Jermaine Jones got booted from the competition last night, for some previous criminal activity and lying to the show about it. It’s not the first time Idol has had to boot a contestant, and it probably won’t be the last time. I was pretty surprised (Jermaine didn’t seem like the type), but the “crimes” listed weren’t necessarily heinous ones. He was charged with narcotics possession in 2006 (I got a sawbuck that says it was pot, they call pot a narcotic for some reason) and open container in 2008. The other charges are all related to those two offenses; some of them were no-shows in court, and the others were hiding his identity to avoid bench warrants for not showing up in court. Either way he’s done for the show.
Tonight’s theme is that old warhorse of a theme, Songs from the year you were born. Will. I. Am. is the mentor. He was really good last year.
The singers, the songs:
Phil Phillips, “Hard to Handle” (Black Crows)
Good song choice for Phil-Phil, and in most ways he delivered a solid B performance. What took the performance past solid to terrific? His phrasing choices, where he jumped tempo over and over while staying right on the rhythmic “tuning fork”. They were creative, effective, and really, really cool. This was his best performance of the year so far, by far. A-
Jessica Sanchez, “Turn the Beat Around”(Gloria Estefan)
I don’t know that she was completely on top of the song the whole way, but she wasn’t that far from it and that’s one tough mother of a song to keep up with. Her rhythm on the staccato parts was perfect (other than one spot where she got distracted by something), and she hit some really tough notes right on the fork. For Jessica this was a fairly pedestrian performance, but for the rest of humanity it’s a B+
Heejun Han, “Right Here Waiting” (Richard Marx)
Is Heejun the Thia of the show this year? I doubt that he can sing uptempo, not so much because he’ll have crappy rhythm but because, like Thia, his accent might get really thick when he doesn’t have time to think about it. Like Phil, he was better tonight than he’s been all season. Unlike Phil-Phil, he still wasn’t all that great. B-
Elise Testone, “Let’s Stay Together” (Al Green)
Her blow it out big notes and her other various growls and scratches were somewhere between terrific and amazing, she moved comfortably through the song, and she had the swagger that the song demanded. Her falsetto was weak, her midrange voice was weak, and her pronunciation at times got in the way. Overall it was a solid B, but more like a mix and A’s and C’s than a consistently solid performance.
Deandre Brackensick, “Endless Love”(Diana Ross/Lionel Richie)
I liked how he just sang the melody most of the way, showing off his chest tone before tossing his signature falsetto moves in at the end. It all worked, though it was more sleepy and sweet than dynamic and emotional. B
Aside– Deandre pointed out (obliquely) something that Simon always denied when he was on the show: The contestants don’t have a slew of choices every week; they have a list of just a few songs to choose from. There are a couple of obvious, logical reasons for this:
-Songs have to be cleared with the owner of the song rights, and they only have a couple of days to do it.
-The band has to know the song. They are dammed good at what they do, but there are limits to how many songs they can learn in such a short time.
Shannon Magrane, “One Sweet Day” (Mariah Carey/Boyz2Men)
I noticed what the guys were talking about. Shannon was wasting too much of her breath early in the song, and trying to push the notes out with the last bit of breath left. Once she got into it, though, she was breathing properly. It’s so weird to see, basically, a kid with talent learning how to sing and perform from some of the biggest names in the business, in front of 20 million people. It’s like if her Dad decided to teach her how to pitch by making her try to strike out Albert Pujols. C+; C most of the way but with her Mariah run moving it up a little bit.
Colton Dixon, “Broken Heart” (White Lion)
For those of you who wanted to see Colton the Rocker, there you go. Satisfied? Ok, Colton, now go back behind your piano and let’s be done with this silliness about you being a rocker. Poodles don’t fight Pit Bulls. C+; B+ for the vocals, D+ for the stage antics.
Erika Van Pelt, “Heaven” (Bryan Adams)
She sings better in rehearsal, when her scratchy tone kicks in. For some reason it doesn’t translate to the live stage. She shies away from the big notes too. I’m starting to think that the big stage is just too big for her, and that her stage fright (they all have it) locks her up too much to allow her to sing freely. She is so much better than the singer we’ve heard the last three weeks, but if she can’t bring it to the big stage what’s the point? You can’t get fifteen thousand people into your shower. C-
The judges were fairly nice, mostly hammering on the arrangement while they complimented Erika. They didn’t mention that she blew the meter on her big chorus break, coming in late and having to catch up at the end of the phrase. I bet the voters noticed.
Jermaine was tossed, as I mentioned at the top. I thought that it was nice of Idol to show his final rehearsal and send him off with some grace. It would have been easy for them to just toss him and let the country think he knocked over a liquor store or something.
Skylar Laine, “Love Sneaking up on You” (Bonnie Raitt)
Skylar has such a natural presence about her that I didn’t even mind that she kind of overdid the working the stage thing. She wasn’t anywhere near pitch perfect, but who cares? She ain’t going anywhere. B+; C+ vocal, A everything else.
Joshua Ledet, “When a Man Loves a Woman” (Percy Sledge)
Masterful, dynamic, powerful; entertaining, inspiring and over the top without going too far – and he didn’t miss a note. Moment.
The judges agreed. J-Lo overstated it a little, calling it the best thing ever on Idol (J-Lo, have you ever heard of Adam Lambert?). It’s the best performance of the year so far, though.
Hollie Cavanagh, “The Power of Love” (Celine Dion)
She didn’t quite nail the last note, even though she probably eats tougher notes for breakfast every morning. I think the guys psyched her out a little. The rest of the song was signature Hollie, with the huge voice and the huge, spread out notes. I liked how she seemed less wooden, more animated in her eyes, and more forceful with her rhythms and her stage swagger. That last note, hit perfectly, would have gotten her into A territory; but it wasn’t quite there. B+
With Jermaine leaving the show this is suddenly the most important week of the season. The ten contestants remaining after tomorrow night’s show will all get to go on the Idol Tour.
Safe to in Danger:
Hard Chair possibilities-
There is the smallest possibility that Jessica, despite her early status as the front runner, could be a shocker in the bottom three based on her early slot and the negativity from the judges. Heejun and Deandre also received negative feedback from the judges, so they aren’t locks this week.
Shannon is probably the weakest contestant left and Erika keeps underwhelming, so either one of them could go. I expect it to be Elise, though. Elise has gotten a really bad draw, going early in both finals shows after getting the pimp slot in the semifinals. It might cost her a shot at the tour.
Ryan braced the judges, right at the end, asking them to give some picks for safe and in danger. Joshua got most of the love as he should have; with Hollie, Phil-Phil, Skylar and Jessica also getting plenty of love. All three mentioned Elise, so she should maybe move up a couple of slots past Shannon and Erika. Randy was the only one to mention anyone as being in danger, choosing Heejun. Trust me, Heejun ain’t going home. If anything Randy’s warning will motivate his fanbase. He might end up being the top votegetter.