If one of tonight’s performers wins “American Idol” it would mark the first time in five seasons a female had won the singing competition, show host Ryan Seacrest tells us at the top of Wednesday’s broadcast.
It would also mean guys had started watching the show again.
The Judges Entrance: Steven Tyler is dressed as a wizard. Randy Jackson is in black storm trooper casual. Jennifer Lopez is wearing dark green short-shorts and a tree fungus on one shoulder.
We’ve got a lot of country crooners to work through tonight, and first up is Chelsea Sorrell, who lives in a town called Forty Minutes from the Nearest Shopping Mall, North Carolina. Chelsea is performing Carrie Underwood’s “Cowboy Casanova,” and her stage presence is meh, and her singing breathy. It’s country, as in hay fever. “Loosen that up and make sure your true voice comes out,” JLo advises her.
Erika Van Pelt, the Rhode Island DJ, follows with “What About Love” and, well, it’s another middling performance. “I feel like you could have gone a little further,” says JeLop. “Next time let loose on us.”
We had lots of hope for Jen Hirsh, the winery worker from California, who gave some entertaining, jazzy audition performances. But she’s chosen Adele’s “One and Only” tonight and it’s not good. Tyler says “something about confidence makes your voice fly,” but we’re not flying yet.
“The girls have come out strong tonight,” Seacrest says, rewriting history. He asks the judges how the chicks stack up against the guys, who performed Tuesday night. As it turns out, this actually was well-thought-out segue into a Judges’ Confession: “We were a little lenient, a little soft on the boys last night,” admits Randy. “It was the excitement of the first night,” JenniLope adds. “We gave some passes on some of our judgment,” Randy continues and tells the guys they really will have to bring it next time -- because next time they’ll be held accountable for the judges’ dereliction of duty. Randy declines Seacrest’s offer to make it right by giving some specific pointers to the guys now, apparently satisfied that it will be enough for now to take it out on the chicks.
We disliked Brielle Von Hugel, 17, during auditions, based mostly on her overbearing stage mother, Camille, who we got a hefty dose of during Hollywood/Las Vegas weeks. But now, with Brielle on stage and mom-less — we still don’t like her, as she sings an anguished “Dock of the Bay” while performing a sort of hula dance in a floor length tie-died shift. It’s all sort of Marisa Tomei-sings-the-blues. “You got a sense of the blues…that was beautiful,” Tyler says.
Hallie Day, 24, from Baltimore, looks like the understudy for the Veronica Lake role in NBC’s next musical drama series. She’s singing the Nina Simone standard “Feeling Good” but, as JeL notes, gets lost while trying to reach out and touch fingers with the audience in the front row. “You got it back at the end,”JennifLope adds, reassuringly. Randy, however, raises the Red Flag of Relevancy for the first time this season. “You got the great, amazing big ol’ voice but I start thinking, ‘Where do you fit?’,” he wonders.
More country: Little Skylar Laine, 18, from Brandon, MS, sings Faces’ “Stay With Me,” and it’s more fun than a high speed all-terrain-vehicle ride through a field of corn stubble. She’s jumping, shaking, twitching. Her voice isn’t really up there, by country standards, but she’s total fun to watch and the “Idol” audience finally wakes up. “It’s like Tina Turner went country,” JenniLo enthuses. “A natural born performer.”
And more country: Baylie Brown, the pretty one, never seizes control of Lonestar’s “Amazed.” “You never seized control of the song,” says Randy. Later, Seacrest reports back to the judges’ table that he spoke to Baylie and determined “her heart was beating so fast and her dress was so tight” as probable cause of Baylie’s problems. JenniPez suggests that Baylie wear looser dresses. Randy tries to pull a Simon Cowell, asking Seacrest how he handles wearing a dress. Ryan says he avoids heels, and doesn’t seem to mind the comment, unlike the Simon years.
Hollie Cavanagh, 18, is shy but competent, though sometimes pitchy as she belts out Christina Aguilera’s “Reflection.” And, she needs to lose the fear in her eyes. “You hit your notes so perfectly,” says Tyler, then asks her to let her hair down next time, which just reminds us that Tyler is very decaf tonight compared to last night, when he mocked Jennifer Lopez’s revealing Oscar gown.
We struggle to remember anything about Haley Johnsen, another member of this year’s “Idol” Blonde Majority, as she covers the Eurythmics’ “Sweet Dreams” in a fishnet skirt. Well, she’s a big stage walker, anyway. Randy gives the toughest criticism of “Idol XI” to date: “It was a bit of a nightmare for me instead of a dream…It’s harder to do Annie Lennox than it sounds….Her intricacies are spot on and yours weren’t spot on.” That’s gotta be atonement for three passes given to guys last night, right there.
We’re done with Tyler’s “hot and humid” comment about Shannon Magrane during this season’s auditions – but “Idol” isn’t. So here’s her dad, former pro pitcher Joe Magrane, being baited by Ryan to go smack Tyler. “I didn’t mean it. It was a moment,” insists Tyler. Let us agree to please not mention this whole tired storyline again.
Tall Shannon, 16, gets graded on a You’re So Young Curve after she belts her way through Kathy Troccoli’s “Go Light Your World.” “You gave me my first goosies tonight!” gushes JenniferL.
Jessica Sanchez is also 16, but a much better performer, so nobody grades her on the You’re So Young Curve. Before her number, Seacrest pulls her into the Coca-Cola Red Room for an interview — the first tonight, so we knew something big was up. Seems Jessica had to go see a doctor for swollen vocal cords. She effortlessly makes her way through Jennifer Hudson’s “I Love You I Do” and gets the night’s only Standing O. “That voice is a voice to be reckoned with!” raves Randy.
And finally, Elise Testone, 28, from Charleston, SC, also makes the mistake of picking an Adele tune, inviting unhappy comparison. We weren’t expecting much from Elise, who seems charisma-free in the taped bits. She’s got a pleasant voice, but is hardly “the best singer here” as JeL-z insists. Randy gets in a final chance to restore his imagined cred, telling Elise “it wasn’t your best performance that we’ve seen” but “it was still great.” Elise tells Seacrest the flowers in her hair are ones she’s saved from room service.
And, with that, the voting lines open. Your voting will knock the 25 Idolettes down to 10. Then, three will be reinstated tomorrow night, thanks to The Judge’s Mercy.