Answer: You don't ... unless you're an idiot. Someone PLEASE fire the director of "American Idol!"
You can feel the stink of desperation wafting off the show. Every week something is changing as the viewers and the voting talleys descend. Last week, the producers smartly eliminated the ridiculous judges' stair entrance and this week Rickey Minor and the band were rightfully returned to the stage instead of being hidden behind curtains or in the rafters. Adam's interaction with them alone was worth the change. Maybe next week Ryan Seacrest will no longer have to descend the Stairway to Heaven (it's such a pompous entrance, we almost want him to fall each week, just so they'll end it).
But this week they introduced the worst change of all: Because their inept director can't hold the reins on running overtime, they've decided to punish the viewers by only allowing two judges to critique each performance. C'mon, does anyone really care what anyone says other than Simon Cowell? (Though we did note that Simon (and Paula Abdul) reviewed the most likely to end up in the finale contestants: Allison, Adam, Danny and Lil.) Why don't they cut their losses and eliminate Kara DioGuardi, who has added nothing but time overruns to the series? This tag team judging not only sucked, the show still ran overtime, even though, on average, the two judges spoke for less than two minutes! What's more amazing, is that for seven seasons three judges (and occasionally four if there was a guest judge) critiqued every week and the only times they ever ran seriously over were during the star-packed finale shows. And even those didn't run as much over as last week's show. This week, the show ran about 3 minutes over, so VCR, TiVo and DVR users again were screwed, this time missing Lil cut Simon a new one after his caustic review of her performance. Producers, here are things we don't need to see: The contestant's intro videos, the ridiculously useless Coke interviews and the seriously long commercial breaks. Oh, better go with the contestant's videos. The latter two generate money, so you're never going to get rid of those.
Certainly, we could have lived without the inexorably long video tribute to this week's mentor, Quentin Tarantino, a legend in his own mind. What does he know about music other than he listens to it? He sucked as a guest judge during Season 3 (being unnecessarily cruel to Diana DeGarmo) and insinuated himself into Tuesday's show from the onset, including having to announce "This IS 'American Idol.'" Does he not know that this isn't "Saturday Night Live" and that he should have stayed in his friggin' seat in the audience? His great advice including telling Anoop to "rough it up" and growl during his song, telling us he really didn't know what Adam was going to do during his performance and fawning over Lil, as if she was the celebrity and he was a groupie. Yuck! And after all that, whatever was good on the show -- and that wasn't much -- had nothing to do with his advice.
Watch video tribute to Quentin Tarantino
The evening got off to an OK start with Allison Iraheta singing Aerosmith's "I Don't Wanna Miss a Thing" from "Armageddon," which suited her husky voice well. She was a bit shaky with the low range of song's opening but gradually improved as the song built to a rousing end. Paula tells Allison that she possesses the same "special sauce" as Adam, "and that's being authentic. You don't compromise that authenticity." Simon begins with, "Allison, yes, I think it was barbecue sauce Paula was referring to: hot, spicy," turning to Paula, "Yeh?" She agrees, he says, "Whatever." He then takes his first jab at Lil, telling Allison, "I think you are the girls only hope left in this competition right now. I really genuinely do." Unfortunately, the public disagrees, as Allison will more than likely be in the Bottom 3, while, according to DialIdol.com, Lil placed second, a spot she didn't come near deserving. Talk about the power of a fan base! Simon continues, "I don't think I've heard a girl -- let alone someone your age -- sing that song so well ... we could see you all the way through to the end now."
Watch video of Allison Iraheta singing Aerosmith's "I Don't Wanna Miss a Thing" from "Armageddon"
Perhaps the most pleasant surprise of the evening was Anoop Desai, in possibly his best performance to date, and now with two weeks of solid deliveries. Instead of doing Tarantino's growl, he put a really pleasing R&B spin on Bryan Adam's (Everything I Do) I Do It for You," from "Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves," a song that has been overdone on "Idol." Anoop, however, found a way to make it fresh and really romantic, with every single note on key. He could probably have a hit with his creative adaptation. Randy Jackson tells him that in the last couple of weeks, Anoop has really found his zone and that he's rockin' the house. "It was in tune, you had some emotion jumpin' off of it, dude. I thought you did a really good job, man." Kara says Anoop's really found his place: doing pop songs and adding soul to them. She adds that it was probably one of his best vocals and that she felt really connected to it.
Watch video of Anoop Desai singing Bryan Adam's "(Everything I Do) I Do It for You" from "Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves"
Without doubt, our favorite performance of the night belongs lock, stock and 10 blazing barrels to Adam Lambert. Talk about trapping lightning (which was his backdrop theme) in a bottle! Adam epitomizes what "Idol" should be about. Being so amazing and creative each week that you can't wait to see what he is going to do next. How good was he doing Steppenwolf's "Born to Be Wild" from "Easy Rider"? So good that all we could think is: Why is anyone else even bothering to perform? Indeed, the lightening was most appropriate for his electrifying performance, so full of energy we were jumping out of our skin watching it. His musical theater background serves him so well, it's almost frightening. This guy isn't an amateur. He was obviously ready for the pros without "Idol." But "Idol" is giving him the opportunity to easily step right into the pros. The booming ovation from the audience was stunning ... and endless. When Paula finally gets a chance to speak, she says, "The reason, Adam, that you're shaking up this whole competition is that you dare to dance in the path of greatness ... fortune rewards the brave, and you're one of the bravest contestants I've ever witnessed. Ever. I think you're fantastic." Simon says, "Adam, I think you've got to learn how to express yourself a bit more," and rolls his eyes to the audience's laughter. He continues, "Vocally, incredible. Downside for that performance to me, it was a little like watching 'The Rocky Horror' musical in parts." Adam answers, "I love the 'Rocky Horror' musical." Simon then says, "It was one of the biggest rock songs on all time, so there is going a be a huge proportion of the audience who would have loved that. There's also going to be another side that will absolutely despise it. I don't think that performance will be as popular as your one last week." Paula shouts out, "Apples and oranges." And, of course, she's right. But then, so is Simon. Though Adam clearly should have finished first this week, DialIdol has him in the No. 3 slot. As Randy would say, "Whaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaat?" And omigod, we just watched the video for about the fifth time and are as mesmerized as the first time we saw the performance. Bravo!
Watch video of Adam Lambert singing Steppenwolf's "Born to Be Wild" from "Easy Rider"
Bad enough to have to follow Adam. Even worse to follow him with the night's poorest performance. We have given up on trying to like Matt Giraud. He just can't bring it on the level he needs to every week. He can't even get through en entire song without hitting some real clunker notes. He chose another Bryan Adams song, "Have You Ever Really Loved a Woman" from "Don Juan DeMarco." Quentin Tarantino tells us that if Matt does the song the same way he did it for him, it will be one of Matt's top three performances. Is that even a compliment? Turns out, it was in his Bottom 3, where is where Matt will find himself firmly entrenched tonight. The only thing that might save him is the elimination of Kris, instead. We hated the arrangement of the song -- it was all over the place. And there were too many bad notes to count. The ending was delicious, but way too little, way too late. If Matt goes tonight, well, he deserves to. Randy says, "It started out kind of cool. When you hit the bridge, man, it hit a rough patch ... a little melody going off, a little pitchy thing going on ... when you take a song like this that's got a beautiful simple melody, you can't do all of that stuff with it. Because you're going to fall down somewhere, and you fell down more places tonight than you won ... so it wasn't one of your best performances." Kara says that Matt keeps going back and forth between rock and soul songs and when you're going to flip a song like he did it has to be a masterpiece. While she's talking, Simon is doing some weird thing, apparently showing Paula something. He opens his mouth all the way and thrusts his head and neck forward. What was up with that? Later he's just sitting there with his mouth agape. Strange. Check him out in the video.
Watch video of Matt Giraud singing Bryan Adams' "Have You Ever Really Loved a Woman" from "Don Juan DeMarco"
Ah, it must be Danny Gokey's turn. Why? Didn't you see the dead wife card being pulled out? Tonight with props. What do we mean? Oh, look, there's a big harp to accompany him. Don't they play those in heaven? On his last note of Diana Ross' "Endless Love," from the movie of the same name," Danny (wearing contacts, not glasses, so we're sure to notice) turns his misty eyes heavenward on the lyric "my endless love" as a crescendo of harp strings ends the song. We're surprised we don't see a portrait of his late wife projected on the ceiling of the theater, gazing down and waving lovingly to him. Give it a rest, Danny. Yes, it's a tragedy you lost you're wife. But be a man and stop milking it in a feeble attempt to try to win the competition. But, smart marketer that you are, it worked. Though your performance was average bordering on corny -- you didn't even come close to Adam's level this week -- the viewers have put you in first place. There must be a lot of horny cougars out there hungry for a widower with no kids. Paula starts by telling Danny that from the opening of the performance she wasn't sure that the key shouldn't have been lowered, then, while Simon fidgets, goes on about the magical timbre of his voice and says he pulled it together by the end -- "you grab us in the beginning, you wow us in the middle and you slay us at the end" -- eventually calling it "a beautiful, beautiful rendition." Simon says he can't really fault the way Danny sang the song, calling him a brilliant singer, but says that he's disappointed "that we had the harp and that we had a very traditional version of the song. Whereas last year, when David [Cook] did the Lionel Richie song ["Hello"] he made it into his unique version. I was kind of a bit bored [with yours]. That's all you did with it. So I'm slightly disappointed to be honest with you." But then, in an out-of-character mush moment, Simon adds, "Having said that, I think this song obviously means a lot to you personally, and I can see that you're emotional, and it's a hard thing to do. So (pause) I congratulate you for that." Oh, Simon, since when can't you see when you're being manipulated?
Watch video of Danny Gokey singing Diana Ross' "Endless Love" from "Endless Love"
Tarantino tells us that he thinks Kris Allen lived up to the spirit of the competition the most by picking a movie ("Once") that meant something to him and picking the song that was perfect for him (Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova's "Falling Slowly"). Tarantino also encourages Kris to play an instrument for the performance. Fortunately, Kris ignores the suggestion. Unfortunately, not only is the song obscure, the 4-minute original doesn't sustain when chopped to 1:49. The instrumentality that is so vital to it gets lost as well as what little (very little) drama it possesses. Though beautifully sung by Kris -- perhaps even better than Hansard did it -- the abridgement is, well, boring. At this point, the show is seriously looking like it's going to run over, and Randy and Kara are given less than a minute to speak. He says, "It never quite caught on for me, and I love that song. But for me, it was pitchy from note 1." She says, "Difficult to pick an obscure song like that maybe not everybody knows (er, isn't that the definition of obscure, genius?), but for me, it was (spacing her words with pauses) one ... of ... your ... best ... moments (long pause) Evah!
Watch video of Kris Allen singing Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova's "Falling Slowly" from "Once"
When we heard that Lil Rounds was going to be doing the title song from Bette Midler's "The Rose," we thought here comes another train wreck. And, to be honest, when we listened live, we hated it. Yet, we liked it a bit on playback. It took us a while to figure out what threw us off. The opening is so well-known you can't just throw some parts of it away. Lil discarded the lyric
"some say love it is a razor/
that leaves the soul to bleed."
The melody does not jump comfortably from
Some say love, it is a river
That drowns the tender reed
Some say love, it is a hunger
An endless aching need
especially when you're changing it up with R&B styling. Plus, the entire second stanza was dropped, whose words, to us, are more meaningful than the first's:
It's the heart, afraid of breaking
That never learns to dance
It's the dream, afraid of waking
That never takes the chance
It's the one who won't be taken
Who cannot seem to give
And the soul, afraid of dying
That never learns to live
Had Lil left the opening traditional and then jumped into her gospel-tinged R&B version it could have been great. As it was, for us at least, it was one of the night's worst. Paula talks to Lil about the beautiful lyrics (what about the missing ones?) but never addresses her performance at all. Thankfully, Simon says to Paula, "I have absolutely no idea what you just said there." To Lil, he says, "I think that you're getting this completely wrong. The song was too soft for you. It was too middle of the road. You had some nice moments in there, but, you know, there are no excuses anymore, Lil. You know, you are not the artist I believe we met seven or eight weeks ago. I'm getting frustrated ..." During this, the camera pans back and forth from his face to hers, and you could tell Lil was getting angry. While Simon is talking, she turns and says something to Ryan. Simon stops and says, "No, what do you want to say?"
Lil: "OK, I really want to say something real quick, Simon. You know, you guys told me to be an artist. And when I heard this song, I thought it was a beautiful song. And I put my own bit to it. Because I'm into the R&B and the soul and the gospel. And I put it in there and I told ..."
Simon: "But, but, but ..."
Lil: "And I thought it was really good. I really do."
Simon: "But, Lil ..."
Ryan: "We've got to leave it at that."
Simon: "OK, but it was a Bette Midler song."
Lil: "I know it was Bette Midler. And I know that she's not an artist that you'd necessarily see me doing ..."
Lil (getting strident): "But I honestly put an R&B feel to it and I ..."
Paula: "Don't ever be afraid to say what you feel Lil. Those who matter, don't mind" (Shut up Paula!)
Ryan cuts it off her. Simon looks seriously pissed. Lil better hope that DialIdol is right and that she doesn't need to get saved tonight.
Watch video of Lil Rounds singing Bette Midler's "The Rose" from "The Rose"
Our Top 3:
Danny Gokey/Allison Iraheta (tie)
Our Bottom 3:
Should be eliminated: Matt Giraud
Will be eliminated: Kris or Matt or Allison (we think if it's Allison, they'll save her)
Tonight Jennifer Hudson and Miley Cyrus perform.
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