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American Idol recap: Summer Lovin'

Despite the predictability of three contestants selecting Donna Summer tunes, Disco Night winds up as one of the season’s more enjoyable telecasts

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American Idol
Michael Becker/American Idol/Getty Images

American Idol

TV Show
Current Status:
In Season
Harry Connick Jr., Jennifer Lopez, Keith Urban, Ryan Seacrest
Reality TV

I’m no math whiz — although, unlike Kara DioGuardi, I can count into the double digits — but I couldn’t ignore some of the intriguing numbers jumping out at me during tonight’s disco-themed performance episode of American Idol. (And nope, I’m not referring to the frequency with which I may or may not have dialed 866-Idols-02 and 866-Idols-04 while I was supposed to be writing this TV Watch.) Let’s do a quick rundown:

Number of Donna Summer tracks performed by the seven remaining finalists: 3.

Number of times Randy Jackson attempted to pass off the phrase ”you can sing” as a legitimate critique of contestants in what’s still ostensibly a singing competition: 4.

Number of times Kara obviously rephrased Randy’s critique as part of her own feedback: 3.

Number of times the word ”artist” was uttered by the judges and/or Lil Rounds following her cover of ”I’m Every Woman”: 5.

Number of performances we’ve seen during this year’s Idol finals: 65.

Number of times Kara confused Saturday Night Live with Saturday Night Fever: 1.

Now while that final stat is worthy of its own article — and we’ll certainly get back to the subject of what my pal Annie Barrett refers to as Kara’s “pop-culture dyslexia” in just a bit — the penultimate piece of data from my list is perhaps the most significant when it comes to dissecting and judging the performances we saw on the Idol stage tonight.

Think about it: With seven performance shows behind them, and only four left before the finale, the remaining season 8 contestants are fighting against that terrifying old adage that ”familiarity breeds contempt.” Indeed, as we obsess week in and week out over Allison Iraheta adding random ‘h’ sounds to her consonants (i.e. ”dialed about a thousand h’numbers”), or Anoop Desai sporting excessive perspiration over his upper lip, or Lil never knowing when to shut her trap, it becomes all the more imperative for these singers to make us forget what’s not important and to fill us with the kind of pulse-pounding, speed-dialing enthusiasm that makes us gather around the water cooler and bark ”If he/she goes home this week, I’m never watching Idol again. Or, um, at least I’m not gonna watch it for the rest of the season. Not live anyway…only on my DVR. Yeah! That’ll show ’em!”

The tough part about being an Idol contestant, however, is figuring out the proper strategy when the judges, fans, and producers reserve the right to move the target on a season-by-season, week-by-week, even minute-by-minute basis. Ryan Seacrest may insist twice a week that ”This…is American Idol.” But oftentimes, it can also be a game of ”Song Arrangement Idol” or ”Song Selection Idol” or ”Emotional Connection Idol” or ”Good Old Fashioned Singing Idol” or even ”Good Luck Outsinging the Band Idol.” Oh, and lest we forget, there’s also the all important categories of ”Fashion Idol,” ”Personality Idol,” ”Sound Bite Idol,” and ”Let’s Analyze Your Every Last Facial Tic Idol.”

Tonight’s episode drove that point home in a profound way. The coveted confetti shower may be visible at the end of the tunnel, but there are still perilous miles left in the ”journey.” What’s the point of singing with pitch perfection if you’re merely coloring inside the lines of a well-known song arrangement? Conversely, why bother upping the degree of difficulty with a quadruple jump when you know you’re going to end up face-down in the ice?

NEXT: Kris’ triumph