It’s a new day: a new, parred down group of boys and a new stage as the Idol contestants first perform in front of a live studio in Los Angeles; let’s hot to hell they bring their A-Game. So far, those following my rants and very occasional raves about the progress of these kids have noticed a particularly negative and constantly underwhelmed sense of disappointment from the “talent” we’ve been offered. Particularly as we flush out the nitty gritty stuff like tone, range and song-choice (sorry, but at this stage every decision and mistake counts), I’ve been feeling the contestants have been given far too easy a ride by the oft too-kind judging panel. So, now it’s America’s turn to vote, and I hope I provide a voice to this game that at least one or two of you out there agree with! Today, I’m going to watch the performances with a totally open mind, as if I’d never seen them before, and judge them anew in an attempt to give each newly revamped contender a chance to win me over.

Our numbers this year are jacked to the Top 25 with the boys getting an extra singer as their gender alone take tonight take to the stage to prove themselves the best of the Top 13. Seacrest explains that of the Top 25 who will perform tonight and tomorrow night- the boys then girls respectively- only FIVE from each group will be chosen based on America’s votes as well as THREE WILD CARDS to make the final TOP 13 come this Thursday. It’s always a shock to lose so many singers so fast but hey, that just pumps the pressure to unprecedented levels this week and I demand somethin’ pretty amazing from the boys this odd Tuesday. So, without further adieu…

Reed Grimm – “Moves Like Jager”

First up, is it just me or is it weird they don’t post the name of the song the singer is blasting away at? As confident as I am in my spelling of Jager, I like knowing for sure what the tune is in case I’ve not heard it before and need to google, but hey maybe that’s just me. Reed opens a bit weak for me: I know he’s likely approaching it softly to build to something, but honestly, this is one performance and more than half of you are cut so I say go big or go home. He tries a little harder to play Jager’s moves than he does to perfect Adam Levine’s locals, but his drum solo certainly makes for a unique performance. We’ve known Reed is a percussionist for a while so nothing too new but for live singing on Idol the instrument is a rare enough one for him to stick out. Still, the crooner sound and “Dum du ba do bwi dou” sound that fills the last chunk of his song is a bit boring for me.

Randy accolades it as an effective Jazzy version, Jennifer backs up the approval of the new approach but seems a bit lack luster and Steven as per smiles and gets bleeped in the first ten seconds for talking about Reed’s ass. I agree in spirit with their nods but do see that they didn’t really feel this kid blew them out of the park as he didn’t me.

Adam Brock – “Think (Freedom)”

Taking on some big diva names by singing an Aretha and Whitney-famed song, Adam is certainly bold. Initially I have to admit I didn’t recognize the ditty but come the chorus you’ll know you’ve heard it before and yet I question the choice considering the VERY young age of so many voters (let’s call a spade a spade: tween girls) who likely won’t catch the references at all. I feel Adam is playing more to the older voters and particularly the judges with this one. His singing was actually really good: no faults or slips so good on him for keeping it up the whole time, I just continue to question less-memorable and recognizable song choices such as these.

Steven and Jennifer were a lot more excited about Adam than they were Reed that’s for sure and Randy kept the approval going of his whole “White Chocolate” persona but even as Adam tries to sass it up on stage and live up to it, he drops back to nerdy white guy pretty noticeably and the whole thing comes across as pretty trite to me.

DeAndre Brackensick – “Reasons”

Okay, while I’m pulling out an old reference already made for this kid, I’m arguing that I’m not holding a grudge rather that today’s performance just goes to show I was always right. Milli Vanilli, you really need to find someone else to sing those vocals for you because from note ONE you had blown this song. He sang a weird song, too high and too poorly to have any real chance in my eyes/ears. Not sure if was nerves or inexperience but it showed. His attempt to maintain his falsetto was- I’m gonna call it now- the most painful moment of the night and we’re only 15 minutes in folks. His lock flipping and jeans stomping came across as played and something you’d see in a 90s, failed androgynous hair band and I can’t wait to hear the judges finally lay into a bad performance.

NOPE, they pat him on the back. WTF. Honestly, it’s moments like this that embolden me to speak critically about these kids as it’s clear that the Idol producers have ordered the “judges” to push the perceived amount of talent these singers have in what I assume is an attempt to recover from much criticism that this show as oppose to others like “The Voice” and “X Factor” just don’t have the chops. And, I’m starting to believe it. Steven speaks over Jennifer saying he always knew he had it (HUH?) and then J-Lo calls his voice perfect (WHAT?!) and then Randy hits the nail on the head and calls him what he is: commercial. Hell, they even pull fans on stage to hug the damn guy. I’m rolling my eyes out of my head wondering what the hell other viewers are thinking about all this and I just hope they see through this crap. I know I’ve been asked before why I continue to watch and review if I hate so much of it, but honestly at this point it’s like reporting on a train crash and you can’t look away. Get it together Idol, that’s all I can say as I HOPE at least one song tonight will actually get to me in a good way.

Colton Dixon – “Decode”

Starting sweetly at the piano, likely hearthrob-to-be Colton is all over the map with his act today- but in a good way. From pianist to dancer/singer to rocker he definitely pulls out all the stops and I approve the performance though my harsh look at his singing is still a bit wanting. No real mistakes, I’m confident this kid will be fine but know that he can do better for sure. Unfortunately, with so many damn performers it’s hard to really shine with such a short amount of time to be on stage I think if he had more room he could have blown this one up even more. Still, he acted humble come talking time and did a good job to pander to those voters out there asking how they thought he did.

The judges all applaud the “indie, alt kid” they’re happy to see have made it this year around and I agree. Unfortunately, I continue to feel the judging has literally been pre-written tonight as anything they say could have been prepped a week ago and really doesn’t speak honestly to the singing they’ve just heard. God, how much money do these three make?

Jeremy Rosado – “Gravity”

As Seacrest announces Jeremy will be showing his “soften side” after calling him the “spirit stick cheerleader” of the group- God I love delusional euphemisms- you see immediately that this kid is gonna be the sweetheart of the group. Though a different look than once-contender David Archuleta, there’s a definite similarity in sound and baby-face shyness with Jeremy. His song is sickly sweet and it’s almost cruel to say anything negative about it as the kid seems near tears being so overwhelmed to be there but he keeps it in and I respect him for that. Yet, his song could have been a bit more stable he didn’t do a thing wrong and I see him making it for sure through this part of the show.

The judges FINALLY seem to offer some directive and appropriate analysis of the singing- I’m wondering if it’s only when they realize the song was shit that they depend upon their scripts. They loved (of course) his genuineness and the range and strength of his voice: again, I argue the strength part but do value that Jeremy has something different to offer the show and I think he’ll be around to show it to us.

Aaron Marcellus – “Never Can Say Goodbye”

As we pan away from Jeremy and Jennifer screams out hilariously: “There was no nipple”, I wonder if Aaron can bring the mood back to serious and Steven actually adds some much needed levity to the night by re-enacting J-Lo’s Oscar nip slip. So, pulling out some lesser-known (today) Jackson 5, Aaron well-demonstrates just what style he likes to own. Right away, I have to argue the crowd and judges reaction to his final- I FOUND- extremely pitchy note. REALLY? I’m the only who cringed before they accepted he finally clawed his way up there? Nonetheless, this act showed off his talent and more importantly maturity which hopefully will connect with more than a few voters out there as oppose to alienate him from the rest of his quite youthful acting contenders.

Steven was surprisingly a bit “real” with Aaron as he accepts it was a great job but that he needs to raise the bar next week. Hey Steven, we’re being non-critical and real today, didn’t you get the memo? Jennifer and Randy certainly did as the platitudes flow out and he’s declared and seemingly unrivaled and oh-so full of talent. But, as per, it’s all on America this week!

Chase Likens – “Storm Warnings”

Maybe the country folks out there know this song but I sure as Hell didn’t and I start to wonder if I’m gonna be able to sing along to a single tune today, and as I’m considering all this I realize I’ve stopped paying attention to Chase, and, honestly, I think America might have as well. This is by far the most forgettable boy of the lot I’m sorry to say and I don’t think he pulled enough hearts at home to make it through this Thursday except for the singular fact that this kid is pure country and no other boy really is. That reason alone might actually get him the ever-important Southern vote and propel him along though I don’t personally think his talent has earned the spot.

The judges seem to see a lot hotter kid up there than I do as they struggle to find complements about his performance so focus on his “movie star good looks”… Yup, that’s how average the crowd is this year that they’ve got to pimp this dulcet twang’er as the “hottie”. All three of course love him and blah blah but Jennifer repeats the company line with her: “Today is all about showing who you are” and we see it’s clearly not about singing WELL, just in your style because don’t worry, the panel won’t say boo even if you blow it *cough*DeAndre*cough*.

Creighton Fraker – “True Colors”

Okay! A song I know, a beautiful set direction and a very very good performance: I’m finally slightly smiling. Though I accept that Creighton did well, this is so far the only act I’m gonna say congrats about. He made the song his own as he basically declares himself a Little Monster out there (god, I wish these sassy boys would just SAY IT already), and he owns the night thus far.

Randy slightly refers to his lack of performing and I’m so excited to hear some critical thinking but the rest of the time is surely spent saying how perfect, how immaculate, how unique his voice is. To be fair, today certainly proved him to be a very strong contender. Steven and Jennifer once again go overboard claiming Cindi Lauper must be at home crying (ugh, just stay real for a second people), and distract from appreciating the song for me as their extreme complements make the whole thing a bit cheaper. At this point I’m trying to tune out their honey-soaked words and just focus on enjoying what I liked and today it was definitely Creighton.

Phillip Phillips – “In the Air Tonight”

HOW did I forget about Phil? Thank god he’s hear to remind me there is another country voice (bye Chase), as we see the sexy side of Phil Phil with his chest hair exposed, button-poppin’, tousled hair performance of a real classic. I’d argue the song was a bit slower and heavy on the sax than it needed to be but no one can argue his voice wasn’t totally there. His final note came out scratchy in all the right ways and I think he’s definitely burrowed into America’s hearts hugely with this one. He looks great (how are they not calling HIM the hot one?) and sings uniquely with great and hard-to-hit humble confidence and he might be a new fave for me here on in.

The judges know this kid is going place and then Randy gets BOOED?! He actually criticizes the remix of the harmony and I’m blown away. Honestly, I think it’s only, only because the three of them see him as a genuine talent and want to push him and that they know there’s no way he should be going home with a song like that BUT, I’d say with 7 boys going home tomorrow that making this the one kid you knock down a peg to be a very dangerous decision. He’ll be fine and even on the off he didn’t make it, I can’t imagine he wouldn’t absolutely be the judges Wild Card choice. Idol, you need to pimp this kid to the girls and start it now.

Eben Franckewitz – “Set Fire To the Rain”

Way too young: get off the stage. This whole act seemed more like a joke than an actual attempt to make it to the next round. Eben opens and it looks like he’s reading lines from his hand more than it looks like he knows what the hell he’s doing up there. His eyes are closed half the time as he wanders the stage and sounds just terrible. Not trying to pick on the little kid, he is nowhere near ready enough for this level and I would be blown- BLOWN- away if he makes it any further.

The judges even know he bombed and try to be as generous and gracious as possible when they review his work. You NEED to rewatch this clip and take not of Jennifer halfway through just shake her head in disappointment as she knows he’s killed any chance he has to stay in. They ALL are forced to be real with the 15-year old and they apologize furiously as they lightly hint that “maybe he was a bit flat” (are you kidding me? He was terrible), but continue to try and look for the bright spot in his performance but there really was none. He couldn’t have done worse and I think needs to go.

Heejun Han – “Angels”

First off, learn to hold your mic girl cause the breathy and feedback thing is singing 101. Second, wow, how the mighty have fallen. Though I’ve said I’m starting fresh with all these singers I’m conceding to refer to the fact that Heejun was actually one of the stronger singers coming into today and I felt did NOT live up to that reputation. I think the nerves and the inexperience in this type of setting really got to this kid and thank god the judges saw it as well.

Wow, something happened over the mid-point break and these judges have garnered a bit of a back bone and continue with the gentle critical look at these latter songs as they declare the song choice to be a sweet one but didn’t do it right for this guy. They all bandwagon the fact that this pick didn’t properly capture his talent but do it in a way that once again promotes and complements the singer- blech. Call it what it was: not good enough for who he is but maybe considering some of the crap today enough to get him through.

Joshua Ledet – “You Pulled Me Through”

Going right to diva- I knew it ;)- Joshua ends the show on a strong song. Not an easy pick by any means I appreciate him pushing himself to range likely beyond anything else any singer has attempted tonight and I end this episode with a smile. He didn’t dance, he didn’t slap tween girls’ hands, he just sang the shit out of a very difficult song and it was great. “Mantasia” ( I would not be okay being called that), stands tall and proud as he hits what seemed like every note perfectly. I was pretty blown away and hope he keeps it up. Just drop the non-stop god stuff, sugar.

Randy and Steven declare him pretty much the voice of the night and Jennifer barely holds back from saying it was her fave though I think he truly was for all three of them. It was an amazing performance to go out on (of the original Top 12) and I’m more than sure it was placed at the end of the show very carefully by over-producing producers, but even the skeptic in me is not gonna let this ruin my happiness to see a killer rendition of a great song.

Jermaine Jones – “Dance With My Father”

HOLY HELL I WAS WRONG. Crow pie is going into the oven and I’m putting on a bib and getting ready to eat as my prediction that sexy Johnny Keyser would be the one to return was proven to be totally wrong. STILL, (god I have issues) I have to wonder if maybe Johnny didn’t decide that he didn’t need Idol and go out on his own as you wonder a) why Jermaine didn’t have an intro video if he was picked to remain so quickly by the saving grace judges and b) why Jermaine was picked at all. I’ll keep to my promise and not harp on old acts and instead focus on today: he sounded fine. Pulling his voice a bit higher than usual I appreciate that the “gentle giant” didn’t just go to that bottomed (ha) out baritone sound and pushed himself a bit. I think we all know watching this booming performance that he has no real chance of winning anything past maybe one cut based on appeal of his humbleness alone and honestly, I think Thursday might be a rough one for him.

Randy attempts to explain that his base voice is the reason he made it back but it comes across disingenuous IMO. Jennifer doesn’t even really try to compliment the act but rather say “I’m glad you got to try again”, but as per, drugged out Steven is there to say what the producers want that: “Wow, it’s so clear why you’re here”… ugh. On top of that, his call in number to vote for him is so viciously different than all the others you have to wonder if the show even wants him to stay: bye bye Jermaine is all I can say.

Well, there you go. I’m doubtful that the winners and losers from this lot come Thursday will get explicit rankings so for now I’m gonna bulk my predictions as going/not going/wild card. Today wasn’t the worst- thank god for a few of those unique sounds- but it was by no means one of the better first live performances we’ve seen before. Still, this week drops a LOT of chaff and I’m more than a little excited to see these kids go. Oh, and PLEASE let me know what you thought of the night! Next up, the ladies!

Staying

Aaron Marcellus
Colton Dixon
Jeremy Rosado
(I’m iffy on this one)
Joshua Ledet
Phillip Phillips

Going

Adam Brock
Chase Likens
DeAndre Brackensick
Eben Franckewitz
Jermaine Jones
Reed Grimm

Judges’ Wild Card

Creighton Fraker (Though I loved him, I don’t know if he’ll connect enough with viewers but he’s way too good to go and the judges know it)
Heejun Han (They might not give out two to the boys but if they do it might go to the “modest” man whose bad song choice put him in unnecessary jeopardy tonight)

** Adam’s Early Early Prediction for Top 3 Boys:
Colton Dixon
Joshua Ledet
Phillip Phillips

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