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'American Idol' recap: Cake, rattle, and roll

The remaining five contestants play with their food and give viewers minor heart palpitations before Matt (once again) gets sent packing

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American Idol
Frank Micelotta/Fox

American Idol

type:
TV Show
Current Status:
In Season
seasons:
15
performer:
Harry Connick Jr., Jennifer Lopez, Keith Urban, Ryan Seacrest
broadcaster:
Fox
genre:
Reality TV

To the casual observer, tonight’s American Idol results show might have seemed as routine and uneventful as, say, a pigeon on a park bench or a Kim Kardashian photo-op. Ryan Seacrest made his usual entrance via the Adam Lambert Memorial Staircase. Randy Jackson booed Simon Cowell’s introduction like an 8-year-old who’s still learning the difference between what’s funny and what’s merely annoying. And Matt Giraud, the guy everyone pretty much expected to go home, took his final bows to a heartfelt farewell from Paula Abdul (and one final lascivious look from Kara DioGuardi).

But right from the show’s opening moments, you could sense we were in for something strange, something decidedly out of the ordinary. Maybe it was that cryptic — and by cryptic, I mean nonsensical — sound bite from Rat Pack Week mentor Jamie Foxx about ”five people that shock the world,” which seemed like nothing more than an excuse to get the word ”shock” into the show opener. Maybe it was Simon declaring the season 8 race as the ”most open competition” in show history. Or maybe it was simply the fact that, unless Matt and Allison wound up as the week’s lowest vote-getters, the other nine possible bottom-two combinations would feature at least one contestant who’d never even cracked the bottom three.

Yes, folks, we’ve reached the homestretch of American Idol season. Side-effects may include headaches and nausea, mild-to-moderate heart palpitations, cramping, insomnia, depression, murderous rage, dry mouth, a craving for alcohol or unhealthy snack foods, exhaustion, delirium, and in certain instances, fans of Adam Lambert screaming ”Are you freakin’ kidding me?” That’s because the long-perceived season 8 front-runner found himself (possibly) on the brink of elimination tonight, standing alongside the self-described ”cat with nine lives” and waiting for Ryan to either swing the Idol axe, or inform him he’ll have a chance to sing some Axl next Tuesday.

That it turned out to be the latter option was really no great surprise. For all his talent and growing likability, this never really seemed like Matt’s competition to win. The guy got rejected by America after performing a melody-ectomy on ”Viva La Vida” in the semifinals, then got a second chance from the judges in the form of a Wild Card win. Booted again during Songs from the Cinema Week, Matt received one more stay of execution in the form of the historic Judges’ Save, but here, two weeks later, the Idol boat was all out of life rafts.

The good news for Matt was that he left the show on a high note, nailing the falsetto ending (and mostly everything else) on his exit performance of ”My Funny Valentine,” and appearing genuinely thankful for and moved by his Idol experience. And so what if the best parting advice Randy could offer was ”continue to make it hot,” Matt can at least be proud that he got booted after an evening of performances that were so uniformly solid, they even had Simon backtracking and declaring Rat Pack night the best Top 5 performance show in Idol history.

NEXT: A special announcement

But before we go any further in discussing this week’s lowest vote-getters, a quick announcement: Next Wednesday, May 6, I’ll be live-blogging during the entire hour of the Top 4 results-show telecast. So if you can simultaneously juggle TV watching and Internet surfing, then please do join me at popwatch.ew.com for next week’s one-time-only experiment in frantic hunting and pecking.

And secondly, for all you conspiracy theorists in the house who find it hard to believe Glambert did indeed finish fourth in last night’s voting, I went back and listened to Ryan’s question to Jamie Foxx — ”Did America get this right tonight? This is the bottom two here” — to make sure he didn’t use any intentionally vague language about Adam’s position. Granted, declaring a contestant is in the ”bottom two” is very different from noting that, ”The independent accounting firm of Price Waterhouse Coopers has verified the vote tallies and declared Adam Lambert is indeed the second-lowest vote-getter this week.” But would Idol work that hard, and that unscrupulously, to deceive us?

No, I’m guessing Adam really did flirt with disaster tonight. For starters, while Adam fans may have a huge and active presence on Idol message boards — not to mention a reported lock on 6 of the top 10 iTunes downloads by season 8 finalists — how much do you want to bet a lot of his supporters got complacent and spent more time surfing YouTube clips of their glam god than actually speed-dialing on his behalf. What’s more, with a double elimination last week, that left thousands of Anoop and Lil fans up for grabs — and how can anyone be sure where their votes migrated to?

Oh, and nine paragraphs into this column, let’s not forget the week’s other shocking development: America threatened to put tears into the limpid brown eyes of Kris ”I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t think I could win — oh hell yeah he said it” Allen! Yes, the kitten-soft, plaid-loving, side-mouth-singing troubadour completed the troika of turmoil tonight after performing a lackadaisical ”The Way You Look Tonight” in the deadly No. 1 position (both show order, and EW.com Idol Power List) on Tuesday.

NEXT: Food fight!

To make it up to poor Kris for marginalizing his bottom-three appearance and directing the bulk of my ”oh-no-they-didn’t” energy toward Adam’s bottom-two slot, I will dedicate to Mr. Allen tonight’s Idol-themed ditty, set to a classic tune popularized by a Rat Pack member — specifically ”My Way.” Click here if you want a little musical accompaniment from none other than Mr. Frank Sinatra!

And now, the end is near
Ryan presents the final quartet
My friends, I’ll make it clear
Adam’s the bomb, but he’s no sure bet
There’s Kris, and Allison
Ole’ Danny, too. Turnabout’s fair play
But how, the bottom two? I blame the stairway

Regrets, I’ve had a few
Those busy nights, I didn’t vote hard
Tonight, was scary proof
Fan bases can get caught way off-guard
Rock week, it should be great
As long as there’s no karaoke
What’s more, we might just put the ‘Go’ in Gokey

Come on now, Danny fans, I kid, I kid. (Sort of.) (Okay, not really.) But who the heck am I to mock your contestant of choice when he now ranks as the sole season 8 finalist to never make a bottom-three appearance? That’s Carrie Underwood-level voting patterns, and further proof that the ”Adam as foregone conclusion” story arc is perhaps a lot less certain than most of us would’ve guessed. I just wonder, when he said he’d been watching tapes of ”performers” to improve his on-stage technique, if he was referring to Jesse Langseth or Ricky Braddy. (Oh yeah, you know I went there!)

Oh, and speaking of awesome and soulful singers, can I get a rousing chorus of ”Happy Birthday” for this week’s other not-at-risk-at-all contestant, Allison Iraheta? (Insert sound of crowd going wild here. And I don’t care if no one else is joining in, because Idolatry producer Jason Averett has special sound-effects buttons that can simulate such sweet music.) Whether you love her awkward charms and her non-alcoholic-gin-soaked rasp, you’ve got to admit it would’ve been a little criminal if the girl hadn’t lasted until/well through Idol‘s upcoming Rock Week.

Poor Allison and Danny, though, as a special prize for each turning a year older in the past week, and for being the top two vote getters on Rat Pack Night, they got to star in a painfully awkward video that was one part Food Network audition tape, and one part America’s Least Funny Home Videos. Seriously, if staged cake fights among the contestants was what Fox had in mind when they decided to film the Idols living together under one mansion, I can think of a good place to trim the show’s budget next season! (And in that case, Cecile Frot-Coutaz can shell out some cash and clear songs for my proposed list of ”15 Theme Nights We’d Kill to See on Idol.”) Also, what was the point of presenting Danny with a $6,000 maid’s bill for cleanup? I couldn’t tell from Danny’s facial expression whether it was the real cost of cleanup on a Hollywood set or just the lamest joke in Idol history, but either way, is the show really gonna make jokes like that in this economy? Uff da. Also: I can’t be the only one who flinches at the sight of wasted confections and frosting, am I?

NEXT: Four unintentionally funny things from last night

The other thing that made me feel slightly on-edge, but which I respected nonetheless, was Adam’s decision to choose a side in the Kris-Matt vs. Danny-Allison pairings that Ryan had created. If I were in the dude’s shoes, I’d probably have Archied out and sat on the floor at center stage. Instead, Adam pointed to Danny and Allison and declared ”based on last night, probably that group” performed better, before walking over and joining them. It all would’ve worked out so well for Adam if Ryan hadn’t responded by grabbing his shoulder, moving him to the other side of the stage, and declaring him a bottom-three dweller alongside Matt and Kris. Lucky for Adam, he saved face by letting out a genuine whoop and yelling ”Get it!” toward Allison and Danny. Do these contestants really like each other that much? (Anoop Desai told me that indeed they do on his recent visit to Idolatry…see video below.)

And, heck, my cynical heart thinks it’s true, especially with the way the quintet grooved together during the season’s second consecutive not-terrible group number — this one featuring actual real-life singing! Whaddaya know? (Side note to Kris: If in the future, you know you’re going to be performing swinging standards, you might want to dress it up a little more than battered jeans and a plaid cowboy shirt.)

The evening’s other musical performers were similarly upbeat. Taylor Hicks couldn’t get the smile off his face as he served up the roadhouse blues of ”Seven Mile Breakdown,” and as a result, the backup singers and band looked like they were having a blast, and Simon gave a standing O. Natalie Cole, meanwhile, remains sexy as hell despite the fact that she’s waiting for a kidney transplant, and her take on ”Something’s Gotta Give” was a jazzy treat, to boot, except for that wayward bit of scatting near the end.

And finally, there was Jamie Foxx’s insane, vocoderific ”Blame It,” which might as well have been performed by wheeling out a Mac to center stage and pressing the ”singing” button. I could not stop laughing watching Foxx bound around the stage like a man on a mission, while his mouth generated not a single noise you’d expect to hear from a carbon-based life form. True confession: When Ryan announced that Foxx’s composition was ”the number one song in America,” my husband turned to me, laughing, and asked in his loudest, most incredulous voice: ”Is it really? Really? F—ing, that’s ridiculous.” Which brings me to this week’s quiz:

Which Idol results-show moment resulted in the biggest burst of awkward laughter?
A) Kara blurting ”my mouth went open again. That’s what happens with Adam,” followed by an unfortunate and unintentional ”beej” gesture.
B) Jamie Foxx providing comfort to Matt and Adam with this nugget of self-promotional wisdom: ”It doesn’t matter right now. It’s what’s gonna happen after this and the careers that they’re gonna have after this, and that’s it. And also, too, I’ve got a movie out called The Soloist. So check it out.”
C) Ryan accidentally referring to ”It Don’t Mean a Thing” as ”I Don’t Mean a Thing.”
D) The Ford Music Video’s suggestion that hybrid car emissions turn into verdant fields and flowering trees.

Also, because you haven’t procrastinated enough from your job/housework/child-rearing, do check out our new video series Must List Live!, where Big Bang Theory star Jim Parsons talks about his own Idol obsession, then press play below to watch our five-part video interview with Anoop Desai. I know, I know, you’re thinking ”five parts is a lot!” But trust me, the recent Idol evictee (and regular Idolatry watcher!) is smart, and funny, and isn’t afraid to dish about the show’s producers, his song-arrangement strategy, and the backstage incident that almost left him with a hand injury!

What did you think of tonight’s ouster? Were you shocked by (and are you buying) Adam in the bottom two? Put your answers to these vital questions, as well as your thoughts on the rest of tonight’s show, in the comments section below. And if you’d like to be a call-in guest on Idolatry, shoot an email with your thoughts on this week in Idol (along with a daytime phone number) to idolatry@ew.com. Also: If you missed signing up this week for EW.com’s Idol Prediction Challenge, please do it now! Even if you missed scoring on Rat Pack Night, we keep tabs on week-to-week winners on our leaderboard. I’m currently in 414th place, up from 725th last week. I can almost taste victory, I swear it!