by Lee Stabert
OK. Before we get to the singing (of which there was much, of varying quality) we have to talk about one of the best moments in Idol history — Haley’s descent into the lipstick jungle.
For those of you who missed it, young Haley comes out to sing some Whitney Houston song, wearing what I called in my notes “sex lipstick” — a bright red flush of color. At some point, she touches the mic to her lips, then to her chin, then to her cheek, then to her teeth. By the time the carnage is over, she looks like she’s done a drunk, enthusiastic ... um, job? When it (meaning the singing) was over, she looks to the audience and the judges, hoping for approval. “You’re still taking me to prom, right?” her forced smile seems to say, teeth smeared with a special shade she stole from her mom’s vanity. “I’m trying oh so hard.”
Jennifer’s first comment is, “You look so beautiful tonight.” Then she stifles a laugh. What’s this all about? Her inner mean girl? Her inner nice girl? Either way, it’s awkward. Only when Ryan runs to Haley’s rescue with a tissue he’s moistened with his own saliva (I assume) does the true extent of le disastre dawn on the young singer. The whole thing was such a genuine moment in such a manufactured environment.
I was tickled.
I guess some other people sang, right? The theme of the performance show was “songs from the year you were born.” This made me feel old. Naima (the geezer of the bunch) was born the year after me, and has two kids. Eek! She chooses “What’s Love Got to Do With It?,” and we get our first glimpse of Jimmy Iovine, armchair psychiatrist.
The best part about this week of the competition is that we get to meet the families and see baby pictures. I love Naima’s mom, dashiki and all. Naima has certainly continued to freshen up her style (no more oddball gowns) — the song, not so much. Her voice just doesn’t sound good. She looks gorgeous though; perhaps she borrowed some of Jennifer’s pixie dust.
Apparently, as a child, Nashville’s Paul McDonald loved to rock a campy cowboy outfit. It’s like a proto-Nudie suit. He chooses Elton John’s “I Guess That’s Why They Call It the Blues” and dons some serious Ex-Girlfriend Jeans. It’s a good song choice, but I wish he would quit lurching around and just sing. Also, this is a sad song and he’s grinning like a banshee. This is my No. 1 Idol pet peeve.
From my notes on Paul’s performance: “OMGoodness. I just noticed Steven’s shirt!!!!” He looks like one of the women from AbFab. But with more sparkle. Paul gets a Ray LaMontagne comparison from Randy (actually astute!) and then Steven tells him, “You define a cool dude in a loose mood.” I have no idea what that means.
No, Thia. Don’t do this. Please. I beg of you. Don’t sing a Disney song. This is two minutes of my life that I will never get back — spent watching a precocious 15-year-old in a taupe gown sing “Colors of the Wind.” She will never be forgiven.
Next up is James Durbin, who simply will not let me like him. He’s always posing, preening and posturing. Also, the pooptail is back. Even his childhood chubby cheeks don’t help (much). He sings a big, bombastic, silly Bon Jovi song, and it sounds like bad karaoke.
At this point in the show I start to lose my will a bit. Maybe I simply don’t like any of these contestants?
But then the lipstick incident rescues me from the depths of despair. If I can’t have talent, I can at least have humiliation. And horrible leggings.
Next up is my new fave Stefano, who, we find out, comes from this awesome musical family. His papa threatens to give us our first Dad Tears of the night, but then he holds it together. Bummer. The interview package also reveals that Stefano has a sarcastic little sense of humor. He decides to sing “If You Don’t Know Me By Now,” and he’s the first performer of the night who’s actually telling a story. J-Lo is smitten, and you can see the glee all over her face. She’s like an unmedicated Paula (or maybe she just has a better pharmacist). “You could take this thing,” she adds.
Next up is Pia, who gets the pimp edit in her video package — adorable home footage + family values + dead grandfather. The producers, desperate for a female winner, obviously want the audience to feel she’s humble and/or relatable. In this week’s Idoloonies, TVline’s Michael Slezak discussed the show’s recent problems with pretty girls — apparently America just isn’t that into them. Maybe Pia can bust that trend, in a crazy pantsuit no less. She sings Whitney Houston’s “Where Do Broken Hearts Go?” It’s increasingly clear that this girl can blow.
“Perfect pitch isn’t just in baseball.” Oh, Ryan. Scotty’s mom mentions that he was a bit of a “chunky monkey” as a child. This is awesome. Almost as awesome as Scotty’s youthful Elvis obsession. Which is almost as awesome as his mom and dad singing, “Baby lock them doors and turn the lights down low.” That is an amazing moment. Scotty chooses Travis Tritt’s “Can I Trust You With My Heart.” It’s, again, right in his wheelhouse. His baseball buddies are there, and he hits a really nice note at the end.
Karen continues with her one-woman costume party. Timmy Von Trimble could hula-hoop with those earrings. Her mother is very sweet. It makes me wonder: Why does America hate immigrants, but love immigrant stories? Karen sings “Love Will Lead You Back” and tosses in a few lines in Spanish, as is her wont. Steven uses the word “ethnic” in a way that makes everyone uncomfortable.
Casey has old parents — they had their first kid in their 40s. As he puts it, “They’re much wiser than all the other parents.” His mom tells his dad not to “be pedantic.” OK, they win. Casey has chosen “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” The crowd cheers when this is announced. He comes across as a little presumptuous in his chat with Iovine — plus nothing says rock star like plaid shorts.
For the performance, he plays electric bass. The whole thing just feels so neutered. As it continues, I feel upset — like this song has been done a massive disservice. It’s a total trainwreck. Karaoke. Caricature. Offensive. Maybe an acoustic version could have worked? As it is, this is my least favorite performance of the season so far.
Lauren Alaina’s mom looks like the “cool mom” from Mean Girls, but her tough Pops does give us our first Dad Tears of the evening. She smiles her way through Melissa Etheridge’s “Only One.” I’m angry again, though I do love Lez rock.
Jacob is like an overindulged child. He got a little positive feedback and now every family dinner is variety hour. Look at me! LOOK AT ME!!! He won’t stop. Please stop. The judges puss out when it comes to getting real with him. I mean, Jennifer visibly cringed. It’s on tape.
Phew! Long night. On Thursday, we finally said goodbye to Karen, J-Lo’s stalker. She leaves us with only memories, and a well-worn DVD copy of Selena drenched in tears and blood-red lipstick.