This week’s endless two-hour American Idol was the annual show where the three remaining contestants all return to their hometowns to wave out of car windows at screaming children. It’s an annual Idol ritual, and it really goes a lot way toward proving just how completely alike all of America’s small towns look. A year or two ago, the contestants all made speeches outside AT&T stores, and I could’ve sworn they all used the exact same one. Haley Reinhart’s homecoming show was just outside of Chicago this weekend, and I seriously considered going for about five seconds before realizing that it was cold and windy and gross as shit outside.
In the Idol studio, there was quite a crowd; a quick pan revealed Elijah Wood and the annoying shithead with the dog costume from that terrible-looking FX show that’s about to start, as well as someone with a giant “Thank U Ford” sign. I would not want to spend any time in conversation with any of these people, especially Elijah Wood. Fuck that guy. Green Street Hooligans? Fuck out of here with that.
Beyoncé, serving as guest mentor, basically just looked pretty and said nice things about the kids. I’m never going to complain about seeing Beyoncé on TV, but I have to say she’s really incredible at showing zero human emotion whatsoever. Like, she’s one of the best in the world at it.
In the show’s first round, the contestants all got to choose songs for themselves. Scotty picked Lonestar’s drippy country ballad “Amazed,” and it went pretty much exactly the way you’d expect. It’s not an interesting song; he’s not an interesting singer; I zoned right out except for the one moment when Scotty seemed totally out of time with his backing singers, which at least was something. During the judging, Steven Tyler said that he saw Scotty get “angry,” and I just have zero idea what he was talking about. None whatsoever.
The show continued to evolve into a higher-budget version of Nashville Star when Lauren Alaina sang Faith Hill’s “Wild One.” Her whole amped-up sass routine continued to fall apart, since she comes across as visibly terrified every time she’s on stage. You’d think she’d be getting used to being on stage by now, but no. “Wild One” is a pretty good song, though.
Haley, proving herself to be a whole lot cooler than her competitors, chose Led Zeppelin’s “What Is And What Should Never Be” and sang it while her dad, looking really sweetly nervous, shredded away next to her. She threw herself into the song admirably, but I think her dad might’ve been the real discovery there. I’d much rather have that dude onstage with me than Zakk Wylde, you know? Also of note: She totally tripped and fell right over onstage and kept going like it was nothing.
The show stopped for a little while after this so we could get a long preview of Terra Nova, the new Fox show that pretty much looks like Jurassic Lost. Fox keeps pushing this show’s air date back so the show can work on its special effects, and it looks like the date should probably be pushed back some more, because those are some pixelated-ass dinosaurs. I will almost certainly still watch this show.
In the next round, Jimmy Iovine picked everyone’s songs, and Scott ended up singing Thompson Square’s “Are You Gonna Kiss Me or Not.” Iovine, it turns out, is just as uncreative at picking songs for Scotty as Scotty is for himself. God knows what would happen if we gave this kid something other than total CMT bait. It was an OK song, and Scotty sang it OK, but it regrettably gave him more opportunities to bust out the cartoonish facial expressions that I think are supposed to be funny. This guy is cruising through to the finale anyway, and he knew it. But Jesus, he didn’t even try this week.
Iovine continued to prove that he’s up on his country-radio shit by picking the Band Perry’s “If I Die Young” for Lauren. It’s another song that completely keeps Lauren in her comfort zone, and she at least didn’t look like she was ready to crawl into a hole when she was singing it. It wasn’t bad or anything, but everyone involved in the show has to work hard to keep things from getting boring at this stage, and it didn’t happen this time.
I woke up a little bit when Iovine asked Haley to sing “Rhiannon,” a really nice choice for her. She got a whole lot of dry ice and atmospheric lighting and stage fans blowing around her hair, which is virtually required whenever anyone sings a Stevie Nicks song. It should have been great. But maybe the song is just in the wrong register for Haley or something, because her voice was just all over the place, and she never even came close to finding the right pitch. It was ugly and embarrassing, and I mostly just felt bad for her. Afterward, Randy said that her pitch was perfect throughout. Maybe I’m just confused. Or maybe the sound was bad? I don’t know. I was predisposed toward liking that thing, and I really, really didn’t.
Another time-filling pause in the action: We got to see the premiere of Beyoncé’s “Run the World (Girls)” video, which has lions and exploding cars and hyenas and glittering daggerlike fake nails and martial dance routines. It’s somehow both a Lady Gaga bite and a megabudget M.I.A. bite, and I really, really liked it. Too bad the song is such a skeleton of a track; a video like that, I think, deserves a serious monster hit.
For the final bit, the judges all picked songs for the kids, and Scotty got another radically unadventurous selection, Kenny Rogers’ “She Believes in Me.” We got a contrived bit where he found out about the selection while standing on a conveyor belt in the grocery store where he used to work, and a mob of kids roared their approval of a Kenny Rogers song that they’d probably never heard of. This was probably Scotty’s best moment of the night, though, since the song has a big and shameless chorus, and Scotty got a chance to finally belt something instead of crooning and mugging.
Lauren also got a gigantic-chorus song, Lee Ann Womack’s “I Hope You Dance.” That’s a great song, but it’s also a song about being a mom, and you can’t expect a little kid like Lauren to sell something like that. She did OK, but she has zero sense of gravitas at all. The most interesting thing about this performance was the presence of the fiddle player with the Brokencyde hair. Can he get his own reality show or something? That guy is the shit.
For whatever reason, Haley didn’t get a cheering crowd when she announced that she’d be singing “You Oughta Know”; she had to just sit in the back of a car and say it to the camera. Some funny bits early on: “go down on you in a theater” became “go out with you to a theater,” which is just goofy, and Haley totally lost the words and had to mumble along with the fast bit, which everyone does when they sing along with that song, since nobody knows those words. I don’t even think Alanis knows those words. But holy god did she tear into that chorus. She just laid waste to it.