And still there were 11

I said that I wasn’t going to post a full recap. I lied. Sue me.

Actually I wasn’t going to, but so much happened tonight that I had to do some chirping. I know the results, and I couldn’t be happier with the outcome. More on that later.

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The performances:

First up was the group performance. These have sometimes been almost painful to watch in past seasons, especially season seven with David Cook and Jason Castro. Those two always looked like someone was holding a gun to their head and making them dance. I’ve enjoyed them this season. This group has such a wide variety of voices, styles and vocal chops that the performances have been a lot of fun. They are doing them mostly live, too, which helps to ramp up their energy levels even if someone hits the occasional sour note.

These Idols are fairly cohesive during their group numbers. There were cool dance moves; mostly Naima, who can dance like a Fly Girl, but a few others were in rhythm. There were some nice vocal runs; Thia in particular sounded terrific. JD, Pia and Jacob got to hit huge high notes, and the song ended well. They started the run-down to “Signed, Sealed, Delivered”, and the back stage opened up to reveal……

Stevie Wonder!!!!! Stevie performed on Motown week last year, but this is the first time I’ve seen a star perform with the group other than during the finale shows. It turned what could have been merely another hum-drum group number into something special. Stevie is past 60 now, and he doesn’t have the chops that he had a few years ago, but who cares? He was great, and the moment was special. Steven was gazing at him like a kid himself, with stars in his eyes. His reaction, when Stevie came out, was spontaneous and genuine. He obviously didn’t have a clue that Stevie was coming out. Jen seemed to be in on the joke, though.

Oh, ok I get it. It’s Steven’s birthday. They sang Happy Birthday, brought out a cake, and Naima gave him a portrait. I would bet a buck or two that she painted it herself. Very cool.

By the way, the contestants are all dressed up in formal clothes; white dresses for the girls, black suits for the guys.

Sugarland was next up, performing their huge hit “Stuck like Glue”. Every once in awhile a song comes out and you know, ten seconds into the song, that it’s going to be an epic, career changing hit. This is one of those songs. It’s a song that you are either going to love or hate. It was nominated for several awards, and went to number two on theNashville charts.

Since this is Idol, I looked at lead singer Jennifer Nettles through the lens of a judge. She doesn’t have huge range but her voice is extremely strong, strengthened by several years of hard touring. Her signature vocal chop is her ability to effortlessly bend words into all sorts of shapes, and melodies as well. She has sort of a rubbery face, and a rubbery melodic style. Like most veterans of the road her intonation is virtually perfect, and she has effortless command over every note. She is always on top of the song, and it almost seems like she is the one directing the song to go where she wants it to go instead of the other way around.

Jennifer’s career arc is a hard reminder that Idol doesn’t spit out fully formed performers. Jennifer is a good example of what a young Idol contestant can become, with hard work and some serious dues paying. She, much like Adam, spent a good decade in performing arts before she began looking for work in the professional field. She had some minor success, but no chart success, for several years until she teamed up with Kristen Hall and Kristian Bush to form Sugarland in 2003. Things moved quickly after that, and they had their first big hit within a year. Her “overnight success” came after 17 years of hard knocks and hard work.

They showed the contestants wrestling next, and beating the hell out of each other. James is a huge wrestling fan. He called out Hulk Hogan (more on that later). I’m pretty sure Pia won the death match, but Paul didn’t give up easily despite getting the crap beat out of him. Naima called the match despite her skepticism (“It’s not REAL!!!!!!”). It was all pretty funny.

Jennifer Hudson performed next. I gotta be honest with you. I don’t like her “Feeling Good” that she does on those Jenny Craig commercials. I don’t know why they didn’t do enough takes on it to get her in tune. It’s almost painful to listen to, and they play it all the freaking time. She looks great, though. In her newly thin body, she looks like a young Gladys Knight with more curves. She sounded terrific, though I didn’t think much of the song. It was fitting for an Idol show. It was showy, but not particularly memorable. The background could have been played in a four measure loop. If I’m looking for a singer, she passed the audition. Now get her a song that can’t be played on a 50 dollar Casio keyboard.

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Results:

Scotty, Pia and Lauren came out and are safe. I thought Lauren might be the shocker (dialIdol had her much lower than she has been in the past), but she’s fine. She was showing a lot of cleavage for a 16 year old, which seemed strange. Kelly and I were talking about this today down at the bar. Lauren and Thia are the same age, but in some ways they are years apart. Thia is so typically a teenager (other than that much older, more mature voice) that she pouts when they get her age wrong (I’m SIXTEEN, dammit!!!). Lauren is also a teenager in most ways, but she has life experience well past her age. She comes from a place where 16 just isn’t the 16 that we are used to inSpokane. Sometimes the dichotomy can be jarring, especially when the less mature, teenager part of Lauren comes out.

James and Paul were next. Ryan told them they are not safe. Really not safe. Hulk Hogan (?!?) came out of the backdrop, told them that they are both on tour, and “knocked” Ryan into the front row of the seats. I think it was all spontaneous other than Ryan, who obviously knew about it. JD seemed genuinely surprised. For some reason I’m getting a game show vibe from the show tonight. They keep revealing who’s behind door number two.

Jacob, Thia and Stefano came out next. Jacob is safe, while Stefano and Thia will get their first taste of the hard chairs.

Niama, Haley and Casey came out next. Ryan said that he was sending one to the tour, and Naima rolled her hands towards Casey, assuming he was the one. Instead, it was Naima who got her ticket to the tour. She was understandably emotional, since she had to know that she could be on the bubble. Ryan had been plugging a shocking result all night, so it wasn’t all that surprising that Casey was the one sent to the hard chairs. Haley is on tour!!!! Naima is on tour!!!! Last year the tour was thin as hell. This year it will be deep. Neither one of them has a chance in hell of winning, but they will both be assets to the tour with their unique styles and charismatic looks. Naima said, under her breath as she went to safety; “I can buy a house…”. How cool is that?

Final results:

Thia was first to safety, leaving Stefano and Casey. We all know at this point who is going to sing for his life, right? Ryan’s been pimping the shocking result all night. Stefano would be a shock if there were 11 singers out there, but against Casey alone? No, and of course it’s Casey. He was on the bottom of the dialIdol results, but he’d been low several times before and been safe. This time, he’s in trouble.

I said at the top that I couldn’t possibly be happier with the results. I love Casey, so obviously he isn’t gone. He got the save (whew), and to top it off all eleven contestants will go on tour this summer. I didn’t even think about THAT possibility, when I was looking for a scenario that didn’t include losing someone I liked, a single spot from the tour. This is the perfect result, and this is a dammed good Idol Tour roster.

How it went down: Stefano hugged Casey (and had several seconds of language deleted by the censors) for so long that Ryan had to separate them and send Stefano to the couches. Casey started out his audition song, “I Don’t Need No Doctor”, but Randy cut him off almost immediately, saying “we know you Casey, we don’t need to hear anymore, right Steven?” and Steven said “This is crazy wrong, and we made a decision to….. keep you on”. Casey was stunned, just stunned, and it got crazy for awhile while he went down and kept saying to the judges, “are you sure? Really? I mean, there are 11 left…. Really?!?”

Steven said that Casey “has a lot of well earned good fortune coming his way, but listen to what Jennifer has to say” and gave the floor to Jen, while the crowd grew quiet. Jen commenced to give Casey a scathing yet tender critique: Quit screwing around, quit screaming at everyone, and SING, you dumbass. Randy backed her up, telling him that he deserves to be here, but he needs to showAmerica that he can sing, and not just be crazy. Show us the great musician you are, remindAmerica why you are here.

The other contestants came out for a group hug, then Ryan announced that all 11 will be on tour. This led to interesting reactions from several contestants (Lauren was very happy about it), particularly Haley and Naima. Haley suddenly became Casey’s best friend (they are close friends anyway, to the point where some people think they are dating), and went on a bazooka hugging bender. Naima was also obviously relieved, and she was smiling so widely that I got a little worried that she was going to break her face. Pia and Naima were both in tears when it looked like Casey was going to be gone. Casey himself remained amazed that they would use the save on him, with 11 contestants left. Oh, and Casey cusses a LOT under pressure. They had to bleep about 15 seconds of the crazy moments after they gave him the save. The whole segment was a crazily emotional end to what was an amazing show for a results night show. Idol did itself very proud tonight. They “brought the drama to Idol, Dawg, you slayed it!!!!!! From me to you, good lookin’ out, yaknow, but it was a little pitchy”….

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Pia Toscano
Pia Toscano

Power Rankings:

11: Haley– Pressure’s off, two are gone next week. She will either suddenly grow another layer of talent or have that long awaited train wreck.

10: Thia– I am more impressed with her voice now than I have ever been, but she remains a true kid, and truly inexperienced.

9: Stefano- Bottom two this week. He is what he is, andAmerica wants him to be somebody else. Good luck with that.

8: Naima- She might be building some momentum, but her voice isn’t really Idol-worthy.

7: Paul– Talented, limited, this is about where his proper place is. I like the guy more and more, but I have to be realistic. He’s even more of a one trick pony than Scotty is.

6: Lauren– This might be lower than she will finish now, with her comeback this week, but she is still 16 years old. The road won’t be a cakewalk.

5: Casey– I should probably have him lower, but he is going to be safe for at least a couple of weeks now that his voting bloc has been brutally spanked. He is too good of a musician to keep stinking it up, isn’t he? He could be gone next week, but he could still win. He really can’t sing all that well, though. He is a package artist, if there ever was one on Idol. I think of him as a weird love child hybrid between Howard Stern, Will Farrell, Gracie Allen and Weird Al Yankovic. Should I add some Gilbert Gottfried? AFLAC!!!!! No, that’s too much. He’s a thin version of Zach Galifinakis that plays the string bass and doesn’t need crack to act like a maniac? No, that doesn’t work. He’s a male Sha-Von, with no singing talent but a better beard? No……

4: Jacob- I seem to be the only one that sees it, but he can win. He can sound emotional saying “you want fries with that?”. He might want to fix the intonation, or he’s going to find out first hand.

3: Scotty– I don’t think that Scotty will finish this high, but you never know. He’s this safe for now.

2: James– He’s been moving up the power rankings steadily even as he gets less and less amazing during his performances. The blow-out, knock all of us off the couch performance is coming. He seems to have blown out some scar tissue tonight during the Hulk Hogan mess, and I hope that this will lead him back to the outrageous performer that we all know he can be. It’s time to take the training wheels off, my man.

1: Pia- She isn’t the lock that Adam and Crystal were (how did that work out for them?), but she is the clear leader at this point. She passes an important test to me: Do I look forward with great anticipation to hearing her perform? I do, with bells on. Pia has come a long ways from the plastic surgery jokes and the weirdly unfocused eyes jokes. She could be a moment machine for several weeks.

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What an amazing show!!! I had no idea that this was coming, and I don’t have a clue what possessed Idol to pull out all the stops like this, so early in the competition. I like it, though. This is the kind of results show that they need to do, to recapture the interest of the country. Well done, guys. Get some ice for that shoulder, Ryan.