'American Idol': You Can Go Home Again

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The Lucky 7 performed last night and it was an evening of mild delights and soft failures. There was nothing terribly adventurous about any of the singtestants' endeavors, but, you know, this really isn't a bad group. There are no true clunkers, which is a rare thing on American Idol these days. So thank god at least for that.

The theme of the episode was Songs From the Decade, meaning songs from this decade, meaning the '10s. We'll eventually start calling them "the twenty-teens" but we're not there until January 1st, so for now they're just the tens, I guess. (Good god we live in a strange and frightening future. I palpably remember it being 1999. Where has time sneaked off to?) So yeah, this three-year span of choice obviously offered a glittering array of wonderful contemporary hit-jams, with tunes by everyone from Kellie Pickler to Gotye. Sure!

The other thing they did in this episode was go back to the kids' hometowns and show us around and introduce us to some locals. They actually began the episode by showing a viewing party in DeAndre's hometown and we had to watch their sad, local hopes dashed against big, fancy Hollywood rocks as DeAndre was sent packing, so that was kind of cruel. Other than that, the home visits were interesting, though I fear they came too soon. Part of the exciting thing about the top three people traveling home is that we've mostly been in this interior shimmer-box of the Idol stage the whole time, so to then see a whole town rooting for them, and to see them first witness it, is always pretty exciting. But now they know. Now we know. They know that home is watching, that nearby strangers are stuffing a few bits of their own dreams in a communal sack labeled 'Colton' or 'Phil' or 'Sweet Skylar Brown.' So the top three home visit shock and awe will be dulled some, which is too bad. But oh well. It was still fun to see a bunch of local yokels whooping it up for all these weasely kids. Most everyone is from such humble places. No one lives in twinkling cities or anything. Or maybe they obfuscate that. Jessica Sanchez is from a big city, right? I mean who can remember. All I picture in my head when I think about these home visits is an old man, a single old man, with a white beard and a T-shirt and maybe overalls saying how excited he is about American Idols. That's all I see. So I think that was most of the visits.

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Once again, Skylar Laine you guys. This girl is making a climb, just you watch. Last night she bleated out a Kellie Pickler song (when you read that a Kellie Pickler song was performed last night did you think it could possibly have been anyone else? Joshua Ledet picks a Kellie Picler song?) and it was big and forceful and sharp in a good way and I just like her. She's a little creature made by a firefly and a ladybug one crazy summer night and now here she is, buzzin' and flappin' and glowin' and hootin' out into the evening, all the weather systems that form in the created atmosphere up near the ceiling of the Idoldome going calm and quiet and breezy for Skylar Laine. She's got the whispery forces of nature behind her, can't you feel it? Can't you see the grass parting for her when she walks, hear the creeks and the cricks and the country streams hushing their rush to hear her sing? Skylar's in with the Earth, she's got the power of dirt and birds and green green grasshoppers behind her, so I think she'll wind up going far.

Later in the evening Skylar once again sang a love duet with Colton Dixon, some Kelly Clarkson and another guy duet song, and it was funny because I guess everyone teases Skylar and Colton and says that they're dating and they're like "We're *not* dating!!!" and erupt into fits of awkward giggles. So I like that the producers were like "Haha, you have to sing together again, haha, joke's on you." And they did the song and they sang it well and I thought about Skylar giggling away and saying "Everyone thinks we're dating! We're not dating!" and then I looked at Colton in his long shirt and really ridiculously skinny shiny patent leather pants, lashed tightly around his knobbly flamingo legs, and I thought to myself "Oh girl, you're fine. Nobody really thinks that." I mean, how could they? How could they, with proud pony Colton huffing and strutting up there with his knee-knockin' filly legs and his golden swoop of hair? It's fine, Skylar, it's fine. Still, after they sang the old Tyler witch, in some sort of romantic old witch mood, clacked the desk with a cane and said "You two made love to each other up there through song, so you're basically already there," or something along those lines, "made love" and "through song" were definitely in there I'm pretty sure, and Skylar turned beat red and Colton ghost white. And backstage in their little post-song interview Colton said it again, he said "make love," and Skylar became an autumn mountainside in Vermont, simply awash with red hues, but Colton just seemed to like the words, like the implication that  he, with her, would do that. That Colton, a boy, might do that with Skylar, a girl. A strange moment.

It was Joshua Ledet's bday so he gave himself the gift of a Bruno Mars song that he sang pretty well. Randruh Jackson really seemed to like it, heaving himself up on his Bowser hooves and throwing turtle shells at the stage. (Don't throw turtle shells at a turtle, Randy, come on.) I think Joshua was galvanized to sing well because before he went to sing he got a special birthday message from none other than Ms. Fantasia Barrino herself, who looked good and healthy and happy and was, maybe just for show but still, in a recording studio. "From Fantasia to Mantasia," she said, and somewhere old Mandisa from seasons past was like "Did somebody say me? Did somebody say me?" but no, m'am, nobody said you, I'm sorry. But, y'know, not that sorry. So good for you, Joshua. Happy birthday to you. He's 20, guys. That twitching celestial ball of singing supernova is 20 years old. Ugh. The world is gray and dying.

Should I grudgingly put J. Sanch up here? I guess I should. She sang some fool song about stuttering and the judges were all "This is very hard to sing and you did well," and I guess she did. But I still find her to be an overly air conditioned Express store, she's got a chilly shopping mall vibe about her. Like when you go to the mall in the evening because you forgot you need something to wear to something the next day, and there are still people at the mall, but it's later and people are starting to leave and it's Tuesday and you're bored from being tired or tired from being bored and there you are, with the sound of the metal hangers sliding across the racks, there's nothing here for you is there, and then Jessica Sanchez starts playing, or has been playing, all metallic and smooth on the music system. Jessica Sanchez is a Marshalls at 9pm in November. Specifically, she's the Arsenal Mall in Watertown, Massachusetts at 9pm on a November Tuesday in 1996. So, that's my issue with her. But yes, technically speaking, she does sing well.

Another good duet of the evening was Elise Termossamonni and Phillip Phils singing "Somebody That I Used to Know" or whatever that Gotye (is it supposed to sound like Gaultier?) song is called. The point is that Phillip did his usual growl/scratch/bark thing to good effect (even though he really does seem to look sicker and sicker with each passing week, doesn't he?) and Elise howled away as always and it sounded good. It sounded contemporary and new and all that, a rare feat on a show where everything seems strangely old and fusty. And actually, Elise did a competent job on her solo sing, doing Lady Gaga's "You and I," so a good evening for Elise overall. She and Phillip Phils make a good pair. I wonder if they're dating... [giggle]


That said, I must say that I am getting a wee bit sick of Phil's whole routine. He kinda lazily and one-notely sang a Maroon 5 tune and no one was really into it, especially not him, so I think that maybe it's time for him to go home. Let him get some rest before the tour. Whereas someone like Bowersox, who clearly did not enjoy the endeavor after a short time, stuck the thing out and blew the doors down every week, Phil has just kinda given up. Maybe it's his failing health, maybe it's just that the show isn't for him. Maybe it's both. Whatever the reason or reasons, I think it's time we give him want he wants and let him go lie down and stop pretending he's having a good ol' bee-bop time up there on the Idol stage. Come on down now, Phil. It's OK, you can come down. Yup, it's over. For now at least. Until the tour, which will actually probably be much much worse. But yeah, this part can soon be over. I know Jimmy Iodine seems to think that the main rivalry is between Colton and Phil, but I think Colton is so far ahead in that race that it's not even worth talking about.

Oh Hollie. Oh dear. The poor little translucent bit of seashell knows she's in danger of elimination, like really imminent and immediate danger, so she tried to pack a big thing into her version of "Perfect" by Pink, but... it just didn't get there. The bus broke down somewhere on the side of the road, the glittering city in view in the distance, but still miles away. I feel bad for Hollie, adorable and sprightly as she is, and having such a cute little friendship with turtle boy Joshua as she apparently does, but the strain is showing too much, she's falling apart. I wish she'd waited and done this show at like 22 or something, though I suppose there's no indication that this show will be around in five years, so it could be for the best that she did it now. The point is I like her but I don't think she's ready. It would be sad in an "Aw, Hollie" kind of way if she went home tonight, but it would be fair and make sense and help the show carry on at a decent pace. Sorry to say it, Ms. Hollie. But that's that.


Our dark lord, shaved direwolf Colton, sang that "Love the Way You Lie" song last night, perched behind a piano, wailing into the microphone like his favorite emo-religio types do. It sounded perfectly good, perfectly Colton. It will earn him votes, that is for sure. But the best parts of Colton's performance were A) when the guest mentor said something about Colton discovering himself or something and B) when the Tyler witch, issuing a judgment, said "Colton still hasn't found his top yet." Which... I... Boom. Dead. Exploded into all the pieces there are of me. Every molecule, every atom, every proton and neutron and even smaller piece. Gone. Smithereens. Blown away in the wind of my apartment. Colton hasn't found his top yet. At that sentence Ryan Seacrest immediately turned and just ran straight up the wall, just up up up he went until he reached the ceiling and then turned around and ran back down the wall and over to Colton to give the voting numbers. Right after, he said "I'm sorry," and walked briskly away and a PA found him a few minutes later dunking his head in the toilet and the PA asked what was going on and Ryan said "Sorry, sorry, just trying to clear my head, just... Just go away." And so the PA did.

And after the show, after all the lights were off, the discarded posters and everything cleaned up and thrown away, Colton stood there on the stage, thinking about what the witch had said to him. All his dark energy churning and swirling into a question mark inside of him. He stood there considering this until he saw a light turn on high up in the control booth. And then, over the god mic, he heard Ryan say "Hey." It echoed throughout the empty theater. Colton raised a hand, gave a small wave to the silhouette he saw in the booth window. "Wanna talk?" Ryan asked on the mic, the words bouncing off the walls, off the bare black floor of the stage. Colton nodded his head. A strange smile flickered across his face. "Yeah," he said quietly. Then "Yeah!" louder, so Ryan could hear it. "Yeah I do!"

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