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

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