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I may still be hallucinating — a temporary side effect of royal wedding fever, brought on by wet, sticky exposure to a virulent strain of royal wedding newscasts, promos and blogs — but the American Idol top five performance night was a little like attending a wedding, was it not?
We had our something old and our something new — each contestant had to sing a song from yesterday and today. We had something borrowed, thanks to Haley doing an obscure Lady Gaga song. And quite a few people were pretty blue after the judges lost their damn minds and tried to sabotage the competition.
The judges looked like they were dressed for a wedding, didn’t they? JHo was wearing her great grandmother’s wedding dress and borrowed a rat’s nest on her head, Stevie had a flower in his lapel, and Randy ditched the varsity sweaters for a blazer. And no wedding is complete without some dysfunctional distant relatives. Sir Anthony Hopkins was there to play the part of the crazy uncle. And Kelly Preston took a night off from being Travolta’s beard and faking pregnancies to be that cousin we all have who’s just so goddam unlucky in love. You know the one — she never brings her significant others to family gatherings because he’s in jail or on a “business trip” or banging boys in bath houses.
Jimmy Iovine continued mentoring the kids and brought in Sheryl Crow to help out this week. A video vignette told us that Sheryl started out as a backup singer for Michael Jackson before going on to win nine Grammys. She said the contestants need to step out of their boxes a bit, just like she did with songs about sunshine and being happy and cutting. That Sheryl, always on the cutting edge and totally controversial.
At least in the mousse department.
James Durbin was up first. His contemporary song was “Closer to the Edge” by 30 Seconds to Mars, Jordan Catalano’s band. During rehearsal, he got to sing with Sheryl. James was excited about this. Sheryl was sarcastic. Jimmy said there was nothing standing between James and greatness. Except for medicocre singing abilities.
James took a cue from Jordan Catalano (look, I know that’s not his real name, but he’ll always be Jordan Catalano to me. Not just “Jordon” but “Jordan Catalano.” What a name, right? It’s so 90s.). So anyway, now that he has a band, Jordan Catalano must wear eyeliner and have emo hair at all times, and James had that going on, though he looked less like an androgynous rocker and more like a fat cockatoo decked out in a bedazzled, bechained, and bewildering Canadian tuxedo.
The cockatoo was a little soft and sqwwwaky in the beginning, but the louder he got, the easier he became to listen to. He had a pretty low-key performance, with a few high-fives for the audience, and three sets of fireworks instead of five, and an angel band that flew down from heaven to accompany him, and the ghosts of rockers past singing backup. You know, keepin’ it simple on this one. And at the end, he raised his fist to the sky in praise of black power and we got to see his scraggly armpit hair stuck to the pale, bloated flesh under his arm. Why was it so sparse? There’s this woman at my gym who’s got a lion’s mane under her arms compared to James. When I’m helping her with her situps, I try not to stare directly at it. Super awkward.
Speaking of awkward… what did the judges have to say? Steven said James kicked that song’s ass and that he’s ready for Freddy. He didn’t say which Freddy, though. JHo said that James keeps showing everyone how badly he wants to win. Randy said James is letting the audience know where he can go as an artist and he’s stepped outside of the 80s rocker box. He said that like it’s a bad thing, which is strange, considering the fact that Randy was an 80s rocker.
James’ second song for the night was “Without You” by Harry Nilsson. He pulled a total bitch move in rehearsals by crying while he sang. He had to excuse himself to go sit in the corner of a parking lot forlornly while he thought about how much he missed his wife and son. I’m not married and I don’t have kids, so maybe I’m being a little heartless here, and I’m sure he misses them terribly, but a) they visit you and b) you’re going to be with them again in a few weeks and c) doesn’t being an entertainer require you to be away from your family an awful lot? Are you just going to tour the parking lots of America and sit on the curb crying? Get a grip! You’re not doing a tour of duty in a war zone…. Sheesh.
Jimmy said something in the lyrics moved James, but dude has to compose himself. For the second performance, James flattened his hair, put on some jammies, and kicked off his shoes. Just him, the mic, the song and his toe jam. He stood still and sang softly to the camera, but started to cry during the chorus. Even though tears were running down his face, he got in some big notes, one really good high note, and kept his composure through to the end.
JHo ate that shit up with a giant spoon, of course. She loves tears and every wedding needs someone shedding a few. She said James has the heart and soul to back up his voice, because we all know that every good musician needs heart and soul. Otherwise, you just end up being the Black Eyed Peas. Randy said that while some of the notes weren’t perfect, the song was emotionally perfect and the competition is James’ to lose. Steven, too, thought the emotions were incredible and he believes that letting a song get the best of you is a beautiful thing. He also thought it was pitchy, but good pitchy. Good pitchy is when the judges like you so much, they don’t mind that you sound out of tune. They’re too busy counting up how much money you’re going to make.
Jacob Lusk dressed up like a sea captain for his first performance. Tink talked with him onstage for a few minutes before he started. Tink put the investigative journalism skills he learned at E! to good use by asking Lusky if he thinks he can win American Idol. Jacob said yes, of course. I mean his only other option was to say “no, I’m just here for the snacks and all the fugly jackets the wardrobe department can rustle up.” Tink followed up by asking Lusky if he felt like an underdog. Lusky isn’t so concerned about that. Most people didn’t even expect him to get out of Compton, but he made it out! Hmmm… was there anyone out there who thought Jacob would spend the rest of his life in Compton? Something tells me he wasn’t quite fitting in there and would be headed to San Fran or NYC even without Idol.
“So, think you’re gonna lose?” “Nope.” “Alrighty then.”
Anywayz, Lusky decided to sing “No Air,” which is a duet performed by Jordin Sparks and Chris “Psychopath” Brown. Lusky thought that it would be a good idea to sing both the male and female parts of the song since he has such an amazing range, which as he told us last week, he’s had since he was a toddler roaming the mean streets of Compton.
My boyfriend, music producer Harvey Mason, Jr., stopped by the rehearsal because he wrote and produced “No Air” for Jordin. Lusky got a gleam in his eye when he heard that, and he demanded that Harvey work with him on his album, because he wants to songs exactly like this when he hits it big. Sheryl seemed on the fence about the whole thing, but didn’t dissuade Lusky from singing both parts, saying that he has the range to pull it off.
Lusky started with a super high falsetto. He was accompanied by fog and glitter and stars and some backup singers that looked like they were ready to march into battle. Jacob stayed in key until he started doing the snake and that seemed to throw him off of his game. Sometimes, the Lusky Stank stinks. He managed to end with plenty of drama, though, with some earsplitting notes followed by heavy breathing and closed eyes.
JHo had been wondering what kind of artist Lusky wanted to be. She encouraged him to pick songs that represent the kind of music he’ll do as a recording artist and that will help get him to the finale. That wasn’t a critique so much as a lukewarm admission that he might possibly have some sort of music career one day.
Randy said that he thinks Lusky’s one of the greatest singers in the competition. Say wha?? Every time someone says something like that I feel like I must live in a parallel universe where that shit isn’t even the least bit pleasant. Anyway. Randy thought it was corny to sing both the male and female parts, Lusky was sharp anyway, and he should stick with Luther Vandross and church music and stay away from Chris Brown and Rihanna. OK, that last part was good advice. I think that everyone should stay away from Chris Brown and Rihanna. I think that even Chris Brown and Rihanna should stay away from Chris Brown and Rihanna.
Steven said that he loves Lusky’s voice, but he’s still looking for the thing Lusky does best that will make him the Idol and he needs to find a song that’s just him. Tink asked Lusky what kind of artist he is and Lusky said that he’s an artist who appeals to everyone. He pointed out that Luther Vandross sang all different kinds of songs.
Here’s Lusky’s problem as I see it, apart from the irritating quality of his voice. Number one, you can’t appeal to everyone. You just can’t. I agree with the judges that he needs a niche. Number two, he has a voice made for gospel and Luther. But in 2011, for a young man, Luther and gospel music are the least sexiest types of music you can do. And Lusky wants to be hot and sexy. You can just tell by the way he glosses his full lips and contorts his body into the snake. And sexy sells in music, of course. Just my ten cents.
Lusky let Jimmy Iovine pick his second song and Jimmy chose “Love Hurts.” So much for doing the songs you’d record as an artist. Sheryl played devil’s advocate again by going along with the song choice and encouraging Lusky to do it softly. Lusky decided to take the risk and go for it.
A harpist kicked the song off and Lusky started in his ridiculous falsetto again.
Harps — super sexy!
No matter what, there will always be an open seat waiting for him in the Vienna Boys’ Choir, I suppose. He eventually came down off those high notes, and that made an already painful song slightly more bearable. He finished on a loud, high note, which Anthony Hopkins seemed to love.
Steven said that he’s a sucker for passion and Lusky got lost in the song. JHo jabbered on about there being a bobble (a technical musician’s term, I believe) in the middle of the song and she applauded Jacob for bringing out the tricks in the end that took it to another place. Oh. I just thought those ridiculous histrionics were him showing off. Randy thought Lusky redeemed himself and Lusky may have hit the highest note ever sung on the Idol stage.
Lauren sang third and decided to do Carrie Underwood’s “Flat on the Floor” for her contemporary song. Sheryl suggested that Lauren stick to one place on the stage and stay there. Lauren isn’t so sure about this, at first, but I applaud the decision. I hope to never have to see two awkward teens eye-fucking hand-holding on that stage again. Lauren agreed to do it, though, and Jimmy said she needs to focus more on her power and fight to stay in the competition.
Lauren started out the song accompanied by an electric violin and she came out of the gate swinging. She ditched the cute, girly cowboy boots for some thigh high heels and a belt with a long silvery fringe. It was like a merkin from the future. Because I believe that in the future, our pubes will be replaced by long chains. Hmm. That sounds painful. Maybe not. Maybe we’ll focus on those flying cars and jetpacks, first.
So this was one of my favorite performances of the night because it was fun and bouncy and exciting and not corny and she sounded great! The judges agreed with me. Randy said “listen, man… that is the direction for you.” And he declared her “in it.” Steven said she found her niche and JHo said she ate it up and encouraged her to do that every time.
So Lauren was off to a good start, but she really brought us down with her second song, didn’t she. Man oh man, it was not good. She chose the Righteous Brothers’ “Unchained Melody” because it was the song her parents were listening to when they conceived her in the back of their Carolla on prom night. Jimmy and Sheryl seemed iffy about it from the start. They didn’t discourage her, but they did say that everyone knows the song from Ghost, so she has to kill it and that it’s a really mature song, but they hope that she can make it her own.
Once again, Lauren decided to stay in one spot on stage for the song, this time standing at a piano. She looked gorgeous, but between the big hair and the evening gown with the cutouts and the way she made sweeping gestures with her arm, it was like the talent portion of a beauty pageant.
Miss Georgia has a “peace on earth and save the unicorns” platform.
She also totally pussied out when she had the opportunity to hit the giant notes when the line “are you still mine?” runs into “I need your love….” Big missed opportunity there, but we all know she’s been a bit of a scaredy cat when it comes to the high notes.
JHo thought there was “nothing to judge” and that is was a beautiful song sung beautifully. Randy said they saw a different side of her. She normally has a country vibe but she did some R&B runs like Whitney and Mariah. Steven said he could listen to her all night. These people are useless.
Scotty’s first song was “Gone” by Montgomery Gentry. Stupid lyrics and a rocking tempo made it a fun song choice, and Scotty really tore it up. He started off standing amongst the audience members using his typical deep, soft start. And then he was all over the place. On stage. Off stage. On stage with the backup singers. Jumping off the stage. And there’s the trademarked mic/flute. He did a great job, he was high energy, and really fun to watch. The audience went nuts and his grandma loved it.
Steven said Scotty danced with the devil, a close personal friend of Steven’s, and it was beautiful. JHo “lost it” for a second, was super excited, and she liked his growling, even though a couple of weeks ago, the judges tore into Casey for growling. Randy does not encourage dancing with the devil, ok ya’ll. Just don’t do it. It’s just not safe. Randy likes safe things, like going to concerts by young country crooners. Anyway, Randy tried “dancing” with the devil once and all he got out of it was a Wal-mart commercial. So not worth doing the horizontal mambo with Satan. Tink couldn’t think of anything new to say, so he stole a line from Randy and declared that it was a hot one tonight.
Scotty’s second song was “Always on My Mind” by Elvis Presley and 20 million other singers. Jimmy seemed to be frustrated with the judges’ comments in previous weeks and said that hearing “be who you are” and “stretch yourselves” are things that morons say. Or maybe he said they were oxymorons. He told Scotty not to compete with the other contestants. This seemed to make sense to Scotty, so I’ll refrain from commenting. Sheryl had dollar signs in her eyes when she heard Scotty sing during rehearsals and said she couldn’t wait for him to move to Nashville so she have a nice, young piece of manmeat around and beholden to her.
This performance was a polar opposite to his last one. He sat on a stool and calmly sang while the camera came in close. He must have had a raging case of acne back in the day, huh? Either that or he’s got really deep freckles. So, he did a soft, low-key version of the song and everything was pretty nice, you know? Like here’s a nice boy, dressed for church and singing a nice song. And he did try to bring some sexy into the end, looking into the camera and licking his lips before hitting that final note. And it’s likely that I’m far too old to find anything about this manchild sexy, but he’s just not, you know. Some people just aren’t. I think he will be one day, after he’s filled in a little and doesn’t look so smirky and when he decides that holding a mic sideways shouldn’t really be a “thing”. But not today.
JHo is in total disagreement with me and looks at him dreamily. It’s not her turn to critique, but she can’t wait to tell him that he’s a well-rounded artist who can sing anything and he captivated the audience with his sweet voice and there’s nothing awkward about him, other than his large head bobbling atop that toothpick of a neck.
Randy said Scotty is the show’s youngest veteran and that sometimes when you speak quietly and do simple things, you get the biggest reaction. Plus, you know how Randy loves his “tender moments.” Stevie T. said that America loves Scotty’s voice and it’s going to be hard for them to know who to vote for.
Tink came onstage to ask Scotty about his Puerto Rican heritage. Scotty said his grandma his Puerto Rican and has a lot in common with JHo. Really? Name one thing. Seriously, tell us one thing your grandma has in common with JHo, aside from being Puerto Rican. Maybe it’s her ass. Do you think he was talking about her ass? Someone gave Scotty’s grandmother a microphone and let her say something. All she could come up with was “He’s my Scotty.” That was pretty sweet. If someone gave my grandmother a mic and a stage, she’d just talk about how I refuse to give the time of day to her “handsome” neighbor who has been living with the same man for 10 years. And then she’ll complain that I always say the neighbors are gay, but how could I possibly know that?! Some people like having roommates!
So at some point, Jimmy Iovine went to Haley and suggested that she sing this unreleased song that Lady Gaga sings at her concerts. So Haley rang up Gaga on the mobile to see if this was okay. “Ahoy?!” Gaga said when she picked up the phone, cradling it between long, pointed nails as she balanced herself on top of the Cyldesdale hooves she was wearing as shoes (and they were actual hooves, she’d had them chopped right off the horse and then had them strapped to her feet, still warm and bloody).
“Um, hey, is this Ms. Gaga?” Haley asked nervously.
“Why yes, yes it is,” Gaga replied as she used one long, conical nail to scratch the skin around the protuberance her makeup people had just glued to her cheek bone.
“Oh, hey, Ms. Gaga,” Haley said, twirling the phone cord around her finger. “It’s Haley from American Idol. I was wondering if I could perform ‘You and I’ on Idol this week.”
“Hmm,” Gaga said thoughtfully as she glued insect legs onto the dress she planned to wear to the movies over the weekend. “I will permit this, but on one condition.”
“Oh sure, anything!”
“The next time you fart, I want you to capture the essence in a jar and send it to me. I’m creating a new fragrance called ‘Poot.’ It will make the wearer smell like decay, futility and springtime. Will you do this for me?”
So as Gaga prepared to go see Rango and Haley rehearsed with Sheryl and Jimmy. Sheryl thought it was a super bold choice to trade farts for song rights. Jimmy said it’s a powerful song that not everyone is familiar with.
Haley started the song off by lying across the stairs on stage. She sounded great — bluesy and growlsy and husky. I thought it was a great song choice, a great song, and she ended with a big note that was both strained and beautiful.
Also, her pants reminded me of this:
Slim Goodbody had veins on his clothes, too.
The JHo is not happy. She loved the way Haley sounded, but thought Jimmy gave bad advice and that it was too risky. She needed to sing something that the audience was more familiar with. Randy didn’t like the song choice or the song, would have suggested Joss Stone, and Haley’s lucky she gets to sing again. Steven said the people at home are waiting to see the contestants kick one another’s butts, and Haley is one perfect song away from being the next Idol.
Haley’s second song was “House of the Rising Sun” by the Animals. Jimmy loved the song choice and said that Haley would have recorded it if she was a teenager in the 60s. Sheryl finally put herself to good use and suggested that Haley start the song off a capella. Haley took her advice, and the beginning of the song was haunting and beautiful. The band kicked in after the first verse and Haley got her growl on. It was a great cover and the audience seemed to love it.
The judges gave her a standing ovation to make up for being super mean earlier. Randy said Haley gets the award for best performance of the night, which sounds like a worthless award unless it also comes with the Idol title. Steven thought it sounded sweet and sour and raspy, and he liked it. She sold the song. JHo decided to take credit for how good Haley sounded, saying it was a good thing that the judges got her all angry earlier, because she came out pissed and did a great job.
The only thing JHo gets credit for is the “bitch please” look Haley had.
Do you think the judges deserve credit for making Haley so awesome? Do you think they’re trying to sabotage some of the contestants? How many of those songs did you actually know?