AI11 – Round of Seven

Oh, boy. There is a lot to discuss about this week’s American Idol, isn’t there?

It was a week where Jessica Sanchez damn near fell off a piano when she missed it trying to sit down, but still held her note and her composure.

It was a week where Hollie almost couldn’t get off her stool when the time came.

It was a week in which the girls learned the hard way that those ridiculous heels that must be in fashion right now are not right for them.

It was a week in which Elise continued to confuse American by calling herself a Charleston girl while Idol creates packages showing her hometown of Kinnelon, NJ. (One of those pieces was filmed in a local bar on Rte. 23 that I always thought was an “adult” bar, if you know what I mean. Maybe I was wrong?)

It was a week in which Jennifer Hudson sang, and then Randy commented that the week’s Bottom 3 were the first time America had gotten it completely wrong and he was devastated. Granted, it’s been seven years, but has he really forgotten the week Hudson left? The other two in the bottom three were Fantasia and La Toya London (who gave the definitive Idol performance of “All By Myself,” thank you very much.). It was the week Elton John called America a pack of racists for voting the way they did.

It was a week where, if you did count Elise as a Carolina girl, you’d realize that the entire Final 7 comes from south of the Mason Dixon line. They’re all southeasterners, except Jessica over in San Diego, and I guess you’d count Hollie and Skylar from Texas as being more South-Central-ish. Though Hollie is almost more British than Texan…

The other thing we learned is that the contestants need to start bringing out the big guns. It’s not enough to sing an album cut now. You need a #1 song every week to get the voters’ juices flowing. Sing songs they know and do them well and they’ll vote for you.

Looking at the final 7, as talented as they all are, I don’t think there’s any chance for Elise or Hollie to win. I think Colton is in danger of being too boring to win. I like him a lot, but he needs on of those Idol Moments, stat, to remind people he’s there. Phillip isn’t going to win, because I honestly think America got that out of its system after DeWyze.

So, that’s what, Jessica versus Josh versus Skylar? I think that’s a likely top 3. Skylar gets that country music vote. Jessica’s in trouble, because there hasn’t been a winner from California yet, has there? Kat McPhee nearly got there, but came up short.

In fact, looking at all 10 winners so far, most have come from the south, notably Texas, Arkansas, Alabama, and North Carolina.

Chicago gave us Lee DeWyze. David Cook is from Missouri. Jordin Sparks is from Arizona, though her Dad played football here in New Jersey for a long time, so maybe we can lay claim to her somehow? They have auditions in the NY/NJ area most every season, and often talk about the talent pool in the Broadway section of the world, but those contestants never get very far.

Anyway, back to this week:

That Pink song they opened the results show with was painful to sit through. I felt uncomfortable for all of them, though Ryan wins the song with his cameo at the end, Coke cup in hand. The rest of the time, the contestants looked uncomfortable, like they weren’t 100% sure who was singing which line next. And I’m pretty sure Elise did blow one line there, though she covered it as well as she could.

And when you saw the bottom three, you knew the save was in play. MAYBE they wouldn’t save Elise, but there was no way either Josh or Jessica was going home. And that’s why you save the Save (sorry, “#thesave”) for as long as possible. You don’t use it on a time bomb like Casey…)

I’m sure there’s more to discuss, but I’m not doing write-ups this season. ;-)

AI11 – Round of 9 – Idols Week

The following was written as I watched the show. Typed it as I watched it. Slightly distracting, but a lot of fun.

Nine songs, two hours — wow,this ought to be a well-padded show.

Ah, it includes trio songs and Tommy Hilfiger.

Tommy Hilfiger is back? Didn’t we ignore everything he said last week? Why did they bring him back? Oh, because there’s a branding partnership going on between IDOL and TH. That explains that…

This ought to be fun. Stevie Nicks is nutty.

Colton: Going first is never good, but then picking a song this slow-moving until it moves into an upbeat part that he’s pitchy all over is not a good sign. Might work well as a worship song, but I don’t think it plays well as an Idol song. Trouble. The judges completely disagree with me, though. Oh well.

They’re flashing Twitter handles now during the judging. Interesting.

I need to go back and listen to that one again, but there won’t be any time tonight.

Skylar: She could go Trademark Skylar Crazy on this song. And, sure enough, she does it at the end. It’s right in her wheelhouse, so I have nothing to complain about. She did it strongly. And lots of talk about bullets and guns, which is always good for a family show in 2012. When I was a kid, we were allowed to play with toy guns, you know. I’ve never shot anyone since, somehow.

TRIO 1: Colton, Elise, and Philip. Oh, god, no. Not this song again. “Landslide,” of course. So you just know another trio will get stuck with “Can’t Stop Thinking About Tomorrow.” UGH

Oh, wait, this is a medley. Elise doing Nickie makes sense, though.

Philip gets stuck with “Don’t Stop.” Poor kid.

Will another trio sing “Don’t Go Dragging My Heart Around?” Who gets the Tom Petty part?

Heejun: UGH. He’s still here. Doing Donnie Hathaway, an Idol staple. But by far, this is Heejun’s best performance on the show, with a standing ovation that was well earned. Man, if he just sang like this in the past three weeks, I wouldn’t be making fun of him every week.

That was impressive. It was darn near an Idol Moment.

Hollie: Steve Nicks just about leaned forward and ate Hollie. And it would have barely been a snack, since there’s not much to Hollie there… But, uhm, the girl who’s been singing Celine and Whitney is suddenly naming Carrie Underwood as her Idol? Something doesn’t feel right here, though the emotion in the second half of the song was strong. Still, it seemed very karaoke to me. Who is Hollie? I don’t know after that.

DeAndre: I can believe he idolizes Eric Benet. I also know that it’s not my thing, musically, and this will be boring and/or grating on my nerves. And the falsetto is back in full effect. Oh, god, he’s having a Justin Guarini moment here.

The last minute or so of the song saved it, when he went to full-on falsetto scream, but I was bored by the rest. But, like I said, this isn’t my thing, so feel free to ignore me.

Jessica: She sounds good on the Beyonce song. Very comfortable. Right in her range. Very controlled. At some point, though, the vote split between Jessica and Heidi will result in Heidi’s departure.

Random Thought: This is the night the producers start casting the finale and who they can get into the show to sing with the contestants who idolize them. Will they get Beyonce to visit? Eric Benet? Lifehouse?

TRIO 2: Heejun, DeAndre, and Joshua. Heejun doing Michael Jackson? Oh, boy… Heejun shouldn’t be choreographed.

That was painful. I missed Fleetwood Mac, all of a sudden.

But, man, there’s going to be a lot of high and long notes in the third trio, isn’t there?

Phillip: I wonder if Simon would be bored by Phillip and would say something like, “This is a kid I can hear in a thousand bar bands this weekend.” It’s really Taylor Hicks 2.0, though I love it here, too. His selection of idol makes sense, his performances are consistent, and he picks the right song. I like it lots. And it’s another standing ovation from the judges to go along with it. Can’t complain here.

It helps that the producers gave the contestants a softball this week. Their vengeance shall be swift next week when they give the remaining eight the Songs of the 1920s…

Joshua: His Idol is Mariah. I’m almost not surprised. But, wait, it’s not Mariah’s song. It’s that great song from “The Drew Carey Show.” I love this song. I hope he can pull it off. Can he turn this into a gospel song? Weird.

What’s with all the stuff standing around on stage this week? Doors before, dead trees now, smoke almost omnipresent…

Oh, boy, the band drops out and he can’t reach up for that note. Whoops. The magic trick failed. But everything else worked so well that he gets the standing O anyway. Go figure. Oh wait, he cried at the end. That always gets the standing O.

OK, so I went back and watched it again. Maybe I was a bit hard on the Magic Trick bit. He didn’t go big and broad for that note, but it worked in his style, so I’ll give it to him.

TRIO 3: Jessica, Hollie, and Skylar: Madonna hits. This might work the best of the three. Wait, they’re starting with “Like a Prayer”? They’re supposed to end with that. Hollie doing dance songs? That seems weird. Are any of these three taller than 5’2″? It’s three pipsqueaks with huge voices singing in mid-range.

Elise: Is doing Zep? I expect pyrotechnics on the stage for this one. Maybe confetti at the end. And the electric guitar guy on stage.

Needs a hair fan. They got the streaming smoke behind the guitarist guy on stage, though.

Well, that took steel cast iron balls. And she pulled it off. Yowza. That bit at the end where she paused a second and Randy was waiting anxiously for the ending? Pure genius.

That was the least Idol song ever on Idol, and I’ll be damned if it didn’t work.

So who’se in trouble this week? Colton is. Going first is never good. I think Elise might be, just because the main Idol voting contingent isn’t a 70s rock fanbase. And Hollie is in trouble. Who would I put in the bottom three? DeAndre, Hollie, and Heejun. (One song isn’t enough to make me forget, Heejun…)

We might see a Judges Save this week. It’s that loopy a week.

AI11 — Round of 10 (Billy Joel week!)

There’s no way I could not talk about Billy Joel week on American Idol, is there? I’m much too big a fan for that.

I wish I had the time to be more comprehensive with it, but we’ll have to resort to bullet points:

Elise had an Idol Moment this week, for sure. I watched it twice in a row. “Vienna” is a great song, and one Joel plays regularly when he tours, but it’s not on one of the Greatest Hits albums or anything, so not too many people seem to know it. But it was made for her voice. I would have pegged her for a “New York State of Mind” girl, but she chose one better.

Skylar doing “Shameless” was the most predictable moment of the show. It’s weird that an ode to Jimmy Hendrix has become a country hit twice now, but it was an obvious choice for Skylar. Joel has done a countrified “My Life” on tour, too. That might have been more interesting to hear.

Also, they have to stop walking through the crowd in these songs. Both Elise and Skylar looked a little uncomfortable in the middle fo their songs walking through a sea of 12 years olds nervously trying to figure out whether to clap (and where’s the rhythm?) or smile for the camera.

Heejun did “My Life,” instead, and made a damn fool of himself. Surely, the judges are only kidding themselves when they praise him for, well, anything, right? They’re just trying to save face for putting this doofus through. I’m all for having fun on stage — remember Casey? — but this is getting to Sanjaya/John Stevens territory here. No, wait, Stevens was a better singer. Man, did Steven Tyler look ticked off by the whole thing or what?

Phillip Phillips’ “Anthony’s Song (Movin’ Out)” was great. Like so many contestants this week, he completely ignored Tommy HIlfiger and Jimmy, and it worked.

Diddy doing Idol? Did he hand off his weapon to J-Lo’s bodyguard for old time’s sake, while he was at it?

Steven Tyler has never heard “She’s Got a Way.” I can understand that — he was on a lot of drugs at the time that song hit — both the first and the second time Joel recorded it. (It hit Top 40 status with “Songs from the Attic”, not “Cold Spring Harbor” a decade prior.)

Never thought “Piano Man” would make it as an “Idol” song. Kind of a simple little ditty, but Colton did it about as well as anyone could.

DeAndre should have done better with “Only the Good Die Young,” which has a natural reggae feel to it. He was OK, but I didn’t feel like he ever really got into it as much as he could have.

Joshua Ledet has a great voice, but meandered through the song desperately searching for a choir to back him up for a chorus or two. And he looked dead in his eyes. There was no connection to the song.

Erika Van Pelt did all right with “New York State of Mind.”

I’ll say this, though: Overall, it was a pretty good night. There were no crash and burns. Hollie was disappointing. But, man, I just want to go back and listen to Elise on “Vienna” again…

Bonus content: Holly singing an Adele song:

AI11 – Round of 11

Not a full American Idol review tonight. Just a few stray bullet points, since I’m not writing these all up this year.

  • Jimmy I. gets the award for most awful product placement in the history of reality television. There are plenty of forced promotions for today’s technology — The Voice wants to sell bad tablets, for example, from Spring — but this one hit like a stampede of elephants coming out of left field. Painful.

  • There was a time when Idol was about a single person on a stage singing along to an unseen band and trying to hit all the notes and inject a little of their personality while desperately seeking Simon’s approval. Today, everyone wants to be their own “artist” and so overworks every song to work well with a dozen band members on stage with them. And it’s starting to bite the contestants in the keister.

  • So the Gentle Giant is gone. He wouldn’t have won, anyway, but he stood a chance of stealing the show with “Somewhere Out There” tonight.

  • Wow, the judges woke up on the wrong side of the bed this morning. Now that they were always wrong — they were mostly right — but they came out with the gloves off for the first time this season.

  • I fast forwarded through the ad for J. Lo’s reality singing competition show. Is the entire show in Spanish, or just the title?

The Fourth Judge

Ellen?   Don’t get me wrong; she was an entertaining distraction for an episode of “So You Think You Can Dance?” over the summer, but by the end of the two hours, the joke was getting a little thin.   Now, we’re seriously supposed to accept her as a judge of musical talent? Let’s put aside the jokes about the other judges for the moment, as they’ve at least made careers in the music industry.   I’m guessing “Idol” decided to go for something completely different and unexpected.  They wanted to be a little more lighthearted and entertaining.  They wanted someone to build up their biggest demographic — the stay-at-home mothers of the tweens who vote like fiends every week for the show.  Ellen fits that part, at least.   But — the fourth judge?  They should have just done away with it.  Leave it at three judges.  Let the show go quicker.  Let the judges talk a bit more perhaps.  How often did the show run over this last season?  It got so bad at one point that they only left half the judges talk after each performance.  Why not keep the breathing room offered by only three judges?  Let them explain themselves better.   Kara got on my nerves by the end of the season, but at least she had some musical background to draw on, and is fairly talented in that department.  Have you heard her version of this year’s “Idol” song?  It’s pretty good.  It wasn’t right for Kris Allen, but it’s a catchy enough ditty when sung the way she did it.   Ellen?  I’ll give it a shot, but consider my expectations very very low. I’m more looking forward to the parade of guest judges they had at the auditions…