America, if there is any lesson to be taken away from American Idol this week, it’s not to listen to Tommy Hilfiger. Tommy Hilfiger will destroy your career on national TV. Those who ignore Hilfiger, even those who openly mock Hilfiger, will be spared. But those who take his advice at face-value will surely rue the day they did, as they will be cast out of the Idol Eden with nothing but their tear-moistened hair clippings to show for the experience. That lesson was learned too late for Erika Van Pelt, who unfortunately chose to answer “P!nk” when asked by the style mentor to name her fashion inspiration. That answer placed her on a conveyor belt to get all of her hair chopped off, but then someone at the salon decided they should also dye it b!ack. RIP Er!ka.
Heejun should have hit that road. The Billy Joel songbook produced a snore-inducing two hours of Idol competition, but nothing was quite so grating as Heejun’s performance. His “My Life” was embarrassing. Not embarrassing for, say, an engineering school talent show, but definitely embarrassing for a nationally televised talent competition. But he survived. Why? Because he wore tearaway tuxedo over an Up With People T-shirt over a red dress shirt, and while it all angered Steve Tyler, it delighted enough millions of Americans to vote him through for another week of uncomfortable exchanges and accent-hindered ‘80s soul.
DeAndre Brackensick, a.k.a. Millie Falsetti, makes me uncomfortable. He’s too young and awkward to figure out who the hell he is or what he brings to the table, so instead you get your gawky, needy, embarrassing little brother up there, desperate to fit in. “Only the Good Die Young” is a song about a boy who tries to convince a Catholic-school girl to have sex with him. That’s what Jimmy Iovine was trying to relay to him at rehearsal, but that flew way over DeAndre’s frizzy head, and he just gave us a forgettable performance that involved lots of ringlets bouncing, because Tommy H. loves his hair. (Yet hates Emo Jesus’s hair. Go figure.)
Jessica Sanchez took one home run performance and has yet to repeat it. She sang “Everybody Has a Dream,” which I wasn’t familiar with. Snore. I do not like music like this, even if it’s sung on-key or whatever, which she did, but who cares. I’ve run cold on this girl and her boring, obscure Billy Joel songbook selections. Get a personality!
Phillip Phillips, it seems to me, gets away with a hell of a lot because he’s so cute. He chose a good one—“Movin’ Out (Anthony’s Song)—but everything about his rendition, from his gray clothes (again, the anti-Hilfigerness weaves its intoxicating spell) to the way he holds his guitar to the monotonously bluesy rendition, was all very Dave Matthews. It seemed sort of exciting at the time, because Phillips is very cute and polite and proudly anti-image and “about the music,” but will you really remember this performance or search out his records when all of this is said and done. Oh, you will? Really? And how are you enjoying that new Kris Allen record? Exactly. Still, this guy is going all the way, short of some calamitous act of God, like Ryan throwing acid in Phillip's face because Phillip doesn’t pay enough attention to him.
Hollie, who I still think has some of the most potential this season in a Little Voice kinda way, was all over the place on “Honesty,” one of Joel’s best ballads, but I still like her. Yes, the “so hard to keep” line was thuddingly off-key, but she found the drama in the lyric by the time the chorus came around, and she was wearing a giant, green rock on her hand that I think she used to fight off the alien dandelion spores spreading all around her during her performance. Go, Hollie!
Joshua Ledet chose “She’s Got a Way,” a song Steve Tyler, Idol’s resident Billy Joel expert, had never heard before. Okay, fair enough. I had never heard "Love in an Elevator" until 20 minutes ago. (Not really.) I really did not enjoy this performance the first time I watched it, but on second viewing, it’s really not all that bad. I think maybe the waving arms in the Tweet Pit and the weird candelabra projections and giant mirror frame just scared me, as if the evil Snow White queen might show up at any moment and make Ryan Seacrest eat a poisoned apple or something. (Or maybe Ryan is the Evil Witch and Snow White is Phillip? Where was I?) I think Ledet’s worst crime here is just oversinging, and being boring, and basically not understanding what this song is about. It’s a quiet, tender love song to a pretty girl. Why a gospel choir was trotted out for the chorus, I have no idea. Maybe “she” was supposed to be the Virgin Mary.
Let’s just skip ahead now to Colton Dixon, who has the carriage and smile of a guy who thinks he has already won this contest, and quite honestly, he may be right. Colton got Joel’s best-known classic, “Piano Man,” to sing, and he is a very competent pianist, so he played it alone on a red Yamaha piano, surrounded by dramatic beams of light. He sang it on key, and with feeling, and besides a few weird wheezes on “we’re all (URP!) in the mood (URP!) for a melody,” he did the song justice, and commanded your (fine, my) attention from start to finish. It’s a simple song, but hard to nail, and he did it.
Give all the trophies to him. God wants it that way.
Which contestant is currently your favorite?