Ten years ago, on American Idol Season 8, Adam Lambert first entered the audition room, and America’s living rooms, belting “Bohemian Rhapsody.” Three months later, he lost the Idol title to Kris Allen, but after he and Kris joined Queen’s Brian May and Roger Taylor for a spectacular performance of “We Will Rock You”/“We Are the Champions” on that the season’s finale, he emerged the true long-term winner. He eventually became Queen’s new full-time lead singer -- a journey that will be explored Monday night on ABC’s two-hour documentary The Show Must Go On: The Queen + Adam Lambert Story -- and this Sunday, the Glamerican Idol triumphantly returned to the show that started it all, to mentor the top eight contestants on Queen Night.
Adam did a fantastic job at imparting his knowledge, giving specific and actionable advice that elevated some performances, particularly Jeremiah Lloyd Harmon’s and Laine Hardy’s. (Apparently he’s been a very involved mentor ever since his own season. “He was very influential with other contestants, like Allison [Iraheta] and Kris [Allen], picking their lighting, picking their staging. He really likes to get his hands dirty, which is amazing,” longtime executive producer Trish Kinane recently told me.) Unfortunately, some contestants were not nearly at a Lambert level. They could not play the game, so to speak.
Wade Cota’s own awkward attempt at the unprophetically titled “We Are the Champions” was more cringeworthy than that time that Brian May and Ace Young sparred on the Season 5 set, for instance. But in the end, it was Walker Burroughs and Alyssa Raghu who went home. The show did not go on for them. (Side note: I really wish last week’s two controversially eliminated contestants, Dimitrius Graham and Uché, could have competed this week. Kinane told me Dimitrius the opera singer would’ve done “Bohemian Rhapsody,” and I bet Uché could have totally brought the funk with, say, “Another One Bites the Dust.”)
Walker’s song choice, the finger-snapping rockabilly romp “Crazy Little Thing Called Love,” suited his Richie Cunningham malt-shop vibe, but his corny performance lacked swagger; I don’t think Freddie Mercury nor Leather Tuscadero would approve, and clearly neither did voters. Judge Katy Perry praised Walker for “using all his appendages” (Walker had confessed to Adam during rehearsal that he was “mortified” about being forced to work the stage on an uptempo number), but all three judges noticed that he seemed to be too in his head. I think Walker would’ve fared better on a piano ballad performance, something like “These Are the Days of Our Lives.”
As for Alyssa, who almost went home last week, it probably didn’t bode well for her that host Ryan Seacrest forgot all about her and announced that there was “one more performance to go!” when actually there were actually two more Queen numbers, including hers. Oops! She handled herself vocally, but she was still, well, forgettable. Lionel Richie called her “the epitome of determination,” and I will give her an A for effort, but her try-hard Rachel Berry affectations still annoyed -- especially when she tried to stall the judges before the commercial break to extend her voting window. That was more like the epitome of desperation. And it clearly didn’t work. And so, another one bit the dust.
Along with their Queen songs, the contestants sang movie-theme duets this week. (But aren’t all Queen’s songs movie themes, really? They were all in Bohemian Rhapsody, after all!) A couple of those duets were Oscar-worthy, while others deserved to go straight to DVD.