American Idol 11: Tenth Final (Round of 4)

Two hours.  10 songs (themes are “California Dreamin’” and “The Songs You Wish You Wrote”, plus two duets).  Four rather bland contestants.  Lots of filler.

THIS! … is American Idol!

The opening montage focuses on last week’s elimination and this week’s rehearsals, with Carrie Underwood’s “Blown Away” underneath…

As Seacrest reminds us, the long slog is almost over – two weeks remain before we have our eleventh Idol.  Interestingly, The Voice crowned a champion this past week in a series that ran about a month shorter than Idol and that seemed more interesting (although their final four wasn’t all that inspiring either, honestly)…

Back to our show.  Each of the Final Four gets an extended montage leading into their first song – the annual “our Idols’ journeys” segment/filler.  We start with the California Dreamin’ round, and the first singer is VFTW’s favorite son:

Phillip Phillips – “Have You Ever Seen The Rain” by Creedence Clearwater Revival
The band is out of Cerritos, CA.  For once, P2 ditched the guitar… and isn’t quite doing as much of a Dave Matthews impression as usual.  I’m not sure I get the surf images on the big screen behind P2, as CCR isn’t exactly the Beach Boys… but hey, I’m just a viewer, I’m not a genius like Jimmy Iovine.  For the first time in a while, P2 did a song I could enjoy – perhaps going first (the Death Spot) made him decide that he should just let go and sing.  Not bad.

Our first break…

Back with Hollie’s montage, which serves as a reminder that Hollie’s a veteran contestant – after leaving Idol season 10 at the Green Mile, she came back and pretty much had her path to the final series paved for her.  Somehow I don’t think that’s the takeaway I was supposed to get…

Hollie Cavanagh – “Faithfully” by Journey
Of course, they’re out of San Francisco. This is probably a mistake.  Hollie can belt a song, but there’s a level of power to “Faithfully” that I’m not sure she can harness…  She didn’t.   This was definitely a performance that Simon Cowell would have complemented for being technically good, but then savaged as “forgettable”.  Even the reception from the Idolbots at Television City was kind of tepid.  She probably needs the “song she wishes she wrote” to be huge.

Off to break… I wasn’t going to do this, but after he beat us over the head about his time with Journey… who told Randy Jackson it was a good idea to wear a picnic tablecloth as his suit jacket tonight?

Seacrest tosses to Product Placement Zone material about the ongoing “America Writes Jason DeRulo’s Latest Single (That Will Probably Flop If America Writes As Well As They Judge)” contest, before we get Joshua’s visit to the Product Placement Zone… and then his montage (which reminds us that Joshua has also been through the Idol machine twice)… and, then, eventually…

Joshua Ledet – “You Raise Me Up” by Josh Groban
Groban is from Los Angeles.  Oddly, Joshua had some issues with the first couple of lines of the song… but, of course, the start of the song was just prologue for the growing bombast of the chorus… After all, this is a perfect Idol song, allowing for 90 seconds of setup before belting out “You Raise Me Up” at the end.  But that wasn’t the take Joshua used, though… ending a little more quietly rather than doing the Idol Note.  Interesting choice… good performance, probably enough to get to Hometown Week.

Off to break again… sometimes, I wish the judges would indulge in honest criticism… or at least make it clear when a contestant left an opportunity hanging.  That should have been an Idol Moment song for Joshua, but he played it safe…

Jessica’s montage reminds us just how much of a pageant kid she was, with footage of her “singing” at age 5.  The quote “I literally can’t do anything but sing” will probably turn up on VFTW (and other sites).  I think Idol should have re-edited that a bit…

Jessica Sanchez – “Steal Away” by Etta James
James was born in L.A., believing her father was pool hustler Minnesota Fats. “Steal Away” is an old-school gospel track… looks like Jessica might be going after Joshua’s voters…and I can’t really find any reference to an Etta James version of the song… but far be it for me to say that Idol would fudge a credit in order to feed a song to one of their preferred singers.  As always, the song was good, but Jessica remains a blank slate.  If she wins (which I doubt, but you never know), she’s going to be frustrating for interviewers trying to get anything beyond “I sing” from her…

Break… the time-filler continues with the guys duetting, because it went SO well last week…

Duet: Phillip & Joshua – “This Love” by Maroon 5
Keeping the California theme with a song from the L.A.-based band (48 hours after The Voice wrapped its season)… As karaoke tracks go, they did a pretty good job taking turns impersonating Adam Levine.  Clearly, this was the least important of the three songs they were doing this week… so I’ll give it as much attention as they did.

Break… more time-filler as the second duet comes after this…

Duet: Hollie & Jessica – “Eternal Flame” by the Bangles
Yes, more California music to wrap up that theme. Someone explain putting the girls in swings, please?  Anyone?  This was more interesting for the dynamic – the guys actually did a duet, acknowledging each other and interacting a bit.  If you believe the rumor mill, Jessica isn’t terribly well-liked backstage, and the fact that the two girls barely looked at each other throughout the performance might be taken, by some, as proof of that theory.  More interesting – P2 and Joshua decided to upstage the girls by commandeering the swings during the judges’ critique (where Randy actually decided to give actual criticism since nobody was paying attention to him).  Meanwhile, they might want to be careful with the bromance jokes.  Just sayin’.

Break as we set up for “songs we wish we wrote”…

Amazingly, there’s a promotional tie-in here… as, somehow, “Rock of Ages” star Julianne Hough was convinced to stop by the show to promote the movie.  She didn’t appear in the montage, though… guess Seacrest’s persuasive powers aren’t all that great?

Damn, this preview of “Rock of Ages” seems as long as the movie itself will be… and after the preview, still MORE time-filler with interviews with director Adam Shankman and with Hough.  This is interminable.  OK, teasing a marriage proposal was cute, but wasn’t enough payoff for me…

Group: “Waiting For A Girl Like You” by Foreigner
Hmmm… this wasn’t on the set list that Idol leaked.  They must have run really short of time.  Yes, the girls do sing the hook as “waiting for a guy like you” (it’s the little things sometimes, you know?).  Nothing more to be said here, let’s move on…

Thanks to fast-forward, that wasn’t actually 20 minutes of my life I won’t get back.  Hey, FOX… THIS is what you wanted?  Really?

P2 gets the P2 Zone treatment before we start the second round, with questions about his health (which he deflected).

Oh, joy, for this round, we get Iovine back in the montages.  #enoughalreadyIdol

Phillip – “Volcano” by Damien Rice
Iovine says P2 doesn’t sound like Dave Matthews in this song.  Let’s see… well, he starts the song in full DMB mode.  He never left it.  If this is P2 not sounding like Matthews, it proves that Iovine is completely clueless (again).  The judges parrot Iovine’s talking point – Tyler even says “I’ve never heard you sing like that before”… OTHER THAN EVERY FREAKING TIME, YOU MEAN?  (ahem)  This was good, but not worth the orgasms the judges were having.

Hollie – “I Can’t Make You Love Me” by Bonnie Raitt
Whoops… did they clear this for Skylar and find themselves stuck with it?  Iovine said she had to go out there and, basically, give her best performance of the season.  For once he was right.  And Hollie dropped it, badly.  Two forgettable solo performances at this stage pretty much lock in what I would have predicted anyway…

Break… when FOX executives rip the show apart before Season 12, they might want to consider that we want to hear more from the singers and less self-important prattling from the judges. If they’re going to stick with 2-hour shows, give the singers a few minutes to sing and cut the judges’ verbal sludge quite a bit.

Joshua – “It’s a Man’s Man’s Man’s World” by James Brown
OK, no snickering at the title from the audience.  Let’s face it, Joshua is unlikely to have the power James Brown wielded with a song.  But the gospel/spiritual tone of what Rolling Stone called a “Biblically chauvinistic song” should be right in his wheelhouse.  It worked about as you might have expected, complete with Idolbot meltdown and judges’ standing ovation.  All snark aside, this might be the Idol Moment he needed…  Joshua may be quietly positioning himself to steal the title away from P2.  We’ll see…

Break… then again, the way the judges are verbally fellating Joshua, there might be a bit of a backlash.  The audience does have a bad habit of doing exactly the opposite of what the judges push for… and speaking of a push, look who’s getting the Pimp Spot this week…

Jessica – “And I’m Telling You I’m Not Going” by Jennifer Holliday
Of course, Idol favorite Jennifer Hudson also happened to do this song… Jessica did what she usually does with a song like this… stand at center stage and belt for her life.  The judges loved it.  The Idolbots loved it.  I could take or leave it.  Not that it matters, really, as she’s almost certainly safe.

Man, Julian Lennon looks old.  Yes, that was random, but so was Randy Jackson’s namedrop.

Montage time…

Ironically, my DVR (set for a one-minute overrun) cut off during the montage.  Meaning that – once again – the dimwits who produce this show can’t juggle all the time-filler and still get the show in on time.  Amazing.

It was a two-hour trek that should have been done in an hour – and will accomplish just about what everyone expects.  Hollie is several weeks past her sell-by date, and frankly I wish Skylar had made it to this show as she’d have done far better, even if she simply did both songs Hollie did.

David Cook and J-Lo perform on tonight’s results show, which should be closed by Hollie singing herself off.  See you tomorrow 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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