Here’s something Steven Tyler said on TV tonight: “After Monday and Tuesday, even the week says WTF!” This was after Pia Toscana’s show-closing, triumphant, r&b-ified take on “I’ll Stand by You,” and it ground the show to a quick halt at an inopportune moment, because everyone had to think for a second about what he just said. And yes, it’s true, the initials of “Wednesday, Thursday, Friday” are “WTF.” But here’s my thing: How long was Tyler saving that? He sure didn’t come up with it on the spot, and he might not have even come up with that on his own. Does he have writers? Can we collectively demand that these writers be fired? And are we going to have to relive that moment over and over in future montages, like we did with his “fuck a duck” thing?
The whole night, Toscana was really the only contestant who deserved to savor the spotlight for a few extra seconds. Her “I’ll Stand by You” was a real grown-folks affair, and though it was at least slightly pedestrian, the run of gigantic monster notes she hit at the end were truly, seriously impressive. She’ll be around for a while, and I can’t say the same thing with any certainty about a single other contestant. Especially after last night’s pleasant surprise of an all-male show, this female-contestant showcase came off crushingly flat, with singer after singer delivering staid midtempo ballads and offering precious little in the way of actual personality. This early in the season, there’s always a glut of interchangeable blonde chicks, but they seemed even less distinctive than usual this time around. The difference between Kendra Chantelle and Haley Reinhart: Kendra is the one with the great stripper name who isn’t actually a stripper, and Haley is the one who sang Alicia Keys’ “Fallin'” exactly the way Alicia Keys sang it, for some reason.
The one blonde chick who made a dent was Lauren Alaina, who’s had her sights set on the obligatory sassy-country-chick slot on the show ever since her audition and who played that particular role pretty well tonight, even if she’s nowhere near screaming distance of Carrie Underwood. The ridiculously fly Julie Zorrilla also tried to embody a former Idol winner, singing a version of Kelly Clarkson’s “Breakaway” — a song I’ve always really liked — with just no personality whatsoever. That was a real problem throughout. Thia Megia made me feel like I was in a CVS trying to choose between toothpastes. Karen Rodriguez switched to Spanish for a few lines, and I don’t remember anything else she did, beyond debuting a really regrettable weave.
Ta-Tynesa Wilson pulled the desperation move of singing Rihanna’s currently popular “Only Girl in the World” and, in the process, proving to anyone watching that Rihanna is actually a really good singer these days, and that Ta-Tynesa Wilson is not. (The newly reconfigured backing band did the song’s techno-pop pretty well, though, compared to toothless past years; that could lead to some intriguing experiments down the line.) And the puzzlingly named Ashthon Jones actually did well, singing a yelp-y, showy version of Monica’s “Love All Over Me” that nonetheless showed how hard she was working the lost-Knowles-sister angle. She probably practices her best Beyoncé smiles in the mirror at home, and that almost qualified as personality tonight.
Last night, the male freaks all had big nights, and there were a lot of them. There are a couple of freaks on the female side as well, but they both shit the bed. Tatted-up Milwaukee Rasta chick Naima Adedapo, who makes her own ridiculous princess clothes, sang a way-too-smiley version of “Summertime,” and that’s just obviously a terrible look when most people still consider Fantasia Barrino’s version of the same song to be the single finest performance in Idol history. When you attack the gods, you get struck by lightning. And Rachel Zevita, who dresses like she’s been raiding the shelves of a Depression-era Hot Topic, pulled the absolutely inexplicable move of singing Fiona Apple’s “Criminal” as an absurd Broadway-jazz romp. It was a shame, too, since she’s got the voice to sing that song straight-up and get it across. But she ended up being the only contestant to get shit on by all three judges. Unless Vote for the Worst can pull off some kind of miracle, she’s gone next week.