'American Idol': Attack of the Piano Man

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Last night’s episode of American Canon Cannon attempted to showcase the works of one of the 20th century’s most prolific troubadours, Gwyneth Paltrow’s best friend William Joel. Yes it was Billy Joel night at the song factory, which promised lots of karaoke-level croonin’.

It must be mentioned first that, for some reason, the mentor for this Billy Joel week was none other than Puff P. Diddles himself, Piff Duddy. Yes! Sean Combs. J.Lo’s former main squeeze was chosen to mentor the kids about Billy Joel. Which, obviously. I mean, I know that when I, and I’m sure this is also the case for most of you, am in need of some real Billy Joel expertise, when I’ve got a burning, nagging question about the meaning behind “Uptown Girl” or am trying to figure out how to really nail the chorus of “And So It Goes,” that Puffrum Diddium is absolutely the first person I go to. He’s just inextricably linked to the work of Billy Joel, so it absolutely makes sense that he was the mentor for this challenge. In a show that absolutely always makes 100% sense, this decision made 110% sense.

Also really stepping up in the sense-making department was Tommy Hilfiger coming on board to mentor the kids in fashion. This was a fun idea for a segment, I guess, because it potentially meant one glorious thing: MAKEOVERZZZZ!!!!! So that was exciting for about three seconds, but then we glumly and sadly realized that, oh, oops, the only one who was really going to do anything drastic with her look was Erika von Pelt, who cut her hair and dyed it black and everything, which was exciting, but it was just Erika von Pelt. Nobody else did anything, really. Sweet holy Easter weren’t you hoping, nay praying, that Colton would cut his hair? Oh god wouldn’t that have been truly amazerating? Hilfiger said that he was worried that it was a distraction, which duh Professor Fashion absolutely it is, but Colton, oh so increasingly vain Colton, proud horse-maned Colton, refused to get rid of his hideous hair-pelt. Sigh. And no one else really did anything of note either. Hollie said she wanted to look younger but still sparkly so they put her in some bejeweled sailor’s outfit from an old gay cruise cabaret production of South Pacific. Phil Phillips wanted to wear more gray T-shirts so they put him in a gray T-shirt. Elise Totino’s told Tommy that she liked to wear tight-fitting clothes and he suggested high-waist bellbottoms, so naturally she ended up going with a big flowing maroon dress that looked like it was from the Greek Goddesses collection at Fashion Bug. So the whole segment was rendered utterly stupid and I’ll bet you that Erika is like “Wait, so I didn’t have to get my hair redone? Awww f*ck, why does nobody tell me these things??” Poor Erika.

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No one really blew it out the box this week, huh? No one super nailed it. I guess Hollie sang well. Sorta. I mean she was actually pretty crazy pitchy and warbly and wobbly, which she kinda always is on the not-huge notes. That’s a problem, Ms. Hollie. It’s sort of a big ol’ problem. But I still love the little albino firefly, so she gets a pass.

Same for our charming turtle friend Joshua Ledet, who wasn’t exactly a natural fit for the works of Billifriah Joel, but sang a competent “She’s Got a Way” anyway. Sure it mostly played like an understandably deleted scene from Joyful Noise and yeah Joshua singing about some amazing woman that he’s totes hot for doesn’t exactly ring any truth bells, but he’s still Joshua freakin’ Ledet and that’s, y’know, that’s just fine.

Oh you know who was actually pretty good? Like I think she got a standing ovation from the judges good? Ol’ pizza roll Elise. Yeah! She screamed “Vienna” with her usual throaty scream and it worked! It really did work. Sure she did a horrible thing at the end of her song, which was to sing a million notes all at once or at least in quick succession and punctuate each one with a hand gesture, which made her look like a particularly funky and annoying music teacher, but other than that, it was a success for Ms. Totino’s. I’m not entirely sure it will win her any safety medals tonight, just because nobody seems to like Elise, but if she goes out, she certainly will have gone out swinging. And hey, now she’s got the perfect addition to her resume when she applies for that job as the villainous, showboating vocal teacher at Fame High School.

I am partial to Skylar Laine, as we know, and she kinda bungled half of her “Shameless” cover (the B. J. song, she was not running around doing a William H. Macy impression, though of course we all wish she had), but she picked it up in the belty middle-ground of the tune and I thought won everyone over by the end. She’s a sneaky little country cricket, isn’t she? I bet you she’ll go pretty far in this thang. Sure she hasn’t got the heat behind her like some of the other sing-dorks (looking at you, Jessica Sanchez), but she kinda just barely pulls it out every week and she’s charmin’ as all heck, so I think she might creep on by a lot of people and find herself in the top five or something. But who knows! The whims of mercurial teengirl America are as unpredictable as the seas, and equally as full of dead calms and sudden squalls. We think Skylar is a sturdy vessel, but we’ll have to wait and see.


Let’s just cut to the chase on this one, eh? Heejun Han is a total assclown and needs to be stopped. I’m a little confused, maybe you guys can help clarify something for me: Does Heejun Han think he’s funny? Like does he think that he is a funny comedian type who is doing a funny thing that is making America laugh? With his put-on stuttering and obtuseness and all that nonsense? Because, um, oh no, no no Heejun, you are in no way funny, nor have you ever been funny. If anything you went from sorta likable novelty act to snide little prankster shithead who deflects criticism with lame jokes in about two episodes flat. All the stuff he pulled with Tommy Hilfiger? Awful. His jokey performance of “My Life” in which he did a whole opening shtick and then flailed around for three minutes like a right ponce? Splendiferously stupid. The Steven Tyler witch’s terrifying witch stare after Heejun Han did all these displeasing things? Chillingly terrific. Oh god was that witch not happy. That was one unhappy witch. After the performance, Tyler leaned into the microphone, and with a deep, sinister, crone croak, said “You need to start taking this more seriously.” Ohhhh what a hex! What an incantation! The temperature of the room plummeted and Randy hooted “Yo dawg it’s mad cold in here” and J.Lo wrapped herself as tight as she could in the thin Marc Anthony pelt she keeps under her desk, but Heejun just stood there frozen. It was a wonderful moment, full of sinister undertones and mortifying embarrassment, but it was quickly over. The lights brightened and the room got warm again and Heejun was back to doing his stupid clueless weirdo routine and ugh. He’s just a lot of ugh. YOU ARE NOT FUNNY, Heejun. You are not going to have a career in comedy. There is nothing exciting or subversive about mocking the American Idol experience eleven seasons in. You want to sing your way onto the show and then do a performance piece about how obviously dumb the whole thing is? Like fourth season max for that, bub. After that everyone knew and no one cared. Past is past. Now you just look like some embarrassing jerk who is trying desperately to be famous. And it’s awful to watch. Please send this fool home, America. He is really the living worst. Just the absolute pits. Ick.

OK, it’s official. I do not like Jessica Sanchez. I know she’s supposed to be a good singer and everything and clearly the show is hardcore in the tank for her, but I don’t get it. She sings boringly and screechingly and is probably off key just about as often as Hollie is and yet she never really seems to hear about it. Plus she seems arrogant and she chooses awful, boring songs, like last night’s “Everybody Has a Dream.” Nope, not for me, no thanks. I am probably having a visceral reaction to the heavy hand of producer pimping that is so clearly affecting Sanchez’s Idol time, but I don’t care. Whatever the reason, I don’t like her. And I’d ask you all to join me in that dislike. Damn the man, save the empire, let us rid ourselves of this corporate-approved youth hack. Be gone, vile packaged demon! Give me the organic noodle-bliss of Joshua Ledet or Hollie Cavanaugh any day. No thanks to all this.

Aw, I hate to say it, but Phil Phillips sang “Movin’ Out” last night and did it with this bad, languid Dave Matthews impression style that was just very labored. He slowed the song down in weird parts and really ribbited more than sang and it was just a mess. A gray, shapeless mess. Phil is still the human embodiment of a potato chip dipped in caramel sauce, and he could still phil our phillips any time he wanted to, but the singing performance last night was just not very good. It was both too much and not nearly enough. I’d start to worry about his longevity, that his raspy shtick would lose its potency as quickly as Casey Abrams’, but then I remember that Phil Phillips does not, um, look like Casey Abrams so he’ll probably be fine for an extra couple weeks. I bet he’ll be a Jason Castro top-three-r. He needs a big moment though, to make that happen. He should wear a suit. That would help. You hear me young man? Comb your hair and put on a suit and sing a nice, decent song for once. You could be so handsome!


Oh good grief he did it. He did it, didn’t he? Colton went and almost won the whole f*cking show last night, didn’t he? There he sat at his fire engine red piano, searchlights pointing up into the Truman Show-esque false sky of the Idol Thunderdome, and then, after a trembling pause, an arrow quiver, a violin string of time, he sang a plaintive, emo “Piano Man” and turned at least twenty young ladies in the audience into women. It was the kind of smooth, enveloping Moment performance that this show’s darker forces feed on. At a glancing look it was interesting and melodically pleasing, but on closer inspection it was cynical and pandering, a moment for Coltron to gives his penetrating, transfixing Coltron Stare into the camera and for everyone’s insides to squeal and hearts tighten and brains fire with strange new thoughts. It was some pretty dire business and was a coup for whatever shadowy entities Colton is ultimately representing on this show. And, best of all, afterward Colton got a chance to do some preachin’ about God and stuff, saying he was singing through Him and for Him or something and that he was praying and, oh man Colton, oh man. Oh man with that stuff. Really dude? Come on. I know, it’s fun, it means something. But you’re in the real world now. You don’t have to do that stuff anymore. Look at what a pro you are! Pretending to shrug all “What’s even happening??” as girls shriek your name and hormones emanate from them like Lisa Frank rainbows. You’re such a natural at false humility. Sure we get that you’re a complete f*ckface, but the girlies don’t! And that’s all that matters! So can it with the “for Him” stuff because it’s alienating. And you need to be a Star. A big, bright, burning Star. So you can enact your big, final agenda in peace. Don’t sweat the little things right now. Idol is not your pulpit. Or at least it shouldn’t be. If you tone it down now, a much bigger one awaits you, son. One from which you could do some real, terrible, everlasting work.


So who is going to go home? I would guess maybe sad Deandre Brackenshackenwacken. I didn’t even mention him up top, but he sang a very bad “Only the Good Die Young” that would pass for merely adequate wedding singing, and it was just dull and who is he really for? Dude’s not out, so. Dude’s clearly not scammin’ chicks, so. Dude’s too old to be young and too young to be old and who even knows what his deal is. I think he’s doomed tonight. If not him, maybe Erika. I just feel like having someone who just got a big makeover promptly eliminated is maybe too big an opportunity for the ever-cruel fates to pass on. Whatever happens, though, it might not matter anyway. Don’t you think that Colton has maybe already won this thing? Don’t you feel him even now, boring blackly into the back of your skull? Creeping in there and laying his Colton eggs? Something bad is happening. Something very bad. So why is it starting to feel so good?

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.