'Duets' Recap: The Eliminations Finally Begin
'Duets' Recap: The Eliminations Finally Begin
Jenn Lee
Jenn Lee
Staff Writer, BuddyTV
It's been two weeks of Duets introducing itself and working out its kinks, and now it's time for the real stuff: eliminations. Tonight is the first time one of the eight amateurs will be sent home, which adds an exciting pressure to this rookie show that will hopefully make it into the gut-wrenching, emotional fodder of American Idol-likeness (or at the very least, entertaining summer reality TV). After John Legend and Jennifer Nettles show how a duet is really done with their "I've Got the Music in Me" performance, it's onto the duets that matter.

Robin's First Duet: "Killing Me Softly" with Alexis Foster
Robin's two partners have been struggling, especially last week when they were the bottom two on the Duets chart. He gathers his girls together for a little pep talk on being the underdogs and how that can be a good thing. He prepares Alexis by offering his singing mantra: pretend every performance is your last. Alexis seems to get the idea and goofs off with her mentor during rehearsal, showing she can loosen up a bit.

On stage, the lesson seems to be paying off, as I'm liking Alexis better than the past weeks - perhaps it's the hair? All she needed to do was let her hair down, literally and figuratively. Her movements don't seem as stiff as the robotic presence of earlier performances and it seems Robin is letting her vocals shine in the song, which is a smart move. Kelly still finds the chemistry a little awkward and feels Alexis should look out into the audience more. Jennifer disagrees and feels there's been a large improvement from last week and John seems disinterested when he simply says "well done." Quddus says "it ain't rocket science people!" when Alexis is dramatically revealed to be #1 - yes, but it isn't necessary either, Quddus.

Jennifer's First Duet: "How Great Thou Art" with John Glosson
On the flip side from Robin, Jennifer's two duet partners have done very well the first two weeks. Jennifer's hometown buddy John chooses "How Great Thou Art" because its message is important to his family and his southern roots. The master of singing with emotion, John manages to make Jennifer cry during rehearsal (for the second time on the show). He even takes ownership by suggesting they start off a cappella to keep the arrangement from coming across as cheesy.

John's emotional attachment and creative input only make his performance with Jennifer that much more impressive. He starts off strong, Jennifer comes in strong and the two finish strong. Their notes soar and their voices seem to boast in a glorious way. My only note is about Jennifer's wardrobe choice -- she seems to really like long, flowy material hanging from her limbs. Kelly is so jealous she wants to get John kicked off the show and John found the arrangement "gorgeous." Robin, in a rare moment of vulnerability without the jokey attitude, says John gave him every feeling he needed to feel in that song. Unsurprisingly, John is ranked at #1.

Kelly's First Duet: "Mama's Broken Heart" with Jordan Meredith
By now we know Kelly and Jennifer are easy criers and when the American Idol star joins Meredith for a little heart-to-heart, they both end up in tears. Kelly sees her former struggling artist self in Jordan and Jordan just doesn't know how to let go of her nerves and seize this opportunity she's been dreaming of for so long. Kelly's advice is to not care about looking stupid on stage and to really sell the attitude and the "oomph" with her presence.

Jordan seems to bring the attitude right away by singing solo at the start and walking the stage barefoot, as if wearing shoes represents the nerves she's been struggling to shake. She even approaches the Superstar lounge and sings into Robin's face (the flirt obviously returns the gesture with a finger sizzle). Maybe it's just me, but I feel like Jordan might be playing it too cool and aloof. I feel like she should smile more and have more fun, rather than playing this femme fatale. But the judges all love it and feel it's a dramatic improvement from last week. Jordan moves to #2, which means John Glosson is safe tonight (ahh, yes, that makes sense).

John's First Duet: "If I Ain't Got You" with Meleana Brown
We just met Meleana last week when she abruptly replaced Johnny Gray and though John expected her to do well, he did not anticipate her owning the chart at #1 so quickly. We finally get to hear Meleana talk a bit in the pre-performance package, but she doesn't share much other than comparing her experience to a tornado, a dream, a fairytale and being in lala land.

On the stage I'm digging her white suit and her chemistry with John. The give and take of their movements and vocal intensity works really well and I personally felt this performance showed a more interesting side to Meleana than last week, when she stood beside the piano in a sparkly gown like a princess. Her voice is incredibly strong, confident and just unique enough. Kelly feels similarly when she says Meleana brought the soul that was missing from last week. Both she and Jennifer feel Meleana has a natural grace that makes her seem like a seasoned performer. Robin says "lovely" and "beautiful" and "dessert" (as opposed to last week's metaphorical sandwich). Meleana is put at #3 (wow, the judges really liked Jordan this week), which means Jordan is safe and gets a hug from her Idol.

Robin's Second Duet: "Crazy in Love" with Olivia Chisholm
Olivia is disappointed in her performance from last week, so this time Robin has assigned her a song that will force her to be fearless - this week, Olivia must embody Beyonce. This seems like a tall order for the somewhat reserved amateur, but during rehearsal there is a pivotal moment when Olivia's booty starts shaking of its own accord. The girl can dance! This is great news to Robin, who feels this is what she needs to come out of her shell.

There are a lot of colorful flashing lights and backup dancers, and Olivia starts off fairly strong, considering she's channeling Beyonce. But soon enough it seems like the singer is running out of breath, perhaps from having never danced and sung simultaneously before. Her voice sounds a bit raspy, but she's putting in a good effort. Meanwhile, Robin's Jay-Z is pretty impressive. Jennifer was blown away and felt Olivia finally had fun on stage and Kelly similarly praised Olivia's voice for getting bigger and bolder. John, however, thought she wasn't as vocally impressive. But he did like her legs, though. Olivia is placed at #4 of the current five, meaning Robin's two are at the bottom again for now.

Jennifer's Second Duet: "How Am I Supposed to Live Without You" with J Rome
Jennifer seems to have chosen partners who seriously know how to bring the emotion. This week, J Rome is dedicating his song to his grandfather, who passed away recently and sang "Amazing Grace" with him from his hospital bed. The rehearsal gets emotional, given the title of the song and its meaning for J Rome. This is obviously foreshadowing a moving performance.

J Rome - perhaps even more so than Jennifer's other partner - has no trouble conveying his feeling from his first word as he starts off the song. Jennifer comes in boisterous and strong and when her voice pairs with J Rome's silky notes, you really connect with the meaning the lyrics carry for the two performers. J Rome is so overcome when the song finishes, he can't even respond to Quddus' attempt to glaze over the heavy moment. John calls J Rome a phenomenal vocalist, Robin says nothing but claps and Kelly is brought to tears. Of course J Rome moves to #1.

Kelly's Second Duet: "Hallelujah" with Jason Farol
Kelly's partners seem to be having similar struggles with Robin's, which is the issue of confidence. We learn Jason gets so nervous on stage because his parents want him to focus on school and he feels he has to succeed at singing or else be shipped back to academia. Kelly picks up on this and decides to bring in Jason's father, who tells Jason the family supports him and that they believe in him.

The performance seems very angelic all around, with the soft lighting and Kelly slowly joining Jason on stage. Jason's voice isn't really jiving for me this week, and I feel like I'm still waiting for that spark I saw in his very first audition with Kelly while on tour. Overall, it was a pretty mellow performance. Robin seems less talkative and animated in his feedback (perhaps he feels down after the results of his two partners), while John and Jennifer mention some pitchiness. This does not bode well and sure enough, Jason is at #6, which means Olivia is safe (you can smile now, Robin!)

John's Second Duet: "Heard It Through the Grapevine" with Bridget Carrington
Bridget moved from #6 to #3 in the first two weeks, so her goal is to continue that improvement. She chooses one of her favorite singers, Gladys Knight, which is definitely going to be a challenge. John seems to have more of a hands-off approach with his mentoring when he describes giving minimal feedback and essentially letting his artists fend for themselves. Hmm.

John starts off the duet with the first verse and then introduces "Ms. Bridget Carrington" to the audience. She sashays onto the stage while belting out her notes with attitude and confidence. Her voice has a lot of sheer power behind it and I particularly liked the back and forth "Oh, yes I did" verses between her and John. Robin again doesn't have much to say, other than Marvin Gaye is his favorite of all time. Jennifer loved Bridget's attitude on stage and Kelly felt she shined a lot brighter than other people in the competition. Bridget is ranked at #4, which means the elimination is between Jason (Kelly's partner) and Alexis (Robin's partner).

First A Cappella Solo Showdown: Jason Vs. Alexis
Jason goes first, singing "Me and Mrs. Jones." There were some nice moments in the song, but overall I still find him underwhelming. Alexis goes with "(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman," and I think I liked her voice better. However, I'm not sure if she has that star persona needed to win over a wide audience, whereas Jason is very likable and seems to have great fan potential.

Kelly says she's obviously rooting for her boy. Robin more diplomatically says they're both equally "lovely" and that whatever happens, they should never give up on being a singer. He describes the sheer willpower and work it takes to make it as an artist and Jennifer and John follow suit in their feedback (John says it's all about tenacity; Jennifer calls the music industry "a war of attrition.") Not to come across as the selfish one, Kelly jumps in and says they're both great singers, but that the show is called Duets and singing with another person is significantly harder than singing alone. All right, it's time for the Superstars to vote (again, why do Kelly and Robin get a say in the fate of their opponent's fate? Can this really be unbiased?) The amateur leaving is...

Alexis Foster! The audience awws and Robin walks on stage to hug Alexis and encourage her with his thoughts on what art is - which is putting forth your best effort and hoping for that spark, that chemistry to happen. He says he's going to take care of her, no matter what, which is commendable.

Here are the final results from the night:

  1. J Rome (Jennifer)
  2. John Glosson (Jennifer)
  3. Jordan Meredith (Kelly)
  4. Bridget Carrington (John)
  5. Meleana Brown (John)
  6. Olivia Chisholm (Robin)
  7. Jason Farol (Kelly)
  8. Alexis Foster (Robin) [eliminated]

What did you all think of this first episode of eliminations? Did you think Alexis should have been the first to go home? Will Jennifer continue to have the strongest duo by far the entire season?

(Image courtesy of ABC)

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