It’s Inspirational Music followed by Jerry Leiber & Mike Stoller tunes mentored by Lady Gaga week on “American Idol”
Judge Randy Jackson is wearing a sample from the casual line of the Randissimo Italiano collection. Jennifer Lopez is in a shoulder baring number, cut to keep herself covered on her Steven Tyler-facing side. A bird has built a nest in Tyler’s hair.
James Durbin will perform Journey hit “Don’t Stop Believin’.” He asks the audience to stand and put their hands together, wonders if anyone in the audience knows this tune, and launches into a performance with minimum energy that’s unfortunately pitched to make James’ voice sound thin and reedy. Randy – did we mention that Randy played with Journey? James had Randy at “Journey.” Randy goes on about the tails on James’ jacket that are just like Journey’s lead singer used to wear, mentions that IHO Journey was “other than Aerosmith, I think one of the greatest rock bands” and concludes by saying James gave an Olympic-level performance at “the highest degree of difficulty”. We think Randy should have recused himself but hey, it’s not this is “The People’s Court” or something.
Haley Reinhart has chosen “Earth Song,” the Michael Jackson tune that, even in Michael’s version, is more of a speech than a musical number. We’re glad to know that Haley is a committed environmentalist, but right away this isn’t working for her. She’s got her hair up and a fancy outfit on looking like she’s going to an environmental fundraising banquet and as the number builds in intensity she’s way up at top volume and that rattle in her voice that’s best used sparingly is coming on thick. Even worse, the number suffers from “Idol” Overproduction – an entire busload of choir members walk down the stairs behind her, singing loudly—we think some were still arriving when she finished the number. JLo tells Haley she should have learned what James was going to sing and prepared to amp the crowd up to that level—is that kind of espionage allowed on “Idol”? But Randy, who we’re guessing never recorded with Michael Jackson, really takes Haley apart, saying it “confused me who you are as an artist,” that she was screaming, and that she should have done runs at the end (what?). “Don’t listen to them!” Tyler advises Haley. “I heard it, and America heard it. Don’t listen to them.” Phew! Somebody ring the bell!
“What is she supposed to do with that concoction of feedback,” show host Ryan Seacrest asks. They have no snappy comeback.
Scotty will sing “Where Were You When the World Stopped Turning,” Alan Jackson’s 9/11 song. It’s a brilliant, button-pushy song choice. As Scotty sings, the band and the chorus kick up with an eager-to-please arrangement and it gets harder to make out the lyrics, except when the backup pauses for Scotty to sing, “I know Jesus and I talk to God.” And, here’s what the judges have to say when their buttons have been pushed: “Where we are now as a country”, “superstardom,” “I’m in love with you,” “what you stand for,” “I’m glad we’re here to witness it,” blah, blah, blah.
Lauren Alaina will sing “Do It Anyway,” the Martina McBride song about picking yourself up and starting over again, in honor of the tornados that devastated her home region. She starts off a little weak but picks up a lot of power and she seems to be glowingly happy about singing, unlike other Lauren performances. Tyler says she delivered the song like “a blue plate special”; JLo spends way too much time congratulating Lauren for listening to the judges who JLo also wants her to know are only cruel to be helpful. And Randy delivers the 100th edition of his “in it to win it” line, though there’s no balloon drop.
Time for Lady Gaga to coach the Idolettes on Leiber and Stoller tunes. There’s a Lady Gaga videotape intro for those who don’t know her body. Of work.
Gaga shows up to the all-white rehearsal room, as Carol Channing attending a midnight screening of “Rocky Horror Picture Show.”
Haley will sing “I (Who Have Nothing).” Gaga, joined by record mogul/”Idol” in-house mentor Jimmy Iovine, advises Haley to put some “crazy” in it, some Edith Piaf (ask your French teacher) and predicts she’ll “kick some [heinie].”
Haley sings alone in the spotlight; it’s a charmingly old school, theatrical performance. She gets a standing O from the judges, who launch into a chorus of self-congratulatory congratulations for Haley. JLo: “This is why we can’t take it easy on you! Look at what you’re capable of!” Randy: “We were hard on you before but you came back…you just had a moment here which put you in it to win it!”
Scotty is going to sing “Young Blood.” And Scotty, the Idolette who week after week gets told by the judges he should never alter a bit of his down-home act, is going to be coached by Lady Gaga because -- why? Do the “Idol” producers think they’ll hit it off and move in together as friends on a new reality series? The rehearsal is painful. Gaga urges him to stick his tongue down the throat of the microphone. Scotty literally can’t look her in the eyes, he’s so embarrassed or bewildered or, more likely, afraid he’ll turn into a pillar of salt for gazing on her. Cut to him afterwards, telling the camera, “I just felt like I needed to kiss my cross -- like that,” he demonstrates, kissing the cross that is always hanging around his neck -- “and say, ‘Lord, this is not my doing’.” You know what we’re looking forward most to when Scotty wins this season of “Idol”? He’ll be around people like Gaga all the time -- at the Grammy Awards, at the Fox season wrap parties -- and then he’ll gradually grow less frightened of people who are different than him. It will be good for little Scotty.
From the eye bulging to the tour of the audience, reaching out to touch hands from the stage – his performance seems way too staged, like something Scotty was just getting over with, so he could go back to praying. Randy laps it up, calling it a professional, concert performance. We will love Tyler until we die for calling it “a little Pat Boone.” An actual whiff of dissent comes from JLo who says she wants to see a “different side” of Scotty next week. Yeah -- good luck with that.
Lauren will sing “Trouble,” but she confesses to Gaga and Jimmy I that she has some qualms about the lyrics, which repeat “I’m evil.”
“I don’t want America to think I’m evil,” she tells Gaga, the demon sent to tempt Scotty. Gaga and Iovine tell her that it’s just a role, but Gaga goes one step further and tells her to knock it off: “You’re not a kid. You’re 16. When I was 16, I was way too weird to be on American Idol.”
Anyway, Lauren, who seems like a level-headed young person, concludes in her taped bit that she’s glad the coaches “pulled me out of my comfort zone,” because “I’m going to have to do something different” this week to keep from getting booted. And right before our eyes, she grows up. This is Lauren’s best performance ever, she’s moving around with more body language than we’ve ever seen from here, and she appears to be having one heck of a great time singing “evil, evil, evil.”
“I saw a performance quality that I had not seen in you before…Total attack,” enthuses JLo.
James rehearses with Gaga; he’s going to sing “Love Potion No. 9” and she thinks he should move his hips like Elvis did, and when he doesn’t she gets behind him while he’s singing and moves his hips for him.
“She wanted some performance so I gave her some performance” James says gruffly in a taped bit after the coaching. James hits the stage, walks down a long flight of stairs, walks out into the audience (where the camera seems to lose him for a long time), jumps on a riser, and eventually, wiggles his hips very briefly. The most fun comes at the end when James has the audience in the palm of his hand and stretches out the finale with several false endings which, from another performer, might have been an intentional joke but we’re thinking from James may have been his idea of his gift to the fans. The judges are adoring. “You are now what I love about sports…peaking at the right time!” gushes Randy, who clearly wants to see James win this competition.
But Scotty has kissed his cross.