Ryan’s looking very Sharp Dressed Man as he intones that the Top 12 is now the Top 13. After the credits, the judges do the Charlie’s Angels walk toward the camera as the announcer introduces them, and them Ryan is literally released out of the gate to come prancing down a lighted flight of Busby Berkley stairs (ask your grandparents). I hold my breath and pray he doesn’t do a Beyoncé on live television. Making it safely to the bottom, he explained all that Oscars-style mess was because “Simon wanted to create a very interesting entrance.” Yeah, and maybe he should look into creating a more interesting wardrobe, but at least he doesn’t look like Paula, who is wearing a couch-print dress with an explosion of white feathers on the shoulder, like she’s a pirate who had to settle for a chicken because the parrots were sold out. Kara, for her part, has apparently been mummified in blue satin wrapped all the way up her neck with a ridiculous bow tied just under her jaw. Seriously, chica? Randy looks like a normal person tonight, at least.
The contestants are introduced, and they have to come down two staircases because there are so freakin’ many of them, and I watch to see who gets the pimp spot. What, Lil is first? Then it must be Danny! No, here he comes. Then it must be Adam! Yeah, it’s Adam, no wait, is it Matt? It can’t be-ah, it’s the mighty Alexis! Yes! I love Alexis. She will close the show right.
Ryan and the judges talk about how amazing it is that there’s a Top 13, then immediately negate the amazingness by informing us, the viewing public, that two people will get cut tomorrow, which, yes, those of us who are older than 7 saw that coming. We know you have a schedule to stick to.
This evening’s theme will be songs of Michael Jackson (the ones he recorded, not the ones he stole from Paul McCartney). While Ryan extols the Reconstructed One’s praises, including one contractually-obligated use of “The King of Pop”, we are shown video of Michael’s evolution as an artist, not including the court appearances for child sexual abuse, baby-dangling or taped-on facial features, but including the last time he looked like a normal human being and outfits that involve adult diapers, or possibly just leotards, worn outside the pants. What a trailblazer, that guy!
So, up first is Lil Rounds, who is dressed like she actually bought that line about how you can wear your bridesmaid’s dress again if you just make it into a shirt, and she is totally owning the badonkadonk in a pair of white pants (ask your kids). She is singing “The Way You Make Me Feel”, and I am really liking this. I have at times thought she was over-hyped, but she’s completely working this number from start to finish. Not a note out of place, she owns her space and she looks gorgeous. Randy says she made the song new again, Kara says it put everyone on notice, Paula compliments Lil’s pastel wardrobe and makeup and says Lil’s falsetto is like angels singing. Uh-oh; I think Crazy Paula might be back. Simon calls it an “easy song choice” (so?), says he liked the second part of the song better (probably because that’s where all the runs were), and says, “I hate what you’re wearing”, probably just to piss off Paula.
Scott MacIntyre, who has finally been allowed his piano, will be singing “Keep the Faith”, a song nobody knows. It’s very slow, and it’s uplifting enough that I’m surprised Archuleta didn’t sing it. The vocals are not really up to par. I love the guy, and he will probably pass this round and the next as long as there is someone else who is awful/arrogant/unknown enough because he does have major goodwill, but he is unlikely to make it past maybe 8th or 9th place, so, yeah, he’ll probably be on the tour, at least, even though he will have displaced a better singer to do so. Kara, who for some reason is hunched over her microphone, allows that the performance wasn’t that great. Paula gives a shout-out to the song’s writer, Siedah Garrett, who is in the audience-in a pretty crappy seat, frankly-and Simon says he has to apologize to Siedah, as he hated the song because nobody knows it. Scott protests that he was trying to be artistic, and Simon’s all, “I know you’re blind, but do you know what show you’re on?”-just kidding, but he does basically say that if there is one thing American Idol is not about, it is being artistic. Paula jumps on Simon, saying that he told her this song was the biggest-selling record in history in Norway, apropos of this being Norwegian Idol, I guess. Randy ends by saying he wants to see more sparks. Yeah, I miss Jordin, too.
DannyGokey‘s video package introduces his large, endearingly nerdy family, the members of which make up songs about doing homework and getting up early for school. Danny is singing “PYT” (that’s Pretty Young Thing for the uninitiated-he does like ’em pretty young, ba-dump bump!), and I do not recognize the song at first because the arrangement is so singular. It’s very creative and gives him a great jumping-off point from which to tear into the song. Danny rocks it, for the most part, although his voice does seem thin on the power notes, of which there are many. But he gets the crowd going, and he keeps the energy high throughout the whole song. Very good! Paula thinks he’ll be at the finale, Simon likes him but does not hesitate to crack on his dancing, which was spazzy but not Taylor Hicks-levels of spazzy. Danny, eager to please, cops to the spazz immediately and allows as to how it’s hard to dance and sing at the same time. Yeah, tell it to Fake Elvis, kid. Randy loved it, spazz and all. Kara appreciates his joie de vivre (ask your French teacher) and makes him thank his parents for making him sing about doing homework. He goobers around some more about the dancing as Ryan joins him to give out the numbers, but we’re already over it.
Michael Sarver works on an oil rig, didja know? He sings “You Are Not Alone”, and it is worlds better than I was expecting, to be honest. Although his thighs look like mighty tree trunks in his khaki pants, the sounds coming from him are very pleasing to my ears, even though I think this song is cheesier than nachos bel grande. I must say, coming into tonight’s show I predicted Michael would be one of the ones to go home (Kris being the other), but he has really exceeded my expectations. Simon immediately dumps on his singing ability, which: generally true, but tonight? No. But Simon does praise Michael’s passion and heart. Translation: “You’ve no chance of winning, but you’re spunky.” Randy says, “tonight, so far, you [sic] definitely one of the best”, which means vast amounts of nothing but makes Michael happy. Kara says “Tonight you showed me that you really can sing,” which I get, because I basically just said the same thing, but I am not a judge on this show and I did not make the decision to pass a dude through umpteen rounds whom I did not believe could sing, so WTF, Kara? Paula has a sparkly dog tag swinging from her bracelet that distracts me from whatever is coming from her mouth, but I’ve got to assume it’s some sort of praise.
Jasmine Murray actually gets a sit-down interview with Ryan before her video package, which showcases her incredibly lovely family, including an older sister who looks like the Janet Jackson in Janet Jackson’s dreams, instead of the worn-out-by-life Janet we are subjected to. Jasmine is wearing a pretty pink dress from the Commercial Juniors Collection as she sings “I’ll Be There”. It’s not only not special, it’s not even particularly good. She’s noticeably flat several times and can’t seem to keep up with the runs. As Simon said before, she has potential (maybe), but is not ready now. Randy name-checks Mariah and says “It wasn’t that bad”. Kara also damns with faint praise. Paula compliments her composure on stage but calls her on the flats. Simon calls it “robotic”, and says the “big note’s always gonna trouble you”. And there you have it, folks.
Wearing a plaid (or is it gingham?) shirt, Kris Allen entreats us to “Remember the Time”. He accompanies himself on his acoustic guitar, even though this song in general, and even this arrangement in particular, are not really suited to the acoustic guitar, but whatevs. He sounds okay at first, but produces some excruciating sounds every time he tries for a power note or a higher register. Argh, my ears! Kara glosses over the shit performance and gives props for helping the other singers practice; Paula carries on with the praise, calling him “adorable-sexy”, which makes the girl-children scream. Good night, did you dames even listen to the performance? Simon questions the acoustic guitar (thanks, man!) and the non-commercial move of introducing his wife (because if he’s single, you know, you have a chance with him!), but astonishingly calls the vocal “okay”. Aieeee! Randy keeps the River of Oblivion flowing, saying, and I quote, “very well job done”. Okay, I get it. They know he’s a cutie patootie and makes the tweeners lose their minds, but for crying out loud, he sounded like ass, no matter how good he looks!
To soothe my angst, next up is Allison Iraheta, whose parents are from El Salvador and who is serious enough about performing for the public that she will even sing at the Latin version of Sam’s Club in front of about a dozen people. From the very first note to the last, she rocks the hell out of “Give In to Me”. She is dripping with chains in the way that prior contestants have tried to look like the rockers they weren’t (hello, Robbie Carrico!), but this chickie totally brings it. She’s not completely pitch-perfect throughout the whole song, but the overall effect is stunning. Paula asks her age, even though Ryan just said it (she’s 16), and compliments her on everything right down to her hair. Simon appreciates that Allison has already come ready-packed in her box and hasn’t strayed from it, which tickles the “brand recognition” chamber of his cold, mercenary heart. He tells her to lighten up a little, but she points out it’s not a real light song, which he accepts, but then she starts to dork out and he has to save her from herself by wrapping things up with a quickness. Randy loves her, and Kara likes her in her Rocker box, too.
Anoop Desai tries to bring the badass by singing “Beat It” and fails miserably. First of all, the Members Only jacket (with the collar flipped up, no less) does not bring you street cred, especially when paired with a Brooks Brothers button-down and tie. Seriously, dude. And the singing? Was. Not. Good. In my humble opinion, he should have done “Rock With You”, which would have better suited his singing style, but he is not bringing the rage this tune demands, and the strain makes his voice crack wildly like a pubescent kid yodeling. Paula is not ready to speak because it’s Simon’s turn to go first, but she gathers herself and calls it karaoke, which makes me turn to my husband and laugh because I said “This is so karaoke!” exactly 10 seconds into the performance. I usually channel Simon, not Paula, but truth is truth, yo. Simon pretends to be taken aback by Paula’s vicious slander of Anoop, then proceeds to pile on: horrible, karaoke, lightweight, stupid, a bad impersonation. Randy also whips out the k-word. Kara was disappointed by the lack of frills. Anoop, perhaps by now intoxicated by his coast so far, says he’s looking forward to coming back next week. Well, there is power in positive thinking, ‘Noop Dogg.
Jorge Nuñez comes from a big, loud family, which kind of explains his incredibly loud singing. He is attired in a grey blazer with the arms pushed up to the elbows, 80s-style. He sings “Never Can Say Goodbye”, and it sounds very good, if a little “easy-listening”. I am shocked when the judges unanimously rag on him: Randy, for song choice; Kara, for lack of emotion (she says that he should have done “She’s Out of My Life”, which: good call) and for song choice; Paula, for song choice; and Simon, for the arrangement and corniness. Jorge tries to explain that he picked the song that fit his vocal style; “I wasn’t gonna sing ‘Bad'”, to which Simon snarks, “Well, you sort of did.” Oh, snap!
Megan Corkrey, in a weird, boob-squishing, Valentine’s Day dress, interviews with Ryan and gives a shout-out to her newly-21-year-old brother, CJ, who totally lives in Wayne’s basement. Party on, dude! Megan sings “Rockin’ Robin” in her awesome 40s-jazz-club voice and does her little wiggle-dance, which fits with a song about birds, but the overall effect is kind of, “well, okay”, possibly because that song is only cute when a little kid sings it, even though she does dance like a little kid. The judges aren’t feelin’ it, either, but Megan’s almost unreasonably beautiful and her mom is a daughter of Zeus, and I think she will definitely get the horn-dog vote. Plus, she didn’t actually mess up anything. At one point, Simon kicks it to fellow cranky Brit, chef Gordon Ramsey, who attempts to offer his opinion but has no microphone (they were probably too scared he’d drop an f-bomb). Well, at least his seat is better than Siedah Garrett’s.
Adam Lambert is singing “Black or White”, and like Allison, looks very rockerish draped in chains, and also like Allison, completely owns the whole damn piece from the very first note. He stalks the stage and gets the audience in a lather. He even breaks out the Bruce Dickinson scream at one point. Brill-YUNT! Paula is awed by his charisma and almost makes him cry, her praise is so effusive. She is so impassioned that she has to stand up as she proclaims him a finalist alongside Danny, at which point I turn to my husband and say, “Perfect. In the finale: Harry Potter vs. Twilight!” And folks, if the tweens rule the Earth like you suspect they do, that’s what it shall be. Harry Potter vs. Twilight, man. Pop culture eats itself.
Matt Giraud, at the piano, sings “Human Nature”, a song I figured he could handle, but it is really a mixed bag. He has some completely gorgeous runs, but also some seriously tragic stuff happening. Well, not Kris Allen-level tragic, but sub par. The judges fawn over him anyway, with only Randy mentioning the pitchiness but glossing over it. Wow, I did not think Matt was one of the Chosen Ones (although technically he was chosen, apparently over Anoop, but I figured that part of it might be a smokescreen to shield ol’ ‘Noop Dogg from backlash), but maybe they feel Anoop has forfeited their love and they need to put it somewhere. I personally like Matt, but that performance was…spotty.
In the pimp spot, Alexis Grace, wearing a black romper with black tights and about 40 pounds of necklaces, sings “Dirty Diana” and tries to rock it but falls a little short. She is a fantastic vocalist, but she is not a rocker by nature, yet the judges keep pushing her to “dirty it up”, perhaps to her detriment. Jeez, she’s from Memphis, guys; can’t you let her sing blues? A small twitch of chagrin at the corner of her mouth as she finishes the song confirms my suspicions: She knows that this was not the awesome performance we wanted from her, and I love her for her self-awareness. Kara is besotted by the naughtiness and shoves Alexis farther into the box. Paula says to “watch the over-singing”, which, after Adam, probably stings a mite; Simon says it was, “probably not as good as you thought it was”, because he didn’t notice the lip twitch that I did (I’ve been watching FOX’s other show, Lie to Me, and I’m getting pretty good at this subliminal stuff); Randy thought it was good-not-great-but good, and “[I] Like the attitude”. Poor Alexis. She’s dressed like an innocent girl’s idea of a hooker, she’s lovely and sweet, and I hope she gets through this damn show with her soul untrampled.
Ryan tells us of “a surprise change to the rules” and asks Simon to explain. Simon explains nothing other than that it involves the judges. Are they not satisfied with hand-picking 36 contestants out of several hundred thousand, then 4 out of the last 13? Do they want the voting public to have a say, or, as Simon put it, do they not “allow democracy” any more?
Thank goodness I followed Nancy Tracy’s advice to record the following program, or I would have missed everything after Alexis’s feedback from the judges, including a video recap in which they managed to capture Jasmine singing completely out of tune the whole time.
Bat Rankings (tonight’s performance)
2. Lil Rounds
3. Allison Iraheta
4. Danny Gokey
5. Michael Sarver
6. Alexis Grace
7. Megan Corkrey
8. Jorge Nuñez
9. Scott MacIntyre
10. Matt Giraud
11. Anoop Desai
12. Jasmine Murray
13. Kris Allen
Bat Rankings (overall talent)
1. Adam Lambert
2. Danny Gokey
3. Alexis Grace
4. Lil Rounds
5. Allison Iraheta
6. Jorge Nuñez
7. Matt Giraud
8. Megan Corkrey
9. Anoop Desai
10. Michael Sarver
11. Scott MacIntyre
12. Jasmine Murray
13. Kris Allen
Bat Rankings (chances of winning)
1. Adam Lambert
2. Danny Gokey
3. Alexis Grace
4. Allison Iraheta
5. Lil Rounds
6. Matt Giraud
7. Megan Corkrey
8. Michael Sarver
9. Kris Allen
10. Scott MacIntyre
11. Jorge Nuñez
12. Jasmine Murray
13. Anoop Desai
So, who’s toast? I don’t know how the “twist” is going to work, or whether since two people are going home there might be a Bottom Four instead of a Bottom Three, but I’ll give it a shot:
Lil – easy call; safe!
Scott – could be in bottom group, but not going home
Danny – safe
Michael – safe…this week.
Jasmine – continues to disappoint. Going home.
Kris – horrible, but saved by cuteness
Allison – brought it; totally safe
Anoop – not living up to the hype; going home
Jorge – judges came down too hard; people will vote to defend him
Megan – safe
Adam – won’t be in the bottom three until there are only three left.
Matt – probably safe
Alexis – will be nervous, but fine
So, there you have it. I have called 11 of the Top 13 (I was wrong about Kris and Michael), but can I keep up my percentage high? Will the judges tamper with the odds? (I do not, by the way, visit any of the ranking sites, so please forgive me if I completely miss!)