The episode starts out with the drama level wratcheted either up to Shakespearan or down to Daytime TV levels, as they remind us that there will be a double elimination tonight. If this were a medical drama, and not a singing contest, I might have turned the channel, not wanting to see that. But, instead, I was looking forward to perhaps ridding myself of at least one of the singers whose voice, demeanor,and/or performance has been providing more than its share of grist for the blogging mill. Certainly, one of the unholy trinity of Casey-Jacob-Paul would fall tonight, and my faith in the American voter restored. Yeah, right.
But first, that rascally Ryan said they were changing it up tonight and instead of the awkward group numbers -- which only serve to show how difficult it is to: a) dance b) harmonize or c) do both at the same time -- the contestants would be broken up into smaller groups. First up is the country duo Scotty McCreery and Lauren Alaina, singing "I Told You So," which got me wondering why my husband never told me he'd written a country song. I continue to be immensely impressed with both of the country kids. I then recall that I picked Justin Guarini Season One, so perhaps my taste is open to debate.
I liked their duet, and yes post all the "country music is growing on you" comments you'd like, I'm thinking they're country-lite. Or maybe that compared to what I know is coming later, I'm thrilled to have to people on stage who actually sing well. True, Scotty was laying the twang on a tad thick and I thought a couple times he might have a chicken bone stuck in his throat that he was trying to dislodge. But, once he matures, he'll probably get better control over his voice and not let it do its own thing. Though Scotty is enamored of his deep register, I think he's a lot more successful when he sings higher. I have no reservations about Lauren. Love her voice, the tone, the power, the little country "cry." I've read the critiques about her, but I just don't see it.
After their song is over, they are told that they're each safe which surprises absolutely no one.
The next duo is Naima Adedapo and Jacob Lusk, singing Ashford and Simpson's "Solid." I don't know if it's because he's signing with someone else, or because he has to fake his way through a love song, but Jacob was somewhat in control of his usually unrestrained, typically histrionic vocals. If you don't look at him while he's singing, and notice the exertion which again brings up the specter of an elimination, Jacob actually sounds -- and I know I'm going to hell for this -- good. It was a nice duet and makes me wish Naima had not taken that unnecessary risk the night before with her silly SNL skit as Ganja Girl. That performance sends Naima to the stool of doom while Jacob heads to the couch of comfort.
Was Fantasia always that helium filled? She sings a song called "Collard Greens and Cornbread," and I wonder if it was written while someone was ordering at a Southern restaurant? I'm doing a deli version called "Latkes and Tsimmes." You'll kvell.
The next group to perform is Thia Megia, Haley Reinhart and Pia Toscano. Haley actually starts the grunting on the second word of the lyrics. Really? When I think Katy Perry, I don't usally associate painful guttural sounds. Now her husband, Russell Brand, maybe. Haley is a one trick pony and once she blows her vocal chords, she'll have nothing but her burlesque moves to fall back on. I love Pia and Thia's voices, usually, but neither was benefitted by the lightweight pop song. What to make of the fact that Thia was not given a solo? Oh, she's in the bottom three. That was subtle.
Equally understated was the way they handled last week's save of Casey Abrams and his resulting Oscar moment. They squeezed enough sympathy out of that to keep Casey around for weeks to come. I think James Franco playing the hiker cutting off his own arm showed more restraint, but I'm not going to rehash Casey's reaction to the save. Let's just agree to disagree.
So we have two of the bottom three stools filled and the remaining four contestants will sing a group number and then one of them will join the ladies. The last group has James Durbin, Casey Abrams, Stefano Langone and Paul McDonald. Did you know that the ugly suit Paul wore (for the second time) last week is sold in T-shirt form on his band's website? I'm not suggesting you go out and buy it, I'm sure Paul is all about the music and his artistic integrity and not about hawking a gaudy outfit for money. I just thought I'd mention it in case you were wondering if the show did away with its wardrobe budget this year.
Paul he opens up the group's take on what Paul McCartney was doing while John Lennon was writing "Mind Games." The insipid "Band on the Run" was not exactly McCartney's shining post-Beatle moment and it's hard for anyone to sound worse than the original. But, these four are up to the challenge.
Paul whispers his way through the first couple of bars, ignoring pitch and melody, so that when the other vocals come in it's actually painful. The brief, "If We Ever Get Out of Here," part is a cacaphonous mess (as you would expect pairing one good singer -- James and Stefano -- with a poor one -- Paul and Casey). It isn't until James comes in for a brief solo that this song can be somewhat salvaged. Ryan says nice one and good job and Steven Tyler offers them the opening spot for Aerosmith next year and I, for the umpteenth time, wonder if the response to the meanness and unhelpfulness of last year's judges really has to be doling out excessive false praise. Happy medium, anybody?
Next non-shocker of the night, Casey is safe. Wow, that's weird because the prior times the judge's save was used the next week that contestant was...oh, right, safe. James is deservedly the next one sent to safety, leaving Stefano and Paul as the last two. I picked Stefano to be in the bottom not because of his voice, but because I figured if one of the judges can't get his name right, it's unlikely he's made much of an impression with the viewing/voting public either.
But to my surprise and great pleasure, while the cameraman is zooming in for Stefano's reaction shot as he is given the bad news, the judge's pet Paul is instead the one told he's in the bottom three. The judges may love his quirky, unique, different style, but the voters hear only a cat being dragged behind a lawnmower. I am smugly happy, or happily smug, with this final member of the bottom three and with two going home, I'm hopeful that I won't ever have to hear Paul croak his way through another song.
But no. Perhaps the Blogger gods recognized that if Jacob sings well next week, and Paul is gone, I'd have nothing to write about. So they spared him, and me, kicking out the vocally gifted but too young Thia and the entertaining but not right for this show Naima. Two of the Judges' wild card picks, Naima and Ashthon Jones, have been eliminated, with only Stefano remaining from that group. Stefano, you might want to consider packing.
Next week's theme is music from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. It raises many questions. How will Pia find another ballad to sing defiantly, if well, as she continues to ignore the judges' concern? What song can Casey put his crazy, kooky, too cool for school spin on, possibly while playing some oversized instrument? Will Jacob be able to build on the good will he established by actuall singing, not raping, a song on Thursday night? How happy is Scotty McCreery that Chet Atkins and Johnny Cash are in the Hall of Fame?
And the biggest question of all -- how is it that the Replacements are not in the Hall of Fame?
That's what I'd really like to know.