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"American Idol" Top 10 Tackles Billy Joel's Deep Catalog
With the catalog of Billy Joel week hitting American Idol’s Top 10, we must resist the temptation to use “car wreck” metaphors to describe bad performances (see DeAndre, below). Tackling Billy Joel is no small undertaking; as someone who performed “New York State of Mind” way back in the day, he’s got complex melodies and iconic phrasing. Still, his songs offer great material for everyone - and it showed in many cases. Here is my take (in order of appearance):

DeAndre Brackensick - “Only the Good Die Young”
Is MilliVanilli trending yet? (Answer: yes.) The judges are smoking the funny stuff on this one - DeAndre was terrible. DeAndre danced like Debbie Gibson and sang about as well, too. Seems like a sweet kid, but not in the top tier. Will be in the bottom three tomorrow night. Grade: D+

Erica Van Pelt - “New York State of Mind”
F*cking HOT. Dig the new look, too. We’ll wait and see how the rest of the folks did, but one of the best of the night. Randy’s note about going for runs is right, too, in that she’s got terrific phrasing and is perhaps pulling some punches for later. JLo’s note about her being more expressive was great as well. This is a tough song to cover and she did it up nice. Grade: A-

Joshua Ledet - “She’s Got a Way”
As Randy said, “never feel defeated” when you have talent like this. Really strange arrangement actually; I’ve been a fan of Joshua since the beginning, but I feel like this was an opportunity for subtlety that he didn’t take. I’m a huge gospel fan, too, but I really connected with what JLo said about the lyric - we as singers are obliged to tell the story, not just sing the song well. Decent job. He should get through to next week. Grade: B

Skylar Laine - “Shameless”
Forget the song: I’d still like to know who the twink was in the trucker cap at the open. But I digress… Terrible style change fashion-wise - totally out of touch with her country roots. The song felt screechy to me and not all that interesting, and was flat at the front end. It leant itself to the country vibe, given the other covers of the song in that vein, but not delivered all that well. Grade: C+

Elise Testone - “Vienna”
Bluesy, stellar, yummy. Talk about being rewarded for sticking to your guns… These mentors, largely, don’t know what the shit they’re talking about. Let’s not forget that they *almost steered her away from this song, and I still think - after a standing ovation from the judges - she may not garner boffo votes because of it. Still, one of the best of the nights and mad props for making an unfamiliar song personal and emotional. “I’m so happy for you! I just want to shake you and squeeze you.” Another nod to VAS from JLo. We appreciate your support of BentBlog and The Daily Slap. Best arrangement of the season thus far, too. Well done. Grade: A

Phil Phillips - “Movin’ Out”
Everyone is staying true to themselves tonight - and it’s one of the takeaways from the evening. Excellent job on this joint. Phil rebuked the mentors and did a great job putting his spin on the song - and stayed on his mark style-wise. I might break from the pack a bit and say that he changed it up a bit too much for me. The song has so much groove in it already… some of it wasn’t needed. He can keep on being gray - it looks great on him. Grade: A-

Hollie Cavanaugh - “Honesty”
Whoever dressed Hollie last week should be pounding the pavement for a new job this week. Regardless, she’s a bit of a frump so packaging that great voice seems like a challenge. Much better this week though, which gave her a leg up on a terrible arrangement. The performance did not survive that arrangement though, and it was hard to tell if it was her phrasing or what - but it wasn’t her best job. Grade: D+

Heejun Han - “My Life”
Whoever is advising this kid, if anyone, should be on the street with last week’s dresser for Hollie. Bad Karaoke. Sharp, flat, bad diction, terrible arrangement. Entertaining doesn’t walk the dog in a singing competition - the judges were too kind. In danger of going home tomorrow. Grade: F

Jessica Sanchez - “Everybody Has a Dream”
Once again, stellar. What can you say about a 16-year-old who sings like an established diva? “It takes consistency to win. You have a moment every time you step on that stage.” Randy was right, the mentors and the stylists did a great job all the way around. Fantastic. I’d only caution here that she’s so young, so unseasoned, that it might eventually catch up to her in terms of telling stories week after week. Again, I’m speechless with this budding talent. Stop the presses and give her a contract, now. Grade: A

Colton Dixon - “Piano Man”
This song is ready to made as a cover for the radio. Period. Handsome and confident, he sang the song right in his wheelhouse. My only quibble here is that he squeezed his vocals a few too many times; where that technique should be the “color” of a performance, he went to it too many times. Still, Randy was right, the arrangement was simple and clean. “God use me” was tacky for those atheists among us. Still, he’ll sail through. Grade: B+

Top performances: Phil, Jessica, Elise and EVP.

Predicted bottom three: DeAndre, Hollie and Skylar.

Other notes: JLo fashions were spot-on tonight. Grade: A. Plain, uncomplicated and beautiful. The mentors should, in large part, take a step back because they are really screwing up the contestants. Stop stepping in front of the performers and leading them down wrong paths.

See you tomorrow for results!

Will Pollock is a Bent guest blogger and Atlanta-based freelance writer, photographer, musician, lyricist and artist. He is founder and director of ARTvision Atlanta and will publish his first book, "Instinct in the Round," this November. He blogs about politics, pop-culture and other nonsense at WillPollock.com, and you can follow him on Twitter.








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'Bent Idol' Debut Post: An Intersection of ‘Idol’ & ‘The Daily Slap’
What do American Idol and Bent Blog have in common? JLo has Violent Affection Syndrome, and she ain’t ashamed.

The connection is simple: the Syndrome, explained here, affects those of us who thinks someone is so cute it’s aggravating – to the point you want to pinch, bite, squeeze, punch or slap the snot out of them in protest. (This is the foundation that inspired The Daily Slap, one of the Inter-webs' earliest daily offering of hot men.)

JLo reacted out of her VAS when she evaluated our first singer, Joshua Ledet, because she enjoyed his performance so much. At around 3:40 in the judges' comments is when you can see it:



On the subject of Joshua, let’s deep dive into the performances:

Joshua Ledet
He werked that Stevie song, brought us back to church and, with help from ace mentor Mary J. Blige, he hooked in to the driving beat. Well done. He’s about as girly as Jacob Lusk was last season. He sported his "Mantasia," which is a shaking hand held close to the side.

Elise Testone
This girl can sing… but “I’m Your Baby Tonight” was totally the wrong song for her – as was “Greatest Love,” her original choice. She seemed visibly upset about her performance and I can see why.

Jermaine “Gentle Giant” Jones
Definitely evocative of Ruben Studdard – perhaps a better singer with a less-tubby charisma. “I Love You,” though, I don’t think is gonna do him any favors in moving him ahead in the competition. A snoozer.

Erica Van Pelt aka “EVP”
“I Believe in You and Me” was a bad arrangement sung by a fantastic singer. I was surprised by her presence with such a huge song. Whitney is imposing to tackle for any singer, and given what she had to work with she did a good job. She just seemed to be way more free and “comfortable” than Elise Testone. JLo was right in that she was playing it safe with her phrasing and delivery.



Colton Dixon
Given the fact that he’s out of his genre, big time, he was tonally on point and actually pretty in touch with the song. Randy was right about the notes flat and sharp – but he created an emotionally hooked-in “rock ballad” out of a Stevie classic. He’s pretty darn cute, too, qualifying for the evening’s Idol Slap Derby.

Shannon Magrane
I get annoyed when I have to wait for singers to get out of their lower registers for the song to become interesting. “I Have Nothing” really did have nothing, though, even when she emerged from the head-voice doldrums. Very karaoke and pretty awful. Next. (PS: could this volleyball player have looked any more gargantuan next to Ryan?) Bad song choice for such a young girl.

DeAndre Brackensick
We were thankfully spared DeAndre’s gratuitous falsetto, and with “Master Blaster” he definitely showed a reggae funk that was new to us. But it was bland and not nearly as good as the (frequently cheerleading) panel said it was.

Skylar Laine
This girl is one to watch – she was out of her element and she still did up “Where Do Broken Hearts Go?” with some moxie. JLo was spot-on when she criticized the front half of the song; the second half was unrecognizable compared to the first. Very well done, as expected.

Heejun Han
“All is Fair” was a tale of two performers – one with normally gorgeous tone (painfully sharp in one spot) and terrible diction. He doesn’t close his “t”s and other of those pesky consonants. The “Hugger in Chief” did a decent job but I don’t think he’s gonna go far, despite the fact that we love the goofballs.

Hollie Cavanagh
Lacking in presence but burying the needle on cute, Hollie tackled “All the Man that I Need” and I gotta say I didn’t dig it as much as the panel did. Parts of it were good, other parts, “meh.”

Jeremy Rosado
Always doing too many runs with a voice that rivals many of the others, Jeremy’s “Ribbon in the Sky” was too breathy, and lacked control and gravitas. Randy was right to note that he didn’t believe it. Not good.



Jessica Sanchez
Flawless. Definitely a leading contender, especially since “I Will Always Love You” is one of the most iconic songs in the world to cover. I definitely don’t like the early coronation from the judges, though. Steven Tyler’s “you may be the one” is just lame. Just let it be a great performance and don’t pressure this young girl too much.

Phil Phillips
“Superstitious” was the best of the evening. Driving, percussive, tonally perfect – and delivered by the evening’s hands-down Slap. He’s yummy, entertaining and a fantastic singer. His charisma is natural and his confidence is breezy. This guy will make records, period. The most refreshing thing about him? He’s ALWAYS dressed-down casual, and speaking as a writer who works in his jammie pants, I LOVE that. More, please.



Predicted bottom gal and guy: Elise Testone & Jeremy Rosado (possible wild card for bottom dwellers goes to Shannon Magrane)

Best performances of the night: Phil Phillips & Jessica Sanchez

JLo fashion grade: A
Normally a train wreck, this blogger loved the dressed-down look. Keep it up, Jenny.

Oh and Joshua, just remember: the hand movement "Mantasia" is not what you said it was. It is called “The Stabilizer.” The record has been set straight.

Update! As predicted, Elise and Jeremy notched to the bottom two, and Jeremy was sent packing. In retrospect I think Shannon was a train wreck; I'm glad the judges saved Elise. I hope she can figure herself out by next week.


Will Pollock is a Bent guest blogger and Atlanta-based freelance writer, photographer, musician, lyricist and artist. He is founder and director of ARTvision Atlanta and will publish his first book, "Instinct in the Round," this November. He blogs about politics, pop-culture and other nonsense at WillPollock.com, and you can follow him on Twitter.




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