Last night American Idol ejected the first of its top twelve, losing Lacey Brown after she delivered an irritatingly precious take on “Ruby Tuesday” during the Stones-themed night on Tuesday. The judges unanimously opted not to save her; no one, including Lacey, seemed terribly surprised at the outcome.
As it was an elimination episode that evicted only one person, last night’s hour was filled out with an enormous amount of padding: Idol alum David Cook sang, Ke$ha went through the motions of her latest single, Orianthi did her Miley Cyrus–meets–Eddie Van Halen thing, and, of course, there was the requisite drawn out “bottom three” drama between Lacey, Tim Urban, and Paige Miles.
After the amount of legitimate talent evicted from the Idol-verse last week, it was reassuring to see only expendable faces on the cutting block. Then again, when the evening’s drama is contingent upon wondering which of the three mediocre singers is going home, you start wondering why it takes a whole hour to dump one person. Well, it's because we had to endure segments like these:
The ridiculous opening montage that made Idol’s top twelve look like they were the stars of a Michael Bay–produced horror movie. It began with static-y footage of the contestants set eerily to the Everly Brothers’ “All I Have to Do Is Dream,” then moved on to some Über-dramatic clips of the judges babbling sound bites while the wrath-of-God choral piece “O Fortuna” blared in the background, as if losing Idol was akin to suffering fire and brimstone raining down from the heavens. Stay subtle, Idol.
Simon had to give Ryan some tough love for what he considered the host’s boundary-crossing antics the night before (Seacrest hopped offstage, leaned on the judges’ table, and demanded that Mr. Grouchy explain his critique of Ryan’s BFF Big Mike). “The eyeballing, the aggressive behavior, it was uncomfortable,” Simon told Ryan curtly. “Do you want my job? Because it felt like an audition.” Thought: While Seacrest would make a terrible judge, Simon should go into movies and play a stern-but-lovable governess.
And then there was the lengthy ad involving the top twelve splattering paintballs all over Ford cars; it was an overindulgent promotional bit even by Idol standards, which is like saying "showy, even for Lady Gaga."
But these moments made it worthwhile:
Always the pro, Crystal Bowersox made clear that in spite of what Simon implied last night, she herself “never thought for a minute” that this season was hers to win, although she kindly thanked him for his faith in her skills. Prevent viewers from thinking you're arrogant: check. Thank the judges for thinking you’re the best: check. Make it seem like this competition is still up for grabs: check. For someone who says she's not a follower of the show, she's certainly aware of the cautionary tale of Justin Guarini.
While Tim’s continued survival is hardly justified by his talent, he might be worth keeping around for his perpetually hilarious “I just made it another week?!” expression. That mix of bro-ish pain and pleasure brings to mind what Stifler’s face would look like if he walked in on two girls making out and was then promptly kneed in the groin.
Ellen joked that Katie Stevens should give mariachi singing a try, and Katie emitted a panicked laugh to cover up for not knowing what that meant.
And how about those live performances?
Apparently the producers didn’t like anything from David Cook's upcoming solo album, because the season-seven winner banged out “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” with his band. His performance elucidated why so many Idol alums have trouble breaking through to stardom: While his vocals put most of this season’s remaining singers to shame, compared to the scores of adequate rock bands on the planet, his paint-by-numbers radio rock isn’t worthy of any particular attention.
Case in point: Orianthi. Her eighties pop-metal throwback tune “According to You” isn’t much more than frothy, forgettable fun, but it immediately wiped away all memory of Cook. While Orianthi appears to be a real human being, her existence seems too perfect to be true, as if she’s secretly the product of a TV-pilot pitch at the Disney Channel:
“You’re gonna love this one. So she looks like Hannah Montana, but get this: She can play the guitar like Steve Vai.”
“I have no idea who that is. You’re losing me and you have thirty seconds.”
“He's saying she rocks out just like Eddie Van Halen. We market her to the Miley crowd but with more of a girl power edge.”
“Good, good, but it needs something else. Maybe a kooky sidekick?”
“I got it! She’s Australian.”
And of course, dear sweet Ke$ha appeared on American Idol to grace us with her new single “Blah Blah Blah,” a halfhearted electro-pop jam which included dancers with TV sets for heads, a Native American headdress, and a guest appearance by hipster hip-hop pranksters 3OH!3.
Let’s be clear: It is not a great song (it’s not even as fun as “TiK ToK”), and Ke$ha is so weak vocally that she wouldn't make it past Hollywood week. But let’s restrain ourselves from making some sententious point about how sad popular music is these days when someone like Ke$ha can have two smash hits while legitimately talented singers like some Idol finalists work twice as hard and end up selling a fifth of the records she does. (For comparison, Adam Lambert has yet to crack the Billboard top twenty while “TiK ToK” was No. 1 for nine weeks straight.) But five years from now, Ke$ha and an astounding vocalist like Crystal Bowersox will probably both fall into the "remember her?" category, even if Ke$ha will have fallen from a much bigger height, so why not leave the moralizing aside and watch the dancing TVs?
The AV Club's Claire Zulkey couldn't deal with David Cook's hair: "It was like a combed-version of the mullet: extremely careful in the front and wild and crazy in the back ... I would respect him a lot more if he just let his impending baldness take its natural course."
Entertainment Weekly's Michael Slezak feels "it's blasphemy to discuss David Cook and ''Ke$ha'' in the same sentence."
Television Without Pity's Jacob was disturbed by the Ford video, noting that "Andrew is dying that he's involved and makes the whole thing creepy and Crystal who would rather die than even be here."