The show opens with the three judges and Ryan sending out their condolences to Japan and letting us know that the profits from the sale of tonight's downloads will go to help aid efforts in Japan. Whatever else you say about American Idol, when they rally their efforts to raise money for charity, they usually do a pretty good job. I hope tonight is no exception.
On with the show. The colorful flower that is Naima Adedapo opens with Tina Turner's "What's Love Got to Do With it?" She should sing, "What do vocals got to do with it?" because she has every other part of the performance down except the singing. The girl does not have the pipes to take on Tina Fey let alone Tina Turner (for purposes of this joke I'm assuming Tina Fey can't sing). But, there is something about Naima. I love her whole vibe. It's weird, because I'm usually a stickler for a good voice. Maybe she hypnotizes me with all the flowing colors and plumage. Maybe they can get her singing lessons between now and next week, or hire Martha Wash to sing for her while she lip syncs. Points to those who get the C&C Music Factory reference.
Is it possible that my hatred of Paul McDonald's voice grows with every week? It's almost strangely romantic. Just when I think he can't possibly sound any worse, he surprises me with a truly atrocious performance like tonight's scratchy, weak, tuneless "I Guess That's Why They Call it the Blues." How do you choose what to focus on, the awful vocals or the drunk gyrations across the stage that I guess are his version of dancing? Not since Sanjaya Malakar has an AI contestant tried so hard to be bad. Maybe next week he'll force what few hairs he has left into a really epic mohawk. Anything to distract from his squeaky, creepy, "is your mommy home?" voice and his uncoordinated, spasmodic movements.
Beautiful and very young Thia Megia sings the sweet and sleepy "Colors of the Wind." She has such a mature, rich voice and she sounds amazing singing just about anything. But, much as I hate to, I have to agree with the judges that there is more to performing than singing well and Thia needs a little of what Naima has that causes me to ignore the fact that she's practically tone deaf.
James Durbin is up next and he tells Ryan that he formed a band with Stefano, Casey and Paul. They're giggin' in the mansion, partying with each other. I'm not making this up, that's a quote. Yeah, those four wild and crazy band camp geeks must really get down. Intimidating they're not. I've loved Durbin the last couple of weeks but this week he starts out flat and seems to have trouble finding his vocal footing. He's chosen another rock song, Bon Jovi's "I'll Be There for You," but it doesn't highlight his voice at all. He's still a cutie pie and I love his voice, but this was not a memorable performance.
Haley Reinhart comes from a family of musicians and is proud of them as they are of her. She couldn't be more adorable and squeaky clean if she were in Up With People. She's taking on Whitney Houston's "I'm Your Baby Tonight." Um. Yeah. So. She really seems like a nice girl. She loves her family. Her hair is shiny. It looks like she cares about good dental health. She's really pretty. But the voice? Pageant worthy, but not ready for the big time.
When Stefano Langone dragged out a song almost as old as me, "If you don't Know Me By Now" originally performed by Harold Melvin and the Bluenotes, I thought I was watching American Graffiti instead of American Idol. But, I've got to give it to the kid, he's got the voice. He has a pure, crystalline tone, very Bruno Mars-y, that will sound great on records. And he's cute. Of course, the AI people know all that, but also know today's revelation that the cute boy who fought back from the brink of death has a DUI from last year will not engender a lot of love and votes. So what do they do? They send him out into the audience for a hug with his mom. Sure, he risked his life and that of many strangers' driving intoxicated last year (after his near fatal car crash!), but his mommy loves him. Harrumph. Makes me MADD.
Next up is the only person who could erase his performance, the radiant Pia Toscano. I should hate her. She's gorgeous and has an amazing talent. But I don't. She's singing a song I don't know, "Where Do Broken Hearts Go," and for the second time tonight I wonder where I was in the late eighties, early nineties. Oh, right, listening to good music on KROQ. These other songs are a mystery to me. But, even without being familiar with the song, her talent is undeniable.
How cute are Scotty McCreery's parents? And his dad even takes on the song that Scotty sang about three dozen times the first week on Idol. Adorable! So Scotty sings some country song I've never heard of and I don't feel as I've missed anything. Is there just one country song that is recycled over and over, because I can't for the life of me differentiate this from any other country song I've heard. This one is called "Can I Trust You With My Heart" and Scotty tells us it's by Travis Tritt. I'll have to take his word on it, because I'm not checking out the original. For his genre, Scotty sounds a-ok with me. Scotty should have a record deal already, and a TV show, and cute little action figures that sing "Baby lock them doors" when you pull on their ears.
Well, that's a surprise. Karen Rodriguez is still in the competition. I was wondering why this was a two hour show, considering I could only remember about six contestants. Okay, Karen, you should have demanded right of refusal for that baby picture. That was not quirky or funny, that was butt ugly. Luckily, you outgrew it (three gallons of peroxide a year helps!). The piano accompanying her version of "Love Will Lead You Back" tried its best to drown her out, but, sadly, I could still hear Karen in all her wedding singer, karaoke blandness. It's just there. Not memorably bad but enjoyable like Naima, just a "C." Oh, and for her fans, I'll add, no bueno.
What a shocker! Casey Abrams' parents are as full of themselves as their little angel is of his precious little self. If I didn't already think that Casey Abrams has the largest ego since Donald Trump, he has found a new height of chutzpah taking on Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit." I want to sue Courtney Love for letting this lummox getting his greasy paws on Kurt Cobain's music. Luckily, it will be over soon. Oh, god, not soon enough. He's yodeling!!! What the heck!?!? Again, he thinks of performance as masturbation -- if he's happy, that's all that matters. This is exactly the kind of performance you'd expect at a frat house. One of those watching with me wonders why he's singing like Charles Manson.
At first it seemed a little awkward seeing Lauren Alaina sitting there, talking with her dad, until you realize that's her mom! They look identical, not in the faux compliment, oh you two could be sisters, but in the, wow, that is really weird sense. There is no question about bringing home the wrong baby from the hospital, my only question is -- cloned or not cloned? Lauren belts out "I'm the Only One" and does Melissa Ethridge proud. She sounds great, although I could have done without her asking the audience to shout along. We can only have one self-absorbed diva in the compeition, and Casey has that role locked up.
Closing out the show is my raison d'etre. My sine qua non. If Jacob Lusk were to leave the competition, I would have no reason to write about it anymore. Not even the Anderson Cooper appearance-deserving disaster that is Casey Abrams can bring me to my computer as fast as Jacob "Lusky Stank" Lusk can. He practically writes his own paragraph. He says of his mother, whatever you do, do not let her sing. Do not give her a microphone. Oh, Jacob, I say that about you every week. And yet here you are again on my tv, about to destroy a nice Heart song that never did anything to you, "Alone."
If the sound were off, you'd think this was the reaction shot of a slasher film. He grimaces, he screams, he pleads, he weeps. How much suffering must he endure? Well, not as much as me because in the interest of fairness I keep the sound on and actually have to hear him treat another song like Mel Gibson treats his women. I do not know what the judges or the producers who gave him a literal winner's spotlight at the end of the song see in him, but I hear an overwrought ham who should be trying out for La Cage aux Folles where his cheesiness would fit in quite nicely.
My top tonight: Scotty, Pia, Lauren
My bottom tonight: Paul, Jacob and Casey
Who will be in the bottom tomorrow: Haley, Karen and Naima. Because America hates bland more than awful.