American Idol: The fall of Jermaine Jones and the rise of Joshua Ledet (+video)
American Idol recap: For Jermaine Jones, the dream came to an abrupt halt on Wednesday. But for Joshua Ledet, the American Idol dream is just beginning.
As was widely reported prior to Wednesday night's American Idol broadcast, Jermaine Jones was disqualified from the show based on the discovery that he had four pending warrants as well as two prior arrests. In true American Idol fashion, no opportunity for great reality TV could be wasted so the show opted to record the meeting in which the producers, Nigel Lythgoe and Ken Warwick, confront Jermaine. Jermaine didn't offer much in the way of emotion or explanation; aside from admitting to hiding the truth because he didn't want to be judged (and a far less lucid explanation about the charges stemming from violence). Jermaine left the show quietly.
Ryan Seacrest then addressed the elephant in the room. He claimed that despite Jermaine's disqualification, American Idol would continue business as usual with the contestant with the lowest number of votes being "at risk for elimination." Hmmm, unless they have decided to give the judges the final say again this week (which technically isn't business as usual) it would seem that Idol has no intention of sending anyone home, but they'd still really like viewers to vote and tune in on Thursday as they fake their way through a results show that will end in an "almost" elimination.
Some contestants should take solace in that prediction, others, like Joshua Ledet, don't have a reason to worry in the first place. This week, the contestants took on songs from their birth years, otherwise known as the "let's-remind-viewers-just-how-quickly-life-is-passing-them-by" episode. Let's see, Stevie Wonder spanned the 1960's, 70's and 80's and now the majority of songs featured are from the 90's. Maybe next week, we'll move into the new millennium!
Phil Phillips: Kidney stone surgery or no, Phil Phillips has a knack for choosing good songs and Wednesday night was no exception. With the Black Crow's 1990 hit, "Hard to Handle," Phil delivered another strong performance. The judges loved him but not as much as fans who flooded twitter with praise and more than a few professions of love. Humph. As if true love could be expressed in 140 characters. It takes at least . . . 447 (including spaces.) B+
Jessica Sanchez: Jessica was the recipient of a manufactured "moment" in her performance of "I Will Always Love You" last week, so the pressure to live up to the hype must have been intense for the 16-year-old. It would appear that the pressure addled Jessica's brain causing her to choose Gloria Estefan's "Turn the Beat Around," from 1995. Although Steven Tyler's advice to not stray from ballads was probably correct, the fact that Jessica can't perform well outside of that niche is her biggest shortcoming. Idol seasons are often plagued by ballad divas but a female idol who could only sing ballads has never won American Idol and never should. C-
Heejun Han: Heejun chose the 1985 ballad, "Right Here Waiting" by Richard Marx. Ugh. Heejun needs to read the above paragraph immediately because he's turning into another ballad diva. With such a great tone, Heejun could be bringing so much more to the stage than "cruise ship" performances. In addition to digging himself into the black ballad hole, Heejun didn't perform the song well. Randy Jackson said that Heejun was "all over the place," which was a bit of an exaggeration but Steven Tyler offered a more straightforward assessment that unfortunately applied to many of the contestants on Wednesday, "wrong song choice." C
Elise Testone: After a decidedly sullen week last week, Elise seemed to be making an effort to be more upbeat and, let's face it, likable, on Wednesday. It's amazing what a smile can do. Even will.i.am suggested that Elise smile more in her performance of the 1986 hit by Al Green, "Let's Stay Together," which she quipped was dedicated to America at the end of the song. Cute. Elise definitely performed better both vocally and behaviorally and the judges made the announcement that Elise was back. B
Deandre Brackensick: Deandre, born in 1994, was caught in the crossfire of the Jimmy Iovine versus the Judges battle this week. Deandre originally chose Elton John's song from The Lion King soundtrack, "Can you Feel the Love Tonight," and it was quickly vetoed by Jimmy Iovine and will.i.am and replaced with Luther Vandross and Mariah Carey's version of "Endless Love." The performance was decent at best and the judges didn't pull any punches when telling Deandre that Jimmy had steered him wrong and it was the wrong song choice. As much as Deandre tried to say he felt OK about the song, it was clear that neither his heart nor his confidence were in it this week. C
Shannon Magrane: Shannon has a lot to be grateful for. She comes from an adoring, successful family. She's beautiful. She's chasing her dream on the Idol stage. But no one can have it all; we each have our own obstacles to overcome. For Shannon, that obstacle came in the form of a sequined short suit with tailored jacket that she then chose to pair with flats. The outfit was but one in a string of missteps. For one brief, glimmering moment (in the middle of a shameless and awkward plug for a cell phone) Jimmy mentioned No Doubt's 1995 hit "Don't Speak," and hopes of Shannon choosing a younger, more suitable song soared. But those hopes were quickly dashed when instead, Shannon opted to hunker down in the diva ditches with Heejun and Hollie this week and perform, "One Sweet Day," by Mariah Carey and Boyz 2 Men. The judges were kind to Shannon, praising how well she handled the song, but if Shannon wants to stay in the competition, she needs to embrace her youth. There is a reason why the age limit is 28. C+
Colton Dixon: After sharing that he and Chris Daughtry "hooked up" for dinner one night (a regrettable choice of words to be sure) Colton promised that he would heed Chris's advice to sing songs that people know . . . beginning next week. This week, Colton selected White Lion's "Broken Heart" from 1991. Will.i.am stated that the song was so unknown that even the band didn't know it. Mediocrity ensued. Though two out of three judges recommend Colton's performance, Colton was forgettable this week and a little known song didn't help matters much. B-
Erika Van Pelt: Erika followed Deandre into the foxhole on the Jimmy/Judge battlefield. Erika wisely chose Bryan Adam's "Heaven," from 1985, a song that matched her gravelly voice perfectly and by all accounts she gave a strong performance. With the natural ability to infuse even a ballad performance with grit and urgency (something that others should definitely take note of) she is a captivating performer. Unfortunately the judges, seemingly bent on sticking it to Jimmy, who suggested some tweaks to the song's arrangement, claimed that Erika was "too busy" on the song with Randy stating, "If it ain't broke why try and fix it with some weird, catchy, jerky arrangement. And don't let anyone tell you to do that." Subtle Randy . . . real subtle. B
Skylar Lane: Skylar, proving she's the same spitfire off stage as she appears to be on stage, resisted the attempts of Jimmy Iovine and will.i.am to abandon the 1994 Bonnie Raitt song, "Love Sneaking up on You." While the song didn't wow, it was the perfect vehicle for Skylar because she believed in it. The judges were all rightfully proud of their "mini-Reba." B
Joshua Ledet: Before his performance, Ryan surprised Joshua with a huge bucket of crawfish from Louisiana, a delicacy that Josh was sorely missing from home. Obviously they were magic crawfish because when Joshua performed Michael Bolton's version of "When a Man Loves a Woman," Joshua had the first genuine moment of the season. Some have criticized what they perceive as overly harsh grading in these recaps, but an "A" grade needs to be preserved for performances like these – performances in which the contestant transcends the competition and any preconceived notions of the viewers (or, in this case, bloggers.) When Joshua stripped off his jacket, while belting out the song, he was so utterly believable, he made every other contestant seem like a fraud. Jennifer Lopez exclaimed it was the best thing she's ever seen on American Idol (My memory isn't that good but I would venture to guess it was easily in my top 10.) A
Hollie Cavanagh: Poor Hollie. To take the stage after such an amazing performance by Joshua can't have been easy. But as usual, Hollie hunkered down and approached the 1993 ballad, "Power of Love" by Celine Dion with the same tenacity that helped her overcome her near debilitating stage fright from last season. The next challenge Hollie needs to overcome is her propensity for picking songs that are just not believable coming from her. The lyrics of Celine Dion's power ballad are not something most 19-year-olds could even hope to have the maturity to identify with. But unlike Joshua, who at 20, easily convinced us that he identified with, "When a Man Loves a Woman," Hollie failed to connect to the lyrics at all. She sounded good but the emotional connection to the material was absent. The judges didn't seem to notice and gave Hollie good reviews. C+
Although the prediction is that no one will be eliminated in Thursday's results show, the bottom three will most likely be:
- Deandre Brackensick
- Elise Testone
- Heejun Han (This one is a bit fuzzy - it could also just as easily be Shannon Magrane but let's go with Heejun. Final Answer.)
Check back tomorrow to find out who (almost) went home!