Last week, Michael Sarver said goodbye to music fame and fortune and will be sorely missed by all three of his fans. Somebody else will go home this week but who cares about that? The judges are materializing from backstage like four courtiers preceding King Seacrest who descends his glass staircase amid the usual loud screams of his many adoring fans. You know that a show has thoroughly jumped the shark when the cue card reading host is the biggest star on the show.
Lord Seacrest polls the judges about what their expectations are and the gist of it is that Kara wants artistry and Simon wants Seacrest to be amazing, or something to that effect. Meanwhile, Seacrest introduces the nine “artists” left in the competition. Artists? More like 8 karaoke dabblers and 1 singer at this point, Seacrest! The theme tonight is whatever-you-want-to-sing-as-long-as-it's-a-top-download-on-iTunes. Oh, and no useless celebrity patron is going to be hovering above them this week. What, Manilow was busy? Judging by the stuff that's sitting near the top of the charts right now, this probably means that I can paint my toenails and alphabetize my DVD collection during this show.
Cramping the boy band style
But before we can get to the Idols screeching out some questionable hits, there's some field trip stuff to get through. Apparently this week's group activity involved a trip to the American Top 40 Radio studio, a show hosted by none other that Lord Seacrest himself. The Idols arrive in unmarked black Ford SUVs because they're special and because Ford – which is not, I repeat, not being bailed out by the government – is footing the bill for them. Ah, the glamor! One week it's Detroit with it's many crumbling ghost town splendors, the next week it's a trip to see Seacrest working. Now that's how you know you've arrived, kids!
Anoop goes first and he just wants people to relate to him so he wants to sing a song that he would relate to if he had to relate to somebody else. He hopes we can all relate to Usher's “Caught Up” which might explain the four background vocalists starting out center stage then moving to the side to reveal the great Anoop – upturned collar and attitude in place – launching into his Usher impersonation. Have you ever listened to the lyrics for this song? Neither have I, but Google says there are some intelligent lines such as “my homies say this girl is cramping my style” and “I'm loosing control, this girl's got a hold on me”. Yeah, riveting stuff. Imagine Anoop delivering all this silliness with a completely straight face, a ridiculously smoldering look, with the appropriate R&B slash boy band style hand gestures while Paula is bouncing in her seat. Yeah, not a pretty picture.
Randy says this wasn't the right song for Anoop but the vocals were good and the swagger was off the charts. Kara thinks that an Usher song would have deserved riffs and more vocal acrobatics – because, you know, Usher is so masterful in that area – but Anoop played it safe by, well, singing it like Usher sings it. I'm sure Usher is just delighted to hear that at home. Paula babbles that she liked the vocals but wanted less bouncing around. Simon thought it was a “complete and utter mess”. In fact, he got a headache from Anoop's college boy wannabe interpretation. Well, I can surely relate to that! Meanwhile Anoop's frat boy cheering section down in the pit boos loudly and Seacrest wants to have Anoop's reaction. He disagrees with Kara and trips over his tongue saying something about opinions and how he wants to sing R&B when he makes it. If he makes it. Which is questionable at this point.
Turn the volume all the way down to prevent ear damage
After another brief reminder from Seacrest that we are all invited to waste our money on iTunes downloads of these
worthlessperformances, it's time for Megan Joy to pick another song that she can make sound like the last song she sang and the one before that and the one... well, you get the picture. This time it's a Bob Marley song by way of Lauren Hill called “Turn the lights down low”. She just luurves this song she says and she is confident the judges will be feeling her this time. I don't know about feeling it, but I'm sure speechless after her performance and not in a good way. From the single braid dangling near her ear, the teased and braided mess of hair in the back that was perhaps meant to recall Marley's dreadlocks, to the insipid and tortured vocals to Megan's constant nondescript smile, it was an amalgam of bad, worse and horrific.
Someone in the audience cheekily yells out “broken record” as Kara tells Megan that it was the wrong song choice for her. She even felt irritated by the register she used and wanted to hear some falsetto. The audience boos some more, but Kara still says that Megan is in trouble. Paula's great contribution is that Megan needs to sit on a stool and croak out a sensitive ballad. Simon, however, thinks the song was boring, indulgent and monotonous and feels that nobody is going to like that song. Randy says it was like “watching paint dry”. Come now, Randy! I watched my Terrace White living room paint dry last year for a whole afternoon and it wasn't too boring. This however...
So Flatt it hurts
Next up is walking Pearle Vision advertisement, Danny Gokey, who has never met an insolent smirk he didn't want to try out. His choice is “What hurts the most” by Rascal Flatts because he thinks they're amazing and because everybody likes them. Wow, I had no idea I liked Rascal Flatts! The performance is another predictable screamer from Gokey with more predictable screaming from the audience and a satisfied smile from him at the end. One more week down on the road to Idol domination, eh, Danny? I should just recycle his paragraph from a couple of weeks back, I guess.
Paula says he thrived, Simon thinks it was the best performance of the night and even applauds him. Randy thinks the competition for the night just started and wants him to “keep on rockin'”. Keep on? When did he ever start? Kara gushes that he moved everyone in the room and he gave her goosebumps.
Just don't sing
Onward. Allison who is, you know, 16 years old, is happy to finally be able to pick something she actually wants to sing. Her song is “Don't Speak” by No Doubt during which she will be playing the guitar. She says she grew up listening to this song. And I grew up listening to ABBA. So that's kind of the same thing. Allison's outfit can best be described as a mad ballerina Halloween costume but her hair is truly making a statement, with new short, spiky layers up top that make her looked like a chicken dipped in red paint with her feathers ruffled. She uses the guitar for exactly five seconds at the start of the song after which she abandons it to hang around her neck in lieu or a necklace.
Randy felt she rushed a bit, liked the guitar but just can't wrap his head around the mad ballerina getup. Kara says she doesn't need to dress up because she has a good voice, but didn't quite like the performance. Paula calls her intonation and delivery masterful. Wow, Paula knows long words? Will wonders never cease! Amazing. Simon can't overlook the outfit which for him is straight out of the Adams Family. He says she just dressed up as a pop star and shouted the song.
Hold the presses! Scott McIntyre is singing another thing with a piano. Man, this just gets awfully old. This time it's Billy Joel's “Just the way your are” whom, surprise, surprise, Scott loves. I wonder why. He promises to strip it all down and hopefully step it up a notch. I promise to try and stay awake while he churns out another same old, same old performance. As it turns out, it's not actually same old, same old. His hair is different! Somebody teased it a bit up top, and used a blow dryer and some hair spray to tame the curls and mulletize his head. In fact, he somewhat resembles Billy Joel a few decades ago, back when he still had hair. Oh, the song. Now that I hate, the performance is boring and too Billy Joel-ish and I don't like Billy Joel. So there.
Kara felt he picked the right song. She also “loved” the new look. Maybe she lost her contacts or something. Paula mumbles a bit about his challenge and taking risks and calls it a “legato” performance. I'm getting the impression that Paula has been hitting the dictionary this past weekend. This is the second or third time tonight that she's using new words she hasn't used before. I'm almost impressed. Simon calls it Scott's best showing so far and compliments him on his brand spankin' new Ryan Seacrest hairdo. For Randy, it was simply one of the best of the night. Considering that they already told Gokey that he was the best, that's not really saying that much.
Finding the formula
Timberlake's long lost twin, Matt Giraud picked a song for himself this week, as opposed to the judges, which he did last week. To this end he wants to sing “You found me” by The Fray which he says is a powerful strong. It's also a chance to mingle with his screaming female fans in the fake AI mosh pit, I guess, so Matt sets up his keyboard there, and gets down to business. The performance isn't precisely bad, but it's somewhat formulaic and karaoke-like. It's more Fray less Matt.
Paula missed the falsetto, even though there was no call for falsetto in this song, but she picked up on the whole karaoke thing. Simon didn't get it much, felt it was uptight and forced. Randy wanted more One Republic and less rock, because Matt has no rock in himself. Kara wants him to commit to either R&B or rock and stick with it. Matt kind of liked it and thinks he can do many different things.
Lil thought long and hard about her choice this week so as not to fall into the whole wrong song trap yet again. Which is why she chose a Celine Dion song, always a rebel's choice. This one is called “I surrender” and I've never heard of it before. It sounds a bit low key as Lil practices it which probably means it's got a big screaming middle somewhere. A Celine song calls for a floor length one shoulder evening gown, green eye shadow and a smart bob wig and lots and lots of shouting.
Randy didn't dig the song choice but felt she sang it well nevertheless. He wanted something younger though. Kara also wanted something else, like maybe Mary J. Blige, however she feels Lil did a good job. Paula's take is that she doesn't want to see an adult contemporary Lil but more a Lil who can sing and be herself and you know just sing. It's way past Paula's bedtime and who knows what she's sipping through that straw tonight, so I'm going to give her a pass. Simon heard an old fashioned wedding performance with no personality. He wants her to get back to what she does best. After all the tough critique, it's cutesy time. Seacrest interviews Lil's daughters in the audience and when one of them says she wants to punch Randy for being “tough on mommy” he brings her over to Randy and we get a big hug fest and lots of oohs and aahs from the audience. I can practically hear the votes piling up for Lil.
The birth of an Adamette
For one whole week, people thought of Adam Lambert as this amazingly transformed soft balladeer. Well, he is tired of that and wants to get his glam back with Wild Cherry's “Play that funky music” for it's hot groove and many the many opportunities it offers for Adam to stick his tongue out. The only thing left over from last week is Adam's slicked back Elvis hair, but everything else is pure Rocky Horror Picture Show slash Adam Lambert. From the bell bottoms, to the hip gyrations, to the high pitched screaming and the come hither eye work, the whole thing is a one man Broadway show but strangely fun and in a class by itself. You have the feeling that Adam is almost toying with the judges, or the audience or both, seeing how far he can push it. He could bust out an aria from Aida next week, for all I care, and I'd probably buy it. Yeah, just call me an Adamette now. It was a gradual conversion but I'm fully embracing the cult now.
Paula chirps that true genius shatters expectations and she goes on to compare Adam to Mick Jagger and Steven Tyler. Simon says that he sure was original and took everyone out of the karaoke wasteland that was the entire night prior to his performance. He also thinks he won't be as popular as last week but it won't matter. Randy says Adam is in the “star zone” to which Adam replies by giving props to the backup band. Kara is always looking forward to the show to see what Adam would do and in this case “it was like Studio 57” for her. That must have been the LA version of Studio 54, 'cause you know everything is bigger in LA.
And with that, the show is over. Thanks for reading. But, oh, don't go yet! I almost forgot about Kris. For some unnamed reason he gets the pimp spot tonight, but that's just because AI couldn't ask Adam to sing again. His pick is “Ain't no sunshine” with a piano instead of a guitar. Kris wants to create a moment for himself that way. I must say, Kris is an earnest singer but he's mangling the words, twisting his tongue around them in a weird way, perhaps to make it all sound more original and create that moment. While you can't force a moment, you can certainly put all the ingredients together and hope they add up to something. And they did add up in a decent way for Kris. The cello players and the violinists are a nice touch as is the restraint he shows in places but I'm not a big fan of the breathy ending.
A loud standing ovation later, Randy thinks Kris slayed it. He thought it was one of the night's best. Kara thought it was artistry. Paula thought he made it his own and his best performance to date. Simon felt the confidence and liked the clever arrangement.
After a brief recap, the show winds with Seacrest and the Idols. Megan is gesticulating madly at the camera, making idiot faces and pretty much making me wish I that I could reach in to smack her. The fabulous MotherSister will be here to dish on the loser and we'll both be back next week with fresh reports straight from the bloody trenches. Don't miss it.