Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

American Idol: “10 Finalists Compete”

Illustration for article titled American Idol: “10 Finalists Compete”

It’s Bily Joel night tonight on Idol. I don’t care what you say. Every person has at least one Billy Joel song that he kinda likes, whether he admits it or not. Well, except for maybe some of tonight’s performers.

First, DeAndre meets with stylist-for-the-episode Tommy Hilfiger, who says, ominously, “We want to give you a look,” which is how all ill-fated makeovers begin. DeAndre tells Jimmy Iovine and Diddy (known the world over for his singing talent) that he intends to sing “Only the Good Die Young,” a song that Jimmy identifies with as a repressed Catholic. Diddy goes on some sort of tangent about how DeAndre needs to understand how filthy rich Billy Joel was when this song was written, which feels quite representative of Diddy’s abilities to assist in a singing competition. Both agree, though, that DeAndre needs to look happy and confident when he sings the song. Unfortunately, I don’t think the “new look” or the song do much for DeAndre, who seems to be pretending to have fun more than he’s actually having fun. The outfit doesn’t help: He’s apparently wearing a white vest over a black leather shirt over another white shirt with ornamental sunglasses hanging on the neckline of the shirt. “Only the Good Die Young” works as a swingy yet cynical song, and DeAndre lacks the knowing smile needed to pull the tune off. Steven says that the performance is perhaps a little too “happy,” although Jennifer says that Deandre was “grovelly” when he needed to be. (Did she mean “gravelly”? Either way, she’s wrong.) I agree with Randy, who says, “It didn’t wow me, but it was okay.”

Erika Van Pelt takes on “New York State of Mind,” and Jimmy advises her against oversinging while Diddy tells her to sing “like a New Yorker” (again: real concrete advice, there). As for the look, I very much doubted Tommy Hilfiger’s advice that Erika chop off all her hair, but it worked! I confess, I have a weakness for when women have the balls to chop off their hair and work it like she did, as opposed to crying like a weak little baby on a makeover episode of America’s Next Top Model. I thought Erika looked edgier and prettier than the other girls on the show. Most importantly, she just looks different from them. The song has never been my favorite, and the performance was perhaps a little mature for Idol voters, but I’m never not impressed by Erika’s confidence and control. The judges loved it (the singing and the look), but contrary to Jimmy’s input, urged her to really go for it next time, which I think is good advice. I could see Erika potentially becoming the Melinda Doolittle of this season.

I know it’s usually dumb when the mentors urge a singer on Idol to think about someone when he performs, but I think that advice could have applied to Joshua tonight. When he speaks with Jimmy and Diddy, Joshua is nervous about taking on “She’s Got A Way,” and by the time he’s singing, he doesn’t seem less so. Sitting backwards on a chair, he looks posed and not-happy as he sings. He does his Joshua thing, helped at the end by a backup chorus, but the performance lacks feeling, which even Jennifer notices.

Skylar, of all people, is starstruck by Diddy. She takes on the song “Shameless,” which I’m unfamiliar with, but it makes sense once I hear that Garth Brooks and Brad Paisley have performed it. I agree with the judges: The beginning is a little forgettable, but by the end, Skylar’s doing her Skylar thing. There’s nothing new under the (Skylar) sun about her performance, but I like Skylar for being strong and consistent. While I’m not blown away tonight, I’m still quite fond of her, and I have a feeling a good portion of the voting public is, too.

I worry for Elise when she ignores both Tommy Hilfiger’s advice (no layering) and Jimmy and Diddy’s advice (don’t take on a song no one knows) when she sings “Vienna” in a dress and long vest, but to quote Randy, Elise finally has her moment tonight. Not only can you finally see her confidence in her performance, but you can hear all her voice has to offer, from the control of her melody to her scratchy soulfulness. After she takes a gamble, the judges give her a standing ovation. I hope the girl is at least rewarded with not being in the final three tomorrow night.


Phillip Phillips is not going to let anyone tell him who he’s going to be! Diddy urges him to sing without his guitar, and Hilfiger advises him not to wear gray: Phillip gives them the (metaphorical) finger and does both while singing “Movin’ Out.” It’s something of an interesting rendition of the song, but it’s not a star performance, nor does it really showcase P.P.’s voice. Does it matter? No, because the judges kiss his ass no matter what he does. Also: Musicians who care about clothes are just about, like, image, man. Cue next week’s “Phil is Greyt” signs.

Hollie suffers a little bit from what Shannon dealt with, only on a higher plane: young old lady syndrome. Tonight, she’s wearing pants, yet she still looks at least 20 years older than she is, and the fact that she’s standing on a podium, surrounded by accompanists, separates her even more from the audience as she sings “Honesty.” Steven sums it up when he says Hollie’s a great singer but she over-sang it tonight, plus she hit some pitchy notes.


What to say about HeeJun? I think if I were one of the singers who really worked hard and gave a shit about my performance, I might be a little annoyed with him. We see him spending zero time talking about his actual singing with the mentors, but instead, he just gets advice on how not to let criticism get to him. Then he basically dicks around with Tommy Hilfiger, which I think Tommy reads (maybe not incorrectly) as HeeJun being disrespectful. HeeJun begins singing to a slow piano while wearing a tuxedo. “Hold on,” he instructs the pianist, asking him to start over because, “I wanna dance!” He rips off his tuxedo jacket and skips around the stage to “My Life.” I feel like we’re being trolled, as HeeJun does a parody of a happy Billy Joel performance. The fact of the matter is that it’s one of the more entertaining HeeJun performances thus far, but it’s also obnoxious. The performance also seems like a waste, because HeeJun’s singing well, but not as well as he could if he weren’t messing around. It’s an odd, sarcastic performance, coming from someone who allegedly is so sensitive to criticism (or is he? Was he just faking that?). Jennifer and Randy praise HeeJun for having fun (give me a break), but Steven, of all people, is clearly irritated. “Are you happy that you took the piss out of this song?” he says. “The music business will kick your ass.” I like this Steven. I wish he’d be around more. I can’t wait to hear what Jimmy says about HeeJun tomorrow night. It was a Vote for the Worst classic.

Jessica, in contrast, takes Diddy and Tommy’s advice to heart and works not to over-sing “Everybody Has A Dream” (a song with which I’m not very familiar; it sounds more like a Jennifer Hudson song) and looks great doing it. Jessica’s got powerhouse vocals and is great at working up to a big build. She and Hollie are the two little divas with whom I have a hard time connecting emotionally, but I can’t disagree with Steven when he says “When God was giving out vocal cords, you were so at the front of the line.”


For our Idol fantasy league I picked Colton as the pick to click for this week, and I think I chose wisely. Colton takes on “Piano Man.” Let me give credit where credit is due: He’s playing a gorgeous, sexy, cherry-red piano surrounded by dramatic spotlights, which adds a lot. But Colton sings the song with confidence and clarity and to some beautiful piano playing. I really wish he didn’t do those little whines before notes that he does, because they prevent me from truly liking him, but it’s an otherwise very strong performance, a good last-pick for the night. I wouldn’t go so far as to buy that single myself, but I could definitely see Colton fans picking that one up. Colton credits God for his performance. I’d credit God for his hair.

I’m not sure who will be in danger tomorrow night. Joshua? Perhaps Erika once again? Hollie? Sure, I’ll go with those.


Stray observations:

  • Diddy on HeeJun: “I don’t even know if he’s Asian.”
  • HeeJun on Diddy: “I love you, Diddy. Sean Jean!”
  • How come Hollie’s brother doesn’t have an accent? Also, their dog is really cute.
  • If Steven Tyler tossed me one of his scarves, I would keep it.
  • Phillip Phillips gets Anoop Desai mouth when he sings.
  • Elise is terrible at faking smiles. Also, I wonder if she can sing a run without her hand illustrating it.
  • What’s with people standing in the singers’ spotlights this season?