American Idol: Top 10: Mo is Less

“What happens when you mix the most talked about singers in the nation with some of the most influential songs in the world?” You get the Pussycat Dolls. Am I right? Tonight, the Top 10 take on the music of Motown, which is a funny word if you stare at it long enough. Leave me alone, people. It’s late. This is American Idol. I play my bongos, listen to Odetta, and then I iron my hair, dig?

Last week, Alexis Grace went home. Feel like mourning? Me, neither.

The Story of Motown: It is not actually a town. It is a place where music came from in the ’60s. I thought music came from the radio, but what the hell do I know, I’m not a radiologist. Gladys Knight and Marvin Gaye and the Jackson Five and civil unrest and cool clothes and Berry Gordy looking like a very old Willis Drummond. Stevie Wonder was to Motown what Scott MacIntyre is to American Idol, except a little more talented, a little more blind, and a little more black. It’s a lot like that movie Dreamgirls but, like, longer, and in real life. Can you imagine? There is no explanation of who “Mo” is and why there is a town which is not a town named after him.

The Idols get sent to meet Berry Gordy, big-shot record producer-slash-founder of Motown, and Smokey Robinson, who used to front The Miracles, but now mostly looks like he’s been possessed by Pazuzu. This all happens at Hitsville, USA, which, in as much as Motown is not a town, Hitsville is not a ‘ville. It’s more like a storefront-turned-museum. But there’s a recording studio inside, from The Past. The Idols are shown album covers, photos, and souvenirs of Motown’s great history. I’m sure Scott is thrilled to see those things. Lil Rounds is moved to tears because everybody else is white and they mostly just care about being on TV. Oh, and Michael Sarver is absent because he caught the croup from Megan Joy.

Later, the kids rehearse “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” at Idol Manor, probably for tomorrow’s Group Sing. Smokey is acting as their mentor. Here, generally, is Smokey’s critique of every player. “Good voice! I’ve never heard that song sung that way before! They’re gonna do well!”

So, performances, yes? Yes.

Matt Giraud. Singing “Let’s Get It On.” What is up with this pervy song? How did it get on the radio in 1960-whatever without people losing their shit? Matt plays the piano, doing his soulful pianist thing, all ballad-like. Then, in a shocking turn of events, he stands up and works the stage. Lots of nice sounds coming out of his widescreen-enhanced head, and good falsetto, used as needed. He’s wearing a Mr. Rogers sweater, but it’s better than that Members Only crap he wore at the start of the season. The judges love him because he set the tone.

Kris Allen. Singing “How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved by You).” Looking cute, despite or because of the monkey faces. Playing his guitar. Not sounding as Mraz-y as I’d like, and more inspired by the James Taylor version of the song than Marvin Gaye’s original. Paula dances like a fool. She wearing a fashion mullet. A fullet. Opera on the top, ballet on the bottom. Who wears a tutu? So yeah, Kris singing nicely but not wowing me. The judges enjoyed him.

Scott MacIntyre. Singing “You Can’t Hurry Love.” I wonder if Scott is aware that they dressed him in pink pants. Blind people should never trust their stylists. This is why Stevie Wonder looks the way he does. As usual, Scott sings from his piano. Or Matt’s. Do they have individual pianos? Hmm… He starts off slow, but with the help of three piano-side back-up singers, he picks up the pace. But it’s very whatever. Scott was never the strongest voice in this joint, and the back-up singers were never terrific on this show. So we’ve got an average sounding Idol being “enhanced” by harmonies that don’t quite help. It ends up being kinda karaoke. Simon thought the lyric “how much more can I take?” was fitting. Paula liked the chord changes in the “roboto” section. Domo arigato, Ms. Abdul.

Megan Joy. Formerly Megan Corkrey. She recently dropped her married name. Thanks for the info, TV Guide, because this show gives us nothing. Singing “For Once in My Life.” Sounding like an old, alcoholic lady, yelling at her dog for eating her cigarettes. I loves me my Megan, but this is bad. Her usual adorably awkward dancing is just plain awkward. Her voice is shouty, likes she’s straining. Megan sounded better last week, when she was diseased. Totally Bottom 2-ing tomorrow. Randy calls it a train wreck. Kara is like, “You should have sang ‘My Guy,'” and then demonstrates, with Randy, how that would have been a better thing. Yarp!

Anoop Desai. Singing “Ooo Baby Baby.” Smokey Robinson calls the song “sensual,” to which I say Smokey Robinson should never use the word “sensual” again. Anoop sounds…eh…okay. He doesn’t seem to know how to use his mic correctly. Popping his P’s and exhaling heavily. Not pleasant. The song is funeral-draggy. Way too slow of an arrangement, and Anoop just plain does not shine here. He hits some high notes, he hits some low ones, but I’m not impressed. Kara is, but wants him to push it more. Simon thought it was a little boring, but not bad, and that Anoop should work on his showmanship. Next week, watch as he reverts back to party-song mode–and gets in trouble for it.

Michael Sarver. Singing “Ain’t Too Proud to Beg.” Sounding like a dad. An out-of-touch, mildly embarrassing dad. Singing a bunch of words but being completely forgettable. Again. It’s like they sent him out to keep the audience occupied while the remaining contestants get ready to perform. He’s the warm-up Idol. Shaking hands of the Moat Girls and making screwy faces, like he’s pooping the song out of his face. The judges are like, “What?” and “No.” Paula calls the performance “Las Vegas lounge-y.” Simon says: “You’re taking part in this competition. You have no chance of winning it.” Ooo, burn!

Lil Rounds. Singing “(Love is Like a) Heat Wave” by Martha and the Vandellas. Made famous in the movie Carrie from just before Nancy Allen gives John Travolta a hummer and causes all kinds of trouble at the prom. That one little blowjob gets the whole senior class killed by telekinesis. Think about that the next time you’re told that every plot in fiction has a basis in the works of Shakespeare. (And I realize this is probably my fifth Carrie reference of the season, but there are more coming, so you’re just gonna have to deal.) So Lil came dressed as Motown, with bad ’60s hair and a cute little fringe-covered dress. The performance is mediocre, which…we’ve seen other mediocre performances from Lil before, haven’t we? Maybe she’s not as good the show made us think. She’s just kind of hollering and rushing through the song. I said it while watching, then Randy says it while judging. Do you know how that feels, having Randy Jackson co-sign your opinion? It hurts, people. It hurts. The judges, in general, are not amazed. She brought nothing of herself to the song, so Lil better fix it, in future.

Adam Lambert. Singing “The Tracks of My Tears.” Tonight, Adam came disguised as K.D. Lang. He looks just like her. I can’t complain, because dressing like a big lesbian is the closest he’s come to looking like a boy. Neatly combed hair, snazzy suit, no nail polish. Very slow arrangement, backed up by guitar. Lots of falsetto…almost completely falsetto…but so refreshing after weeks of screaming and queening all over the stage. This, honestly and without hate, is the best Adam has ever done on this show. The judges are in awe of him. Kara: “I got six words for you: One of the best performances of the night.” Counting is not Kara’s forte.

Danny Gokey. Singing “Get Ready,” because he says it’s a fun song that will get people moving. Not I, Sir Goke. Not I. He ignores Smokey’s advice to sing the “you’re all right” back-up bits. The show’s back-up girls do that. So what we’ve got is Danny, singing wedding band-style, yet again. Dancing around the stage because he thinks that’s endearing, and ultimately, being mildly annoying. Yeah, I think I’ve had enough of what Danny’s selling. Vocally, he sounds fine. Not a bad note. But I’m over his shtick. Paula loved it. Simon thought it was clumsy and amateurish. Kara loved Danny’s personality. Randy thought it was dope. Randy is a dope.

Allison Iraheta. Singing “Papa Was a Rolling Stone.” Sounding like a woman twice her age. Confident. Professional. Stage presence. A little mush-mouthy at times. Nothing major and probably due to her braces. I probably shouldn’t have even addressed it, but I’m a bitch like that. Good performance, and I don’t even like the song. The judges are more in awe of her than they were of Adam. They are totally thrilled that they gave Alexis the shaft when and how they did. Word.

Tomorrow, another sucker goes home. I think Megan Joy, Michael Sarver, and Anoop Desai will Bottom-3, with Megan going home. It’s time.

Also: Ruben Studdard returns, perhaps to say he’s sorry for “Sorry 2004.” I do not intend to forgive him.

Zoinks!
-Frank

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