‘American Idol’: 13 Is a Lucky Number for the Men’s Semifinals

by | February 29, 2012 at 12:11 AM | American Idol, RealityTV, Recap

Joshua Ledet performs on American Idol (FOX)

Ahh, the wonders of live TV. The excitement, the unpredictability. Will someone forget their words? Probably. Will Steven Tyler incur FCC fines from for profanity? Most definitely. Will someone slip a nip? We’re looking at you, JLo.

Jennifer Lopez, uh, nipped that last one in the bud when she yelled into the cameras: “There was no nipple!” But not before Steven Tyler flashed his own suckle knuckle (thank you for the synonym, McSweeney’s) while making fun of JLo for her Oscar’s wardrobe malfunction that may or may not have happened, but to my eyes definitely absolutely happened.

Tonight, she was adorned in a white tube dress that cut straight across her chest, therefore eliminating all possibilities of further slippage. All the judges were in fact handsomely attired for the occasion, with Steven in a sparkly zebra print jacket and a barer chest than usual, and Randy Jackson in some sort of clown’s business shirt, all blue and red and black and polka dotted.

Tonight’s show, the first live one of Season 11, was largely entertaining, with more strong performances than not. Unique voices, from the highest falsetto to the lowest booming bass, were the ones that truly shined—and it’s an especially promising year for black male vocalists. But there were some problems especially where prepackaged brand-recognized looks and sounds were being forced on us too early in the game. We need to get to know these folks a little bit more before we can like someone for resembling Justin Bieber.

Yes, I’m talking about fifteen-year-old Eben Franckewitz—who I hope gets voted off soon because it’s a pain to look up how to spell his last name every time—was clearly out of his league here. The polite boys’ choir thing he does is completely grating, but besides that, his flat, feelingless rendition of Adele’s “Set Fire to the Rain” highlighted the fact that the boy, at 15, has absolutely no idea what he’s even saying, never mind how to say it. Best judge comment of the night: Steven Tyler telling Eben to listen to some blues records and “try to shake it off a bit.”

But it wasn’t just Eben. Take Colton Dixon, the piano man, whose annoying blonde streak costumers clearly latched onto as a signal that he is an alt rocker who needs to wear a red skinny tie and black skinny jeans. And get up from the piano so he can dance upon it, as, you know, alt rockers do.

Problems, Problems

Adam Brock’s trite performance of “Think” as an example of how he has a “black woman living in [his] body” was desperate and pandery. Aaron Marcellus had the rare problem of being too technically skilled, so that his performance of “Never Can Say Goodbye” was like going to karaoke in the theater district. Amazing, trained voice, but still karaoke.

Then there was Creighton Fraker, who had proven strong and somewhat intriguing during Hollywood, but on the actual “American Idol” stage, his weird and interesting voice seemed entirely out of place and more fit for a cabaret setting. Plus, his intro was all about how everyone should be themselves, and then he sang “True Colors” in front of a backdrop of rainbows. While that’s an important and colorful message to send, it was a bit too “Glee” for me.

Heejun Han was borderline. His quiet voice at the start of his songs is so smoky and smooth, but when he belts, as he did on “Angels,” it’s really average. And he has pronunciation and phrasing problems, which I usually don’t mind, although tonight I did. But you have to love the guy for his candid sense of humor. In his pre-song interview, Heejun said he was going to show America that Asians can excel at more than the SATs, articulating something that the mostly white audience is probably thinking but too afraid to say.

And Reed Grimm, who continually surprises with his smooth jazz antics, might just be a little too weird for America. Scatting (and swearing—Reed was bleeped) during “Moves Like Jagger,” while kind of crackpot-brilliant, was also kind of insane.

The Highlights

Despite all of that, there were amazing voices. Hands down, the best performance of the night came from Joshua Ledet, who wailed and gushed his way through Jennifer Hudson’s “You Pulled Me Through,” and pushed so many of the over-the-top emotional that Hudson did back when she was on the show.

Jermaine Jones, gaining Melanie Amaro-type underdog status as the surprise returnee, bellowed with his crazy deep voice on “Dance With My Father.” The only negative I can say about his performance was that it came right after Joshua’s—and that is an act you don’t want to follow.

Deandre Brackensick seemed to come almost out of nowhere with that falsetto last week, and I hope the cameras let us finally see more of him. There’s something so sexy about his voice that it almost doesn’t matter how cheesy he is, the way he keeps flipping his long curls around. It sort of works. And I can’t remember ever seeing anyone like him on “Idol” before.

And Phillip Phillips did this cool growly thing on a dark and twisted “In the Air Tonight.” But no matter how dark, his smile is beyond magnetic.

Picks

Here’s how it’ll work: America picks the top five boys and the top five girls. Then the judges each choose one additional person, making a Top 13. So we’ll have either six or seven of each gender.

If I were picking the Top 6 boys purely on my personal preference, I’d want to see Reed, Deandre, Phillip, Heejun, Joshua and Jermaine.

But my tastes are not always America’s tastes. So here are my predictions:

1. Deandre Brackensick – So evocative of the early ’80s, I think he’ll win over the middle-aged lady voters.
2. Chase Likens – The only country boy, and not some cheesy Scotty McCreery type, but a clear-voiced Blake Shelton type. And he gets points for NOT wearing a cowboy hat.
3. Phillip Phillips – Yes, he’s talented. But he’s also the best looking.
4. Joshua Ledet – By far the best vocalist. That can’t be ignored.
5. Adam Brock – America just loves those older, burly white guys who sing soul. I can’t imagine why we need another one, but I’m not one to deprive America.
6. Jermaine Jones – Coming back from elimination worked for Melanie Amaro and it’ll work for him.