Sorry for the late post this week. I live in Canada and winter is a hard time to do anything on time. Rain. Snow. Wind. These things are the bane of my existence in winter. I decided to do things a bit differently with this weeks ‘Idol’ recap. Instead of two separate recaps, I decided it would be more interesting to attempt to do both episodes in one. I think it’ll make for an easier to read article and cover everything. The recap won’t be as detailed as the two from last week, but that might be a good thing. Okay – so with the explanation out of the way, let’s get to the recap.
Part One (Episode 11): Vegas Round
When last we checked in with Idol, entire rooms full of contestants had been eliminated and those remaining were heading to Las Vegas. There are 61 contestants remaining at this point and they will have only twenty-four hours to learn and perform a song by ‘The Beatles’. Contestants are once again performing in groups but this time duos are allowed. At the end of the night, one third of the contestants will be cut leaving the judges with their top forty. Before hitting the stage, though, the contestants must get ready. Enter the vocal coaches.
We’ve seen bits and pieces of the vocal coaches so far this season, but this is really the first episode that has shown them so prominently. While there were a few coaches featured, none stood out as much as Peggi Blu; dubbed ‘The Vocal Coach from Hell’. She was coaching the group that featured fifteen-year-old Thia Megia, and while she made some valid points, it felt she was coming down a little too hard on the girls. Perhaps she was right and they weren’t ready though, as their performance later in the show left the judges feeling underwhelmed.
The biggest shock of the rehearsal portion of the show for me was seeing Lauren Alaina – my early pick to win the whole thing – buckle under the pressure of performing a song by such a legendary band. The fact that The Beatles are so beloved isn’t lost on Lauren who feels scared that she won’t be able to do their legacy justice. I disagreed with the judges. I felt her group’s performance was fun, entertaining and well executed. Sure if felt a little ‘jokey’ but it showed personality. It also showed group-mate Scotty McCreery had more range in his voice than I gave him credit for. The judges felt it was a weak and focused too much on comedy; acknowledging it was a difficult song to really shine on vocally and promising to take that into consideration.
Once of Lauren’s group’s harshest critics was none other than Jimmy Iovine. He is new to Idol, just signing on this season. Anyone at all familiar with the music scene has probably heard his name a time or two; working with not only John Lennon but also with Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers and U2 and has been credited with launching the careers of Eminem and Lady Gaga. Performing in front of Jimmy put a lot of pressure on each group as they performed before hitting the big stage. He wasn’t shy with his criticism but his advice was always solid. He suggested Lauren and Scotty’s group find another song. It’s hard to say whether or not that was a good choice as we didn’t get to hear much of the original, but, as I mentioned above, the song they chose to do instead didn’t exactly floor the judges.
Vegas Week proved to be a challenge for many of our contestants. Most turned in at least adequate performances but left the judges feeling disappointed. Carson Higgins and Caleb Hawley also left a lot to be desired as did Casey Abrams and Chris Medina with their bed-jumping performance of ‘A Hard Day’s Night’. Personally, I loved it, but the judges didn’t. Casey seems worried about his future on the show. Clearly he has no idea how awesome he is. Jordan Dorsey also got mixed reviews. I hope that knocks him down a few pegs. He has way to much attitude for America to fall in love with him.
Despite all the drama and the iffy performances, there were some definite stand outs. I remember Kendra Chantelle from episode ten in which she performed ‘Georgia On My Mind’ but I wasn’t all that impressed. This week, her performance with Paul MacDonald absolutely blew me away. It was by far my favorite performance of the evening. These two proved that all the theatrics aren’t necessary to turn in an incredible performance. It was understated and beautiful – I got chills from head to toe. Robbie Rosen was also incredible. I love that kid. Tim Halperin and Julie Zorrilla were also just ridiculous in the best possible way. Lauren Turner was also a serious highlight. Jacob Lusk, Naima Adedapo (still my favorite woman in the competition) and Haley Reinhart all performed together and were splendid. Rachel Zevita’s ‘Lady Madonna’ gave me chills. Once again, James Durbin gets raves from the judges. Fantastic for him, but I still don’t get the appeal. He was more controlled, but I’d love to see him do one song that doesn’t involve those high notes he relies so heavily on.
We’ve seen Ashley Sullivan struggle with nerves throughout the entire show with her loving boyfriend at her side the whole time. When it was announced she would be getting married in Vegas – at the same chapel as her hero, Britney Spears – I was excited. With ‘Dave the Cameraman’ as a witness, she tied the knot. Love this girl. Although it was argued she should’ve spend more time practicing her song, I doubt she regrets her decision.
With lots of drama in the ‘coming soon’ cutaways in the show, it was hard to try to determine who was safe and who was going to be cut. Between shots of Jennifer sobbing and threatening to quit and Lauren Alaina looking like she got the ax, I was pretty nervous going into the second half of the show. While Lauren was safe, some of my favorites were sent home. Emotional Ashley Sullivan was one of the first to go, but she handled it surprisingly well. Carson Higgins is also sent along with Caleb Hawley (I seriously nearly cried to see him go) and White House intern Molly DeWolfe. By the time the cuts were done, we had forty contestants. After a ‘Final Performance’ in front of the judges they faced the ‘Final Judgement’ leaving the top 24 – twelve girls, twelve boys and a lot of heartbroken contestants packing up and heading home.
I both loved and hated the fact that Naima Adedapo was the first in the judgment seat. She has been among my favorite women in the show right from her audition and, at this point, was my favorite woman left in the show with the early elimination of Adrienne Beasley. I was sincerely so nervous as Naima sat down that I was almost in tears. Naima was as well. What I love most about Naima is that she doesn’t hold back. She is who she is. I couldn’t have been more relieved when she got her spot in the top 24. Joining her in the top 24 as relieved in this episode – Clint ‘Junebug’ Gamboa, Haley Reinhart, Paul MacDonald and Ashton Jones.
I was really impressed with what we were shown of Clint’s performance of ‘Hello’ by Lionel Richie. He shows a much softer, less dramatic side and I liked it. He also addressed the ‘Jaccee situation’ on the hot seat which I thought was admirable. He explained it better and in the end, he doesn’t seem like quite the monster he first appeared to be. I was also pleasantly surprised by Paul’s spot in the top 24. His inclusion shows me the judges aren’t just looking for more of the same but appreciate a unique artist and Paul is definitely that. Also, his original song was incredible. Ashton is definitely the girl to watch in this one. She came out of nowhere at the start of group week and is quickly giving Lauren a run for her Idol money. Haley is also one of my favorites but I had little doubt she’d get a spot here.
For all the joy I felt seeing my favorites go through, there were some genuinely heartbreaking moments. Although many might disagree with me there, Hollie was the hardest for me. After being given a second chance in her audition, pulling herself together and wowing all of the judges, Hollie seemed to get stronger with every week. There were some rough spots but I don’t feel she deserved to be cut, especially when other, less talented women were put through. I sincerely hope Hollie auditions again in the future because Jennifer was right – she could win the whole thing. Also cut – Lakeisha Lewis (bringing Clint to tears) and Deandre Brackensick. The judges all tell him to try out again and Jennifer seems like she really didn’t want to send him home. I agree with her. He was incredible. I feel cutting him was a huge mistake.
For some, Chris Medina’s elimination was shocking and, while heartbreaking, I’ve been saying from the beginning he didn’t have what it takes to be on ‘American Idol’. He has a great voice and a touching story that shows his strength of character but sadly, I just didn’t feel like that strength shone through in his voice. His performances have been hit or miss even though his final performance of ‘Fix You’ by Coldplay nearly killed me. So beautiful. I think he has a career in music regardless of his elimination from Idol.
Chris’ elimination brought about the breakdown from Jennifer we’d been teased with through the whole episode. I had questions about whether or not Jennifer had the guts needed to make tough cuts and her breakdown only added to those questions. She’s very soft hearted and very compassionate. Her words to Medina were beautiful but she felt she hadn’t done well enough. She handled Chris’ elimination worse then he did and that broke my heart even more. With Randy and Steven offering encouragement she still felt she wasn’t prepared to continue. Does she press on? We know now she did but that question made for one heck of an Idol cliffhanger.
Part Two (Episode 12): Final Eliminations – The Top 24 Announced
With a little encouragement and support, Jennifer gets through cutting Chris Medina and finishes making the final eliminations. She holds up much better and manages to deliver the news while still being supportive and encouragement. While Steven is undeniably my favorite judge, Lopez has proved herself to be a lot more human than I expected. I would take a moment to apologize to her for all of the terrible things I believed about her before this show. I have a whole new respect for her. That said, tough calls had to be made. There were some serious shockers and a few decisions I don’t agree with in the least. There are others that had me cheering and there were a few surprises that had my jaw on the floor. Also, there’s are a few contestants who have completely changed my mind. Let’s get to it.
Let’s start with the girls. Lauren Alaina, Julie Zorrilla and Rachel Zevita have all been favorites from their auditions and are pretty much guaranteed spots in the top 10. Before this episode, I had Lauren pegged as the almost guaranteed favorite to win, but I’m not so sure about that. There is another Lauren I think might have a shot – Miss. Lauren Turner. She doesn’t have the personality Alaina has, but Turner has the sort of voice that demands you to pay attention. Pia Toscano only really started to get my attention in group week, but she has stayed strong. Her ‘Final Performance was incredible.
The only real decision I outright disagree with is the decision to put Tatynisa through while some, arguably more talented, women were sent home. Jackie Wilson and Hollie Cavanagh both come to mind. Tatynisa has heart – a lot of heart – but I think Jackie, at the very least, should be in the top 24 instead of Tatynisa. Jackie messed up the words of her final performance song and that’s a big no-no in Idol, but Tatynisa also messed up the words in Hollywood week. Tatynisa has had some phenominal moments and the judges are privy to more than we are as the audience, so I suppose only time will tell. I can’t see her making the top ten. I also wasn’t a huge fan of Karen Rodriguez, but she had some performances that blew me away. I can see why she’s in the top 24, but I don’t think we’ll see her in the top ten. Kendra Chantelle is another girl that I’m uncertain about, but I’m not sure there’s enough about her that stands out to take her all the way.
The final spot on the girls’ team came down to Thia Megia and Jessica Cunningham. I haven’t been a huge fan of Thia from the beginning. I felt she didn’t have the vocals to make it the whole way but her performance of ‘You Raise Me Up’ was brilliant and definitely changed my mind about her. Jessica went home on her birthday. I honestly didn’t see enough of her to say whether or not I agree with the judges on this one but I loved her reaction to being sent home. With the decision made and Thia given the final spot, the top twelve girls were chosen. They are (in order of announcement):
- Naima Adedapo (still my favorite woman on the show)
- Haley Reinhart
- Ashton Jones
- Karen Rodriguez
- Tatynisa Wilson
- Julie Zorrilla
- Lauren Turner
- Rachel Zevita
- Kendra Chantelle
- Lauren Alaina
- Pia Toscano
- Thia Megia
As was the case with the girls, there were a few guys you knew would be going through. In all honestly, all of the guys that make it to the top 40 deserved their spot. Robbie Rosen has always been somewhat unassuming and I was concerned he would be overlooked but with talent like that, he’s hard to ignore. It was all but certain he would get a spot but I was waiting for that yes with clinched fists all the same. Casey Abrams – what can be said about Casey. It seems absolutely insane to me that he would even doubt whether or not he was going through. Jacob Lusk, Jovany Baretto and Stefano Langone were safe bets as well. James Durbin was all but guaranteed a spot and after seeing his ‘Final Performance’ I can understand why a bit better. He showed much more control and left me stunned. Have I really been wrong about him from the start?
Tim Halperin getting a spot in the top 24 was really the only surprise for me as far as the boys went, and it was a very pleasant surprise indeed. He came out of nowhere for me. His performance in Vegas with Julie Zorrilla was a highlight for me and I was extremely pleased to see him move on to the live show. Jordan Dorsey… well, he has a ton of talent. No one can deny that. His place in the top 24 makes a lot of sense on that level. At the same time, he needs to tone down the arrogance or America is never going to give him the votes he’ll need to continue on in the competition. The hardest thing is, there was a cut made later in the episode – which we’ll get to in a moment – that makes me wonder if Jordan should really have gotten his spot.
When the country boys – Scotty McCreery and John Wayne Schulz – faced off, it was a pretty tough call. In the end, though, I was thrilled to see Scotty go through. He has shown range and grown as a performer. He may not have always made the right decisions (the whole Jacee situation) or shown courage under pressure (messing up the lyrics of ‘I Hope You Dance’), but he has always been willing to admit his faults. I’m not sure he’ll be able to handle the pressure, but I’m glad he was given the chance to try.
This absolutely broke my heart. I knew Jacee wouldn’t make it to the top 24 this time around. He’s very young and very sensitive. He has an absolutely beautiful voice but doesn’t yet have the power in it to really dominate in a competition like this. In a few years, he could win the whole thing. I really hope he tries again. As soon as I saw these three were competing for the last spot, I knew it was down to Colton and Brett and I have no idea who to root for. Brett has been my favorite contestant in this competition thus far but Colton really has his vocals beat. I think America would’ve voted for Colton more than Brett in the long term but I also think Brett’s original song showed real promise artistically. It was a coin toss for me, and part of me believes it was a coin toss for the judges too. Brett goes through, but I couldn’t help thinking Colton honestly deserved a spot there as well – perhaps in place of arrogant and controlling Jordan. I also really liked Regardless, I’m not the one who makes the decisions. Your top 12 boys (in order of announcement) are:
- Clint ‘Junebug’ Gamboa
- Paul MacDonald
- Robbie Rosen
- Tim Halperin
- Scotty McCreery
- Jovany Baretto
- Jordan Dorsey
- Stefano Langone
- Jacob Lusk
- James Durbin
- Casey Abrams
- Brett Loewenstern
How Are My Predictions Holding Up?
I made some predictions early on as to who would be in the top ten. So far, six of them are still in the show. Once next week’s first live show airs and the results have been calculated, I’ll redo my top ten and post it with my review. Next week will be a long one – longer than this one – because there are not two, but three nights of Idol; Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. I’m going to try something a little different and post my review of Tuesday’s show either Tuesday night or Wednesday morning then update it with each new episode. When the results show airs, you’ll see how close to right I was. Won’t that be fun? Let me know what you think of the format ideas and give me your predictions as to will get the first cut.