Top 13: Guy/Girl Throwdown

Okay, before we do ANYTHING, I must tell you that Kris Allen’s new single “The Vision of Love” drops in a mere 18 days. Or, if it helps, only 11 working days! How excited am I?! Well, I wrote it on my color-coded work calendar. In PEN. So you be the judge.

In other news, I was kind of shocked to see Kelly Clarkson as a featured mentor on “The Voice” on Monday. Not that I watch that. Ahem. Nevertheless, well-played The Voice producers. Well played.

So, getting back to the show. Ryan opened us up trying to pretend that all the contestants and the judges huddle backstage basically having a dance party/heart-to-heart conversations until the cameras go on. I’m not buying it. I think the intro trailer people had the night off. Nice try though, Ry Ry. Way to try and make the 400th episode new and noteworthy.

In case your week has been as crazy as mine, here’s a wee cheat sheet of the top 13. Feel free to skip over if you are well-acquainted with our top 13 artists.

Girls

Elyse Testone: Sang her heart out last week to an Adele song and managed to not sound like every OTHER Adele cover we’ve heard in the last 3 months. (Poor Adele.) She has an unfortunate style sense (see the hat from last week), but is a powerhouse and was voted into the top 13 by “America”.

Skylar Laine: Reminds you of a young Reba, super sparkly and energetic, holding down the country genre for this season. Voted into the top 13 by “America”.

Shannon Magrane: One of our younger contestants, but sings more maturely than her age would suggest. She’s really tall and super sweet and probably a Christian…she sang a Kathy Trocolli song last week. Voted into the top 13 by “America”.

Holly Cavanagh: Finally made it to the top 13 after a heartbreak during the Vegas rounds last year. Sooo tiny, but has a huge voice. Super cute (which has nothing to do with her singing ability, but still). Chose Christina Aguilara’s “Reflections” last week as I banged my head against the wall muttering “Why. Did. You. Choose. This. Song” over and over again. Voted into the top 13 by “America”.

Jessica Sanchez: Quickly becoming the front-runner in the competition amongst the girls. She has incredible vocal strength, is cute as a button, and has a tone that makes you want to buy her album now. She’s only 16, but you don’t think about that while she’s performing. Voted into the top 13 by “America”.

Erika Van Pelt: She’s a deep-throated rocker that I actually don’t know that much about. Given her spot in the top 13 by a judge’s pick while I yelled things at my television. People seem to like her more than me. 🙂

Guys

Jermaine Jones: Has a super deep voice and is very close to his Mama (awww). He was brought back by the judges as the 13th guy in the top 25 and managed to snag a place in “America’s” heart because they voted him into the top 13. Jimmy Iovine also seems to be his number one fan, so take that for what it’s worth.

Colton Dixon: The first thing you notice about Colton is his hair. The second thing you notice about Colton is his super skinny legs. Similar to Holly, he was cut just before top 24 round last year and finally made the cut this year. “America” voted him in.

Joshua Ledet: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kg-DXc08Ows. ‘Nough said. Voted in by “America”.

Heejun Han: The most loveable pessimist ever to grace the Idol stage. Heejun has singing chops, but we haven’t really seen them yet in the competition. He’s pretty darn hilarious, though. Voted in by “America”.

Phillip Phillips: Gosh, what should I say? He seems to be the clear front-runner right now in the guy’s camp. He’s definitely my favorite in the whole competition right now. Has a unique grit to his voice and an amazing way of interpreting classic/well-known songs with his own spin. Was the first guy sent to safety last week, courtesy of “America’s” vote.

DeAndre Brackensick: Blech. Oh, sorry! Did I actually write that out loud? 🙂 DeAndre has super long curly hair, is supposedly a “dream boat” or whatever the kids are calling it these days, and has a fondness for overusing his falsetto singing abilities. SteTy, over my STRONG objections, gave DeAndre his spot in the top 13. Double blech.

Jeremy Rosado: A loveable kid with a heart of gold, I’ve been impressed with Jeremy’s song choices thus far. Of course, the only songs I can remember him doing are all female artists, so this week will be interesting for him. He broke down at the end of his “sing for his life” song and broke Jennifer’s heart, granting him a top 13 spot thanks to a judge’s pick.

But wait. There’s more! For just tonight, Ry Ry (certainly instructed by a one Nigel Lythgoe, savvy producer that he is) will throw in the intrigue of a new format! Ooooo. Ahhhh.

The deal, as explained by the suave Seacrest, is that America’s vote will be tallied as normal. The guy and the girl with the lowest votes are in danger of leaving, but the judges will decide which one goes. The other will be sent to safety. I would be more excited about this if the judges had proved to me that they are capable of making wise decisions. You know, the decisions I would make. But, I guess we’re just going to have to hope that they consult with their life coaches before this decision gets made. Moving on.

Tonight, we’re getting a little song variety as the guys sing Stevie Wonder songs and the girls tackle the late Whitney Houston mega songs. This seems a bit lopsided, skill-level wise, but I’ll hold my tongue. Not literally. That’d be gross. Also, sitting alongside Jimmy Iovine, Mary J. Blige will be obliging us with her presence. (Get it? oBLIGEing??)

Joshua Ledet – “I Wish”

Josh. Josh. Joshua. Singing seems to be so effortless for him! He looked comfortable and dapper on the stage and kind of channeled Paul McDonald. I loved the gravel he brought to the tone of the song and his contagious spirit. Also, the scatting was a nice touch and the A Cappella section was brilliant–since the lyrics weren’t groundbreaking, this really added levels to the song. And let’s not even talk about the awesomeness that was that last note. ‘Cause, really? What else is there to say?  Oh, right. JOSHUA! Please don’t call yourself Mantasia. Ever. Again.

[Ellen’s JCP commercial]

Elise Testone – I’m Your Baby Tonight

Boy, was Elise not happy with Jimmy/Mary’s changing her song choice. In my opinion, they were absolutely right, though. And if this chick doesn’t get that you have to listen to people like Jimmy Iovine to go anywhere in this business, then I’m not sure how I can help her. You know, because I’m so knowledgeable about the “biz”.

Whoever told her that safari cocktail dress was a good idea, should really be tortured in some way. You know, like going without Starbucks. In addition, I’m not sure what the pearls on the screen behind her had to do with her song except to look extremely old lady-ish. She is AWESOME and had a super fantastic performance with only one slight pitch issue, as far as I could tell. I just didn’t feel like she fully believed it. Her voice was strong, but her body language wasn’t really. It’s almost like she was passive aggressively trying to get back at Jimmy/Mary for doing her wrong. And that’s just not gonna work.

I was not impressed with her interview with Ryan. Dude, stop making excuses about how you didn’t know the song. Have you ever even watched this show? Do you understand that sometimes you have to learn things fast as a performer? She’s a complainer, I can tell. She looked so despondent as Ryan gave her numbers. I like her voice, but I’m seriously not sure if she can handle this competition.

Jermaine Jones – “Knocks Me Off My Feet”

One of my many flaws? I can’t understand deep voices…it took me 4 times rewinding and cranking up my volume to understand what song he was going to be singing. Sigh.

Since this guy is Jimmy’s BFF, I was interested to hear what Jimmy would tell him. But it seemed like Mary was really running the show this week.

After hearing him in practice, I was pretty surprised to seem him sporting a Thriller-inspired outfit. It just didn’t fit the song very well. I can see why his stylist might be trying to make him seem youthful with his clothing since his giant-ness kind of makes you think of him as old, but still. CONTEXT, people.

I get that his voice is unique in this competition and that ever since Scotty graced the stage, American Idol producers have a love-affair with deep voices. I found his performance technically good, but boring. He didn’t seem as commanding on stage as the previous two performers.

Wait, what the HECK is Randy Jackson wearing on his jacket?!? Some sort of beaded-face atrocity. *Facepalm.

I laughed when Ryan asked Jermaine how he felt about his performance and Jermaine couldn’t even HEAR Ryan because of their vast height difference. There’s just no end of fun to be had with that, is there? It never gets old.

Erika Van Pelt – “I Believe in You and Me”

First of all, her dress looked like it was held up with a beaded holster. Secondly, I love this song from The Preacher’s Wife. I may or may not own this soundtrack as a part of an ill-fated CD mailing club I participated in during my youth.

During Erika’s performance, the electric guitarist looked kind of drugged out, but very enthusiastic. You go, guy.  I didn’t hear that many differences from the original, especially with runs. She really should have taken it to more of a rock ballad-y place. This was not a thrilling rendition for me. Certainly not “unbelievable” as the judges asserted. I think they’re just talking her up because they saved her from “America’s” cruel and evil intentions. But we’re not done yet: Ryan tries to start EVP as a thing. Ryan, EVP–like “fetch”–is not going to catch on.

Colton Dixon – “Lately”

I’ll be honest, I’m still concerned about Colton’s ability to support his own weight on those toothpick legs, especially with all that hair product weighing him down. Remember, one dab is never enough.

The beginning of the song did nothing for me at all…but the end was pretty great. Colton does have that Chad Michael Murray smolder-thing happening for him, and he is an interesting performer thus far. I hope he sticks around, but starts to become a little bit more self-assured and bold. You know. Like the Durbs.

Shannon  Magrane – “I Have Nothing”

Shannon did kind of have “nothing” in this performance. I like her a TON and I think she’s mad talented, but she really didn’t pull off this song tonight. And as one of the more well-known Whitney songs, that landed her with some understandable bad reviews from the judges. She had pitch problems to start, the key change was PAINFUL. I did like her changes to the melody here and there, though, and before she opened her mouth, originality was what I was most concerned about. Turns out I should have been concerned with other things. I’m not sure that Shannon will be in the bottom two tonight, though she definitely had a rotten performance this week. I think she’ll probably hang tough, but we’ll see.

DeAndre Brackensick – “Master Blaster”

Whoa, with all that hair flying around, albeit in a messy bun (ew.) and the red, green and yellow lighting, and the bouncy dancing? I totally got a Naima flashback.

I actually liked that he used his falsetto sparingly and I started to feel hope that this season wouldn’t be a total bust with DeAndre on board. Would I rather have Reed Grimm? Yes, I would. But DeAndre will not be on my blacklist if he can manage to sing songs in his normal register and only use his falsetto for the money moments.

Hey! SteTy agrees with my Naima assessment! We are like the same person right now.

Skylar Laine – “Where Do Broken Hearts Go”

I am kind of surprised that Skylar didn’t grow up listening to Whitney. Are we getting contestants THAT young now? I feel like that’s a little negligent, honestly. I wasn’t even allowed to listen to Christian contemporary music when I was younger, and I still had awareness of Whitney’s music, so in my view she has no excuse.

I never thought I’d like a country version of a Whitney song, but I thought Skylar did a great job. Seemed like a few of the notes hit right in the break in her voice, but she really took it home after the key change. The song had shape and variety…well done, Skylar. Plus, I love her nail polish.

Heejun Han – “All in Love is Fair”

I may have to start visiting my Twitter account if only to keep up with Heejun’s antics during the week.

The ever quotable Heejun: “Whenever I see DeAndre’s hair, it makes me want to eat some noodles.”

Heejun needs to prove he can really hold his own in the singing part of this competition. I do love his tone, but thus far he hasn’t had a shining moment that he can hang his hat on. There was slight wobble in pitch in a few places throughout (that big note didn’t quite hold up). He kind of sounds like Josh Groban lite to me. He ended well, though. I just don’t love this song.

What I DO love is that Heejun gave Jimmy and Mary J. Blige autographed pictures. Heejun wrote notes to them both, something along the lines of:

Jimmy’s picture: Jimmy, I love you.

MJB: Mary, I love you more than Jimmy.

But if that was enough to win Jimmy over, I’m thrilled because Heejun needs some help to take his vocals to a solid place.

Hollie Cavanagh – “All the Man That I Need”

Wow. Those earrings are ostentatious. And holy cow, she could take an eye out with that ring! I want so badly for Holly to do well, but I have to admit that I don’t really get her yet…at least musically. I feel like she overreaches in the area of choosing songs that she can authentically support with emotion. I feel like she’s trying to be the person that she thinks she should be instead of being who she is. I thought her performance was rock solid, but I wanted to feel it a little more.

[Side note: Dear Tim Riggins. I really want to see you in a movie or on TV, but if you continue to do stupid movies like John Carter, I will be forced to pretend that I don’t like you.]

Jeremy Rosado – “Ribbon in the Sky”

Oh, judges. Ryan. We’ve already seen you change places and play your funny, funny jokes. I’m over it…let’s move on, please.

This guy is totally J.Lo’s favorite, and I like him okay. But tonight he was kind of hard to watch. I felt similarly to Jermaine’s performance that this one was boring.

Also, I refuse to get on the Jer Bear train. I mean, I like him fine. But that nickname is a no-go.

Jessica Sanchez – “I Will Always Love You”

What a song to tackle! She really reached for it and managed to make a much-mangled song of Whitney’s the talking point of the evening…for all the right reasons. She was spot on and unlike normal humans, those big notes didn’t even seem like an effort for her! I was super duper impressed with her chops throughout and I absolutely think she’s the girl to beat. I just wished for more Jessica to come through.   I wanted her performance to be a little bit more of an original take on the Whitney standard.

Just for the record, SteTy, I wasn’t one of the 40 million people crying. Just so that we’re clear. But thanks for backing me up on that Naima thing, earlier. Appreciate it, man.

Phillip Phillips – “Superstition”

I’m fairly certain Phil used this song as his audition, so I’m not sure why J. Lo was so concerned about him singing Stevie Wonder.

I love Jimmy Iovine’s assessment of Phillip: “He comes batteries included.”

Oh. My. Goodness. I LOVE his rendition of this song! So much so, that it became my first download of the season. I didn’t watch it three times or anything. (Cough). That’d be crazy, right? I got such a kick out of watching him jam with the other musicians on stage. He just totally inhabited that song.

Therefore, based on all the data, here is my assessment of tonight:

Favorite guy of the night: Phillip Phillips (is anyone surprised?)

Favorite girl of the night: Jessica Sanchez (she really earned it.)

Least favorite girl of the night: Erika Van Pelt (she wasn’t the worst vocally, but I still want her to leave.)

Least favorite guy of the night: Jermaine Jones (I just can’t get excited about watching him sing.)

Who was your favorite?

Haddock out!

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