Monday, April 25, 2011

American Idol Recap: Rompers, Fake Beards and Lots O' Luther

Posted By on Mon, Apr 25, 2011 at 9:15 AM

Paul's tragic swan song

Hey Creamers, I know the recap is a little late this week. I celebrated the Jews' exodus from Egypt in the Bay Area (as is my custom), and though I got to watch the episode — after a tremendous steak dinner and too much wine, my sister drifting to sleep beside me on the couch — I didn't have a chance to polish my remarks until my return. So here we go. Huzzah!

So, as implied, I spent the last week with my big sis and her family. Her two daughters (8 and 10) offered me an insider perspective on the people who watch this Idol stuff without brainstorming dick jokes. They love Haley. ('Nems some good kids.) A bit of sociological analysis: I feel like pre-tweens appreciate the girls, but tweens like the cute boys. And tweens have cell phones. And mass-texting skillz. Hence, the woeful state of gender parity on Idol.

JLo arrives wearing a romper. Mark my words: Rompers have arrived. No longer just for your fashion-forward, long-limbed friend, your tween niece just got a romper. Your mom is thinking about getting a romper. Summer 2011 will be the Summer of Romperz.

In an odd move, to start the show, the rejected contestants (so many ladies!) come out and sing that terrible Pink song "So What?" This is very odd. Are they trying to fill time? Then, like a lurching corpse returned from the grave, Nashville's Paul McDonald bumbles onto the stage, again wearing that new black Manny Suit. I'm starting to think he doesn't own any other clothes. This does afford me the opportunity to bid young Paul a proper adieu. I heard he's dating an actress from Twilight now. I don't think we'll be seeing him taking down Jaeger bombs at 3 Crow Bar anytime soon, kna'mean?

Now to the meat of the show! This is the episode where they ask the contestants to make fun of each other on camera. I like this! Scotty is up first and they all mock his flute-like mic holding. The theme this week is "Songs from the 21st Century," and he's selected "Swinging" by LeAnn Rhimes. I've never heard this track before, but I quickly realize that it's really stupid — yet another in a long line of country songs about fried chicken. Meh. The whole performance is super cheesy, and he's pulling faces worse than ever. What a missed opportunity to do something heartfelt and contemporary. In a shocking twist, the judges actually offer up a glimmer of constructive criticism. JLo calls him out on the lame song choice. Randy says, "To me, that was so safe."

James Durbin is up next. Casey proclaims, "What's up with the scarves, James Durbin? Stop it." This earns Casey 100 points in my American Idol contestant joke spreadsheet. James chooses "Uprising" by Muse. In the pre-performance package, Jimmy says, "Sometimes some of the songs you've done have been fluff." Ha! James comes out in some insane outfit with stupid drummers and a staggeringly serious look on his face. The song meanwhile, sounds out of tune. God, this is so — in the words of the late, great Simon Cowell — indulgent. Steven calls his outfit, "Mad Max meets stormtroopers on Melrose," then adds, "You'd be surprised to see how expensive it is to look that cheap." Otherwise the judges heap on the praise — is anyone going to reign this kid in?

Next up is Haley, favorite of pre-tween girls everywhere. Apparently, according to the other contestants, she's sassy. I like it! She's picked Adele's "Rolling in the Deep," a choice with a lot of promise. I'm not really digging the outfit; it's a bit too vintage — this isn't Big Band night. Also, why she is singing from behind the judges? I hate that sort of hokum. It always ends up being more distracting than affecting. I find the performance just OK — kinda another wasted opportunity. Randy says, "I think that you chose a perfect direction for you." Steven quips, "You know what I'm gonna say." Yes, it's hilarious that you are a useless bag of botox and leopard prints. Blech. JLo gives rambling, tempered praise.

Jacob is wearing a shiny suit. He's gonna sing "Luther," who has apparently lost his last name. Scotty calls him a diva. Everyone calls him a diva. OK, so he's an emotional mess over this song choice, which is about the loss of a father. Apparently, he's aiming for the dead-dad vote. (I have a dead dad, so I can joke about this.) He's already barely keeping it together. The chorus is all about wanting to "dance with my father again." This song is weird, and the performance feels off. Lots of bum notes. But are the judges going to be able to criticize this thing? Even if they wanted to? Steven Tyler — who has been boasting a lipstick mark on his left cheek the whole night that makes me want to hurl — proclaims, "Your daddy was up there listening to you." Blech. Then adds, "Emotionally, it was a beautiful performance." Randy actually mans up and addresses the problems with the vocals. I'm impressed that the panel actually managed to offer tentative criticism. Meanwhile, Jacob looks SHOCKED to not receive a free pass. I mean, his dad DIED.*

Then it's Casey's turn in the arena of mockery. Everyone is wearing fake beards. This is more amusing than it has any right to be. Lauren looks especially awesome in the faux whiskers. Apparently America's resident jazz educator has chosen "Harder to Breath" by Maroon 5. Nothing jazzier than that, amiright? The performance is an absolute train wreck: drunk, arrogant karaoke. He also did that thing where he "plays guitar" but then swings it around as a prop after about 5 bars. Esperanza would be proud. This is so stupid and boring that I take an opportunity to check my email. (Overstock is having a great sale.) It's so odd that he chose to follow last week's prestige performance with this. That said, JLo still has such a hard-on for him. At the end of the song he creeps down and kisses her on the cheek. Needless to say, it's creepy. Randy continues the judge's proclivity for corrective history — now he says the Nirvana performance was terrible (it was). This is the worst one of the night, but it does end with Ryan making a "beard" joke. So, there's that.

The producers can't wait to get rid of Stefano. How else to explain the horribly unflattering pre-performance package edit? Apparently he "tries to be a ladies man." The overall vibe is that the other contestants think he's arrogant and don't like him all that much. As if to cement his douche-tastic rep, he chooses "Closer" by Ne-Yo. These kind of hard pop songs just don't work on idol. Haven't we learned that by now? He does a little awkward dancing, and focuses on touching the audience members' clammy hands. The judges liked it. They are stupid.

At this point in my notes, things get a little blurry. I am fading. I ate steak. With bone marrow. And creamed spinach.

Lauren is finally in the pimp spot again. During her package, I get the impression that Scotty has a crush on her. She has chosen "Born to Fly" by Sarah Evans, whatever that is. She sounds a little off, and this song is terrible. Meh. The cast of Glee (in the audience!) looks like they didn't like it. Steven actually offers a suggestion (!!): She should have sung Alison Krauss, Shania Twain or Faith Hill. JLo gives her a big-sister pep talk. This was a very limp ending to the show.

Overall, I thought this week was pretty busted. Ladies' man Stefano gets sent packing. America shrugs.

*Here I will quote directly from the Picasso of Idol recapping, Gawker's Richard Lawson: "When in life will the context be right to listen to Jacob Lusk's album? 'Hm, well, I am right now graduating from Prestige University, after growing up in a pile of dirt behind Pittsburgh and befriending a feared and misunderstood hobo/wild animal and learning life lessons from him/it, so I guess I should listen to Jacob Lusk's weepy emotionalism, an entire album's worth, right now.' Is that when? Is that the only time when? I mean otherwise you are such a weird, crazy person, driving home from work and listening to Jacob Lusk give birth to a tear-baby on your car stereo, the post-work traffic droning along outside, while you experience the entire emotional range of the Free Willy movies in one commute home."

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