We’re back to the less creative intro in which Ryan greets the judges. Randy, Kara and Simon look normal, but Paula is dressed as a dance-hall girl from the Wild West, so all’s right with the world. They are all, including Ryan, wearing black, obviously in mourning for the people who will be leaving tonight. Randy boos when Simon is introduced, because he is three years old, and now I understand why Simon was so hot to change the judges’ introduction in last night’s show.
Ryan prepares to introduce the “new rule” mentioned in last night’s show, and on the screen we are shown Tamyra Gray, Michael Johns, Jennifer Hudson, and Chris Daughtry. Apparently, what these folks have in common is the “uproar” that “they left the competition too early”. So, the new rule is the “judges’ save”, which Ryan defines: “From this point forward, up until the Top 5, the judges can save one contestant from elimination, just once. It has to be unanimous [in other words, Simon has to want it], and once they use the save, they cannot use it again the entire season.” He then tells us that the week they use the save, nobody will be eliminated, but two people get the axe the following week. According to Simon, this does not contravene the audience vote, because after all, people don’t vote for contestants to get kicked off, just to stay.
Sure, but let’s examine the given examples more closely. We know there’s no way Tamyra should have gone home before the execrable Nikki McKibbin, but could she have beaten Kelly Clarkson? Nah. What would have helped her more than a “judges’ save” would have been 19 Entertainment’s promoting her CD a little better. Sure, they let her show up to sing a song on Season 3 and she got a guest shot in one episode of FOX’s defunct show Tru Calling, but did anybody see a video, or even hear her song played on the radio? I didn’t, and when I attempted to buy her CD from my music club, they didn’t even carry it, which is kind of insane considering the club is run by Sony/BMG, which is the same freakin’ company that spawned American Idol in the first place!
Um, Michael Johns…what can I say? I couldn’t even remember the dude’s last name when he showed up to sing a duet a couple of weeks ago with Carly Smithson. I was just like, “Oh, hey, there’s that Michael guy from Australia.” So, yeah, I wouldn’t say I was still burning with indignation over his ouster.
As for Jennifer Hudson, people did not vote for her because they did not like her personality. She seems to have settled down a bit from the baby diva who couldn’t take a word of criticism without a load of eye-rolling and puffing, but at the time she thought she was all that and more, without ever having had to pay her dues. I agree that she was far more talented than Jasmine Trias and Diana DeGarmo, but both LaToya London and Fantasia Barrino could sing rings around her. Once again, she could not have beaten Fantasia, and frankly, I believe it was most likely the very uproar around her departure that enabled her to get the opportunities she did in the first place. If she had come in third or even second, were would she be now? Because, frankly, where are Jasmine Trias and Diana DeGarmo? Singing at shopping malls?
Finally, there’s Daughtry. He’s had plenty of success, and deservedly so: The man has mad singing skills. However, I specifically remember his rise through the American Idol ranks, from his impressive audition right up to the point when I started getting really tired of hearing exactly the same damn thing from him every damn week. And that’s when he went home, so I suspect I wasn’t alone in my feelings. After all, voting is all about motivation: You might be galvanized to try to save someone you thought the judges came down too hard on (George Huff, for example), or never vote for someone you thought was a dork, no matter how well they did (Constantine), but if you were truly rocked, amazed and transported by a performance, there’s no way you wouldn’t vote for the person, no matter how safe you thought they were. Daughtry stopped providing those transcendent moments. That’s where David Cook made his success: He delighted listeners with his own take on some worn-out pop songs, but he knew enough to change it up at least once, the night he sang Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “Music of the Night” straight as it was written. Cook’s got better instincts, at least in terms of the competition.
Finally, according to Ryan, the judges’ save will only be in play until the Top 5. I don’t remember when Michael Johns bowed out, but both Tamyra and Daughtry came in 4th, so it couldn’t have helped them anyway, and Daughtry was even the specific example Ryan used to imagine an ousted contestant who might have won if not for the stupid, stupid audience. And where would he be then? Where Taylor Hicks is now? Which is…where? Singing duets with Diana DeGarmo at the mall? Okay, according to Saul Relative, he’s been playing a non-lead role in the touring company of Grease, which is probably better than singing at the mall, but by how much? Anyway, I suppose the judges’ save will enliven Results Nights slightly, for whatever that’s worth.
We then get to see the contestants moving into a Beverly Hills mansion (maybe Aaron Spelling’s old place, which was rather famous for having a bowling alley in it). I don’t think it’s the same mansion that had the Rococo Chair of Doom, though. As their van arrives, Matt quips, “Sweet. I don’t have a gate at my studio apartment,” which makes me love him even more. The Idol hopefuls are shown jumping on the beds, frolicking in the pool, shooting hoops and bowling. Since it looks like they’ve all moved in at the same time, I’m wondering what Danny, Alexis and others who were selected weeks before the Top 13 was completely formulated did for lodging in the interim. They had to be on hand to be reintroduced on every single intervening episode, so clearly they didn’t get to go home to their families and their ungated studio apartments.
After the video, we get the group number, a “medley of Jackson 5 songs” according to Ryan, although, frankly, two songs, “I Want You Back” and “ABC”-which are really the very same song, anyway-is rather a pauperish medley. Good grief, the recession is even affecting medleys! Who knew? Anyway, it starts out with Jorge completely out-dancing Kris, and it gives Danny “Spazzoid” Gokey a seriously silly dancing solo. They sound pretty good on this. The women, despite being outnumbered 8 to 5, totally out-sing the guys, but that may be because they have the melody (and Michael Jackson’s range).
We then go to a commercial break that features a commercial with Carrie Underwood singing to a tiny horse (awww!) and Nathaniel “Drama Boy” Marshall’s audition, for which he did not actually wear a headband but did mess up the lyrics to “Proud Mary”, which he sang because “it shows I have a personality”. Yeah, and we’re quite sorry we had to see so much of it, thanks.
After the break comes the video recap, which is almost always edited in a way that gives away the results: Lil Rounds kicking things off right; Michael and Alexis bringing it; Allison rocking the house; Scott and Kris lumped together as “guys who play instruments and sing unchallenging songs in a mediocre but pleasant way”; then Matt, also on piano, is given his own slot, so he probably did better in the voting than the unchallenging/mediocre instrument-playing guys.
Jasmine’s crap performance is shown, with Ryan voicing over “but not every Wild Card showed the judges why they were brought back.” Yeah, well, if the judges had had their ears open on Wild Card night, she wouldn’t have even made it that far. Just keeping it real, guys. She’s a lovely girl, but. Megan is appended to this, along with criticism from the judges, so clearly she tanked in the voting, too.
Anoop is shown making a fool of himself, and Jorge is shown getting whaled on by the judges, including Simon’s “Bad” comment. Finally, we have Harry Potter vs. Twilight, as Danny and Adam are posed once again as a finale fait accompli.
Ryan chats with the contestants, calling Michael “Sarver” like they’re at a British prep school. Maybe he thinks that’s what roughnecks do, when we real people all know they totally call him “Mike”. Michael talks about how much fun learning the choreography is, and then conveniently mentions the Ford video, which we get to see next.
Okay, I know I’m normally a big ol’ snark-pot, but I have a soft spot for the Ford videos. Love ’em! This one features the kids as singing images projected on the skyscrapers of a nighttime cityscape, singing “We Will Rock You”. At one point Alexis, on one building, tosses a hat to Jorge, on another. The graphics are very well done, and all of the performers are totally rocking the attitude, except for Scott, who always just looks very pleasant, bless his heart. Of course, the car driving through the streets goes completely unnoticed as you stare at the singing buildings, but whatever; it’s not a real car commercial. After the video plays, the camera cuts back to the Idols giggling at themselves, but suddenly the mood turns somber, as Kieran switches over to Serious Lighting: It’s time for the first elimination.
Ryan asks Michael to stand; he is safe and sits back down. Next is Allison, also safe. Ah, but next is Jasmine, who has to go stand on stage. Ryan then calls “the other Matt, Matt G.”, and I think Ryan must have missed a dose, because there’s only one Matt in the group. Could it be that Ryan thinks Michael is the other Matt? Because the other Matt was actually Matt Breitzke, the Uppity Welder, and to such a rare and beautiful coddled showbiz creature as Ryan Seacrest, all the blue-collar types probably just kind of blend together. Matt starts to make his way down from the seats in response to his name being called, but Ryan wants him to stay where he is, and Michael and Allison physically corral him to keep him safe from the dreaded American Idol Seal of Suspense and Heartbreak at center stage. He is so nervous that when he returns to his seat he sits down, then has to pop back up to hear Ryan pronounce him safe so he can sit down again. Matt, Allison and Kris pound him on the back in solidarity, and his family, in the audience, is elated. Next to stand is Kris, who should be punished for last night’s rot but is saved by the Adorable-Sexy factor. Then poor Megan, who did much better than Kris but whose beauty cannot save her because there is no horn-dog vote, only screamy tweens and grandmas, is forced to stand on the seal with Jasmine.
Megan is saved and comforts Jasmine, who is allowed to field a hope that she might be saved (not a chance) while she sings (badly), and now we know why the “new rule” was actually instituted-to keep people from completely losing their shit and not being able to make it through their song, which has indeed happened before. After her performance, Jasmine is informed she’ll not be the inaugural recipient of the judges’ save, and Ryan sweetly comforts her while she weeps, no doubt contemplating the irony of just having sung “I’ll Be There” when she won’t. After her video journey, Ryan sends us to commercials with a promise of upcoming performances by Kanye West and Kelly Clarkson, who each have a hot single to promote, natch.
After the break, we get Kanye West, vocoder-ing his way through “Heartless” because he can’t sing a blessed note for real, and of course he’s wearing his stupid sunglasses, as well as a “Texas tuxedo” (jeans + jeans jacket) with the jeans pulled low on his butt, but the jeans are not the loose kind you’re supposed to wear when you do that, so they just make a weird flat place right underneath his butt, and he has a giant mechanic’s rag hanging out of his back pocket like he’s Bruce Springsteen, and his lady back-up singer is wearing a dress with crazy shoulders that make her look not unlike a stealth bomber, and my overall impression of this, uh, performance is “boiling hot mess”. The judges didn’t even stick around for this debacle.
Another commercial break leads us to another elimination. Kieran takes the lights down, and Ryan asks Scott to stand. He is safe, and he cuddles Alexis, who is also safe. Danny, who is wearing truly strange-looking glasses from the Randy Jackson Crazy-Ass Eyewear Collection, is next to be safe, so when we get to Anoop, we know what time it is, and so does he. He is directed to the Seal of Suspense and Heartbreak. Well, the three remaining contestants are Adam, Jorge and Lil, so that kinda takes the element of suspense away rather effectively. Jorge joins Anoop at center stage.
Of course, there have to be more commercials. When we come back (like we somehow went somewhere while the commercials played), Kelly Clarkson returns to the American Idol stage and dorks around a great deal like Allison before she sings “My Life Would Suck Without You”, a song I like with a video I can’t even watch, because it features Kelly doing incredibly childish and rude things to her video boyfriend under the guise of zaniness. Oh, thanks for dropping my keys in the toilet and throwing my stuff out the window, you crazy, adorable kid, you!
Oh, goodness, poor Anoop and Jorge have to wait through yet another barrage of commercials, but at least they got to stay for Kelly’s performance-there’s no sign of Jasmine, who’s probably with her family, crying in the CoCoLounge. After the ads, the Time of Reckoning is Nigh (hee, I love talking like a pretentious 80s heavy metal album cover). Ryan reveals that Anoop, much to my annoyance, is the safe one! Anoop’s adorable parents giggle and clap with relief in the audience as Jorge mans up to congratulate him.
Well, I’ve gotta say I am surprised, but not exactly shocked: Jorge is a much better singer by far, and he did a better job last night, as well, but he was not going to go far in this competition unless he outsang his rather unfortunate looks. Frankly, I thought he was good enough to last a few weeks on talent alone, but he is kind of the Elliott Yamin of this season, without Elliott’s adorable mom and unearthly amount of singing superiority. Good news for Jorge, though: Eliott’s doing just fine, thanks.
Jorge sings “Never Can Say Goodbye”, but I guess he’ll have to, because America ain’t ready for a gay Puerto Rican hobbit with a droopy eyelid. Goodbye, Jorge! Ryan asks the judges if they’ll use their save, and Simon bluntly says, “No”, then washes it down with a refreshing swig of Jorge’s tears. Or maybe it’s just Coke. Ah, crushing the dream works up a powerful thirst!
Tune in next week for more snark and new Bat Rankings!