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“American Idol”: Say Goodbye To Paul McDonald

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So Paul McDonald went home this week. Not that shocking! The only real surprise is that it finally reverses the gross and troubling trend of only female contestants getting bounced. (The one time a male contestant was voted off after top 12 week happened when the judges saved Casey Abrams.) So it’s nice to finally see some indication that the entire voting audience for this show is not just rabidly hormonal 12-year-old girls, though I don’t know if those girls would’ve had too much use for Paul McDonald anyway.

I really liked Paul when the show finally got going. He had like a squinty alt-country weirdness, and a whole lot about him reminded me of these three friends of mine, the Carney brothers, who are in the band Pontiak together. (Seriously, Pontiak. Awesome band. Listen to them.) He sang “Maggie May” very well, he sang Ryan Adams pretty OK and it was just cool that he was doing it, and he stumbled around stage like he was drunk. But sometime in the past few weeks, he got really lazy, and shit was just over with his sad, limp “Old Time Rock and Roll” this week. I’m not sorry to see him go. Neither, apparently, was anyone else. No tears this time.

Here are some other things that happened last night:

• Once again, the show decided to give us contestants singing in smaller groupings rather than the big Up With People group-sing they usually do. So to start things off, we got Scotty McCreery and Lauren Alaina singing a Lady Antebellum song, and these two kids might’ve been put on earth to sing Lady Antebellum songs together. They’ve got that halfway-fake Nashville showbiz-chemistry thing down perfectly, and their voices sound nice together. I would, however, like to say for the record that I hate that eyebrow-raise thing Scotty does. Also, it’s pretty weird when the contestants sing behind the judges and the judges don’t turn around or pay any attention to them whatsoever. They’re probably watching their monitors or whatever, but still.

• The goofy Ford video somehow needed its own little making-of featurette to let us know what the hell was going on, and I wasn’t mad since we got this pure-gold quote from Paul: “I’m kind of the chill guy that throws the Frisbee with Casey.” The man understands his character! He knows his motivation! Maybe he’ll find another path in the motion picture business! Also, this from Haley Reinhart: “I’m changing the way zombies look, so I feel sexy.” Cinematic history, right before our eyes!

• The video, as you may have surmised, revolved around zombies. Specifically, it revolved around zombies who elected to steal a car rather than rip anyone’s stomach open and eat their entrails. This ranked right up there with Diary of the Dead and the second Resident Evil movie as one of the least scary zombie movies I’ve ever seen. Also, it lasted about a tenth the time of that making-of featurette.

• Casey and Haley sang some jazz song I didn’t recognize, and weirdly, Haley was way better at it than Casey. We may have found a remotely suitable context for all her yowling! This whole thing ended in, seriously, a scat-off. They scatted. At each other. I don’t know who won that one, since it was like Alien Vs. Predator: Whoever wins, we lose.

• We all got to sit through one of those things where a non-singing celebrity showed up to give the contestants a lesson in how to be annoying. This time: Rob Reiner, doing whatever he could to erase every memory of The Princess Bride from my brain. In the process, Casey Abrams called Jack Black “a deep inspiration.” Shut up, Casey.

• Kelly Clarkson returned for her annual dues-paying American Idol appearance, singing a duet with country guy Jason Aldean, who arguably has more classic songs that Kelly does. (“Amarillo Sky,” “Hicktown,” and “Johnny Cash” vs. “Since U Been Gone,” “Breakaway,” and “My Life Would Suck Without You.” Fine, Kelly probably still wins. It’s just closer than you thought.) Anyway, Kelly looked and sounded very good, and Aldean made a nice understated foil, which made the song work even though it was a totally boring ballad. Carrie Underwood hopes with all her heart and soul that Kelly doesn’t decide to go full-time country.

• Paul, Stefano, James, and Jacob mobbed up to sing “The Sounds of Silence” and “Mrs. Robinson,” and shockingly enough, they all sounded really nice together when they were harmonizing quietly and not trying to oversing each other. If they could collectively reign their shit in a little more, this show might be a whole lot better, but then I guess it wouldn’t be American Idol.

• Rihanna showed up to sing her own vaguely boring ballad “California King Bed,” thus persisting in annoying me by not releasing “Cheers (Drink to That)” as a single. The whole stage was hung with these giant sheer curtains with dancers ducking in and out of them, so that at least was fun. Rihanna’s getting better as a singer all the time; she’s almost to the point now where she could be a contestant who got voted off before top 12 week. Also: Nuno Bettencourt sighting! (Nuno Bettencourt from Extreme is Rihanna’s guitarist now. You didn’t know that, did you?)

• In the post-song interview, Rihanna claimed that she wasn’t supposed to talk about this, but she wanted to get people excited: On her forthcoming tour, she’ll have a section onstage where fans can sit. Uh, I’m not excited, Rihanna. That’s not exciting.

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