Today was American Idol's Whitney Houston tribute week, supposedly. Problem is, to Idol, paying tribute is apparently much less important than twisting the rules (seriously, only half a week?) That twist, in case your eyes glazed over when Ryan mentioned how shockingly new it was, was this: The bottom two will consist of the man and woman with the least amounts of votes from their gender. The judges will choose who goes home, which means the following will almost certainly happen:

1. Jeremy Rosado will receive the fewest votes of the guys, but thanks to the twist, he'll be pitted against Shannon Magrane.

2. At the sight of Jeremy Rosado getting pretty much the reaction America has given him, Jennifer Lopez will wail, the heavens will split open to rain puppy tears, and the audience will rend the very skin from their faces.

3. Shannon will be eliminated. Which isn't really a bad outcome, but you know this twist was implemented to crack down on America and their rogue voting; it's essentially an extra judges' save, and it's essentially ripping off The Voice without the latter show's futzy math.

I'm serious about this prediction, by the way. I'll lay down a bet on it. (Plus, I checked DialIdol.) If the bottom two are not Jeremy and Shannon, and especially if none of the judges turn into a pulsing puddle at the prospect of his elimination, I will give myself a honorary Hopeless power ranking in tomorrow's recap for paying less attention to America's whims and more attention to who's good, who's bad, and who sounds like the video below.


26. Shannon Magrane: Let's ignore her actual vocal for a second, forget the poo and histrionics that led Vote for the Worst to rename her Shannon Migraine. Let's take the premise. I'm not entirely convinced that a 16-year-old can't sing "I Have Nothing"; in theory, a teen-angst interpretation could exist. It wouldn't be Whitney, but it'd be legitimate. Shannon has no interest in interpretation. I can say that, because she did, right after she batted about blaming the accompanist (never blame the accompanist) and assuring the judges she could "sing her butt off": "I was focusing on myself and how I should be singing the song." No. This is how you end up mistaking growling for emotion and pianissimo for tears. This is how you end up a jiggly, overexplaining mess talking yourself down as all three judges purse their lips.

25. Whitney Houston's Legacy: Seriously, half a week is the best you can give her? Half a week including the above? Don't make her hurt anymore!

24. Swaybots: Definition: Those people corralled every season by the show to stand up front and wave their arms like flagella. This is exactly as useful as you guessed.

23. "Goosies": Definition: an Idol-transmitted noun and condition that produces suspiciously pearlescent skin and chronic abbrevs. Those afflicted with "goosies"--first Jennifer, now Randy, and Steven is probably a carrier--develop immune systems so weakened they become mere conduits for producer love.

22. Coca-Cola: Erika Van Pelt was nervous. The role of her nerves was played by a giant, flying soda bottle on the screen behind her.

For beige rooms with beige singers, and guys who deserve Jimmy Jail, click NEXT.


21. Jeremy Rosado: Your friend Jennifer tells you about this fantastic new restaurant in the city; when she talks about it, her eyes light up and her face flushes and she's practically bouncing about like a grasshopper. The place is called Chez Rosado, and you're not one to turn down anything twitterpating, so you go. It is one beige room full of beige pitches. There is no food or any sustenance at all. The only sound is a dull, monotonous mumble. Gray ribbons waft through the gray sky. All around are blissed-out people waving their arms like interpretive dancers pretending to be kelp. After four endless minutes of this, you strat to walk out the door until a panicky man with stringy hair rushes up, shakes you by the shoulders and lets his hands slip down to your waist, and says "But wait until this place gets a chance to fly! Then another man offers swag-coaching services; then a smiling British guy named Nigel steps out from a beige curtain you didn't notice because it never moved and shoves you back through the doorway while choirs of sedated angels murmur nothing much at all. Idol has checked us all into Chez Rosado. We can never leave.

20. This Quote: “Not only were you the best vocal of the night, it was the best vocal in the whole competition!” -To Jessica, from Randy, who will always love tautologies.

19. Steven Tyler: Idol's supple-faced sparkle figurine, when he doesn't lech, turns out to do... almost nothing.

18. Randy Jackson: Meanwhile, Randy Jackson is paying so little attention that he couldn't even acknowledge Shannon being in trouble, which is a bit like failing to acknowledge the audience contains people.

17. Jimmy Iovine: Was upstaged by Mary J. Blige, but who wouldn't be? No, he earns his spot here by yanking an iconic song about dignity from Elise and replacing it, last minute, with "I'm Your Baby Tonight." Jimmy Jail for you.

16. Colton Dixon: He's fantastic on his original song, which is clearly why the judges kibosh him and stick him with Procrustean Stevie. Essentially the only common ground Colton shares with Stevie Wonder is playing the piano, which Mary J. pointed out. Inexplicably, Colton Dixon does not play the piano. He instead sings Stevie barely accompanied, like a high schooler trying to awkwardly serenade his way into a prom date using records he found in his dad's closet. Records that say "goodbye," incidentally, so he'd probably also be serenading his crush with breakup songs. He's better when he gets to wail and emo it up, worse when he tries to be a straightforward singer. The judges do not acknowledge this. Instead, they tell him to sing like Coldplay, which is the worst advice ever, or like Steven Tyler, which is advice that comes with royalties. He'll be fine, but dude really needs to learn not to contradict Mary J. (As we all eventually learn.)

For photo cliches, emo pins and blandly good singers, click NEXT.


15. Heejun Han: His singing-joker schtick is wearing thin: today's routine was straight out of Photo Cliches and included a comment about Deandre's hair that was... let's leave it as "questionable." Fortunately, his performance of "All Is Fair In Love" was beefier and sultrier than usual, and he managed to sustain a note. We're still nearing the point where he'll depart with a prop gun that goes "BANG!"

14. Ryan Seacrest: He's giddy enough to jump around and mumble his narration and take Randy's place on the judges' panel as a joke. Maybe that's his plan B when his Idol host gig expires. He's probably just as qualified.

13. Signage: Least accurate: "Portland Loves J. Lo." (Surely Portlandia has proven otherwise by now.) Craftiest: The collage someone made Randy. Weirdest: 3:58 in this clip--is that a frog? What is that, even? Most devoted this early in the game: The one with a silhouetted rendering of Colton's coiffed face.

12. Elise Testone: Wanted to do "The Greatest Love of All," which would have been fantastic. Jimmy instead gives her "I'm Your Baby Tonight," because apparently she's a lightweight now and not the sort of vocalist with dignity and gravitas. Elise is skeptical. So is the world. She does well anyway--it's a sign of a professional vocalist how distinctive she sounds and how supple she is with her syllables--but it's nowhere near her best performance, and everyone knows it. Points for having the stones to admit she didn't know the song beforehand.

11. Randy Jackson's Lapel Pin: Also a rendering of Colton's differently-coiffed face.

10. Hollie Cavanagh: Her song is "All the Man That I Need." It was technically excellent. It sounded more or less like Whitney Houston. I have absolutely nothing else to say about it, or her.

9. Joshua Ledet: Mary J.'s advice to him is to pop instead of sing. Normally, that'd be awful advice, but Joshua is known to oversing and be under par for pop. He needs restraint--and restraint there was! I approve. I approve reservedly, but I approve. And again, I have absolutely nothing else to say about it, or him. This is what happens when you hear Simon say "don't sing Stevie or Whitney" and decide to make an entire show of that instead. People disappear in pools of technical competence.

8. Jennifer Lopez: It still boggles the mind that J. Lo is the best judge American Idol has got, but whatever: she's chirpy, she's demonstratve, and she was correct. Jermaine's performance did bloom halfway through. Elise was sabotaged. The wind machine was her invention.

For the robotically good, the agreed-upon good and the one absolutely fantastic vocalist, click NEXT.


7. Phillip Phillips: Does "Superstition," as he was always going to. You could feed Phillip Phillips' cumulative performances and Stevie Wonder's Wikipedia page to an Idol robot (see also: all three judges) and it'd tell you Phil would sing "Superstition." It'd probably also predict the "NOTICE ME" lighting, possibly the awkward "he comes batteries included" comment--at least three recappers I follow probably stammered a bit after that--the yarls and the snarls, his goofy-beast demeanor, all of it.

6. Jermaine Jones: J. Lo calls him "so adorable," and the show calls him "gentle giant" again, which is the basic problem with Jermaine: he's fantastic, and he's the only remaining baritone, but the show treats him less like a recording artist, one who set slow fire to "Knocks Me Off My Feet," than a mascot. (Dressed in red, for Coke.) He'll go through, but he's getting closer and closer to his probably-inevitable seventh-place finish.

5. Deandre Brackensick: "Oof. Lord have mercy." That's his reaction to his backstage shot, but if you think we're heading toward an "...and also our reaction to his performance" bit, you're wrong. "Master Blaster" is essentially a free pass of a song and one fantastic for Deandre, putting the foucs on his stage presence, jaunt and falsetto and being quite forgiving of his slight vocal irregularities. Since we need to "lord have mercy" something, though, we are lording the mercy out of J. Lo saying "swag" and Randy calling him a "male Naima."

4. Jessica Sanchez: Everybody--judges, producers, Fox, recappers, audience, possibly voters, possibly the Houston estate--thinks Jessica's the best vocalist Idol's ever had. In case anyone remaining in the audience thought so, J. Lo practically held up an applause sign to get their going. But here's the thing. It's obvious Jessica has a fantastic voice. She had zero snags with "I Will Always Love You," a song practically designed to snag you. But there's no excitement. There's only the sort of feeling you can Method-act. She's less Kelly Clarkson than Pia Toscano, less Fantasia than Jordin Sparks. That's not a knock--Jordin's doing better than some Idol winners, and she had an all-time standout performance with "I (Who Have Nothing)." Jessica hasn't had that yet. And if everyone keeps treating her like she's already a coronated winner, she never will.

3. Skylar Laine: Doesn't do the Dolly Parton version of "I Will Always Love You" but "Where Do Broken Hearts Go" and turns into a plaintive Taylor Swift song--well, a Taylor song if she wrote them with sustained notes. The final note was a bit shrieky, like Skylar was singing it on tiptoes trying to reach five feet above her, but honestly, Skylar could have sung Whitney Houston's will at this point and made it anyway thanks to the country-voting bloc. This week was a freebie. Every week will be a freebie until mid-April.

2. Mary J. Blige: Six reasons why she's more qualified to judge than anyone actually judging: 1. Single to promote. 2. Tells Joshua Ledet, who has an oversinging tendency, to try "popping instead of singing." 3. Tells Erika that she's a rocker and she'll crash and burn if she tries to emulate Whitney. 4. Tells Colton to find his way into Stevie's discography through the piano, their biggest similarity. (He didn't, but it was a good idea.) 5. Tells Shannon not to psych herself out before "I Have Nothing"'s big note. (She did anyway, but that was maybe problem #4.) 6. Sings better than at least three remaining finalists while just screwing around.

1. Erika Van Pelt: Ryan said her wildcard status granted her "redemption," which, no. She was fully and entirely redeemed before. She was redeemed like a winning scratch-off lottery card. A lottery, incidentally, is entirely the wrong metaphor for Whitney Houston week, which if it weren't a tribute might've seemed deliberately chosen to throw Erika off. Mary J. said it: Erika is a rocker; her skills are fundamentally wrong for emulating Whitney. Except, as it turns out, that wasn't true at all. She sang "I Believe in You and Me," her alto lent a richness to her vocal that nobody else in the competition matched, she threw in a falsetto note out of nowhere, and she just proved herself the most capable singer of the women. (EVP = Extremely Versatile Performer.) Every gushing note that's been given to Jessica and Hollie rightfully belongs to her, and maybe America might actually learn that this time.