This season's oldest contestant, in fact, is Danny Gokey, who was born way back in the Dark Ages of 1980. Sheesh! At least last year's eldest contender, Michael Johns, actually sang a song from the 1970s when this "birth-year" theme came up in season 7.
Anyway, tonight Ole Man Danny sang first, inexplicably covering a song originally recorded in 1961, "Stand By Me"--guess he found a loophole, because Mickey Gilley recorded the Ben E. King tune for the 1980 movie Urban Cowboy. Man, of all the totally-awesome 1980 songs Danny could have gone with, this was an odd choice, especially considering the weird gospel/jazz arrangement accompanying him tonight. Seriously, I liked this song better when Josiah Leming messed it up last season during Hollywood Week.
I thought Danny's vocals were pretty wishy-washy too, but since he can seem to do no wrong in the judges' eyes (or ears), they all stood by him as usual. Randy Jackson and Kara DioGuardi, despite disliking the arrangement as much as I did, raved about Gokey's vocals, and Simon Cowell thought the performance was "overall, great."
Next was Kris Allen, born in 1985. And he decided to perform possibly THE most annoying song of '85, Don Henley's "All She Wants To Do Is Dance." As Simon said, a "stupid, stupid song choice." I suppose it would be difficult to make this song worse than it already was, and at least Kris didn't do that. But his wannabe-John Mayer wankathon arrangement certainly didn't improve the song, either. Kara likened it to "jazz-funk homework from music class," an assessment I agreed wholeheartedly with, although I didn't quite understand Kara's comment that Kris's version made the song "lose its youth," since "youth" has never been a word that's sprung to my mind when thinking of Don Henley. Simon called Kris's cover "indulgent, boring, and forgettable" and told him, "You came over as a guitarist who wanted to sing, rather than a singer who plays guitar."
Darn it. Kris was so good last week, too. Either "Ain't No Sunshine" just a fluke, or it was a strong sign that Kris needs to ditch his guitar and concentrate on the keyboards from now on.
Randy, who only two weeks ago was complaining that he missed the "party Anoop," but then complained again last week when Anoop picked up the pace on an Usher song, was a "judging yo-yo" this week--by praising Anoop for "pulling back" tonight. Simon, Kara, and Paula Abdul all agreed with Randy that it was a "very nice vocal." And I suppose it was, albeit a somewhat dull one. But unfortunately the judges' positive feedback this week means Anoop will probably sing more blah balladry in future weeks. And then it's only a matter of time before the judges flip-flop/yo-yo again, and they start whining that they want Anoop to cut loose. The guy just can't win. Literally. He's NOT going to win American Idol. But he did a'ight tonight.
Scott, whose biggest strength at this point in the competition is his sense of humor, jokingly defended his decision to play a six-string as his "punk side coming out" (um, Survivor is punk? okaaay...), but I don't think Scott's going to get the last laugh here--he's very likely going home after this. And as for Scott's other, more serious defense--that he was trying to show how versatile he is--well, I don't think it's going to help him that he's now proven he can suck in several different ways.
So it looks like last week's more-than-decent "Just The Way You Are" performance was just a fluke. I didn't like Scott just the way he was tonight. And I have a feeling neither did millions of viewers.
I'm not so sure Simon was right in this instance. Remember Allison's totally weirdo Ryan Seacrest interview back in the top 36 semi-finals? About her schoolwork on set? It was one of the more awkward Idol moments in recent memory. Allison just doesn't interview well. She might be better off keeping her mouth shut--except when she's singing her face off, of course.
Singing last, in the "pimp spot," was a contestant so great he really didn't need any pimping: yes, Adam Lambert. After a humorous retrospective of his hammy past (all contestants tonight had their incriminating baby photos put on display, but I most enjoyed the ones of Adam "playing dressup" in capes and three-piece suits), he sang THE most perfect song: Tears For Fears' 1982 hit, "Mad World." A Cold War classic from the broodingly gothic '80s, chillingly remade a few years ago by Gary Jules for the Donnie Darko soundtrack...now here was the ideal example of a well-matched singer and song. Adam sang it more in the Gary Jules semi-acoustic style...but unlike Anoop, he was never boring, even though he performed most of the song while seated. It was a goosebumpy rendition, all blue-backlit and melancholy and supercool, so much so that Simon was actually RENDERED SPEECHLESS, saying, "Words are unnecessary," and HE GAVE ADAM A STANDING OVATION.
So now it is prediction time. I think Adam, Matt, and hopefully Allison will be safe this week, as they were far and away the best three of the night. Kris and Danny personally did nothing for me, but their fanbases are strong enough to vote them through to next week, and they weren't the worst. Which leaves the obvious bottom three: Lil' Rounds, Anoop Desai, and Scott MacIntyre. And if viewers vote with their EARS this time--not their hearts or consciences--they will send Scott home. Sure, he's overcome a lot of adversity in his life, and that is commendable...but he shouldn't be allowed to overcome tonight's bad performance and stay in this competition.
Tune in tomorrow night to see if I'm right! And log on tomorrow (Wednesday) morning at 9:30am Pacific for Yahoo!'s live Idol chat, where you can dish with AmIdol fanatics (including me) about tonight's show and tomorrow night's predicted results. Just log on tomorrow at http://tv.yahoo.com/blog/yahoo-tv-water-cooler-idols-elite-8-perform-birth-year-songs--230 and come say hi!
- Simon Cowell