Welcome back to the Top 11 Redux: This time, it’s personal! Wednesday night’s show opens up with an overwrought, very dramatic recap of last Thursday’s elimination non-elimination show, complete with still photos and shocked faces and the sound of a throbbing heart. Lub-dub. Lub-dub. Lub-dub.
This is the part where Casey flat-lined…
We learn that, before he was saved by the judges last Thursday, Casey had told the cameras that it was too early in the season for the judges to be using their one save. Shows what you know, Casey. Leave the judging to the experts… like me. I’m an expert at being judgmental.
The judges are intro’d and walk out. Randy’s dressed in slimming black. JHo has got her sparkle on. Steven has been to the mature woman’s section at Penney’s (that’s how my grandmommy refers to JC Penney’s. Just Penney’s. When you’ve been going into the store to pay your charge card bill in person for 50 years, you get to drop the “JC.”). Anyway, Steven’s picked up some cruise wear and is ready to judge. Tink is doing something new and greasy with his hair.
What have you done to yourself?
So, it’s Reginald Kenneth Dwight week, on the show. Or as Tink insists on calling it, “Elton John Week.” Whatevs. Back on the mean streets of Pinner, when we were all wee roustabouts, we called him Reggie. There’s a video flashback so that we can re-live the wild fashions and devil-may-care interviews Sir E.J. gave back in the day. Tink’s voiceover helpfully explains that E.J.’s eclectic sound is woven through pop music. Jimmy Iovine’s sticking around for another week to say that Elton goes from subtle to full attack in eight bars, which is a pretty cool way of describing his music.
The theme that will be woven throughout the show — aside from the prolific songbook of Elton John and his writing partner Bernie Taupin — is a photo shoot for Entertainment Weekly. The kids all got dressed up and made up and posed and photographed. The photo shoot shows them what it’s like to be a pop star. Next week they’ll all do drugs, catch an STD from a groupie, and have a slap fight with a paparazzo.
Captain Fantastic and the Underage Cowboy
Young Scotty McCreery’s up first. The Entertainment Weekly photographer says that Scotty has a natural elegance. I believe the same thing was said about one Alfred E. Neuman, a man I consider the epitome of class. Scotty’s doing Elton’s “Country Comfort.” Don’t think for one instance it’s because it’s Scotty’s fave song or something. He looked at a song list, saw the word country, and didn’t read any further.
Jimmy Iovine says that “some people” might call Scotty a one trick pony. Some people like myself, actually. But it’s the best trick Jimmy’s ever seen a 17-year-old do. Well then! Proceed with your mediocrity, young one!
Scotty plays the acoustic guitar and sings real low and slow and when he gets to the lyrics “I saw grandma yesterday down at the store,” he gives a shout out to his granny, who is in the audience.
Senior citizens always vote. Unless it’s rainy. Or too hot. Or too loud.
He ends the song on one of his “young lady killer notes.” Someone in the audience waves a sign that says “Scotty Be My Cowboy.” Ick. I guess you don’t have to go through a background check to get into the audience of this show. Next week, whoever that is will just have a giant poster with PedoBear on it.
Steven loved Scotty’s voice and the fact that he shouted out his grandma. JHo says he has amazing instincts and he should never doubt himself. Randy said “we’re at Scotty’s Place Bar and Restaurant.” He added that it was nicely done. Sometimes this panel of judges gives great feedback. And sometimes they might as well be having a conversation with those baby twins from the YouTubes who just jabber and giggle at one another. They’re just pointing and shouting “dadadadadadadada” at the top of their lungs. That’s our judges, only without diapers. Well, two of them are without diapers…
Meet next year’s judges…
Bad Side of the Dancehall
Naima had an uneventful photo shoot, although we did learn that she looks as great without makeup as she does with makeup. That’s going to be the last nice thing I say about her, though. She’s going to do “I’m Still Standing” but she’s going to put a reggae swag on it. Uh-oh. As soon as she said that I heard a loud buzzing noise and saw red flashing lights. How could she miss those warning signs??
Jimmy Iovine says it’s a brave choice and recognizes that she chose the song because of the lyrics. He suggests she dedicate the song to all the people in the world who are struggling right now.
Naima takes his advice and starts her performance off with that dedication… in a fake Jamaican accent. So, I really like reggae and I like Naima, but I am not liking this. The accent feels very, very contrived, especially when her real accent returns when she really opens up her vocals at the end. I almost enjoyed the last few notes, but then she follows it up by shouting “boom, fire!” in the Ja-fakin accent at the end. Sigh… contrived… fake… especially with her suit with reggae red/gold/green stripes that she wore.
JHo says she loves herself some Naima, but the song probably wasn’t made to be flipped like that. Randy agrees and says he loves reggae, but the song came off corny and Naima’s not corny. Steven says “boom-shaka-laka-laka, baby” and good for Naima for picking a song that fits her and for letting him in on that good ganja she was holding before the show.
After Naima there’s a segment that has to do with Coke and writing your own song and Taio Cruz… and I only mention this because Taio Cruz was there and who knew that he had a high-pitched, British accent?? Color me surprised…
So last year, Paul was touring the country in a bus with 15 other dudes, living off dollar menu filet-o-fishes… and now he’s doing photo shoots and selling soda. It’s funny, the paths life leads us down.
He’s going to be doing “Rocket Man.” He says his band covered it once years ago and it was a disaster, so it makes sense that he would do it again. Jimmy Iovine says to sing it like it’s his encore, which is advice that I don’t quite understand, but I’m not a singer so… yeah. Jimmy also says Paul can no longer just get away with his gorgeous white smile and Bradley Cooper-like looks. He needs to kick it up a notch.
Paul’s busted his acoustic guitar back out and he’s wearing a crazy blazer that looks pretty awesome and is perfect for Elton John week, except… oh my… oh my goodness, the pants match the jacket. Ewww… It’s heinous. Was he touring around with a mariachi band? Is that where this outfit came from? White suit with red and green flowers… a bit of an eyesore.
A perfect match for…
Paul tries to take Jimmy’s advice and asks the audience how they’re doing to start things off… this always annoys me a little bit, because I don’t like being asked questions when the person doing the asking doesn’t really care about the answer. So, now that Paul’s connected with his audience by not bothering to listen — I mean really listen — about how their days are going, he can start in with his usual whisper singing. If he makes it through this week, I hope that there is a Ying Yang Twins week on American Idol, because Paul’s only chance going forward may be “Wait (The Whisper Song).” I think that might be the most fantastic episode of Idol ever…
Paul whisper-sings “Rocket Man” and it’s not too bad, but he literally whispers the last word and I think it’s because he couldn’t hit the note, not because it was part of his schtick. Randy thought it was pitchy but he likes when Paul gets soft because it’s “infectious.” JHo thinks Paul may be holding back and might have more to his voice than even he knows. Steven likes that Paul sometimes doesn’t hit all his notes and says there are five artists out there like that right now. Um, I think there’s a lot more than five singers out there who ain’t hittin’ all their notes, Stevie T. He also wants to know if Paul has been watering his suit… apparently he’s worn the blazer before. Then Steven starts doing some lamaze exercises.
Engage the Songbird
Pita Tostita’s singing “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me.” She’s worried because last week Randy complained about her doing too many ballads, but she loves the song. Jimmy thinks she can crush it and they’re gonna knock Randy’s ass out of his chair.
Pita starts way backstage and walks down to front and center in tiny, unsteady steps as though she’s in some sort of hobble dress as she sings. Her voice sounds very rich… almost like country or gospel and, as usual, she’s got the audience cheering before it’s over.
Steven says the song made him cry on the inside, which is like when you and I cry on the outside, but far more beautiful and sensitive. “That’s just about as good as it gets,” he says. “That was a complete and full sentence.” He seems quite proud of himself.
JHo says that she felt Pia more and could feel her trying to push through “that wall.” Randy says he made the recommendation not to do more ballads because he was just trying to get her to switch her gears so that people will know she’s capable of changing things up, but he thought she slayed it, as usual. Don’t defend yourself to her Randy! Stay judgmental!
Stefano says he felt as though he didn’t need a makeover, but once they got those super tight pants on him and he felt that fine material stretched against his thighs, he felt at home. He’s going to be singing “Tiny Dancer” and the rasta knit hat he wore to the rehearsal confirms for us that, yes, he desperately needed a makeover. Jimmy thinks Stefano’s going to have a tough time with the song, because the chorus was really meant for Elton John’s Voice.
Stefano starts out and he looks and sounds good and, wonder of wonders, his eyes are open! His voice makes the song sound modern and updated and he’s walking all over the stage. As he wraps up, he walks down to the judges table and sings to JHo, reaching his hand out to her. A meaty, dark brown hand reaches back and JHo slaps Randy’s arm out of the way. That was pretty funny.
JHo says it started iffy, but Stefano connected with the audience and moved the crowd. Randy agrees and says he was right on the money notes. Steven says he nailed it.
Sixteen Years On
Lauren is singing “Candle in the Wind.” She says she doesn’t want to stray too far from the original version and can really relate to the song. Jimmy backs up her choice and says many of Elton’s songs play to Lauren’s strengths.
Lauren looks mature, somber and elegant with her wavy hair and poofy/sparkly/short/long black dress. The dress is like a mullet: short and sassy in the front, long and luxurious in the back. She sounds pretty great, too. Her voice always sounds big and full. Randy thought it was one of her greatest performances — very hot. Steven says “I’ve loved you since the first moment you laid eyes on me.” He also tells her that if she keeps singing like that, she’ll be able to afford the rest of her dress. He looks pleased as punch when she makes a shocked face and covers her legs. JHo thought it was amazing.
When Tink comes on stage, Lauren’s all bubbly and stuttery and makes a heart with her hands and hugs him. It’s adorable. I remember all the gays I was in love with as a teenager — Ricky Martin… the Back Street Boys… Boyz II Men….
Madman Across the Stage
James is doing “Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting” and wants to use the audience as his stage. Jimmy warns him that this can be difficult and James has minimal rehearsal time. But James is going for it anyway. Perhaps, like Icarus, he will fly too close to the sun on wings of leather and studs….
He starts in the audience over the stage… then he goes down the stairs… then he does a toe touch off the stairs… then he’s with the judges, then the audience, then a guitar player. And then he climbs on a piano. Then he gets down and the piano’s on fire. Oh my. Now he’s standing and screaming and there’s a fire burning behind him and he hits a pretty wild note at the end. The audience gives him a standing O.
OK, James is an excellent singer, but I would go nuts if anyone lit something on fire, because I’m an easily impressed American who likes things that either shine or burn. As an experiment, they should have Thia sing in front of a flaming piano and see how many votes she gets. Just a suggestion…
Steven says “James, you brought the heat, didn’t you?” He seems very pleased with his pun and sits back, his work done for the moment. JHo says she forgets it’s a competition when James is on stage. It was a great performance of a great song by a great artist. Randy says he loves that James enjoys himself.
Tink comes onstage and James tells him that he was worried about his hair spray and the fiery piano and having a “Pepsi moment.” Randy and Tink start shouting about Coke and James says, no, a Coke moment would be good!
Ew, even I think a Michael Jackson head-on-fire joke is in bad taste, and last week I recapped about how Tink’s balls might smell. Funny fail, James. Funny fail. And good luck ever getting Pepsi to sponsor anything you do in the future. Ass.
This week, Thia Megia is singing “Daniel” so that she can better connect with the audience. Jimmy is surprised by her song choice. It’s a poignant song and she’s going to have to do it without behaving like she’s the star of her high school play.
Thia says when she was little, her brother moved away and she was sad so she’s channeling those feelings into her performance. Sounds like a rough time in her life. Maybe he left so he could stop watching her ham-fisted acting in all of those school plays.
Jimmy tells her that if she doesn’t move and connect with people, she’ll probably get sent home this week. Great. Just what every 16-year-old girl wants to hear: if people don’t adore you this one night, all your hopes and dreams will be shattered. Now go get ‘em!
Thia does her thang. She sounds fine. I like her hair. Wasn’t quite buying what she was selling, though… JHo thought it was beautiful. She thinks Thia internalized the song and it was suited for her voice. Randy thought it was relaxed, safe, interesting and pitchy. Steven says when you find the right song, the voice appears and that’s what happened tonight.
Just opened up a can of Thia on all their asses…
Thia blows a kiss to her brother, who she says is watching her right now. Um, ok, what’s the story with her bro? Did I miss something in the audition week? Did he go to the Philippines to join some separatist movement and take on the government? Likely. He was probably sitting in a camp in the jungle, greasepaint on his face, carving bullets out of old artifacts and watching American Idol on a tiny portable television that he had to crank during commercial breaks. If I’m wrong, feel free to let me know in the comments.
Casey really enjoyed his Entertainment Weekly photo shoot and thinks that he could be successful in some sort of parallel universe where tubby dudes with unkempt bears are models. Jimmy Iovine shows him video of last week’s performance. He asks Casey what’s wrong with it. “Some things,” Casey says. Oh good, the judges save him and he puts on his ass hat. Jimmy says EVERYthing was wrong with that performance.
Casey’s performing “Our Song” and Jimmy and producer Rodney Jerkins are helping him change up his performance for this week. Rodney says he needs to get rid of his beard. I agree. Nothing like a fresh look to start over with. Also, I want to know what Casey looks like without a beard. This week, I’m less convinced that Chuck Norris’s fist is hiding under there and more convinced that he looks like one of the butt-faced people from South Park.
Anyway, Casey listens to Rodney but decides against taking the whole beard off. Instead, he gets a haircut and a facial trim. He still looks like a young Santa, though.
Far less stroke-y than last week, too.
He sits on a stool between a guitarist and pianist and sings without growling or screeching. He sounds great, even hitting some very high notes at the end after taking a deep breath. The audience is on its feet at the end of the song and the judges spend a lot of time gloating. Randy says their save last week was one of the greatest saves on the show. Casey didn’t lose himself and it was well done. Steven agrees and says that Casey sings differently every time, which is the sign of a true artist. JHo says they’ve sent some great people home and she’s lost sleep over it, but she slept like a baby the night they saved Casey.
Lusky in the Sky with Diamonds
Lusky’s doing “Sorry Seems to be the Hardest Word.” The first time he heard the song, it was Mary J. Blige who was singing it. As he’s talking with Jimmy I. in the studio, they stop taping… because guess who’s wandering around in the background? None other than Mary J. Blige! Lusky’s excited. He tells her that he’s met a lot of people, but this is big. LOL, yeah, that’s pretty dumb. Who are all these people that you’re meeting? Your dry cleaner? The bus driver? The guy who makes coffee at the bodega? Yes, we’ve all met a lot of people, but most of them aren’t Mary J.
Mary just hugs Lusky and they take a picture together, which is nice, although Lusky’s eyes are closed, so that kind of sucks. Mary doesn’t really say anything or offer any advice. This is not the first time I’ve seen her on a random reality show, and she always seems like she doesn’t really know what’s going on. Like she just woke up and found herself on a set with some wannabe star hugging her. Wake up, Mary!
Jimmy warns Lusky that this is a song that can be easily over-dramatized and that’s where Lusky has a tendency to get into trouble.
Since he doesn’t want to be too, too dramatic, Lusky starts the number off with fog up to his knees, a single spotlight on himself, and other blue spotlights going in other directions. You know, no drama at all. He’s singing in a high pitched voice and wearing a suit with some sort of undone half bow-tie or something, and a shiny, red pocket square. Dramaless.
The very picture of restraint.
Even if the setting and the clothes and the faces that he’s making scream “drama,” Lusky keeps his voice in check for most of the song. He belts the end and gets a standing O.
Steven says the first half the song blew him away. So did the second half. JHo says the arrangement was great and adds that you don’t see that last note every day. Randy thought that the first half was brilliant but that he needs to pick one spot in every song where he lets loose.
Tink points out that Lusky let loose at the very end and Randy says yes, but there was another point in the song where it would have been natural for him to do it then, as well.
Haley loved getting glammed up in her red leather dress for the Entertainment Weekly (available on newsstands) shoot and feels just like a star in a magazine. Perhaps when she sees the actual magazine, she’ll realize that she is, in fact, a star in a magazine. See, the ones with a little humility are cute, right?!
Haley’s singing “Bennie and the Jets” and Jimmy Iovine wants some hard singing and some hard pianoing. He says that every week, some part of Haley has been missing and she needs to bring all the parts and pieces to her performance. Up until now, she’s been like some sort of dismembered performer, waving random body parts around wildly. Time to bring it all together.
Haley starts off by lounging on the piano. She has a Lucille Ball moment where she awkwardly struggles to get off, but manages to scoot off the edge eventually. Even though she’s still flinging that arm around clumsily, she sounds really strong and beautiful and growly. I think that the strength of her voice may be directly correlated to how curly her hair is. And it was very curly on Wednesday! She does a lot of growling towards the end and I think she missed the last not, but it was still my fave performance from her, so far.
JHo thought it was amazing and a great way to end the show. Randy thought it was the best performance of the night. Steven says it goes to show you what a well-placed chorus will do. He also added: “you. sing. sexy.” They all laugh and the show ends.
Who were your Wednesday night faves? Who’s on your personal chopping block? Did your favorite Elton John songs get performed? Will you submit your song lyrics to Coke so that Taio Cruz will turn them into a catchy, generic pop song? I think we need a TVGasm theme song, so get on it songwriting Gasmii!