Reality Rocks - Archive

American Idol’s Lucky 13 (Yes, That’s Right – THIRTEEN)

Lyndsey Parker
Reality Rocks

Ryan Seacrest described tonight as a "very special episode of American Idol," but he didn't mean that in a sappy Lifetime Network or Afterschool Special sort of way, or like that one disturbing "very special episode" of Diff'rent Strokes with Dudley and the creepy old man in the basement.

There were some sappy moments, and some creepy moments, however, in this...the all-important, very special Wild Card Episode in which the judges "wrested back a little control" (Ryan's somewhat foreboding words) and handpicked three more reinstated contestants to round out the final top 12.

Kudos to Simon Cowell for being honest and saying the judges wouldn't be basing their decisions solely on who sang best, but would also look at this as a "casting" opportunity and therefore make sure to add some interesting "personalities" to the mix. That was fine with me...just as long as Tatiana Del Toro wasn't one of those personalities.

Tatiana would sing later, of course, but performing first was Jesse Langseth. Yeah, that's right--get this chick out of the way right off the bat. Just get it over with. That's not to say Jesse's a bad singer--she's inherited some of her brother Jonny Lang's talent, and she was better this week belting out "Tell Me Something Good" than she was last week doing "Bette Davis Eyes." But Jesse is just not top 12 material, just not "very special" enough. Not even pulling a Haley Scarnato/Jeanine Vailes and flashing a generous length of leg helped her cause tonight, even though her pins did look pretty sexy peeking out of her leather micro-mini. I agreed with Kara DioGuardi that Jesse had a certain seasoned "swagger" to her tonight, but I was still surprised that the judges even elected to bring Jesse back in the first place, over more obvious standout contestants like Ju'Not Joyner and Felicia Barton.

And it didn't surprise me when Simon revealed that Jesse had been a total "last-minute" addition to the wild card round--an afterthought, really. Next!

Singing second was piano man Matt Giraud, who blew it big time when his Coldplay cover left everyone--judges and voters alike--cold last week. This time he went back to what he does best, white-boy soul, with the song choice of the Jackson 5's "Who's Loving You." This was a wise move. As Simon put it, Matt was a "billion times better than last week." He was definitely more in his element and looking very Timberlake-ish in his cool-cat fedora hat, and Kara and Paula Abdul subsequently welcomed back the "bluesy Matt" with open arms. Simon wasn't such a fan of Matt's hat, or the rest of his outfit for that matter, and he even said he saw "bits of Taylor Hicks coming through" in Matt's performance (huh?),

but I thought Matt's star turn was enough to inspire viewers to start a whole new Soul Patrol in his honor.

My girl Megan Joy Corkrey--whose elimination was the one I was most personally disappointed by this season--hit the stage next, singing KT Tunstall's "Black Horse And The Cherry Tree," a bluesy folk-rocker that Katharine McPhee famously sang when she went up against Taylor Hicks in season 5. Back then, Kat sang the tune while sitting on her knees onstage, and I think maybe Megan should have done the same. Look, I totally heart Megan, but the girl does NOT know what to do with herself onstage. She dances like a spaz! Right now it's kind of cute, but that shtick will get old fast if she doesn't figure out other moves besides swishing her hips awkwardly from side to side and swinging her arms like a chimp. But that being said, I liked her funny little version of this song. It fit her personality, as Paula put it, and Simon said it best and echoed my sentiments when he said: "I've always liked you, and I still like you; I think you're terrific." Megan just needs choreography lessons, that's all--

not enough to stifle her endearing quirkiness entirely, and not enough to turn her into some Britney/PCD clone, but just enough to keep her from hopping from one foot to the other like she has to go to the bathroom. Then she'll be the total "package artist," as Kara once said.

Loudmouth Von Smith sang fourth, taking on "Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word." The ballad started with the lyrics, "What do I have to do to make you love me?" (My answer: Just shut up, Von. I'd love that!) Then he sang, "What do I have to do to be heard?" (Um, I hear you, Von. A deaf person could hear you.) But you know what? He held back--wisely, in my opinion--and kept it relatively mellow, and he didn't bother me as much as he used to. I appreciated this, but oddly the judges did not. Paula told him he was overthinking and being too technical, and "not letting the true essence of Von Smith come out." (What, is Von manufacturing a perfume now or something?) Simon told Von he was "beginning to become a bit boring" and grumpily dubbed him "Mr. Serious." But you know, there was nothing serious about that stupid fauxhawk that Von was wearing.

Even Sanjaya wouldn't rock that hairdo!

Singing next was Jasmine Murray, who seriously messed up a couple weeks ago when she tried to take the judges' advice to sound "pop" and "commercial" by warbling Sara Bareilles's "Love Song"--a song that absolutely no one loved. This week she flipped it and decided to sing possibly the most boring and overexposed ballad ever, Christina Aguilera's "Reflection" (WHY???), an anthem that Randy Jackson pointed out was a bit too big for her. But she ultimately pulled it off and proved she has a wider vocal range than previously assumed (Kara in particular expressed shock over this), and while Simon once again griped that it was a performance by a "young girl trying to sound grown up," he did say it might be enough to get Jas back in the game. Good for her.

Savvy web-marketer Ricky Braddy (the guy was already selling "Braddy Bunch" T-shirts online, before he'd even made the top 36) went next, singing "Superstition." And it seemed like maybe his luck was about to turn around. His uptempo performance was much more loose, fluid, and overall memorable than the Leon Russell ballad he capably but stiffly crooned two weeks ago. It was certainly a lady-pleasing performance, since Paula told him he'd "nailed it" and Kara exclaimed, "You can sing your butt off!" Meanwhile, Randy thought Ricky was "self-indulgent" and oversang, and Simon thought the performance was "clumsy" and "karaoke." Being a lady myself, I agreed with Paula and Kara in this case.

Next was the contestant clearly brought back just for dramatic effect, the aforementioned and afore-hated Tatiana Del Toro. Ugh. Now, some commenters on this blog have pointed out my supposed hypocrisy in praising dramatic troublemakers like Nathaniel Marshall and Norman Gentle while simultaneously blasting Tatiana for, well, being a dramatic troublemaker. It DOES seem hypocritical, huh? So, point taken. But the bottom line is, I do not LIKE Tatiana. Nathaniel and Norman seemed like nice (read: sane) guys, and they made me laugh. I liked them. Tatiana just scared me. Her freakouts freaked me out, instead of entertaining me. I hope that explanation makes sense. Hey, I like what I like! And I never, ever liked Tatiana. Sorry.

So out came Tatiana, singing Whitney Houston's "Saving All My Love For You." Sound familiar? It should! She sang it two weeks ago, when she first competed in the top 36, and she also sang it during Hollywood Week! What a copout! Simon called her on this, telling her that her decision to revisit this song was "rubbish." I must grudgingly admit that she didn't sound rubbish, though. Yes, Tatiana sounded pretty good. But she should sound good by now--she's had plenty of chances to perfect this song, performing it as many times as she has!

What didn't sound so good was all her incessant babbling tonight. Her pre-performance interview piece was a 30-second hot-messy outpouring of sobby emotion, and then after her song she started screaming at Paula Abdul like that pink-clad, brace-faced, suicidal season 5 stalker, Paula Goodspeed. "I love you so much!!!! Thank you thank you thank you thank you!!!!!!" she howled, refusing to let Ryan get on with it or let the judges serve up their critiques, and thus severely cutting into the remaining screen time for the final singer tonight, Anoop Desai.

Tatiana--perhaps encouraged by Simon's advice to Jorge Nunez last night to be proud of his Puerto Rican accent--had also mysteriously and suddenly adopted a thick accent herself. This was almost as odd as the subdued Stepford Wife fembot persona she took on the last time she was on the show, in a (failed) attempt to prove to the judges and voters that she's not batshiz crazy.

"You've got me all confused," Paula said--and hey, when PAULA ABDUL is saying she finds someone weird and confusing, that's serious. Kara pretty much accused Tatiana of having a multiple personality disorder, too: "It's 'The Many Adventures Of Tatiana'!

Well, I still don't like any of Tatiana's personalities--sorry, again.

Finally some P.A. got out the hook and dragged Tatiana off the stage, and last to sing tonight was Anoop. Amusingly--considering that the song sung before him was a Whitney Houston number--Anoop chose to sing Bobby Brown's "My Prerogative." Wow, that was unexpected.

For the first time, I saw real heartthrob potential in Anoop. He had a whole lotta swagger, he worked the crowd like a pro, and the ladies loved him--including Kara (who said his performance made her want to dance), Paula (who praised his "nasty" stage moves)...and me!

And so, the judges pow-wowed (although I suspect their decision had already been made, and this was just a suspense-creating formality), and after the commercial break they returned with their verdict. The first to go through was Jasmine Murray, a decision I tentatively applauded. I haven't been 100 percent happy with all of Jasmine's performances, and I can't imagine her winning this show in the end, but I still think the girl has potential.

Ricky, Von, and Jesse didn't get through (although Simon sadly psyched poor Jesse out when he told her she "almost made it" and she misheard him), but then Megan and Tatiana were called up to the stage together...

Oh no! The ultimate battle of good versus evil!

As it turned out, goodness prevailed, and Megan was the one who got through. YAY! But she wasn't even able to enjoy her victory, because she was too busy comforting a positively hysterical Tatiana, who was bawling like her entire family has just perished in a fiery plane crash or something. Megan was quickly shooed offstage as if she was the loser here, while Tatiana remained onstage to be consoled by an overcompensating Paula. It was really unfair. Tatiana's gotten more screen time than she deserved already. Couldn't she just let Megan have her moment? For once?

Finally Tatiana's 15 minutes of fame were up, and the last spot in the top 12 came down to Anoop and Matt. Wow, what a close race. Both had done so well tonight, and both were so appealing in their own soul-pop way. But I was still pulling for Anoop. When the judges announced that the last winning wild card was instead going to Matt, I was seriously crestfallen. "No!!!!!!" I howled.

But then the judges threw a curveball and announced that this season they'd decided to expand the finals to a lucky 13...and Anoop was in too! I howled again. "Yes!!!!"

Sure, I was being as overdramatic and multiple-personality-stricken as Tatiana herself, but I couldn't help it. What exciting news: All three of my picks had made it, plus another guy, Matt, who also totally deserved a shot. Sure, this news didn't make me as happy as I would have been if the wild cards had included Nathaniel Marshall, Norman Gentle, Ju'Not Joyner, or Jackie Tohn, but overall I was pleased with how things went down tonight. The judges may not have picked my favorite eight to compete in the wild card round, but of those eight, they did select the best four.

And so next week is when things are going to get really interesting. Ryan Seacrest ended tonight's episode by saying that none other than Kanye West would be on the show next week. Did I hear that right? Really? Details, please! Is Kanye going to be a mentor?

That would be funny because a) Kanye can NOT sing, so his mentorship would only be helpful if the theme was Auto-Tunes Night; b) this live show would probably end up being broadcast at midnight, because Kanye would show up at least three hours late; and c) Kanye's such a jerk he'd alienate most of the contestants, so that the one finalist who didn't quit and walk off the set in a huff would end up winning American Idol by default.

My guess is Kanye is just performing next week, but I do hope he IS mentoring, because you know that guy's more drama-queenish than a hundred Tatiana Del Toros put together!

So tune in next week when the lucky 13 and (hopefully?) Kanye sing for their lives. Until then...Seacrest out!

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