Thursday, March 29, 2012

idol top 9: don't stop (thinking about tomorrow!) no seriously, please don't stop!

Anyone who knew me growing up, knows that I was raised on a steady diet of crappy sitcoms and classic rock music.  (You’d think I was born in the 1970s or something.  Oh.  Wait.)

So let me open this “Idol” recap with a true story, to set the scene for the most anticipated night I’ve had for this show since Neil Diamond night four years ago*.

(*: no night will ever top that one, in terms of anticipation, hype, and number of “I’m evicting you!  No really, I’m tossing your sh*t to the curb if you don’t turn the godd*mned channel!” moments of frustration from Dusty, stuck watching the episode with me.  In his defense?  He has none.  It’s Neil F*cking Diamond!  #bringbackndrsiriusxm!)

It was August 1997.  This at the time hot-as-hell twenty year old had just returned to college after a relaxing summer off.  My roommates that fall were two guys who would turn out to be two of my three best friends in college.  Well, back up.  One of them already was, Vineet, who I met the first day on campus two years earlier.  He was living across the hall from me, and wound up being my roommate for all but one semester after that throughout the college experience.  The other one, Frank, I had met through work, and as luck would have it, he and Vineet were good friends, so it kind of all came together for a pretty magical two year run*.  Anyways, I was the last one to arrive for the semester – Vineet lived in Garland (suburb of Dallas), and Frank had stayed in Fort Worth all summer, so needless to say, it was party on for night one … night two … Christ, night nineteen of my return**.

(*: another true story from my college years: “The Voice of Reason” and my buddy Jasson came down to visit me a few months later.  Me and Frank and those two are sitting around just getting sh*t faced drunk on a random Friday night … and Gregg decides to start calling Frank “Tony”, because he looked like Tony Gonzalez.  In G’s defense?  Yes, he did look like Tony Gonzalez, right down to being built like a f*cking tank.  College!  Only $309 a credit hour back then!  Also, in most people’s dining room, they have like a table, some chairs, maybe a hutch.  Our dining room?  Was Frank’s workout room.  He tried to get me lifting about 5500 times during our two years as roommates.  As anyone who’s ever seen me with a shirt off can attest, it didn’t happen.  Back to story time.)

(**: the third of my best friends was Mike.  And since I’m in random story telling mode, let me set the scene for the day we moved into the apartment that fall.  We’ve spent all day moving crap in, we’re sitting around enjoying some cervesas courtesy of Frank’s dad, enjoying a “cigar” or three, when we notice the folks across the hall moving out.  Feeling generous (or more likely, drunk, stoned or both), we offer to help the two guys since they were moving all kinds of electronics out – TV, stereo, an N64, plus furniture, you name it.  Remember, this is the Metroplex in August – it’s 115 f*cking degrees every day.  So now we’ve done our good deed for the day.  Later that night, we get a loud knock on our door.  We open it, and its two very attractive females who ask us if we saw anyone in the apartment across the porch earlier that day.  We explain that yes, we did, and we helped them move their stuff out, figuring these chicks are looking for their boyfriends or something.  Turns out, oh hell to the yes, we committed a felony in all 57 states and the District of Barack Obama’s America, because we aided two thieves stealing all their sh*t.  Damn, I miss college.  And I haven’t even dropped the story about when Frank put up the “Cocoa Vineet” for the world to enjoy … yet anyways …)

So, since this was 1997, pre iPod / download days, my accessory of choice for walking around campus was a Sony Discman.  I don’t think I ever went anywhere without it, mainly to avoid having to talk to people I had no interest in talking to, your random walk-bys that you know from a class project two years ago, so you have to stop and talk for five minutes and shoot the sh*t about someone you could care less about.  And I swear, I’m going somewhere with this.

My cd of choice when school started that fall … was “The Dance”.  No, not Garth Brooks’ cd … Fleetwood Mac’s reunion cd.  My dad beating “The Mac” into me (not literally of course) had paid off, and to this day it’s my favorite cd of all time.  Well, needless to say, a 20 year old kid who is listening non-stop to Fleetwood Mac is going to get mocked.  Mercilessly.  By his roommates, who had no clue who Fleetwood Mac or Stevie Nicks or Lindsey Buckingham were.

So if you know me, the rest of this story will make sense.  Instead of fighting back, I take it for a couple days.  “Yeah, yeah, I’m the dork, so be it.”  And then, sure as sh*t, and this is the semester we discovered we were stealing every cable channel known to man for the low, low price of $0.00 each month (another hilarious story – man, I should just have a “college stories” post someday.  So we’re sitting around watching some movie channel, and “National Lampoon’s Vacation” comes on, and the familiar “Holiday Road” theme fires up, and Frank is singing along to every word.  The conversation as I somewhat remember it:

(stevo) So you like this song?
(frank) yeah!  Great movie, great song!  “Holiday ROOOOO-OOOOO-OOOOO-OOOOO-OOOOD!”
(stevo) Do you know who does it?
(frank) Not a clue.
(stevo) Lindsey Buckingham sings that.
(frank) That song is sung by a chick?
(stevo) No, a guy.  And he’s the co-lead singer of Fleetwood Mac.
(frank) No sh*t?!?!

So that drew Frank in.  He was willing to give “The Dance” a chance.  Vineet was next up, and once I pointed out that the Smashing Pumpkins cover of “Landslide” was a cover of a Fleetwood Mac song, he was in with both feet.  Two months later, we paid $129 / ticket to go to the tour stop at (Dysfunction Family) Reunion Arena.

My point being – you will not find a bigger Fleetwood Mac fan than me, other than possibly one of my two college roommates.  And you will definitely not find a bigger Stevie Nicks fan than me.  So when I saw Stevie Nicks was this week’s guest mentor on “Idol”?  Other than Neil Diamond night, I’ve never looked forward to an event on this show more than this one.

Dim the lights, here we go.

First up, this site’s rubber chicken, Colton, performing “Everything” by Lifehouse.  Oh goodie, a religious song.  Surprisingly … I actually like this song, believe it or not.

Well, the ACLU will probably be filing suit today over that performance, because that was as close to an evangelical worship service as you will see on America’s top rated show.  But you know what?  Screw it.  That was good.  And spare me the “of course you thought it was good, this is who you want to win this freaking show” rebuttal.  I blasted Stefano last year at this point, and said he should go home (which he did.)  I can be objective. 

Steven: “perfect pitch, got that star quality”.  Oh good grief.  It was solid, but it was not “pitch perfect”, and anyone who looks like he’s wearing this morning’s roadkill on his head isn’t “star quality”.  JLo was “really moved”.  So was I, by about seven inches by that lovely low-cut white dress you’re wearing.  Wait, did I just type that out loud?  Randy … what the hell is that necklace?  And the pearl wrist corsage?  Oh dear Lord, how is this guy not in a mental institution?  And … “I think I could be looking at a contender for the title!  He’s in it to win it!”  Let’s face it – we all need Randy Jackson in our lives like I need a hole in my head. 

Skylar next, doing Miranda Lambert’s “Gunpowder and Lead”.  Gonna be tough to top Lauren and Haley doing this last year.  And DAMN if she’s not rocking this out!  This is really, really good.  This chick is really growing on me.  She’s one to keep an eye on – if any female can win this year, why not her?  She’s my Jordin Sparks Memorial “Came from Nowhere Via One Incredible Performance to Become a Front Runner” winner for this year.

This is phenomenal.  I would absolutely pay $25 to see her sing this live.  I will definitely pay $1.29 to download this on iTunes to enjoy at my pleasure.  I mean, sweet Jesus, if the first two performances are an indication of what tonight is gonna be?  This is gonna rival Bon Jovi night from season six as “Idol”’s finest hour (or two).

JLo effusive with the praise.  Steven: “that was beautiful, good for you”.  Agreed.  Randy: “Mississippi was in it!”  Really, Randy?  Really?  Notes that country music is “all telling a story”.  In that case, give me “Idol” alum Casey James’ fabulous new “story”, “Let’s Don’t Call it a Night”.

Trio time: Colton, Philip, and Elise covering Stevie Nicks and Fleetwood Mac hits, specifically “Landslide”*, “Don’t Stop”**, and “Edge of Seventeen”.

(*: arguably the greatest song ever written.  And Stevie wrote it when she was 20.  Also the coolest song on “The Dance”, to compare her original off 1975’s self-titled debut Mac cd … against 1997’s version.  It’s haunting how much has changed … and yet hasn’t, between the two versions.  I link to both versions in two paragraphs.  The dichotomy is incredible to listen to.  Whichever version suits your fancy ... they're both awesome efforts.  Especially the heart-felt version of the latter.)

(**: I will go to my grave believing Bill Clinton won in 1992 because of tapping into classic rock as a campaign theme.  Especially when compared to his opponent, who didn’t understand how a UPC code works.  The modern era of America was launched by then-candidate Clinton grabbing this song as his campaign theme.  I really wish we could go back to the Clinton years sometimes, namely every time our current moron-masquarading-as-President opens his mouth.)

Colton covers “Landslide” like the original version.  Me?  I prefer “The Dance” version, but that’s probably because I’m not twenty and starting life out anymore.  Holy crap, is Elise nailing “Edge of Seventeen”!  Please, “Idol”, I smell a results night pairing here!  This is incredible!  She’s totally nailing the essence of the song.  And for the last number, hang on, let me clear my throat, because there isn’t a shot in h-e-double hockey sticks I’m not singing along …

“Don’t Stop!  Thinking about tomorrow!
Don’t Stop!  It’ll soon be here!
It’ll be here!  Better than before!
‘Cause yesterday’s gone!  Yesterday’s gone!!!”

Wow, does Phil sound like Lindsey Buckingham.  My God, does he sound like him covering this song.  A tremendously enjoyable four minutes that I wish had lasted twenty minutes longer!  (dusty voice) So a typical first time with Stevo?  (stevo voice) (pausing) … (searching for comeback …) f*ck my life.

Next up, Heejun, covering “A Song for You”.  This is the song that vaulted Elliott Yamin from also-ran to homecoming status.  I gotta be honest – I don’t grasp for 2/1000ths of a second the following this guy has.  Yes, I know Gregg is my “Voice of Reason” … but I’m not seeing it.  Champ, care to explain?  I see a drama queen milking his fifteen seconds of fame, with a minimal amount of talent, albeit this performance is pretty good.  But I’m not feeling it.

That was decent.  It did NOT deserve a standing ovation from the judges.  I get that one of them is mentally retarded, one of them is drugged / crazied out, and the other one is moving me seven inches at a time, but for crying out loud, that was not that great.  Steven: “you let that song sing you”.  I have no idea what that meant.  JLo: “you don’t make it this far by mistake”.  Sanjaya begs to differ.  Ditto my most hated “Idol” contestant ever who I am shockingly loving the hell out of on “Smash”, Katherine McPhee.  Randy: “it wasn’t perfect”.  When Randy Jackson is the “Voice of Reason”, isn’t that an insult to all legitimate “Voice of Reasons” that are out there?  (cue gregg nodding his head in vociferous agreement).

Next up, Hollie covering one of my brother’s favorite songs, “Jesus Take the Wheel” by Carrie Underwood.  I know, I know – cue the “how many times have you or your brother screamed that phrase leaving the Isle” comeback.  (The answer: 1,938,683,683 times (approximate).)

And I gotta admit, this is good.  This is damned good.  I laughed out loud reading Slezak giving out 7 B’s or better for last night … but damn, this night is rocking it!  I would absolutely pay $1.29 on iTunes to enjoy that again.

Randy: “you did a really good job on that”.  Bitches about pitch, the audience boos, but Randy has a point – she doesn’t have a lower range.  My God, did I just type “Randy has a point” out loud?  JLo: “to me, that was your best”.  Agreed.  “That was the first time I really felt … like (you) connected with the song.”  Agreed.  Steven: “I’m going to get between both of you, which I’ve been trying to do for a long time” (rimshot!)  Says it was just “ok”.  If that’s just “ok”, then this night is one to remember.  (In Steven’s defense?  So far, it has been.)

DeAndre up next, covering “Sometimes I Cry” by Eric Benet.  I have never heard this song before.  I don’t even know who the hell Eric Benet is. 

That was a mess.  And somehow the Dumbf*ck Trio are standing and applauding.  Steven: “100 percent passion.”  He’s drunk.  JLo: “that was hands down something you do not hear everyday”.  Unless you count me singing in the shower, then yes, a sh*t-tacular performance IS something you hear every day.  Randy: “you get every flavor under the rainbow”.  Uum, what?  The judges loved that.  I hated it.  Barring a completely meltdown by one of our remaining contestants, DeAndre has, in the words of Boyz II Men, “come to the end of the road!*”

(*: I cheated – while proofing this, I checked Slezak’s results recap.  In the words of Bob Eucker … excuse me, Harry Doyle, “he is … safe!  Safe!  And the Indians win it!  The Indians win it!  OH MY GOD the Indians win it!”  Or in this case, Sanjaya Junior is “out!”  Thank God.  I think.)

Now the “Sanchize” of this show (rimshot!), Jessica Sanchez covering “Sweet Dreams” by Beyonce.  And since that was very good, and I haven’t heard it yet so far this year, let me predict RJ saying that “she could sing the phone book!”  A phrase he’s never quite explained the meaning of, eleven years in.  JLo: you did a beautiful job.  Agreed.  But it wasn’t “memorable”.  I will not be paying $1.29 for that.  Steven: “I think you’re a star”.  Randy: shockingly did not drop the “sing the phone book” blast, and shockingly did not mention he was in Journey.  Other than that, I have no idea what he just said.  But he’s throwing shout-outs to Colton for some reason.  I’m going with “rum in the Coke cup” for 400, Alex.

Hey, another trio performance, covering Michael Jackson.  “Lady in my Life”, “Rock With You” and “PYT”.  I’ll put it this way – there could be a full on execution on stage, with blood spattering over the camera, and whatever this “PYT” turns out to be, will STILL be better than Danny Gokey’s abortion of a performance of this song three years ago.

Unlike the Fleetwood Mac / Stevie Nicks trilogy earlier?  This is not only completely forgettable, it’s god awful.  And thanks for reminding me I still have to sit through Joshua Ledet later on.  Although his performance of “PYT” isn’t half bad, in a “I would swallow cyanide, but not put the gun to my head” way of choosing suicide to avoid it.

All that’s left is three solos and a Madonna trilogy?  I kinda don’t want this episode to end, the last four minutes notwithstanding.  This has been one of “Idol”’s finest broadcasts ever so far.

Next up Phil, covering “Still Rainin’” by Jonny Lang, another song I’ve never heard.  And I gotta admit … as we hit the quarter pole, this puppy / pony / rooster / rubber chicken is closing fast on the leaders.  This is REALLY good if you’re a DMB / OAR type of music fan (which I am).  This is REALLY good.  I said it last week, and I’ll say it again this week: I would absolutely pay $25 to toke up watching this guy perform at Starlight.  This is REALLY good, albeit with a crappy ending note. 

Standing ovation from the judges.  JLo: “this is too much!”  No, it’s not enough.  JLo talking about “The Secret”.  Hey, you stole that from “The Sports Guy”’s Book of Basketball, no fair!  Steven loved it (as did I.  Hey, great Steve’s think alike!)  Randy name dropping and says “this competition has every flavor”.  It’s high damned time we have the DMB / OAR / Ben Harper “flavor” on this show.  Haven’t had it since Blaker five years ago.

Josh up next covering “Without You”.  For the record, I HATE the Mariah Carey / Luther Vandross version of this song … and REALLY HATE the Harry Nilsson original version of this song.  I feel the need for another beer.  He’s chosen (predictably) to go with the Mariah / Luther version.  And then out of nowhere, switches to Harry Nilsson’s take for the first chorus … and switches back to Mariah / Luther for the back half of said chorus. 

And you know what?  I get it.  I now get why people / fans of this show root for this guy.  That was DAMNED good, his stupid vocal riff at the end notwithstanding.  He’s Jacob Lusk Junior.  He’s destined for a sixth place finish.  Unlike Jacob, with a range like Josh has?  We’ll be hearing from him after this season is decided.

Randy: “Dude, I love you!  I love your voice!  I think that was flawless!”  Come on, someone HAS to say it … We’re (stevo doing the math …) 10 performances in (counting group medleys), and still nobody has said it … Steven notes how epic tonight has been, and I nod in agreement … JLo: “you’re a phenom”.  Oh child, please.  Very talented, yes.  Phenom?  Oh child, please!

I do agree with JLo on one thing: there is no front-runner.  For the first time since season six, there’s no obvious top three.  There are seven left in the field that can win this (all but Heejun and DeAndre).  It’s why I love this show.

WHOO!  A Madonna medley: the “Sanchize”, Hollie, and Skylar covering “Like a Prayer”, “Borderline”, and “Express Yourself”.  (Your random trivia note of the night: anyone who tells you “Like a Virgin” was Madonna’s first number one … is full of shit.  It was her second.  “Borderline” was what put her on the map.)  All three performances were beyond enjoyable, especially Hollie on “Borderline”, which is probably my favorite Madonna song, gun to my head.  It’s that, or Chris Griffin’s cover of “Crazy for You” on “Family Guy”.

Once again, I tragically agree with Randy: I am DIGGING the throwback medleys.  In a related development, I have been drinking while doing this recap.  Go figure.

Elise our last contestant, doing Led Zeppelin’s “Whole Lotta Love”.  How she’s topping Adam Lambert from three years ago, I have no idea … but Slezak in his recap swears she did.  Let’s see …

And God bless it, she IS topping it!  This is approaching “Top 20 on “Idol” Ever” territory!  Hold on Skylar, we have a challenger for this year’s “Jordin Sparks Memorial” recipient!  THAT was amazing!!!

This chick has sick talent!  That was the best female performance on this show since Crystal NAILED “Midnight Train to Georgia”!  JLo: “I didn’t want to get up!  You made me get up!”  Boy, if I had a dollar for every time I’ve said that to a hot chica … Steven: “you made Robert Plant proud tonight!”  Randy … FINALLY!  “You killed it!”  Hell yes she did!  With the wrench, in the hallway, and Professor Plum has a guilty look on his face!

That was “Idol”’s most enjoyable night for me in a few years.  This remaining top eight (minus one obvious “not quite ready for prime time” player) is the deepest talent pool this show has had since season six, when any of the last six standing could have won this thing.  (The top six in season six were so freaking good, that it was the first time “Idol” sent nobody home – Chris was spared the chopping block for a week, setting up the first dual-elimination night in the final part of the competition.  All that decision delivered?  Was “Idol”’s finest hour, Bon Jovi night.  There’s something to be said for having talent on the roster.)

How “Idol” tops this next week, I have no idea.  I doubt it’s possible.  But THAT … that was one HELLUVA enjoyable night of music!  

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