Simon says: "We like being mean to people occasionally."
That's about as revelatory as the Pope declaring that he's Catholic.
It was standards night on Idol, which generally brings out the best voice and performance in everyone. Last night was no exception, but the bar is considerably lower this year. You know you're in deep shit when the biggest compliment Tony Bennett can muster about your group is that you're "competent."
That's right. We got several declarations of "good" from Tony, but most of the time even those were parsed with the disclaimer that the performance "could be good." Only a disgustingly low TWO greats were handed out. One was for Melinda, and one was for the song "Smile." Please note, the great in no way was to be interpreted as an endorsement of Gina's rendition of "Smile." It was simply an observation about the quality of the song. Meanwhile, fucking Sanjaya raked in the most lavish compliment, as Tony declared him "terrific." And that's exactly why Bennett has survived in these wacky modern times -- because he's able to ferret out the pulse of the young and popular and capture enough of the reflected glare of that spotlight. MTV's "Unplugged" revived his career, and he's since teamed with k.d. lang and Xtina.
I don't begrudge Tony one bit. I think he deserves all the listeners he can get. That said, there are a few rules of the deep, Italian code that should be obeyed at all costs. Rule number one of Tony Bennett night: Don't talk about Tony's rug.
Rule number two: Never take sides against the family. But with all due respect, Mr. Benedetto, when it comes to Sanjaya, you, Sir, are full of horseshit.
At this point, it shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone that enigmatic Sanjaya sticks around in this competition, because at least he's entertainment. You know what it's like? It's like when you brush your teeth and then realize that you forgot to drink your orange juice. So you drink your orange juice. Yeah. Watching Sanjaya perform is the aural equivalent of that. But he whispers his way through "Cheek to Cheek" and has the stones to get Pauler up and dancing with him, and Simon tries reverse psychology by declaring it all "incredible!" Good luck, Simon.
In all fairness to Tony, he did also declare Jordin "terrific." And I do think Jordin is poised to be the shocking spoiler this year and has potential to win it all. She's young, she's beautiful, and she can sing. Her "On a Clear Day" was vocally lovely and she was charming, even if Simon was right and it was a touch old-fashioned. But she did get Paula to babble a little about how she's a magnet of joy, which gave Simon the giggles.
(I wanted to put a picture of his giggling fit here, but my dvd player conked out at this juncture. oops)
Surprisingly, Chris Richardson stole Blake's thunder this week. His vocals are still about as strong as Charlie Manson's odds of parole. But he picked arguably the best song with "Don't Get Around Much Anymore," and he didn't fuck with it too much, and yet it seemed comfortably contemporary.
Blake? He murdered the shit out of "Mack the Knife." For real. Bobby Darin would've been pissed. Kevin Spacey probably seethed. (you KNOW Spacey is a closet Idol fan. he's got enough in the closet, why not toss in a silly tv obsession, too.) During this performance, as Blake tritted across the stage and exsanguinated the last drop of machismo from a song about a gangster, somewhere in a dark bedroom with only the bluish light of the TV flickering against his boyish face, Clay Aiken said, "Now that's gay."
Phil stuck with his stalker song catalog by dusting off the Cole Porter classic "Night and Day" and making it immanently more creepy than I ever imagined. But he also got Paula to babble another laugh-out-loud atrocity when she said he has a Frank Sinatra vibe. It's a tight race between that comment and Tony's about Sanjaya being terrific, both vying for most absurd language of the night. But I still have to give the win to Tony's terrific and place Paula's Frank comment.
Haley did a really cheesecakey version of "Ain't Misbehavin'." Honestly? When she doesn't try to get loud, I think Haley has a passable songbird-sweet kind of voice. I still can't imagine who in their normal state of mind is inspired enough to pick up the phone and place a vote for this girl, though.
We did get a lovely glimpse into human psychology though when she sat with Ryan before the performance and talked about how much she both fears Simon's comments and adores any praise he hands her. Simon looked truly disgusted as she spoke. The funny part of breaking this down? I think he was pissed because he thought she was trying to manipulate/lubricate his future comments by preying on his decency and making herself seem vulnerable. But here's the thing about people who occasionally enjoy being mean to people -- and I can speak as an authority on this matter, because I'm one of those people -- this form of manipulation won't work. It'll only bring out their ugly side and make them want to be even nastier to you. When someone pleads for clemency from my words? I want to verbally kick them in the fucking face. I know they're manipulating, and it pisses me off. The irony here? I don't think Haley was manipulating! I think she was just cluelessly being honest without thinking of the repercussions and how it'd make him feel.
Also? She managed to alienate Randy and Paula, who both declined to comment, saying that she wants to hear what Simon says. So Simon gave her the backhanded compliment of saying, "You've got great legs." And here was yet another funny little study in psychology and a modern twist in our society. Several times this season, we've seen the "pretty" girls get pissed when their looks were complimented. They knew that was a way of insulting their performance. We value looks in our superficial little world, but we can also use them against someone when we like to pretend that something more important than surface exists.
But only a few minutes later in the show, the nontraditionally beautiful LaKisha gets her looks complimented, and she basks in the comment. She doesn't look for an underbelly (though true, there wasn't one) or ulterior motive. She's just glad to hear she looks beautiful.
And now that the single most boring contestant this year has dominated so many words of this post, let's move on and actually talk about LaKisha's performance of "Stormy Weather." Once again, it was loud. 'Nuff said.
So that leaves Melinda. She pulled the single, elusive "great" from Tony when she rehearsed "I've got Rhythm." And she was great. She can sing, she can perform. But -- seriously. Seriously? She's our Idol? Here's two words for you: Taylor WHO? You think Taylor was ultimately unmarketable? Hello Melinda. Who the fuck is she going to sell records to? I think she could be a huge star -- if this were 1973. As it is now, her best shot at post-Idol success is to get a cameo in a Tarantino flick where he wants to place the scene in modern day but give it a '70s vibe. (Oh yeah, I'm all jazzed up for Grindhouse this weekend!) But back to Melinda and her winning Idol. I know that the voting isn't supposed to be based on post-show success. It's based on who entertains us the best and most while they're on the show. And that's Melinda. But her and that shy-surprised-gratified look is getting old. Way old. It was played by the time the semis were over, and now that she continues with it, I'm really doubting the sincerity. Also, where the fuck is her neck? I'm sick of it. Looking like a goddamn box turtle all the time. Or an uncircumcised penis. Or a moisturizer bottle when it's screwed down.
Yeah, overall, she's very, very good. Most of the time, her performances are great. But is she a star? Not really. She stands out in this crowd. And the neck barbs were low. But you know, occasionally, I like being mean to people. Simon didn't feel up to the task, so someone had to jump in and take a few shots.
As for our "great, really really great" contest? What a gyp. I guess it's a damn good thing I didn't make the "whoever comes closest without going over" rule, or else everyone would be shit out of luck. So as it stands, the lowball number guessed was 13, by Don Capone! Poor Don, who's already had to endure reading more of my crap than any human deserves.