Oh, you guys. Now that Malaya is gone, the scales have fallen from my eyes. I am getting a good look at American Idol Season 13, and I am seeing it for what it is. And what it is is a colossal, exasperating waste of time, which is also what it probably has been for years, and which I’ve probably called it before, but this time I mean it. This season is a disaster, and all I want is for Ryan to come out and announce that we’re starting over from the beginning. I want it to be like when Dallas had dead Patrick Duffy alive and well in the shower, and Victoria Principal realizing that the whole previous season had been a dream, a terrible, terrible dream. Anything less is a dereliction of duty.
Want to get into it? Great! Me either.
Tonight’s theme is “Competitors Pick,” which calls for the Idols to choose each other’s songs, so there could be some strategy and intrigue as the kids try to challenge and outplay each other ha-ha just kidding everyone chooses songs that are exactly in line with what their competitors would have picked for themselves.
Caleb Johnson: “Family Tree” by Kings of Leon
Hey, do you want to hear what Kings of Leon would have sounded like as a crotch-rock band in 1989? Great! Me either. But here’s Caleb with a Faster Pussycatted-up version of a KoL album track, and though it kicks off the show with a little energy, it doesn’t show us anything we haven’t already seen from him. Wouldn’t “Wait for Me” have been a fresher and more emotionally dynamic choice? Isn’t it weird that he’s going to win this thing? Don’t you think Pia Toscano is kicking herself for not waiting until this season to audition?
Jessica Meuse: “I Don’t Know What This Song Is Called” by Miranda Lambert
The people I’m watching this episode with are already loudly grumbling by this time in the show — not yet two performances in, I will remind you — so I miss the title of this song, but I think the big line in the chorus is either “gonna powder my wig,” or “gonna power my leg.” I am aware that I am at a computer right now and could easily look up the song’s actual title, but this show affords me so few pleasures, I think you’ll understand if I prefer to live in a world where there’s a hit Miranda Lambert song called “I Powder My Wig” or “I Power My Leg.” Anyway, this performance is just Jess bein’ Jess: decent vocals, very little passion in the face, choreography that is indistinguishable from wandering. Jennifer says she looked a little uncomfortable onstage, and you have to imagine even Jessica is saying “Hel-lo? Onstage discomfort is my whole thing.” Harry instructs her to put some funk or hip-hop on in her room and practice walking to the beat, and I instruct her to tape that and put it on YouTube.
OH MY GOD DEMI LOVATO IS HERE! She’s going to hang out and give occasional feedback and briefly make us wonder whether her appearance is some kind of subtle Simon Cowell shade. Demi Lovato’s speaking voice is exactly that of Cecily Strong in those “Girlfriends Talk Show” sketches on SNL. Also, she has the whole long-hair-but-one-side-of-the-head-is-shaved haircut that is so popular this year last year two years ago. I will henceforth refer to Demi Lovato as “Shrillex.” Anyway, she thinks everything is awesome and everyone is awesome and she just powered a leg of her tour and it was awesome.
And then it’s back to the duets, which continue to be a frustrating waste of our precious time on this Earth. Sam and Alex kick it all off with a weirdly jaunty take on Passenger’s “Let Her Go,” whose breeziness reveals that they haven’t taken a moment to read the lyrics. Also, they’re sitting on a ratty couch in front of a backdrop of a set from Shameless. Harry calls it saccharine, Keith says he finds it hard to judge these duets, which makes sense because it is clear that they’re only judging them because there’s ten extra minutes to fill now that we’re down to the top seven. You think it’s tough getting paid to judge them, Keith? Try watching them for free. My friend Haley sighs and says, “If they have an extra half-hour, couldn’t they buy a rerun of Step by Step and show that?” Amen, sister.
OH MY GOD TERRY BRADSHAW IS HERE! Why? What does he know about music in general, or this show in particular? Nothing! Nothing at all, but they sure do give him several minutes to mug and flounce. Oh, and get this: Recently, he was somewhere where it was very cold, so he is happy to be in Los Angeles where it is warm. No, seriously, this is a conversation that five millionaires have with each other on your time. Jesus Henry Christ.
CJ Harris: “Gravity” by John Mayer
Caleb chose this one for CJ, who has repeatedly named it as one of his favorites. CJ says he likes it because “it’s soulful.” Is it wrong that this moment makes me want to apologize to every black person I see for the rest of the month? Someone in the control booth leaves the judges’ mikes open for a few seconds as Ryan and Caleb converse, and though none of the conversation is decipherable (believe me, folks — I tried), there is much giggling. It is official: Everyone has given up on American Idol Season 13. Anyway, CJ gets none of the notes right, and Jennifer straight-up grimaces, then notices she’s on camera, works some acting-class magic, turns her frown upside down, and spends the rest of the show talking about how really good performances make her give a stank face. I have seen your stank face, Ms. Lo; this was a different beast entirely. Harry calls it CJ’s best yet. Also, CJ apparently has an infant son. Did you know that? I don’t think I knew that.
OH MY GOD MARTIN GARRIX AND WOMEN’S BANTAMWEIGHT WORLD-CHAMPION BOXER RONDA ROUSEY ARE HERE. No, I’m serious — we spend some time talking to Martin Garrix and women’s bantamweight world-champion boxer Ronda Rousey. Stop this, American Idol. Stop it right now. If you have a couple of extra minutes, give it to a local sketch-comedy group or something. Have Carol Burnett’s cleaning-lady character come onstage and do a melancholy waltz with a mop. Or just have Ryan sit onstage and look at his watch for two minutes. I don’t care. Put some effort into entertaining me or be honest that you’re stretching this shit out. Just don’t come at me like you’re satisfying my deep need for more Terry Bradshaw, Martin Garrix, and women’s bantamweight world-champion boxer Ronda Rousey.
Dexter Roberts: “Creekwater” by Jimmy Tightjeans and the Barn-Door Bunch (or ... whoever)
Missed the original performer of this song too, because we’re busy talking about this odd production choice: In his pre-performance getting-to-know-you package, Dexter says he likes crickets, and then they add the sound of crickets. You know, the international sound effect for “this isn’t very interesting.” It’s possible that the producers lack self-awareness. Dexter’s performance is more of what we’ve seen from him so far, with perhaps a little more connection to the audience, but it’s nothing I’ll remember through the commercial break. Jennifer tells him he needs to step it up, which they all do, and she’s emphatic and nonspecific about it. Harry tells him he’s basically just “singing along with the radio.” Throwing to commercial, Ryan says to Dexter: “One of you is going to win this thing,” and for a moment, his genuine air of disbelief makes him human.
Caleb and Jena duet on the Rolling Stones’ “Gimme Shelter,” and they seem like they’re having fun, so good for them. Jena is styled like an Adele Delano casual runway look on RuPaul’s Drag Race. The judges and Shrillex go on and on talking about the duet while acknowledging that they don’t need to talk about the duets. If we’re filling time talking about things that don’t matter, why stop there? Why not evaluate the commercials? Do you find the Wendy’s spokeswoman as off-putting as I do, Harry? Who’s in for Transcendence? Are we all watching the Abilify spot more attentively these days, or is it just me?
Alex Preston: “A Team” by Ed Sheeran
Dexter chose this one for Alex, because it was the one he did for his initial online audition. That’s how much these kids are broadening each other’s horizons. His performance is about what you’d expect. My friend Adam says: “This is a boring kid.” My friend Adam has a point. Do you think Adam Lambert from a few seasons back wishes he were in this top 13? He’d run away with it. Lazaro Arbos would run away with it. Jennifer praises Dexter for the song choice, because that’s how much attention the judges are paying. Harry calls it the best of the night so far, which, okay, sure.
Sam Woolf: “Sail Away” by David Gray
Sam is dressed like that Prancing Michael Cera meme from a couple of years ago. And his version of this song is decent; it fits his range perfectly, and he looks into the camera a time or two. That’s the kind of thing we’re praising this season. Harry doesn’t like the song choice, says he needed to do something the whole audience could sing along with. And then I realize the whole audience was not yet born when “White Ladder” was released.
Can we petition to have Zoanette dropped into the top 6?
CJ, Jessica, and Dexter team up for Lady Antebellum’s “Compass,” and while most of their solos are fine, their harmonies don’t come together (largely because CJ cannot sing in tune). Jessica looks like she’s having fun for the first time this year. Harry, whose voice gets raspier as the show goes on, simply stops being nice and says: “Guys, it just wasn’t good.” Truth.
Jena Irene: “Creep” by Radiohead
As you know, Jena does a Tori Amos–lite piano-bar take on this song, and if you like that kind of thing, you like it. But I cannot get past this: In the pre-chorus, Jena of course cannot sing “You’re so fuckin’ special,” but she changes it to “You think you’re so special,” thereby rendering the entire song meaningless. Phooey! The judges mostly go nuts for it, but they each have seven seconds in which to do it, because we don’t have time to do the business of the show because we had too much fun with Demi Lovato, Terry Bradshaw, Martin Garrix, and women’s bantamweight world-champion boxer Ronda Rousey.
You know that scene in Fast Times at Ridgemont High, when Rat confronts Damone for hooking up with Stacy, and he says “I always stick up for you. When they call you an idiot, I say Damone’s not an idiot. You just don’t know him. Well, you know something, maybe they know you pretty good”? I’ve been thinking about that scene a lot lately, you guys.