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"They've made it onto the big stage and into the finals," says Seacrest, opening the show, neglecting to mention that they they've also made it into my heart. And can you blame me? Or my heart? Because aren't they all so adorable and unique? Not a bland, banal, boring one in the bunch. So much grit and gumption and energy and personality. I will absolutely remember all their names for minutes and minutes after they get voted off. That love will fade over time, as all loves do, of course, but when I think back to the spring of 2007 when I'm old and being neglected in some nursing home, I'll dream of Sundancehead and smile, say his name warmly, in my whispery old Wilford Brimley voice as I fade in and out of an antidepressant-induced dementia. Then I'll crap my adult diaper.
As Seacrest drones on and on with the intro, in the background you can see Paula hugging Simon in silhouette. I need that explained to me, but I can bet it's not going to happen. Seacrest takes the stage, post-Cathy-Dennis-intro-song and CG lady-in-elevator getting stuck on the Taylor Hicks floor, and introduces the final 11 singers. Haley Whatserface jiggles her way out onto the stage and I have to rewind TiVo a few times to enjoy and then re-enjoy her bouncing boobs. I mean, yeah, I'm a Gay and all, but doesn't everyone love a good set of jugs? Aren't breasts the happiest body parts ever? I think they are. Cuter than just about any penis, definitely. They evolved to make people smile. I'm a big fan. Then the rest of the gang struts out. The judges are introduced. Seacrest pauses on Simon. They stare each other down. Paula encourages the contestants to get rid of their nerves by picturing Simon undressed. And going back to my earlier statement about breasts, I'd rather not see Simon's.
Seacrest--who, by the way, is double-microphoned tonight, one on each lapel, and like Simon and Paula's mystery-hug, it's not explained--announces that tonight is British Invasion night. He mentions the Beatles (whose music I will lay a bet we're not going to hear tonight), the Searchers, Gerry and the Pacemakers, the Rolling Stones, the Dave Clark 5, the Who, the Zombies, the Kinks, Shirley Bassey, Cilla Black, Dusty Springfield, and Herman's Hermits. The subtext of Seacrest's rap is that in the 1960s, anyone British who did anything whatsoever could translate that thing into instant fame. In other words, a lot of those bands were ass. To prove this point, the leader of Herman's Hermits, Peter Noone, is one of tonight's guest mentors. Did Simon Fuller owe someone a favor? Does Peter Noone have donkey pictures of someone? Is that why he's here? I go to PeterNoone.com to find out who gives a rat's ass about the current musical career of the dude who sang "I'm Henry VIII, I Am." It would appear that some do. But a little digging there reveals weirdness. There's a bit in the "press" section of the site that declares Herman's Hermits to be the true originators of the "pop music rage" that Big Star got the credit for in the 1970s. I have a feeling I may have lost some of my readers with the reference to Big Star. But they were a band. A great band. They wrote their own songs, something Herman's Hermits didn't do a whole bloody lot of. Big Star influenced other bands. Herman's Hermits sang songs that Carole King wrote during her 9-to-5 days in the Brill Building. Not that the songs she wrote weren't great. But dag. Herman's Hermits. Two hours with the guy from Herman's Hermits. He seems well-preserved, at least. Big fake white monster-choppers in his mouth. A sort of Austin Powers-ish enthusiasm he carries around like Santa's sack. I'll live through it.
Meanwhile, in happier news, "To Sir With Love" singer Lulu, or, if you only know her from AbsolutelyFabulous, "Bloody" Lulu, is the other guest mentor. She's aces. She's also, it would appear, good buddies with Peter Noone. So that's another point in his favor. He needs them. But let me harsh on him just a little bit more so I can get it out of my system. In my more extreme fantasies, they'd pass over crusty old do-nothing lounge acts like Peter Noone and have G.G. Allin week instead. He's dead already, and that's one reason it's a fantasy. The other reason is that G.G. Allin was maybe the grossest man in punk rock and he died young of drugs or murder or something, I'm blanking on what exactly, but there's a great documentary about him called Hated that you should watch sometime if you want to be grossed out. Anyway, I'm thinking about G.G. this week because this cool artist guy I know named Nat Photoshopped a picture of Jimmie "J.J." Walker's head onto G.G. Allin's body and named it J.J. Allin. Then someone else I know responded by putting Alan Alda's head on G.G. Allin's body and sent it around as G.G. Alan Alda. Life is always better when you're making your own fun, you know? Anyway, I know I've gone completely off topic here, but seriously, either Jimmie J.J. Walker or Alan Alda would make a more interesting singing mentor than Peter Noone. Lulu, on the other hand, as I said, is aces.
"What advice did Lulu have for Haley?" asks Seacrest. I hope it was that she should pack it in. Efferevescent breasts are great, but they don't make you a good singer. She's already the Kathie Lee Gifford of this show, and with this boring batch that's saying something. But Lulu, aces I think I called her just now, and she totally is, is here to help these kids, so she gives them actual advice and demonstrates it by singing what she means. She tells Haley to punch up her delivery on "Tell Him" and then shows her how, rapid-fire-dispensing stage moves to her ("Into the camera!" she says, her Lulu-eyes darting quickly and decisively into the lens, staring it down like she's about to leap over the piano and fuck whoever's holding onto it). Now, I'm not here to diss Miss Ross (much), but Miss L's already gone above and beyond D.R.'s affectionate-yet-distant tutorials. And as far as I know, Lulu's got nothing to promote besides the fact that she's still here, damn it, and she can still lay it down.
Then Haley struts out and ignores all of Lulu's advice, elongating her phrasing and losing her breath, singing, "I know...something...about lo-o-ove..."
Her stylist knows something about skin, as shorty-short-shorts and a braless halter cover a multitude of singing sins. She has awesome legs and reasonably effective white-girl butt-wiggle-ability and she finishes the song with a Charo titty-shake that will guarantee that she's not going home tomorrow. Randy is on fire for her ass and he road-tests his new stupid catchphrase, "The Yo Factor." Paula praises her for innocently slutting it up. Simon says, "I think people are gonna be talking about a lot more than your singing tonight." He always nails it on the head. Seacrest, as usual, is fascinated by her perilously high-heeled shoes. My friend Margy thinks Seacrest is fascinated by complicated women's shoes because he's short and fantasizes about how tall they'd make him. She's usually right about stuff like this, so I will defer to her opinion here. It's a lot more interesting a verdict than simply calling him a Gay.
Commercials happen, and when they return Seacrest is standing near a little girl who seems to be crying. "Tears of joy? Right?" he asks her as she nods her head and grins. "Thanks for coming," he adds before walking off and introducing Chris Not Sligh. He's going to sing Gerry and the Pacemakers' "Don't Let The Sun Catch You Crying." Peter Noone has nothing but grief for Chris, telling the audience that Chris oversings notes and doesn't stick with the melody. To Chris, this means that it's time to wear a too-small cardigan and sit on a stool to get all gentle-moods with the song. But you know what? His fans don't want that. They want him to pretend he's Justin Timberlake. They'll be bored by this, even if he does end the song with a pleading, puppy-eyed, Ace Young sex-face. But the judges like it, for whatever that's worth.
Commercials again, this time for Discovery Channel's Planet Earth, which I will be watching every second of because I love to see animals eat each other. The rest of the ads, I think, are all for one Coke variation or another. Stephanie Edwards sits with Seacrest and gets asked a fan question. "What's the hardest part of each week?" asks someone from somewhere. Stephanie says it's the song choice. This is because the judges are always pulling the rug out from under them. Either they picked one that was too comfortable or they changed it up too much. Destabilization is the name of the game on this show, and it's not so much about singing as it is about rolling with the punches.
Lulu meets Stephanie and learns that she's chosen Dusty Springfield's "You Don't Have to Say You Love Me." Lulu compares her to Beyonce. And that's accurate, because Stephanie is kind of like Destiny's sixth or seventh Child. She also reminds me of Latoya London, pulling the Great Lady routine a little too much, like Diahann Carroll at the Persian Room. She's only 19, and she seems way older. Simon agrees with me because he's smart.
Seacrest has a scripted thing with a phone going on. My mind wanders until he tosses the phone to an audience member. Then he tries to act. He fake-grimaces and covers his face, pretending that the phone hit the floor instead of the hands intended to catch it, and broke. And who knows, maybe it did. But if it did, then the truth gets even uglier--Seacrest can't even do real emotion or surprise or chagrin in a way that seems like he's human and not a blond, double-microphoned robot. That makes him a worse actor than writer-firing, health-benefits-denying, strike-busting mogul Tyra Banks. And she sucks. Anyway, he introduces the Blake-meets-Peter-Noone clip. Peter Noone is baffled by Blake. He says, "I like Blake. I like that he's trying to up everything to now." Weirdly enough, that sentence almost makes a kind of sense, mostly because we all know by this point that Blake's mercenary mission on this show is to use it for his own purposes. He may not win, but The Human Snickerdoodle is going to milk the airtime for all he can, branding himself as the "artiste" of the show, the one who wants to rearrange history to make it fit his 10-years-too-late vision of modernity. My favorite moment comes when Noone says, "I'm sure Blake will get all the youngsters voting for him." I like it because I haven't heard anyone use the word "youngsters" in, I don't know, forever. Kind of like how I haven't heard anyone take human-beatboxing seriously in about that long too. Then Noone uses the corollary word "oldsters." These are good words. Blake begins to sing "Time of the Season," a song he's chosen specifically because he knows it'll allow him to do the little "boomp chick-aaaahh" noises. The camera cuts to Paula dancing and Wedding Bells person Missi Pyle (she was one of the moms in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory) clapping along. I think it's in every single Fox employee's contract that they have to make an appearance here, even if it's a bemused David Boreanaz-like moment. So when is Bill O'Reilly going to stop in and shimmy along to Sanjaya?
Blake gets to the part of the song where he says, "What's your name? Who's your daddy?" Blake seems comfortable with this lyric, like he's heard it more than once in his life. Cut to Crying Girl. She's not bawling at the moment. Now it's time for his big finish, "It's the time...of the season...for loveiiiiinnng!" Then he adds a little "boomp chicka-ahhhhh" beatbox noise at the end, one that's meant to be sexy and sly, mysterious even. And I suppose, for some people, it is. But all I can focus on is his doofus pointy sideburns and upper-ear piercing, neither of which is remotely sexy or mysterious. Hate me all you want for this, gays. I know you only like this boy for his cuteness. Hear me now, though, Blake-cute will take you only so far in this life. All right, yes, that's not true. You can coast on it till you're about 95, actually. Everyone likes cute people. They get what they want almost 1,000% of the time. So I suppose you being here is like positive reinforcement, reminding all of us that people like you were destined to inherit the earth. Make more funny boomp-chick-ahhh noises!
He finishes and the camera cuts to his friends. Every male friend he has is wearing one of those awful train-conductor hats that the youngsters love so much now. Paula is whooping it up. Randy calls him "edgy" and tells him he has "massive yo factor." Even Simon likes it. Cut to the WORST SIGNMAKER IN HISTORY jumping up in the audience to flash a sign made out of what seems to be paper they use to wrap things in the supermarket meat department. Better yet, the person holding the sign used two of these big limp pieces of paper and just taped them together to make the sign. Whoever it is--they're obscured by the paper itself--couldn't even get it together enough to find a big, sturdy piece of poster board for this craft project. I wish I could draw it right here, but I'll explain as best I can what's on these two taped-together pieces of paper. Down the left side, in what appears to be black crayon is this:
On the right side is a big letter "S." A huge letter "S"
Down the middle is the name "Blake Beatbox," which I hope means that they've been reading my recaps here. Then under that is some indecipherable scribbling and under that is the word "WIN!" except that the exclamation point has no dot on the bottom. That error, and the word's placement to the immediate right of the giant letter "B" in the lower left-hand corner of the sign, spells "BWINI." I hope this person is 6 years old, or I'll feel bad about mocking a slow adult. That's when Seacrest decides to start dancing in the Blake Style, which means he tries to moonwalk a little bit. He also sings, because it's the only appropriate line for this moment, "What's your name? Who's your daddy?"
If this were an episode of the now-defunct-yet-much-missed Queer as Folk, Sharon Gless would have already pulled a leather-daddy muscle-bear out from under her wig and these two guys would have collars and leashes on by now.
LaKisha Jones has two choices: She might sing "Diamonds Are Forever" or "You're My World." Lulu, in a bit of scriptedness, goes into a rehearsal booth to encourage LaK to do the latter. Lulu even sings it. For LaKisha, she says. But it's really for the camera. She knows how to steal focus like she's knocking off a liquor store. Well played, Lulu. But it doesn't work. Someone from Chopard or wherever walked in and said, "Hey, LaKisha, we'll smother you in ice if you want to sing the song about diamonds." So the drag queen song it is, then. She even lays down those man-pretending-to-be-a-lady drama hands. You know what I mean. Lots of wavy hand-fluttering flourishes. The judges are more or less not into it. Me too.
Nosferatu picks "Tobacco Road." He grabs the entire mike stand to wave it around. Like Daughtry. Like Bo Bice. Like whatever other men on this show who have done that before. I know it's meant to signify, "I'm here to take the bull by the horns" or some shit like that. He's even sweating through his shirt. But all it does for Phil Stacey is throw his awkward whiteness into sharp relief. He is featureless, a glass of skim milk and some dry toast. And this guy's been entertaining the troops? Like insufficient body armor and mice-infested hospitals aren't punishment enough for joining the military for college money? They have to listen to this shit too? Paula likes it, of course. She jumps around and grins and grabs her ear, presumably not because that ear is dying of pain. Simon, who knows things, calls it "a third division bar-band performance."
Next up is Jordin Sparks. Time for another fan question: "Name a song that describes you best." She says "I'm So Excited" by the Pointer Sisters because she's always so excited. About anything. But she's 17. She'll get over that as soon as life hands her a few crushing disappointments. She's picking "I Who Have Nothing." Lulu loves this song. She loves it so much that when she rehearses with Jordin she sings all over the place, offering unsolicited harmony-squeals whenever she feels like tossing them off. Lulu, let it be known, is here for Lulu.
So now it's time for Jordin to actually sing the song. Lulu, wherever she is, and it's clearly not in the audience or she'd have already jumped onto the stage to harmonize and camera-hog. She's great. I got no beef with this one. Simon thinks the song is a bummer. He's right, it is. But whatever. Sad victim-y songs are kind of awesome.
After commercials, we're treated to more Peter Noone, who's sitting in the audience. Seacrest tries to get something out of Noone that's not total gibberish but fails. In the process Noone tries to get on Simon's nerves by disagreeing with the oft-repeated line "It's a singing competition" and calling it a "voting competition," whatever the fuck that means. He actually says that all the singers are equal now, proving that he has no hearing left. Then he disses Simon again by saying that all the Not-Nice Brits move to the United States. Thank goodness he said that because now we never have to see him on this show again. Niecy Nash from Reno 911! is seated behind Peter Noone. Couldn't Seacrest have chatted her up instead?
Sanjaya time! He's going to do "You Really Got Me." Peter Noone's got nothing to say to the boy. Here's what's great about Sanjaya's version of this song:
1. When he says the words "Grrrrl" and "I don't know what I'm doin'." Those are words I believe when he says them.
2. Crying Girl in audience.
3. His super-fem snarl. I've rewound it nearly as many times as I did for Haley's jugs-quake.
4. Crying Girl again.
5. The screamy part, because I like things to be sort of chilling sometimes.
6. More Crying Girl! Yes!
In response, Simon says, "The little girl's face says it all." Cut to little girl. Still crying. She's amazing. Her name is Ashley. Sanjaya hugs her. She starts bawling again.
Next comes Gina. Her hair looks better than ever. Her outfit, however, is the worst one she's ever worn. I can't even figure out what it is she's got on. It's seven different things at once. Cut to Gina and Lulu working through "Paint It Black." Good choice for her, really, completing her transformation into The Rocker Girl, such as she is. I don't hate her. She seems too decent a person to hate. And her choice to get sort of breathy and weird in the middle of the song was a spark of personality that maybe didn't translate well in the live setting, but it sounds OK to me. Simon lets her have it for that, but I think he's wrong on this one.
Chris Sligh has chosen a cool song, "She's Not There" by the Zombies. Peter Noone has nothing interesting to say to him. Sligh sings it from the audience, giving everyone high-fives, past some smirking Gays, past someone holding a sign that reads, "BRINGING CHUBBY BACK." He seems out of breath, though, like he's not used to running around a lot. But then, neither am I. After the judges babble on about whatever, Sligh gives a shout-out to someone named Dave. I would dig it if that were me. But I think it's the Dave from VoteForTheWorst.com, which is even better really, making Sligh the first Idol contestant to mention VFTW.com on the show. I approve.
Bringing up the rear is Melinda. And because it's British Invasion night, she's going to do a show tune, "As Long as He Needs Me" from Oliver! Yes, Oliver! Now, I love Melinda. But dang, that makes two show tunes in a row from her. Two not-exciting show tunes at that. What gives here? It's like daring people not to vote for you. Crying Girl seems to like it, though. Oh, OK, I do too. Shit.
OK, elimination night. And I have to rush off and see The Hills Have Eyes 2 in about 20 minutes, so I have to give you the highlights and get out of here. No, seriously, I have to. It really is my job to go see The Hills Have Eyes 2, just like it's also my job to sit on a couch in boxer shorts watching American Idol. I realize I have weird jobs. But there it is. Here's what happens:
1. Peter Noone sings "A Kind of Hush." And I have to say this: Dear Diana Ross, I sincerely and humbly apologize for mocking your crappy vocal stylings of last week. I didn't think it could get worse than hearing the remnants of your once-decent singing ability. But that was before I heard Peter Noone, circa 2007, going "La la la la la la" on American Idol. I want to stab myself in the ears and then stab all of America's ears too, whatever it takes to save us all from more Peter Noone singing, especially the part where he goes, "Hussssshhhhhhhhh!" at the end. Sincerely, Dave White
2. Ford commercial. The kids sing "Another Saturday Night" while at a suds-filled laundromat. At one point Blake takes Haley and Chris Not Sligh down into the suds for some alone time.
3. Brad Garrett. Again. Look, Fox, I'm NOT GOING TO WATCH 'TIL DEATH. FUCK OFF!
4. Bottom two are chosen. It's Chris Not Sligh and Stephanie.
5. Idol Gives Back wants your money, Corporate America. And now that Halliburton is moving to Dubai, I think they should be able to cough up some money from all the no-rules-over-there extra cash they dig up for themselves.
6. Lulu sings her signature hit, "To Sir With Love."And oh look, it's an old person who hasn't completely lost their voice. That's crazy! I mean, yes, she gets a little screechy and pitchy here and there. But so what? I'm a fan. I don't even mind that ear-piercing last note. She's Lulu. I'm down for her. And what a remarkably tiny little person she is too. She makes Seacrest tall.
7. Stephanie is going home. Chris Not Sligh is safe. Her "You're Dead" reel plays. Turns out that it's a Daughtry song they're using this season to accompany the death reels. Ugh.
8. Why isn't Crying Girl here tonight? I want her back next week.