'American Idol' recap: Top 13 boys perform
"American Idol" brought us its first live show of Season 11 Tuesday night –- and we knew it was live because in the first five seconds hilarious contestant Heejun Han was already making us laugh by mouthing the words "This … is 'American Idol'" over Ryan Seacrest's shoulder. That rascal Heejun! If he gets sent home Thursday, when the top five guys and the top five girls selected by the audience vote, along with three judge wild-card picks, are announced to make the final 13, I really can't tell you how much I'll miss him.
Han got in some good deadpan lines Tuesday night too. For example, with the video camera he was given by the show to record his home life (Imagine how much the show is saving on transporting a crew –- or hiring a local crew -– for those home-life shoots! Genius!), he filmed his mom dancing. "She loves to dance and she loves to sing, but she's not good at all," Han said during a later on-camera interview, with his mom nowhere in sight. "You're not going to air that are you? Oh my gosh, she's going to kick me in the head."
And he told us he aimed to step onto the stage and prove "Asian people can not only get a high score on the SAT -- Asian people can also melt their hearts." Aw. Han did a serviceable job with Robbie Williams' "Angels." He has a sweet sound to his voice I really like, especially since it's so at odds with his wry not-singing persona. But I don't know whether audiences will connect with it. Honestly, I'm sweating it out for the guy to advance. And you know what I'm sweating, of course. Yeah … mostly water.
But the thing is, judge overpraising aside (and oh my gosh, how about that judge overpraising? It's almost as cringe-inducing as the awkward moment when Steven Tyler made fun of Jennifer Lopez's much-ado-about-nothing Oscars "nipple slip" brouhaha. Ugh!), the talent really is pretty good this year. Some of these guys can really sing, and others have charisma. The competition at this round -- in which the vote will reduce 12 to a mere five and the judges will be able to rescue only three contestants of either gender -- will be fierce.
Also? We probably can't really rely on the judges to save the right person when it comes to the wild-card picks. For evidence of that sad fact, look no further than which contestant they brought back as a 13th male semifinalist. No, Tuesday's big reveal didn't bring us the talented David Leathers Jr. Instead it was low-voiced "gentle giant" Jermaine Jones who returned to compete for our votes. He sang a perfectly fine low-voiced version of Luther Vandross' "Dance With My Father" again, and it was nice of the judges to give him another shot, but eh … I'm pretty sure he won't make it past this round.
Anyway, here's how the other 11 performances of the night broke down:
Adam Brock: I found myself really admiring -– and really liking -- Brock for the first time watching him tackle Aretha Franklin's "Think" last night. You would think that that would seem cheesy -– especially after all of his "white chocolate," "a large black woman trapped inside my body" blabber –- but he really pulled it off with verve. I could get behind a "Brock the vote!" and "Brock on!" campaign, to note two of the signs the camera found in the audience last night. I don't need to hear Randy Jackson parsing what kind of chocolate he is, though. Dark, milk -- what, is Hershey's a show sponsor this year or something?
DeAndre Brackensick: The judges adore this 17-year-old singer with the impressive falsetto. Jennifer Lopez calls his voice "perfect" and predicts "an amazing year" ahead for him. And Jackson calls Brackensick "one of the most commercial guys" he's seen "right out of the box" in all his years on "Idol." His take on Earth, Wind and Fire's "Reason" didn't really do much for me, though. Neither did his hair-flips. I'm thinking judge wild-card pick, right?
Colton Dixon: First at the piano, and then away from the piano, and finally on top of the piano, departed contestant Schyler Dixon's big bro, clad in '80s retro style (skinny pants, skinny tie and all) showed us his indie rock side on Paramore's "Decode." He also showed us how he styled his hair. The judges think he showed that he's "relevant." I like the kid. America will soon show what it thinks of him.
Jeremy Rosado: This sweet, cuddly 19-year-old -– his co-workers at an infectious diseases clinic call him "Jer Bear" –- sings Sara Bareilles' "Gravity," wearing an outfit that looks as if he just wandered in off the street. (Really? Jeans, a T-shirt and a Members Only jacket is the best the wardrobe department could do for this beefy teen?) It sends Lopez and Steven Tyler into the stratosphere and prompts Jackson to exclaim, "I love you, man." What has gotten into Jackson this year? Dawg has lost his teeth.
Aaron Marcellus: This music teacher gave a pitch-perfect performance of "Never Can Say Goodbye," comfortably working the stage like a pro and singing with a command of the notes you could really relax into. The judges and the crowd gave him a standing ovation. Lopez told Marcellus he could "sing anything" and Tyler called him the "whole package." For once, their praise seemed justified.
Chase Likens: This year's country boy failed to impress with his take on Hunter Hayes' "Storm Warning," at one point appearing to kick the hands of the crowd below him as he spun. (Maybe I was seeing things?) Even the judges didn't seem all that impressed, focusing their praise on his looks rather than his singing. Tyler said he had a "Brendan Fraser in 'The Mummy' " look and that there would be a lot of "mummies" out there who would love him. Groan.
Creighton Fraker: The colorful New York street musician said he was determined to stay true to himself and then sang Cyndi Lauper's "True Colors" -– meaningfully, I thought. His performance almost seemed to take the judges by surprise. "With a performance like that … I don't want you to go home," Lopez said. "I want you to stay." I do too.
Phillip Phillips: The adorable pawn shop worker's rendition of Phil Collins' "In the Air Tonight" started off a little shaky, yes, but then it got moving. And even though he doesn't have the biggest range or the clearest voice, there's something completely captivating about this kid. The judges gave Phillips' performance middling reviews, but his dad, at least, loved it. "He blew it out," the proud papa said.
Eben Franckewitz: This super-sweet 15-year-old kid kind of fell apart on Adele's "Set Fire to the Rain," making me wonder about the wisdom of including a kid so young in the competition in the first place. Alas, the Justin Bieber hair won't hide notes that go flat or sharp. Honestly, I think it was just too much pressure for him. The judges did their best to make Franckewitz feel better, but I suspect he'll be back with his pals at school soon enough.
Joshua Ledet: As he did during the Hollywood Week solo round, this Louisiana 19-year-old turned in a standout performance. His impassioned take on Jennifer Hudson's "You Pulled Me Through" took us all to church and had the judges singing "Hallelujah" -– or words to that effect. Tyler was particularly hyperbolic with his praise. "Joshua, you are the voice the world has been waiting to hear," he said. Lopez, for her part, was so excited by Ledet's performance she just wanted to "punch" him. Oh my …
On Wednesday night, the top 12 girls perform. I predict more major gushing from the judges. You might want to wear a raincoat.
What did you think of the top 13 guys? Who would you like to see go through to the next round?
Photo: Creighton Fraker performs in front of the "American Idol" judges. Credit: Michael Becker / Fox
-- Amy Reiter