Wednesday, March 14, 2012

'American Idol 11' - Top 12 (minus one) perform songs from the year of their births

It's performance show night, and the remaining contestants will be singing songs from the year of their births. But, of course, there's a whole lot more going on than just the singing as viewers will also be tuning in to see how the show handles the ouster of Jermaine Jones.

What we know is that he has some rather serious legal issues pending in his home state of New Jersey. He allegedly gave a false name to police on two occasions and has several outstanding warrants open against him. And, from everything I've read, he disclosed none of this to 'Idol' producers. Of course, one wonders, how is it that all this escaped the show's background check. They do a background check, right? The Smoking Gun was able to unearth two warrants after all.

The cynic in me wonders if producers did know about all of this and brought him back for the drama. However it plays out, it will be interesting to see how the show deals with this story. Also, I wonder, will anyone be eliminated this week?

Ryan opens the show and addresses the Jermaine issue. "When you're doing a live show, anything can happen," he says. Voiceover man welcomes the judges. J'Lo is wearing a mustard-colored dress. Ryan comes down the Adam Lambert Memorial Staircase. No tie again, Ry?

Ryan tells us that one of the finalists had to be eliminated, but will get to more of that later in the show. We see baby pictures of Randy, J'Lo, and Steven. And, of course, chubby little Ryan. This week's mentor is Will.I.Am.

Phillip Phillips – September 20, 1990 - "Hard to Handle"

PP was a premature baby and had some sort of bowel problem as an infant. PP tells Jimmy and Will.I.Am he has to have kidney surgery that night. But he nails the rehearsal. Jimmy wonders if he'll be able to do the show.  No guitar tonight for PP. He sings it straight, not much tinkering with the arrangement. Nothing super special, but certainly enough to get him to next week.

Randy says PP is like a fish out of water, but tonight, after surgery, sounding like that! (He had the surgery Thursday). "Good song choice!" J'Lo says this is so natural for him. "It just comes out of you... it was a great song for you. It was perfect." Steven is glad PP picks songs that are right for his voice and character.

Jessica Sanchez – August 4, 1995 - "Turn the Beat Around"

Jessica was a cute baby! Her mother said she'd cry until she would faint. Will.I.Am is a fan, but wants her to punctuate the modulation. He thinks it's daring to pull of a power stunt. Not sure what that means, but okay. Will.I.Am is impressed she's OMG only 16 and calls her a "Swaggernaut."

I hate this song. The background vocalists sort of drown her out in front. This song really does nothing to show off her power or range. It's a dance tune without much of a melody. She's screechy and somewhat out of breath. Not a good choice at all. Nope. Too much going on onstage too.

Steven says he loves her voice, but thinks she can't stray too far from ballads. He thought the rhythm was a little shady and he loves her pants. J'Lo says her voice lagged behind, lost energy, and didn't have the rhythm. Randy agrees. He thinks they need to give her great constructive criticism. He urges her to pick something more that she can do a lot with.

Jessica says there wasn't a lot to choose from in her year and she had to do a lot of work on it.

Heejun Han – April 20, 1989 - "Right Here Waiting"

Heejun's parents are adorable. Speaking in Korean, his other says he was always smiling!  Jimmy and Will work a little on Heejun's accent. He gets an autograph from Will. Heejun wants Fergie's number! Will reiterates that Fergie is married.

Heejun seems to be planted on the stage and just sings. He's out of breath and very out of key. It's incredibly boring and uninspired. It seems like he's just given up. Or maybe this is really all he has. Whatever. I think Heejun is in trouble this week.

Randy says, for him, he didn't enjoy it at all. "It was pitchy in at least five or six spots... it felt like you were out of breath the whole time." He misses Heejun's R&B swag. "Not a great performance for me." J'Lo says he was struggling, but by the end, she felt the heart of the song. Steven says Heejun stepped so far out of his circle to do it and it wasn't a great song. "Love your voice no matter what." J'Lo says his voice is still special. Heejun says he was thinking about his girlfriend, who is in the audience! Awwww.

Elise Testone – July 29, 1983 - "Let's Stay Together"

Elise's mother tells us she was always getting in trouble as a child. Elise says when she takes the stage, people will be making babies. We see a sing-off between Elise and the president. Simon would call this "loungey." It's over-arranged and she's trying to do too much with it. Her vocals are solid, though. Probably the best so far. Too jazzy, though. Can't imagine what a record producer would do with her.

Steven says his Aunt Sonya loves her voice. He loves her voice. J'Lo says that was showing America who Elise is. "It was a beautiful thing." Randy says, "America, Elise is back." He says this girl is dope, and loved the run at the end. "Like butta." She points out her cousin Amanda.

DeAndre Brackensick – October 21, 1994 - "Endless Love"

His father says DeAndre was a ham as a child. His mother like 'The Music Man' and memorized the whole movie. We see him as a child singing in a church choir. Someone told them after the show, he would be on 'American Idol' some day. They have him change his song from "Can You Feel the Love." Good move Jimmy.

DeAndre starts out singing with just a piano. Another boring song, but he gets the swaybots going. Too much vibrato for my taste, and he stays too long in his lower register. It's adequate, but forgettable. He hits a high note at the end that feels like it's in the wrong place or something. He worked too hard at something that wasn't worth it.

J'Lo says he sang it beautifully, but didn't think it was the right song for him. That makes her upset and she hopes America sees past that. Steven says he loves DeAndre, but agrees that wasn't the right song for him. Randy agrees. He says it was boring and very safe for him at the wrong time. "Way too boring." J'Lo says a song loses the sweetness and beauty of the melody when you change the key. DeAndre says he got comfortable with it after a while.

Shannon Magrane – October 21, 1995 - "One Sweet Day"

Shannon's father says the first song she sang was "Thumbalina."  Jimmy gives a plug to a new AT&T phone. Will recommends she practice singing laying down for better breath control. Shannon is surrounded by a string section. She starts out okay, but gets off-track in the middle. She's just singing the words - no real conviction. This is not a song to smile while your singing!

J'Lo says this was not an easy undertaking and was terrified, but says Shannon did a beautiful job with it. Steven says she sings her best when she doesn't try so hard. Randy says he was also terrified (of course, he worked with Mariah... no, really?). But Randy says she has "mad potential and is fearless." He says the front of the song was cool, but the run was cool. Shannon says laying down helped. Ryan wonders how difficult it is to choose a song from one year. Not really, says Randy. There are thousands of songs. Ryan is happy Shannon is wearing flats tonight. Doesn't dwarf him so much.

Colton Dixon – October 19, 1991 - "Broken Heart"

Colton is onstage with Ryan. Colton says he had dinner with Chris Daughtry the other night. Daughtry's advice is to pick songs people know. He was "baby of the week" when he was born. Colton was an excellent baseball pitcher, but quit for music. Apparently the band doesn't know this song so Jimmy and Will.I.Am have him sing it with just a piano. Will.I.Am says it's now Colton's song.

I really hate this guy's hair. As for the performance, it's exactly what you'd expect from Colton - lots of fake emo faces and angst.  The song is overly-arranged, too many strings. He started out okay, but the end lost something. Picking a song that no one knows is not a good idea at this stage of the game. Too bad he didn't listen to Daughtry!

J'Lo says this is the first time she heard this song. She loved the beginning and says, "Colton is a lover." She thinks he looks pretty when he sings. Randy says he didn't notice that either. Steven thinks it was the wrong song for his voice and his passion. "I didn't feel the song going anywhere." Randy says there's millions of songs, but this is a case where the song didn't matter, it was about Colton. He says Colton's always consistent and liked his fly jacket.

I guess they're saving the Jermaine story for the end to force everyone to sit through the entire two hours.

Erika Van Pelt – December 12, 1985 - "Heaven"

Her mother says Erika was born with music in her and was always loud. She wanted to play baseball Mom says she is lucky to have the daughter she has. Jimmy has her put a break in this one too. Erika is dressed fairly appropriately this week. She sings the hell out of this song, but really? This song? I love the tone of Erika's voice. She is consistent and "gets" it. Again, the song is poopy, but she was great!

Steven says she was too busy all over it. Someone boos. J'Lo says this is such a powerful song and she has the chops to rock it out. She didn't like the arrangement. She says she loves to see the contestants shape and form right in front of them. "I feel you coming together as an artist."  Randy says he kind of liked it, but warns her not to make too much out of a classic. "Don't let anyone tell you to do that."

Jermaine Jones 

Jermaine enters a room with Nigel Lythgoe and Ken Warwick. Nigel says there have been a lot of things going on this week and they've been given further information. Nigel is reading from a paper and asks Jermaine if the charges are true. Ken says there are four warrants out for him. He says if contestants come clean about this, they can help.

Nigel wonders about a fight. Jermaine is clearly caught by surprise and says it wasn't a fight. Nigel wonders why he didn't say anything about any of this. Jermaine says he thought he could just pay the fines. He didn't want to be judged. Nigel says the show is not allowed to have anyone on the show with outstanding warrants and they have to let him go. Jermaine goes quietly.  We see his remarkable rehearsal performance of "Somewhere Out There." Nigel says it was wonderful. And then we watch as Jermaine gets into a limo and drives away. Such a waste.

Skylar Laine – February 1, 1994 - "Love Sneaking Up on You"

Skylar says the judges are being mean! She says everyone is taking the criticism well. Dad says she was a handful and headbanger as a baby. Jimmy says her original choice was not a good choice for her. They suggest all kinds of songs, but she's sticking to her guns.  I don't think this was her best choice. The tempo is weird, not fast or slow, sort of medium. It feels sluggish. She sings it well, though.

Steven says he hasn't heard her sing back yet. J'Lo says they do them a disservice if they aren't honest. "If I got to keep it real, you really killed it." Randy says this is our rockin' in-house country girl. He says whatever you sing, you just have to sing it good. He says it doesn't matter about the song, she did it well.

Joshua Ledet – April 9, 1992 - "When a Man Love a Woman"

Ryan says he was in Louisiana over the weekend and remembered that Josh said he missed crawfish. They wheel out a big tub of crawfish, which Josh then shows us how to eat. Four young girls are onstage, but don't want to eat them.

Josh was the youngest of eight kids. Mom says he always wanted to sing in church, but she didn't want him too because he was a rascal."  Will.I.Am says Joshua flashed back to his own days in church. Josh is a preacher's kid. Here's an example of someone picking the right song. This is an oldie, but Michael Bolton recorded it in 1992.  Now Josh takes us to church with this. He puts everything he has into this performance. Everything.  He takes his jacket off mid-song. J'Lo loves it. The judges are standing. J'Lo is jumping up and down. Joshua owns the night on this one! Yeah! Makes me want to say Amen.Wow.

He gets a standing ovation from the judges. Randy says they needed a moment tonight. "Somebody needed to come out and regulate. That was phenomenal and incredible on so many levels." J'Lo says it's the best thing she's ever seen on 'Idol.'" Of course, she's only been on the show one full year, and really, what did we see last year, right? Can you even remember last year?  Randy says what made this special was the crawfish. Steven says "God came through your eyes." Your eyes? Maybe the voice.  J'Lo wants Ryan to stop her. Ryan wonders if they can skip the commercial. Someone brings out a platter of crawfish. Ryan indulges.  Mayhem ensues.

I hope the combination of Joshua's singing placement (second to last) and judges praise will be enough to get votes. This kid should never have been in the bottom six last week.

Hollie Cavanagh – July 5, 1993 - "The Power of Love"

Hollie was born in England, now living in Texas. That would explain the accent. Dad gets choked up. Will.I.Am wonders where all her power comes from. She says this is not the stage of the game to play it safe. Hollie is totally glammed up tonight and has the stage of candlelights. And she powers through the song. There's a lot of depth to her vocals and she has perfect pitch. Again, the arrangement is a bit sluggish, maybe it's just the way it's supposed to be. She goes for the glory note in the end and I'm not sure she hits it.

J'Lo says they really saved the best for last. She said there were a couple of tiny things but to criticize would be silly. Steven says it was a little pitchy, but her voice came from above. Randy says she was in her wheel house and she "blew it out the box... very well done!" Her brothers pretend the song was so-so!

Randy says the safest is Josh and the one in trouble Heejun. J'Lo says the safest is Josh, Hollie, and Phillip. She's going to let America decide. Steven would say Joshua is our Jessica this week. He won't say who's in trouble.

Best and worst

Best of the night Joshua and Hollie, followed by Erika, Skylar and Elise. Middle of the pack would be Jessica, Colton, Phillip, and DeAndre. Bottom two - Heejun and Shannon. If someone is eliminated this week, I think it will be Heejun. But I don't think anyone will go seeing that we lost Jermaine and all.

Tomorrow night - Daughtry and Demi Lovato, plus, some exciting J'Lo news.

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