The Week in Idol: Some Questions About the Remaining 8 Contestants

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After a shockingly tight Top 9 competition, in which our hopefuls were masterfully mentored by noted shawl-jockey Stevie Nicks (who is awesome and I wish would replace Randy Jackson, who continues to be the worst for a record eleven years running), we lost Heejun Han last night on American Idol. The sacrificial ritual was overseen by Steven Tyler, who declared that Heejun had foreseen his own fate, then aimed a bony finger directly at the Sad Clown of White Soul and turned him into a smoldering pile of ash. And then there were eight. And we have questions. (For which we will attempt to provide answers.) How did Milli Falsetti escape the Bottom 3? This is perhaps the greatest mystery of last night’s results show, as Heejun was accompanied on the Stools of Doom by none other than gnome-sized power-diva Hollie Cavanagh and high-energy country fritter Skylar Laine—two of the most appealing contestants still remaining. And yet Deandre Brackensick, who adheres to no identifiable pop music genre beyond “that one song on that Prince album where he coos about taking a bath inside his lover’s vagina,” was safe. How? Who is voting for him? Is it teen girls? Is androgyny back in a big way? Are people sick of big-breasted carnival sideshows like Nicki Minaj, and just want to go back to the good ol’ gender-jumbled 1980s, when Joan Jett was the man and Boy George was the lady, and everything was right with the world? I’m tempted to say yes, except … Is there anything more depressing than Scotty McCreery’s music? Just in time to throw a bucket of cold water on that theory was last year’s big winner, Scott McCreery, singing his newest Top 40 hit about how great it is to be heterosexual and Christian in America, where everyone fits in and no one makes waves and everything is perfect and no one dares to entertain individual thoughts or complex emotions or harbor a dark side or face real-world problems, until of course your neighbor takes out the local Wal-Mart with a semi-automatic weapon and you suddenly realize maybe everything isn’t as dandy in the Heartland as Scotty McCreery would like you to believe it is. These are the actual lyrics of “Water Tower Town”: Friday night football is king Sweet tea goes good with anything The fireflies come out when the sun goes down. Nobody eats ’til you say amen Where your friend’s a friend and your word’s your word And our pickup trucks, they ain’t for looks, they’re made for work Corn grows high, crime stays low Is that a song or a Sarah Palin stump speech? Good lord. And speaking of ... What is with all the God stuff from Colton? Can you imagine if Colton Dixon was a devout Muslim, and went on about how great Muhammad is and that’s why he chose Cat Stevens’ “Wild World” for “Idols Sing Their Idols” week? There would be death threats! Massive protests! It would unearth the ugliest side of human nature! So why should it be any different with the Jesus talk? Jesus talk makes me uncomfortable. Leave it outside the karaokedome. All we want to know is if Colton can sing good. And he can, so just keep singing good and leave the rest out of it, Co-Dix. And while I’m all for love songs sung by men to other men, the Lifehouse song “Everything” that Colton dedicated to Jesus this week was one of his most boring performances. I’m just trying to help you out here, Colton. Try to remain interesting, which brings us to... Do we genuinely love Phillip Phillips’ music? Here’s what we know: America is in love with Phillip Phillips. I know I am. He’s so cool and chill and he never talks about God and he doesn’t wink leeringly at young girls and he doesn’t try to brown nose J-Lo and he doesn’t listen to Tommy Hilfiger’s terrible advice and he’s just so handsome and Stevie Nicks was practically ready to eat him up like a bean-and-cheese burrito. But is his music good? Well, it’s definitely good, but is it GREAT? Jimmy Iovine seems to think it is, but then Jimmy Iovine is also presenting giant plaques to Scotty McCreery for musical accomplishment, so as far as I’m concerned, Jimmy’s opinion is really besides the point. I would say this: There’s very little variety to what Phillip does. He a blues man through and through, and he doesn’t make you want to run in the opposite direction when he growls the way Casey Abrams so often did last season, but I’m having trouble actually saying that I love it. The most common critique of Phillip is that he mimics Dave Matthews. Let’s check out a Dave Matthews live performance for comparison’s sake. Here's Dave: And here’s Phillip: I guess I see the similarities? But I wouldn’t go so far as to call it a rip-off. Next question: Is Elise Testone on borrowed time? I think so. Elise sang “Whole Lotta Love” this week, which was a breath of filthy-fresh air next to Colton’s “Everything.” Elise is going to give us every inch of her love, everybody! What’s more, she didn’t “Testonify” it. She just sang it, the way you already know it. And it was good, and people liked it, but I’m just not getting “Grammy-winning star” off Elise, no matter how hard I try. But we’re happy she’s around, yes? To dirty up the girls’ side? Elise ain’t no sparkly-faced teenager; she’s a woman. She’s lived. When she tells us that “way, way down inside honey, you need it,” we find ourselves nodding emphatically, if not a little bit confused. Does Jessica Sanchez have soul, like Jimmy says she does? Jessica did something pretty ballsy this week. She sang Beyonce, but not just Beyonce, but sloooowed-down Beyonce. With harps and magical red door portals like out of Dr. Who or The Little Prince or 2001: A Space Odyssey. I’ve listened to this performance several times now, and I would say it’s definitely her best since “I Will Always Love You.” It’s more than just that, though. It was excellent. It was the kind of performance that makes more established stars nervous, because they think, “Shit. There wasn’t any autotune on that, was there? I hate this Jessica Sanchez bitch!” Jessica does indeed have soul. A budding superstar, we’re glimpsing... Which brings us, finally, to ... Did Joshua’s blazer fit? No. It definitely did not fit, and the pattern on it made it all the more obvious that it didn’t fit. HOWEVER, [terrible, Randy Jackson-caliber pun ahead:] the song “Without You” fit him like a glove. Can I just say, Mariah Carey, I know you’re a big shot and everything, but I had no idea you sang this song, so back off. This song has been covered so many times it belongs to the universe now, and I’ve never quite heard an over-the-top gospelized version like Joshua’s. Who are the top two? What’s amazing about this year’s Idol is that there are genuinely five possible winners. Colton, Phillip, Skylar, Jessica, and Joshua all, it seems, have a legitimate claim to the crown, and it’s sad to think we’ll be picking them off, one by one, in the coming weeks. But the big question is who are the top two who will face off in the finale. Idol voting patterns suggest Colton and Phillip both are shoo-ins, yet Jessica and Joshua are such remarkable natural talents, it seems impossible that not at least one of them should make it to the final showdown. So who? Who who who? I think Phillip just has too much momentum and goodwill behind him right now, so I’ll say he’ll go all the way. Joshua, as amazing as he is, unfortunately sings in a style that never makes it to the finale. Jessica seems primed for one of those Shocking Idol Eliminations, the ones that struck down Jennifer Hudson far too soon. So that leaves Skylar, who was in the bottom three this week and therefore shows signs of vulnerability, and Colton. So is it to be a Battle of the Pretty Boys? I’m going to say yes.

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