American Idol is my baby. My girl. My boyfriend with the toothy, messed-up grin. Idol is my everything — and it’s certainly better than The Voice, but if it makes you uncomfortable to admit that, we can pretend this sentence never happened. Bottom line: Idol is back with a weird group of strangers, and after their first week of competition, my contestant rankings have shifted like abacus beads tabulating Steven Tyler’s age.
In zany news, Ryan Seacrest announced that the lowest male and female vote-getters this week will be offered up to the judges like virgins at a volcano, and it’s up to Randy, J-Lo, and Steven to pick which of the losers will leave. Very So You Think You Can Dance! I approve. The gents sang Stevie Wonder classics while the ladies toasted Whitney Houston. Some ruled. Some sucked. Lifeeee.
13. Shannon Magrane, “I Have Nothing”
Oh, honey. You have less than nothing. You’re approximately $2,600 in the hole now, and you won’t be with us for Final Jeopardy!. Shannon, who seemed like a plucky, silly chick who’d totally let you copy her trig homework, took a major nosedive with one of the weakest Whitney covers in recent memory. Even Steven Tyler shook his head in terror, and he’s a seahorse fossil! Fascinating. But poor Shannon: She took the grandest Whitney jam and seemed to give up on her own ambitions halfway through the track. Luckily she still has her volleyball scholarship, or whatever.
12. Jermaine Jones, “Knocks Me Off My Feet”
Jermaine Jones has a talent — for making every single song sound like “Dance With My Father.” Yeesh. While his low voice is charming, his Vandrossian flair is as clunky and weird as his posture.
11. Erika Van Pelt, “I Believe In You and Me”
I stopped believing in Erika’s sartorial choices weeks ago, but she really outfugged herself with this week’s floor-length, vermilion ensemble. She looked like The Scarlet Frumpernel up there. Worse, she forfeited all the Clarksonian grit of her natural voice for a very standard, colorless take on one of Whitney’s lamer ballads. No, Erika. You need to hoot and stomp like Crystal Bowersox at a box social, girl. Don’t stop the stomping. Believe in you and me. No, wait. Just believe in me.
10. Jeremy Rosado, “Ribbon in the Sky”
NO to Jeremy Rosado. NO to his forgettable “Ribbon in the Sky” cover. The most infuriating Idol contestants are ones with fine voices and utter non-personalities, because they’re boring but feel entitled to everyone’s time and attention. I’m talking about people like Thia Megia, kids. I’m talking about Lee DeWyze. Jeremy Rosado wants to be the next Lee DeWyze, and no one is stopping him. I’m poisoning myself TODAY.
9. Elise Testone, “I’m Your Baby Tonight”
This, THIS is what American Idol is all about: fascinating failures. Elise Testone wheeled out her ole Brett Butler face and Ke$ha scowl like usual, but mentors Jimmy Iovine and Mary J. Blige (who mostly just pointed and giggled like the Duck Hunt dog) encouraged her to switch from “The Greatest Love of All” to “I’m Your Baby Tonight,” which was covered last season pretty successfully by the buoyant Haley Reinhart. Elise didn’t know the song, and thus we got the performance we saw: an awkward, stumbling, rhythm-tripping effort with some moments of fun sauciness. “I’m Your Baby Tonight” isn’t a Whitney ballad, but it’s still pretty damn tough. So many words! Props to Elise for the last-ditch effort, but I can’t over-reward her obvious discomfort.
8. Heejun Han, “All in Love is Fair”
Marvelously unfunny Heejun can sing. He can even sing songs that boring, wonderful Pia Toscano sang last season. Does this mean I care about him now? No. I simply acknowledge that he can sing. Good singing, singer. Good. Singing.
7. Colton Dixon, “Lately”
Colton capitalized on the creepy pain in his eyes this week and turned Stevie Wonder’s “Lately” into a gruff rock ballad worthy of… I don’t know, who sings rock ballads? Is Coldplay a thing still? Sure, a Coldplay.
6. Deandre Brackensick “Master Blaster”
Steven Tyler made his first decent appraisal of the season when he declared that Deandre is “the male Naima” — that is, the 2012 update of Naima Adedapo, last year’s reggae-fied kook who turned “Umbrella” and “Dancing in the Street” into wack-ass dance breakdowns. Unfortunately, Naima met her untimely end when she performed a Jamaican send-up of “I’m Still Standing,” and I’m worried that Deandre’s bouncy, Rasta cool will go unappreciated. My only gripe with his performance: the poor enunciation.
5. Skylar Laine, “Where Do Broken Hearts Go”
Skylar Laine is pretty much teenage Holly Hunter. Which should excite you. She’s like if Holly Hunter started tanning at age 17 and lived on a hayride. Which is not hard to picture for some reason. Skylar succeeded in her goal of countrifying “Where Do Broken Hearts Go” — I only wish she was more vulnerable in her twangy twanginess. Let’s get some Reba in tharr! And a cup a’ buttermilk too! With bourbon at the bottom!
4. Hollie Cavanagh “All the Man That I Need”
Woah, woah, woah. Do I care about Hollie Cavanagh now? Not quite. I like her voice — her big voice — and I tolerate her sweet smile and wicked jawline, but I’m aware that her rather staid treatment of ballads will get old pretty quickly. But right now? It’s still new. And “All the Man That I Need” suited her surprisingly expansive instrument.
3. Phillip Phillips, “Superstition”
No fair repeating the same song he performed at his audition, but Phillip Phillips dealt us his Eddie Vedder-meets-Dave Matthews-while-dancing-on-Big Joe Turner’s-grave realness with “Superstition,” and it worked for me again. He even played a damn guitar and stamped about like a Viking suffering from a hip plague. Like with Hollie, Phillip’s versatility is certainly limited, and I hope his DeWyze-Deluxe growliness doesn’t carry him to the finals. But for now? He can definitely stay over, uh, Jermaine Jones. For crise sakes.
2. Joshua Ledet “I Wish”
I’ve long been on the fence about Joshua, who I compared to last year’s freaky-deeky bellower Jacob Lusk. Well, ladies? I was wrong. Because Joshua’s performance of “I Wish” was the liveliest, hottest, most un-contrived performance of the night. He even threw in some gay-gospel gestures and twitchy leg contortions. He was jiving and scraymin’ like a fourth grader with a Toys R Us gift card. And I was throwing Geoffrey dollars at the screen like I was at electronic strip club from the future. Go, prancing machine, go!
1. Jessica Sanchez “I Will Always Love You”
Terrible news, everyone: Jessica Sanchez picked the most obvious vocal showcase from Whitney’s catalog, sang it pretty much identically to Jennifer Hudson’s Grammy rendition, and it was still breathtaking. I’m talking memorable. Jessica matches her unflinching command with Jody Watley-esque strut that won’t quit. I’m sorry, but I have to root for that! I will not be looking for a new love. Don’t you want her?