'American Idol' Recap: Top 13 Guys Compete; Jennifer Lopez Looking to Punch Someone
Tuesday night standouts include Colton Dixon, Phillip Phillips and Creighton Fraker. As for that surprise bonus contestant? He was a bit of a downer -- literally.
Tuesday night’s episode of American Idol, which followed what seemed like the longest audition process ever, with endless emergency room visits, flu bouts, and even a peek at Steven Tyler’s derriere, we finally got to hear the first live performances from the top 25.
When we last left our family show (Tyler needed a reminder about Idol’s target audience from Randy Jackson, as he brought up not just his own backside but Jennifer Lopez’s alleged Oscar wardrobe malfunction in another of the rocker’s classic awkward moments), we were told that the show’s traditional top 24 would be adding a “mystery” contestant, a 13th guy added to the already selected top 12 male singers. This stunt was used on X Factor with great success, as Simon Cowell admitted his mistake in cutting Melanie Amaro, then reinstated her place in the competition, mentoring her all the way to victory.
Idol viewers like myself were left to speculate which boy would be brought back -- the “Cowboy Kid” Richie Law, Florida waiter Johnny Keyser, Michael Jackson ringer David Leathers, Jr., or the “gentle giant” Jermaine Jones? According to a tweet by Keyser last Thursday, he himself didn’t know what was going on. “I had no clue about this at all,” he wrote. And as of last night, Keyser was still waiting for the call, tweeting, “If I get the wildcard vote, I'll fall to my knees and thank GOD for this chance at
#IdolRedemption. And then freak out. Sounds about right :)”
That call never came. Instead, the reveal of which bachelor was hiding behind door No. 1 was Jones, who towered over host Ryan Seacrest in one of the more visually hilarious moments ever on Idol. He was brought back because, according to Jackson, the show was missing a bass or baritone. And so Jones closed the show with the Richard Marx-penned Luther Vandross hit “Dance With My Father.” It was nice, not earth-shattering, and although I’m happy that Jones got his second chance (I loved his duet with Law on “Breaking Up Is Hard To Do”), I along with many others wonder if he has what it takes to go the distance and land a spot on the tour. Unlike Amaro’s Hail Mary on X Factor, it’s ultimately up to the voters to decide, and he has sentiment on his side at least this week.
As for the rest of the guys, there were some outstanding moments and some real disappointments. It’s hard to believe 12 people are going home this Thursday, and, to paraphrase Lopez, America has its work cut out for them this week. Here is how the rest of the boys played out:
Reed Grimm kicked off the evening with a promise that he would “work the crowd and whip them into a frenzy.” I can’t think of a better way to do this than with … a jazzy version of Maroon 5’s “Moves Like Jagger?” Grimm performed the treasonous hit from Season 1 of The Voice as if in a jazz lounge and repeated his Hollywood Week ace-in-the-hole getting behind the timbales for a little percussive persuasion mixed with his trademark scatting. Was it musical? Yes. Will the record buying public love it? Er, I’m not so sure about that. I know one thing, though: I sure as hell hope he doesn’t do this every week or he’ll risk pigeonholing himself right back home. The judges loved him, and Randy made a dead-on observation saying that Grimm is like Sheila E. with shades of Casey Abrams. I couldn’t have said it better. In the end, Lopez loved Grimm’s “Jazzy, musical… amazing voice” and Tyler loved the shuffle and moon walking. Grimm actually corrected Steven as he referenced Grimm’s “Shoeless Revolution” from auditions as the “Shoeless Generation.” I am not sure either will stick, but Grimm will for another week.
Adam Brock has a normal life, with his cute little family and trips to the grocery store. He also revealed that he holds a degree as a chef, and is a jack-of-all-trades and master of none with a large black woman trapped in his body (that woman also looks like Danny Gokey, apparently). Am I the only one offended every time he says that? No matter, to prove it, he performed “Think” by the legendary Aretha Franklin. It was fun and serviceable, but I am so over the whole “White Chocolate” thing. It’s getting to be more like stale candy at this point — sugary but no substance. Still, Tyler called the performance “brilliant” while Lopez advised that Brock is “going to need the big moments” but he “definitely delivered.” Jackson said he loved the throwback blue-eyed-soul thing. My take: Brock is no Daryl Hall, but if he sticks around it won’t hurt to try “Sarah, Smile” or “Rich Girl.”
Deandre Brackensick is so pretty. He looks the part, for sure, but made a poor decision choosing Earth Wind and Fire’s, “Reason.” Sure, he wowed us last week with Kate Bush’s “This Woman’s Work,” but picking a song Idol audiences won’t recognize his very first time in front of the live cameras? He may not have the chance to recover. Besides, his vocals started too soft so he was overpowered by the band. Deandre has to be very careful not to let that happen. He can do it -- that falsetto is so strong once he unleashes it, as he did mid-song, but he needs to be smarter about what he is putting out there for America to judge. Nonetheless, Lopez was impressed, and predicted that, “it’s going to be such an amazing year” for him. Jackson compared Brackensick to Phillip Bailey (who had a hit with Phil Collins’ “Easy Lover,” a song punctuated by Bailey’s soaring falsetto) and crowned him “one of the most commercial guys out of the box [who’s] ready to go now.” Deandre Brackensick may not have the name of a star, but he has the goods. Now, he just needs to show them off better.
Colton Dixon is one savvy contestant, smartly choosing Paramore’s “Decode” from the Twilight soundtrack on piano. Dixon is a great looking guy, and knows precisely what makes the younger Idol voters tick -- movies about sparkly vampires and shirtless werewolves. He started behind a grand piano backed by a black and white backdrop, and ended up on top of it. Finally, a hint of rocking, current-sounding excitement, which prompted Jackson to shout “it’s about time we had an indie-rocker... you have so many flavors dude!” (Jackson must have a short memory -- Chris Sligh rocked Mute Math’s “Typical” in Season 6). Lopez loved Dixon, and said that she was really feeling his heart. “That is what I love most about you, you are a relevant artist.” Tyler agreed, and Dixon had an “Aw, shucks moment,” saying, “hopefully I pulled it off well.” He’ll be back next week. Guaranteed.
Jeremy Rosado, or “Jer Bear,” as Lopez crowned him, admitted to Ryan Seacrest in the season’s first sit-down interview that he was “nervous but excited,” while Seacrest described the affable Floridian as the cheerleader of the group. I have never seen Idol push for someone as they did with Rosado, but the boy does have lovely vocals. Rosado continued the Idol male trend of performing songs by female singers, picking Sara Bareilles’ “Gravity.” The judges loved his big money note, prompting Tyler to say that Rosado “couldn’t have picked a better song,” and that he has “such a big heart -- for that alone you should be America’s Idol.” Lopez decided to critique the vocals, which she loved, adding, “Some people are just blessed with a voice from God: that’s you. You open your mouth and I forget that I’m judging on a show.” Jackson added that he was “so impressed with the tender moments and the booming vocals.” We shall see if nice guys finish first this Thursday.
Aaron Marcellus is one of those guys who didn’t get a lot of screen time during auditions and Hollywood Week, so he really had to make an impression on Tuesday night. His performance of The Jackson Five’s “Never Can Say Goodbye” was pitch-perfect and earned a standing ovation, which Jackson attributed to Marcellus’s “old school veteran” style, adding that “last note was crazy!” Lopez, Marcellus’ biggest supporter from last season, added: “I always believed in you. Your voice just takes me there.” Tyler described Marcellus as “the whole package.”
Chase Likens is an excellent whistler and owns horses, plus he bears a striking resemblance to Robert Pattinson (although Tyler thinks he looks like Brendan Fraser). Yes, he looks like a movie star, but his performance of the Hunter Hayes song “Storm Warning” was memorable only because he kicked someone in the front row. It was kind of hilarious when Lopez said that Likens had “grown so much in this competition” because we, the viewers, never got a chance to know his skills. Nonetheless, Jackson told Likens, “You got range. You’re a good looking guy like me and Steven.” I think he’ll be home on the range this week.
Creighton Fraker, the adopted son of a preacher man and biological son of Eric A. Knutson of Flotsom and Jetsom fame (if there is such a thing), is beautiful like a rainbow, and showed his “True Colors” singing the timeless Cyndi Lauper ballad. Fraker has a fragility in his performance that I love, andTuesday night was no different. His arrangement of the song was quiet and subtle in all the right areas and I do love when he wails, but his restraint and quiet command was just what he needed to do. I hope America keeps him around so he can showcase more of his offbeat personality. Lopez seemed worried, noting, “America’s got their work cut out for them… With a performance like that and a voice like that, I don’t want you to go home.” That kind of said it all.
So if Deandre Brackensick is Phillip Bailey, then Phillip Phillips wants to be… Phil Collins? As expected, Phillips pulls out the guitar and turns “In the Air Tonight” into a whole other song, a la David Cook (meets Dave Matthews). There are moments towards the end where he shows some of the brilliance of his original audition, but it is far from perfect (and yes, we have another growler). Did he win this season already, as many Twitter followers seem to think? Tyler loved him, noting “You got a crazy kind of voice... you hang your hat on notes you are going to growl on.” Jackson unleashed the first Idol critique of the night, while inventing another language at the same time: “I’m not sure I am jumping up and down about the reharm (?) of the melody… you are so unique and different for this show.” And it didn’t take long before someone (Jackson) mentioned the artist simply known as “Dave.” No matter, Phillips isn’t going anywhere -- not for a long while.
Eben Franckewiez wanted to “Set Fire to the Rain” a la Adele last night. The stage was on fire, and he was all Biebered up for it, but let’s face it: the voice just wasn’t there. He was nervous, pitchy and flat. I felt bad for him, because he has so much more potential than being the inaugural Vote for The Worst pick. Jackson tried to temper his critique with positive platitudes, acknowledging the flat notes in the middle, and told the teen, “You collected yourself like a pro.” And did Lopez actually say being off-key was a good thing? It sure seemed like it, as she pointed out that Franckewiez “held on to vibrato” then turned it around, and that only a “really good, great performer can really do this.” Tyler used the term “shaky” and advised him to “listen to some blues records.” Prognosis: “pretty good.” I’d call it pretty average.
There is no easy way to say this, but Heejun Han let me down last night. He has the best television personality ever, but if America votes for him this week, it’s based purely on that and his mom’s dance moves. He picked Robbie Williams’ sleepy ballad “Angel” because he thinks everyone has an angel, or something like that. The sentiment was nice, but it was the wrong song, and a very weak performance. Tyler couldn’t think of a way to judge Han, and copped out by singing “Heejun” to “Hey Jude” (hope the two dead Beatles had a good roll in the grave last night). But Han has a lot of fans, he has that deadpan hilariousness, and he rules among Twitter followers, so he may survive the cut. Now he needs to pick a song as winning as his personality to stay in the game.
According to Seacrest, Joshua Ledet has a new nickname: Mantasia. Really? I saw more comparisons to last year’s Jacob Lusk than season 3 winner Fantasia Barrino. No matter, “Mantasia” took on Jennifer Hudson’s “You Pulled Me Through,” and the Louisiana boy straight up took us to church with an insane range and possessed vocals. Jackson rightly exclaimed, “This is what singing is about,” while Lopez gave the strangest comment of the night, telling Ledet that she wanted to “punch him.” Huh? Is that a term of endearment? What hath Chris Brown wrought? And then she kept going on and on, telling Ledet he was just “amazing” and “so insanely talented” and “could be a gospel star or an R&B star or…” It was starting to feel awkward, like, I don’t know, maybe a nip-slip? Tyler proclaimed that Ledet was the “voice the world has been waiting to hear” -- a genuine one.
So is Ledet the voice you were waiting for? I predict that Franckwiez, and Likens, Rosado and Brock are definitely in trouble. I don’t know if enough people are invested in Marcellus to vote for him, and Brackensick didn’t have a memorable enough night. Bear in mind: there will be three Wild Card picks by the judges to round out the top 13 – and to keep things interesting.
So are you interested, Idol Worshippers? Of the season 11 guys, who do you think has the goods?