Warning: I’m on a post-Easter, cheap jellybean high. What? I can quit any time I want! And I will, when they stop being 75% off. Anyway, I needed those sugary, pectin-packed pellets to get me through this disappointing evening. Because basically, tonight everybody tried to make a statement about “who they are in this competition,” and those comfy little boxes are a pretty good way to make sure that you aren’t as exciting or interesting as you could be. But, the kids did sing, and I am engaged to tell all about it, and I am sort of in my right mind, so let’s go!
As Sure As You’re Boring
The judges are here, Ryan’s here, and all the top 10 are rarin’ to sing songs from the respective years in which they were born. But before we get into all that, there is something of huge import that I must deal with first: Paula’s gloves. Fingerless, long, black sheaths of rubber, covered in gold and silver bangles and spangles? I don’t know; maybe she thought she’d be asked to give a performance back in 1982. Otherwise, I’ve got no idea. But at least they match her bedazzled unitard. I’m sure you already know what Simon’s wearing, but if you don’t you can just ask Chikezie. And I rather like pretending Randy doesn’t exist, so I’m just going to do that here.
To celebrate the general theme of birth and music, all the contestants’ parents are on hand to talk in the intro packages about their children’s birth and love of music. We begin with Ramiele, who had the good sense to beat everyone to the punch by nicknaming herself Lullaby, but the bad sense to appear tonight in high-waisted gabardine shorts and a bulky knit top. Her parents talk about her outgrowing a love of biting other children through the power of music and singing, and that is seriously the strangest “coming of age” anecdote I’ve ever heard.
So, Ramiele says she wants to prove that she belongs on this stage, and honestly, there’s no song more appropriate for American Idol, such as it is, than the over-familiar, karaoke-friendly “Alone.” Ramiele tries her best to find some glory in the notes, but she soon starts wavering around the right pitch, and completely loses tone altogether once she tries for volume on the chorus. Then the background singers out-sing her, which is more their fault than hers, but it still doesn’t sound good. Randy immediately informs the audience that Rami is sick, but says he still didn’t like it and that Carly did Heart better. Paula reinforces the sick excuse and calls her brave, and says “big talent in small package,” blah, blah, blah. Simon liked it better than Randy, and says there’s no question she’ll get through because she’s been much more horrible than that before. That’s like the meanest backhanded compliment I’ve ever heard, but no one on stage seems to pick it up. Randy and Simon bicker about who is meaner or richer or more relevant and they both lose, and then Ramiele gets the chance to say her voice “went bye-bye,” which is too sugary even for me.
Jason Castro is up now. He talks about his baby self as exactly like he is now, only pudgier, and then his parents talk about him rocking out on the baby guitar when he was a baby, along with his brother on key-tar. I love the word key-tar. But tonight Jason’s going with a boring old guitar, singing Sting’s “Fragile,” a song I don’t know. Jason strums and sings in his own fragile voice, and the audience claps along robotically, and it’s very much a “Jason” performance, which if you love him, you will love. Randy loved his song choice, but thinks Jason didn’t do anything really interesting and is waiting for him to really sing. Paula calls Jason’s same-yness staying true to himself, but kind of maybe disses him? by saying Jason is “safe in his zone.” Can’t tell with Paula. Simon disses him full stop by saying this is Jason’s second bad week, and he doesn’t believe Jason is taking this thing seriously. He says Jason is like some random busker out in the subway station, which is pretty harsh, mainly because of its ring of truth. Simon caps it by saying that Jason is better than what he gave tonight. Ryan then compels Jason to prove that he is taking this competition seriously, and Jason shrugs and mumbles something about being serious, but too laid-back, but totally serious. Extremely convincing.
“I was born in Bridgeport Connecticut, on a cold winter’s night, on January 2, 1987,” says Syesha with much self-satisfaction. Gross. All that’s missing is her reflection of the heavens opening up and the voice of the Lord saying, “Verily, all the world shall love this child and think she is adorable!” Yeah. I don’t remember ever being so bothered by anyone on this show before, so congrats for that, Syesha. She and her parents talk about what a little attention-seeker she’s been since she first drew breath. Then she sticks right to her little diva plan by singing Stephanie Mills’s version of “If I Were Your Woman,” thus completing her creepy triple crown of big home-wrecker songs. To be fair, this is Syesha’s prettiest and most restrained performance to date, and she shows a lot of skill in flitting easily from low to high ranges and back again. Then she breaks out with the loud near the end. Randy and Paula give her a tongue bath and say she’s now an official dark horse. Simon thinks it was the best out of the three so far, but says the song stretched her vocal limits. Syesha giggles and plays coy, and is still just nauseating to me.
The Quiet Storm
Ryan makes Chikezie apologize for all of his song choices so far, and then Chikezie says he’s going back to R&B ballads because that’s what he loves and who he is. Also, Chikezie was an adorable baby. We see his big head and bigger smile in all of the pictures that flash on screen while his parents talk about him singing and being cute before he could even really talk. In an effort to be himself tonight, Chikezie’s singing Luther Vandross’s version of Brenda Russell’s “If Only for One Night,” and proving that he has a very warm and capable voice that doesn’t hold a candle to Luther’s. His performance is very pleasing and very controlled, but his voice is not nearly rich enough to fully sell it. Randy says he sounded dated and a little boring. Paula disagrees and says throwbacks are sometimes okay and compliments his vocals, but no one listens to her so what does it matter; Simon says he looked cheesy. Ha, I almost typed “Cheezy.” Too much reading the boards.
Call the Police!
Brooke White is a fellow June baby; Gemini stand up! We get to see pictures of her big family looking like the stars of a J.C. Penney’s catalog, and her parents talking about her as a baby piano prodigy who knew how to play songs by ear as soon as she sat down to the keys. That’s pretty impressive. Not so much is her rendition of “Every Breath You Take.” I didn’t mind the false start and the missed note at the beginning, because that stuff happens, and the first half of the song was very pretty and subdued, but then it all turned into a kind of corny slab of telephone waiting music, with the speed picking up and the band joining in with a little too much synth. Randy liked her professionalism in not falling apart but just quickly starting over when she missed that first note, but didn’t like the band in the arrangement. Paula loves that Brooke is unique and praises her consistency. But Simon agrees with Randy about the band and with me about the tempo. I’m really amazed at how in sync I am with the judges this week, especially Randy. I would be a little ashamed, but I’m on a sugar high; what else can I say.
To The Arena Born
Ryan’s frittering around with the judges’ Coke cups in an effort to get us to care that there’s a contest to redesign them. Then he makes a big show of Simon’s cup being empty. Paula, to my infinite surprise, starts to make a joke about how Ryan’s lucky he went for that cup, but leaves off and then just reaches to take a sip from her own. That minx! I wish she’d gotten the chance to finish her bit of self-awareness. That would’ve made me forever her girl.
But instead we have to move on to Michael and his parents talking about how competitive Michael always was at cards, tennis, and now music. I guess it fits that tonight he’s come out swinging, with Queen’s legendary arena two-fer, “We Will Rock You/We Are the Champions.” Mike looks so excited to still be there, and he gets a genuine rock star light show to go along, with strobes and blinding spotlights waving all over, and bright stars flashing all over that screen in the background, and his performance bears it all up; he totally ricks the crowd. True, they’re kind of easy, but Michael’s performance really is pretty much the best we’ve seen of him since Hollywood. And no, Michael is no Freddie Mercury, but he’s not Luke Menard either, so good for him. Randy calls it his best performance ever, and Paula and Simon agree that Michael finally had his moment.
Carly now. She talks about being Irish and growing up in Ireland, and her mother talks about naming her daughter after Carly Simon because her song played on the way to the hospital. Lucky for us all it wasn’t Kajagoogoo on the radio that day. Carly always wanted to be a superstar, and her mother always knew she could. Got that? Tonight Carly is singing Bonnie Tyler’s “Total Eclipse of the Heart,” in her trademark black sheath and leggings. It’s your basic performance of this song, and I believe everyone on Earth knew that Carly would sing it tonight and knew exactly how she would do it, so yeah.
Randy liked it but didn’t love it, didn’t believe it, and says Carly was sharp on her final note, as well she should be with all the effort it took to produce. The way she was crouched over in that tight dress I wouldn’t be surprised if her abdomen was bleeding. But Paula likes Carly as a pop rock diva, and says her ending shows that Carly is willing to push herself. Indeed. Simon says Carly sang well, but it didn’t all the way work because Carly was uptight and trying too hard. He cautions her to lighten up, and then Carly, weirdly, says something about having gone to the bathroom, and then Ryan, grossly, says something about her flushing. I think they all need to go through a more intense “awkward moments” training than whatever they have done. This is live TV for crying out loud.
Up With David
And now the audience screams like mad, because David Archuleta is in the interview stool. Ryan asks David who he would take to his school’s prom, and he’s a little flustered and says he doesn’t want to say. Ryan innuendoes that there’s a cute young girl out there sitting next to his father. I can’t even believe David would have a girlfriend, and that brings me to the realization that nothing about this kid says 17. Not his demeanor, his taste in music, anything. If I were to come to this contest completely ignorant of its rules and everything, I would seriously guess he was a twelve year old. It’s kind of sad.
Anyway, David and his family talk about how cute and lovable he was and is. Then he comes out to sing something called “You’re the Voice,” which I’ve never heard of but Wikipedia says has been covered by people as diverse as Heart and Rebecca St. James. With such broad versatility I think it’s a safe bet that this song means nothing. It is full of corny sentiment though, “we’re all someone’s daughter/we’re all someone’s son,” “we’re not gonna sit in silence,” and so on, let’s all get up and make the world a better place, whatever. David’s voice sounds good though.
Randy says the song was wack, but that this proves David can sing anything. Paula is similarly puzzled, and jokingly chides David for picking a song by a foreigner. Right, after two solid weeks of the Beatles. The girls in the “mosh” pit are really distracting and keep screaming and trying to get David’s attention. It’s extremely annoying. Simon knows the song but hated the show anyway and thought David belonged in a theme park with that performance. I think he’s closer to the point than he knows, because I can totally see an Idol Land, complete with attractions like the Fantasia Sales Rollercoaster and the Taylor Hicks Mystery Age Vortex. And just to the right of the Jordin Sparks cotton candy stand, dozens of creepy manchild dolls bouncing around singing “It’s An Archuleta World After All.”
But that fevered dream of tourist attraction will have to wait, because it’s time for Kristy Lee Cook to warm your evening. She and her parents talk about her always singing and getting on their nerves, but now they love to hear her sing. Well at least somebody does. So. Yeah. Tonight Kristy Lee is singing “God Bless the USA.” (Don’t mention the war.) I will spare you my personal opinions about this song and instead just focus on why Kristy singing it here makes me want to smack my head against a wall: because it is a cheap and pandering way to ignite support, worse than David A.’s generic inspirational stuff. “I love America, in a vague way, about freedom, or something, so I am the Idol?” Girl, please. It’s only right too, that this should be her strongest vocal yet, because we’ll get the feeling that in spite of her dead eyes she really believes this and is your American Dream, so please vote for her. Ugh. But even a strong Kristy Lee vocal contains massive traces of suck, so despite all the flag background and red, white and blue lights, and fireworks and divine light from above and whatever, it’s not like she’s going to win now or anything.
The judges are all over themselves to say they love the song and love the song choice, and everyone compliments her voice while saying she had pitch troubles. Simon calls this the best performance ever and says it was a brilliant song choice and she’s like “Yay!” and I can’t figure out if she’s really that cynical, or that gross. Simon I’m sure of, though.
David Cook is closing the show, and perhaps some hard rock chords will knock the malcontentedness out of me, because you know he’s got them ready. David talks about his huge egg-like cranium that has been with him since he was an infant, and his mother talks about how he has been posing with his guitar like a rock star, since he was a wee boy in shades and short shorts, so this is what he’s always known and who he is, and rocking is in his blood, in case you didn’t get it yet. Ryan takes care to point out that David is doing Chris Cornell’s version of “Billie Jean,” and then David does it, causing all the mosh pit girls to wave their hands back and forth and scream like ninnies. I am appreciating David’s voice more and more as we go on. But I am tired of him doing the same rocking out on some “unexpected” song that someone else has already spun for him, and getting praised for being original. The judges are not tired of that. They all call him brilliant and creative and original and brave and Simon says he is going to win. The young girls scream and David disclaims, but I also get the feeling he believes it all.
Anyway, the replay comes and reminds me that Ramiele sucked mightily tonight and will probably be going home, Jason Castro likes playing the guitar, Syesha likes big earrings and bigger notes, Chikezie is not Luther but who is, Brooke is not perfect, Michael maybe can do a good job sometimes, Carly really wants it, David A. is very young, Kristy Lee might be an evil genius, emphasis on evil, and David Cook’s throat probably hurts a lot right now.
This was indeed a lackluster night; that makes two weeks in a row, which is a shame. They all showed such promise in the semis, but tonight was just pointless. Although it was kind of fun being divorced from all sense by mind-altering substances. Now I see why Paula does it. Wheeee! I’m off to finish the rest of my sugar hoard, but please stick around for the results because the truly brilliant, original, and brave AJane will be on hand with all the details of Ramiele’s or Kristy Lee’s elimination, plus K-Lo comes back to teach these peeps what singing is.
Anyone able to sedate those chicks in the mosh pit will earn my eternal devotion, and maybe a few bucks too. We can talk more about compensation later, but get the job done first.