Last night's Idol theme was "songs from the movies." Apparently, the definition of a "song from a movie" in the Idol universe is "a song that was once listened to by someone on the set of a film." None of the obvious choices made it. "Mrs. Robinson"? Nope. "I Don't Want to Miss a Thing"? Nope. Instead, we got "Bridge Over Troubled Water" -- because when somebody thinks "Bridge Over Troubled Water," he immediately thinks of The Pursuit of Happyness. Right?
Anyway. Here are the highlights:
Jacob Lusk's "Bridge Over Troubled Water": Though
he seemed occasionally stymied by the song's simple, unimprovable
melody, Jacob wisely avoided essaying Aretha Franklin's needlessly
bombastic version. Merely by lending Paul Simon's lyrics the automatic
loveliness of his voice, he imbued "Bridge" with something new. At the
song's climax, he dodged Garfunkel's famous high note on the word bridge and instead sustained the song's final word, down, for 14 seconds, as he led a chorus of backup singers through three
gorgeous, ascending chords. The resulting noise was angelic.
Casey Abram's "Nature Boy": This is a gentle, chordally complex Nat King Cole number that Idol's
hitmaker-in-residence for the season, Interscope founder Jimmy Iovine,
warned Casey to dump. Casey refused. He hauled his stand-up bass onto
the stage and created some truly special sounds -- a more knotted or
nuanced melody has never been sung on Idol. The concern is that
jazz-averse viewers might be unable to process this kind of music and
hear Casey's singing as atonal. They may have thought the notes were wrong. But
they weren't. They were blue, and sometimes the embellishments took a
turn for the chromatic, but the notes themselves were very, very right.
That's it for the highlights. Now, the lowlights:
Paul McDonald's "Old Time Rock and Roll": Not
a movie song and definitely not a Paul song. With his kinky little
wisp of a voice, he should be singing Jose Feliciano or maybe Macy
Gray. Earlier this season, his pipes proved barely capable of sustaining a
decent Rod Stewart impersonation -- how the hell is he supposed to go
toe-to-toe with the baritonal Bob Seger? He can't. Doesn't matter. The
judges loved him, even though he was dressed like the Chiquita Banana
and the judges punished her for her stylistic range. The next week, they
told her that she'd be better off as a badder, bluesier version of herself
and that she should sound more like Janis Joplin. So now she's done
Maybe the judges think so too -- they finally started praising her
performances just as the performances became painfully self-conscious.
No more praise, though. Haley's "Call Me" was fine -- she flubbed the
song's first note, but the rest of the performance was relentlessly
dynamic. At one point, she negotiated a shocking melodic improvisation
over one of the choruses with throat- hemorrhaging intensity, and
everybody in the room where I was watching gasped at once. Still, the
judges were unimpressed. Whattabunchatools.
As to the rest of them: Lauren Alaina did an all-right version of a Miley Cyrus song, if Miley Cyrus songs can be said to have all-right versions. James Durbin did a screaming, dynamic, brainless, and generally perfect take on Sammy Hagar's contribution to the Heavy Metal soundtrack
(with an unfair assist from shred-legend Zach Wylde). Teen heartthrob
and George Bush impersonator Scotty McCreery did a passable George Strait song; and Stefano Langone greatly improved a Boyz II Men song that I had honestly hoped to never hear again.
The bottom three should be:
Scotty McCreery (cuz boring), Paul McDonald (cuz suck), and Lauren
Alaina (cuz she's sweet, she's talented, but America does not need a
16-year-old idol who is moved by Miley Cyrus).
The bottom three will be:
Stefano Langone (cuz he's too sweet and sappy to pull off the romantic
persona he so yearns to inhabit), Haley Reinhart (cuz the judges are
dumb), and Lauren Alaina (cuz see above).
Paul should be going home. Instead, we're probably gonna bid adieu to Haley. Life's not fair.