American Idol recap: Randy Jackson's Workshop
Only 10 of the Top 15 Girls (the wrong 10) get to perform following Randy's leatherdenim workshop
Welcome back to Randy Jackson — former judge, dawg they’ve kept under the stage this whole time, and the loudest blazer-wearer in the hit non-group Randy Jackson and the Spiritual Advisers. He’s got a lot going on, but not enough to miss this.
It’s Rush Week! And you thought they’d run out of themes. No “Tom Sawyer” or “Subdivisions” to be found, though — settle down, progressive rock fans, all two of you reading. Malaya Watson and Geddy Lee do have the same hair, but this wasn’t about the band. No, “Randy’s Workshop” (like Santa’s but instead of toys it produces colorful beaded pins) modeled itself after the Greek system’s rush week with multiple stations manned by Chris Daughtry and *Major Hunk Alert* Adam Lambert, Idol‘s vocal coaches, stylists, hair and makeup team, NON-DENOMINATIONAL SPIRITUAL ADVISERS (for chrissakes, just say therapists!), and get this: “movement coaches.” It’s a lot! I hope everyone got to funnel a beer, but more likely than not, Jessica Meuse had to do that alone.
Top 15 Girls night was pretty brutal, and not just performance-wise — five of 15 singers didn’t even get to go onstage. What’s more, Idol didn’t come up with a new name for this week’s holding cell! Ryan Seacrest called it The Chamber, same as in auditions. You can’t just replicate The Chamber (even though they did in eight cities). Call it something else! Pit of Despair. Anxiety Alley. Hell Shaft. Space Mountain. The Dumpster Outside Randy’s Workshop. Anything!
So it’s goodbye to Jillian Jensen, Andrina Brogden, Brandy Neelly, Austin Wolfe, and Kenzie Hall. Kenzie even had a new first name picked out: “Kenz.” Are you sure, Kenz? Do you really think this is the best move? I couldn’t help but wonder. But it didn’t even matter. We’ll never get to meet Kenz.
Personally I’m most upset about Austin; I just remember her voice as one of the prettiest and most ethereal, and I still like to think there’s more to this show than sparkly lipstick and misguided Miley Cyrus makeovers. Brandy, too. Hell, they were all good. Cut the judges’ comments in half and there’d be room for everyone to sing live. The whole night was manic, stressful, and cruel.
Oh. Ben Briley won America’s SuperVote over Neco Starr. Wasn’t this supposed to be some sort of big event? They spent five seconds on it near the end of the show with one more girl to be called. And if you thought Neco’s lack of farewell fanfare was harsh, you must have hated the zero-sum dismissal of the five unpicked girls! They weren’t even mentioned! Couldn’t a stage manager at least have asked one of MK Nobilette’s moms to hold a sign with their names on it between her teeth? No? Nothing? Ugh. Okay.
Tragedy Grab of the Night:
The fallen faces of Andrina, Kenz, and Austin in the front row as soon as Ryan said the final singer possessed a huge personality to match her huge voice.
NEXT PAGE: Let’s get to the shaky, adrenaline-drenched performances Majesty Rose, Pharrell’s “Happy”: Right away Dream Queen Lambert provided some solid advice to Majesty in that she should slow down the song and settle into its pocket. I’m not sure why she played the guitar for the first part; the coaches had advised against it and we definitely couldn’t hear her playing. She looked much more comfortable during the rousing clap section. It wasn’t perfect, but this performance was WAY better than I ever could have expected from the first wobbly horse nudged onto the brink of insanity. Will her breeziness wind its way to the forefront of voters’ minds all the way from slot number one? Let’s hope so.
Kristen O’Connor, Adele’s “Turning Tables”: The tone of her voice is just as gorgeous as her face. But in terms of a total package, I’m not moved by the registered nurse. In fact the only thing I haven’t forgotten about her segment are the Kelly Kapowski-esque floral pants she donned for Randy’s Fashion Werk-shop. Wait! Kristen also wore a hat.
Briana Oakley, Demi Lovato’s “Warrior”: I’m torn on Briana. I like that she’s a serious person who’s hard on herself — call me crazy, go ahead, I do it to myself all the time. She’s one of those contestants I can picture having a big personal growth arc on the show once she eases up on her ruminative thoughts, achieves mindfulness, settles into the pocket, etc. But the fact is her vocals tonight were all over the place. It should be illegal to waver as many times as she did on the line “I’m a warrior.” So I just don’t think this is happening for Briana. Also, a reminder from Harry: High notes are not triple axels. There, now aren’t you glad you skipped the Olympics to watch this?
Jena Irene Asciutto, the Rolling Stones’ “Paint It Black”: J. Lo threw Jena a bone: “You pulled that out at the end there.” Indeed, her final string of notes on “’til my darkness goes” was the first time I could breathe normally during this performance. Every song had a nervous, jittery quality tonight, but it bothered me the most in Jena’s for some reason — probably because we’ve heard her sing so much better than this. Still, she showed some edge and attitude with the song choice (though Harry Connick Jr. still doesn’t believe she has a clue what “Paint It Black” is about. “Darkness, in one word.” She’s not wrong.).
J. Lo liked Jena’s sultriness and called her “kind of a badass.” Back in The Chamber of Secretions where everyone was sweating, I bet this is where Jessica Meuse lost 50 percent of her will to live. But she’d need to gain it back!
Bria Anai Johnson, Melanie Fiona’s “Wrong Side of a Love Song”: “I want to be remembered as the girl with the lips!” our “big fashion geek” gushed to his highness of the leatherdenim kingdom, Randy Jackson. Um, next! Okay, seriously. Bria’s cute. I love the white blazer and sparkly black pants. I love the energy. I even love the lip shtick; it’s fun. But this isn’t a shouting competition! She’s got to funnel some of her energy internally and not rely on performance drama to whisk her through. Is she “one of our best singers,” really, Jennifer? After this performance, I still have absolutely no proof of that.
This amuses me: Bria’s Twitter handle is @BeautyKillsYou_ . Why use your name, right? Names are lame. Beauty kills you underscore, okay? It happens all the time.
Marrialle Sellars, Katy Perry’s “Roar”: Just terrible. Major train wreck. Lost her shoe. I can’t.
NEXT PAGE: Harry still disapproves of a girl (now barely a woman) singing ‘I’d shave you smooth’ Jessica Meuse, Luke Bryan’s “Drink a Beer”: I wonder if Daughtry’s comment that Jessica’s voice was better than her guitar playing will end up having more of an impact than he ever could have predicted? It’s all I could focus on during this performance: Does she need the guitar? No. Well, maybe. I’m not sure she’d be that convincing in an attempt to connect with the Idol audience directly, either. Can you picture her TOUCHING HANDS with the screamin’ teens? Is that a requirement? Phil Phillips says no! Anyway, I appreciated Keith’s suggestion that Jessica reconsider whether she should smile during lines about such a dark subject matter. But despite some situational weirdness, this girl’s rich and knowing voice is undeniable.
I was surprised Jessica went straight country here; I’d previously been thinking of her as more of a rocker. But who says you can’t be both? (Not pictured: Brandy Neelly having a meltdown.)
Emily Piriz, Grace Potter & the Nocturnals’ “Paris (Ooh La La)”: Harry launched back into Daddy Mode (a title somewhat complicated by the lustful look in his eyes following the tongue bath she gave the microphone at the end of this performance) and wondered again whether Emily really wanted to be singing tunes of a sexual nature. But whatever, Dad, she’s 18 now, she can do whatever she wants!
I’ll be surprised if Emily doesn’t make the Top 5. Of course I’d have preferred another soulful ballad like we saw from her during Hollywood Week. That was wonderful. But tonight’s performance was not as embarrassing as the judges made it out to be. Girl can sing whether she’s making sex eyes at the camera or not. And some people might be drawn to both talents.
MK Nobilette, John Legend’s “All of Me”: This was the only performance of the night that would have fit into a normal show, one in which the contestants didn’t have to jog from a chamber out to the stage following what probably amounted to at least 10 hours of sheer mental terror. And MK did look scared, too, that’s what’s crazy about it. Really, I can’t say I loved this because I didn’t love ANY of tonight’s performances. I don’t want to see anxious people perform. That’s not fun! Watching MK’s mother sob tears of pride and joy on every line — now that was fun.
Best ‘Idol’ Poster I’ve Ever Seen:
All moms express themselves differently!
But anyway: “You’re an elegant and articulate singer,” Harry told MK, “and for the first time I didn’t have the sense that you had a defeatist attitude, like ‘do I really belong here?’ You belong here.” (Not pictured: the remaining six girls’ faces melting into Picasso paintings.) (Knockoffs, of course.)
Malaya Watson, Ray Charles’ “Hard Times (No One Knows Better Than I)”: Call the police; there’s a madwoman around! No one, not even Movement Coach Melissa Garcia, could blame Malaya for flopping around the stage like a newly formed butterfly who’d just woken up in a puddle of everyone else’s unused adrenaline. She cried; she shook; she throttled. And this was all mid-song! The stress of this night was INSANE and it all exploded in Malaya’s performance. “I think anyone would have performed like that,” Harry admitted. (This is so hard for the judges, too, lest you forget. Don’t worry, they won’t let you!)
My Top 5 girls: Majesty, Jessica, Emily, MK, Malaya — and I’d give a Wild Card to Jena.
Who are yours?