So, okay. Last week was a bit of a non-starter for the boys this season. There were some pretty good performances, but really, clunking around in the music of the ‘60s didn’t make anyone look too terrific. And it made some people look and sound downright awful, not that I’m mentioning any names. Other than Menard. But what a difference a decade makes! This week’s similarly vague theme of the ‘70s handed us a couple letdowns, but mainly it brought out the fight in quite a few of the boys, and probably not the ones you’d expect. I’m not one to keep you waiting for the juicy details, so as my hero Radiation Dude would say, up and let’s go!
The Australian Open
Our top 10 boys stroll out as always. Notes: Michael looks nervous, Luke looks entirely too confident, contrary to my good advice, Robbie’s still sporting the wallet chain, I covet Danny’s sweater, and I love watching David H. dance. Ryan’s really hyper tonight; he almost pops a wheelie in his zeal to introduce the band, and he’s practically making a declaration of love to Simon, calling him “the genius, brilliant King of All Media.” Somebody had a good weekend. Ryan asks Randy and Paula what they’re looking for tonight, and Randy says he hopes the boys are “in it to win it.” Man, I hope he’s writing this stuff down.
Michael Johns is first to get the chance to show what he’s in it for. But before we get to that, we have an intro package wherein Michael talks about his lifelong love of tennis, complete with beauty shots of his backhand. I said backhand. Michael says he turns to the court when music isn’t treating him right; I’m guessing his racquet got a real workout after this performance. It’s not that his cover of Fleetwood Mac’s “Go Your Own Way” is bad, it’s that it’s awful. Michael starts out wavering around the right notes and never really improves from there, screeching out the chorus and gasping for breath at the final line. Plus he spends the whole time bouncing around and looking bewildered, like, dare I say it, the drunken uncle at the wedding.
Randy, however, thought it was a nice start to the evening. He compliments Michael’s tone and choice of song, but says he didn’t quite let go and get loose with it. Paula thinks Michael’s really consistent, which would only be true if she thought he sucked last week, so what exactly is she saying? Simon, bless his heart, risks the disapproval of the audience by calling this Michael’s weakest outing yet. Michael’s just happy he got to sing Fleetwood Mac. I’m just happy he’s done.
The Innocent Abroad
Jason C. is not comfortable with the cameras. His “what about me” clip is all about how he sucks at giving interviews and answering stupid questions, which are AI’s stock in trade. Jason Castro’s place in my heart grows three sizes when he says he didn’t know there was so much non-music stuff to do as a contestant. I love when they’re naďve. Still wish he’d wash his hair though.
Jason’s guitar is making its return too, adding a little musical cred to “I Just Want to Be Your Everything.” I’ve never been a fan of Jason’s vocals, so it’s no shock to me that they’re not very strong tonight. The guitar helps him out though, as in the worst spots, you can check out on the voice and just listen to the strings, which are pretty pleasant. But this is not American Strummer. Randy zeroes in on that and says that while Jason’s whole folky persona is great, it’s hard to take him seriously in a singing competition. Paula thinks he’s cute and chose a good song, but wants him without the guitar, and Simon just calls him horrible and schmaltzy, repeatedly. Jason looks both amused and perturbed by Simon’s string of criticism; I don’t think he likes this American Idol world.
Killer of Queen
Luke Menard is on now, and he chooses to share his involvement in an a cappella group called Chapter Six, incidentally, six of the whitest looking white guys I’ve ever seen in my life. Luke says he loves singing a cappella because you have to be flawless every time. Cue a clip of him, singing “Bohemian Rhapsody” as sharp as a tack. Thanks, editors!
Luke continues his stomping on Queen’s legacy tonight by offering us the strangest, most milquetoast version of “Killer Queen” I’ve ever heard. I can’t even call it nasally; it’s like he’s singing from his epiglottis. It sounds like it hurts. Randy congratulates him for choosing a tough song and doing a better job than last week with something grander and more theatrical. Paula gushes things he doesn’t deserve. Simon thinks Luke was a pale imitation of the original; he agrees with Randy that Luke was theatrical, only Simon says “theatrical” like it’s a pejorative, and says Luke’s vocal was “verging on whiny”. I’ll say. Ryan stirs the pot by asking Simon why he’s putting words in Randy’s mouth. Who is he this season, Morton Downey Jr.?
2 Fast, 2 Spurious
Interview time! This week on the big red couch is Robbie, being asked all about how unauthentic he is as a rocker. Robbie says maybe he just doesn’t fit Simon’s definition of a rock star, but he are rock. Or something like that. We learn that Robbie does some drag racing on the side, and we get footage of him on the track as he talks about getting high off the octane and burnt rubber. That’s harder-core than a boy band, isn’t it? No? Not even a little? Okay.
Well anyway, Robbie sings Foreigner’s “Hot Blooded,” this time with no grubby cap or bandana on, and it’s not a compliment to him that I spent the entire performance trying to figure out if he’s wearing a weave. Seriously, you can’t see his scalp at all. It’s a little suspect, is all I’m saying. About the performance, it’s a bit lackluster and more than a little cheesy what with the holding up three fingers to signal his fever of a hundred and three, and stuff. Pointy poses are for boy bands, Robbie. That’s probably why Randy joined the “not rock” bandwagon this week; he says Robbie’s voice doesn’t have enough edge. Paula might as well be handing Robbie a sugar cookie and a cup of grape juice as she goes on to say that only Robbie knows who he is and it’s no one else’s place to say. There’s some more hemming and hawing, Robbie rolls his eyes, and eventually Randy says he shouldn’t be trying so hard to prove it to them, because that’s apparently not rock. Um, whoever named Randy the arbiter of what is and is not rock has some serious explaining to do.
Try, Try Again
Danny Noriega shall delight us now. He is interesting because he was once in a punk rock duo with his best girl friend. We see a couple pictures of them all glammed out, and I swear to biscuits I can’t tell which one he is. Danny confesses that his band sucked, so they quickly broke up. I wonder what that means for his tenure on this show?
Okay, Danny doesn’t suck on the Carpenters’ “Superstar,” I just wanted to make the joke. There’s much less of that obnoxious sassy affectation that I hate, but even though Danny’s voice sounds lovely as usual, the singing is entirely too overwrought and labored. Randy says he was thinking too much; Paula agrees. Simon thinks he did better than last week, but was trying too hard. Then Danny gets a chance to cut up for the cameras; he says he kinda agreed (“-ish!”) with Simon’s criticisms last week, and Simon tells him to quit it with all the neck rolling and head popping. We’ll see if he takes that criticism as seriously. I’m thinking no.
It’s David Hernandez! (Sorry.) His surprising thing is that he’s a gymnast since he was a little boy too embarrassed to be seen in the requisite leotard. I’m seriously trying to restrain myself from calling him adorable. We’ll see how far I get.
So he’s singing the Temptations’ “Papa Was a Rolling Stone,” and it might be a little autobiographical, and he starts on the stairs as the band plays the intro, and works his way downstage singing in this absolutely gorgeous, soulful voice, with a huge glory note at the end, and a flourishy jump on the final downbeat. Adorable! (Hey, I held out longer than I expected. Go me.) And never let it be thought that I am above saying told ya so: I’m totally gloating in my rightness that it was just first-night first-performer jitters that made David so stiff last week. Anyway, musically, I’m impressed by him, because this is not really a song you sing, you know? It’s more of an audio art piece, with the creative pacing and the lush instrumentation and all, but David H. totally sells the vocals to me. I admit I’m rather eager to buy the vocals, but he honestly delivers, to raves from the audience and the judges. Randy drones a million “yo’s” and deems him hot, and Paula’s in love with the purity of his voice and his personality. Simon gives him some well-deserved props for best vocal of the night and says he appreciates that David took his crit from last week and worked with it. I love how gracious and happy David is to hear that praise. But now the fawning shall cease. Please hold all comments likening me to Paula Abdul until the end of the recap. Thanks.
Tonight Jason Yeager continues in his quest to make America think he’s dull; his interesting tidbit is that he plays three instruments. Well, whoopdedoodle! This is the time to tell us you eat hot peppers for the thrill of it, for crying out loud, not that you play the piano. Congrats for having the self-taught skills, though. I’ve tried to master drum, piano, and guitar at different times in my life, and the best thing I can say is that at least I sucked quietly, in the privacy of my own room. Unfortunately for Jason, his embarrassment is playing out in front of the whole world tonight as he sings the Doobie Brothers’ “Long Train Running”. I kind of feel sorry for Jason because it’s not as if he has a terrible voice. He’s a good singer. He’s just unforgivably corny in precisely the way that the judges love tearing apart. That’s why he’s here, really, only I don’t think Jason knows it. So he gives the song his all, grinning while singing about Miss Lucy losing her family, bobbing his head like he knows he’s got soul, and bowing deep from the waist at the end like he’s an undeniable virtuoso. Oh, Jason. The judges all totally pan him, Paula too, for picking a bland song with maybe four notes and then blanding all over it, and then Jason talks at length about how he tried to change it up from last week – which, good idea – and that he’s doing his best. Poor thing. Somebody give him a hug. And maybe a sugar cookie.
The Copycat and the Sass-Back
Chikezie bears even more resemblance to Carlton Banks tonight, in his layered polo shirts. His intro clip is all about the proper way to say his Ibo name and how he changed the pronunciation so people wouldn’t butcher it, which is pretty sad. So tonight he’s singing Donny Hathaway’s version of “I Believe to My Soul,” which Elliott did two seasons ago when nobody thought it was cool. Chikezie’s all right; his voice isn’t near rich enough to make me a believer, but he’s doing a good job and clearly having a ball pointing to Simon as he says “You know my name is Chikezie.” It’s a fun, solid performance, miles away from that regrettable mess of last week. The judges are practically drooling. Randy’s happy to see the Chikezie he knows and loves; Paula thinks he was fun and brilliant. Simon changes the boy’s name to “Chi,” and says that he was worlds better than last week. Chikezie is the second guy to get to apologize for his tiff with Simon about the suit last week, and then gets in a friendlier dig about only Simon being able to repeat clothes on TV. Nice. Then Chi follows in yet another Elliott footstep, turning around to introduce Donny Hathaway's daughter Kenya, who happens to be one of the background singers. Look Chikezie, I knew Elliott Yamin. Elliott Yamin was an obsession of mine. You sir, are no Elliott Yamin.
Also not Elliott: David Cook. But David does fancy himself a “word nerd,” claiming to love crossword puzzles and fancy $50 words and etymology and whatnot. We get a short montage of him doing puzzles and saying stuff like “enamored,” “ostentatious,” and “juxtapose.” I think that last one might even be a triple word score. David growls moodily on a song I only recognize from a Gatorade commercial, but Google says it’s called “All Right Now,” which fits. He’s also twanging his electric guitar, and I’m not mad at him for trying to curry votes with it. I don’t know from guitar playing, but he sounds okay to me. And, he wins approval from Randy, who as we know is the final word on rocking. He loved David C. and pointedly calls him the real rocker – burn, Robbie! Paula compliments the house band and then calls David authentic some more. But our dear contrary Simon picks fun at David’s geeky love of words and says it evinces a lack of charisma. David in turn catches his own major case of the sass mouth that’s been floating around all season and says that it’s not Simon who’ll keep him on the show. Yeah, yeah, whatevs. This back and forth with Simon stuff is getting a little old. Or as David might say, antiquated.
And A Little Child Shall Lead Them
Oh Lord, David Archuleta. David Archuleta is cute and cuddly as a baby lamb sitting on a blanket of baby rainbows out in a field of baby daisies. True facts. He is also probably going to stomp on my last nerve before this competition is over. Fair warning. So when he was even freaking younger and chubbier and cuter, he met the season on Idols in a hotel lobby before the finale. We see old video of him singing “And I Am Telling You..." for a stunned Kelly Clarkson. Also Justin Guarini, who, hilariously, doesn’t get an arrow pointing out his existence in the video. Anyway, David took this supportive experience to heart and will cherish the memory always.
Tonight he’s closing the show with “Imagine,” a very tall order for a very young man, sure to piss off as many tons of people as it charms. The arrangement is unnecessarily slow and melodramatic, David changed the melody a bit; his vocal is entirely beautiful but much too decorated. This is a simple and earnest song, and I think an earnest and heartfelt delivery will sell it better than phrasing tricks and note-emoting every time. If I wanted to be mean, I would probably call David A.’s performance pandering. (Shout-out, David C.!) But this is “Imagine,” and this is David Archuleta singing, so I’m in a kind of cotton candy haze. I’ll just say that it was very lovely to listen to, but it didn’t pierce my soul. (Shout-out, Captain Wentworth!)
Of course, the judges are falling all over themselves to praise him – Randy says it was one of the best vocal performances ever on the show, and that David sang with maturity beyond his years. All true. Randy asks why David sang the first verse, giving the kid the opportunity to say he really feels that one the most. Paula can hardly talk through all the tears and mucus streaming down her face, but she pulls it together enough to ramble on about hanging David’s head from her rearview mirror, and she probably should’ve kept that one to herself. Simon points out the risk in covering a beloved John Lennon song, and says David pulled it off. Then he, like, pronounces David the winner of the whole deal, so why do we even need to go on with the show?
I don’t know, but go on we shall. Tonight our top 10 girls will show us what the ‘70s means to them, and disco diva AJane will be on hand to tell you if any of the girls turn in a performance worthy enough to land a spot on David A.’s tour.
What’s your cure for sass mouth? Send all home remedies here.