I am angry. I saw things happen last night that I have never seen on Idol before, and others I have not seen so late in the game. I also saw a stand-out performance that I will remember for a long time – but even that makes me angry.
This is the final four, and because Idol seems committed to a 90 minute episode, we’re getting two songs apiece, on two different themes. Theme one is “Songs that Inspire”, theme two is Leiber and Stoller songbook. (They wrote the songs Carole King didn’t.)
James gets to go first. Again. And he’s singing “Don’t Stop Believing”, and he’s doing it in a Journey shirt and a tail coat that Steve Perry would wear. This is because he is an original, out of the box thinker. He starts out flat and never gets any better. And he never really manages the high notes that were all Adam was ever allowed to do for this song. (Flashback to the season 8 top9 group performance, where I waited the entire song for Adam to sing. Tour finale wasn’t so bad because it WAS order of elimination so it was right that he and Kris went last. And it did mean he got that final note for the concert.) The judges love it, especially Randy who used to play for Journey (did you know that?) He took an standard and he sang it.
Then it’s Haley’s turn. And she’s chosen to sing Michael Jackson’s “The Earth Song”. It’s a song I’ve heard exactly once, but she sings it sweetly at first and then gets growly and into it at the end, with the unfortunate cheesiness of a gospel choir behind her. It’s not her best performance, but it’s certainly good and she stayed in tune and I wasn’t bored. She said it was a song that really inspired her, too. The judges HATED it. Okay, Jennifer and Randy hated it. It didn’t fit her, it was an unfamiliar song, she didn’t sing it like MJ (well, no. She’s not Michael Jackson. She has her own singing style and range.) She should have gone higher in the end, done more runs. And that James had set the bar high by choosing such a familiar song and singing it so well and she should take her cues from him. You know, the hoary classic he sang flat? THAT was her bar.
Randy, especially, goes on and on, until finally Steven – STEVEN – coherently tells her to not listen to them and that she was great and sang it beautifully. No gibberish, no weird metaphors – just straight out “You were great.” Even Haley finally tells Randy that she heard him, and she is clearly angry – she sang that song, and was told an off-key shout was the bar? Yeah, do not blame her.
So, I’m already upset when it’s Scotty’s turn,and Scotty sings “Where Were You When the World Stopped?” by Alan Jackson, and I have seriously never heard this song before, and I never want to hear it again. I’m a New Yorker, okay? That smoke plume sat over my neighborhood for days afterwards. To hear a song by someone miles away who saw it on his television and invoked his own religion and to have it sung by a kid who was all of seven at the time? Yeah, no. And to sing it NOW is just the worst sort of pandering. I can’t even tell you if he sang it well or not because I’m too emotional. He probably did sing it well, since it’s exactly a Scotty song. Also, I’m not happy that the chorus is someone who is “simple” and can’t tell the difference between Iran and Iraq. Don’t like songs that glorify ignorance, either. But the judges all love it to death.
I’m a bit calmer when it comes to Lauren. She sings Marina MacBride’s “Anytime”, and she, too, references a disaster – but this was the damage to her home town, and it’s justified for her. Even if she wasn’t there, she knows people who were harmed directly and it’s her HOME TOWN. She sings the song well – not perfectly, but well – and she clearly relates to it. Judges love her again. Steven also loved the buckles on her shoes.
And then it gets really infuriating. Ryan calls the four of them back on stage and asks both Jennifer and Randy who won the first part. Jennifer gives further critique to the songs (especially Haley) but refuses to give an answer. Randy, though – Randy declares it a three-way tie among James, Lauren and Scotty, but he THINKS Haley can deliver. Haley looks like she wants to kill right there. She’s not alone. That was just awful and cruel, and it would take a saint to not react to that. Haley is not a saint, she’s a real young woman who is seeing lesser singers get praised for mistakes she rarely makes.
Okay, the next segment is pretty awesome because Gaga is the mentor and she’s actually GOOD. She’s dressed in character, of course, but she’s also scary smart and knows music and performance and can transmit it. And she’s interacting with a couple of sheltered teenagers, so that will be fun.
But first, in their continuing mission to screw Haley and crown James, they switch the performance order, so now Haley is first. She’s singing “I, Who Have Nothing” , which was Jordin’s biggest moment. And Gaga, who loves her, tells her to bring the crazy and the theatrics when she sings this. And Haley listens and, oh, my goodness. She comes out with a performance that tops last week’s “House of the Rising Sun.” It’s probably fueled by anger, but it’s brilliant and gorgeous and chill-inducing. And the judges, right on cue, stand up. And then pat themselves on the back because their harsh critique brought this performance. But it doesn’t raise the bar, oh, no.
Scotty is next, and he’s singing “Young Blood” by The Coasters, and he is clearly intimidated by Gaga – can’t actually blame him. She tries to get him to sing directly into his mic, but her imagery (french kissing his girlfriend) is a little much for him. Also, he kisses his cross. And. Scotty sings, and I am so bored. He’s faster and that’s different but it just doesn’t hold my attention at all. Judges love it, of course.
Lauren is singing “Trouble” by Elvis Presley, and she’s already in trouble because there’s a line about “I’m Evil” and she doesn’t want to sing that. Gaga tries to convince her that she’s just playing a character, and Lauren goes along with it, but you can tell she’s just uncomfortable. Also, she doesn’t have the maturity to sing this very sexual song. It just doesn’t work for her. Judges love it.
James is singing “Love Potion #9”, and Gaga actually tells him to loosen up and goes to grab his hips. James, who probably hates being touched like many Asperger’s people, is not happy. But he does what she says. And this IS a better performance. It’s arranged to be in his range and wheelhouse, and while the production gets to be a bit much, he sings it. And the judges love it.
And I voted last night. I haven’t voted since May of 2009, other than one online vote I tossed to Casey early on to see what that was like. But I voted for Haley.
I have no idea who is going home. I suspect Haley.