Ryan Seacrest begins Tuesday (April 21) night's "American Idol" in the midst of a projected inferno. A Disco inferno? Why yes. Tuesday night is Disco Night on "American Idol," rarely the finest showcase for 21st Century singing talent.
But whether the "Idol" Top 7 handles the theme with aplomb or not, their mere performances will be a welcome distraction from a week dominated by mockery of last week's Judges' Save of Matt Giraud and rumors of Simon Cowell's departure after next season.
Full recap after the break...
Singer: LIL ROUNDS
Song: "I'm Every Woman"
My Take: It's a predictable song choice for Lil Rounds, but not necessarily a bad one on its surface. But where is the singing? She lets the background singers steer the chorus, as she growls, howls and mumbles with little regard to the tune or demands of the song. She walks out toward the crowd, parades around the judges and periodically shouts a word or two. It's a Matt Giraud performance, where she doesn't trust anything about the song itself. The song has a melody. I've heard it before. Heck, I've heard it before on "American Idol." Wherever that melody is, Lil Rounds isn't singing it. It isn't that Lil hasn't lived up to the potential she showed in the semifinals. It's that she's now been pretty bad for the majority of the Finals.
Athos, Porthos, Aramis and Simon Say: Yo. Lil got the party started for Randy, but it sounded too wild for him. Kara says that America was waiting for her to sing a song like this, but it wasn't worth the wait. Kara instructs Lil that she's been every woman this season, every woman but herself. Paula provides irrelevant extra information by telling us that Lil had no voice on Monday, but Paula still says Lil didn't tap into her inner goddess. Simon starts talking and Lil interrupts him and attempts to filibuster her way through the rest of the segment. It's a brilliant strategy that I've never seen attempted on this show. Unfortunately for her, Simon interjects and predicts that Lil is done after this week, that she didn't show any originality. Ryan hasn't heard enough backtalk from Lil and he lets her defend herself. She disagrees with all four of the judges. Geez, Lil. Maybe all of those criticisms you've been hearing week after week, maybe they mean something?
Singer: KRIS ALLEN
Song: "She Works Hard For The Money"
My Take: Kris picked this song because it had something to say. It's our first Donna Summer song of the night, reduced to proficient acoustic blandness in vintage Kris style. This is one way to handle this difficult theme, rendering the song completely unrecognizable. Kris makes his usual ernest faces, which the girls seem to love. He strums his guitar, which he certainly doesn't do badly. And he sings with low-offense sincerity. After Lil, he seems like an artist and a musician. Someday, when The CW gets around to remaking "The Heights," I propose Kris as their leading man. Every generation gets the Jamie Walters it deserves and Kris Allen may be that Jamie Walters.
Athos, Porthos, Aramis and Simon Say: Kara tells Kris that he took a risk with the arrangement, but that it paid off. She gives him props. Paula says that it's courageous that Kris is willing to shop in the women's department. "Are you saying he buys lady's underwear?" Simon asks. Simon praises it as original, well-thought-out and not-karaoke. You know Randy loves about Kris? He knows who he is and he's ready for the big time.
Singer: DANNY GOKEY
My Take: It's NHL postseason time and Danny Gokey appears to be working a Playoff Beard. I liked Danny without his glasses this week, but I guess he's back to giving the fans what they like. He doesn't mesh all that well with the backup singing trio, but his voice is well-suited to this kind of song. It's a bit one-note, though and over-faithful to the original. It's another performance that makes Kris look better.
Athos, Porthos, Aramis and Simon Say: Yo. Check it, man. Randy was worried with the song choice, but Danny turned it into something that worked for him. Kara was also worried and she makes a lame joke about Simon's wardrobe. She raves about his pitch, but isn't certain we're going to remember him at the end of the night. Paula is impressed with his agility and brilliance, raving about his sexy voice. Too soon, Paula. Simon didn't get any star power from the performance, that it was good, but not special.
Singer: ALLISON IRAHETA
Song: "Hot Stuff"
My Take: Allison is wearing a black rubber dress over black rubber leggings. Or is it leather? And the white leather jacket? It's all a bit distracting. Is this an established arrangement of "Hot Stuff"? It has no similarities to the version of the song I know, but it's a pretty savvy showcase for what it is that Allison does well, which is bellow. The song has been slowed down nearly to a grinding halt and the melody is mostly gone, leaving one big note after another. And Allison can do big notes. I think she could have found something from late-70s, early-80s Blondie that might have been more on-theme and would have suited her just as well. Nobody's going to remember tomorrow what Allison sang, just that she did it with power.
Athos, Porthos, Aramis and Simon Say: Randy has two things. He didn't love the arrangement, but he still things she's one of the best singers in the competition. Kara agrees with Randy on the arrangement, but that it was the right song. Kara gives it a 9/10 from a singing perspective. Paula says Allison maintained her authenticity. Simon says Allison was an underdog this week, but gave a brilliant performance.
Singer: ADAM LAMBERT
Song: "If I Can't Have You"
My Take: Adam's already done disco. He's already worn his John Travolta white suit. And he did up-temp last week. So Adam just decided to turn to this one into a plaintive ballad. Since I'm well on the record with my appreciation of Adam's work this season, I'm entitled to say that this one was somehow less entertaining than I might have hoped for. I guess the secret with Adam is that he really cheats expectations at every turn. So you think that Disco Night is a theme he can really have fun with. And his response is, "Nope. I've got some wailing to do." But whatever he decides on, he does it well, albeit with a bit of a cat-in-a-gunny-sack tinge tonight.
Athos, Porthos, Aramis and Simon Say: Randy says that at this point, contestants should be showing range and that Adam is ready right now and that he has it majorly going on. Kara tells Adam he's brilliant, that it's inspiring. Paula, voice cracking, says she felt his pain and vulnerability and implies that he tore his heart out and left it on the stage. Simon loved that he'd never heard the song like this before and that the vocals were immaculate. Adam stops the praise to celebrate Michael Orland, who helped him come up with the arrangement.
Singer: MATT GIRAUD
Song: "Staying Alive"
My Take: Damn you, Matt Giraud. He starts off the slightly groovy arrangement and I'm thinking, "This isn't a bad different take on 'Staying Alive.'" And then he unleashes a totally inappropriate, off-key falsetto sequel that adds nothing and things spiral downhill from there. In fact, the way the song has been arranged, he only sings the opening verse of the song and it's chaos from there. Even the last note, it starts soulful and strong and then he adds two extra runs to kill it. Last week, Matt promised he'd learn from the judges telling him not to oversing. This week, he proved to be just as thick-headed as Lil Rounds.
Athos, Porthos, Aramis and Simon Say: Check it out. So listen. Randy didn't love the song choice or the arrangement, but that Matt can sing. He calls this one of the most talented groups of seven the show has had. He's incorrect. Kara's relieved that Matt brought Disco back and that it was a solid performance. "You pick songs like I bowl," Paula's assistant writes for her. This week was a strike, it seems. Simon didn't like the performance, that he needs to leave Idol Land and go to the Real World. If by that, he means that it's time for Matt to go home and that the judges never should have wasted the Save on him, I'm in total agreement.
Singer: ANOOP DESAI
Song: "Dim All the Lights"
My Take: I'm of the mistaken impression that Disco includes several artists who aren't Donna Summer. Apparently I'm incorrect. Oh look. Anoop is also working his own Playoff Beard. Rendered into Ballad Submission by several weeks of criticism from the judges, this Anoop trying to increase the tempo a little bit. For the majority of the song, he sounds solid. The last note is BRUTAL. Anoop disengages from the note early and can't cover his distaste when the lights come back up.
Athos, Porthos, Aramis and Simon Say: Randy says Anoop can sing. Kara says Anoop is really hitting his stride. Paula likes Anoop's look and tells him real men knows how to wear pink. What's with Paula's obsession with gender roles tonight? She also loves his teeth. "That was mediocre at best," Simon decrees, calling it his worst performance by a mile.
TONIGHT'S BEST: Allison yelled the loudest. Adam wailed the highest. Kris showed the greatest appreciation for economically industrious women.
TONIGHT'S WORST: Lil and Matt were the worst of the night and should be going home tomorrow.
IN DANGER: It's my concern that if Matt Giraud fans exist, they're going to swamp the phones tonight and he may stick around. I can't imagine Lil not going home, but the other slot is a mystery. My suspicion is that it may be Anoop.
What do you think? Who's heading home? And who stood out tonight?