Last night, Idol managed to limp one step closer to bridging the time-gap and merging with The Gong Show with all the crappy performances it showcased. The trouble is, they were basically humorless crappy performances, and Simon's "gong" is getting predictable.
The theme was to have the contestants regress to the year of their birth, and then evolve back around to the music of today. Regress, they did. Evolve, not so much.
On top of that, it was a fairly boring night with the judges. Paula held her shit together pretty well, which is bad TV. Her clothes weren't even horrible for once, but her jewelry that she's pimping was, and her stylized hair was very throwback. Like, 1890's hooker throwback. Poor lost soul Paula. Remember back in time when Paula was married to Emilio Estevez? I'm thinking she tagged the wrong brother, and now that Charlie Sheen is single again, they'd make a smashing couple with LOTS of sleazy tabloid play with catfights with Denise Richards. But even Paula was on her "stick-up-her-ass" meds tonight. I noticed she had to grab hold of Randy a couple times to steady herself, but otherwise, she was fairly coherent. She didn't say anything of substance or value, but that's Paula, and at least but she wasn't slurring and her eyes focused most of the time. So disappointing.
Thanks to Katharine, we did, once again, get the obligatory bar/drinking reference in relation to the judges from Seacrest this week. As usual, it was prompted by Simon, not Paula. Simon, he flubbed up trying to tell Kat that it wasn't her best performance, but instead said, "It was your best performance." Everyone knew what he meant. Things moved along. But he couldn't stand it and a good 30 seconds later when Ryan was talking to Kat, Simon piped up to reinforce, "I meant to say it wasn't your best performance." Doesn't sound very nice of him, but it was actually fairly tame considering how truly awful it was.
Katharine turned in the worst performance of the night, but the judges didn't rail on her, which leads me to believe they've taken enough shit from her scary, crying stage father and they want her gone. They ripped her rough last week, and then after a "flood of phone calls" they apologized the next night. Tonight, they didn't damn her wreck of a version of 1984's "Against All Odds," which was out of key and out of synch, and even worse than Scott Savol's cheezy rendition last year. (Scott's specter loomed large in this show, casting a depressing shadow even bigger than you'd expect from his hefty frame.) But bad as Kat was, the judges didn't rip her, see, because ripping her would only inflame her fans and cause them to vote. So instead they just sort of glossed over it and were then polite after she dry-humped the stage all the way through her second performance.
Poor Katharine. So beautiful. And we know she can sing. But she just can't do this show at all. She ought to be on the cover of beauty magazines, but I fear Kat's AI legacy will be that she'll be the AI Cosmo fashion-disaster girl in the back of the mag with the black bar across her face. Witness last night:
Seriously. I don't think all the Scientologists in LA voting nonstop can save her at this point. Even revisiting her popped-button, beaver shot last week won't get her enough votes. The trouble with Kat is this -- she's got a coltish charm, but instead of harnessing that, she's veering wildly into songs that are too powerful for her voice and clothes that are either too blatantly sexy, which makes her look uncomfortable in them, or they're just downright matronly and ugly.
Lucky for Katharine, there's also Paris, who turned in two fairly poor performances, and who also got a semi-cold shoulder from the judges, but nothing scathing enough to cry about, though even Paula was a hard-ass with her. Paris also had the horrible distinction of being placed in the cursed second spot on the show. In the previous four years, EVERYONE who performed second for the top five was eliminated, with Scott Savol being last year's victim. Paris was born in '88, so she sang a song from 1986: Prince's "Kiss." I guess the technicality here is that in '88 Tom Jones did a version of the song with Art of Noise. (Yes, I have Tom's Reloaded CD and yes I fucking listen to it. Worse? I've seen Tom Jones in concert. A couple times. I used to live in Vegas. I'm not cool. Leave it alone.) I seriously think that what's hurting Paris is the raised age limit this year. She's a precocious teenager, but the way she changes styles every week and never seems to connect to anything might have something to do with the fact that even though she has a great voice, she's still in the embryonic stages of figuring out who she is, and so she's unable to convey anything to us. I have no doubt that Paris has the ability to grow up and become a stunning performer and singer. But she didn't pull off "Kiss" and she didn't come close to pulling off Mary J. Blige's "Be Without You" either. I fully expect Paris to get the boot this week over Katharine.
Chris? Madone. What can I say at this point? In his interview before the song, Chris dropped the utterly amazing news on us that he's always wanted to be in the spotlight! No shit, Chris?? I'd have never guessed that this blatant camera fucker always craved to be a star. That's about as surprising as saying that geezer-fucker Anna Nicole married for money. And the song? It's all just the same repetitive shit with Chris. Born in '79, he chose to do Styx's "Renegade." It made me long for Adam Sandler to sing it. He got all the cool lights and flaming background, and when they did a close up on his head with those flames licking around him all I could think was that they were hard-boiling the fucker. Then again, maybe the flame background was the second song. I don't know, they both blurred together in the mediocre sameness of them. He sounded like utter shit, and the band was even worse. You ever see the movie "From Dusk Till Dawn"? (cool flick, and I'll also note that it marks the apex of Clooney's hotness.) There's a scene in that movie where they finish a rowdy barfight and slay a bunch of vampires. It's fairly quiet, but a couple of the guys turn toward the stage and look at what is, quite literally, a band from hell.
The one guy says, "Now let's kill that fucking band." That's what needs to be done about the band on this show. They were HORRIBLE on this song, and it should be giving Chris a clue as to what his "rock" album would sound like if he won. But Chris doesn't care. A cool guy would care about something like that. But Chris is just a poser with weenie music. He couldn't find cool if he had a polar bear guided tour of the North Pole in winter. (you know, I'm talking about back before global warming.) Anyhow, he sucked more than a ten dollar crack whore on the day her pimp boyfriend's rent's due, and yet, the one thing that sucked harder than he did was the judges' lascivious fellating of him on national television by telling him how wonderful he was. The people who love this crap and vote for him deserve the preening, mocking music he'll produce n tandem with 19E. And this is exactly how the producers will feel about it:
Fuck artistry, as long as they're making the mad cash.
Chris's second song was "I Dare You" by someone I don't even care to look up. It sounded just like everything else he does, proving that the time that spans his personal lifetime can be condensed into the same bland bullshit. He screamed, his voice nearly broke, and Simon was very concerned for him about this. Chris blamed fatigue and singing too often. It's not from singing too much. It's from over-screaming. Chris, unlike Paris and Katharine, knows exactly who he is and what he's doing. And I truly believe he's genuine about it. The problem is that what he's so genuine about is so neutered and phony.
Taylor, I full believe, is no longer taking this thing seriously. He did Wild Cherry's 1976 classic "Play That Funky Music White Boy." It was…different. His shirt was paisley fugly beyond words, but he was wearing what looked like cute blue suede shoes. The performance? It was entertaining, that's for sure. It really sort of seemed like he was saying "fuck you" to Simon and the producers and just being his manic mess of himself. But it was weird at the end when he threw himself down on the stage.
It seemed a little forced. It seemed like Taylor knew exactly who he was when this all began, but that as the time has passed he slowly been losing himself as he's tried to adjust and do different things, and had to endure being jacked by the cosmos. So it was like he came out with the intent of jacking the cosmos, but it was nearly a parody of himself because instead of just being himself, he was trying to be himself.
But it did give us this lovely moment:
Yes, Ryan actually laid down on the floor with him. Have you noticed that Ryan no longer says "Seacrest…OUT," to close the shows? Do you know why that is? It's because Ryan, he's not out. But are any of us missing this one, yet? Look at how comfy he looks laying next to a man there. I can't be the only one who notices how handsy-cute he gets with Elliott.
Teri Hatcher reported that after their very public, very photographed, first date, he called her an hour later to say, "I don't think I can do this with you." Uh. Color me surprised? Simon's made a not-so-veiled comment about him "losing the beard" this season. Ryan, really, it's OKAY. It's all okay. We know you have lewd fantasies about Chris and his wallet chain, too.
Anyhow. Back to Taylor. His second song, the song from today, he somehow got a Beatles song cleared, and it was the George Harrison number "Something," which was released in 1969 on their Abbey Road album. Simon called him out for his trickiness on doing this on a technicality, because I guess the Beatles have some album that's charted in the top 10 right now? (My pal Don could answer this.) This is very significant of Taylor, who pays so much homage to the past. The music that spans the time of his life is from all the way back in '76 to the current shit from 1969. Anyhow. I liked it fine. I don't usually hear a southern drawl when people are singing, and I've never noticed it in Taylor before, but I heard it while he was doing this song, and I liked it. He got a little unnecessarily wonky with it at the end, but it was alright. Nothing great. But, again, I don't think Taylor's going anywhere this week.
Someone who could be in trouble this week is our boy Elliott. (please don't hurl rocks at me.) Last night was a serious de-pimping for Elliott, but it may have been Simon's "call to arms" again to help E siphon off votes from the girls who were awful. But, most likely, Simon needs Elliott gone before he's a threat to his boy Chris.
Here's the thing with Elliott. Much hoopla is made about what a nice guy he is, how he's a good person. And, he may be nice, but he's proven he's got brass balls on this show. If you were watching way back in the audition rounds, you'll note that there wasn't really any Elliott pimping. They didn't show his audition at all. But in Hollywood week, we did see him, even though it wasn't about him, it was in relation to another person to showcase their assholery. Elliott was paired with one of the pain-in-the-ass Brittenum twins, and Elliott didn't take any of his shit. The guy rode him and tried to railroad him into staying up all night to practice, but Elliott had none of it and went to sleep. The next day, on stage, when the twin tried to shit-talk Elliott, Elliott quietly said, "He's trying to trash us, and I don't appreciate it." Not flashy, no. But he stood his ground. And how about when he refused to be a complete star-fucker and stated that he wasn't enamored with Barry Manilow's music? Yeah, yeah, he made up for it and gave Barry his props, but that took guts to do that. Then, he wasn't intimidated by Bo's version of "I Don't Wanna Be." He took that on and burned it up -- his way.
Now, this week, he's pulled the mother of all karma flaunts -- not once, but twice. Last night, for his first song, he chose "On Broadway." This was the song that sent Scott Savol home last year, even though Savol sang it pretty well. The thing is, Savol was an asshole who'd way outlasted his expiration date anyhow. So that's not a huge jinx in and of itself. Elliott performed first, and he sang well enough, but he always does. The band was crummy and off, sort of overwriting Elliott's funk with their own ornamentation. Stylewise, Elliott again went with a fat tie, but an ugly jacket, and overall, it was kind of just -- eh. On the upside, he wasn't nervous, he looked completely comfortable and was grooving it nice, but the song really is just kind of lame and overplayed and it just never caught fire.
But his second song choice, that's where his cojones come into play. He picked Michael Buble's recent hit, "Home." I've already talked about Buble, so I won't rehash. But in case you're not familiar with the laughing jinx gods of American Idol, whenever someone sings a song about leaving, ending, or whatever, they get their wish. This year, Ace triggered the fates with "That's All." Elliott, last night, he decided to sing a song whose lyrics actually say, "But I wanna go home."
Is he fucking kidding me with this shit? I've been sacrificing my "Boston Legal" time to dial compulsively for him for two hours on end and he goes into the deep and sings "I wanna go home." There's tempting fate, and there's baiting it. Cojones, people. How can I not root for this guy?? I love it! Simon, he's so clever and astute, he pointed this whole thing out, and Elliott actually felt the need to defend it and say, in a very earnest way, "Don't take that literally."
Anyhow, after the song he got all flustered and tried to run to the safety of Ryan's loving arms, but Ryan had to trot him 'round back to middle-stage to get his critique. That Ryan, always looking out for his guys, you know? Oh, I just joke, leave it alone, people, it WAS cute.
As for the actual song? I loved it. It was pretty. It was…sweet. The band, I give them props on this one. It was low-key and soft and let Elliott's voice take control. By far, it was the best vocal of the night, and the best performance. Elliott successfully switched gears on this song and was able to pull off what he missed on country night when he did "If Tomorrow Never Comes." That was maudlin and kind of uncomfortably nervy. This was romantic and subtly ballsy. (<--are you getting it yet, Pickler?) And I don't mean just the song choice for its disastrous pun potential tomorrow if he doesn't have enough votes. I mean because it was a truly intimate performance.
The whole beauty of it was in his voice, and in how he chose to sing it. At the end, he hit a couple of lines ("I'm just too far from where you are" and "I'll be home tonight") that were close to a whisper. I didn't break down and cry, cause that's not my style. But as I've documented on here, I recently quit smoking. Hadn't had a cigarette for 10 weeks. After that? I had a smoke. Seriously. I've got it that bad, and this was that good. It also showed some diversity, while still staying in Elliott's comfort zone. The funkiness of "Broadway" moved to the modern crooning of Buble, and as such Elliott's the only one who successfully did represent his tastes as they span a lifetime.
The problem with it, potentially, isn't that it lacked "wow" factor as Simon said. The problem is that it was quiet. This show, it's not geared to smaller, intimate moments like that. An American Idol "moment" or "performance" means someone hitting a huge money note and belting the shit out of a song. That's why Kat's been struggling lately. She knows that's how this competition is won, and she's trying to deliver. But Kat doesn't have that kind of voice. Paula, even in her haze of lusty tears last week, tried to tell her that her voice doesn't work in that way. But it puts Kat in a catch-22 position. Because either she has to stretch and force it to work that way, or she'll probably be gone. Ironically, that's exactly what's going to pop her out of here just as suddenly as her crotch-button projectiled off last week -- because she's sounding awful. And, it could be Elliott's undoing, too. He's NOT trying to deliver in that manner. He's singing at his best, and obviously trying to win this his way with what does work for his voice.
Will it work for him in this competition? I don't know.
People have to decide if they want a shouter who likes to do what he thinks is cool, or a crooner who's cool because he does what he likes. And the deeper we get into the show, the more I think the producers knew exactly what they were doing by picking these contestants. People were saying that Elliott's not marketable. But here's the facts: Michael Buble? Multi-platinum. Remember that Donny Hathaway song Elliott sang last week? On Tuesday morning, 4/25/06, that album was ranked on Amazon in the low twenty-thousands. On Wednesday morning, 4/26/06, it was ranked at #4. As I write this, it's still ranked at #309. Seriously. I happen to know someone (cough, cough) who in the past has obsessively watched Amazon rankings and knows a thing or two about them. Those numbers don't mean that Elliott was selling thousands of Donny Hathaway CDs. But he sure was selling quite a few. Yeah. Elliott's so good he can sell other people's product.
I just hope that as this show has aged, and the contestants have gotten older, and as the audience also has, that the vote totals reflect this newer, age-skewed demographic. Most viewers, we aren't so old yet that we need to be screamed at to hear the shit. And, most of us aren't so young that we need to be shouted at to get our attention. This is a perfect time for us to tell them that we still want a little substance over the style when it comes to the music in our lives.