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Hello again, Idol fans!  While Claire is getting drunk on beer made by monks, and the rest of the country was watching Lost, I was here, watching two hours of America's favorite televised singing competition.  Well, an hour and a half, and 30 minutes of Ford commercials.  Anyway, tonight we get to see the guys, who, after all the big talk about that super-special group of gals we have this year, must be pretty anxious to get on stage and show us something good.  Simon has his shirt open tonight, so you know something exciting is going to happen.

Ryan Seacrest complains at the start of the show that he can hear everything Simon is saying, which I'm sure we'll all get to hear eventually during the palimony suit.  Kara gives the guys some close-your-eyes-and-think-of-England advice about relaxing on stage, while Simon says they better come correct or their careers are over.  That's what I like about Simon:  he loves to ruin people's lives so they can qualify for other, lesser reality TV shows.  Anyway, let's get on to the competition while I'm still angry!

Todrick Hall, "Since U Been Gone" (Kelly Clarkson).  Sometimes I just don't understand the judges, and this is one of those times:  I think Todrick just absolutely killed it with his love-man rendition of "Since U Been Gone", but the judges tear him a new one.  They're forever urging people to take a song and make it their own, and I can't remember anyone doing just that as well as Todrick does, and yet they're ready to write him off.  Madness!  Insanity!  Living profanity!  Simon says "Boo all you want; people wouldn't buy that song", which, shit, I'mo go buy it right now.


Aaron Kelly, "Here Comes Goodbye" (Rascal Flatts).  Another common line from the judges is "there are a million people singing songs just the way you did", and that applies to Aaron in triplicate.  Aaron is what you get when you call central casting and ask for a David Archuleta type.  But this show must cater to the teen girl demo, so he gets wildly overpraised for this perfectly mediocre performance.  Even Ryan Toothpaste is acting as his hype man. The fix is in for this kid, folks.

Jermaine Sellers, "Get Here" (Oleta Adams).  This song, with which I was not familiar before tonight, has some pretty batshit lyrics.  Jermaine "Booboo the Fool" Sellers has some crazy-good runs, but not much else — the male equivalent of the up-and-down divas that often dominate the female side.  The judges mostly agree; he could be good if he develops some personality and control, but with just technique, he's not going very far.


Tim Urban, "Apologize" (One Republic).  Tim, who looks a lot like former teen pop idol/current underrated TV producer Shaun Cassidy, was the guy brought in to replace Chris Golightly.  And boy, are the producers probably regretting that decision:  Tim is terrible, pure cannon fodder.  He can't even turn a decent job of delivering this rotten song, and his I-can't-hit-the-notes falsetto is downright embarrassing.  The judges have already crossed his name off the list.

Joe Muñoz, "You and I Both" (Jason Mraz).  Joe has a sort of Anoop Desai ethnic-soul-man vibe going on, but he seems as nervous here as when he was playing the guitar — he's got a terrific voice, but he almost wants to get ahead of the arrangement.  The judges give him a qualified rave, and I think that he could stick around for a while if he learns to settle down and master the song.  Simon says he needs to have the steel in his eyes.  Brown steel in the hour of chaos!


Tyler Grady, "American Woman" (The Guess Who).  Some people seem to hate his cockiness, but fuck it, how often are you gonna be on this show?  Tyler seems pretty self-aware and he's having a good time, so God bless him.  But then he comes and sings this dirty hippie commie song written by Canadians, including the dopey intro, and it doesn't do him any favors.  Weirdly, despite his child-o'-the-'70s jawn, I think this was the wrong song for him — it played to his shtick instead of his strengths.  We get it already, as Simon seems to be implying.  Here I am agreeing with the judges again, after the great Todrick Hall betrayal!  Oh, American Idol.  How I hate you.

Lee DeWyze, "Chasing Cars" (Snow Patrol).  Just last night, I was wondering:  where is the obvious villain of season 9?  Where is the person I hate for no immediately explicable reason?  Well, he's here, and his name is Lee DeWyze.  I should at least give him credit for repping Chicago, but man, I can't even stand to look at the guy.  He's the sort of overly self-impressed MOR douchebag who's fronting a band like Andy Dwyer's Mouse Rat, only in real life and not a joke (intentionally, anyway).  Randy basically calls him a pussy, in one of the few times I've ever really liked Randy.  Simon loves him.  Either he's drunk or I am.


John Park, "God Bless the Child" (Billie Holiday).  Now that's more like it!  John Park spends a few minutes macking on Shania Twain, which isn't the worst way to spend your time, and then sings a hell of a daunting jazz standard.  He doesn't do badly at all; I was a bit impressed with his voice, but he had some very weird phrasing, which the judges confused with being dull.  But it's such a hard song to sell, I think he may have shot himself in the foot.  Do America's teen girls, contra Ellen, dig John enough to save his ass?  I don't think so, but let's remember how bad I am at predicting American Idol results.  Fortunes have been made by betting against me.

Michael Lynche, "This Love" (Maroon 5).  Big Mike, who terrified me in the opening sequence by convincingly pretending to eat the camera, is the guy with the new baby, so he's got crazy backstory going for him.  Why he's singing a goddamn Maroon 5 song is beyond me, but he does a pretty creditable job, despite using his guitar more or less as a prop.  This isn't the best choice for him, but he's super likable and is a swell performer, so I don't think it really matters; he's a lock to get through.


Alex Lambert, "Wonderful World" (James Morrison).  Alex first needs to prove that he's not Adam, which he does by not being a walking show tune.  He also amuses us by recalling the walking neurosis that was Mary Powers.  So how does he do in the actual singing part of the singing competition?  Surprisingly, not bad; his personality is bland like unflavored gelatin, but he's got a nice fat James Taylor white-soul tone that I kinda like.  Simon, who I'm usually in synch with, hates him.  Ellen spends a lot of time talking about bananas.

Casey James, "Heaven" (Bryan Adams).  Can Casey survive without a Kara DioGuardia to instruct him to take his shirt off?  Nope.  He turns in a bland performance of a bland song, but he's a mighty pretty man, so as Ellen correctly surmises, it doesn't really matter whether he's any good or not.  He even sends poor Randy into a bit of a gay panic.  Kara shamefacedly claims that she would love him no matter what he looks like.  He's likely to go far, but someone give the poor guy (whose speaking voice is a dead ringer for that of Jeff Bridges) a personality.


Andrew Garcia, "Sugar We're Going Down" (Fall Out Boy).  Who called this guy "fat Latino hipster Rerun"?  Because damn you, I can't get that description out of my head.  Anyway, he's got the not-uncommon problem of having to live up to a dynamite audition; his rendition of "Straight Up" was so good, we'll be forever expecting him to top it.  Not being Kyle Ryan, I'm not well-equipped to judge this or any other interpretation of a Fall Out Boy song, but the performance was good without being great.  The judges seemed to be dancing around asking him if he had anything in his pocket other than jaunty acoustic renditions of unexpected pop hits.

Not a bad episode, but the guys generally lack in chops what they have over the girls in personality.  I feel like the judges are telegraphing their picks to go deep a little more obviously than in previous seasons — Simon in particular, as I guessed early on, has basically given up — which could make for some uncomfortable viewing, but enough talent is coming through that the late rounds will be worth sticking around for.  And I'm still holding out hope that Mike will flip out and go El Kabong upside someone's skull with his tiny guitar.


Rating:  B

Stray Observations:

- Okay, I know I'm not one to understand the kids and their crazy fashion choices, but why on earth was Todrick Hall wearing a rape whistle?


- The Foundation for a Better Life would like us to make the world a better place by electing people with Down's Syndrome prom queen.  I don't really understand advertising sometimes.

- My picks to get kicked:  the abysmal Tim Urban, who should already be packing his bags by now, and the luckless John Park.