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American Idol Season 11 Recap – Top 24 – The Girls

February 29, 2012 1 comment

Let me begin tonight by saying once again that I refuse to believe that no African-American women were strong enough to crack the top 24.

As I expected, the women on the whole had a much, much, much better showing than did the men last night.  And of course, the judges chose tonight to decide they were being too easy on folks and spent most of their comments criticizing the far superior women.  It seriously made it crystal clear how ridiculous the commentary was last night.  Randy even admitted flat out that they were too soft on the boys last night.

Anyway.  On to an evening of Hayley, Hallie, and Holly, and blondes, blondes, and more blondes.

Chelsea Sorell – “Cowboy Cassanova” – Carrie Underwood
First – Boobs.  OK.  That being said…ballsy to choose a Carrie Underwood song for your premiere to America.  Just inviting comparison.  And…there it comes from Randy.  Annoying, but she asked for it.  She was really pretty good, though overshadowed by the band, I think.  But I still think stronger than most of the guys.  But the judges didn’t pop whatever they popped last night and they were flowing with the criticism.  She shouldn’t actually let us her her speak, however.  Sounds like she swallowed helium.

Erica Van Pelt – “What About Love” by Heart
Props for choosing a Heart song.  And I thought she was terrific.  So did Steven.  JLo thought she could have pushed even more.  I tuned Randy out.

Jen Hirsch – “One And Only” by Adele
If Jen were a stunner, I would say she could be the front-runner in the competition.  She reminds me of a not-as-pretty Lea Michele.  In contrast to Eben, Jen’s decision to sing an Adele song was not a train wreck.  Hardly.  She is an incredibly talented musician.  The judges agreed.

Brielle Von Hugel – “Sitting On The Dock Of The Bay” by Otis Redding
Oh boy.  First, I need to get past the fact that she has the worst stage mother in recent memory.  Second, I need to get past the fact that she’s from Staten Island (sorry, Tracy Pattison!).  Then I need to get past the fact that she got a bunch of the boys to surround her for the beginning of the song.  Finally, I need to get over the fact that she looks like a slightly less guidish Snooki.  She actually sounded pretty good.  Hate to admit it.  Let’s see if her whole personna doesn’t hurt her.

Hallie Day – “Feeling Good” by Nina Simone
Baltimore in the house!  Another daring choice of song given how often it has been sung on Idol.  But I thought she was tremendous.  I expected that though, given how they have been positioning her all season.  But I think she really delivered.

Skylar Laine – “Stay with Me” by Faces
Damn.  Did we really have to suffer through Lauren Alaina last year?  Skylar on her first performance was everything we hoped Lauren would turn out to be.  Wow.  I now completely understand why the judges have been saying she reminds them of Reba McEntire.  The judges loved her.  Randy of course had to point out that he recorded this song with Travit Tritt.  What is going on with me this season?  I’m liking all the country folks!

Baylie Brown – “Amazed” by Lone Star
Baylie already had my vote.  She’s adorable.  She actually waited four years between Idol auditions.  Then she had such a charismatic opening package.  Oh, but Baylie.  You just don’t have the chops.  What a disappointment.  I really wanted you to be so good.  But you’re just not.  Steven has heard her sing better “and you’re very pretty”.  Jennifer thought the same “and you’re beautiful”.  Randy said the same “and you look amazing”.  Oh, Baylie.  Go be a model.  Sorry.

Holly Cavanagh – “Reflection” by Christina Aguilera
Adorable.  And again – BALLSY.  Tackling Christina is ridiculously risky.  It wasn’t Christina, but it was pretty damned good.  I can’t believe I am saying this, but I would have liked to see her connect with the song more.  Despite that, she sang the hell out of it.  Jennifer thinks she is one of the front runners.  And I think that she has got the voice and the personality and would have to agree.  Adorable.

Hayley Johnson – “Sweet Dreams” by The Eurithmics
What a cool but weird song choice.  Not one that is really made to show off your vocals.  I have to believe she’s just too young to understand how iconic that song was.  JLo agrees with me.  Randy is finally honest and correct – “It was kind of a nightmare for me instead of a dream.”

Shannon Magrane – “Light Your Candle” by Kathy Troccoli
Katie – you’re totally right.  She reminds me of Ayla Brown.  And I’m trying I’m trying I’m trying to put aside the fact that she’s singing Contemporary Christian music.  I’m really trying.  Yes, she gave a very strong performance and she gave JLo (the Scientologist) “goosies”.  But I am going to have a difficult time pretending she isn’t a bible-beater.  Sorry.  But she actually wasn’t that good, was she?

Jessica Sanchez – “Love You I Do” by Jennifer Hudson
If that was Jessica with sore vocal chords, imagine how she’ll be when she’s healthy.  I was pretty bowled over by Jessica during Vegas week, and I’m glad that she got to show her chops tonight.  She is absolutely a front-runner.  I read some recap saying she reminded the recapper a bit of Thia Megia.  Come on.  Ridiculous.  And racist.  Zero in common.

Elise Testone – “One And Only” by Adele
Geez.  I wasn’t expecting that at all.  Where did that come from?  Elise was amazing.  Stellar vocals.  Such personality and charisma – even behind a piano.  I don’t care who sings that song.  She made me forget about Adele.  Completely.  She actually reminds me a little of Gaga.

My ranking of tonight’s performances:

  1. Elise Testone
  2. Jessica Sanchez
  3. Skylar Laine
  4. Hollie Cavanagh
  5. Jen Hirsch
  6. Hallie Day
  7. Erica Van Pelt
  8. Brielle Von Hugel
  9. Chelsea Boobie Sorell
  10. Shannon Magrane
  11. Baylie Brown
  12. Hayley Johnson

I paid close attention to the recap clips at the end of the show and I stand by those rankings.

My prediction for what WILL happen:

Well, if the judges have any sense in their heads whatsoever, the top 13 will be comprised of 5 boys and 8 girls.  Or at least the top 7 girls on my list and 6 boys.  But sense isn’t one of their strongest qualities, and America also has a history of poor voting, so here are my thoughts:

  • Skylar Laine & Hollie Cavanagh are locks for both America & the judges
  • Elise Testone, Hallie Day, and Jessica Sanchez are locks for me and I believe for the judges as well, though not necessarily locks for America.  America is likely to put Shannon Magrane through based on her faith and may put Baylie Brown through based on her looks.  And despite her front-runner status, America may not choose on its own to put Jessica Sanchez through because America is racist.
  • I really fear that Jen Hirsch and Erica Van Pelt may get lost in the shuffle, even though they both deserve to go through.  And despite being not so bad, Brielle Von Hugel may suffer the same fate.  I think the judges may need to save others.
  • Hayley Johnson shouldn’t bother to show up at the results show, and Chelsie Boobie Sorell should have her bags packed.

So my daring prediction (not hope) for the top 13 is…

  1. Skylar Laine
  2. Hollie Cavanagh
  3. Elise Testone
  4. Hallie Day
  5. Jessica Sanchez
  6. Shannon Magrane
  7. Erica Van Pelt
  8. Joshua Ledet
  9. Phillip Phillips
  10. Chase Likens
  11. Deandre Brackensick
  12. Colton Dixon
  13. Heejun Han

I will hope against hope that Heejun and Shannon do not claim two spots that could go to many others in what is the best pool of Idol semi-finalists I can remember in a decade.

Wertheim out.

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American Idol Season 11 – Top 24 Recap – The Boys

February 28, 2012 2 comments

First, I have to very briefly address my last post, which was apparently made at the beginning of X-Factor.  Wow.  I guess X-Factor did have promise before it devolved into a complete train wreck.  I could fill ten blog posts with details of how much I could not stand that show.  But I will simply say that Steve Jones reminded America that Ryan Seacrest is actually the glue that holds American Idol together, and should not be underestimated.  Steve Jones also managed to finally, irrevocably replace Brian Dunkleman at the top of the reality show host hall of fame.

With that, THIS is American Idol.

And I have been religiously watching the early shows this season for the first time in a long time, and my impression thus far has been that this is a very talented group this year.  The last couple of weeks had some of the best performances I can remember on Idol in awhile.  Let’s hope that impression continues.

JLo’s non-wardrobe malfunction is the subject of several jokes this evening.  First Ryan deftly notices that JLo is wearing “another dress” tonight.  Later, Steven in his never subtle way reenacts JLo’s dress and exposes his nipple to America.  Gotta love that guy.

The show starts off in Idol’s “new home”, which looks…just like Idol’s old home.  They are already on the big stage, which I don’t think they have ever done at this stage in the competition before.  Then again, the format has changed once again.  Announced so casually I missed it the first time and had to rewind, Ryan tells us that the boys perform tonight, the girls perform tomorrow night, and on Thursday night, they will announce the top 5 of each gender and the judges will each choose a wild card pick.  Interesting.  So we have fewer weeks with American choosing, which may be a good thing.  Then again, it’s also fewer weeks to get to know these contestants.  Though I feel like they have shown us a lot more of them this year than before.  For the first time I can remember, I actually feel like I know who these folks are going in to the top 24.

Pia Toscano is in the house.

Reid Grimm “Moves Like Jagger” – Maroon 5 and Christina Aguilera
Very very cool jazzy arrangement of the song, and he gets his drum thing going as well.  I think he sounded great.  I do, however, think he may be too awkward for America and not masculine enough for people to warm to his jazzy vibe.  Then again, Jacob Lusk made it quite far last year.  The judges seemed to really like him.  And I’m sure there are other odd folks in the mix.

Adam Brock – “Think” by Aretha Franklin
“I have been told that there is a large black woman living inside of me…and I think it’s time for America to really see what ‘What Chocolate’ is,” Adam says in his opening package.   Oh, boy.  Did that really come out of a straight man’s mouth?  Nah.  His wife can’t really think he is straight, can she?  Anyway…as my friend Katie says, Adam is Danny Gokey redux.  I quite agree.  I thought Adam was b-o-r-i-n-g.  Seriously.   Steven thought it was “brilliant”.  JLo said he definitely delivered.  Randy said “job well done, baby.”

DeAndre Brackensick – “Reasons” by Earth, Wind and Fire
Brackensick?  Wow.  Dude needs to get a stage name.  Dude also has an amazing voice.  I don’t think people know how tough it is to sing falsetto that well.  Props to you, DeAndre.  I’m not sure how well it’s going to go over with the American public, although it seemed to go over well with the studio audience.   The judges of course failed to comment on the cheesy ’70’s arrangement.  Randy says “you’re one of the most commercial guys that I’ve seen” and compares DeAndre to Maxwell and Philip Bailey.  Um….ok.  I mean, Maxwell and Philip Bailey are astounding talents, but also pretty niche.  But they are clearly pimping DeAndre.  JLo reminds us that they mistakenly passed on him last year and suggests he is going to have an amazing year.

Colton Dixon – “I Think I Know” by Paramore
Poster child #2 for trying out again.  People are used to seeing me behind a piano.  I’m gonna surprise them.  Really?  By starting out behind the piano?  And then getting up from the piano?  Oh, by standing ON the piano?  SHOCKING.  Does he really want to be a rocker?  The year after James Durbin?  I don’t see how he can avoid comparisons if this is the direction he’s taking.  He’s no James Durbin.  Just fine.  The judges pretend they like it, because Colton Dixon is another favorite, but their compliments are a bit more muted with Colton.

Jeremy Rosado – Gravity by Sara Bareilles
Pretty voice.  Sweet guy.  Eh.  Steven thought it was beautiful and that Jeremy couldn’t have picked a better song.  “As beautiful as beautiful gets.”  JLo thinks that he is one of those people who is blessed by God through his voice.  Randy says “America, you need to know about Jeremy.”

Aaron Marcellus – “Never Can Say Goodbye” by The Jackson 5
Great song.  Great voice.  Great performance.  Judges liked it.  Not much else to say.  Solid.  But I am just not sure I see him being a star.

Chase Likens – “Storm Warning” by Hunter Hayes
Uh-oh – are we going to have ANOTHER country winner?  Great looking.  Great voice.  Great performer.  I think he was absolutely one of the most engaging performers so far.  He’s clearly not one of the judges’ favorites (I’m sure Uncle Nigel told them they can’t have another male country winner this year), but they say nice things because that’s what they do.  I think this guy is going to be around for quite awhile to come, Nigel be damned.

Creighton Fraker – True Colors by Cyndi Lauper
One of my favorite songs.  Points there.  He’s positioning himself as quirky and offbeat.  And that’s how he comes across.  Strong voice.  But a bit odd.  And I think that as far as odd goes, Reid’s got it all over him.  Jennifer thought it was “so beautiful”.  Steven thought it was “stupendous”.  Randy says he can “definitely sing”.

Phillip Phillips – “In The Air Tonight” by Phil Collins
Yeah.  I like me some Phillip Phillips.  I can’t help it.  Against my better judgement.  Does the world REALLY need another Dave Matthews?  It’s not what I’ve been looking for, but for some reason I love me some Phillip Phillips.  The judges do too.  As does Phillip Phillips senior.  Something raw and real.

Eben Franckewitz – “Set Fire To The Rain” by Adele
“Idol’s youngest contestant this year.”  Eben is what Michael Wertheim would have been had he tried out for Idol when he was fifteen.  Which is not very good.  A cute little boy with too much hair (can you believe that?) and not much style or charisma.  Adele?  Are you kidding?  Eben is so far outside of his element.  Please, please, please, America.  Please do not make us have to endure Eben this season.  Please.

Heejun Han – “Angels” by Robbie Williams
The Idol producers are obsessed with Heejun.  I am not.  EWWWWWWW.  Really, Jennifer?  “Smooth as silk”?  At least the judges all agreed that the performance was not very good.  I love finally having some Asian contestants on the show, but the girls are the ones with a potential winner on their hands.  That Jessica Sanchez can sing.  Heejun is just nothing special.  And that performance made me re-think Eben as my bottom pick for the night.

Joshua Ledet – “You Pulled Me Through” by Jennifer Hudson
Wow.  I get it.  Apparently, Joshua is nicknamed “ManTasia”.  Now given Fantasia’s career, I cringed a little bit.  But as Jennifer says, his voice is from another world – just like Fantasia’s is.  And at least he chose a Jennifer Hudson song instead of one from Fantasia’s oeuvre, which includes classics like “Hood Boy”, “Baby Mama”, and “Baby Makin’ Hips”.  Steven says Joshua’s is the voice America was waiting to hear.  Hands down, best voice among the guys.

Finally, it is on to THE BIG REVEAL.  Who have the Idol judges decided to bring back as the 13th male semi-finalist?

And to no one’s surprise, it’s Jermaine Jones – the “Gentle Giant”, who is literally twice the size of Ryan Seacrest.  But why?  It’s never explained.  Did they pull an X-Factor-era Simon Cowell and turn away the eventual winner in order to curry favor for him and avoid the curse of the early front-runner?  Nah.  That was my early suspicion, but that’s clearly not the case.  I think they really just did feel SO BAD for him when they turned him down that they brought him back, partially out of pity for how sad he was.  Which is weird.

Jermaine Jones – “Dance With My Father” by Luther Vandross
OK.  I’m crying.  How can you not?  The back-story + the song + the emotion.  What an amazing bass voice.  So much power.  Not the best performance of the night, but pretty darned good and better than a bunch of the “official” semi-finalists.  The judges confirm my suspicion by saying virtually nothing about how he belongs in the competition or about how good he was.  They very clearly said they are so glad he got his chance.  And then they let his mom come on stage to solidify the weird pity party.  Which just isn’t really fair.  So the dude is emotional and a gentle giant?  He’s also WAY better than Eben Franckewitz or Heejun Han.  But I do suspect that this may simply have been a one-night reprieve for Jermaine Jones.

My ranking of tonight’s performances:

  1. Joshua Ledet
  2. Phillip Phillips
  3. Aaron Marcellus
  4. Chase Likens
  5. Reid Grimm
  6. DeAndre Brackensick
  7. Colton Dixon
  8. Jermaine Jones
  9. Jeremy Rosado
  10. Creighton Fraker
  11. Adam Brock
  12. Eben Franckewitz
  13. Heejun Han

Who will make it through?

  • I think Joshua Ledet, Phillip Phillips, Chase Likens, and Deandre Brackensick are a lock.  They were great and seemed to have both audience support and judge adulation.
  • I think Reid Grimm and Colton Dixon are both very likely to go through, but if it comes down to it, the judges are clearly pulling for Colton.
  • Despite having one of the strongest performances of the night, I have a feeling that America isn’t going to come out to support Aaron Marcellus, partially because he didn’t connect well enough and partially because of the dastardly Fantasia-LaToya-Jennifer situation that did Jennifer Hudson in years ago.  The judges may consider saving him, but only if all of their favorites are already safe.
  • Heejun Han SHOULD go home, but whether he is saved by the “Vote For The Worst” crowd or by the berzerker judges, I sense that he is likely to make it through, sending someone far more deserving home too soon.
  • Definitely going home are Jeremy Rosado (Who?), Creighton Fraker (loses the odd competition to Reid), Adam Brock (sorry, dude), Eben Franckewitz (seriously?), and sadly, Jermaine Jones.

All in all, a strong group.  Not a lot of “moments”, but it’s early in the season.  And at least there weren’t multiple cringe-worthy performances as is usually the case.  The judges are repeating last year’s lovefest and not actually critiquing anyone – at least until they find their Haley Reinhart to undeservingly flagellate because he or she doesn’t fit into Uncle Nigel’s master plan.  But I do think that this year, Uncle Nigel’s master plan involves a woman winning.  And despite the men being very strong, I think it’s the women’s game to lose.

On an unrelated note, I am training for the New York City Triathlon again this year and in conjunction raising money for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.  Thank you to those of you who sponsored me last year.  It was an amazing experience.  If you are in the position to do so this year, I would greatly appreciate your help with a donation of any size.  You can visit my page at: http://pages.teamintraining.org/nyc/nyctri12/mwertheim .  Thanks so much.

Wertheim out.

Categories: Uncategorized
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