American Idol 11: Seventh Final (Round of 7 Again)

Before we start: we lost the man who provided the template that Ryan Seacrest is proving to be a mere shadow of.  Dick Clark passed away yesterday at age 82.  So long, Dick, you’re already sorely missed.  On with the show…

I knew that Jessica Sanchez’ save last week would do one of two things – it would embolden the singers to take a chance, knowing that any week could be their last… or it would scare them into making safe, boring choices.  With two Adele songs, two Lady Gaga songs, two Alicia Keys songs, and a cubic assload of Idol-classic Motown among the fourteen songs on the leaked set list, I think we know which way they went.

And yes, there are fourteen songs.  The duos and trios have been scrapped – every singer does two songs tonight.  One from “Now” (the 2000s) and one from “Then” (old-school soul).

THIS! … is American Idol!

The opening montage focuses on the awkward (and not-at-all-staged-wink-wink) “save” of Jessica Sanchez.  Honestly, I’ve seen better acting in kindergarten recitals.  The line they’re pushing is that last week’s near ending is a new beginning for the seven Idols.  The song list says otherwise.  And here we go…

Seacrest does seem a little less bouncy coming down the stairs… the news of the day clearly on his mind.  And that’s where he starts, with a mention of Dick Clark’s death.

After the contestant intro, we jump into the Now round… and there’s apparently no guest mentor this week, so we get even more of the loathsome Jimmy Iovine.  Now I understand the miserable song list.

Hollie Cavanagh – “Rolling In The Deep” by Adele
No, Hollie, no… why are you doing one of the most over-karaoked songs on TV?  You’re not going to do this better than Adele… yes, you’re sorta-British and she’s British… still, this wasn’t a good idea, because Hollie did a very, very, very karaoke version.  There wasn’t anything to show us what she’s all about.  Between going first of 14 songs, and an uninspired cover… she’s tossed herself right on the chopping block, despite the judges’ (completely oblivious to reality) remarks.  Come home, Simon, this show desperately needs you.

Colton’s doing Lady Gaga?  Holy crap… maybe Vote For The Worst is right about him… anyway, we’re off to break… during which FOX does a promo for their new dating show, “Take Me Out”, which they haven’t shot a single second of – the promo is taken entirely from the British version of the show…

Product-placement zone interview with Colton, as his sister gets to come on stage to say how wonderful it is that he’s doing the show considering that she was the one who originally auditioned…

Colton Dixon – “Bad Romance” by Lady Gaga
Oh my… this could be… something.  And now he’s added a little fleck of red to the Davy Crockett’s Cap hairstyle.  And he’s singing Gaga.  Why is he trying to drive off the fundies?  They’re his voting block.  Anyway… it was an interesting version of the song.   Definitely reworked for his strengths (such as they are).  A good performance that may get lost by its placement so early in the show.

Elise Testone – “No One” by Alicia Keys
She’s a very good singer… unfortunately, I don’t think she’s connecting with anyone, and this song demonstrates that.  It’s a song made for a singer to reach out to the audience with, and she’s singing it with all the passion of a corporate jingle.   Can’t complain technically, but it’s a forgettable performance.  If she doesn’t nail the Then song, she’ll be back in the Bottom Three again… or worse.

Off to break…

VFTW has finally decided that the best way to sink Idol is for another bland white guy with guitar to win and then fail as a recording artist.  And here he comes…

Phillip Phillips – “U Got It Bad” by Usher
The good thing, I suppose, is that Phillip knows who he is.  The bad thing is that he’s a boring, arrogant jerk.  He knows one way to do a song (the indie-rock/lite-Matthews sound) and everything is shoved into that same Music Making Machine.  His fans will love this (because most of them aren’t voting for his music).   I didn’t.   This is the ultimate expression of “playing it safe”.  NEXT!

I won’t even get into the judges claiming that Phillip showed a new “side” of himself, and that he was trying to be “original”… HE ONLY HAS ONE UNORIGINAL SIDE!!!  OH… I got into it.  Time to FF through the next break… although I did notice a FOX 25th plug, to be hosted by the guy who helped save the network… and speaking of Seacrest, we’re back from break…

Jessica Sanchez – “Fallin’” by Alicia Keys
Iovine says Jessica needs to “blow our minds”.  She’s a scared little girl who got thisclose to a voteoff… she’s going to retreat, not attack.  And that’s exactly what happened here… she did a faithful, safe, and somewhat bland version of “Fallin’”.  Another neo-karaoke performance.

Wow, we are off to a rotten start, aren’t we?  Instead of “go big or go home”, everyone’s playing “go small and hope someone else goes home”.  Skylar’s doing Country Gaga…?  This could be huge… or hugely wrong… SAVE US, SKYLAR!  After the break…

Skylar Laine – “Born This Way” by Lady Gaga (Gaga’s “country” version?)
It’s a tough song, because we’ve all heard it so many times… but I’ll give her credit, she found a way to make it work.  It wasn’t great, but it was better than anything else so far tonight – and she’s got a stage presence that the rest of the Idols are lacking tonight.   I hope she finds a voting block to counter the tweenbots and housefraus that are going to robotically vote for Phillip and Colton…

Joshua Ledet – “I Believe” by Fantasia
Of COURSE Mantasia does Fantasia… the song doesn’t do much for me, but Joshua did a solid job with it.  It may have been his most honest performance, as he let his singing take the forefront instead of the staging he’s used in the past.  I think this will help him.  A good way to end the Now round…

Halftime… Hollie and Elise need to kill their Then songs… the rest are pretty closely-bunched, and a bad second song could send them right into trouble.  The Then round starts after the break…

Hollie gets the Product-Placement Zone… and FOX uses its ties with the English Premier League to get Liverpool FC to wish her well… I’ll guarantee you that they had no idea what they were on about when they filmed this clip…

We start the Then round with a brief tribute to the late Don Cornelius and Soul Train… and dive into the Love, Peace, and Soul with the whitest contestant remaining…

Hollie – “Son Of A Preacher Man” by Dusty Springfield
Makes sense for her to do some blue-eyed soul… I liked her rendition (still a little TOO faithful to the original), but I don’t think she did enough to rescue the night.  It was a good-but-not-great cover.  I think she’s in the Bottom Three unless someone else tanks badly.

Break… Colton’s about to try my favorite EWF track… I’m scared…

Colton – “September” by Earth, Wind & Fire
He’s on piano.  And he’s maiming the song.  Credit for trying to fit the song to his style… but this was the song where he could have done so much more… at least, he could have shown some ability to do blue-eyed soul.   Instead, it’s a Lite version of a pseudo-rock cover.  He’ll get votes, but this was a misfire.  A visit to the Bottom Three wouldn’t shock me, but I think he’s got enough robovotes where he’ll be OK.

More miscast soul after the break…

Elise – “Let’s Get It On” by Marvin Gaye
OK, at least they gave this anthem to “making sweet love” to the oldest performer on the show.  Can you imagine if Jessica had… ouch, that hurt my brain.   Back to the song.   This was what Elise needed, I think… a song she could show some emotion with and try to connect to… and, frankly, a song to try to get guys motivated to actually vote for any Idol contestant.  Surprisingly, J-Lo actually got it right – Elise is a good vocalist, but she’s lacking as a performer.  I wonder if we’ve just seen the Bottom Three back-to-back-to-back… and did Randy just talk about how Al Green sang this song?  REALLY?

…now, Phillip Phillips Phillip-sizes a soul song into another indie-rock muddle…

Phillip – “In The Midnight Hour” by Wilson Pickett
Wait… no guitar?  And… and… he didn’t screw with the arrangement?   Who is this guy, and what has he done with Phillip Phillips the Phillipsest?  This is the performance I wanted him to give on the first song… respecting the original without copying it.   Damn… if I can’t bash Phillip, this isn’t as much fun… but it was a really good performance, and might be the closest we get to a “moment” tonight.   Best of the night so far.

Off to break… after which Jessica will do something robotic, and Skylar will invent “country soul”…

We get a quick interview with one of Idol’s previous WGWG’s, Kris Allen, to plug his performance on the results show…

Jessica – “Try A Little Tenderness” by Otis Redding
Well, this wasn’t quite as safe or karaoke as I feared… and did she actually show a bit of a growl?  The Pinoy Princess bringing some attitude?  Who knew?  This was really well-done.  While the first song was a bit dull, this one, coming as late in the show as it did, probably ensured she won’t be in the Bottom Three tomorrow night.

Skylar –“Heard It Through The Grapevine” by Marvin Gaye
I don’t think that I’ve ever heard a country-rock version of “Grapevine” among all the covers over the years… and now, the question is, why the hell not?  This was terrific.  Skylar brings an energy and enthusiasm nobody else on the show has, and she flat-out killed this song.   This is the one to go find online… The audience is going to screw up and vote her out too early, but I don’t think it matters now.  I’ll say it again – this girl is going to be a star.  Count on it.

The show wraps with Joshua in the Pimp Spot… after the break…

Joshua – “A Change Is Gonna Come” by Sam Cooke
Well, if he’s going to embrace his soul/gospel roots, this is the song to do it with.  He’s probably OK anyway, so the fact that this one came up slightly short of the mark probably won’t hurt too much.  It was good, but I just feel like he left something on the table here.

My Bottom Three: Hollie, Colton, Elise
America’s Likely Bottom Three: same three
I’d send home: Hollie
America is likely sending home: Hollie

It’s just her time.  There is a clear divide here.  Phillip, Skylar, and Jessica are probably the final three.  Colton and Joshua are fighting for fourth.  Hollie and Elise are most likely the next two to go home.  And now that I’ve said that, I have guaranteed that something will go horribly wrong… but hey, what good are predictions unless they fail spectacularly?

Results show is tonight with Kris Allen and LMFAO performing.  I’ll see you Friday morning for the recap.


Author: Rob Hoffmann

Occasional blogger, slightly less occasional improv player/ref/tech, full-time computer techie, radio producer (basketball, mostly), generally nice person (if you ask me).

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