It was an emotional roller coaster on tonight’s American Idol. The big story tonight was that Elliot sang so well he made Paula cry. It was either that or whatever painkiller cocktail she’d imbibed before the show. Yes, Elliot shone brightly tonight (as did Chris), but when it came to duds, it was all about Pickler. Kellie was absolutely painful to watch. Her best moment came before her video clip even rolled — and from there, it was all downhill. As for the rest of the gang? Blah. A big ole blah. Hope everyone enjoyed last week’s magic because it sure as hell wasn’t caught in a bottle.
This week’s theme was “love” — as in, we ever so “love” when random popera singers drop in and offer advice that’s only barely more helpful than “sing that better.” Yes, Andrea Bocelli swung by to help the kids sing love songs, and since it was evident that he could offer little in the way of constructive criticism, the Idol producers roped in über music producer David Foster to help out. Actually, he probably would have been there anyway since apparently Foster and Bocelli have an album “dropping” any day now. Ah yes. Blatant product placement. Where would Idol be without it? (Excuse me while I sip a Coca Cola.)
The show begins with Ryan back to his clean-shaven, beardless look. I rejoice that for now, I no longer have to stare at his feeble attempts at Moses-like greatness. I have a feeling that this episode can’t be nearly as good as last week’s stroll through the Standards, a premonition that’s only strengthened by the startling image of Stevie Scott smiling at the camera. I swear, she’s like the little girl from The Ring all growns up. Nothing good can come from this.
Ryan then reveals that all the singers will have two numbers tonight, “so there’s no excuse for not voting.” Actually, there is an excuse: DIGNITY. Okay, okay, it’s become normal in society to vote for Idol, but I have yet to cross that boundary. Maybe for the final two, I’ll take the plunge…
Next, it’s time to meet our guest star, Andrea Bocelli. We immediately cut to Celine Dion — another harbinger of all things evil. Seriously, all this show needs are a flock of crows to fly by and maybe a black cat to cross the stage. This night is cursed.
Anyway, Celine Dion says, “If God would have a singing voice, he must sound a lot like Andrea Bocelli.” Is Celine implying that God isn’t as good Andrea Bocelli? That’s a bold move, Celine. Sounds like the gauntlet’s been thrown. Time for a sing-off: Andrea Bocelli vs. God. Best two out of three songs.
For those of you who don’t know, Andrea Bocelli is a (so-called) opera singer who has found success by merging classical sounds with modern pop. In this way, he has opened the door for such schlock acts as Sarah Brightman, Il Divo, and (barfing a little) Josh Groban. Oh, and he’s also blind. Ryan says, “Bocelli has bridged the gap between classical and pop.” Yes, he has. And that bridge SUCKS. And if anyone doubts me, feel free to give a listen to Bocelli’s popera version of “Can’t Help Falling In Love.”
We then spend some time with David Foster, formerly of The Princes of Malibu, and we learn that when it comes to music, he’s a hardass. Wait? So you’re saying that Simon’s not the only jerk in the music business? This is absurd! I thought they were all such friendly people!
Finally, it’s time for the singing. Katharine McPhee is up next, and uh oh — she’s singing “I Have Nothing,” the song that has slain many an Idol contestant. Would she be able to tackle it? Well, after singing a little duet with Andrea, she takes the Idol stage. She looks particularly Catherine Zeta-Jonesish tonight, and in her bright yellow dress, she’s certainly an eyeful.
If Catherine Zeta-Jones and a banana had a lovechild…
At first, I think Katharine’s a little off, but I’m still firmly caught in the grips of McPheever from last week, so I don’t really care. When she hits the big key change, she heads straight into va-va-voom territory as her voice powers over the stage, and yup, there’s Daddy McPhee tearing up. Congrats, dude. You’re the official crier of the season. Suddenly, Katharine goes stomping across the stage, revealing a giant slit that goes right up to her, well, rhymes with slit. We have a near vag-slip, but alas, the cameras cut away at just the right moment, leaving the audience free from scandal.
I see London, I see France…
I see Katharine’s underpants! Tee hee!
Katharine receives thunderous applause as usual, and look! There’s Olympic failure Sasha Cohen! How’s that Project Runway outfit treating you? Anyway, Randy says the song is too big for Katharine, and I’m a bit surprised. I really liked it! But then again, I forget: McPheever. It screws with you. Messes up your senses.
For sure, I think Paula will praise Katharine, but instead, she gives the kiss of death: “As usual, you are stunning.” Ouch. Whenever Paula opens with a fashion compliment, it’s always bad news. Believe it or not, Paula actually gives actual, coherent constructive criticism — saying something about not pushing her voice too hard and avoiding flat notes or whatever. Of course, this is Paula, so she quickly veers back into nonsense as she utters something about money in the back pocket. It doesn’t help that her microphone is completely screwed up too. Simon then echoes the other two and says that Katharine chose the wrong song. She tried to fill Whitney Houston’s shoes and failed. Very harsh. But at least Ryan has something nice to say: “For those that don’t have their volume on, I’m sure you’ll get a lot of votes.” Wow, he just kind of slammed her singing in a big way. And at the same time, he sort of came onto her too. Stop, Ryan.
Next up is Elliot, who has to suffer through one of Ryan’s pre-video clip interviews. Our host asks Mr. Yamin why he’s singing a Donny Hathaway song, causing Elliot to stammer and stutter through a long, rambling response. God, just go to the clip already. He’s gonna start sweating soon. Amusingly enough, Elliot says that he wants to honor Donny Hathaway’s music and bring it to the forefront. The audience then applauds enthusiastically. Oh, c’mon. Like any of you teenyboppers EVEN KNOW WHO HE IS! I don’t know who he is. I’m not gonna lie. Did I just expose myself as a musical idiot?
We then saw some of Elliot’s practice sessions with David Foster who says, “He used a lot of Donnie’s licks, and that’s why I was trying to get him to like go off the Donnie licks and create his own lick there at that moment.” Please, stop saying “lick.” Anyway, Foster has to work with Elliot over and over and over again to hit this one note, and just when I think fisticuffs of frustration might break out, Elliot hits it. But can he nail it on the big stage? The answer: yes. Elliot is on top of his game tonight. He has total control and sounds wonderful. Everyone loves it, even Kevin Nealon, and if that’s not a seal of approval, I don’t know what is.
Randy says that hated the arrangement but loved Elliot. And then we move to Paula. Oh Paula. Yes, she’s crying. I can’t even imagine what will follow. “You move me. You celebrate what this competition is about,” she says. After some more tearful babling, she then says, “You are an American Idol. You are!” I feel sort of embarrassed because Paula talks about how the song made her reflect on how far these kids have come, and well, that’s exactly what I was thinking of during the song too. Yes, Paula and I were on the same wavelength tonight. I’ve never felt more shame in my life.
Anyway, Simon also praises Elliot, saying, “Tonight in parts, that was like a vocal masterclass. It was superb.” Wow. Now watch Elliot get stuck in the bottom three.
Commercial time. I’m unlucky enough to stop the Tivo during an American Idol board game. It’s bad enough that midway through the spot, a perky girl yells “Constantine Maroulis!” but then, at the very end, William Hung appears and tells a girl that she sounded pretty good, dawg. Please, boycott this game. Now.
And in other ridiculous news, I see a promo for this week’s OC which will be featuring a Korean popstar AND Lisa Tucker at the prom. Wow. Sweeps is really coming early this year. Did anyone tell Josh Schwartz that Lisa Tucker isn’t “indie”? He might lose all his cred! Bring back Rooney!!!
Well, from the highs of Elliot we then move to the twangy vocal nether-world of Kellie Pickler. Ryan asks her if she’ll be singing her love song to anyone in particular. She frowns and says no and then launches into some very Pickler-esque commentary about Ghost. She seems to really love the famed pottery scene, but alas, “I don’t have anybody to play pottery with,” she bemoans. Hey, I’m surprised she even knows what pottery is. By the way, I wasn’t aware that people could “play pottery.” I learn something new every day!
During her rehearsals with Foster and Bocelli, Kellie learns all about her hidden falsetto, which isn’t half bad. She works hard to use it, and I think that she might even be able to rebound from last week. Foster seems to do all the work, but Bocelli has some helpful words: “She’s very happy, and I like her,” he says. Okay, maybe “helpful” is the wrong word. Later, Foster asks Bocelli what color hair he thinks Kellie has. Bocelli accurately answer “Blonde,” totally blowing Foster’s mind in the process. C’mon now. How could she not be blonde? Has he even heard her speak?
Poor Pickler. She sounds bad out of the gate, and it just gets worse. And worse. And worse. Seriously, it’s painful. Somebody find a cane and yank her off the stage. I can’t describe how awkward this is. You can see the fear in her eyes. Plus, she clearly has no emotional connection with the song, making the experience all the more trying. The good news: she does hit her falsetto, but that’s about it. Afterwards, we cut to the audience where Sela Ward is clapping with her kids. I can’t be positive, but I think she just rolled out of bed.
As expected, the judges absolutely ream Kellie. Paula says that she’s not raising the bar every week. “At this point, it’s about greatness, and I don’t feel that from you,” she then adds. Wow. Coming from Paula, that’s the equivalent of saying, “I hate you! I hate you! I hate you! You’re ugly and nasty and smelly and your family sucks and I hope you die!” Simon also bashes Kellie, and to give you an idea of how bad she sounded, the audience doesn’t even react. Not even one sympathy boo. I’d like to think she’ll be gone tomorrow, but for some reason, I think she’ll still be around.
Young Paris Bennett is next, and she tells us that she’ll be singing “The Way We Were.” Why? Because she’s only seventeen, and she doesn’t have “love thoughts” but she does have memories. Uh, it’s still a ridiculous song for a 17 year old to sing. What exactly will “The Way We Were” apply to in her life? Her friends in the sandbox? Her juicebox?
Anyway, Paris takes the stage, and if last week’s look was “secretary,” this week’s is “secretary goin’ out on the town!” She still looks dowdy, but now she’s tried to add a bit of sass. It’s the kind of look you see when women dress up for a big night at Downtown Disney. Her song is fairly forgettable and blah. But hey, at least Joely Fisher liked it! That’s gotta count for something, right? No? Okay, never mind. The judges say Paris is okay, but none of them are blown away. Neither are we. Yawn.
Taylor is next, and he sings “Just Once.” I’m instantly transported to my dentist’s office as he drones through a rather bland version of this already bland song. Again, blah. Just about the only noteworthy part of the performance is when we see Tori Spelling clapping in the crowd, her toilet-seat-shaped breasts happily glistening in the spotlight. Again, the judges are nonplussed. Randy does one of his “I don’t know what’s going on tonight” remarks. He actually digs in with a rather harsh criticism when he says, “It wasn’t half as good as the original.” Paula also says she wasn’t a total fan, and Simon labels it with the old “hotel lounge” insult. It seems like Taylor’s not gonna get any love, that is, until Paula stands up and yells, “WE LOVE YOU!” Seriously, what exactly did she put into her Coco Puffs today?
“I’m NOT going to pay a lot for this muffler!”
Last up is Chris who says he’ll be singing Bryan Adams. This has me already groaning, but embarrassing confession time: I actually really like the Bryan Adams song he’ll be singing. It was lovely in Don Juan De Marco! So sue me! Anyway, in the clip, Foster tells Bocelli, “I feel like he’s singing from here, not here.” Yes, I’m sure the blind guy could really understand the differences between the two “here’s”.
Foster then says that he once recorded an entire album with Bocelli lying on the ground. Cut to Andrea Bocelli on the floor, belting out a song. Odd. Then it’s time for Chris to sing on the ground, and he does a swell job. But, uh, is he going to have to sing like that on stage?
Chris floors us. (Yuk yuk yuk)
Ultimately, Foster tells us that “If [Chris] delivers the performance of his life, he’ll do amazing.” His lips then read “BUT,” but the audio drops away, and we never learn what the caveat is to this. Doesn’t matter. Chris is awesome. From the first two notes, you can just tell that he has total command over this song. Sure enough, he nails it (well, except for one pesky high note). Plus, it seems like this song is one of the few songs tonight that is actually romantic. With time running out on the show, the judges are rushed through their responses, but that’s okay. They’re all the same: they love it. Paula manages to say “love” about five times in a row, and Simon calls it a “very sexy song.”
Seacrest then rushes us into the show recap, and amusingly, the judges mics are still on, so we can hear their voices over all the phone numbers. Unfortunately, we can’t quite discern what they’re saying. Oh well. Overall, a mediocre show. What did you think? Who was best? Who was worst? Who’s bottom three? And who’s going home?