Hi there, American Idol watchers! I would call you "fans", but you would only deny it. You=Peter, Simon Cowell=Christ. Claire is out doing the things she does that make her so undeniably Zulkey, so I'm here to miss Lost and keep you apprised of what these eleven dingalings are up to tonight. This week's theme is "Billboard #1 Hits", which is boringly broad, but at least leaves open the possibility that someone will sing "In the Year 2525".
I don't like Ryan's head looming over the contestants like some kind of hair-care-oriented Big Brother. At least when he's just on stage milling around with them you can imagine he's touching them inappropriately and it will all end in some kind of wonderful lawsuit. The opening announcements of the judges and Mr. Toothpaste is also a little annoying, but I guess it's getting increasingly difficult to pad these things out to two hours. Randy and Simon tell the contestants this is their last chance to make the tour cut, Ellen reminds us that the best only stick around if we vote for them, Kara says some bullshit, and Simon reminds Ryan of the restraining order he wishes he had against him.
This week's mentor is Miley Cyrus, who is seventeen years old and apparently is the same person as Hannah Montana. Give me a break, folks, I'm an old man and I can't be expected to keep track of anything that teenagers do other than get off my lawn. Answering the question "Why should anyone listen to this kid?", she notes that "people take me seriously because I take myself seriously". That's a pretty grim life lesson waiting to happen, but I like to let life take its own course, so nobody tell her. Let's get right to the performances.
Lee DeWyze, "The Letter" (The Box Tops). I'm not sure if Lee picked this before or after Alex Chilton died, so I don't want to judge the guy's intentions, but I sure didn't dig his be-bop-tinged performance. You can only warn people against the Michael Buble nonsense so many times before it becomes their fault. It would have been nice for someone (say, Crystal Bowersox) to do a nice respectful send-off to ol' Alex, but this was just a fatty slice of ham that contained nothing of why he was so great. Randy says he knocked it out of the box, Ellen uses another tortured metaphor to say he was great, Kara says it was his greatest performance ("Your progress was truh-MEN-dous"), and Simon saves my sanity by saying it was corny and lacking impact. Not a single person, even these music-industry 'pros', gives a shout-out to Alex Chilton at all, the bunch of shitbags.
Paige Miles, "Against All Odds" (Phil Collins). Coach Miley reminds Paige not to be pitchy, thus robbing poor Randy of the one criticism in his quiver. Better advice, at least for the early part of the song, would have been "stay on key". She sounds better when she starts belting, but she just never seems to be hitting the right notes; the whole performance was, like my main man Hawk Harrelson would say, right size, wrong shape. Paige is usually pretty reliable, but in a rare agreement with Randy, I gotta say this was terrible. Ellen goes with the old Paula Abdul "You look pretty" criticism and Simon baits the hook before ripping her guts out. Kara says it was the worst performance she's ever done. I hate agreeing with Kara.
Tim Urban, "Crazy Little Thing Called Love" (Queen). Miley Cyrus says that people don't like Tim because he's boring, and she disagrees. She doesn't mention that people also don't like Tim because he can't sing. He at least avoids the pitfall of over-Bubleing the performance with a jazzy hepcat performance, but he still fails, because he is not a good singer. I doubt he moves more than a centimeter up and down his half-octave range during the whole performance. Your stripey shirt will not save you, Tim Urban. He says he had a good time before Randy bums him out by reminding him that this is, at least putatively, a singing competition. Ellen thinks it sounded like a High School Musical try-out, Kara says something dumb, and Simon says it was "remarkably silly and pointless" and crushes him like a ball of foil. Get off this show, dude.
Aaron Kelly, "I Don't Want To Miss A Thing" (Aerosmith). The minute I heard 'Aaron Kelly' and 'Aerosmith' in the same sentence, I started laughing and just now stopped when I typed this sentence. Even though this is a particularly wimpy Aerosmith song, that band is all about dirty rock star cocaine sex, and Aaron Kelly exudes sexuality in the same way as a paper plate does. He's also got laryngitis and tonsillitis, which is bound to make for an amusing performance. "You have literally an incredible voice," says Coach Miley, as Aaron pops a tweener. Aaron gets a fancy light show, which distracts from his vocals — which, on the one hand, are not that badly harmed by his ailments, but on the other hand, are by Aaron Kelly. Randy says he shined in comparison to the last two losers, Ellen says he has a great voice for a third-grader, Kara praises his song choice (especially his "country twang" — you know, just like Steven Tyler), and Simon says there's no chance he won't advance to the next round. Ryan Toothpaste gives the game away by saying "If you want to vote for David Archuleta here…".
Crystal Bowersox, "Me And Bobby McGee" (Jackie Jormp-Jomp). Girls like Crystal Bowersox were sort of born to sing Janis Joplin songs, so in a way I was sad to hear she picked it, because it's so predictable. On the other hand, she's the best performer in this jawn these days, and Coach Miley actually gives her some decent advice. Plus, she looks purty in an evening gown! I wouldn't even say this was her best performance, but when she got into the free-form gospel shouting bit at the end, she was just cranking it out on all cylinders and proving why she's the one to beat this year. Randy says this is the kind of performance American Idol is all about, Ellen wants her to embrace the fans a bit more (which I hate to agree with, but the charm of Crystal's 'I don't give a fuck about this stupid show' stance is wearing a little thin), Kara says ditto, and Simon says Crystal is the only one so far who is playing the game the way it's meant to be played. Crystal promises big things for next week; Simon warns her not to change too much, but I'm sure we're all thinking the same thing: topless.
Michael Lynche, "When A Man Loves A Woman" (Percy Sledge). One reason Big Mike is doing so well, even when his vocals aren't the greatest (though they often are), is that he's a total showman: in the coaching segment, he's all goofing on Coach Miley like he's the famous one and singing the song right to her, which is the kind of performance skill that wins American Idol for you. The only bad thing about his performance tonight is that the arrangement is a little too big and threatens to overwhelm him at least once, but he comes back well enough and he does what people love him for doing. Randy says he did what he needed to do, Ellen says it was a safe choice, Kara calls it overindulgent with "too many riffs", and Simon reinforces my point about the arrangement being too big. I'm pretty sure this is just the sort of 'stay humble, front-runner' critique we usually get at this point in the show, though.
Andrew Garcia, "I Heard It Through The Grapevine" (Marvin Gaye). Coach Miley makes Andrew forget his lyrics and forces him to get rid of his crutch-ass guitar. She obviously doesn't like him very much, but then, her hatred of Hispanics is legendary, according the Bureau of Totally Made-Up Invidious Celebrity Rumors. His performance is actually not awful — it at least addresses the one-trick-pony criticism — but likewise it's not great. Randy says it's terrible, Ellen says it was a bad song choice, Kara says he seemed like a confused puppet, and Simon says he "sucked the soul out of that song". Andrew says he was just trying to have fun, which is the standard defense offered when you are crummy.
Katie Stevens, "Big Girls Don't Cry" (Fergie). Katie asks Coach Miley how she deals with people who are negative and say hurtful things. I like to think she's talking about me. This was actually pretty good — good song choice, good performance, and she sang it like a 17-year-old. The fact that this is of zero interest to me is kinda beside the point; she's not gonna win (her voice just isn't good enough), but she seemed more comfortable and this is the kind of performance she should be giving. Randy and Ellen offer somewhat qualified praise; Kara tries to pull some shit on Simon, but he wins as usual by using the phrase "chalk and cheese" and referring to Kara as "this one". I bet Paula misses how much Simon hated her.
Casey James, "The Power Of Love" (Huey Lewis & The News). Casey disses Coach Miley by saying he's a big fan of her dad, who, I believe, is Cyrus from the Gramercy Riffs. I hate the shit out of this song, as all right-thinking people must, and Casey once again seems to focus on performing like the leader of a band instead of a solo pop singer. That's fine, and I'm sure he has a bright future ahead of him on Country Music Television, but he's got no chance of winning Idol. Strangely, all the judges except the wise St. Simon of the Cross think it's a great performance. I think he'll get to the next round, more on the strength of his looks than his singing, but that's gonna be about it for ol' Casey.
Didi Benami, "You're No Good" (Linda Ronstadt). Ryan Toothpaste keeps referring to Didi as a waitress, in much the same way as I keep referring to him as a douchebag. Coach Miley likes her "vye-bratto". This one's a tough one to sing, and I like the arrangement pretty well, but Didi, who's one of the unlikeliest girls to have survived this deep into the season, starts out singing it a little flat and never quite gets on top of it. Randy thinks she looks better than she sounds, Ellen doesn't get the song choice, Kara thought she was putting on a show which left her (Kara) confused, and Simon says she's, well, no good. For which he is soundly booed, and he snaps back with the vitriol of a man who doesn't give a shit anymore. (He doesn't even remember Lacey's name, the magnificent bastard.) Didi starts out clearly wanting to argue, but she just falls back on the ol' "I had fun up there" line.
Siobhan Magnus, "Superstition" (Stevie Wonder). There is a certain rumor circulating around these parts concerning the extent of Siobhan's intelligence. I am far too much of a gentleman to repeat or even address these rumors, but I will say this: the outfit she is wearing tonight does absolutely nothing to dispel them. And yet it is so much less horrible than what she is wearing with Coach Miley, which is the worst thing anyone has worn anywhere for any reason. "Superstition" is a tricky song — it's not that difficult vocally, but it's super-funky, so you can't just do pop crooning. The arrangement gets way on top of Siobhan, which is a blessing insofar as it blots out her rotten vocal performance, but it also just leaves her flailing around on stage, doing some kind of super-unfunky chicken dance and looking like Sheena Easton might look after an electrical accident. This performance makes me sad. Randy says she's fearless, which I take it as meaning that she's not afraid to suck, but which he actually seems to mean; Ellen loves her too, and Kara says she "loves to express herself", like she's three and just turned in a thumbprint drawing. Simon correctly predicts that some people are really going to hate her performance.
Overall, a pretty solid night — the bad singers suck, the good ones are great, some sass from the judges, and Ryan stays the hell out of the way. Too long, but it didn't seem that way. I'm still pretty pissed off about the Alex Chilton snub, but what can you expect from music industry creeps?
None! This article is already like 30 pages long, for crissakes. However, if you are one of the country's many Leonard-is-always-wrong-about-Idol bettors, my predictions for tomorrow are Paige, Tim and Didi in the Bottom 3, with Didi getting the boot. Thanks, Claire, for handing me the reins this week.