The end of Hollywood Week is now on the horizon. Tonight the seventy some odd contestants who survived last week’s culling will get one last chance to prove their mettle before the judges make their final selections at the Chair. After they each sing one last solo, that friendly old trope of the separate rooms will be making its annual appearance. This is also the contestants’ only chance to appear with instruments if they so choose. As this wacky show would put it, tonight these contestants are singing for their lives, because if they are not the American Idol, they will perish from the Earth.
Beginning from the End
The singing part of Hollywood Week is officially over. The contestants are all huddled together in their windowless rooms, looking by turns defeated, nervous, and sick. Even Ryan’s hair looks a little worn around the edges. The judges are already off somewhere deciding who to cut tonight, and whose conniption fit to save for the high drama of Chair Day. But someone in the editing bay was feeling a wee bit poetic, so now through the magic of Seacrest, we’ll travel back in time to the start of the solo portion of the day and handle it all flashback style. Cue the footage of much fresher-faced contestants and a peppier host elf!
First up we see Adam Lambert. Throughout the week Kara has been telling him he’s still too jazz hands to connect with the audience. But Adam says he’s versatile; he can do many things with songs, and “twist them” into something audiences will love. Proof positive: for his final bow he’s singing a weirdly ballad-ized version of Cher’s “Believe,” shrieking like a banshee whenever he says “believe” or “inside,” but the crowd all goes nuts for him and the judges seem pleased too. So I guess he was right.
We’re focusing on Dueling Piano Player Matt Giraud now, who of course chooses to play the keyboard along with his twisted, labored rendition of “Georgia on My Mind.” I may not be a fan of his affected singing style (I’m not), but Matt does have a very pretty, very smoky voice on him that’s pleasant to listen to. And his keyboarding is nothing to sneeze at either. He earns a real standing ovation from the crowd, all the judges beam their approval onto him, and out in the hall Matt gushes in his excitement over finally being able to play piano for the judges. Flashed forward into the very future we see Matt and Adam waiting in Room 1 along with Widowed Danny and his best pal Jamar.
Danny watched Jamar squeak through “Hey There Delilah,” stumbling over words and basically shooting himself in the foot in my book, because what kind of ridiculous non-song song choice is this? He sings an extremely squeaky staccato version in which every syllable is abbreviated, and it just sounds odd to me. But what do I know, because Kara loved it, and Paula too. And backstage Widowed Danny gives him a big hug and says it was amazing.
Danny himself sings “I Hope You Dance” (because he’s definitely taking advantage of having his life, and wants you to do the same) in a voice that screams “I’ve been singing all week and I am tired of singing, and yet here I am to sing for you.” He sounds a little like Joe Cocker actually. Except I mean that as a compliment. Everyone, but I mean everyone is ready to marry Danny and give him a happy life when he finishes because they love him that much.
Post-commercials, a quick montage: Noop Dogg is up on stage winning my heart by singing “My Prerogative.” Somebody named Jorge Nunez sings Ne-yo and is unimpressive, and then Blind Scott McIntyre wows just by being blind. He also sings DAUGHTRY’s song at the keyboard. I remain less than wowed by his voice, but he continues to play the keys beautifully. Good thing he’s here on Piano Idol. When he’s done with his swan song, Scott confesses that he’s feeling pretty good, and was thrilled to find that Paula stood to clap for him. Better than trying to give him a high five, I know.
Kara criticized some generic blonde girl from Texas for wearing black during her Hollywood time, because she’s supposed to be bubbly, and black doesn’t say bubbly. Kara is ridiculous.
Anne Marie chooses to sing “Bubbly” again, and again she makes it sound like an interesting song.
Now, we see Ryan sitting with Kristin McNamara, formerly of the troubled Group Night group of Drama Nate and Nancy Wilson. Ryan gets her to talk about how much better she is as a person than Nancy, and then he makes her think that Nancy’s right behind them. Kristin realizes her true nature for about half a second before realizing that Ryan has made a fool of her. Then she smiles unconvincingly. And then she shouts “Because of You” to the judges, and they smile unconvincingly.
A second-time Hollywood Rounder named Mishavona Something or Another is up again singing a smoky, earthy song I don’t recognize and sounding very wonderful. Unfortunately, she has no faith in her chances because she’s been to Hollywood and failed before. One wonders why she came again, but one is not an American Idol contestant, so one can never know.
Well, the first group has been officially moved into Room 1. They’re nervous because they don’t know if they’ve succeeded or failed. We don’t know either.
Michael Sarver, my first love Alex Wagner-Trugman, and some other guy have the bad luck of ending up in the same group as the insufferable Tatiana. Poor them. She sings “I’m Your Baby Tonight” pretty well, and uncrazily, until the very end when she gets crazy, whispering the end note over and over again. She wanders around backstage spinning and whispering about how she “did awesome.” Ugh.
Meanwhile, Alexis Grace sings whichever Carrie Underwood song it is that’s about wrecking your cheating boyfriend’s car. Jasmine Murray sings “Tattoo,” and the very dramatic Nathaniel sings “Disturbia” while a montage of his most dramatic moments plays. Bum-bum-be-dum.
The once failed Joanna Pacitti is still crying because her soul has already been crushed by the game. Her nerves are shreds, so she completely blanks on the words to “If I Ain’t Got You,” and mumbles her way through. You can see the Brooke White all over her face when she’s done.
Also having trouble is Stephen Fowler. He stayed up all night working on his keyboard playing and emoting, but he wasn’t worried about messing up the words, because he picked a very “simple song.” Because this is American Idol, he then goes on stage in front of the judges and messes up the words. He asks to start again, and then he sings and messes up again, so he just gets up and walks away. He winds up in the same room as Joanna and Alexis. And Tatiana.
Okay, so the judges are choosing, and they’re choosing, they pick up snapshots and put them down again, they say a bunch of random names and nonsensical stuff like “she didn’t bring it,” and then they soberly discuss something about having too many girls in one room. And then! an intern of some description comes and pulls Tatiana out of Room Two, and puts her in another. Oh, what could it all mean?
Yeah, The Waiting Is the Hardest Part
For a few hours now, the judges have been deliberating and splitting people into groups. Those still waiting to be placed in a room are biting their nails and considering whether or not they’ve shown the right stuff.
This time for self-reflection of course brings us to Norman Gentle, who sucked as a performance piece and sucked while taking it seriously, so I don’t know why this is supposed to be suspenseful. Anyway, he sang “Georgia on My Mind” for the judges in dumb khaki shorts and that same rank shirt, and he is as foolish and repulsive as he has ever been. Randy and Paula really liked him though. No accounting for idiocy.
Now the judges have made all of their decisions, and everyone has been shuffled into their respective rooms. Room Three includes one of my early favorites, Leneshe Young. Room 4 has Norman Gentle, so of course you’re thinking these are your losers. But wait; Anne Marie Boskovich is in there with him! So you’ll never, ever know! Until they tell you at the end of the show.
In Room Four, Anne Marie takes a little inventory and finds out that 90% of them sang “I Hope You Dance” just like she did. She thinks that may have made her blend in with the crowd in a bad way. Could be.
Junot Joyner sang “Hey There Delilah” and made me actually want to listen to it, so points. He’s also charming and affable, and he’s also in Room 4 with Norman Gentle and Anne Marie, so the scale is kind of tipping in their favor, and they’re feeling kind of tentatively hopeful, until BOOM! All of a sudden here comes Tatiana to join them. Son of a crap. Her presence makes everyone know that they have failed, because the aura of failure she carries is so strong that way.
Doors Open and Closed
Kahlan Lloyd is in Room 3 with Leneshe. She bombed her final solo though something awful; Simon cut off her “If I Ain’t Got You,” after she’d shrieked through only about half of the refrain.
Now’s as good a time as any to revisit Leneshe’s story of poverty and indomitable will, and then after many Vaseline shots of her hugging her mother and being a swell kid, she rocks that “I’m Not Gonna Write You a Love Song” song. She smiles when she finishes, so I believe she was feeling pretty confident until they put her in a room to stew for a million hours. But, thankfully, stewing time is now over, as the judges are ready to share their final decisions. Simon has
forethought enough to get while the getting’s goodan obligation of some sort to attend, so he’ll have to miss out on all the fun of the room announcements.
The rest of the judges troop directly to Room 2, where Nathaniel’s being dramatic about something or other that won’t get him any closer to winning this thing. The judges are all wearing their somber faces, and Paula’s voice is trembling as she tells them they all started out strong, but it’s easy to be inconsistent, and then some other crap designed to send them to therapy in 10 years, before telling them they’re in. Woohoo! Jumping for joy are Alexis Grace, Joanna Pacitti, Dramatic Nathaniel, Jasmine Murray, Stephen Fowler, Oil Rig Michael, and Alex Wagner-Trugman, among others whose names aren’t important.
Over in Room 3, India’s feeling pretty dismayed after hearing the rejoicing taking place in Room 2. Simon loved her style during the group round, but she fell apart during her final solo. The judges say they’re evaluating the entire week’s performance, but they always say all kinds of garbage they don’t mean, so who knows what to expect. It turns out that Room 3 are the rejects. India, along with Michael Castro and Leneshe Young, are left to console themsleves, and we see that Castro the Younger did indeed care about the competition, as being cut from it causes his face to drop instantly into despair. Leneshe on the other hand tries to pull some dignity from somewhere; she interviews that she’s been humbled by the experience and is going to keep trying to succeed, and that she is appreciative of everything that has happened to her so far. She even cracks a small smile, this is even while she must be contemplating going home to her family and disappointing them so thoroughly. I don’t know. I wish I could run the world for just a little while. Things would be mighty different in a few key ways.
And now, our final two rooms. Be filled with suspense! Ryan attempts to ramp up the drama and the portent by emphasizing how impossible it is for any reasonable person to survive Hollywood Week with both voice and sanity intact, because of all the three ring circus they put you through. How exactly are we supposed to take that?
I don’t have time to ponder, because the judges are now tripping off to Room 1, aka Room Danny Gokey. Randy begins by talking about how much he encourages people to come back and try again for another season, then he moves on to something about how much talent they collected this season, but he’s not as good at the fake out as Paula, plus Danny Gokey’s in there, so they all know they’re through. Here rejoicing in Danny’s shadow are his best pal Jamar, Jackie Tohn, The People’s Champion Lil Rounds, and Blind Scott McIntyre.
Two rooms have met with success, so the final room already knows their odds are slim. As the judges make their way to Room 4, Tatiana’s already bawling and shrieking in the corner like a maniac because she is a maniac. The judges waste an untold amount of time trying to console her, before some perceptive guy points out that the rest of them are there also in the room and actually want to hear the news, as opposed to being the center of attention on TV. Then Paula drops the knowledge that they are all actually through to the next round, Matt Brietzke, Norman Gentle, Anne Marie, all of them. Including Tatiana. Poor every one of us all.
Right. Weird Tatiana and Norman Gentle make it through and Leneshe doesn’t. Super. Anyway. Tomorrow has several gifts in store: the Elevator of Destiny, and the Chair! We’ll be in some place we’re now calling the Judges’ Mansion. I don’t want to think about it. It’s all decked out in rich carpeting and wall paper, with luxe artwork and molding, etc. And the Chair looks like a mini throne. And, apparently some people will be forced to sing just for the judges’ amusement. Okay, so it’s Idol Marie Antoinette style, and we’re finally getting our Top 36!