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Paul F. Tompkins Recaps American Idol’s Solo Night

Internauts, I will not lie to you: Wednesday’s “Group Night” shenanigans really trapped me in my bunk with my own blanket and hit me with socks filled with bars of soap. I was relieved to see that the contestants are going back to singing individually, even though I know I will not like most of their singing. I am not German, so I don’t know what this particular feeling is called.

The judges are ready to get down to business. Randy is dressed, as usual, like a gigantic Peanuts character; Steven Tyler is wearing what looks like some newspapers fashioned into a ladies’ eighties-era “power suit,” and J.Lo is perfectly attired in a turtleneck and sparkly hot pants. I think about talking to her through the TV, but decide I don’t believe she can hear me yet. Soon, querida. Soon enough.

We kick it off with Haley Reinhart doing an impression of Kristen Wiig’s hypothetical impression of Haley Reinhart singing “God Bless the Child.” She is going all-out vocally because she didn’t do so well the night before, and her distorting the lyrics into mere word sounds wows the judges.

Clint Jun Gamboa sings an overwrought “Georgia On My Mind” that begins with a brief voguing. Poor Ray Charles, stuck behind that piano all those years, silently yearning to work it, girlfriend. Thank you, Clint. A legacy honored.

Kendra Chantelle and Sophia Shorai also sing “Georgia On My Mind.” Is that … is that what we’re doing now? Everyone’s just going to sing his or her own version of “Georgia”? Okay, I’ll stick around; see if it makes a difference. Sophia sings barefoot, by the way. I do NOT get the barefoot thing. It indicates that you’re a “free spirit,” right? Only we didn’t start wearing shoes as a function of shame. It was more so you wouldn’t step on sharp things, or in shit. Put your shoes on. I know you have them.

Having conquered his melodica dependency on Group Night, Casey Abrams drags a stand-up bass onto the stage to sing the song Idol is best known for, “Georgia On My Mind.” Despite Casey’s predilection for scat-singing (always unwelcome), I am charmed by him and enjoy his performance. It isn’t even ruined for me by Steven Tyler’s insistence on indulging in one of his patented screech-alongs while Corey sings.

Remember Nick Fink, the unsettlingly poor loser from a couple of weeks ago? Well, his girlfriend Jacqueline Dunford is still in the contest, but has suddenly become “incredibly ill.” With what? An incredible illness, I guess. She has to drop out of the contest altogether. Jacqueline’s pal Chelsee Oaks declares Jacqueline her “best friend in the entire world,” although I think they just met a couple of weeks ago. Chelsee is shaken up by Jacqueline’s departure, and it affects her performance. Seeing this, Nick Fink straightens his half-mask and decides against sawing through the rope holding up the chandelier.

As she did at her audition, Lauren Alaina sings the haunting theme from Armageddon, Aerosmith’s “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing.” More Aerosmith? It’s been happening pretty regularly. What does Tyler have on the producers? Did his agents make this part of his deal? We haven’t heard “Jenny From the Block” or a single Journey song all season. I’m not asking for those, by the way. I’m just saying there’s an imbalance that could be corrected with no more Aerosmith.

Jacob Lusk walks onto the stage and goes absolutely nuts with his rendition of Tyler Perry’s Luther Vandross’s “God Bless the Child.” It is positively insane and he is inarguably a gifted singer. When Jacob finishes, the auditorium goes wild and he runs out to the lobby, collapsing in tears in the arms of a couple of lady-family. Struggling to compose himself, he reveals, “I’m not a crier,” to which Ryan retorts, “You could have fooled me.” Everyone just lets that lie there.

Ashley Sullivan, who almost quit the show on Group Night, has gotten herself together. Seemingly. She decides to sing a Michael Bublé song that’s very special to her and her Iraq-vet boyfriend. She begins, a cappella, and sings directly to her boo in the balcony. She starts off okay, but forgets the words almost immediately. She starts again. She forgets the words again. She starts again. She forgets the words again. Randy calls to her to jump to the chorus. She does, but it’s too late. It’s a debacle. She apologizes to everyone profusely, and the judges assure her it’s okay, in a tone you’d reserve for an agitated person who’s pointing a harpoon gun at you but doesn’t know what it is.

Scotty McCreery, of “Baby lock them doors and turn the lights down low” fame, decides to mix it up by learning a second song. Only, he doesn’t learn it so good, because the lyrics of this new song fail to mention locks, doors, lights, or lowness. Tatynisa Wilson also sings this Gordian knot of a song and tries to approximate the lyrics, employing a "voice-recognition software" flair. At one point, it sounds like she is singing, with all her heart, “I hope you die.”

Now that everyone has performed, it’s time to divide them into four groups: two that are staying, two that are having the doors locked behind them in anticipation of having the lights turned down low.

In one of the rooms housing a group that doesn’t make it, Corey Levoy sits apart from everyone and cries buckets, even though he knew he shouldn’t have gotten this far (and said as much the night before). In his abject misery, Corey does a genius thing that I wish I’d had in my sadness quiver as a child: He puts his coat over his head and sobs under it, privately. J.Lo goes over and calls him honey and puts her arm around him. Well, I want that. I want to put my coat over my head and cry and have J.Lo comfort me. I don’t see why I can’t have the things in life that everyone else gets.

Of all the people who made it through, I’d like to single out two. One is Ashley Sullivan. This bothers me, because Ashley is clearly not emotionally strong enough to be in this competition. And the producers know it. Perhaps they are gambling on some sort of redemption for Ashley; maybe she’ll toughen up as the show goes on and it’ll make for an inspiring story that the viewers can get choked up about. But more likely, we “get to” watch this young girl go through agony on national television before she is finally sent home and told she doesn’t have the strength to do this. Which we all pretty much already know. Obviously, we only see what the producers want us to see, but if this is what they want us to see, I feel it borders on the cruel.

NOT FUNNY, PAUL. Okay, fine. The second contestant who made it through who’s worthy of note is this kid — I don’t know his name, I don’t remember ever seeing him before — who appears over Casey’s shoulder around minute 55 of the episode (see below). He is in a room with a couple dozen screaming, jumping, joyful, hugging people, and he is standing all by himself with his arms crossed, looking like the most miserable pill on record. Just before they cut away from Casey, this kid shoots a death glare at the camera and he looks like he’s in a high school stage adaptation of a Twilight movie.

Photo: Fox


Next week: If the closing teaser clips are accurate, it looks like we’ll be seeing a lot of fedoras.

Photo: Fox