OK, America, you have to start caring about the 11th season of American Idol starting right . . . now! Tonight the Top 24 performs, only to be culled down to a Top 12 on Thursday, perhaps by crocodiles. Tonight is also the first night that the judges' opinions are secondary to whatever standards by which America is judging its popularity contest. Tabloid gossip? Hair height? Adorkableness?
It's weird to sing Maroon 5's "Moves Like Jagger" on Idol, right? What with Adam Levine being a judge – and premiering the song last season – on The Voice, a.k.a. The Upstart, Wildly Popular Competition? This doesn't stop Contestant Number One, Reed Grimm, from delivering a jazzed-up version live on Idol. The judges claim to like it, but is America ready to watch Reed do this exact same performance week after week?
Adam Brock gets in touch with the inner black woman he claims to have living in his body, dialing up a solid performance of Aretha Franklin's "Think." He is very natural in front of the audience, but the performance is a bit run-of-the-mill for Idol. Randy Jackson compliments him for his "blue-eyed soul" and "white chocolate" feel while also patting him on the back for his retro vibe, which I think is a euphemism for Oldest Contestant Alive.
Deandre Brackensick will, if nothing else, win the award for most spell-checked name. He delivers a hair-whipping performance of an Earth, Wind, and Fire song not heard since the halcyon days of the Hotel California, sure to lull the voting youngsters into comas. And you can't vote in a coma. J.Lo can't control her excitement at seeing repeat competitor Deandre finally make it to the Top 24, a.k.a. the real Idol. Randy Jackson claims he has the most commercial voice he's heard, which, unless you're an emo indie rocker dude, is a good thing, I guess, but it sounds crass.
Before performing, Colton Dixon gives us a How-To video about fixing his hair, in case you too want to look like a car-flattened punk skunk. He promises to shock people by not performing behind a piano, instead climbing on top of it and singing a Paramore song from the Twilight soundtrack. Randy thinks it's time that Idol had an alt rocker. J.Lo calls him a "relevant artist," which sounds backhanded. Regardless, the ladies will love Colton.
Choosing to sing a "girl song" is the only thing that Ryan Seacrest could find to talk to Jeremy Rosado about. Unfortunately, his choice of Sara Bareilles' "Gravity" doesn't inspire much conversation, so they just move on to the performance. J.Lo says that the moment he opens his mouth she is drawn in – like he's a big sucking charybdis? They love him and they really want America to love him, too. This American feels very bored by him.
The Hunger Games trailer has aired three times so far and I'm starting to wish the Idol contestants were shooting arrows at each other. Instead, we get Aaron Marcellus singing the Jackson 5's "Never Can Say Goodbye" and earning a standing ovation from the judges. No good performance goes unpunished, so Steven Tyler warns him that he raised the bar and will have to beat himself next time, which sounds delightfully more Hunger Games.
Chase Likens proves his country cred with a crooning rendition of "Storm Warning" and what looks like a kick to some front-row dweller's face. Kicking is country, right? Steven doesn't say much about the song, but points out that he looks like Brendan Fraser and has "a real Mummy look about [him.]" Not sure if that will be enough to get him through to the next round. What if we say he really looks like Robert Pattinson?
Is there anything more obnoxious than a person who refers to himself as offbeat? And then references himself in the third person twice in a three-minute interview? Creighton Fraker is that guy. He perches on a stool to sing Cyndi Lauper's "True Colors." One of the Idol image consultants probably suggested it in order to squelch some of his more seizure-inducing dance moves. By the end of the song, Jennifer Lopez is in tears for the fourth time tonight.
An off-camera saxophone adds a mysterious element to Phillip Phillips' performance of Phil Collins' "In the Air Tonight." This just confirms my thought that Phillip Phillips is somehow related to Phillip Michael Thomas. The act is solid but strange, like a more mature performer's encore at a fan club show.
It's too bad for Eben Franckewitz that copying Justin Bieber's hairstyle doesn't imbue Bieber's confidence, too. It's understandable that the 15-year-old's nerves got to him, but it's just too bad his voice decided to change in the middle of the performance. Bet the judges wished they'd let David Leathers Jr. stay in the competition instead. In the words of Randy, that performance was "not all perfect."
Heejun Han is determined to show that Asians can not only "earn high scores on the SATs, but also can sing." Unfortunately, his performance of "Angels" doesn't help the cause. The judges blame his song choice, but they still think Heejun has promise. As J.Lo puts it, "You can blow," which sounds like something Steven would, or at least should, say. Then they zoom in on Heejun's face and . . . sigh, he's wearing glasses without lenses. You're better than that, Heejun! Maybe.
As Joshua Ledet sings, the judges all engage in performance art in their seats. Steven's eyes are closed, and he's gently rocking back and forth. Randy's hands are in the air because the spirit has touched him, and J.Lo looks like a frog in a flashlight. They love it, but not as much as Ryan, who calls him Mantasia, which, fun fact, is the name of a male strip club in New York.
Awwww, Idol gave the gentle giant Jermaine Jones a second chance! They let Jermaine tower over Ryan Seacrest to keep him humble and remind him that he is replaceable. He sings "Dance With My Father" in his deep, barreling baritone. The judges give him a standing ovation, which is the least he deserves after they made him cry on national television. Randy Jackson pretends that they always wanted him to compete, despite the fact that they sent him home to his mama last week.
Will Jermaine make it through to the Top 12? Will the ladies' performances be as ho-hum as the men? Tune in tomorrow to find out.
Last episode: What Happened in Vegas, Part 4