'American Idol': 8 Stabs at Inspiration
This week, the Idolettes are charged with singing inspirational songs to warm up the crowd to drop some serious coin less than 24 hours later on "Idol Gives Back," which, judging by the number of celebs who've signed on, promises to be the greatest orgy of excess in the history of television. It's gotten so out of hand Fox is going to have to start the show 30 minutes before prime time even begins.
Michael Johns gets all cause-y right off the bat, saying he's gonna sing Aerosmith's "Dream On" because he came to this country with a dream and if you dream and are willing to work hard you can achieve your dream. Mistaking us for someone who cares.
Judge Randy Jackson jumps on the Treacle Wagon, marveling at how important this week is because it will enable us to learn who the Idolettes really are. But then Randy starts to suck air through his teeth -- the international sign for "not great singing, just a'ight."
Randy says he doesn't buy Michael as Aerosmith. Me neither -- maybe it's the short-sleeved button-down shirt, ascot and vest -- a kind of aeronautical engineer's idea of a rocker look.
Michael's not taking Randy's lip. "You've got a 20-piece orchestra here -- I'm up here living the American Dream!"
"This show is about being the best singer -- not about dreams," Randy shoots back. Oh, Snap!
"I couldn't disagree more," Judge Paula Abdul says. Her spectacular shoes bob in agreement. In honor of "Idol Gives Back" week, Paula is dressed for a Renaissance festival.
Paula says "Dream On" was the perfect song for Michael -- so much so that her Chihuahuas nearly joined him on stage for the high notes. I think she meant that as a compliment. Judge Simon Cowell doesn't like it when Michael impersonates a rock star; he says he should stick with impersonating R&B stars.
Show host Ryan Seacrest wonders how Simon's Chihuahuas reacted to the performance. Simon says he doesn't have any Chihuahuas. "Take a tight shot -- you'll see," Seacrest cracks. Simon doesn't get it and, god help us, turns to Paula for guidance. Paula's shoes whisper to Simon they will explain later.
Syesha Mercado tells Seacrest she misses last week's bootee, Ramiele Malubay, because "she was the only one that really got me." Which is inspiring the other Idolettes to pray Syesha gets whacked this week. She says she's going to sing "'I Believe' by Fantasia" and then sings a very pale version of the song previous Idolette winner Fantasia Barrino slew. It's only slightly better than last week when Syesha did a pale version of a song Whitney Houston nailed.
Randy and Syesha get into a lot of crosstalk when Randy suggests she's no Fantasia. "Are you comparing me to her?" Syesha asks, incredulously.
Well, duh -- yes.
Jason "Dreamy Blue Eyes" Castro does the Israel Kamakawiwo'ole version of "Somewhere Over the Rainbow. " Which is nice, except that, like the version he's covering, the lyrics are botched. Do not mess with me and "Somewhere Over the Rainbow." This seems to be is totally lost on the judges who, we've been learning this season, have holes in their musical education the size of Israel Kamakawiwo'ole.
"Jason Castro is back in the hot -- that was the hottest. Blazing molten hot!" Randy gushes.
"Honest to god it was the perfect song and I loved that version," Paula gushes as her shoes heave.
"The first time I heard that I wasn't sure; the second time I love it; and the third time -- fantastic," chimes in Simon.
DBE has become the Grim Reaper of "American Idol" -- both Kamakawiwo'ole and Jeff Buckley, whose version of "Hallelujah" secured Jason's safety weeks earlier in the competition, died tragically young.
Kristy Lee Cook comes on in her trademark sparkly tank top and tight pants. Is this her good luck outfit? She sings this week's country-gal tune, "Anyway." Randy gives her the "pitchy moment" line; Paula tells him to stuff a sock in it and calls it Kristy Lee's "best by far." Simon says, "You were very very good indeed. Tonight you look like a star."
Paula's shoes get so excited, they are in grave danger of wardrobe malfunctioning. They have our undivided attention for the rest of the night.
Fox reality programming chief Mike Darnell is sitting in Simon's lap. We love Mike, whom Simon correctly identifies as the "Dark Lord of 'American Idol.'" Sadly, no one ever explains why Mike is sitting on Simon's lap.
David Cook sings "Innocent" pretentiously. Randaula doesn't love it. Simon correctly calls it "a teensy-weensy bit pompous." Paula tries to give him points for daring to have written "Give Back" in ink on the palm of his hand, which he flashes, insufferably, at the end of his performance. Now Carly Smithson, she would have had it tattooed on her forehead. Nonetheless David C.'s fans in the audience are wildly impressed at his bravery and roar. He gives them a condescending Queen Mother wave.
Carly does not have "Give Back" tattooed on her face. But she delivers a very angry performance of Queen's "The Show Must Go On." Randaula doesn't feel connected with it. Simon says she looks great, which is true, but she oversang the song and lost control of it and her anger was "out of kilter with the evening" and he predicts she's in trouble this week. Carly says she lost it about halfway through the song when she saw Simon scowling.
This year's winner, David Archuleta, apologizes for practicing late at night and waking up the neighbors. He sings "Angels" because he's already blown through his inspirational song repertoire -- that's what he does -- and this is what's left. He says this song reminds him there's always a light at the end of the tunnel. Which is good to hear right about now in this evening of endless blandorama inspirational song singing. The smoke machines are in full gear during his performance but the song never takes off, so to speak.
Nonetheless, Randy calls it David's "hottest moment of the whole season -- crazy hot!" Paula says the screaming of the little girls in the audience sums up how she feels, too. Her shoes struggle for air in her bustier. Simon can't figure why this song has never been a hit in this country because it's one of the best ever pop songs. David will "sail through" to the next round, Simon boldly predicts.
And, finally, Nanny Brooke gets the chance to performs "You've Got a Friend" in the manner of the love child of Mister Rogers and Carole King, ruining the song for us forever. Randy didn't love it; Nanny Brooke, her Sad but Loving Look screwed firmly on her face, simpers that it's okay. Paula starts to yammer about how her sister used to play the song over and over, then collapses with "I love you" to Brooke, who "I love you, too's" right back at her. We resist the urge to take up smoking.
Simon calls Nanny B.'s performance "a pleasant walk in the park," adding, "Thank you." Nanny Brooke is so moved by her own performance she's shaking, as Seacrest notes, hugging her to comfort her.
As The Washington Post Team TV's Designated Backup 'American Idol' Watcher Tamara Jones notes, if we were playing Paula's All the Colors of the Rainbow Game, tonight's show is mauve. My cellphone ringtone is more inspirational. We won't think about that. We'll think about Brad Pitt, just hours away, on "Idol Gives Back."
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