Well, you already know so I’ll save that tidbit for the end. Before the big announcement, though, let’s talk about a two hour show packed with something for everyone. I think they included the kitchen sink, but it was hard to tell through all the staging. The Stars who joined the Top 13 onstage all have something to sell and a reason to be seen by the mega-audience that watches this annual extravaganza. But, they’ll pop up throughout. For now we need to start at the beginning.
The crowd packed into the Nokia Theater at LA LIVE gets on their feet to clap, cheer and welcome Ryan Seacrest in his moment of hosting glory. There is no panel walk-out as they are already seated in anticipation of a rockin’ good show.
Ryan: Big News! You set a record last night with over 122 million votes received.
He then breaks down the season total of almost 750 million votes to approximately two per person in the U.S. Balance that concept against the show ratings and you have a lot of power voters weighing in.
After shots of the finalists’ families sitting in the front row (the sweeping cameras pick up two roving shots of Michael Johns along with sightings of Adam Lambert, David Cook and Lee Dewyze) Ryan introduces the panel, who then get to take their bows.
Lauren Alaina and Scotty, dressed in white for the first group number, descend the back stairs, hand in hand, looking like angels descending to grace us with their presence. Okay – the prose is over-blown, but these two survivors of revving buses and charging trains just might be the blessing the show creators wanted this year. For the first time, both finalists are fresh-faced teenagers unsullied by the grit of gigs and looking for father figures to guide them; or so future producers hope. I know you already realize this, but I’ll throw in that both auditioned singing country and both have held true to that genre. However, don’t expect this show to be country all the time – oh, no – because those who fell by the wayside auditioned and carried through with genres from rock to jazz to gospel to pop, and all will be well represented tonight.
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The Top 13, the touring group, set the performances off with Lady GaGa’s “Born This Way.” As in previous group sings, the girls have it together and over power the boy’s voices; but it is upbeat and a great start to the show. During the bows, Lauren and Scotty playfully try to nudge each other out of the front spot.
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James (Give Metal a Chance) Durbin, who left at Final 4, has one of his dreams come true when he joins metal band, Judas Priest (promoting their farewell tour) in rocking the stage. Dressed in chains, a studded vest and a watch cap, he lives out his dream singing lead alongside Rob Halford on their songs, “Living after Midnight” and “Breaking the Law.” James goes for a high scream that fits right in with the transition from the first song to the second. With guitars shredding and sirens going off, it is a hell of a performance.
Stage Change Filler #1: The Dawg. He had a few pithy phrases this season and repeated them and repeated them. “What is this…what…what…what?” “In it to win it!” and that’s all folks. As Ryan commented, Randy needs a new writer.
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Jacob Lusk teams up with gospel star Kirk Franklin for “I Smile.” He wears a gorgeous suit with white tennis shoes – almost found your sartorial splendor, Jacob, but missed by this…much. The first Superstar of the evening is Gladys Knight who has a show at the Tropicana in Las Vegas. She joins them and has a lovely background duet with James while Kirk asks everyone to remember the tornado victims. A full choir pops up and the song goes high gospel. Jacob doesn’t try to over-sing as he keeps the volume mellow and that brings out the full tone of his voice which is a delight to hear.
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Casey Abrams early on stated he wanted to sing with Jack Black (new movie, Kung Fu Panda 2) and he got his wish. Looking like twins in Blues Brothers suits, they go wild with “Fat Bottom Girls” including growls and a scat conversation as trim dancers ride bikes on stage to join them. Frankly, Casey in his beard is much better looking than Jack Black in his scruff. It really was crazy fun.
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The Top 13 girls (minus Lauren Alaina) take the stage with a Beyonce medley. Each takes a solo including Denise – remember her? Haley sings lead on “If I Were a Boy” complemented by Ashthon. Beyonce and her dancers join them on stage as the wind machine kicks in and the Idol girls sing back up for her.
Stage Change Filler #2: Steven Tyler. They thought he might be too hot to handle, and he proved them correct. From cigar smoking to bleeped words, to enjoying females, the resident rocker had his fun. At one point they gave him his own bleep paddle, which he used. If nothing else, he livened up the show this year.
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Tony Bennett (at 85 he has his second duet album coming out in September) sings a jazzy “Stepping Out with my Baby” with Haley Reinhart. She is a good foil for him and her vocal styling fit the song just right.
Stage Change Filler #3: Jennifer Lopez. They play up her new world title and the males drooling all over her. She does have to fight for her compliments as Randy keeps trying to steal them, butting in whenever she receives one.
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Lil John kicks off the next set with a rap backed by his boys then TLC takes over and brings down the volume with a medley of their R&B hits. Naima, Thia, Denise and Ashthon join them front and center to bring it home.
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Scotty McCreery hits the stage with Tim McGraw (who has a summer tour coming up) to sing “Live like You’re Dying.” Tim gets the solo spotlight to open the song before Scotty walks in to share it. They sound good together, the mature voice and the developing voice. It is slightly awkward to hear a 17 year old sing a bucket list song, but he sounded as he should – singing right in the country lane and enjoying every minute of his duet with his idol. Okay, Scotty, others have pet peeves about your stage tics and I’ll add mine here – please don’t clutch your right arm across your stomach. You overdo it and it becomes distracting.
Stage Change Filler #4: Big Joe who, during his audition was advised to stick to radio announcing, plays that role as he takes us down memory lane with some of the crazies and hurt rejectees of the process this season.
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Marc Antony became part of the Idol family courtesy of his wife, Jennifer, and is granted performance time with a sassy Latin number. He does fine singing with Sheila E on drums and bongos striking a salsa beat, but then a sultry JLo moonwalks in and vamps him to distraction. I will say this, she doesn’t just shake her booty; she vibrates it. White fog rolls as the Carnival goes into high gear and the vamp gets her kiss.
Stage Change Filler #5 (Rated the BEST filler of the night!)
The Great Shocking Elimination Debate
Casey: American must hate me because I got eliminated twice.
James: Getting eliminated sucks. I don’t like to talk about it.
Casey: It’s like, “Hey – you suck!” and then we’ll give you another chance and then no, you suck.
Stefano: Who was the most shocking to be eliminated? Um…you know I would have to say James.
Casey: You think James is more shocking?
James: It was the most socking thing this season.
Casey: You kidding me? You know the magazine said, “Casey’s gonna win.”
James: Casey, you didn’t even get eliminated that night. There’s nothing shocking about that.
Casey: I was way more shocking than you, Jamie, c’mon. The doctor had to come wheel me off, I dropped the microphone.
James: You just dropped an $8,000 mic. Be more courteous than that. I went out #4. I’m a rocker; Daughtry went out #4. It was a shocker rocker.
Casey: You seemed pretty shocked, you were a cry baby.
James: I was sad.
Casey: (contrasts James’ tears to his freak out.) What’s more shocking?
They continue the debate at the food services table and are interrupted by Pia Toscano wearing a tiara and a pink banner with MOST SHOCKING written across it. Kinda stops the boys’ whining in its tracks. But, the debate continues…
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The Top 13 boys, dressed in Tom Jones black, sing a medley of his hits. James belts out “What’s New Pussycat?” Paul plays with “She’s a Lady” Scotty croons “The Green, Green Grass of Home” and Stefano and Jacob sing songs I recognize, but can’t recall the names. Casey has fun with “Delilah” and then introduces the man, himself. Tom enters singing, “It’s Not Unusual” and the boys dance behind him. The camera catches Jack Black in the aisle moving and grooving along with the boys. Tom’s tanned skin and white thatch tell his age, but take nothing from his appeal. Memories.
Stage Change Filler #6: Ford placement with a heart.
Scotty and Lauren Alaina sing a duet of reflection as scenes from the Ford videos play. Back from tape they stand with Ryan in the audience to help Ford with teacher appreciation. Each invited the teacher who has had the most impact in their education and lives to the show. Scotty invited his chorus teacher, Mrs. Clayton and Lauren Alaina invited her high school principal, Ms. Vanderbilt. In unison Scotty and Lauren Alaina present each of them keys to a Ford Focus. Ryan then tells Lauren Alaina and Scotty that Ford is giving them the keys to any Ford vehicle they want. The two teenagers are, of course, ecstatic.
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Lady GaGa stands atop a magnificent stage set constructed to look like extremely large boulders. In her nest she sings “The Edge of Glory” with her beautiful voice accompanied by Clarence Clemons’ (E Street Band) soulful saxaphone. The lonely eagle is joined by dancer, Mark Kanemura, and he tries to take off another edge, but in the end she says no, and hand in hand, they fall off the edge of her aerie never to be seen again.
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Lauren Alaina takes the stage dressed in a sophisticated black pants outfit and wearing heels to sing the opening verse of “Before He Cheats”. Carrie Underwood steps out to join her and they have fun with the duet. Lauren’s voice still hasn’t completely recovered and she isn’t sustaining notes; but if the stage presence of Carrie in shorts isn’t enough to please, the hunky violinist is given his usual gratuitous screen shot. I think he played on every song during the Final Performance Show.
Stage Change Filler #7 Scotty and Lauren Alaina’s fellow bubble denizens mouth off about them.
Pia: I’m very proud of you. You’re my little babies.
Twenty-six year old Paul and twenty-two year old James marvel that two children are in the final two.
Stefano: So, we have like two 6th graders in the competition.
Paul: They can’t even watch R rated movies.
Casey: Thanks a lot, America. You made us feel stupid.
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Enveloped in red fog, Beyonce sings a sensual song to her lover called “One plus One.” She stands alone without backup on her second appearance and shows off her vocal range accompanied by the loveliest piano runs.
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Now for a taste of Broadway; from the show, Spiderman, Turn off the Dark, a high flying Spiderman makes pinpoint landings in an aisle while the show’s lead, Reeve Carney along with composers Bono and The Edge sing “Rise Above”. The white fog rolls and Bono and Reeve trade vocals as The Edge plays guitar between them.
At the close of the song, Spidey drops upside down in front of Jennifer for the “famous” kiss; but after pulling his mask down and finding only his nose, she wimps out.
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Steven’s turn. Steven Tyler plays piano to accompany himself on the Aerosmith song, “Dream On.” He steps away from the piano, picks up his scarf draped mic-stand and thrills the crowd with Steven Tyler screams. It is a short performance, but satisfying.
Edward Boddington delivers the official envelope to Ryan, who works himself up to announce:
Lauren Alaina is all kissy-face, and he gets a trophy and a song to try to sing as he makes his way to hug his emotional family. All is well in Idol land.
Until next season