American Idol: “8 Finalists Compete”
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American Idol: “8 Finalists Compete”

It’s a little sad that Idol is slipping in terms of ratings and overall relevance, because this season is turning out pretty respectably in terms of talent and musical selections (at least compared to other seasons of the show). The kids sang songs that were released anywhere between 2010 and today, and almost everyone enjoyed a strong night.

Skylar kicks things off with Kellie Pickler’s “Didn’t Know How Much I Loved You,” busting out her guitar. The song gives her the power that “Wind Beneath My Wings” did, but she’s back in the country comfort zone that works so well for her. Her performance even outshines the ridiculous flaming trash cans that are onstage with her. As Randy says, “You could have a hit with a song like that.” I’m picking Skylar to win the season. (I love Elise, but I think she’s too much of a long shot.) She’s consistent, she’s comfortable, and it’s easy to imagine her finding her niche rather quickly as a recording artist.

Colton picks “Love the Way You Lie,” and Jimmy gives it to him straight: “It’s you against Phil, and I think you’re behind Phil.” Colton believes this song could be a game-changer for him. However, that’s not quite the case, although I like the performance more than most of Colton’s others: He lets his voice shine through without any emo dickery. It’s clear that Colton’s a better technical singer than Phillip, and it’s a fine performance, but it’s not one that will make him pull ahead of the pack.

Elise and Phillip duet on Gotye’s “Somebody That I Used To Know,” which is one of those songs everyone thinks was written about his or her breakup. It’s unclear whether Phillip and Elise are joking when they talk about arguing over the song. (Phillip claims he doesn’t want to sing it but Elise fought for it.) If it’s true that it was Elise’s pick, it’s clear why—she totally dominates the duet, making the vocal sound more elegant and interesting than Phil does, since he’s not always in tune. I’m gratified when Jennifer points out the imbalance, essentially criticizing Phillip for the first time ever. Apparently, not only are the same couples dueting, but the judges are now pitting them against each other.

Jessica takes on Jazmine Sullivan’s “Stuttering,” which is a nice choice for her, since it’s got a modern diva feel, but the arrangement she chooses is a little understated and torchy: She’s even seated on a piano. Jessica’s particular singing style isn’t my favorite, and my disdain for scatting has been documented, but it’s one of her best performances so far, made endearing by the fact that she almost falls on her butt at the end of the song when sitting back on the piano. I agree with Jennifer that it would benefit Jessica to start trying to show us something new week to week, although I could live without her being “impactful like Joshua.” We only need one Joshua.

I so prefer a party-time Joshua you can dance to than a take-you-to-church crying type of Joshua. We get the former tonight as Joshua sings a swinging take on Bruno Mars’ “Runaway Baby,” complete with a shimmying backup dancer. It’s just more enjoyable to have fun watching Joshua than to sense that you’re supposed to feel something. Was his performance more worthy of a standing ovation than the other singers’ performances? I don’t think so, but Randy leads one anyway, obviously semi-making the other judges join him.

Skylar and Colton, who are TOTALLY NOT DATING YOU GUYS (who would honestly see them as a couple?) take on Kelly Clarkson and Jason Aldean’s “Don’t You Wanna Stay.” The two of them still are a charming duo, but I agree with Randy that it’s not as strong as either of their individual songs. Skylar is uncharacteristically pitchy, and the harmony’s not so tight.  

Hollie’s the underdog at this point, and that makes me root for her. She takes on Pink’s “Perfect,” which is a nice song choice, since she can show off her pipes yet also look vulnerable at the same time. She loses her footing pitchwise a few times, and I think of how much more emoting Elise would do with the song, but for Hollie, it’s a step forward from last week. The judges offer supportive but lukewarm input, except for Steven, who can’t say much except that she looks cute.

Phillip sings “Give A Little More” by Maroon 5, and I like it more than most other Phillip performances, as it’s more straightforward and less “The Mellow Show” growling. Of course, the one time I don’t dislike Phillip, the judges actually criticize him. Jennifer doesn’t love the song choice, and Randy doesn’t find it to be that “wow.” I agree with Randy, and I’m just glad to hear the judges finally get their heads out of Phillip’s ass, so clearly the underwhelming performance wasn’t that special to me after all.

Hollie, Jessica, and Joshua take on Kelly Clarkson’s “Stronger.” The judges praise the performance, but I think they’re nuts. There’s not enough room in the song for three big voices. They fight for dominance over the chorus and then completely slip out of tune on the verses and the harmonies. It’s a mess, but the judges adore it, inexplicably.

Elise sings Lady Gaga’s “You And I,” originally intending to start off playing the drums, but Jimmy wisely steers her away from that. It’s a great song for her, raspy and bluesy, plus she’s got more confidence singing it than Haley did last season. I was concerned that the judges would pick up on the slip-up she delivered on her first attack of the chorus, but they look over it and declare her “back.” I love Elise and like that she looks so happy on this song. However, I don’t think it was as good as when she sang Zeppelin, and I don’t know what in shower-sponge-stapled-to-a-beaded-curtain hell she was wearing.

Hollie will be in the bottom three again tomorrow night, perhaps joined by Colton and (gasp) Phillip. If anyone other than Hollie is up for elimination, I'll bet tomorrow is save night.

Stray observations:

  • I didn’t understand the relevance of the majority of the contestant fanbase hashtags.
  • Joshua and Akon are both “urban,” according to Jimmy. Mm hmm.
  • I like Elise more for being a Jason Segel fan.
  • Phillip Phillips may just be who he is and not be a phony and all that bullshit, but he doesn’t have a contract with Idol, but Tommy Hilfiger does and so Hilfiger wins.
  • Akon was perhaps one of the most inessential mentors of the season to date.
  • It’s weird to have a song playing on repeat in your head and on your musical device and then have it (that being Gotye’s) appear on American Idol. It makes you doubt your taste and/or wonder if Idol is more plugged-in than you assumed.

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