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Songs in the Key
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Songs in the Key
of Whatever

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Week 4 of Advocate contributor Dave White's American Idol recap: Idol's dullest week this season makes our man in the armchair reach for his remote

I interrupted myself from watching Silver Jews on MTV2's Subterranean for this?

It's Stevie Wonder night on AI, which inevitably means some fool's going to be singing "I Just Called to Say I Love You" or "Part Time Lover." It's an important tradition on this show that at least one or two contestants select the worst possible song available from that week's theme.

The "Who the Hell Is Stevie Wonder" reel plays to teach all the middle-schoolers watching about this old dude whose best music-making years are decades behind him. I still find it hard to believe that the man who wrote such incredible songs in the '60s and '70s could turn to complete mush by the '80s. And then just stay that way for the next 20+ years. If you look on Wikipedia for the expression "resting on one's laurels" it barfs up a picture of Stevie Wonder. "Stevie's music is just as influential today," Seacrest announces, as the reel shows us Mr. Wonder, version 2006, in a big brown track suit, looking like a giant roast beef. And even though Seacrest is lying through his teeth, Stevie's old stuff is still so good that he gets a pass for all the rest of his crap.

And speaking of crap, here's Ace attempting "Do I Do," but not before we see his personality reel where he weeps over meeting Stevie. When Ace cries, his fertilizer-rich tears hit the dirt and sexy little flowers begin to bloom, making the path he walks on fragrant and beautiful. When Ace chases after "Do I Do," however, and fails to catch it, he tramples on those flower and they die screaming. When I was a kid I saw John Davidson (he's another old guy, famous for I have no idea what) on Johnny Carson singing "Staying Alive." Ace's performance reminds me of that. Then he finishes the song and the crowd goes ballistic with sexual hysteria--they can see the Ace-Groin that the camera is studiously avoiding--and then there's a shot of the audience, and then the judges, and then finally Ace. After what must be a solid five seconds, Ace is still holding his face in that seducto-stare he's perfected. It gets more and more unnerving every week.

Kellie Pickler is up next. "I'm not that familiar with Stevie Wonder's music," she says. Of course she's not. That's because she's never heard an oldies station--or any other radio station, for that matter. She's never seen a radio in her life, period. She's never been in an elevator or a supermarket or a Gap or a movie theater where music played. Not once. She didn't even know people sang things called "songs" until a few months ago when she was led blindfolded to the Idol audition by her grandpappy. So naturally, since all Stevie Wonder songs are new to her and weigh the same, she's chosen one of the non-hits that nobody knows, "Blame It on the Sun." She bores it to death, nervously winking at whoever it is in the audience who's been force-feeding her all that yucky spinach salad and sal-mon since she arrived in Hollywood. You just know that her little joke is that she calls it HollyWEIRD and she probably thinks she made it up all by herself. How is it that two weeks ago I had such fond affection for this girl, and now I want someone to make her STFU? The judges tell her she blew it and she begs for forgiveness: "I'm sorry!" And for a second I actually almost do feel sorry for her.

I finally agree with my domestic partner: Elliott Yamin is Captain Caveman. But I don't care. He's so good it hurts. I suppose I should say Crying Caveman, though, because he blubbers over meeting Stevie too, just like Ace. The difference is, I believe it from Elliott. He sings "Knocks Me Off My Feet" and it's technically precise, like he's been practicing the life out of it. But that's just it. He practiced the life out of it. Come back next week, Captain Caveman, and do better for me, your fan.

Mandisa hates it when she can't yell, so you know she's kind of freaking out over the quiet parts of "Don't You Worry 'Bout a Thing." It's soft/loud/soft/loud, like when someone waves their hand over their face and changes their expression from happy to sad, back and forth, like that's their big magic trick. Mandisa puts on the sad face when she's singing quietly because, you know, it's just not fair that she can't huff and puff and blow the studio down every single second of her life. The judges are mixed on her performance. But I'm not.

Commercial time: Jessica Simpson is singing about pizza. Nick loved to order pizza with Jess. That was one of their special things. So this is one of her ways of rubbing his nose in the bittersweet memories. "These bites were made for poppin'," she sings. It's some pizza with a crust made of cheese bits that you break off and pop into your mouth. I think. Why does pizza have to be this complicated? And why is Jessica Simpson allowed to mangle Nancy Sinatra songs in the process of marketing it?

We're back and it's Bucky's turn. Simon thinks Bucky's hair looks like Jessica Simpson's tonight. Is that comment a bit of corporate synergy or just a coincidence? In any case, Simon's off the mark because Bucky actually looks like Lisa Whelchel. He sings "Superstition" and, like Pickler, he has no idea what he's singing. I'm sorry, did I say singing? I mean croaking. But Bucky's secret weapon is that when he can't sing something, he just straddles the stage, spreading his legs wider and wider like he's going to gallop away on the magic. He sucks big moose tonight. After Simon's comment, Seacrest comes along to fag it up a bit with a joke about hair extensions.

DIGRESSION: Let's talk about the four types of gay. There's only one type of lesbian. But there are four types of gay.

Type 1 Gay: You live in the 1920s, and you are totally happy.

Type 2 Gay: You do something really dorky and lame. For example, let's say you like to play golf. And golfing is stupid. So that's when someone says to you, "Man, golfing is so gay." And you get all offended.

Type 3 Gay: You are probably heterosexual, but you've been beaten down by the lady-fication of the culture. Now you shave your pubes and wear those stripey shirts and drink vodka with cranberry juice.

Type 4 Gay: You are a guy who has anal sex with other guys, pretty much exclusively.

Ryan Seacrest is Type 3 Gay. Also usually Type 2.

OK, now back to the singing...

Melissa McGhee is seen messing up the lyrics while practicing her song, "Lately," with Mr. Wonder. She goes in to hug him and apologize. Stevie gets all J. Lo on her and goes, "Don't hug me!" I have to eight-second-repeat this on TiVo many times to maximize the entertainment value of the moment. But wait, it gets better. Then she says, "Watch out, America. Here comes Melissa in a dress." Because America didn't have anything else on its mind besides the totally burning issue of "When, when, will Melissa McGhee trade in her tight low-rise pants for a more feminine outfit?" Maybe instead of spending your time trying to decide between pants and a skirt you could have been memorizing the song lyrics, honey. Because then she comes out on the stage and sings,

"I have many, many wishes [which is an OK revamp of the lyrics because the original is "I'm a man of many wishes" and it's CLEAR right now that this is a dress-wearing woman we have in front of us]...

"I hope my reh-no-wiccan-mishes..."

And then she goes on, fluttering an eyelid, knowing she's blown it.

And not 30 seconds later she not only does it AGAIN but she sings the exact same made-up mush-word, leading up to the song's final lyric--"this time could be goodbye."

Yes, it could be.

Paula says, "There's something very soothing" about Melissa's singing. Like Klonopin, Paula?

More commercials: Oh, hey look, I know that dude in the new Got Milk? ad. That's awesome. He's the taller alien on the right. His name's Jack. Did you see the movie Girls Will Be Girls? He was Evie Harris, the boozy has-been woman. He also played Renee Zellweger's male secretary in that '60s movie she did with Ewan McGregor. I forget the name.

More singing...

Lisa Tucker unpacks her Aaliyah-Goes-Broadway suitcase for "Signed, Sealed, Delivered." Wow, her hair has grown about a foot since last week. That crazy puberty. She's fine. Doesn't knock me over. Mandisa would have had a blast with this one. All the judges are into Lisa for some reason, but I think she's totally dull.

We have a winner! Kevin Covais sings "Part Time Lover"! And he's got on crazy blush too. And I think they did his brows. But he sings through the Cover Girl, doing a jerky shuffle-walk dance, anticipating the other 14 members of Madness to join him onstage for it, I guess. Part of me wants to get on board the whole www.votefortheworst.com thing and another part of me wants to reach through the screen and shake him and go, "Dude, they're LAUGHING at you!" OK, I'll vote for him. Let the boy have fun. Randy is shocked by K.C.'s appearance, though. "You're wearing makeup!" he shouts. Uh...SO ARE YOU, RANDY! DAWG! Then Paula praises K.C. for staying in tune and staying in time with the song. And that's all you need to do when you're Kevin Covais.

Katherine McPhee is the first person to knock one out of the park tonight. She sings "Until You Come Back to Me" She reminds me of Lynda Carter, who also put out a record once, I think, and the judges line up to kiss her ass. Katherine's, not Lynda Carter's, who is not here tonight that I know of. Lance Bass is, though. Seacrest tells Katherine this after she sings. Katherine seems unfazed by that information and says that people have been very nice to her this week.

And then the weirdest thing ever happens. Seacrest says something that's truly funny: "The more famous you get, the nicer people are. They're your true friends." He grins when he says this. I have to stop disliking him for about 10 seconds after that, which is difficult and makes me sort of dizzy.

They fixed Taylor Hicks's hair and put him in some supertight pants. Am I actually looking at Taylor Hicks's package? Because I don't want to do that. It hurts to witness things. He sings "Living for the City" and herks himself around like a woodsman figure in a Black Forest cuckoo clock. He's heavily made-up, mannered, and mental, careening out of control, the voltage shocking his 2,000 parts, everything flailing. But at least he's not howling "Whoo-oo-oo" and "Hey" after every verse.

Dear Paris Bennett, You, dear, are my very favorite, and I am absolutely crushing on the pink whatever-it-is you're wearing tonight. But I have to tell you that it is TOTAL CHEATING to keep singing after the song is over. Just because you're adorable doesn't mean you get to milk it. You sang wonderfully. You don't need to remind people of it 10 seconds postsong. And then again. Now, behave yourself.

Love, Dave, Who Is Your Biggest Fan

Chris Daughtry makes three men in too much makeup tonight. All I can think of when he sings "Higher Ground" is "You...are to become...GEISHA!"

On to Chopped & Screwed night...

First we have to listen to Stevie sing a shitty song from his new album, a song that makes "Part Time Lover" palatable. I know, right? If you didn't see the episode, then count it as a bullet missed, and put it in your gratitude journal.

Bottom 3 = Ace, Melissa, and Lisa. Ace is safe, and then Melissa gets the heave-ho. Nice one, Lisa--don't give her the consolation hug or anything. Dang.

Now that we're down to the Top 12, it's time for each discarded person to enjoy their very own "You're Dead" reel. This is the clip montage where they show you the axed contestant's "journey" from audition to bittersweet goodbye. It's like watching the ending of Philadelphia every week, only with singing, because then it's time for the Humiliation Song! TiVo cuts it off mid McGhee, though. The evil Fox network is trying to force me to watch The Loop.

30 Years of Out100Out / Advocate Magazine - Jonathan Groff & Wayne Brady

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Dave White