'American Idol': Cry Me a River

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Last night was a very emotional night at the ol' Idol song hut, with more than one tribute reduced to tears and everyone singing very intensely. They are starting to feel it, aren't they? The sharp potential for crushing defeat, the ever-brightening hope victory. These are your top nine, America! And they have new, desperate fire in their eyes.

Part of the reason for all the singmotion last night was that the contestants' challenge was to sing a song by an artist that inspires them. Which... well, hm. I mean, I suppose maybe a more interesting challenge would have been to sing a song by an artist who doesn't inspire them, to see how they do under that pressure, but I guess that's actually the rest of the show, mostly. "Here kids, sing things from this heap, come on, get in the van, here's the heap, look through it." So maybe it's OK that they were given one night to blow out a jam that really meant something to them, really spoke to some aching corner of their brains or guts or heart. That said, this being American Idol, almost everyone chose terribly. But we'll get to that in a minute!

First it should be noted that, in what can in no way be a good sign for our futures, Idol was graced by another Weird Sister last night. Yes, the Tyler witch was not alone in witchery last night, as the celebrity mentor this week was none other than Ms. Stevie Nicks, who came croaking out of the mists with a glassy smile on her face, wrapped in her traditional tattered black robes, wild and witchy hair like matted silver gossamer. Oh god do you love Stevie Nicks or what? She is just the bee's pajamas, that one. Sure she's a little nuts and she lives in a house that's perched on chicken legs, but she's Stevie freakin' Nicks! And she was in wonderful form last night, divulging personal information, clutching to the kids with her stringy mitts as if to suck out their life essence with her hands, and singing. Yes, she sang! Only once, but still, she sang.

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I know this is starting to sound a little broken-record, but Joshua Ledet! Good grief Joshua Ledet. That little turtle can do it, can't he? He can just do it. America says jump and he says how hiiiiiiiighhhhhhhh and then everyone's heads explode. Last night he sang the Mariah Carey version of "Without You" and it was like Jesus himself playing his pipe organ made of homosexuals' bones (that's a thing he has in heaven). It was really a religious experience. I know he cried and sorta unprofessionally lost it toward the end there, but whatever. This kid is just imbued with some sort of magical sing-force that we may never understand. I don't think enough of America can even begin to understand it right now, and so Joshua is not the biggest thing in the whole wide world right now. But he should be! Good heavens he should be. By the power of Jesus' adulterer-skin banjo, he should be.

Anyone in the mood for some delicious Totino's pizza rolls?? Elise started out this season kinda frozen but now her microwave time is done and she is piping hot! Ew. OK. Let's start that one over. Elise Testino (or whatever her last name is) sang well last night, blaring a Led Zeppelin song with rock lady authority, despite the fact that she was wearing shimmery sheer bell-bottoms that looked like a Stevie Nicks On Ice grand finale costume. (Or perhaps because of that?) Though, I don't know that it was the wisest song choice — how much of this show's core voting base really gets or likes Led Zeppelin? Also they can be sorta threatened by powerful women? Like Alison Iraheta could scream out rock songs because she was cute and 16, but Elise is a woman, a woooo man. That didn't work for Carly Smithson, so it might not work for Elise Papagino's. But either way, she should be proud of her past two weeks of performances. She is blossoming like a pizza roll on high for 5 minutes, sauce and molten cheese dribbling out of her crusty exterior, almost to the point of exploding. Hope that makes you feel good, Elise. That analogy. Yay.

Skylar Laine is just the cutest lil' country dumpling i'n't she? (Why is everyone food? I am hungry.) Last night she bleated out a Miranda Lambert song called "Dusty Grits and Cool Times Gravy." Well, no, it was not called that, but it should have been. "Here's mah song y'alllll. It's called 'My Mama's Lunch.' It's called 'Only Goin' to Heaven Once.' It's called 'My Heart's On a Road Trip And They're Ain't No Rest Stops.'" Whatever it was called ("American Melons"?), Skylar sang it well and with that surprising complexity you don't think she has but then every week, oh right, she has it. I like her! She doesn't stand out that much, I often forget that she's on the show, sorry to say, but when she sings she is good and she seems friendly and I like the borderline trashy way she's styled. I don't know, everything just sort of works. Go Skylar? Go Skylar.

Oh! I almost plum up and forgot. To help pad out the two hours of showtime last night, the kids not only sang individually, but they sang in trios as well. The best of the three was the little Fleetwood/Stevie medley sung by Elise, Coltron, and Phil Phillips. It opened with Colton way downstage singing "Landslide," which, like, what a gimme, huh? The judges were just like "Oh, here Colton, here is this perfectly wrapped package for you, come, take of it, use it, feed from it! We bow to you, ancient Colton and offer you this humble gift! May your malevolence protects us forever! We bask in your cold black glow!! Oh Colton, baptize us in blood!" Yeah, it got pretty creepy pretty quickly, but in the beginning at least it was a simple "Yeah, here's this soft ball, knock it out of the park." Everyone in the trio sang ably and it sounded purdy, so that's what that was. Well done, you three.


I mean, should we even bother mentioning DeAndre Brackenshacken at this point? Like he's so dead in the water it's not even funny. He might not go home this week (but he probably will), but he's never, and I mean bigtime never, gonna win this thing, so what's even the point? Last night he had to pick a song that inspired him and he picked who the hell knows by who the heck is that and it was just so dumb. Really, DeAndre? His song was yet another mid-tempo R&B jam that likely very few people know and it just didn't make any sense. I'm glad that that song inspires you, son, but you gotta be a little more savvy. Lie. Pretend that some Rihanna song inspires you. I don't know, just something else. Do not pick a song that would play at a brunch spot on the Upper West Side, y'know? Just don't do that. He seems like a nice kid and all, but I don't know that he's terribly bright. He has literally not done one smart thing since he started on this damn series.

Sorry to say it again, but I just can't with Jessica Sanchez. I know, I know, everyone loves her and I yap about this every week, but nope. N. O. Can't. Too pageanty, too falsely modest, too slick and soulless. The girl's overly polished. I just don't like it. And I think they dress her oddly and treat her oddly, almost as if she's already won but also with a little delicacy so they don't break her. I know that they're probably desperately hoping she wins because it would end the five-season-long hoo-hoo blackout (it's been all dingles since Jordin Sparks), but c'mon guys. It's all a bit much. Just ease up on the kid. And Jessica, you gotta get some scratch or snarl or something in you that roughs up the whole burnished teflon thing you've got going on. Let's see you sweat! Or something. Just something. Be interesting, please. Please do one thing that is remotely interesting beyond simply singing with straightforward competence.

This pains me to say, but I have to put my darling sea sprite Hollie Cavanaugh in this category. She sang Carly Underhood's "Jeemus Took The Whirl" and it was A) a bad song choice, like what does a tiny elfling child know about single moms drivin' on the road late at night, and B) not her best vocal ever, for sure. It was a little dull and a little weak in parts and I don't know. I love ya Hollie, you know I do (though I just read your Twitter for the first time and you called Kim Kardashian "GIRL" and said you watch all her shows so now I love you a little less), but we gotta can it with the big bombasto-ballads. Obviously Hollie can cram it out the cake hole on those big notes, but she's gotta shake it up a bit. And please dear god could we get her out of the whites/silvers/whatevers wardrobe ice land she's been banished to? The poor thing looks like a ghost most of the time.


I guess America was pretty happy with Heejun last night? After he took nothing seriously last week he stepped it up and sang one of his beloved cruise ship man ballads and everyone, J.Lopes especially, fluttered their fannies and said "That'll do, kid. That'll do." I guess it was good. I don't know. He's a good singer and all, but the stuff he sings well is borrrrinngggg. It's all dopey guy with dopey hair from the '80s music that would play forlornly at a supermarket that's open kinda late. Like you're there at 10:30 and tired and everyone's shuffling around trying to figure out why they're there, why they're anywhere really, having these muddled nighttime supermarket thoughts, and there's Heejun's music playing softly above everyone. Know what I'm saying? It's that kind of business and that business makes me feel both bored and melancholy, it makes me feel belancholy, and I don't like that. Of course I also in no way like Heejun's personality and do not think he is funny and he needs to stop the comedy routine like six weeks ago. Sorry, Heejun. That's the deal.


Ooo hoo hoooooo. Mama Stevie wants a snack, and she's looking for something boy-shaped. While she emotionally, and a little awkwardly, shared with Hollie about her recently deceased mother, Stevie's real connections were with Coltron Dixon and Phil Phillips, the duo also known as Ryan's Hope. Oh she liked them! Colton came first and she grabbed his hand and pulled him close and wouldn't let go as she mumble-murmured to him about his hair and about how she's been watching him for weeks (which, good grief, Stevie Nicks watches and is invested in American Idol, that's amazing because I didn't know you could get TV reception in a toadstool) and it was great. Colton didn't quite know what to do, was this godly or not?, but he just went with it and sang his damn Lifehouse song and after his performance on the live stage he had perfect glistening tear droplets in his eyes and Ryan went up to him and said "You OK? You OK?" while petting his back and ohh wasn't there a warm vibration in the air just then, couldn't you feel the magnet heat of Ryan's hand on Colton's back, couldn't you taste the mechanical liquid of Colton's tears? Quite a thing. Somewhere, up in the moon, Stevie looked down at them and smiled and laughed, a low lunar cackle billowing out through space.

And then Phil Phillips met Stevie and she was like "schwingggg!!!!" and Jimmy Iodine got jealous but Stevie didn't care, she just kept pressing on and essentially told Phil that if it was the 1970s again he would have been hired to be in Fleetwood Mac. (And if it was the 1970s again she'd say a few things to Lindsey, if it were the 1970s again she'd avoid bringing up that one particular topic with McVie, if it were the 1970s again oh we'd all be young or not even alive and the world would seem crisper and greener, wouldn't it, even if it were the 1970s, that terrible orange-brown time, that fruitless, fruitful decade, that dry Jiffy Pop bloomer of dreams, the 1970s! Oh god if it were the 1970s. Phil Phillips would be the last thing. He'd be the last thing Stevie would do.) That was a pretty cool moment for Phil, so he used it and went out there and growled out a Johnny Lang song and many young ladies (and gentlemen) in the audience were like "schwingggg!!!!" and it was very successful. Everyone clapped and cheered and Ryan conducted the next segment while sitting down because, uh, he hurt his back and then, speaking of hurt things, Jason Derulo came out in a bedazzled neck brace which was a strange thing to look at and that was mostly the episode. It was time for it to end.


Who will shuffle off this Idol coil tonight? My guess is DeAndre. But who knows. Wasn't he, like, not in the bottom last week? Am I wrong in remembering that? Is that a false memory? I think he will and should go home, but who knows, maybe Elise alienated people. Or maybe Heejun did. Is it possible? Who knows! I suppose anything is possible! Here in this crazy world. Whoever goes home, well, they did well enough, and they'll go on the tour this summer, and after tonight's episode they'll go to the weekly goodbye party and everyone will laugh and be friends and there will be no more crocodile stage tears and that will be that. And up above them Stevie will fly by in her enchanted Cogswell chair, streaking across the bruised night sky, her hair whipping in the wind, her tuneful wails rustling the leaves in the trees, babbling all the brooks, hushing the crickets, who stop their legs, point up their heads, and, with ancient awe, listen to her spells.

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