It’s Top 12 week on American Idol, and we must bid adieu to Gentle Giant Jermaine Jones, who was disqualified for having four alleged outstanding warrants. Whatever drama that could have been drummed up due the last-minute ousting was rather anticlimactic, which is somewhat surprising considering Idol‘s fervent love for unnecessary drama. Even more surprising, is that the elimination was handled with a decent amount of respect. Inexplicably saved for more than halfway through the night, a previously taped segment showed executive producers Ken Warwick and Nigel Lythgoe sitting down with Jermaine and discussing with his criminal history and why he had to be let go. Nigel explained that Idol is “not allowed to have anybody who has an outstanding warrant on the program.” And with that, they let Jermaine go, showing footage of his Tuesday rehearsal singing “Somewhere Out There” (yes, the Fivel song). To close the segment, Ryan rather sincerely noted, “We will certainly miss Jermaine’s talent on the show, and we wish him the best of luck for his future.”
So let’s just get onto the performances… After last week’s surprisingly solid show, this week, the now Top 11, was decidedly underwhelming. Let’s blame the always snoozy theme of “Songs From the Year You Were Born.” Contestants have long bemoaned the lack of depth of available songs, despite Randy’s claim that there are 20,000 songs in a year to choose from, so we’re left with uninspired performances; Kris Allen’s “All She Wants to Do Is Dance” and David Archuleta’s “You’re the Voice” immediately come to mind.
Could this crop of contestants break free of this suffocating theme? Other than the crawfish-loving Joshua Ledet, the answer was sadly, no, not really.
Phillip Phillips – “Hard to Handle”
Props to Phillip for performing just days after kidney surgery, and especially for downplaying the hoopla. Phillip looked the most comfortable he’s been onstage, despite all the twitchy body antics without his security guitar to keep him in control. Although Phillip brings nothing new to the table, he sure has my roommate’s vote: “He’s just so lovely! Should I call and vote for him? I’ll call,” she swooned.
Jessica Sanchez – “Turn the Beat Around”
No matter the singer, a Gloria Estefan cover puts karaoke cheesiness front and center. This performance is no exception. 16-year-old Jessica Sanchez worked her way through this song with all the inelegance of a singer three or four times her age. Just how does one hear percussion, Jessica? By pointing to one’s ear? Oh, ok. Thank you. After proving she can saaaaang last week, we can give her a reprieve this week.
Heejun Han – “Right Here Waiting”
Another sleepy ballad from Heejun. While I do think this song fits his voice better than his past weeks, he simply failed to deliver anything other than mumbles and gasps. This one-trick pony is nearing the end of his race.
Elise Testone – “Let’s Stay Together”
Last week’s stankface did not go over well with the viewing public, so Elise’s goal for the week is to “STAY POSITIVE!” Her smile was a little forced on the piano, but she eventually came into her own. As long as she doesn’t strain her voice, I will continue to appreciate (I’m not at love, yet) her rasp. Rocking a reverse-Angelina-Jolie-at-the-Oscars look, Elise should have no problem making the tour after tonight.
DeAndre Brackensick – “Endless Love”
Let out that sigh, DeAndre. You made it through the song. You were visibly lost and uncomfortably apologetic in your performance, but you made it to the end. Now breathe.
Shannon Magrane – “One Sweet Day”
An unflattering song choice is paired with an even more unflattering outfit. Limited, tepid vocals simply don’t cut it. Neither does oversinging. Randy claims she has “mad potential.” Please, judges. Don’t encourage her.
Colton Dixon – “Broken Hearts”
Take note, everyone: This was the performance that finally woke Steven Tyler up from his “that was beautiful” haze. Steven was visibly irked and didn’t care for the performance at all: “It was the wrong song for your voice and you passion.” I, for one, was too mesmerized by Colton’s smoldering eyes and discomforting skinniness to notice the song, really.
Erika Van Pelt – “Heaven”
J.Lo bestowed Erika with the Paula Abdul “You look amazing” critique. That, of course, is the critique a judge gives when nothing noteworthy has occurred. Between the flat low notes and the nauseating ascending staircase backdrop, was an otherwise solid, but unmemorable effort. I’m still rooting for Erika, though.
Skylar Laine – “Love Sneakin’ Up on You”
Good for Skylar sticking with her gut and performing your original choice of Bonnie Raitt’s song. I do agree with mentors will.i.am. and Jimmy Iovine that there wasn’t much meat to the song, but she still gave a solid, if not subdued, performance. Stage presence goes a long way on Idol and Skylar has it in spades.
Joshua Ledet – “When a Man Loves a Woman”
I couldn’t help but laugh out loud with glee when Joshua took off his coat mid-song and dropped it to the floor with fierceness and confidence. What a fantastic showman. What a spine-tingling performance. “You gave it up so big, God came through your eyes,” Steven crooned. Sure. Why not? Why the hell not. And ok, yes, I see the shades of Fantasia, now. But I’d still rather call Jessica “The Swaggernaut” (as dubbed by will.i.am), than Joshua “Mantasia.”
Hollie Cavanaugh – “The Power of Love”
Yes, Hollie has powerful pipes. But despite all the polish (save a crack in her final note), I never feel anything during her power ballads. Last year, I absolutely hated Haley Reinhart up until her sublime “Bennie and the Jets” on the second Top 11 Week. Now I’m a devoted fan. So who knows, perhaps she’ll grow on me. Maybe Hollie is this year’s Haley.
Joshua was clearly head and shoulders above the rest. And I expect DeAndre, Erika, and possibly Heejun or Shannon to end up in the bottom. However, Ryan vaguely stated that the singer with the least amount of votes this week are “at risk of elimination.” I doubt there’s an elimination this week. Tricky, Ryan. Tricky. Lastly, of the eleven performances tonight, only five (FIVE!) were originally performed in the year these contestants were born. Nigel, I’m begging you please, let’s put this theme week to rest!