America has spoken.
Last night, America spoke (strangely sounding just like Ryan Seacrest). In a two hour long paring down of the final 25 into the final 13, tears were shed, hearts were broken, and, in 13 cases, dreams were sustained.
Having so much to do, the show was fast paced, and, unusually, focused entirely on the contestants. Also unusual, Ryan Seacrest used the “After the break” suspense builder only one time. We saw a brief video vignette of each contestant’s journey so far, and heard a short critique from record producer and “Idol” mentor Jimmy Iovine who mostly offered much more critical and realistic evaluations than the flowery “faint praise” that usually emanates from the judges. Unlike the judges, he did not spare anyone’s feelings. Maybe they should add Jimmy Iovine to the judge’s table.
Of Chelsea Sorrel, Jimmy opined “Carrie Underwood karaoke is not gonna fly,” and Reed Grimm was “Way too kitschy for me. Way too cabaret” . “The judges loved him. I didn’t,” he said of Creighton Fraker.
Not surprisingly, all three were cut from the competition.
About Eben Christian Frankowitz Jimmy said he was “not quite ready” but should come back. Then, realizing the rules don’t allow that, he said the rules should be changed. I agree. He liked Ledet, but said he’d have to make sure he didn’t turn into “Sister Act 3.” And of Han? It’s safe to say he doesn’t get Heejun. “This isn’t ‘American Comedian.’ It’s ‘American Idol’,” he said.
Han, however, when asked by Ryan Seacrest what he thought of Iovine’s comments, got the “last laugh” with a quick “Who’s that?”
However, Iovine wasn’t all negative with his commentary. He said he’d sign Phillips and Sanchez right now, though he qualified that with “I’m pretty sure that’s against the rules of the competition”. Maybe they should add Jimmy to the rules committee as well.
Of Hollie Cavanagh., Iovine said “Little girl, big voice,” and he said that Skylar Laine “Blends soul with country, which is a great formula for rock ‘n roll.”
Jimmy Iovine also had this advice for Elsie Testone. “She sings a little hard, she pushes a little much, she has to be careful,” “It’s a long competition. She has to hold on to that voice.”
Speaking about Colton Dixon, Jimmy had this to say “(He) is really talented. Probably one of the most talented kids in this show. But he can’t do too much too soon. Jumping on the piano, off the piano–he’s just got to take it slow, pace himself, and he could really win this thing.”
And, finally, Iovine had even more words to say about Jermaine: “What a beautiful voice. I could listen to an entire album of that voice, (and there) are very few people I can say that about in today’s business. We got to figure out how to get him through this show. It’s going to take a bit of variety, a bit of excitement, and a lot of creativity, but I’m rooting for him.”
Up first, the viewer votes were used to separate 10 finalists. Then, after crushing the hopes of the remaining 15 semi-finalists, the judges brought back six of the ” to sing one “last chance song”, in hopes of becoming one of the judges’ three “wild card” selections. But, more on that in a minute – uh, after the break.
Among the viewer selected finalists receiving the most votes are.
- 21-year-old pawn shop worker Phillip Phillips of Leesburg, Ga.
- 22-year-old nonprofit organizer and comic relief Heejun Han of New York.
- 18-year-old country singer and dancer Skylar Laine, from Brandon, Miss.
- 18-year-old vocalist Hollie Cavanagh, of McKinney, Texas
- 20-year-old alt-rock musician Colton Dixon, of Murfreesboro, Tenn.
- 25-year-old “gentle giant” Jermaine Jones, of Pine Hill, N.J.
- 19-year-old student Joshua Ledet, of Westlake, La.
- 16-year-old vocalist and pagent queen Shannon Magrane, of Tampa, Fla.
- 16-year-old burgeoning superstar Jessica Sanchez, of San Diego
- 28-year-old teacher Elise Testone, of Charleston, S.C.
One of the few surprises, at least for me, was that the “gentle giant”, baritone Jermaine Jones beat out Justin Beiber wannabe Eben Christian Frankowitz for a spot in the final 13. I’m happy, and Jermaine has a beautiful voice, but I am concerned his style will not “resonate” with the Idol stage. Eben appeared to take the news well, though it was obvious he expected different results. Apparently not many teenage girls voted this round.
Other than that twist, the selection of “pageant queen Shannon Macgrane, whom still looked like she was headed for the prom, was disappointing. I have yet to see her put any of her own style into the music, instead settling for flat mediocrity. Maybe it’s my TV.
But, overall, for me, none of the viewer choices were either unexpected, nor, in my opinion unwarranted.
Of the people cut, Baylie Brown had one of the better lines of the night. When Ryan Seacrest asked her what she would have done differently, Baylie replied “Sing on key, I guess,” .
To help “explain” some of the judge’s choices and commentary, Jennifer Lopez at one point said that what the judges hear live is not necessarily what the home TV audience, or Jimmy Iovine watching the monitors, hears. I am sure that is very true, but it is only partially talent, and more-ly popularity that drives the viewer votes, so subtle differences in sound may not affect the results, although certainly total lack of talent will.
Then, Once the fan choices were revealed, and with the clock already well into the second hour, the judges announced their selection from the remaining semifinalists to sing for their lives, and deliver one last tune in hopes of becoming one of the judges’ “wild card” selections. To keep the suspense going till the last possible second, each judge’s selection was announced individually, one at a time, and then the contestant was left to perform their potential “swan song”.
The six “second chance” hopefuls given new hope were Jen Hirsh, Jeremy Rosado, Brielle Von Hugel, DeAndre Brackensick, Erika Van Pelt and Grimm.
After all six candidates had performed, there was a break while the judges “deliberated”, and then their final three selections were announced to the world. Randy Jackson picked Van Pelt to move on. Jennifer Lopez went with Rosado, who made her cry with his performance on Thursday. And Steven Tyler chose Deandre Brackensick.
So, the remaining three Judge’s choices end up being:
- 17-year-old student Deandre Brackensick, of San Jose, Calif.
- 19-year-old receptionist Jeremy Rosado, of Valrico, Fla.
- 26-year-old disc jockey Erika Van Pelt, of South Kingstown, R.I.
“I love somebody who can fight through the tears and still deliver,” judge Jennifer Lopez told a teary eyed Erika Van Pelt.
Good choices all, although I think Jeremy Rosado, while obviously being a “really nice guy” may be a little too pedestrian to go much further. Deandre Brackensick, has great potential if he can channel his considerable talent into his performances. And Erika Van Pelt may just have to learn to control the tears.
Next week, according to host Ryan Seacrest, the boys will be singing songs from Stevie Wonder, while the girls step out in, again according to Ryan, a tribute to the recently late, and always great, Whitney Houston. Their mentor that week will be Mary J. Blige.
There are some fantastic performers in this year’s line-up. I am looking forward to finally hearing them perform. And fortunately for everyone, after this weeks draconian round, only one singer will go home each week from now until May. As Judge Randy Jackson declared : “America, you’re on fire, because this is an amazing top 10 brewing,”
Yep, It’s gonna be fun.