This week, the top 12 contestants performed songs from the year they were born and made everyone else in America feel super, duper old. Or maybe just me. 1995? Seriously? That means some of these kids were barely walking when this show started.
To celebrate the occasion, JHo’s dressed like your slutty, attention-starved older sister, Randy’s dressed like your dad that time he had the midlife crisis and bought “cool” clothes, and Steven’s dressed like your grandma in a floral, sparkly, flowy shirt. He also seems to be wearing raccoon tails in his hair. Jimmy Iovine and his band of remix hit makers are also back to offer advice and jazzy, generic remixes to classic ballads.
Up first is Naima, who was born in 1984. Naima’s mom used to be a jazz vocalist who used to carry baby Naima onstage in a sling, “Afrian-style.” (Also American Indian-style, Asian-style, and hispter dad-style.) Naima now has daughters of her own who are three and one, and she sings them the same lullabies her mama sang her. So maybe in a few years, I’ll be writing about Naima’s daughters performing on American Idol!
Rodney Jerkins is back to help Naima update Tina Turner’s “What’s Love Got to do With it?” She and Jimmy sit down and talk about tying the emotion she feels from missing her kids to her song performance. I never thought of the song in that way before, but whatever works, I suppose.
Naima starts her performance on the stairs and starts to walk down. She seems out of breath from the start and sounds off-key throughout the entire song. Also, her outfit looks like something Steven Tyler would have in his wardrobe.
Sure enough, after her performance, Meemaw Steven compliments the shirt and says Naima “opened up a can of whooptydoo” on them. Really?? JHo says Naima’s consistently pitchy and they gave her a pass for it last week, but now she needs to actually sing in tune for this singing competition. Randy says he watched last week’s show again and realized it was a mess and she really needs to match her vocals to the rest of her performing skills.
Naima gives them the stink eye and tells Tink that she was pitchy because she was “feeling it” too much. Here’s an idea: feel less, sing better. We need Simon on this one. He would tell her to get her shit together or go home.
Paul was also born in 1984. Back in the day, he used to dress in an itty bitty cowboy costume with a teeny tiny guitar. He’s thinking of getting an adult-sized cowboy outfit to complement the military costume her wore last week. Paul’s going to be singing Elton John’s “I Guess That’s Why They Call it the Blues.”
Jimmy Iovine notes that Paul sounds hoarse, and Paul admits that he has a cold. Jimmy tells him to use his full voice in the performance.
When it’s time to perform, Paul gets very close to his cowboy costume idea, wearing a flowered button down with a bolo tie. He lurches across the stage, one arm flopping about as though his shoulder has been dislocated. JHo sings along as Paul whisper-sings. His voice cracks on the last note and he gives up trying to hold it, shouting “right on!” instead.
JHo says that even though she was singing during the performance, she could tell Cowboy Paul was struggling, but every singer gets a cold sometimes. Randy says he’s not going to give Paul a pass on the cold — the song was pitchy. But he does compare Paul to Ray LaMontagne, which sort of negates the bad things he just said. Steven says: “you define a cool dude in a loose mood.”
Back on your meds, grandma!
Tink comes on stage to make jokes about what a loose mood is, and as I’m ignoring him, I decide who Paul’s celebrity look-a-like is:
Bradley Cooper. A little, right?
Thia Megia Was born in 1995. When she was a baby, her mom used to sing her “Baby Mine” from Dumbo, which is pretty goddam sweet. Thia says she wrote her very first song at the age of six and it was called “I Will Always Love You.” And she had never heard of the Whitney Houston version of the song! I’m sure Dolly Parton will be happy to know that not only does Whitney get credit for making the song a hit, but now a six-year-old is taking credit for writing it.
Thia Megia will be singing “Colors of the Wind.” Vanessa Williams sang it, but it’s from “Pocahontas,” the animated film from Disney that sexualized and Europeanized a horrible story of starvation, violence and colonialism. Jimmy thinks Thia could be the dark horse in the competition. I’m just glad she looks awake this week. Someone must have suggested that she pretend to be enjoying herself.
So Thia hits the stage in a really long fishnet dress and sings softly and boringly and what a weird song to sing, huh? But I suppose standing and singing “Colors of the Wind” is better than Thia gyrating across the stage or giving us a laundry list of all the things that she likes to do on Fridays.
“I like Tuesdays better than Fridays. They’re more my speed.”
Randy thought the vocals were okaaaay, and the audience boos. He has a problem with her sticking to ballads and he thought it was boring and pageant-like. He’s right! It was like watching Miss Teen USA or something, because your cable’s out and it’s that or re-runs of Monk.
Nana Steven thought she sounded beautiful but wants to know if that was the right song choice. Thia thought it was relevant to what’s going on with the planet now, and it was the best choice she had from that year. Tell it to James Cameron, honey. It was a terrible song choice. You’re telling me you couldn’t have done “Kiss From a Rose” or “Take a Bow” or “You Gotta Be” or “Tootsee Roll?”
Nana’s not buying it either.
JHo thought Thia played it too safe, she needs to work on her vibrato and she needs to come out next week and kill it. Tink comes on stage to point out that Peggy, the “vocal coach from hell” from the Hollywood rounds was in the audience. Thia says Peggy’s not from hell, and Peggy cackles like a witch, doing little to dispel Thia’s claim.
James Durbin sits on stage and talks with Tink, who wants to know if James knew that Kate Hudson is in the audience. He points out that she has really bad seats. Thank you for that. During this time, James also reveals that he, Stefano, Casey and Paul have formed a band outside of American Idol. That’s all they say about it, and I am left with many questions: what is the name of this band? When did they have time to do this? Will the band die as they’re kicked off, one-by-one?
James was born in 1989. He, too, wore cowboy clothes and was a pretty cute kid. His mom tells us that he used to sing his dolls to sleep, and you can tell she really enjoys providing this little embarrassing tidbit.
James will be singing Bon Jovi’s “I’ll Be There for You.” Jimmy Iovine encourages him to stay hungry, wash his hands, and be careful of who he kisses, because people in the house are getting sick. James points to his wedding band and says he won’t be kissing anyone.
His performance starts off slightly off key, but he seems really comfortable on stage, especially with his guitarist, and the song ends with a mini explosion on stage, which seems a bit unfair, because who doesn’t love tiny explosions? It’s very exciting.
Baba Steven says he’s got sandwiches under his bed that are older than James and he warns James not to get too pop-y on him. James says he wants to do Aerosmith if he makes it to the finale and Steven agrees to sing it with him. James wisely goes in to seal the deal with a handshake and Steven cackles and says “oh, shit!”
JHo loved the performance and Randy is more interested in the studs that James has bedazzled his boots with. Later, Steven says that James has a rich vein of inner crazy and he’ll join him. Wow. That statement was a rich vein of crazy…
Haley was born in 1990, on the 9th day of the 9th month and 9 o’clock, says her mom. Parents will tell themselves anything to make their babies seem special, when really what they’ve got is a tiny person who can’t control their bodily functions or emotions.
Haley’s parents play in a band that has regular gigs over at the local Bennigan’s, so she’s clearly destined for greatness. She’s going to be singing Whitney Houston’s “I’m Your Baby Tonight” and I’m super excited for that!
Jimmy Iovine tells her that she can still go far, even if she doesn’t win Idol, so she needs to show off her work ethic now.
This is for the apparently large number of Haley fans we have among us!
I guess I was expecting a Whitney-type performance, so I’m a little disappointed when I get the Haley version. Haley has dressed as though it’s 1990, but she doesn’t sound nearly as strong as Whitney. By the time she’s done, her red lipstick is schmeared all over her chin and cheek.
What? Do I have something on my face?
Haha, instead of telling Haley she has lipstick all over her chin and teeth, JHo tells her she looks beautiful. Then she calls Haley out on her tense and awkward performance moves — the stiff arm that she just sort of moves in a sweeping motion on occasion. Tink comes on stage with a tissue that he licks and tries to wipe Haley’s face with. Thanks, mama Tink.
Randy says he’s confused. And not just by Tink’s behavior. Haley’s done Alicia Keys, LeAnn Rimes and now Whitney. What kind of artist is she? Grandma Steven says she should bring back the Janis Joplin-bluesy thing she was doing when they first met her.
Stefano was born in 1989. His parents seem sweet and talk about how the day Stefano was born was such a great day. His dad is really proud when Stefano acknowledges him as an influence on his life.
Stefano is no pleased with the song choices from 1989. He says the year was marked by such terrible songs as “Girl You Know It’s True” and “Funky Cold Medina” and excuse me but those were great songs. You have nothing on Tone Loc, Stefano! Nothing! Brat.
He’s going to be singing “If You Don’t Know Me by Now” by Simply Red and excuse me again, but that song was done long before Simply Red came around by Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes (Teddy Pendergrass on lead vocals) and again by Patti LaBelle. And let me tell you something, they did it a whole lot better than Simply Red. If you’re going to appropriate a song, give credit where credit is due.
OK. I’ve calmed down now. Anyway. Stefano starts on the retractable stairs and ends up on the front of thage belting and gesturing furiously and closing his eyes, as usual. JHo looks totally enthralled.
Randy points out that the song was originally recorded by Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes and thought it was the bet song of the night. Granny Steve thinks Stefano’s going to make Jimmy Iovine “more famouser.” And JHo thinks if he opened his eyes he might win the performance.
Tink is back on stage to tell us that if you buy any of these songs on iTunes, proceeds will go to the Red Cross to help in Japan. I’m not going to encourage you to buy a cover song of a cover song of a good song, but I will encourage you to donate directly to recovery efforts in Japan. In spite of some reports, the Red Cross there is accepting donations.
Pita Tostita was born in 1988. Her family discovered that she had a good voice when she pitched a fit while her mom was out shopping. The only way to calm her down, was when her dad videotaped her singing. Her grandpa loved watching her sing and he promised to stick around until he saw her name in lights. But he died before that could happen. That’s sad. I’m sure he would have loved meeting Mamaw Steven.
She’s going to sing “Where Do Broken Hearts Go” by Whitney Houston. She sings to a remixed version of the song and she’s wearing a white cat suit and some ridiculously high shoes. I guess you can do that if you were born in 1988, though.
She does fine. Mamaw doesn’t have much to add. JHo says she’s glad Pita did something up tempo. I’m going to beg to differ here. Yes, the music was uptempo, but it sounded like she was singing the actual lyrics at the same pace as the original. Randy says she’s in the competition to win it. Tink notes that when Randy starts jabbing his finger in the air, he’s really hyped up.
Scotty was born in 1993. He loved Elvis so much as a kid that he dressed like Elvis, talked like Elvis and sang like Elvis. His dad seems a little… disappointed by the Elvis infatuation, in a Hank Hill kinda way.
Scotty’s sining “Can I Trust You With my Heart” by Travis Tritt. He tells Jimmy he wants to stick with country because that’s what his fans like. Has he been around long enough to have “fans?” He doesn’t even have a single out, yet! Jimmy says he can stick with country music, but he needs to push himself a bit.
Scotty sounds good as usual, but he’s just so awkward to look at. The gangly-ness… the weird tilt of his body in one direction and his head in another. It’s appealing to someone, though, because there are some homely girls by the stage smiling up at him and his friends are there, all dressed in matching blue tops shirts.
Thank ya. Thank ya very much.
JHo says he really pushed it at the end and she knows he can push it even further. Randy wants us all to know he’s good friends with Travis Tritt. Your point? Oh yeah, Travis would have been proud. Granny? You just keep knowing who you are and you’re going places.
Tink calls Scotty’s friends “cheerleaders.” Bwahahaha! I like that he’s “straight” but says super gay things and isn’t ashamed of it.
Karen was born in 1989. When she was in her mama’s tummy, Mrs. Karen would put a radio on her belly to keep baby Karen from kicking. Mrs. Karen wanted to be a singer, but it never happened. Now she can live through Karen, though not in a creepy way. In a I-raised-a-good-kid kind of a way. In broken English, Karen’s mom tells us that Karen is her Oscar in life and she doesn’t need anything else. I love Karen’s mom. I wish she was a judge…
Karen’s going to sing Taylor Dayne’s “Love Will Lead You Back.” She tells Jimmy that she wants America to see her as more than a Spanish singer. Jimmy tells her to have confidence to be who she is, because most people don’t. I’m not sure what that advice meant. Should she sing in Espanol or not?
Karen’s dressed like Lt. Uhura from Star Trek, with a space-age dress and her hair up high and liquid liner cat eyes. She sings angrily and switches to Spanish and ends in English.
Beam me up, Scotty.
Randy thought it was rough at first, but she eventually got it together, but he wasn’t jumping up and down. Granny Steven says “I love when you break into your ethnic what-it-is-ness.” JHo resists the urge to smack him upside the head and tells Karen that she doesn’t have to choose songs with notes that she can’t it. And as an artist, she can change the song and not showcase her weakness.
Casey was born in 1991, and his parents were in their 40s when they had him. He took some flack from his friends for having such old parents, but his folks actually seem cool; like intelligent, artsy professor-types. Casey’s going to do Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit.”
Jimmy Iovine says no one’s ever done Nirvana on Idol before. Does Casey think it’s too risque? That viewers won’t get it? Casey says it defines a generation and he’s ready to tackle a big song.
The face that launched a thousand AI viewers to pick up the phone and vote for someone else.
think that song has become so mainstream now that I wouldn’t have considered a risk. Until I saw Casey’s version. It’s also screamy and wide-eyed and grimacy and clenched teeth. Casey’s parents and their elderly friends love it, though.
Their good friend from the retirement home, Steven Tyler, says Casey’s craziness and talent are the goop that great stuff is made from. JHo says it was a risk and that Kurt Cobain had intensity, whereas Casey was mostly just screaming. Casey, however, convinces JHo to say that he’s sexy. Randy says he was impressed by his fearlessness and his willingness to put art before commerce.
Lauren has the flu and has brought out face masks for herself and Tink. She must be on some serious meds because she’s giggling and drawling and flopping around. She was born in 1994 and will be singing “I’m the Only One” by Melissa Ethridge.
Jimmy reminds her that the judges were disappointed last week, so now she needs to focus on singing the song well. She starts out a bit soft and shaky but when she opens up her voice, she sounds pretty awesome.
The best performances are the ones in which you’re hallucinating that you’re singing to an audience full of leprechauns.
JHo says she made the song hers. Randy says she should be sick every week if it’ll make her sing like that. Grammy Steven says she’s a beautiful, bright, shiny star.
Jacob Lusk was born in 1987. To prove that his talent was inherited, his mom sings. Horribly. And then cackles from the sheer joy of embarrassing her son. He may not have gotten his singing talent from her, but those teeth and gums — he takes right after mama.
Jacob’s going to be singing “Alone” by Heart, and I approve of his unique song choice. Jimmy Iovine agrees with me and says all the gospel greats could do rock, too. Jacob promises to put his “Lusky Stank” on it.
He starts in and, as usual, something about his voice just rubs my ears the wrong way. I know he’s a good singer, but he doesn’t hit every note and at one point he hits one that causes JLo’s face to go all wonky. I will say one thing about him, though — the man has flawless skin.
Excuse me, but I think you have a little Lusky Stank on your mouth, there.
Randy says Jacob stepped out of his comfort zone; when he hit the modulation he lost himself and at the end he got tender and carressed it. Beebaw Steven says gospel had a baby and named it Jacob Lusk. JHo loves that he gives himself completely to every performance.
Tink wants to know what the Lusky Stank is. Lusky tells us someone came up with it on the Twitters. This is what happens when we get rid of the barriers between people on TV and the rest of us. Nonsense.
So, that was the show! It’s hard to determine who people will vote for when pretty much everyone is competing at around the same level. The zygotes whose performances I enjoyed the most were Lauren, Karen and James. What about you? And since Jacob gets the Lusky Stank, I think we should come up with a nickname for Scotty’s weird head tilt/body tilt stance. Any suggestions?