American Idol Season 12 Review “Hollywood Week, Part Four”

It was down to the wire for the final round of performances before Vegas on “American Idol.” When the dust settles, there will only be 20, but for the time being, there are just over 75 contestants left. So, over half must go, and it basically comes down to the same thing it started out as: one performer giving it their all for their big shot. True, this time out, they have the band at their disposal, and are allowed to play an instrument themselves if they want to take the risk. They can even perform an original song, if they see fit- an even bigger risk.

Angela Miller was one such contestant. To be perfectly honest, Miller hadn’t really registered with me yet. I remember her from Wednesday’s group performance of “Be My Baby,” of which she was one of the non-sucky, non-Kezban parts, but that’s about it. (The fact that I had no trouble recalling the one who screwed it up over one of those who didn’t should tell you all you need to know about what’s wrong about “Idol” this season.) This could very well be the fault of “Idol” itself, as she could easily be one of the contestants that they chose to not highlight over the last few weeks- or my own, simply because there was nothing about her that really stood out before to me. Boy, did that change Thursday.

Miller did an original and it was the kind of song you just know the judges are going to say something to the effect of: “If this were available now, I would buy it.” Or they had better say it, if they had a lick of sense. They did, and Keith said as much to Miller, as well someone should have. Her song, “You Set Me Free,” is the kind of ballad you don’t hear so much of these days- which is exactly what made it stand out.

You know what it actually reminded me of? The kind of song “Idol” itself used to write for the winning contestant- only better. Think “A Moment like This,” but actually good. Sort of as if Tori Amos, or maybe Fiona Apple, wrote the song instead of whoever writes the “Idol” stuff. (That’s definitely meant as a compliment.) A good mix of the quirky and palatable, in other words. If she doesn’t make the final group, I might have to stop watching- she’s that good.

Also giving good voice were Candice Glover (who did a solid version of “Girl is on Fire”); Janelle Arthur (great twangy country voice, with auditions for three previous seasons of the show under her belt); and the loopiest audition of the day, Zoanette Johnson. Johnson played drums, made up goofy lyrics about the judges and did some amusing scat-singing, but she also gave the band a bit of a time, stopping in the middle to reprimand them for not playing a song right that I don’t even think she herself knew how to play right, since she almost certainly made it up right before the fact. It was a mess, but damned if it wasn’t an amusing one- and a hot one, to boot.

I thought for sure she’d be a goner, and probably should have been in the last round, in which she made up some hilarious- but completely wrong- lyrics to the song her group performed. Hey, it beats writing on your hand and staring at it the whole time, instead of engaging with the judges. I almost couldn’t blame them if they gave her a pass simply because she flubbed it so entertainingly. Of course, we’re getting pretty close to the nitty-gritty here, so it may be time to put away the toys and concentrate on the bigger picture.

Be that as it may, Zoanette got her pass. Turns out she was TTG (that would be “Trained to Go”), after all. Also through were Janelle, Candice and, thank the Lord, Angela Miller. Also through but not shown auditioning was the cooly-named Jett Hermano, who I will support because her name reminds me of Joan, but I’m gonna need a little more to go on before I call myself a real fan, mind you. Out was Kiara Lanier, Jett’s teammate from the group “Urban Hue.”

Two other teenaged winners also got through to the next round: Shubha Vedula, who did a nice take on a Whitney/Mariah classic “When You Believe” and Juliana Chahayed, who nailed a nicely original take on Fleetwood Mac’s “Landslide,” which Nicki surprisingly declared one of her all-time favorite songs.

Not faring as well was Kezban, who was a great example of why one shouldn’t do an original- especially if it’s like a minute long and manages to be even more disjointed than the aforementioned Zoanette jam session. Perhaps needless to say, she got clipped then and there. Though she seemed to treat the whole affair as a lark every step of the way, it did seem like she got into it towards the end there, what with her volunteering to be a boom operator and all. I suspect she’s gonna regret the hell out of that audition on down the line. You see, skeptics? Even hipsters get caught up in the “Idol” web from time to time. You cannot resist the allure of the Seacrest!

Of the next group of girls, Melinda Ademi stood out simply because her song selection- the infectious Jessie J. jam “Price Tag”- didn’t make me (or the judges) want to slit my wrists. Why so down, girls? This is supposed to be fun on a certain level- kind of your dream and all, right? Though Kree Harrison deserves a shout-out for having the good taste to cover Grace Potter’s “Stars,” which you might recall one of the guys doing as well.

Both emerged victorious, as did Lauren Mink, but it was curtains for Ashlee Feliciano (who did a Mariah note at the end of her audition), Briana Oakley and Sarina-Joi Crowe. The girls were now down to a relatively stealthy 24, with only four left to be cut, so out went Lauren, Holly Marie Miller and Ariel Sprague. The wild card spot came down to two girls, the Gwen Stefani-by-way-of-Carrie Underwood-esque Stephanie Schimmel, who I really liked; and Rachel Hale, who favored Ashley Judd a bit and was very upbeat and sweet. I thought Schimmel was the better audition, with Hale a bit pitchy in places, but what do I know? Out went Schimmel, in went Hale.

You’ll also recall the boys were pared down to 28, which meant eight of them also had to go before the final round. As with the girls, they had a few of them re-audition one last time, including pleasantly-plump Latino Adam Sanders (who did Celine Dion, of all things) and Josh Holiday, who did “Georgia on my Mind” and so exerted himself he ripped his pants right up to the crotch. Apparently that’s what it takes to get a pass, because through he went, though to be fair, his was the better performance of the two. Note to Sanders: I don’t even like Celine Dion, and you my friend, are NO Celine Dion. That was one chance not worth taking. (See what I did there?)

Also getting the boot were Peter Garrett, Marvin Calderon, Devon Jones, Tony Foster, Kenny Harrison, Will White, and David Leathers, Jr. No, I don’t know who they are, either. It must have sucked to stick around a few days thinking you were so close, yet so far, only to get jacked at the last minute. Save Leathers, that is, who likewise made it this far last season out- only to get cut yet again in the home-stretch. Maybe the third time will be the charm, as the guy is not without talent.

Next stop, Vegas! Yep, it’s the sudden death round, where forty people enter and only twenty leave. Place your bets now, folks. Myself, I’ve got money riding on Angie Miller for the top 20- you better recognize, “Idol”!

What did you think of the end result of “Hollywood Week” on “American Idol”? Agree with the judges’ choices, or disagree? Who are your favorites? Who are you shocked made it this far? Let me know in the comments!

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