Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

American Idol: 9 Finalists Compete Again

Illustration for article titled American Idol: 9 Finalists Compete Again

There initially seemed like a lot to make fun of with the premise of tonight's Idol.  Adam Lambert was mentoring Elvis Presley week because they…what? Share a hairdo? And doesn't that Cirque du Soleil Elvis show look like something. It has a giant blue suede shoe in it!  What up with that?!

But you know what, I realized I really like Adam.  While I didn't love his falsetto tongue-lashing last season, I obviously didn't hate him too much or else I wouldn't have bought some of his songs.  He seems like a nice, honest guy and I liked that instead of saying "Uh-oh, I'm scaaared of these kids!" in the condescending manner most mentors do, he was honest and said everyone needed to pick up the energy.  The best part though was the face he made after Ryan said, "My tongue is not nearly as talented as yours."  "There you have it," Adam said, as if to say "Don't try and cover up your snarky self-loathing gay panic sexual innuendo as a mere awkward stage banter gone awry, guy."

Also, the show dug deeper than I thought your typical Elvis episode of Idol would. There were a lot of Presley songs sung that I had never heard before, and while there were a few embarrassing moments, I liked that nobody really seemed to try to pretend to be Elvis.

Crystal began the evening singing "Saved," an Elvis song she obviously had a good time performing, wailing and getting into it with the backup singers, slowing it down halfway through and bringing it on home. I liked her glittery guitar and sort of wish she had dressed a little bit the part, just something a tinge more tailored or glam, either way.  The judges all adored it and Simon noted that he liked that it didn't sound like bad karaoke, which he figured we'd hear some of tonight. I wondered whether the show had saved the best for first.

I should have known that things weren't going to go great with the next performance because Ryan engaged Andrew in some of the most awkward pre-song banter I've heard this season.  Ryan asked Andrew how he felt hearing Michael sing for his life last week, since he "broke a ceiling with his performance."  Andrew took that opportunity to remind us twice that he is a father. Then Ryan introduced him by rolling the r's in "Garcia," snapping his fingers and dancing around in a circle going "Ay! Ay! Ay! Ay!"  So, anyway. Elvis had a pompadour. Adam has a pompadour. Andrew has a pompadour. One of these pompadours cannot stand! And it was Andrew's.  I loved that Adam told it like it is and said that Andrew's rendition of "Hound Dog" as he heard it was "boring." "We know the song. Make it yours."  Well, sadly, Andrew's version of "Hound Dog" is the completely castrated version. I wish I had the musical vocabulary to describe the arrangement of the song—like a bossa nova or something—but it was so boring as to be embarrassing.  Nothing you'd swivel your hips to, that's for sure.  And Kara made a good observation by saying that Andrew dragged his mic around the stage like a crutch.  Only Ellen seemed to like it but she was clearly wrong, the end.

Next Tim took on "Can't Help Falling In Love,” and once again didn't do a horrible job.  I didn't think it was anything close to Crystal's level but I liked the spots where the melody was re-arranged, his guitar-playing, even liked the falsetto. I don't like how Tim does that little creak at the beginning of his notes a la Britney Spears, but whatever, it was good for Tim. I wouldn't go so far as to agree with Simon who said that Tim went from "zero to hero" in two weeks but I'd say he at least went from zero to .5.  Ryan liked it so much that he slow-danced to it with Michael Sarver, a stunt I knew he'd think was so cute he'd mention it after the performance to make sure everyone was aware of it.

Lee sang "A Little Less Conversation" and I agreed with Adam that old Lee needs to be a little more engaging onstage, because basically, I've been bored with Lee these past few weeks.  He sings well, but I'm not finding a lot, in terms of stage presence or persona, to really get into. Kara said she wished Lee had been a little more playful with the song, which I agree because I think Lee slowed the song down a bit too much, but Simon thought she was full of crap and believed that Lee is fine as is as long as he sings well.

I think Aaron was the only singer of the night to really go the route of unfortunate Elvis impression with his go at "Blue Suede Shoes." I thought it was sweet actually that he had reservations about singing the line about liquor but otherwise Simon got it completely right when he said it reminded him of a high school concert.  Aaron didn't sing badly per se but Kara was completely erroneous when she said he made the song sound more current.

So what happened when Siobhan met Adam? Did their screeches fall in love and make little screech babies? Not really. She wore some crazy leggings and told him that people compared her to him.  She sung "Suspicious Minds" which I don't think was really the song for her, but I'm not sure what was the song for her.  (By the way, to me "Suspicious Minds" is all about the backing vocals). She was the only contestant to really seem to try to channel Elvis with her outfit (pompadour, white getup that seemed to hearken a bit to one of his white jumpsuits).  The first half of the song was relatively quiet and then she went for a few big notes at the bridge, which in her version wasn't really a bridge but just the second half of the song.  There wasn't anything patently wrong with it but it just didn't land. I agree with Kara and Simon that she seems to have lost her identity the past few weeks so it's getting harder to define what a really good Siobhan performance would be.  I don't know, isn't this the third week in a row where she's been off her game? And I didn't really like said game that much to begin with. But she refuses to be put in the tiny neat little box that all you suits out there keep trying to, like DEFINE her by so just lay off and quit being such fascists. [APPLAUSE]

Michael took on "In the Ghet-toe" (I can't help but notice that pronunciation): Adam wanted him to show more theatrics but Mike was unsure, knowing the judges sometimes call him cheesy when he gets too stagey.  I agree with Randy that Mike's rendition was "a little sleepy but hot vocals."  Mike decided to scale it back, sitting on the stage with just his guitar and a piano accompaniment. It didn't give me goosebumps but he showed amazing vocal control and Simon and everyone else loved it.

I like Katie Stevens as a person so it makes me sad to say I keep forgetting she exists as an Idol contestant. She sang "Baby, What You Want Me to Do," trying to put her frustration with the judges into the performance.  She sounded pretty good but moreover I was distracted by yet another bizarre outfit and the fact that she seems to think she's Aretha Franklin or something—she loves to do that sassy side-to-side "Oh no you didn't!" head dance.  I fell somewhere between Randy's "Nice vocals! I was entertained" and Simon's "I found it very loud, a bit annoying."

Casey closed things out with "Lawdy Miss Clawdy" and I think Adam gave Casey good advice about building more of an arc to the song because while Casey did his bluesy thing, the judges (and I) all felt disappointed that he seemed to take a comfortable step back, as opposed to moving forward from last week's performance.

So two contestants go home tomorrow night: Andrew and Aaron, perhaps?

—Ryan looked like an even bigger ass making that Brian Dunkleman joke when the audience actually seemed excited to hear that he might be back to host Idol Gives Back. I know I'd rather see Dunkleman than Queen Latifah.

—I am sick of hearing the word "swagger" on this show. And also hearing Kara say "fire" when she means "quite good."

—Whose Afro did Ryan rub early on the show? Was that Malcolm Gladwell?

—Ryan's mom is cute.