Welcome, everyone to the penultimate performance episode of Celebrity Duets! We are down to our final five contestants, and tonight is the last night our wannabes get to strut their stuff before the big finale, so expect a lot of straining, a lot of up-stepped showmanship, and a whole lotta begging. Wayne bounds out and works the crowd with that familiar grin and the even more familiar speech about how the celebrities are famous but not for singing, and so on, and so on, and scooby dooby doo. Last week, Carly floundered without her BFF Anita Pointer, and was voted off after her ear-grinding duet with Pop Puff Jesse McCartney. Wayne reminds us that two of our hopefuls will be eliminated this week, which puts extra double plus pressure on certain people who probably should’ve been gone weeks ago. You know who you are. Cheech.
We meet our judges Marie Osmond, Little Richard, and David Foster yet again, but really it’s like the first time every time with them. For instance, tonight Marie is holding up a creepy paper doll, giving us a key to her rich inner-life as a 7 year old girl in 1893. And Wayne inexplicably dubs Little Richard the “King Of One-Liners,” so we now know that Richard is perfectly willing to pay people to say flattering things about him. Enlightening, eh? Almost enlightening enough for me to wish they’d scrap the whole singing thing and let us watch a one-hour psych session with our judges. But something tells me Richard’s inner monologue isn’t quite ready for primetime TV, so nevermind.
It’s time for singing! Jai is up first, and he’s been having a little performance anxiety. Last week he hammed it up with Taylor Dayne, but was disappointed with himself; he knows he could’ve done better. He’s nervous again this week, after being paired with a bigger diva. Jai struggles a bit to find his key in rehearsal, because he doesn’t read music, and all in all is pre-performance demeanor has got me worried.
But once again, there’s no sign of the nerves as Jai takes the stage. In a costume apparently borrowed from Vegas production of Newsies that no one told me about, Jai’s a ball of energy singing “Lady Marmalade.” I know who his partner is! No disrespect to Jai but I can already hear the descants from offstage, and soon enough Patti Labelle is out there tearing things up. I’m not feeling her black leather renegade ballerina’s tutu, but I love Miss Patti’s voice. Some people don’t care for all of her vocal gymnastics and glass-breaking belts, but those people aren’t me. They hear screaming; I hear awesome power. Patti sounds great, and Jai does a really commendable job of trying to keep up with her, although he does lose the pitch when he tries to trade licks with her. Seriously, I think this was a set up. Hardly anyone on Earth can stand on a stage with Patti and not be dwarfed by comparison. Still, Jai is in good voice, and I think he pulled off a good performance.
Marie begins to give her verdict, but David interrupts and says he wants to go first. What’s this, some middle-child syndrome I see rearing its head? David says in Jai’s world he killed it. Nice. Richard says Jai makes him scream like a white lady. (Please direct all complaints to Richard’s personal address, 123 Nutso Street, He’sCrazyVille, CA.) Marie doesn’t get to do anything else but give a little scream of approval.
We come back from to commercials to see little Carly sitting in the audience. I still have a bit of residual “Aww.” left for her from last week, but I remember that she’s really seriously serious about putting out an album, so the warm-fuzzy is fleeting. Carly wishes everyone luck, and I hope maybe she’ll decide she’s content to sit in the audience and cheer for other people singing.
It’s Lucy’s turn to shine now. She was the number one vote-getter last week, and she’s worried about keeping that momentum. She took some time off to play with her kiddies this week, but she’s still very much in competition mode. Lucy wants to stay on top, so she’s determined not to get complacent. Tonight she’s giving it her all, singing that old pop chestnut “Right Here Waiting” with the perfect equilibrium of schmaltz and commitment to the schmaltz. Richard Marx suddenly appears from under the stage to lend some credibility and ooey-gooey love eyes, and together he and Lucy offer up a pleasing enough rendition, with no real vocal dust-ups to speak of. Marie compares Lucy to Marilyn Monroe, queen of the non-singers that people liked to hear sing, and that’s a pretty satisfying compliment. Richard has dubbed himself Judge Beauty, and says the beauty is on duty tonight. He thinks Lucy did a good job. David says the song was perfect for Lucy, and she did a great job. Applause all round, then.
“I Wanna Rock!” Yes, Hal, We Know.
Last week David Foster almost got himself into a rumble when he said that Hal Sparks is not a rock star. Hal basically gives a big old “Pfffft!” to that and dismisses David’s words, because David does not know the rawk. David knows the Celine. Hal’s been going out to rock clubs this week and says he knows in his heart that he is a rock star. Hey, CBS, let’s next summer find Hal a band, why not? That’d be pretty awesome. Since he’s been in the bottom three before, Hal knows he’s in a precarious situation. It’s a crucial week for him.
The producers finally seem to have pinpointed his niche, so this week Hal is rockin’ out to the hair metal anthem “We’re Not Gonna Take It.” He’s in front of the judges’ dais playing a guitar even. I don’t know from rock guitars, but he gets some chords out, and they sound like chords, so that's something. Hal is soon enough in seventh heaven as Dee Snider joins him and totally enables all Hal's rock star fantasies. They then totally rock the house, all kinds of horns are up and about in the audience, and I think I even see a couple of heads banging. Take that David Foster! Marie loves his attitude, but says he needs to work on getting more tone and depth into his screams. Judge Beauty points out that Hal, in his eyeliner, white blouse, and black, brass-buttoned coat, resembles Prince. Richard complains that no one ever asked his permission to change rock from the music that he originated and architected and innovated. Hal is obviously in the mood to humor him, because he politely asks permission, and Richard gives his blessing for Hal to “tear it down!” David wants to get Hal in his studio and show him that he can sing better than he has on the show. Can’t wait to see that footage. Can you say tension?
Skiddly Bop Shoo Wop-op Cheech!
Yep, Cheech is still in this thing. He’s survived so far on the strength of his charisma, but last week the judges were unanimous in their opinions that Cheech is past his expiration date here. So Cheech is now resolved to have as much fun as possible with the competition. Sounds like a good idea to me. If you know you’re gonna go, you might as well go out having a good old time.
To wit: he sings “Mornin’” with Al Jarreau, and I don’t think he hits one true note during the whole thing, but darned if he isn’t up there smiling and grooving right along with Al Jarreau’s supreme jazzy fabulousness. Cheech can’t compete with Al’s charm, or his super-scatting skills, but he’s right in step with him playing the role of the cool old grandpa who gets up to sing at the family reunion. Al is just absolutely precious, giving Cheech some dap and a vote of support as he exits the stage. Marie says she loves Cheech, and since she wants to keep it brief she’ll give her time to David. Richard, who I’m sure has no real concept of time, goes on and on with a lot of whooo-hoooing and says he didn’t know Cheech could sing jazz. David says Cheech has a lot of balls to get up on stage and sing a song he wrote with Al Jarreau, but he loves Cheech for it. Yes, but where’s Cheech’s invitation to the studio?
David Foster Wrote Everything There Ever Was
Apparently. Alfonso Ribeiro is riding high on the waves of his triumph last week, when he wowed the crowd with sweet songbird Deniece Williams, but this week he wants some more glory. He’s purposefully chosen a tough song -- excuse me, a tough song written by David Foster. Alfonso knows David is disposed to be extra critical of someone singing a song he wrote, but he wants to prove that he can handle the challenge. Alfonso doesn’t just want to come in second. He wants to win, and he’s doing whatever it takes to make it to the finale and come out on top.
It seems what it takes is some big, red, diva power; tonight Alfonso is singing “Through The Fire” with r&b legend Chaka-Chaka Khan let me rock you, let me rock you Chaka Khan (that one’s for you, SFG!). The song and the partner are certainly a tall order, but Alfonso slides right in and delivers an excellent performance. His voice is rich and even, and he doesn’t wander off key when Chaka pulls out some of her renowned vocal histrionics. The ending is especially terrific, a precise and perfectly blended vocal punch. He does a remarkably good job, a great job, and totally validates my unwavering devotion to him in this competition. Everyone is on their feet cheering, and this is the first performance all season that I’ve instantly rewound to watch again. It is awesome. Also, it’s Alfonso’s birthday. Has to be a nice one. He shall not be eliminated, says I.
David is first to give him his props, and he doesn’t hesitate to say that Alfonso rose to the occasion and sang the heck out of the song. Marie thinks it was a great duet, and says that Alfonso and Chaka looked like they’ve been singing together for years. She praises Alfonso for consistently giving good performances, and says he was perfect tonight. Judge Beauty says he’s been seeing Alfonso do the white boy dance for years, but tonight he did the black boy dance. Hey HEY Hey! [/Rerun] That’s some serious praise, and Alfonso looks pleased as punch with the whole world. Happy Birthday to you!
Patti II: Return Of Labelle
Since we’re down to 5 contestants but the show still has to take up an hour of airtime, we’re closing tonight with a special performance by Patti. I am loving her cinnamon-bun hairdo and rather want a cinnamon-bun now, but I digress. She’s singing “On My Own,” and I experience the simultaneous wishes of Michael McDonald not being there, and Wayne joining her on this song. You’d think it was my birthday, because both my wishes come true! Patti and Wayne are actually really great together; their tones are really well-matched, plus Wayne knows his way around a microphone. It’s a great duet, and each complements the other, and I am happy. Wayne is happier, because Patti touches his butt as they close. Happy birthday to you too Wayne!
Be sure to check out PhoneGrrrl’s excellent results recap to see who but Alfonso is on the chopping block.
The Carlton dance is imminent! All of you Carlton voters, let me know where to send your checks. firstname.lastname@example.org om