AKA: THERE'S A RIBBON IN THE SKY FOR WHITNEY'S LOVE
Here comes some cool cat looking like he's going to a Go-Go! Oh, wait. It's just Ryan.
He tell us that, this week, it will be the boys against the girls! The girls will take on the beltable ballads of the late Whitney Houston, while the boys will tackle the soulful swag of Stevie Wonder. On results night, the judges will be asked to choose between the lowest boy and lowest girl in terms of votes. Sounds a bit more complicated than necessary but, after all, THIS is American Idol.
The sunshine of our lives, aka: the judges have been saving all their love for us this week!
Let's boogie on!
Opening the night is Joshua Ledet. He has chosen Stevie's I Wish, a song that requires the kind of pumping energy that seems to come naturally to the gospel-choir-inspired belter. Mary J. Blige is in the house (wearing a strange flip on the left side of her head) with Jimmy Iovine. They want him to bring it and not hold back. Believe us, he does not hold back! Joshua brings it both vocally and performance-wise. He is all over the stage in his three-piece suit, strutting it out in front of the horn line, leaning into the crowd. It's a combo of Pastor Joshua Takes Us To Church and Little Richard Takes Us to Naughty-ville. The judges love him. Steven says it was beautiful.
Kristen and I give him a 9.5 out of 10
Onto Elise, an early favorite. Originally, she had chosen The Greatest Love of All which Mary J. and Jimmy immediately nixed. To schmaltzy for the sultry crooner. They offer up Whitney's Whatever You Want From Me cautioning her to hold onto her voice. Vocally, it's odd. It's shouty without the subtlety we've come to expect from Elise. She just sort of bops up and down on the stage, looking awkward and put off by both the big stage and the challenge. The judges agree it was not her best. JLo says she seemed to feel unsure, and Kristen and I are in total aggreeance. Steven says that even when you have a really good voice, you can't necessarily sing any song. Randy said it felt like she was boxing with the song. Wow. Perfect critique. Elise takes the bait from Ryan and blames the song choice, which was not her own. Kristen and I give the judges 10 out of 10.
Elise, sadly, only gets a 5 out of 10.Ouch.
Here comes The Gentle Giant, Jermaine Jones. He is the mama-loving fan favorite who was brought in as a surprise 13th boy last week. This week, he is singing Stevie's Knocks Me Off My Feet, one of his lesser-known hits. It's perfect for his smooth baritone. His pitch is spot-on. Unlike the other fellas, Jermaine wisely rejects a suit. Casual cool for the big man. Kristen and I say, "Welcome home, Barry White!" Steven says the song fit him like an Armani Suit. (At 6'8, that would be one expensive suit). JLo wants him to connect with the words more. She tells him to sing directly to her. What is happening this season? The judges are actually offering up helpful critique? Jermaine takes his place next to Ryan and the size difference is cartoonish.
Kristen and I give him an 7.5 out of 10.
Kristen and I give him an 7.5 out of 10.
Here comes another favorite, Erika Van Pelt. She is performing the Whitney/JHud classic, I Believe In You and Me. She has a rich alto, and her voice is very lovely in her lower register! Unfortunately, the wedding singer in her is still afraid to steal attention from the bride. Vocally, it is perfection. Performance-wise, she was comfortable on stage, yet not fully connecting. Randy adores her. JLo thinks she's holding back a bit, and Kristen and I tend to agree.
Kristen and I give her an 8.5 out of 10. She loses half a point for the hideous prom dress she was wearing.
Up next is Colton Dixon . Kristen and I haven't warmed up to him quite yet. Actually, that's not true. Kristen has warmed up to the idea that he is some sort of woodland creature she is required to chase every time he comes onscreen. Colton has selected Stevie's tender ballad, Lately. The performance is weak. Singing a song that requires attention to the melody seems to be a challenge for Colton. His voice sounds strained in his attempt to hold back and be "lovely." When he breaks out the end, it truly shows the weakness in his upper range. Steven says it was outstanding. And beautiful.
JLo says he was challenged tonight as he is supposedly a rocker. But, she felt it was great that he showed his vulnerability. Randy says it was not picture-perfect. Yet, he goes into a half hours worth of hyperbole ending with "well done! well done!!"
Kristen and I give him a 7 out of 10.
Shannon MacGrane is a lovely teenager who is way out of her element. She has a solid voice and range, as evidenced in her rehearsal of Whitney's "If I Don't Have you." However, her performance on the big stage is shaky and better suited for a high school stage choir solo. As the performance progresses, her nerves go into overdrive and she starts missing notes... badly. The judges are kind but truthful. JLo says, "Sweet baby...." It wasn't good. She is in big trouble tonight.
Kristen and I give her a 2 out of 10. The 2 is for showing up.
Shannon is followed by Deandre Brackenstick, not an early favorite of ours. Can the curly-locked teen change our mind with Stevie's Master Blaster? He does a cool reggae version. Watching live, it's exciting and has a nice clip to it. On second and third listens, however, his vocal weaknesses are evident. He relies too much on a growl to keep his lower register together. The little falsetto at the end if perfect, however. He didn't compleely win us over, but Kristen and I would like to see him make the tour. Stevie calls him a male Naima. The judges are happy enough with him.
Kristen and I give him a 8 out of 10
Skylar Lane is the lone country singer this season. That gives her a huge advantage from the get go. Fortunately for Kristen and I, we love her. Kristen would love to go hunting and AV-ing with her in the muddy woods! I just like her Reba vibe. She is performing Whitney's Where Do Broken Hearts Go. She definitely countrifies it. It's interesting to listen to the vocal. Her youth comes through despite her power, and though she appears confident, the shaky quality to her voice proves she is, in fact, a teenager. She takes on the bridge full force. JLo is honest enough, complaining about the front part of the song. Although, she is a bit hyperbolic about this being the biggest moment of the night so far. Steven says it's beautiful... twice!!!
Randy says "Yo."
Kristen and I give her 8.5 out of 10.
Heejun Han is adorable! Kristen and I love his personality, as well as his spirit. He, Jeremy, and Shannon are the most inexperienced contestants in the competition, and it does show. However, Heejun is entertaining and fun, and someone who could potentially show a high degree of improvement. He gives Jimmy and Mary J autographed photos of himself. Jimmy's is signed, "To Jimmy. I love you. Heejun." Mary's says, "To Mary. I love you more than Jimmy. Heejun." When the lights go up and he goes into a tender performance of Stevie's All Is Fair In Love, the swaybots come alive! As do Kristen and I. Awwww! He's just darling. Jennifer says she loves him, and he wonders why she didn't give him the kind of hug she gave Jeremy last week. She asks why he didn't hug her. "I thought you were playing hard-to-get," he replies. Steven loved it. Randy didn't love it, but felt it was good.
Kristen and I give him a solid 8 for using his lovely tone to his advantage and for providing some levity to an other-wise oh-so-serious competition.
Tiny Hollie Cavanaugh is an itsy-bitsy girl with a massive voice! She has a sweet, endearing quality to her that may move her to female favorite. Her performance of Whitney's All The Man That I Need is nothing short of amazing! Where does she get the lung power? Kristen has adopted Hollie as her own personal tiny chew toy. The judges feel she nailed it and are absolutely wowed!
A 9.5 from us for the talented teen!
Jeremy Rosado is so lovable! Out of all of the contestants, he truly is the "Average Joe" with his plump, pinchable cheeks. He takes on Stevie's Ribbon In the Sky. It is not good. It is not awful. It is simply far too amateurish to make the cut. Throughout most of the song, it's impossible to understand what he is singing. He has a lovely voice with the kind of quality that makes girls at karaoke swoon. But, he is often flat and seems to be going through the motions. Steven and JLo go for a cop-out and tell him that they love his voice. Randy is the only one to step up the plate and insist this was not his best. The song, he tells Jeremy, requires swag.
Kristen and I give him a 6.0. We do love him and hope he makes it through for another shot.
Jessica Sanchez, all of 16 years old, steps out on stage swathed in blue light. She has taken on Whitney's iconic hit I Will Always Love You. (Yes, YES purists! We know it is a Dolly Parton song. But, it was WHITNEY'S massively popular version that put it on the map as one of the all-time great songs.) Kristen and I have goosies!! (tm JLo.) Her voice is pitch-perfect, filled with passion. Though it is essentially a xerox copy of Whitney's own version, it is an amazing feat, particularly for one so young. She gets a standing ovation, and enough said.
Kristen and I give her the first 10 of the season.
We are not sure how the cute and charming Phillip Phillips is going to top that, but he was given the "pimp" spot. (Aka: The last spot of the night... a valuable position for garnering votes.) He has chosen Stevie's Superstition. His version is a cross between Stevie Rae Vaughn and Joe Cocker. His growls are perfect for the performance, and he really does know how to light up a stage. He also seems to be a natural in the rearrangement department. Randy is excited about waiting to see each week what Phillip brings to his song choices.
Kristen and I agree, so are happy to reward him with a solid 9.
Kristen and my rankings:
Group number!! Kristen and I do adore the pointy pose and the awkwardness.
|Former Idol performance: Last season's Second Place Finisher, Lauren Alaina, returns to sing Georgia Peaches.|
Star performance: Mary J. Blige schools the kids on how it's done:
Bottom boy and girl - Jeremy and Elise. Elise is safe:
Next week, these kids sing the songs from the year of their birth.