American Idol Recap: See Me Running Through That Open Door? [Updated]
A woman is going to win Season 12 of American Idol — even if executive producer Nigel Lythgoe is forced to stage a crossover episode with Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom, plant a couple of hungry lionesses down in the SwayBot pit and let the male contestants get picked off in violent, carnivorous fashion.
Tonight’s live Semifinal performance telecast — featuring the Top 10 guys squaring off for (presumably, but probably more than) five spots in the finals — gave us a deeply uncomfortable preview of what’s to come, as emotionally fragile teenager Charlie Askew played the role of the baby impala, straggling behind the weary herd and laying down in the dusty plain before the predators had even arrived on the scene. His tearful post-critique collapse and explanation for why he needed to show a darker side of his personality — “all I can say is I needed to vent a little bit” — was one of the least enjoyable scenes in recent Idol history. Anyone tempted to vote Charlie through into the Top 10 because they hate seeing a child’s dreams get crushed should remember there’d be no kinder act than sending this kid home — and out of the national spotlight.
Still, while Charlie’s fall made for very bad TV, it still beat watching the judges rise to their feet and lavish praise on howling hyena Curtis Finch Jr., whose rendition of “I Believe I Can Fly” put the gas in ghastly. To sum things up another way, when I’m getting ready to speed-dial on behalf of Elijah Liu — a contestant whose most powerful note probably wouldn’t blow a feather off a baby’s hand — then maybe it’s time for the show to consider a six women-to-four men ratio, or maybe even a seven women-to-three guys split. Jesaiah Baer, where you at girl?
And don’t even get me started on tonight’s fashion choices: I haven’t seen this many white pants, unfortunate vests and acid-washed denim garments since the days of [insert your favorite mid-80s sitcom here].
Anyhow, before I kvetch any more, let’s get to tonight’s set list and letter grades:
Elijah Liu: Rihanna’s “Stay” | I’ll admit that after last week’s disastrous Bruno Mars cover and this week’s “I’m single and available” intro package — which was one slo-mo shower scene away from out-cheesing The Bachelor — I was ready to write off Elijah for good. Imagine my surprise, then, when the tall-haired teenager brought an appealing restraint and emotional honesty to the one song Rihanna knows how to sing live, too. Sure, Elijah can get a little mealy mouthed in spots, but he’s got a bright, pretty tone — and hey, at least he picked something that hinted he could survive in the Hunger Games of modern radio. I just wish the judges had given the kid a little more credit for his actual vocal and spend a little less time on his “relevance” and “marketability” (code words for: chicks will think you’re hot). Then again, considering Mr. Liu played the first hand in the ladies-man deck, I guess most of the blame falls on him. Grade: B+
Cortez Shaw: Bruno Mars’ “Locked Out of Heaven” | I have to give some props to Cortez for choosing the night’s only uptempo number, but like a chef who tries cooking a gorgeous rib-eye in a pot of lukewarm water, Cortez really didn’t do right by the material. His inflections and intensity — and even the little foot-shimmy dance steps — were very Thursday-night-after-work karaoke excursion, and as the judges noted, the arrangement was pitched so high that Cortez sounded intermittently strained. Plus, the denim vest and khakis (which Nicki righteously pooh-poohed) made dude look like an extra in a Color Me Badd video. As a result, I’d peg Cortez as “Most Likely to See His Idol Journey End on Thursday” among the Top 10 guys. Grade: C+
Charlie Askew: Genesis’ “Mama” | You knew right from the intro package about Charlie’s wispy moustache that the producers had had fun playing with their new toy for a couple of weeks and were now ready to drop him in the recycling bin. Which is why it doesn’t feel right for me to take shots at the boy’s unfortunate tie-dyed tank top or the silly feather earring or even the disastrous vocals — not when he looked as if his entire world was unraveling in the face of the judges’ legitimate criticisms. (Or perhaps it was already unraveling, just merely sped along by Nicki’s “I don’t wanna see your arms!” honesty?) Either way, the moral of the story is that there’s a dignified beauty in being one of the world’s awkward turtles, but that doesn’t mean every one of ‘em should scramble to the Sea of Reality TV upon hatching. Grade: D-