'American Idol' Recap: Not-So-Gentle Giant? - Rolling Stone
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‘American Idol’ Recap: Not-So-Gentle Giant?

Jermaine booted for law troubles; contestants sing hits from their birth years

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Shannon Magrane performs in front of the Judges on 'American Idol.'

Carin Baer / FOX

If you’re a fan of both American Idol and gossip magazines, you may have already heard some rumors about tonight’s episode. But just because the truth is already out there doesn’t mean that the producers are going to tell you anytime soon. Nope, they are going to  draw out the big reveal as long as possible. That’s why it’s not a huge surprise when Ryan Seacrest starts the show by announcing that the producers discovered some information that left them with no choice but to eliminate one of the finalists. And then they cut to the opening credits. Like I said, teasing viewers with the drama isn’t a surprise, but it sure is annoying.

After the credits and the arrival of the judges, Ryan promises he’ll talk more about the eliminated contestant later in the show, but I can’t wait that long: It’s Jermaine Jones. They found out about some outstanding arrest warrants, which is . . . weird. By all accounts, Idol contestants have to undergo excruciatingly detailed background checks before being allowed on the air. They are role models, after all, and someone has to think of the children. So how exactly did the vetting team miss the four outstanding warrants for Jones’ arrest? That, in addition to the way Jones arrived on the show as a surprise 13th contestant (something Idol had never done before), and it all gets a bit suspicious. But yes, the gentle giant is out because of a potential conviction for a violent crime, or maybe lying about not having a relationship with his father. There are a lot of possible reasons why Jermaine was booted, but the truth is probably something as simple and callous as the most obvious: ratings. A manufactured scandal does generate ratings, at least in the short term, until viewers catch wise.

Amidst all the drama, the remaining contestants will be singing songs from the year they were born. For Phillip Phillips, that’s 1990. Feel old yet? He sings “Hard to Handle” by the Black Crowes, sans his trusty guitar. The result is a bit bland and straightforward, without any of the twists and twitchiness we love in Phillip. This is probably due to the fact that he had kidney stone surgery between rehearsals. You can’t say he’s not committed.

Powerhouse singer Jessica Sanchez opts to sing an un-powerhouse song, specifically, “Turn the Beat Around.” Randy Jackson and I agree that while she is one of the top competitors, it was a bad song choice. Then Steven Tyler and I agree that she should stick to ballads and that her glittery pants are hot. It makes me uncomfortable when I agree with the judges too much.

There is no reason in the world that Heejun Han should have chosen “Right Here Waiting” by Richard Marx. And yet he does. He stands on stage looking like a banker who insists on singing easy listening karaoke while you sign your deposit slips. The judges do not enjoy the performance, pointing out that he was pitchy, out of breath and struggling. Jennifer Lopez can’t help but add that she “felt his heart,” which is kind of creepy. Luckily Heejun made special guest Will.i.am laugh in the rehearsal clips, so he is probably safe.

Will.i.am loves the rasp in Elise Testone’s voice as she rehearses “Let’s Stay Together.” After all the lackluster performances we’ve seen so far, Elise’s song is a relief. The judges love it, and it validates their decision to save her over Jeremy Rosado last week.

In rehearsals, Deandre Brackensick is prepared to sing an Elton John song, but Will.i.am and Jimmy Iovine nix it. Instead, they inexplicably insist he sing “Endless Love” by Mariah Carey, because they hate him or have money on someone else. The result is boring and the judges blame the entire performance on the song choice, and thus on Jimmy and Will.i.am. Jimmy may have to take a hit out on them.

In a nice surprise, it turns out that 16-year-old Shannon Magrane is the only contestant to have the balls to say no to Jimmy. He wants her to sing No Doubt’s “Don’t Speak,” but she picks “One Sweet Day” by Mariah Carey, and she won’t budge. Despite ticking off Jimmy and Will.i.am, the judges like it. J.Lo says, “I was terrified for you, but you did a beautiful job.” It isn’t a great performance, but it’s better than last week’s, and maybe that’s all we can hope for from Shannon. 

Before he even sings, let’s get a round of applause for Colton Dixon, who is on a one-man mission to bring back Eighties hair-metal band White Lion. He chooses to sing their “Broken Heart,” despite the fact that no one, not even Will.i.am or the American Idol house band, know the song. The performance is just what we’ve come to expect from Colton. The judges know that with his looks and sultry stare he is pretty much critic-proof, so they don’t even bother critiquing him. Randy compliments his vest, and J.Lo adds, “You look pretty when you sing.” Which is what will keep him around. As for White Lion, they were probably thrilled to get the royalties. Hairspray isn’t cheap, after all.

Jimmy is leading all the finalists astray tonight. Erika Van Pelt wants to sing “Heaven” by Bryan Adams, but Jimmy has a cool idea of adding a break in the middle of the song, and since no one (except Shannon) says no to Jimmy, she goes along with it. J.Lo says the arrangement left them wanting more, and Randy only “kind of liked it.”

At least Skylar Laine made a good song choice, opting for “Love Sneaking Up on You” by Bonnie Raitt. She sings it well, but it’s predictable. It would have been much more interesting if she took Will.i.am’s suggestion that should do a country version of Coolio’s “Fantastic Voyage” and call it Guntry, as in “Ghetto Country.”

Ladies and gentlemen, we have a new frontrunner: It’s the bucket of crawfish that Joshua Ledet brings on stage to share with Ryan Seacrest! The judges finally get up off their duffs to applaud a performance when Ledet stops eating and starts singing Michael Bolton’s version of “When a Man Loves a Woman.” Randy thinks it was phenomenal and incredible on every level, while Steven, the mystic, thinks God came through his eyes. J.Lo adds, “That was the best thing I have ever seen on American Idol!” Which sounds like high praise, but she says that every week.

Hollie Cavanagh wraps it up with a Celine Dion performance worthy of making a career out of Celine Dion impersonations. They probably have a need for that in Reno, or Germany. She sings “The Power of Love” and the judges are touched, throwing out words like beautiful and heaven and saving the best for last.

So there you have it. Jermaine is out, no one should listen to Jimmy, and White Lion is back on America’s radar. Come back tomorrow to see if Idol is kicking someone off or if Jermaine’s foibles cost the competition enough for one week.

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