American Idol 11: First Final (Round of 13)

I don’t want to bury the lede – one of the singers was lip-synching tonight’s “live” performance… read on…

The somewhat non-descript final 13 are ready… the new studio is ready… the screaming audience is ready… but I was at work, so on a slight tape delay from Television City…

THIS… is American Idol!

We’re not uptight, and everything is alright, as we get ready for Stevie Wonder/Whitney Houston Week on Idol episode 400…

Because of the split theme, there’ll be only a Bottom Two this week – one guy and one girl – and the judges will then eliminate one of them.  To me, it sounds like a way for the judges to “fix” any mistake America might make… oh, almost forgot, I’ll be adding the Vegas odds provided by grantland.com writers Jay Kang and Mark Lisanti this week…

Mary J. Blige and the corrupt Jimmy Iovine are the mentors this week… and we dive right in with…

Joshua Ledet (9:1) – “I Wish”
Not bad… but if Cowell were here, you know he’d call it “too karaoke” as it was a bit too close to Stevie Wonder’s original version… but he’s got a good stage presence and uses the space well, and did a solid job on the song.  Good start, but as always, handicapped by leading off…

First break… for which, as always, I’m glad to be on DVR… 

Elise Testone – “Greatest Love Of All”
Oh dear… this is probably not a good idea, and the mentors agreed, so…

Elise Testone (15:2) – “I’m Your Baby Tonight”
Yeah, this song is a better fit for Elise’s smoky voice… even at that, I think the theme was going to be a problem for her.  She gave it a good shot, but because of the early slot, she’s in position to be blown away – she needs someone without a built-in fanbase to stumble later…

Jermaine Jones (22:1) – “Knocks Me Off My Feet”
That safety vest is distracting, Jermaine… but that deep, soulful voice absolutely works for Stevie’s music.  I don’t know if he’s got enough to get through to the end, but after this performance, he’ll certainly be back next week – despite the fact that the Idol Glory Note went a bit flat…

One of these days, the Idolbots at Television City will understand that criticism is a good thing, and stop mindlessly booing every time a judge says anything other than blindly effusive praise… but that time clearly wasn’t tonight…

Erika Van Pelt (25:1) – “I Believe In You And Me”
Erika gets the Product Placement Zone interview… and got to wear a red dress that matched the trademark color of the product… damn, her voice is deeper than more than a couple of the guys… bit of a slow start, but once she got into the song, you could hear the power and presence she’s going to bring as she gets comfortable… solid performance overall, and she should be back next week.

The lead-off singers are below the bar right now… let’s see if anyone “saves” Joshua and Elise… after the break…

Colton Dixon (7:1) – “Lately”
Nice bit of pimpage, having Colton do enough of his own music to cover for whatever may go wrong in the show performance… wow, did Colton raid James Durbin’s AI10 wardrobe closet?  Colton may need the pimpage… while this isn’t a total crash-and-burn performance, it’s not his best by a longshot… it took far too long for him to switch from “barely hanging on” to “singing”.  I think he’s got enough of a fanbase to get through, but it’ll be close.  It’s a shame that Randy has to actually lecture the audience about constructive criticism (one segment after I did, alas)…

Shannon Magrane (7:1) – “I Have Nothing”
And with this performance, we finally see why the Idol producers have been pushing her so hard… and why some critics think she’s the performer to beat (although I do suspect she’ll fall victim to the tween text brigade late in the season once it’s her and a few “cute boys”).  There was nothing in this performance to indicate that she’s barely sixteen… a polished, professional, ready-for-radio take.  Really well done.

Ignore the judges’ criticism – this was classic Idol reverse-psychology, they’ll harp on a performance by a singer they want to save in order to get the sympathy vote in.

Deandre Brackensick (25:1) – “Master Blaster”
Deandre gets the Product Placement treatment, but not the red dress, fortunately… this is a side of Deandre we didn’t see in the auditions and semifinal.  Instead of the falsetto screeching, he actually sang the song.  Perhaps this is what the producers saw when they brought him back to the final 13… definitely better than anything I’ve seen him do, and certainly deserves to come back.

Right now, it’s still Joshua and Elise for the bottom two, as we hit the backstretch…

Skylar Laine (10:1) – “Where Do Broken Hearts Go”
Our country girl doing Whitney… this has disaster potential… a bit restrained, but that’s understandable… you can definitely see she was struggling with something so far out of her comfort zone, but she did pull it off (for the most part)… a little screechy at times, but overall, I do think she’s survived this.  Hopefully she gets a theme she actually knows something about next week…

I figure Skylar is already penciled-in for Nashville as long as she survives a few weeks, she’s got a winning personality and a good voice – she’s Lauren Alaina with a bit more maturity and poise…

Heejun Han (12:1) – “All In Love Is Fair”
Back to the Product Placement Zone with a bit of Twitter mashed in – apparently, they’re positioning Heejun as a comedian rather than a singer… sorry, I don’t understand why Heejun is here, and this performance did nothing to change that.  I know he’ll get through, but it’s not deserved.  This was just plain dull.  He’s got a chance as a standup.  He’s got no chance as a singer.

Hollie Cavanagh (10:1) – “All The Man That I Need”
The oddly-accented Britexan gets a fairly prime spot… wow, where did this come from?  I don’t remember this kind of passion or power in her previous performances… but she nailed it tonight… this is, so far, the best performance of the night.  Hollie did let her hair down (as Steven asked), and it worked.  The reality is, she’s probably too pretty to survive the petty jealousies of the voting audience, but she’s got a chance…

I would put Heejun and Elise into the bottom two, but Jeremy hasn’t cashed in his undeserved chance yet… he’s next…

Jeremy Rosado (30:1) – “Ribbon In The Sky”
For this spot in the show, doing a bland and formulatic take on a song is probably not a good idea… I suspect he’s safe because the voting audience will think he’s cute and cuddly, but honestly, he’s not last only because Heejun already performed.   Nice and utterly forgettable.

The two singers that a lot of people expect to compete all the way through May are in the Pimp Spots…

Jessica Sanchez (4:1) – “I Will Always Love You”
Idol’s Pimped Pinoy Princess gets the last of the “girls” spots… no surprise here… VFTW thinks this song was lip-synched… so I’m watching kind of closely… she did hit the “And I Will Always Love You” with almost as much power as Whitney… but yes, the last note was definitely lip-synched (she’s smiling and has clearly stopped singing but her voice went on).  Bad enough Idol pimped her, they’re letting her cheat, too?  She’s going through, but sorry, Randy, she’s not legit if she’s allowed to lip-synch.  She’ll go through, but she’s lost me.

While I figure out how to handle this blatant bit of favoritism… we go to the last break before this season’s WGWG takes the stage…

Phillip Phillips (7:2) – “Superstition”
The Vegas morning-line favorite doesn’t need the Pimp Spot, but he gets it anyway… and wouldn’t “Higher Ground” have been a more appropriate WGWG song?  That said, Phillip rocked one of Stevie’s more iconic songs, and certainly deserves to get through to next week.  Nice job.

VFTW PICK: For some reason, they picked Shannon instead of Elise.  I’m surprised.
My two for the road: Heejun, Elise
Likely Bottom Two: Joshua, Elise
Going home: the guy who hits the Bottom Two unless it’s Heejun.

See you Friday morning for the results show recap…

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Author: Rob Hoffmann

Occasional blogger, full-time computer techie, radio producer (basketball, mostly), improv tech guy, generally nice person (if you ask me).

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