Wednesday night (March 2) was Ladies Night on “American Idol.” Half-priced appletinis! Your friends get in for free! DJ Suave will be spinning the jams he thinks you love all night long! Casey Abrams’ facial hair will not — I repeat not — be allowed entry!
In actuality, the Top 12 girls show meant half-hearted versions of previous “Idol” stars’ breakthrough singles, half-successful up-dos and a few stealth performers who have been laying in the background waiting for the first opportunity for their competition to attack.
(Speaking of waiting to strike, it’s about time my own “Idol” show emerged from the bushes to devour the Internet. “Idol Party Live” premieres this Thursday night (March 3) at 10 p.m. Eastern on MTV.com. My co-host will be Entertainment Weekly‘s hilarious Annie Barrett, and our guest will be Liz Lee, star of the hit MTV show “My Life As Liz.” Come hang with us!)
Before I start an online Facebook petition called “Naima Adedapo Needs To Be On ‘Project Runway’ ASAP Plz,” let’s check out the Top 12 girls’ performances.
Song: Rihanna’s “Only Girl (In the World)”
Ladies and gentleman, let’s give a round of applause to Ta-Tynisa Wilson, our sacrificial lamb of season 10. A Beyoncé impersonator stomping through a Rihanna song? Stop it. I could practically hear Nigel Lythgoe in rehearsals: “Make it bigger, Ta-Tynisa. At the end, why you don’t just start shrieking for no reason? Yeah, the judges will love that … and my precious Lauren Alaina will be one step closer to ruling the world. Mwuhaha!”
Yet somehow the newbie judges defended her when Randy Jackson called her out for being sharper than a fine Cabot cheddar. “Being a good performer is about moving the crowd, and she moved the crowd,” sassed J. Lo. And in that one sentence, Ms. Lopez encapsulated her entire career. Her internal monologue added, “Shoot, if we’re gonna judge signing voices up in this joint, they hired the wrong Fly Girl.”
Song: George Gershwin’s “Summertime”
Verdict: Back to the Toilets
Naima chose “Summertime” because it was one of the first songs her mom taught her. A sweet gesture, but what Mama Adedapo should have taught her daughter was Idol 101 instead: You. Don’t. Touch. “Summertime.” Heck, even the second time Fantasia sang it wasn’t as good.
J. Lo called Naima an exotic flower (“That’s what my name means!” Adedapo said, dumbfounded), but to me, Naima’s stage presence reminded me of the ’80s — specifically how ’80s actresses who played moms on sitcoms often got that one chance a season to randomly burst into a full cabaret number. She made me miss Simon Cowell. “It was Las Vegas … lobby,” he would have said.
Song: Christina Aguilera’s “Impossible”
Verdict: Impossibly Subtle
How much you enjoyed Kendra’s big debut was dependent on how much you can tolerate skinny blond girls trying to sing like Patti LaBelle. I find it fascinating, like chimpanzees in little kid clothes — it should be wrong, but it makes me happy. The judges gave their best sales pitch for the bathtub salesgirl from Nashville, but in a group of powerful belters and colorful “exotic flowers,” I’m worried that Kendra’s nuanced showing was too good to be remembered by the time Peaches Seacrest (more on that later) closed the show. Is she the female Ricky Braddy?
Song: Fiona Apple’s “Criminal”
Verdict: Dita Von Please!
Over the course of three hours of performances this week, Jennifer Lopez and Steven Tyler acted more like cheerleaders than judges. But Zevita’s bonkers big band burlesque spin on Fiona Apple’s signature smash pushed one of them over to the dark side.
“This is the first time America gets to see you. Do you want them to see you as a Broadway performer? Or do you want them to see you as somebody who could be a recording artist right now?” J. Lo said in a high-pitched huff, before continuing with increasing intensity (and speed) about Rachel’s amazing range and how she’s a fan and how she blew this and “we were rooting for you we were all rooting for you
I liked Rachel’s moxie. If she sang “Criminal” better, I’d be her loudest defender. And not just because I once created a Facebook group called “Petition For More Unhinged Stripteases On ‘Idol’ Plz.”
Song: Mariah Carey’s “Hero”
Verdict: Asi asi
Karen Rodriguez performed a bilingual “Gyro” (I mean “Hero”) for her madre, and while it wasn’t ay carumba!, her formal gown and sing-smiling (sminging) gave the proceedings a whiff of the 1999 “Miss Universe” telecast. When it was over, didn’t you expect Alan Thicke to walk out on stage instead of Ryan Seacrest? (I just created a new Facebook group called “Alan Thicke for ‘Idol’ Host Plz!”)
“That says it all,” J. Lo gushed as she pointed to her, uh, skin tone? Oh, she meant goosebumps. Whoops. Awkward! I love me some Karen Rodriguez and want to hear her sing en espa ñol more often, so long as she leaves the pageant routine behind.
Song: Etta James’ “Seven Day Fool”
Verdict: We’re Not Worthy!
Every now and then an “Idol” performance will blindside you so righteously you’re left clutching your Clay Aiken pillowcase wishing you invested in some adult diapers. (Oh, that’s just me?) From the moment Lauren Turner unleashed her bluesy chops, it was like her star-making turn reached through my TV screen, slapped the doubt off my face and had me begging for another whipping. At long last, a season 10 girl demonstrated spot-on song selection! This Louisiana native isn’t “a housekeeper,” as “Idol” keeps reminding us. She is a performer with music running through her veins and stamped on her forearm (courtesy of that clef tattoo).
While J. Lo loved it, she wanted Lauren to be even more aggressive and in-your-face. (Fact: J. Lo and John Waters share a common aesthetic!) Randy called it, “Amy Winehouse meets Florence of the Machine.” Steven Tyler called it, “Lauren Turner meets Lauren Turner.” Steven Tyler: Winning!
Song: Monica’s “Love Over Me”
Verdict: Sidelined By Song
“You know what I’m talking about?” Ashthon shouted midway through her disappointing performance. Actually Ashthon, I don’t know what you’re talking about. You picked a recent Monica slow-jam that sounds like it should be sung by a porn star at the end of a long day at work. “I got love all over me”? Ick! Take a shower, lady.
Ashthon has more personality than the entire season nine cast put together. Her ability to simultaneously kiss-up to and hit on the judging panel should be the Eighth Wonder of the World. (Her spot-on Jennifer Lopez head-tilt impression? The ninth.) Why did she pick a tuneless ballad to introduce herself to viewers? Staying in the Monica discography, why not tackle “Sideline Ho,” a no-nonsense crowd-pleaser that would have served the diva hair, diva moves and diva composure of which J. Lo speaks?
Song: Kelly Clarkson’s “Breakaway”
Verdict: Who’s That Girl?
“Hello, 911? I’d like to report a missing person. First name: Julie. Last name: Zorrilla. She’s got a funky style and she plays piano really well. She kind of looks like Rachel Berry from ‘Glee.’ Yes, I’m talking about that girl on ‘Idol.’ Huh? She’s the hot mess PageantBot nasally bleating through Kelly Clarkson’s ‘Princess Diaries’ song on my TV right now? Surely that can’t be the same person. The hair! The blank stare! The … the … the singing! She is an impostor. The real Julie Zorrilla has been kidnapped. Kidnapped, I tell you! And I’ll tell you the first place to look: Pia Toscano’s basement. Thank you, officer. Goodnight.”
Song: Alicia Keys’ “Fallin'”
Verdict: I’ll Have What She’s Having
Ever watch Robert Altman’s “Popeye” movie and think, “If only Shelley Duvall’s Olive Oyl sang sexier!” Well, you’re in luck, because there’s an “Idol” contestant tailor-made for your specialized tastes. Meet Haley
We’ve heard this Alicia Keys song a bajillion times in “Idol” auditions, but this was the first time it was performed like a drunk baby. Milestone! Haley’s high-pitched sex kitten vocals were, um, on key mostly. But her stage presence was something out of “Toddlers and Tiaras: After Dark.” She boozily sashayed, she wiggled in pleasure, she suggestively grabbed the mic with two hands and “Oh! OH! OHHHHHED!” I think the Parents’ Television Council has a new target. At the very least, Haley sounded like she enjoyed herself. Multiple times. Ahem.
Duh: Steven Tyler liked it. Winning!
Song: Irene Cara’s “Out Here On My Own” (from “Fame”)
At the top of the show, the judges asked viewers to look at each contestant and ask, “Is this person the “Idol’?” When Thia performed Irene Cara’s showstopper, producers made sure the audience saw nothing but ‘Idol,’ what with the dramatic spotlight and lingering close-ups. To her credit, Thia delivered a vocal that was technically stellar for a 16-year-old. But there’s the rub: Emotionally, it was as fulfilling as an episode of “Access Hollywood.” I get chills just thinking about the yearning in Irene’s voice on the original recording. Thia gave me chills the wrong way — from being icy.
Song: Reba McEntire’s “Turn On The Radio”
Verdict: Peaches and Cream
Lauren A. must have seen Thia’s rehearsal and said, “You think you’re gonna convince people you’re the ‘Idol’ with spotlights and a cappella? Well, I’m gonna sing a song that’s literally about me being on the radio. Also, I’m bubbly. So there.”
If Thia’s performance had assistance from lighting, Lauren A. got a big ol’ boost on the audio side, with supportive background vocalists and a magical reverb that suddenly smoothed over the one doozy of a note she let slip by her stage mom. Iffy note aside, Lauren A. didn’t just own the stage. She sub-leased it out to eleven other girls in 4-5 minute increments.
She was so good that J. Lo scrunched up her nose with joy and lost the ability to clap on beat.
She was so good that Randy instantly uttered the words “Kelly” and “Carrie.” (Excuse me, dawg, those two class acts never interrupted Seacrest by calling him “Peaches.”) She was so good I spotted the male contestants applauding dejectedly. She was so good Steven Tyler’s brain short-circuited and mashed together six different critiques into one string of gibberish. (And I quote, “Just because someone like you can sing into the stratosphere doesn’t mean you should do it every time. And I miss it when you don’t. You didn’t do it on this song, but you kill me. I love you, you’re the best.” OK then!)
Song: The Pretenders’ “I’ll Stand By You”
Verdict: Nice to Meet You!
If Ladies Night opened with a misfire, it closed with a bull’s-eye. Ladies and gentleman, our first official standing ovation of season 10!
“Honestly, I feel like you were a little tricky because you were saving that,” joked Lopez, after Pia
Zadora Toscano delivered the finest vocal of the night, chock full of power notes and range. “You were saving that for when it counts.” It was like Toscano’s voice had been hiding under preppy clothes only to show up to the big school carnival in skin-tight Lycra. Hello! The hot girl of the cast can actually sing. Is this an “Idol” first?
What did you think of Wednesday night’s “Idol” offering? How uncomfortable were you when James Durbin video-bombed one of Ryan Seacrest’s intros live on the air? Did you agree with Randy when he said Thia sounds like Michael Jackson? Were you confused when the judges gave Thia a bunch of credit for beginning a cappella when Haley did the same thing right before her? And between Naima’s toilet scrubbing, Kendra’s bathtub selling and Lauren Turner’s overall housekeeping, is season 10 going to have the tidiest damn “Idol” mansion or what?
And be sure to tune into “Idol Party Live” this Thursday night (March 3) at 10 p.m. Eastern on MTV.com! We’ll be sharing some of our favorite viewers’ Tweets live on the air, so send us your best “Idol” material in 140 characters or less all week long using the hash tag #idolparty to either @mtvnews or directly to my Twitter account @jambajim.