Here we go, here we go, here we go again...
Welcome back, Idol fans/casual viewers/codependents in a twisted relationship we just can't seem to end! Tonight our Top 12 sing, and we kick off another fresh-faced would-be star. I can't wait. Tonight's theme is "Songs from the year of the contestants' births," which is supposed to be an opportunity for showing cute baby pix, but in fact is an opportunity for me to listen to the endless dirge of time marching on, as I realize these kids were born in the fricking '90s.
Tonight's opener is the "exotic flower" herself, Naima. She was born in 1984, and will be singing Tina Turner's "What's Love Got to Do with It?" But first, we have to watch Naima's home videos, and then see her weeping on Jimmy Iovine's couch, weeping about leaving her children. Jimmy says polite things, but looks like he couldn't care less.
Naima FashionWatch: Practically restrained by her standards--jeans, fugly booties, a yellow t-shirt with a red pattern or vest, covered by a bigger, looser, silver lame vest. And some sort of shiny fringy belt thing. Every week she looks like a toddler set loose in Mommy's closet. She starts out strutting down some rollaway stairs, but she sounds flat through this whole song. At least she walks around the stage, but she sounds REALLY off. The backup singers are screwing her, as usual. I thought this was pretty lame, but Steven opens with high praise and says she killed it. Heh: he also asks what she was doing in his closet. J.Lo has enormous hair, but also brought her enormous balls tonight--she totally calls Naima out on her "pitchiness," saying she gave her a pass last week because of her flavor (flava? is that patronizing?), but no more. Ooh, and Randy is pulling a Simon, saying that when he watched last week's playback, he could hear that she was woefully out of tune. Basically, they're all, "We want to love you, because you have the look, the edge, the performance--but for god's sake, learn to sing!"
Next will be Paul and Thia, taking us to the mid-80s and (sob!) mid-90s, respectively. Maybe Thia will do Britney?
OK, I promised certain readers who don't care a lick about Idol but are supportive friends that I would also talk about non-Idol-related things during the commercials. We will begin with a Wally check-in, as he has had a terrible cold. Clearly, today he's over it, because he is tearing around the house, talking to the refrigerator, and knocking anything he can find off every flat surface in the house. I'm sorry to say, my cat is kind of an asshole when he's feeling his oats. (Is this what it's like when you have a toddler who's recovered from an illness? I feel like I unleashed a Tasmanian devil in the apartment.)
We're back! And listening to Naima's excuses. Her pitchiness is due to "feeling it too much."
Ha--Paul has always had a cowboy fetish, it seems--his parents look like normal suburbanites, though. Paul will be singing Elton John's "I Guess That's Why They Call It the Blues." Paul is sick in rehearsal and a little hoarse tonight. His voice is breaking. Paul is still doing his weird twitchy dancing and squeaking, and this does sound a lot like Rod Stewart singing Elton John after a tequila or four. The crowd is screaming, but I think it wasn't great. J.Lo gives him a pass based on "soul" and "star quality," though...also I think because he did a decent job powering through a crappy cold. Randy, however, is not! He busts him for pitchiness, but praises him for making it his own rather than trying to copy Elton John. Steven doesn't care about getting the notes right, because Paul defines "cool dude in loose mood." Randy indulges in some weird in-joking about "loose mood," which serves no purpose. Feh.
Thia's mom is trying to upstage her in the home video by singing the lullaby she used to put Thia to sleep. It's working on me. Move it along, people! Uggggggh. She's singing "Colors of the Wind." What a bold and dynamic choice, Thia! As if you weren't enough of a Disney candidate already. Does she know ANY uptempo songs? But, in case you the viewer felt left out, she is singing "to you," per Iovine's advice. Um, I think he meant that to apply to a song with real emotion, instead of a flimsy libretto for a cartoon. (No offense, Pocahontas. You're still my dawg.) Randi begins with "Ummmm....the vocals were OK..." and the audience begins booing already. Sheep. But Randy is right when he says it was a boring pageant song. Randy, what is up with this speaking truth to power(less)? Steven asks a not-unreasonable question: "Is that song who you think you are?" and Thia fumbles through a classic pageant answer, that the song speaks to "what's going on in the world." Whatever, kid. J.Lo is actually saying real music things that I can't judge--she agrees with the "blah" critique, and says that although they've always loved the quality of Thia's voice, she's now hearing something in her vibrato that is...not good? Don't know what the ish was, but Thia needs to work on it. See, Idol? This is what you get for letting 15-year-olds on the show--they're not fully baked yet, and you wind up with a stage full of boring balls of dough.
Ugh, James is up. His hair is somehow more douchey than ever, and I'm concerned that he's wearing another butt scarf. (I'm also concerned that he may be singing "Smells Like Teen Spirit." Wow, he bugs me more than anticipated.) His mom, in the home video, maintains that he sang in perfect pitch while still in the crib (snort), but then wins me over by showing footage of Baby James with his doll. The interviewer points out that James will be embarrassed by this revelation, and then we cut to James saying "Son of a [Idol Bleep]." Heh.
Well, I was wrong about Nirvana--he's singing "I'll Be There for You" by Bon Jovi. This does not reassure me. I FF past the Iovine interview because I can't be bothered. Oof, James comes out swinging, but he also sounds off-key to me. I think he cheats it in a smarter way than the less experienced contestants, because you can hear him slide on and off the held notes like it was deliberate. Oh--he's leaned over to go shoulder-to-shoulder with the guitarist, and now he's dead to me. Stop it, you unoriginal poser. And...wait for it...the screaming! God, most of the song was barely sung--he sort of talked through it, almost. I wonder if he has Paul's cold? OK, it's over. Steven gibbers for a while and then tells James, "Don't get too poppy on me." James sucks up in return by praising Aerosmith, claiming he's going to save that for the finale. I could not disdain him more than I do right now. (Remind me of this next week.) J.Lo loved him, said it brought her joy and he was great. Randy acknowledges a little pitch trouble, but basically liked it. Then we have to talk about his custom boots with newly riveted leather bandanna for a while. Finally, Steven says that James has "a rich vein of inner crazy" (which you know if you watched the audition rounds and had it spoon-fed to you) and will sing with him at the finale. [Spoiler alert?]
OK, new non-Idol topic: delivery guy tipping. I am a great tipper, but it's because I a) get math panic at the door and round up way too much or b) know that I want to tip, say, $3 on my bill of $15.60, but only have a $20, and am too embarrassed to ask for $1 back, so I just give him the whole $20. Are my insecurities driving me to the poorhouse? And yet, it's only a dollar, and isn't it churlish to ask for it? I hate that significant portions of my brain are consumed with this nonsense.
Aaaaaaand we're back! To see James indulging in a pointless, ridiculous backstage scream. Fuck you, James, I'm over it. Time to hear about Haley Hate-Her-Face, who was...not a great looking baby, truth be told. Her parents are in a little band, and Haley's doing this "for them." She'll be singing "I'm Your Baby Tonight." On Jimmy's couch, he seems to be telling her "don't worry about winning, be good so someone else will give you a contract." That's the best advice any of these kids are going to get.
Haley's been in J.Lo's dressing room, because she's wearing J.Lo's bright red lipstick from last week. I don't like it as much on Haley, perhaps because it's a different tone of red from the orangey shirt she's wearing. I guess Angry Stylist needs someone else to mess with this week...Lauren must have slipped her some cash. Haley is working it hard, but as always, without a lick of sincerity. She maintains that she is my baby, but I am Not. Having. It. I doubt America will feel differently. J.Lo begins by telling her how beautiful she is, but is clearly warming up for criticism--and it's not bad: she says the voice is strong, but Haley looks awkward onstage and her movements don't flow. Absolutely true--every step is studied. Ack--Ryan has stepped up with a hanky, because apparently there's a bit of red lipstick smeared on her face. This would be charming except that AWKWARD I think he's trying to wipe off a pimple. She's all, "I got it, I got it, leave the foundation alone dude" and eventually he switches to her cheek and goes away. Oof. As someone who still gets pimples to go with her burgeoning wrinkles, I feel for her. Just for a minute. Now I'm done. Oh, where were we? Judging? Randy thinks she's all over the map, song-choice wise, and is "confused." Not enough of the audience is booing to make me think that she'll be safe tomorrow. Steven is all "Dance with who brung you, ya dummy. Sing the blues." Sorry, Haley.
This "Source Code" movie? No, right? It seems like a sad, exhausting "Groundhog Day"...and if I wanted that, I'd just go to work! Hey-oh! Just kidding, love my job, taking a cheap shot for fun, please keep employing me :).
Stefano was "an incredible baby," according to his parents. Does any parent think their baby is not incredible? Stefano's dad is bald, and has an unfortunately pointy head. Stefano is snide about the choices available to him (I, personally, would have loved to hear him do "Funky Cold Medina"!), but settles on Simply Red's "If You Don't Know Me By Now." Yeah, that'll rile 'em up, Stefano. Make sure to pick another long, slow song. I like the rehearsal footage, though, because Jimmy I. looks annoyed. I think Jimmy might be the Greek Chorus of American Idol.
Stefano starts, and it becomes clear that he has confused "emoting" and "squinting." Also, it is apparent that he's not an ANTM watcher. Tyra would totally penalize him for that crappy smize. Also, I don't think the problem is that we don't know Stefano...we know him too well. He's a nice boy who probably should have been in 98 Degrees. Too late. J.Lo is gazing mistily at him, though. She loves her boy. Crowd is going nuts, but Tyler is wrinkling his nose and shouting "over the top, over the top." Yay! Idol Judge fight! We start with Randy, who adores it, declaring it the best of the night. Steven? Oh, crap. Apparently "over the top" is good in Steven's world. (Really, I should have predicted that.) J.Lo at least tells him to open his damn eyes when he sings. Then Ryan sends him off the stage to hug his mom in the audience, like a good Italian boy. Feh, I say, feh.
Pia's next--and sadly, has also fallen victim to Angry Stylist! Lordy--it's a white satin jumpsuit with harem pants. Her butt looks three times its width. She's also singing Whitney, "Where Do Broken Hearts Go?" That doesn't seem like it lends itself to moving around the stage a lot, which was her problem last week. Once again, her notes are strong, her voice is clear and appealing, but she doesn't move at all, and it feels a bit cruise-shippy. I swear, it's like they're living in Footloose Town--was dancing banned or something? What is wrong with you people? Steven doesn't care about the dancing--he loves it. J.Lo does too, and is thrilled to hear something up-tempo. Randy just announces "Pia's trying to win this!" She's been the best singer of the night, for sure...but she's boring! I'm sorry!
Interlude! OK, some of you know of my twin wishes to dive in a shark cage and ride a bull. The first came up one night while Gordon and I were watching Shark Week (why it isn't a national holiday, I don't know), and I said to him, "I think that would be so cool, but I wonder if I'd be too scared once I actually got down there." He didn't even turn away from the screen before saying, "Not gonna happen." This led to the shocking (to me) discovery that he was banning me from diving with sharks. I went into outrage mode immediately, but he maintains that he would live with the horse riding, as that was part of the package, but he couldn't support me flinging myself into the jaws of death voluntarily. Anyway, I let it drop, since no shark diving trip was impending, and many months later, I mentioned that I secretly believed I could ride a bull, and wanted to try. Gordon asked, "Are you just saying that so I'll let you go shark diving?" No, but would it help, I asked? Turns out he hates the idea of me bull riding even more than shark diving! I would have thought sharks were scarier than bulls. So, readers, which do you think sounds more dangerous? And do you have an adventure that your spouse wants to ban?
Time for Scotty McCreary, singing Travis Tritt...which he did in auditions. (I hope he's choosing a different song, at least.) Aw, Scotty's mom actually has a nice country tone to her voice...is it time to trot out American Senior Idol? Thankfully, Scotty's not doing BabyLockDemDoors for the 78th time...he's doing "Can I Trust You With My Heart?" I'd say sure, he can trust me. I'm not gonna touch it. This is one of those country ballads that tries to "rock" with a big drum beat, but it's dull as dishwater. Cut to J.Lo sitting bolt upright, unsmiling. Is it a fakeout? Is she concentrating on the song because she doesn't know Travis Tritt, even though "she knows a lot of music"? J.Lo liked the end, where he loosened up a tiny bit and gave a James-like high note. Randy feels compelled to name-drop because he did a record w/Tritt, but ultimate was also like, "For the love of God, creep out of your little box." Steven also believes in him. (Mind you, the minute Scotty actually does something different, they'll be all, "That's not the Scotty we love! What happened?")
Karen's up, and although I don't want to recap the parent videos, her mom is really cute. Calls Karen "my Oscar in my life," in a charming accent. Karen will be singing Taylor Dayne's "Love Will Lead You Back," but Jimmy reminds her that people love her bilingual singing. Then there's a metaphor about blinders on horses that didn't entirely make sense to me, and probably less to Karen. She is dressed in full 60s mod, which I find a little confusing...she looks like an extra from Austin Powers, and sounds like an easy listening station. Oh, Karen. Be more fun! Randy felt it was a little rocky at first, but wound up liking it and tells her "Welcome back." Steven graces us with another Tylerism: "I love it when you break into your ethnic what-it-is-ness." You can't fake this, people! Ooh, and J.Lo has another entry in the Relevant Criticism sweepstakes! She tells Karen, "If you can't hit a note, change it! Don't expose your weakness." Fair enough. I think Karen probably did enough to squeak by.
Y'all, I had a dream about Glee last night, but it also featured Jon Hamm. I was sitting on his lap. It was a good dream. Gordon says I was chuckling in my sleep. (Sorry, babe! I wasn't sleep-cheating, I swear!) When I woke up, I felt great, and I think it might have been because for the first time in ages, it wasn't an anxiety dream! [Aw, this started out funny and now is just sad. Here, I'll make it better:
Finally, the promised (threatened?) "Smells Like Teen Spirit"--it'll be done by Casey on the electric bass. I think of that song as the moment I crossed over into Cranky Oldster. "Wha??? You can't understand the words! It's just screaming! And what does that even MEAN?" I'm going to go rock back and forth while holding my Men at Work album, excuse me. Plus, I'm annoyed at Casey for wearing Bermuda shorts to his meeting with Jimmy. Seems disrespectful.
Wow, Casey is so much more appealing when holding an instrument! It grounds him and gives him confidence, I think. Randy is already headbanging. And we open up into the chorus...but he's missing notes. The usual from him: tons of personality, an actual sense of performance, but I wonder if we're hitting his limit, musically. Steven begins and tells Casey "You're so crazy and talented...that's the goop that great stuff is made from." (Maybe Steven is a Gwyneth reader?) J.Lo warns him about getting too screechy, but says she loves him, and he mugs for another "sexy" from her. Randy is comparing Casey's risk taking to Radiohead, Muse, etc....let's not go crazy, dude. Apparently fearlessness counts for more than pitch tonight.
Why do they keep giving Christian Slater television shows? How many does he need to kill before they stop?
Lauren is out to redeem herself after last week's mediocre performance. Can she shake the "karaoke" brand? She and Ryan do a stupid bit with surgical masks, because she has the flu. It goes on way too long (there's a mustache drawn on Ryan's, lipstick on hers), and she giggles and simpers and is very quickly losing my affections, not that she cares. She's doing Melissa Etheridge, "I'm the Only One," which I love and who would normally be a really good pick for her, but if she's sick, it could be tough. Jimmy gives her the "straighten up and fly right" speech in his office.
Oof...she looks SO much better (definitely tipped the Angry Stylist), but man, you can tell she's sick. She's made it a little more country, and she's covering well, but there are a lot of bobbles. She gets the crowd to scream for her, and she sounds OK, but she's barely moving around the stage. I wonder if she's just exhausted. I think I like her as long as she's singing, and want her to be silent when she's not. J.Lo praises Lauren for keeping her country flavor in the song and loved it; Randy also liked it so much that he says, "Have a cold every week." Steven thinks so, too, and declares that the "shining star" is back. Ryan comes up and tells her that now she can rest... but she apparently has enough energy to ham it up some more for the crowd. Knock that off, Lauren! It's insipid!
Ha! I'm also Tweeting a bit while watching, and I commented on Karen's pouf...which instantly earned me a tweet from a spammer hawking conditioner.
So, who's in the pimp spot tonight? Oh, Jacob. I actually forgot he was on the show. I would rather watch this stupid Red Riding Hood movie than listen to him caterwaul through another gospel number. However, I might be in love with his mom, who declares her own singing abilities and starts rocking out, much to Jacob's chagrin.
Well! Jacob is doing that Idol favorite, "Alone," by Heart. I love this song, and loved Allison Iraheta's version a couple of seasons ago. (Didn't watch Carrie Underwood's season, but I hear she rocked it too.) It'll be interesting to hear a man sing it for a change. But from note one, he's adding melisma and vibrato and the kitchen sink to every phrase. It's a good song, Jacob! Let it be! But no, he has to rush through half a verse so he can get to the belty chorus. And ooooops...he just missed a key change by a country mile, and the camera cut to J.Lo wincing. Burn! Honestly, he has no restraint whatsoever. Those judges better call him out, or I will scorn them. Randy is letting me down by starting with "very very nice performance..." and although he does bust him for the key change, he lets him off the hook and says he got him back. He also praises him for bringing it in at the end (you mean the last three notes? try for more, dude). Steven is ready for a drink, I think, because he just goes with "Gospel had a baby, and they named it Jason--I mean Jacob--Lusk." J.Lo also liked, and then Jacob tells us that someone tweeted him to say they liked his "Lusky Stank." Um, ick.
And we're out! Here's hoping for a better theme next week. I think Thia, Haley and maybe...Stefano? could be in trouble tomorrow. What about you?