American Idol Recap: A Farewell to Arrrghs

Thursday night’s American Idol Top 6 results show featured a moment of spontaneous profanity from an unexpected source (someone other than Steven Tyler), a spontaneous kiss for an unexpected judge (someone other than Jennifer Lopez), and a surprising elimination Ryan Seacrest promised would disappoint a lot of fans (someone other than Jimmy Iovine).

In the end, it was occasional jazzman/occasional Jack Black-style rocker Casey Abrams who received the lowest number of viewer votes, but the shaggy 20-year-old from California didn’t seem particularly devastated to reach the end of his Idol journey. After all, Casey had already survived one brush with elimination, having scored the coveted Judges’ Save after America had been ready to relegate him to an eleventh-place finish five weeks prior. And this time around, the guy left on his own terms: With a lucrative spot on the 2011 Idol Summer Tour and an exit performance to “I Put a Spell on You” that was both upbeat and entertaining. The way Casey puckered up for anyone within kissing distance — Jacob’s relatives, random audience members, even Steven Tyler — his sing-out played more like a victory anthem than a tearful goodbye.

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What’s more, as part of his continuing quest to bring a little jazz to the masses, Casey got to float the name of his ultimate duet partner to an audience of 25 million. You could see Ryan Seacrest’s mind begin to wander — perhaps brainstorming the next great Kardashian TV project for E! — as Casey talked about the “very famous jazz musician” Oscar Peterson, someone the Idol contestant respected for his “chord structures” and “musicality.” Randy nodded with the kind of theatrical knowingness I imagine he thinks makes him look hip and musically astute but actually makes me want to punch him in the face. (Is it me, or was this perhaps the Dawg’s most annoying week on Idol in at least two years?)

If I’m being honest, though, I can’t say Casey’s ouster is a massive shock. Sure, I’d have bet Jacob Lusk was the likeliest contestant to walk the Idol plank this week, but on the other hand, Casey’s two most recent solo performances — “Harder to Breathe” and “Hi-De-Ho That Old Sweet Roll” — had strayed too far from the jazzy troubadour style of his best efforts (“Georgia on My Mind,” “Your Song,” “Nature Boy”) while playing up the growling and face-pulling and lack of commitment to the melody that Jennifer Lopez had warned against just seconds after he’d gotten the Save. Asked by Ryan about his penchant for the growl, Casey explained that “maybe I just have all this pent-up aggression” and that it needs to come out through “a very tiny hole.” Um, let’s go for an abrupt subject change in 5, 4, 3, 2…

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The results telecast itself was a weirdly paced one, with chipper Ryan openly declaring his intent to send contestants to safety “in random order” — conspiracy theorists, feel free to speculate why Uncle Nigel wanted to keep us from knowing this week’s Bottom Three — but not before forcing them to watch a video of Jimmy Iovine coming out from under his bridge to offer his critique of their Wednesday-night efforts. Jimmy’s first victim? Haley Reinhart, naturally. “As an artist, Haley’s problem is she doesn’t really know who she is yet. My prediction is, the audience is getting wind of that. And if she goes home tonight, it’ll be because of that,” he barked, and as the cameras cut back to Ryan and Haley on stage, the audio dropped for a second, and it became clear the Fox censors had muted an expletive from Haley. “Watch your mouth, young lady! Watch your mouth,” Ryan chided, without the “oh golly!” playfulness with which he greets Steven Tyler’s f-bombs.

I dunno, folks, I can’t say as I blame The Lady Reinhart for her unfiltered response. As she later explained to Ryan, she’s shown a penchant for soul, rock, and blues over the past eight weeks — while often working within the confines of Idol‘s specific theme nights. What’s more — and what makes me feel like the perpetual underdog is being ruthlessly marked for extinction by the show’s producers — is that Jimmy later went on to point out a similar “problem” with James Durbin (his forays into metal “are not believable,” declared the music producer) but then say “there’s no doubt in my mind he can win.” I could dive into more of Jimmy’s deeply irritating commentary — warning Scotty against the dangers of subtlety (!!!), declaring that Lauren is “here for the long run” — but instead, I’ll just say this: “F*** YEAH, HALEY!”

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And now, let’s get on to tonight’s musical numbers:

Musical Performances
The Season 10 Top 6: Carole King Medley
A pretty abysmal showing from a group of singers that are getting worked like sweatshop garment-makers by the good folks at Fox and 19. “Take Good Care of My Baby” at its best moments sounded like drunken karaoke, while Scotty surrounded by a gaggle of chicas on “Go Away Little Girl” made me look away in embarrassment. I’d assign blame for the mismatched harmonies, but that would require me to take a second listen. Grade: D+

Crystal Bowersox: “Ridin With the Radio”
I kind of love that Crystal and her music are everything Jimmy Iovine and his team are not. Up there in her crocheted top, with her grungy band and her magic mic stand, Crystal brought a relaxed sensibility and authentic sense of self that’s been a little hard to come by in Idol‘s tenth season. The jam-session-y vibe at the end was especially nifty, and I loved how Crystal looked directly at the Top 6 as she delivered her last line: “If you want to sing a song just sing it.” Grade: Transcendent

Bruno Mars: “The Lazy Song”
Cool dude, loose mood. Dog on stage. Whoa! A little boring for me, though, dawg. The song, not the dog. Grade: B-

Casey Abrams: “I Put a Spell on You”
Growly, but not unnecessarily so. I liked that Casey made his exit with grace and good humor, giving Steven Tyler a kiss on the cheek, hugging his fellow contestants and their relatives, and generally acting the congenial fool. What I didn’t like, though, was the the aggressive way he grabbed the backs of female audience members’ heads to pull them in for farewell kisses. (I’m being touchy, but I come from a long line of unrepentant feminists.) Interesting that Casey ended the performance staring into Haley’s eyes on the words “you’re mine,” no? Or maybe not. This showmance business isn’t really why I tune in, y’know? Grade: B

And now, on to our awards ceremony for the evening!

Audience Sign Most Definitely Planted By Fox
“Marry Me Randy?”

Hottest Outfit
Haley’s mustardy ankle-length skirt with structural button-emblazoned waist and dramatic draping (paired with colorful bottle-top necklace)

Best Carpet
Cozy rug wheeled out on stage for Crystal Bowersox’s performance

Worst Carpet
Tattered Oriental rug “drawn” into the midst of a mod living space during the Ford Music Video (yes, I watch these things altogether too carefully)

Most Unnecessary Pop-Culture Tie-In
The Idols prepping for the royal wedding at the British Consulate (because apparently we need our competitive reality series to contribute to the wall-to-wall coverage of William and Kate)

Gaffe I Wish Had Been Replayed on Repeat Loop
Randy misusing the phrase “turn the other cheek” in critiquing James and Scotty’s Wednesday-night performances

Gaffe I’m Glad Was Given the Night Off
Lauren Alaina falling down the stairs

Next Week’s “Judge on a Magazine Cover” Reveal
Randy Jackson in the upper right corner of your supermarket circular

Sweet Tribute to Previous Idol Contestants
Haley declaring her appreciation for Adam Lambert, Siobhan Magnus, Kelly Clarkson, Lee DeWyze and Crystal Bowersox

Unnecessary Dis of Previous Idol Contestant
Ryan responding to Haley’s genuine moment by mockingly asking, “No Taylor Hicks?”

And with that, I turn the floor over to you. How are you feeling about Casey’s ouster? Did you enjoy his exit performance? Can you imagine buying his post-Idol music? And are you ultimately happy the judges used their save on him? Sound off below, and for all my Idol news and commentary, follow me on Twitter @MichaelSlezakTV!

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