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'Idol' recap: Top 8 girls do Motown

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American Idol

TV Show
Current Status:
In Season
Harry Connick Jr., Jennifer Lopez, Keith Urban, Ryan Seacrest
Reality TV

Welcome back to Detroit, where Ryan Seacrest continues his exciting exploration of casualwear. It’s our last night in the Motor City, and I hope the ladies get it together as they take on the Motown songbook. As a refresher, only eight women will perform tonight; the rest will be dunzo. Our top 8 guys are watching from the balcony, and Ryan thinks that’s what a frat party must look like. No, Ryan, that is not what a frat party looks like.

Good news kicks off the night: Tyanna is the first to get through, and she gives us a spirited performance of “Rockin’ Robin,” and continues to be an absolute pleasure to watch on stage. She’s singing in a key that beautifully showcases her talent, but she never hits us over the head with it, and I appreciate that. (Harry calls the performance subtle, which is the perfect word.) I’m not sure that I’m going to have big memories of this performance after seven other girls perform, but she’ll definitely be safe next week. I’d like to be friends with her.

Next up, Loren Lott. Oh, Loren Lott, how I struggle with you. You really upset my every nerve. Loren’s performances feel so manufactured. Especially watching her immediately after Tyanna, who is nothing but natural up there, she comes off as calculated and phony. And for what it’s worth, her voice still hurts my ears about 60 percent of the time. Loren’s fringe-covered performance of “I Wanna Be Where You Are” is followed by Loren maniacally laughing and looking like she’s just going to burst with excitement as she hugs Ryan. She actually says this sentence, which is not a sentence at all: “Good vibes, beautiful vibes, flowery, pretty vibes.” UGH. Loren, stop. Honestly, she’s behaving like Jessie Spano on caffeine pills. She’s SO EXCITED. Less, Loren. Less. I would NOT like to be friends with Loren.

Maddie Walker’s next, and selects “I’ll Be There.” Maddie struggled last week with that weird Shania Twain song, and I’m surprised to see her up here tonight. I’ve not been a fan of Maddie thus far, but her performance tonight is measured, understated, and her voice sounds pretty. She still looks like a baby deer up there, but she holds her own better than last week. Harry gives her actual advice—vary the dynamics, be careful about those big notes—and so does Keith, who basically tells her to take a deep breath and calm down.

Remember how Aretha Franklin sang to us last night and then promptly disappeared? Well, she’s back! She spent some time this week with the contestants (yep, she’s still dressed like Kenickie) to give them advice in a segment that I’d like to call “Life Lessons from Aretha.” Here’s what we learned about making it in the business.

  1. Stay physically fit. Try roller-skating, like Aretha.
  2. Stay away from anything that would be career-ending. (This seems obvious, no?)
  3. When you mess up on stage, just rhyme something! (But Aretha herself has never messed up. And no, Katherine, she has never misspelled “respect.”)

And that is how you become a superstar.

NEXT: What color is Jax’s damned dress?


Moving on, our next girl to survive is Joey Cook. “Shop Around” is kind of a brilliant selection for Joey, and while she annoyed me greatly last week, I’m enjoying this, sort of. I am going to try to look past her frustrating and cartoony on-stage movements and listen to her vocal, which is lovely. She wraps her performance and, like Loren, seems a little unhinged with excitement. Joey, please stop being THIS SURPRISED that you’re here. You’re good, you’re here. Harry further proves that he’s the love of my life when he tells her she’s close to being too stylized. She kind of breezes past this critique, though, and is obviously going to ignore it in her future hipster-y performances. Her off-stage interview (I hate this new feature, by the way) both rips off Graham Moore’s “Stay weird” Oscar speech and concludes with Joey bursting into tears. Ladies. My god. GET IT TOGETHER. Tyanna is the only one who’s not a damn emotional wreck.

Huge sigh of relief: Sarina-Joi makes it through. She was unbelievable last week, and I’m so excited to see what she’s got for us tonight. Gone are her teeny tiny shorts and her glittery, kick-ass knee-high boots of last week. Tonight we’re getting a soft, vulnerable version of Sarina-Joi, who sings “You’ve Really Got a Hold On Me.” Man oh man, I love her voice. As Harry points out, she’s a touch flat, but my untrained ears hear it only a couple of times. (Harry LOVES using the word “intonation.”) Sarina-Joi is interesting to watch because she considers every line and surprises with every line. She knows how to show off her skills. Sarina-Joi does NOT burst into tears after her performance, so she gets bonus points. J.Lo calls her the best singer here. Amen, Jenny.

Adanna Duru is safe, and this is another surprise for me. Lionel Richie’s “Hello” is a weird song choice. Does it creep anyone else out? I’ve always found it vaguely terrifying. As for Adanna’s performance, it’s totally uneven throughout, but she has some really beautiful big moments at the end, which is all America cares about anyway. She may have bought herself another week with those last 15 seconds, but largely, that was dullsville.

Jax is the next gal to make it through, and I lose all respect for her because she is frustratingly wearing THAT dress. You know the one. Ugh, Jax. Come on. She croons a jazzy rendition of “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough,” and while we’ve seen this trick from her before, this still feels a little unexpected. That said, I don’t think she sounds particularly good on this. I really love her voice, but she’s so focused on nailing the style of the song that she forgets about her vocals. And as J.Lo points out, people only like reworked arrangements of their favorite songs when they still sound like the actual song. We talk for a while with Ryan about this dress, and it’s annoying. STOP TALKING ABOUT THE DRESS, UNIVERSE.

Final girl through is Alexis Gomez, our hippie-Mexican-hillbilly. She was great last week, and “I Can’t Help Myself (Sugar Pie Honey Bunch)” is her pick for the evening. Despite Harry’s urging, Alexis is still singing with a fake country twang, which would sound great on this song if she were actually Miranda Lambert, who actually has that twang. But Alexis is from Cincinnati, I think. So that twang ain’t there for real. Annoying accent aside, this performance is boring and she is super off key. (J.Lo, brilliantly, says “That was really out of key. It even bothered me.” God love her.) Alexis, you lost me tonight. Also, put on some shoes! That stage is filthy! While Alexis thanks the audience after her performance, Maddie stands behind her staring blank-faced like a frightened doll. Maddie, are you unaware of the camera that is in your face? You’re looking right at it. Sigh. Honestly, this was amateur hour tonight.

So our eliminated ladies are Shi (I will shed no tears over this), Shannon (meh), Katherine, and Lovey. Sorry ladies, but ultimately, no painful losses for us. We head back to Los Angeles next week, thank the lord. Can’t wait for them to get off this Detroit stage and start getting some mentorship—and some production value, for that matter. See you in Hollywood. I miss the boys.