Wednesday night, the “American Idol” atmosphere was “electric” thanks to regal Oscar winners, Jacob Lusk crotch grabs and James Durbin’s armpits. The producers had a fool-proof script banged out for our “enjoyment,” which included the phrases “in it to win it,” and “finding your perfect song.” And the night’s guest mentor told MSNBC back in 2007 that “['Idol'] undermines art in every way and promotes commercialism, I am sad people love it so.”
In other words, this is “American Idol X: Abandon Hope All Ye Who Enter Here.”
The theme was “Now & Then” which meant the contestants had two performances to rehearse. One was a current song (or in the case of Haley’s to-be-released “Born This Way” deep cut, a future song) and round two was all about songs from the ’60s. (Or, um, the ’70s, if your name rhymes with Tames Surbin.)
Before I go on a rant about how “Idol” has revealed itself to be a total farce and has messed with my head so much that I’m even starting to question whether Haley Reinhart is secretly the producers’ favorite, let me remind you that my weekly Web show “Idol Party Live” is happening right here in this blog at noon ET. [We taped it already, but it's repeating in that video player now!] We’re not only gabbing about “Then & Now” week, but we’ll also be debuting hilarious new segments from my recent sit-downs with Casey Abrams and season-eight champ Kris Allen. Plus, we recently scored some time with “judge” Jennifer Lopez. So click play, drop us a tweet using the hashtag #idolparty and join the fun.
On to the performances!
Now Song: 30 Seconds to Mars’ “Closer to the Edge”
Then Song: Harry Nilsson’s “Without You”
Verdict: Tears = No Jeers
Sheryl Crow sang harmonies with James and then crowed (pun!), “I feel like I can officially retire now!” Crow previously sang harmonies with Michael Jackson and did not retire, therefore “Idol” fandom will take that quote and twist it to mean that James Durbin is better than Michael Jackson. Prepare yourself, sane people!
Jimmy Iovine and the “judges” were impressed that Durbin could high-five audience members and make noises with his mouth at the same time! Granted, those noises will not be on key, but still. Those high fives were emotionally perfect.
For all the talk of Durbin’s bid as a contemporary rocker, it was Durbin’s straightforward “Without You” cover that people are talking about today. The soon-to-be-hubby and father was too emotional to rehearse the tune, and on the “Idol” stage, he was too emotional to make it sound pleasant to humans. But because he squeezed out a tear by the end, the judges forgave his technical flaws. Tyler even had a name for it: “pitchy a little bit in a strange kind of James Durbin way.” You say “pitchy in a James Durbin way,” I say “pulling a Lusk.” Potato, potahto.
J. Lo appreciated how passionate Durbin is about winning. He even grew a patented Lee DeWyze UnderChin Hair Patch. That’s dedication!
Tyler Perry Presents Jacob Lusk
Now Song: Jordin Sparks’ & Chris Brown’s “No Air”
Then Song: The Everly Brothers’ “Love Hurts” (also recorded by Nazareth)
Verdict: Double Your Pain
I have no problems with Tyler Perry Presents Jacob Lusk singing both parts of “No Air.” (Let’s face it. The song ain’t “Summer Nights.”) I do, however, have problems with Jacob gyrating and sliding his hand down towards his happy place. Leave it to Lusk for showing that even self-gratification can be a “bad touch.”
The judges were clearly disoriented from all the dry ice and dry humping because somehow they gave him encouragement. J.Lo blurted out that Lusk has “one of the best voices that’s ever been on this stage,” obviously showing the early signs of a stroke. Randy Jackson stuttered, “I don’t see you as Chris Brown or Jordin Sparks” before saying Lusk had a bigger voice than both of them. (Hold my earrings.) Much chatter followed about whether Jacob should stick to an old-school Luther Vandross vibe or be a pop star. But the discussion should have been, “Was this the worst thing ever or the worst thing everrrrr?”
Sheryl Crow tried to show Jacob how to sing with restraint for song number two. But something went haywire because his performance was as subtle as a garbage truck. To quote Lusk, “It hurts, it hurts.”
Now Song: Carrie Underwood’s “Flat on the Floor”
Then Song: The Everly Brothers’ “Unchained Melody”
When rehearsing Lauren Alaina’s Carrie Underwood ditty, Sheryl told Lauren to stay put on the stage and refuse to move under any circumstances. In other words, be exactly like Carrie Underwood. Based on Lauren’s gutsy delivery and J.Lo’s stank face, the tactic worked. If her confidence issues continue to shrink, we may be looking at the first all-female finale since season three. (Yes, I am going to live in LaLaLand and pretend that Haley is a shoo-in for the finale.)
Lauren chose her “parents’ song” for round two. But “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing” was also her “parents’ song.” Maybe they celebrate every milestone? (“One year ago today, Lauren and I got our first fake tan together, and you told me I looked like a teenager. Happy anniversary!”)
Simon Cowell’s favorite song demands a lot of passion to properly sell it, and although Lauren sounded sweeter than a sugar factory, she only dug three feet underground, where she needed to dig all the way to China.
Now Song: Montgomery Gentry’s “Gone”
Then Song: Elvis Presley’s “Always on My Mind”
Verdict: Crazed and Dazed
Depressed Casey Abrams fans were thrown a bone in the form of Scotty McCreery tapping into his “gritty” side. Scotty growled, jumped offstage with wild abandon, then got uncomfortably close to the child bride background singers while making more scary faces than a shattered mirror. Speaking of young girls, when the Smoking Gun gets its hands on Scotty McCreery backstage tour rider, I guarantee it will say “must be surrounded by teen girls at all times.”
Depressed John Stevens fans, were thrown a bone in round two, when Scotty displayed the vocal dexterity and emotional depth of the season-three ginge. Flat vocals, boring delivery, “Always on My Mind” was an utter failure.
Yet the judges wouldn’t dare give Scotty a tongue lashing twice in one season! Every move he made earned raves. “In it to win it!” “Youngest veteran!” “Nothing awkward about you up there!” “He’s my Scotty.” OK, OK. That last quote was actually from Paquita, Scotty’s “100 percent Puerto Rican” memaw, but it was as eloquent as anything else the judges said in this episode, so I figured I might as well include it.
Sir Anthony Hopkins
Song: “Jeans, Paisley and Plaid” by Sir Anthony Hopkins (unreleased)
Sir Anthony Hopkins, why haven’t you been on “Idol Party Live” yet? That is all.
My Girl Haley Reinhart
Now song: Lady Gaga’s “You and I”
Then Song: The Animals’ “House of the Rising Sun”
Verdict: Bow Down
At first, things were looking up for My Girl Haley Reinhart. She earned her first Coke Real moment of season 10, where she revealed she would be rocking a soon-to-be released track from Lady Gaga’s Born This Way album. Jimmy Iovine hooked her up with a phone call from Lady G herself. Everything’s coming up roses, right?
Wrong. After delivering a passionate performance whose only blaring mistake was Haley’s Bedazzled varicose vein flesh-color pants, the judges tore her down for daring to go with a song that nobody’s heard before. Haley looked devastated and sheepishly danced around the fact that she was strong-armed into performing the song by the same people who pass along talking points to the judges. Reinhart wasn’t just thrown under a bus, she was dragged out of a Rolls Royce limo first.
With “The Voice” earning ratings buzz and good reviews for including current successful pop stars, “Idol” had to flex its muscles to prove that despite the Carole King themes, it still has a foot in the contemporary pop world. So producers likely pressured Jimmy to work his Gaga connections and voila! “The Voice” may have Christina Aguilera and “That was easy” buttons from Staples, but “Idol” has the power to debut new music from giant pop stars. Suddenly Blake Shelton and Frenchie Davis aren’t as exciting.
But maybe round one was entirely a set up for what was yet to come: a dazzling and ferocious “House of the Rising Sun” that both wiped the floor with her competition and solidified Haley’s legacy as one of the Great Female Vocalists in 10 seasons of “Idol.”
Siobhan Magnus fans were quick to point out that their girl rocked the Animals a cappella last year to much acclaim, but Haley’s interpretation stood out barely 15 seconds in. Siobhan’s was a smooth funereal lament; Haley’s was a boozy late-night fever dream. It’s no mistake that she had feathers on her blouse. May 3, 2011 was the night Haley Reinhart took flight!
I can’t wait to find out what Gregorian chant Nigel Lythgoe will choose for Haley when she makes it to the Producer’s Pick theme.
What did you think of Wednesday’s episode? Were you surprised that James Durbin was such an attractive crier? Why are the judges praising Lauren Alaina for showing off a little R&B flavor while slamming Jacob for trying a little pop? And did you laugh when Haley Reinhart sang about lipstick on a face in that Gaga song? Did you miss Simon declaring winners at the end of each round? Leave a comment below! And if you’re not already, follow me on Twitter @jambajim.