Apparently the master plan of “American Idol” was to annoy us so greatly in Hollywood with irrelevant drama and staged intrigues, to the point where no matter what kind of singing we heard eventually, we’d say we loved it. It may be the brainwashing talking, but tonight was impressive. After weeks of scary auditions and lackluster performances, we finally got to hear some gems tonight–and more than just a half second of them.
The Hollywood Day 3 round started on a high note, with Haley Reinhart. Though she fumbled through the group round the night before, Haley sang her heart out on “God Bless the Child.” It was soulful and gravelly, then playful and sexy, and she had “American Idol” judge Steven Tyler mesmerized. It was a total “Sing It Girl!” moment, one of the best of the night.
I was loving Ashton Jones last night, one of the understanding vocalists from Meltdown Ashley’s group, and tonight she was even more amazing on “And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going.” One of those effortless belters that makes it seem easy, her notes were clear and true. And she’s got awesome hair, a tumble of soft curls ala 1980s Whitney Houston. Hey, if J-Lo can vote an “American Idol” contestant through on her sparkly shoes, I can show love for great hair.
Young Thia Megia has a powerful voice for one so young, but she’s still got a bit of that harsh tone that’s a little bit Miley Cyrus speaking voice, a little bit Fran Drescher.
The “American Idol” judges’ joy over good singers was short-lived. Next we got a montage of Adrian Michael and Caleb Johnson having trouble with their performances and the band, and Frances Coontz going way out of tune.
After that was a montage of contestants tackling “Georgia On My Mind.” Clint Jun Gamboa, whom is on the social hit list for dissing little Jacee Badeaux, nevertheless knocked it out of the park vocally once again. He actually did some runs that I enjoyed, and I realized when he turned it up a notch and belted out some higher notes that he sounded more Adam Lambert-y than the wailer James Durbin.
Country girl Kendra Chantelle had a pretty, appealing tone to her voice and plenty of control as she tackled the same number, winning admiration from the “American Idol” judges. Sophia Shorai was a bit raspier and dramatic with the vocals, and the crowd of contestants went wild for her.
Former teammates on “American Idol” group night, Chris Medina and Carson Higgins had a bit of fun playing up their “rivalry” once they discovered they were doing the same song again–this time Bobby Brown’s “My Prerogative.” Medina went for an acoustic vibe, however, and feisty Carson Higgins went for the rocker vibe. I think Medina sounded better than last night, but I got a terrible Andrew Garcia (season 9) flashback as he strummed along, and I worried we were going to get another lengthy “American Idol” run of bland acoustics.
Carson Higgins doesn’t have the perfect voice, but the kid has charisma by the truckload, which is exactly how I described Mick Jagger on Grammy Awards night. Higgins had solid notes, but he wins the judges over consistently with his confidence and sassy charm.
Next we got a parade of “American Idol” contestants performing while playing their own instruments. Brett Loewenstern seems to lack control over his voice, and doesn’t always hit the pleasant sweet spot of his Simply Red-esque tone. Julie Zorilla is fine but I’m still not loving her voice. Caleb Hawley had a nice, blues tone. I can’t be objective about Colton Dixon because the dude is kinda hot, but he sounded pretty good–though not as good as yesterday I think.
The “American Idol” judges still love Robbie Rosen, with good reason. This kid would fit in well on “Glee,” with his earnest piano playing, sweet warbling and impressive falsetto.
Casey Abrams probably had the most incredible and unexpected “American Idol” performance of the night. “You’re breaking new ground, my friend,” host Ryan Seacrest said, informing Casey that he was the first to use a stand-up bass during Hollywood week. It’s almost impossible to describe Casey’s performance, a sort of jazz take on “Georgia On My Mind,” with pointed thrums on the bass and husky vocals. Jennifer and Randy were laughing gleefully the whole time, because it was amusingly affected but totally awesome at the same time. While a lot of other kids stand up there and just sing their notes, Casey has the music in him. It makes for a much more organic and engaging performance. This one earned him a standing ovation, and wide-eyed appreciation from Carson Higgins.
A shaky and very ill Jacqueline Dunford was seen briefly before bowing out of the competition to head to the hospital–after J-Lo wisely told her nothing was more important than her health. This led to a complete emotional meltdown for Chelsee Oaks, who called Jacqueline “my best friend in the world.” I was confused, because I thought they had just met during the competition. The circumstances of Jacqueline’s illness seemed vague, and I totally appreciate Chelsee being concerned for her friend, so I’ll just leave it at that. Whatever was going on, Chelsee gave an overly emotional, wobbly performance of Kelly Clarkson’s “Because of You.”
I can give Lauren Alaina props for her adorable blond curly hairdo tonight, but I still feel the same way about every “American Idol” performance this judges’ pet gives: I hate the whispery tones at the beginning of the number, and then feel better when she hits the bigger notes. Lauren played her favoritism card to the hilt, once again singing Aerosmith ballad “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing.”
Jacob Lusk’s way-stylized, occasionally screamy, throw-every-note-in-the-book-at-it performance was not to my personal taste, but there is no doubt the dude can sing. After tackling a couple of octaves and loading “God Bless the Child” with plenty of feeling and power, and earning a standing ovation from the other “American Idol” contestants, Lusk broke down in sobs outside, leaving his family completely surprised and unsure of what to do.
John Wayne Schulz performed Fleetwood Mac’s “Landslide” with casual confidence and just a sweet, traditional country sound. Women everywhere swooned, including Jennifer, who softly sang along with the handsome Schulz.
You knew it was coming. Ashley Sullivan had yet another breakdown, this time on stage as she forgot the words. The “American Idol” judges were nice about it, perhaps finally realizing that this girl needs some careful handling. Randy helpfully jarred her out of her spiraling freak-out by commanding, “Go to the chorus!” Ashley did manage to get in bits and pieces of quality singing in between the tears, but it was a mess of a performance, causing her to burst into tears afterward once again.
“American Idol” gave us a peek of Stefano Langone, Jovany Bareto and Jacee Badeaux doing well, though Jacee still doesn’t have a lot of strength in his sweet boyish voice.
Next was the obliteration of Lee Ann Womack’s beautiful “I Hope You Dance.” Both Scotty McCreary and Tatynisa Wilson flubbed the lyrics, and while mostly Scotty went on with a bunch of vowel sounds, Tatynisa made up a completely different song. “American Idol” played up the humor by subtitling the two so we could follow along at home. Ouch. “I don’t think I deserve to stay in,” McCreary confessed to the “Idol” cameras.
Finally we got to the dreaded room separation on “American Idol.” Normally there’s a bit more suspense in this portion, but when you’ve got Chelsee Oaks in a room with 20 people you’ve never seen before, it’s a pretty good bet she’s going home. Likewise, the room with Casey Abrams, Robbie Rosen, James Durbin and Brett Loewenstern pretty much had to know they were moving on. That group also included Ashley Sullivan and the lyric flubbing Scotty McCreary. As in previous years, the judges’ ominous warnings about forgetting the words pretty much only apply to people they don’t like otherwise.
It looked like most of the standouts are with us until next week. We did lose sweet Brielle Von Hugel, Corey Levoy, and the second Gutierrez brother Mark (Aaron went home last night.)
Next week “American Idol” gets the contestant pool down to the final 24, and it looks like they’ll be performing Beatles songs in groups. Now that most of the weaker singers are gone, this should hopefully be a lot more entertaining.
Watch “American Idol” on FOX every Wednesday and Thursday night at 8 pm ET. Check local listings as times are always subject to change.
Check out: Is “American Idol” Still a Singing Talent Competition?