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There Were No
Good Songs the Year You Were Born

There Were No
Good Songs the Year You Were Born


American Idol would like you to know that in 1990 you should have been listening to more Australian chart hits.

Before I talk about this week's performances and Chikezielimination, I'd like to implore you to watch 'TilDeath. I mean, I never have. But you should, if for no other reason than I don't want to have to look at Brad-Garrett-as-product-placement anymore. He's here tonight in the audience with what's-her-erface and that other guy. All three of them are on the show. I think. Anyway, if only Amy Sherman-Palladino, Parker Posey, and Lauren Ambrose had consented to stand in the mosh pit and scream for Kristy Lee Cook, maybe their show would have been spared.

Also before I talk about this week's performances and Chikezielimination, I want to talk about Blake Lewis. He was interviewed recently and was full of bold statements about David Archuleta being "boring" and David Cook stealing from other bands. I know, right? Isn't it funny that someone wanted to interview Blake Lewis?

This week I'm watching the show at home on our non-HD TV so I don't have to look at crispy, unpleasant makeup, skin, and perspiration details. Everything's nice and soft. Simon's smoker's neck doesn't bother me anymore. Paula's outfit, on the other hand, remains excitingly odd, even in medium definition. Not only does it appear lopsided, like she somehow managed to pull her head through one of the sparkly armholes, but she's got on these awesomely nutty fingerless, opera-length gloves that appear to be black latex. I vote yes to this. Only fools wouldn't.

Seacrest introduces the top 10. Tonight's theme is the year they were born. First up is Ramiele. And because tonight's about their birth years, it's baby picture time.

If brain-meltingly cute infancy was the equivalent of adult star quality, Ramiele would be the next Carrie Underwood. She was born in 1987, and as she wiggled around fresh from the womb, the men from A Flock of Seagulls -- with nothing better to do a few years after their handful of hits -- dropped by the maternity ward to style her hair. Her jet-black shock of standing-straight-upness, in her words, made her "look bomb... I looked cool." I can't argue with this. I don't remember the last time I saw a better baby photo. Also? She was a biter. "I used to go up to kids, bite them, and then walk away," she tells the camera, a deadpan lack of remorse on her face and in her voice. Is it possible for me to like this kid any more than I already do? No wonder Danny Noriega made her his number 1 gal pal. As for her cover of Heart's "Alone," I'm not interested. She's got an old-school performance style (and screechy pitch issues, as least this week) that should get her work in some Broadway touring companies, if nothing else. My friend Sean, watching the show with me, says, "Wouldn't it be great if a helicopter landed onstage right now?"

Jason Castro was born in 1987 too and was the recipient of a push-button kid guitar as a child. His brother got the much better keytar, but it seems not to have been a source of sibling envy. And that, besides his having had pretty baby eyes, is about all there is to say about him. My husband/partner/whatever thinks Castro should play Bob Marley's wife in the planned biopic. Then he goes on to tell me that "Fragile," the Sting song that Castro is performing tonight, is from the album The Dream of the Blue Turtles. "I was deflowered to that album," he says. "It was a homemade cassette of that on one side and Squeeze's 45s and Under on the other." I think this is gross. That Sting was playing, I mean. Because Sting sucks. Also, the word "deflowering" is kinda funny. And because we're life partners and whatnot, I tell him my own deflowering story. There was no music involved. But it was in a dugout with that guy who worked at the stereo store. It was kind of a letdown, if you must know.

So Jason sings that Sting song and busts out some Spanish in the middle of it. He manages not to wave his hands around or make goofy faces this week. It's all pretty passive, with occasional flashes of self-satisfaction. Thankfully, the judges call him on it. His refreshingly stoned-acting-yet-most-likely-not response: "I could spend a little more time practicing."

Wouldn't it be great if Syesha never again did that creepy fake baby-like cry that she finds so comedic? I think so. She sings "If I Were Your Woman" from 1987. It's good. She's good. She's at her best when she's sing-crying, and so I hope she just keeps doing that. I enjoy her enough to listen. Not to buy a CD, but to listen if she happens to be belting out a "please baby please" power ballad like this one. As for the judges, Randy and Paula flip out and turn on the praise-shower. Simon is less enthusiastic, telling her that this is the limit to her vocals. Her response: shock and a stolen-from-Ramiele "oh lo." (Again, I have no idea what this expression means or even how it's spelled, and none of you Filipino and/or Floridian readers are being very forthcoming with an explanation. What gives?)

Chikezie wants to ballad you up, he wants to make sweet ballad love to you, he wants you to say that you can't believe it's not ballad. So he's going to sing a ballad. It's settled. No leaping around the stage this week. His baby pictures, shown after his he declares his ballad intentions, are somewhat less cute than Ramiele's, but they're a very close second. "Growing up with Nigerian parents," he begins. And my friend Sean finishes the sentence with, "they were always sending me spam e-mails and trying to transfer a fake $1 million into my checking account."

He sings the Brenda Russell-penned, Luther Vandross version of 1985's "If Only For One Night." It's pretty time-machine-ish. He's kind of like Syesha for me. He can sing well, but I'm never moved. I don't feel excited. I'm not falling in super-like with either one of them, and they can both go home tomorrow night for all I care. My only sadness in this scenario will be the loss of Chikezie's mother, whose seat-wiggling and hand-waving and invisible-anvil-lifting and Holy-Spirit-invoking should always be shown on a split screen while her son is singing. Best moment: Simon contradicting Chikezie's assertion that he's "singing it for [the audience]" and saying, "Come on, you're singing it for yourself," which prompts a death-to-you-White-Devil-Colonialist shock-stare from the sincere balladeer.

Brooke's going to start over on 1983's "Every Breath You Take" as many times as it takes to get it right. OK, she only starts over once. But has anyone ever had the nerve to do this on Idol? I really hate this song, but I really enjoy her clearly nerve-racked decision to just take that do-over moment and throw it out there. I'd have really enjoyed "Safety Dance" even more. The song starts out sort of faithful to the whole "stalker song" vibe with just her and piano and then gets airport lounge-y when the band kicks in behind her. Doesn't she listen to Tori Amos's cover of "Smells Like Teen Spirit?" You know she does. Or maybe not. Maybe Tori's too PG-13 for her. Anyway, she should have kept it simple. Now she's going to try to beat the judges to the punch again by cutting them off and criticizing herself, just like she did last week. I hate that. You don't have to give people ammunition to dislike you when you're on this show. You just stay cute and quiet and grateful to be there and you'll at least get sympathy and Carmen-Rasmussen-Christianity votes. Randy tells her he admires the fact that she started over. "Yeah, that's not good," Brooke responds. Clearly this woman has never seen Cat Power perform. Anyway, as Randy goes on and on (and on), Brooke just wants it to end, "OK," she says once ... and then twice, the second time with an embarrassed, urgent tone. Cut to her cute, curly-haired husband clapping and looking chagrined. One thing I do like about watching Brooke is how you can see her trying to sort it all out, trying on hats. Straight hair or slightly curly and flowy? Light mood or dark? Flower child or moody? Relaxed or tense? Self-abasing or wooooo-girling? Adventures in Babysitting or The Legend of Billie Jean? There are LOTS of decisions she's got to make, all of them vital. Her eyes dart around, looking for answers in the air.

Michael Johns. It's a penis song.

Michael Johns is singing 1978's "We Are the Champions/We Will Rock You." Because he had such success with that long Beatles song before this. And people go ape-shit because it helps them to believe they're at a basketball game and also because it's the white handsome guy version of someone like LaKisha Jones singing, "And I Am Telling You." It's a penis song and he's just asserted his big-dickery, which is appropriate because singing it kind of makes you a tool. So he's the champion of yelling, spread-legged stances, dumb vests, messy hair, voice-breaking moments, and modest biceps. But he is not the champion of key. I want Randy to say, "You know what's great about this is that you sound like Michael Hutchence too!" You can tell he's a little freaked out, even in his moment of demi-triumph and championship, because he keeps shaking it out, blowing out his lips like the way horses do.

Carly seems really into her astrological sign, calling herself a "classic Virgo." Gays and girls seem to be super into their "signs," have you noticed that? Friend Xtreem Aaron confirms this for me: "Straight-up dudes don't give a fuck about that stuff." Anyway, Carly's a Virgo, whatever that means. She also says that when she was a wee little Lucky Charm she wanted be Madonna or Kylie. But now she wants to be someone completely else if we're going to base that identity-need on performance style. She sings the drama queen anthem of all time, "Total Eclipse of the Heart," and condenses all seven-plus minutes of histrionics into her allotted 90 seconds. She hunches over, she crouches, she screws herself up so tightly I think she's going to break at any second or at least unfurl a nine-foot amphibian tongue and choke the judges. It's why I'm into her more than any of the others. If I have to root for someone here, then it's going to be her. Randy's not into her tonight, but as with astrology, I think that straight guys have no use for "Total Eclipse of the Heart." Simon calls her nervous. Well, yeah. He tells her to lighten up, but I don't know if Carly can lighten up. And I don't think I want her to.

David Archuleta is seen as a toddler dancing with his sister in little traditional Honduran outfits, his parents shaping his life before he could even think to fight back. Then he sings some song I've never heard of from his birth year of 1990. Kid, you should be singing "Groove Is in the Heart." Fuck this boring Euro plea for world peace, whatever it is. But after he fixed homelessness and materialism with those Phil Collins and John Lennon songs, it was time to tackle a new issue. Paula tells him that he could sing the phone book and everyone would love him. Well, that's what he just did. Simon calls it a "ghastly theme-park song where you have animated creatures with you and everyone joins in." So there's your best quote of the night.

Kristy Lee Cook's baby pictures show her being cradled in the arms of the cast of Hardcastle and McCormick. That's the light-hearted, ain't-nothin'-cuter-than-a-fat-country-baby-eatin'-peaches-off-a-hardwood-floor introduction to what is the most Art of War-inspired, monumentally conniving and cynical move I've seen anyone do on American Idol ever. She sings "God Bless the U.S.A."


The flag waves behind her on the big screen, and you'd be forgiven for assuming that she probably asked them to show Twin Towers footage, as well. All that's missing is a big yellow ribbon across her tits and a salute at the end. And you can hate her all you want -- I know I do -- and say that cheap patriotism is the last refuge of the about-to-be-voted-off. But you have to admit that she just totally saved her own ass in the most brilliantly diabolical way ever. Well played, Kristy Lee Cook.

David Cook, weirdest-looking baby ever. I'm not saying anything new here. He cops to it himself. And he's here to do another cover of another band's arrangement of a cover. Follow that? He's already aped the Incubus version of "Hello," a version of "Eleanor Rigby" by some band I've never heard of called Doxology, and now the Chris Cornell arrangement of "Billie Jean." Everyone's been arguing about it all since. But I can't muster the energy to care. It'd be nice, however, if the judges knew what he was doing so they'd not be tripping over themselves too hard in a rush to congratulate him on his "originality" and "bravery." He's a good picker of song arrangements and he delivers it all very convincingly. Also? Knows how to shout a very, very, very long note. I can't hate him for that. But I don't have to cheerlead for it, either.

And now we're chopping and screwing. In the day between the performances and the Chikezielimination, I get an e-mail in my in-box from my friend Margy. Subject line, all caps: EARLY ONSET PERSONALITY DISINTEGRATION. This begins an instant-message conversation where we discuss the impending nervous breakdowns of about half the kids on this show.

1. Now Seacrest is saying "Oh lo." It's everyone's favorite thing to say now. He does this right before pulling a strange Max Headroom sort of head-tilt when he says, "This ... is American Idol!"

2. The weirdest group-sing I've seen in a long time, at least from a performance standpoint. They do Maxine Nightingale's "Right Back Where We Started From," a bouncy '70s song. They all seem fairly happy in this moment, and it almost looks like they've all schemed together to improvise their own dance moves. From the moment they run out onstage, Jason Castro seems to have been shot out of a cannon, they're kicking their legs up higher than the choreographer probably wanted, they're exaggerating moves that were supposed to be more subtle, guys are leaping into the air to do that chest-butting thing they do, and Ramiele ducks under people so she's not hidden from view. Something's going on here, and it doesn't seem officially sanctioned at all.

3. The kid from Ugly Betty is in the audience.

4. Now we're shilling for iTunes. The Idols are shown recording the full-length versions of their performances to be sold on iTunes. Carly talks about how the engineers have their own "lingo words ... their own different slang." Yeah, Carly, you've never been in a studio before.

5. The Bottom 3 are Chikezie, Syesha, and Jason Castro. The rest of them all seem grateful that there's not an actual guillotine onstage.

6. You know what I'm over? The listener phone-in questions. They're dumb. And half of them seem coached and planted. I'm not interested. If something good gets asked, I'll write about it. Until then, fuggit.

7. Project Runway overlap time. Kimberly Locke is here to sing some new song on her new album, and she's wearing a Christian Siriano dress. And as a Christian fan, for me, what's notable about this is that I don't like it at all. It looks like she's here to take David Archuleta to the prom.

8. Jason's safe, Syesha's safe. Chikezie's no longer in the heezy. Goodbye, Chikezie's mother; it's been nice watching you undulate. As he sings his Humiliation Number, the same ballad he did last night (lyrics specifically referencing getting the hump on until the break-a-dawn), Chikezie's mother grooves along and gives her son some sexy c'mere-baby hand gestures. Nice.

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