Thursday, March 1, 2012

AI Recap: "What the Adele?"

Dear Randy Jackson,

We know you're in the music business. We know you played with Journey, recorded with Mariah Carey, and know almost everyone is to know. But sadly we're not getting the "goosies" every time you name drop someone else from the industry. After all, J.Lo doesn't say, "When we were making Gigli, Ben Affleck told me..." and Steven, well, Steven is a whole different story. Pretty please?

My apologies for that interlude. It's time for "some of the most buzzed about people in the country" to take the stage—it's your top 12 ladies, America! Honestly, if a female is to break the sensitive-guy-with-guitar streak this year, many of them are going to have to do better than last night.

Randy recycled his jacket from Tuesday's show, and J.Lo borrowed a pair of Shannon Magrane's short-shorts and paired them with a one-sleeved top that threatened to assimilate her around the middle of the show. And Steven was wearing a jacket that was definitely a couch in its previous life.

Cannon fodder Chelsea started off the show. All the footage of Chelsea they've shown to date is that she apparently forgot her words during the group round in Hollywood. Inexplicably, she chose to sing Carrie Underwood's Cowboy Casanova, which is a fun song but not one to demonstrate your vocal prowess. Chelsea has a strong, husky voice, and did a fine job, but to go first when you've gotten no camera time, you need to blow it out of the water and sadly, everyone stayed in the water. Randy assured Chelsea that she "definitely can sing," but questioned her song choice, as "we've all seen the 'Carrie thing' already." J.Lo said the song made her sound nasally and commiserated with her that "it sucks to go first," while Steven's feedback was, "You sang good, but watch your phrasing, and watch your timing." Ryan tried to garner some sympathy votes by telling the judges that Chelsea's heart was beating so fast she couldn't get control, but everyone had already moved on.

Our "mobile DJ," Erika got a makeover before the show, as she's now sporting longer, straight blonde hair with cool reddish streaks. She sang Heart's What About Love, doing a much stronger job with the song than Melissa McGhee in Season 5, or Season 9 also-ran Janell Wheeler. I really like Erika's voice and stage presence. Steven thought there was "something magical" about Erika's confidence, as it "breathes wings into a song." (Someone's been breathing something, I'd venture to say.) Randy said she had almost an "Adele-like" vibe he'd never heard before (despite the fact that she sang an Adele song for her final performance, Dawg?), and then said, "She's a singing DJ, when have you heard of that?" J.Lo was sort of impressed but felt like Erika was holding back, and told her she needed to "push it harder."

Up next, my favorite, Jen. Apparently her family owns a frigging vineyard. How cool is that? For reasons I don't quite understand, Jen sang Adele's One and Only. While she has terrific stage presence and a great tone to her voice, I just didn't feel this song was the showcase she needed. There were a few great moments, but overall, it left me wanting more. Given some of her performances in Hollywood and Las Vegas, I just don't get why she chose this song, but she did explain that she had been through something similar to Adele a few years ago, so the song meant something to her. The judges were more appreciative than I was, although they didn't go wild. Steven told Jen that her "confidence makes your voice fly" (again with the wings) and Randy called her "one of the greatest singers in the competition" and told her she shouldn't forget she has "the swag, the runs" to rely on. I worry about her chances but hope she's a wild card pick if she doesn't make it in otherwise.

Ever the troublemaker, Ryan asked Randy, "Gender to gender, how are the girls doing compared to the guys?" Randy admitted that upon watching the show back, "the judges were a little lenient on the guys." (No way. Really? Would never have known.) He mentioned that they gave passes to some people that should have been criticized (but despite Ryan's egging him on, wouldn't name names), and said that "the girls are coming out scorching!" (More proof Randy is in a whole different universe.)

Want a reality check? Brielle has been watching the show since she was six years old. (If rest facilities have free wi-fi, I'm so there.) The pride of Staten Island sang (Sittin' On) The Dock of the Bay, and for the tiniest of seconds sounded like Haley Rinehart. But then it became clear that the song was a little too low for her as she was "watching the tides roll een." She tore into the rest of the song and it was all just a little too much for me. There should be a balance between the gusto and some restraint, but judging from her mother's comments, I don't think restraint is a word used often in their household. J.Lo said that people underestimate Brielle, that while she may not have the biggest voice, she's a "true performer, a true entertainer." Steven praised her "great sense of the blues." (C'mon, now. I'd say Billie Holliday or Nina Simone had a great sense of the blues. Brielle?) Randy said she had a little Janis Joplin in her(!) and said that when he listened to her, "Man, I was like 'yo.'" That pretty much sums it up, no?

Another one who has gotten precious little camera time, Hallie came next. Her pre-performance package demonstrated a little deficit in the personality department, but her rendition of Feelin' Good was really skillful, almost a little sexy. And then as soon as the song was over, much like Ruben Studdard used to do, she slipped back into no-personality zone. J.Lo said she had "some really beautiful moments" and looked like a star, while Steven praised the "old-timey, old-fashioned" quality of her voice. Randy, despite praising her "great, amazing voice," chose that moment to demand she declare what type of artist she wanted to be. (No one else was asked that, mind you.) Does she want to be a soul singer, a torch singer? Then, inexplicably, his need to name drop reached epic ridiculousness, as he explained that "Lana Del Rey is doing her thing, interestingly." What? Lana Del Rey and Hallie Day have nothing in common except rhyming last names, Dawg. Does Hallie remind him of Haley from last year and his inexplicable need to tear her apart?

Little country spitfire Skylar chose to sing Stay with Me by Faces. I had never heard the song before, but I thought Skylar was fantastic. She really is a pint-sized Reba McEntire, although she threw some Proud Mary-era Tina Turner moves into her performance. Here is one young girl with a great voice and some serious stage presence. She really blew me away. Of course, this is one of Randy's favorite songs, and in fact, he even recorded a version of the song with "Mr. Travis Tritt." He called Skylar a "rockin', performin' country singer." J.Lo said that Skylar made the song one of her favorites, too, and that she truly embodies the whole package they're looking for. Steven said she "made Galveston proud" (where she auditioned) and that "you're a pistol, you're on fire." Skylar mentioned that her dress was really tight and she had been practicing breath control the entire week.

Pretty Baylie, clad in her pink pageant gown, perched seductively on a stool, sang Lonestar's Amazed. It was just not good. She didn't hit a right note the entire time, and her voice was really shaky. We had our first Paula moments of the season, as Steven told her, "I'm not sure it was the best song, but you're pretty." J.Lo one-upped him with, "You're not pretty, you're beautiful. But the song was shaky the whole time." Baylie explained, too, that her dress was really tight, and Ryan asked J.Lo for advice. "Get a bigger dress," J.Lo recommended. Desperate to turn the spotlight back to himself, Randy said, "You know, Ryan, when you wear your dresses?" "I stop at the heels," Ryan explained. (Well, Julianne Hough is really tall, you know?)

Finally, the show has decided it can longer pretend Hollie didn't get cut just before the top 24 last season. She's like a tiny doll-like elf, and I love her hybrid British-Texas accent. She sang Reflection by Christina Aguilera (from Mulan), a song previously tackled by Ayla Brown in Season 5, Jordin Sparks in Season 6, and Jasmine Murray in Season 8. (Yes, I remember all of this stuff. My mind is a pop culture junkyard.) I thought Hollie was fantastic—powerful when she needed to be, controlled when it was appropriate, and really strong vocally. Steven praised her passion but told her she needed to let her hair down (literally) next time. J.Lo mentioned that Hollie is one of her favorites, and she mentioned that last season, after Hollie was cut, she told her if she came back, she could win the whole thing, and she still believes that. Always feeling the need to criticize the stronger performances, Randy mentioned that in choosing a Christina Aguilera song, she had to "slay the dragon," and let go a little more. Of course, he also told her that it "wasn't all perfect." Nice.

Haley "We Barely Know You Anyway" Johnsen was next. I'll admit that when Ryan announced she'd be singing Sweet Dreams, I immediately thought of the Patsy Cline song. I couldn't imagine she'd perform The Eurythmics' Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This), but boy, was I wrong. Eek. Seriously. She wore a dress that was all fishnets at the bottom, and flailed around the stage in a strange green light. Vocally she changed up a lot of the song and it just didn't work. J.Lo said that she hoped "America could hear all of the special things" in Haley's voice despite the fact it was the wrong song and the wrong arrangement. Steven told Haley that, "some of your turnarounds weren't perfect, but what in life is?" He also said that she performed well on stage, and that was "half of it." Strangely, Randy was the voice of reason this time, calling the performance "more of a nightmare instead of a dream," "pitchy all over the place," and "a little trainwrecky." And catch this, my friends: I. Agree. With. Randy.

Shannon traded in her short-shorts for a white pageant gown and sang Kathy Troccoli's Christian song, Go Light Your World. (And if you don't believe my pageant comment, Miss Tennessee 1997, Lanna Keck, sang this song at Miss America. You're welcome.) The song wasn't that impressive but she has a really powerful voice. Randy praised her "Lauryn Hill-like vibrato," J.Lo told her she sings with such passion for a 16-year-old and that her performance gave J.Lo her first "goosies" of the night. (There's a catchphrase that needs to die a quick death.) Steven said, "You started out low and gospelly, but then my reality check bounced, and you took it up a notch." (Sometimes I think people just look at him like an elderly grandparent, hoping for a nugget of wisdom in the midst of all of the gibberish.)

Ryan took to the stools with young Jessica to warn everyone that she had been sick during the week, suffering from swollen vocal cords, and she was worried about her performance. PSYCH OUT!! Singing Jennifer Hudson's Love You I Do with the stage presence of a performer twice her age and amazing vocals. Seriously. The judges gave her a standing ovation, calling her performance one of the best of the two nights. Steven praised her exceptional timing and flawless turnarounds, and said that "The San Diego Chargers are going to have to pay you the next time you sing the National Anthem for them." Ever the name-dropper, Randy praised her "Beyonce-like vibrato" (I wonder how that differs from Shannon's "Lauryn Hill-like vibrato"?)

Elise got the closing spot and chose to sing Adele's One and Only, because once was not enough. She started out at the piano and then moved away from it, and while there were a few rough spots, she definitely had the power and variety of tone to make her performance stand out more than Jen's, sadly. (I could have done without the horrible banquet display flowers in her hair, but now I'm just nitpicking.) The judges called her a "force to be reckoned with."

Without a mystery 13th contestant, we had extra time, so Ryan asked each of the judges who stood out tonight. Randy picked Elise, Jessica, Skyler, Erika, and Jen; J.Lo picked Jessica, Hollie, Skyler, Elise, and Jen; and Steve picked Elise, Jessica, Hollie, and Skyler.

Then, of course, the judges were asked to weigh in on the guys. All three chose Phillip, Joshua, and Deandre, while Randy also mentioned Heejun(!) and Steven included "White Chocolate" (Adam). No Creighton? You have got to be fricking kidding me. I hope America doesn't let me down on this one.

My picks for the top 5 ladies: Jessica, Hollie, Skyler, Elise, and Erika, although I'm holding out hope that Jen scores a wild card if nothing else. (I do think Shannon will make it, however, probably over Erika, but I thought Erika's overall performance was stronger.)

Tonight, a "super-sized" results show, which means 90 minutes of inane filler, a Ford music video, another baby picture from Adam Brock, and a weak group number, followed by 30 minutes of dream crushing. And by that, I mean my dreams.

Can't wait!

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