The “most talked about singers” plus the “most influential songs,” says Ryan. He’s half right. I’ll let you guess which half. It’s Motown Night in Idol Land, meaning not that you get to stand in line for a Velvelettes 45 and a churro, but that our 10 remaining tour bound contestants get to dig deep within themselves and pull out their soul. Oh yeah.
Motown Sounds Fine
Judges strut; Ryan descends. Paula’s dressed as a prima ballerina Barbie tonight, in case you wanted to know. The shocking elimination of ALEXIS GRACE should still be lingering in your memory. If not, imagine Ryan interviewing the judges about how awful it must have been for Alexis to stand there and be double-rejected. They talk about how hard it was for them to cut her. Superstars, all.
Motown was the best music in the world for a good long while there. 2009 marks the label’s 50th anniversary – here’s hoping it can be a rebuilding year. Motown, we miss you. Every time I hear Berry Gordy’s name I expect to see Obba Babtunde. That, my friends, is called acting. But the real Berry Gordy speaks during this lovely tribute montage all about Hitsville, the hits that were made there, and how hard Motown used to hit it. This is one montage I actually watched because I can’t get enough of this music or old black and white archival footage that is used to represent it.
The remaining Idols actually got a guided tour of Hitsville courtesy of Berry and Smokey Robinson, including Studio A. Bastards. Kris Allen looks over the moon to be breathing there. Allison shares her love of “Papa Was A Rolling Stone,” Lil Rounds absorbs history and is forever changed, and then they get to sing in a room with Smokey Robinson. Bastards. I love you, Smokey! Even with the hair texturizer, but we should really talk about that. Also, tonight in the audience: Smokey and Berry. No pressure.
Marvin Gaye Double-Header
Singing now! Matt G. is inaugurating this theme, and in honor of it his haiir’s been texturized too. He’s gone for “Let’s Get It On.” During rehearsal, Smokey thinks Matt does the song more than justice, especially his falsetto moaning. Yeah, that takes an artiste. Smokey pays Matt the ultimate compliment as he says that Marvin Gaye himself would love hearing his version. During rehearsal.
Not so much during the show, I don’t think. He starts out at the piano, attempting to establish a sexy groove, which is thwarted by his overwrought groans. And then he gets up to work it, and by work it, I mean “throw in a bunch of unnecessary wails and trills, while hovering around the proper notes.” He’s trying entirely too hard to be sexy, when sexy should be effortless. Marvin was smooth. Marvin’s voice was rich and buttery. This is margarine. I do not like it.
The judges do! Kara thinks people now want to get it on with Matt and wishes he would’ve done more crappy interpretive crap than what he did. Whatever Kara. Paula compliments Matt on his “sexy-cool” vibe and says that while some people – although she’s not mentioning names – can overdo the runs and trills and whatnot, she thought Matt’s were tasteful and respectful of the melody. Whatever, Paula. Simon: “Brilliant” song choice to which Matt’s voice is perfectly suited. Eh. It’s not the first time we’ve disagreed.
Kris Allen and his guitar swan into the rehearsal room now, and proclaim their intent to perform “How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved by You)”. Smokey thinks the purity of the melody is its biggest asset, and Kris agrees as he sings it very prettily. And, you can actually hear Kris’ guitar during rehearsal so, snaps. Smokey is positively tickled by Matt; I mean really, he’s giddy –high-fiving him, grinning, giggling, and insisting that Kris never change a thing. Kris is Happily Ever After for everyone.
And then here’s the band, and mic feedback! Awesome. I liked Kris’ performance a lot; he has a definite boy band affect with a just big enough schmear of coffee shop loser to keep me from being ashamed of liking him. Kara thinks Kris was Kris tonight, and we’re back to hearing her say artistry all the time. Paula loved the song choice, thought his energy was infectious, and was impressed somehow by the wobbly high note he ended on. Simon thinks Kris is great, but wants Kris to think Kris is great. He says, and I quote, “To be a star, you’ve got to be conceited.” Oh, Simey. If that were all it took my entire junior high chorus would be supergiants this very day.
Put a Ring On It
Whoever dressed Scott in a brown pinstriped jacket, rust-colored paisley shirt and dusty rose pants? It’ll come back to you. Just know that. So Scott’s getting his Ry Chat out of the way and they mostly gab about how Scott is going to sit at the piano always and forever. He’s decided to defy Paula, who warned him away from so much piano playing because this is
Top Chef, not Top Sommelier/Scallop/Bimboa singing competition. (Also, how does Scott always know where to look? He looks right at Paula as he says he loves her. That’s so cool.)
“You Can’t Hurry Love.” He’s balladized it, or so it sounds, but Smokey thinks Scott has done a great job making the song contemporary. Scott says he’s singing it ‘cause he ain’t got no ladyfriends right now, so it’s fitting. All the single ladies? Holla. So Scott. Starts off as a balld, and then he Jerry Lewises it and the backup singers are all right there doo-wopping it, and it’s really cool, but Scott still can’t sing. Paula mumbles some stuff because she’s incapable of criticizing him, but Simon is not so interested in appearing loveable: he dings Scott for his corny piano and says the song choice was all wrong. Randy says “hotel.” Kara can’t hardly wait for her turn she’s whining and interrupting everyone, when all she really wanted to say was hooray for faster tempo. Ryan asks Paula to compare Scott to the other two, and she says he brings something different than either of them. That something remains undefined, as Paula grows tired of Simon needling her, reaches under the table and presents him with coloring books and crayons. I think he’d have preferred Paint-By-Number, but maybe she doesn’t like him that much. Ryan helpfully explains to Scott that thanks to the judges’ egos nothing that happens on this show is about him.
It’s time for inappropriate sexual innuendo you don’t care about! This week’s installment comes after commercials as Ryan tries to find out more about Crayola-fest 2009. Paula helpfully inform us that she gave Simon the choice of coloring either pirates or daisies and pickles. Ryan quietly says, “I know which one he’ll choose.” Cue spontaneous laughter, aaaaand cut. Next Ryan asks Paula if there are any other hidden prizes in store. She says they’re under her skirt, and then blanches like she didn’t mean anything dirty. Cue shocked squeals, Simon moving to cover Paula’s mouth, aaaaaand scene.
Meanwhile, Megan meets Smokey and tells him she’ll sing “For Once in My Life.” Smokey calls her cabaret, but he means it as a compliment. He thinks Megan makes everything her own just by dint of her having a unique voice. Ryan makes sure we know Megan’s no longer sick, thereby pulling the rug of excuse out from under her for this awful performance that follows. Nice one, Seacrest. An interesting voice can only take you so far; if you can’t hit the proper notes with it, it sounds just as crappy as anybody else who can’t sing. Megan will surely get the “you look amazing” slap though, because she does in a pretty light blue bubble dress and flirty updo. So at least there’s that. Randy says he has mad love for Megan, just so you know he’s still alive and stuff. Kara speaks to Megan as if she were 10 years old while explaining that she should’ve chosen “My Guy,” or something that lends itself to a jazzier swing. Bad notes, bad phrasing, bad rhythm, you should die. Paula calls her “a stunning beauty,” and says “the camera loves you.” Shoot. If I’d have bet on it I’d be a millionaire right now. Simon says, “Oh dear, dear, dear,” and counsels her to fire whoever is helping her choose her songs. He predicts that Megan will be in serious rouble come elimination time. So it is written, so shall it be done.
Opiate of the Masses
ANOOOOP is shaking his hips like a geekwad as we fade out to commercial, so I guess he’s next. In front of Smokey Robinson and God and everyone, Anoop declares his intention to sing “Ooo Baby, Baby.” This choice I don’t understand. I love this song, but on this show it has the potential to of being vocal laudanum.
However! This song choice does lead us to a nostalgia-filled anecdote about how Smokey and the Miracles came up with this song out of the blue one night on stage during their traditional medley of love songs, as Smokey started improvising and the Miracles fell into that gorgeous harmony right after him. I continue to appreciate genius.
True to my prediction, out on stage Anoop’s as dull as driving through Iowa. (Sorry, Iowans. Love those Maid Rites though!) He does show off the strongest falsetto to be found among the men this season, so that’s nice. Matt especially should be taking notes. Paula applauds Anoop for singing in front of two legends, and calls his phrasing and falsetto very sweet and tender. Simon says Anoop looked like he was half-asleep while he was singing. I know I was.
Ain’t Too Proud to Plead, Baby, Baby
Michael Sarver. I forgot he was here. (What up, Alexis?) Apparently, Sarver did not get to travel to Detroit because him was a sicky and the doctors said he couldn’t go. Wasn’t that always the worst when you missed a field trip or something similarly awesome because you were too sick? Stupid strep throat. I still think of that apple orchard, and what might have been. Sarver gets his Smokey time in anyway, and shows off his country preacher version of “Ain’t Too Proud to Beg.” Props to him for picking a bona fide jam, since so far everyone’s been keeping it sedate. Smokey thinks Matt shows promise, if he can move from sweet-talking to more aggressive begging.
Michael definitely works the crowd aggressively, strutting like the cock of the walk and pausing to slap hands with the audience. And he tries his best to inspirit the song with some passion, growling here and there, pushing his diaphragm on some of the more sustained notes. It’s undeniably cheesy though. Paula sighs and says “Oh boy,” before telling Michael he was reminiscent of a Vegas lounge lizard and that he failed in his attempts to sail into the higher notes. There’s a decree come down from Mount Simon that Sarver is merely taking part in the competition, he’s not got any chance at winning it. Way harsh, Tai. Coincidentally I paused my recording at the exact moment where Michael’s spirit broke. He quickly patches it up with some oil or something though as he responds that he’s always giving the competition his best and he believes in what he did tonight and hopes his fans will too. Randy calls him corny, and Kara says, “Whatever. You don’t have artistry, and so I spit on you. Artistry!”
Thoroughly Mod Lillie
We’re getting “Heatwave” from Lil Rounds tonight. It’s a bit sappy, and I wish she’d picked something grittier like “Nowhere to Run.” Smokey approves, however, so I think you can figure out which one of us to believe. (Smokey also says Lil can “sing the phone book,” if that’ll help make your voting easier.) Turns out Lil had a super emotional response to being immersed in Motown history, and while recalling it after her rehearsal, she and Smokey form a bond, sealed with a hug.
Out on stage Lil looks like a long-lost Supreme in her girl group do and mod fringed empire dress. There are some rough spots near the refrain with the “Yeah, yeahs,” but she sounds mostly fantastic, succeeds in getting Paula up to show what’s under her skirt, and shows off some impressive improvisational skills toward the end when she goes off into her own space. Randy thought she was too slow at the beginning, and also thought she was rushing through the whole song. And you wonder why I ignore him. Kara tries to do the “you look great,” but from her it sounds jerkfaced. She further says that because Lil didn’t kill Motown week, she should seppuku. Paula emphatically disagrees with P&K, and thinks Lil's vocals were fresh and that Lil owned the song. Simon thinks she offered an authentic tribute to the Motown sound, but that there was no moment.
The Dread Pirate Becomes a Westley
Adam Lambert shall thrill us now. He’s a little giggly himself in Smokey’s presence because he’s singing “Tracks of My Tears.” Smokey appreciates Adam choosing a consistently tender delivery instead of opting for the big dynamic crescendo at the end like everyone always does. He and Adam chat about how very sad people might actually wear away their skin with all their crying, and wouldn’t that be cool and sad if you could thus tell who all the saddest people in the world were.
Then there’s actually beautiful singing from Adam (who incidentally looks tonight like if Ponyboy’s brother went on American Bandstand). Turns out a little sincerity is all he needed. There’s not a shriek or a sharp note anywhere near, even when he stretches up into his head voice. No painted on snarls, no making phony eyes, no hipster baiting. Just a beautiful, restrained vocal. I loved it. I hope he sticks with this, this concentrating on substance instead of so much “style.” Smokey Robinson himself stands up to applaud him. Kara too, but who cares. She then says she has 6 words for him and goes on to deliver: “One of the best performances of the night.” She is thisclose to being written out, y’all, I don’t even know. Also, “ARTISTRY!!!a!billion!” Everyone else similarly raves over him, he’s miles ahead of the game, the best thing anyone has ever seen and that includes The Dark Kinght, he will one day rule the world, and you will be happy to see him do it.
Gokey sports no glasses during his rehearsal, thus ruining any chance I had of his entertaining me. He’s singing “Get Ready,” which is a mistake because he doesn’t have that glorious high tenor thing going on at all. I can’t hear this song without thinking “I’m David Ruffin, and these are The Temptations.” That movie is so supreme. But anyway. Smokey advises Danny not to let the backup singers handle the “you’re all right/outta sights” and Danny smiles and nods noncommittally. In his interview he seems to accept that Smokey Robinson knows more about everything than he does, most specifically Motown music, but then he goes on to disregard the advice anyway. He proceeds to holler the song his way, breaking to do some Tempts-style dance moves with the backup ladies, before finishing with an extraordinarily goofy look into the camera. Paula says, “You are undeniable, identifiable, always reliable.” Yes, but is he pliable? Aha. Simon however thought it was clumsy and amateurish. Randy says “Levi Stubbs!”, to which I say, Randy should be banished from my sight for all time.
And they saved Iraheta for last. We’re ending with a Temptations double-header as Allison has chosen “Papa Was a Rolling Stone.” Smokey is hugely impressed with Allison’s voice, but she messes up the lyrics during rehearsal. (Dun dun dunnnnn.) Will Allison remember the lyrics tonight? Will you remember how old she is? Will Paula ever sit down again? Find out … immediately.
The band handles the intro orchestration pretty well, but once Allison takes over, she takes over. She does totally flub the “dealing in dirt and stealing in the name of the Lord” line, but it comes during such a raw, soulful performance that I wasn’t even studying it. Allison fricking killed this song, buried it, and planted flowers on the tomb so everyone would know its awesomeness. If she ever hits bottom three again I will disown you all. All the judges say something to that affect, and Allison looks so proud of herself that she might cry.
We’re out on a wonderful note this week, and I’m happy enough not to wish elimination doom on anyone, right up until I see Scott’s clip on the performance recap. Then Megan’s. Then Mikes, and Gokey’s. Whoops. This was an extremely uneven night. The standout performances were some of the best of the season, but the others were some of the worst. I don’t know what’ll happen during tonight’s elimination besides the better-be-fantastic Motown medley and the inevitable forty minutes of nothing, but luckily for us all, the always sharp MsFroggy will be on hand to serve up the meat and cut the fat. You’ll want to stick around for that.
Girl you better get yourself on the right track, ‘cause finding a good man, girl is like finding a needle in a haystack, she-doop, shoo-doop.