Probably the only thing we’ll remember from this week’s American Idol was how shocked we all were when Katharine McPhee landed in the bottom two. Aside from that, this latest round of singing was anything but sparkling. I can barely even remember what happened Tuesday night, and that was only 30 hours ago. Nearly all of this week’s performances were mediocre at best and duds at worst. Kind of a shock considering how great everyone was on ’50s night. This week’s theme was the 21st century, which basically meant the contestants could choose anything from the past six years. I honestly expected everyone to shine with music that would connect more viscerally with the audience, but alas, either everyone rested on their laurels or songs from the past six years really sucked (probably a little of both) because it was all just a massive case of the blahs. Thankfully, the show was reduced down to sixty minutes, which meant our pain was short-lived, not to mention a bit rushed. But hey, at least we got to watch Paula awkwardly hit on Ace. That was pretty cool.
First up this week is Lisa Tucker. She bravely takes on Kelly Clarkson’s torch song, “Because of You.” Unfortunately, there’s a big difference between the two versions, namely that Kelly’s is in tune and Lisa’s is not. This poor girl hits flat note after flat note. I’d like to chalk it up to nerves — or perhaps anxiety over the first stages of a mustache growing in — but honestly, the sad truth is that Lisa has somehow veered off the American Idol course, forever destined to play amusement parks and cruise ships. Randy tells her that he doesn’t like the song, Paula says she has a wonderful career ahead of her (read: “Yeah, I didn’t like it either”), and Simon bashes her as well. Bad way to start the show.
“Wait, wait. America, take note. I am petting a girl.”
Kellie Pickler sings a song called “Suds in a Bucket,” which pretty much sums up this entire performance (and perhaps her life). It’s the typical honkey-tonk country song that’s cute and amusing but totally forgettable. I find myself focusing less on the singing and more on why Kellie looks like she’s only twelve this week. Once again, the judges attack the poor song choice, but Kelly replies with her typical country girl innocence by saying “I’m sorry!” over and over again. She then adds, “I ate a peanut this week! Never had one of those before! It was crunchy!”
Oh look! It’s Deborah Gibson and Kristy Swanson from Skating with Celebrities!
The producers almost give them their own title…
But even Fox doesn’t care about these two. Title DENIED!
Ace is up next, and the song he chooses to butcher this week is “Drops of Jupiter” by Train. It sounds all weird an truncated, thanks to the three seconds the singers now have to perform. Plus, Ace seems like he’s straining his vocal chords with every note. It doesn’t help that the song is one of the most generic contributions to music in this young century. The entire experience is bland and stupid, especially when Ace pulls back his shirt a touch and reveals a scar on his chest. The song eventually ends with Ace’s arm outstretched to the audience. It’s supposed to be dramatic, but instead, all we can do is stare at his hand which trembles like tissue paper in the wind.
Randy once again complains about song choice, but Paula has other things on her mind. She wants to see Ace’s scar, and so he reveals it again, causing hoots from the audience. “One day, you’ll have to explain to me how you got that one,” Paula says, surely causing Corey Clark to rise from his seat and yell “I told you! I told you!” Simon and Randy chuckle and say “PAULA,” but she insists that it was just a harmless comment. Whatever. Get this woman a bucket of cold water and a tranquilizer. As for you Ace, see you on Primetime Live!
Taylor Hicks sings a subdued song that I actually think is pretty good. He refrains from any spastic jerking and tilting and focuses solely on the music. Unfortunately, it looks like the makeup people went a bit hog-wild on him as his blush and mascara near tranny levels. Randy again is not satisfied with the song choice, but gives the performance a mild “aiight.” Paula also isn’t a total fan of the song, but surprisingly, Simon says he quite liked it, actually. However, he says that Taylor’s outfit it too Clay Aiken for him. This causes Paula to balk in her slurry/hazy sort of way, but I sort of agree with Simon. I don’t think Taylor looks like Clay, but he is stuck in run-of-the-mill popstar garb. The kind of junk Constantine would wear and would think makes him hardcore.
Mandisa explodes onto the stage with a gospel/rock anthem that I enjoy, but then again, Mandisa could sing the phonebook and I’d be praising her. She seems to hit all her notes well, and I expect the judges to finally get out of their funk, but no, the dreaded curse of the song choice raises its ugly head once again. Simon goes so far as to say she was “indulgent.” And if there’s anything we can be certain of, the words “Mandisa” and “indulge” often go hand in hand (along with the words “pudding,” “Bavarian Cream Pie,” and “buffet.”)
In a subtle yet effective way, Ryan and Chris squash last week’s controversy by straight out talking about how Chris loves the band Live and how he used their cover last week. Too little too late? Eh, I don’t really care. What I do care about is how Chris will survive after he announces that he’ll be singing a song by Creed. Really, Chris? You really want to go there? He sure does. And then some. Chris rocks loud and proud on the stage, and while the energy is there, it’s not one of his better performances. Simon slaps him with the “indulgent” label and says that he can’t keep doing the same schtick week after week. Kind of funny considering that last week Simon praised him for refusing to compromise.
Wearing what seems to be a long lost item from Ellen Degeneres’s wardrobe, Katharine McPhee takes the stage and warbles boringly through an already boring Christina Aguilera song. Randy says it’s the best of the night so far, but in general, the judges are far from blown away. Looks like the McPheever ain’t catching on this week.
Bucky wears a cowboy hat, which is cool. Well, sort of dumb. Dumb and cool. Point is, he’s just typical Bucky — doing his country thing and smiling the whole way. He’s certainly better than previous weeks, but I can’t even remember the name of his song. Randy and Paula like the performance, but Simon says it was only OK at best. If I really thought Bucky had a chance at going far in this competition, I might pay more attention to his songs. But he’ll be out in the next two or three weeks, so why even bother?
Every show, Paris finds new and interesting ways to be annoying, and this week, she fulfills her quota by taking the stage like Beyoncé’s pudgy little sister. Unfortunately for Paris, if Beyoncé is a Great Dane, then Paris is just a Toy Poodle. She bounces and hops across the stage, pausing occasionally to whip her hair extensions to and fro. It’s a far cry from the sexy act a real diva can pull off, but on this night of blunders, Paris offers up one of the few bright spots of the hour. Still, I’d like to see her trip and fall off the stage. Just once.
Elliot closes out the night with an R&B take on Gavin Degraw’s “I Don’t Wanna Be.” As usual, he nails the vocals, and he even provides us with more of his patented dancing/bobbing than usual. For those of you who haven’t seen Elliot’s homemade choreography, just imagine Justin Guarini’s gentle bounce minus the spread eagle stance. Elliot receives high praise from all the judges, and with that, the show closes.
The results show starts with the usual padding: Ryan Seacrest babbles to us about whatever and then we gaze into the audience to see this evening’s stellar in-house celebrities. And let me tell you something, there was plenty of star wattage this Wednesday. We had Jessica Sierra AND Justin Guarini in attendance. I don’t like making fun of Justin as much as I used to, mainly because I met him once and I was disarmed at how truly nice he was. Plus, he had a disturbingly firm handshake. One of the firmest I’d ever experienced. Oh, but who am I kidding? It’s Justin Guarini! Of course I have to make fun of him! LOOK AT JUSTIN!! HA! JERK!!! Phew, that felt good to get out.
We then watch a fairly idiotic video that’s supposed to give us a sneak peak into the hectic life of the Idol contestants, but it’s really just an elaborate way for Fox to promote its new movie, Ice Age 2: The Meltdown. We watch as the singers all head into a private viewing of the movie, and of course, this results in us having to then sit through a stupid clip from the movie. The singers then all emerge from the screening and provide their own testimonials, à la a million different commercials we’ve seen over the years.
“Manny was cool!” Paris says in her most annoying voice yet. Sometimes I wish a wooly mammoth would come along and stomp on her.
We then cut to commercial, and when we return, it’s time for another ridiculous Ford/Idol commercial. Unlike that ridiculous camping-themed bit from a few weeks ago, this music video has the kids running all over Paramount Studio’s city set, cheering up spectators in the process. Again, still wishing for that wooly mammoth to come trampling in.
This week’s musical performance finally takes us out of the adult contemporary world of Barry Manilow and Stevie Wonder. Rump shaker extraordinaire Shakira graces the stage along with Wyclef. They have a long but energetic performance whose high point seems to be when Wyclef puts his foot on Paula’s chair and raps to her face. Unfortunately, he has no flagrant chest scars, and Paula therefore remains uninterested.
This is all well and good, but I prefer Wyclef’s seminal work, “The Rubble Man.”
Finally, Ryan begins narrowing down the field to the bottom three. He tells us that the bottom row of singers (Mandisa, Chris, Kellie, Taylor, and Paris) are all safe. We then cut to commercial, and for those of us lucky to live in Los Angeles, we get to see Simon’s hoarse-voiced girlfriend come on screen and tease us with rumors that Ryan Seacrest has been canoodling with a Desperate Housewife. Yeah, yeah, Teri Hatcher. Way to blow the lid off that one, AFTER EVERYONE ELSE.
Somebody get this woman a lozenge.
Anyway, Lisa and Ace wind up in the bottom three, which is no real surprise. Then it’s down to Bucky vs. Katharine for that last spot. No contest here. Bucky’s obviously bottom three. But no! It’s Katharine! When Ryan announces her name, a chorus of “BOOO!!”s rain down on the stage. Might this be the upset of the season?
Bottom three. Four, if you count Ace’s burgeoning pit stain.
Surely this Katharine McPhee thing is just a scare tactic, but no — it gets worse! Ryan lets Ace take a seat, which means that Katharine is actually bottom two. Wow. I can’t imagine that Lisa Tucker could garner more votes than Katharine, but anything is possible. The saddest part of this all is that Lisa just has to stand there and smile, knowing that everyone doesn’t even care that she’s in the bottom again.
Of course, no one can deny the McPheever, and she’s soon let off the hook. McPhew! Lisa finally goes home, and after watching the “Bad Day” montage again, she sings an encore performance of “Because of You.” Thankfully, she’s no longer being judged because this version is even more atonal than Tuesday night’s. And so ends the Idol life of Lisa Tucker, a once shining star that has faded away week after week. Were you happy to see her go? Was it her time? Or did she have more to offer? Who did you want to leave this week?