“American Idol” host Ryan Seacrest is on stage, alone, with a somber expression. We’ve got a bad feeling about this.
“You know throughout the years, this show has not been without its fair share of controversy. And tonight is no exception,” Ryan begins.
“With the cooperation of law enforcement, we discovered information that left us with no choice but to eliminate one of our finalists from the competition. When you’re doing a live show, anything can happen. (beat) THIS is American Idol!”
But who is this alleged jaywalker and/or murderer? Ryan won’t say, so now, if you have managed to get through a whole day without Twitter, the Web, or celebrity suck-up TV shows -- and congrats on that – you’ve got to stay tuned for the duration to see who’s guilty by elimination. It’s like a Hercule Poirot show where all the suspects end up in the parlor together! (We won’t spoil it for you.)
Enter the judges. Steven Tyler bedazzled in black and white; Jennifer Lopez in peach; Randy Jackson in another Ozzie and Harriet sweater.
The Reading of the Rules: All shall sing a song from the years they were born – that would be 1983 to 1995. And guest mentor is the affable will.i.am, who will be second guessing the Mentor-In-Chief i.o.vine.
First up: Phillip Phillips, who we hear in a taped bit from his mother that he was born with some kind of intestinal defect that nearly did him in. And, after last week’s medical emergency, he has to have surgery to remove kidney stones – right after his mentor session.
“Wow! that’s how you sound in pain?!” will.i.am mentors after hearing Phil sing Otis Redding’s “Hard to Handle.”
It is the best performance ever by a kidney stone sufferer.
Dr. JLo goes on about his talent. “It’s in every cell of your body, not to get too medical…It just comes out of you…It’s all over you.”
Jessica Sanchez is singing Gloria Estefan’s “Turn the Beat Around” from 1995. Much as we love Jessica, she appears to be fulfilling j.immy’s prophecy that her only weakness could be overconfidence. It’s shouty and even a bit pitchy.
Judges are unanimously down on her. Tyler: “You can’t stray too far from what you do best -- ballads.”
Asked for a reaction, Jessica blames the year of her birth. “There was not a lot to choose from” song-wise.
Class clown Heejun Han lures will.i.am into giving him an autograph after rehearsal, except what he says he really wants is Fergie’s number. Will doesn’t seem to get it that he’s being punked, insisting stoutly that he won’t give out Fergie’s number because she’s married and like a sister to him.
He will sing “Right Here Waiting” by Richard Marx from 1989, which leaves us wondering why does “Idol” want to show us these kids performing such dated material, with this whole birth year thing? Heejun is dutifully breathy, like Richard Marx, and gets knocked by Randy who says he prefers Heejun on R&B. But Jen.ni.fer says she felt his heart in the song. That’s because he was thinking about his girlfriend, Heejun says – when he wasn’t thinking about JLo and Fergie.
Elise Testone was born in 1983; her song is Al Green’s “Let’s Stay Together” which affords the producers the chance to do a cute bit in which she duets on a split screen with the tape of President Obama, who sang part of the song at the Apollo Theater in January. He looks like he’s having more fun.
Even will.i.am has picked up on the dourness that is Elise, telling her he wishes she’s try to smile when she sings the tune because when you sing “Let’s stay together” you should not look like you’re “mean grilling” the object of your affection, he explains.
“I had a really positive attitude today,” Elise intones. “So, when I take the stage people are going to be making babies.”
Elise even remembers to smile at the end of her performance, though she looks like somebody remembering to smile. “America, Elise is back!” Randy enthuses.
“Idol “has dug up home video of Deandre Brackensick dressed in a band costume straight out of “The Music Man,” performing numbers from the Broadway classic. It’s your basic die-of-shame moment for a 16 year old. Wil.i.jimmy has convinced him to sing a Mariah Carey-Luther Vandross number from 1994, “Endless Love,” and it’s just perfunctory. The judges are not kind. “Jimmy steered you wrong,” says Jen. “Boring and safe,” says Randy. Deandre, like Jessica, blames the 90s. “I was dreading this theme since the beginning of the season,” he tells Ryan.
Colton Dixon has decided to play Stump The Band with his choice “Broken Heart” from White Lion, a 1991 tune that jim.i.am has not heard of. In fact, Colton had dinner just last night with “Idol” success story Daughtry, who advised him to always pick songs that people know, so anyhoo… “I think it was the wrong song choice for your voice and your passions,” Tyler concludes. “I think you look pretty when you sing,” JLo says – a whole new take on judging criteria.
Erika Van Pelt was a very loud child, turns out, and Erika is good and loud on Bryan Adams’ “Heaven,” from 1985. Tyler pegs it right, saying she was “too busy all over it.” JLo also finds it wanting, though adding, “you look amazing.”
But enough with the singing, we have an unfinished mystery to solve. Country belter Skylar Laine has not sung yet, and we’re pretty sure she’s wanted for shooting deer out of season. But no – sadly, it’s Jermaine Jones, the “Gentle Giant” as he’s known to Ryan, and maybe the most likeable Idolette, who we see being called into conference with the show’s two executive producers. (The Smoking Gun had posted legal documents about Jermaine earlier in the day).
Jermaine looks slightly shocked as the producers tell him he’s wanted on “four active warrants.” They mention a couple incidences of giving fake names to cops, and also mention something about a fight which Jermaine says wasn’t a fight but a disagreement. “You know we’re not judgemental at all,” says exec producer Ken Warwick, so long as Idolettes disclose their outstanding warrants. It’s the lying they can’t tolerate. “I didn’t’ want to get penalized for anything that happened in the past,” Jermaine explains. Then Nigel Lythgoe says it’s not really the lying after all, but “we are not allowed to have anybody with an outstanding warrant on the program.” “I do apologize,” Jermaine says. The exec producers say his rehearsal for this week was his best performance ever and we get a few bars of tape from rehearsals, as Jermaine, or whatever his name is, steps into a car and is driven away, though not in cuffs, to an uncertain fate. “We will certainly miss Jermaine’s talent on the show and we miss him the very best of luck in his future,” Ryan tells us at home.
Left hanging is the ongoing nagging “Idol” question: Who do the producers hire to background check their Idolettes?
Shannon Magrane hasn’t decided on a song, or maybe she has. No matter, because Jimmy is contractually obligated to play some song choices for her on some device from AT&T which Jimmy insists is just amazing because it plays music through speakers even though you’re holding it in your hand standing away from the speakers. It’s like an iPod for shut-ins.
Anyway, Shannon will sing “One Sweet Day,” the Mariah Carey-Boyz II Men production from 1995. Iovine says he’s finally figured out Shannon’s problem: when she sings, her throat closes up. And Will advises her to practice singing lying down because she’s so breathy when she sings standing up. Sadly, Shannon cannot sing on the show while lying down. But the judges give her a pass. “A beautiful job,” says JLo. “You know I worked with Mariah, of course,” Randy begins. We tune him out.
Country singer Skylar Laine chats with Ryan with the Coca Cola logo on the screen, and Coke bubbles projected behind her. Apparently, country is good for Coke sales. Will.i.am is determined to haze Skylar, suggesting she sing Coolio, but she’s sticking with “Love Sneaking Up On You,” by Bonnie Raitt. She’s actually a bit restrained in her stage antics -- which we attribute to lingering fears about possible deer-killing-out-of-season warrants. Judges love her. “Our rockin’ in-house country girl!” Randy exults.
Next up: The performance of the night. Joshua Ledet blows out “When a Man Loves a Woman,” and adds a campy bit of drama when he takes off his white jacket. The judges erupt and give him a standing ovation while he’s still singing. JLo: “The best thing I’ve ever seen on America Idol.” Well, Joshua is no Adam Lambert, but maybe JLo wasn’t watching in Season 8.
Tyler: “You gave it up so big, god came through your eyes.”
And, last, Hollie Cavanagh, the little girl with the very big voice. “You got amplifiers in your pocket?” asks will.i.am. We too are beginning to suspect Hollie. Something about her affectless performances make us think that she is in fact an elaborate product placement scheme and it will soon be revealed that she is in fact a doll from some American Girl-like line: The Singing Hollie Doll with mix and match outfits and a cunning little parlor furniture set. Anyway, Hollie performs Celine Dion’s “The Power of Love,” complete with some Celine chest thumps. “Another moment with Hollie” Randy enthuses, but we’re pretty darn sure he was thinking of the cunning little tea party possibilities.