Well, I guess we’re not getting a disco week this year, huh? What bullshit.
Instead, this week was dedicated to songs from movies, a pretty incoherent theme when you consider the idea that songs from movies almost never have anything to do with those movies. There was a weird moment during the show when Simon Cowell seemed confused that Michael Jackson’s “Will You Be There”, from the Free Willy soundtrack, didn’t have any lyrics about whales. But once you get into those end-credits songs that summarize the plot of the movie you just saw, you’re basically looking at either the theme from Suburban Commando or this. (Or, I suppose, KRS-One’s song from the Assault on Precinct 13 remake, definitely the only time any movie in the past 10 years has included a song that describes every event in said movie.)
In years past, movie week has been sort of fun because it’s been an excuse to watch Quentin Tarantino, who mystifyingly seems to always appear on these things, acting like a total buffoon. But Quentin didn’t have a movie to flog this year, so instead we got Jamie Foxx, who already played guest-mentor last year and sucked (and who also didn’t have anything to flog, but whatever.) Foxx is really only good at spouting off impenetrable banalities, and this time he had some ridiculous gimmick where he gave the contestants t-shirts that either said “contestant” or “artist”. It didn’t make sense, and we didn’t actually see anyone wear the shirts, so it also didn’t matter. But I didn’t mind Foxx as mentor as much this time around, partly because of the revelation that he has, like, tribal antlers tattooed on the back of his scalp, and partly because he described his violation of Lee Dewyze’s personal space as doing “the Michael Mann”. (This, at least, explains why Colin Farrell looked so goddam uncomfortable throughout Miami Vice.) Could Jamie Foxx secretly be a motherfucking batshit-ass loon instead of just a boring self-promoter? I hope so!
Anyway, we’re down to the final four, which is always something of a letdown. All the livewires and lingerers are gone, and we can safely assume that everyone left would do just fine, when the possibility of someone sucking horrendously or conquering old demons and ruling keeps things interesting through the rest of the year. You know this is a pretty bad year because Dewyze, one of the two presumptive frontrunners, is not actually that good of a singer, and the judges almost never comment on his flubbed or dropped notes. He had a ton of those singing “Kiss From a Rose” tonight, and, to their credit, the judges finally brought up some of that stuff. But Dewyze’s “Kiss From a Rose” actually worked just fine, mangled high bits or no, because he knows how to sell a song like this. Dewyze walks a difficult line, between yarly-grunge tough and doe-eyed sensitive, and that kind of sensitive-growler stuff is the best way to sing something like “Kiss From the Rose” when you’re not that great of a singer.
Casey James really could’ve completely stolen Dewyze’s frontrunner status early on if he wasn’t such a fucking idiot. James is a better guitarist and a better-looking guy than Dewyze, and he sounds great on wounded jams. But he’s happier playing dogshit ZZ Top guitar solos, so that’s what he’s been doing for almost the entire season. This time, he tried to switch things up and ended up flat on his face, doing a goofy baby-guitar take on “Mrs. Robinson” when the Lemonheads version was right there for the taking and would’ve actually suited James’ persona way better. But at least he wasn’t the only James to blow it on TV last night.
James should really go home tonight, even though Southerners historically always win and he’s the only real Southerner left in the competition. Michael Lynche can’t decide whether he’s from Florida or Queens; it changes every week. This week, he did “Will You Be There” a truly amazing song, and he did the faithful gospel-choir version of it. Predictably great. But if Lynche had to pick an MJ song from a movie, he really should’ve done “Ben,” a spare enough song that he could’ve just sung all over the track, the way he likes to do. With a song that swells as much as “Will You Be There”, he had to do it straight-up, and he brought nothing new to it.
With all due respect to Batman Forever (and none to The Graduate, which fucking blows), Crystal Bowersox get bonus points for being the only contestant to pick a solo song from a movie that wasn’t total bullshit, flipping the Kenny Loggins song from Caddyshack and turning it into, surprise, a Janis Joplin song, albeit one with an inexplicable onstage percussionist. If she doesn’t win the whole season, I won’t even know what to say.
This time, all the remaining contestants also had to sing duets with each other. That should’ve been a disaster; these people are, ostensibly, in competition with each other, and it would’ve been pretty rational for each one to try to sing his partner under the table. But no, everyone actually sounded really good together, giving up solos and harmonizing the way singers harmonize when they’re not trying to make each other sound like shit. Crystal and Lee did that one song from Once, and it could’ve seriously been written for them. (It’s nice to hear that without an Eastern European accent poking through, anyway.) Michael and Casey wore matching suits and did flamenco guitar runs all over some Bryan Adams song I don’t know, and Casey sang better than he has all season during his solo bits. Not a surprise. The song is a ballad, and Casey should’ve just kept singing those every chance he got. But once again, he’s a fucking idiot.