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American Idol Recap: Amber Alert

AMERICAN IDOL: Music Superstar will.i.am performs on AMERICAN IDOL

Tonight, Ryan solemnly tells us, the stakes are incredibly high, as the lowest vote-getter won’t get the Hometown Hero Visit. Our fourth-place finisher will of course be going home, but she’ll be shunned and vilified by their communities, as tradition dictates. And honestly, it could go any of four different ways tonight; each finalist has her own unique brand, each one gives a clear impression of what kind of artist she wants to be — it’s a toss-up. A toss-up that is branded and product-placed up to its eyeballs.

The show opens with the gals doing their own version of Emeli Sandé’s own version of what Beyoncé’s “Crazy in Love” would sound like if it came out in the twenties, because The Great Gatsby is coming out in a week and we’re just going to have to cope with this nonsense for a little while. The movie itself looks like what would happen if you took mushrooms and ate an issue of W, but so far the soundtrack sounds like a nightmare. This version of “Crazy in Love” is a lot like the one you know, except with all of the good elements replaced by sleazy clarinets and boop-boop-ee-doops. The background dancers — who by the way in the last few weeks have become foreground dancers — give it a better review than I ever could, by throwing a few sad handfuls of confetti a couple of feet into the air at the end of the song. Three cheers for the Roaring Twenties, everyone: Hip-hip, I fell down, where am I?

JimmyTruthTime comes early tonight, and thank God Almighty they have not forced him into a prohibition-era suit and pocketwatch. He thinks “Diamonds” was the wrong song for Angie, as there wasn’t enough meat on it. (Really, this is an accurate criticism of Rihanna’s entire output in the last couple of years, but that’s neither here nor there.) He says Angie’s version of “Someone to Watch Over Me” didn’t distinguish itself from all of the classic versions that already exist, but that it wasn’t bad enough to send her home. His story checks out.

He thinks Amber sounded like karaoke and that she didn’t have enough time to get comfortable with the song. This raises the question: What are they making these kids do all week? Could we maybe dial back their promotional appearances and Ford Fusion missions so these kids can do their primary job? Jimmy doesn’t touch her version of “My Funny Valentine,” which they replay here, and a second look reveals just how gratuitous and out of place her runs and vocal tricks were.

“Gratuitous!” I couldn’t be happier that Harry used this very word, calling these women (and by extension every pop star since 1992) to the carpet for their overreliance on vocal flippity-flops. There is a time and a place for melisma, and unless you are at a Patti LaBelle concert circa “New Attitude,” you are probably not in it. Let’s move the fuck on, America. 

Jimmy thinks that Candice wasn’t the best she’s been, but that she’s still the best singer of the bunch, so I guess we know where all 50 of Jimmy’s supervotes are going. He thinks that Kree hasn’t lived up to her potential (and I agree), but he doesn’t weigh in on the Harry-Versus-Randy Great Debate About Whether Everyone Should Be Singing a Billion Tricky Tricks Regardless of the Emotional Content of the Song. (I’d like to think he sides with us.)

Here’s a perfect example of how this show wastes your precious time on this planet. Ryan says: “Kree is one of our favorite contestants.” Oh, really? Would you say she’s one of your four favorite contestants right now? Good to know. Go on. “Keith, do you think Jimmy was right that she’s in trouble?” Keith replies: “I think Kree is Kree. And I think what’s connected her to everyone out there is the consistency, and so I just think her voice has found her people out there.”

Put another way:
Ryan:
[Dial tone.]
Keith:
[Sound of a van in reverse.]
(Forever.)

Hey, how about this Does Someone Have to Go show? I didn’t believe it the first 500 times I saw the promo, but it seems undeniable that this is a thing now. Evidently someone went to Fox with this pitch: “It’s like The Office, but unscripted, and nobody has any charm or charisma, and we focus on the boring interoffice politics of boring strangers’ jobs — people will literally say things like Gayle in Accounting doesn’t have any fresh ideas, as though anyone, even the other people in Accounting, could give a shit — and then one of them gets turned out into this cataclysmic economy and probably starves to death, and again, I cannot stress this enough, absolutely nobody in any of these offices has any business or noticeable interest in being on television ever,” and Fox was like, “Why are we still talking about this instead of doing it?” I can’t decide whether I want to move to some remote island where there is no television and only bars, or go to the networks with a pitch called Punch a Mediocre Child in the Face and retire a billionaire.

Idol’s own David Cook is back with his new single “I’m Alive,” which also serves as a helpful reminder that he is alive. Not much has changed for ole Cookie. He still stares off into the upper left corner of the auditorium when he sings; he still has the stalwart demeanor of a person who saw too many U2 concerts and took the wrong lessons away with him; he still doesn’t quite have his facial-hair game together. The new song is fine, I suppose; after having watched Lee DeWyze strain to become Mumford & Sons last week, it is refreshing to see someone straining to become Three Days Grace.

(Oddly, there is an unbidden #IdolTBT bug in the corner of the screen, and I can’t figure out what it stands for until it hits me: Idol Throwback Thursday. On behalf of David Cook, who is promoting a brand-new single: OUCHERS.)

Wasn’t it AmySusanne in the comments who heaved a sigh of relief that we haven’t had to endure will.i.am this season? Well, AmySusanne: Your sigh is incorrect, as he appears with yet another twenties/hip-hop pastiche shit-storm from the Great Gatsby soundtrack. This one is like going to some kind of ragtime festival while everyone around you has a Macklemore ringtone and keeps getting phone calls, and also they are constantly vomiting. #POW! (By which I mean I feel like a prisoner of war.)

Constantine Maroulis is back! Turns out he’s about to open on Broadway in the lead in Jekyll & Hyde, which he is excited about because he gets to play two roles. Get it? Because Jekyll and Hyde? You get it. Anyway, he still gives looks to the camera that make you wonder whether he is a person who has actually fucked a camera. Also, they show the moment he got eliminated from the show, and this is a part of it:

Jesus Christ, do you remember Scott Savol? There’s a throwback Thursday I’d like to see.

If Harry Connick Jr. cannot fully take over every single role on this show just yet, I will accept a performance. His new song is pretty snoozarific, plus he’s not at the piano where he belongs, but he is there on the stage, and revolutions have to start somewhere. 

Okay, so then Ryan asks if Harry and Randy made up from their tiff, and Harry says they did and that they went out to dinner and then fell asleep watching a movie, and Ryan says that’s how it always ends with Randy, and everybody in the audience goes "OOOOH," as if someone had actually said something, and then Keith Urban does the safety dance, and you’re just like: Yes, why wouldn’t all of these things be happening?

Nicki’s words of encouragement to the top four is that they’re all superheroes and that she’s glad America got the best four as the top four, and all I can think about is poor Janelle Number Five, wincing back in Turnip Hollow, Tennessee, or wherever she is. First to the top three is ... Angie! Also moving on ... Candice! So that leaves Amber and Kree, who Ryan carefully avoids calling the bottom two, so they may not actually be. And the third person safe is Kree, meaning poor Amber is going home. Does she take it well? No, my friends, she does not. Her face during her good-bye montage is the picture of regret and shame, and as she struggles through “I Believe in You & Me,” Ryan hovers just offstage with her father, who — can we be honest with each other here? — seems like he might maybe be at the root of Amber’s not-seeming-like-she’s-enjoying-herself problem.

Anyway, she can’t finish the song for crying, and Dad finally approaches her and they kind of coldly hug one another, and I hope he’s not lecturing her about her choices right this second, but he probably is. Best of luck, Amber. May you become the one-woman Sugababes our culture has needed since absolutely forever.

Two more weeks, friends. We can do this.

Photo: Frank Micelotta / FOX