Duets Recap: Gotta Have Some Faith in the Sound

jason farol kelly clarksonRemember that time a suddenly blonde Kelly Clarkson covered “Freedom ’90” and you went out of your mind with elation? Okay, that was last night on ABC’s Duets, and by “you,” I actually mean “me.” Plus, Kelly was actually part of a quartet with her fellow mentors Jennifer Nettles, John Legend, and Robin Thicke. But still, it was a brilliant move on the part of the show’s producers for the first live episode of the season: Reminding reality TV fans that Duets can deliver a weekly dose of the original American Idol is as obvious and easy as a church advertising the second coming of Jesus.

The real challenge for Duets fans, though, is separating the desire to hear their favorite mentor at the mic versus the responsibility of voting for the best amateur singer and trying to make that person’s music dreams a reality. I mean, if Kelly’s duet partner was a blender full of nails, half the song would still be sung by Kelly Freakin’ Clarkson. So what’s the responsible way to cast a ballot?

Whether or not voters get it right, though, I’m happy the power is in America’s hands now, as opposed to the wonky “secret scoring” leaderboard we were subjected to over the first five weeks of the series. And so without further ado, let’s rank how our five remaining singers fared this week — from worst to first.

Olivia Chisholm (with Robin Thicke): Lady Antebellum’s “Need You Now” | I knew we were in trouble the minute Robin picked a pop-country ballad for his smooth R&B diva. I mean, you’ve got a gal whose obvious career path is to follow in the footsteps of Aaliyah, Ashanti, and Ciara, so why make her walk a mile in somebody else’s cowboy boots at this crucial stage of the competition? And then Olivia pretty much sealed her fate when she said she wanted to prove she’s got the same vocal firepower as her competitors. Talk about the Chihuahua barking at the Doberman from behind a locked fence! Jennifer told Olivia that she looked like a million bucks, John mumbled something about how it was cool to hear her sing country, but only Kelly told the truth: Olivia was pitchy from start to finish. As dapper host Quddus summed it up as he sent Olivia back to the lounge area, “Best of luck!” Grade: C-

John Glosson (with Jennifer Nettles): Josh Groban’s “When You Say You Love Me” | Dude’s vocals are so strong they could probably lift an Oldsmobile off an elderly woman’s toe, but I was glad Mr. Legend called out the song choice as “a little syrupy.” Syrupy like being thrown headlong into a 1,000-gallon vat of Mrs. Butterworth is more accurate. Much like the case with Olivia, I felt like John strayed too far from his genre: Dude brings a little bit of torch and twang to the proceedings: He ought to be eyeing Rascal Flatts’ lunchbox, not Josh Groban’s or Michael Buble’s. And as a result, I feel like he’s likely to find himself in this week’s Bottom 2. Grade: B-

Bridget Carrington (with John Legend): Beyoncé’s “Halo” | Robin was right that Bridget’s vocal performance improved as it went along, and it occurred to me that she’s the type of vocalist who struggles with pitch when she’s not full-on belting a song. Perhaps that’s why “Halo” felt like it was cranked up to full-on “yell mode” for the last three-quarters of the song? Okay, Bridget, you can see my halo, but we don’t need to let everybody on the block know about it. John really needs to help Bridget bring more dynamics and nuance to the stage, or else she’ll Grade: B-

Jason Farol (with Kelly Clarkson): Duffy’s “Mercy” | I’ve been all “you are the weakest link, goodbye!” about Jason for five weeks running, but I’ve got to admit he upped his game this week on “Mercy.” (How awesome was it seeing Kelly push him to use a different part of his voice during the mentoring session?) Yes, Mr. Legend was right that Jason’s dance moves still seem a bit stilted — I haven’t seen pelvic undulations that awkward since the one time I watched Dance Moms — but the kid articulated his lyrics, hit 90 percent of his notes, and didn’t completely fade into the backdrop once Kelly stepped out of the “background singer” position and started hollerating. (Side note: Was it me or was Kelly’s melody line pitched insanely high, and yet she made it look effortless?) Jennifer’s critique that tennage-girl voters make Jason a serious contender seemed a little dismissive, considering her had the night’s second-best vocal, no? Grade: B+

J Rome (with Jennifer Nettles): David Guetta and Usher’s “Without You” | I’ve got to give props to John Legend for his quiet, succinct honesty as a judge: It’s true this was J Rome’s weakest vocal of the season — indeed, the opening verse seemed too low for his comfort zone. That said, it didn’t take long for the season-long front-runner to hit his stride; his riffs on the second verse seemed completelty effortless, and he’s the one contestant whose stage presence and body language never read as “amateur” opposite his “superstar” mentor. When Kelly Clarkson throws a shoe at you, you know you’ve done a damn good job. Grade: A-

What’d you think of Week 6 of Duets? Did you actually vote for any of the contestants? Who’s most likely to get the boot? Sound off in the comments, and for all my reality recaps, 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. Kate says:

    Kelly Freakin’ Clarkson is so awesome! I have to admit to voting for Jason in hopes of getting to hear more Kelly. That girl just rocks! (I have to admit I liked her dark hair better than the blond though.) I’ve only been kind of watching this show (mostly just the Kelly parts), but it seemed like the live show had a better, snappier energy than the others. I know the ratings haven’t been great for the show, but I hope it picks up and comes back next summer!

  2. Rollin'Stoned says:

    I FF’d through quite a bit of Olivia and Bridget’s songs (mostly because of embarrassment for them) so I would switch Bridget and John (I have a higher tolerance for syrup) but other than that I think you are right on Slezak.

  3. noa says:

    it’s not just you. Kelly was singing SOOO high. crazy stuff. that woman and her voice. seriously. i find myself unable to watch these performances all the way through. it made for a very short show for me (took about 15 minutes with all the ff-ing on my part). it just sucks and i hate all the song choices. i kind of liked that J Rome chose Without You, but it didn’t fit Jennifer Nettles at all and it made me enjoy it less (and ff…). i miss Jordan. she was the underdog i wanted to root for. it ain’t happening with Olivia.
    at this point, they’re just wasting our time. let’s give J Rome his record deal, cancel the show and put Jennifer Nettles and Kelly Clarkson on the AI judging panel. although, Jennifer’s comment to Jason about teen girls made me want to throw MY shoes at her, in a very different way. if these shows continue to create the idea that 15 year old girls can’t possibly do anything but vote for the cute guy, can we at least stop blaming the girls for doing as they’re told?

  4. MA says:

    Kelly freakin’ Clarkson indeed!! I’ve stopped paying close attention to this show, but when Kelly is on, I un-mute. I thought Jason was great! He found a little swag, seemed much more confident, and was not completely devoured by Kelly. This is a huge step!! I admit I forgot to vote: I meant to and tried at ABC.com, but you had to sign in…blah blah blah. And then I forgot to call. But I hope Jason sticks around so that Kelly sticks around.
    Still miss Jordan, though. I really liked her and her pink hair.

  5. Zach says:


  6. KBC says:

    As much as I love Kelly Clarkson, Duets is a mess. From the sketchy “secret” scoring to the predictable fact that every “superstar” would have at least contestant left before going live. They should have allowed people to vote from the get go, and get invested in the contestants. Or, just have each “superstar” with one contestant left. And the talent is, honestly, middle of the pack Idol quality. Having them singing with Kelly and Jennifer is just accentuating that…

    • Laura says:

      Exactly…secret voting….Kellys two being on the bottom??? come on n when they had to choose….of course they were not gonna choose the girl (pink hair)… cuz in the finals she would of beat Robins chick, Johns chick….n would of given that John guy a fight…. so surprise surprise they let her go….good strategy sucked but very smart of them…

  7. ppoe says:

    “Kelly Freakin’ Clarkson” ! can we just give her a show where she sings everything and we need to choose the best performance every week ?

  8. Chris says:

    Nothings changed for me – John for the win! I am team JN (like JRome too!)
    I want to hear Olivia cover Sade and Jason’s always had it in him, (I heard it too Kelly. Keep working on him!)

  9. TM2Bee says:

    Are you just now realizing that Olivia is terrible? Man she is BAD and you know, sometimes bad is bad! Nice legs does not a good singer make. Oh wait, these days it does.

  10. serendipitycircus says:

    I’m for ditching all the amateurs and the male mentors and just let Kelly Clarkson and Jennifer Nettles sing for an hour each week. C’mon…who’s with me??

  11. Chuck says:

    John Glosson has a wife?

  12. Reesen says:

    I really am such a fan of this show! I feel like the superstars have good repoire among each other, and they are doing great with their amatuers. My fave combo is Jennifer and John. Those two can SING together! I can’t wait for Olivia to go home. One of my fave features about the show is that when the bottom two have had their “sing-off”, it’s been a cappella, which I think really lets you hear their voices. I feel like some of the other shows out there have the music so blasted loud in the background that you can barely hear the vocalist. Just my opinion. I know the show’s ratings aren’t that high, but I really hope this show is renewed!

  13. Jan says:

    I started watching Duets just because Jennifer was on it. Continued to see her AND Kelly.

  14. foodiepop says:

    If it’s about the singing, Olivia is gone for sure. I also thought Halo was a poor song choice so Bridget could be in trouble too.

  15. IdaRed says:

    Poor Olivia. AGAIN. What was Thicke thinking?? That was a horrible song for her. I want her to get voted off just to get her away from his narcissism and bad judgment. I could barely hear Jason but I think he did better than previous showings. Bridget is way cool but I think she struggled a bit with pitch here and there. J Rome and John are by far the lucky ones on this show. Jennifer has great instincts about their abilities and partners with them so effortlessly. I look forward to them every week.

  16. JC says:

    Kelly is basically showing us why she won American Idol ten years ago she is just awesome :)

    • Laura says:

      Yes…n she is so down to earth…yrs later n still that sweet funny all American girl with an Amazing voice n she’s honest too!

  17. Luciana says:

    Okay–I liked this–Decided to vote a little just so they knew that someone was watching. After I voted 3 times for J. Rome and twice for Bridget, I was told that I had used up my votes. Why can’t Idol do something like this (NVotes=NContestants)? The message did say that I could go to ABC or Facebook and vote some more, but does anyone do that?

  18. IdaRed says:

    Since Slezak hasn’t gotten around to posting his review I simply can’t wait to dish on Ep. 7. Seeing Olivia released from the below average mentorship of Robin was just plain merciful. Some entertainers just aren’t meant to share the stage with somebody and he proved it once again when he had the opportunity to sing with the other-worldly Jennifer Nettles. While J-Net devoured their song and poured herself into the entire interpretation of the song; engaging him with her eyes and every note, it seemed to me that Robin was avoiding eye contact as much as possible and he was just no match for this vocal powerhouse. I think the only one who could match Jennifer is Kelly but at least John Legend would engage Jennifer more. Maybe it’s an ego thing? Jennifer just oozes with joyfulness and who wouldn’t if they were blessed with that voice? So enjoyable to watch. Olivia is very talented and I think she would have done much better under John’s wings. Jennifer, J Rome and John Glosson are simply devouring up the competition. There simply isn’t anybody else on the show that can match their talent, and thanks to Jennifer’s energy and expert mentoring it will be a toss up between John and J although I think J will eventually pull off the win because he edges John out on the personality. I like Brigitte a lot too but again, she and Jason just don’t come close to the talented trio of the three J’s. I’m not sure who will go home next week. It’s a toss up between Brigitte and Jason. C’mon Slezak. Let us hear from you already.

    • pylgrym says:

      I totally agree with you. When the judges were announed, I knew all of them except Thicke. I had heard the name and seen pictures of the hair but that was about all. I obviously was not missing anything. I think Jennifer has an edge because she made her name in the industry as part of a group so it isn’t all about her. The others rise to the challenge but Thickehead always seems like more of an amateur than the contestants. And could he please dress his age instead of looking like a week old frat party?

  19. What A Bore says:

    As anyone really watching this show? Haven’t seen an episode since the first one. Doesn’t seem to be anything to fuss about here.