American Idol Elton John Week: Who Knew? Probably A Lot of People! But Not Thia Megia and Her Horrific Zombie Smile!
Michael Becker / FOX James Durbin makes the piano catch fire for no reason
This week is Elton John week on American Idol, and it's the same week Elton John is hosting and playing musical guest on Saturday Night Live. Why so much Elton John all of a goddamned sudden? Did God hear "Rocket Man" on his morning commute and think, "Oh yeah, I like this guy"? Or does he just have some boring new album coming out? We're offered no clues, but we do get to see all the contestants posing for an Entertainment Weekly photo shoot, and I'm not sure I can imagine a more boring way for this show to waste a couple of minutes. Also, we learn via Coke tie-in that Taio Cruz is British, so now I know exactly one thing about Taio Cruz.
Someone at the EW photo shoot says that Scotty McCreery has "a really natural elegance," which, come on, no he doesn't. McCreery sings "Country Comfort," the sole Elton country song. It even has "country" in the title. Very imaginative, Scotty. He plays acoustic guitar, which at least means he doesn't hold the microphone the stupid fucking way he always does. And he belts it out in that classically hammy Nashville way that already seems second-nature to him. Whether or not Scotty wins, he's almost certainly the one contestant this year who's likely to have a career in five years. (The pandering to gradmas out there will absolutely not hurt him.) I liked what he did with the song, even if he really only does the exact same thing every week.
Naima Adedapo sings, "I'm Still Standing" and uses the term "reggae swag" in her introductory video. Jimmy Iovine suggests that she add one of those insanely insincere pop-star "this is for everyone struggling" introductions, and she totally does! In fake patois! Actually, she sings the entire thing in fake patois, which might work a lot better if the Idol house band didn't turn the song into fake-ass cruise-ship silliness. She does a nice enough job with the chorus, but she still finds a way to get more clownish every week, and she could really stand to rein it in a bit. Also notable: She has a serious case of crazy-eyes. The judges give nice what-the-fuck reactions, but it would've been nice if Simon was still there to really stare daggers at her. (I'm talking about the non-Steven Tyler judges, of course. Steven Tyler says, "Boomshakalakalaka." Whatever they're paying that guy, it's not enough.)
Paul McDonald must've won some sort of backstage paper-rock-scissors tournament, since he gets to sing "Rocket Man." He's back in the horrendous rhinestone suit from the auditions, but it makes sense, since he gets cold Gram Parsons with it, doing a stripped-back and decidedly unhammy take on the song, never really giving himself a chance to belt out even the chorus. It's an interesting move, taking maybe the biggest song of the night and making it small, but it works. He also promises that this is his last time in that suit, so thank god for that.
Pia Toscana, who would've pounded "Rocket Man" into jelly, sings "Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me," and Jimmy Iovine says that she has to belt it out somewhere between Axl Rose and Fergie, which is some of the most baffling advice I have ever heard anyone give, ever. There is no Fergie or Axl in Pia's delivery, fortunately, and she belts the track out like a pro, sharing the stage with a gospel choir like it's something that she does all the time. I've considered her to be a fundamentally boring singer since the season started, but it's pretty awesome to see someone come out and hit all her marks with that sort of total self-assurance. She straight-up killed it, and it was a joy to watch. Steven and Randy basically got in a fight afterward over who liked her more, which was weird. In the mid-commercial break interview, she says she's planning to do "River Deep, Mountain High" next week, so maybe next week is Tina Turner week? They shouldn't let the contestants give that stuff away on TV.