Get ready for a big night on American Idol, folks, because for the first time in The Farewell Season, your voices actually mean something. (Not as much as normal, though, because the judges don’t want you screwing things up!)
After having our votes hijacked by Jennifer Lopez, Keith Urban and Harry Connick, Jr., from the Top 24 (when viewers historically start voting) until now, it’s time for audiences to choose among the worst of the best as the quest for a final superstar enters the stretch run.
American Idol Recap: More Duets as the Judges Round Out the Top 14 >>>
Who’s in the Bottom 6?
It had been widely reported that the judges would be advancing eight singers, with the remaining six performing for the survival of two. Or as I referred to it, handing out orange vests and ordering us to pick up most of the trash from the side of the highway.
I am happy to write, however, that those reports were inaccurate, and the judges will only be choosing four contestants who automatically advance. The other 10 will then hit the stage, with American picking six to round out the Top 10.
It seems backwards to have the judges choose the favorites and toss us the scraps, in part because comparing performance with vote totals gives you an idea of who viewers like, regardless of whether or not they’re any good. And then a wildcard or two in the back pocket prevents any travesties.
Wouldn’t it make more sense to have viewers vote on seven and then give the judges one save each? Are we that untrustworthy that we can’t even risk it? I know it’s time slot issues and thems the breaks, but it still leaves a sour taste.
For Your Idolformation
There are two other noteworthy mentions before we kick the tires and light the fires, big daddy. Number 1 is that Thursday marks the first live show of Season 15, and that means this BuddyTV blog will also be going live. So be sure to watch along with me, for the last time, for the first time, and bring your commentary with you.
(On a side note, will Harry be in the sequel, Independencier Day? It’s a trick question, because Captain Jimmy Wilder is dead, a casualty of intergalactic war. Or … is he?)
Second, there is a voting change this season, with only 10 votes cast per method instead of 20. Which is bullshit, if you ask me. What do you mean, I can only vote 50 times across five platforms for Manny Torres? Why not 100!? I was going to split my votes between him and Daniel Seavey, but now, I’m just not sure.
And on to the show!
The Judges Cream the Crop
Ryan Seacrest welcomes the judges amidst praise for the job they’ve done in denying us suffrage, and it’s time to award the fast passes. They were only able to unanimously agree on four, so I’m wondering if they had the possibility to choose as many as eight.
In the Top 10 without a performance are:
It’s a solid offering, as the first three are atop my Top 14 rankings and the fourth has proven very capable, albeit, mostly in her wheelhouse.
Now let’s cram in some performances that mean something.
Manny Torres Leads it Off
It doesn’t necessarily bode well to go first, but we’ll see what he does with Stevie Wonder’s “Master Blaster.” It’s back to Manny’s funky, fun side as he dances around the stage and interacts with the audience. It’s fine vocally, even if it’s not Stevie, but there’s nothing particularly strong or memorable about it.
Keith calls it a great way to open the show, and while he loves the song, it wasn’t perfect for Manny. But he praises the man’s “fighter spirit.”
Ryan informs us that the theme tonight is the best moments of the season, which means everything we hear will be something we’ve already heard (UGH!), and apparently we’re only getting reaction from one judge. So I guess we have to make up our own minds.
Gianna Isabella Conjures a Spell
Gianna has shown off vocal chops, but she’s combined it with a complete lack of stage presence and a general feeling of being uncomfortable with her own body. It’s not surprising due to her age, and she’s hoping standing still behind a mic for Annie Lennox’s “I Put a Spell on You” will mask some of that physical insecurity.
It’s a mixed bag, because for each brilliant note, there is an equally pitchy or screamy moment. She’s trying to do too much, and it’s evident, whereas a more subdued performance would be much more magical. Like a spell is supposed to be.
J-Lo loves to watch Gianna and appreciates her newfound sassiness, and she believes the 15-year-old is coming into her own. There’s still an innocence, but you can also see the beginnings of an artist and true performer. She claims Gianna was her #5 and that she has the most potential for growth, but I think Gianna should just be happy Harry didn’t give his critique.
T-String to the 1-D
Tommy Stringfellow is up next, and we get to hear about his breakup again before a glimpse of his metro-sexual cowboy performance of “Creep.”
He’s singing One Direction’s “Story of My Life,” again, and he looks lost without his guitar. I get the feeling he’s actually auditioning to replace Zane, but that’s never going to happen. It’s another one that’s just fine, but I’m not going to remember it.
Harry loves the song and the choice, but he warns Tommy about knowing the difference between an idiosyncrasy and a bad habit. Because he was cracking every other note, and it needs to stop. I might have picked up on that, if I cared enough to listen in any sort of invested way. It’s the same reason I didn’t figure out the twist ending of The Village.
Tristan McIntosh Hurts the Most
J-Lo has compared her to Alicia Keys, from her look to her heart, and Tristan is proud to be black and hopes to bring more diversity to country music.
She’s going with the Rascal Flatts’ “What Hurts the Most,” and it’s rough from the get go. She struggles through the speak-singing part, which is ripe with pitch issues, and she needs to counter it with a huge chorus. But unfortunately, that comes up short as well. It’s sleepy and not very enjoyable, and I didn’t feel any of the desperation or emotional connection that I think she could have accomplished simply by letting some of the notes hang a touch longer.
Keith praises the song choice for her voice and what she did with it, and J-Lo chirps in from the sidelines that Tristan is “better than ever.” Ugh. I felt like I was watching an 11-year-old girl sing a grown-up song. And wait your turn, Jenny!
Excuse Me, Avalon Young
American Idol has been a complete 180 for her confidence, and she’s finally getting respect for her craft. She doesn’t want to go back to real life, because she wants this to be her real life.
Performing Chris Brown’s “Yo (Excuse Me Miss)” is not the first time she’s showed off her hip-hops side, and while I dig her creativity, I’m getting to a point where I need to see something more explosive from her. I love fact that she can pull off something like this, but it’s a shade sleepy. It’s good, but there’s no big “wow” moment, and her highlight remains the duet with Rubes.
J-Lo calls it “smooth like butter,” and Avalon keeps getting more and more comfortable on stage with each great performance.
Jenn Blosil Shows her True Colors
The show has completely taken her out of her element, but it’s also a blessing to be able to do what she loves in front of America.
Jenn and her vajazzled eyebrows are singing Cyndi Lauper’s “True Colors,” and while it’s a song that should be so perfectly suited for the way she inflects lyrics, it’s mostly a mess. There are moments of awful pitchiness, and even her patented twang is off kilter. She fails to hit the emotion, and I’m wondering if this is all a result of the performances being so short and rushed. There’s no time for them to build to anything.
Or as Harry says it, “I knew you had it in you” with that “flawless lyric delivery.” Is the sound on my television broken? Is it an in-person thing? I haven’t heard anything the same way the judges have, and if Harry isn’t criticizing pitch issues, something is seriously wrong. Or they want Jenn in the Top 10 for her unique qualities.
Lee Edward Jean Sheeran
This kid has shown time and time again that he’s not ready, most recently ruining Daughtry and offering a karaoke version of Ed Sheeran. But the judges have heaped nothing but praise on him, even at the expense of throwing shade at one of the most successful Idols of all time.
Lee is once again singing Ed Sheeran’s “Make it Rain,” and it’s like, dude, really? You sang Ed in Hollywood, and then we just heard “Runaway” last week. I’m so confused by this “theme,” because it’s all so repetitive. This one is less like a straight impersonation, and I guess he gets credit for being one of the the least pitchy. There are only three left, and not a single person stands out in my mind.
Keith likes that Lee has his own unique, chill style, but he could sense the nerves. Still, he likes what Lee is doing. What is this? No negative commentary allowed?
Sonika Vaid One-Ups Herself
She’s always had top-notch vocals, but she needed Caleb Johnson to elevate her game and add some star power. By herself, she’s basically been invisible.
It’s a return to Celine Dion’s “I Surrender,” and she remains one of the few in the competition who has the pipes to pull off a song from such a big and iconic voice. It’s same old-same old at first, and then she gets a bit too deliberate with the buildup portion. She takes a huge deep breath before the chorus, like she knows she’s about to knock our socks off, and it throws her off her game. It lacks a certain punch, but it’s still the closest thing we’ve seen to a moment. There’s room to improve the overall product, but if she’s not in the Top 10, you guys got it wrong.
J-Lo gives her a standing ovation, praises her out-of-this-world “voice from God,” and claims to have gotten goosies on her face. The Weeknd would be proud.
Jeneve Rose Mitchell and the Ring Toss
They’re pimping her with the second-to-last spot, but she hasn’t been my cup of tea. The judges loved everything I hated, and the one time I though she cut loose and had fun, the performance was panned.
She’s once-again singing Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire,” and I’ve said it over and over ad nauseam. I’m baffled by this “theme.” We. Already. Heard. This. It’s a much slower version this time around, and there are some excellent moments. But she seems like a caricature of a real human being, and I just can’t get behind the whole package. I even tried closing my eyes to see if I would judge things differently, and that’s when I went back and added the “some excellent moments” part.
Harry finds her interesting and compelling, but also polarizing. She’s so unique that it might take longer than normal for people to latch on, and even though this wasn’t her best, he hears things in her voice that he just “gets.” Keith interjects that she needs to stop holding back and just let go, and Harry points out that her abilities are different from everyone else’s.
And of course, that’s true. Pick your side, I guess.
MacKenzie Bourg is a Mother F—ing P-I-M-P
The first official pimp spot of Season 15 goes to MacKenzie Bourg, who advanced through his Top 12 group solely on potential and past performances. He has some serious artistic ability, but he missed the easy emotional connection on “Say Something” and then bombed his duet. So he needs to bounce back, or at least ride the wave of extra votes that comes from slotting. Either way, on a night like this, he’s safe no matter what he does.
He’s reprising his original song “Roses,” and I’m half in love and half annoyed that the theme permits such madness. It’s easily the best of the night, but c’mon, it’s a song he’s sung a million times. I give him bonus points for writing it, and it’s certainly more conducive to his making sexy eyes at all the girls in the audience than “I’m giving up on you,” but it feels cheap, like they designed the round for him to stand out. Still, you can’t fault him for sticking with what works.
Keith loves the song, and it has to be amazing to hear a whole crowd go nuts for a song he penned.
The replay montage, with all the performances butted up next to each other, reiterates just how pathetically mediocre this has been for everyone involved. Cringe after cringe after cringe, or as the judges heard it, perfection.
Sonika Vaid, Avalon Young and MacKenzie Bourg must advance, but the rest is a crapshoot because they’ll be the next three gone unless something tragic happens. So it’s on you, America. Who did you hate the least?
American Idol airs Wednesdays and Thursdays at 8pm on FOX.
(Image courtesy of FOX)