The auditions are over.
Hollywood Week is over.
Finally we get to start voting on “American Idol,” or at least you get to start voting if you happen to vote on “American Idol.”
And for me, that means a transition to a live-blog, even if the shows currently aren't ACTUALLY live, since there's no way the “Idol” production is prepared to do 12 performances in an hour-long live show.
But anyway… Follow along and comment below.
Commenting has been slow so far, but perhaps now it's time for people to being to have real preferences?
8:01 p.m. ET. Ah. We're in Detroit for this round. That's fun. And you can tell when this was shot based on Ryan Seacrest's beard compared to where it was on Oscars night. Or… Not.
Singer: ADAM EZIGALIAN
Song: “I Wanna Rock”
My Take: Wow. This episode is way too tightly cut. With almost no preamble, Adam launches into a spirited Twisted Sister cover. I believe we can all agree that if Jack Black ever tires of Tenacious D, we have a definitely candidate here to take his place. There's the same mixture of humor and sincerity to Adam's performance here. He's having a great time, but he's also being serious about rocking.
Keith Urban, Jennifer Lopez and Harry Connick Jr Say: J-Lo calls it contagious and says Adam is an Everyman. Harry says that because he can sing, it works. Keith says something sarcastic about loving when Adam does ballads. There's absolutely ZERO time between the comments. It's brutally cut and rather unpleasant to watch.
Singer: MICHAEL SIMEON
Song: “How Am I Supposed To Live Without You”
My Take: It feels like we're watching a clip show and not like a performance episode at all. This is Michael at his most corny, which I think isn't Michael at his best. This is nasally, over-sincere and the moments of attempted raspiness add nothing, nor does the falsetto, on-his-knees cheesiness of the ending. I don't buy this at all. Sorry.
Keith Urban, Jennifer Lopez and Harry Connick Jr Say: Harry tells Michael to sing in tune, because when the pitch is off, it's obvious. J-Lo enjoyed it and thought it was the perfect antidote to Adam. Keith loved it and predicts we'll be hearing more from Michael.
Singer: SAVION WRIGHT
Song: “Hey Soul Sister”
My Take: This up-tempo cover of Train is both the most musical and distinctive performance we've heard tonight, but also a bad mix with the abrupt editing of this episode. I'll ignore the latter problem, because Savion is having so much fun. He's playing the guitar, moving around the stage and getting the audience involved as well. This is also heading in the direction of corniness, but because of the song choice and the sunshine-y arrangement of the song choice, but it's easily the performance that came closest to showing an artist.
Keith Urban, Jennifer Lopez and Harry Connick Jr Say: Harry felt like it started unfocused and then focused more. J-Lo likes Savion's style, but warns him to also try to connect with the camera. Keith didn't love the song choice and tells him to play more to his strengths. What strengths are those? If Keith says, we don't see it.
Singer: MARK ANDREW
Song: “The Weight”
My Take: Gee, Mark. We know you're old, but doing a note-perfect, but originality-free cover of The Band is just underlining how ancient you are, eh? [Yes, Mark is eight years younger than I am.] Mark sounds good, looks like a natural on the guitar and, unlike Savion, he's aware of the camera placement. I sense you could hear that exact performance at a couple dozen guitar bars around the country. Maybe not a couple hundred? But definitely a couple dozen. Still, with Mark I never doubt the sincerity, unlike Michael a few minutes earlier. That was an easy-going pleasure. Will it make people vote for Mark? No clue.
Keith Urban, Jennifer Lopez and Harry Connick Jr Say: Keith might have preferred it without the band, but loved the song choice. Harry calls it a perfect song choice. “Your vibe is so right now, you have a real chance at this,” J-Lo says meaninglessly.
Singer: TREVOR DOUGLAS
Song: “Best I Ever Had”
My Take: How many times are they going to give us that same Bill Nye quote for Trevor? Give us new information. In an episode of frenzied cutting, Trevor comes across as even more aggressive, gangly and hyperactive than usual. Perhaps it's the adrenaline, but he sounds absolutely awful in certain points. He's got so many things on his mind, between the guitar and the tempo and the crowd, but there's no question that “melody” is almost entirely absent on his list of priorities. The pacing of this episode is making me nervous and Trevor's performance made me even more jittery. This is going to be an early test for Trevor's teen girl appeal, because that was not a good performance.
Keith Urban, Jennifer Lopez and Harry Connick Jr Say: Keith liked the energy and visual performance, but says the song got on top of him. J-Lo felt this was only an OK night for him. Harry agrees that the vocal wasn't as strong as the performance.
Singer: CLARK BECKHAM
Song: “When A Man Loves a Woman”
My Take: OK, this is a good version of Michael Simeon's performance, an overly self-conscious push for R&B sentiment that at least feels genuine and deserves and justifies the affected rasp and the maybe-not-wholly-successful upper register showcasing. Clark looks like the real deal. I wish the judges had had Clark and then Michael Simeon to make them realize how weak and plastic Michael was.
Keith Urban, Jennifer Lopez and Harry Connick Jr Say: “Goosies all day,” J-Lo says. Harry thinks it'll be fun to get into the nitty-gritty with him because he's talented enough to take the critiques. Keith calls it “Killa, man.”
8:31 p.m. Between the repetition of pre-existing bio packages and the suffocating editing, this is as badly executed an “Idol” episode as I can remember. “Empire” needs its full primetime window tonight, but FOX would be smart to ask “Idol” producers to add back in a couple minutes of filler to tomorrow's show, stretch it into that “Backstrom” hour. It won't hurt like this does.
Singer: RAYVON OWEN
My Take: There's too much smiling pandering going on tonight with the performances. I liked Adam because he felt like he was having fun, but he didn't have to grin at the camera to make that clear. Rayvon's got excessive arrangement going on behind him on this and it isn't helping. I can't tell if there are background singers or a backing track, but they don't mesh very well with him. But Rayvon is still smooth, probably more smooth than a song about jealousy should be. I'm rarely that smiley when I'm jealous.
Keith Urban, Jennifer Lopez and Harry Connick Jr Say: Harry compares Rayvon to classic Motown performers. J-Lo wanted more attitude and more edge. Keith agrees. The judges serve no purpose tonight.
Singer: DANIEL SEAVEY
Song: “I'm Yours”
My Take: From the song choice to the absurd scarf, there's no question that Daniel's performance is being aimed at an audience and demographic that I'm not a part of. This is another performance driven by an empty smile and vague audience flirting, but at least it's defended by the Jason Mraz track. Daniel Seavey could be really, really, really dangerous this season. I picked Trevor Douglas to win just last week, but if Trevor is going to be awful, I think there's a female audience that's going to want to mother/date Daniel Seavey and he's just good enough that I may not be able to hate him for it. But I can still resent him.
Keith Urban, Jennifer Lopez and Harry Connick Jr Say: Harry liked the song and the look and his instrumentation. J-Lo says that Daniel is “the word beyond adorable,” but he needs to keep his energy up. Harry feels sorry for America because of all of the talent.
Singer: RILEY BRIA
My Take: Maybe because Trevor and Daniel's identities are so settled, Riley is a bit of a mystery to me. He obviously wants us to know he's a guitarist and I but that completely. The vocals are undistinguished, though, and for a guy who's shared the stage with Keith Urban, he doesn't know what to do on stage. Interestingly, Riley sounds best on the last few bars that he sings without the guitar. Maybe it's the combination of voice and guitar that he needs to work on? He's definitely not bad.
Keith Urban, Jennifer Lopez and Harry Connick Jr Say: J-Lo says he has the perfect combination of sweetness and edge. Harry says Riley reminds him of Keith and he vows to call him “Keith Suburban.” Keith can't wait to hear more.
Singer: QUENTIN ALEXANDER
Song: “I Put a Spell On You”
My Take: Where oh where does Quentin get his wacky jackets? I feel like tonight's jacket may be made from silverback gorilla. [It's not. Don't worry.] This is a song that's designed for weird-ass personal choices and Quentin's performance is marvelously absurd. For the first half of the performance, he's slowed it down to be disturbing, intense and almost amelodic. He's entirely locked in on the camera, staring deeply into the soul of America (or the small portion of America still watching “Idol”). When he decides to get with the hook at the end, it's mighty fun. After the smiley sameness of most of the night, that was dynamic and different. I hope it stands out for voters in a good way, because this season desperately needs the variation that Quentin will theoretically provide.
Keith Urban, Jennifer Lopez and Harry Connick Jr Say: Harry thinks America will find that he's a real artist who takes brave choices if they stick by him. It was perfect for J-Lo. Keith calls it a Grammy performance.
Singer: NICK FRADIANI
Song: “Thinking Out Loud”
My Take: And… back to the smiley corniness. Nick, like Mark Andrew, is older and looks and sounds like he's been doing this for a few extra years. I don't think he has any chance of beating the rougher, less polished teens with his near-professionalism, but it's still perfectly decent.
Keith Urban, Jennifer Lopez and Harry Connick Jr Say: Keith liked the song choice and the guitar-and-singing. J-Lo doesn't want anybody to go home. Harry gets bogged down in pondering the song's lyrics.
Singer: QAASIM MIDDLETON
Song: “Uptown Funk”
My Take: Pimp slot for Qaasim. Interesting. I love Qaasim's suit and I adore his James Browning it up on the stage. He's spinning. He's got crazy legs. He's working the mic stand and working the crowd. The vocals are a tiny bit secondary, but they aren't entirely secondary and the performance is so entertainingly alive that I hardly care. That was a good way to end the show. The list of performances tonight that I wish I could have seen in person tonight is… Qaasim. And that's it.
Keith Urban, Jennifer Lopez and Harry Connick Jr Say: J-Lo wants to get on-stage to dance with Qaasim. Harry praises him for leaving everything on the stage. Keith says he killed it.
TONIGHT'S BEST: Qaasim is tops for me as an overall performance, followed by Adam and Clark Beckham and probably Savion.
TONIGHT'S WORST: Trevor Douglas was, much to my chagrin, the worst tonight by a lot. I didn't like Michael Simeon either. And then there were four or five smiley mediocrities in the middle.
What'd you think? Who stood out? Who's going to be in trouble?