Tonight’s installment of American Idol felt a little bit like walking through the exhibition hall of a county fair. ”Oh look, it’s a didgeridoo! And over there’s a bagpipe! Hey, now they’re trotting out Sir Paul McCartney for a quick and not-entirely-convincing cameo! And in the front, there are those pretty actors from BONNNN-ZZZZZZ!” All that was missing were the jars of raspberry jam and two rows of prize-winning cows.
Which isn’t to say that I’m likening season 9’s top 9 contestants to livestock — Lord knows, we don’t want Ken Warwick getting the idea that branding and ear-tagging should be a required rite of passage for next year’s crop of finalists. But there’s no denying that an utterly random, often amusing vibe permeated the telecast — and, lo and behold, it brought out solid performances from more than half of the remaining singers. Then again, maybe it was Randy’s sage advice at the top of the show — ”No excuses. Come on. Bring it.” — that made all the difference. Um, yeah, right.
In keeping with the pervasive anything-goes tone, let’s review the night’s nine performances in chronological order:
Aaron ”Yoda” Kelly Look, given that season 7 featured not one but two weeks’ worth of Beatles tunes, it was inevitable we’d hear some repeat song choices tonight. But if Aaron is really such a wise old sage, why on earth would he choose ”The Long and Winding Road,” a number previously covered on Idol by David Archuleta, the contestant whose footsteps he’s so clearly (and yet not so successfully) trying to follow? That’d be kind of like serving a stale Little Debbie snack cake as a chaser to a slice of rich, homemade dessert. And I say this as someone who never quite warmed to Archie-brand confections back in season 7.
In all seriousness, though, what Aaron is attempting to do on the Idol stage — putting vocals front and center without any real attempt at song rearrangement or performance theatrics — requires a level of pitch perfection and vocal horsepower that he’s nowhere close to achieving. Standing there in a modified raincoat — double-breasted, short-sleeved, and utterly bizarre — Aaron performed the first verse with such an oddly congested bleat, I half expected to look toward the rafters and see the Mucinex spokesphlegm on backup. And it didn’t add to the enjoyment that Aaron lethargically planted himself at center stage, occasionally listing to the left or right like a buoy in moderately choppy waters. Heck, even the kid’s signature ”raised hand” move felt glum and half-hearted tonight. You know you’ve had a bad run when Randy kicks off your critique with a chuckle and the words ”Yo, yo.” Having both Kara and Simon call you ”Sweetie,” though, just seemed too cruel by half. Next stop: The bottom three!
Vote for Katie, get some Thin Mints! Oh, if only…