"American Idol" is done saving lives. In fact, this week they're ready to ruin two of them.
And considering it's Bon Jovi night, they're ready to ruin my eardrums too.
The top of the show allows Seacrest to brag about how much money "Idol" raised during last week's charity show. (Almost $70 million! Not bad, America. That's as much as Cowell makes per insult.) But then Ryan jokingly introduces the judges as "our three needy children," all but proving my cynical suspicions that "Idol" couldn't give two craps about poverty. Golf clap.
Yes, it's Bon Jovi night. (Jersey, rejoice!) And the frontman is actually there to mentor the kids (and old lady) this week, unlike the last guest coach. (Hey Bono, standing in a hallway does not a mentor make.) Not only has Mr. Bon Jovi taken time out of his hectic schedule of ruining the ozone layer, but David Bryan is ready to rock too! (Any viewers who aren't from the Garden State, David Bryan is the band's keyboard player. I guess Richie Sambora was too busy planning David Spade's demise to participate.)
"Idol" astutely gave a ticket to Antonella Barba tonight, putting the kibosh on all my "it's a shame Antonella's not there for Bon Jovi night!" jokes. (You may have won this round, Seacrest ...) So since I have nothing else to snark about, let's get to the performances!
Song: "Blaze of Glory"
Verdict: Like a Bat Out of Hell
We're barely five minutes into the show and Bon Jovi's already pissing me off. Dude claims "Blaze of Glory" was featured in the film "Young Guns." But anyone familiar with the Lou Diamond Phillips filmography knows that it was actually the sequel to "Young Guns" that inspired Bon Jovi. (And when I say "inspired," I mean INSPIRED. Dude wrote an album worth of music for that piece of junk!) Next he'll tell me he was nominated for an Oscar. Oh, he was? For this song? Seriously?
Not surprisingly, Phil Stacey geeks out. "I'm jamming with Bon Jovi!" Phil reminisces about the good old days when he had hair ("I was the kid who used to sing this song in the mirror with my comb in my hand") while Bon Jovi reminisces about the good old days when he had a following under the age of 40.
Stacey starts the song in the audience, and the camera goes out of its way to prominently feature a little girl holding a "Jordin" sign. Ha! And despite the crowd being slightly creeped out by the Bald One singing a lyric about drawing "first blood," he eventually wins them (and — gasp! — me) over with Meat Loaf showmanship and some killer vocals.
During an especially sweaty judging (not since Whitney Houston declared Israel "her land" have I seen more perspiration on my TV set), Randy admits to playing bass on the original recording, Paula says Phil will never forget this year (nor will his baby) and Simon guarantees Baldy some sympathy votes by trashing him. "I thought you were a bad actor playing a role!"
Song: "Livin' on a Prayer"
Verdict: Slippery AND Wet
If Jordin wasn't so adamant about her mom being a huge fan (which, by the way, great way to butter up to the celebrity. "My mom loves you!") I'd say she has no idea who Bon Jovi is and picked the song based solely on the title. (Anyone else catch those recent blog posts about Jordin being an ultra-conservative Christian?)
Jon Bon Jovi claims "Livin' on a Prayer" is a "very difficult one to sing." Apparently,Mr. Jovi has never been to a bar, because drunken investment bankers and the sorority sisters they're with never seem to have a problem shouting it in my ear.
I guess liquor is the key to unlock the splendor of the Bon Jovi catalog, because the sober Sparks bombs harder than a Jamie Kennedy movie. Despite having Wade Robson on guitar (not really) and some Sanjaya/Glocksen hair action (really really), nothing can distract from the 17-year-old's criminally heinous vocals.
It's another sweaty judging, so perhaps my earlier jokes about Phil's glandular problem are unfair. (I'm guessing News Corp cut the A/C to recoup some of the $5 million they reluctantly gave to poor African children last week.) Jordin tries to catch her breath as the judges are unduly lenient. (They really want her to win, don't they?) Basically, this is what Randy, Paula and Simon said: "It sucked, but you know it, so that's OK. Bon Jovi's hard isn't it? It's a miracle you even showed up at all tonight! You're such a trouper." Jordin plays along and quickly becomes your annoying friend who "claims" flatulence. It's nice that they admitted it, I suppose, but it still doesn't remove the noxious odor from the room.
Regardless, her schtick (and her fine performance from last week) will save her. Plus, she'll snatch some of Phil's sympathy votes thanks to Simon's "You look like a member of the Addams family" quip. (Ironic, since Phil is the true "Addams Family" doppelganger.)
Song: "This Ain't a Love Song"
Verdict: Sealed With a Kiss
I almost missed LaKisha's performance (Disney's streaming nine minutes of that rat movie? I'm so there!) but lucky for KiKi, I'm lazy, so getting up off the couch and heading to my computer was not on the agenda. (And based on the people I've seen at airports and amusement parks, I'm fairly certain the rest of America shares my passion for being slovenly too.)
Speaking of which, the plus-sized LaKisha refuses to sit during her Coke moment with Ryan and jokes, "I want the camera to get my slim side!" It's a sweet, charming moment, but if she's serious, she should steer clear of the horizontal stripes in the future. (Think vertical, KiKi!) Her personality shines even brighter when she admits to only knowing Bon Jovi from an "Oprah" episode. It's official, folks: I am now LaKisha's biggest fan.
It worries me, then, when KiKi picks a lesser-known Jovi tune, particularly because its title might cause home viewers to break into accidental Abbott & Costello-type routines.
"What song is she singing?"
" 'This Ain't a Love Song.' "
"OK, so what song is it?"
" 'This Ain't a Love Song.' "
"You told me it wasn't a love song. Then what song is she singing?"
The first half of LaKisha's performance is a bit of a mess. The song is partly to blame. The confessional lyrics of the verse are awkwardly shoved together as if Alanis Morissette wrote it circa 1998. But the second the chorus kicks in, it's old school LaKisha at her best. Her voice sounds powerful without shouting, and she has sass aplenty. Her final breakdown has me on my feet shouting, "Yesssss, diva!" turning my living room into a scene from "Paris Is Burning."
Simon takes my physical reaction one step further by channeling Richard Dawson. "I could actually kiss you after that performance!" And then, solidifying KiKi's offering as a season-six highlight, Simon kisses LaKisha right on the lips. (Hey, wasn't Paula accused of doing that in the past?)
Song: "You Give Love a Bad Name"
Verdict: Bold, Brave, Brilliant
I admit I've been less-than-consistent when dealing with Blake. At first I hated the beatboxing and wanted more serious performances out of him. And then during his string of sleepy ballads, I whined about his lack of energy (code for "bring on the beatboxing!").
Well, consistency be damned. I'm pleased to report that "American Idol" 's resident Michael Winslow is back, gums a-blazing.
Maybe it's because I'm still high from living in LaKishaLand, but I find Blake's performance to be deliriously entertaining. Sharing the stage with the Sheila E of the Rickey Minor band, the (newly brunet) Beatboxer begins by placing an invisible needle on a scratchy — and dusty — old record (Bon Jovi, you got served!). He immediately rips into the chorus and commands the stage like a pro (can we call him TimberBlake?) Not only are his vocals uncharacteristically spot-on, but he whips out his secret weapon at the perfect moment, engaging in a little call and response with a drum kit.
By the end, the audience is in near-hysterics. Abigail Breslin and Simon's mom are both on their feet. I bet most of America is too. Man, I love this show.
I'm relieved that Blake pulled it off (particularly since Bon Jovi seemed extra-peeved that the Beatboxer was tinkering with a "classic," much like Gwen Stefani's "Sanjaya sucks" tirade during the week of the PoHawk.) And even though Simon claims that half the audience will hate it (50 percent of "Idol" viewers live in Paramus?), the judges are unanimous in their high praise.
Sure, Blake haters are quick to cry, "He's stealing Timberlake's moves!" And yes, it's a little depressing that he's following Pete Wentz's advice a tad too religiously. But in the "Idol" world, Blake's the most unique and contemporary artist to ever hit that stage, so let's pick our battles from this point on, OK, people? Of the remaining top 6, wouldn't you be most interested in hearing a Blake record (as long as he doesn't cover 311)?
Song: "Wanted Dead or Alive"
Verdict: Wanted: Nasonex
It'll be hard for this JT look-alike (who I call J-Fed thanks to his resemblance to Britney's other ex) to top Blake. Or anyone, for that matter. (How is he still around? Is he really that good looking?)
Jon Bon Jovi tells J-Fed to "find the blue note." Good job, Marvin Gardens. You just gave the Running Man permission to trill his way all over the song. Egads. Sure enough, J-Fed slithers across the stage, letting his affected "R&B twists" get the best of him. Oddly enough, during the few lines that J-Fed sings straight, he sounds strangely like Jon Bon Jovi. (I guess "nasally" is a form of singing!)
Once again, the judges are far too kind. Simon even pulls the Jordin card to defend him. "It's not your style of music." Why didn't any of the judges say that on country night? It wasn't the song that hurt J-Fed, Simon. It was three other things.
First, LaKisha and Blake were great and greater. Second, Sanjaya's elimination proved that we're at the point in the competition where America votes based on vocals more than other factors (such as outrageous hair or good looks). And lastly, he picked a song that Chris Daughtry covered a year ago. Mix those up in a big blender, and it looks like J-Fed will be listening to a different Daughtry tune Wednesday.
Song: "Have a Nice Day"
Verdict: Rock of Aged
Oh, Melinda. You're such a modest mouse. Weeks ago you blushed and said, "I can't do sexy!" This week, you're all, "I can't do rock." That's not the Mindy Doo Can-Do attitude we expect! Get up on that (steel) horse and take the plunge, granny!
The Jon Bon Jovi mentor session starts on a creepy note as the aging rock star sneers suggestively to our sheltered Melinda, "I could teach you how to rock." Ew! Luckily, Jon Bon Jersey kept his hands to himself during their one-on-one time (or two-on-one time. That keyboard player's still in the band, right?).
What was your favorite Melinda interview moment? Was it her "I like church!" exclamation after the rocker told Mindy to take the song to church? Or was it her adorable attempts at making devil horns? Now I know what my mother meant when she said, "I love my children equally."
It was a risk to pick a newer (code word: awful) Bon Jovi tune. But Melinda grabbed the audience by the jugular with a hallelujah note right off the top and didn't let go for the remainder of the (generic) song. Melinda didn't just take the song to church — she took it to church, drove it around the block, parked in a remote area, had her way with it and then dropped it back at its folks' house hours after its curfew! Mindy growled like a cougar, strutted like Tina Turner and single-handedly proved that a good performer can sing anything and make it jaw-droppingly brilliant.
The judges loved it. Duh.
GEORGE W. BUSH
Song: "Thanks for Donating!"
Verdict: WE'RE AT WAR!!!
The final performance from the night made last week's Celine/Elvis collabo look like the Country Bears Jamboree. Apparently, Fox News cashed in all their favors with the Bush Administration because somehow Rupert Murdoch convinced the president and first lady to appear on "American Idol."
How does the president have the time to do this? No, really. Shouldn't he be too busy running the country to appear on a reality show? I know it was nice of Dubya and Laura to thank us all for donating, but honestly, WE'RE AT WAR! (Making a joke about the recent "Dance for Malaria" incident doesn't help, either. In fact, they just brought up another event they attended that should have been postponed until, I don't know, our soldiers are safe?!)
Holy cow, this show never ceases to amaze me.
High Note of the Night
With Phil, KiKi, Blake and Melinda all delivering jaw-droppers, it's hard to argue that tonight wasn't the best "Idol" so far this season. (And who would have guessed that it would happen on Bon Jovi night, besides Bon Jovi?) The only missteps came from the reliably wonky J-Fed and fan favorite Jordin. So math enthusiasts, that's a record low 33 percent level of suck tonight.
The bad news is that now we've been set up for a potentially disastrous results show. Because the votes are being combined from last week's (underwhelming) show, there's a very good possibility that superstars of tonight will be sent packing because of missteps a week ago.
Take LaKisha. If it was a normal week, she would have nothing to worry about. But because she was barely listenable seven days ago, there's a good chance she'll be in the bottom three. Same goes for Blake, who put us all to sleep with a dreary Charity Week "Imagine" but blew us away tonight.
In the opposite position, Jordin stuck out like a sore thumb tonight, but her showstopper last week will protect her.
That leaves J-Fed and Phil. Aside from Melinda, Phil was the only solid performer both weeks. But I'm still not convinced he actually has a fan base.
I can say with confidence that J-Fed's on the way out, only because he's clearly the least capable singer of the remaining bunch. Hopefully his female contingent will move to Camp Blake — and they might. Isn't talent sexier than perfectly manicured facial hair? — and put an end to his "nasally" singing.
Regardless of the outcome, one thing's for sure: The majority of the contestants mastered Bon Jovi, which is good news for the "Idol" finale where the final two will be forced to warble lyrics from a coronation song that will no doubt be as trite as a Bon Jovi anthem. If they can make clichés sound this good, they might score a legitimate hit with their first single.