Ryan opens in a solid gray suit with a red striped tie and a gold pocket square. His shoes are red. He gives a quick recap of the Top 10 Girls, with clips of them singing from last night (or maybe from the afternoon dress rehearsal- it really doesn't matter which). My opinions have not changed, I liked Majesty, Jessica, and Malaya, and I hope MK shines.
They're running another new animated title sequence. This one looks mechanical and sounds thumpy.
JLo is dressed to join Abba tonight, in very pale rose floaty flared trousers and a matching sparkly top. Her metal earrings are lacy and huge, her hair is straight and flat, and her eye shadow is pale.
Keith is wearing a red tee, and HCJ is in a brown suede jacket over a white tee. I think we've seen that jacket before.
Keith explains that the three judges watched all 15 guys sing earlier today, and they made their final choices at the last minute. The camera pans to the Top 10 Gals, and I can tell that liking MK's voice does not offset how much I hate the backwards ball cap perched high on her head.
Randy Jackson gives me the creeps, pure and simple. The show has improved vastly without him on it. I'm sorry he's back, but I hope his interference will be short-lived.
#1. So we get to the purpose of this two hours of air time. Keith calls Caleb Johnson down. Caleb auditioned formerly as a chunky nerd. Now he's Meatloaf Light. He's from Asheville, and I know for certain that they sell shampoo in Asheville. I wish Caleb knew that. Unless Randy says something particularly intelligent, or more likely, something particularly stupid, I'm not going to report on him at all though he will meet with each of the kids. Chris Daughtry, however, tells Caleb to keep his eyes open while singing, and to smile. On stage, Caleb holds the mike stand as he sings Stay With Me. It's a good uptempo song to open the show, and he does just fine with it.
Keith- Caleb has a cool soul, and it was the perfect song choice.
JLo- An amazing performance, the real deal.
HCJ- Strong opener.
#2. JLo calls C.J. Harris. I like C.J. Harris. Daughtry tells C.J. to ditch the guitar and just go with his voice. On stage, C.J. is wearing a blue plaid shirt, khaki pants, and a hat that I don't hate (write that one down, folks- it's not apt to happen again). C.J. is also wearing his guitar as he sings Shelter, by Ray LaMontagne. It starts weak, but he warms into it with his gritty voice. Keith listens with his Music Face on.
JLo- That was a beautiful thing, it made her smile.
Keith- Says C.J. is a blend of Dobie Gray and Johnnie Lang, and says that C.J. is a great Alabama boy (and I do hope that Keith is not taken to task for calling C.J. that- he clearly meant nothing racist in the comment).
HCJ- Mentions intonation and C.J.'s tendency to veer sharp.
Ryan announces that C.J. had a root canal yesterday. One thing AI is good for- dental work. Contestants with iffy teeth always come out with a brighter smile.
#3. HCJ draws out his intro, talking about what an entertainer #3 is, which of course can only mean Emmanuel Zidor. During coaching, Emmanuel struggles with his song choice, Best of My Love (the disco version, not The Eagles'). Emmanuel also sports blonde fuzzy hair, which thankfully has been dyed back to dark for tonight. He's wearing a black leather jacket over a shirt printed with that pyramid/eyeball combo made popular by the one dollar bill. Here's the deal with Emmanuel- I have no problem with flamboyance (not that Emmanuel has made an MK-style declaration of sexual preference), but man, he trowels it on so thickly that it comes off as parody and affectation, something he's doing purely for show. Every second of it feels forced. That said, he's doing just fine with this song.
HCJ- Cautions Emmanuel to maintain control on stage, and not to rely on the Big Notes.
Keith- Mentions that adrenalin can cause notes to go wonky.
JLo- Loves her some Emmanuel, though maybe not that song. JLo also has Emmanuel sing something else in a gospel-y style because she thinks Emmanuel didn't show his proper self off properly during his performance. This is totally unfair- no one else gets to remedy a bad song choice with a mini-encore.
Have I mentioned that we get a picture in picture during the commercials, showing the live action during the break? JLo getting her hair brushed and makeup checked, Keith being re-floofed, HCJ getting water, stage hands sweeping, and Ryan laughing with the judges. It's interesting.
#4. Keith says that all of the judges agreed on Sam Wolfe from the start. Sam, of the very pink cheeks and Clark Kent hairdo, is singing Babylon in a denim jacket over a hoodie, and playing a guitar. Sam is not exactly loose, but he's trying to relax, and he's doing really well with this song. Sam's voice sounds older than 17.
Keith- People like Sam, and Sam will continue to get better and better.
JLo- Sam has a sweet quality and perfect pitch.
HCJ- Says it was a good performance, and looks forward to watching Sam's confidence grow.
Commercial Note: From the looks of the clips they're showing, I am going to do myself a major favor and never ever watch Surviving Jack. I'm pretty sure it would give me an apoplexy.
#5. JLo talks about George Lovett, who puts in his ear pieces even before his name is called. Adam Lambert helps George with his stage presence on a Bruno Mars song. On stage, George is wearing a long-sleeved white crew neck knit shirt, tan pants and a blue shirt tied around his waist. The sleeves of the tied shirt hang in front like a chambray loin cloth. I am not familiar with this song, but I'm pretty sure that Mr. Mars is not nearly so... melodramatic... with it. And I'll bet he does not pronounce the word *you* either as *yeh* or *yooo-ooo-ooo-ooo*.
JLo- Compliments George's energy and then says *um*, which is not a good sign. She then goes on to tell George to control the runs a bit more, and when JLo docks a kid for singing runs, you can be sure they're egregious.
HCJ- Reiterates what JLo just said, only more bluntly.
Keith- That song did not play to George's strengths.
#6. Ryan does a West wing talking/walking bit and HCJ calls Dexter Roberts down, though I'm pretty certain that Ben Briley thought it was going to be him. Ben did everything but jump up and head to the stage. Dexter is beefily adorable in a white shirt and jeans. He's singing some country song, and is completely and totally comfortable on stage. It's a smooth and pleasant performance of a rather lyrically complex song.
HCJ- The performance was good, and certainly good enough for American Idol, but maybe not individual enough to survive out in the real world.
Keith- Says exactly the same thing using different words.
JLo- Admires the easy way Dexter has with a song, and his confidence.
#7. Keith calls Alex Preston, our less pale, shorter-haired Tiny Tim. Alex admits to being an awkward human being. On stage, he's wearing a black jacket over a white tee, and playing a guitar. As always, I am surprised by Alex's voice. He is nailing this complex song- it's a very good performance, subdued and subtly powerful.
Keith- Says that was the best song choice of the night.
JLo- Thinks Alex is an interesting artist with a good groove.
HCJ- Compliments a specific guitar chord. (Note: this is high praise coming from HCJ.)
#8. JLo calls Malcolm Allen, formerly of the ever-present bow tie and glasses. He's wearing neither tonight. Instead, he's in a ruby colored work shirt and tan jeans. What the heck is this song? Malcolm is mumbling, and I swear that he's singing an entirely different tune than what the band is playing. This whole performance is terrible.
JLo- Says the performance was weak, but she still got GOOSIES. (Note: JLo's GOOSIES need new ears.)
HCJ- Says Malcolm can sing runs properly, but he over did it and was sharp throughout.
Keith gets cut off by the band before he can give his critique, but Ryan gives up his post-performance patter to allow Keith to say what HCJ said, only without the booing.
#9. HCJ finally calls Ben Briley, who must have be pretty anxious by now. On stage, Ben wears a black vest over a gray shirt and a bright orange tie. He also has on a backwards hat. He sings a country song and sounds fine with his gritty voice. I'm not so pleased with the guitar solo interlude, but at least it doesn't last too long.
HCJ- Talks a lot about the large knot in Ben's tie, as though they weren't pressed for time.
Keith- Thinks Ben's vocal was better than his guitar playing.
JLo- Ben comes alive on stage.
#10. So, we're down to the last choice. I hope it's Maurice, with the dreds and the four adorable kiddos. But Keith calls Spencer Lloyd, who strikes me as nothing more than a generic pretty boy. Randy tells Spencer to play his guitar, Adam Lambert tells him to ditch it. On stage, in what I think might actually be a white leather hoodie, Spencer sings without a guitar. Maybe he should have kept it- his voice is weak and his performance style consists mostly of prancing and thumping his chest. But he's cute and the girls love him.
Keith- Dings Spencer for song choice and vocal quality.
JLo- Says the crowd likes him. (Note: this is very faint praise from her.)
HCJ- Says this song was not Spencer's strong suit, and that it was not a good performance.
There's not enough time left for a clip show of tonight's performances, or a rerun of the voting numbers. Ryan brings the dejected rejects out for one last bow. I have time to notice that Maurice's pants have a very weird leather insert on the front of his pants, like a shiny non-elastic pregnancy panel. Now I'm really sorry I didn't get to see them on stage, moving around.
Ryan hastily explains that tomorrow night, the 5 girls and the 5 guys who got the most votes will move on, and each judge will choose one Wild Card to join them in a Top 13. We'll see if that's what actually happens.