‘American Idol’ Season 11: The Good, The Bad And The WTF
Ahead of Wednesday night’s finale (May 23), we’re continuing our look back at American Idol Season 11, this time by revisiting all the moments that gave us “goosies”, that made us cringe or that left us scratching our heads.
We’ve seen it all this year: wannabe comedians, historic saves, criminal behavior — ALLEGEDLY! — and, um, bidets. It may not have been the most exciting run (hence the conspiracy theories surrounding Jessica Sanchez‘s bottom finish that one time), but we’ve been treated to some gifted singers and extravagant guest performances. If that means sitting through countless dramatic pauses and awkward product placements, so be it. Anyway, here’s what we think were the most memorable moments, be they good, bad or WTF…but mostly good!
THE GOOD: PHILLIP PHILLIPS REWORKS USHERPhillip Phillips sang Usher’s “U Got It Bad” in the Top 7. This folky, aspiring jam-band singer gave one of the season’s steamiest performances. Who knew Dave Matthews acolytes could be so suave?
THE BAD: SEXY SAX LADY STEALS THE SPOTLIGHT EVERY TIME She was on stage for seemingly every Phillipsquared performance this year. And all it made us think of was this.
THE WTF: PHILLIP PHILLIPS’ FOLKSY BACKSTORY Dude used to work in a pawn shop, where his dad was always strapped like some sort of antiquing sheriff.
THE GOOD: JESSICA SANCHEZ REWORKS BEYONCE Jessica Sanchez deconstructed Beyonce‘s “Sweet Dreams” during the Top 9. We were expecting Jessica to go all Bey cray on us, but instead she did the opposite and gave us a a stripped-down, emotional arrangement that JLo said was good enough for Beyonce to adopt as an unplugged version.
THE BAD: JIMMY IOVINE HATORADE’S ALL OVER JESSICA’S “PROUD MARY” Jessica delivered a rollicking version of Ike and Tina’s cover of “Proud Mary” on the Top 5 show, even pulling out her little Tina trot. It was one of the few times this season she really let loose — and based on Jimmy’s reaction, it might be the last. He all but ignored her actual performance, instead taking umbrage at her tight dress, which he deemed a “travesty.” Real talk: men who wear baseball caps regularly after age 25 are not fit to dispense fashion advice.
THE WTF: JESSICA SANCHEZ SUMMONS A HYDRA Jessica’s triple head-scratcher during “Bohemian Rhapsody” in the Queen round of the Top 6 show had us wondering how that decision got approved. It was a spotty performance, and this bit of unintentional comedy didn’t help her cause:
THE GOOD: JOSHUA LEDET CONQUERS A “MAN’S WORLD” This year we had a whole host of contestants dealing in gravelly vocals. But Joshua’s straight-out-of-a-gramophone timbre edged out Jessica’s trademark growl and fellow sassy singers Elise Testone and Skylar Laine. When he hits it, like he did on Bruno Mars’ “Runaway Baby,” his voice has this effortless but raw force that the others lack. During the Top 4 performances, and again as he took his final bow, Josh killed James Brown‘s “It’s A Man’s Man’s Man’s World.” One moment he’s shredding his vocal cords, then the next he’s so restrained he’s singing through clenched teeth. This was Josh at his most emotional and most nuanced.
THE BAD: WHAT THE H, AMERICA? JOSH GOES HOME We get it, someone had to go home last week. But, what, America, do you just not like getting chills down your spine when someone pours their entire being into a song for you? Was the prospect of seeing two vocal powerhouses like Jessica and Josh facing off just TOO mind-blowing for you?
THE WTF: JOSH IS FORCED TO EAT CRAWFISH BEFORE SINGING Yes, Idol producers, we know Josh is from Louisiana, land of creole and Cajuns and crawfish. We’re well aware. So you didn’t have to wheel out a giant tub of crawfish, then force him to show Ryan Seacrest how to peel and eat them moments before he had to sing. But a true pro, Josh had no problem brushing off the curious crawfish incident and giving one of the season’s best numbers with “When A Man Loves A Woman.”
THE GOOD: JENNIFER HUDSON COMES HOMEJennifer Hudson and Ne-Yo teamed up for “Think Like A Man” on the infamous Top 7 results show on April 12. This performance lacked the theatrics of Nicki Minaj, Katy Perry, and Coldplay‘s Idol performances, but J-Hud doesn’t need any extracurriculars: Her voice is its own spectacle.
THE BAD: KATY PERRY GOES TO BOOT CAMP Of course, on the other end of the spectrum we had Katy Perry’s blown-out military quagmire on the Top 6 results show. We’re not sure why she’s so staunchly committed to this awkward military thing (is camo sexy?), but she descended from the ceiling for “Part of Me” and there was even a faux-nightvision dance breakdown.
THE WTF: LANA DEL REY SOMEHOW LANDS IDOL AIR TIME Presumably to show the contestants how lucky they are to have already developed a level of confidence and comfort on stage? Lana Del Rey pre-taped “Video Games” for the Top 10 results show, and let’s just say it was a refreshing improvement from her maligned SNL appearance. She swayed a little bit and even smiled a few times!
THE GOOD: ERIKA VAN PELT BECOMES A KARDASHIANErika Van Pelt was plagued with some cheesy prom stylistic choices before becoming Kris Jenner ahead of the Top 10 show. Alas, she was eliminated the next night. But we’ll get to see if she kept the look for the American Idols LIVE! tour this summer.
THE BAD: JENNIFER LOPEZ REALLY WANTED TO BE IN PROMETHEUS The Idol judge trotted out in this H.R. Giger-inspired sexy alien dress for the Top 7 show. Not sure it’s wise to cop your style from a man-eating, acid-bleeding, intergalactic terror.
THE WTF: RANDY JACKSON BROOCHES A BAD SUBJECT Of all the odd Randy fashions to choose from — the “Yo” pin, the candy-colored necklace, the ’80s polka-dot getup and a lapel-fastened pocketwatch— the brooch he wore on the Top 5 show a couple weeks ago had us screaming at our televisions:
THE GOOD: ELISE TESTONE GETS HEAVY Elise nailed Led Zeppelin‘s “Whole Lotta Love” in the Top 9. We weren’t sure she could deliver on such an iconic, untouchable rock song, but hearing her howl to the Gods of Rock at the 1:38 mark made us believers. If the Idol fame doesn’t work out, there’s always a demand for a good Zep cover band.
THE GOOD: HEEJUN HAN FINALLY GOES HOME It’s sort of crazy to think of all the young singers in the country, Heejun Han somehow cracked the Top 9, despite clearly not having the greatest chops. Chalk it up to his goofy shtick?
THE BAD: SKYLAR LAINE GOES HOME TOO SOON Skylar Laine found herself on the bottom despite captivating performances of CCR and Dusty Springfield during the Top 5 show. But we’re pretty sure she’ll do just fine.
THE WTF: JEREMY ROSADO’S LIFELINE IS CUT SHORTJeremy Rosado was the first elimination after the Top 13, just one week after getting a lifeline from the judges to extend his run. His exit was expected and all, but come on! The poor kid’s going to get whiplash.
THE GOOD: THE STEVIES ARE AWESOME MENTORSStevie Nicks massaged all the contestants’ egos on the Top 9 show, like when she told Phil if it were 40 years earlier she’d want him in Fleetwood Mac, and broke down in tears after hearing Hollie Cavanagh sing. It all must’ve worked because the judges handed out five standing ovations that night. As for Steven Van Zandt, he provided useful guidance in terms of song arrangements and stage presence for several singers on the Top 5 show.
THE BAD: AKON IS THE WORST MENTOR EVERAkon managed to deprive will.i.am of the title this season. He joined Idol for the Top 7 and mainly provided exclamatory phrases about how good everyone sounded and seemed more interested in pallin’ around with Jimmy Iovine than in doing any actual mentoring.
THE WTF: JERMAINE JONES IS A CRIMINAL, P.S. After Jermaine Jones made the Top 12, the world learned he had somewhere in the range of five outstanding warrants! Yeah, Nigel Lythgoe is gonna want to know about those.