'American Idol': Dolly Parton Days
In a suspicious show of collegiality and generosity, our real TV columnist has given the keys to "American Idol" blogdom this week to Tamara Jones, auxiliary backup Designated Idol Watcher. We are certain the very real danger of possibly hearing nine Idolette renditions of "Islands in the Stream" on Dolly Parton night had nothing to do with this decision.
Well, forge our pigeon, it's Dolly Parton night on "American Idol"! How much weirder can this show get?
The answer is "a lot," if you count the spine-freezing demonstration the country star gives the Idolettes of her ability to play "9-to-5" sans guitar by clicking her acrylic dragonlady fingernails against each other.
The first clue that it's gonna be one of those nights is the pink straw that has appeared in judge Paula Abdul's magic Coke cup, suggesting even the queen of optimism needs a more direct delivery system to ease the pain of the next hour.
Parton's "mentoring" involves hugs but no actual advice, so Brooke White takes what she can from her, namely her false eyelashes. Brooke is so pitchy on "Jolene" she can't even blink in tune.
Paula says, "You are who you are: You are Brooke White." Judge Simon Cowell agrees this is true. Brooke ignores him to go into obsequious overdrive, telling Paula her hair looks great, and Paula says, thanks, so does Brooke's.
An audience scan reveals Vanna White in the VIP row, er, seat, and it is reassuring to know that Fox has a highly trained professional on hand now to provide emergency vowels when Paula needs them.
David Cook is given yet another chance to explain at length how he finds most of his arrangements online, but he hastens to add he's done his own arrangement of "Little Sparrow," which has an appealing Sting-like quality.
Judge Randy Jackson says "Check it out, baby," but it isn't clear whether he means the performance or the entire Joan Rivers collection of bracelets, chains and earrings Randy is wearing. Simon thinks David C. isn't as good as last week, but grudgingly allows that "if you can make a song about a sparrow good, which actually you did, congratulations."
Ramiele Malubay performs "Do I Ever Cross Your Mind?" Parton says she "picked a good little song, because she's tiny like me." In truth, Ramiele has just set herself up as her own punch line when she sings the chorus that asks, "I wonder, do I ever cross your mind?"
Randy gives it 6.5 out of 10, while Paula gushes that Ramiele "had a really great minute and 30 seconds." Simon thinks she belongs on a cruise ship.
More video of Parton's mentoring shows her tugging on Jason Castro's dreadlocks, which fortunately do not break off, as he told fans earlier this season once happened on a dinner date. Speaking of fans, show host Ryan Seacrest has a handful of postcards he says the same woman keeps sending Jason, and he quotes from one merely saying Jason's voice makes the woman's tensions melt away. The postcard shows a tranquil lake in the Colorado Rockies, and the fact that the Fox police don't have it in a baggie in the Fox Evidence Vault dashes our hopes of exciting stalker plot turns later in the season.
Jason sings "Travelin' Thru." Randy thinks he worked it out and Paula declares it one of Jason's strongest performances. Simon takes yet another swipe at the 62-year-old legendary guest mentor by saying, "This is the point where I lose my season pass for Dollywood."
Carly Smithson turns the bouncy "Here You Come Again," into a lovely ballad, but her critique-basking is cut bizarrely short by Randy and Paula arguing over whether the final note on her song last week was out of tune or not. Simon decrees Carly's performance this week good but not great, and sinks further into his evening-long sulk: "Sorry, just one of those nights."
Then he tells Carly she needs to have a word "with whoever is dressing you at this moment," because he doesn't seem to think the saggy black halter top and muddy leggings and nondescript boots say star quality. Paula thinks the same could be said about Simon's (three-T-shirt) wardrobe.
Dolly Parton gets a social services file opened on herself by repeatedly licking her lips, clasping her bosom and hugging 17-year-old David Archuleta waaaaaaaay too hard. "I can feel the heat," she actually says.
Baby Elmo pries himself loose and changes into Ozzie Nelson's old argyle sweater and an appliance salesman's blazer to croon "Smoky Mountain Memories." He gets mad props from the judges, and whoops of "We love you, David!" from the mosh pit, which seems to be populated by several busloads of middle-aged women.
Kristy Lee Cook is notable on "Coat of Many Colors" only for her bare feet, which Ryan Seacrest notices have a nice French pedicure. The girls seem to be favoring halters tonight -- you won't see that on Neil Diamond night -- and for a frightening moment, Ryan appears to be untying the spaghetti string holding Kristy Lee's tribute to Dolly Parton together.
After Simon dismisses her as "pleasant but forgettable," Kristy Lee shoots him her secret Bad Seed narrow-eyed look and taunts, "Thank you, Simon, love you." We are pretty certain she is going to beat the winning Idol to death with her shoe this year because the medal should be hers.
Syesha Mercado throws caution and humility to the wind and takes on "I Will Always Love You" (yes, it's a Dolly Parton song) and proves yet again she is no Whitney Houston, even though she can hold the word "love" for approximately three commercial breaks.
Simon tries to make amends for dissing the guest star all night by now declaring, "You forget what a brilliant songwriter Dolly Parton is" and throws Syesha half a bone while he's at it by concluding she was "good, not fantastic."
Parton is impressed in her session with Michael Johns, the glossy Aussie, who was likewise impressed by her. "I could tell gen-u-winely he was a real fan," she reported, adding that he could become a star "and I think I could probably write some good songs for him."
Johns aces a bluesy "It's All Wrong but It's Alright," and Randy calls him "blazin' hot." Paula babbles verblessly about "all of great melodies, great rock star. A blues star." Simon has just enough time before the credits roll to praise Johns for "the best I have heard you sing."
We've made it through Dolly Parton night before you know it, only to realize we feel cheated that no one went for "9 to 5." And probably no one ever will again, given the nails.
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