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Trial by Fire

The Top 12 (actually, 13) guys for Season 11 performed live on "American Idol," vying for viewer votes. As the show opened, the brand-new stage was aglitter with video screens showing a gold skyline. Shiny.



Joshua Ledet sings
Joshua Ledet performs a Jennifer Hudson song.



Tonight's video packages consisted of home video shot by the contestants on cameras they'd been given, which could provide some interesting insight into what's important to them.

1) Reed Grimm began the show, with some home video of him with his family in Wisconsin, especially playing with his sister's two young daughters. He promised to work the crowd into a frenzy. Wearing a silver button-down shirt over a black T-shirt and charcoal gray pants, he got schmoozy with a jazzy version of the Maroon 5 song, "Moves like Jagger." He slunk onto the second stage and played a small drum set for a little bit, his secret weapon. Something about him reminded me of a Muppet.

Judge Randy Jackson liked the song choice, saying that it reminded him of Casey Abrams from last season. Jennifer Lopez said that this was a good way to show America what they are dealing with: "He is jazzy, he is musical, he has a good voice." Steven Tyler thought there was a little shuffle in his step and noted there is a whole new generation watching his act. Um, yeah. [REED'S PERFORMANCE]

2) Wearing all black, including a black leather jacket, Adam Brock channeled his inner black woman by singing the Aretha Franklin song "Think." It was solid, but would it be enough to be remembered by the end of the show?

Steven admitted there's so much talent he finds it difficult to make a comment about anything. Sigh. Jennifer thought he really delivered at the end of the song. Randy liked his throwback vibe and pointed to the towel sticking out of his back pocket, a Pittsburgh Steelers towel. Classy. [ADAM'S PERFORMANCE]

3) Deandre Brackensick had some cute home video with his sister, who's his best friend. There was even some video thrown in from him as a kid. He choose the Earth, Wind and Fire song "Reasons" and started out very wobbly and off-key. He wore a white long-sleeved shirt and black pants and was swaying back and forth, gesturing with his hands, but nothing could draw attention away from the warbling.

Jennifer had to wait for the crowd to stop cheering. Steven jumped in and said, "I told you this was going to happen if you kept singing like that." Jennifer liked his vibe and "everything" and predicted it would be "an amazing year for you." Randy called him "one of the most commercial guys" and told him "you're ready to go right now." Does it sound different in the studio? [DEANDRE'S PERFORMANCE]

Host Ryan Seacrest brought two pre-teens up on stage to hug him, because they'd been loving his performance. I guess we know who's going to be voting for him.

4) Colton Dixon still isn't over his sister being cut. He showed off his home studio and a session at a hair salon but, bizarrely, didn't include any family members (not even his beloved sister) in his home video. Uh-oh. He chose to play piano along with his version of Paramore's "Decode" In the past, he's had trouble staying on tune while playing piano. He only stayed at the keys for a little while before getting up, wearing black pants, a white button-down and a black jacket with a thin red tie. That, plus the skunk streak in his hair, made him look like a New Wave artist from back in the day. He got up on top of the piano to try to generate some excitement, but not until the last note did his vocals coalesce.

Randy said he's glad Colton came back so "Idol" could have "an indie alt rocker." He thought there were "so many flavors" to his singing. Jennifer was "feeling your heart," and she hoped America got that, too. She called him a relevant artist. Steven agreed that he's a relevant artist, whatever that means. [COLTON'S PERFORMANCE]

5) Jeremy Rosado took his camera to the clinic where he works, where one of the co-workers calls him "Jer Bear." Cute. He chose the Sara Bareilles song "Gravity," and he wore a very youthful look: an orange and brown T-shirt with a gray Member's Only jacket and black jeans. His voice was very controlled, and he sounded mature for his age. I hope the teen girls see something in him, too, because he's a more accomplished singer than some of the pretty boys in this group, and he deserves to stay.

Steven praised him again for his big heart during Hollywood week and said his singing was as good as it can get. Jennifer called him blessed with a gift from God: "I forget I'm on a show and judging; it's just music." But you'd have to really judge people to call yourself -- never mind. Randy said there are some amazing "sangers" on the show, but he was impressed with the tender moments and the booming vocals. [JEREMY'S PERFORMANCE]

Back from the commercial, Ryan chatted with the judges a bit about them getting into hot water in the press, Steve for taking off his pants to jump in the fountain at the end of the Hollywood rounds, and Jennifer for a unintentional wardrobe malfunction at the Oscars. Then, in reference to that moment, he sneezed and showed his nipple! But since he's a guy, so no fine is forthcoming.

6) Aaron Marcellus wore a black hoody under a silver astronaut's jacket, with black pants and a black fedora. (That's a lot of look, I can hear Tim Gunn saying.) He went old school with a funky version of the Jackson 5 song, "Never Can Say Good-bye," and he was very comfortable with it. But was it too safe? It was pleasant until his last note, which was kind of screechy (although the judges dug it: they gave him a standing o.)

Randy thought the run near the end was "crazy." He called Aaron an "old-school veteran." Jennifer said, "The boy can sing." She believes in him. Yada, yada, yada. We're halfway through the show, and I'm already tired of the platitudes. Steven liked it, too. [AARON'S PERFORMANCE]

7) Chase Likens was next. In his home video, he showed his choral class at university, where he studies music. He also showed off his whistling talents, his dog and his horses. "I'm as country as any country boy could be," he said. For his song, he selected "Storm Warning" by Hunter Hays. This was a very country song, and he was dressed to suit: with a plaid shirt, dark jeans, and a black leather jacket. I'd much rather hear Scotty McCreery sing it: Chase's voice doesn't have any dimension to it; he was almost talking a lot of it. But I bet the judges won't have anything to say about this "beautiful mess."

Steven pulled a Paula Abdula and, apparently having nothing to say about the singing, complimented his looks, saying he looked like Brendan Fraser in "The Mummy." Jennifer said that Chase has grown throughout the competition. Randy told him he has skills and range. "You're ready." I give up. [CHASE'S PERFORMANCE]

8) Creighton Fraker didn't fit in at his hometown, so he moved to New York. He lives in a real bachelor pad, and he showed himself hamming it up on the street and with the various shops. He sang Cyndi Lauper's hit "True Colors," on a stage awash in various colors, sitting on a stool and wearing a simple black V-neck and black pants, with a brown ragged leather vest. He was smooth at the beginning, but his voice dipped a lot at the top of his range. He actually got a choir of background singers helping him out. Are the producers already playing favorites?

Jennifer said, "America's got their work cut out for them." She was having trouble coping with the idea that half of these guys would be going home. "I want you to stay," she said. She liked the dynamics in his voice and likes his individuality. Steven found it "stupendous" and liked his phrasing, saying he took it "over the top." Well, he's right about that... Randy also said it would be hard to lose half of these guys. He told Creighton that he can definitely sing. [CREIGHTON'S PERFORMANCE]

9) Phillip Phillips, of course, played his guitar while he gave a soulful performance of the Phil Collins song "In the Air Tonight." He might have needed his guitar for confidence, but you could barely hear it above the band. Doesn't matter: it was mesmerizing.

Jennifer pointed out that Phillip was one of the ones that the judges had been talking about after the auditions and that he was one of the most special talents they found on the road. Steven said "you hang your hat on what notes you decide to growl on." Randy, however, wasn't sure about the arrangement. [PHILLIP'S PERFORMANCE]

10) Eben Franckewitz blew my mind when he was actually driving a car in his video. I didn't think he was old enough; guess it's a driver's permit. He lives in a little ranch house and had a lot of shots of himself with friends. He sang Adele's "Set Fire to the Rain." At the beginning of the song, after a few pure notes, he fell off the melody a little bit. He wore a black shirt and a burgundy blazer with black pants. I don't think this song was good for his range; he sounded flat throughout, and I think he was straining.

Randy thought he was cool and collected and, despite having trouble in the middle, nailed the end. Jennifer agreed he was unsure in the middle, suggesting that maybe he couldn't hear himself. She also thought he saved it at the end. Steven thought he has a great voice "for a 15-year-old boy" and that he got a little pitchy in the middle. He told him to listen to some old blues records. [EBEN'S PERFORMANCE]

11) Heejun Han has an adorable dog, and he spoke to his mother in Korean, getting her to dance for the camera. She's adorable, too. He said that she likes to dance and sing but she's not good at all. "You're not going to air that, are you?" We saw him again with the special needs children, as well as with a friend. "Tonight, I'm going to show the world that Asian people can not only [do well on the SAT] but sing and melt their hearts." He wore a violet shirt with a black blazer, gray vest, and blue jeans as he sang "Angels" by Robbie Williams. Despite a couple mike technique issues (which often strike the first-timers), his vocals were soaring on the chorus and smooth elsewhere. He didn't just seem to be putting on an act, like some of the others did, but he really sang his heart out.

Jennifer said that Heejun has a voice that's "smooth as silk" but wasn't sure that song showed it off that well. Still, "there's no denying that you can blow." Steven sang, "Heejun, you sure can sing." He agreed that it might not be the right song, but "I still love your voice, man." Randy agreed about the song choice but called him a "mad talented guy." [HEEJUN'S PERFORMANCE]

12) Joshua Ledet, who some fans have nicknamed Mantasia, had home video of his large family in Louisiana and said that he misses the food. He sang Jennifer Hudson's "You Pulled Me Through," wearing a red button-down with a charcoal blazer and dark jeans. He stood center stage with a mike stand and sang his heart out, with vocal runs that had a real gospel feel to them. I can see why there's been a comparison to Fantasia Barrino, the season 3 winner. The judges gave him a standing o.

Randy said, "Can I get an amen up in here?" He loved it: "This is what singing is about." (Now, see, if you hadn't praised everyone so effusively, that might mean more.) Jennifer liked it so much she wanted to punch him. She said his voice is from another world or from God. Steven said, "You are the voice the world's been waiting to hear." He liked the "journey with the voice" that Joshua took us on. [JOSHUA'S PERFORMANCE]

13) Now came the audience's chance to find out who the judges had decided to add at the last minute. Would it be Johnny Keyser, Richie Law, Jermaine Jones or David Leathers Jr.? Incredibly, the contestant that the judges chose to bring back in the surprise 13th position was Jermaine Jones, the "gentle giant," as Ryan called him. Ryan asked him his reaction when he got the call. Jermaine was very grateful and excited. He sang the Luther Vandross ballad "Dance with My Father," wearing a purple button-down with a black vest, a purple plaid bow tie and white pants. His deep, resonant voice was much more controlled than the last time we heard him sing in Hollywood. Very nice.

Randy said they hadn't had a voice like his on the show again and congratulated him. Jennifer said that she was glad America got a chance to hear him. Steven thanks him for proving why they wanted him back. [JERMAINE'S PERFORMANCE]

Ryan allowed his mom to come onstage and give him a hug.

Kudos tonight go to Jeremy, Phillip, and Joshua, with a nod to Heejun and Jermaine.

Who should make it into the Top 5, and who will? Those might be vastly different answers. I'd like to see the above list (Jeremy, Phillip, Joshua, Heejun and Jermaine) going through. But based on the audience response to Deandre, it's possible he'll make it into the Top 5, as well. And both Reed and Creighton are quirky and talented (though I find both to be a bit annoying, personality-wise) and might find a spot in the Top 5. Who would they bump out? The Top 5 may very well be Phillip, Joshua, Heejun, Deandre and Reed. If so, expect the judges to bring back Jeremy, the Care Bear with the controlled voice who has clearly won their hearts.

Moral:
Once the judges get to the live shows, it's "The Nice Party."


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Comments

( 11 comments — Leave a comment )
talonvaki
Feb. 29th, 2012 05:43 pm (UTC)
Not to be nitpicky, but...HeeJun and his mom were speaking Korean, not Chinese :-)
alycewilson
Feb. 29th, 2012 06:15 pm (UTC)
Whoops! Sorry about that! I've fixed it. Thanks for catching it.
talonvaki
Mar. 1st, 2012 08:02 pm (UTC)
No worries...my husband's Korean (in fact, his Korean name is "Hi-Joon" which is pronounced just like "HeeJun") and I could actually understand what HeeJun and his mom were saying!
teaberryblue
Feb. 29th, 2012 06:31 pm (UTC)
I like Reed a lot more than Creighton, so I'm hoping for him to get the "quirky" spot. He just seems like a genuinely friendly guy, and I like his voice better than Creighton's.

I'm hoping for Joshua, Jermaine, Heejun, Jeremy, Phillip, and Colton-- I usually think Colton does a lot better than he did last night; he seemed to be trying too hard. I'm sort of expecting Heejun to get cut even though he's one of my favorites. But I think you're right about Deandre, unfortunately-- I thought his performance was pretty weak.
alycewilson
Feb. 29th, 2012 06:44 pm (UTC)
Heejun will be one of the viewer votes; there's a lot of Heejun love in the fan community right now. Although many people admit that he has some growing to do vocally, he is pretty universally loved.

I, too, prefer Reed to Creighton. You'll note I compared him to a Muppet. I like the Muppets. :) He may be a little cheesy, but he's not pretentious like Creighton.

Colton has yet to prove himself to me. I guess that's because, in two seasons, I haven't seen anything from him that made me sit up and say "Wow." If he makes it through, I hope he'll get some good advice from the vocal coaches (because no one is getting anything from the judges).
talonvaki
Mar. 1st, 2012 08:00 pm (UTC)
Have you seen the fanblog devoted to HeeJun? Freakin' HeeJun Fans

I syndicated it for LJ: heejunfans (the "Freakin" wouldn't fit)
blackdecember8
Feb. 29th, 2012 06:58 pm (UTC)
im hoping to see phillip, heejun, jermaine, colton and reed but i am expecting to see joshua, jeremy, chase and deandre thrown in there, too somewhere. guess we will see. i just wish the judges would stop gushing because i do believe sometimes what they say influences peoples votes.
alycewilson
Feb. 29th, 2012 07:19 pm (UTC)
I didn't even know the girls liked Deandre so much until I heard them all shrieking, but I'm hoping he doesn't replace any of my favorites in the five voted through. With his pretty boy looks and his preference for singing falsetto, he reminds me of Ace Young.

Everyone is all over the judges. As I read from one of the commentators on FoxesOnIdol.com, it's their JOB to judge, and yet they refuse to do it. How does that work, exactly?
blackdecember8
Feb. 29th, 2012 09:50 pm (UTC)
im hoping he doesnt either but i have a feeling a lot of little girlies definitely voted for him.

i dont know! they need to really offer constructive criticism some of the time, especially to the performances that werent really THAT great. EVERYONE didnt have stellar performances last night or even deserve golden tickets.
lawchicky
Feb. 29th, 2012 08:04 pm (UTC)
I couldn't wait to read your take on last night's episode. I felt like the judges were WAY over-the-top positive. On the one hand, I do like that they're not bashing contestants as we got used to seeing a few seasons ago with Simon (which had gotten old IMHO), but it seems like they went way too far in the other direction. I remember them being positive last season, but not this much.

I thought Deandre was awful. It was this squeaky off-tune performance which did nothing for me. I like Colton (his rendition of Coldplay in the Hollywood round was excellent) but was disappointed with his song selection.

Honestly, there are so many being cut that I'm very curious as to what the outcome from the voting will be.
alycewilson
Feb. 29th, 2012 09:04 pm (UTC)
Like I said earlier this season, I think the judges have gotten into a "group think" or "hive mind" mentality. It's not just that they're afraid to be "mean" to the contestants; they're also reluctant to disagree with each other. They don't need to bash contestants; they just need to provide the sort of notes they were occasionally giving over the audition period, based on their musical knowledge. Otherwise, it's pointless and boring.

If I were rating last night's performances one to 13, I'd have Deandre at the very bottom, with Eben just above him. But Deandre's pretty, and that might be his ticket into the Top 13. We shall see.

You are one of many people who's rooting for Colton, which tells me that he's probably going through. Maybe he'll grow on me. :)
( 11 comments — Leave a comment )

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