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

American Idol: “Performance Challenge”

Illustration for article titled American Idol: “Performance Challenge”

If you watch Idol more for the singing and less for the drama, then tonight’s episode was for you. The process of whittling the 100,000 contestants down to whatever we end up with feels like it’s taking longer than if the contestants were literally whittled out of wood, but at least tonight we got to hear some nice harmonies and had the chance to know some of the singers beyond a few seconds apiece.

The contestants got together in groups of three or four and performed songs from the ‘50’s and ‘60’s on the Viva Elvis stage in Vegas. I had heard, earlier, that the singers would be compelled to sing all Elvis the way they did all Beatles last year, but fortunately, that wasn’t the case. I don’t think Elvis Presley tunes are great for showing off singing prowess, and those who did sing his songs tonight weren’t among my favorites (aside from Joshua Ledet, who actually is one of my favorites).

Each group had a longer performance and more musical accompaniment than they did on Hollywood, so everyone had a bigger opportunity to shine. I came around, for instance, on David Leathers singing “Rockin’ Robin” (the rehearsal footage from his group makes you wonder how anyone who sings that song doesn’t go inseedilysane), and in the same group, I discovered that I have a fondness for Ariel Sprague.

Angie Zeiderman, Adam Brock, and Erika Van Pelt’s group got a gift with “Great Balls of Fire.” Adam did a quite respectable job on the piano for the first part of the song, and I like Erika just because she (along with Elise Testone) seems like she’s been around the block. I predicted at that moment though that even if Angie got through all the auditions, she wouldn’t make it far in the competition. She needs to wash her face, relax, come back and try again.

Now I’m starting to hope that Richie Law makes it all the way through to the voting part of the competition, just because I’m beginning to enjoy hating him. After a rough rehearsal, he and Jermaine Jones delivered a nice bass duet on “Make It Easy On Yourself.” Richie, I think, simply has social issues, and Jermaine was more patient about it than Heejun was, but you could tell he was still struggling. Jermaine seemed peeved when Richie slapped him on the arm really hard and also grabbed him by the neck (and laughed about it) after they passed their round.

I was disappointed by the Neapolitans, the group that included Brittnee Kellogg (cheating basketball playing husband) and Jessica Phillips (stroke boyfriend). They sang “You Keep Me Hanging On,” one of the best girl songs in history, but it was like they let their sparkly pink dresses and big hair do the singing for them. I thought they all sounded like messes, but only Jessica was let go at this round. She did not take it well: In front of her former group members, she griped about how the judges “aren’t looking for real artists.”


After all the groups performed, the judges handed down a new round of eliminations, so some singers who earlier thought they were safe still got the axe. This included Gabi Carrubba (who seemed sweet but definitely seemed like the weakest link of her group), Angie Zeiderman (I knew it), Britnee Kellogg, Schyler Dixon (who I bet really regretted not letting her brother Colton sleep in on audition day) and, maybe most surprisngly of all, Johnny Keyser. I had figured Johnny would be a shoo-in for voting, with his face and the surfing and all, but no go.

Oh, we are still not nearly even close to being done with getting on to the live performances! Next week, everybody has to sing atop an ocean of fire before they make it to the part where we decide if they live or die.


Stray observations:

  • Where did all the singers get their costumes? For some reason, it bothered me that we didn’t see the key wardrobe/makeup session.
  • I didn’t get why that one group wore WAC uniforms for “Why Do Fools Fall In Love.” Everyone knows you can only wear those costumes for “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy.”
  • I still am not on board the Reed Grimm or Creighton Fraker trains.
  • Vocal coach “from hell” Peggi Blu was back tonight, but she wasn’t nearly as hilariously mean as I think we all hoped she would be.
  • There were a lot of nose rings tonight. I only noticed because Nigel Lythgoe was tweeting about how much he hates them.