Wednesday, February 29, 2012

"American Idol" Recap: What Kind of Chocolate Do You Like?

So after what seems like 525,600 minutes (but what has been, in actuality, six weeks), it's finally time to start the live performance shows. First up: the top 12 guys, along with the "surprise" 13th guy who will get a shot at redemption.

Interestingly enough, if you consider that 6 of the 10 winners have been guys, and guys have won the last four seasons, the odds are fairly good that this season's winner performed last night. And while I felt a few could be worthy of a confetti explosion come late May, I'm always doubtful that America and I are on the same wavelength.

But onto the show. Randy was surprisingly dressed up, wearing a long jacket, J.Lo decided to cover herself tonight (more on that later), and Steven was wearing a zebra-print jacket I swear Allison Iraheta wore during Season 8. (The more I watch Steven, the more he's starting to look like Janice from The Muppet Show.)

Reed opened the show with a manic, jazzy, spazzy, utterly awkward version of Maroon 5's Moves Like Jagger. He tried to throw in everything he could—a little scatting, a little moonwalk, playing the drums like Sheila E. (did you see her on the Oscars Sunday night? Glamorous life, indeed.), heck, he even forgot to take the word "s--t" out of the song and was censored. Randy once again called him "this season's Casey Abrams," J.Lo said the song was "a great way to show America what they're dealing with," and Steven incorrectly name checked Reed's band, Shoeless Revolution, calling them "Shoeless Generation," and saying that "a whole new generation will love your a--." (Steven got censored, too, but after the word was heard on television. Call the FCC!)

You might not have known Adam has a baby daughter, Whitney, whom he and his wife like to dress in giant head bows. (When I saw his wife wearing a vintage Hillary Clinton headband, I understood.) Oh, and apparently he has a large black woman inside of him (never heard that one before) and he wants to show the world "what white chocolate is about." (Can I point out now that white chocolate isn't really chocolate, just a pale imitation?) Adam chose to sing a straight-from-karaoke version of Aretha Franklin's Think. I thought it was awful and in his leather jacket, t-shirt, and Pittsburgh Steelers' "terrible towel," he just looked like a dad trying to hard to impress his kids into thinking he's cool. Steven's adjective wheel spun to "brilliant" for this performance, Randy said that he liked Adam's 1970s-era "blue-eyed soul" (really?), and J.Lo said she was waiting for the big finish, which she loved. (Points for Adam's supporters' signs "Brock On" and "Brock the Vote," though.)

Awkward dialogue break #1: Ryan: "Steven, what kind of chocolate do you prefer?" Steven: "Dark." Randy: "I consider myself milk, but dark is cool." (Shut up, Dawg. You weren't even included in the conversation.)

Deandre showed he was more Milli Vanilla with a warbly version of Earth, Wind & Fire's Reasons. Other than one beautiful high note toward the end, I found him really off-key, with really awkward transitions between his head voice, his falsetto, and his lower register. He does flip his hair quite beautifully, though. J.Lo said that his voice was "so perfect," while Randy called him "one of the most commercial guys" on the show, "ready to make a record right out of the box." And then, in Nigel's favorite manufactured ploy two young girls from the audience apparently were dying to hug Deandre. Yeah, right.

Colton showed us the secrets of his hairdo (one dab isn't enough for him) and he paid tribute to his sister, Schyler. Choosing to sing Paramore's Decode, Colton started out behind the piano, sang on stage for a bit, and ended up on top of the piano, James Durbin-style, complete with dramatic lighting. I actually really like his voice and hope he sticks around. Randy said it was great to "finally have our own indie alt-rocker singing Paramore" on the show, and both J.Lo and Steven called him a "relevant artist," although J.Lo mentioned she likes it better when she can "feel his heart" through his music.

Hanging on the stools with Jeremy, Ryan referred to him as the "spirit stick" of the group, the one who is constantly cheering everyone else on. He sang Sara Bareilles' Gravity, which I love (plus I can never forget the Mia Michaels-choreographed dance routine from So You Think You Can Dance). Jeremy has a nice voice, but his phrasing is really breathy at times. However, I thought he did really, really well. Steven called the performance "beautiful" (go figure) and said that Jeremy has "a big, big heart, and for that alone, you should be America's idol." (Steven, you're judging a singing competition, remember?) J.Lo said that Jeremy is "blessed by God with a voice that affects everyone," while Randy kept blathering on about "sangers" in the competition, and then said, "America meet Jeremy. Jeremy meet America."

Awkward dialogue break #2: Ryan: "Steven, how do you feel so far?" Steven: "I'm as confused as a baby in a topless bar." Then Steven proceeds to pull down his shirt, sneeze and expose his nipple, teasing J.Lo for her Oscar dress, to which she shrieked, "There was no nipple!"

Nice lead-in for Aaron, no? He sang Never Can Say Goodbye, and I thought he sounded great and worked the audience well. The judges gave him the night's first standing ovation, and Randy praised his "beautiful vocals, mad vocals" because "this boy can sing!" Steven blathered about how Aaron has raised the bar for himself, because now he has to top this. Doesn't everyone have to top their first performance? (God, I hope so.)

Barely seen Chase, "this season's country crooner," said that he's "as country as you can get." He sang Hunter Hayes' Storm Warning well, although the song didn't show off his voice to its fullest potential. He's a terrific performer, though, and toward the end of the song, proceeded to spin around while kicking his leg, which was pretty professional. Steven told Chase he looked like Brendan Fraser in The Mummy, and said "there are probably a lot of mummies [mommies] in America rooting for you." J.Lo praised his "movie star good looks and good voice," while Randy told him he had "mad skills."

So are "totally unique" and "individual" code words for "gay" on the show? That was how Ryan prefaced the introduction to Creighton, who blew me out of the water with an amazingly powerful-yet-restrained, vocally beautiful rendition of True Colors. (The lights behind Creighton even turned to a rainbow flag, although I know the lyric to the song is "Your true colors are beautiful like a rainbow.") I didn't feel the judges gave him anywhere near the praise he deserved. Yes, they used words like "stupendous" and "so beautiful," but chose to focus more on the fact that more than half of the guys performing would be going home. And then Randy said something about "we're going to think about the back story, the image, the whole thing, but you can sing." Huh?

And it's back to Phillip Phillips this week. (Points for the producers for titling a picture of his family with "Phillip Phillips Phamily Photo." Hee.) He sang In the Air Tonight, and I loved it. (How cool was it that Phillip Phillips sang some Phillip Collins?) Some people find him annoying and too derivative of Dave Matthews, and while there's no denying he sounds a lot like him, there's something irresistible about him. J.Lo mentioned that when they got back from last year's auditions, all they could talk about were Scotty and Lauren, while this year, all they could talk about was Phillip. J.Lo praised his "special talents," while Steven said he has a "crazy kind of voice, and really hit [his] stride." Stupid Randy said he "wasn't jumping up and down with the reharm of the melody." Whatever, Dawg. If warbling Deandre is commercial, Phillip is mad ready.

Young Eben was next into the breach, and he inexplicably chose to sing Adele's Set Fire to the Rain. Even with the fiery backdrop usually reserved for Motown week when someone sings (Love is Like a) Heat Wave, Eben was not on pitch for a good portion of the song. Sad, because he seems like a really likable kid, and it really does make an argument that he could have waited an extra year or two. The judges mentioned that he was a little pitchy, a little flat, and Steven, while praising his "straight, beautiful voice," suggested he "listen to some blues records and shake it out."

Heejun, minus one of his usual hats, introduced us to his dancing mother, and then promised to prove that "Asian people can not only outscore you on their SATs, they can also sing and melt their hearts...the females." He sang a perfectly adequate version of Robbie Williams' Angels, and while he really has a beautiful voice, his performance wasn't exceptional to me in any way. He also tends to drop the ends of some words when he sings them. All of the judges seemed to agree he didn't choose the right song, although his voice is "as smooth as silk." Ryan tried to get Heejun to explain why he chose the song, and he started saying that everyone has angels around them, blah blah blah.

Joshua rounded out the top 12, and the contestant that apparently has gotten the nickname "Mantasia," broke out Jennifer Hudson's You Pulled Me Through. Wow, what a voice. I was pleased to see that while he really let loose vocally, he didn't veer into Jacob Lusk-like histrionics. The judges gave him a standing ovation, and Randy said, "This is what singing is about!" J.Lo was so moved by Joshua's voice she told him she wanted to punch him, but told him he could be an R&B or gospel star right now. Steven said that he has "the voice the world has been waiting for."

And finally, the judges revealed that the contestant with the shot at redemption was the "Gentle Giant," Jermaine Jones. (I was surprised, because I couldn't understand why they would have even mentioned Johnny Keyser as a possibility, since he was cut before the top 40, if they weren't bringing him back.) Jermaine sang Luther Vandross' Dance with My Father, and his beautiful baritone, combined with the story behind the song, made me a little weepy. I just don't know how his voice will do in this competition, or whether he's engendered enough support. But his mother loves him.

My choice for the top five: Creighton, Joshua, Aaron, Phillip, and Colton, although it's entirely possible Deandre, Heejun, or Reed could sneak in. (I believe the judges will pick Deandre and/or Reed as wild cards, though.)

And tonight...two more hours of singing! It's the ladies' turn! (Jen Hirsh, don't disappoint me!!)

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