"American Idol" has a lot in common with this week's guest mentor, Barry Gibb. First, they both originated in England. Second, they've each taken part in truly reprehensible movie musicals. (Here's a double feature from hell: "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" and "From Justin to Kelly") Third? The chest hair.
They also have less-talented, less-interesting and less-famous brothers (Robin Gibb, I'd like you to meet "So You Think You Can Dance.") But most importantly, they've both been responsible for some of the biggest hits of their day. I'm shocked that "Idol" hasn't boogied to the Brothers Gibb before tonight.
Ryan opens the show by describing a filthy porno. "Three girls ... and only one guy!" Before you get all excited, Pee-Wee, he's actually referring to the gender breakdown of the four remaining contestants. And this motley crew of One Man and Three Little Ladies (actually, one's not so little, one's really tall, and one's older than sand) make up the strongest top four in "Idol" history. Finally, all the deadweight is gone and it's smooth sailing to the finale, right?
The 3:1 ratio is A-OK with Dr. Zaius — I mean Barry Gibb. The stringy haired castrato happily admits in his intro video, "I made a lot of records with ladies!" In other words, Barry knows how to work with women. (Apparently, the first step is talking like one.) When the Gibber isn't extolling the virtues of the fairer sex, he's on the receiving end of a Seacrest love-fest. "[Barry's] the most successful combination of songwriter and producer of all time." (That sound you hear is Kanye West hotly protesting.)
There's a lot of ground to cover — each finalist will tackle TWO songs this week — so let's skip how Barry the Bee Gee gives me the heebie jeebies and go straight to the performances.
Round 1: Bee Gees' "Love You Inside Out"
Round 2: Bee Gees' "How Can You Mend a Broken Heart?"
Verdict: Saved by the Swell
Barry "Women Are Perfect" Gibb kicks off the night with a bizarre change of heart. "The song choice was unusual because I sang it in falsetto." (Um ... doesn't that describe the entire Bee Gees discography?) But just as Barry finishes his "why is this woman singing a man's song?" sentiment, he then comes back around by saying, "Well, I was singing like a lady in the first place so it's OK." So what were you bitching about in the first place, Gibb? Oh boy, we're in for a long night, folks.
Melinda's "Love You Inside Out" might be her worst performance yet. The normally-effortless singer is really working overtime tonight. The labored performance — were the head-shakes really necessary, Mindy? — reeks of a desperation not seen since Haley Scarnato ran around with her tushy hanging out. (Speaking of Skankato, she's in the audience tonight!) As Paula Poundstoned points out, the vocals are great — as always — but sometimes you need a little something else to get the audience's attention. (Like hot pants, right Haley?) Simon takes Paula's criticism a step further. "It was a backup singer's performance." Ouch!!
Luckily, Melinda mends her now-broken track record with "How Can You Mend a Broken Heart?" Her second performance of the night — or more specifically, the second half of her second performance of the night — is Doolittle at her spectacular best. Plus, she earns points with me during her video with Barry Glib when she changes lyrics to avoid having to sing about being a "loser." Melinda buys into my "Don't Sing a Prophetic Song On Idol" school of thought? Interesting! (However, I'm still not buying her "Michael Jackson's Bad" answer to a fan who inquired about the first tape or CD she purchased. CD? Tape? Try 78-rpm record for her gramophone!)
The bottom-heavy performance leaves Randy and Simon happy, although both admit that the first half was a tad dull, but Paula wants more from Doolittle. And when the woman with a Ph.D in "Vibeology" speaks, you best be comprehendin'.
"I would love for you to just throw all your technique away and just ... just surprise us with, 'cause — and we just know that you're the most brilliant technician."
I couldn't have said it any worse.
Regardless of what the judges say — or, in Paula's case, attempt to say — the audience adores Melinda. And I adore a new addition to the Mindy Doo cheering squad: a little girl who does the Robot over and over again. "Idol" ID's the mystery girl as "Melinda's Friends and Family." But the lass with a short circuit will forever be known in my heart as Bonnie Five. (Although now that I think of it, shouldn't the Robot be reserved to celebrate Blake's achievements?) Appearing decades older than your actual age must run in Melinda's family because Bonnie looks 30 years old. It only adds to her charm.
Round 1: Bee Gees' "You Should Be Dancing"
Round 2: Bee Gees' "This Is Where I Came In"
Verdict: You Should Be Singing!
Speaking of unnecessary sequels, Blake's two performances feel like just that, with a "more is more" motivation as transparent as Phil Stacey's hairline. "The beatboxing saved me last week. Therefore, if I give them even more beatboxing. I'll be an unstoppable force of whizzes, beeps and saliva-a-a-a-a-a-a-a!" (In a past life, I bet Blake was the Hollywood exec who thought this was a good idea.)
Unfortunately, Blake's "You Should Be Dancing" is an assault on the senses. Between the irritating Woody Woodpecker vocalizations, the unappealing blond streak in his bangs and the cheesy disco-ball light effects (even though a random sign in the audience screams, "WE LOVE THE LIGHTS"), America was left with a bad case of Saturday Night Fever. (Symptoms include, but are not limited to: nausea, headache and cold sweats caused by the thought of Fran Drescher in polyester.)
In the end, Blake's "You Should Be Dancing" reminds me of a mass e-mail I accidentally sent to my entire department today. It's bad enough I "replied all" and included everyone — and I mean EVERYONE — on an e-mail extolling the virtues of an old Kenny G music video. But, somehow, I hit "send" three — count 'em — three times, leaving a trio of the same embarrassing e-mail stinking up Important People's inboxes. Similarly, Blake's use of fancy microphone echo effects bites him in the bum. The only thing worse than one flat note is hearing that same flat note loop over and over and over again. Oops! (oops oops oops ...)
Randy calls Blake out, comparing the experience to being in "some weird discothèque in some foreign country." (Woah. Has Randy hired the same writer Simon employs?) Paula's judging blows my mind. It boils down to this. "The pitch was off, the melody was off, but you can beat box and you're unique!" SEAL CLAP! (She gets paid for this?) Simon sees her "unique" but raises "an absolutely terrible."
Things improve slightly during round two. Blake ditches disco and opts for ... whatever the hell you'd call "This Is Where I Came In." (After some Googling, I discover that the obscure ditty is not an old relic from their pre-Fever days, as I suspected, but rather a recent also-ran on their 2001 release.) Losing the "adult" in the Bee Gees' "adult-contemporary" genre, Blake re-imagines the lite-FM song as a funky reggae track.
He's mildly successful, thwarting "Idol" producers who are obviously trying to sabotage the singer. (Why else would they surround him with lame lasers and split screens straight out of my school picture in 1988?)
Simon isn't having it, blasting Blake for a "weird, bizarre" song choice (in Blake's defense, I'm still humming it) while Randy gives Mouth Party some tough love. "You don't gotta beatbox on every joint, dude!" Paula argues that since Blake's capable, he should beatbox on every song! (Using her own wonky logic, I expect Abdul to drive around in a hovercraft from now on, just 'cause, you know, she can.)
On a side note, ever wonder what the announcer from "Best Week Ever" looks like? Exactly like Blake's dad.
Round 1: Bee Gees' "Stayin' Alive"
Round 2: Bee Gees' "Run to Me"
Verdict: Crazy Hoarse
Crazy Gibb is back to his old tricks again when his first rehearsal with LaKisha gets ugly. I've translated the subtext. "Girls can't master my falsetto. Sit down, honey. Let a real woman show you how to do it." And then, he rips into the chorus. "HA HA HA HA STAYIN' ALIIIIIIIIIII." I want him to finish it off by shouting (and kicking) "I'm Barry! Effin'! Gibb!" but alas, I'll have to wait until Jimmy Fallon's next "SNL" visit to witness that again.
Yes, if you haven't figured it out by now, LaKisha's habit of picking the worst possible song on any given night is back in the spotlight. KiKi's
singing shouting the eternally lame "Stayin' Alive," which breaks two major rules: First, "Idol Gives Back" 's ridiculous "celebrity" montage ruined the song forever. Second, its lyrics will be conveniently poignant during an elimination. (Melinda would have gone with the version used in a Volkswagen ad in the late '90s instead. "Stay to the right! Stay to the right!")
Part of me thinks KiKi's slowed-down take on "Stayin' Alive" isn't as bad as it could have been. But then I have flashbacks of her bugged-out eyes, the awkward syncopation and the leggings. (Oh, the leggings!)
Paula complains that the slow arrangement prevented the audience from dancing (even though the camera caught the former Laker girl on her feet grooving for the entirety of the performance). And Simon — who kissed LaKisha last week — puts the kibosh on their "Judge With Benefits" relationship thanks to KiKi's "verging on scary" performance. "No kiss tonight, baby!"
Good thing she has another song, right?
Things don't get much better for song number two. LaKisha obviously connects with the lyrics of "Run to Me," which is a good thing. But it quickly turns sour as the song continues. KiKi is visibly upset midway through, and watching her fight back tears is uncomfortable. She just does not look like she wants to be on "American Idol" anymore. By the end of the song, her voice is shot. So even if the audience was moved by KiKi's emotional display, the two hoarse off-key whimpers at the end ruined it.
Randy and Paula — no doubt sensing KiKi's fragile state — water down their comments. Leave it to Cowell to kick her while she's down. "I think you and Blake are vulnerable tonight."
Round 1: Bee Gees' "To Love Somebody"
Round 2: Barbra Streisand's "Woman in Love"
Verdict: From Dean's List to Detention
This season's teacher's pet is really starting to get on my nerves. I don't understand why Jordin can do no wrong in the judge's eyes. (I wonder if her commercial viability has anything to do with it.) Add Barry (Effin') Gibb to the list of Sparks Pluggers. The old coot drank the Kool-Aid because his hyperbole is infuriating. "I know a couple o' hundred people who have sung this song but I haven't heard a greater version than Jordin's." Seriously? Why you gotta disrespect Nina Simone like that, Big Barry?
In the jive talker's defense, Jordin's rehearsal sounded amazing. I've been waiting for her to knock one out of the park since her last home run way back in U.K. Invasion week.
[Cue deflated balloon sound effect.] At best, Jordin's live performance was a double-play. I've said it before and I'll say it again: The 17-year-old's affected exhales drive me nuts. She sounds like a young girl imitating Christina or Mariah instead of honestly feeling and performing the song in her own way. Compared to the first three iffy performances tonight, I can understand why the judges are unanimous in their high praise, but after last week's free pass ("poor thing can't sing Bon Jovi!"), I want blood to make up for it.
It doesn't take long before my wish is granted. Jordin's second offering ("Woman in Love") is rejected across the panel. (Barry Gibb, however, is still ready to run away with the high school student.) It only took them two months, but the judges finally come to their senses. Instead of "You're 17??!" we hear "You're 17." Amen. I'm happy the " 'Idol' Pimp Jordin-a-thon" is closing shop. So happy, in fact, that I'm not angry when Simon runs out of time during the poorly-paced and rushed episode. If he could continue, I know he would have followed up his "pageantry" jab with a "you shouted like LaKisha" right hook.
Low Note Of The Night
While I'm on the subject of time running out, I feel like it's necessary to pause and offer some advice to "Idol" producers so that next week's show isn't as awkwardly paced.
First, would it kill you to drop a Coca-Cola "Real" moment? When your show is running two minutes behind, you better find something to cut quick. And nothing adds less to the show than the surface questions asked and answered by Ryan and a finalist.
Next? Don't devote as much time to interviewing random audience member Judge Judy. The last time an audience member got this much TV time, she was 12 years old and weeping.
And finally, prioritize. Why force Seacrest to burn through contestant's phone numbers when he could just as easily race through annoying tosses to text message carriers and banter with Paula? I don't think it's fair that Jordin and LaKisha's final judgings were all of four seconds long. The poor pacing deprived them of precious TV time on the air, as well as any insight the judges may have had. (Although, let's be honest. Simon would have forced a simile. Randy would have said something three times in a row — like my e-mail! And Paula would have "loved" their shoes.)
Tonight's episode suffered from something far worse than a rushed ending, however. How is it that a talented crop of singers like our top four managed to perform so badly? Each finalist is more than capable to deliver a WOW. Why aren't they bringing it? (Perhaps learning two songs instead of one spread the singers too thin?)
High Note Of The Night
I guess, by default, Melinda? Mindy's only sin was that she was boring as sin. But technically, she was flawless. Now if only she could find a way to throw all that technique out the window. ... Once she starts sucking, she'll really become famous. (Is that what you were trying to say, Paula?)
Actually, now that I think of it, Abdul might be on to something. It is, after all, that time of the season when the Jasmine Triases and Nikki McKibbin's surpass superior singers in the "Idol" universe. Melinda might be smart to "Nikki-ize" from this point on, if there is a "from this point on." After her Almost-As-Effective-As-NyQuil segments tonight, Melinda could feasibly be in the bottom two Wednesday night.
No real danger here, Mindy, because the one headed home will be LaKisha. Blake was equally rough, but he probably inherited all of Chris Richardson's "love is deaf" support, leaving KiKi to fend for herself.
Jordin will join Blake on the safe couch, too, methinks. Her final performance tanked, sure, but it was over so quickly that it barely felt like it happened at all. (Oooh, sneaky "Idol" producers. Even when I think you aren't manipulating, you are manipulating!) She should push herself next week, because now that the judges aren't so hell-bent on showing favoritism, she needs to rely on more than just a winning personality and some good-but-not-great vocals.
My biggest word of caution, however, goes out to Blake. If he survives this round, he has some serious work to do. I'm pulling for him to make it to the finals, mostly because I think it will be by-the-book and dull without him there. Paula's proclamation, "You are the contemporary rebel" brought my fist up in the air — and yes, I made accompanying sound effects — in a sign of solidarity. I applaud Blake for thinking outside the box. Now if only he can think outside the beatbox.
What's your take on Tuesday's Gibb-a-thon? Were you as disappointed as I was? Are you ready for Blake to retire his Beat-in-a-Box? Are you buying "Idol" producers' unspoken hype that Jordin is the next Kelly Clarkson? Hit me back in You Tell Us.