American Idol recap: Sympathy for the Bedeviled
As the first season 9 finalist gets kicked to the curb, the focus shifts to guest stars good and bad; plus we get new insights into several remaining contestants
American Idol loyalists eager to defend the righteousness of the nation’s most popular singing competition received an unexpected gift during tonight’s results-show telecast: The juxtaposition of dishy season 7 champ David Cook and a bedraggled Lady Gaga impersonator/current chart topper. Yes indeed, on one hand we had Cookie paying tribute to the Rolling Stones with a tight, energetic ”Jumpin’ Jack Flash.” On the other, we had something called a ”Ke$ha” stomping around the stage in ungainly fashion, cavorting with a troupe of dancing TV sets, and capping her performance by inexplicably donning a Native American headdress.
(Yes, ladies and gentlemen, for her next trick, ”Ke$ha” will sully the reputations of a yarmulke, a turban, and even an unsuspecting French beret!)
Seriously, though, it’s blasphemy to discuss David Cook and ”Ke$ha” in the same sentence, especially since the erstwhile Idol champ was kind enough to give the season 9 finalists a front-row look at how to own — not rent, not test-drive, not borrow — the song, the stage, and heck, the entire room, whenever you’re lucky enough to be in front of an audience. Singing with conviction and a pitch perfection that’s been rare among the season 9 males, David proved you can keep a crowd’s attention without having to reinvent a track from the ground up and without moving out from behind the mic stand. (A crisp red shirt and black jacket don’t hurt that cause any, by the bye.) I just wish the production crew hadn’t positioned the microphone in a way that aggressively obscured David’s face. And also, wouldn’t it have made more sense for him to swap performance slots with the synchronized TVs, the better to build momentum over the course of the hour as opposed to the other way around?
Instead, ”Ke$ha” got the performance pimp slot, and based on her sloppy sing-speak, I’d have gladly opted for an encore by any one of the evening’s bottom three contestants — Lacey Brown, Paige Miles, or even Tim Urban. In fact, I like to think Idol‘s producers only invited the chart-topping diva to perform her current single ”Blah Blah Blah” in an effort to quash all the kvetching that season 9’s top 12 finalists are some of the weakest in show history. (Imagine Ken Warwick, feet up on his desk, barking into his phone: ”They think Katie Stevens has got pitch problems? She’s bloody Billie Holiday next to Ke$ha!”)
NEXT: Tim and Andrew’s awesome reality check
But let’s get back to the contestants, or more specifically the suspense-free business of whittling the field down from 12 to 11. With at least a half-dozen would-be Idols who could’ve gotten axed without so much as a collective eyebrow-raise from the viewing public, it didn’t really matter whether Ryan bothered to match up contestants in ”one’s at risk, the other’s not” sets. That said, his pairing of Tim and Andrew Garcia did allow for a moment of refreshingly brutal honesty from Kara. Asked by Ryan if she’d be comfortable seeing Tim or Andrew leave the competition, she initially hedged, then (take note, Ellen!) actually did some heavy lifting and expressed the obvious: Based on their Tuesday-night performances, it wouldn’t have been a shocker to see either guy go home. ”Yikes, guys. It wasn’t good,” Kara said of her experience watching them back on TV. ”It really wasn’t.”
(Side note: How is it that Kara is so frequently on the ball from a critique standpoint this season, and yet more annoying than ever? If she could go a full episode without cozying up to Simon and/or desperately attempting to have a TV ”moment,” I might have to start rethinking my deep and rational desire to see a Congressional act banning her from ever appearing on television again.)
Still, even though I was slightly surprised to see Tim get sent to the Silver Stools of Doom (TM) instead of Andrew, I was never really worried he’d pay the ultimate Idol price for that thuddingly clueless rendition of ”Under My Thumb.” The kid was trending on Twitter an hour after his performance last night, so good, bad, or comical, he’s got buzz (if not time) on his side. Far more shocking was Ellen’s struggle to answer Ryan when he asked if Lacey, Paige, or Tim would be worthy of the season 9 Judges’ Save. Her fumbled words, followed by a tentative, drawn-out ”Yeeeeessss?” did nothing to mask the ice-cold truth of the matter. I just don’t know who in the name of #SignMattGiraud Simon was talking about when he piped up with an unnecessary ”One is worth saving!” Really, dude, are we still on the ”Paige has potential” bandwagon? ‘Cause I have the ”potential” to win the next MegaMillions drawing, but that doesn’t mean I should be planning important life decisions around it.
And so yes, we came down to Paige, who’s clearly not a follower of that Coco Chanel rule to always take off one accessory before leaving the house, and Lacey, who never met a doily she didn’t want to pull out from under a lamp and add to an already busy existing garment.
NEXT: Did we mention that Siobhan and Crystal rule? Well, they do!
The latter singer eventually found herself back with a mic in her hand, cooing her way through a decent though not particularly spectacular cover of Brandi Carlile’s ”The Story” as the judges rudely huddled and pretended to deliberate her fate. Next week, maybe a production assistant can wheel out four laptops to the judges’ table so everybody can have a two-minute break to check their email before Simon gives the thumbs down and Andrew or Paige or Katie falls through a trap door and into the Rancor’s pit — never to be heard from again! But listening to the contestants for 120 seconds? Well Simon & Co. don’t get paid enough for that!
Really, the only positive aspect of the whole ”Judges’ Save 2.0” (aka ”Judges” Annual Final Power-Grab) was that Lacey wasn’t forced to give an encore of ”Ruby Tuesday,” the performance that landed her in last place to begin with, and instead was given the option of selecting as an exit song her own ”greatest hit” from earlier in the season. And while I still contend Lacey’s ouster came a week too late (at the expense of Katelyn and Lilly) and while I can’t say I was really sad to see her go, she can hold her head up that she handled her exit with grace and poise — not to mention a song that suited her tissue-papery instrument.
Finally, some random questions and observations.
* Will everyone please join me in giving a standing ovation to Randy Jackson? And no, I’m not being facetious. For the first time in recent history, the Dawg did not launch into a chorus of ”boos” during Simon Cowell’s introduction. And if I’ve learned anything from nine seasons of Randy-watching, it’s that we have to celebrate even his most minuscule achievements.
* Am I already way too deep into Siobhan-MamaSox love, or did those ladies produce the coolest designs during the Fiesta custom-graphics segment?
* Also: Did I just un-ironically discuss the Fiesta custom-graphics segment? Uff da. This is bad. But Siobhan’s octopus was appropriately loopy-adorable, while Crystal’s exploding sunflower was exactly the kind of earth goddess vibe you’d expect from (and hope for) the dreadlocked diva.
* Randy doing a Justin Timberlake impression. I would seriously download the dance remix.
* Orianthi’s guitar-playing > Orianthi’s singing > The hideous sound mix for her performance.
* Ryan really needs to never again bring up the idea of Crystal thinking the competition was in her pocket, since it’s like the Idol equivalent of a news anchor repeating that the Earth is flat enough times on TV till people start believing it. All that aside, though, Bow-er-sox is pretty adept at speaking her mind without coming off disrespectful. How many singers could tell Simon Cowell, ”Don’t put words in my mouth,” and still get a wink from the cranky Brit?
* Note to Big Mike: I am one of ”the people.” And guess what? I am here to tell you that your dancing on Tuesday night was totally hinky. That is all.
NEXT: A note for Katie Stevens
* And while she’s not my favorite contestant, I would love it if next week Katie Stevens teaches the judges a lesson by performing a death-metal track. I mean, Kara actually had it right when she said Katie’s best option was exploring a pop-R & B sound, but even if Simon disagreed, I felt like his insistence that Katie go country was more a way to dismiss Kara than to genuinely foster the Connecticut teenager’s career. Ellen’s subsequent vote for ”Mariachi” was amusing, but Randy’s ill-timed shout-out ”Salsa!” once again proved his inability to read social situations and know when a joke has reached its Waterloo.
* And finally: Did I hallucinate it or was that a beluga whale sighting during David Cook’s performance?
What did you think of Idol‘s final first Top 12 results night? Who do you think will go home next week?
Ryan Seacrest hosts as Katy Perry, Lionel Richie, and Luke Bryan guide aspiring singers on their way to superstardom.