Sunday, March 04, 2012

American Idol Top 25 Week- Part I

Due to time issues this year, my American Idol recaps are likely to be more haphazard than ever. This is going to be total stream of consciousness stuff, as I attempt to recall the events of six hours of Idol over a day after I finally finished watching it. Just think of what I write on Idol this season as if you were listening to someone rambling on a podcast.

Since I last wrote about this show, there have been at least two competing network television singing competitions, and while I sort of tried to follow them,there is nothing that can compete with Idol in my view, and I am glad it is back. While there are certainly many aspects about this franchise that I would change (such as the current semi-final round format),it still brings the best in musical competition, political intrigue, and drama.

On Tuesday night, 13 male semifinalists performed, with only the top five vote-getters guaranteed a spot in the Finals.

1. Reed Grimm- "Moves Like Jagger"

He has gotten a lot of buzz this season as someone who could advance very far, but in spite of his audition rounds habit of picking really unlikely songs to perform, I have not really "gotten" him. His performance on Tuesday was no exception. While he is clearly musically talented (and I believe was the first Idol contestant to ever play the drums during a performance), I did not really like his jazzy arrangement of this current pop hit. It just seemed weird for me, as if Casey Abrams and Blake Lewis had a baby. Reed also clearly performed the unedited version of the lyrics, which forced the censors to drop that line from the broadcast. Was that intentional on his part? Grade: C

2. Adam Brock- "Think"

Here is another dude that has come across as sorta weird to me. While I wish the best for him and his new baby, and believe he is a good singer, he just was not a good fit for this show and I could see him generating a lot of backlash. For one thing, this white boy from Pittsburgh talked on television more than once about how his musical style indicated that a large black woman was trapped inside of his body, in addition to repeatedly referring to himself as "white chocolate." A lot of people were going to take offense to that, even though this is the first season where Idol crazily does not have one black female in the competition.

Channeling his inner large black woman, Adam attempted to sing an Aretha Franklin classic and it was just ok to me. He seemed really nervous. I am sure there were tears afterwards. Grade: B-

3. DeAndre Brackensick- "Reasons"

He is just a kid, but I cannot help to find him weird too. Are young girls really going to dig his androgynous looks, extremely high falsetto singing, and appearing on the verge of nervous crying at any moment? Come to think of it, yes, they might.

He has vocal skill and was attempting to show off that falsetto in this attempt but it was just not that pleasing to my ear. Grade: C+

4. Colton Dixon- "Decode"

Like DeAndre, Colton was also cut in the late stages in last year's audition process and is back now. He is expected to go deep in the competition and I think is one of the most currently marketable people on this year. He also comes across to me as extremely entitled and smug, but I guess that may be what it takes to succeed.

He sang a Paramore song that I was not really familiar with, first while playing the piano, then by getting up and jumping on top of it. It was all supposed to be very dramatic, and he clearly knows how to perform, but I detected some pitch issues here and there with the vocals. Grade: B-

5. Jeremy Rosado- "Gravity"

I really do not know this song, but I thought Jeremy sounded sincere and decent on it. He also strikes me as a genuinely nice person, which is how the show has been trying to portray him. He may not look like a pop star, but if he sounds good and has people thinking of him as a nice young man, he may last a while longer. Being one of the only Hispanics in the competition will not hurt either. Jeremy may not be the best singer in the competition, but I expect him to be pretty consistent, and his personal sincerity has me wanting to see him do well. Grade: B+

6. Aaron Marcellus- "Never Can Say Goodbye"

First of all, he looks a whole lot older than his 27 years and it seems as if the show is just throwing him out there as cannon fodder to get voted out in this round. His forty year old song choice certainly makes that even more of a reality, but I actually thought he sounded good on it. The performance was a bit cheesy and not all that memorable, but since I am trying to judge this purely on vocal impressions, I appreciated the way he was able to pull it off. Grade: B

7. Chase Likens- "Storm Warning"

More producer fodder here as well, as Chase hardly received any screen time in the weeks leading up to his live performance. The one country male left in the competition, even if he were great, this was just not going to be his year, coming right after the Scotty McCreery season. Unfortunately for Chase, his vocals had problems as well, even though I suspect he would be a serious contender on a Country Idol like show. Grade: C+

8. Creighton Fraker- "True Colors"

To me, the most interesting thing about Creighton is that his biological father was the lead singer of some hair metal band that I do not really remember from that musical era that I loved so much. This New York City based "starving artist" has come across as annoying to me most of the time, but he certainly has proven that he has a powerful vocal range.

This week, he sang this Cyndi Lauper song compete with rainbow imagery behind him. This might be an American Idol milestone in regards to how close a contestant has been to actually coming out while on the show itself. The performance itself was just ok for me. It felt as if he were trying too hard to show his power at some parts. I think the musical theater route would be a far better option. Grade: B-

9. Phillip Phillips- "In the Air Tonight"

If you ask me now who the early favorite to take the crown is, I will have to say it is Phillip. For one thing, he is a white boy who plays guitar and I think the cougars will appreciate his looks and down home southern charm. I also think he is a very talented musician, but I do not know if he will come across as well if he cannot play his guitar on every performance. His auditions had been a bit hit and miss depending on that aspect.

While the act of reinventing unlikely songs into acoustic numbers may wear thin, I sort of liked what he did on this Phil Collins song. I found it interesting, even if I agree with the Idol judges that the song itself was maybe rendered not as good by all the changes he made to the melody. Grade B+

10. Eben Franckewitz- "Set Fire to Rain"

We are told that the 15 year old Eben is the youngest person to ever advance to this point on Idol. It seems as if he were placed where he was over some vocally superior older contestants and I have to wonder if they did him a great disservice doing so. His singing still needs work, but if he is better in a few years, he would have had a much better chance at potential Idol stardom. Now, he will never be able to go on this show again.

In spite of all that, I actually thought the votes of young girls and grandma types would advance Eben perhaps all the way to 6th or 7th place this season. While his voice is perhaps still changing, he seems to have a lot of charisma for such a youngster, perhaps borne of years of experience in local theater. He may never be a great singer, and his unlikely attempt to sing an Adele song this week started off badly, before he ended somewhat decently. Eben, who has been compared to Justin Bieber and Grayson Chance, may never turn into a great singer, but I could see him on a show like "Glee." Grade: C+

11. Heejun Han- "Angels"

From his first audition, Heejun has made me laugh, in a good way. His sense of humor is much appreciated this season, and like Season Five's Kellie Pickler, I think he knows exactly what he is doing with the "character" and that is why he is likely to last longer than he deserves to based on his voice.

Indeed, some of his auditions have shown him demonstrating vocal potential, but whether it was nerves or something else, I thought he was very weak on Tuesday night. Jeremy Lin has nothing to worry about perhaps in terms of being eclipsed from a talent perspective in the Asian-American pop culture universe. For one thing, Heejun's Korean accent was a bit too apparent on this Robbie Williams song and it seems as if he even mispronounced a few words. This song has only ever been performed on Idol previously by the far more talented David Archuleta and there was just no comparison to what Heejun attempted. Grade: C-

12. Joshua Ledet- "You Pulled Me Through"

From the auditions to his first live performance, this Louisiana boy has proven he could sing. I thought he was the best of the night, but early last season, myself and many others were saying the same about Jacob Lusk, before his oversinging and melisma became too much.

So, Joshua made a powerful first impression for many this week, but I do not know if he has the personality, star power, or versatility to be a true contender this year. I certainly want to hear more from him though, but without Seacrest making reference to his apparent fan given nickname of "Manstaisa." For one thing, I think Fantasia is probably more masculine than Joshua to begin with. Grade: B+

13. Jermaine Jones- "Dance With My Father"

The big "surprise" of the night was the reveal, just in time for the pimp spot of Jermaine as one of four potential hopefuls who were already cut, but brought back for whatever reason. Odd stuff, including the fact that one of the options was cut back during Las Vegas week.

The bass voiced Jermaine is almost certainly the tallest contestant in the history of the show, potentially the one who is likely to sweat the most, and also undoubtedly the proudest "mama's boy" ever to grace the stage. He seems like a nice guy though and it was sad to see him cry when he previously got cut. Idol did him a huge favor by bringing him back, giving him the pimp spot, and having him sing such an emotional song for many people. His voice definitely is unique, sort of a complete mirror image of DeAndre's falsetto, but I worry also about his ability to adapt to different kinds of songs with as low as he sings. For this week though, I thought he sounded pretty good, but believed he might be out of luck for a Finalist spot, because he would be splitting votes with his fellow African-American Joshua. Grade: B+

Ranking them worst to best:

13. Heejun Han
12. Reed Grimm
11. Chase Likens
10. Eben Franckewitz
9. DeAndre Brackensick
8. Creighton Fraker
7. Adam Brock
6. Colton Dixon
5. Aaron Marcellus
4. Jermaine Jones
3. Jeremy Rosado
2. Phillip Phillips
1. Joshua Ledet

On the merits, I obviously would have advanced my top 5, but I predicted somewhat different results, and you will just have to take my word for it.

After I watched the episode, I anticipated top 5 showings for Phillip and Jeremy from my Top 5, but also for Colton, Eben, and Heejun.

That's going to be all for now. Tomorrow, I will do my best to write recaps for Wednesday night's Top 12 Girls show as well as Thursday night's Results and Wildcard Round.