'American Idol' Recap: Cheerleaders, Debs and Country Girls - Rolling Stone
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‘American Idol’ Recap: Cheerleaders, Debs and Country Girls

Let the slashing begin

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Jessica Sanchez performs in front of the Judges on 'American Idol.'

Michael Becker / FOX

Welcome back to American Idol! Last night the men delivered a round of mostly lackluster performances, but as you know, girls just want to have fun (and sing Adele, probably), so I had high hopes for tonight. Ryan Seacrest kicks things off doing a little cheer because Scotty McCreery is contractually obligated to return to the show in a few weeks. He then introduces the judges: Jennifer Lopez! Randy Jackson! The “controversial” Steven Tyler, who seems mostly asleep until someone mentions a girl in a short skirt. He’s like a pervy dormouse. 

To show America that she is a country girl, Chelsea Sorrell shoots a gun, rides an ATV, and bemoans the fact that it takes 40 minutes to get to a mall. Then to prove that she is the next Carrie Underwood, she sings a Carrie Underwood song, specifically, “Cowboy Casanova.” The judges think it’s a risky choice, because as much as she wants to be Carrie Underwood, she is no Carrie Underwood.

The judges all sing along as Erika Van Pelt belts out Heart’s “What About Love.” She does a solid job, but it’s also the first time she’s really sounded like the wedding DJ that she is. I mean, she’s good, but it reminds you that she’s one mediocre rendition of “Brick House” away from playing your cousin Sally’s bat mitzvah. The judges chide her for not giving it her all, but they swear they loved her performance.

Jen Hirsh drops the very important information that her family owns a vineyard, which clearly means free wine if you vote for her, right? BRB – off to text my vote to AT&T. Jen delivers the night’s first Adele cover. She sings “One and Only” as all wannabe torch singers are required to do in this day and age. The judges like it, but once again they aren’t sure she gave it everything she has, and they warn her not to play it safe.

‘American Idol’ Season 11 in Photos

Brielle Von Hugel swears up and down she is a typical teenage cheerleader from Staten Island who just happens to be on American Idol. There is no way this girl is bearable, right? I mean, she is the Mean Girl. She does a bluesy rendition of Otis Redding’s “Dock of the Bay,” which seems dated for this modern American teen. Randy Jackson has no idea that Brielle had all that swagger, and he makes a Janis Joplin reference that Brielle’s mom will have to explain to her. Speaking of swagger, Brielle rushes to the interview camera and references herself in the third person three times in one minute. New record?

Hallie Day has an amazing voice and the saddest aura about her. She manages a stirring version of “It’s a New Dawn, It’s a New Day,” but singing a song that that Jennifer Hudson sings in a Weight Watchers commercial is risky. Sure enough, Randy pinky-swears he liked the song but then torpedoes her by asking, “What kind of artist do you want to be?” He rambles on about how he is not sure how to pigeonhole her. Then he references Lana Del Rey, and you know poor Hallie is doomed. 

Eighteen-year old Skylar Laine is wearing a cheering uniform, or maybe an ice skating outfit, when she sings “Stay with Me.” Her attire is unfortunately distracting me, because she can sing her small-town country blues away. Randy, who seems to be doing all the talking tonight, thinks she sounds like a mashup between Reba McEntire and Kelly Clarkson, which is a good thing.

Among the ladies, this competition is shaping up to be a country croon-off. Next to vie for the crown is Baylie Brown, who sings like a Weeble Wobble. The judges note the uneven performance and Baylie blames her nerves, pats her nearly bare chest, and hopes America still loves her (boobs). J.Lo helpfully recommends Baylie wear a looser dress next time. Song choice idea: “Be Still My Beating Heart” by Sting. You’re welcome, Baylie.

Hollie Cavanagh‘s performance of Christina Aguilera’s “Reflection” is remarkable, especially because I have no memory of having seen her before now. The judges love her, but they feel she was a bit controlled. Jennifer wants America to see what you “really do do when you do let your hair down.” Randy’s inner ten-year old couldn’t let that one go and he Beavis-laughs, “Heh heh, doo-doo. ” Backstage, Hollie takes her hair out of a bun.

Oregon girl Haley Johnsen‘s rendition of the Eurythmics’ “Sweet Dreams” is powerful, but strange. It’s in the wrong key? It’s pitchy? She opted to sing a few verses without words? As the lights go up, the judges have really confused looks on their faces. J.Lo hopes America recognized her potential, which I’m sure they didn’t. Randy calls her version a bit of a nightmare instead of a dream. It was pitchy, all over the place and not at all spot-on. He may not be succinct, but he gets his point across.

Sixteen-year old Shannon Magrane‘s dad is in the same room as Steven Tyler for the first time since the aging pervert hit on her and he . . . couldn’t care less. He’s just here to support his little six-foot tall girl as she sings a song I’ve never heard in a debutante-ball dress. It’s an extremely mature performance, if in this case that means getting louder and louder and raising your arms over your head. The judges love it, and Jennifer gets her “goosies.” 

Jessica Sanchez is far from boring.  The only woman of color in the competition is a petite powerhouse despite having swollen vocal cords. Her performance of “Love You I Do” earns the night’s first standing ovation from the judges.

The final performer tonight is Elise Testone, who is a little pitchy when she’s away from her security piano. But her performance is overwhelming and soulful and the judges love it.

So how come the boys get an extra performer, but the girls have to stick with 12? Come back tomorrow to see this group of excellent performers slashed in half like an Eli Roth horror flick. Fun! 

Last episode: Boys Who Love Girls


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