I spend basically 51 weeks out of every year waiting for American Idol’s “rock week” to come around, as it did last night. I am a fan of the rock and roll, obviously, but more than anything, I get a huge kick out of watching other people, who maybe aren’t huge fans of rock music, putting on what they believe is the appropriate outfit and making what they believe are the appropriate hand gestures and facial expressions. I acknowledge, of course, that I grew up listening to Pavement and being more inspired by the Velvet Underground than I ever was by Led Zeppelin, so I understand that my idea of what’s cool maybe isn’t exactly something I should reasonably expect these people to share, but they’re never cool by any standards, and it is impossible for me to turn away. They tend to go for some fucked up cross between, like, Neil Diamond and Motley Crue, and for the most part it’s totally embarrassing, like watching Celine Dion play air guitar during her cover of “You Shook Me All Night Long” on that VH-1 Divas show from a few years ago. (If the video is too much for you to bear, you can click here for a very, very unpleasant photo, which I assume was from dress rehearsal or something, since she’s not even wearing a white bodysuit.)
Last night’s installment was everything I expected it to be, with the added bonus of Slash, who served as the mentor for the week. I’ve never been the biggest Guns n’ Roses fan or anything, and I definitely have never knowingly heard a Velvet Revolver song, but by really any definition, Slash is cool as fuck, as evidenced most clearly by the fact that he doesn’t talk very much and that he’s looked exactly the same for about 25 years. As you may have guessed, dude was not terribly impressed by any of the contestants. Sure, he seemed to realize that, for the most part, they’re technically pretty good singers, but he also knew full well that they were total fucking dorks, all of ‘em, He basically even told Adam to quit screaming like a girl. It was awesome.
The producers switched things up with a new format, which included six songs total: four solo performances, and two duets. I suppose it makes sense, since when they get down to the final three contestants, they generally have them sing two songs each, for a total of six. To have had four contestants do two each would have been too long, but to have them only do one, the show would have come up short. The duets, which featured pairings off Kris and Danny and Alison and Adam, were completely uninspired and not at all interesting. Kris and Danny did “Renegade” by fucking Styx—this is another awesome part of rock week, getting to see what “rock” bands they decide to cover—and it was fine, I guess. They sounded pretty good singing together, and completely uncomfortable on their own. Then Adam and Alison did “Slow Ride” and it was similarly blah.
Onto the solo performances:
Adam Lambert: Adam kicked off the night with “Whole Lotta Love” by Led Zeppelin, which of course wasn’t at all surprising. It allowed him to do that super theatric, tough-guy/drag queen strut he likes to do, and he was obviously able to let his voice loose as he squealed all those high notes. It was awkward, though, and for the first time, I realized how much more comfortable he seems to be with ballads, even despite his crazy strong voice. It’s almost as if he thinks that just because he can do all that shit with his voice, he has some moral obligation to, which could not be further from the truth. In fact, if he could figure that out, I might even concede that he could be somewhat interesting. He won’t, though, because the judges keep telling him how awesome he is. Kara even called him a “rock god” before repeatedly screaming “yeah!” in a really deep, creepy and embarrassing voice. Then Adam stuck his tongue out really far and gave the devil’s horn rock sign thing to someone in the audience. Again, completely embarrassing. Also, I don’t know what they’re feeding those kids around there, but my wife correctly pointed out that Adam had a bit of a Fat Elvis thing going on tonight.
Kris Allen: After being told (incorrectly, mind you) that he’d been out-sung by Danny Gokey on their duet. Kris went into his performance of “Come Together” looking a bit pissed off, and I was totally feeling for him. Now, I don’t like Kris Allen, obviously. As I’ve said before, he’s a dead ringer for all those sorta fratty, acoustic guitar-wielding dudes. I don’t like his style, and I don’t like his phrasing very much, or that he’s adopted an accent that is only shared by all those other fratty guitar guys like John Mayer and Jason Mraz, where, for some reason, the sound of the letter “d” winds up sounding more like “tsss.” It’s hard to explain, but listen for it, and I promise, you will want to pull your hair out. But anyway, I also don’t understand why (aside from being idiots who don’t know anything, obviously) the judges continue to give him such a hard time. He’s the most consistent performer on the show, by far, and, true to form, his version of “Come Together” wasn’t nearly as bad as the judges made it out to be. There were a few silly stylistic things, which I can’t realistically assume the judges minded or even recognized, but overall, I thought he did a pretty good job.
Allison Iraheta: I like Allison, and I could see her releasing a record with a bunch of singles I like, probably in the same vain as Kelly Clarkson or Pink, so I had pretty high hopes for her tonight. Unfortunately, I barely remember her performance. She did “Cry Baby” by Janis Joplin, and the judges correctly pointed out that there just wasn’t enough there—it’s a song that’s driven by something more mysterious and visceral than its simple, repetitive melody, and while Allison is usually pretty good at capturing that sort of thing, she missed the boat tonight. It wasn’t disastrous, but it wasn’t much of anything.
Danny Gokey: Speaking of disastrous. Holy shit. Danny did “Dream On” by Aerosmith—a song choice that Slash and I found equally hilarious and misguided—and it was, without question, the worst performance I’ve seen this far into a season in the show’s history. Throughout the whole performance, he seemed completely preoccupied with having to hit that big high note at the end, and as a result, his shit was just all over the place, He seemed to have gotten lost a few times, and his voice sounded uncharacteristically shaky during the quieter parts. And then there was the note, which actually made me cover my face with a pillow, out of embarrassment for Danny, for Slash, for Steven Tyler, and really for people everywhere. Simon was not at all off base when he commented that it sounded like something out of a horror movie. And yet with the exception of that one comment, which was delivered in a strangely lighthearted way, the judges were far too easy on him, and I have no idea why. They all agreed that it wasn’t his best performance and that he could have chosen a better song, but they also kept making excuses for him, repeatedly saying that he was out of his element and talking about how much they admired him for taking a chance, when they should have told him that if he’d pulled that shit during auditions, homeboy wouldn’t even have made it to Hollywood.
My prediction? Well, Danny still has no business being there, but the bottom two will obviously be Kris and Allison. I say it’s a toss-up, and I honestly don’t know who will go. I also don’t know which of them I’d even like to see go home, since I’d actually prefer a bottom two consisting of the other two. This isn’t going to end well for me.
* Kara didn’t like the song choice one bit, but as she always does when she wants to seem like she knows things, she mentioned a few other songs by the same artist that would have suited the performer better. It’s a silly trick, and tonight she was exposed once again as the dark-horse dumbest judge when she lamented that he’d have been better off doing an “early” Aerosmith song like “Cryin'” or “Crazy.” You know, because both of those songs, from 1993, are, I guess, older than “Dream On” from the first Aerosmith album, which came out in 1973. Thanks, Kara.