American Idol: "9 Finalists Compete"
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American Idol: "9 Finalists Compete"

I took some issue with the theme of tonight’s episode. The way it was introduced, it seemed that the kids would be singing rock n’ roll music, yet the theme was technically “Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame,” which meant that we heard a lot of non-rock tonight, which felt a bit like cheating. Don’t tell me it’s going to be hot dog night and then give me a pork chop and tell me it’s no big deal since they originated from the same animal. I was all worked up for the hot dog!

I have to confess that I was full of rage before Jacob even began singing. First of all, Will.mother.I.fucking.Am was the guest mentor this week? I don’t know what was more offensive about this: that he is somehow a rock n' roll expert, or that this is now the third time he’s been on the show this season? Is he really in that high of demand by the American Idol audience? I find this hard to believe. I’d rather have more Marc Anthony, if I had a choice. Anyway, I was glad Jacob decided not to sing “Let’s Get It On,” because regardless of whether he finds the song too sexually overt, it’s just been done to death. So he switched to “Man in the Mirror,” explaining that if he ends up in the bottom three, it’s because America isn’t ready to look at itself in the mirror. Are you kidding me? Shut up, Jacob. Kiss my non-mirror-looking-ass. So he sang his song, dressed all in white like the angel he is, and he was OK, I guess, but like I said, I already had checked out on him. The only good part was Steven calling out the song’s co-writer, Siedah Garrett, who sang backup for Jacob. Jennifer told Jacob that the performance was “perfect in every way,” because she apparently doesn’t know the definition of the word “perfect.

Haley nailed the theme much better with “Piece of My Heart,” which she sang since the judges kept comparing her to Janis Joplin. Will.I.Am gave her the predictable guest-judge input of telling her to think of somebody specific as she sang. Gwen Stefani took on the odd role of styling the girls tonight, and I noticed her influence a lot more than Will.I.Am’s. I liked Haley’s drapey plaid top and cute belt. Like Gwen’s clothes, it was a little weird, but it worked. Anyway, I think Haley was helped by strong backup and band, but she was pretty good tonight—I still wish that she didn’t rely on the growl so much, but she reminded me that there are verses to the song and not just the big chorus. And Haley rocked it out, too, which the ladies on the show don’t do too often, so I kind of agreed with Jennifer that Haley’s proving to be a contender on the show.

If there’s any justice in the world, Casey will be in the bottom three tomorrow night, not because he was especially bad, but because once again the judges failed to give him any constructive criticism when he could have used some. After some song choice back-and-forth again with Will (I’m going to stop typing out the rest of his stupid name) and Jimmy, Casey did “Have You Ever Seen the Rain?” with his upright bass. I think this song is pretty boring, and by and large, Casey’s rendition of it didn’t do much to update it. (I did like the mandolin though.) Moreover, Casey had a lot of noticeable pitch issues throughout the song. He didn’t perform like someone proving himself to his audience. But what did the judges do? Praise him for being the first human in the entire world to play an upright bass. 

Will made me hate him even more by stealing the shtick from my second-to-least favorite mentor/guest singer, Jamie Foxx and challenging Lauren to sing with his face inches from hers as she rehearsed “A Natural Woman." First, I noticed Lauren’s Stefani-styled outfit, a matching black and white gingham bustier and shorts over black tights, high-heeled boots, and a structured black blazer topped by a Tina Turner Thunderdome-style hairdo. At some angles, it oddly worked, and at other times, it looked like Lauren was wearing a droopy diaper. Anyway, at first I thought her rendition of the song was nice, but not perfect (I actually thought that it sounded more like a Haley song), but after the bridge, she put her back into it a little bit more, and I was pleasantly surprised. I think Lauren is pretty good at slowly revealing her strengths as a song goes on and not coming out full-blast like Jacob. Jennifer and Steven loved it, although Randy said it was good, but not great. I’ll give it a good-plus. Christian Slater thought it was “beautiful!” It’s weird to see an enthusiastic Christian Slater. He seems strangely well-preserved but better than all Sheened out.

James took on my favorite Beatle with “While My Guitar Gently Weeps.” Will and Jimmy were worried the audience would find it boring, and while Will was talking, all I could think about was how stupid his whole package looks: stupid, weird-shaped hair; stupid, weird-shaped glasses; stupid, spikey shoes.  Anyway, while I love George Harrison, I actually don’t think this song is one of his best (aside from Eric Clapton playing on it, of course), so I was mildly pleasantly surprised by James' performance. I especially liked the bridge and the strings in the arrangement. I don’t think it was James’ best performance, though—it’s hard to sell the line “I look at the floor and I see it needs sweeping”—and I didn’t really care for his Lambert shriek at the end. Also, with the light shining in from behind his ears and his two small, square front teeth, James slightly resembled a giant human-mouse while he performed. And then he cried a bit at the end. Anyway, the judges liked it. I thought it was fine, but I’ve seen better from James. I liked the quieter moment, but I think he could have picked a better song, no disrespect to George.

Yet another reason I hate Will.I.Am: He appears unaware that the genres of rock and country have mixed together successfully for several decades now. Anyway, Scotty took on “That’s All Right, Mama,” by Elvis, and while I didn’t really hear the “rock” side of him that he promised, it was another solid Scotty performance. I will forgive him for scatting and holding the microphone like it’s a flute, and he has claws instead of hands, but it’s been fun to gradually watch him grow more confident week by week, flirt with the camera a bit and show some ‘tude. I don’t agree with Randy that Scotty’s more than a one-trick pony, but he’s a good pony, regardless of how many tricks he does. Scotty might still be slightly off-putting in ways we’ll eternally struggle to articulate, but I think he’s been holding his own pretty well this season, thanks especially to doing a great job picking songs for himself.

Pia made good on her threat from last week and took on “River Deep Mountain High,” looking like Gwen Stefani with a big bump and red lipstick and a droopy jumpsuit with a nice belt. It was a good song choice for her, because while the music is up-tempo, I think she kind of secretly got to do what she usually does. But it was fun, and I rarely have anything bad to say about Pia’s singing. She can belt it, and I like that she’s straightforward about it, with no excess of growls or anything like that. The judges loved it, and Jennifer advised Pia to study up a bit on her showmanship, which I actually think is good advice, since the one area where she’s lacking a bit is persona. Christian Slater roared in approval when Randy said, “Pia is in it to win it!” 

Stefano should go home tomorrow night. He bores me. I swear he delivers the same performance every week: a safe and somewhat clichéd song sung high and thin, legs akimbo, eyebrows working overtime. Tonight, it was the same old shit with “When A Man Loves a Woman.” I actually thought he had some pitch problems, but the judges aren’t about to point out something as minor as being in tune anymore. Steven and Jennifer told him he was great, while Randy said he was good but not great and got booed for his correctness.

Since Paul was going last, I had a feeling he’d do better this week, especially since Jimmy and Will encouraged him not to tone it down on “Folsom Prison Blues.” Being too toned down has been his problem of late, although I saw promise last week when he sang “Band on the Run” for fun. Paul is more limited than most of the singers, and the song isn’t meant to demonstrate one’s range, but it was the first time in a long time where it sounded like Paul was singing out and really having fun, and we could actually tell he’s a singer. Was it cheating that his song contained a guitar solo, played by one of the sidemen? Maybe, but you know how I feel about Paul, so I’ll take it. I would have preferred it if he'd started the competition where he is now, but it was fun, and the band enjoyed the song so much that they basically continued through the reading of Paul’s number, and then the last few minutes of the show, as all the contestants danced and goofed around onstage, which was fun. I like it when Ryan dances about like a little wooden doll. Stefano, especially, seemed to be having a great time, which makes me feel bad for him going home tomorrow.

Stray observations:

  • I think Scotty was lying about not knowing those girls were going to rush the stage after he sang.
  • Who here would have preferred to have heard Casey’s rumba version of “Every Little Thing She Does is Magic”?
  • Should we be expecting an Aerosmith song in the future about immature little girls turning into natural grown women?
  • Do we think it was awkward at all that Steven and Todd Rundgren were in the same room, or are they cool like that?
  • I will say there was one time when I didn’t mind Will, and it was when he said, to Pia, “You don’t want to do Madonna singing Tina Turner because they’ll just be like, ‘What? Boo.’”
Filed Under: TV, American Idol

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