American Idol, Season 12 – Episode 12: Second Las Vegas Elimination Round
Two more hours of Idol tonight! I might literally die, and then I’d never know what eventual winner I will fail to buy any records from. Tonight is exactly the same set-up as last night, only with the boys, so let’s get right to it. Keith Urban is wearing a cheap brown leather coat (and here “cheap” means “crummy but still probably cost $8,000”); Nicki Minaj is wearing a floral top and blond wig with no jacket or hat, which has to be in violation of her contract; Randy Jackson has on a sweater with a big “R” on the front against the very real threat that he might forget what letter his name starts with; and Mariah Carey rocks the same dress as last night only in a different color, because she got babies, she got no time to think about her wardrobe and things. Let’s begin!
THE CONTESTANT: Dead-grandpa-having resident of Dumpytown Paul Jolley, who says this is his calling and that he has “so much more to give back”, because I guess he thinks singing at people is doing them a big favor.
THE SONG: “Tonight I Wanna Cry”, Keith Urban.
THE VERDICT: Paul puts on a sad face to sing this unconscionably wimpy ballad, becoming the first but not the last to suck up to Keith tonight. It’s okay, I guess, but I’ve heard better in honky-tonks all over this state and his voice breaks a few times early on, though he recovers decently. Keith is “honored” that he did the song but warns him not to over-perform; Nicki nots some strain in his voice and tells him not to be “too theatrical”. Randy starts a pattern by going ape over his mediocre performance: “I love the potentiality of you”. Mariah loves all the over-emoting, unlike “some of the other people on the panel” who “nitpick things here an there”. All is still not well between Nicki and Mariah, folks.
THE CONTESTANT: Johnny Keyser, the lug-faced clown they brought in to replace the guy who lied about being a war hero.
THE SONG: “I Won’t Give Up”, Jason Mraz.
THE VERDICT: Frankly, this guy isn’t very good — it’s easy to see why he got cut in the first place. His frat-bro crooning might cut it in the main drag bars, but it’s going nowhere on Idol. Keith blanks out for a mini-eternity before discovering the word “effortless”; Nicki is still thinking with her vag on this guy and wildly overpraises him. Randy likes him but says “there were not enough moments” and he played it too safe; Mariah says “I don’t want to get in trouble with my husband, but I love that you show your masculinity”. Mariah’s previous husband was, of course, 20 years older than her.
THE CONTESTANT: JDA (pr. “Jayda” for some reason), a.k.a. the Gayest Man in the World. JDA, explaining his occupation, says “I sell luxurious French” but then I blacked out so I don’t know what the next word was. Probably “boys”.
THE SONG: “Rumor Has It”, Adele.
THE VERDICT: JDA comes out wearing a black pantsuit from 1981 and enough glitter to choke a unicorn and sings an Adele song. Unlike Adele, he is not a terrific singer, but he is very, well, theatrical, and also I hate him. Keith says “You put on a show!”, which would be more impressive if the two of them were in a barn, but also accuses him of “counting steps”, once again adding credence to the shocking rumor that the judges this year actually know what they’re talking about. Nicki likes JDA but doesn’t like his vocals, and Randy provides the much-needed reminder that this is a singing competition. Mariah, a hag from way back, loves him and says “Your confidence level was major”, thus making him a frontrunner for American Confidence Projector.
THE CONTESTANT: Kevin Harris, nicknamed “Butta” by the never-out-of-step-with-the-times Randy Jackson. He’s a typical do-it-for-the-kids type.
THE SONG: “Everything I Do (I Do It for You)”, Bryan Adams.
THE VERDICT: I just haaaate this song, and worse, it doesn’t show off Kevin’s voice, which is otherwise pretty appealing, so it’s hard for me to like him tonight, even though he is endearingly wearing three bow ties. Keith has similarly mixed feelings, but Nicki, who’s once again all over the place, loved everything about it. Randy thinks it was a boring karaoke version of the song, and while Mariah says “You’re one of my favorites” and a “born singer”, she doesn’t think this was the right vehicle for him.
THE CONTESTANT: Chris Watson, he of the big cloudy ‘fro and the slightly ruffneck look. He a singing waiter who wants to stop waiting to be a singer and just be a singing singer…wait.
THE SONG: “(Sittin’ on the) Dock of the Bay”, Otis Redding.
THE VERDICT: This is a hard song to own; Chris gives it some sass that isn’t really thematically appropriate but shows off his personality and charisma like kray kray. I like it quite a bit despite my usual aversion to such gimmicky renditions. Keith thought it was great all around; Nicki: “You are the prettiest man I ever saw in my life” and “I want to marry your vibrato”. The rest of the panel almost has to hold her back from coming across the table. Randy: “I guess I should continue my trend of the evening”, which is being contrary for no reason. Mariah doesn’t like the song choice, but “I hear pain and triumph in your voice”; she once again apologizes for digging the good-looking guys, like Nick Cannon is gonna beat her ass or something.
THE CONTESTANT: Pointy-headed Chicago barista Devin Velez, who Keith said was “born to sing”. He’s wearing a Perry Como outfit but does not sing “Boom Ziggety” and then take a nap.
THE SONG: “Listen”, Beyoncé.
THE VERDICT: I haven’t really been sold on this kid up to this point, but tonight his vocal performance is very good — if not spectacular, at least a lot better than the snoozers we’ve seen so far. He switches to Spanish in the middle of the song, which wins him lots of points with the people who voted for Obama, if you know what racists mean. Keith loves his performance and plays up the difference between “performers who run around the stage and singers”, which, there you go, that’s the heart of it and always has been. Nicki says it was a smart choice as an artist to sing in Spanish, which I like because they don’t often talk about the business angle of what people are doing. Randy actually likes something for the first time all night, and even Mariah sounds insightful: “I heard you critique yourself in those last few notes there, but don’t do it!”. I have to admit, the judges, more often than not, seem to really have something to say this season.
THE CONTESTANT: Elijah Liu, a teenage Chi-Mex from the LB, who puts on a ladies’ man/adolescent capitalist/boy-band vibe that just really rubs me the wrong way.
THE SONG: “Talking to the Moon”, Bruno Mars.
THE VERDICT: I don’t like anything about this kid, from his ’90s teeny-bop jawn to his pleather jacket to his weird skunk spot. At first, his voice isn’t bad by any stretch (although he sounds like one of those guys who memorizes his part and doesn’t bother to do anything beyond that), but he goes really off-key at the end, especially during the falsetto part. But boy, the audience loves him! Keith says it was a perfect song choice, but a shaky performance; Nicki gushes from every pore and calls him a “super duper star”; and even the prickly Randy says “we’re all pulling for you”. Mariah says the song “gives me that feeling, it’s a nostalgic feeling”, and claims he had “good control on the falsetto”, which is just nuts. Everyone’s oddly protective of this average-talent kid; it’s almost as if they know that pre-teen girls make up their primary audience!
THE CONTESTANT: Charlie Askew, everyone’s favorite kid with Charlie Askew Syndrome, although despite riding all this socially-awkward hype, he sure is a smoothie on stage.
THE SONG: “Rocket Man”, Elton John.
THE VERDICT: America is having a love affair with autistic people these days, huh? Well, I like this guy, so let’s ignore his part in an increasingly disturbing and unappealing cultural trend and focus on his outfit (a swanky black affair inspired by JDA, trashy Hollywood thrift stores, and a curious passion for golf endemic to many white people) and performance (solid but not stunning, but if you want to talk about finding the emotional heart of the song, he’s got it over on everyone so far). He really wants to be a big star and is playing that to the hilt, but his voice is pretty limited, so it may not be enough! Singing competition! Keith: “I bet nobody left the room during your performance”; hormonal Nicki wants to “cradle you in my arms”. Mariah smartly notes that he should focus on vocal coaching, but can’t deny his charm, even though Randy gets all bitchy and says “Sure, forget singing, let’s all just perform!” Charlie just short-circuits all their criticism with sheer personality, though — and hey, he brought the hobbit with him!
THE CONTESTANT: Pretty-boy social worker (and how often do you get to hear those words together?) Jimmy Smith from Tennessee, the big country singer of the night.
THE SONG: “Raining on Sunday”, Keith Urban.
THE VERDICT: Jimmy doesn’t have a terrible voice, but he’s riding against a wave of anti-boring-white-guy sentiment this year, and he has a problem that was common before the Reign of the Dude-Bros: his voice is unremarkable enough that it threatens to get overwhelmed by the arrangement. Keith explains that it’s hard to criticize someone who does one of your songs (although the song is actually Radney Foster’s); Nicki says it was “an okay vocal, but I was bored”, brushing him off like he was a pigeon turd on the shoulder of her jacket. Randy calls him an “interesting mixed bag that didn’t come together tonight”, and Mariah says she’s fought for him but he hasn’t lived up to his early auditions.
THE CONTESTANT: Curtis Finch Jr., the St. Louis choir director and private school tutor and one of my favorites going into this season.
THE SONG: “Superstar”, Luther Vandross.
THE VERDICT: Curtis has a fantastic voice and an amazing blend of earthy soul and full-custom gospel, and let’s fucking face it: he absolutely crushes it tonight, spilling over with creamy liquid soul-man delivery, astonishing vocal control, and sex appeal coming out the wazoo. It may prove providential that he picked a song that went over big for Ruben Studdard; “Superstar” indeed. He just makes everyone else so far look like a rank amateur. Keith thought it was beautiful but ran the risk of being over-performed (honky says what?); Nicki says he raises the bar, takes the competition to another level, and shows more and more of what he’s capable of every week. Mariah says “I wouldn’t even begin to critique you”, again showing that she may not quite apprehend what her job on this show is, but urges him to “loosen your tie and relax”. Randy calls him one of the best singers in the competition, but so as to be pointlessly negative, says “keep it young — it was kinda dope but old-fashioned”. Whatever, Randy.
Unfortunately, tonight involved some close calls, which means that preternaturally aged kabillionaire Jimmy Iovine is resuscitated and dragged back before despised humanity. He emerges from his subterranean ice chamber to give Paul Jolley another chance even though he “sang like Keith Urban auditioning for Phantom of the Opera“, haw haw. Also making it to the next round are Elijah Liu, Charlie Askew, Devin Velez, and Curtis Finch (Nikki: “Don’t even front, you know damn well you’re going through”). But we have seen the last of half-assed country crooner Jimmy Smith, urban smoove-mover Kevin “Butta” Harris, unnecessary extra black guy Chris Watson, and replacement chunkhead Johnny Keyser. So long, chumps! I can’t argue with too many of those choices, though I might have let Chris Watson stay on and dumped Elijah Liu.
Please join me next week for more of this. I can’t live without you.