American Idol Top 14: Idol makes up rules as it goes, manages to not ruin a great show

Me after finding out Idol changed the rules and seeing how they worked out.

Me after finding out Idol changed the rules and seeing how they worked out.

What was your favorite part of Wednesday’s American Idol?

For me, it was really a toss-up of finally seeing competitive singing and Idol pretending like the judges could only unanimously agree on four contestants to put through and that’s why they had to change the rules all of a sudden.

There’s no doubting Idol producers changed the rules based on the outrage from the last two weeks. The two weeks of semifinals were clearly stacked with more favoritism than a local youth basketball tryout and Idol had zero intention of caring – until the Idol internet fucking exploded.

If anything the change proved Idol might actually care about the fans who have been there through the good and the bad, the Clarkson Years and the Candice/Caleb seasons, the Cowells, Karas and Careys. Changing the rules days weeks before Idol was going live took balls but Wednesday’s show – filmed Tuesday, according to reports – was done the right way. The four contestants Idol sent to the Top 10 – Dalton Rapattoni, Olivia Rox, Trent Harmon and La’Porsha Renae – all deserved to be there. Dalton and Olivia are the favorites of their respective gender, Trent seems to be an anomoly that would have been fine if fans were voting on him but it wasn’t work the risk and La’Porsha has more passion and heart in her singing than the rest of the cast does combined.

The downside to Wednesday’s episode was it was rushed. Nobody wanted to see the Idols sing songs we’ve already seen them sing/heard snippets of them singing. All the performances and judging were too brief to really make an educated decision. Idol doesn’t care about educated, it just wants everything to be driven by social media because fuck thinking. Thinking’s for nerds.

But this whole disaster that’s been the last three weeks could have been solved if they would have let American vote on the Top 24 and then decide the Top 10 like they have in years past. It’s gonna take a lot to get over that but Idol helped the situation by not putting the producers’ choices through and instead putting four legitimate candidates into the final.

Wednesday was a consolation prize, an admittance that “yeah, we fucked up.” It’s not going to save the final season – again, if some of the cuts ended up Top 10, this season could have gone down as one of the best ever – but it’s going to give it a chance at being better because if it isn’t, we only have ourselves to blame.

Let’s get at these recaps y’all.

The Not Quite Top 10

Manny Torres
“Master Blaster,” Stevie Wonder

Talk about your all-time backfires. Sending Manny off first was clearly a mea culpa by producers. Him singing “Master Blaster” – a top 10 all-time terrible song selection on Idol every time someone tries it – was just frosting on the cake. Manny clearly isn’t an Idol fan/historian because if he was, the second he found out he was performing first he would have been like “yo, I need to sing something else.” Master Blaster is not what’s going to get asses out to vote for you. Master Blaster is what you sing when it’s “Awful Reggae Tunes” Week and you’re stuck. Would have been better if Manny sang one of his other audition songs and while I can’t remember any of them, they literally couldn’t have been worse than that one.
IN or OUT: AvonNo

Gianna Isabella
“I Put a Spell On You” Screamin’ Jay Hawkins (NOT FUCKING ANNIE LENNOX)

Gianna looked like a grown-ass woman out there tonight. As soon as I got off my irrational anger about Idol saying this was an Annie Lennox song, I watched the performance and I don’t know if all of a sudden Gianna turned into an absolute beast of a competitor – a la Maddie Walker from last year – or if she’s had it the whole time. While I struggle with soloists, I do like when they go big and I feel like Gianna’s just gonna try and drop bombs on everyone’s face week in, week out. Her downfall will be listening to anything her mother says because, in my experience, parents who are trying to live vicariously through their kids are clueless as to what will work for them. I still don’t know if she should have been here but if she needed to prove anything she did that Wednesday.
IN or OUT: OMGApplause

Thomas Stringfellow
“Story of My Life,” One Direction

The good news for Tommy is that song choice and performance were excellent despite him looking like the dude who asks me for change when I drive through Providence. The bad news is, based off the judges’ comments, producers wouldn’t mind if T-String (is that still cool?) didn’t make the cut to the Top 10. Harry’s comments were straight from the producers’ mouths – although as a guy who grew up with 90s rock, I loved the Cranberries’ reference. Paid 10 cents for their CD; thanks Columbia House! – and kinda cruel. That cracking voice sound works wonders when the song is right. Wish Hateful Harry would have focused on what was great because Tommy’ decision to sing minus his trusty guitar was great; proved my theory he should have been fronting a boy band a while ago and if 1D was looking for a replacement for Zayne (or whatever his name is) they found it. Only thing working against Tommy is MacKenzie Bourg didn’t get the automatic bid and was handed the pimp spot in the order; those are votes Stringfellow aren’t getting and that might matter.
IN or OUT: RickRossNod

Tristan McIntosh
“What Hurts The Most,” Rascal Flatts

I was worried when I saw T-Mac’s hair down because her record with a poofy ‘do is exceptional. Technically she might have been sound but this song bores me. It’s been done so often on Idol and there was no effort to rearrange it an make it her own. For someone who literally cried over what this song meant to her, I felt like there should have been emotion behind the performance. Remember when Crystal Bowersox sang “People Get Ready” and got to a part that reminded her of her son and love and she broke down during the last line? That’s what this needed to had. Tristan’s voice is there, her talent is there, but this isn’t the local TV station’s annual talent show. This is American fucking Idol. It was missing that “it” factor and if people are trying to figure out if they’re voting for Gianna or Tristan – who are chasing the same voters – I don’t know if Tristan did enough to get a Top 10 spot.
IN or OUT: SambergCry

Avalon Young
“Excuse Me Miss” Douchebag who beats women

At some point Avalon has to ditch the “I’m such a tomboy because I don’t wear makeup” when she shows up with clearly overdone makeup looking like Allison Williams in Sunday’s season premiere of Girls (stop judging me). The other problem Avalon had was singing a Chris Brown song. It’s not her fault, but the fact American Idol allows Chris Brown songs to be sung blows my mind. I wouldn’t be shocked if at some point someone does Chris Brown and someone follows with Rhianna and I’m sitting there telling painfully obvious domestic violence jokes. Idol should ban him to make all our lives easier. All that garbage said, Avalon was great tonight because she’s good. These uptemp R&B/pop songs are right in her wheelhouse and she’s gonna knock ’em all out of the park. The only thing she really needs to prove is if she can chase a big note. If she can, she might win the damn thing because she’s got everything else going for her.
IN or OUT: DrakeApplause

Jenn Blosil
“True Colors” Cyndi Lauper

The eyebrows were more distracting than a three-car accident on the interstate during rush hour except in this performance, no one embarrassed themselves. I don’t think it was Blosil’s best; I was actually surprised she didn’t cry like she did the last time she covered the song because that was significanly better than this performance. Sounded like JB got a little nervous because she got way ahead of the song early, awkwardly slowed down and finally finished strong. Some people – read: morons – are saying she’s got a little Bjork to her sound, but that’s nuts because Bjork is a loon. JB is that good crazy and she’s got this Drew Barrymore in “Never Been Kissed” vibe going that works. She’s good for American Idol and, by Hateful Harry’s comments, it’s clear the producers want her on the show. Someone’s gotta sound different, right? Really want to see her move on because what she can do to a song is different than what anyone else can. That sound she has reaches hearts man. Tugs right at them. She picks the right songs, she might make fans cry their votes in as she gets to the Top 4.
IN or OUT: ThumsUPchick

Lee Jean
“Make It Rain,” Ed Sheeran

I know the Idols were supposed to pick a song that was their favorite of the season, but Jesus can this kid sing anything but Eddie Sheeran? It was a good song choice from the perspective of he performed the shit out of it but it was a horrible choice from the perspective of STOP SINGING ED FUCKING SHEERAN SONGS. Lee Jean – whose name now gets blended into one syllable and Ryan Seacrest makes me think Phillip Phillips has another Asian buddy who didn’t make the show – needs to prove to people he can sing something other than Ed Sheeran. If you’re voting on performance, Lee gets in because that was a damn fine performance of that song but going forward Lee needs to not sing Ed Sheeran because people are gonna HATE it.
IN or OUT: Mutombo

Sonika Vaid
“Surrender” Celine Dion

When she said “there are two directions I can go in; I can put my nose in a book or I can sing” I cringed a little bit. I can’t tell you how far she’ll go in this show, but I can say this with certainty – Sonika will not win American Idol. I can also tell you this – if she puts her nose in a book and becomes, at worst, a pharmacist, she’ll make six figures her whole life and live comfortably. If she chases the singing thing, there’s a better-than-average chance she’s hoping to scrap out 25K a year between part-time jobs and singing gigs, so with her education the smart move is school, school, school. That said, I want Sonika in because I think she’s the only contestant left who’s going to try and sing HUGE songs. I need HUGE songs on Idol like I need booze to watch Idol. I need HUGE songs on Idol like I need air. I don’t think anyone left has the voice to try to do what Sonika can do and if that isn’t reason enough for people to vote for her then y’all don’t have any sense of what makes a good Idol show.
IN or OUT: NoHighFives

Jeneve Mitchell
“Ring of Fire,” Johnny Cash

Has any contestant been judged on anything other than voice more harshly than Jeneve since Adam Lambert? I mean, if Jeneve is out there in skinny jeans, some bad-ass plaid shirt and a leather jacket, people would be anointing her the queen of Season 15. Instead, she rolls out there looking like Howdy Doody and people get irrationally pissed. Marketability is a huge factor on Idol and it seems like Jeneve is trying to be the least marketable contestant in the history of the show. Her talent is crazy; she’s a younger, better-voiced Casey Abrams. I really hope positioning her in the penultimate spot means Idol producers are trying to get her through. She’s too original to not have in the Top 10 and there’s a chance her and Dalton Rapattoni could battle for “most original arrangement” all season long. I don’t think she hit this version of the song like she did the last time she sang it, but you couldn’t help but raise an eyebrow when she sang. There’s a filthy, soulful voice in there and if it comes out during Motown Week or 80s Dance Week she might blow the roof off the building. I’m not gonna sit here and pretend like she’s not my favorite contestant and if I voted, she’d get all the votes. ALL THE VOTES. Hopefully American agrees.
IN or OUT: HelpMeGod

MacKenzie Bourg
“Roses or whatever he calls the original,” himself (Boooooo)

Balls to sing your own song, especially when it doesn’t have a dope hook or a beat I can bob my head to and even more balls when you wear a shirt that matches the song (NOTE TO SELF: Buy awesome shirt that matches shit I say). I don’t think MacKenzie should have even been singing tonight because dude deserved an auto-bid to the Top 10. He was clearly one of the season’s best and despite singing a song I could do without – we’re not seriously going to praise the songwriting involved of singing “Roses are red/Roses are red/Most of the time” – he’s got everything needed to send himself to the final. His voice/sound/look are too perfect for the show and his success is going to come down to song selection and picking sounds that resonate both with the young and the old. I feel like I’m gonna be extra hard on this kid because I expect the MF-ing world from him. It’s a tough balance. So-called experts talk about the teen vote, but the teen vote didn’t do shit for Jax last year. The drunk mom vote won the show for Nick Fradiani and if MacKenzie figures that out before Dalton/Trent/Thomas can, this thing is over. If he ends up doing a cover of Ginuwine’s ‘Pony,’ I’m gonna be voting for him on the max of all the devices in my house.
IN or OUT: ItsOver

So in case the GIFs didn’t tell the story, I think America’s voting in MacKenzie Bourg, Jenn Blosil and Avalon for sure, Thomas Stringfellow, Jeneve Mitchell and Gianna Isabelle finishing out the six. That said, don’t count out Lee Jean or Sonika Vaid because I don’t hate their chances either.

Excited for tomorrow night, especially when I’m covering a high school playoff basketball game and am reading results on Twitter. Long story, but gotta make that paper.

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