This was the night I'd been waiting for, kids: The night that Adam Lambert and Norman Gentle (aka Nick Mitchell) went head-to-head. Seriously, has there ever been an American Idol showdown as nail-bitingly, toe-curlingly awesome as this? Clay versus Roooben, Soul Patrol versus the Kat Pack, David versus David....sure, those battles were exciting and all, but the prospect of guylinered god Adam and shiny-shirted comic genius Norman vying for the Idol title had me sitting on the edge of my sofa seat all week long.
Could it be possible that BOTH would make the top three, ensuring that at least one-sixth of the final top 12 would be the best one-sixth ever? Could an Adam/Norman finale even be within the realm of possibility? The very joyous thought of it made my head nearly explode and my already-preprogrammed DVR overheat.
But then the schmucks at Fox moved this week's broadcast by a WHOLE DAY, making me wait even longer for the showdown to end all showdowns. Oh, the agony. Why, Fox, why? Why did you torture me so?
Oh...so the reason last night's show was pre-empted was because of President Obama's live televised speech. Well, I suppose that's a valid reason. If there's one man on the planet more powerful than Simon Cowell, after all, it's Barack Obama. But you know, Obama's speech was broadcast at 6pm Pacific time, here in California where I live, when the only program that would have been pre-empted would've been a Family Guy rerun. So really, I blame the East Coast for this week's maddening Idol delay. Darn you, East Coasters, with your stupid Eastern Standard Time!
Anyway, it was worth the wait. The second set of 12 (that is, Adam, Norman, my girls Megan Joy Corkrey and Jasmine Murray, and eight other also-rans, whoever they are/were) sang tonight, and I was just bummed that boring Michael Sarver from last week's top three couldn't be sent home so that all four of those contestants could get through tonight. Who divides up these contestants by the dozen, anyway? Is it done by straw-drawing/coin-flipping/ro-sham-bowing, or is the decision-making process much more sinister (read: rigged) than that?
But as long as Adam and Norman got through, I'd be happy. (Oh, by the way--have I mentioned that I love me some Adam and Norman? Just making sure...)
So the aforementioned Jasmine Murray went first tonight, singing Sara Bareilles's "Love Song," the youthful ditty Kara DioGuardi wished out loud last week that ousted Anne-Marie Boskovich would have sung instead of "Natural Woman." You know what? Ironically, I think Jasmine would have been better off singing "Natural Woman." This Sara song just didn't seem right for her. Randy Jackson, who described Jasmine's performance right off the bat as "pitchy" (wasting no time in whipping out his favorite overused adjective) actually wanted Jasmine to sing some Rihanna. I did appreciate some of Jasmine's runs and scatting and improvs, as well as the anger and verve she brought to the song compared to Sara's original sugary version...but the beginning of the tune was in too low a register, and her scatting got a little out of control and resulted in (yes) some pitchiness, dawg. None of the judges were impressed (though I think Simon was overly harsh when he told her she doesn't have a great voice--she does, when she sings the right song). I feared this might be the premature end for poor Jas. But hey, if that cleared the way for Megan to snag this week's mandatory girl's spot, I guess could live with that. Up until this point, I'd believed that Jasmine was Megan's biggest rival.
Next was dueling pianist Matt Giraud, who wowed everyone when he stepped it up during Hollywood Week with his soulful rendition of "Georgia On My Mind" (an experience he declared "out-of-body" and one of the coolest of his life). This time he didn't go for a soul vibe, but chose to sing a risky "white-boy rock song" (his words): Coldplay's "Viva La Vida." Man, this performance was bad enough to make Joe Satriani suddenly deny that this tune bears any similarity to one of his own compositions. Matt seemed lost without his piano (ironic, since Coldplay's Chris Martin often performs at a keyboard), flailing and attempting very unsuccessfully to rock out, white-boy style. Now, Chris Martin does not have a big Michael Bolton/Josh Groban-style voice (thank gawd), but he has a way of overcoming any vocal shortcomings with interesting inflections and oodles of charisma.
Next up was bartendress Jeanine Vailes, probably tonight's most under-the-radar contestant (if lack of searches on Yahoo! are anything to go by). But with seeming frontrunners like Jasmine and Matt dropping the proverbial ball tonight, that gave dark horse Jeanine an unexpected opportunity to surprise everyone with a hot performance and suddenly become a real contender. But um, she did not do that. She looked fabulous, like Naomi Campbell's body double (thick mane of center-parted Cher hair, impossibly muscular thighs shown off in little cutoff shorts), but then she started struggling and oversinging her way through Maroon 5's "This Love" (WHY?) and it was, as Simon aptly put it, "terrible." The only nice comments any of the four judges made had to do with Jeanine's legs--but let's face it, a great pair of Grable-esque gams didn't help season 6's Haley Scarnato, and it wasn't going to be enough to help Jeanine. Jeanine admitted she might have overdone it in an attempt to make a big impression, pointing out that she'd gotten precious little screen time before tonight--but she'd just come across as overcompensating and desperate. And her begging the judges for some tiny bit of praise, and her repeated mentions that she was the oldest person competing this evening (at the positively ancient age of 28), only made her seem more pathetic and desperate. I do not think she's got legs in this competition after this debacle, sorry.
Things got serious again after 16-year-old Allison Iraheta got her turn. Her monosyllabic pre-performance interview with Ryan Seacrest was even more boring and brain-dead than watching paint dry--it made a conversation with Jason Castro seem like a particularly gripping episode of Meet The Press--but once she got onstage, things definitely got exciting. She sang "Alone" by Heart, which is always a massive risk--Heart's Ann Wilson is nearly untouchable, and season 4 champ Carrie Underwood's performance of the same song is the stuff of AmIdol legend. But Allison sang her heart out, no pun intended. Randy called it "real singing" (a not-so-subtle extra jab at Norman); Simon called it the best performance of the night so far "by a clear mile." Suddenly someone who'd seemed like just another token pink-haired also-ran (every season has one, from Nikki McKibbin to Amy Adams to Gina Glocksen) had become a true contender, stepping up to the plate in a way Jeanine had not.
Speaking of contestants we don't remember, next was Kris Allen. Who? Some dude. He sang "Man In the Mirror" by Michael Jackson, the "I'm asking him to change his ways" song. Well, I'm asking Kris to change his ways...and be less dull! The judges' panel was split: Kara was bored like me, while Paula enjoyed his performance and Simon--wow, this is a surprise--liked Kris as well. "Chicks are going to love you," he told Kris.
Well, I'm a chick and I don't love Kris, so go figure.
Speaking of chicks, and of love, Megan Joy Corkrey (emphasis on "Joy," because she makes me happyhappyhappy) finally got her turn after that, singing Corinne Bailey Rae's "Put Your Records On." And you know, if Megan released a record, I'd definitely put it on. Man, I loved this girl tonight! Even her awkward hip-shaking was endearing. Her uniquely smoky and soulful voice, her little snow-white sundress, her radiant smile, her piles of Goldilocks curls, her sleeve tattoos
Kai Kalama, the Guarini-haired folk-soul singer with the heartstring-plucking back story (he's a fulltime care-giver for his ailing mom), went next, and I was pleasantly surprised. My own heartstrings were even plucked a little bit, and not just because his mother was there to root for him.
Mishavonna Henson sang next, which meant that I'd have to wait that much longer for Adam Lambert, who was saved for last. Argh! Mishavonna, a repeat contestant (she made it to Hollywood Week last season), promised she'd take advantage of her second chance and "not let America down." Well, she broke that promise when she decided to sing Train's "Drops Of Jupiter" tonight.
But Adam Lambert--now, HE was convincing. A more convincing ROCK STAR has probably never been on American Idol. (No, Constantine does not count.) Sooty eyeliner, gothy black manicure, perpetual young-Elvis sneer--Adam certainly looked the part of a real rock god. And aurally, he killed it on the Rolling Stones' "Satisfaction." I certainly found it satisfying--I haven't enjoyed a "Satisfaction" cover so much since Devo did it in the early '80s. And his voice was insane. I didn't know such notes existed--was he singing the Eastern musical scale or something?
So now it's time, as always, for my picks and predictions. Now, if it were up to me, I'd go for Adam (obviously), Megan, and (don't hate) Norman. But I know Norman is possibly the longest longshot in the history of Idol longshots: He's a polarizing figure, a love-him-or-hate-him kind of fellow, and there might not be enough people who love him to ensure he gets through. (This is one time when I hope Vote For The Worst can move the needle here, since Norman is unsurprisingly their ultimate poster boy.)
But I do hope Norman Gentle gets his own variety show out of all this...
- Adam Lambert