Disco Takes its Toll On "American Idol"

Ever since Tuesday's Disco Performance Night on "American Idol," host Ryan Seacrest has been bragging about how the show actually came in at some semblance of "on time."

"Whoopie!" Seacrest tweeted of the Tuesday show's on-time-ness, revealing the producers had accomplished this remarkable feat -- in marked contrast to a recent performance episode's 9-minute overrun -- by scrapping the pre-taped bits, as well as the traditional Mentoring of Idolettes by a former star of whatever is the week's genre. Generally, you expect the mentor to show up the next night to perform during the results show.

But, like we said, all scrapped this week. Which explains why viewers are so completely unprepared for Wednesday's Results Show Disco Infirmary.

Sexagenarians Freda Payne and Thelma Houston are on stage, singing their signature tunes and jiggling but not in a good way. Payne wears a too sheer evening gown and Houston a bright yellow nightie. Imagine your grandmother dressed as a canary, singing:

"Come on, Simon,
Satisfy a need in me."

I've had nightmares that were less disturbing.

Also coming out to sing: KC of Sunshine Band fame. The Sunshine Band apparently couldn't make it, so KC, aka Harry Wayne Casey, is joined on stage by a quartet of hotties, only two of whom sing and hardly any of whom dance.

Two Idolettes are getting whacked tonight because the judges tossed away their one and only Judges's Save Card on Matt Giraud, who we're supposed to believe is this season's Jennifer Hudson. If the train is to remain on schedule -- this show has to wrap the week of May 18 -- two competitors must go this week. If someone with talent gets whacked tonight won't the judges feel foolish about saving Matt.

There were 45 million votes cast this week, show host Ryan Seacrest tells us. "Idol" Judge Paula Abdul choreographed this week's Disco Group Lip Synch. The Idolettes are all dressed like cast members getting ready for a sock-it-to-me segment from Rowan & Martin's Laugh-in." Their number is a little disco, a little Michael Flatley, a little power walkin'. After it's over, Seacrest brings Abdul on stage so she can receive a huge bouquet of flowers, like it's opening night of the New York ballet. Paula receives one flower for every five seconds of choreography she created for the Idolettes. Having been presented with the flowers, Paula gives her best Miss America wave -- all of Paula's fantasies rolled into one.

Seacrest kills time until the last Idolette has changed out of his/her disco costume and returned to the Sofa of Safety.

Time for the Ford Music Video. This time the Idolettes break into groups: some will bake cupcakes, others will make a cinderblock wall and still others will wash a large-ish dog, after which they all go to a karoake bar -- all while singing some tune about being good and being gone. It's unclear what is the message of this week's Ford Music Video but it appears Ford is anti-cupcake, anti-wall building and anti-dog washing.

Finally, it's time to whack some Idolettes.

Seacrest asks Lil Rounds to stand Up. Seacrest asks Lil to walk over to the other side of the stage. Seacrest tells Lil she's history. Wow, that was fast. Lil got cut one night after she had donned a cat suit and discoed her way through "I'm Every Woman," and the judges told her they had no idea who she is.

Though Lil had hardly ever hit a right note since the early stages of the competition, she had been a voter fave, owing to her pluck and her three adorable little children. "It's been a heck of a fight, and we've been proud to have you on this show," Seacrest gushes after giving her the hook. The judges begin to fawn over her, because they're relieved. One down, without embarrassing them over last week's Judges Save choice.

Kris Allen is asked to stand. Seacrest wonders whether Kris understands Paula's comment the night before that of all the men who shop in women's stories, he's her favorite. Kris says he does, without elaborating. That seems to satisfy Seacrest, who tells him to sit back down on the Sofa of Safety, because he's surviving to sing another week.

Seacrest asks Adam Lambert to stand. He wonders whether Adam thought his achy breaky ballad version of "If I Can't Have You" was a big risk.

Yes, of course, Adam responds, explaining he had hoped people would recognize the original tune, but then he read the lyrics and realized it did not matter, so long as the lyrics were sung honestly.

Seacrest, who'd tuned out at "yes, of course," tells Adam to shove a sock in it and sit down because he's safe.

Danny Gokey is up next and tries to bait Simon for having called his performance this week "clumsy."

"You know, I thought about it -- I meditated a lot on it...because all you [Simon] say up here is 'you're clumsy,' " Danny says with that service employee's I'm-smiling-cause-I-have-to grin on his face.

"So, I don't know what you mean by that, but I think I figured it out, so if I stay I think I might be able to fix that," Danny adds.

Ryan wants Simon to explain what he meant by "clumsy."

"You know what being clumsy is about," Simon shoots back.

Seacrest asks the clumsy question again.

"That's a longer conversation, Ryan. You are being facetious. Go back to the contestants," Simon snaps.

So Ryan declares Danny safe.

That leaves Allison Iraheta and Matt Giraud. Matt is safe; Allison is sent to the Stemware of Shame.

But she's not there for long -- just long enough for a previous season's Idolette, David Archuleta, to sing and prattle on merrily about how losing at "Idol" is only the start of a brilliant career. Just look at him -- he's opening for Demi Lovato.

The results are in. Anoop is out, after messing with the disco genre when he sang "Dim All the Lights" in a pink sweater and baby-beard.

"It's almost like you're numb to this after all these weeks" in the bottom three, Seacrest guesses.

"On the bright side -- I'm going back to Chapel Hill ," UNC BMOC Anoop says, with a smile.

By Lisa de Moraes  |  April 23, 2009; 8:31 AM ET "American Idol"
Previous: Disco Night on "American Idol" | Next: Craig Ferguson vs. Simon Cowell


Please email us to report offensive comments.

Allison was in the bottom three last night. If she had gone home, the judges would have looked terrible. There was no reason to waste that save on Matt G last week. Anyway, this was another great post, Ms. De Moraes.

Posted by: peter_colt | April 23, 2009 8:42 AM

Wow, a whole lot of disco coochie being shown last night - from Paula's near wardrobe malfunction (when she went to get the flowers, that dress rode up REALLY high - watch it again in slo-mo); Freda's see thru number and last but not least, Thelma's "shoes" looked like they were ready to make their escape at any moment!

The reason the Sunshine Band couldn't make it with KC last night? He ate them.

I need to start voting for Allison. How in the h*ll did Matt survive another week? Tick tock, tick tock, it's just a matter of time for you, dude.

So long, farewell, auf weidersehen Lil Rounds.

Anoop, oh poop, for you there's no more sounds.

Posted by: jpstang | April 23, 2009 9:02 AM

I'm glad that this week is over. Disco is probably the worst thing ever to happen to pop culture. That said I'm glad that Lil and Anoop are gone. Next up will be Matt, then Danny. And I'm with peter_colt...I'm going to start voting for Allison.

Posted by: fnht451 | April 23, 2009 9:13 AM

Freda Payne's performance was payneful!!!! Thelma was not much better. I too worried about a wardrobe malfunction on Paula (Whoa, lady, too short!) and Thelma. Thank-God for dvr. Once I got over my initial shock I hit the fastforward. Knew I was gonna need it when David A sang. And KC, dude, time to hang it up and live off the royalties.

Missed most of the group number due to a recording problem but guess I didn't miss much.

Voters got it right and the right two idolettes went home. Allison did not deserve bottom 3.

What did they say next week's theme was?

Posted by: hodie | April 23, 2009 9:35 AM

Lisa nailed it with the description of Thelma Houston's disturbing outfit and performance (my husband said it looked like she was asleep and someone woke her up and said, "Thelma, you're on!" and she ran to the stage without changing out of her nightgown). But I also thought it was equally weird to hear a granny, albeit a heavily-botoxed-to-the-point-of-masklike granny, singing a song from the point of view of a naive, jilted newlywed. Whatever happened to growing old gracefully? I guess that doesn't happen on TV anymore. (Please, if I ever contemplate "having a little work done" on my face, show me a picture of Freda Payne to bring me to my senses.)

Meanwhile David Archuleta's song was like warmed over Coldplay, with lyrics that sounded like they were written by an earnest and not very imaginative high school student. zzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

I was not totally surprised by Anoop and Lil being sent home. But I was surprised by Allison being in the bottom 3 instead of Matt. Maybe the Idol audience is not a rock audience: see Daughtry. But she's one of 3 people who I look forward to seeing what she's going to do each week (the others are Kris and Adam). Hope she sticks around.

Posted by: owingsmills | April 23, 2009 10:12 AM

owingsmills - I fully agree with your comments about the results and the show.

My husband and I, in our college and beyond dating years enjoyed dancing to this music. He decided to watch show with me because he was too tired to do anything else. We felt like we were watching a train wreck. I had DVRed it too, to ff through Ryan and commercials, but we were mesmerized by the horror. A few people can sing in their twilight years - none of these performers could. Their sound and appearances were embarrassments. So if I, as a onetime fan of this music am disgusted, how could any young adult or teen find this even remotely interesting? Frankly, most oldie artists should not sing their own songs, but have them covered by fresher artists, if this music is going to be showcased. A few seasons ago, Diana Ross did an okay job as a mentor, but was a vocal mess.

Disturbed that Alison was in bottom 3 instead of Matt, but she may get a bounce from Lil voters next week.

RELIEVED Lil went home first. When her name was called first, my husband and I looked at each other in disbelief - surely she is not safe. SHOCKED that AI dealt with her so fast. What was up there? They are very calculated. Wanted to give her a guaranteed singing platform that people would watch since they would be waiting for more results? She got fawned over by judges, and no Paula, she was not better 2nd time, she was worse. Note, that Anoop, a far better singer, didn't get any judge advice and warm fuzzies.

Something was very strange about Baby Elmo's voice, besides the BORING emo song. Contrasted to David Cook a few weeks ago, it confirmed that the better contestant won.

Posted by: MarriedMom | April 23, 2009 10:43 AM

Wow the disco medley was something else and that's not a compliment. Freda sounded like she was gasping for breath in her she through dress. Thelma, Thelma I guess the seamtress forgot additional fabric unbelievable. KC and David A weren't good either.

I am not surprised that Lil and Anoop went home.

Posted by: kedward3 | April 23, 2009 10:48 AM

I hereby dub Matt - Teflon Matt. Allison in the bottom 3 and not him? There truly isn't any justice in this world - as the three pitiful and pitiable disco performances proved. It's also a good lesson that you should not try to hang onto the past. Keep your fond memories - but remember that life moves on.

That was all as painful to me as years ago seeing Aretha Franklin on late night TV still trying to stuff herself into a tight jumpsuit. I wondered, "Who let her out like that?????" Don't these performers have anybody (family, friends or stylists) who truly care about them enough to gently suggest they might take it in another direction (and right off of AI)? Or were they actually paid that much to have no shame?

What is going on with Allison? Is her styling bugging people so much that she ends up in the Bottom 3? She isn't ugly - she isn't dorky - but I'm guessing the "getups" are just not helping her make her case.

Last week's honestly looked to me like one of the Munchkins welcoming me to Lollipop Land. All she needed to add were the horizontally striped stockings.

How about this suggestion? A simple white Gap T-shirt and a good fitting pair of jeans? ELIMINATE distractions - like weird Munchkin shrug things and rubberhosen.

It's clear that the show's producers aren't going to give her the same "production value" in her numbers - so I think she should shine her own spotlight on her great voice by eliminating the background "noise" of the styling. Liked the hairdo with the bangs - the cut is a definite improvement over when she started the show.

You're young Allison - but please learn now that less is more - less is more (in the getup department, anyway). Don't getup - just get down (with the serious singing).

Posted by: jqw3827 | April 23, 2009 11:13 AM

The special guest disco stars felt like one of those really bad free concerts at 4:00 on a weeknight at the State Fair. Yikes. And it proved that those of us ladies who have reached a certain age should not go sleeveless, as our arms continue to wave when we stop waving. And ladies, if ya forget to shave your underarms for a few days, ya might want to wear sleeves as well (Lil, ewwww!). Surprising about Allison. You just never know. Go, Danny!

Posted by: ILoveToSinga | April 23, 2009 11:15 AM

I would have kept Anoop in a heartbeat over Matt G.
While Anoop's voice is not terribly exciting, it is pleasant, on key, and should sell records.
Matt G. is just painful. He never should have been saved, and the judges dodged a bullet last night. It would have been very embarrassing for them if Allison had been whacked. Like Lisa said, once a knife is introduced in the first act, it must be used eventually. Just one of many boneheaded decisions by AI in their attempt to breath new life into a tired franchise.

Posted by: Slinger61 | April 23, 2009 11:52 AM

Was that distubing or what? Theda and Thelma were sort of zombie-scary, the sexy '70's coming out of a coffin after 30 years of putrification. Kept thinking of 900 year-old Cinderella from "The 10th Kingdom", and if they were about to start diintegrating on stage. Massive K.C. and his 4 hotties were actually amusing, in a weird sort of way.

Really liked Paula's dance number. She has one true talent and choreography is it. Best group number on AI in years.

Lost real excitement for this year's show when talented Alexis got booted almost at the starting gate (so that we could be treated to extra weeks of audial torture from those superior Tour-bound prodigies: Oil Rig, Caw-caw, Scott, and Lil). But Kris, Adam and Alison are so clearly the best remaining now. Here's to the Lake Michigan boys going under in the next 2 weeks, leaving us with a worthy Final Three.

Next week is the anniversary of Brooke's tearful departure last year. Saddest moment of AI7. Let's get out the hankies and play "Let It Be" on our i-tunes.

Posted by: Brookelover | April 23, 2009 12:11 PM

where was the interaction w/ Anoop where he got sent to the stemware of shame?

You mention Alison and that's it? ... if you forgot I don't blame you...last night's show had me nodding off too.

Posted by: cdiasmd | April 23, 2009 2:01 PM

Every AI show I watch has me constantly wondering what our beloved Lisa is fully thinking and what she has to edit out of her blog, which while hilarious, might not work in print to a broader audience. From last night's goofy group song, through Lil's sayonara, Freda sounding like cardiac arrest could happen any minute, Thelma's shoes might run away, creepy KC, and pathetic DA, I kept wondering, "what is Lisa writing"?

I think a great charity fund-raiser would be an evening watching one of the upcoming final shows with Lisa and hearing her comments firsthand. Hell, I'd big on that anytime.

Posted by: MarriedMom | April 23, 2009 3:10 PM

Thelma Houston last night reminded me of that woman from a couple seasons ago who wore a canary yellow outfit with flowers and was a *little* past the age cut-off. I think it was the same season as the "bush-baby" guy and his "special" friend.

I really enjoyed Paula's choreography of the group lip-synch. Surprisingly, liked the Ford commercial, too. Though, for Earth Day (or was it the day after Earth Day?) I'd have thought they'd showcase something other than what looked like a land-boat.

Still don't enjoy listening to David A. wheeze...or attempt an off-the-cuff interview.

Can't add to what was already said about the actual performances of the senior crew. Man, that was painful.

Though as far as the worst thing that ever happened to pop culture, I must say that disco was nowhere near as bad as the folk music of the '60/'70s, or "Hee-Haw" for that matter, which spawned "Beverly Hillbillies", "Green Acres" and "Petticoat Junction". Some referred to it as "bumpkin chic". And yet we survived.

Posted by: SheldonAlexandria | April 23, 2009 4:15 PM

canary yellow outfit with *feathers*, not flowers

Posted by: SheldonAlexandria | April 23, 2009 4:16 PM

That's Uncle Joe, he's-a movin' kinda slow, at the Junction! I'm thinking this should be next week's genre...TV theme songs. Let's just see what Adam can do with "Theme From Gilligan's Island".

Posted by: ILoveToSinga | April 23, 2009 4:47 PM

Theme idea: Wedding reception standards - that way the idolettes can also audition for weddings while competing. From now through October t'is the season. ;-)

Or how about Karoake bar favorites.
Or Rock Band/Guitar Hero favorites - something the tweens can relate to.

Posted by: MarriedMom | April 23, 2009 5:12 PM

Danny Gokey could sing the Mr. Ed theme song: A horse is a horse of course of course and no one can talk to a horse of course... Allison could do the Patty Duke Show: But Patty likes the rock 'n' roll a hot dog makes her lose control -- what a strange duet! But they're cousins!

Speaking of TV theme songs, do they have words anymore (aside from "Family Guy" which styles itself very ironic)? Or is it that I just don't watch sitcoms?

Posted by: owingsmills | April 23, 2009 6:39 PM

Okay owingsmills - you and I must be contemporaries since I can still sing the Mr. Ed theme song - loved that show as yet another horse-crazy little girl. And yeah, Patty Duke...

Today's sitcoms don't include lyrics. But thanks to my teens, I proudly answer my cellphone with the a ringtone of the Office.

How about a homage week to Lesley Gore - a 16 yr. old star of the sixties. She has been a songwriter for may years. She claims further fame as co-songwriter with her brother for the song from "Fame", "Out Here on My Own" - Academy Award nominated. Actually a good song choice for an idolette.

But hey, speaking of sixties, why are we not having "Beach Week"? Beach Boys, yeah. But also, Jan and Dean, Frankie Avalon, etc. I think Adam could have fun with "Good Vibrations". I trust him.

Posted by: MarriedMom | April 23, 2009 7:04 PM

I call your Mr. Ed. And I raise you a 77 Sunset Strip, where you could meet either the high brow or the hipster at Dino's Lodge.

Or more specifically:

77 Sunset Strip. (click click)
77 Sunset Strip. (click click)

"You meet the high brow and the hipster,
The starlet and the phony tipster,
You meet most every kind of guy and gal
Including a private eye!"

And as to whether TV theme songs today have lyrics - well - if they were not written to be TV theme songs:

"Who are you? Who? Who? Who? Who?", for example.

Posted by: jqw3827 | April 24, 2009 10:23 AM

"Keep them doggies rollin', Rawhide," snap (of whip). Clint Eastwood was very hot then, though I was too young to think sexy -just handsome. ;-) Happy Trails anyone?

Posted by: MarriedMom | April 24, 2009 11:05 AM

I could definitely Name That Tune in 5 notes. Roy Rogers & Dale Evans.

'Til we meet again . . . .

Posted by: jqw3827 | April 24, 2009 1:55 PM

Alright jqw & Mom, you brought me out of hiding. I've been lurking for a long time thinking all of you are young whippersnappers. But I can relate--I still know all the words to Beverly Hillbillies theme, along with the Jetsons. And who can forget those iconic wordless tunes for Mission Impossible, Dragnet. , Bonanza....ah the memories.

I'm also glad to see others as horrified as me by the Disco Queens of bygone years--who should have stayed GONE! That had to be the worst ever......

Posted by: imasinger | April 24, 2009 7:32 PM

Okay, here's an obscure one..."Branded", with Chuck Connors as a falsely-accused cavalry dude in the Old West. Don't remember the real words, but I remember we kids singing different lyrics..."Branded, caught on a toilet bowl. What do you do when you're stranded...and you ain't got a roll? For once in your life, be a man...use your hand." And then of course we all giggled like mad. Hilarious stuff in the 3rd grade.

Posted by: ILoveToSinga | April 25, 2009 5:04 PM


Have you heard that tonight's theme is The Rat Pack?

I don't know if they are limited to the songbooks of the trinity of Davis-Sinatra-Martin - or just the era - but it could be very interesting and very good if they don't all do some weirdo "alternative" 60s like they did "alternative disco".

And actually having melodies will separate those who can sing on key from those (and we know who they are) who do not. It will also test who can "sell" a song - based on its lyrics and not the performer's gyrations.

As Martina McBride advised as mentor, "Just plant your feet and sing it." I hope that's exactly what they all do tonight.

Posted by: jqw3827 | April 28, 2009 3:05 PM

The comments to this entry are closed.


© 2009 The Washington Post Company