American Idol Recap: Gender Wars, Nostalgia & a New Nudie Manny Suit

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Milk it, Stefano

Welcome back, dear readers, to week eight (!) of the unholy union between Nashville Cream and American Idol.

Again, they open the show with a dramatic look back at last week's shocking elimination. I could watch that clip of Randy howling "No!" at Pia's exit a million times. I don't know why. I just love it. Especially when it's in black-and-white. They also show JLo, after the live feed, saying to Pia, "I wish there was something we could do." Hmmm ... like maybe go back in time and NOT use the save on someone who has no chance of winning?

A word on Pia's departure: I was gutted. First off, she was the best singer in the bunch. Secondly, her elimination hammers home Idol's problem with women. They just can't do well. Especially the pretty ones. This is incredibly depressing — it's unbelievable to see some of the folks who have outlasted her. But who knows, maybe she'll get more of a boost from her early-exit infamy than from a fourth-place finish. Time will tell.

Ryan informs us that JLo was recently named People Magazine's "Most Beautiful Woman." They rib her a little bit about it, and I wonder aloud (to my cat) how anyone's skin can glow like that. Meanwhile, Steven's pink-and-animal-print blouse looks like something Alexis (the one with the jugs who loves Jesus) wore on last week's Real Housewives of Orange County.

The contestants enter, and it's troubling to see the camera pan across the group — only two ladies left.

Nashville's Paul McDonald opens the show, and he's rocking a brand-new Manny suit — a Nudie suit-style outfit made by Manuel's son, Manny — with matching cravat. This week's theme is "Movie Songs," and Paul chooses Bob Seger's "Old Time Rock and Roll." will.i.am is still puttering around the Idol studios, offering flip advice and eating free danishes. He and Jimmy engage in some homophobic banter about men dancing in tighty-whiteys. What's not to like about that? Paul's voice sounds pretty thin on this number, and he's pulling some funny faces. The two things I remember from this number are the suit and a hot female sax player. By the time he's done, he looks like he just ran to catch the bus (read: winded). The judges (who have given up on judging) heap on the praise.

Lauren Alaina selects Miley Cyrus' "The Climb" — a song that's far more age-appropriate than "Natural Woman." Jimmy tells her she's a better singer than Miley. Um, duh. But Lauren gets all embarrassed about it. Lauren doesn't do anything revolutionary with the performance, but she always makes these tiny little interesting vocal choices that I love. The voters who didn't get Pia (teen girls) will certainly get this. That said, I don't know if she really felt it — yes, this is an odd thing to say about a Miley Cyrus song. If only she had sold it a little more, I might have had one of those moments when I earnestly like something really lame (ask me about my extended family's Survivor pool; I dare you), and then mask that glimmer of sincerity with a crack about the performer's mom's prom hair. Maybe next time.

Stefano is bringing out the big guns — as in his arms in a short-sleeved sweater. Mr. Langone on last week: "It was a really tough night for me; it was a tough night for America." OK, everyone take a deep breath. It's not like Don Draper just proposed to his secretary. He chooses Boyz II Men's "End of the Road," which was apparently featured in the film classic Boomerang. As a Philadelphia native, it is a biological imperative that I love Boyz II Men. I am breathless with anticipation. I'm picturing that video with the security system and the sexy bath time — but then I realize I'm thinking of "I'll Make Love to You." Now that's a panty-dropper. Back to the performance! It feels weirdly rushed at the beginning — I wish he would indulge in the slow jam slither — but gets better as it goes on. The crowd loved it, but I think they're just having flashbacks to a middle-school slow dance. Kna mean? Randy gives him Stefano an "in it to win it." Steven tells him he knows "how to milk a song." Apparently, he's also thinking of "I'll Make Love to You." JLo blatantly curses on national TV, proclaiming, "That was the shit." It's kind of awesome.

Scotty somehow unearths a movie called Pure Country starring George Strait (!!), and chooses a song called "I Cross My Heart." In the parlance of Jennifer Lopez, you cannot make this shit up. He's on the ballad stool. Unfortunately, I just think this isn't a great song — kinda cheesy. Not my favorite Scotty moment, but this kid isn't going anywhere. There is actually a sign in the audience that says "Grandmas for Scotty." (I'm developing a secret fantasy that involves Scotty singing Jason Isbell's "Dress Blues" on Idol; never gonna happen, but it would bring down the house.)

Tonight is apparently cravat night on Idol — Casey is rocking one too. He's sporting a suit and some funny retro hair. The theme of the night is the singers ignoring Jimmy Iovine's advice; Casey passes on "In the Air Tonight" to sing Nat King Cole's "Nature Boy." It starts off very strange and breathy. No one is going to get this. The end gets a little better, but I hate the faces he makes and just don't think his voice is that interesting. I must be the only one. He gets a MFing standing ovation. I feel like I'm taking crazy pills. Steven yells "Encore." Casey looks like he's about to pass out—he's dissolving into a sweaty, dough-faced blob. Randy explains that he's going to teach all of America about jaaaazzzzz. Casey name-checks "Esperanza," and Justin Bieber fans across the country curse her name anew. Is it just me or are this season's guys the most egotistical bunch they've ever had on the show?

Haley, my darling, chooses Blondie's "Call Me" from American Gigolo. At first I'm excited: Her voice is so different from Debby Harry's, so this could be kinda cool. Unfortunately, the performance is crazy inconsistent. She tramps around the stage — I wish she would just stand and sing. The outfit is hot, but feels a little like a girl playing dress-up. Still, there are moments when her voice sounds great. The judges offer their first criticism of the night. Kill the ladies!

Jimmy calls Jacob out on his comments from last week, and also tells him "not to be cheesy." Go Jimmy! A companion has joined me for the last few performances — he's an Idol newbie and notes that Jacob sounds like Sade. He sings "Bridge Over Troubled Water," and is much more restrained than usual. In a shocking twist, I'm not hating it as much as I thought I would. But don't get me wrong, I still want to kick Jacob in the shins.

James picks "Heavy Metal" by Sammy Hagar, and also battles with Jimmy over his song choice. James insists, "I don't want to be a face in the crowd," and I throw up a little in my mouth. Plus, we all know Sammy Hagar is so metal. This performance is notable for one thing: the first braided beard ever on the Idol stage. Famed braided beard-haver Zakk Wylde makes a guest appearance on guitar. The whole thing is really silly, but actually better than last week. At least he's in tune. JLo calls it "pure heavy metal." Even my cat laughs. Randy says, "I can see you onstage with Avenged Sevenfold and Ozzy." I have pre-ordered my tickets.

I sorta think Paul is going — but I am worried for Haley. Jazz educator Casey Abrams and his cravat could also be in trouble.

One last thing: If you know what's good for you, you will watch the entire video for "I'll Make Love to You" (embedded above) right now. You will then be eternally grateful to me for making your day.

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