FINALLY WE’RE HERE!

Auditions, Group Week and Boys vs. Girl all over, we’re finally at what Randy, Steven and Jennifer *cough*Executive Producer, Nigel Lythgoe*cough* have decided are the TOP 13 of thousands and thousands of contenders, and all I can say is that they better ba-ring it cause there’s been more than just a few true talents knocked to the wayside these past weeks. Still, while many of my favourite pics have made it this far into the game (see Phil Phils, Erika, Elise and Skylar), there are MORE than enough WTFs entries still in this game (see DeAndre , Shannon and Jermaine) that prove Idol is not strictly talent but includes a dollop of pandering and commercialism to boot. Still, I have faith and I hope it all comes together tonight as the remaining boys and girls take on some pretty damn big names in the industry.

So, yes, Stevie Wonder has had many a hits (I actually have no clue, I’m sure as we watch tonight I’ll come to realize that he’s written way more than I ever knew) but the real attraction of tonight’s episode is the girls as they take on the recently passed and nearly impossible to match Whitney Houston. Having recently re-watched “The Bodyguard”, I’m well-aware of just how epic and huge the songs of Miss Houston are and these girls are gonna have their work cut out for them. Seeing it a bit as a double-edged sword as these covers are going to get them a ton of attention but also that there’s SO much to live up to with Whitney’s extremely recent death, I’m betting the ladies are either going to shine or crash and burn. As far as the boys are concerned, I only really care about my bf Phil and a bit Colton, unless the rest can start manning up their talent and prove they have the chops a lot of these women do. Well, enough rambling, let’s get to the songs!

Before I go right into my reviews, let’s take a second to appreciate the return of Jimmy Iovine as mentor to the kids: he’s a huge name in the music biz (even if you and I don’t know why) and he’s very often too-the-point and dead on right with this criticism. For this season to work, we’re gonna need some harsh words and productive direction from behind the scenes and this is the man to provide it. For today, he’s brought on the beautiful and talented Mary J Blige whom I particularly appreciate considering the artists the kids have to draw from. So far, so good! Oh, and don’t worry, with this many songs, I’m gonna keep the reviews short and sweet and directly to the bitchiness so as not to bore ;)

Joshua Ledet – “I Wish”

Okay, we all know Joshua is not my favourite: I have an knee jerk reaction to all things organized and of the religious variety, so church boy Ledet rubs me the wrong way. That said, he did well. He’s got a fan base with his love of jesus and sweet guy thing so he’s safe fo sho and a boost from the judges does not hurt. I always question who gets put up first as a calculated move on the producers part: psychology tells us number one slot is easy for us to remember come voting time but it’s hard to truly judge them against the others having not heard anyone else. Who remembers the first act ever being the best with so many contenders?? Still, hitting all his notes and bringing a fun attitude to the stage I’m gonna give a strong “pass” to Joshua today.

Elise Testone – “I’m Your Baby Tonight”

DAMN she did not get off easy tonight! First, Elise (I love her and won’t hide it) got it rough from Jimmy and Mary- not sure they really needed to show that though her first song choice was off- then she got raped by the panel as they panned her. “You have potential” is NOT what you want to hear as you stand up there alone. They barely accepted anything positive about the experience and I’m strongly feeling she’s getting black-balled without much reason and I’m just praying another girl blows it worse because she is way too talented and sweet to go home. Accepting the criticism without argument or tears, I give her full credit for lasting so strong. Hell, I thought she sounded good: I have no clue what the original of this song was so can’t say if too “copy cat” or not but that girl has a voice and can’t really do wrong in my eyes.

Jermaine Jones – “Knocks Me Off My Feet”

We get it: his voice is uniquely low for his age. Let’s move along. First off, what was up with the Michael Jackson Thriller-esque outfit: though I love the telling pink peaking out (you GO GURL!). Second, I’m sorry I just can’t get behind Jermaine. His sound is SO old and not relevant today. There’s nothing modern or new about it and it sounds like a record of my grandfather’s rather than a 21st century star. That said, this is a great week for him and a well-paired song choice and I’m pretty confident he’ll be flying high off the positive judges complements (where were those for Elise, bitches?) and make it easily into next week even though they did read him a bit on some directional errors.

Erika van Pelt – “I Believe In You and Me”

Not loving that Adele-esque dress as Erika stools it next to Seacrest, but I love this girl so much she could wear a paper bag and I’d standing O. Mary is all over this girl and gives her great advice to forget trying to be Whitney and do her own thing. From note one, the man inside Erika comes out and I love it: very much her own thing. A simple stand there and belt it out performance, she does a great slow rise through the lyrics and hits the high points dead on the head. No mimicry of its creator, you can see the difference between Erika and Elise as she confidently owns this piece as if she’d written it herself. The judges give her a strong push forward as they appreciate her brains in taking on this challenge as well as her insane skill. While I often roll my eyes at J Lo saying “you think too much”, I do excitedly wonder how amazing this girl will sound once she hits an emotional song that really connects with her.

Colton Dixon – “Lately”

Smart Jimmy- seeing Colton feel rightfully uncomfortable with Stevie- has the kid perform an original (and really good: I would download that!) piece to get him comfortable and confident. How did it play out on the big stage? Well, though I still hate his 2002 emo/vampier/punk look, the boy can swoon a girl or two. He really failed for me on the running lyrics as he had to push through a cavalcade of words that came out more clumsy than lyrical IMO. The song seemed boring and to last longer than it needed to: sorry Colt. Judges were way nicer than I expected them to be- thank god Randy at least risked a boo or two- and yet, “cute, commercial” Colton got off pretty easy especially considering the coals Elise was raked over. I’ve not sure I don’t totally believe that someone less “heart throbby” would have received such an easy review had they performed that one.

Shannon Magrane – “I Have Nothing”

This girl is who I’m banking on to blow it tonight as one of my least faves up there. Her ridiculous spangle bracelet and horizontal stripped easter egg shirt gave me hope she was gonna take Elise’s spot in the bottom come tomorrow until she hit that damn high note. One of Whitney’s more famous songs, I’m worried that Shannon will ride the popularity of it more than depend on her own talent. And then… BLAM!! HOLY CRAP she blew it. Her voice disappeared at times and cracked like the Grand Canyon once she got to those high notes. Thank hell the judges heard what I did this time (though again, they were kinda of easy considering how awful that was) and called her out on “over thinking too much” which has me huffing until Steven straight up tells her she crashed and burned: fact. Thank hell, and unless Skylar takes her shirt off, I’m calling this the performance to lose to. Bye bye Shannon!

DeAndre Brackensick – “Master Blaster”

Hi-LARIOUS watching this kid’s epically disastrous crying face after he barely made it in last week- and good for him for putting up with that editing, I’d kill Nigel, personally. Mary gives him great direction on the rhythm of the song and awesomely Jimmy barely expresses confidence in the kid. Already called the “vote for the worst” contender of Season 11, I’m not too excited myself to see this mess. The song was… fine. He didn’t blow it (*cough*Shannon*cough*) but that said, I was not moved at all by the weird choice of song and Malibu Rum, easy living bouncing style and hated how he ended the song with that damn falsetto. That said, his runs were well-timed and he hit all the notes and quick words, so good on him for that. Honestly, until he ever REALLY f’s up there’s no way he’s not gonna continue to make girls across America ring in so nothing I say really matters too too much ha. I do love that J Lo backed me on the weird end though!

Skylar Laine – “Where Do Broken Hearts Go”

Country girl singin’ Whitney? Where is this gonna go! Mary directs her away from pushing too hard too fast and I’m thankful as I have a soft spot for this gigglin’ gal and have fingers crossed going into her rendition. Right away you hear she’s not doing a rip and there’s a whole lotta drawl in this one, and I say go for it Sky. Representing a rare contingent of singers not brought up on the quintessential Ms Houson, little Laine does a great job of putting herself into a song and state she’s not use to. Though the song is going “well” for the most part, by the time she hits that strong and huge high part she kills it. I’m always worried girls are gonna crack once they hit that high register and she did it beautifully. Jennifer agrees with me on the slow start but hugely declares it to have been the moment of the night with that big part and so far she’s right and DAMN if that isn’t gonna throw her into next week. If you have the most memorable part of the evening, you’ve got it gold babe.

Heejun Han – “All In Love Is Fair”

Matched up with “who is that?” Jimmy (as he so “hilariously” put it last week), Heejun sounds like he’s gonna take a quiet and soft approach to this challenge and considering the huge voices before him, I think it’s a bold choice. God though, can we talk about the hackney giant screen behind these performers as Heejun’s face is expanded to 100X its original size and overlaid on rolling clouds (puke)… If a song is emotional, let it stand on its own art directors, we don’t need it shoved down our throats thank you. Well sung, he loses it for me with some rushed part nearing the end that sounded more like a mistake than on purpose, but all in all a good job. The judges are a bit easy on him though Randy once again voice of reasons and admits it was “perfect” but still I felt the criticism was lacking. Lackluster performance and judging I do declare.

Hollie Cavanagh – “All the Man That I Need”

The smallest girl of the bunch, and the girl with the biggest accent, Hollie has her work cut out for her with this one. Jimmy and Mary are very excited to see how their direction will play out and I’m just hoping we don’t get another Shannon performance come the hard parts. I have to say that listening to this song, I really only know Whitney songs for the choruses! So many of these pieces I’m lost until the big notes and this one is no different. That said, Hollie does well to pace herself as she climbs the steep race up to the highest and hardest part of the song and murders it once she gets up there. Doing a great “putting it all out there” and then “backing the f off” thing, she ends the song VERY well. The judges give strong kudos and though she wasn’t the strongest name coming into tonight, she might pull out hugely after this song.

Jeremy Rosado – “Ribbon In the Sky”

SUCH a young kid to take on such a big name and mature song I’m worried on the talent but am fully confident that no matter what, sweet face jer-bear will woe the audience. I cringed at his walk up the stage- so awkward- but was glad when he found himself tonally and emotionally in this one. Too much on the eye closing for me (judging and voters need to see the sincerity kiddo!), he nonetheless is too damn cute for anyone to say boo to. Steven loves him (how often a night can I copy and paste that?) and so does Jennifer: Randy (as the new Simon Cowell??) holds back from being over the moon and rightfully says it wasn’t his best.

Jessica Sanchez – “I Will Always Love You”

Here we go! One of the most interesting and talented girls taking on THE Whitney song we alllllll know. Dangerous but a possible gigantic gamble to win it all, she slays the mentors and I just hope it lasts. Wow, her opening is E.P.I.C. She slows down perfectly and glides across the mist as she does her best to match the unforgettable “Bodyguard” performance. Though I’ll admit I felt she was a touch off key at the very start she holds a bit of originality which I did not expect with this icono-classic and strolls right into the hard bits. Holding every single person’s attention in the place, she confidently but sweetly lands right perfectly into that famous note. She gets a standing ovation (first of the night?) from the panel of judges and the crowd goes wild. Maybe I’m being a BIT harsh hearing that everyone else there seems to declare her hands down “legit” but Randy says it right: this is one of the THE hardest songs to sing so way to go Jessica. I think my memory of WH doin’ this one is so fresh it’s hard not to hear the original but damn I like this girl and she’s gonna go places in this competition and deserves to.

Phillip Phillips – “Superstition”

The much-sought after final spot goes to none other than my bf, Phil Phils. Impressing Jimmy and Mary with his innate musicality, he blasts his way onto stage accompanied by a pretty decent size back up band but thankfully holds the gaze and focus on himself the entire time. His sound is dead on and country scratchy and holy crap if he isn’t the cutest boy when he gets a compliment. The judges (even Randy!) totally give him credit for the great performance and VERY interestingly start to separate him as “the most unique” sound. Now, why I’m stopping to take notice of this (and pulling away from talk of my sexy boyfriend’s smile) is that while he actually DOES have a somewhat similar sound to last year’s abortion of a winner, the producers want this boy to make it far and are doing everything they can to distinguish him as not “yet another country contender” like last year’s guy, but as “Mr. Unique”. I love this kid, but Idol: he’s another country (rock-ISH) kid and you need to admit you’re trying to cover up last year’s bomb.

So, that’s all she wrote! Not the best but not the worst and a couple of stand out “meh” performances- though mostly on the girls’ end. I’d love to hear what you though of them tonight: cannot wait to see who goes tomorrow as the least voted for girl and the least voted for boy are put in front of the judges for them to decide who goes home.

Adam’s Loser Picks for Thursday:
Girl: Shannon Magrane
Boy: Heejun Han (ONLY because no guy really blew it and his soft approach might not be memorable enough to win it.)

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