A disappointing week of American Idol ended Thursday night with all the suspense of watching an episode of Martha Bakes and wondering if the domestic diva’s cookies might catch on fire. There wasn’t a single genuine surprise over the course of the longest hour of Idol‘s 10th season. Well, unless you count Thia Megia declaring herself an “artist.” (These kids today!) Or Pia Toscano getting bleeped for language that would’ve been appropriate on Sesame Street. Or Lee DeWyze wondering what kind of God won’t let him be on the radio but allows the Black Eyed Peas to have a hit with that collection of notes and words they coughed up on the Idol stage tonight. (Little does Lee know, God hasn’t turned on the radio since Scotty McCreery was in diapers.)
Of course, the centerpiece of Top 12 results night was the debut of Nigel Lythgoe’s rigidly choreographed new piece called “Journey to the Bottom Three,” in which Haley Reinhart, Naima Adedapo, and Karen Rodriguez skittered away from their more popular/talented/hyped counterparts and onto the silver stools of doom. Naima (in character as a funky robot) stutter-stepped her way back to safety, followed by Haley’s slouchy shuffle into the Top 11. (I really thought Jacob Lusk or maybe Thia should’ve been called off the bench to take over Haley’s bottom-dweller role, but I’m not sure The Lady Reinhart’s “I’m over it!” brand of possibly sarcastic grinning won her any new fans. As Jimmy Iovine warned her in her performance-night package: YOU ARE FOREVER BEING WATCHED!)
And that left Karen standing center stage like a guest of honor at a surprise party who’s known about the big event for weeks, but goes through the motions when people pop up from behind her couch because, well, it’s what she’s expected to do.
I had to roll my eyes when Ryan announced Karen was “the person in danger of leaving us,” as if the Idol overlords would ever allow the judges to “waste” their one-time-only veto power so early in the season (or on anyone other than Wittle Wauwen). And so, before Randy told Karen the save was off the table (but tried to hint that her Latina comrade J.Lo might’ve voted to save her), she took one last bilingual swing at Mariah Carey’s “Hero,” the strawberry soda-float-scented ballad that launched her into the top 13. There was a whirlwind of vibrato, a smattering of tears, and then a very strange post-performance monologue from Karen that was one part “Save me, J.Lo, you’re my only hope!” and one part “There just ain’t no way.” Here’s how it went: “It just felt great to at least have that one chance. It just felt so great. And I know I can do so much better, and I know you guys believe in me. And my mom! My mom believes in me. And I know it’s about the votes, but I’ve done my best to represent for everybody, for my family, for everyone.” In other words, judges, she represents hard for the money so you better treat her right. All right?
Oh, actually, would somebody please silence Karen already and cue David Cook’s “Don’t You Forget About Me”? And if you’re not going to roll related footage of the season 7 champ, then at least cut to Karen’s adios package. Thank you!
As for the night’s other performances — or in some cases I should probably say “performances” — let us recap:
Lee DeWyze, “Beautiful Like You”: A heartfelt and actually rather pretty vocal from the season 9 champ on a dead-end street of a song. Oh sure, there’s a lot worse on your radio right this very second, but there’s just not a lot of urgency to Lee’s new single, certainly not enough to get him over the “he’s finished before he started” label he’s been slapped with outside the Idol bubble. I will never understand why his label didn’t kick things off with the infinitely catchier “Me and My Jealousy.” But then again, if I ran a label, season 4’s Aloha Mi’sho would be a big star, too!
The Season 10 Top 12, “Born to Be Wild”/”Born This Way” mashup: I began to suspect this was live (or live with a healthy dose of backing track) when Jacob Lusk’s mic malfunctioned. And that suspicion was confirmed when said mic kicked back in and the decidedly un-Auto-Tuned “Lusky Stank” leapt out of my television and popped me in the chin. (Fox needs to consider adding a TV-LS warning to the telecast.) But in all seriousness, I’m just glad there was actual singing going on, as opposed to overprocessed crap in a can. Better still, Team Season 10 tackled two songs that were better than pretty much anything else we heard on the Idol stage on Wednesday. (Barring that masterpiece “Colors of the Wind,” obvs.)
Ford Music Video: I have absolutely no recollection of what went down in this segment — musically or visually — except a fleeting image of Lauren tied to a chair, and repeated rom-com hugs between Haley and Stefano. And to be honest, the notes I took a few hours ago aren’t really much help. So, um…I’m just gonna keep chugging along. You don’t expect me to go back and watch this messerie on my DVR, right?
Black Eyed Peas, “Just Can’t Get Enough”: “Why would you sing that live?” asked my husband, without the slightest hint of irony.
And now, on to our awards ceremony for the evening!
The Call a Doctor (or an Exorcist) Prize
I know Karen’s had a tough night, but did anyone else notice the way her eyes roll into the back of the head when she’s laying down too much vibrato?
“But You Can Do That on Television” Award
Pia Toscano, who got bleeped (comically, I guess) when relaying the information that her singing dog is a Shih Tzu.
The “Show, Don’t Tell” Prize
“As an artist, I’m pretty much me,” said Thia, explaining how her musical point of view extends beyond Disney princess themes. This message was not approved by Fantasia’s “I’m Doin’ Me.” That’s all I’m sayin.
The “Aren’t You a Little Young to Be Giving Up On Your Intellectual Future?” Prize
Scotty McReery, 16, telling us he’d already determined that his brain is “not astronaut material.”
Least Suspenseful Results-Show Pairing Ever
Um, really Ryan, you didn’t even need to dim the lights when you told us either Naima Adedapo or Stefano Langone was bottom-three bound.
J’enough With the Alternating Flirty/Menacing Act!
Casey Abrams making scaryface/sexyface during “Born to Be Wild.” Dude, sometimes we just want you to, like, sing.
Sadly Prescient Sound Bite
“I can make funny noises with my throat.” –a pre-elimination Karen Rodriguez (Oh girl, you don’t need to tell us. We heard your rendition of “I Could Fall in Love” just last week!)
Most Random Shout-Out of the Night
“Congratulations on everything!” Ryan Seacrest to Pitbull
Oh, and finally, in a stunning reversal of Idol Editing Code No. 457: Parents With Accents Must Always Be Subtitled, we got to see clips of Karen’s sweet, adorable mom — without a chyron in sight! Who says you can’t teach an Old Nigel new tricks?
Okay, now here’s where I hand things over to you.Did the right contestant go home? How did you feel about Karen’s sing-out/”save me!” performance of “Hero”? What about the performances by Lee and the BEPs? And who do you think is most likely to be at risk next week? Sound off below, and for all my Idol news and commentary, follow me on Twitter @MichaelSlezakTV!