Friday, March 23, 2012

AI Recap: Those Who Can...Get Voted Off

A bottle of white, a bottle of red, perhaps an extra bottle with which to hit myself over the head...

American Idol, you do this to me every year. I realize that this show isn't purely a singing competition, that it's a search for someone with the "whole package." But personality and gimmickry and pretty hair shouldn't trump talent. And if the show's demographic is really going to gravitate only towards cute boys with guitars, dangerous-seeming guys (like Season 9's Casey James), and teenage girls, then put only those contestants on the show. Don't keep offering me wonderful variety on the buffet, only to take half of the dishes away shortly thereafter. (Sorry, I'm hungry.)

Anyway, last night we bid farewell to Erika, our "mobile DJ" with the new Kris Jenner haircut. Despite strong performances every week (and a fantastic "sing for your life" performance), she couldn't seem to engender the support of the heartless, shrieking, swaying voters. But more on that in a bit.

The group performance of The Longest Time (not what I would have picked) did more to emphasize each contestant's flaws than strengths—Jessica oversang; DeAndre's random falsetto notes didn't work, even in a doo-wop-inspired song; Skylar's countrification didn't quite mesh; Joshua's shrieking was unsettling; Erika was pitchy, dawg; and Phillip wasn't quite sure what to do. (Colton, Hollie, and Elise seemed to make it through unscathed; Heejun sang the wrong lyrics.)

We were treated to:
  • lots of preening and mugging on camera from a very unkempt Casey Abrams (so cute he was there with his parents to watch BFF Haley perform);

  • a birthday tribute to Steven courtesy of Joe Perry (who initially had criticized Steven's decision to appear on the show) with on-camera cameos from Liv and Mia Tyler, and a rhyme from the birthday boy ("I'm a Rip Van Winkle, so I'm told...I'm much too young to be this old."); and

  • a Ford Music Video to Kelly Clarkson's You Found Me, which showed the contestants playing hide and seek "as a refuge from the dread of the Thursday results show."
Oh, and J.Lo wore a tight dress in Pepto-Bismol pink. Wow.

When the first group of contestants—Hollie, Skylar, and Elise—were called up to learn their fate, I had this feeling of dread. Choice Jimmy comments: Hollie looked like a "sweet diva caught in the headlights," Skylar is "starting to stall" and needs to do "something creative" if she wants to win, and Elise, although "no one knew her song" (speak for yourself), gave Jimmy "goosies." (Sweet lord.)

Ryan told Hollie and Skylar that they were safe, and Elise wasn't sure what was happening. You could see there was a split second when she was utterly pissed off at the thought of being in the bottom three again, and then Ryan told her she was safe, too.

What planet does Lana Del Rey come from? I don't get her at all, and thought her performance was sleepy and bizarre, yet not quite the trainwreck I expected based on the bashing she took after performing on Saturday Night Live.

The next group of contestants to meet Kieran and the dimmed lights (DeAndre, Joshua, and Jessica) seemed both nervous and lacking in personality. Jimmy said that while he told DeAndre to have fun, "He frolicked! I kept looking for the bouncing ball. He had no connection to this song." Ryan told Jessica that Billy Joel had said he liked her version of Everybody Has a Dream, and she looked at him as if he told her that Hollister was closing. And then Ryan sent DeAndre to the stools.

Haley Rinehart, last year's third-place finisher and frequent judges' punching bag, performed her debut single, Free. She looked and sounded fantastic, and it reminded me how frustrating last season was. I hope she's able to succeed because I think her voice is a super-unique one in today's music scene.

Phillip, Erika, Colton, and Heejun waited the longest to hear the results. Jimmy mentioned that Billy Joel sent an email that Colton did a great job with Piano Man, and referred to Colton as the potential "third horse" in the Jessica/Joshua battle for the win. He ranted a bit at Phillip's unwillingness to listen to Jimmy and Diddy, and the show's apparent dislike of collaboration. ("If you're doing your own material, do what you want. Until then, take advice from everyone out there.") Jimmy also had no kindness for Heejun's antics, and ended his criticism by saying, "At the end of the day, Interscope has to pay a lot of money to work with these performers, and we're not paying for that." (There was a brief snippet of Heejun's post-performance vow that "If I make it to next week, something crazier is going to come.")

Because we're trying to coddle Heejun for reasons I can't figure out, Ryan gave him a chance to defend himself. He said, "My taking my shirt off was a metaphor for showing the real me. I'm just a guy who helps kids with special needs, I'm not a star."

Heejun and Erika joined DeAndre in the bottom three, and I knew what was coming.

J.Lo said, "Heejun, you are a star, baby."

You know what, J.Lo? Being a clown on a television show that other performers take super-seriously doesn't make you a star. Heejun hasn't demonstrated that he has the vocal prowess or even the understanding of the opportunity he has been given, yet he has outlasted Jeremy, Shannon, and Erika, not to mention many of the other contestants who didn't get into the Top 13, because he's goofy and speaks funny English. That doesn't make you a star. That makes you a buffoon. His work back home with children with special needs is tremendously admirable, but that doesn't mean he shouldn't take this opportunity seriously.


Ryan sent DeAndre and his mane back to safety, then revealed that Erika received less votes than this year's Norman Gentle. She sang a no-holds-barred version of I Believe in You and Me, but there was no way the judges were going to save Erika given her inability to get traction from the fans. So sad.

Next week, we'll see if Heejun does crazy or serious. And because I'll be on travel for the next two weeks, the recaps will be MIA. But I'll be checking out what happens, and I'll be back...

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