I will spare you the “Smash” recap this week (hooray?), although it was a thoroughly enjoyable episode that reinforced why I like the show … and most importantly, led NBC to announce today that there will be a season two of “Smash” (hooray!!!!)
But, since I skipped “Idol” last week, and since it is Billy Joel night, and he does do two songs I absolutely love (“She’s Got a Way” and “Piano Man”), to say nothing of writing one of my favorite Garth Brooks songs (“Shameless”), AND all three were performed last night?
The least I can do is recap the performances.
Dim the lights, here we go.
Should probably note, I’m Youtube!ing the performances and possibly the judges reactions. We’re at that point in the “Idol” season where we’ve identified the five to six contestants worth giving a damn about, and now we gotta suffer for a month through the “weeding out the crap” part of the show. That, and I have the NCAA toonumunt on TV right now, so Youtube! is my only option, since Channel 131 is down.
First up, DeAndre Brackensick, doing “Only the Good Die Young”. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: I love when this allegedly wholesome family show allows its contestants to perform songs that leave little to the imagination. Never more so than when they let Kris Allen actually cover “She Works Hard for the Money” by Donna Summer, a song that glorifies prostitution, paying for sex, and strippers. Come on, you only live one. You can always clean up your act when you hit 40. (Or at least that’s my goal.)
And sweet Jesus, is this awful. He doesn’t have the voice to pull this off, and he’s taking it way, way, way too poppy. Plus that outfit is hideous. Although that might be bias shining through – I wear Nautica, not Hilfiger.
The cheezy trumpeters aren’t helping either. Does this dude not realize this is a song about trying to screw a Catholic school girl? Even Britney Spears at age fifteen “got” that fantasy in “One More Time”. This guy wouldn’t get the fantasy if it put a hole in his head.
And what’s up with his constant moving back and forth? Let’s just say, he’s placing in the bottom three this week. That was hideous.
Stevo Grade: D-. Only saved from being an F because of the pretty neat piano riff with about 20 seconds left in the performance. Plus he did nail my favorite line: “I’d rather lay with the sinners than roll with the saints … because the sinners are much more fun!”
Second up, and I’m using Slezak’s immediate reaction at tvline.com to try to get the order right, Erica Van Pelt with “New York State of Mind”. In the interest of full disclosure, I HATE this song. And I’m not a fan of this contestant either. This might be “pull the plug 30 seconds in” territory we’re entering for the first time all season.
(Should take a moment here to rant: why, “American Idol”, do you post every performance on Youtube! and your own official site … but DO NOT HAVE next day complete re-broadcasts at either fox.com or americanidol.com? What’s up with that? At least offer a next day re-broadcast on Hulu Plus, like FOX does with your other shows. This is a criminate outrage. It’s Zues in nature. Christ, enter 2009 already. Let’s move on to whatever crappy performer is up next.)
Erica’s doing a jazzy take on this, and it actually isn’t half bad. Until she hits the bridge, and her voice is giving out. She’s taken it too high. Although the last thirty seconds, she redeemed herself. There’s no way she should go home over DeAndre. No way. And if that’s a bottom three performance, then we’re getting one rock solid performance night, uuh, last night.
Stevo Grade: C+.
Third up, Joshua Ledet covering “She’s Got a Way”. I gotta admit, this is my favorite Billy Joel song. I absolutely love it. I hope someday to meet a girl who I feel this way about. So of COURSE one of my least favorite contestants draws it. Please, Josh, don’t murder this. (With the wrench, in the lounge. OOH, I rarely go to the wrench! Way to change up the “Clue” reference Stevo!)
Hang on, let me channel my inner Derek on “Smash” here thirteen seconds in. STOP, STOP, STOP! This song is NOT meant to be THAT slow. It’s not meant to be a cheezy lounge act. Thirteen seconds in, and I’m ready to start chucking empty (stevo checking what tonight’s adult beverage of choice is) Budweiser cans at the laptop. I mean, really Josh? Sitting backwards on a chair, dragging out every note, before we get through the first verse? Somewhere Billy Joel is rolling over … in his bed, laughing at the ridiculous royalties he’s making off last night. But here in South KC? I’ve just grabbed an empty can before hitting “play” again …
(Derek voice) STOP, STOP, STOP! 43 seconds in. Dude, look, I get that you want to “make this your own”, but for f*ck’s sake, some songs are not meant to be, uuh, f*cked with. THIS? Is one of those songs. Please, stop the “jumping from one range to another” crap you’re undertaking right now. The beauty of this song is that it’s just Billy Joel, in a recording studio, playing the piano as a few fans listen in. (No, seriously, that is the actual released version of the song. It was done live, in studio.) There’s no ridiculous Bon Jovi like riffs, no cheezy accompanyments, it’s just Billy Joel, at a piano, singing his emotions in a level, rational voice. God forbid you grasp the f*cking song you picked to sing.
(Derek voice) STOP, STOP, STOP! 1:13 in. This is NOT a song you will find in your “songs of the faith” book in Mass on Sunday morning. Why in the hell is he turning this into a gospel / hymny tune? I swear, this show taxes the faith of even its most loyal viewers at times, and this performance is just about as taxed out as us in the 51% of Barack Obama’s America are at this point.
God, he really is Jacob Lusk Junior. Slezak and Mindy Doolittle nailed that on Idology this week.
Stevo Grade: F-. If there was a grade lower than that, I’d give it. That was two minutes of my life, four if you count the pauses to type the immediate reaction, I’d give anything to have back.
Fourth up, Skylar Laine doing “Shameless”. THIS has potential. Gotta admit, while Colton is this site’s rooster / puppy / pony / rubber chicken* in this fight … this chick is winning me over. She’s easily the best female performer this show has had since Crystal was robbed of the title two years ago. (Sorry, Lauren is good … but she ain’t “The One”, Mr. Tyler.)
(*: the rooster / puppy / pony reference is obviously a gambling line. Because you bet on roosters (cock fighting), puppies (the dog track), and ponies (the, uum, pony track). The rubber chicken got thrown in because my good buddy Dusty’s dog’s rubber chicken tragically wound up on their roof last year, and every time Zeus would go into the back yard, he’d bark at the roof to get his chicken down … until one day, it was magically on the deck. Since I tend to root for the “underdog”, and nothing’s a bigger longshot than “rubber chicken stuck on roof magically falling to ground with no human intervention”, that got added to the rotation of acceptable gambling references for betting on the underdog.)
(bud light voice) Here wego! (Note: how awesome is that ad? At least I think it’s awesome. Although I could never imagine Priest as a “Wego”, seeing as how he was too lazy to leave the deck when he had to go most of the time.)
Oh Lord, 20 seconds in, and I fear we’re getting a reprise of Lauren’s “proposal” to an audience member last year – the spotlight is on both Skylar and some dude in a trucker’s hat and OHMYF*CKINGGOD that’s Joey Logano! Holy sh*t Batman! Hang on, I’m rewinding this … OMFG that IS Joey Logano! Sweet Jesus, FOX will stop at NOTHING to promote their other programming within their own shows! (Not that I’m complaining … but come on, we all know Kasey Kahne’s the guy to promote in this spot, even if he is (gulp) 32nd in the points right now.)
And she walks away from Joey. Poor guy.
This is really good. Even if FOX tragically chose Joey Logano for the spotlight over the 5.
Stevo Grade: A-. That was fantastic. And a rewind makes me believe that’s Keselowski next to Logano, and Trevor Bayne across from him. Fantastic! I’ll definitely download that on iTunes this weekend.
Fifth up, Elise covering “Vienna”. I have no freaking clue what this song is, but I’m guessing I will hate it.
I’ll give Elise this: if I was in a night club, or a lounge, and she was performing this song? I wouldn’t object. It’s not great … but it’s not fast-forward awful.
Stevo Grade: B-. She’s safe.
Next up, our season’s stoner, Phil Phillips, doing “Movin’ Out”. Only God knows how this is going to wind up.
Good God, he is totally channeling his inner Dave Matthews, right down to “only guy in the spotlight, with weird yet pleasant sounding voice, with only a guitar backing him up”. And it’s working.
This is actually REALLY good, if you’re a fan of the DMB / Ben Harper / Brett Dennen type of music (which I am, stunner I know). Put it this way: I would absolutely pay $25 to smoke a joint at Sandstone or Starlight while watching this guy perform. Uum, not that I have ever done before.
Stevo Grade: A. It’s not the best performance so far, but I liked it more than Skylar’s.
Now we come to Hollie Cavanaugh, covering “Honesty”, a song that drives me crazy because, well, it just does.
And incredibly enough … I’m digging this so far. I like it being an octave or two higher than Billy Joel’s version. This is not half bad. (And unlike Phil’s performance two minutes ago, it’s not half baked either (rimshot!))
She tried too hard at the end, but that was enjoyable. As “The Voice of Reason” would say, “I wouldn’t kick her out of bed for eating crackers. Especially if my name was crackers (rimshot!)” Come on man, I’ve been waiting four years on this site to bust that classic out.
Stevo Grade: A-. I’d listen to that again. And if she isn’t one of the first three or four “safe” contestants, then this show needs to drastically change its voting system to ensure a bunch of 13 year old girls don’t determine our winner for the second (possibly third) year in a row.
Heejun Hun, doing “My Life”. “The Voice of Reason” and I disagree about this guy – I think he’s Sanjaya Junior, G likes him. Look it, yes, he’s funny, but is he honestly one of the thirteen best contestants this season? HELL NO.
Oh sweet Jesus, he’s channeling his inner Ren McCormack with the cheezy “let's dance!” line to the piano player. In his defense? You’ll never find a bigger fan of “Footloose” than me. Wait, did I just type that out loud?
Pausing this at :21 in, Steven Tyler looks apoplectic. In his defense? His look is matching mine at this point.
OK, fine, the guy has fun up there. Good for him. But for God’s sake, not even Sanjaya’s voice is this unlistenable. I mean, not even MY voice is this unlistenable, and I think I have the weirdest, worst-sounding voice in recorded human history.
In the words of Chuck Barkley: “that was TURRIBLE!” Sorry, I don’t get the infatuation with this guy.
Stevo Grade: C-
Two to go, hang in there – they’re the two best contestants so far (along with Skylar a very close third) this season …
First up, J-Chez, as Grantland has taken to calling her, doing “Everybody Has a Dream”. Yes, yes we do honey, and it’s that you deliver a solid performance, which for the most part has been lacking tonight.
Wow, has she got a voice. I mean, (dave armstrong* voice) WOW! Has she got a voice!
(*: I had a good buddy growing up, who ironically I work with now, who shared the same last name with Dave. Let’s just say, he was NOT a fan of having to share his last name with a tool like Dave. In his defense? I’m not a fan of Dave either.)
That was perfectly acceptable, “safe to the next round” entertainment. (AKA, there ain’t a shot in hell I will either remember that performance a week from now, or have it on my iPod when I get to work on Monday.)
Stevo Grade: B.
Finally … in the P-I-M-P slot, as Slezak and Mindy Doo both predicted, is this site’s rubber chicken. Mr. Colton Dixon. Covering THE Billy Joel songs of Billy Joel songs, “Piano Man”. God I hope this is good. This is just about where Stefano crapped out last year covering “Closer” by Ne-Yo (a defendable crap out, it was an awful performance), and Stefano is my only rubber chicken to date to not at least get a homecoming.
Here. We. Go. Just to be safe, (stevo grabbing a Budweiser from the fridge). What? They’re from the same brewery for crying out loud!
Uum, hang on. (stevo hitting “replay this clip” …)
Peoples and Peepettes … THAT was amazing. And I would say that even if he wasn’t my rubber chicken in this fight. (OK, fine, you got me – the rubber chicken reference not only refers to Zeus getting his prize possession back, but the opening scene to “PTV”, where Stewie renders bin laden incompetent by slamming a rubber chicken over his head. That scene NEVER fails to make me cry from laughing at it.)
Everything about that performance got to me. YES, Randy, it was “pitchy” in spots (especially in the middle). To which I say: so what? At least unlike last year’s champ, Colton HAS a f*cking range to work with! God forbid someone take a risk, take a chance, like the late great Blake Lewis, my favorite contestant ever on this show.
Blaker had his pitch issues, and yet so transformed this show with his original takes on things, to the point that a year later, another guy with occasional “pitch problems” who liked to “reinvent” various “well known songs”* so “rocked” his way through the field. That guy? You might have heard of him. Especially if you live in the KC Metro area.
Our own David Cook.
(*: the moment at the 1:25 mark, the sh*t eating "yeah, I NAILED this!" grin that erupts on his face, is without question my favorite "Idol" moment ever. It's that, or this entire performance, still the best in "Idol" history. Well, ok, fine, this one and this one ain't too shabby either. Because in that one moment? A kid with a dream, not just attaining a form of his dream, but attaining a PERFECT form of it? That's why this show still sucks me in every March to May.)
I don’t ask much, but pull up this performance. Close your eyes, to ignore the typical “Idol” cheezy staging.
Epic. Not “Hello” epic … but damned close.
Stevo Grade: A+.
We finally have a “wow!” moment out of this season. And we even get the “yes, I f*cking NAILED this!” look of amazement and recognition at the 1:44 mark.
Because yes, we ARE all in the mood for a melody. And Mr. Dixon? You DEFINITELY got us feeling all right … for one night at least …