It’s not all glamour and glitz in Hollywood, whatever this week’s American Idol theme of songs from the movies may have suggested. We have now arrived at the midway point of the finals – six weeks down, six to go – as Paul McDonald ended up on the cutting-room floor and became the first male contestant to leave the show after a run of five successive female departures.
Here is my quick recap of this week’s results show, and some reflections on the past six weeks as we look forward to the second half of the finals run.
The Barnacle™ lives to fight another day
Before getting down to the serious business of the actual results, we are treated to a pair of duets – Lauren and Scotty go country, while Haley and Casey head down the jazz route. In between we get a short film of the Idols getting made up as zombies, no doubt inspired by Paul’s, er, interesting dancing style.
Ryan Seacrest, the Master of the Overly-Dramatic Pause™, starts by bringing these two pairs forward to learn their fate. Scotty is rapidly despatched to the safety of the sofas, while Seacrest tells the other three that one of their number is in the bottom three. Lauren quickly rejoins Scotty on the couches, and as Casey and Haley console each other it is the latter who is asked to take a seat on the Stools of Doom™.
This week’s pointless and irrelevant tips for surviving the fame game are brought to you by Rob Reiner, director of When Harry Met Sally, A Few Good Men and This Is Spinal Tap. Actually, he’s quite funny and doesn’t take himself too seriously. Good man.
Jacob, Stefano, James and Paul perform songs from The Graduate. This unlikely quartet of wildly differing voices actually harmonise beautifully on The Sound of Silence, although this is achieved in part by turning Jacob’s mike way down. Mind you, on Mrs Robinson the sound mixers appear to just turn him off completely.
Be that as it may, Seacrest wastes little time in whisking James – last night’s stand-out performer – off to safety, and equally briskly ushers Stefano in the other direction to join Haley on the stools. That just leave Jacob and Paul, and the latter accepts his place in the bottom three with a small smile of resignation.
So there we have it. The trio are no strangers to the bottom three – for Haley and Stefano this is their third time around, for Paul his second. After the now traditional attempt at misdirection, Seacrest tells a relieved Haley she will be back next week, which means that we are finally guaranteed to say goodbye to one of the boys. And that boy is Paul, meaning Stefano has now been in the last two three times without being eliminated. I don’t call him The Barnacle™ for nothing – he is permanently stuck to the bottom like super-glue, but cannot be dislodged.
In a somewhat bizarre display of poorly rehearsed timing – were they running massively over or something? – Seacrest asks Paul what he will sing out the show with, Paul turns to J-Lo, and before she can even open her mouth to utter the words “Maggie May”, the bands strike up the opening bars. Wow. Those guys would be fantastic at weddings – they would know what to play without anyone actually having to request their favourite song.
Halfway house review
This has been a curious run so far. While it’s common among Idol‘s rose-tinted glasses-wearing viewers to bemoan the fact that every year is the worst ever, WhatNotToSing‘s collated online rankings suggest this season has actually seen the highest overall quality in the series’ history, and I am inclined to agree with that. In every previous season, the first several weeks have been about culling a considerable amount of dead wood to leave us with a small handful of decent singers. This year the gap between the best and the worst has been much smaller. There is no obvious Kelly Clarkson or Carrie Underwood in this season’s batch, but neither is there a John Stevens (sixth, season three) or a Sanjaya Malakar (seventh, season six), who between them possessed all the talent and stage-craft of a cardboard cut-out of Jedward. Possibly even less.
Still don’t believe me? Well, if you think Haley’s version of Blondie‘s Call Me last night was bad, then compare it with season two’s Carmen Rasmusen‘s rendition below. Both girls performed the same song in top eight week, but whereas Haley was just extremely mediocre and (rightfully) ended up in the bottom three, Carmen was as limp as a stick of celery left out in a monsoon and yet America cast enough votes for her to escape the bottom three. Seriously.
In terms of predicting how the final seven will shake out, entertainment news and gossip website TMZ stated earlier this week that, according to their inside sources, Scotty and Lauren – as I have been predicting ever since the start of the live shows – are consistently the front-runners in the weekly national vote, with James not far behind and Casey and Jacob often appearing in the top five. Haley and The Barnacle™, it seems, are just along for the ride. Paul was also consistently on that lower level.
That ranking is pretty much in line with my weekly post-performance assessments, which have seen Casey and Jacob slide into the midfield pack after strong starts, while Haley and Stefano have been bumping along at or near the bottom throughout. Even though male contestants have won in each of the last three years – during which time there has only been one female finalist (Crystal Bowersox last year) – I stand by my initial prediction that Lauren will ultimately win. I know Scotty has a huge fan base, particularly among Idol‘s core mums-and-teens demographic. But I still believe that, as other contestants fall by the wayside, Lauren will pick up more of those floating voters by virtue of her broader cross-over repertoire. We shall see.
For what it’s worth, here is my prediction for how the top seven will finish. In reverse order:
Sink or swim?
Next week, the theme is songs from the 21st century. After six weeks where the average age of contestants’ song choices has been noticeably higher than previous seasons, this will set a very different challenge – and one fraught with both peril and opportunity for anyone brave enough to seize a modern classic, turn it on its head and create a genuine ‘moment’.
It’s sink or swim time. How about Jacob camping it up to Hips Don’t Lie, Stefano taking on Ke$ha‘s Tik Tok, Scotty branching out with the Black Eyed Peas‘ Boom Boom Pow or Casey doing a blues version of Poker Face? Yes, I’m joking – but you’d watch if they did, wouldn’t you? Actually, now I think about it, Casey doing any Lady Gaga song has the potential to be awesome. Or, equally likely, awful. But it would certainly be memorable.
In reality, Scotty will no doubt head straight for contemporary country, closely pursued by Lauren as the pair continue on what seems like an inexorable progression to the grand finale.
If that doesn’t curse them, nothing will.
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Top 8: Performances
Link: American Idol website