Tonight, the competition phase of the show begins, as contestants perform, viewers vote, and the unpopular people go home. This is not to be confused with the earlier competition phase in which the exact same thing happened. Because this is totally different. That part had, like, 36 contestants. This part has 13. See? I told you it was different! This is American Idol. I don’t wanna be a donkey! Let me outta here!
From now on, we’re on the big stage — not the rinky-dink, low-budget one from the Semi-Finals. There are lights everywhere. Chrome railing up the ass (including Cat Deeley’s balcony from So You Think You Can Dance). The mosh pit is gone, but the center of the stage extends like a moat to the judges dais. On either side of the mote are hordes of pretty white girls. No boys. No fatties. No people of random ethnicity. This show really wants me to punch it in the face. The on-stage jumbo monitor, which usually plays screen-savers while the Idols sing, splits down the middle, revealing the judges, and later, walking down a long staircase like a big boy, Mr. Ryan Seacrest. It’s a little overwhelming when you consider how it’s all about nothing.
Randy, as always, wants the contestants to “bring it,” although he expends his thesis by adding the word “hard.” This is not a good night for Paula. She looks rode hard and put away wet. For some reason, she came dressed as Madame. The contestants take the stage, and guess what, suckers? Two of you are going home tomorrow. To play it safe, let’s hope both of them are named Adam Lambert.
Tonight’s performance theme: The Songs of Michael Jackson. There’s a bio package and shit, talking about what an awesome, creative, talented individual he is (or possibly was), but I have never been entertained by him except for the “Thriller” video and maybe during the time when that kid was like, “He touched my under-area!” and there was a wonderful chance Michael would be put down. Alas. Anyway, he bought too many gold toilets or whatever, and needs the money, so Idol coughed up the cash for his catalog and here we are.
Lil Rounds. Home destroyed by a tornado. Mother of three, with husband. Singing “The Way You Make Me Feel” wearing tight white pants and the top half of Lorraine McFly’s prom dress. Lil is really the headliner on this show, but this performance is a bit dull. She’s just singing the song, straight up, with a few, very minor embellishments. Most of the judges loved it, which is strange because it was no great shakes. Simon, always keeping it real, calls the song choice “lazy” and hates what Lil is wearing.
Scott MacIntyre. Blind since birth. Semi-blind sister. Hot brother. Been playing the piano since childhood. Singing “Keep the Faith,” which I have never heard before. Scott plays the piano, and it’s nice and gentle and soothing and, I guess, inspirational, except I’m not the kind of guy who gets inspired by crap music unless it’s by Cazwell. Scott’s voice isn’t fantastic, but it doesn’t offend the ears by any means, and he is generally likable. The audience cheers like he lifted the piano right over his head. Kara loves Scott’s “hopeful message,” because blind guy singing = amazing miracle!! The lady who wrote the song is in the audience, and Simon is like, “I hated the song.” Suck it, lady who wrote the song.
Danny Gokey. Dead wife. Huge family which apparently doesn’t believe in birth control because there are a thousand of them crammed into the living room. Annoying me exponentially as the season marches on. Singing “P.Y.T. (Pretty Young Thing).” He sounds vocally fine. Strong. Soulful. But what is this about? I mean, why this song? It’s so…dumb. Paula is dancing in her seat. Simon — Simon — is fucking smiling. Danny bops around awkwardly, but not badly enough to be embarrassing. Everybody loves him. Except me, because three quarters of this season’s batch are either tools or ciphers. You tell me where Danny lands. Paula says he’ll be in the finals. Meaning the Final 2. But whatever, that “plot twist” was scripted weeks ago. It will surprise me not. Simon says Danny reminds him of Michael McDonald. True that. Then Danny starts talking about church music, and I’m like, “See ya, Goke!”
Michael Sarver. Works on a oil rig. Loves his family. All-American. Can we chip in and buy him a new note to go with the one he’s been playing all season? Singing “You Are Not Alone.” He sits on the stage steps and is all ballad-y in his ballad. Perfectly fine, easy listening kind of voice. No major missteps. That said: Eh. The judges like him, but not too enthusiastically, because in terms of the guys, they’re all about Gokey and Lambert.
Jasmine Murray. Has many siblings. Loves the show’s “glam squad.” Hair, makeup, stylist. She thinks they’ll get to keep the clothes, but times are hard, sweets. Eliza Dushku can still use your dress over on Dollhouse. Singing “I’ll Be There.” Jasmine looks great and certainly has a nice voice — aside from her back-of-the-throat, Kermit thing — but she doesn’t really engage the audience (or more importantly, me). American did not vote her through the Semi-Finals, and can easily see that happening again. The people done spoke once already. The judges are like, “It was okay.” Simon calls her “robotic” and the audience is dead silent. Never a good sign.
Kris Allen. Hottie. Married. Married?! Married. Ugh. Loves his wife or whatever. Blah, blah. They stand in the kitchen wearing matching aprons. Witch! Evil witch! Singing “Remember the Time.” Kris is all jazzy and Jason Mraz-y (which Randy actually says in a minute, but I said it first, out loud, so Randy can lick the crank). Kris plays his guitar and sort of dances, but just from the knees down. While the vocals aren’t awesome, they’re good, and this arrangement is a little bit excellent. Look, I hate the MJ, but I’d absolutely download this version to my new iPod. Now somebody send me a new iPod. Kara points out that the girls love Kris, as do many boys, I’d reckon. She likes the guitar and the fact that he helped the other contestants out with their songs this week. Hey Kris, I need help with my song, too. It’s in my bedroom. Simon tells Kris that he shouldn’t have trotted out the wife so soon. See? It’s not just me.
Allison Iraheta. 16. Came out of nowhere, really. Big voice. Proud parents from El Salvador. Performs regularly at La Curacao, a local shopping center that looks like Costco. Odd, but at least she’s not handing out cheese samples. Not that we see, anyway. Singing “Give In to Me.” I don’t know this one, either. (And for the record, I feel no shame in not knowing obscure Michael Jackson songs. Are we clear?) Allison sounds good. She’s doing that rocker thing which the judges like, but which will forever imprison her should she want to sing some, say, John Denver on Country Night. Powerful voice on this kid. The judges re-read their Jordin Sparks notes. “You’re 16? 16?!” One can only imagine what would happen if Allison was 16, blind, and could also play the piano. Idol’s very space-time continuum might be torn asunder.
Anoop Desai. Likeable. “Last minute” addition to the Top 12, making it a Top 13. Grew up in North Carolina, but learned about Indian culture from his loving parents. Only child. Singing “Beat It.” Yes, I said “Beat It.” I could never understand the lyrics to this song, and I think Anoop has the same problem at the start. Once that issue is resolved, he starts walking up to the Moat Girls, shaking their hands like he’s Jay Leno. And…hurm…I don’t think this is that good. It doesn’t even feel like he’s singing. Or rather, it doesn’t feel like he’s making an effort. It’s all personality and no substance. Paula is like, “Nobody sings that song but Michael Jackson.” Then why the fuck is it on the list you nutjob? Simon calls it lightweight and karaoke, which I will totally co-sign. Anoop, more than once, plays the “I hope I can show you more next week” card. Hey Anoop, I like you — but don’t try to manipulate me. I’ve been watching this show since before you had pubes.
Jorge Nuñez. From Puerto Rico. Big family. Um…yeah, that’s Jorge. Singing “Never Can Say Goodbye.” Ew. He sounds like a wedding singer. You know, when they sing something slow so you can eat your entree? Like that. Look, I say this every year, but why they hell don’t they give these kids a contemporary theme every week? There should be one “Classics Night” a season. One. End of story. Because forcing these contestants to sing music from before they were born helps no one. They can’t wrap their minds around the material, the judges can’t help but compare them to the originals, and the songs have zero bearing on what people are listening to now, in the 21st century. I’d go back to talking about Jorge, but the judges have finished their steak and are criticizing him for his song choice. Jorge is basically like, “There was nothing left to pick!” And the judges are like, “Talk to the hand, you old-fashioned bitch!”
Megan Corkrey. Always liked the spotlight. Liked to perform. Never got picked, so got married instead. Divorced. Has a kid. Loves the kid. Singing “Rockin’ Robin.” All right, I’ll be the first to admit that vocally, Megan isn’t giving anyone a run for their money. But she’s so damn energetic and lively, having such a great time on stage that you can’t help but like her (and if you don’t like her, you’re wrong). She shimmies, as always, smiling joyfully, letting out a hilarious “Caw! Caw!” at the end of the song. Love this girl! Kara digs Megan’s personality, but wants to see more range. Paula felt disconnected, which is nothing new for Paula. Her wires are always loose. Simon thought it was absurd, clumsy, ridiculous, and bad.
Chef Gordon Ramsay of Hell’s Kitchen calls out his insufferable opinion from the audience, but he’s not wearing a mic, so who cares? Also in the audience: Justin Guarini, nodding his head to every word Simon says. Dude, it is too late to kiss Cowell’s ass. You lost, many, many years ago. Also in the audience: Ace Young, looking fine with his now-short hair. There’s some female hanging on his arm. Girlfriend? Wife? Girlfriend. Whew!
Adam Lambert. Theater bitch. Nail-polish-wearing. Rocker costume. Poser. Piles of fake atop a foundation of bullshit. If I didn’t know better, I’d say we were being reverse Victor Victoria-ed and that Adam was a man playing a woman playing a man. Singing “Black or White,” Adam gets David Cook’s old “rocker lights of producer support.” He struts around the stage like Judy Garland’s homunculus. Shrieking. Shriek-ing. Paula, sit the fuck down, right now! He has a blue streak in his hair. Christ! Is that a wallet chain? Can I please hit him now? There is some piercing, painful, and awful caterwauling happening at the moment. Objectively, I can’t conceive how anyone can listen to this and a) find it pleasurable and worse, b) consider it good. It, as they say in France, is grand ass. Ugh. The audience leaps to their feet and applauds like Jim Morrison and Jimi Hendrix have risen from the dead and announced their appearance at Woodstock 2009. Paula is beside herself. Sit. The fuck. Down. “Take it, take it all in,” Paula cries. (Incidentally, that’s not the first time Adam has heard those words.) She says that she believes, with all her heart, that Adam will be in the finals. Simon loved it. The other two assholes loved it. Randy calls Adam “current and right now.” If that’s current and right now, please don’t let tomorrow come. Am I the only one not drinking the Kool-Aid? Is this a gag? Un-fucking-real.
Matt Giraud. Dueling pianist. Wears hats like Timberlake. Shouldn’t wear hats like Timberlake. Plays ping-pong with his dad. Singing “Human Nature.” Matt, like Blind Scott, plays the piano while he performs. If he is going for a Justin Timberlake vibe, he’s halfway succeeding. He’s not as polished as Justin, but there’s a similar, soulful tone to his voice. This isn’t bad. He won’t see the light of the Final 2, but he’ll live for a few more weeks. The judges are like, “You’re standing in the shadow of the great Adam Lambert, Defender of the Universe and Clutcher of Pearls. But ye shall be allowed to pass unto our Realm.”
Alexis Grace. Has a hippie father. And a kid. And a boyfriend who is the father of that kid. Not married. She wants to accomplish her dream. The kid will work it out. Singing “Dirty Diana.” First of all, she’s wearing formal shorts over black tights and high heels. Honey, this isn’t the touring company of Chicago. Go read the first paragraph. This is American Idol. Vocally, she’s good, I guess. Gruff. Doing the rocker thing. Here’s the problem: I don’t like the musical theme. Here’s the other problem: I don’t like Alexis. Not even a little bit. So she could sing rainbows and daisies and I won’t enjoy her in any regard. But she’s talented, and we’re stuck with her. I will say this: put her against Lambert in the final two, and I will break my dainty fingers making sure she wins. (In the interests of full disclosure, I would vote for a dirty sweatsock before voting for Lambert. Just want to be clear on that.) The judges like her. More than Allison? No. Not at all. Interesting. Looks like the rocker die has been cast in Allison’s favor.
Seacrest gives out Alexis’s voting number, stressing to dial carefully, but not telling us that number originally assigned to her, which ended in IDOLS-13, connected you to a phone sex hotline. Her new number ends in IDOLS-36. He also tells us that there’s a twist coming tomorrow involving the judges and a change in the rules. “It could alter the face of the competition.” What? Will the judges have Veto Power over the results? Can they save the person (or people, in tomorrow’s case) getting bumped? Or will it be something simple, like, Kris Allen Must Sing Naked. Let’s all hope for that one, shall we? The other would suck a great deal.
Who goes home? Jasmine Murray, because I don’t think she’s wanted, and Alexis Grace, because we already have a better flavor of her in Allison Iraheta.
Back to the season guide.