Duets Recap: Points Blanked

jordan meredith kelly clarksonIf you just tuned in to ABC’s Duets for the first time this week, congratulations! Because apparently, those of us who wasted our time on Episodes 1 and 2 were actually watching some sort of meaningless preliminary rounds that won’t have any impact on the competition.

If that’s not the case, then shame on ABC nonetheless. After all, if the judges’ “secret scores” from Rounds 1 and 2 were somehow factored in to this week’s leaderboard, then why not just say so? And if Thursday night’s leaderboard really was a three-week average, we also needed to know: Was it an average of the total “secret scores” given by the judges’ panel, or was it an average in which position on the leaderboard was equal to a certain numerical value (i.e., 8 points for first; 7 points for second, and so on…)?

Based on host Quddus’ total silence on the matter — the guy has been pretty quick on his feet to date, so I can’t imagine he wouldn’t have snuck in an explanation if there was indeed a decent one to be found — and my not-exactly-first-rate math skills, I’m pretty certain selection of the Bottom 2 contestants was based solely on this week’s proceedings.

If you’ll indulge me for a moment, look at the rankings from all three weeks of competition:

J Rome

J Rome

J Rome

If Alexis finished third in Week 1, and then sixth in Week 2, she’d have had to have received astronomically low scores in Week 3 for her three-week average to land her in dead last. Also, if this week’s Bottom 2 singoff was based on a three-week average, then how exactly did the production handle Meleana, who replaced Johnny Gray on John Legend’s team in Week 2, and therefore only had two sets of scores?

In my mind, Duets‘ likely tossout of Week 1 and Week 2 scores would be akin to playing the first two games of the World Series or Stanley Cup, then suddenly saying, “Actually, let’s scrap those scores, hit CTRL+ALT+DEL, and start back at the beginning.” At best, it seems like ABC was in such a hurry to premiere a singing competition the day after the American Idol finale that it was willing to make up the rules on the fly. And at worst, there’s been an inherent betrayal of those of us who invested our time and energy into Duets‘ freshman and sophomore telecasts. Yep, that’s four hours of our lives we’ll never get back!

But hey, I don’t want to sacrifice a fifth full hour kvetching at the network responsible for giving us Revenge‘s acid-tongued Victoria Grayson. (“Everytime I hug you, that warmth you feel is my hatred burning through.”) So let’s dive right in to assessing the week’s performances, in which contestants chose “artists and songs that inspire them.”

Alexis Foster (with Robin Thicke): “Killing Me Softly” | Kudos to Kelly Clarkson for pointing out Alexis’ awkward stage presence — and the way she fixates on her duet partner at the expense of connecting with the crowd. Still, while Alexis may not be blessed with terrific stage presence, I thought her vocal on “Killing Me Softly” was pretty solid — particularly her riffs toward the end of the number. Alas, though, Robin’s pre-performance instructions — “pretend you’re going home!” — would turn out to be all too prescient.

John Glosson (with Jennifer Nettles): “How Great Thou Art” | I always find it a little jarring when a reality-show contestant manages to sneak in a sad backstory without any obvious reason to do so. And whether or not it makes me a terrible, cynical human being, that was my reaction to John’s whole “anniversary of the day my mom found out she was pregnant with me/day before my brother passed away of lukemia” conversation. Honestly, I might have found his perfomance more moving if I’d simply been focusing on his big, robust voice, and the way it seamlessly intertwined with Jennifer’s equally beastly instrument. The a capella intro was a smart choice, and by the time the duo dug deep and started belting out the final refrain, I was half-expecting a divine hand to transport them from the futuristic bowling alley of the Duets set and into a more appropriate setting, like, say, a 300-year-old Italian cathedral. Two side notes: Jennifer’s “you can’t rush Jesus” is the current front-runner for Quote of the Season. And Kelly’s sweetly naive comment about “secretly trying to figure out” how to get John kicked off the show means she hasn’t quite figured out the competitive advantages of Duets’ dreadful anonymous scoring methodology.

Jordan Meredith (with Kelly Clarkson): “Mama’s Broken Heart” | Let’s be honest for a second: If both of Kelly’s contestants get booted before the live rounds, how many of us would be inclined to delete Duets from our series recording lineups and start watching The Choice pick up another hour of weekly book reading? Which is exactly why I was so completely excited to see Jordan shake off her nerves and emerge as a brassy, big-voiced front-runner on this excellent Miranda Lambert ditty. As Jennifer pointed out, this was the first week where we could heard Jordan’s voice distinctly, where she didn’t get consumed whole by Kelly’s own monster chops. Part of the reason, I think, was that Kelly held back a little, gave Jordan plenty of room — physically and vocally — to shine. But part of it was a new willingness from the pink-haired contestant to be a performer, to quash her nagging insecurities, and I credit Kelly’s rehearsal pep-talk for the change. As the first American Idol argued, Jordan wasn’t going to look stupid by getting into character, she was going to look stupid if she got kicked off the show!

Meleana Brown (with John Legend): “If I Ain’t Got You” | The judges all seemed a little ambivalent about Meleana this week, but I’d put her neck-and-neck with Jordan as the strongest shot for a female winner on Duets‘ inaugural season. I liked the husky tone she showed off on the opening verse, and the ethereral head voice she displayed on the chorus, too. Meleana has a lot of control and color in her voice, and while her exaggerated pronunciations can be a bit much, I’d still argue that if her mentor pushes her to take some risks — to push past the expectedness of Big Diva Ballads — there’s a chance I could be speed-dialing on her behalf come Week 6.

Olivia Chisholm (with Robin Thicke) “Crazy in Love” | Robin Thicke may be a bit of a cheeseball lothario, but he’s in on the joke, and therefore I’m okay with it. What I’m not okay with is statements like “let’s pretend Beyoncé retired.” Um, no, let’s not! I mean, dude might as well start imagining a world without ice cream and sauvignon blanc. A world where Game of Thrones won’t be back for Season 3. And a world where Congress passes a law limiting DVR tapings to 10 hours per week and I join the Anarchist Party. In all seriousness, though, Robin couldn’t have chosen a worse song for Olivia than “Crazy in Love,” or done it for a more ridiculous reason. “Hey, I’ve got a contestant who’s struggling with her confidence, and whose got a breathy, ethereal tone, so why not assign her a high-energy, vocally treacherous song by one of the most fearless divas in history?” Listening to Olivia gasping for breath and reducing the melody to a three-note range, the only line that rang true was “Baby you’re makin’ a fool of me.” Kelly and Jennifer were far too lenient about the performance, but at least John Legend kept it real. “Your legs!” he exclaimed, before adding that Olivia’s vocals didn’t impress him much. Personally, I thought Olivia was the weakest of the week, but I can’t say I’m unhappy that she’ll live to sing again. If Robin allows her to choose some early Aaliyah or even a Kylie Minogue number, I could easily see Olivia climbing up the secret leaderboard again.

J Rome (with Jennifer Nettles): “How Am I Supposed to Live Without You?” | I found J. Rome’s backstory about his late grandfather a little less unnecessary than John’s interview package, but even though he stayed mostly on pitch, I couldn’t get too excited about his choice of “How Am I Supposed to Live Without You?” (a song that I only find acceptable in the voice of the late Laura Branigan). Also, for what it’s worth, I’d have appreciated it if J. Rome had turned outward and faced the audience a little more, instead of performing just to Jennifer on the chorus. In other words, this was fine, middle-of-the-pack stuff, but not the sort of showing that’s going to carry J. Rome to victory by the end of summer. Better luck with song choice next week, sir!

Jason Farol (with Kelly Clarkson): “Hallelujah” | I loved seeing footage of Jason surreptitiously recording his Duets audition in his car at night, so as not to alert his parents that he was going ahead and pursuing his singing dreams. And yes, it was super cute when Kelly brought Jason’s dad to rehearsal to give mild to moderate approval of his son’s life choices. Unfortunately, Mumbles McGee’s wobbly, poorly enunciated cover of “Hallelujah” may be all the evidence Ma and Pa Farol need to argue that their son needs to get back to school and do something practical with his life. When Kelly mercifully grabbed the mic and took control of the duet, it was like watching a puny mosquito get crushed beneath a kicky summer sandal. Man, couldn’t we have a week where Kelly duets with everybody?

Bridget Carrington (with John Legend): “I Heard It Through the Grapevine” | Bridget definitely looks more at ease opposite her superstar partner than most of the amateurs in the competition — new drinking game: take a shot every time Quddus says “superstar” or “amateur,” then later, bond with the E.R. nurse who’s pumping your stomach over your mutual love of Kelly Clarkson — but her singing voice is so quavery, it’s as if she’s sitting on top of the washing machine during a particularly vigorous spin cycle. Just as jarring was the way she seemed to struggle transitioning from John Legend’s Marvin Gaye-inspired tempo to the Gladys Knight-esque cadence on her own verses. Jennifer pointed out Bridget’s opening verse was a little muddy, but I thought that adjective was applicable to the entire performance, including some wonky riffs toward the end.

Anyhow, with that said, here’s how the leaderboard looked for Week 3, followed by my own personal ranking for the night:

Judges’ Leaderboard
J Rome

My Rankings
J Rome

With Jason and Alexis participating in the end-of-show a capella sing-off, it was pretty obvious how the results would play out? I mean, would ABC really have allowed one of Kelly Clarkson’s duet partners to go home on Week 3, meaning six full weeks where Kelly would conceivably be singing only once per 120-minute telecast? Thankfully for the show’s producers, Alexis aggressively oversang her rendition of “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman,” putting her on equal footing with Jason’s pitchy, murkily pronounced “Me and Mrs. Jones.”

Rather than weighing in on which one deserved the boot, though, I’m more interested in debating who told the bigger lie: Kelly, when she insisted Jason never should have been in the Bottom 2 in the first place, or Robin, when he told Alexis he’s gonna take care of her “no matter what.” I leave that for you to discuss!

What did you think of Week 3 of Duets? Who were your favorites? Did the judges choose the right Bottom 2 this week? And are you as irked as me that the Week 1 and Week 2 scores didn’t appear to get factored in to the proceedings? Sound off in the comments, and for all my reality recaps and interviews, follow me on Twitter @MichaelSlezakTV!

Comments are monitored, so don’t go off topic, don’t frakkin’ curse and don’t bore us with how much your coworker’s sister-in-law makes per hour. Talk smart about TV!

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  1. Babygate says:

    Jordan really came back with a vengeance. I have the same misgivings about this show. The only reason I watch is Kelly Clarkson although after hearing Jennifer Nettles I have gained much respect for her. She truly is a powerhouse. Robin and John come across as kind of sleazy to me so I’m not crazy about them. As of now, I’m casting my vote for Jordan who finally found her groove this week, and John. You just cannot deny that the man has THE voice! J Rome is very, very good and has a great presence but I feel he’s a bit unauthentic. IMO, Jason is the weakest performer even if it’s not the weakest voice.

  2. Travis says:

    So, what happens if Olivia gets sent home next week? Is Robin also out of the competition? The rules and consequences of this show were clearly not well thought out. What if the final two are both from Jennifer’s team? I actually wouldn’t mind that… she and Kelly are the only reason I’m watching anyway.

    • Suzie says:

      I think I would tune in for Robin having to leave the show b/c both of his duet partners are gone. But he’s one of the 4 “superstars” so they would probably keep him on for worthless commentary and secret scoring.

    • TinyTim says:

      Robin sings worse than the contestants on this show, and picking slow motion songs really hurt them. I don’t think his pulse got over 45 during his singing.

      • Nick says:

        I have to agree with your comments about Robin. I would venture to say that his career is up in flames, the ashes swept away with last night’s trash. I am surprised that he is there at all; surely ABC listened to him sing before they hired him. What were they thinking? Duets with a supertar that cannot sing, hard to have credibility as a serious show with a chocie like that.

  3. Sheila says:

    Michael, I thought sure you would comment on Kelly’s comment after the sing-off that if the contestants were allowed to sing along, they would shine. Girlfriend disqualified the whole premise of the show. They are outshined by the superstars. I don’t see this show having a second season.

    • Jenny says:

      Omg I noticed that too! I’m like you just dissed your own show…. She went a tad overboard to make the contestants feel better…

      • MA says:

        I don’t think she dissed anything, just said what’s true: If they’re going to be anything, they’ll be solo artists, so it’s good that they can shine alone. That doesn’t detract from the fun (I use the word lightly in a general sense, but we are talking about Kelly, so it’s fun!) of watching the duets. She basically said that if they’re in the bottom it’s because the duet failed, not because they suck as singers. Nothing wrong with that. She maybe put a lot of responsibility on the the superstars/show, but in a world where Idol hangs kids out to dry for “choosing” songs that were foisted on them, I say, GOOD ON YA, KELLY! I think that what Kelly recognizes, that others either don’t acknowledge or don’t know, is that a lot of how it looks or sounds on TV is out of the contestant’s control.

  4. noa says:

    LOVED Jordan this week. and i liked that she didn’t pick a boring ballad or an over-performed on Idol song. how refreshing. loses points by performing barefoot. it’s like women on reality singing competitions have never heard of flats! i have a very impressive collection of shoes and none of them have heels. you know, cause falling isn’t fun. would some of these contestants want to borrow some of my shoes?? Jordan gets those points back for wearing a great dress (previously seen on the lovely Elise Testone on top 7 results night, take 1).
    didn’t like Olivia again this week. on week 1 i thought she was going to be my favorite. she still seems authentic, it’s just the vocals that aren’t great. maybe a better song for her will help like Slezak says.
    i’m not crazy about either one of Jennifer’s guys. now i must confess- i had never heard of Jennifer before the show, and much like Blake on the voice, i’m enjoying her even more than the others that i did know and like before. so they can stay just so i can hear more of her. they’re great, i just don’t enjoy their styles as much (kind of like Joshua Ledet for me).

    last note- “party songs” is a great idea for a theme. i always wanted “dance music” on Idol (instead of disco…) and this could be fun. only problem- the show goes live in 3 weeks. wouldn’t a theme like that be better then?

  5. Sasha says:

    Hell yes to Kelly having a Duet with everybody! :)

    • MA says:

      I’ll second (third?) that! Get rid of the others and turn this show into “Duets with Kelly Clarkson.” Clean up the rules, and you’ve got a hit.

      • Mary says:

        OMG I would so watch that! No secret scoring, no obnoxious Robin, no annoying one-name host, just Kelly singing with others. Too bad this show isn’t on Fox because then they could have gotten Cat Deeley, the most awesomest host ever, to host this.

        • Sasha says:

          YES to everything.

          I would totally consistantly watch the show if it was…as it is i pop in and/or have my mom call me when its Kelly’s turn.

          She’s so adorable, good grief.

    • Ladyguard says:

      Sorry, but I want Jennifer in on it also. I had never heard Sugarland but after hearing Jennifer sing, they will be on my list on bands to see in concert

  6. MA says:

    My love for Kelly Clarkson grows with each episode, and if the time comes that both her people are gone and she’s relegated to just one performance every other week with a superstar who pales in comparison, this show will bore me to tears and I’ll have to start watching something else. (Is there something else? Maybe, as Michael suggests, I’ll read.) But in the meantime, Kelly is the nicest, sweetest, most rah-rah and ass-kickingest mentor ever and I wish I could sing so she could mentor me. I thought she did a fantastic job this week of stepping back and letting her people shine, while still directing everything so that it went well. When Jason sort of dropped the ball, she somehow took control without overshadowing him, and made him sound and look awesome in the end. (Though he is definitely a mumbler, he’s got a great voice and is so frakkin cute.) Jordan ran with it and did a great job. She’s become my favorite and I hope she wins. I know we joke about Kelly picking the greenest singers and being too nice to get dirty with this show. All true. But she knows how a reality singing show works, and it really looked to me like this week she used that knowledge to make her people stand out. Kelly for the win!
    Are there other contestants? Meleana was all right and I kind of liked the one who sang “Heard It Through the Grapevine.” But everyone else was cheesy or slow, I thought. Why are ballads and R&B and testaments to Jesus the norm on all these shows?! It drives me nuts.

    • Laura says:

      Maybe because the theme was “Inspirational songs”. How is “Heard it throught the Grapevine” or “Crazy in Love” inspirational?

      • MA says:

        Naw, they do it over and over, no matter the theme. As for the second bit, I can’t say for sure. Maybe they were inspired by the original performers.

      • Luciana says:

        I think that the host said that they were going to sing songs that inspired them–a little different.

    • TinyTim says:

      Kelly and Jennifer were holding way back to not overshadow their contestants, they could sing circles around this group if they wanted.

  7. TC says:

    I thought the first two weeks let us learn who the contestants are. For the viewers it’s entertainment, for the contestants it’s a contest, and for you Michael, it’s a job, so nothing was “wasted.” My complaint on the Voice was there was too much time between hearing the performers every other week so I never felt invested in any singer. And, AI has the whole run-up before we get to vote, one could say that too was a waste of time…

    I am really enjoying Jennifer Nettles! She choose two great “amateurs” and I love watching her interactions with them both during their rehearsals and during and after their performances. Big plus, she is a hugger! Just watching her emotions puts a smile on my face!

    Kelly is fun to watch too, and it seems like her favorite expression during feed-back is “phuiirrrsss” which is quite cute!

    Quddus is a refreshing host, IMO, he seems intelligent, has style, empathy for the contestants and quick witted – he’s a keeper!

    John Legend seems cool, and my least favorite is Robin Thicke who IMO comes off a little sleazy.

    • Luciana says:

      Love Jennifer Nettles too! I had never seen her before, and am not much of a country fan, but find her voice and performances mesmerizing.

  8. TinyTim says:

    This show is missing some of the fire the judges have on The Voice, I mean these guys almost don’t even seem to care if they win. And what is it with these bad song choices.

    Come on ABC, get with the program, have you guys ever watched the other singing shows?

  9. Faz says:

    “I thought her vocal on “Killing Me Softly” was pretty solid ” Michael, I love you, but your understanding of music is really interesting. Her vocals weren’t anything close to solid on that.

  10. MC Maine says:

    Jason’s Me and Mrs. Jones was, without a doubt, the worst singing performance I’ve ever seen on TV. My husband and I kept looking at each other, wondering if it could really be happening. Alex’s singoff performance wasn’t good, but last I heard, not good was better than jaw-droppingly atrocious. So, I guess the fix is in. I deleted the show from my DVR season list.

    • TheBeach says:

      Yep, I’m not sure which of the sing-offs was the worst. Jason mumbling, barely recognizable “Mrs Jones” or Alexis’ over-sung “Natural Woman” with way too many runs, most of them badly done.

  11. Emily says:

    Duets sounds… oh what the heck. I don’t watch it and stopped reading this article after “no decent explanation to be found.” So Duets sounds like: nothing of interest.

  12. TheBeach says:

    John has a big ole voice and is usually right on key but he needs a lot of help with his stage presence and his phrasing. (aw.some.won.der) Jennifer should lock him in a room for 24 hours with a stack of Sinatra records so he can learn from the master.

  13. Luciana says:

    I don’t know, Michael–I had the impression from the beginning that Week 1 and then Week 2 wouldn’t count. I think that the host (what’s his name again?) told us that by saying ‘Nobody will be going home this week’ each of the first two nights. I imagined that they wanted everyone to have some practice. All went as I expected. And for the first time, I really enjoyed the show last night.

  14. Lyn says:

    Though Jennifer Nettles could blast her partners (or almost anyone) off the stage, I think her duets are really enjoyable because she chose people with whom she has a great blend. That said, I’m not a big fan of church music on a glitzy show like this … hope John does equally well on a kick-a$$ pop song next week.

  15. Paramour says:

    not watching the 1000th and 1 singing show…came here to see if I missed anything….apparently I didn’t. I still won’t be watchin. Rock on Duet fans.

  16. sam says:

    The scores were not combined — that was made clear — i’m still a little bored out of my mind with the show which is rather shocking given the celebrity singers.

  17. bob says:

    Can it just be an hour of Kelly singing every week? Don’t care to watch anyone else on there.

  18. Sophie says:

    Sleaze, there are times when you frustrate me. To say that the backstory for John Glosson was a stretch is so wrong. Losing your child is perhaps the most horrible thing any human being could endure. To be the child born after that loss is perhaps one of the most difficult positions any human could be born into. Shame on you for questioning any of this.

    • Luciana says:

      I’m with Michael here. I really prefer to not hear any sad back stories. It always seems like a bid for sympathy and votes. I think that producers shouldn’t encourage it, on this show, Idol, or any other competition. And I DO think that the producers are behind the whole phenomenon.

      • ted says:

        well the theme was about inspiration and Duets is in desperate need of showing any care for the show, I really find myself bored to death

    • MA says:

      Oh come on. No one questioned that it was sad. Michael questioned the fact that it came up and how it was manipulated for the sake of entertainment and how we should really all be sick of that. I’m tired of the battle of the sob stories on reality TV and didn’t like J Rome’s either. All the crying isn’t entertaining; it’s exploitive of them and us. We should be offended that these sad stories are being used to make the network money.

  19. gail says:

    Jennifer Nettles is much more talented than I realized; that girl can SING. She also chose the best contestants because they are both powerhouses like her and truly blend with her voice. Kelly has two good singers but it’s hard to keep up with Kelly, who is up there in Whitney Houston’s league. I had forgotten how good Kelly is because Idol has gone downhill from a phenomenal talent like Kelly to a less than average Philip Phillips. Anyway,Kelly needs a partner like Jessica Sanchez to keep up with her. As for the others, Mealeana is pretty good and Olivia has the looks, though not the voice, which means she could probably become very successful like Katy Perry and Rihanna. So Jennifer has two great contestants and the rest have one good contestant. I enjoy the show because it’s like a free concert. Like most people, I’m always excited to hear Kelly sing and now look forward to Nettles. John Legend is also very good and Robin Thicke is a good R&B singer, unique yet similar to Justin Timberlake. I like ‘blue-eyed soul’ or black country singers– something different..

  20. idared says:

    I could care less about the scoring. I’m watching for the entertainment value…period. Robin is a diva who’s only concern is how his partner’s performance is going to make HIM look. Remember Robin. There’s no “I” in DUET!! I don’t agree that “He’s in on the joke.” I find him offensive and oppressive towards his partners. Jennifer is my favorite of the stars but I really appreciate John and Kelly as well. They really seem to coach and inspire their partners. John is my favorite of the amateurs. I don’t listen to the sob stories. Everybody’s got one these days. It seems as if it is part of the criteria now on these shows. I’d rather just hear you sing.

  21. Ryan says:

    I think ABC realizes that the majority of us watching are really only watching because of Kelly Clarkson. Once her contestants are gone so am I. Haha.

  22. FreeHaley says:

    I thought they said at the beginning that the first two week’s scores were just to tell the contestants how they were doing compared to one another and just for everyone to settle in and that they wouldn’t have any bearing on who stayed or left, no??

  23. Nicole says:

    I’m guessing that they originally intended only the first week to be a non-elimination week, but with one of John Legend’s original contestants leaving, they made it fair and extended it another week. What that means for the scoring, I have no clue.