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Idol Confessions

It's corny, it's predictable, it's often ear-piercing, but many of us can't get enough of it. Yup, it's "American Idol."

April 22, 2009 at 9:58 AM

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Handing out awards for "American Idol" disco night

Posted by Misha Berson

*** Guest blogger alert! ***

Many of us recall the disco train wrecks of previous American Idol seasons, and may have been warily expecting (even perversely hoping for) something similar tonight, as seven contestants battled via disco-era tunes to be among the five who will remain after Wednesday's double kiss-off.

Well, it wasn't such a gruesome night. The visions of goldfish platform shoes, flared trousers and skin tight nylon shirts unbuttoned to the navel (better to show off chest hair & gold medallion necklaces) can now be banished. (At least until Idol's next season.)

As for the music, it varied between quite enjoyable to less-lame-than-usual. But we're getting down to the wire here, and lackluster performances can knock off all but the most popular contestants. Every week counts, and though Adam Lambert is talked up as a shoe-in for the Idol crown, I'm not putting my chips on him yet.

Here are my prizes for the night:

Best Pout but Most Disco-ish. Poor Lil Rounds. She did a reasonably OK karaoke cover of a Chaka Khan tune, much better than that hideous version of "The Rose" last week, and Simon tore her to shreds. He really owed her an apology -- not for calling attention to her sub-par vocals, but for pumping her up way too much and too long before recognizing and acknowledging the fact that she's a very mediocre singer. If his complete dismissal doesn't send her packing, nothing will, and girlfriend didn't look happy about it -- though can it really be, at this point, much of a shock?

Most Swingin.' Strumming some very cool chords on his guitar, and performing his hippest arrangement yet (loved the guy playing the wooden box, a popular instrument in South America), Kris Allen was a fresh breeze tonight as a he swung through Donna Summer's hit "She Works Hard for the Money." The incongruity factor was fun, but also this fresh-faced guy just delights in making music, and his joy is infectious. Finally more love from the judges, and he probably won a batch more fans tonight too for his musical ease and creativity.

Worst Song Choice. I wish someone had told poor Matt Giraud that "Stayin' Alive" is the kiss of death. Didn't he know that a much better singer, LaKisha, wiped out on that tongue-twisting Bee Gees tune on Idol a few moons ago -- and then had to sing the silly thing again, as her swan song? (I've always thought it a big drag that these kids are forced to re-sing the number that got them booted off. Like it's going to really improve a lot from one night to the next?) Also, if you have to work so hard to be Mr. Hip, it probably isn't coming naturally. Sorry Matt, but I'll be amazed if you're around much longer.

Best Facial Hair. Anoop Desai is trying to look less preppy maybe, or be taken more seriously somehow, or something or other. Or maybe he just forgot to shave that fringe above his upper lip? I kinda like that look. But while Anoop Dogg does have a sweet voice, he's just bland as oatmeal. "Dim All the Lights" was an OK choice, but with that almost-moustache I was hoping for something a little more suave, even sinister. Sympathy points, though, for being on the receiving end of another Simon attack. Clearly, he's picked his five finalists and Anoop, who really seems like a very nice person, ain't one of them.

Scratchiest Vocals. So who wins -- Allison Iraheta, on her rather odd but forcefully sung cover of Donna Summer's "Hot Stuff"? Or Danny Gokey, on his fairly palatable version of Earth, Wind and Fire's classic "September" -- once you got past his opening shriek. (What was that?) Both kids were pretty good tonight, working those scorched-earth vocal tones. Allison is getting more judge props, which she deserves. And Danny earned some of the adulation he's getting from a fan base that still mystifies me. But, judges, he really doesn't sound pitchy to you? Maybe not in person, but frequently on my TV machine.

I Don't Know How to Love Him. That was a hit for Yvonne Elliman, as was "If I Can't Have You," Adam Lambert's shrewdly off-kilter choice. He really did upset expectations, by not appearing in full 1970s disco drag and camping up a storm. But after a lovely beginning, the song degenerated into another scream-fest that made me hit the mute button. I know how brilliant his fans think he is, including a frothing Paula, but I'm just not feelin' it dawg. When he goes into screaming meme mode, it's fingernails on the blackboard time.

-- Misha Berson, Seattle Times arts critic

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