So much to talk about with Idol this year. For one thing, it looks for all the world like this season’s winner will be an openly and obviously gay dude, which feels like a transformative Obama moment in the show’s history even if a closeted but obviously gay dude almost won season two. Adam Lambert is a sort of alternately great and horrifying contestant, one of an unprecedented number this year who only sounds good when he’s singing ballads. Last week’s “Born to Be Wild” was damn near unendurable, partly because it felt so utterly inevitable, and that falsetto Axl screech he busts out at least once a week couldn’t possibly sound more plastic. But he’s also a canny contestant, and his take on the Donnie Darko version of “Mad World” a few weeks back gave this season its requisite pseudo-indie crossover moment, always fun. His involvement feels like the logical endpoint of Idol‘s longstanding musical theater overcurrent; he’s the guy who might ride all that cheap-seats showiness to something resembling stardom. John Waters probably loves him, and Jake Shears probably wishes he’d thought to try out for Idol when he was still young enough.
Lambert’s main competition seems to be Danny Gokey, who sucks so bad. He’s the worst tendencies of Taylor Hicks (huh yeah! bohunk Blues Hammer overcompensating hamminess) and David Archuleta (broad, maudlin heartstring-grabbing shamelessness) pounded into one doughy, obnoxiously stubbled slob. He’s wasted all the goodwill that came with his genuinely devastating backstory by transforming himself into the homeless man’s Gary LeVox, which yikes. His friend Jamar should absolutely be on the show in his place. So glad this fuckface peaked so early.
Other stuff: the new judge, who seemed like a breath of fresh air at first but whose unbearably ticcy insecurity started manifesting itself early and who now comes off like such a bundle of nerves that she should really not be on TV. Paula Abdul’s continued descent into babbling insanity. The persistent rumors that this will be Simon Cowell’s last year, which, if true, will mean this show’s death knell. (He’s probably angling for more money, though, and Fox would be smart to give it to him.) The judge’s save rule, which became bullshit when they didn’t use it on Alexis Grace, this year’s best contestant by miles. The inexplicable degeneration of Lil Rounds from scrappy, likable, risky Southern soul yowler (her “Independence Day” was so underrated) to awful, bullheaded M.O.R. egomaniac. Seacrest trying to high-five a blind guy. So much. There’s been so much.
But anyway, this week. Some observations:
– Disco week! I love disco week! Disco week is my shit!
– This was probably the weirdest disco week, ever, though, because hardly anyone sang disco versions of the songs they picked. The judges have placed such an imprimatur on twisting songs into unrecognizable shapes that nobody wants to sing the songs the way they’re supposed to be sung. This is not always a bad thing.
– Lil sucked. Again. She worked so hard on flexing her not-great vocal runs that she totally lost any semblance of the melody on “I’m Every Woman”, which has like the simplest melody ever. Get her the fuck out of there.
– We’re setting all kinds of records in the number of contestants who insist that they “had fun out there.” It is never, ever convincing to hear these fuckers say that.
– Kris Allen did some ridiculous tiki-torch sensitive-dude version of “She Works Hard for the Money”, with some guy on bongos. It was hilarious and oversincere and awkward as all hell, and like everything else this guy’s done the past few weeks, I found myself really liking it before it was over. I don’t know. Seriously, don’t ask me. He’s like the jock roommate you get stuck with freshman year but then you end up bonding with him over jello shots by the end of the third weekend. Seacrest clowning him before the song started was great.
– I really hope the Lonely Island dudes sample whatever Paula said about Kris’s song’s “classy Santana feel” on their next album.
– Danny Gokey sang “September”, which of course he did. I’m surprised he didn’t go the full nine and just sing “Celebrate”, which is about as much a disco song as “September” is, anyway. Simon’s been using the “wedding singer” putdown for so long that I’m amazed he doesn’t realize that one of this year’s frontrunning contestants actually comports himself like a wedding singer. This guy is like a walking white man’s overbite.
– Vince Neil in the audience! And on camera repeatedly! Why? Also, some Real Housewives or somebody in the audience? I have no idea.
– Even with a half-speed tempo and nothing really approaching a beat, Allison Iraheta just ripped shit on “Hot Stuff”. Every week, the still-terrible house band tries to fuck her over, and every week, she somehow rises above it. It’s sort of inspiring, really.
– Adam Lambert, the one guy on the show who’d look really comfortable singing disco, doesn’t sing disco. Instead, he sings a disco song as a goopy ballad, and it works real well. Still, opportunity lost. I keep thinking I’m going to get really sick of this guy, but it hasn’t quite happened yet. He looked straight-up Jersey Boys, though.
– Matt Giraud bites Timberlake so much harder than Timberlake ever bit Prince, and it made no sense that the judges saved him last week, but I’ll be damned if he didn’t blaze “Staying Alive”. Nice to see somebody strut on that stage. Hardly ever happens.
– Anoop Desai is the best remaining contestant this year, easy, and he killed it so hard tonight. That sophisticated glide he found so effortlessly once the beat kicked in? The great little synth-ripples underneath? The pimped-out ensemble? Not even Anoop’s Sam Eagle eyebrows can obscure the fact that he knows what the fuck he’s doing. It’s kind of amazing: We finally have a contestant who understands and knows how to sing tricky, high-gloss R&B with style and sincerity, which makes him the closest thing to a a current candidate since forever, and the judges have no idea what to do with him. If Anoop did somehow subvert logic and win this year (which he won’t) or if he ends up landing a major-label contract anyway (conceivable), he’s the only contestant this year who stands the slightest chance of making actual great music consistently. Someone buy this kid a Polow track and let him do what he does.
– That’s all. I miss you assholes.