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'American Idol' recap: Songs from the movies

Janell reports on last night's American Idol, which was songs from the movies, but should have been "[Most of] the Contestants Ignore Jimmy Iovine.":

Did you hear? Pia got eliminated last week! I know, like, whoa. If I can summarize some comments left last week, several people have vowed never to watch the show again because the public is voting by popularity, not vocal perfection. Welcome to American Idol, the show that searches for someone the voting public can idolize, which does not mean the same thing as someone who has a pretty voice. Perhaps those who wish it were the latter have already left the show. Good. No more whining? Then let's start the recap, and I'll never have to alliterate pretty, perfect Pia again.

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Randy Jackson is wearing a v-neck sweater over a shirt and tie, it must be prom night. Jennifer Lopez is wearing a sparkly minidress with little squares cut out and a bonus tuft of tulle is pasted onto her thigh. Steven Tyler is wearing another opaque, vaguely animal printish shirt, with tight white pants. Oh, and silver shoes.

Ryan Seacrest appears. His first order of business is to congratulate Jennifer Lopez for being named the World's Most Beautiful Woman by People Magazine. So it's like the Sexiest Man Alive, only classier.

Tonight's theme is Music from the Movies. Oh, you can fit all sorts of dreck into that category. It's not like the Academy Awards, where the song has to be written for the movie, or debut in the movie, or something. It can also be a song you know that appeared briefly in a movie so it could be put on the soundtrack to increase sales. This was back in the dinosaur age, when people purchased entire movie soundtracks (I did!) and not just the singles. You'll see what I mean.

Paul McDonald is wearing a black and sparklier version of his floral suit. Once again he's thinking in terms of an encore for a show. What would he sing for an opening number, I wonder? He's singing "Old Time Rock and Roll." You know, that Bob Seger song that Tom Cruise sang to in his underwear in Risky Business. Yes, that one that cries out for some sock sliding on a hardwood floor. Unfortunately Paul walks down the stairs in cowboy boots instead. In the middle, someone tosses him a tambourine and he shimmies with a female saxophone player for all of 4 seconds. Hmm. You guys are right, he doesn't have much vocal range, and it sounds shouty. But he's having so much fun! It's the Paul McDonald concert, and during the encore he plays familiar songs and dances around. I would like to hear the middle portion of his concert, where maybe he has to sing a little bit. Steven Tyler: "Forget about it, who's your sax player?" Jennifer Lopez thinks every time he lets go a little more, yet also gets more polished. Randy Jackson claims that that was the first number at the Paul McDonald concert. Ah, the set list is out of control!

Lauren Alaina will be singing Miley Cyrus's "The Climb," from the Hannah Montana Movie. Let's all agree that it's a more age-appropriate song than last week's "Natural Woman." In rehearsal, Jimmy Iovine tells Lauren that she's a much stronger singer than Miley. Oh, them's fighting words, right? will.i.am is sticking around this week, which I think is great, although typing his name gets me into a big fight with auto-correct. Jimmy says that Lauren can get Pia's fans with this. will.i.am says, "She's gonna bring the house down with a Miley Cyrus song. Whut!?" Lauren sounds great, and she has some twang in her voice. She hits some big notes and mostly stands still and does some dramatic arm reaches, so that should definitely reach a few Pia fans. J.Lo loved it. Randy claims that the Lauren they saw in Nashville is roaring back, and she sang it like it was written for her. Steven loves what she brings to a song.

Stefano Langone is having stool chat with Ryan in an effort to prove he has rebounded from his non-elimination last week. He says that he's focusing on performance. Jimmy gives him great advice in rehearsal: don't cop out and sing like he's going to be eliminated, but sing like he's going to win the whole thing. Stefano is singing "End of the Road" by Boyz II Men. Did you know that song was in a movie? Yes, yes it was. The movie was Boomerang, so there. The beginning feels a little slow and awkward for me, but I can tell he's singing earnestly and pushing his performance. When the song picks up he really milks it. Also, he's wearing short sleeves this week - showing his literal scars as a metaphor for his emotional vulnerability. Don't say you didn't notice. Randy Jackson is sure that "my boy Wanya from Boyz II Men is going to text me and tell me my boy Stefano just slayed it!" He says it was the right move at the right time, his best vocal performance so far. Also, now Stefano is in it to win it. I know you guys are sick of Randy saying that, I'm just the messenger. Steven agrees that Stefano knows how to milk a song. Jennifer talks about Stefano understanding the key about performance, and he's singing to win, and he [bleeeeep!].

Scotty is next, and he rehearses "Everybody's Talkin'." Interesting, I think. Then he decides to sing "I Cross My Heart," a George Strait song from the movie Pure Country. Sigh. Scotty sits on a stool and sounds like a professional country singer. The song is slow and romantic. Scotty hits a relatively high note near the end, and then looks deep into the camera and sends out a "how you doin?" vibe. Steven loved it. Jennifer points out that "everybody wants us to be tough, but you all are so damn good!" So she just says wow. Randy loved the song, because if it ain't broke, don't even consider fixing it.

Casey is on stool chat. His beard seems even a smidge shorter this week. He looks younger. Okay, he is singing the song "Nature Boy," written by Eden Ahbez and featured in the 1948 movie The Boy With Green Hair. People, wikipedia that movie, it is a morality tale with the message that war is dangerous for children (and gives them green hair). Nat King Cole sang the song, and then later David Bowie sang it, and it was also in the movie Moulin Rouge. What does it say about Casey's cultural references when he says it's from The Boy With Green Hair, not from Moulin Rouge? It says awesome things, that's what (assuming he had the choice). Jimmy Iovine wants Casey to sing Phil Collins' "In the Air Tonight," a song that I really like. But Casey doesn't want to lose himself, and he ignores Jimmy's advice. He sings with the upright bass again, along with a piano and percussion. This song has a mysterious, jazzy vibe, and Casey handles it well, although he didn't need to grunt and growl those couple times. He does a bass solo with some scatting that is wicked cool, and then shows great, non-growly, vocal range at the end. The judges give him a standing ovation. Jennifer Lopez talks about the variety of genres represented this season, and that you don't have to be a pop star, you can do a jazz album like Norah Jones. Randy also likes the artists on the season, and says that Casey is educating the people while embracing who he is. He shouts that the world cannot live by pop stars alone. I think maybe he's a little tired of Katy Perry? Steven Tyler says that his mama sang that song to him when he was a baby. That makes me want to learn it and sing it to my kids. (My current lullaby is "Soft Kitty," that couplet that Sheldon and Penny sing on the tv show The Big Bang Theory. When my 2-year-old sings it to his stuffed lion, it is adorable.) So to sum up: artistry, variety, jazz, yes. I much prefer this Casey to the angry screaming Casey of yore.

Haley Reinhart is singing Blondie's "Call Me," from the movie American Gigolo. She's wearing awesome over-the-knee purple boots. She sings it very rock, flips her hair some, and growls on most of the "call me's." Hasn't this song been done in past seasons? And the singer gets dinged because they're not mature enough, not convincing? That's kind of what I think about Haley. She can play the sex kitten, but I don't get the strong sultry persona vibe from her. Probably because she's a teenager. Randy agrees, he thinks it started karaoke but the end was okay. It wasn't a showcase for her voice. Steven agrees, too, but likes her dress. Jennifer doesn't want to agree, because she hates to criticize one of the remaining two girls, but yeah. Not the song for Haley.

Jacob Lusk is up next. In rehearsal, Jimmy mocks him for preaching to the public last week about looking themselves in the mirror. He says you shouldn't preach when you don't even have a record out yet. Oh, seriously, Jimmy. Can you mentor the world? Thanks. Jacob's song choices are "Impossible Dream" or "You'll Never Walk Alone." He gets about one bar into it and Jimmy is like, dude, that's corny. Yes! He tells Jacob to sing "Bridge Over Troubled Water," which everyone knows from Simon & Garfunkel, but it was conveniently in the movie The Pursuit of Happyness. Jacob seems a little defeated in his intro tape, I suddenly think he's not in it to win it. He does his Lusky gospel all over the song, though. I would tell you my other impressions but it seems I typed "zlobrly" in my notes and no auto-correct can tell me what I meant. Steven Tyler bleeps for a bit, digging the final 3 notes. J.Lo: "Who does that?" Randy believed it, and liked that it was controlled. It was great. It was. But since he was in the bottom 3 last week, is America getting bored with that? Another perfect voice to be shot down by ennui? Ennui is mean with a bow and arrow, I hear.

Finally it's time for James Durbin. He's singing Sammy Hagar's "Heavy Metal," from the movie of the same name. Wikipedia that movie, too, it's a whole other mind trip. Jimmy Iovine doesn't like the song, but James gives an artist speech similar to Casey's and says he wants America to give metal a chance. James is accompanied by long-haired, bearded, fearsome electric guitarist Zakk Wylde, who also plays with Ozzy Osbourne. I like how the show is trying to keep it authentic. I thought I heard the lyric "Push your overlord to explode," which was very metal, but instead the lyric is "it's pushin' overload," because Sammy Hagar wasn't writing about overlords. His loss. James is in the zone, his wheelhouse, his arena of fire. He gives Zakk a long guitar solo while he plays air guitar and does a backbend. It's, you know, his thing, but I don't remember fireworks and there was no piano on fire. At the end, he high fives a boy of around 12 who is wearing a shirt that says Cole, and James says that the song was for Cole. Aw. J.Lo felt it was real. Randy enjoyed the James Durbin concert and thinks America should bring metal back. Steven thought it was outstanding. See, this wasn't about singing, or a great song, it was about the show. And I kind of like that James said "I'm a guy who likes professional wrestling and heavy metal and tucking scarves into the back of my pants, you seem to like me, so here you go." What can you say? I don't like country music but I figure Scotty's great at it, so anyone who doesn't like metal can at least see how it's done, and appreciate it, right? So many musical horizons have been broadened tonight.

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In the review, some other thoughts jump out at me. Paul did his thing, but then again, who is Paul? Is he Rod Stewart? Even Rod Stewart just covers older songs now, he's not doing Rod Stewart anymore. I don't see Paul fighting for his artistic voice, except when he did that Ryan Adams song back in the beginning. Hmm. Lauren nailed her song, and Stefano nailed his boy-band niche, too. Scotty was country. Casey was cool jazz. Haley was karaoke overkill. Jacob was gospel. James was metal. People are finding their groove and sticking to it. I think the bottom 3 will be Paul, Haley and Jacob. What do you think?

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