American Idol: “Semifinalist Boys Perform”
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American Idol: “Semifinalist Boys Perform”

B+

American Idol

“Semifinalist Boys Perform”

Season 11, Episode 14

Finally, tonight, it was time for America to make some choices. Ryan Seacrest sported a new, wavier, Billy Bush-ier ’do and Randy evidently beat up a circus clown and stole his shirt for the occasion. So we knew it was going to be a special night. Let’s get right to what happened when the Top 13 boys sang whatever the hell they wanted to. Incidentally (and this is going to apply to the whole season), unless I say otherwise, if I neglect to say what the judges thought of a singer, you can just assume that they loved him or her.

I can definitely see myself getting sick of Reed Grimm a few episodes from now (especially when Randy pointed out that he’s reminiscent of Casey Abrams), but I’ll give him points tonight for starting the show off interestingly. I wonder, first of all, if there was any blowback regarding his choice to sing “Moves Like Jagger,” a song by one of the guys and the girl from The Voice. The slow, jazzy arrangement wasn’t exactly my taste, nor did I think it was the coolest, smoothest move to have Reed shimmy his way over to a set of snares for a drum solo—but again, it was a lot more interesting than the performances we typically see so early in the competition. I also found it sort of charming that his mic pack fell out of his pants and he was able to grab it and play around with it a little bit. Maybe I just like Reed tonight because he said “Oh, sweet cheese curds” during his taped segment back home in Wisconsin.

I also wasn’t sure how I felt about Adam Brock heading into tonight (he has a little Gokey stink on him), but I actually warmed to him after his video package. Between his cute house and his cute baby and his cute dog and his cooking and musical skills, I bet it’s really fun to hang out at his place. He showed off the “black woman trapped inside [his] body” with Aretha Franklin’s “Think.” I like it when people on this show take on songs that are typically sung by a member of the opposite sex, and Adam was solid, throwing in a little bit of ’tude at the start of his performance. It dragged a tiny bit toward the end but then he finished on a big note. So I was pretty impressed so far with the first performance show.

I cooled off a little, though, on Deandre Brackensick. I have a feeling his performance came off a lot better live than it did on TV (unless I just have a thing against falsetto, which is possible). I thought his version of Earth, Wind & Fire’s “Reasons” seemed a a little hesitant and mumbly, but the crowd and the judges lost their minds. So who is wrong, me or them? You know the right answer.

I have to be objective when it comes to Colton, whom I wanted to dislike because I don’t really care for the type of song he performed tonight (Paramore’s “Decode”) and the fact that he seems so already self-assured of his own rock-star-dom (like James from last season). However, I also have to admit that Colton’s a strong singer and piano player and he seems remarkably confident in terms of what kind of musician he is. I wasn’t sure at first what the judges would think, since there was a shot of Jennifer looking concerned during his performance, but the judges loved him, although Randy saying that Colton is “our own little indie-alt-rocker singing like Paramore” sounded like a backhanded compliment to me.

I really like Jeremy Rosado and per my thing about “girl songs” was piqued that he chose “Gravity” by Sara Bareilles. I think he suffered a little bit in terms of placement in the episode: His performance was fine but nothing special—it needed either a little more authority or perhaps a slightly different arrangement. The fact that Jeremy was wearing the standard issue Idol-boy Members-Only-ish jacket didn’t help, either. But I liked the shot of Jennifer and Steven’s faces both “melting” during the performance.

Shortly before Marcellus’ performance, Steven tried his best to start a judges’ feud by going “Who am I?” and pulling out his nipple, teasing Jennifer about her alleged nip-slip on the Oscars. I’m of two minds about this: It was crude and not very funny on Steven’s behalf, but at the same time, this show was such a lovefest by this point, with nary a word of criticism uttered toward any of the singers, that maybe I didn’t mind a little strife. Jennifer didn’t seem to love it, that’s for sure. Anyway, Marcellus sang “Never Can Say Goodbye” and I started to complain to my laptop about how I couldn’t really see or hear him because he had his head down giving fives to the audience and whatnot but then I changed my mind. He nailed the song and what I liked about his performance was that there seemed to be very little fuss about it: He just came out and sang well like it was a normal day at the office.

We didn’t learn much about Chase Likens prior to tonight so all I knew was that he’s a country singer who will probably be known as the good-looking guy on the show. He sang “Storm Warning” by Hunter Hayes. He was fine; I don’t have any specific complaints but he seemed pretty forgettable compared to the other guys so far, aside from his “Brendan Fraser in The Mummy” looks (I have always favored Brendan Fraser in School Ties, myself.)

To me, there are two different ways of looking at Craker’s (Creighton Fraker’s) performance of “True Colors.” 

  1. For a guy who’s allegedly so offbeat and unique, it wasn’t a terribly inspiring or interesting performance.
  2. The rainbow-splashed rendition was a pretty straightforward “gay is good” message that Creighton didn’t want to miss an opportunity to shoot out towards the Idol audience. 

I’d like to choose to believe the second option, which doesn’t make the singing better or the performance itself more interesting, but makes me like Creighton a lot more, especially since I think he knows that doing so was a real risk. I wonder what Randy meant by taking the singers’ backgrounds and stories into consideration prior to elimination.

Phil Phillips sang Phil “Phillips” Collins and I really can’t see beyond the horrible arrangement of “In The Air Tonight.” The anger and ominousness of the original was replaced by a saxophone. Randy brought out his first negative comment of the night by saying that he didn’t like the arrangement either but praised Phil for being Dave Matthews-like—but I’m not sure that’s a compliment.

Eben Franckewitz is an interesting kid. It feels easy to write him off for looking Justin Bieberish and having a high, young voice but I think he actually seems like a down-to-Earth, non-cutesy guy who is just waiting patiently to get through puberty alive. His rendition of “Set Fire To The Rain” wasn’t so hot (all the judges pointed out his pitch problems) but I find myself rooting for the kid. Also, to me he resembles very young John Lennon.

I think HeeJun is going to be that contestant whom everyone likes as a person more than an actual singer. I loved the footage of him making his mom dance on camera and his declaration that he wants to prove that Asians are good at more than just getting high SAT scores (and basketball). And I really loved when he said “MOSTLY WATER” (in all caps) when Ryan asked him “What are you sweating?” after his performance. But his performance of Robbie Williams’ “Angels” was fairly forgettable and the judges chided him a bit for song choice. I mostly found myself wondering whether there are any lenses in his glasses.

I know not everyone loves Joshua Ledet and that he reminds some people a little too much of Jacob Lusk. I said before and I still believe that Joshua is the better version of Jacob—a nicer-sounding voice with less histrionics. Frankly, I don’t think it’s really a compliment to call him “Mantasia.” Joshua’s performance of “You Pulled Me Through” was uplifting (I kind of wish he sang a song I knew better, but I guess it’s not Joshua’s fault I don’t know Jennifer Hudson’s catalogue that well) but the real entertainment was watching Randy Jackson writhe in religious ecstasy throughout the performance. And catching epic stankface from Jennifer.

Hey, remember who I predicted would be brought back to the show? That’s right, it was Jermaine Jones, just like I said. I’ll just confess that I was feeling Idol fatigue by the end of the episode, so perhaps that contributed to why I didn’t find his performance of “Dance With My Father” astounding. However, the guy is just so darn likeable (and so is his mom), I don’t have anything specifically bad to say about him, especially since I think he could pick me up and eat me in two bites.

After the episode was all said and done, I felt the way I typically feel after the first performance episode: Ready to have this mess of contestants culled to a manageable number. But I do think that the pool of talent is stronger and more diverse this season than in years past. Usually I feel at this point that we could lose five forgettable contestants, easily, but now I’m curious to see who does get cut, because it seems like everyone is someone’s favorite.

Stray observations:

  • Steven Tyler: “I, too, love the jazz.”
  • I hated James Durbin’s tail and I think I’m going to hate Adam’s bandanna.
  • I liked the cool black-and-white photos of the trees that played behind Colton during his performance. I would put that shit on Pinterest.

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