Singers Get Mentally Abused on National Television. Everyone sounded the same to me, which worried me because that could mean one of two things: 1) they all really do sound the same, therefore proving that talent and innovation are dead, or 2) I’ve reached the age when all young people start to sound the same because I don’t recognize trends anymore. OMG, I was so worried for awhile there. For real. FOR REALZ. And then, thank the Idol gods …


"A little less conversation ..."



Las Vegas, or Las VAGAS (according to certain young people on a certain show we might watch every Wednesday and Thursday), for the first time in its long and sordid history, gave America something precious and sacred. No, not showgirls. Music! Real music. And you know what? Season 11’s disturbing collection of narcissists actually contains some talent. So before the judges and producers maim the season with bad judgment, let’s just bask in the glow of Thursday night’s episode for awhile. Let’s give the kids credit for getting on my good side. They deserve it after all they’ve been through. After all, Idol downright plagued them (RIP Black Idol Plague of 2012 and all the animals in Amy Brumfield’s forest) in Hollywood.

Seventy exhausted children, half of them probably being treated by antibiotics and IV drips, piled on a group of buses and traveled to Vegas. How annoying would that bus ride be, do you think? Just imagine riding on Reed Grimm’s bus. Nuts of wonder. By the 57th bottle of beer on the wall, I’d be ready to smash his smug face through a window. Speaking of violence, Richie Law totally punched an unidentified girl in the face when she tickled his ear. I feel like Richie believes he’s surrounded by a force field that prevents others from touching him. He can touch them as much as he likes, but once someone gets within two inches of his pasty flesh, God zaps them. He probably didn’t realize that the force field wasn’t a thing until that moment on the bus, when someone (and a GIRL, to boot!) finally attempted to touch him. It’s been a lonely life for young Richie Law. Really, this could explain why he’s such an insufferable weasel in a big hat.

The judges, our esteemed panel of industry insiders, seriously pissed me off a few times in Vegas. They showed some brilliant judgment. But then the factory of elves operating their tiny brains reminded J. Lo, Randy and Uncle Steven that Idol is a dish best served bitter, and some of that brilliant judgment went flying out the window.

Reality TV’s a real kick, isn’t? A huge box of treats. Then do you know who made an appearance at the Idol party, sporting lots of cool attitude and tasty brownies for all? The delightfully nasty Peggi Blu. Best. Vocal coach. Ever. Once again, Peggi Blu saved the season. This … is … American Idol!

The Performances
It was kind of mean to make the kids sing all of those songs from the 50s and 60s. A few of them lucked out with Elvis tunes, but some of them were really left out to dry. Good thing this generation knows how to use You Tube … and iPhones.

“Dedicated to the One I Love” – Colton Dixon, Chase Likens, Skylar Laine, Cari Quoyeser
I have to address the show’s love affair with Colton Dixon. I don’t get it. His voice has a nasally quality, he pouts a lot, and he looks like a skunk. What’s to love? Anyway. All of Skylar’s friends from Hollywood got the boot, so she was randomly assigned to this group. I was concerned that they wouldn’t treat Skylar, the freaking best, well, but they did. Cari sounded sublime as usual. I didn’t notice Chase. Despite her nerves, Skylar pulled it together just the way her feisty country self could. Then there was Colton. Colton freaking Dixon. I’m over it. Sadly, the judges made the worst decision possible and cut poor Cari, who was pretty and talented. Is pretty and talented. I don’t think Idol took her out back and shot her after eliminating her. I hope not, at least.
Still In It: Colton, Chase and Skylar

“Rockin’ Robin” - Jeremy Rosado, Gabi Carrubba, David Leathers Jr., Ariel Sprague
Caw! Caw! I never expected “Rockin’ Robin” to make a return visit to the show after Megan Joy’s sublimely insane rendition in Season 8. Always remember to caw, Dawgs. ALWAYS. Oh, so Gabi. What an adorable piece of work, huh? All the other members of the group were delightful young people. David Leathers Jr. is quickly becoming the most charming person to ever step foot on the Idol set. Gabi was pouting and making Ariel feel bad about taking more than a minute to figure out her part, and David just chuckled in his interview and was like, “Yeah. Gabi’s kind of a diva. That’s what she does.” The kids on this show are very driven. I still think they’re really androids manufactured out of some warehouse in a secluded part of the country. Maybe that’s what they’re up to in Area 51. Gabi had a major problem with the amount of features she got in the song. With a nearly (but not quite) endearing lack of self-awareness, she complained, “I just wanna shine. I wanna be that girl who gets the standing ovation, but I feel like I don’t get the opportunity with this song.” (See: Picture) Ah, the pleasures of youth, when you still believe the world revolves around your scrawny little form. So karma pretty much guaranteed that Ariel would sound a thousand times better than Gabi, which she did. The boys did a great job, too. Ryan loved those kids so much. Did you see him leaning down to hug them when they bounced backstage?
Still In It: Jeremy, Gabi, David and Ariel

“Great Balls of Fire” – Adam Brock, Erika Van Pelt, Angie Zeiderman, Shelby Tweten
What a diverse group of individuals. We had Adam, this burly man-bear at the piano, just growling away, scaring off all the picnickers and stealing their baskets. Then there was Erika, a human treasure trove of all the best things in life. Enter Angie, this total hot mess dressed in a strange gold glitter top, yowling and screeching in her odd witch ways but still managing to captivate my attention. And finally, there was Shelby, who was kind of a non-entity. She was, though. Everyone else had all kinds of personality, and Shelby was just this polite, friendly thing, singing pretty and living the American Dream. Somehow, this mish-mash of people worked.
Still In It: Adam, Erika, Angie and Shelby

“Why Do Fools Fall in Love” – Schyler Dixon, Brielle Von Hugel, Molly Hunt
Cute outfits, wrong decade, girls. The trio looked stunning in their sexy little USO outfits, but I’m wondering if any of them passed history class. So, Schyler Dixon was still in the competition. Good! As the non-horrible member of the Dixon family, Schyler has my full support in this endeavor. Brielle’s mom didn’t show up for this segment, but I haven’t forgotten that those two ladies are the worst. I totally would have chosen Molly over the abysmal Brielle, but the judges and producers apparently have to keep a hot-mess drama potential to actual talent ratio. Whatevs.
Still In It: Schyler and Brielle

“Night Has a Thousand Eyes” – Reed Grimm, Haley Johnson, Elise Testone, Eben Franckewitz
Nuts of wonder, Idol! Keep Reed Grimm away from the children! Next thing we know, Eben’s sweet childlike nature will turn smug and unbearable. I wasn’t totally buying this performance, even thought the judges liked it enough to give Reed Grimm and The Bops a standing ovation. Too much saxophone, too much cheese, too much Reed Grimm. I felt like I was watching a corny variety show from the seventies, and I’m pretty sure that’s what Reed intended to create because he’s The Worst™. Elise sounded really good. Her part was a relief after Reed smarmed up the camera in the opening. Haley tried to sing, but the group’s ridiculous beat-boxing covered up her part. Do these people think they’re on The Sing-Off? Cool show and everything, but these two things don’t mix very well. Eben sounded a bit shrill, poor kid. I blame Reed Grimm for that, but then again, I blame that smug monster for just about all the ills in this world. He’s a joke, right? We’re going to get to the semi-final round, Reed Grimm will do something unconscionable, and the judges will just laugh and laugh. Uncle Steven will break because he’s always the one to break first and be all, “Gotcha, America! Ha ha! We almost had you convinced Reed Grimm was a real thing, didn’t we?”
Still In It: Reed, Haley, Elise and Eben

“Make It Easy on Yourself” – Jermaine Jones and Richie Law
So these two gentlemen aren’t very likable, right? That’s why they had to bypass the rules and form a group of two, I’m assuming. That Richie Law’s a real piece of work. He got ousted from his origin group, M.I.T., and begrudgingly became partners with Jermaine even though they’re both basses. “The new partner’s gonna go crazy. He’ll lose lots of hair. I feel bad for him,” Heejun Han predicted as Richie dragged Jermaine into his crazy Cowboy den of shenanigans. They did not get off to a good start. Their first practice consisted of Debra Byrd kicking them out because they didn’t know the melody to the song. Granted, who does know the melody to that song? But that’s their job. Richie made it clear that he takes American Idol very seriously. “I didn’t come here to recycle music. I came here to make it.” Ah, that explains it. The performance actually went far better than I expected. I wouldn’t listen to a record by Richie even if someone gave it to me for free, but Jermaine’s voice sounded cool. He has a very rich tone, and I appreciate the way he treated Richie, just one more antic away from naked disdain. Of course, for such a big dude, Jermaine was kind of a wimp about Richie slapping him on the shoulder and hugging his neck. Geez, man, just knock the twerp over and be done with it. Instead, I’m pretty sure Jermaine went to his room and complained to his mama over the phone. You know he did.
Still In It: Jermaine and Richie


“It Doesn’t Matter Anymore” – Jessica Sanchez, Candice Glover, DeAndre Brackensick
At this point in the episode, I noticed J. Lo’s disgusting pink fringe garment thing. Poor taste, Jenny. You best be takin’ that back to The Block now. Anyway, how happy was I for the return of DeAndre Brackensick? SO HAPPY! Oh, that young man with his lustrous Troy Polamalu hair has talent. Loads of talent. This group of likable kids worked with Katherine McPhee’s mom, Peisha, to update the old as dirt song. Weren’t they the best with their hard work and determination? So cool. Jessica Sanchez was a revelation. I already knew DeAndre was a full bottle of Awesome Sauce, but that Sanchez girl has soul. Candice was just as delightful with her big J-Hud voice that took me back to the days of Idols Past.
Still In It: Jessica, Candice and DeAndre

“Jailhouse Rock” – Curtis Gray, Scott Dangerfield, Adam Lee Decker, Clayton Farhart
When I first witnessed this group marching onstage like prisoners, I thought, “Oh fiddlesticks, another group of smug hams.” Fortunately, this group of boy rockers grew on me. Their energy just went on for days, didn’t it? The cameras followed them around the hotel, bouncing on beds, hanging off of things, saying silly things like spelling Vegas as V-A-G-A-S. (Oh, that is the most unfortunate spelling blunder ever. I won’t expand on why because you already know.) One of them noted what an honor it was to be performing on the same stage as Elvis. In the Aria theater. A brand new casino. Oh, those boys! The singing was good, if you only heard Adam and Clayton. The other two? Not so good. Pretty bad, actually. The judges noted it, but let Scott stay. And that cued us up to the episode’s Best Insensitive Backstage Moment: As the others bemoaned Curtis’ ouster, Scott tried to look appropriately chagrined. Then, just as Curtis walked away, Scott did a little happy dance for the camera. You can’t spell CLASS without ASS, ladies and gentlemen.
Still In It: Scott, Adam and Clayton

More Elvis Songs in a Montage
Dear Idol Editors,
Next time you hide Joshua Ledet away in a montage, I’m going to make a fortune, find William Hung, and pay him an obscene amount of cash to be your personal soundtrack for life. Nobody puts Joshua Ledet in a montage!
Sincerely,
Rachel
There were some other people in this segment, too, most notably Caleb Johnson and Joshua Sanders tearing up “Burning Love.”
Still In It: Joshua, Caleb, Joshua and Shannon Magrane

“Keep Me Hangin’ On” – Britnee Kellogg, Courtney Williams, Jessica Phillips
This group of ladies decided that as singing professionals, they didn’t need to practice with the band. Huge mistake. HUGE. They were like that snobby boutique that kicked out Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman. Later, Julia came back dressed in Beverly Hills’ finest, and the awful lady there had to eat a huge plate of humble pie. This performance was a big, fat mess. I’ll give the girls extra points for their pink sparkle mini-dresses that they must have bought second-hand from a stage production of Hairspray. The harmonies were off, every solo but Britnee’s was weird, and the judges were NOT impressed. Randy thought that Jessica and Courtney took way too many liberties with the melody, prompting J. Lo to slam the nail in the coffin by saying, “It almost made me feel like you didn’t know the melody.” Ouchies. Courtney made the ill-advised choice to try to argue with the judges but was promptly shushed. I thought she should have gone, too, but the judges only cut Jessica. This gave Jessica, who I only liked in the first place because of her boyfriend, the chance to show her true awfultastic colors. “I’m an actual artist. It doesn’t seem like they’re looking for real artists. If you ask me, they’re not looking for real artists,” she remarked. “A lot of people are making it through because they’re not real artists, and they’re not going to get a record deal, and that’s okay.” I love it when people destroy their careers before they even get started.
Still In It: Courtney and Britnee

“Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?” – Lauren Grey, Mathanee Treco, Wendy Taylor
“There’s no crying in music. Now, sing it again!” Hello, Peggi Blu! It’s been so long since we last met. Who will you beat into not sucking this year? Lauren Grey found herself at the receiving end of Peggi’s wrath. She’d lost her voice and wasn’t prepared for the awesome hurricane that is Peggi Blu. “What you don’t do is listen. Do NOT not sing it. Sing it AGAIN! Okay, are you on Ritalin? Wake up and smell the coffee. You are in American Idol. You came here to be one? Get. A. Grip.” Oh, she’s just the best! Lauren ended up turning out a great vocal performance, thanks to Peggi. Wendy came the whole way out of nowhere and showed off her huge voice. Poor Mathanee, though, ran for mayor of Falsetto-Land and failed to get any votes. Maybe Peggi should have focused her kickass skills on him.
Still In It: Lauren and Wendy

“I Only Have Eyes for You” – Heejun Han, Phil Phillips, Jairon Jackson, Neco Starr Heejun was nervous about meeting Peggi. “I looked it up on You Tube, and she was kind of scary,” he said. Yes, because she’s THE BEST. Heejun had nothing to worry about because Peggi took a real liking to him. Emphasis on REAL. Peggi genuinely adored this group. “Loving it, that’s all I have to say,” she gushed before giving Heejun not one, but TWO hugs. And no wonder Peggi loved those boys so much. They sounded amazing. This was probably my favorite performance of the night. Their dynamics during the verses with the “She-bop, she-bops” were perfect. Jairon, Heejun, and Neco crooned their parts like champs. I was a little worried about Phil, though. Could he sing the melody in a way that I recognized? Would he stop twitching long enough to make some music? He did! He might not be my favorite, but Phil’s going to get a lot of votes, I think. No, I know. I know that Phil’s going to attract votes like bees to honey. He’s cute, good-natured, and sings like he’s being electrocuted sometimes. The ladies will love him.
Still In It: Heejun, Phil, Jairon, Neco

“Sealed With a Kiss” – Creighton Fraker, Aaron Marcellus, Jen Hirsh, Nick Boddington
So the removal of Reed Grimm made this group about 95% less smug. They were still smug, especially that hipster Creighton, but I had to admire their genuine admiration for each other. All four of them did a great job, especially Jen, who grows on me with each performance. Unfortunately, the judges had it out for Nick Boddington. Was it because of his receding hairline and silly nerd glasses? Jen was not kosher with his elimination, either. Backstage, she told the camera that Nick was one of the best and didn’t deserve to go. Oh, Jen, this is just the tip of the iceberg for unfair eliminations. Brace your na├»ve self for a world of pain.
Still In It: Creighton, Aaron and Jen

Uh-Ohs! PLOT TWIST!

The judges advanced too many people to the next round, so they were forced to make some painful cuts. Let me explain how cruel this process was. The contestants had already celebrated because the judges told them they were moving on after their performances. Then, a day or hours later, the rug was pulled out from under their happy feet. These final eliminations weren’t pretty.

In list form, the final cuts included:
1) Gabi Carrubba – There were tears. A lot of tears. I fear that this was foreshadowed at the beginning of the show.
2) Schyler Dixon – Oh, that is just SO WRONG! Look what you did to your sister, Colton!
3) Angie Zeiderman
4) Candice Glover – WTF, judges?
5) Johnny Keyser – I know, right? I was convinced he would win this thing! And who on Earth would prefer Reed Grimm over dreamy Johnny Keyser? Trolls. That’s who.
6) Jairon Jackson – Rachel does not approve.
7) Britnee Jackson – She left us with this heart-wrenching parting words: “My every performance was perfect. I don’t get it. I don’t get it. This is my life. This is what I do. It’s crazy. I don’t wanna go home.” Well, I’d be pissed off, too, if I got cut and my mouthy, less talented group member got to stay.

And that’s how the cookie crumbled. How do you feel about the last minute eliminations? Cruel and unusual punishment or great reality TV fodder? Is Reed Grimm, in fact, a joke created by the murky elf caverns of Uncle Steven’s mind? At least we’re almost to the voting rounds now. I feel like I’ve been recapping nothing forever. There’s nothing like a dependable cast of characters to make me feel right at home.

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