Thursday, March 11, 2010

American Idol Recap: In Which A Muscle-Bound Camera Whore Makes Kara Weep

Posted By on Thu, Mar 11, 2010 at 11:52 AM

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At the beginning of last night's episode of American Idol, Ryan Seacrest took a dramatic walk down the line of the remaining male contestants. As he passed by each of them, I thought, "At best, the Top 12 should have a 7-5 split in favor of the women, and it wouldn't be an absolute crime if it were 8-4." By the end of the show, I'd actually changed my mind. It was a strange night, with relatively few disappointments and one huge water cool moment, courtesy of Michael Lynche. And although he closed the show, it only seems right that I talk about him first.

Michael Lynch: "This Woman's Work" by Kate Bush
First things first: The formal black suit jacket, not to mention the somewhat crisp white dress shirt, the bold red pocket square, or the tie bar, paired with the sloppy mall-brand jeans and the sneakers? Not a good look, at all. Get the dude some dark, raw denim, and then maybe we can talk. But fine: Big Mike did a stellar job last night, with Maxwell's version of Kate Bush's touching, powerful "This Woman's Work." He hit notes that he absolutely did not have to hit—notes you absolutely did not think would work—and it was a pure joy to watch. Until, of course, he kicked things into gear and started moving around the stage, doing his silly R&B preacher act, which makes me absolutely fucking furious. On the bright side, at least he acted like a grown man last night, and not like some outsized male version of Christina Aquilera, which I think he's been strangely guilty of in the past. And on an even brighter side, at least he wasn't playing guitar. The judges were predictably over the moon about it, most notably Kara, who wept, blabbering about being a woman without a child or something. It was strange and uncomfortable, but it also didn't seem fake, which was weird. Maybe my bullshit detector is malfunctioning, though, because my wife is having a baby in three weeks.

Lee Dewyze: "Fireflies" by Owl City
Anyone with even one properly functioning ear and half a brain could have told you within about four seconds that this song choice was terrible, bordering on downright disastrous. Lee's gotten this far by doing the flyover rock thing extremely well, and by being one of the most quietly likable contestants of the season. He's trying so hard, thinking so much about each move he makes, and you could tell he was worried about getting pigeonholed. So he went out and did a relatively straight reading of what is without a doubt one of the five most deplorable songs in recent memory. He did a fine job, I guess, and I even noted (as Kara would later) that he made the song better, simply by virtue of the fact that he doesn't sound like the dickhead responsible for the original. It was a step backward, I thought, and the judges agreed, across the board. I also think it'll gain him more new fans than it causes him to lose. I think he'll stick around. (Though I'm secretly waiting for him to get the boot, because he's gonna cry so fucking hard.)

Alex Lambert: "Trouble" by Ray LaMontagne
I still can't get a read on how people feel about Alex—I find him somewhat creepy but completely endearing, but I worry that the rest of the country only sees the creepy. Or the mullet. I could be completely wrong, though. His voice bothered me a little for the first time ever last night—for the first ten or fifteen seconds, I found myself wishing he'd blown his nose before going on. But there's not much he can do about it: his voice seems natural, and its tone is unusual but rich. He did a sort of predictable reading of "Trouble" (yes, the one from the car commercial), and his restraint continues to be the thing that stands out: he doesn't do many runs, but when he does, it's tasteful and well executed. The judges (aside from Ellen, of course) were largely unimpressed. Kara and Simon thinks he needs to let go and have more fun—I don't think he's got it in him, which is why I like him so much, actually.

Tim Urban: "Hallelujah" by, let's be honest here, Jason Castro
I almost threw my (wife's) laptop at the television when I heard he was doing this song, and not because I thought it would be bad, exactly— I knew it would be exactly as middling and uninspired as it turned out to be—but because I just can't believe anyone's still willing to do this, given all the amazing covers of it that have already been done. It makes sense, I guess, that this Jonas Brother-looking, God-fearing All-American winner-to-the-core would be so bold, though, and it makes even more sense that the judges would applaud him for it. They think he's among the best contestants on the show now, which is fucked.

Andrew Garcia: "Genie in a Bottle" by Christina Aguilera
You have to feel bad for Andrew at this point. He's spent the past month trying and failing to recapture the glory of his original ironic acoustic cover (of Paula Abdul's "Straight Up" as you may have heard). He swung for the fences last night, with Genie in a Bottle, and clearly he'd hoped the very idea would be impressive enough to get him through, because he certainly didn't do anything to it. It was boring as all hell, and the judges called him on it. They know they did this to him, and I think they feel bad, but I also think they just helped reveal that he actually isn't even the slightest bit interesting.

Kasey Jones: "You'll Think of Me" by Keith Urban
For me, this was Kasey's best performance ever. I think the rock posturing he'd been doing for the past couple weeks was a complete fucking joke, and it was refreshing to see him seated, doing the acoustic guitar thing, while singing a country song, which suits his voice so much better than the sleazy, showy 70s rock thing he's been leaning toward, because, frankly, dude just isn't sleazy. Stupid Randy told him he sees him more as Stevie Ray Vaughn, but the rest of the judges were on my side.

Aaron Kelly: "I'm Already There" by Lonestar
This kid makes me cringe. He has a big voice, and he's similarly well-suited for the country thing, but I simply cannot watch his embarrassing, textbook belter moves: the closed eyes, the dramatic gestures, staring at the camera like fucking Zoolander or something... it's just too much. Randy thinks he's got to work on his lower register, but that it was pretty good overall, and Ellen thinks he acts like a 30-year-old, whatever that means. Kara thinks the song was too old for him, that its subject matter (a man missing his kids or his wife or something?) wasn't something he could identify with, and thus not perform well. Simon told her to fuck off, basically, being all like, "Jeez, let him do what he wants!" and it was super awkward.

Todrick Hall: "Somebody to Love" by Queen
This was a strange performance for me. It started with some falsetto that was a little bit rough, and then he seemed to hit his stride for a few moments, before getting completely lost in the song. The melody was too complicated, and he seemed to be rushing through it, barely able to fit everything in. There was a gospel feel to it that was sort of nice, but also wickedly cheesy. Randy and Ellen were on board with it, while Kara wasn't thought it was too dramatic, and Simon said it may have saved him, even though it proved he belongs on Broadway.

So who's going home? I'm actually not sure. Mike Lynche and, oh god, Tim Urban are the only ones who definitely aren't going anywhere. I would be too terribly surprised by anyone else, but if forced to make a prediction, I'd have to say Todrick Hall and Andrew Garcia are done, even though I wonder if Andrew's internet fame will carry him for a little longer. Argh, ok, no, that's it: Todrick and Andrew.

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