American Idol 11: Ninth Final (Round of 5)

I was kind of looking forward to tonight – until I saw the themes, and then the song list.  Because they have to pad two hours with 5 singers, they’re doing two solo and one group song each tonight.  That’s an awful lot of overexposure for five singers who probably aren’t ready for it… and the song list is utterly uninspired.  The themes are “The ’60s” and “British Pop”, and all of the songs are retreads we’ve heard before – a lot – which means that the negative reaction to Phillip Phillips the Philipsest’s cover of DMB’s “The Stone” scared all of them into boring conformity.

The Longest Season ever rolls on… because…

THIS! … Is American Idol!

The opening montage is set to music that hits both themes – the Stones’ “Gimme Shelter” (released with 26 days to go in the ‘60s)… and here we go…

Seacrest seems to be back to full health (at least he’s wearing a tie this week)… and tonight’s guest mentor is Steven Van Zandt (lo, how the mighty fall)… although Van Zandt’s dedication was made obvious when it was mentioned that his mentoring consisted of a couple of hours before a concert with the E Street Band…

We start with the ‘60s round… and the most at-risk singer gets the Death Spot…

Hollie Cavanagh – “River Deep, Mountain High” by Ike & Tina Turner
Nice… tell her not to be entertaining… clueless mentoring at its finest… at least she didn’t try to do a full-blown soundalike cover… on the other hand, what she delivered was nice, technically sound, likeable… and probably doomed to be completely forgotten in two hours.  It may have been her best performance, but it’s probably too late.

It’s amazing, really, that after 11 seasons they still have to tell viewers that it’s not mandatory to call both assigned toll-free numbers for a favored singer… then again, this is the Idol audience we’re talking about… off to break… including a promo for FOX’s dating show/The Voice parody, “The Choice”…

Phillip Phillips – “The Letter” by The Box Tops
”The Letter” as it would be done by DMB… even the usually-clueless Iovine figured this was a mistake… here we go… if The Phillipsest is trying to prove he’s bulletproof, maiming “The Letter” is one way to do it.  It’s an indie-rock version of Joe Cocker’s cover of the Box Tops’ original.  Interesting, but I’m not terribly invested in P2 by now, and this song isn’t going to change it.  I suspect his fanbase doesn’t care, and flocked to the phones last night to vote their Cute Boy through, regardless… ooh… they showed P2’s girlfriend… that’ll cost him some votes from the tween dreamers…

Skylar Laine – “Knock On Wood” by Eddie Floyd “Fortunate Son” by CCR
I like the song and the singer… fingers crossed… I enjoyed the song… she did a great job with it… and unlike the first two singers, she looks and acts like she’s having a great time on stage.  Admittedly, I’m not completely sure she quite got what the song was about… but still, it was what she needs to keep doing – taking names and having fun.

The first time-filler song is next… and it makes sense, as they’re having the guys do a duet now, and the girls do a trio number later…

A bit of time in the Product Placement Zone for the boys before…

Duet: Joshua & Phillip – “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling” by the Righteous Brothers
This song should fit Joshua well… P2, not so much.   Together, it’s a styles clash that nobody wins.  Frankly, this exposed both of them – Joshua struggled on the lower key, and P2 struggled on anything vaguely resembling a melody (and did his damnedest to drown Joshua out when they both sang).  The Idolbots at Television City loved it.  They love everything.  It wasn’t a great song choice, and it was a passable performance, at best.

Break…

Jessica Sanchez – “Proud Mary” by Ike & Tina Turner
She was faithful to the concept… doing the first part nice and easy, and trying to do the second part nice and rough (as rough as a suburban 16-year-old can get, that is)… as always with Jessica, she does a technically-sound version of the song, but you get the sense she’s play-acting up there.  It’ll be interesting to see how she fares when she’s doing more age-appropriate music post-Idol.

Break…

Joshua Ledet – “Ain’t Too Proud To Beg” by The Temptations
Of course, this was the best pairing of song and artist in the first round, and given that they’ve put Joshua in the Pimp Spot, they want him to deliver.  He did.  Glad to see he didn’t try to put a gospel spin on a straightforward R&B track.  Let’s face it, he needs to do well this week – and thus far, he has.

Halfway home – Hollie’s definitely in trouble.  I’m no fan of P2, but he’s got a rabid fanbase.  I’m not sure if they do a bottom two or bottom three – but right now, Hollie and P2 deserve to be there, but I wouldn’t argue if you swapped Hollie out and Jessica in.  The voters will disagree, of course…

On to the BritPop round…

Hollie – “Bleeding Love” by Leona Lewis
Oh, dear… wrong choice… overplayed and overcovered… she did a fine job doing Leona Lewis’ version.  Problem was she, basicially, did Leona Lewis’ version (and did it well) – but she didn’t do Hollie Cavanagh’s version.  Way too karaoke, and at a point where she needs to stand out, she backed herself into a corner.   All I can figure is that she’s smart enough to see her future, and has decided to go out on her own terms.

Break… as Phillip prepares to annoy me again…

Phillip – “Time Of The Season” by the Zombies
Shaking my head… here’s my problem with P2.  He turns every song into the same sorta-indie-rock glop… every song.  I understand “making the song your own”, but try to leave SOME of the original song in there when you do.  Don’t get me wrong, he’s going to make a ton of money doing this artsy-indie stuff after Idol.  But this is, at heart, a pop competition, and P2 is absolutely the wrong guy for it.  Not to mention the obvious cracking of his voice when he tried to go for the higher notes… sheesh.  He’s probably going to win (because he’s white, he’s a guy, and he plays guitar – and it doesn’t hurt that VFTW has adopted him), and then he’ll struggle for a while to find his real niche after Idol (19/Interscope, specifically) mismanages him.  Give him a year or two after he escapes 19’s clutches, and he’ll probably be a star.

Time-filler time… next… I’m still seeing “Take Me Out” promos that include British footage… and the show starts next month… FOX hasn’t started taping yet?

Product Placement Zone – as the girls make fun of each other (Skylar does a pretty convincing impression of Hollie’s Britexan accent)…

Trio: Hollie, Jessica, Skylar – “Higher And Higher” by Jackie Wilson
OK, there’s something fun (and funny) about Skylar’s country twang on a soul classic… but this is another song that you might as well prepare to hear on the Idol Summer Tour… although I think Jessica has to make sure she hits her cues on-time on tour… overall, it was a fun performance… everything the boys’ duet wasn’t.

Break… there was no way to avoid it, of course, but two of the girls have to come right back for solos after their trio… well, there was a way to avoid it, but that would have involved FOX having a competent programming department…

Skylar – “You Don’t Have To Love Me” by Dusty Springfield
This could be big…  in case it’s not obvious, I’m becoming a serious fan of Skylar’s, and there was nothing here to change my mind.  She needed to prove she could do a song without overdoing the country twang, and she nailed it here.   Terrific performance.  I’m really looking forward to her post-Idol career.  I hope that post-Idol career won’t be starting for a few more weeks yet.

Jessica – “You Are So Beautiful” by Joe Cocker
Interesting choice… I was prepared to knock it for being another song out of her probable range of experience… but the stripped-down arrangement and the opportunity to just focus on her voice probably saved her tonight.  She had started to blend into the background, but for the most part, she scored here.  There was some unnecessary vocal melodrama, but overall, this was probably the Moment she really needed.

Break…

Joshua – “To Love Somebody” by the Bee Gees
This’ll work… this turned out to be the perfect use of the Pimp Spot.  You need the right singer, the right song, and the right arrangement – and they pulled it off.  Just like Jessica, Joshua really needed a standout moment.  This was it.  Best performance of the night, and even the voting audience will have to recognize it, I think.

Unfortunately, Joshua’s late rally has probably confirmed that Hollie will be singing herself off later tonight.  She was buried in the Death Spot, kind of lost in the shuffle on her trio, and didn’t really stretch herself in her solo performances.  I know the Round of 5 is where strange voting results happen, and there’s a chance of something odd going on, but look at reality – Hollie doesn’t have a well-defined and well-represented voting base.  Skylar owns the flyover vote, P2 has the tweens and frauen, and Jessica has the Pinoy vote (which has historically been strong).  Black male singers have often struggled (but if they’re really good, they can make it big, just ask Ruben Studdard), so Joshua had to really nail it tonight, and he did. 

The results show tonight features Carrie Underwood (promoting a new album) and Coldplay (for BritPop week)… the recap goes up tomorrow morning.  See you then.

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Author: Rob Hoffmann

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

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