There’s a lot to talk about in this week’s Idol, but first off, the one burning question: Was Ryan Seacrest maybe slightly drunk? I mean, the funny voices! The constant and inexplicable wassups! The willingness to display his weird and awkward mother on TV! The unexpected and cutting Brian Dunkelman joke! Either Seacrest knocked back a couple before the broadcast kicked off, or he was just in a particularly wacky mood all night. And if he was drunk, does that mean there’s some possibility that he’ll show up absolutely shitfaced next week? I have to say, I’m giddy at the prospect. Can you imagine a more compelling TV scenario than a wasted-ass staggering-drunk Seacrest, on live TV, hosting the most-watched show in the country? Because I sure can’t. TV gods, please let this happen.
This week, the show’s producers continued their season-long trend of devoting entire shows to artists whose best work came at least 40 years ago. And this was Elvis week, so they were reaching back even further. They also made the completely nonsensical decision to recruit Adam Lambert as guest mentor, even though he (1) was just on the show last year, (2) didn’t win, and (3) has not a damn thing to do with Elvis despite an admittedly next-level pompadour. I mean, it would seriously make as much sense to get the contestants to mentor each other. But fortunately, Lambert was a great mentor, totally unafraid to, say, call Andrew Garcia boring to his face. If more of these guest mentors would get a little outrightly bitchy from time to time, the show would wind up a whole lot more watchable.
The danger with a theme like Elvis Week is that so many of the contestants will pick the most hokey, obvious songs, which will inevitably come out sounding corny as fuck. And so we had tiny baby Aaron Kelly, popping the collar on his fake Members Only jacket to nervously bark his way through “Blue Suede Shoes.” Kelly at least admitted before the performance that it was the wrong song for him, which meant he displayed some modicum of self-awareness. I can’t say the same of Aaron Kelly, who turned “Hound Dog”, already a stupid song, into unfathomable Vegas goofiness that even the Cirque du Soleil freaks whose show the Idols apparently caught must’ve turned their rubber-masked faces away in embarrassment.
Katie Stevens attempted a fuck-you song for the judges, and those are usually fun, but she brought back that fake-ass head swivel and generally clowned herself. Nobody does unconvincing assertiveness quite like stage kids trying to please everyone watching them. And Casey James did another one of his bullshit blues-dude gargles through maybe the most butt arrangement he’s had yet. This guy gets the gas face whenever he’s not singing power ballads, which gives him something in common with almost everyone else who’s ever sung a power ballad.
Against odds, though, those were the only four outright awful performances, and everyone else at least gave us something. Siobhan Magnus, my runaway favorite for the entire season, has been in something of a funk lately. The first part of her “Suspicious Minds” was kind of sleepy and inconsequential, and it always bothers me when people grin all through a desperate song like that, but I just love it when she uncorks those demon roars like she did toward the end. Tim Urban, meanwhile, has been far and away my most hated-on player up until the past two weeks, and now I all of a sudden like the guy, which is disorienting. This week, he started off by pointing out that “I do know what the words are about” like he wanted a cookie, but then he followed it up with a fragile acoustic version of “I Can’t Help Falling in Love With You,” showing that, hey, maybe he does know what the words are about. In any case, he knows how to stage a smart Idol performance– not wasting movement, deploying drippiness strategically. He’s peaking at the exact right moment, and he even pulled off some tricky fingerpicking stuff on the guitar. I’m not saying he suddenly transformed into Nick Drake, but he was nice nonetheless.
Lee Dewyze, meanwhile, continues to beast out whenever he turns one of his songs into a Bad Company joint. For a post-grunge yarler, Dewyze has a pretty intuitive sense of rhythm, and he made me very happy by not doing the Junkie XL version of “A Little Less Conversation”. Crystal Bowersox continues her ridiculous run, showing an unnatural ability to find a song she can turn Joplinesque every week, and then singing the everloving fuck out of it. This week, she simultaneously went rockabilly and gospel without fundamentally changing a damn thing about her singing or performing styles, which was a neat trick. And Michael Lynche managed to overcome the general ookiness of singing “In the Ghetto” when you’re the one black guy left on the show by turning in a low-key but plainspoken and moving version of the song. Last week, the judges pulled out their annual save option to keep him on the show, and thank god. Considering that this season’s scrub ratio remains alarmingly high, we need Lynche to stay on the show for as long as possible.