'American Idol': Happy Birthday to Us All

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Last night's American Songfest was filled with quite a lot of drama for a Top 12 episode. Usually we're still so lost in the thicket of all these contestants that we don't have much time for single big moments, but this year life found a way (as it always does) and we got two big moments of drammmm. Let's talk about them! And other things!

This was the always bleak and depressing Songs From the Year You Were Born episode, meaning I got to find out that the withered old person on this season, Elise Totino's, is a full two months younger than me while the youngest was just birthed six months ago. ("I will be singing 'Party Rock Anthem' by LMFAO.") Age terror aside, the real problem with this episode is that they don't really give them a good list of songs to sing, so oftentimes they're just singing songs that were written way before the year they were born but were covered that year or something. For example, Jessica Sanchez, who is all of 16 years old, sang "Turn the Beat Around," because Gloria Estefan did that song for The Specialist (though that was in 1994, not '95, so how did that work). But, of course, the song was actually written in the 1970s. So that's kind of dumb, right? Like, I'm sure someone recorded the Brahms Requiem the year some of these kids were born but does that mean they should sing it like it was a song from that year? I do not think so! I think they need to rethink this whole deal. They either need to expand the catalog, so someone like Sanchez (Someone Like Sanchez, a new romantic comedy starring Wilmer Valderrama and Dania Ramirez) can sing some "No More 'I Love Yous'" or "100% Pure Love" instead of raggedy old "Turn the Beat Around," or they just need to get rid of it altogether. Time to rethink this one, o ye Idol gods.

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Good grief, Joshua Ledet. Who would have ever guessed that a segment that began with a washbasin full of crawfish would end as splendiferously as it did? Truly amazing. Yeah, so, Joshua is from Louisiana or some such Gulf place and apparently has been missing suckin' on crawdads, I guess he said something about it on the show at some point or on Twitter or god only knows where he could have said it that someone heard it these days, he said it in the bathroom at the Palm, it doesn't matter. The point is that the people of Louisiana, specifically, we'd imagine, the all-powerful Louisiana Crawdad Alliance, heard his plea for sweet sweet riverbugs and so they sent a big tub full of 'em to "Joshua Ledet, c/o American Idol, Hollywood, Los Angeles" and sure enough it showed up on stage just in time for Joshua to sing. The best part of the crawfish thing was that for some bizarre reason Ryan had three random teenage girls come out on stage to watch Joshua (and Ryan) eat a crawfish. And they were really scared of them? Because they look really gross? It was a very strange segment because why on Earth would any of that happen, but that's what's good about Idol sometimes. Sense flitters up into the rafters and out through the oculus and all that's left is crawdaddies and some terrified teen girls. Terrific.

After that whole thing was dealt with, it was time for Joshua to jam it out. His song was "When a Man Loves a Woman," and, no, Joshua Ledet is not 46 years old. The song was covered in 1991 by one Michael Bol-tron, so it counted as fair game for Year You Were Born. Which, as discussed above, is utter balderdash, but what can yo do. And really it doesn't matter because holy hell did Joshua wind this thing up and then send it careening over the bleachers. He's just a very good singer, is the thing! Like, he knows how to perform and be into the song (even if, ahem, maybe the theme of a man loving a woman isn't exactly in his wheelhouse, ahem ahem, just guessing, wink wink, ugh, fart, groan) and he works the crowd beautifully without doing any of that hammy hand-grabbing that some of these other idiots do. He's just, like, a real professional at this, and the judges recognize that so they go complete goo-blasters every time this kid wails. (J.Lo called this the best thing she's ever seen on the show, which, let's not get ahead of ourselves, lest we forget 'Tasia's "Summertime" or Mindy Doolittle's "My Funny Valentine" or Kelly's "Stuff Like That There.") But for some reason he has failed to connect with the general audience in the past couple weeks, which is mystifying to me. But maybe this week will solidify it. Maybe now everyone has finally seen the Ledet light. I hope so. Kid's good. He's 46 years old, but he's good.

It's kind of strange because I don't really think anyone else was that good? Sure Phil Phillips did well on "Hard to Handle" — once again, no, Phil Phillips is not 44 years old, that song was covered in 1990 — considering he'd just had surgery for kidney stones and all. (Poor Phil. If you need anywhere to convalesce, I have a lovely basement you could rest up in. I might chain you to the wall and never let you leave, but I promise you'll feel better!) But he's beginning to sound kinda the same each week, isn't he? It's all just that caustic, enthusiastic growl coupled with the screamswooning of everyone in the audience because it's like looking at a delicious pint of Ben & Jerry's singing to you, to only you. But does that an Am Id make? I just don't know.

I suppose Skylar Laine did fairly well. She did "Love Sneakin' Up on You" by Bonnie Bedelia Raitt, a fun song that fit Skylar's voice and style well. The best thing about Skylar's segment was that, like everyone else, there was a little interview with her parents that played before she sang and in it the parents revealed that Skylar had a habit of deliberately banging her head into things as a child. Like they showed pictures of her bruised-up baby head that she'd banged into a lot of things. That is a very odd habit for a baby to have! But then again, when you consider that that baby turned into Skylar Laine, it sort of perfectly fits, doesn't it? If they had said at the top of the episode, "America: One of these singtestants used to bang their head into things on purpose all the time when they were a baby. Which one do you think it is? Winner gets a Ford Focus." I think most people would say Skylar, right? Well, no, OK, to be fair, I think plenty of people would say Heejun and that would be a perfectly reasonable guess. Also some people might think Colton until Ryan reminded them that the baby was banging their own head into walls and trees, not other people's. But for the most part I think everyone would quickly scan the contestants and say "Oh, yup, I got it, her" and point to Skylar. Not because she's dumb or looks lumpy-skulled or anything, but because she's this little hard-charging weirdo bulldog cricket and it makes sense that she liked to ram into things as a baby. She was tryna git places! Had places to git to. So outta her way, wall. Git gone, stairs. Move it or lose it, side of Aunt Deena's refrigerator. It just makes sense, doesn't it? It just really does.

Elise Totino's also sang pretty well! It wasn't a barn-burner exactly, but hopefully it did some work toward convincing America that she's worth a second look. Well done, Pizzarolls!


I'm just gonna say it: I am not onboard the Jessica Sanchez Victorytimes Express. I know the whole world and their mother is in the tank for J.Sanch but I'm not feelin' it. Sure she's got pipes for days and sure she's cute as a button and seems both humble and professionally confident. Well, actually, I'm not sure about that last thing. Sure she seemed demure and shy in her post-singing Ryanterview, but that actually did seem a little put-on. During her song, which granted was a garbage song for a 16-year-old balladeeress to have to sing, she did this, like, sing-pause and turned jauntily to the audience and said "Here we go!" or some foolishness and it seemed a liiiitttlleeeee arrogant. And then she seemed a liiittttlleeee haughty, or surprised, when the judges (admirably) started poo-pooing her performance. I don't know. There's something about her. There's some flint or steel in her eyes that I find a little cold and uninviting. Maybe I'm crazy. Maybe I'm swayed by the fact that she competed on America's Got Talent some years ago. I just don't like it. And this week her performance wasn't all that good anyway. So there, I said it. It's off my chest. Yell at me all you will.

Heavens to sweet ugly Murgatroyd, what on Earth was Shannon Migraine doing last night? She sang the Mariah Carey/Boyz II Men inspire-o-jam "One Sweet Day" — because of course she did, this girl likes nothing but big soaring vaguely Christian weepers — and it was such a gross noise. Oh god it was such a gross noise. Get this girl off this damn show, please. Isn't she terrible? I know the judges liked her and said she was good and whatever whatever. I think she's an utter disaster. She's awful, all schlumping awkwardly around the stage, singing her dopey songs with such embarrassing closed-eyed teen conviction. She's mortifying. I suppose it's cruel to fault her age or awkwardness or whatever, but yikes. If only she'd waited a few years until she was a little bit more fully-realized in her person and persona, she could actually be effective. But not now, nope definitely not now. I just cannot stand her. I don't want to be mean to a teenager, but, hey, she put herself on this stupid show, didn't she? So, there it is. Sorry, Migraine, but I'd really, really like you and your goopy Big Songs to leave the show. Just being honest! I am sorry!

I hate to say this, but I don't think my beloved English tea pixie Hollie Cavanaugh quite sold it this week. She chose another big boomer, Celine Dion's "The Power of Love," and while she cruised nicely on the big notes, she once again sorta faltered in the lower, softer parts. She's gotta work on singing the whole song rather than just rushing to the fun high points. Patience, sweet faerie. Patience. It was fun hearing from her parents, who are wonderful little British people who live in a hollowed-out pumpkin and have their neighbors, Mr. and Mrs. Weasel and Grandmother Badger over for tea and biscuits, and her brothers made a funny joke after she'd sang, so it is basically the cutest family in the world and it pains me so to label her as "bad," but this week just didn't quite work. Oh well. I'm sure she'll be right back into enchanted form next week.

I seriously could not tell you a single thing about what Brackenshacken and Erika von Tassle and Heejun Han did except that they've done very little that's been interesting all season and that's that. Sorry guys.


So, yeah, Jermaine had to go home. It seems he had not one, not two, not even three, but four outstanding warrants against him, so that's not good. This kind of thing has happened before, so it wasn't that shocking, but what was strange is that they filmed it this time? Like, has that ever happened before? I'm wondering if they did so because everyone loved the jolly gentle giant so they didn't want his dismissal to seem cruel and cold in its hiddenness, you know? So that's why they had those two British eels Ken Warwick and Nigel Lythgoe gently sit Jermaine down and explain that they couldn't legally keep him on because of the warrants and apologize to him and stuff. It was strange and wildly uncomfortable and then, to sort of add sad wistful insult to pathetic injury, they showed Jermaine singing his song during rehearsal and it was "Somewhere Out There" from Fievel and, sigh, poor Jermaine. Back to whatever. Out of the lights. No more applause. It's just back, back back back, back into whatever was before. Sigh. This show is so sad.


When he was told that he was going to be singing a song from the year he was born, Colton immediately said "What? I'm not singing some old church song from 1128." And then he quickly caught himself, realized what he'd blurted, and said "Oh, ha ha, no no, I'm just kidding, I wasn't born 900 years ago, ha ha, that would make me some sort of immortal demon or something, which would be ridiculous, ha ha, oh god no, of course not, that's not me! No sir, no undying monster here, nope, not at all." So that was interesting, but then of course he chose a song from 1991 and it was some, y'know, like dopey sad rock song. Something called "Broken Heart" by White Lion. So he sang that and wriggled around in skinny black clothes and J.Lo remarked at how pretty he looks when he sings and Colton pretended to smile modestly at that but we could all see the cold red fire of agreement that burned in his eyes when she said it. Before he sang Ryan did a little Seacresterview with him and we found out that Colton had connected on Twitter with none other than world's best elimination-face maker, Chris Daughtry. Or rather just "Daughtry," as he's somewhat ludicrously called now. Yeah, apparently they connected and Daughtry direct messaged Colton and they set up a dinner date and they, according to Colton, "hooked up at the Belmont," which I'm guessing is either some sort of Greek-inspired gentlemen's club or a restaurant. Probably a restaurant. Whatever it is, it was fun to watch Colton tell this story and to see a ripple and flash of jealousy streak across Ryan's face, his usually sturdy smile drooping a bit with a kind of leaden disappointment. Colton of course noticed this, was pleased with this, felt empowered by all the blue energy seeping out of Ryan. He drank it up, let it fuel him, and then went off to sing. And then, just as he had for years and years, and years and years and years and years, he sang to the people, won them over with his dark song, made them pliable and willing in his hands, lured them in, called to them out of the black, made a promise to them, offered them something, tethered himself to them like an umbilical cord, and then left them screaming and yelling, as if they'd all just been born anew.

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