Last night was "Songs From the Year You Were Born Night" on American Idol (aka "Let's Make Mel Feel Old Night", and we were "treated" to a bevy of songs from the 80s (and one from the 90s -- thanks, Allison, for driving that nail all the way to my very soul!!) as the top 8 performed. In general, I was pretty underwhelmed with last night's show. Maybe I was just tired from rehearsal or maybe I was just missing a certain blackbird who cawed her way off into the sunset last week. (Not that I was a Megan fan, but you have to admit she added a high level of hilarity to the show over the course of the past couple weeks. Damn those washing machine arms of hers!!)
I was happy to see the show dispense with the snooty introduction of the judges but was enormously unsettled to see the stonefaced bald man sitting in the front row -- not clapping, not cheering, just glaring at the stage with what can only be outright contempt. I seriously kept watching thinking/fearing/hoping this guy was going to run onstage and attack an Idol (please let it be Adam, please let it be Adam). No mention was made of this man -- also kind of weird. My concern for the safety of the Idols (except Adam) at the hands of this man kept me from perhaps properly enjoying the display of baby pictures. No, wait, that was my good taste that kept me from enjoying that. Who cares what they looked like? Just get to the damn music!!
1. Danny Gokey: Okay, I start off tonight by calling shenanigans! After an introductory video where we were treated to the information that Danny's parents think he can sing (DUH! I bet Helen Keller's parents thought she was a gifted vocalist, too!), Ryan informed us that Danny would be performing Mickey Gilley's version of "Stand By Me." That's a COVER of a song that was originally recorded in 1961. Danny was not born in 1961. Now, you could argue that the cover by Gilley was released in 1981 and that makes it fair game, but it still seems like cheating to me to pick a classic that is really from another era altogether. I add an additional "shenanigans" to my cry by pointing out that Mickey Gilley is, last time I checked, a country singer, so I would assume that his cover would be a countrified version of the Ben E. King classic. So it would be safe, then, to assume that Danny would be doing a similar take on the song, right? WRONG. Danny comes out and gives us a re-invented version of the song that, while actually quite nice, again makes me feel like he's totally skirting around the rules to his own advantage. There was honestly no other song from 1981 that could have worked for him? This is the same year that John Lennon's Double Fantasy came out -- "Woman"? "Watching the Wheels"? "Starting Over"? Journey's "Who's Crying Now"? "Jessie's Girl"? None of those would work for you, Danny? Well, then, just do whatever you want, dude.
2. Kris Allen: Now, I want to point out that when Danny took Mickey Gilley's version of "Stand by Me" and completely re-invented it to suit his needs, the judges went crazy over it and babbled about his "artistry" and crap like that. Not even 10 minutes later, Kris Allen comes out and does this really cool, funkified version of "All She Wants to Do Is Dance" by Don Henley. It was pretty darn cool and kinda sexy and really added a nice, fresh spin to the song (which I've never really liked all that much). And what do they tell Kris? Do they applaud him for making the song his own? Do they go crazy for his artistry? No. He's told that it sounded like a homework assignment for "funk" class. (And what college offers a "funk" class and why did I not go there??!?!?) Oh, friends, it gets better because after Kara dropped that little chestnut on Kris, Randy "I'm So Useless It Makes Mel Sick" Jackson tells Kris, and I quote, "when the original is so great, don't change the arrangement." At this point, my jaw hit the floor at the same time that my ire hit the roof. How many times have we heard them tell performers to "make it your own." Did anyone tell this to David Cook or Blake Lewis or DANNY GOKEY TEN MINUTES BEFORE? I would argue that "Billie Jean" or "Stand by Me" are significantly greater songs than "All She Wants to Do Is Dance." (Maybe not so much with "You Give Love a Bad Name" or whatever song it was Blake Lewis "beatboxed" up two seasons ago.) So why is Don Henley's song suddenly so untouchable? Oh, yeah, because Kris is messing up the story arc and the predicted "Danny-Adam" finale. Can't let that happen! So let's beat this guy down with ridiculous comments like that -- and then spent the rest of the night criticizing the performers who do "copycat" performances and celebrating the ones who "make it their own." SHENANIGANS!!!
3. Lil Rounds: Here's the thing about Lil -- I like her. She seems like a good person who's been through a lot. Here's the OTHER thing about Lil -- she's not a strong singer. While her choice of "What's Love Got to Do With It" was probably a decent choice for her, her performance was just not good. She was called on the carpet for being a bit too like Tina -- in other words, for not making the song her own. And yet Kris . . . oh, don't get me started again. I would like to take this opportunity to, instead of railing yet again against the hypocrisy of the judges, to address the following to one person -- Ms. Paula Abdul. (clearing of the throat) Paula, first off, let me just say that I love you and am so proud of the journey YOU'VE been taking this season, giving more thoughtful and intelligent critiques than ever before. Brava! Unfortunately, I have to take exception with your comment to Ms. Rounds last night where you referred to the pitch-challenged diva as "brilliant." Paula, Paula, Paula . . . let's not go there, honey. Lil is far from brilliant -- FAR FROM IT. It's time for you to spit out that Kool-Aid that the producers are pouring into your Coca-Cola cup each night and reject the story arc they're forcing down your throat and our throat. You know where the talent lies in this competition -- and it's not with Lil.
Now back to your regularly scheduled post . . .
4. Anoop Desai: When Ryan teased us with the information going into commercial that Anoop would be performing "True Colors," I literally said aloud, "Aw, Jesus!" I hate "True Colors" almost as much as "Don't Speak." (This part here is just for Danielle, so if you're not Danielle, you can skip ahead . . . or not . . . no big whoop. Danielle, do you remember our freshman year at Knox when we watched some special -- was it a salute to Sammy Davis Jr? -- where Goldie Hawn sang that song and we nearly peed our pants with laughter?) I will say that Anoop's version of this treacle was quite lovely, but (you know I'm going to say it) SHENANIGANS! Because guess what? Anoop was praised for, according to Simon, "taking a song and making it your own, making it original." This was the point in the show where I suspected I might be having a stroke.
5. Scott McIntyre: Wow. Scott plays (or at least convincingly holds) guitar! He opted to do Survivor's "The Search Is Over" which was one of my favorite songs my freshman year of high school. Oh, shit . . .Scott McIntyre as born when I was a FRESHMAN IN HIGH SCHOOL. I feel a little sick. His performance was a bit of a train wreck -- very pitchy and what we would call in the speech biz "a bad cutting." I don't know how much longer America can continue to let this guy stick around. I admire his tenacity and his courage and the rainbows that apparently shoot out of his sightless eyeballs whenever he takes the stage. But at some point, our enabling becomes just cruel.
6. Allison Iraheta: Allison made a smart, smart choice in Bonnie Raitt's heartbreakingly perfect "I Can't Make You Love Me." The song allowed her to show a softer side while still retaining that rocker edge that I adore. Why she keeps landing in the Bottom 3 baffles me . . . until I think about her critiques? Like when her tolerable (which is saying a lot for me) version of "Don't Speak" is turned into an episode of What Not to Wear by the judges. Or last night when her beautiful performance becomes the latest entry in Simon's thesis, "Why Doesn't America Like You?" You know, I don't know that likability was really an issue with Allison until Simon pointed it out. This is a cute, spunky kid who rocks your socks off every damn week, and you're telling her she is lacking in personality. Simon, I thought I could trust you. Don't you remember how this same kind of critique destroyed the chances of Latoya London? I do! (I will also point out that Allison was praised for making the song her own, but since I love her, I'll let it slide.)
7. Matt Giraud: Matt has been whipped back into shape and is back on the soul train as dictated to him by the judges. When I heard the announcement that he was doing Stevie Wonder's "Part-Time Lover," though, my initial response was, "Oh, because it worked so well for Kevin Covais! " I really liked his blues-y take on the song and how he (clearing my throat in a super obnoxious way) MADE IT HIS OWN! Everybody say it with me . . . . SHENANIGANS!
8. Adam Lambert: Now here's this week's riddle for you all . . . when is the pimp spot not the pimp spot? When the show is running a good 5+ minutes behind and your pimp spot performance is not even seen by the millions of people who watch the show via TiVo or DVR. That wail you heard last night about 10:15 central time was me realizing that my DVR had NOT recorded Adam Lambert's performance. Since I don't DVR Fringe, I was at a lost. Well, fear not, loyal Ginger-philes, I managed this morning to hit YouTube and tracked down Adam's performance of Tears for Fears's "Mad World." He was introduced by a video that talked about Adam's childhood penchant for dress-up -- something which clearly followed him into adulthood considering he spends every week dressing up as a rock star. (Yeah, I had to go there. I can't help it.) Personal loathing aside, I will say that I liked Adam's performance, which was stripped down and built beautifully. Adam is a masterful player of dynamics and shows a lot of control. And maybe that brings me to one of my real issues with Adam -- I think he's too good for this show. And, of course, the fact that I kind of resent that his coronation has already taken place, forcing the judges to give out ridiculous critiques to Kris and Allison to keep them from messing up the plans. Kris makes a song his own and is lambasted for it. Adam does it and gets a standing freakin' ovation FROM SIMON.
My prediction for tonight's bottom three is Scott, Lil, and Anoop (because I just can't bring myself to admit that it could be either Kris or Allison) with Scott being the one to head home.