American Idol Week Two: Sucking Slightly Less
First off, I'm kind of bummed about last night's ejection of Alexandrea Lushington, the vaguely spazzy 17-year-old hippie chick who turned intolerable soft-rock into tolerable R&B two weeks running. On Wednesday night's show, she managed to make me like a Chicago song OK, which is some sort of creative alchemy, and the fact that she's fallen while beyond-bland glee-club doof Luke Menard still stands is pretty much unconscionable. Actually, the persistence of Menard is just mystifying. Who's voting for this guy? Are all the acapella groups in America banding together via message board and turning themselves into a so-far indestructible voting bloc? Menard has demonstrated a total inability to understand or translate the songs he's chosen, and his stage-presence is just a vast dead space. At this point, I'd probably enjoy watching him fall down stairs. I know we're only two weeks into the voting part of the show and all, but I'm genuinely pissed that I'll have to spend another two minutes of my life watching him and his dead man's grin mangle some other song next week. Other than those complaints, though, I'm not mad about last night's eliminations. We've also lost one of the show's near-endless stable of interchangeable blonde chicks, and the utterly detestable self-important frosted-tip fratboy fuckface Jason Yaeger is gone as well, surprising nobody except apparently Jason Yaeger. I'm probably happiest about fake-bald desperate-to-rock boyband vet Robbie Carrico getting the boot. Fun as it was to hear the judges harping on his lack of authenticity, whatever the fuck that could possibly mean in this context, that guy had zero swagger; it was like watching Kevin Federline's chump cousin singing Foreigner.
We're getting closer to the good part of the show, the part where most of the people left on TV can actually sing. And this week's 70s theme was a good look, a playlist heavy on classic-rock radio staples and Guitar Hero crossovers. Still, the girls' night came off weirdly flat and perfunctory, nobody apparently nervous enough to rage out. Syesha Mercado, who I'd really liked the first week, came close to disappearing. I still like Ramiele Mulabay, even though her version of "Don't Leave Me This Way" didn't bring much of anything new, mostly because I fucking love that song. Amanda Overmyer's yowly "Carry On My Wayward Son" was some serious cat-in-a-blender shit. And I'm not entirely certain why the judges got all meh on Asia'h Epperson's "All By Myself"; the performance's subtext could break your heart if you let yourself thing about it (her dad just died, assholes), and she was about the only singer to bring any intensity to her song all night rather than just grinning it out. Still, "All By Myself" is all kinds of lame, and even that performance wasn't enough to keep me from immediately thinking of the shower scene from Half Baked. Based on that alone, at this exact second, Asia'h is no longer my favorite American Idol contestant.
That dubious honor goes to Chikezie, who blazed the fuck out of Danny Hathaway's "I Believe to My Soul" on some classic soul-man shit and then got all Kanye-style bitchy when it came time to trade barbs with Simon. If everyone on this show brought that kind of confidence, those four hours of primetime TV would've been a whole lot easier to watch. This turned out to be a shockingly strong week for the male singers, especially the ones who probably came very, very close to being sent home last week. The previously nondescript David Hernandez wailed "Papa Was a Rolling Stone" like his life depended on it, though I'm not sure he's got another one of those left in his pocket. David Cook's attempted rock heroics on "All Right Now" weren't as wince-worthy as I'd feared, and it was fun seeing how close he and Simon came to trading punches when Simon made fun of him for talking about crosswords. Jason Castro, the only guy I liked last week, kind of drifted along without making much of an impression, but when somebody edits his Scooby Doo reaction shots into one long YouTube clip, it's going to be the best shit ever. At this point, he's practically auditioning for Harold & Kumar 3. And then there was David Archuleta, whose Broadway R&B version of "Imagine" apparently turned him into the show's juggernaut this year. It was nice. He's a nice kid. It was a nice version. Archuleta is sort of impossible to hate, though I wish I could see what so many people loved so much about it. (Bridget, not entirely joking, called him the Barack Obama of American Idol. Paula, meanwhile, wants to squeeze his head off and hang him from her rearview mirror?) Maybe it's just that I really cannot stand "Imagine," which probably means I'm going to hell.
But yeah, better show this week. I hope the keep on with the decade-themed shows, if only so I can see what finds its way onto the 90s show. All 4 One? Peabo Bryson? "I Would Do Anything For Love (But I Won't Do That)"? Still, the best reason to keep watching American Idol isn't the show itself; it's the weekly IM-chat rundown between Jon Caramanica and Sean Fennessey over on Sean's Vibe blog, which is totally incomprehensible if you don't watch the show and maybe halfway comprehensible and fucking hilarious if you do.