American Idol
Top 10 Perform

Episode Report Card
M. Giant: B+ | 2 USERS: B
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The Competition Begins... Now?!

We're in a new stage of the contest, so the pre-credits sequence introduces the top ten and then ends with the tag, "The competition begins now." So what have we been doing for the past two months, then?

After the credits, an announcer bellows, "Ladies and gentlemen, your judges!" More accurately, 75% of them: Keith, Randy and Mariah wander out onto the stage looking lost, probably not sure what to make of the relative lack of fanfare. Ryan enters while they're still drifting aimlessly downstage in the general direction of the judges' table and then takes over Nicki's chair, claiming that she's just stuck in traffic. That's live TV for you. Ryan brings out the top ten and cues the lengthy (and now weekly) clip flogging the American Idol app, then comes back to us from Nicki's chair to tease the other judges about sabotaging Nicki's arrival and says that tonight's theme is the music of American Idol. Wow, how meta. To clarify, the contestants are allowed to sing any song performed by any past winner, whether on the show or otherwise. Finally, maybe I'll get to hear a Lee DeWyze hit.

We're starting with Curtis and like last year, the performances are preceded with clips of Jimmy Iovine mentoring each contestant. Not in the studio, mind you -- just sitting down in armchairs for some general chatting. For instance, he advised Curtis Finch, Jr. to not be quite so retro. Curtis interviews that he's going to be singing "I Believe" by Fantasia tonight, and does a whole faux-humble explanation of what he's going to be trying to do with it -- like making Fantasia proud and touching our hearts. Try to aim a little higher, Curtis. He comes out tonight wearing a red paisley jacket made of whorehouse wallpaper and belts out the song, which I may or may not have heard back in 2004 while I was waiting for that year's 24 season finale to start. Keith warns him against going sharp from all the excitement, but loves the song choice. Randy liked it, but wants to see something new from Curtis, who nods like he can't wait to do exactly that. Mariah liked him doing what he does and says more stuff, but I have to confess that my brain generally just tunes her out when she starts talking. Ryan throws it to ads while leaving the stage, supposedly going to meet the arriving Nicki. "It's live, folks," he reminds us, which explains everything.

And then we come back with Ryan sitting on a stool next to Janelle. She tells him about her celebrity encounters at the contestants' digs with the likes of Steven Tyler and the guy from Rascal Flatts. In her mentoring session, Jimmy asks her what's going to set her apart from all the other attractive blonde country artists out there (coughCarrieUnderwoodcough), and she talks to Jimmy about wanting to be a more traditional country artist, unlike all the watered-down crap that's out there. So tonight she's singing "Gone" by Montgomery Gentry, which was apparently a game-changer for Scotty McCreery in Season 10. I'm taking Janelle's word for that, of course. But from what we saw of the clips of that performance, hers isn't quite as dynamic as his was, which even I can't believe I'm saying. Keith thinks she did a good job and is only briefly distracted by her confession of temporary dry-mouth after she's finished. Nicki, who has finally shown up in a hoodie and sunglasses that have little awnings on them, calls her "King Arthur" and tells her to work on her song choices. Randy is also concerned about the song choice, saying it didn't really go anywhere. Mariah says she got a "star aura" from Janelle and agrees with the others that she looks great tonight. (Translation: keep the hemline above the knee.) Ryan brings her a bottled water and asks her about the cotton-mouth, so it's like he's hosting in more ways than one.

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American Idol

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