Thursday, April 19, 2012

American Idol Recap: Leather Pants, Piles of Money and Soul Train

Posted By on Thu, Apr 19, 2012 at 1:30 PM

Welcome back, you Creamtastic fools. I'm feeling a little ... er ... under the weather this week after a late night of Wii bowling, but I shall soldier on. Just like Jessica Sanchez! Apparently, according to the intro package, we should all still be reeling from BB Chez's close call last week. Are they trying to set her up as some sort of underdog? Honestly, I don't know why everyone is pretending to be surprised when the exact same thing happened last year to Pia Toscano. Technically skilled, pretty, poised ladies, it seems America no longer has any use for you.

Seacrest opens the show by mentioning the passing of Dick Clark. It's actually kind of a sweet moment. After all, Clark was the proto-Seacrest. But with fewer Kardashians.

Tonight, each contestant will be singing two songs — the first, a No. 1 hit from 2000 through today, and second, a soul song inspired by Soul Train. Sounds kind of fun!

Holly is up first, singing "Rolling in the Deep." In her mentor session with Jimmy, Holly talks about her problem with nerves. She opens the song with a nice a cappella moment. The performance is OK, but lacks that heartsick quality that made the song so darn ubiquitous. (Skylar would kill a song like this.) Also, I'd like to give a hat-tip to Michael Slezak, who recently asserted that they need to put this girl in some jeans. Her styling is always so old. So serious. The judges loved it. Steven calls it "perfect."

Local boy Colton Dixon, pride of Murfreesboro, is up next, sporting a new red streak in his hair. He's singing "Bad Romance" by Lady Gaga. Jimmy says, "He does have that female vote that backs him like a stone wall." So, this is what teen girls want? A 100-pound bundle of twigs in a frayed pinstripe duster and leather pants? Oy. Colton takes the stage with an all-girl band dressed in all white. It's very Jack White. Whenever Colton does one of these big, screechy rock performances, I find myself wishing it was Adam Lambert singing instead. It's a strange performance, and I wasn't really feeling it. Randy does his favorite "We were just at a Colton Dixon concert" thing. J-Lo says it was "an exciting performance" and that she loved parts, and then, not so much other parts. Steven Tyler loves Colton's outfit. That is a bad sign. After his performance, Colton tells Seacrest, "I plan on expanding my box so I can include everyone." That is what he said.

Elise has chosen "No One" by Alicia Keys, a classic Idol killer. Jimmy calls her an Etch A Sketch contestant. Politics! I loath her giant orange sack dress. They got the wind machine out! She makes some nice choices on the notes, but I hate how she always uses her hand to trace where she's gonna go. I also just don't love the tone of her voice. J-Lo says she got goosies. Ryan asks her about her sick dog, and she wells up. It's a humanizing moment.

Phillip is singing Usher, finally living up to what he promised in the audition rounds. I like his face. Don't go! (Let's just say that I'm midway through season four of Friday Night Lights and having some serious Matt Saracen feelings.) It's a fun, clever performance. That said, I'm shocked by the standing ovation from the judges. J-Lo says, "That was so sexy." I mean, did it have anything on this? Randy says, "This year, we have a true artist on the stage. Every time he comes up, he tries to be original." Have we been watching the same show? But he is so darn cute.

Jessica is up next, hopefully recovered after getting dangled over a pool of sharks. She is singing "Falling" — meanwhile, Alicia Keys is home swimming in her money room, Scrooge McDuck-style. It feels like she's trying a little too hard. I wish she had done something different with it, like maybe an acoustic version? Make us see her (and the song) in a new way. Randy says, "I hope America shows up and supports you this week."

My gal Skylar Laine is up next. Jimmy says she needs to start thinking like a frontrunner. She's doing the country version of "Born This Way." Does making it country strip away all the gay anthem business? Anyhoo, she totally kills it. Are you surprised? She interacts with the band, she moves around the stage, she hits some big, meaty notes. J-Lo says she's a fighter and that it was a perfect song for her. Steven adds, "You're giving all the other girls a run for their money." Um, how about the boys? Randy says, "You are so beyond ready."

Joshua is singing "I Believe" by Fantasia, which I think was her Idol victory song. (Yes, it was; THIS is how you crush it.) I mean, the song is a big hunk of cheese but he sings it really well, and gets a little emotional at the end. Another standing ovation from the judges. Steven implies that he could win the whole thing. I doubt that.

The Liverpool football team wishes Holly good luck, and she geeks out. It's very cute. The second category of songs is inspired by Soul Train. They show some amazing vintage clips, and Don Cornelius' son is in the audience. She's chosen "Son of a Preacher Man." The groove seems to be having a calming effect on her nerves. This is the most "authentic" she has ever been, which is ironic for the chipper little white girl. The judges also seem impressed.

Colton is singing "September." He slows it way down, playing it as a piano ballad. I actually like this silly arrangement a lot. I thought it was creative. It made me hear the song in a new way, and hear the wistfulness in the lyrics. Plus, the electronic drumbeat sounds very contemporary. It's my favorite Colton performance so far. Of course, it's also the first one of his that the judges don't like. Sigh.

Elise has chosen "Let's Get It On." They have her open on a weird fainting couch. Ew! She seems to be having a good time, but it's not the least bit sexy. Also, can we talk about the line, "Baby, stop beating around the bush"? There's something so embarrassing about singing this song if you don't capture the perfect energy. It's sort of like getting pantsed onstage. The judges seem lukewarm. J-Lo puts on her shrink cap and says Elise is scared to show emotion. Elise seems pissed. Randy tells her to let the song breathe more, which is actually a decent piece of advice.

My boyfriend is performing "In the Midnight Hour." Without his guitar! He looks genuinely elated, but shouldn't this song have a little bit more of a sinister, sensual energy? He's giddy like a school boy. This kid has a distinctive voice, but he is so outclassed as a singer in this competition. J-Lo does some odd groaning. Back off, J-Lo! Steven calls him "brilliantly awkward."

Jessica Sanchez takes on "Try a Little Tenderness." The performance started a little weak and then built to a cool, gritty crescendo. As Elise pointed out, it's hard with these short performances to really build a narrative. The judges liked it, but they're not freaking out. J-Lo says that if it just came down to voice, Jessica would win.

Skylar is singing "I Heard It Through the Grapevine." I smile the whole time. She is such a spitfire! I loved the little variation she did on the melody of the chorus. She has the "little girls" in her corner, according to J-Lo. Yes, before they become slaves to puberty and, apparently, red leather pants. Anyway, I love this girl.

Jacob is closing the show with "A Change Is Gonna Come." You know NOTHING of my Sam Cooke obsession. OBSESSION. You can tell that Joshua consciously tried to reel himself in, but I don't know if the song quite built in the right way. I did LOVE the rough moments, the times when he really dug in. The judges give him a standing ovation. Again. J-Lo says, "Please, America, don't send this boy home."

Meanwhile, I go look up Adam Lambert's performance of this same jam, back when everyone was like, "Is he talking about being gay!?" Is that the "my change" he was talking about?! Man, that was a really good season. Speaking of which: Kris Allen is performing on the results show tonight.

So, who's in danger? I think Elise is donezo. And I bet Jessica and Holly join her in the bottom three.

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