Tonight, the producers make a half-assed attempt at being musically current. Of course the Idols will mess it up by exhuming the graves of long-dead songs and turning them into boring, unrecognizable trash. But what do you expect? This, after all, is American Idol. Camarooooon!!
You know it’s gonna be a winning night when the first thing you see is David Spade sitting behind the judges. Also, Neil Patrick Harris makes a return trip to Our Lovely Audience, but he’s been exiled to the cheap seats, because that’s how Idol rolls.
The theme for the night is “the contestants can choose any song they want as long as it’s a popular download on iTunes.” Got that? Popular download. I have no idea what the parameters of popularity are on iTunes, and a sneaking suspicion that the contestants don’t know either. Because if song choice is key, these fools done locked themselves out.
First, the Idols visit Ryan at his other job. No, not as co-host of E! News. His other job. No, not as co-host of Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve. His other job. No, not as senior go-go boy at Splash Bar. They visit him at his radio gig, where he hosts American Top 40. Radio? Oh, it’s this thing that people used to listen to before they could program their own music into small handheld devices. I don’t know, either. Look it up.
They all crowd into a roomier-than-you-might-expect studio, while Seacrest presses buttons which play the sound of his own voice saying “This is American Idol.” Matt is like, “I woke up early and drove an hour for this?” Seacrest tells the Legend of Casey Kasem, leaving out the whole thing about Shaggy and Robin, the Boy Wonder. Then he’s like, “Some of the winners of American Idol get played on the radio, but only the ones named Clarkson, Cook, and Daughtry.” Gokey asks about Taylor Hicks and is physically ejected from the building. Thus ends the studio visit.
Performances, shall we do?
Anoop Desai. Singing “Caught Up” by Usher. Last week, the judges wanted him to sing less and party more, because they don’t really think he’ll win and figure he’s more useful as in-studio entertainment. So he sings this song which, so far as I can tell, has no rhythm or structure whatsoever. Anoop wears a poor man’s MC Hammer jacket, complete with a chain dangling from the shoulder. He flirts with Paula while the back-up singers disharmonize behind him. It goes on forever and there are some notes, but no two that go together. The judges are like, “We told you to party, which you did. We told you to be current, which you did. But you are an asshole for doing what you did. Why do you suck so?” Kara says it’s like some frat guys dared Anoop to sing Usher and Anoop obeyed. Oooo, I wonder what else they might have dared Anoop to do and if there’s video of it. Anoop gets cocky, like, “The judges have their opinions and I have mine, so whatever, pimps.” Bottom Three, watch and see.
Megan Joy. Singing Bob Marley’s “Turn Your Lights Down Low,” as covered by Lauryn Hill. Remember her from Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit? “This is not Elizabeth Arden, Miss Thing.” That is a good movie. Megan, however… Some of it is classic Megan. Very little, though: The warbly-quirky voice, the spastic movements. But more often than not, it’s totally off the rails, with bum notes and unpleasant sounds. I still like Megan as a concept, but the execution is faltering. The judges didn’t care for this performance. Sing Amy Winehouse. Sing Duffy. Sing things of that nature. This is the critique. The ever-wise Paula thinks Megan will do better if she sits on a stool next week. I joke you not.
Danny Gokey. Singing “What Hurts the Most” by Rascal Flatts. Everything I know about that band, I know from watching this show. And every time that band has been on this show, I have hit the fast forward button. (I’m all about full disclosure, peeps.) I don’t know if this song is literally about a dead wife, but Danny, in the subtext of his universe, somehow makes it about his own dead wife. Vocally, yeah, blah-blah, good voice. Some almost-crying at the end. But still manipulative, to a degree. I guess that’s playing the game, so good on Danny. And better he should win than Lambert. But I don’t have to like it. The judges: love.
Allison Iraheta. Singing No Doubt’s “Don’t Speak.” Dressed like the “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” video, with a bad case of bed-head. Imagine, if you will, 1984 threw up into a box of Franken Berry. Allison sounds generally good and powerful, as usual. I’m still not digging the mush-mouth thing, and still not convinced it’s due to Allison’s braces. It might just be Allison. Anyway, she plays the guitar and does her rock thing and she’s perfectly fine. The judges are lukewarm on her performance and completely befuddled by her outfit. Kara felt the performance was forced, and Simon calls it “precocious.” This is the second time he’s dealt that card. I’m not sure what it’s about, although if I had to guess, I’d say he’s annoyed at Allison for replacing his eye-candy, Alexis. Talent be damned. Alexis was a “package.” Besides, he’s investing in Lambert right now, so whatever to Allison.
Scott MacIntyre. Singing Billy Joel’s “Just the Way You Are.” Just Scott with his piano and an Eraserhead hair-do. No back-up singers or orchestra. Look, Scott is a nice fellow, but I don’t get any thrill from hearing him sing. He’s just plain okay. If this was American Idol: 1975 and he was singing Eric Carmen’s “All By Myself” or even a slice of Manilow, I could see Scott being a star. But this? Now? No. The judges are a little wowed by him, though. Which wows me.
Matt Giraud. Singing “You Found Me” by The Fray. Matt is playing the keyboard from inside the Moat. Wow, down amongst the common riff-raff. On the plus side, the Moat is no longer the exclusive domain of pretty white girls. On the negative side, it has become populated by several disinterested men and a couple of hobgoblins. Matt is good here. A little more “rock” than we usually get from him, but I really enjoy it, despite the fact that I don’t know the song. It’s not perfect, and his falsetto leaves much to be desired, but musically, this is my favorite of the night, so far. The judges feel otherwise. Matt has a “soulful” voice. He should be singing the Timberlake. The One Republic. Things like that. It doesn’t matter if he prefers singing this or Coldplay. The judges know what’s best for him, and he’s killing their vibe. They would like him to kindly cease and desist and get off the stage because Adam Lambert is coming up soon.
Lil Rounds. Singing Celine Dione’s “I Surrender.” Dressed like a bridesmaid with dull, lifeless mop-hair. Sounding middle-of-the-road okay until she can start belting, and then she almost, almost shines a little bit. Nothing to get excited about. Dull. As the weeks pass, I’m seeing a lot of wasted potential in Lil. Disappointing. Randy wants her to “young it up.” Kara, too. She wants some Mary J. Blige. Paula doesn’t want to see an adult-contemporary Lil Rounds, and Simon thought the song was too soft and old-fashioned. Yeah. All around, yeah.
Adam Lambert. Singing Wild Cherry’s “Play That Funky Music.” Really. Where to begin? His hair is slicked back to look like a plastic Elvis wig, and he’s ditched the nail polish. Those are the good things. Otherwise? He’s still eye-fucking the cameras. Then he’s, like, touching himself. And he’s howling like a baboon having an orgasm. This performance…it’s like this: I go into the steam room and sit down in something wet and sticky. Then, from the other side of the room, a big, naked fat guy looks at me and goes, “Heh, heh…find somethin’ interestin’?” That’s what this is. The judges suck out Adam’s ear wax, they love it so much. I think that performance gave me lice.
Kris Allen. Singing Bill Withers’ “Ain’t No Sunshine.” Looking cute and odd, as always. Playing the keyboard because he has to keep up with Scott and Matt. Exhibiting no personality whatsoever, but sounding thisclose to perfect. The last note is sketchy. Terrific arrangement. Very, very good. The judges praise him, which is a little surprising. “That is artistry!” exclaims Kara. Simon calls it Kris’s best performance so far. “Well done.” Ditto that, Cowell.
And there you have it. This could have been a really kick-ass, contemporary week. We don’t always get a theme like “the contestants can choose any song they want as long as it’s a popular download on iTunes.” But as usual, most of the Idols chose their songs in a misguided daze. So this is what we got.
Tomorrow, join Anoop, Megan, and Scott in the Bottom Three. Then say goodbye to Anoop. Plus, David Cook and Lady Gaga. Let’s hope for a duet, shall we?
Back to the season guide.