What does it say about the American woman when seven out of the 12 female “American Idol” contestants are similar-looking blondes; three of them are named some version of Hallie/Haley/Hollie; two sing the exact same song in one night; and the only thing less irksome than any of them is Randy Jackson’s clowny pocket square?
If Monday’s boys’ semifinal brought us an abundance of unique voices and styles, tonight was the exact opposite. For the most part, one girl blended into the next—standing out only by the measure of how flat or sharp her belty notes were.
Tuesday night, it pained me to choose just six favorite boys; tonight, I could barely choose four girls.
So let’s start with the most interesting appearance: the tulle-based cat on Jennifer Lopez’s shoulder. Now overcompensating for her Oscar-night nip-slip, J.Lo seems to be wearing as much as possible on her upper region. Only Steven Tyler’s top-half was more mesmerizing; he looked like he was wrapped in a leopard print Faberge egg, proving two nights in a row now that this guy has cornered the strange-blazer market.
Thank goodness for the distraction. If not for the judges’ fashion extravagances, we’d have had to pay attention to the rose-colored drivel coming out of their mouths. Lots of “it was beautiful” and “great performance” and—at their harshest—”not the perfect song choice,” when really what they should have been saying was, “America, I apologize for allowing this girl to sing to you live. But she might have a future in waitressing.”
A few girls did shine above the rest, by leaps and bounds. Jessica Sanchez, whom we barely met during the month of auditions, grabbed hold of the spotlight, singing “I Love You I Do.” With my eyes closed, she sounded just like Jennifer Hudson did in “Dreamgirls.” And while outright mimicking is not usually something to laud, Jessica’s overall musical competence was, on this episode, a total triumph.
Elise Testone was the other surprise. She had her work cut out for her, closing the episode on a song that another contestant, Jen Hirsh, already sang earlier in the show—Adele’s “One and Only.” (Besides that, it’s also the song that the now departed Lauren Gray memorably auditioned with.) So, I’m not going to try to guess what kind of backstage drama led to two girls singing the same song in one night. All I will say is that Elise won that contest hands down. I will also say that Adele has a few other songs in her repertoire—maybe you’ve heard of them? Perhaps one of these singers should give this little ditty a go.
And Skylar Laine, the ATV-driving markswoman, was the only person who appeared to be having any fun at all. Her too-tight, too-short Mardi Gras confetti dress aside, the Reba impersonator moved around the stage in a way that didn’t come across as entirely calculated. She’s the fun one, and so much more interesting than last year’s evening-gown-wearing country girl Lauren Alaina.
The Oh So Lowlights
If anyone should have sang Adele, it was Brielle Von Hugel. Instead, the sassy Staten Islander did the stupidest arrangement of “Dock of the Bay” that has ever been sung. It’s a chill pill of a song, but Brielle performed it with a combination of peppy energy and completely inappropriate seduction. Oh, and how creative—there’s a dock on the LCD screen.
It’s a mystery how Hollie Cavanagh got here, since she spent most of audition weeks off-camera. But she should stay off-camera. She was in the middle of a three-girl streak of off-pitch singing that began with Baylie Brown, doing a terrible version of an already terrible song, “Amaze,” and ending with Haley Johnson, who was flat and erratic throughout “Sweet Dreams.” But Hollie wins for the most dreadful note of the night, at the end of Christina Aguilera’s “Reflection.” I actually screamed and had to hit the mute button.
This wasn’t easy. If it were up to me, I’d select just four girls and throw in a few extra boys who deserve a shot. But here are the six I think America/a judge will put through to finals:
1. Jessica Sanchez – The best singer of night, and probably the best in the competition, next to Joshua Ledet.
2. Elise Testone—Her maturity lends total command of her deep, smoky voice. She is the most unique-sounding girl this season.
3. Skylar Laine—The only country girl who should be allowed to compete. She sings well and actually seems to enjoy herself.
4. Brielle Von Hugel—Despite the outrageous arrangement, she still displayed an interesting and technically solid voice.
5. Shannon Magrane—The six-foot-tall beauty was boring as could be tonight, but neutral is better than bad.
6. Hallie Day—Despite lacking energy tonight, her Jessica Rabbit looks could win her another chance.