'American Idol': If Wishes Were Horses

Damned interminable Idol!

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Damned interminable Idol! It's at this point in the competition that we have seen these sing-freaks so many times that, like saying a word over and over again ("ask" "ask" "ask"), they've begun to lose all meaning. Who are these jumbles of vocal chords and knobbly elbows? These badly outfitted flesh mannequins, contorting awkwardly under the harsh glare of the Idoldome's false sun? Is anyone bad? No. Is anyone good? Not really. And yet, we must put them in those categories for the sacred and ancient purposes of recapping.

Before we get to those categories, though, there is one thing I should say in favor of these final waning days of the American Idol season. As the competish wears on, everyone starts to get a little punchy. Everyone gets a little weird with it. And none more so than our poor, weary, demon-tormented Ryan Seacrest, our chipper and shellacked Virgil through this most terrifying of songfernos. He's got a big job on this show, shepherding the kids around the stage all night, twice a week. Keeping the Steven Tyler witch from, in a fit of boredom, turning the entire studio audience into a horde of mewling cats. ("I want to hear your meowwww!!!") And obviously pulling all the mysterious levers backstage that keep the show afloat. He's got an important, weighty job, so it's no wonder that by now, by the grizzled, gristly top four, he's a bit tuckered out. So he gets strange and makes odd, giggling jokes about dark private things. It's kind of great!

Like last night there was this whole lame extended commercial for the Rock of Ages movie, in which Adam Shankman went to the Idol house and commanded Phil Phillips to kiss a picture of Jennifer Lopez. Haha, yeah that actually happened. Adam Shankman came to the Idol mansion and somehow Phil got stuck giving him the tour and at one point Shankman pointed to a photo of J.Lo and said "Kiss it! Kiss it!!" Phil hesitated at first, he is a shy fellow after all, but Shankman demanded it, he began rapping Phil on the neck and shoulders with his hard, bony hand. "Kiss her, boy! Kiss her!" And so Phil did, giving the glass a little peck. But Shankman was not pleased. "No, do it sexy." Phil hesitated again. "DO IT SEXY!!" Shankman shrieked, pushing Phil's head into the glass, breaking it, a trickle of blood running down Phil's forehead, but Shankman still smooshing Phil's face into the glass, "Come on, sexy, kiss it, sexy..." so Phil did, he kissed the photo of Jennifer Lopez as hard as he could, while Shankman made "Eyuughh.. yeahh.. Ohh.. Eyguhhhh... Yes.... Oh god..." noises, still firmly gripping Phil's neck. Then a producer ran up from somewhere and started screaming "No, Adam! Not again! Not again!" and the camera cut out and the screen went black.

But that wasn't the funny part! The funny part was when, after this segment, Ryan was standing in the audience next to Shankman and Rock of Ages star Julianne Hough, who is reported to be Ryan Seacrest's girlfriend, whereas her blond, strapping brother Derek is merely Ryan's "accountant." Ryan turned to Julianne and said "I have something to ask you, and it may be a little awkward..." And the audience oohed a brief, sharp, spiraling "Oooh!" because maybe, maybe he was going to propose on live TV? He'd never actually do that, not in a million years, but maybe? Maybe it had been a million and one years? Then he reached into his inside pocket and the audience hummed and Shankman shifted awkwardly and somewhere Dunkleman looked up from his bucket of Popeye's biscuits and, food tumbling out of his mouth, said "Holy thhhit." It was maybe going to happen! Well, heh, of course it was not. But it was still a weird little setup and it got even weirder when Ryan produced some kind of folded parchment paper — that was the best the props department could do? Though, to be fair, the American Idol "props department" is just an assistant rummaging through the junk drawer in Steven Tyler's dressing room, so I guess old parchment is probably what you find in there — and said "Julianne, could you give Tom Cruise this note I wrote for him?" Hahahahaha, WHAT? "Hey America, maybe I'm proposing to my girlfriend... Oh wait, no, nope, I'm actually giving a joke mash note to a gay space alien!! Hahah, what a completely normal and understandable joke. We are having fun." Ry-guy, whatcha doin'? It's the '90s. Just say it already. Remember when Rosie O'Donnell had a "crush" on Tom Cruise that she used to, y'know, hide things? Well this is like that in reverse. What I'm saying is that Ryan Seacrest is a big, honking, ain't no bones about it... Rosie O'Donnell, fan.

ANYWAY. That was this crazy weird thing that happened and afterward Julianne was like, "Wait, didn't we write that together last night," which creates this image of Ryan and Julianne being alone together at night giggling about some beyond strange American Idol joke and it was just... The whole thing was just very odd. But I loved it! More like this, please.


I'm gonna say it. I have to. Phil Phillips sorta won the night, did he not? Sure he was still reeling from his Shankman attack, and who wouldn't be, but he got his stuff together anyway and he just did it right. The challenge of the evening was to sing one old-timey song (god there have been so many freaking old-timey songs this season) and one song "you wish you wrote." Which is kind of a fun, telling idea. For his old-timey tune, Phil Phillips sang "Have You Ever Seen the Rain?" by CCR and, y'know, it was perfectly good and fine and that's a great song, y'know? So yes, it was well chosen and he sang it, dare I say, dashingly. Good for you, Phil Phillips. Now kiss this picture of Adamn Shankman. NO! Kiss it sexy...

For his song he wishes he wrote, Phil Phillips made the genuinely very genius choice of "Volcano" by Tommy Lee Jones & Gaby Hoffman. Oh, wait, no, sorry, looking at the wrong notes. It's "Volcano" by Damien Rice, and it was an excellent choice! Becuase it's got that kinda slinky, growly quality that he likes, but it's modern and interesting and is a little less, I dunno, hokey or cliched or jam band-y than DMB. So Phil blasted the thing straight into the audience's lady loins and everyone shivered and at one point I think I saw J.Lo turn into Phoenix from X-Men while the Tyler witch hooted and cooed, witch staff waving in circles, whipping up a storm of lusty confusion in the Idoldome. Randy clutched the desk and began to shake and said "What's... happening... to... me... Phil... you chose ... too... wisely..." and by then he was mostly bone and old hair. It was good! Well done, Phil. Now, plant a wet one on this snap of Tom Cruise, won't you? C'mon, that's a boy, nice and sensual like...

OK. I will say this once and I will never say it again. Jessica Sanchez sang "And I Am Telling You" quite competently last night. It was a good performance. She is still as boring as Boise (sorry Boise), and I hated the slow-clappy judges standing-O that she got at the end there, but yes, OK, fine, Jessica Sanchez can blow. Though to be fair, I never said she couldn't. Girl could always blow. She just never had anything else behind it. I don't really think she had much behind "And I Am Telling You," but it was sung well enough that we can overlook that. Just this once though. Just this once, Sanchy. Also, can we please 1) for the love of God stop calling this is a Jennifer Holliday song? (At least she didn't call it a Jennifer Hudson song.) It is a song written by Henry Krieger and Tom Eyen for the musical Dreamgirls. Is "America" a Chita Rivera or a Rita Moreno song? No, it is a Bernstein/Sondheim song. So please. Stop it with this "And I Am Telling You" stuff. And 2) can we please put this song away for a while? We get it. It's big and dramatic and whatever, but come on. Let's just... ease up on it. OK? We've heard it. It's around. Yes. OK. Done.


I am putting Joshua in the bad category because I barely remember his performances but I think he might have sang Jersh Grooban's "You Raise Me Up," which immediately puts you in the bad category. And also I believe he sang "It's a Man's World" in the "song you wish you wrote" section and, what? That's the song you wish you wrote? Out of all the songs? There are like dozens of songs that have been written. Maybe hundreds, even. And that's the one you chose? Triflin'. Honestly. That is kind of an offensive song! Just not good.

Also not good were the duet performances. Just a few cans of stink, those were. Josh-Josh and Phil-Phil got together on a Maroon 5 tune and it was technically fine but it was stylistically so thunderingly annoying that it cannot be abided. Sorry dudes. You got LEVINE'D. And then the two goils sang some raggedy old Bangles song on feather swings or something and it was not good and Randy called it "weird" which was perfect and the best thing Randy's said all season because that's all it was, just "weird," weird in a mild and quiet way, so I'm sorry girls.

And I'm sorry Hollie, but you did not do all that well last night! Sure she bellowed out a Journey song ("Faithfully") with her usual sad faerie belt, but it felt lost and faraway. Even more off was the song she wished she wrote, Bonnie Raitt's "I Can't Make You Love Me," which is truly one of the great songs, just very good A+ to that song. So it wasn't exactly a bad choice, but to then sing it like some Celine Dion ballad with a full complement of violins and other stringed instruments? Incorrect, young creature. Fatally incorrect. Hollie needs to de-cheese, not cheese-up. But she cheesed last night. Oh god she cheesed big time. Cheesed all over the place. They were cleaning up cheese for hours last night. Poor Sven the janitor stood on the stage with his old mop, scrubbing up cheese, and he sighed and shook his little old head and said "Oh Hollie... Stop it vit the cheese..." But no one was there to hear him. It was just Sven and the ghosts, who don't listen much anymore.


I think Hollie will go home but what the hell do I know. I've been wrong every day since basically Coltron. So who knows. Jessica Sanchez will go home. Sure, why not. (Oh god please let that happen.) Skylar Laine will come back. Could happen! Stranger things and all! But yeah, I think Hollie. Sorry Holls! We'll miss you. But don't worry, once you're gone, we'll make Phil kiss a picture of you every day in remembrance. We'll make sure it's real good kissin' too. Isn't that right, Phil? Oh dear, no, jeez, don't cry, Phil. Please, don't cry.

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