You'd think that by now the brain trust behind [url id="/news/topics/a/american_idol/"]"American Idol"[/url] would have figured out how to land the bird on time every week. But because the show ran over by more than five minutes last week — causing many viewers to miss Adam Lambert's stellar performance — the producers switched things up again on Tuesday night and had the judges critique the contestants in pairs to save time.
Still, the program went three minutes over and some viewers might have missed Lil Rounds' spirited defense of another poorly reviewed performance. This time, however, Lambert took the stage much earlier and gave another solid performance, while Kris Allen and Allison Iraheta both made a case for the crown.
The night opened with "Idol" fanatic director Quentin Tarantino ("Kill Bill," "Pulp Fiction") announcing the show and bringing his legendarily manic energy to his mentoring of the singers on a night dedicated to songs from Hollywood movies.
Tarantino, who gave Simon Cowell a run for his money in the harsh-judgment category when the director sat in with the panel in season three, didn't just listen and give the singers bland platitudes; he offered them concrete direction as he would on one of his movie sets.
First up was teenager Allison Iraheta, who chose Aerosmith's bombastic ballad "I Don't Want to Miss a Thing" from the blockbuster "Armageddon." Singing in front of a string section, Iraheta sounded even huskier than usual, her voice showing signs of hoarseness. But that didn't stop the 16-year-old dynamo, who tried her best to belt the tune out and throw in a few big notes to top things off.
Kicking off a string of hard-to-follow comments for the night, Paula Abdul said Iraheta has the same "special sauce" as front-runner Adam Lambert, praising her for being authentic and uncompromising. Simon Cowell boldly tagged Iraheta as the "girls' only hope" in the competition and noted that she's getting stronger and more confident, even while tackling a really tough song, predicting she might be around for the finale.
Anoop Desai sang "(Everything I Do) I Do for You" by Bryan Adams from "Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves." During their practice session, Tarantino gave 'Noop Dogg a guttural example of how to rough up the song, but the genial singer appeared to ignore Tarantino's advice, giving a smooth, buttery rendition of the weepy adult contemporary ballad and tossing in a puppy-dog stare into the camera at the end.
Randy Jackson feared that Desai might not be able to handle such a big song, but he praised the rendition for being in tune and having strong emotion. "Anoop, you definitely found your place. It's pop songs and adding your soul to it," said Kara DioGuardi, who called it one of Desai's best performances.
Lambert went all in and chose Steppenwolf's [news id="1609282"]"Born to be Wild"[/news] from the classic 1969 hippie road-trip flick "Easy Rider," making him the only contestant of the night to pick an uptempo song and, except for Lil Rounds and Danny Gokey, reach back beyond the early 1990s.
Again showing his unique style, Lambert added a bit of an electronic edge to the classic rocker. Standing in front of a screen filed with lightning effects and sporting thick black eyeliner, Lambert was back in full rocker mode, wearing tight black pants, a black leather
jacket and vintage T-shirt and bounding around the stage at an almost frantic pace. The high-energy performance had a bit of an over-the-top musical-theater vibe, and it was topped off by no less than three of his trademark wineglass-cracking shrieks.
Paula couldn't get enough, saying, "The reason, Adam, that you're shaking up this whole competition is that you dare to dance in the path of greatness. ... Fortune rewards the brave, and you're one of the bravest contestants I've ever witnessed, ever." Cowell joked that Lambert needed to learn to express himself a bit and added that the vocals were great but it was a bit like watching the campy midnight movie "The Rocky Horror Picture Show." He predicted that the performance would not be as popular as last week's and might divide the audience.
Matt Giraud's choice of yet another Bryan Adams song, "Have You Ever Really Loved a Woman" from "Don Juan DeMarco," found him back at the piano, crooning the dreamy ballad in an Elton John-esque drawl and ending on a crisp falsetto note.
Randy thought it started off well, but hit a rough patch in the middle because Giraud tried to do too many things with the simple melody. "You fell down more places tonight than you won in that song," he said. Kara appreciated that he tried to give the tune an R&B feel but said she felt that he stripped away too many of the melodies that made the song so special.
Danny Gokey, performing for the first time without his signature eyeglasses, broke the Adams stranglehold by going with "Endless Love" by Lionel Richie from the Brooke Shields movie of the same name. Tarantino counseled him to try and keep his hands in his pockets and sell the song with his eyes. Like Desai, Gokey didn't exactly follow
that advice, throwing in some jazz hands as he crooned the big-screen ballad with the accompaniment of a harp in his patented mix of nasal and gravelly vocals.
Simon said that while he couldn't fault Gokey's performance, he was disappointed with the inclusion of harp and the "very traditional" arrangement. "Having said that, I think this song obviously means a lot to you personally and I can see you're emotional and it's a hard thing to do, so I congratulate you for that," he added, perhaps alluding to the fact that Gokey's wife passed away just before he auditioned for the show.
Kris Allen made the most contemporary choice of the night, singing Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová's[news id="1609262"]"Falling Slowly"[/news] from the 2007 sleeper indie romance "Once," a choice Tarantino praised because he said it was obvious the song meant something to Allen. With spare acoustic-guitar accompaniment, Allen stood center stage and sang with his eyes mostly closed, rising and falling with the song's tricky see-saw melody and putting a bit of a soul vibe into the folky ballad, ending with a dramatic high note as the lights faded.
Randy said the song never quite caught on for him, calling it pitchy all the way through, but Kara said that despite the difficulty of picking a song not everyone might know, it was one of his best moments.
Last up was Lil Rounds, who went with "The Rose," the titanic Bette Midler ballad from the 1979 movie of the same name about a self-destructive 1960s female rocker. The stage bathed in pink, Rounds started out singing along to a spare piano figure, then switched it up mid-song to add a gospel feel that gave the performance a unique flavor.
"Lil, you could not have sung a more beautiful lyric," Paula said, adding, "To paraphrase one of the lines, and all the contestants probably agree, sometimes the road is really long, but it's a road that's worthwhile taking, especially when you've made it this far." Once done rolling his eyes at Abdul's comments, Simon said again that he thought Rounds got it "completely wrong," complaining that despite some nice moments, the song was too soft for her voice and too middle-of-the-road, signaling that he suspected her time on the show was over.
"There are no excuses anymore, Lil. You are not the artist I believe we met seven or eight weeks ago. I'm getting frustrated," Cowell griped. As the show once again ran over the hour, Rounds responded, "You guys told me to be an artist, and when I heard this song I thought it was a beautiful song and I put my own bit to it because I'm into the R&B and the soul and the gospel, and I put it in there ... and I thought it was really good."
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