I think at this point in the season, it’s important to remember just how disposable the product rolling off the American Idol conveyor belt can be. Case in point: The dramatic video that began this week’s competition show, starring, um, some Korean dude named, um...no, shh, wait...actually, let’s swing around back to this later. The point is, we’re in the Idol Hot Zone right now, when the hype grows to the size of a Fox-skinned blimp, and every performance is declared to be THE GREATEST. PERFORMANCE. EVER. IN THE HISTORY. OF SINGING. EVERRRRR. So let’s take a moment to remind ourselves that this is just a TV show, and no, the walls are not tumbling down around us, and no, death is not a preferable fate to having to say goodbye to Deandre Brackensick, whose fluffy ringlets and castrato runs offered all of us a glimpse of what the bellboys might look and sound like in Heaven. Godspeed, Milli Falsetti. We’re better off for having known you.
Now, let’s ask some probing questions and see if we can’t answer them.
That would have to be Elise. Granted, the girl’s got a massive set of Testones for even attempting to tackle Foreigner’s “I Want to Know What Love Is,” but her bar-band-singer limitations got the best of her this week. Elise, who in recent weeks has been gushed over by the judging panel, is sort of a cautionary fable about over-praising your children: A little goes a long way; too much, and the next thing you know they’re proudly handing you a self-portrait finger-painted with their own feces and demanding you affix it to the refrigerator door.
They stank! That’s what happened. Let’s start with Colton, who covered a Cyndi Lauper classic with a flaccid, mid-tempo, lite-rock arrangement that had me fantasizing that Captain Lou Albano* would suddenly appear from the wings and deliver a debilitating piledriver to this Jesushawked scrunch-smiler. (*Forgive my cryogenically dated references, but this WAS ‘80s Night, was it not?)
The cute can only go so far with Phillip, but after this week, it’s time to call out his one-trick-ponydom for what it is. This one pony is kind of strange! It keeps clutching at its side and making pained faces and hunching over like its about to deliver a baby alien through its stomach. It didn’t help that Genesis’s “That’s All” is a plodding song that really did him no favors.
Easy. Skylar and Joshua. “Wind Beneath My Wings” was pure, ‘80s cheesetasy, in the best possible sense, and Skylar’s chipmunk grin and bowel-shaking vocals combined for one show-stopping performance. Joshua, meanwhile, chose Simply Red’s “If You Don’t Know Me By Now,” a brilliant song choice for his prodigious vocal talents. He’s 19, so I’m guessing someone guided him to that song. Good on you, Unseen Hand of Idol Song-Choosing God: Your taste is refined, your knowledge of ‘80s pop masterpieces, omniscient. How else to explain the resurrection of “Knew You Were Waiting,” the Aretha Franklin/George Michael duet I had completely forgotten about? The pairing of Joshua, who reminds me of a male Aretha (for real), with Jessica, who is quite obviously patterning a career on Beyonce and actually has the chops to follow through, was an inspired idea. One of the best Idol performances I’ve ever seen, and that’s not just Hot Zone hot air.
I am now thinking that yes, the great Lopez Oracle may be onto something. These two strike me as the real deal. Here’s how I measure that: I imagine a major musical awards ceremony, three to five years from now. The Grammys, the American Music Awards, the VMAs. Can I picture them on that stage? Yes, I do believe I can. Can’t picture Colton there, or Elise, or little Hollie (poor thing), or Phillip. But I can see Joshua up there, and I can see Jessica up there. And let’s not forget their ages: These kids are 19 and 16, respectively. Do you know how many hit records those two can pump out between now and the moment they reach Steven Tyler’s age, which is 167? Many, many hit records! Bring it on: I want to see these two go all the way.