Thursday, February 23, 2012

Semifinal Picks - Part One: "Unfortunately, you're gonna be seeing more of us because you made it!"

In the course of two episodes, 42 will become 24, 18 dreams will be shattered, 24 dreams will be shattered in the near future, and 1 spray-tanned host will have the time of his life watching it. “The final judgment starts right now.”

Oh, does it! Does it, really, Ryan? Do you promise? But wait, what about the final judgment next week? And the week after that? And then the week after that? Seacrest! You lie!

The semifinalist reveal episode always tends to be a tedious affair. There are only so many ways Randy Jackson can fake out the contestants (and by “so many,” I mean ONE) before I start getting twitchy and impatient.

Idol once again switched up its location for the contestants’ long walk of shame. Last year’s airport hanger was pretty damn awesome (though not as delightful as the Elevator of Doom), but they couldn’t let a good thing stay tolerable. This year, the contestants were systematically saved or executed on the terrifying … stage of La Reve at the Wynn Casino & Resort. Oh, the horror! The horror! I now dub thee, La Reve stage, The Stage of Sullied Aspirations. So who survived the Meat Grinder of 15 Minutes of Fame, you ask? Read on to find out. This … is … American Idol!

You Will See These People Again

Jen Hirsh – Brunette soul singer with maybe a few self-esteem issues. She was told by Randy, “Just always loosen up. We’re your friends … kinda.” Jen’s shining moment in Hollywood was her goosebump-raising version of “Georgia on My Mind.”

My Thoughts: Jen definitely has a gift, but she tends to overdo it with the grunting and screaming. I’m not sure if she’ll be able to handle the Schizophrenic Carnival of Themes Idol will throw at her in the weeks to come. However, Jen is likable and has one of the more distinctive voices among the females. She could do very well late in the game or crash and burn early.

Creighton Fraker – Nearly as smug as Reed Grimm but infinitely more likable, Creighton’s a hipster transplant from NYC. He usually looks unclean, which finally made sense when we met his metal band lead singer birth father who is equally unkempt. Creighton is one of two preachers’ kids on the show this season. His shining glory was in Hollywood when he sang “What a Wonderful World.”

My Thoughts: I sort of want to like Creighton Fraker, but then Idol shows him doing something annoying like wearing bunny ears or singing like a cat in heat. His La Reve performance of “New York State of Mind” sounded shrill and a bit overdone to me. Are these loud people the trend for this season? If so, I’m not sure I’ll make it through the next few months alive.

Joshua Ledet – Another preacher’s kid, Joshua takes every song he sings to church in the best way possible. After strong performances in Hollywood and Vegas, Joshua proved he has one of the strongest voices in the competition.

My Thoughts: Early favorite! Joshua is personable yet edgy enough to make all of his performances special. I love a performer with conviction, and Joshua has that in spades. I have no idea what he sang at La Reve, but it sounded sublime. This boy better not disappoint me in the voting rounds because I don’t throw my support around freely.

Haley Johnson – She performed in Reed Grimm’s group in Vegas and had to struggle to be heard. Her hair is beautiful. Wavy blonde curls and hip bangs. I think Uncle Steven’s jealous.

My Thoughts: Cannon fodder. From what I’ve heard of Haley, she has a nice voice, but anyone who lets Reed Grimm smarm all over her solo won’t have a chance of standing out in the competition. She’s pretty, but the attractiveness factor rarely works for women on this show. I have to give her credit for running straight into Heejun’s arms after receiving the good news. At least she recognizes awesome things.

Elise Testone – The oldest looking twenty-something woman in the competition, Elise likes to talk a lot. She spent an uncomfortable amount of time telling the judges how when she sings, it just EXPLODES inside of her. I wish people would think before they speak. The judges loved her jazzy performance of “It’s a Man’s, Man’s World” at La Reve.

My Thoughts: No, seriously, why does she look so old? I demand to see this woman’s birth certificate! Luckily for Elise, she can carry a tune. Unfortunately, I think she’ll get lost in the sea of very similar semifinalists whose only dynamics are LOUD and VERY LOUD. If I had to choose between Elise and Jen Hirsh, I’d choose Jen Hirsh each time.

Reed Grimm – His eyes always taking up the title of “Craziest Thing in the Room,” this lifelong perform is an early judges’ pet. After breaking down and calling his mommy in Vegas, Reed’s become very well-acquainted with his drum set.

My Thoughts: It isn’t that Reed Grimm is a bad person, Dawgs. I just dislike him immensely. At La Reve, he sang “It Don’t Mean a Thing” like some smug monster with a pair of drumsticks, and I just couldn’t stand it. Plus, he’s about as relevant to the music industry as my MS Paint art is relevant to the art industry. He puts me on edge, is all.

Erika Van Pelt – Now the most famous Mobile DJ in the country, Erika has struggled to believe in her awesome potential. After Erika’s strong showings in Hollywood and Vegas, J. Lo was strangely underwhelmed with her performance of a perfectly nice Adele song at La Reve. But since Erika’s in a little exclusive club I like to call THE BEST, the judges decided to take a chance on her. “This doesn’t happen to girls like me,” Erika said in awe after surviving the Stage of Sullied Aspirations.

My Thoughts: Early favorite! This SHOULD happen to girls like you, Erika, and I hope it will. Her humbleness will get her part of the way, but she really needs to step it up with her beautiful voice to keep America’s attention. Don’t let them forget about you!

Chelsea Sorrell – A virtual stranger to Idol viewers, Chelsea was pitted against Baylie Brown as a country chanteuse. Her goals growing up were to be a mom AND a country singer, so she’s got that down-home American Girl thing going for her. She forgot the words in Hollywood, but I’m pretty sure Uncle Steven has a tendre for her because he asked her to start over.

My Thoughts: From what I heard, Chelsea has a very beautiful voice. So why haven’t we seen her until now? Two words: cannon fodder. Poor Chelsea will need to pull out the performance of a lifetime next week to stay on America’s radar. I hope she does it, honestly. The underdog thing worked for Kris Allen in Season 8.

Baylie Brown – Proving that five years and a blonde dye job can make your famous, Baylie is Season 11’s comeback kid. This season has been surprisingly uneventful for Baylie (and a little bit boring without those awful Jersey women to terrorize her), but the judges think she’s just swell.

My Thoughts: Chelsea’s a better singer, and she has a more distinctive look. Sorry. Baylie's final performance at La Reve sounded shaky and strained to me. Also, it seems that Baylie has progressed from a teen-bot to a young-adult-bot, and that isn’t promising.

Heejun Han – Season 11’s dependable sound-bite machine, Heejun revealed some secrets last night. First, after struggling with depression in his youth, he works with special needs kids back at home. Second, he’s just a big ol’ softie. J. Lo adored Heejun’s buttery tone during “New York State of Mind,” and Uncle Steven seems to have a fatherly affection for the kid. “He is one ugly great singer, just like myself,” Uncle Steven declared. “You’re a better star than you are a singer. We’re gonna put you through, pal." PAL! I want Uncle Steven to call me PAL!

My Thoughts: Early favorite! Heejun is the most entertaining person in the competition right now. I would be incredibly bored without his delightful sound-bites. Also, he has a great voice. And how about that emotional hug he shared with Phil Phillips in the holding room? OMG, they have to be roomies in the Idol mansion. I vow to ship these two for the season.

Jessica Sanchez – This is a girl with the weight of the world on her shoulders. Well, at least the weight of about 20 family members, who I’m assuming depend on Jessica’s success so they can keep eating. What’s going on in that family? “My mom is unemployed because of my music career,” Jessica admitted, and she didn’t look very happy about it. Well, I wouldn’t be happy, either. Holy TOO MUCH PRESSURE FOR A 16-YEAR-OLD, Sanchez family! Nuts of WONDER. They’re super lucky that Jessica is tremendously talented.

My Thoughts: Early favorite! Even though I’m concerned that Jessica is ultimately a money train for her family, I adore this girl’s voice. Thank you, Idol, for showing her entire performance of “The Prayer,” which was both dynamic and heart-wrenching. Her vibrato gave me chills. REAL CHILLS.

Phil Phillips – This Midwestern cutie turns into a Casanova when he plays his guitar while he sings. The judges love his different style and hope it translates to the American audience. “I feel like this is my only shot,” Phil said before receiving the verdict. Oh, sweetie, you’ve been a semifinalist since your first audition.

My Thoughts: I like Phil when he’s playing the guitar and I can understand him. When he starts the strange mumbling stuff, I’m not a fan. However, 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.

Colton Dixon – After being eliminated last year and then outlasting his sister (the only one who meant to audition) this year, Colton has become a familiar Idol fixture. The judges seem determined to encourage his redemption arc.

My Thoughts: I’m still not digging this guy’s voice. It’s so whiny! As he sang “Fix You” at La Reve, Uncle Steven had to put on his glasses to get a better look at him. I think the veteran rocker recognized that Colton is the human/skunk embodiment of the entire emo culture. This will not end well. That being said, I want Colton to stay on this show as long as possible. Richard Lawson at Atlantic Wire writes the most amazing Idol recaps, and he’s fixated on Colton Dixon as a creepy serial killer this year. Check these out. Lawson is hilarious.

Brielle Von Hugel – This young woman and her mother were cast as Idol villains in Hollywood this year. She sang “Killing Me Softly” at La Reve and couldn’t express enough how much she wants to be the next American Idol.

My Thoughts: Look, I’m trying to give Brielle the benefit of the doubt. Truly, I am. I just wish she’d stop being awful for, like, ten seconds so I could find my happy place. Granted, her mother is entertainment gold, especially when she says this about Ryan Seacrest: “I look very fat next to him.”

Left in Limbo

Adam Brock got the dreaded cliffhanger cut for his reveal. Meh. Better than falling off a stage and leaving America to wonder if you survived. But DAYUM, that guy was just a wreck up until the show ended. A hot wreck. The judges hadn’t even said anything, and Adam just cried and cried. “It’s the most complex thing to sum up in three words,” Adam explained. “I have to sing.
Yeah. I could have been classy and let that slide, but I have three words for that: Hell no! (lol)

In Memoriam
Last night, we bade farewell to the following contestants:

*Cue sad music*
Lauren Grey: Sang with her dad in a band, faced Peggi Blu and survived, lacked confidence in Hollywood and Vegas. You will be missed.

Neco Starr: Performed with Heejun’s group, had STAR literally IN his name, choked at La Reve real bad, wore American flag pants for his final appearance. You’re a grand old flag, Mr. Starr!

Caleb Johnson: That guy. He was a stranger up until the end when he totally forgot his song at La Reve.

Richie Law: It was only a matter of time.

Also cut: Blaire Seiber (who?), Naomi Gillies (huh?), Clayton Farhat, and River St. James

Tune in tonight to find out who else lives and dies. It's a tough week at the Idol Corral. Let's hope Adam Brock survives his cliffhanger.

Quote of the Night

"What are you sweating?" - Ryan

"Mostly water." - Heejun


"Can I have some water ... (water) ... (water)?" - Caleb Johnson

Uncle Steven (looking at the aqua-fabulous La Reve stage) - "You're surrounded by it!"

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