American Idol Recap: ‘I Forget That I Am on a Show and Judging Anything’

American Idol

400th Episode Special: Semifinalist Boys Perform
Season 11 Episode 14
AMERICAN IDOL: Phillip Phillips performs in front of the Judges on AMERICAN IDOL airing Tuesday, Feb. 28

American Idol

400th Episode Special: Semifinalist Boys Perform
Season 11 Episode 14
Photo: Michael Becker/FOX

AT LAST we are able to start voting in American Idol. And just when I’m thinking we’re finally getting somewhere, Ryan tells us that “in just a few short months, someone will become the new American Idol.” Good Lord. The GOP nominating process is like greased lightning in comparison. (Ryan also summons all his strength not to mention Sasha Baron Cohen having dumped ashes on him on the Oscars red carpet, which you know he’s dying to do. I know it’s off topic, but have you ever seen anyone take anything worse? Towel yourself off, ask some actresses about their dresses, cash your billion-dollar check, and lighten up, Mary.)

One of the most delightful elements of the live show is the homemade signs. My favorite tonight reads “RANDY, you DAWG!” Which, given the way Randy deploys the word dawg, does not make much sense. It’s like “RANDY, you PAL!” “RANDY, you GUY!” But it’s a well-constructed sign, so partial credit will be awarded.

First up: Manic Pixie Dream Boy Reed Grimm! Who is from Cheese Curd, Wisconsin, and who takes care of his two nieces, hence the job title “nanny.” He chooses a version of “Moves Like Jagger” that you would hear in a cab in the daytime, replete with percussion break. He gets points for acknowledging that he has danced his mike pack right out of his pants, and the makeup team has filled in his eyebrow divot, so it’s good all around. The judges love it and agree that he is “musical,” which would seem to be a prerequisite here. I feel like he will make it into the top thirteen on the strength of the “fertile single women in their thirties” voting bloc. And I hate to bear bad news, ladies, but I must: Sexy though he may be, Reed will unquestionably squeeze your breasts and say HONK. 

Adam Brock takes us home to his family and reveals that he’s a Cordon Bleu–trained chef. And also that there’s a large black woman trapped inside of him. He does Aretha Franklin’s “Think,” which the large black woman inside of him doesn’t really show up for. Indeed, the medium-size effeminate white guy took over here. The judges love it, because the judges love everything. Jennifer even says: “It’s hard to make a comment here.” Really? Even when it’s your job? Nothing? Nothing.

Deandre Brackensick does Earth Wind & Fire’s “Reasons,” all in his falsetto, which he can’t get any power behind. The hair is amazing, though. It’s shocking that he sings as well as he does; if I had that hair I would be too busy touching and flipping it to remember to feed myself. Randy is trying to establish some order among the judges here, and failing: Steven just kind of talks whenever he wants to. But they all love it, and I wish I loved it more.

Colton Dixon says people are accustomed to seeing him at the piano, but tonight he’s going to shock a few people. Which he does by … sitting at the piano, and then standing up. Can you guys give me a moment to recover from this jolt? He does some Paramore song I’ve never heard that is probably in one of the Twilight movies. Randy says: “It’s time we had our own little indie alt rocker, singing PARAMORE.” It is the most depressing sentence I have heard in a decade, and, again, there have been 37 GOP debates this year alone. Colton is okay, but I fear he’ll get lost in the shuffle, and his ad-lib to the audience doesn’t help. He tells Ryan: “I think I did a good job,” then turns to the audience and says, “What did you think?” But, in a shy and earnest way, like there will be a Q&A session.

Jeremy Rosado is the receptionist at an infectious-disease clinic, which is a job he does well because he is “huggable.” Pardon me, but wouldn’t huggability be a disadvantage at an infectious-disease clinic? He does a Sara Bareilles song I am not familiar with, and as charming as he is, I don’t think it’ll be enough. Just as I’m thinking what a limp Velveeta shell-n-cheese this song was, Steven says: “You couldn’t have picked a better song.” Jennifer: “When I hear you sing, I forget that I am on a show and judging anything,” which is just a ridiculous thing for someone who has never made a negative comment on this show to say. I don’t think he’ll make it through, and that’s why the judges get wild-card picks.

Banter time! There is jokery about Jennifer’s possible Oscar nip-slip, and Steven Tyler straight-up yanks his own man-tit out of his blouse. Oh, it’s charming. For the record, I don’t think Jennifer showed actual nipple on the Oscars, but I do think she worked with a team of fashion stylists and makeup artists to create the suggestion of areola, which makes everyone talk about her. And then she gets to deny it and not be lying, thereby appearing classy. And it has worked. Ladies and gentlemen, it is an absolutely gruesome time to be alive.

My new favorite guy is Aaron Marcellus. He’s not flashy, he’s not playing a character for the benefit of the cameras, he’s got a voice that he doesn’t push you down and molest you with, but leaves you wanting to hear more. For this reason he is probably doomed, but hope springs eternal. His version of “Never Can Say Goodbye” is just about perfect. The judges love it, but that means nothing. Come on, America.

Chase Likens is this year’s country boy, and he’s a vast improvement over last year’s country boy in that you can picture him having a penis. Plus, he actually looks like he’s enjoying himself! His version of “Storm Warning” reveals why country is an emerging genre on this show: You can relax into it and work up the crowd without doing a bunch of mirthless, obligatory vocal runs. Good job, Chase Likens. Are you wearing false eyelashes, Chase Likens? You might be. Randy says he “has a Brendan Fraser–Mummy thing happening,” which damns him with the opposite of praise.

Creighton Fraker grew up the son of a preacher in a small town in South Dakota, where he didn’t fit in, and so now he’s in New York City being one of those guys who wears wacky sunglasses. His take on “True Colors” changes flavors halfway through, from “West Village piano bar” to “GLAAD fund-raiser.” It is supergay, right down to the rainbow behind Creighton’s head, and I mean that as a compliment. Randy warns, “I know we’re gonna look at the backstories and the image and everything, but you can definitely sing.” Translation: “That was supergay, right down to the rainbow behind your head, and I mean that as a criticism.” I worry about Creighton.

And then there’s home video of Phillip Phillips waking up, all shirtless and mussed, and I make involuntary cartoon coyote noises. This is starting to become a problem. He DMBs the shit out of Phil Collins’s “In the Air Tonight,” alto sax and all. There is no way he won’t make it, and I can’t help but wonder what this show can do for him that he couldn’t accomplish himself with a medium-size college tour. But whatever, it brought him into my life, so I cannot complain.

In his interview, Eben Franckewitz wears a T-shirt that says simply “SWAG.” And then we see what he means: large-ish suburban McHouse! Riding lawn mower! Trampoline! Kitchen chores! Verily, Eben is dripping Swagu. His version of Adele’s “Set Fire to the Rain,” however, is a room-temperature mess. His voice is just too thin for a song like this. My boyfriend, Ben, walks through the room in the middle of it, stops, and says, “Hey. No. Don’t do that.” Like he’s admonishing our dog. But it’s too late. The judges love it, and if he makes it through it’s because he looks like a Starbucks barista lesbian and that’s what’s selling with young girls these days.

Heejun Han is just a great big goofball. He promises to show America that “Asians can not only get high scores on the SATs, they can melt your hearts.” Aaaand … his “Angels” is not so great. One never expects to write these words, but: Why not go with some Michael Bolton? The judges agree that it was maybe not the right song for him, and those are the most devastating criticisms of the whole night. He’s probably still safe, though.

Joshua Ledet does a version of Jennifer Hudson’s “You Pulled Me Through” that is all crescendo. It begins for five seconds and then ends for three minutes. It is probably very good, but it is so far over-the-top I can’t tell. Joshua, you are very talented at what you do, now please do less of it.

And then it is time for our mystery thirteenth boy, the recipient of American Idol’s Melanie Amaro treatment. I am positive that it will be David Leathers Jr., because I think our culture is desperate to take a mulligan on Chris Brown. And … I am wrong. It’s Gentle Giant Jermaine Jones. You know, I like Jermaine, but I feel like he reached the limit of what he could do, and should have been given the chance to come back next year with some more range and dynamics. But the judges have no idea what they’re doing, so here we are. He does Luther Vandross’s “Dance With My Father.” Ben does another fly-by and says: “This guy’s mouth can’t form consonants.” That might be a problem.

So! My predictions are: Reed, Aaron, Phillip, Heejun, and Chase, with Joshua and Jeremy as wild cards. If Phillip does not make it through, I have a job for him right here. Who are your picks? Let me know in the comments. Let’s be a community for once. 

American Idol Recap: ‘I Forget That I Am on a Show and Judging Anything’