Luke Edgemon grew up in church. His first memories of music are in church. But Luke Edgemon still gets weirded out by describing the “pretty charismatic” (read: black) church services that he went to while growing up. But that’s forgivable, because his background — plus those years in Los Angeles as a bac up singer for Mary J. Blige and Queen Latifah, natch — has informed his performance, which is a nicely pretty, comfortable cover of “I Can’t Make You Love Me.” Bonus: Edgemon is one of the few contestants to start while sitting on the edge of the stage — a classic Idol move for an Idol standard. He should have paused more to make the most of the song’s peaks and valleys, but pausing can be taught. Usher and Shakira are both on board, leading to the episode’s only real showdown between the judges. On the one hand, Usher has the genre card. But on the other is Shakira, and Shakira has learned that if you can’t beat them, join them. She does some frankly adorable mugging, complete with an imitation Usher leg-kick, that wins over Edgemon to Team Shakira. Favorites so far: Mark Andrew and the ginger-haired Brandon Roush.
We’re down to the last performance and you’re probably thinking that of course s/he is going to go with Usher because them’s the rules. You’re right (spoiler) but I wouldn’t dream of not spending a few hundred words on Californian Jessica Childress, who may just be America’s soul mate. Proof? She’s got a wonderful, teary marriage and a career in public relations that she abandoned to pursue music. She wants music to beee her life. And, I’m assuming, she wants America to love her. To accomplish this, she does two things simultaneously: Sing Bruno Mars’ “Marry You” and also sing it, complete with shimmies, smiles, and some serious looks between her and everyone else in the room. The melody is beguiling (it so is) and Usher only raises the energy of the room before spinning, standing upright in his chair, arms wide open. He blows her kisses! She is “fully nuclear.” (Add catchphrase-coiner alongside singer.)
But wait! After her first Usher hug but before her second, Childress trades banter with the judges, revealing that she’s tried her hand at a few of Shakira’s moves. Blake is awed. Do his hips lie? This woman is on fire! I (America) love her already. With Childress on Team Usher, she joins Jess Kellner and Michelle Chamuel as my final favorites heading into the battle rounds.
Speaking of: We got a few tease-y, dramatic minutes of what’s to come. The steals are back and Pharrell is only slightly less charismatic than Usher when they’re side-by-side. But I reserve the right to change my mind.
Random Thought from Melissa and Adam’s Emails: Is it good or great that Shakira has upped the amount of Latin music on the show? And is it bad or just weird that the show continues to package Blake as the country whisperer, full-stop?
With the first part of our journey complete, I turn it over to you: Who are your personal favorites? How much will we come to love/loathe the steals? And how about Adam’s soon-to-be beard?