American Idol Recap: Stanks for the Memories

Thursday night’s installment of American Idol wasn’t so much a results show as it was a series of distinct promotional opportunities. Jennifer Lopez took a break from her grueling work behind the Idol judges’ table to hawk her two latest singles and herald the return of the saggy genie pant. Steven Tyler woke up from his long season’s nap to move a couple copies of his memoir. That horrible British guy who insulted Stefano Langone’s mother’s cooking tried to whip up some buzz for another one of his TV shows that I have no interest in watching. And Jacob Lusk, Season 10’s unapologetic howler, tried to stake a claim as his generation’s Luther Vandross.

In the midst of the QVC-esque proceedings, a scrappy kid named Jimmy made like he was on an MTV reality series and showed us what happens when mentors stop being polite and start getting real. The results of this experiment were predictably refreshing — and so were the results of the 60 million votes cast by the Idoloonie nation at the end of Wednesday night’s “Now & Then” themed episode.

Indeed, a full two months after introducing us to the term “Lusky Stank,” and some five weeks after declaring that if he was sent home for his ridiculous cover of Michael Jackson’s “Man in the Mirror,” it wouldn’t be “because I sang the song bad, it won’t be because I sang the song wrong, it will be because everybody in America wasn’t ready to look at themselves in the mirror,” Jacob Lusk finally got his Idol pink slip, receiving the lowest number of votes and going the way of Kendra Chantelle, Robbie Rosen, Lauren Turner, Jovany Barreto, Asthon Jones, Karen Rodriguez, Thia Megia, Naima Adedapo, Pia Toscano, Paul McDonald, Stefano Langone, and Casey Abrams.

Asked by Ryan Seacrest what memory he’d take with him from his Idol run, Jacob answered with typical humility: “I think that America fell in love with me, and now I can go out and put out that good-feeling R&B music that reminds you of Luther, reminds you of those great old singers. And I get to come out and put that out.” Yes, folks, you can check him out on iTunes; the album will drop on the Fifth of Never.

Okay, maybe that’s a little unfair. As he showed us all the way back in Hollywood Week with his insanely over-the-top but undeniably entertaining “God Bless the Child” — which, Randy Jackson (Ph.D in nonsense) was most certainly not the best performance ever delivered on American Idol — Jacob has many of the ingredients it takes to be a successful recording artist. It’s just that he has no idea what to do with said gifts, and it wasn’t like he ever got the kind of pointed, instructive feedback from the judges to help him learn. Jacob’s vocal philosophy this season was an awful lot (emphasis on “awful”) like the “Omelette Gone Wild” that he served up to Chef Gordon Ramsay. On paper, the combination of tomato, asparagus, and lobster sounds quite lovely, but when it’s violently assembled to resemble “a plate of vomit,” no one’s going to want to go near it.

And Jacob proved with his caterwauling exit performance of “A House Is Not a Home” — in which his face varied wildly between the classic theater masks of comedy and tragedy, and ended with a “blibbity blobbity wooo-ha-wooo” shenaniganza — he’s still got some work to do.

Joining Jacob in the bottom two this week was Lauren Alaina, who was reduced to tears during Jimmy Iovine’s Thursday Evening Quarterbacking segment. (Was it just me, or was Week Two of this “Jimmy gets honest” experiment more pointed and entertaining than last week’s attempt?) Lauren “pulled back on biggest note of the song,” Jimmy complained.”I believe because of her performance of ‘Unchained Melody,’ she will be in the bottom two tonight.” That comment prompted the start of Lauren’s waterworks, which continued after Jimmy’s prediction came true, and flowed all the way through the end of the episode. I know it’s not a crazy thing for a contestant to get a little misty when she thinks her Idol run might be over, but did anyone else look at Lauren’s tremulous response to actual criticism and wonder if she’s got the emotional maturity right now to handle what the music business might throw at her in the immediate future?

Jimmy then went on to argue that James’ voice “closed down” on “Without You” (but was still worthy of… an 8 out of 10?); that Scotty will have an extraordinary recording career whether he wins Idol or not; and that Haley needed to “do something dangerous” (like covering Gaga’s “You and I”) to have a chance at cracking the top three. “Haley showed no fear in the face of being severely criticized,” he said, before calling her a “lock for the finale” if her confidence continues. What a difference a week makes, no?

Because we were down to the Top 5, Ryan Seacrest pulled his usual trick of splitting the contestants up into two separate duos (Lauren and Jacob! Haley and James!), declaring the fifth vocalist (Scotty!) safe, then trying to convince him to choose which cluster of compatriots was at risk of elimination. “I’m not doin’ that. Don’t do that to me. Can’t do that,” Scotty chanted, almost to himself, before Ryan guided him over to the James-Haley side of the stage, declared the trio safe, and added that despite last week’s visual hint that Scotty had been in danger, that in fact, he’d never been in the season’s bottom two vote-getters. Yes, folks, Scotty is in it to win it! (As if you ever doubted.)

And with that out of the way, let’s review the evening’s musical performances:

The Season 10 Top 5: “Happy Together”
The sight of Jacob, Scotty, and James with their arms around each other, heads together, singing badly, was cornier than this image (click it, it’s awesome!). Jacob’s voice, in particular, kept fading in and out of the abominable sound mix, but Lauren and Haley actually sounded pretty good together. If there’s another duet situation next week, might I suggest Uncle Nigel split things up into boys vs. girls? Grade: D+

Lady Antebellum: “Just a Kiss”
Cool band, loose mood. Not the most scintillating hook in the world, but compared to a lot of other chart-toppers we’ve seen on the Idol stage this year, these cats can really sing. Grade: B+

“Jennifer Lopez”: “On the Floor”
What if there was a really good dry cleaner next door to the Thunderdome? Well, you might end up with an outfit like J.Lo’s metallic, hardware-heavy bikini-choker -bloomers combo. I would be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy those from-the-ceiling shots of J.Lo and her crew writhing to the music, or that I wasn’t having a hard time telling what was a real live vocal and what was a backing track. But then Jennifer squeaked some kind of shout-out to Miami, and I realized that anything richer than her simple-syrup voice had probably gone though at least 20 layers of purification and filtering. Grade: S (for Silver and Sparkly)

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

Best Knee-jerk Backstage Response to a Judge’s Comment
“I love Jesus!” –Scotty McCreery, responding to Steven Tyler’s opinion that he’d “danced with the devil” during his cover of Montgomery Gentry’s “Gone”

Best Butt-kicking Backstage Response to the Judges’ Comments
“I’m not gonna give up that easy and say I’m worried about going home.” –Haley Reinhart, staying cool, calm, and collected after J.Lo and Randy gave her harsh feedback for choosing to sing an unreleased Lady Gaga track (brilliantly, I might add)

Words From Ryan Seacrest That Prompted Me to Take a Mental Silkwood Shower
[To Steven Tyler] “Is there any area you haven’t touched?”

Proof That There’s a Little Truth in Every Joke
Lauren explaining “our stylist wants to kill me big-time,” on a night where she was clad in the most unfortch baggy, sparkly Pepto-Bismol-colored mini skirt.

Proof That Someone Within the Idol Organization Is at Least as Beastly as Yours Truly
Ryan’s remark about J.Lo’s new album, Steven’s new memoir, and Randy’s “bake sale in Tarzana, Calif.” reminded me a little bit of my bitchery in last week’s recap about the Dawg getting his shining moment with a spot in the upper right corner of your supermarket circular.

Biggest Missed Opportunity
That Bing-sponsored nonsense about how the Idols pick songs. Instead of silly jokes with Haley and Scotty, can you imagine if we’d gotten a three-minute deep dive into the actual song selection process? C’mon, Uncle Nigel! We already know you’re hiding behind the curtain: Show us how the process works already!

Next Week’s Theme
The songbook of Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller. Guest mentor: Lady Gaga. Jordin Sparks will peform on results night.

And now that you’ve got the scoop, I turn things over to you. How are you feeling about Jacob’s ouster? What kind of future do you see him having? Can you imagine buying his post-Idol music? Sound off in our poll below, then hit the comments; and for all my Idol news and commentary, follow me on Twitter @MichaelSlezakTV!

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