The Top 13 Are Surprisingly Fantastic

So every year Idol likes to tote that it’s the best year ever and the talent is better than ever before. And for the most part, Idol is a lying liar who lies. But I don’t think I’d have any qualms with the claim that this is the most talented group of finalists we’ve had. (I’m not saying they definitely are, just that there’s certainly a convincing argument there.) First of all, everyone can sing! I know this seems trivial, but usually there are a few people who struggle with hitting the right notes and staying on key, so this is a pretty big deal. Secondly, some of them are fantastic singers. Every single girl has the potential on any given night to give a true show-stopper and a couple of the boys seem to have that in them as well. I love it. I haven’t been this into a season since Group 2 performance night during Season 8.

You know what else makes this season fantastic? The judges! Yes, yes the judges. I know, I know, that seems Ludacris like baby, baby, baby oh. But it’s true! All three of them were constructive and insightful and even for the entire show. Did I disagree with a few things they said? Sure. But I also disagree with a few things you said. Overall, they judged the performances like they actually were watching them. Again, that might seem trivial but I don’t think I’ve ever been able to say that about the judging panel before. They critiqued everything they saw. They mentioned some of the unique difficulties contestants on the show have that are sort of artificially constructed. It was refreshing. It was so refreshing that I only spent about a third of the time Randy was speaking trying to figure out what misguided piece of bling he was sporting on his coat.

And for the Human Torch piece of this fantastic show (did that make any sense? No. But neither does the show being fantastic, so roll with it), Mary J. Blige was one of the best mentors yet. She was entertaining and engaging! I mean, her uncontrollable yelps and giggles while contestants were nailing it were totally appropriate and endearing. And on top of that, she knew what she was talking about. I mean, it’s one thing for her to try to explain something, it’s another for her to go on and sing an example. She helped pretty much every contestant in a really specific, pointed way that added pretty significantly to their performance. It’s a shame she actually has a career of her own because I would love for this to turn into a permanent gig for her.

So yes. The performances were decent, good or fantastic. Let’s get on to those.

Joshua Ledet – “I Wish”
Alright, let me just start out by saying that “Mantasia” is probably the worst nickname anyone has ever given to anyone ever. There’s someone named “Bopper” on The Amazing Race right now and “Troyzan” on Survivor and neither of those are as ridiculous as “Mantasia.” (Good god reality TV, get your names together. I can’t wait till we have “Gonzo Leader of the Mole People” on X-Factor this fall.) Huh. That tangent got away from me. Anyhow, the point which I seemed to have lost in the sea of Blue Ivys and Ugly Naked Guys was that Joshua is actually a lot like Fantasia. He takes it to church like Fantasia and he lets loose like Fantasia. At all times, he looks like he’s ready to bust at the seams with music. He was fun and energetic and sounded great. Go Joshua!

Elise Testone – “I’m Your Baby Tonight”
It was pretty clear that Elise wasn’t entirely comfortable with her song. She sounded fine, but was lost and stiff on stage and it derailed the performance a bit. But her tone is incredible and she was the only girl who went remotely uptempo so major bonus points and the girls side could use a little maturity. So what I’m saying is, Elise absolutely needs to stay around this week and I’m afraid she’s in a bit of trouble. And hey, awkwardly performing “I’m Your Baby Tonight” and then having Ryan Seacrest double as a stylist for you post-performance is a proven formula for success. (Or, well, a proven formula for fighting and clawing your way to a well deserved third place while simultaneously getting kicked in the face by the judges week after week. That’s “success”, right?)

Jermaine Jones – “Knocks Me Off My Feet”
Jermaine Jones is tall, sings passably and bores me to tears. It’s like he knows he bores us all to tears though. Why else would he sing a song that repeats the line “I don’t want to bore you with it”? Well, sorry Jermaine, you do bore us with it. With all of it. With your singing, with your dull personality and with your song choices. At least you are comically tall and make Ryan Seacrest look like an Oompa Loompa but even that’s hardly a unique role in the grand scheme of things.

Erika Van Pelt – “I Believe In You And Me”
Erika needed to come out swinging after barely getting through on a wildcard slot. She sang really well but unfortunately looked like a bottle of ketchup while doing so. There were probably great nuances and subtleties in her rich vocal take on “I Believe In You And Me” but those were all steamrolled to oblivion in my mind by her monster of a prom dress gone wrong. I mean, it’s like the stylists are preparing for Erika to make it far in the competition and are trying to make the most drastic visual transformation possible by giving her the least flattering “before” picture ever. I know I should probably talk more about the performance, but I just can’t with that abomination in my head.

Colton Dixon – “Lately”
Alright, so let’s talk about Colton’s pants. How does he put them on? How do they exist? Is he shopping in the stick figure section? Do they make clothes for stick figures? I mean, I know my stick figures are usually wearing unusually baggy pants, so I would like to know where Colton shops so I can properly clothe my poor, misshapen stick people. Colton is a totally fine singer who just happens to be stylistically everything I hate. (Well, no, that’s not true. He’s not Phillip Phillips, so he has at least one thing going for him stylistically.) He needs to set things on fire to get my support back. But he can stay. His hair is more interesting (frightening? puzzling?) than half of the guys.

Shannon Magrane – “I Have Nothing”
Of course “I Have Nothing” gets sung again. Shannon can join the ranks of Trenyce, Leah LaBelle, Jennifer Hudson, Vonzell Solomon, Katharine McPhee and Lakisha Jones in the “I Have Nothing (Especially Not Imagination)” club. Sadly for Shannon, she missed all the big notes and sort of crumpled up into a tiny, sad rag doll by the end of the song. She was really the only performer who missed notes, which is both impressive for the show and bad for Shannon. At least Shannon wasn’t wearing a pageant dress and I don’t think she was talking about Jesus, so she was more bearable in that sense.

Deandre Brackensick – “Master Blaster”
Kudos to Deandre for picking the only song I hadn’t heard of. You know what else deserves kudos? Kudos bars. Do those still exist? Because they’re delicious. I’ve gotten to the point where I’m so off topic that I’m not even using parenthetical statements because my off topic thoughts outnumber my topical ones. So. Deandre. I was not rooting for Deandre going into this week, but he was impressive and entertaining and upbeat. He was so comfortable on stage and he moved well and his arrangement was fun. He didn’t annoy me with overuse of falsetto and runs. He was into his performance and totally rocked the night for the boys’ side.

Skylar Laine – “Where Do Broken Hearts Go”
I didn’t even notice that Skylar’s backdrop was hilariously a cascade of falling hearts until I read a comment on Twitter. I think that’s probably the biggest compliment I can pay to her performance. I mean, I usually notice ridiculous backdrops before anything else, but Skylar’s performance was so magnetic that I couldn’t focus on anything but her and her surprisingly incredible voice. That’s how you make a ballad interesting, folks. She’s got so much personality in her performances, it’s insane. I don’t know that I want her to win this season, but if she keeps performing like this she’ll be impossible to beat.

Heejun Han – “All In Love Is Fair”
Heejun continues to be charming, hilarious and personable in his pre-performance package and stale, unimpressive and painstakingly decent in his actual performances. He is a fine singer, really. His performance was better than I expected it to be. But he’s so one dimensional and limited in his performing style that it’s just not interesting at all. I don’t care about Heejun while he’s singing and considering how much I care about him when he’s not singing, that’s pretty bad. He just needs to make the tour so he can twitpic hilarious things like this for months and months.

Hollie Cavanagh – “All The Man That I Need”
For as much as I watch and love this show, I rarely vote. I’ve probably voted for four contestants ever and I voted for Hollie last week. Her voice is just incredible and moving and gives me the uncontrollable urge to purchase puffy paint and silkscreen supplies. This performance had everything I could’ve asked for from her and more. Her voice is so powerful and she pushes it in all the right spots. Plus look at her! Look at how wee she is and how she pronounces “heart” like “haaht” and is generally speaking as adorable as a baby harp seal. If you don’t love Hollie Cavanagh, you probably also hate weekends and cupcakes and bubble wrap.

Jeremy Rosado – “Ribbon In The Sky”
Jeremy, like Heejun, is a perfectly passable singer but also totally unspectacular and not appropriate for a TV show with 15 million viewers. Like, great, you would sound good at a karaoke bar and I’m sure your girlfriend sighs lovingly when you serenade her with Bryan Adams songs, but that’s just a fun fact to share during stupid ice breaker activities. I just don’t care about Jeremy. I can’t bring myself to care. Yay! He can sing a soft ballad totally inoffensively. Whoop-de-freaking-doo.

Jessica Sanchez – “I Will Always Love You”
Jessica went the predictable route, which was also the most dangerous route. I mean, no one wants to hear “I Will Always Love You” done in a less-than-stellar fashion. She’d get brutalized on the internet… which, I guess, is pretty much the outcome of every event ever on the internet. So while unimaginative, Jessica took a huge risk and it paid off in a big way. She pretty much made it impossible to fault her by singing a technically flawless and emotionally powerful rendition of one of the biggest songs ever. I loved everything Jessica did and I’m in total awe of her voice and her presence. She was pretty much raised to be on the show and that’s totally fine by me. Perfect, exquisite, haunting etc etc. Pick your own hyperbole.

Phillip Phillips – “Superstition”
Yikes! And the night was going so well too. I didn’t like it when Phillip auditioned with “Superstition” and I didn’t like it tonight. It was loud and grunty and not particularly melodic or tuneful. The arrangement was also loud and grunty and, even worse, static. Like great, you can make good, exciting songs sound boring. Congratulations on your mad rearranging skills! And yes, you can make every word in the English language sound like “yarg” but that’s also not a particularly enviable talent. But Phillip! He’s so dreamy. Look at his tight jeans and form-fitting shirts and his adorable smile and vote your fingers off. Because that’s totally what I need in ten weeks. A moderately attractive howler monkey.

Bottom 2 girls/2 guys: Shannon, Elise, Jeremy, Jermaine
Going home: Jermaine


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