Oh sweet relief, you are but a week away.
For tonight’s first round of singing, the judges pick songs for the contestants. Randy goes with “I’d Rather Go Blind” for Joshua, who is slowly ossifying into a gigantic novelty statue of a soul singer you’d see at a 1950’s restaurant. His red and black outfit is accentuated by a giant red rose and a red and black old-fashioned microphone. The song is refreshingly toned-down and sultry until, predictably, he once again slides into yelling and then speaking in tongues: “Ba ba ba baby! Ba ba baby! Buh buh buh buh buh buh asdlfasdlkjasdf from meeee.” The judges give him a standing ovation. I haven’t counted how many ovations Joshua has received this season but I’m thinking he probably received them for about half his performances, right? Which kind of negates the whole purpose of the standing ovation, but no matter. The judges are so far up all the contestants’ butts this season: in Joshua’s case, you can see their heads poking out from the back of his throat. Steven comes close to calling Joshua the winner.
Jennifer picks Mariah Carey’s “My All” for Jessica, who once again is made to look about twenty years older than she is. Standing in a stiff purple gown on top of a podium, she looks as real and as approachable as a Miss America contestant. I’m not a Mariah Carey fan so I don’t know the song, but to my ears it’s a bit of a disaster. Jessica tries to warble softly and it just sounds messy and out of tune. However, Randy declares it to be one of the best times a Mariah song has been performed on television, so maybe I’m wrong, but Randy looks especially insane tonight in his peach-colored blazer, pocket-watch brooch and large necklace, so perhaps it’s not me. Steven comes close to calling Jessica the winner.
Steven picks Madcon’s “Beggin’” for Phillip (apparently The Four Seasons no longer exist.) I appreciate that Steven picks a song for Phillip that forces him to sing more melody but with the Madcon version, the song is rendered super-repetitive and so Phillip gets away with a cakewalk of a tune compared to Josh and Jessica. I don’t think it’s anything special. Steven declares Phillip the new Bruce Springsteen. Yeah. Let that wash over you like so much toilet water from a Dave Matthews tour bus.
Joshua sings “Imagine,” for his own choice, earning points from me for not eschewing the line about “Imagine there’s no heaven” the way David Archuleta did. “Imagine,” is one of those songs that seemed awfully meaningful the first few times I heard it but then lost its importance the more I or anybody else tried to dig into it. Josh didn’t help things tonight. I didn’t mind the first, somewhat dull, restrained part of the song but then he ends up screaming the end of the song like it’s“Cold Turkey.” Everything the judges tell him is meant as a compliment but describes everything I dislike about Josh. “Every time you sing you take it over the top,” Steven says. “You preach while you’re singing,” says Randy.
Jessica takes on “I Don’t Want To Miss A Thing,” a song I’ve never cared for, but actually, I like it a lot for a Jessica performance. The melody of the song forces her not to toss too many runs or vibratos in the song so we just hear the strength of her voice for once. Plus, she actually looks young and relaxed. It might not be her most memorable performance but it’s a nice change of pace. Steven gives her a standing ovation and the judges comment about how rare it is for him to praise one of the covers of his songs, which is funny because he praises just about everything else this season.
But hold the phone: not only do Steven and Jennifer dislike Phillip’s easy-listening take on Matchbox 20’s “Disease” (the combination of saxophone and bongo drums should be outlawed), Randy even does a fakeout, leading us to think that he loved the performance only to confirm that he too dislikes it. I will clutch this moment to my heart forever. Phillip has the sweetest home-visit video though. I am strangely touched by the fact that his father is a man who wears a gun on his belt while he cries and kisses his son.
The final song selection is a glorified AT&T commercial where Jimmy alerts the contestants via unnecessarily convoluted technology what songs he’s chosen for them. He picks Mary J. Blige’s “No More Drama” for Josh for the ironic purpose of eliciting more drama from him. Haven’t had enough yet? It’s Josh at his most Mantasia, ripping off his jacket and screaming “No no no no more yeah yeah yeah yeah!” It’s incredibly predictable, as is the judges’ refusal to ever advise Josh to tone it down and measure it out a little bit.
Jessica gets “I’ll Be There,” once again opting for a more straightforward take on the song, even demonstrating how well she can sing in her lower register. Jennifer and Steven love it but Randy’s not satisfied unless someone takes the Josh route, IE having explosive vocal diarrhea all over the stage. “It needed a moment moment moment,” Randy explains, not helping me change my mind that this is the last season I watch this show.
Jimmy picks “We’ve Got Tonight” for Phillip, who sings it plain and straight. It’s fine and unremarkable but for Phillip, singing all the notes means a standing o. from the judges. More like a standing “oh really?” Am I right, folks?!?!?!? Sigh.
I stand by my choice of Jessica to win the show because she is a girl, but also, I appreciated the fact that tonight she dropped some of the habits that I found most annoying. I fear though that she’ll be punished for this. Conversely, I’m ready for Josh to get eliminated for how formulaic his performances are, but I have a sneaking suspicion that it’s going to be bro vs. bro in the finale.
- It was strange to hear “I’d Rather Go Blind” immediately reprised, after Josh’s performance, in a salad dressing commercial.
- I felt bad for rest of the Top 12, who had to sit in the audience and act like they were happy to be there.