In past years, the “Green Mile” episode was usually squashed into one hour. This year, they’ve stretched it out to three hours and cut the Beatles round in Vegas to one hour.
That sounds like a recipe for disaster. But it wasn’t in the end. Our connections with some of the best singers deepened.
During the Beatles hour, we got a taste of some tough love from one of the vocal coaches (Peggi Blu) and a tease of what Interscope Chairman Jimmy Iovine will bring to the table when he becomes the regular mentor during the rest of the season.
We heard mostly good to great Beatles covers. We lost a few contestants we got to know along the way (but not that many.) Then quickly, we get into the elimination of the 40 to 24, the dreaded “Green Mile.”
With three hours instead of one, “Idol” had more time to spend with each individual contestant, reminding us why they got there and getting snippets of their “sing for your life” performance after Vegas.
We saw 10 out of the 40 and five got through to the top 24. Two of the eliminated contestants, especially Chris Medina (Danny Gokey, part II), were shockers. Though Medina didn’t do well in Hollywood, it appeared his “Fix You” might have made up for it. But with only 12 slots for guys, he just didn’t make the cut.
“Idol” amped up the post-Medina elimination drama as J. Lo broke down. He was truly a class act. Lopez showed she has become the heart and soul of the trio of judges.
Of the five who made it through tonight, Naima Adedapo is my favorite.
Here’s a running recap:
- Opener showed the 61 remaining contestants bussed to Vegas. They are placed in different rooms and work in duos or trios to sing particular Beatles songs. One gal says she’s never heard a Beatles song in her life. (Really? Not even accidentally?). Peggi Blu one of the vocal coaches, torches Thia Magia and Melinda Adema.
“You’re going to die on stage in front of those people. I’ll be laying in bed watching you croak.” – Peggi tells the pair as they struggle with “Here Comes the Sun.”
Wow. That’s tougher than anything Simon has ever said!
Okay. Stefano Langone and James Durbin start it up with “Get Back.” Both sound strong. Okay, Stefano keeps channeling Adam Lambert, the “way-outisphere,” as Steven said. “Great kickoff,” he said later.
Pia Toscano and Karen Rodriguez are high school buds at La Guardia School of Arts. “We were inseparable,” Pia said. Both do “Can’t Buy Me Love” with verve and a bit of sex appeal. “You guys get it,” J. Lo said. “You know what it’ s like to be a professional. You know how to give a show.”
Naima Adedapo, Jacob Lusk and Haley Reinhart sing “The Long and Winding Road.”
“You have a lot of firepower. If you use it all the time, Bono would be working in a cafe or pub . You can’t sing all the time.” Jimmy Iovine warned them during rehearsals.
Haley feels a bit overdone. Naima sounds extraordinary. Jacob is making interesting choices, not always good ones. But the trio are all really good. Strong finish.
“Put the pedal down,” Randy said, contradicting Jimmy Iovine.
“I didn’t want to take it all Ebenezer Baptist, y’all,” Jacob said.
Rachel Zevita gets some time with “Eleanor Rigby.” Lauren Turner brings firepower to “Let It Be.”
Tim Halperin, who we haven’t seen since auditions, duets with Julie Zorrilla. Both have the singer-songwriter thing down doing “Something.”
LaKeisha Lewis, Jerome Bell and Tatynisa Wilson work “I Saw Her Standing Her There” with a bit of R&B/soul spin. It works. “That was crazy,” Randy said. “All of you can definitely sing.” J. Lo thinks LaKeisha was holding back and Tatynisa didn’t have the “breath and vocal control that I think you can do.” “I thought you nailed it,” Steven told Tatynisa.
Paul McDonald and Kendra Chantelle do “Blackbird.” Paul seems like a 1970s throwback with a really unusual voice and outfit. Kendra is okay, not terribly distinctive. “The power of a soft, beautiful tone, there’s nothing like it,” J. Lo said of Paul.
Clint Gamboa does “Help” with a gal I don’t recognize. Two folks I don’t remember do “Ticket to Ride.” John Wayne Shulz performs with two others with “A Little Help From My Friends.”
Ashley Sullivan shops for a dress to get married since they’re in Vegas in pleather pants! She is proud it’s the same place Britney Spears got married – but quickly rescinded.
Will Melinda and Thia prove Peggi wrong? Yes, they do. They do not die at all. It sounds pretty solid. Randy: “Melinda – it started a little shaky but you got it together in the middle. Thia you found the way to keep the phrasing and your whole thing intact. You have a very unique voice.” Steven: “You were a little behind on your phrasing. Thia, it was just alright for me.”
Sophia Shorai and Ashley perform “We Can Work It Out.” It wasn’t half bad but relatively speaking with what we heard before, wasn’t the best. “It just was not hot today,” Randy said. “None of it quite worked for me.”
Denise Jackson, Scotty McCreery and Lauren Alaina swapped songs after Iovine critiqued them. They go for “Hello Goodbye.” Can Scotty remember the words? We’re at least really easy lyrics! J. Lo: “It’s a difficult song for three people. Denise you weren’t as strong. Scotty I love you do the voice and go an octave up. Lauren. Same thing. You’re an amazing singer. I don’t think this song didn’t do anything for you.”
“It’s like the Marx Brothers putting out a fire thing,” Steven Tyler said.
Caleb Hawley and Carson Higgins took a risk with their arrangement. So did Casey Abrams and Chris Medina, who added a prop bed for “A Hard Day’s Night.” “Casey and Chris, you freaks!” Tyler said.
Aaron Sanders, Jordan Dorsey and Robbie Rosen (”Got to Get You Into My Life”) show up. Aaron is from Atlanta (though he is identifed as Teaneck, N.J.) and we get to hear him for the first time. He’s good but not as good as the other two. “Jordan you were good but no the greatest you’ve been. The harmonies started a little rough but you worked it out. Very nice.” J. Lo: “Aaron-I forget how good you are. We have high expectations for you Jordan.” Tyler: “You nailed it again, Robbie.”
First seven into the top 40: Thia, Scotty, Jordan, Ashthon, Robbie, Lauren Alaina and some dude who they didn’t name. I had to go back several times to makes sure I didn’t miss something. Is that Alex Ryan?
Then they cut 21 folks, including Carson Higgins, White House intern Molly DeWolf and Caleb Hawley. (Bummer!) Denise, Melinda and Ashley are out, too.
Now we are on to hour 2 and the “Green Mile.” Of the 40, the judges pick 24.
First up: Naima Adedapo. She cries her way up to the seat in a pretty blue dress and her heart on her sleeves. “You haven’t been the most consistent,” J. Lo said. “Your story is so beautiful with two babies and cleaning toilets and doing everything you could to be it.” “She deserves a shot,” J. Lo said. “She’s different and unique,” Randy said.
Second up: Hollie Cavanagh, who I liked a lot. She did Alicia Keys for her sing for your life and the snippet we heard was solid. “When we first heard you sing in Austin, I thought your melody was all over the place,” Tyler said. “You wouldn’t be here if we heard just that first song. You did that and was a standout in Hollywood week. You started showing people you belonged here,” J. Lo said. “I’m sorry, we’re not going to put you through this time,” Tyler said. “I was outvoted,” J. Lo said. ” I believe you should be in the top 24. When we looked at everybody else. Randy really hit home. You’re 17 years old. In a year or two, you can come back and win the whole thing. That’s how good you are. You need to grow a little bit and figure out who you are as an artist.”
LaKeisha Lewis is gone. Alex Ryan is out, too. “She really deserved to be here,” said a crying Clint. “She’s like family.”
Speaking of Clint Gamboa: the judges loved him in San Francisco. Then the producers remind us he booted out Jaycee. He oversang “Georgia on My Mind” and then “Hello” for his finale song. I’m afraid if he makes the top 13, he’ll just be annoyingly overwrought.
Haley Reinhart has a good voice but yes, I don’t particularly like the tone in every instance she sang. “We’ve been watching you and we’re afraid to say it: it’s a yes,” Tyler said.
Deandre Brackensick was part of the four juniors with stage moms. He takes a ukelele for his final song and looks a bit like, um, Jason Castro. “I didn’t’ show my best,” he said. “It’s about being consistent,” Randy said. “That didn’t quite happen for you on this journey.” Funny -in the end, none of the teens with stage moms who wowed us during the group sing made it to the top 24. He made it the furthest along. But he’s only 15. He can come back.
After the break: it’s singer-songwriter Paul McDonald. He impressed the judges throughout his run with his unusual vocal ticks. He opted for an original song for his “sing for his life,” a first on the “Idol” show. He is clearly someone folks will love or hate. Uniqueness got him deservedly into the top 24. “People would say. Is this guy American Idol material? Guess what American Idol is anybody great, unique with unbelievable talent,” Randy said. “We like the quirkiness of this guy. He’s interesting.” “That may just be the thing to make you a star,” Tyler said.
Ashthon Jones is next up. She was a stand-out on group day but her Jennifer Holiday solo set her apart. She then did Whitney Houston for “sing for your life.” She’s okay but not terribly special vocally. J. Lo: “I had my eye on you from the beginning. You’ve been one of the most consistent contestants we had… we want to find the whole package. Someone who can sing. Someone who can dance. Someone who has presence and confidence. We found that in you!” She pulled the annoying fake-out outside, though. Points off!
Chris Medina gets the final moments of hour two tonight. We hear his story yet again. His “sing for his life” is the best I’ve heard him since his original audition as he does Coldplay. On the surface, we’d expect he’s a shoo-in to go into the top 24. “Juliana is more popular than I am,” he said. “It was an honor to meet you,” J. Lo said. “That was a blessing and moment I’ll always remember.” J. Lo has to break the news: “You had some good moments and some bad moments. We only have 24 slots. And honestly it breaks my heart to say you did not make the top 24.” He is very stoic before the judges. J. Lo breaks down afterwards.