American Idol Recap: Welcome to Today

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Happy Passover, dear Cream readers. In honor of the occasion, Steven Tyler is wearing a floor-length, snakeskin duster. Huzzah! Tonight's theme is music from this decade, aka 2010 through today. I guess that should be interesting. Akon is mentoring — that should be less interesting.

My gal Skylar is up first. Tonight, the Idol crew is showing us a glimpse at the contestants' hometowns, and the groundswell of support they're all enjoying. Skylar is from Brandon, Miss., and the highlight of the footage is her "grandpaw" telling her to bring his guitar back home. She has chosen a song by noted mentally challenged person Kellie Pickler, an Idol alum from way back in season five who has since enjoyed a nice little country career and gotten breast implants. I always had a soft spot for Pickler, both for this and, on a more earnest note, for this. Akon loves Skylar, and says her voice is "fucking stupid." It's another killer performance, with Skylar picking up a guitar and performing in front of flaming trash cans (nothing says jilted love like burning garbage). I like the odd melodic swoops in the song's chorus, and my gal really sells it. Man, I hope she wins this thing. Randy, who is dressed like a toddler in a sailor suit, says, "She's back." He has already forgotten about last week. I haven't.

Next we have local boy Colton Dixon, the "Pride of Tennessee." He's singing "Love the Way You Lie," which is apparently a Skylar Grey version of the Rihanna/Eminem track. In the rehearsal footage, Jimmy says, "I think you're behind Phillip." It's an odd thing to put these two in direct competition with each other—besides both being white boys, they really could not be more different. Plus, I wouldn't want to have sex with Colton. He takes the stage seated at a Mother of Pearl piano. The performance is kind of cool — understated and moody — but I wish he would come up with an alternate arrangement on his own. Show us something we've never heard before. He did tone down some of his more annoying emo tics. The judges loved it.

We have more duets this week! Over it! Anyway, Elise and Phillip are singing "Somebody That I Used to Know" by Gotye. Apparently, Elise strong-armed Phillip into it, and apparently, I have been living under a rock because I didn't know this song. Apparently it was on Glee. And it's Australian. But not Natalie Imbruglia. And it has 154 million views on YouTube! According to Steven Tyler, "That song is changing music right now." Hmmm ... it's a nifty, quirky, angsty indie sort of thing. Nothing revolutionary. Nothing people like us (hello, Cream readers!) don't hear on a daily basis. But, often I hear songs from the '90s and think, "How the hell was that a hit?!" A few examples: Marcy Playground's "Sex and Candy," The Flaming Lips' "Vaseline," Cornershop's "Brimful of Asha." So, maybe the spread of this song does signal a new moment in pop. Only time will tell.

Jessica Sanchez is from San Diego. The optics of these "hometown" packages never do as much for people from big cities. Unfortunately, BB Chez is not the biggest thing ever to hit that Southern California hamlet. She's singing "Stuttering" by Jasmine Sullivan. Akon is convinced that she is going to be a superstar. As for the performance, her vocal is amazing ... but ... she still just never quite connects for me. I don't know why. She's like this perfectly engineered confection, and maybe I just want something a little funkier. The judges praise the performance, but still seem to want more from her.

Joshua just turned 20, and he has a birthday message from Fantasia! He seems genuinely tickled. He's mixing it up, singing something uptempo, with Bruno Mars' "Runaway Baby." The most notable thing about his performance is the leggy, sexy-pants backup singer they've planted behind him. Have we ever seen that before? (Later, Steven Tyler will demonstrate that he knows this young woman by name.) The performance is solid, but when Jacob sings upbeat songs, he seems to have trouble emoting, whether the required vibe is sensuality or ebullience. His face just looks flat. The judges are on their feet (really?!). They bring his father up onstage, and he has an amazing mustache.

Colton and Skylar are dueting on "Don't You Want to Stay" by Kelly Clarkson and Jason Aldean. It's a song that I didn't think I knew, until I realized I had heard it a million times in waiting rooms, malls, hair salons and delis. Apparently there is a rumor that these two are dating. Ha! Allow me to raise my eyebrow suggestively and smirk. The performance is just OK. Even my gal Skylar's voice sounds a little tired. Colton's shirt/leather pants ensemble is gross. Steven loved it. Randy agreed with me.

Holly is up next. She (and her silly accent) live in McKinney, Texas. She is singing Pink's "Perfect," with just a guitar player on stage. I like that she stripped it down a bit, and went back to her ballad zone. She closes with a big ol' note. J-Lo starts with, "You look so beautiful." Uh, oh. She says that Holly is fighting for it, but her comments feel like a eulogy. Steven wasn't into it. Man, someone upstairs decided they were ready to let this girl go. Randy says it was better than last week. True!

Now we've got my boyfriend Phillip Phillips, from Leesburg, Ga. What a hilarious coincidence to lust after a young-ish lady with the same name as your hometown! Oh, life. Time keeps rolling on in Leesburg, and apparently business is up at the Phillips family pawn shop. Phillip is singing "Give a Little More" by Maroon 5, which means his performance will be boring. This time, Jimmy tells Phillip that he is in competition with Colton for the "girls" vote. Jimmy says, "Do you want to win this thing?" Phillip answers in the affirmative. But the real question is, does Idol want him to win? After Dewyze? And Kris Allen? And Scotty? Can't we do better, as a country, than this shuffling bar singer with the adorable face? It's a better performance than last week, but it's also a Maroon 5 song. J-Lo actually manages to add some criticism, saying, "I have seen this performance a couple times." I agree. He needs to break out the box.

Jessica, Holly and Joshua are singing "What Doesn't Kill You (Stronger)," also by Ms. Clarkson. Jessica sounds off. The timing on this thing is horrendous. It's a train wreck that the judges refuse to acknowledge.

Elise is closing out the show, singing Lady GaGa's "You and I." Um, let's have a Haley moment. At first she has a nutso idea to open the song playing the drums. Fortunately, she is talked out of it. She goes with the piano instead. The performance is fine. The song choice is a little obvious, and I thought Haley did a much better job last year. I feel like, as an elderly person, I'm supposed to be on the Elise bandwagon, but I feel like she keeps dropping the ball. Oh well.

Till next week! In trouble: Holly, Joshua, Elise.

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