Idol's Twangy Grand Ole Opry Week
Guest blogger Tamara Jones fills in this week for Washington Post television columnist Lisa de Moraes.
Please, Jesus, take the wheel. And the remote, too.
Just when we thought the PTSD flashbacks were finally subsiding from Dolly Parton's acoustic acrylic fingernail performance of "9-to-5" last year, it's Grand Ole Opry Week all over again on American Idol.
And when guest mentor Randy Travis reckons right off the bat that the best he can do for these 11 Idolette finalists is "teach 'em to train horses," we know it's going to be a bumpy ride.
This season's token twangster, Michael Sarver, may be in his genre, but unfortunately, he's not exactly in key while lumbering through Garth Brooks' "Ain't Going Down." Most likely he is, come Wednesday night's results show. (Um, can we vote that hot harmonica player through, instead, please?)
Freshman judge Kara Dio Guardi, dressed in silvery lame in case her battlestar calls her home mid-show, commends Sarver for remembering "a million" words. Simon Cowell points out that none of them were intelligible, and "you could've been singing in Norwegian."
"If we were all perfect, we wouldn't need this show," Sarver snaps back.
Sixteen-year-old Allison Iraheta belts out "Blame It On Your Heart" to unanimous approval, but judge Paula Abdul is starting to look glassy-eyed, and she stammers something about experimenting and vulnerability. Simon catches a promising whiff of blood in the shark tank and turns on her: "What did you mean by that?" Paula says Allison knows. Allison wisely stays out of it.
Next up is ... David Archuleta? No, wait. It's Kris Allen, who is looking and sounding exactly like Baby Elmo from last season, only after puberty. He does a ballad-y Garth Brooks song, "To Make You Feel My Love." We're about to note that it's nice enough for someone who's sleep-singing, but then the Four Horsemen of the Idocalypse go all ape for him, and we hate that, because now we have to second-guess ourselves.
Paula is saying "vulnerable" again, and judge Randy Jackson grants the supreme honor of calling Kris "my dawg," and Simon calls him "a tender puppy," which is a little creepy. Even host Ryan Seacrest jumps on the praisewagon, telling Kris it was "like the wind was singing out of you," which we're pretty sure he didn't mean the way it sounds.
Lil Rounds looks divalicious in a curvy fuschia dress, but the favored finalist's rendition of "Independence Day" is a screechy departure from her usual R&B comfort zone.
"Look, Lit-tle," Simon starts to lecture.
"Lil," she politely corrects him.
"Little," he says again.
"Lil," she insists.
Faced with such insubordination, Simon resorts to his wedding-singer insult, which falls somewhere between his karaoke singer and cruise-ship singer insults. The guy may be mean - and often right - but creative, he ain't. Creative is when you point out that Simon's haircut looks like a hedgehog who's just reported for basic training.
Now it's time for another anointed favorite, Adam Lambert, to terrorize Randy Travis by announcing plans to perform a sitar version of Johnny Cash's classic "Ring of Fire."
"I'm speechless," says Randy Travis, clearly wishing Adam could be, too.
Adam writhes, he sneers, he tries to make his eyes do a Jim Morrison stare through his false eyelashes, but mostly he yowls like a cat being sucked up through a very long vacuum hose. With the giant backdrop screen of hellish flames, the whole effect is like a campy remake of one of those old "Dragnet" episodes showing the dangers of teenagers tripping out. ("That's why they call it dope.")
"What the hell was that?" Simon wonders aloud. Randy thinks Adam is "current," which is Randy code for anything later than 1979. Paula and Kara seem confused but happy enough.
Scott MacIntyre channels Martina McBride to sing "Wild Angels" in a big, forgettably pleasant Crystal Cathedral way. Paula wants him to stop using the piano as a crutch, which Simon says is a stupid thing to say, which makes Paula wag her finger in Simon's face and tell him to stop being disrespectful. Somewhere in the ensuing argument about Billy Joel using a piano, and Elton John using a piano, Randy joins the fray to say, "What if it's Ray Charles week?" which is about the 47th blind faux pas the visually impaired MacIntyre has had to endure so far this season. Someone get us out of here.
Alexis Grace offers a rote recital of Dolly Parton's "Jolene," which Simon pans as too "sound-alike."
"What's 'sound-alike' mean?" Alexis asks, winning this week's clueless award.
Anoop Desai, who narrowly escaped elimination last week only to have Simon tell him he didn't deserve to be on the show, found redemption in "You Were Always On My Mind."
"You've gone from zero to hero!" Simon tells him.
Danny Gokey delivers a soulful "Jesus, Take the Wheel" while bundled in a white straitjacket that Simon thinks makes him look like a ridiculous polar explorer in 80-degree L.A. weather.
We think Megan Joy Corkrey brings a lot to the show, though that regretfully includes Carly Smithson's tattooed right arm from last season. Tonight, she's also brought the flu, which may be contributing to her engagingly delirious Maria Muldaur-ish take on "Walkin' After Midnight."
Paula notes that Megan Joy has been to the hospital and back, and Simon likes her performance so much that he tells Megan Joy, "You should have the flu every week!" Megan Joy gratefully coughs all over the studio audience. Ryan hands her a tissue and triumphantly announces that Megan Joy has "Influenza Type B."
Guess what, Ryan? Now you do, too! Randy Travis and the band and the hair stylists and the makeup people and the entire production crew are all going to appreciate Megan Joy's stoicism, as well! You go, Typhoid Megan!!
After the commercial break, the camera lingers on Paula either nibbling or sniffing the extended arm of Simon, who seems to be an equal participant in whatever kinky little reindeer game they're playing. Ryan has to tell them to stop it so Matt Giraud can close the show.
Matt powers through "So Small" (twenty-kajillion Grand Ole Opry songs to choose from, yet two out of the 11 belong to former Idol winner Carrie Underwood? Quelle concidence).
Kara yanks the Fox Decency Police back from their donut break with her lascivious declaration that "there's nothing small about you, that's fershure." Paula and Simon agree he's a "heart-piercer."
We're willing to agree to anything, even the flu, as long as Opry Week is over.
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