Ah, Ginger-philes, we're entering the home stretch with Idol, and while I applaud their attempts to shake things up a little this year (adding another judge, returning to the old semi-final format, having a top 13), I think that most of them have just not worked as well as intended. I do like Kara DioGuardi, but the show does drag with four judges instead of three giving comments and I don't know that she always brings as much to the table as she should given her resume. Tonight's change was the decision by the producers to pair the final four into two duets -- an experiment that was only partially successful. I'll get to that a little more later. I have to say that I was looking forward to Rock Week (note that it's WEEK not DAY) this year if only because I was curious to see what kind of mentor Slash would be. I've always loved Slash; hell, I even dressed up as the guy for Halloween once and went to school that way -- only to be enormously depressed when 99% of my students had no idea who I was supposed to be (although I did score an infinite number of cool points with the one kid who DID recognize who I was). I can't even imagine how incredible it must have been to perform onstage at the Roxy with Slash playing guitar along with a full band to back you up, but it kind of felt like Slash's mentorship was only so-so. He did suggest Allison tackle "Cry Baby" instead of "Somebody to Love" and encouraged Danny to do that scream . . .but I digress. Overall, I think Rock Week lacked the same universal quality that Rat Pack Night had last week. I think that it highlighted some weaknesses and moved many of the performers so far out of their element that their real talent was eclipsed. It was not that dissimilar to Country Week where so many performers typically struggle.
1. Adam Lambert: Adam kicked things off for the first time this season. (He's never gone first, a spot which many consider the most vulnerable since apparently American Idol viewers are borderline idiots who can't remember what they saw just 55 minutes before and vote only for the most immediate performance.) His choice of "Whole Lotta Love" highlighted what I both love and hate about Adam (yeah, I actually said "love" and "Adam" in the same sentence!) -- Adam has great, big, brass balls, man. It takes real cojones to not only pick a Led Zeppelin song but to pick one like "Whole Lotta Love." It's a testament to his courage (which is what I love) and his ego (which I hate). I personally thought it was a good performance but it didn't sound that drastically different than Robert Plant. And you know, Adam's sneer was just a little over the top for me. I did have to laugh at all the screaming, adoring teen girls who went nuts as Adam sang about wanting to "show you every inch of my love." Oh, girls . . . you are in for a rough road of loving gay men who will never, ever show you every inch of their love.
2. Allison Iraheta: While Allison's choice of "Cry Baby" was probably as brave and ballsy as Adam's choice of "Whole Lotta Love," I do wonder if maybe she wouldn't have been better off with her other choice -- "Somebody to Love." Janis Joplin's version of "Cry Baby" is so iconic that it's hard to duplicate, and trying to change it up and make it your own will just make people yearn for the original. I did, though, love that Allison kind of stuck to her guns when the judges challenged her choice -- pointing out that "Somebody to Love" felt too safe and that "Piece of My Heart" has been done a lot on the Idol stage (and not well ). I also loved her moment of self-awareness and fear that her justification for her choice not be viewed as "arguing" -- a kiss of death on this show. (Yeah, I'm looking at you, Lil Rounds.) I love this kid, though, and I feel like I know her -- or countless kids like her who are kind of struggling to get a handle on a talent so big.
Now, here is where I'm tempted to yell, "Shenanigans." Adam and Allison performed their solos. Then, Kris and Danny were brought out to perform their duet before getting their own solos. This means that Adam and Allison got over a half-hour to rest and prepare for their duets while Kris and Danny got little to no time to rest before taking the stage with their solos. It seems slightly unfair to me -- except for the fact that it benefitted my girl Allison, so, well, shenanigan away!
Kris and Danny joined together to perform "Renegade" by Styx. While I liked the blend of their voices when they sang together (it was really quite lovely), I thought the performance itself felt kind of flat. There were a lot of bum notes, and I thought Danny looked exceptionally uncomfortable, although not nearly as sad and uncomfortable as Kris did when Simon's only critique was that Danny was better.
3. Kris Allen: Unfortunately, Kris didn't quite get his mojo back in time for his performance of "Come Together." His voice is not a rock voice, and the bombast of guitars really highlighted the lack of power in his voice. I did like the breakdown he did towards the end and was impressed with his guitar work (he got to play onstage with Slash!), I think this performance may put Kris in danger particularly after his lackluster duet with Danny. Rats!
4. Danny Gokey: Danny chose "Dream On", which IS an early Aerosmith song, Kara. "Cryin'" and "Crazy" are LATER Aerosmith songs. (This is one thing that does bother me about Kara -- sometimes, she doesn't seem, oh, very bright. Whether it's calling it Studio 57 or referring to a disco singer looking like "that guy from Saturday Night Live" or referring to "Cryin'" and "Crazy" as early Aerosmith, I'm sometimes frightened by Kara's inability to get facts straight.) Overall, I thought that this was the weakest performance of the night outside of Danny and Kris's duet. Danny looked exceptionally uncomfortable again, although I thought maybe the sick, "I'm gonna puke" look on his face was maybe his attempt at an Adam-esque snarl. Yeah, it wasn't working, Dann-o. I could have sworn, too, that he threw a skat in there . . .rock does not feature skat! And I'm not even going to get to that hideous scream at the end. Ouch! And yet despite the fact that this was a bit of a train wreck, Simon pretty much assured Danny that he would be safe -- thereby offering Kris and Allison up on the chopping block. D'oh! While I was a fan of Danny's work last week, I do think that he is the most limited of the contestants in terms of his marketability and I don't think he's as great as the judges (or Danny himself) think he is. (If I see that dude applaud his own damn performance one more time . . . . . . . .)
We ended out the night with Adam and Allison's duet on "Slow Ride." (I did find it rather amusing that while the contestants on their own picked four incredible, iconic rock songs but four incredible, iconic rock acts that when it came time to pick their duets, they picked two of those "classic rock" songs that kind of make you roll your eyes -- "Renegade" and "Slow Ride." Sigh!) Despite my eye rolling at the song choice (I was so hoping for them to go completely balls to the wall and do something like "Paradise City" or "Sweet Child o' Mine"), I gotta say that Adam and Allison rocked that joint. They highlighted everything that was wrong with Kris and Danny's performance -- which was just two cute guys standing side by side singing. I mean, they could have been a rock version of Air Supply, those two. Meanwhile, Allison and Adam interacted and were clearly having a ton of fun and performing the hell out of that song. (Those two have a great chemistry -- even hotter than the legendary chemistry of Michael Johns and Carly Smithson.) And I love how this also gave them the opportunity to overcome the "beginning of the show" jinx by being the last two singers to perform. The last thing viewers (and voters) will remember as they start calling is how hot that duet was. Simon may be right; Adam's duet with Allison may save her this week. If there's any justice, it also paved the way for her to go right into the finals. How cool would those two be going head-to-head?
This all brings us to the $65,000 question: Who is going home tomorrow night? Well, I think Adam's flirtation with the bottom three last week was just that -- a flirtation. I can't imagine people not voting for him after tonight. (Of course, I thought the same thing last week!) My hope is that Allison's duet with Adam will keep her safe. (If there's any justice to this world, it will be!) That would put Kris and Danny (who's never been in the bottom three) in the bottom two, which is really the way it should be after tonight. While I think Danny's performance was the weaker of the two, I worry it's Kris who will be watching the farewell montage tomorrow night -- leaving us with an Adam-Allison-Danny final three (which is admittedly probably the strongest final three since the Ruben-Clay-Kimberley final three in season two -- and I think at least two of this year's potential final three are stronger than that mighty triumvirate.) I would much prefer a Kris-Allison-Adam final three, but, well, in honor of tonight's theme, you can't always get what you want.