This should have been the rankings for the top 12 (again), but obviously everyone heard about the legal troubles that Jermaine Jones has had, and that he has now been kicked out of the competition. I heard about these arrest warrants earlier in the day, and I was curious how Idol would handle the situation. Obviously, they had to make mention of them, they couldn’t just throw Jermaine on the streets and pretend like the competition wasn’t down a man.
However, I was a little uneasy about how they approached it. I was expecting Seacrest to make mention of it at the top of the show; briefly say that Jermaine was gone, and then move on. But it was like they used Jermaine’s legal troubles for their ratings gain. It’s no secret the show is seeing sagging ratings, and Seacrest teased the excommunication of one contestant at the top of the show, and then revisited it later by saying “I can now tell you that contestant is Jermaine Jones” as if he had just said “dim the lights here we go” and was eliminating another hopeful.
Then they played an incredibly awkward video of the two executive producers confronting Jermaine about his run ins with the law and detailing them, even going so far as to ask Jermaine for specifics. Again, I understand the show had to detail, in some way, the elimination of Jermaine and why he was leaving, but this seemed oddly personal and invasive. Sure anyone with an internet connection can see the exact charges and the police documents that accompany them, but I feel like that’s not the role of American Idol. Instead of going all “I’m Chris Hansen from Dateline” on him, they should have made mention of it and moved on.
Instead it seemed Idol saw an opportunity to leave viewers wondering, making them stay tuned while they dangled a carrot in front of our faces. It seemed more like a ratings gimmick than an explanation of the situation. It was unnecessary and continued to show Idol hasn’t learned their lesson. Early on the show focuses too much on items that don’t matter, stick to singing and performing, leave the cute editing gimmicks for other shows.
Okay, now that’s out of my system. Let’s talk about tonight’s show. Good overall, the judges are certainly getting to that point where they are harsher on the contestants. It happens every year about this time. But overall I thought almost everyone did themselves favors tonight. The theme was pick a song from the year you were born. If nothing else, this theme made me feel old, and I’m not old. I was born in 1990 (missed being an 80′s baby by seven days) and it seemed half of the contestants stated a birth year at least three years after mine. 1994? Really? It feels weird that people were having babies in the mid-90′s.
There’s a big log jam in the middle of these rankings. The top two is clear, the middle is not. There are a solid four or five people that I think could occupy the fourth spot in these rankings, the talent is that good this year. There’s not an infectious contestant yet, but there are several quality talents.
With that said, here are this week’s rankings – once again, next to the person’s name is their momentum. Either rising, falling, or even. This doesn’t necessarily mean they’ve changed ranks, just that they are headed up or down.
1. Jessica Sanchez – Rising
Song: Turn the Beat Around – Gloria Estefan
Jessica finally sang a fast paced, upbeat song. It was about time. The judges told her to stay true to herself with ballads, but I disagree, you’ve got to have versatility. Not an amazing performance, but it was juxtaposed to last week. She had problems with the melody and keeping up with the song, but that is a very tough song to sing lyrically, it’s very fast and choppy. She made the most of it, and did well enough to maintain her perch at the top of the rankings.
2. Hollie Cavanagh – Rising
Song: The Power of Love – Celine Dion
For starters, I love this song, I grew up on this. My mom would play Celine all the time when I was a kid, so the song has nostalgic memories for me. But I squashed those memories like a bug to bring you an objective opinion. She sang it amazingly, and it was the perfect song choice for her. I believe she’s the best pure singer in this competition. Yes, better than Jessica. She has a very clean, well put together voice. There are no frills, no gimmicks, just great singing. That does not always win you this competition (see Jennifer Hudson or Pia from last season) but I think Hollie is different. Plus, we finally understand her weird accent, she was born in the UK and lives in Texas – mash up those two accents and it is really weird.
3. Joshua Ledet – Rising, Rising, Rising
Song: When a Man Loves a Woman – Michael Bolton
What the hell Jacob, you had Josh at eighth last week? Ya, well that was before this week, and this week he delivered one of the best performances in the show’s history. What? Really? Yes, really. When I heard J Lo make that comment after his performance I marked it up to J Lo being annoying (which is generally the case) then I watched the performance back. He created a moment, a moment in which he created a two way street between him and audience. I know this is sounding like some sappy bull crap, but let me explain. In his performance, he fed the audience energy, the audience fed him energy back, and he built off of and performed off of that energy. The suggestive taking off of the coat, the removing of his IFB, he was so into the song he didn’t need the frills of the competition or technology of the show, he just sang it. I thought it was a fantastic performance, and if he can deliver like that every week, watch out. With that said, he’s been forgettable in the past (like every week), so he needs to step up now, he can’t be forgotten in the shadow of this outstanding performance.
4. Colton Dixon – Rising
Song: Broken Heart – White Lion
I don’t know what the heck song he sang tonight, but I don’t really care. I could envision him as the front man to a indie-rock band, and that’s all that really matters. Good performance, not stellar, but good. This was a perfect song choice for him, and I think the fact that no one recognized it played directly into his hands.
5. Skylar Laine – Rising
Song: Love Sneakin’ Up on You – Bonnie Raitt
Good song choice for her, and I like the fact that she’s not defaulting to country. She is a country-rocker, and instead of simply picking country songs like everyone expects, she’s picking songs that are walking that fine line of country and rock, and making them her own. That is what wins this competition. She really has the two factors that I like in a contestant; energy and creativity. There were moments in this performance where I was just waiting for her to break out and spaz and get energetic, but she has such a powerful voice she made up for it. In a lot of ways I think she’s a better more powerful singer than Lauren Alania, the runner-up last season.
6. Phillip Phillips – Rising
Song: Hard to Handle – The Black Crowes
Okay, the dude had surgery less than a week ago to remove a kidney stone. And he performed like that tonight? Amazing. Great song choice, great performance, he is slowly (but surely) becoming one of the top dudes in this competition. In a season where the men are well behind the women, that might not mean a whole lot, but it is still something to hang your hat on. He stepped away from his guitar tonight, and when musicians do that it can sometimes spell trouble, but he did really well with just a mic stand.
7. Elise Testone – Even
Song: Let’s Stay Together – Al Green originally, but she wasn’t born in 1972, so some dude from the 80′s
It pains me to put Elise this far down, she really is more like the fourth or fifth in this competition, but the middle is so jammed that I have no choice. She didn’t under perform this week, there were just several contestants who over performed or beat my expectations. And I’m afraid she’s living in their shadows. I still love her voice and her soulfulness. But there were some spots tonight where weakness in her voice showed. She has yet to really nail it, really knock us off our feet. If she can’t do that soon, I hate to say her days may be numbered.
8. Erika Van Pelt – Even
Song: Heaven – Bryan Adams
Another okay performance for me tonight. She sang it really well, like spot on, but she seemed disengaged with the performance. It is a beautiful song, and she treated it like a rock song first and beautiful song second. Those should be switched, connect with the song lyrically and emotionally before you connect with it based on the genre. Just because it is in you “wheelhouse” doesn’t mean you should sing it. However, I was convinced tonight that she could be an 80′s rocker singer.
9. Shannon Magrane – Falling
Song: One Sweet Day – Mariah Carey and Boyz II Men
Just because a song is good and you listened to it growing up, doesn’t mean you should try and tackle it. For example, I listened to Celine Dion growing up, but me singing Celine Dion is like listening to baby seals being run through a garbage disposal. Not good. Once again, she thought too much, she was disengaged. Compare this performance to Joshua’s – there’s no comparison. He was feeding off the audience, Shannon was pleading with the audience. “Like me, like me. Vote for me.” It was like she was screaming at them the whole time. She needs to relax and just sing. There were moments when she did that, but they were just moments. She’s like a basketball team that plays solid ball for 15 minutes, and then lays an egg the rest of the game. Closing out a game and closing out a performance are not too far apart. Shannon must do this. I fear she might be going home soon. Not sure why I fear that because I really don’t like her, but whatever.
10. Deandre Brackensick – Even
Song: Endless Love – Mariah Carey
Rule of thumb; don’t sing Mariah Carey unless the producers or judges force you to sing Mariah Carey. When you sing songs that are larger than life, you usually fall well below expectations. Deandre did a good job last week, but I knew that would be short lived. Again, no connection to the song, and he had vocal problems. It was better at the end, but overall a poor performance. And again, he looks like Joakim Noah “You guys have no idea what I’m talking about when I’m saying that…” – yeah, that guy.
11. Heejun Han – Falling
Song: Waiting for You – Richard Marx
This is the kind of song a love sick high school boy plays on a boom box from his outstretched arms, pointed at the second story window of the 15 year old he loves. Aww, so precious. I was bored. But I was also excited, albeit mildly, to hear Heejun sing a more upbeat song. If songs were hearts, his previous songs were 100 year old hearts that had suffered several heart attacks. Tonight’s was probably a solid 75 years old with only one heart attack…and maybe a stroke. So an improvement nonetheless. He had a great connection with the song, I was impressed by that, but there were some spots where he was vocally disconnected and bored me to death.
Who is Getting Kicked off this Week: Elise Testone – I really hate to say that, but I don’t think she did enough to stick around. She was in the bottom two last week and she really needed to blow us away this week. She didn’t. She did well, but not outstanding. If America is feeling forgiving and generous, she’ll be around next week. If America is feeling ruthless, she’ll be packing her bags this time tomorrow.
Who Should Get Kicked Off: Shannon Magrane – What!? Not Heejun? I think Shannon has been the most consistently sub-par. She can sing, no doubt about that, but she has yet to show she can emotionally connect with a song. Some will blame that on her age. That’s low hanging fruit. That can easily be disproved by watching Jessica Sanchez’s performance last week, or any number of these contestants who are younger than myself, connect with songs on a deeper, more emotional level. I want to feel her sing a song. I want her to not just sing, but create that moment and connection with the audience. Joshua wrote the book this week about how to do that. Shannon needs to achieve that level, or else she gone.