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

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American Idol

“Finalists Compete”

Season 11, Episode 19

Tonight’s show opened with Ryan promising the titillating news that we’d see a contestants eliminated tonight due to issues with law enforcement. I was aware of this upcoming circus and grossed out by it. However, it turns out that after tonight’s episode of bafflingly lackluster song choices (“songs from the year they were born”), maybe a little law and order was actually what the episode needed to spice things up a bit.

The first third of the show got off to a ho-hum start. I give Phillip Phillips credit for fighting kidney stones/surgery to deliver a very competent version of “Hard To Handle,” but he also brought nothing new to the song. Plus, I like him a little bit less each time the judges treat him like a special snowflake. Randy said he was a “fish out of water” in the competition. NO HE IS NOT.

Jessica Sanchez chose “Turn The Beat Around” and you know it’s a bad sign when the judges (and critic) praise your sparkly pants before your performance. I was happy to hear her sing an up-tempo song, but it didn’t showcase her vocal ability: The performance was a bit messy and shouty. The judges even agreed, Randy pointing out that Jessica’s vibrato doesn’t need to be so l-a-a-a-a-rge all the time. Jessica blamed a dearth of good song choices, which never elicits much sympathy from me.

Ryan smirked at the concept of HeeJun singing a Richard Marx song, which is another bad omen: when Seacrest thinks you’re cheesy. I think HeeJun is delightful when he’s talking but pretty snoozeworthy when he’s singing. Tonight’s “Right Here Waiting” was no better, although the performance was sprinkled with a few off-notes to put the judges especially out of sorts. I did like HeeJun’s pink shirt and tie combo, though.

Did Elise come back tonight? I’ll say…mostly. She sang “Let’s Stay Together” and I really liked the Carole King-type quiet beginning of the song, but then it picked back up into the upbeat, wedding-style version of the song we all know. Elise’s voice sounded great (aside from a little modulation toward the end) and she definitely seemed happier than she did last week, but I still don’t think we saw everything we could from her.

Then we got back to the song snafus. DeAndre originally wanted to sing “Can You Feel The Love Tonight?” but Jimmy and Will.I.Am convinced him to go with “Endless Love,” a sleepy choice if there was one. Actually, at the beginning of the song I liked hearing DeAndre sing in an understated manner, but unfortunately, it never climbed to much of an exciting build. I liked that DeAndre didn’t blame Will.I.Am and Jimmy for the song, though, even though the judges gave him an out.

Jimmy tried to talk Shannon Magrane into singing “Don’t Speak” through some completely seamless product placement (“In this huge recording studio, I’m going to play this song for you on my tiny phone!”) but she ultimately went with “One Sweet Day,” which I suspect Shannon chose because it sounds churchy. She’s 16 years old and she picks these boring ballads: “Don’t Speak” would have been a much more interesting choice. Shannon sang better than last week but at least last week her weakness made her interesting. I wish she could act her age more when she performs.

Colton Dixon took a chance on a not-very-well-known song called “Broken Heart” by White Lion. Colton’s like Phillip to me: I don’t like what he does very much, but he does it well. His voice is strong but he whines in that emo manner that David Cook introduced on the show. Steven flat-out hated the song choice, Jennifer loved it and Randy came in between, and somehow I agreed with all three of them. Colton didn’t make a terrible decision with the song, but he didn’t make me want to check out more of White Lion’s deep cuts.

Erika sang Bryan Adams’ “Heaven” and I guess I must have been tuned into Jennifer Lopez’s sartorial style because we both noted that Erika looked her best so far tonight: The Stevie Nicks look works for her. Erika’s got a great voice for a power ballad but the performance lacked a little bit of authority, perhaps partially due to the arrangement. Steven and Jennifer were a little lukewarm on the performance but Randy enjoyed it. He advised her not to always listen to people (Jimmy) who tell her to change songs’ arrangements, which sets up an interesting conundrum: who would you listen to, Jimmy or Randy?

I was all excited for Skylar to sing an Aerosmith song when Ryan mentioned that she was born the same year one of their albums was released, but instead she sang “Love Sneakin’ Up On You” by Bonnie Raitt, despite Jimmy and Will.I.Am once again second-guessing a song choice (they offered her a Hootie and the Blowfish song!) I agreed with Jennifer that Skylar could have picked a song with a stronger chorus, but she did what she does and I’m a fan: She belts and she’s got great confidence. I liked that she cozied up to her backup singers.

Like with Phillip, the judges’ praise sullied Joshua’s performance for me. I’ve been a fan of Joshua but I thought he want a scosh over the top with “When A Man Loves A Woman.” (Michael Bolton, Celine Dion, Bryan Adams, Richard Marx all representing tonight—and why did it possibly feel snoozy?) If Joshua takes it to that level with every performance from now on, I don’t know that I can keep cheering for him. When the judges gave him a standing ovation and Jennifer declared it the “best thing I’ve ever seen on American Idol,” I started thinking, “All right, calm down.” Am I crazy? Was it really that amazing or did the judges overpraise? And do you think that entire bucket was really filled with crawfish or was it just full of ice with a thin layer of shellfish on top?

Hollie came out last for “The Power Of Love,” and between the running order and the song choice, I expected a lot. Hollie, like Shannon, is another singer who I wish would sing younger and have a little more fun onstage, but between her gigantic bedazzled ball gown and the cheesy synthesizer-heavy arrangement of the song, I certainly didn’t feel the “moment” the judges claimed to hear. It wasn’t bad, but she can do better. I agreed with her brother who gave the ironic “so-so” hand gesture after the performance.

Before it was all over, we learned (some of) story regarding the contestant getting prematurely kicked off. I read the gossip last night and knew that Jermaine was going home, although what he did, exactly, is unclear aside from the fact that he has four warrants out for his arrest and that some of that has to do with giving a fake name to the police. The whole situation stunk: The show looks like it brought Jermaine back for the performance episodes just to publicly shame him, despite the producers’ claims that they weren’t judging Jermaine, since having four active warrants out is just “part of what kids go through today.” From a legal perspective, yes, of course the producers don’t want someone wanted by the police performing on the show and making money, but the way the situation was milked for drama was not the show’s final moment. If anything, we learned that you should not refer to someone as a “gentle” giant until you are absolutely positive he has not been arrested for fighting.

After all the singing was over, Randy declared that Joshua would be safe tomorrow and predicted that HeeJun would be in danger, while the other judges were too lame to pick who’s going home.  I agree that HeeJun may be in danger along with the two older gals, Elise and Erika, just because I don’t see America’s young jerks picking up the phone for a couple of old broads week after week.  

Stray observations:

  • I like Jennifer’s tangerine dress and fuschia lip combo.
  • My favorite family stories were: Mr. Phillips getting choked up about sick baby Phillip; Mrs. Han crying about smiling baby HeeJun; Joe Magrane singing “Thumbelina”; Mrs. Dixon’s full face of makeup in the hospital after having baby Colton; the story about Erika singing the National Anthem before playing a baseball game; Skylar’s mom saying “Sklar was a mess.”
  • I think DeAndre was the cutest baby.
  • Did Will.I.Am contribute much of value tonight aside from the word “swaggernaut”? He was no Mary J. Blige, that’s for sure.
  • Ryan, after Crystal Bowersox and Jason Castro, you should know what an actual dreadlock is.
  • I liked Will.I.Am and Joshua commiserating about church and their tough moms.
  • The final, slow-motion scene of Jermaine’s car driving off to him singing “Somewhere Out There” was unintentionally hilarious.