Okay, folks. Tonight’s American Idol recap is coming to you from New Orleans, where I am working on a super-fun gig that politeness dictates that I only hint at. So while I could have watched tonight’s episode alone in my hotel room, something told me I might be able to find some sort of boozy mass-viewing experience.
The search took about thirteen seconds.
I am watching this episode from Lafitte’s In Exile, a gay bar on Bourbon Street. And this being New Orleans, in the half-mile walk from my hotel to this bar, without ever intending to, I have had three beers, eaten two dozen oysters, and bought a hat.
So let me set the scene: Lafitte’s is one of those old Bourbon Street gay bars that are crowded at noon on a Tuesday. Absolutely everyone is smoking. As I walk in, the first person I see is a man in a lavender polo holding a shih-tzu in a matching lavender polo. I try to say hello, but the dog bares his teeth. This is as well as I generally do in gay bars.
But on to the show! We open with another of these ponderous montages, this one asking, with a straight face: AS YOUR FRIENDS ARE VOTED OFF ONE BY ONE, HOW DO YOU FIND THE STRENGTH TO GO ON? Easy: with the evening’s fourth beer.
Tonight, we’ll be visiting the top seven's hometowns, to witness the outpouring of support that keeps them going. First up, Skylar Laine, whom you are encouraged to tweet about with the hashtag #skoutlaws if you’re a superfan. Truly, there is nothing better than social-media strategy in the hands of massive corporations. We meet one of her grandpaws, who tells her, “I want that GUI-tar back that I gave you,” and the subtitles spell it exactly that way — GUI-tar — just in case you missed that this guy is an elderly Southerner. Skylar plays GUI-tar in her version of Kellie Pickler’s “Didn’t You Know How Much I Loved You,” though you can’t hear it at all. Her voice sounds great, though I think it might be unwise to align yourself so strongly with someone who didn’t win this show. The performance rates one “get it, girl” from the crowd here. Tepid. Randy says, “I felt you for the first time in a long time,” which is weird, because he has not given her any criticism in months. Randy is a liar.
The hashtag we are meant to use if we love Colton Dixon is #messengers. Colton Dixon might not be troubled by low self-esteem. Jimmy and guest mentor Akon (whom I am just mentioning now and might not mention again) agree that Colton has a chance to break away from the pack tonight, which he fails to do with a limp cover of Skylar Grey’s “Love the Way You Lie.” There is enough falsetto in it to win over Deandre’s voting bloc, but there’s not much song there. Worse still, the boys around me lose interest. I think this might be a Joshua crowd. But as long as he continues to brood and pimp Jesus out, Colton is safe as can be.
You may be wondering how the producers of this show will pad this thing out to two hours, since they’ve already done Duet Night and if they wanted to do it again, seven is an odd number. Easy: Duet Night Again, With the Same Duet Partners, Except I Guess There Will Have to Be a Trio But We’ll Get to That Later. Phillip and Elise do Gotye’s “Someone That I Used to Know,” i.e., the song that is somehow even getting played on classical and news stations. Elise apparently fought for this one, and it’s not hard to see why, since she pretty much hands Phillip his ass. I like this version better than the original, but not as much as the Matt Bomer–Darren Criss one from last night’s Glee. Steven Tyler loves it, and as he talks, a guy at the end of the bar says: “Is that a man or a lady?”
Are you a Jessica Sanchez fan? No, you are not, you are a #blujays. On account of her name starts with the letter J. Jessica does Jazmine Sullivan’s “Stuttering,” which I have never heard, but which suits her perfectly. She is actually connecting for the first time, having some fun, loosening up. The crowd in Lafitte’s gets up on their lafeet, which they probably still do for Deborah Cox remixes, so maybe that’s not as huge a deal as it sounds. I think she has pulled a Kelly Clarkson Power Move and made herself a contender tonight. Randy agrees: “You just slayed the biggest fish of the night!” BB Chez: Slayer of Fish.
Joshua gets a video greeting from Fantasia Barrino, and a loud “WORK IT UP, QUEEN!” from someone in the bar. He does a competent job on Bruno Mars’s “Runaway,” but he still can’t manage to smile and sing at the same time, leaving us with the unmistakable impression that he’s having a terrible time. I want to like it, but more than that, I want him to like it. (The judges love it. Tweet with the hashtag #jjewels if you agree and lack self-respect.)
The next duet is by Colton and Skylar, who are not dating, because apparently people think they are. I don’t, and I didn’t care until they mentioned it, and if they really want to settle the issue, they should just let their utter lack of chemistry do the talking. Anyway, Colton is dressed like some kind of Opus Dei priest and they do “Don’t You Wanna Stay,” the country song where Kelly Clarkson sings circles around Jason Aldean. And the same thing happens again here! AI is clearly gagging for a female winner! Randy criticizes it, but these aren’t supposed to count anyway, so his opinion is more useless than ever. Everyone in this bar knows every word to this song. Also, a karaoke machine is being set up for after the show, so I’m going to have to sprint out of this place before the credits are over.
[Fast-forward to the end of the show. I run back to my hotel room to transcribe my notes, and as I type, I hear the unmistakable sound of someone pissing on the carpet right outside my door. I think surely this cannot be, and then I hear a moan of satisfaction, and I think oh no, it is. I know I must discourage this activity, and I shudder at the thought of the Hurricane-fortified Marine who has the nerve to be doing this. But I throw open the door to find Milhouse’s Dad, JCPenney jeans open, dick out and glass of whiskey in hand, letting it rip on my threshold. I say: “Sir, you are not allowed to do this,” and he says “Muh?” and I say, “Pull up your pants and come with me.” I take him by the shoulder and frog-march him down to the front desk, where I explain the situation to the disappointed night manager. Mr. Van Houten is starting to show evidence of shame as I remand him to the hotel staff’s care, but he never puts down his whiskey. I am not making this up. It is not yet 11 p.m. Now, back to the bar.]
Hollie Cavanagh’s fan hashtag is #holliepops; use it while you can. For some reason, she chooses a slowed-down version of Pink’s “Fuckin’ Perfect,” which can’t help but just sit there. Worse, the sanitized version goes: “pretty pretty please, don’t you ever ever feel like you’re less than less than perfect.” So: your baseline feeling should be less than perfect. Why even bother with this clunky syntax when there’s a perfectly good “freakin’” right there at your disposal? I think she does the best she can with it, but the arrangement is dullsville. Jennifer and Steven both start their critiques with “you look beautiful,” so I will be a gentleman and refrain from telling you more.
Speaking of gentlemen, there is one a few seats down with a bicycle bell on the beer mug he brought in here so that he can ring it when he needs a refill, which is always, and when Phillip Phillips appears, he cries out: “HE GOT A NICE MOUTH.” You are not wrong, Jingles, but please take a moment to review your life choices. Phillip does “Give a Little More” by Maroon 5, and it is what you think it is. If you are a #philatic, you will love it. If not, you won’t. If you are the judges, you will continue to act as though Phillip is the second coming of a hot, hot Christ; they are a little more reserved this time, but they still love him. If you are Phillip, call me.
And then there’s the trio: Joshua, Jessica, and Hollie have a yelling contest that is set to Kelly Clarkson’s “Stronger.” Joshua is dressed like a blackjack dealer. Each one is too concerned with out-singing the other two to connect to the material, so it never really takes off. Again, Idol people:You could cut a whole hour out of this show and nobody would miss it.
Or! If you do take up two whole hours, you could maybe allow these kids to sing the whole song they’ve chosen. Elise closes the show out with a truncated Lady Gaga’s “You and I,” which is a perfect fit for her voice, and for my current setting. She is greeted by a video message from Jason Segel, of all people, whom she loves and who is a mensch. And her performance is great! It elicits at least three loud, clear worrrrks from the peanut gallery. Randy says Elise is “back,” but she didn’t really go anywhere. I think I am now rooting for Elise; nobody needs to win this the way she does, and there is no darker horse. Let’s do this, America.
So there it is. I think — and a large group of gay strangers agrees — that this is the best crop of singers they’ve had in years. The consensus is that Hollie’s in trouble, but the Judges’ Save still remains, so my prediction is that nobody goes home tomorrow. Except Milhouse’s Dad.