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

B+

American Idol

“Finalists Compete”

Season 11, Episode 17

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The producers didn’t coddle the Top 13 at all tonight: The boys were instructed to sing Stevie Wonder, the girls Whitney Houston, both artists that many an Idol contestant has crashed and burned on before.

Joshua kicked things off with “I Wish,” and admitted that the song was out of his comfort zone. However, he seemed completely comfortable onstage: he hit the notes, he danced (some people will probably hate his weird little dance; I loved it), he seemed like he had fun. I said that he “worked it out” in my notes; Randy said, “You just wore it out.” We will have to agree to disagree. PS: I can’t hear that song without thinking of Celine Dion singing about when she was a nappy-headed boy.

Poor Elise. She’s not a Whitney Houston kind of singer. I agreed with Jimmy and Mary J. Blige (who was a very engaged musical mentor) that “Greatest Love of All” probably wouldn’t have been a good choice for her. It’s s shame that she felt so uncomfortable with “I’m Your Baby Tonight,” because it’s a fun song, and Elise has such a great natural warm, husky tone. I actually thought she did okay (aside from a possible missed lyric in the beginning) but I couldn’t help but wonder how she’d do with the perfect song. I thought the judges were a little harsh on her—weak Elise is still pretty good, I think, but even Auntie Steven had words for her. You could tell Elise was trying not to be too pissed about her lot. Well, her makeup looked nice.

I’m annoyed, on Jermaine’s behalf, that he’s known as “The Gentle Giant.” I also fear that calling him that might jinx things and that he’ll go on a rampage. He sang “Knocks Me Off My Feet.” He did fine and the judges more or less liked him I found it pretty forgettable overall. I think he might need to put a little bit more into his performances but who knows, if he moves around too much he might knock over one of the stage lights and spook and then go on a stampede.

I have decided that I love Erika Van Pelt and want her to win. Once again, something about her look was a little off (that dress, although her hair/makeup looked great) but goddamn it to hell if she doesn’t sing so well and make it look so easy. She sang “I Believe In You and Me” and had me with the little smile on her face when she began. Hers was one of the best performances of Whitney I think we’ve seen on this show and it’s because she didn’t try hard. As Randy said, “Yes, yes, go, go!”

Then we got to the segment of the show that featured singers who all seem like nice people but who do noting for me as performers. Colton sang “Lately,” and maybe it was the weird screensaver background behind him, but he made me miss Stevie Wonder. Colton’s emo, sensitive-whiner manner of singing does nothing for me, plus, he looked unhappy as he sang.

I will be honest: This election season has me fighting a certain bias against Shannon, one that I am the first to admit is stupid and has nothing to do with her talent as a singer. I need to know, basically, that she has a lot of safe sex and enjoys getting a good old-fashioned weekly abortion before I can like her. Anyway, she sang “I Have Nothing,” and basically choked. I agreed with Jennifer that it was apparent that Shannon could sing the song but she just dropped it before each big moment. My real issue with Shannon is that even if she sang the song perfectly, tone-wise, she’s still a snooze compared to the best girls.

DeAndre made me like him more tonight, what with him making fun of his ugly-crying face and his seriousness when speaking to the judges and the fact that he tied his mane back. He definitely seemed to have fun with “Master Blaster” (which I always say in a British accent after hearing Idris Elba mention that song in a radio interview. Mahstah Blahstah). Unfortunately, his voice just does nothing for me; it’s so young and breathless and rather unsubstantial. I’ve been completely ruined by the big-voiced, mature-sounding singers this season. I liked that Steven compared DeAndre to Naima, apparently due to the fact that they both incorporated African culture into their performances. Until DeAndre takes his shoes off and does a dance solo during one of his songs, I don’t think he’s actually anything like Naima.

Little Skylar wasn’t very familiar with Whitney Houston’s catalog: I like that mini-Reba very much but wasn’t sold on her version of “Where Do Broken Hearts Go?” That is, until she got to the key change and the “big” part of the song. She has some pipes on her but once again what I like about her is her total comfort onstage. She has no fear. To quote Randy: “Yo! What?” On a weird side note: For some reason, while she was singing, I thought, “I could really hear her singing Christmas songs.”

Do the judges and live audience hear something in HeeJun’s voice that I don’t? Look, I like HeeJun, you like HeeJun, we all get a kick out of HeeJun because he’s got a good oddball sense of humor. But I think his voice is incredibly forgettable and his take on “All in Love is Fair” didn’t change my mind. He’s not bad: He’s just not nearly as good as a lot of other people on the show.

I loved how Mary J. Blige got so excited by Hollie, Skylar and Jessica and I completely agreed with Jennifer that this show’s finale should come down to two girls. We AV Club members voted for an Idol fantasy league and I was peeved to discover that apparently, we put forth Phil Phillips as this season’s winner. Not to be overly dramatic, but if Phil wins over Hollie, Skylar, Erika or Jessica, I will kill myself violently. Anyway, Hollie killed it with “All the Man That I Need.” She reminds me of Robyn in that she’s a tiny little pixie with a great big voice. Now if Hollie could only put as much personality into her performances as Robyn does, she’d really be cooking.

Jeremy’s out of his element, sorry to say. He’d be great several seasons ago but his version of “Ribbon in the Sky” was plodding and unspecial.

Jessica sang “I Will Always Love You,” which is a song I could probably live without hearing (the Whitney version, anyway) again for a while, just for the schlock factor, but Jessica was impressive for her control. I really liked the deliberate, drawn-out last three notes and the little gasp she gave at the very end. I wonder if she would sing as well if she couldn’t waggle her fingers.  It was a very strong performance of a song I have a hard time getting into.

I blame Phillip Phillips for his own hype more than I actually dislike him or his singing. No, I’m not a big fan of his Dave Matthews style of performing but what I really hate is the judges riding his jock, proclaiming him so different, so unique, when we’ve seen guys like him every season for the past several seasons. What’s so special anymore about a white guy playing acoustic guitar to a pop song? Jennifer compared his version of “Superstition” to his version of “Thriller” and she didn’t mean it like this, but she got it right: Phil so far has done the same thing each time. And it makes me mad that he’s getting his ass kissed for it.

Basically, a boy should go home tomorrow night. I’d still take a bad Shannon (since she can do better) or a weak Elise (since her best is going to be amazing) over tonight’s Jeremy or HeeJun or even Jermaine.

Stray observations:

  • Randy killed exactly two mice to make the lapel of his jacket.  Also, what was his pin? A frowning Japanese girl?
  • Jimmy Iovine’s new look, whatever it is, makes him look like Paul Shaffer.
  • I don’t know why but Jennifer says “goosies!” makes me resent my own joy-induced goosebumps.
  • Ladies, if you were watching Mary, Jennifer and Skylar, you’ll note that this is the season of Big Hoops.  
  • I hate Ryan’s new big hair. It’s Ricky Martin-ish, a comparison I feel like Ryan would be keen to avoid.
Filed Under: TV, American Idol

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