So our theme tonight is "Music from the 21st Century." Basically, they can choose anything they want as long as it was published after 2000. Somehow I suspect this freedom won't actually help most of them.
We open the show with a group number...by the losers! Yes, Karen, Naima, Paul, Ashthon, Thia, Pia, Mia, See ya, Don' Wanna Be Ya are all back, singing Pink's "So What." The five girls march out first, singing about how they're "still a rock star," and Naima is going nuts, leaping and hopping and tossing her coat over the camera (which I bet pissed off the cameraman). The rest of them are their usual staid selves by comparison, and there are some seriously questionable hair choices throughout. They don't sound great, and when Paul joins them, singing the bridge in his raspy whistle, it gets even worse. Pia tries feebly to harmonize with them, but their tones are so different that it's a wreck. Basically, this number just confirmed that every boot America made was a good choice. Sorry, kids.
First up of our remaining contestants is Scotty--but not until we do a montage featuring the other contestants all making fun of the way he holds his mike and sings out of the side of his mouth. Some of them are pretty uncanny, it must be said. Scotty sings an insipid song called "Swinging," which is yet another in his safe country roster. Jimmy begs him to think about trying something different--but not tonight. He sounds fine, boring, but it's not a great song. The judges have apparently learned their lesson at last, and decided to critique the contestants tonight, so all three of them tell Scotty he was a little safe and boring, and that they expected more. J.Lo basically says, "You had a decade of music to pick from and you chose that?"
James is next. Ryan starts the intro with, "You've had lots of cool stage effects, huh?" "Yeah. It's really cool." Incisive commentary, that. Then the others all make fun of his buttscarf. (Lauren does an excellent buttscarf/scream-bend combo.) Whoa--is James a giant, or is Jimmy Iovine tiny? They hug in the rehearsal studio and it's like Jimmy is an action figure. James is singing "Uprising" by Muse (which I don't think I know) in order to show that he can be contemporary. Jimmy likes it because James won't be "the cliched guy who does heavy metal on Idol." Um, didn't we just say last week that it was the first time heavy metal had ever been done on Idol? However, I'll give Jimmy a pass because I think James is a walking cliche already.
Holy crap, there are uniformed drummers, and James is in some crazy-ass Road Warrior frock coat. The drummers line up directly behind the judges, and I think that would drive me nuts. James sounds good, but to be honest, this feels like it lacks energy to me. He's screaming and all, but there's no tension to his movements and he's not using the stage very well. Oh, now he's screaming again in another octave. Good for you, James. The more I see him, the more I think he's actually a talented singer, but he has little taste. J.Lo, for one, disagrees with me--she's saluting as the drummers march off. Crowd is going nuts. J.Lo says, weirdly, "I'm gonna go out on a limb here and say that that, theatrically, is gonna be the best performance of the night." While that's a pretty safe bet, considering, it's a bit disingenuous since we know the judges watch the dress rehearsal. (Although now I wonder--James is in the #2 spot tonight, not a particularly memorable one. If drummers aren't closing the show, what on earth is?) Randy tells a long story about the singer from Muse having dared James to sing an octave higher on the last chorus, and Steve Tyler tells James to stay out of his closet.
Ryan, giving out the numbers, recaps by saying, "Randy throws down the gauntlet, says this could be the best of the night!" and the camera cuts to Randy, who is making a face and shaking his head. Wha? Does he think Ryan might be discouraging votes for James with his overconfidence? Or was that Randy's "Man, it's good" face. Can't tell. Don't care that much.
So, in our commercial interlude: first, I am so excited that So You Think You Can Dance is coming back! Alas, they're bringing back Screaming Mary as well. Sigh. Also, in the last two weeks I have acquired both the "Sister Wives" book (of TLC fame) and an Amish romance. My list has become both insanely broad and yet strangely specific. If any of you have a book about unusual romantic arrangements, apparently I'm the editor for you :).
Ryan has been playing with the drummers during the break, and then we cut to Haley's montage. The other contestants make fun of her growls, and then call her a brat. Seems like they might all kind of dislike her? Also, they don't show Casey--because he's dating her??? Idol shenanigans! Haley's singing Adele's "Rolling in the Deep," which is a good choice for her, vocally, but Jimmy points out the risk: "She has to deliver magic when she sings. If she delivers right below magic, the audience rejects her." That's an interesting and accurate way of putting it, and I wonder if it's tied to the other kids' reactions. I think the voters get a subconscious sense that Haley's not all that likeable, so unless she's mindblowingly better than the rest of the pack, she doesn't get the votes.
Ooh, she must have tipped Angry Stylist, though! She's wearing a super-cute red dress with white polka dots that I covet for myself (except for its weird lapels, but that's what tailors are for). She starts out sitting on a stool, and then stands up but is just sort of marching in place (possibly because she's in shoes that are 10 inches tall). She sounds great, but to be honest, this feels really karaoke to me. I don't feel the emotion of the song, just the mimicry of sound. Basically, Adele sounds like her voice is raspy because she's been crying all night, and Haley just sounds that way because she does. Randy loves the song choice, calls her out on a couple of pitchy notes, but basically liked it. Steven also liked it, but thought she started out a little slow and warmed up to it. J.Lo also praises her nerve in choosing a song that's #1 right now, and says "there were moments" where Haley made it her own. Damning with faint praise?
Next up, Jacob "takes on the legend he's always compared to." So, Luther? That means I will hate it. (I'm sorry, Luther fans...I find most of his songs so boring!)
Interlude the second: I had an amazing weekend! My English friend Fiona came to visit, as did my new English friend Lisa (met through Fiona), which is always a chance to be fun and touristy. We walked the High Line park, which I recommend highly to anyone in NYC, and then we walked all the way from the Meatpacking District to Chinatown for dim sum. After that I took Fi to an important NY landmark: DSW! (She needed new sneakers.) Fi agrees that DSW is awesome no matter what culture you come from. On Saturday we went to Brooklyn in a torrential downpour to get pedicures--now my toes are a sparkly purple the color of grape jelly. Sunday I went for a riding lesson while she & Lisa went to Central Park--while watching people sail their model boats, they spotted Uma Thurman wrangling her kids! So they really had the consummate NYC experience: parks, dim sum, shoes, pedis and a celebrity sighting to cap it off.
What do the kiddies think of Jacob? Every single one of them calls him a diva, interspersed with him telling the interviewer not to let them say diva. Heh. And sure enough, he's doing Luther: "Dance with my Father," in honor of his own deceased dad. In rehearsal, he starts tearing up, and Jimmy uncomfortably tells him to take a minute and collect himself. Aw, and then he tells Jacob that he, too, lost his father young. Eesh, there's going to be SO many histrionics up on that stage tonight.
He starts out nice & controlled, but something's bugging him as he pulls out his earpiece. By the time he gets to the chorus, he's getting kind of forced and breathy to me: "If I could get...an-hoth-er chance...an-hoth-er dance...". Other than that, I am forced to acknowledge that this was really quite restrained for him, and it paid off. I hated him much less than usual. Steven calls him "Luther Lusk" and says that "your daddy was up there listening to you." J.Lo acknowledges that it's hard to perform when a song's emotion is very close to the surface, and says "emotionally it was a beautiful performance." Is she implying he wasn't good technically? Randy agrees, and says it was emotionally great, but "just to critique, because critique helps everyone, right?" --OK, judges, we believe you get it now--he says vocally, "It was good, but it didn't make me jump up and down." Gee, Randy, with incisive commentary like that, how can he help but improve? "Go for it" is so specific and useful! Shmuck.
Whoa--as we return to the show, we do the requisite "star shot" in the audience, and pan over...John Noble from "Fringe" (and LOTR, for you non-TV folks). And I think he might be sitting next to Jayma Mays from Glee? But we're not talking to them, we're talking to Mark Ballas from Dancing with the Stars (rumor has it he's got a thing going with Pia now). He says Casey's his favorite.
Casey's montage is all about the beard, and a bunch of the kids are wearing this creepy orange fake beard. But Jacob isn't. Is Jacob a party pooper? Heh--Scotty does a pretty good Angry Casey face. Anyway, Casey's singing Maroon 5 and playing guitar on "Harder to Breathe" (I think?). Jimmy seems pleased with it and thinks Casey reminds him of one of his sons (Casey gets a kiss on the head at the end of the rehearsal).
He starts out singing well, but drifting into Scary Casey face...and then on the chorus, his face is just not matching the vocals. His persona says "teddy bear" and his voice says "rageaholic." I like this song OK, and I like him, but this feels verrrrrry talent show to me. I think Casey may just not be suited for modern pop. The backup dancers have more swagger than he does. At the end of the song he comes right up to the judges' table and gets in J.Lo's face, whisper-singing the last line until she turns her cheek and he steals a kiss. She's smiling, but I feel like Marc Anthony may have words with him in the parking lot afterwards.
J.Lo starts off, still giggling, and says "Casey's not playing fair....Casey's got soft lips." Steven chimes in, "You did what I've been trying to do for four months!" OK, a "heh" to both of you. Back to J.Lo--she loved it, felt that he made it his own and it was really great. Randy is snickering and says, "What I love about Casey is it's always surprise, surprise, surprise." I thought that was Jim Nabors. (When are we getting the Jim Nabors theme night? I wouldn't put it past this show.) He praises the way Casey mixes it up every week and gives him props for kissing J.Lo. Steven says he's a "cult hero," and then says there are millions of people who are really angry because he [bleeped by censors]. It seriously sounds like my cable cut out, there are so few words making it through. I assume it was good, though.
When we come back from commercial, Steven has tape over his mouth, but it doesn't last long. I think he also has J.Lo lipstick on his cheek?
Stefano's foible is that he fancies himself a ladies' man, and all the kids call him a flirt. He comes to see Jimmy and is singing "Closer" by Ne-Yo. Jimmy is NOT feeling it: "Stop, I don't want that [shit]. It's not whining, it's not begging. It's sexy." Ooh, ick, the song opens with Stefano spinning around and giving the camera bedroom eyes. I'm already skeeved out. But at least he's moving around the stage (which has turned a sort of lurid green, FYI). His backup singers seem to be twin blondes with big hair. They have the look of a novelty act about them. Angry Stylist is apparently peeved at him, too, because she gave him most of a good outfit--tight black T and grey pants--but then put red suspenders on them, hanging off the sides.
You'll notice I spent the whole paragraph telling you what I saw onstage...the song was fine, I guess. He's just so boring! Randy praises him for taking his time, smoothing out his delivery, and keeping it from being karaoke. All Steven says is "I was hoping you'd dance and you did." Um, thanks for your cogent judgment on this SINGING show, Steven. J.Lo liked the performance and felt he did a good job--but she sounds a little surprised about it.
Oh, last interlude! Just enough time to alert you all to an exciting new movie coming this September. I refer to the obviously-going-to-be-a-megahit, SHARK NIGHT 3D.
OK, last up, it's Lauren! But first, Steven gives a shout-out to his daughter Mia in the audience. (Mia is the one responsible for the massive lipstick kiss on his cheek.) We cut to Mia, who smiles and waves and has lipstick all. Over. Her. Teeth. Oof. She doesn't look terrific, it must be said--doing a bright red Bettie Page wig thing, lots of tats, meh.
OK, Lauren. The kids make fun of her accent and say she never shuts up. Scotty is particularly funny about it. Jimmy thinks that Lauren doesn't always have confidence, which is why he told her last week that she was a much better singer than Miley Cyrus. This week, he brings in Miley's producers to see her, and to demonstrate that she freezes when she gets nervous. We'll see if she gets it. She's singing "Born to Fly" by Sara Evans. I don't know this song, but I quite like Sara Evans' "Perfect" and "Suds in the Bucket." Additional Sara Evans fun fact: she divorced her ex-husband because he turned out to be an abuser and a sleazy porn addict. Whee!
In the endless battle of Lauren vs. Angry Stylist, how'd we do tonight? Eh, OK--eyelet skirt, cowboy boots, denim jacket over sweet white camisole. Very classic country, not very hip. Makeup? Applied with a spackle. From the neck down, she's American Eagle. Neck up, Real Housewives of Orange County. She's doing OK with this song--sounds great, but isn't moving around the stage much. She just doesn't own her performance, despite the cheering of the crowd. I liked her fiddle player, though!
Steven starts out in a confusing vein, referring to her worries that she doesn't always know what she's doing: "Anybody who doesn't know that they can fail is bound to win. And you are that person." Um, Steven, that's the exact opposite of what she is. She's afraid of failing. Get with the program, fella. Although he does recommend a good singer for her to take on in Allison Krauss--I think that would be neat. (But I'd rather hear her sing rock!) J.Lo loves the color in her voice, and the character, but encourages her to sing the big diva notes like everyone else, because she can do it too. Lauren simpers uncomfortably. Randy reminds her that she duetted with Steven in auditions, and she needs to reclaim that boldness now. Tells her to challenge herself. I think they're running up against the effects of casting 16 year olds.
And that's the show! We're really paring it down now, so I've no idea if we'll still get a bottom three tomorrow. I'm guessing, if we do, that it'll be Haley, Stefano and Casey. Who do you think will escape the Stools of Doom?