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American Idol Recap: Accidentally Entertaining

AMERICAN IDOL: Eric Benet (L) on AMERICAN IDOL airing Thursday, March 29 (8:00-9:00PM ET/PT) on FOX. CR: Phil Mcarten / FOX.

Tonight’s show begins with the kind of grandiosity we’ve come to expect, but within a few minutes it becomes clear: The producers, judges, and host of American Idol seem genuinely surprised at how solid last night was, at how the top nine of tens of thousands of singers would sound more good than they do bad. It’s like they accidentally entertained us last night, and now they don’t know what to do with themselves.

Ryan promises an Aerosmith surprise tonight and spills the beans immediately. Callista Flockhart’s eccentric mother Steven Tyler joins him onstage for the announcement that Aerosmith is going on tour! Ryan asks, “How would you like to see something like this go down live,” and then throws to some concert video instead of the Steven falling offstage footage that I’d really like to see go down live. Oh, and it’ll be called the Global Warming Tour. Why, Steven? “Because of the heat.” So now you know.

Several of the nine remaining Idols’ idols approved of last night’s performances: Jonny Lang, Carrie Underwood, Lifehouse, and Mariah Carey all had their assistants tweet positive messages. But Eric Benet actually stops by in person to congratulate Deandre, because I guess someone was using the computer at the library.

And on to our Ford Music Video, which contains some kind of badge that you have to find and then you tweet about it and win a Ford, or something? Skylar is tasked with delivering the contest info, a job to which she is poorly suited and inadequately miked, and then Colton cuts her off with some expert hosting and we’re into the video. In it, they tote a bunch of old TVs around in some Fords, stack them into a pyramid formation, and then, for all my hoping, Wendy O. Williams fails to come back from the dead and drive a school bus through it. There is a limit to what even a Ford Focus can do.

The top nine have moved into a mansion in the Hollywood Hills! The footage of the joyous drive to their new home is scored to the triumphant strains of ... Lana Del Rey’s “Video Games.” No, really. Does Lana Del Rey have naked pictures of God or something? Anyway, the house is big. It has views and a pool table and everything else we have come to expect from a fancy mansion housing a bunch of reality-show contestants. Including new beds for them to jump into, and you know how these people love that.

In the interest of radical honesty, I will tell you that Phillip jumps into a bed, and Heejun jumps on top of him, and I feel a genuine ache of jealousy.

On to the results already! Up first: Elise, Phillip, and Hollie. Jimmy continues to dispense some truth, by which I mean he agrees with me fully: Hollie lacks the emotional connection to the songs that she’ll need to set herself apart, Elise is coming up from behind and doesn’t need to worry about being too old because Stevie Nicks and Annie Lennox didn’t have their first hits until their late twenties either, and Phillip is flawless and should make out with me. It’s Hollie who ends up in the bottom three, which makes sense.

And then we’re on to our performance by Nicki Minaj. There is so much to say about Nicki Minaj, about her refreshing sexy-weirdo personality and how she still hasn’t found material to match it, about how she only contributes occasional live HEYs to this performance, essentially making herself her own hype woman, but I’m too distracted by the thought that her breasts are about to fly out of her top and injure the audience.

Colton, Joshua, and Heejun are on the chopping block next. Jimmy says Colton got too emotional in his performance, which just goes to show that Jimmy is not a 12-year-old girl. Joshua literally got too emotional in Jimmy’s estimation, and the tears that I thought were fake only served to close up his throat. As for Heejun, he says, “The math just doesn’t work out; he’s not as good as the other eight.” This doesn’t seem like a math problem so much, but he’s the boss. And he’s right: Heejun is sent to the Stools of Shame to continue thinking about what he did last week.

Our next performer is last year’s American Idol winner Scotty McCreery, America’s anti-Minaj. Ryan announces that he has become the Youngest Male Ever to Have His Debut Album Enter the Billboard Charts at No. 1, and I would like to announce that we can cool it with the superlatives-grubbing. But oh, you guys, this song Scotty sings. “Watertower Town” is what would happen if an Important Scientist came up to you and said, “There is a giant asteroid plummeting toward Earth, and the only thing that will knock it off course is for you to write a country song about the pleasures of small-town life in under three minutes,” and you said “But I’ve never ... ” and the scientist interrupted you: “Write, damn you, write!” I mean, will you get a load of this:

“Friday night football is king, sweet tea goes good with anything/

Fireflies come out when the sun goes down/

Nobody eats till you say Amen, and everybody knows your mama's name/

You can see who loves who for miles around in a watertower town.”

I can’t wait for the extended dance version, where they have higher teenage pregnancy rates and are manipulated by social wedge issues into voting against their own economic interests.

I will point out that Scotty does all of this with a massive cross around his neck. So to review: This year’s contestants are overwhelmingly openly Christian, and last year’s winner just sang a song about saying Grace before dinner while wearing a life-size crucifix. Which, you know, fine! But can we settle down about Christians being oppressed?

Skylar, Deandre, and Jessica are the last to be reviewed, and again he’s pretty much on point: Skylar needs a song with some melody, Jessica builds a performance like a veteran, and Deandre “needs to earn his dues,” but “if enough people like him, he’ll probably be safe this week.” Okay, he is on point for two out of these three reviews. But he does acknowledge the elephant in the room: American Idol’s voters are overwhelmingly young girls, and young girls overwhelmingly vote for young boys. And he’s right: Skylar ends up in the bottom three, which will probably be good for her. Take some chances, little Amy Madigan!

She’s quickly sent back to safety, leaving Hollie and Heejun as our bottom two. And our lowest vote-getter is ... Heejun. He chooses “A Song for You” again, he’s not going to get saved, and he knows it: The last line becomes “I was singing this song ... for EVERYONEGUYSTHANKYOUSOMUCH!” And indeed, the judges are not going to save him. Good-bye, Heejun, you weirdo who got serious because he was told to and then got goofy because he was told to and then got serious again because he was shamed for being goofy and then got kicked off. And let this be a lesson to you aspiring Idols out there: Make sure you either do or don’t do what the judges tell you.

Photo: Phil Mcarten/FOX