Talking Shit

American Idol Top 5 Recap: In Which The Children Are Destroyed, Debased, and Corrupted

Oh, how I miss Casey Abrams. Without him, American Idol is five kids with nice voices doing middling karaoke.

It could have been so much more! Back when Jacob Lusk was an androgyne dynamo; back when Haley Reinhart was a stock-still shrapnel-voiced song stylist, these kids had personality! Style! Confidence! They've still got confidence, maybe, but it's a different kind of confidence. Confidence in the power of their celebrity, but profound misgivings about their vocal abilities and musicality -- misgivings nurtured by the judges' seemingly random and reliably off-base critiques, and by the meaningless votes of 13-year-old girls.

Goddamn. Last night, the contestants each did two songs; one contemporary, one from the 60's. Here's the breakdown.

James Durbin sings "Closer To The Edge" by 30 Seconds To Mars and Harry Nilsson's "Without You":
On "Closer," Durbin began by proving he can't sing sotto voce worth

a damn, and concluded with a bunch of off-key yelling. His voice

sounded weak, almost on the verge of collapse, but the judges loved it

anyway. He was better on "Without You," but got all weepy because he

misses his family. His emotionalism was charming a few weeks ago, but

now he's almost certainly faking it -- he has learned that nothing quite

so charms America as the well-timed deployment of waterworks. Totally

manipulative. Again, the judges loved it.

Jacob Lusk sings "No Air" by Jordin Sparks and "Love Hurts" by Nazareth: The

former was marred by pitchy, badly-controlled warbling. The latter was

quite lovely, but far from perfect. Seriously: When did Lusk lose the

ability to find and remain on key, or even to sustain a note? Listen to

that horrible effeminate squawking during the coda, when he screams "It

hurts!" over and over again. No seasoned singer would willingly emit

such a noise, and even a few months ago Jacob wouldn't have, either. Idol has taught him some atrocious vocal habits, and the sooner he leaves the program, the better for his throat.

Lauren Alaina sings "Flat On The Floor" by Carrie Underwood and "Unchained Melody" by the Righteous Brothers: Lauren

salvaged the useless Underwood ditty with a smart, sassy, full-throated

performance. She ruined the "Unchained Melody" with pointless, showy

melisma, and gracelessly dodged the high note. The judges loved both,

natch. What's the point of those guys, anyway?

Scotty McCreery sings "Gone" by Montgomery Gentry and "You Were Always On My Mind" by Elvis Presley: The

former was a brave step out of the box for Mr. McCreery, who showed

heretofore unexpected rock'n'roll panache and a surprising supple upper

register, suggesting he'd be almost as effective a blues shouter as a

country crooner. The Elvis Presley joint was an abortion; Scotty's

weak-throated treatment highlighted the songs' tossed-off construction,

which Presley's larger voice obscured.

Haley Reinhart sings Lady Gaga's "You and I" and The Animals' "House of The Rising Sun": Haley

Reinhart needs to stop gesticulating. She inevitable accompanies the

word "you" with a finger pointed at the audience; "blue jeans" is

accompanied by a finger-point to the legs; "gambling man" is accompanied

by a mimed roll of the dice. Inappropriate and pointless. Her

ungraceful movements were almost certainly responsible for the savaging

she received after the Gaga number -- it sure as hell wasn't the singing,

which was pitch-perfect and full of shrapnel. Vocally, no one on the

show comes within a light year of Haley's characterization, richness of

tone, agility, melodic invention, power, or sense of pitch. The judges

seemed to wake up to this fact by the time Haley tackled The Animals.

Inappropriate gesticulations aside, the singing was overwhelming. Randy

declared it the "best performance of the night," and he was right. See

above video.

Who should go home: Jacob Lusk. He's

completely unreliable, has terrible taste in music, is sexophobic, and

displays a total lack of self-awareness. He has the most astounding

throat in current popular music, and it's going to waste. Pity.

Who will go home: Jacob Lusk. Please Jeebus, let it be Jacob Lusk instead of Haley Reinhart. Though it might be Haley,

'cuz she's got no fanbase, is consistently savaged by the judges, and looks ungraceful onstage. If she

leaves, the show will become almost unwatchable. Again I say: Goddamn.

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Brandon K. Thorp