It’s the 450th episode of American Idol, which ranks up there with “half-birthday” on the significance scale. It’s also results night, which the producers of American Idol have officially stopped pretending has anything to do with revealing actual results. Now it’s just an hour-long variety show, with the action taking place in the last fifteen seconds and the contestants getting about four minutes of screen time. It’s a study in how to keep viewers semi-entertained for a full hour, especially in these first five weeks of the top ten, when the boys are being picked off one by one. They should go whole hog and have jugglers, news bloopers, and Ice Angels.
The weakest element of Wednesday night’s show by a wide margin was the group numbers, so by all means let’s open with a group number. Ooh, is it blisteringly soulless! The top eight’s take on Bob Seger’s “Old Time Rock & Roll” makes The Lawrence Welk Show look like David LaChapelle’s Rize. Also, is anyone styling these children, or do they just run through a wardrobe rack and hope for the best? Lazaro in particular is puzzling: He’s wearing a white shirt with palm-tree epaulets, white suspenders, and a sparkling gold bow tie, like a general in some kind of gay houseboy army. It’s all puzzling and very new-time neither-rock-nor-roll, and then poof — three smallish flashpots go off and we are released from our Bob Seger burden.
The sponsored segment is back! And I thank the risen Christ that for the first time since season one, it is not a Ford Music Video. Instead, it is a Ford Fiesta Mission, in which the finalists go into a school (with the help of the Ford Fiesta’s built-in navigation system) to teach some kids how to sing (with the help of editing). The song in question is Phillip Phillips’s “Home,” whose lyrics every American knows by heart via cultural osmosis, so the job is fairly easy. Though Lazaro’s kid does forget his words, sweat, cry, and then blame him for the whole thing in a haughty-victim way. Not really.
And then it’s time for the recap, wherein Jimmy Iovine gives some insights that would have been much more welcome on performance night. Tonight’s are fairly standard. Of course they are. We were all watching the same show. Candice, Kree, and Amber were all great; Burnell did the best of the boys; and Lazaro improved but should still go home. He repeats Nicki’s claim that Kree outsang Janelle in their duet, and says that “it will affect my overall rating of her,” then calls Janelle’s solo performance brilliant. He also says that “something was off” in the boys’ group performance and blames “two or three of the boys” for it (there were only three boys), but look at the tape, Jimmy! Lazaro was clearly the main offender. Dude not only forgot his words, he was exactly off in every single dance move. It was like Jack Tripper bumbled into a Regal Beagle talent show on Three’s Company.
(Boy, that group performance really was a stinker. It’s a testament to how well this show is directed that there are almost never messes on that massive a scale; nobody falls down, few people go up on their lyrics in the live shows. In a way, it was refreshing to have seen such a disaster. It reminds us that the people behind this show aren’t just nightmares, they’re nightmare people.)
Aretha Franklin calls and leaves Kree a message to say that she crushed it on “Don’t Play That Song” last night, and the other girls visibly seethe with jealousy and then soften as soon as they realize the camera is on them. I live for these moments.
And then it is time for a performance from Colton Dixon, who remembered to take his Coldplay pill this morning. Ryan tells us that his debut album reached No. 1 on both the Christian and Gospel charts, which ... are two different things? Are there Gospel albums that are not Christian? Are there, like, Shinto albums on the Gospel charts? His song is very inspirational, his hairdo is now a Full Kate Gosselin, and he is still so painfully skinny that I want to use our legal system to prevent him from wearing shorts. But congrats on your crossover success, Colton. See if you can’t get the Christian kids and the Gospel kids to squash that beef.
Our next performance is from Ryan Tedder, the Spencer Pratt of song, and his band OneRepublic featuring Katharine McPhee. Look: All I remember of OneRepublic is their song “Apologize,” and I only remember that because when it came on the radio I used to like to sing “It’s toooo laaaate to Jazzercize.” But OneRepublic is still here, apparently, and they still have time to write songs in between explaining that they’re not One Direction. On the excitement scale, OneRepublic featuring Katharine McPhee is a little like oatmeal featuring cardboard. Saltine crackers featuring warm water. Airline magazine feature on taking down your Christmas lights. It sounds like something that would do well on the Christian charts. (But not the Gospel! Those heathens will listen to anything.) It makes you long for the musical innovation of a 3 Doors Down.
Keith Urban sings a song! Seriously, all of that happens right in a row, and the contestants just sit there, waiting, waiting. His song is very modern-country and inoffensive, except there’s a line about feet on a dashboard that reminds me to run for president on the America, Get Your Fucking Bare Feet Off the Dashboard platform. The song ends with a snippet of Nicki’s “Turn Me On,” which is nice, so of course they don’t cut to her at all, but do spend a great deal of time roaring with laughter over Mariah’s homemade “Keith’s #1 Fan!!!” sign. Also, Keith’s band all look exactly like him, except his drummer, who looks like Philip Seymour Hoffman ate Guy Fieri. Let’s move this along.
FINALLY at 8:50 p.m. it is time for some results, and the whole thing goes exactly as you and Jimmy and I all knew it would: All the women are safe, and the bropocalypse continues with all three boys in the bottom three. Burnell is immediately sent to safety, leaving Lazaro and Devin, and of course it’s Devin who must sing for his life. He chooses to revisit “It’s Impossible,” and I want so badly for him to add the “it’s impossible to put a Cadillac up your nose” line from the Steve Martin version, but nobody seems to want to have fun around here except me. And of course they don’t save him, even though the crowd seems to want them to. See you on the other side, Spanglish Klaus Nomi.
Next week they’ll probably just all sing “We Are the World” a hundred times. See you then.