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'American Idol': On the scene for Top 7.2 performance night

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Maybe I’m tired. Maybe it’s the L.A. heatwave. Maybe after a weekend at Coachella, I am unable to get excited about anything unless it involves Karen O and/or a fireworks display. But man was it dullsville in the Idoldome tonight, PopWatchers…and I blame the contestants. Performance after performance, they came out and delivered competent, enjoyable, and in some cases downright excellent renditions of some of the most obnoxious songs in history. On disco night. During which there was almost zero actual disco. Dude. What’s a girl gotta do to get a trainwreck up in here? Do we need to revisit the Beatles’ oeuvre? Sanjaya? Sanjaya, can you come back, please?

God bless that Craig Ferguson, though, for making me involuntarily snicker every time I remembered him referring to Britain’s Got Talent as So You Think You’ve Got A Pop Star On Your Hands last night. It’s just as funny in this context, so why not steal it the way that we’ve also stolen, you know, Britain’s Got Talent? After the jump, your full breakdown of all the action inside the So You Think You’ve Got A Pop Star On Your Hands-dome, where the most exciting thing that happened might be an appearance from Vince Neil. I swear to god, people, this evening’s show was, like, normal.

And to think I had high hopes at the start, when Cory the Warmup Comedian kicked off the night with an uncharacteristically skeptical holler of “Aw yeah, if Hollywood’s in the house make some noise!!” scored to “Play That Funky Music.” That’s right, Cory, I thought. Spice it up all tacky like. Then he invited a portly gentleman — who we’d later learn was part of Kris Allen’s Friends & Family Plan — up on stage to dance, probably because what comedian doesn’t want to make the portly gentleman dance? But the gentleman turned out to be an excellent dancer with the best booty shake I’ve seen all season, so that was a bust. Cory’s solution was to try and get a pregnant woman to do the Beyonce, but the pregnant woman politely demurred. Only one thing left to do: Frighten the children! “It’s disco night! We’ve got the world’s largest disco ball!” he said, pointing at the ceiling where there was, indeed, a very large (though I doubt the world’s largest) mirrored sphere. “It weighs 350 pounds. If that thing falls on you, you won’t even know it hit you until you’re dead.” No one laughed. “Ha ha just kidding, we used zip ties, it’s not going anywhere….”

As Cory prattled on — my new favorite part of the show is when he has us all practice booing — I did the celebrity roundup rounds: Kristen Bell from Veronica Mars (I like to pretend Heroes doesn’t exist); some guy who looked a lot like John Krasinski but wasn’t; Jillian Barberie, who I’ve recently realized is the host of an Idol aftershow and not just a psycho superfan; and Vince Neil, who is the lead singer of a little band you might have heard of called Mötley Crüe. Couple things. 1) I have been wary of Vince Neil ever since all the plastic surgery happened to his face, and I’m not sure if his presence at Idol (on disco night) made me like him more or less, and 2) a journalist friend of mine told me that when he arrived to cover rehearsals for the Idol tour last year, Nikki Sixx was pulling up in a limo because the Crüe were rehearsing in the soundstage next door. This had me pondering all sorts of wonderful possibilities, like, say, Mick Mars frightening David Archuleta in a dark hallway, or Carly Smithson comparing tat notes with Tommy Lee. But that was all speculative. What was in fact happening in the actual room was a slow and celebratory introduction of the judges during which they all hugged and kissed each other a lot. THIS…is American Idol?

Kind of a slow night in the sign department, too, with almost every sign being for Adam, including the green one being held by the girl next to me who spent the opening credits slamming it into my face with gusto. Ry-Ry Seacrest — who had made an impressive dash from center stage at the end of the melodramatic introductory clip reel, across the room, up the stairs, and past the band before doing his usual Norma Desmond sashay down the stairs — explained tonight’s concept: It’s the Top 7! Again! With all your favorites back in the house! At this, the crowd cheered wildly. But, reminded Ry-Ry, that means two people are going home tomorrow night! At this, the crowd broke into shockingly vituperative boos. Part of that was probably Cory’s training, but sometimes I wonder if people forget how the show works. I mean, how do they expect their beloved Adam to be crowned King of the Known Universe if the rest of these losers don’t go home? You tell me, PopWatchers. I just work here.

Lil’s performance was on us almost before my eyes had cleared from the opening strobes — no mentor this week also meant no pre-performance video clips, which also meant a couple of awkward transitional moments for Ry-Ry to smooth over — and in the room, it sounded like by far her best performance in weeks, if not ever. Vince Neil’s blond head was bobbing along, she got a couple people on their feet to dance, she received two patchy standing ovations… and then Randy brought us all crashing down when he complained that nothing in that performance showed him what kind of “artist” she would be. Then Kara told Lil that despite the fact that we’d all been waiting for her to sing Chaka Khan for our entire lives (we had?), it just wasn’t good enough. She also got in a good line about Lil’s little “artistry” problem, and how she’s been “every woman” on that stage over the course of the season except herself. I rolled my eyes, but didn’t get too worked up about it because, dude, Lil’s just not that good of a singer, period, and I need to save my energy for when they eventually turn on Allison again. (Never the less, you can read more about the ongoing “artistry” debate on my new blog, Oh Like They Don’t Package These Kids Within An Inch Of Their Lives Once They Win, And On A Side Note, Boy, That Kelly Clarkson’s Attempt To Make The Kind Of “Artistic” Music She Wanted To Really Thrilled The Pants Off You, Didn’t It, Clive Davis? Dot Com.)

Lil’s critique ended with her once again getting to defend herself, and a member of her Friends & Family Plan yelled something at the judges about how “Karaoke don’t sound like that.” Once we went to break, none of the judges bothered to go confront this family member — a la Megan Joy’s obstinant brother — but I think that had a lot to do with him being seated in the opposite direction from the door. Cory and Debbie even encouraged the behavior: “The audience is heckling!” exclaimed Cory. “I like that!” said Debbie. “Get Jerry Springer up in here! It’s about to go off!” exclaimed Cory. Then he informed us that Vonzell Solomon was in the house, which was helpful, because I don’t know what Vonzell Solomon looks like. I did however just pull this fascinating nugget off her Wikipedia page, all errors [sic]: “Solomon recently finished a brief stint at the Lubbock Memorial Civic Center in Lubbock, Texas, as Glinda/Aunt Em, in Todrick Hall’s retelling of the Wizard of Oz. Oz, the Musical sold out both nights. She starred alongside Season Two alumni Rickey Smith as the Tinman, and Season 4 Alumni Scott Savol, as the Lion, and Mikalah Gordon, as Dorothy.” PLEASE TELL ME ONE OF YOU COMMENTERS WENT TO THAT. I would kill. KILL.

Up next, Kris Allen, singing a deeply metaphorical song about “a woman” who “has a good work ethic.” What can I say? It was brilliant. Vince Neil liked it. I’m pretty sure I caught a smile on Simon’s face as he sipped from his giant red cup. Kris got an immediate and almost complete standing O, the biggest of the night. I liked Paula’s controversial shopping analogy. Lil’s family did not clap for Kris. Anoop’s parents, on the other hand, applauded him and everyone else quite heartily. I sort of love Anoop’s parents.

During the next break, Danny Gokey and Allison Iraheta took a quick second after shooting their bump to chat with Lil’s family, as the Danny-obsessed in my section desperately tried to get his attention, to largely no avail. (This has happened a couple of times, with various contestants. Either the acoustics in this room are really bad going the other way, or they’ve all been conditioned not to respond to anyone not speaking to them through a microphone.) And then… well, I have no idea what else happened, because Cory made his way up to my row to chat with the sister of the girl to my left with the giant green sign. And by “my row,” I mean “my dance space” — I actually had to turn in my seat to give him and the girl room. Turned out she was from Australia, and for her cross-continental troubles, she was awarded an iPod Touch. It’s getting to the point where I believe I deserve an iPod Touch. But at least my close encounters with Cory for the night were over. Or so I thought.

Danny Gokey sang my least favorite Earth, Wind, and Fire song ever — I can’t explain this hatred, but I place some of the blame on a rewritten version from the Emmys several years ago, in which the things we were remembering from September were television shows — and yet I didn’t hate it. That being said, he demonstrably did not receive a standing O. Kara won more of my affection for her “plaid shirt” comment, and then immediately lost it by saying that Danny’s never been pitchy. (*cough*he was sharp through that entire Rascal Flatts song*cough*) Meanwhile, it appears that Paula Abdul’s life was irrevocably changed by this performance, and she continues to cling to her notion that Danny will be in the finals. And maybe she’s right, because I thought Allison (or, as one sign put it, “Allisson”) wiped the floor with Gokey, but the Australian girls next to me didn’t so much as lazily clap for my girl. I assumed they didn’t want Adam to view it as a betrayal. I also viewed it as more evidence of my “A Girl Can Never Again Win American Idol” theory. But wait. Then Adam Lambert appeared on the stools next to Ry-Ry, and the girls once again did nothing. I even leaned over and said, “Hey, your boyfriend is up there,” and they just sat there. “Put your signs up!” their adult companion encouraged, but they were unmoving. Now I am wondering if all tween girls in Australia are this well-behaved, and if so, I think I want to go to there.

We came back from commercial — so many Adam signs in the crowd! — and Mr. Lamberrrrrrr announced he’d be singing “If I Can’t Have You.” Oh god, he’s gonna balladify it, I wrote in my notebook. He was wearing one of his “classy” outfits, and had broken out the “crooner” hair, and has now officially become as predictable as Law & Order because sure enough, after a blast of feedback, balladify it he did. Vince Neil liked the high note. When Randy said it was a “hot one,” even Ry-Ry pumped his fist. I was bored to tears. To be fair, though, the show aired out here in L.A. while I was writing this recap, and through the open windows of my apartment I could hear several of my neighbors applaud at the end of Adam’s number. Getting the home audience to play along is pretty impressive. Also, while listening to his disembodied voice wafting across my transom, it occurs to me that if you’re not lookin’ at the guy — and he’s operating in the lower, non-Axl Rose portion of his register — he sounds a lot like Jeff Buckley. I may have to reconsider. Or always close my eyes when he sings.

Simon was up and out almost before we cut to the following commercial. Ryan’s personal groomer went over to say hi to Vince Neil. Cory went to give an iPod to a seven year old boy named Nico, which led to the following all-time classic exchange:
“What do you do for a living?”
“I don’t know.”
“Same as me!” [high-five] “Are you married?”
“Have a girlfriend?”
“Want us to find you one here tonight?”
“Want an iPod Touch?”
“I already have one.”

Some crew guy sprinted up the aisle and crashed into Ryan just as he was beginning his introduction to the next segment, and Matt G. got much of the crowd up and dancing with “Stayin’ Alive” (Kristen Bell yay, Vince Neil nay.) Randy finally isolated my problem with the remaining contestants: They’re talented, which sadly equals boring. Paula got in another genius analogy: “You pick songs like I bowl.” In my opinion, Simon was the most wrong he’s been in a long time. Up on the stage right tower, Anoop was waiting for his closeup, and gave a little wave to his parents. They waved back, and then immediately put their heads together to talk about him. I imagine they were either discussing how handsome he looked, or how skinny he is and is he eating? Who knows, maybe Anoop’s parents are total jerks, but in my mind, they are like some Indian version of the Cleavers. I want to hug them.

Next break. Paula talked to the stage left pit. Cory asked us to give it up for the band, including backup singer Kenya, who just had a kid. Then Anoop came down to wait center stage, and Cory began hassling him until he spotted the college-age girls on the other side of me, who had pretty much the only Anoop sign in the house. And just like that, Cory was back in my dance space again. He asked the three ladies to introduce themselves. One was named Britney, one was named something else, and the third girl — who was kind of snippy — declined to be a part of the conversation because she was an Adam fan. Britney, the one in the middle, had a question for Anoop. “Are you single?” she asked. Anoop nodded. Then Cory tried to make a joke about whether Britney had a followup rather than just asking her the followup, so by the time she got to ask Anoop “Do you want to go out with me?” he’d been distracted by the “moshers” and totally missed the proposition from the hot blonde, which I think was maybe the saddest thing I’ve ever seen happen on this show. Yes, even sadder than the dismissal of Carly, which L.A. Times SYTYGAPSOYH guru Richard Rushfield helpfully informed me was one year ago tomorrow. And that you can still hear the two of us wailing in protest on the video.

Thought Anoop sounded a lot like a sleepier Lionel Richie while taking on Donna Summer’s “Dim All the Lights.” (BTW, if tonight was going to be Donna Summer Night, shouldn’t someone have called Donna Summer?) Despite the fact that Shiny New Facial Hair Boy got almost no ovation from the house, I thought Simon was even wronger with this critique than he was with Matt’s: If that was Anoop’s worst performance to date, then I am Blanket, son of Michael Jackson, and it’s a pleasure to meet you. It’s also a pleasure to announce that this was the end of the show, and after Your!Top!7! came out for the recap montage — Allison adjusting Adam’s pocket square under cover of dim lighting — I witnessed two lovely moments of closure. First, Anoop walked straight down to the judges’ table and got into what looked like a very respectful and cordial conversation with Simon that ended with the men shaking hands, and Cory announced that he was going to give Britney an iPod Touch, and have Anoop sign it. I’m sure that iPod Touch will keep her warm on the long, lonely nights she’s destined to spend alone now that she’s been Heismanned by the ‘Noop Dawg, Cory. That’s sweet.

And I’m out! Just a couple of questions for ya tonight, PopWatchers. First of all, what did you think? Second, Vince Neil would make an awesome mentor, true or false? And third, and perhaps most important: How long until we get a Susan Boyle appearance here on So You Think You’ve Got A Pop Star On Your Hands? Anyone want to put $20 on her showing up at the finale?

More on ‘American Idol’:
‘American Idol’: Disco Night…not nearly as bad as anticipated!
‘Idolatry’: Scott MacIntyre on his sense of humor and post-‘Idol’ plan for radio domination
‘American Idol’ Power List: Pick your favorite from the Top 7 (part two)!
‘American Idol”s Kara DioGuardi: Once and for all — yea or nay on the new judge?
‘American Idol’: Season 8 contestants enter the Steel Cage!
‘Idol’ Cheat Sheet: The season so far…
‘American Idol’ recap: Better ‘save’ than sorry!
‘American Idol’ top 7 results: On the scene
Should American Idol let the over-30s in?
‘American Idol’: Simon’s 12 meanest critiques
EW.com’s American Idol HQ