Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Tucker-ed out

This week's American Idol punishment deftly fit the crime: Any contestant electing to sing a Kelly Clarkson song on the show, as Lisa Tucker did for Tuesday's abysmal "Music of the 21st Century" night, is just asking to be kicked off. Sure enough, America obliged, and the 16-year-old is on her way home.

Ever the true pro, Lisa remained eerily smiley and composed while standing at the middle of the stage, waiting for Ryan Seacrest to read the results. Once she got kicked off, Paris cried harder than she did.

Contrast that with Lisa's companion in the bottom two, Katharine McPhee, who appeared she'd suffered a blow and was doing all she could to hold herself together. Then again, perhaps Lisa's poise came from experience - she'd been in the bottom three the past two weeks, too. (Ace, incidentally, was the week's third-lowest vote-getter.)

Now, to some notes.

How was Bucky not in the bottom three? No, seriously, I want to know: Even if he probably didn't deserve to get kicked off tonight, per se, how did he end up avoiding the Seacrest-enforced march to the middle of the stage?

Watch and learn, sorta: Wonder how the judges would have analyzed Shakira and Wyclef Jean's performance of "Hips Don't Lie," which had Jean sporting a Fugees t-shirt (ha!) and Shakira sporting the ever popular mermaid-belly dancer look (awesomely messy, curly hair; sparkly bra top; long, flowy blue skirt that doubled as a dance prop). Say what you will about Shakira's often-unusual music and questionable English vocabulary, but the one thing she ain't is cookie-cutter. Tell me, do you think she and 'Clef really made that song their own?

Naw, it couldn't have been! Was that really Justin Guarini, sans the Sideshow Bob hair, in the audience last night? If so, he was in the right place: Not on a stage, and not singing. :-)

Shameless plugs, Seacrest-style: "What could be cooler than getting a sneak peek of Fox's new movie, 'Ice Age: The Meltdown'?" Seacrest cheerfully asked in a voice-over, as contestants piled out of a golf cart in front of a movie studio. Uh, well, we could think of a few things, Ry...

Hyperbole, Seacrest-style: After kicking off Lisa, Seacrest called her "one of the greatest contestants I've ever seen on American Idol." Probably not a whole lot of consolation, considering, but goodness me...

Cheese 1, Ace 0: Maybe we shouldn't be surprised by this, but Ace sure does seem to revel in Idol's cheesy side - check him out looking way too excited to be in that commercial to "Give a Little Love."

Creeping commercialism, chapter 548: The "Idol" show featured a performance of "Hips Don't Lie" and a plug for the upcoming "Ice Age" movie. The commercials during the "Idol" show featured...a performance of "Hips Don't Lie" and two plugs for the upcoming "Ice Age" movie. Uh huh.

Next week: "Idol" goes country. Here's guessing Kellie and Bucky's hearts aren't too achy-breaky about that...

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

21st Century "Idol" meltdown

If you have friends who hate American Idol, make sure they never see Tuesday's "Music of the 21st Century" show. Ever. They will use it against you, and with good reason: Perhaps more than any "Idol" performance show yet, this one showcased all the things people who don't watch the series decry and ridicule - poor song choices, pale imitations of Actual Performing Artists, a startling lack of originality. It's all the more distressing because it's just one week removed from a show so entertaining, it had you wondering how you could even pick a bottom three - because everyone was so decent. Tuesday, I kept waiting for promising contestants to toss me a life preserver and rescue me from the insanity. Alas, all I got were boulders. Mercifully, the show was only an hour long.

That's not to say Tuesday's installment made for bad TV, because it had its moments. Paula, as usual, embarrassed herself enough to ensure that. But, oh, the music. Oh, the agony. This was a night when Bucky, who seemed destined to be kicked off, was one of the better contestants. This was a night when, less than one minute in, "Idol" got all postmodern and meta on us, with contestant Lisa Tucker announcing she'd be singing Kelly Clarkson's "Because of You." Yes, an American Idol contestant singing a song made popular American Idol winner.

The night's events led me to conclude either:
A) Wow, there hasn't been much good music this century.
B) Wow, American Idol contestants have really dubious taste in music.
As much as a case can be made for "A" - after all, this is the decade that's given us "My Humps," "I'm N Luv (Wit A Stripper)" and the reality of Nickelback as a band that plays arenas - I think "B" is a lot more likely. How else can we explain - well, let's just look at the night chronologically. Surely, this cannot be the best music of the past six years:

  • Lisa belts out what Randy calls a "not that good," "just a'ight" version of "Because of You" - oh, how popular these "something in my childhood sucked" songs have become! Paula calls it "a tough choice" and says she ought to have done something more to make the performance distinct. Simon is already souring on the evening. "I went for it," Lisa tells Ryan Seacrest. She shrugs her shoulders. Looks like she might be shrugging them right off the show tomorrow night.
  • But wait, ah, here's Kellie! "I’m singing 'Suds in the Bucket' by Sara Evans, because it’s such a fun song," she says. "It’s like your typical fairy tale story, except with a little twist. Instead of your Prince Charming coming in on a white stallion, he comes in on a pickup truck, and instead of moving to a castle, you go to Vegas and you get hitched." She grins widely. This is why we love Kellie! Who else would pick a song called "Suds in the Bucket"? But then she starts singing, and it's boring, totally run-of-the-mill, like she's back on "Gimme the Mike! Charlotte." The judges hate the song choice. It's beneath her, they say. "Look, Kellie, the reality is, you’ve got six years of songs to choose from, and you choose a song called Soap Suds in a Bucket," Simon says. "No, it's cute!" she interjects. "I mean, come on," he persists. "There are thousands and thousands of songs to choose from and you choose some gimmicky, rodeo, lassoing whatever (nonsense) song."
  • Ace then regales us with Train's "Drops of Jupiter." He sincerely likes this song. He sings earnestly. He is not bad. He is also not very good. Mid-performance, he pulls away his shirt to reveal - a scar? He ends the song gazing into the camera, arm outstretched. Randy is not pleased. "I don’t know what’s happening," he says. Oh, Randy, you're not the only one. Then, there was this.
Paula: "I still think you did a good job. Is that a scar you were showing us?"
Ace, gravely: "It’s a real scar. I have a real scar on my chest." (He pulls away his shirt as camera zooms in on said scar.)
Paula (she who was once accused of sleeping with a contesant): "One day you’ll have to explain how you got that one."
Ace, grinning: "You got it." (At this point, Simon and Randy simultaneously throw up their hands and look at Paula, "oh, crap" written all over their faces. The crowd whoops.)
Simon: “Paula, listen Paula, no no no no.”
Paula, with a "What, me?" look: "What’re you talking about?"

  • Taylor: Aw, he’s so goofy! What is this black leather jacket and other evidence of stylists at work? (The judges, of course, don't fail to make comparisons to Clay Aiken's infamous makeover for '70s night, replete with the red leather jacket Simon apparently cannot forget - in a bad way.) Taylor sings a more unusual choice, Ray LaMontagne’s “Trouble," saying he wants to show a great vocal range. He does, and eschews his usual manic gestures to stay put behind the mic stand. Exciting, it's not, exactly, but in this sea of ridiculousness it's a welcome safe harbor.
  • Mandisa, meanwhile, praises God and scorches the stage with "Wanna Praise You" by gospel duo Mary Mary. The judges love her voice, but are not impressed by the song. Simon calls it "a bit indulgent." Paula attempts what she surely must think is a witty remark: "All I know is that there’s a new religion and 40 million people have just joined to the church of Mandisa," she says somewhat stone-faced, apparently trying to get the comment out before it escapes her. Mandisa politely shakes her head, either in acceptance of this bizarre praise or, more likely, thinking, "No, I'll stick with the old-time religion, thanks."
  • Oh, hurrah, it's Chris, come to save us from this drudgery! Ryan, though, is concerned. Will it be possible for Chris to pick songs going forward? He is awfully partial to the modern rock style, after all. What if they have a love song night? What if it involves Celine Dion? Chris is not worried. "I’ve got some of that up my sleeve," he says. "I think I’ll surprise everybody." Then, Chris surprises next to no one and performs a Creed song - "What If," which he calls one of his favorite rock songs of the 21st century. He rocks out and intensely barks lyrics, but at heart this song is a dog. Randy says it wasn't his favorite performance, though it is a good indication of the kind of record Chris would make. Because clearly, the world has not heard from enough Creed-like bands. Simon labels the choice indulgent: "There is a line you don’t cross," he says. "Creed would not be seen dead on this show. The show is American Idol. You’ve got to start showing, in my opinion, a different side of you. I think you’ve gone too far with that song tonight. It stands out, but I’m just saying I think you’ve got to start showing at this point another side. You can’t keep doing this week after week after week."
  • Katharine: Ok, here's some more hope. Oh, wait: “This week, I’m going to be singing Christina Aguilera’s ‘The Voice Within,’" she says. Well, there goes that. And what is this shirt she's wearing! It's Medieval Times crossed with horseback riding attire mixed with bohemian weirdness! Anyway, she starts of shakily but sings a very difficult song rather admirably, if not originally. Simon proclaims it "the best tonight," but then, she's one of his favorites.
  • Bucky? Bucky! Hey, he's still here, on the show, singing "Real Good Man" by Tim McGraw because he flat-out likes it, decked out in a sharp Western-style shirt and a McGraw-like black cowboy hat. At times the band drowns him out, but he's in his comfort zone. "Yo dawg, this is definitely the right kind of song for you," Randy says. "You're back at home in your country suit." Paula, meanwhile, criticizes Bucky's diction, while not actually speaking all that clearly herself. Simon says if it was a paid concert, this would be the point at which he'd leave.
  • Paris sings Beyonce’s "Work It Out." This has potential. She actually looks her age. She's energetic. She's...shaking her butt and whipping her hair around like a mini-headbanger of sorts. Randy calls it fearless and "the bomb." Simon calls it "precocious," like a "little girl pretending to be Beyonce." Paula makes an age-inappropriate aside that the Pussycat Dolls may be calling Paris to star in their show - which, mind you, is a scantily clad burlesque act.
  • So who does that leave? Elliott. I’d forgotten he existed. Not a good sign! He sings "I Don't Wanna Be," by Gavin DeGraw, an excellent song...also performed by Bo Bice last year. Elliott says he doesn't want to treat it like Bo did, though. He wants to give it a more soulful vibe. He succeeds partially, but doesn't bring much personality to the stage. This could doom his chances. Randy, Paula and Simon liked what they saw, but then, the previous nine contestants haven't really set the bar too high. "I loved the arrangement, and I love that you made it your own, because you are one funky white boy," Paula says.

After all of this, it's time for Idol to broadcast the recap of tonight's performances. No, no, no way am I going to watch this. I have had more than enough. Besides, if Idol's less-than-tribute to the 2000s wasn't strange enough, apparently Shakira is performing on Wednesday's show. Get it, she's made music this decade, too! Go figure. Boring, at least, won't be an option there...

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Kevin, the sky has fallen

Chicken Little, the sky - er, curtain - has really fallen. Yes, Wednesday, 16-year-old Kevin Covais departed "American Idol," leaving the show with a dork deficiency...and serious confusion among the "granny voters" who apparently formed Kev's key constituency. Where will they transfer their loyalties now that their boy is gone? (Fingers crossed hoping Ace isn't the beneficiary!)

"Chicken Little leaves us!" Ryan Seacrest said after breaking the news, giving the Kevin a big hug. "What are we going to do without you?" Ah, I'm sure they'll find a way to go on somehow, just struggling along week after week with the many promising finalists that remain. Besides, this was probably just about the right time for Kevin to hit the trail. If he'd stuck around any longer, that whole "why, why are you still here?" syndrome may have struck.

In typically self-deprecating fashion, Kevin said he hopes people will look back and say "Remember that skinny, nerdy kid from season five? He had some talent." Mission accomplished. Now, homeward bound - high school musicals await!

The night's notes:

Note to self - find a new job coach: For the second night in a row, Paula offered career advice to "Idol" finalists. Considering her always-insightful commentary and charmed career as a Laker girl, late-'80s dance-pop star and, well, whatever it was she did between 1992 and 2002, I'm sure this meant a lot to the contestants. Tuesday, Paula said she saw a big career in Lisa Tucker's future. (Lisa finished third from the bottom in this week's voting.) Wednesday, Paula told the night's bottom two - Kevin and Bucky - that "the experience of this show is that people go onto great success whether you win or not," then cited Bo Bice, Clay Aiken and Season 3's big-voiced Jennifer Hudson as examples. (Aw, what, no Jim Verraros and Camile Velasco? And wasn't that Ryan Starr hangin' in the land of the washed-up known as "The Surreal Life"?) Point taken, kind of, but Bo and Clay finished second - otherwise known as "a lot better than 11th." Jennifer's not a real examplary testament to the nation's musical acumen, either, considering she was unceremoniously booted midway through the Year of John Stevens, coming in 7th despite obvious superiority to most of her opponents. Remember who finished above her? Anyway, apparently she's now moved on to a movie role...

Speaking of selflessness: Ryan Seacrest complimented Barry Manilow for flying in specially to make last-minute musical checks on the arrangements and band Monday, then coming back to sing Wednesday. Yep, it is a pretty major sacrifice to appear on the #1 TV show in the nation - 33 million viewers, baby! - when you totally coincidentally have a new album out. (Did we mention it's '50s themed? Well, if not, Seacrest sure did!)

Do I smell a host-off? Seacrest may be a polished pro, but Manilow knows a thing or two about commanding a stage, too. During the introduction to his performance of "Love Is a Many Splendored Thing," I could've sworn he was giving Ryan a run for his money. In fact, I'd almost say he out-Seacrested Seacrest, but...well, it takes a lot to venture all the way out on that limb.

And you thought (hoped?) you'd never see him again! Hey look, it's That Guy Who Sang "Copacabana" in the semifinals, rushing onstage to meet Barry Manilow. "Idol," you have a heart of gold for letting this man return...and in a fashion just as ridiculous as that in which he departed, no less!

Sign o' the night: "Barry, U are my American Idol" (Alas, he's well over the show's age limit.)

Now'd be the time for a blonde joke: We know all about her tarantula eyelashes, the shoes she bought on sale, and the seam she felt like she was going to bust. Wednesday, Kellie Pickler's chronic verbal diarrhea continued. Aw, Kellie, don't you know you're not supposed to respond to Seacrest during the "you're safe" part of the show? And yet, there you were, toothily, obtusely asking "Whas'a ballsy?" after Seacrest told you Simon thought your performance was "sexy" and "ballsy"...

Is it just the hair? During the show I decided that Ace looks kind of, sort of like that guy from "Joe Millionaire," but I guess not everyone's seeing that. Or, at least, one of my fellow "Idol" consultants informed me she wasn't seeing it. Perhaps I'm misguided. Perhaps I need a performance show rather than a filler-packed results night to keep my mind from wandering...especially in the direction of bad, bad, awful reality shows. Perhaps...I'll see you next week!

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

A Barry interesting evening

Hey, look, it's Clay Aiken at age 60! Oh, wait,'s Barry Manilow, the special guest for American Idol's 1950s night.

Manilow and Idol have met before, and they're a match made in heaven (or hell, depending on how you feel about them). Both have produced their fair share of schlock. And consider this: Though rock 'n' roll began in the 1950s, you wouldn't know it from Manilow's new album of '50s songs...and you'd hardly know it by watching Idol's '50s night, either.

The Idol finalists traveled to Las Vegas to meet Manilow and practice with him, and despite initial skepticism - or ignorance - the Brooklyn native famous for "Copacabana" and "Mandy" won them over
with his arranging skills, enthusiasm and overall musicianship.

"I just wasn't too fond of his work, to be honest with you," said Elliott Yamin, who wowed the judges and crowd with "Teach Me Tonight." "(But) by the end of our session, I was a true Barry 'fanilow.' I didn't realize what an awesome songwriter this guy was, and how much emotion he puts into his songs."

Speaking of, the Idol judges are fond of contestants who "stay true to themselves" and "make songs their own." But in some ways, doesn't it seem that that can just mean making songs sound like the contestants' preferred genre, regardless of whether it's unique? For instance, Chris Daughtry consistently performs polished, radio-ready modern rock - something hardly unusual in the music world, even though it deservedly stands out on Idol. When he took the stage Tuesday, wearing black, he transformed Johnny Cash's legendary "I Walk The Line" in the same style, sounding a whole lot more like, say, 1990s rockers Live than anyone would probably care to admit. And Ace Young, he of catalog-model looks, gave "In the Still of the Night" a smooth jazz-pop sheen, finishing with falsetto Manilow asked him to do. As if Ace needed to be encouraged to do more falsetto! Quick, bring me a Boyz II Men album to erase the memory.


If this is love: "The critics love him, too," Ryan Seacrest said, narrating a voice-over about Manilow. "His mantelpiece is cluttered with awards like Tonys, Grammys and Emmys." Cluttered, eh? A quick check of the Internet turned up one Tony, one Emmy and a couple of Grammys. And that's to say nothing of how the critics really feel...

Advantage, Simon (and common sense):
After Taylor "the Silver Fox" Hicks took on Buddy Holly's "Not Fade Away," Paula and Simon sparred. Sigh.
Simon: "Taylor, I like you. You've got a great voice, but that was like some hideous party performance."
Hicks (smiling, laughs): "That's what the '50s were. That was the 50s!"
Paula (to Hicks): "(Simon's) jealous you can dance. He doesn't know how to dance."
Simon: "Paula, Paula, Paula, Paula, Paula - you're talking rubbish. You are."
Paula: "You cannot dance. You cannot dance, Simon, and the whole world knows it."
Simon: "This is a singing competition. It's not a dancing competition. It's a singing competition, in case you've forgotten."
Ah, so that explains choreographer and dancer Paula's ramblings - she thinks she's been judging fancy footwork all this time!

Could it be the hair? Seacrest on Hicks, who sported a white button-down, white shoes and a light blue-gray old man suit that oddly matched his hair: "Hasn't he sort of morphed? It's George Clooney, Jay Leno and a bit of Phil Donahue, all together."

Old Idols don't disappear... they just end up in the show's audience, like Jasmine Trias (wow, that was a long time ago) and Constantine Maroulis did Tuesday. Oh, Constantine. Just looking at you makes me feel greasy.

You're not the only one: "There are times tonight when I feel like I'm trapped in some kind of high school musical or something," Simon said after Lisa Tucker's performance.

His lips are sealed, kinda: Was it just me, or did Elliott seem to be making a concerted effort to keep his mouth closed, thus concealing his much-scrutinzed teeth?

The best: Mandisa - loved the elegant attire and classy look, loved her vocal range on "I Don't Hurt Anymore." ("It's like a great stripper song," Simon said. As a compliment. "I absolutely loved it.") Paris - Only 17, Randy said she "blew it out the box" performing "Fever." Elliott. Chris (
"I think you're the first artist we've had on the show who's refused to compromise," Simon said). Katharine ("Come Rain or Come Shine"). Kellie ("Walkin' After Midnight").

The bottom three: Bucky - the hair, fortunately, was back to normal. The friendly smile was intact. But his take on Buddy Holly's "Oh Boy," Simon noted, was below-average and "nothing more than a pointless karaoke performance." (After all, when Paula can only come up with "You had a lot of fun on stage" and "People love you," you know you could have done better.)
Lisa - She's obviously talented, and I cheered the return of her curly locks. But things went downhill once she began a just-not-very interesting "Why Do Fools Fall In Love."
Kevin - "Kevin is the sweetest of them all," Manilow said. Perhaps so. With his buttoned-up blue polo shirt, Chicken Little looked like he was on his way to math class Tuesday. Instead, he sang "When I Fall In Love." Not bad, but at this point...

Thursday, March 16, 2006

McGhee, we hardly knew ye

Was anyone actually surprised when Melissa McGhee got kicked off American Idol last night? No? That's what I thought. Even she didn't look stunned to be headed home to Florida, greeting the news with an only mildly crestfallen shrug.

In many ways her exit was inevitable. Not only did she forget the words to her song (for shame! Bad "Idol" finalist!) and sort of waver throughout, but she had that First One Kicked Off quality: You know, the kind of decent-enough but hardly unique voice, personality and nondescript appearance common to pretty much every "Idol" finalist who's gotten the boot in the early weeks, along the lines of someone you went to high school with and now can only vaguely picture, and who might cause you to think "I know that person from somewhere, sorta, kinda, maybe," if you passed him or her at the mall or a bar, or such. Come to think of it, that's probably where most people will be seeing Melissa from now on.

That aside, I was 66 percent wrong about last night's bottom three, an error rate I hope to avoid in my recently completed NCAA tournament bracket. Kellie Pickler: not in the bottom three! Bucky Covington: Also not in the bottom three! Ace Young, with his dark, flowing locks and the sort of handsomness that causes at least Paula to swoon and predict he'll stick around the competition a long time? In the bottom three, along with Lisa Tucker. But you know what, I'm ok with that, because in the end, the person who did get kicked off deserved to go.

Next week: Barry Manilow returns to "Idol" for 1950's night. Be afraid, be very afraid.

Random asides:

You know you've crossed the "Idol" line when... You make a homemade sign cheering on the show's host, as one woman apparently did Wednesday. Ryan Seacrest started the evening standing next to said woman and sign, which was on yellow posterboard and said "RYAN."

"Puberty," the before and after: Kevin Covais, 16, doesn't usually, uh, exude testosterone anyway, but he looked about 10 years old sitting next to Ace Young.

What exactly was he doing back there? Bucky sure did emerge smiling from the back of the SUV shown during the commercial where the Final 12 sang Toad the Wet Sprocket's "All I Want."

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Idol's Night o' Wonder

In the brief, illustrious history of “American Idol,” there is no artist whose work contestants have more consistently mauled, tortured or otherwise rendered soulless than Stevie Wonder, he of heartfelt, technically demanding brilliance.

So what theme did the “Idol” powers that be pick for Tuesday’s show, the first night featuring this year’s 12 finalists? Why, Stevie Wonder, of course. Oh, irony is cruel.

But wait, Stevie’s
in on it! On the show! Chatting with the contestants and providing sage musical wisdom! He’s funny, and warm and patient! And to further the shock: Some of the performances were seriously good (though no match for the originals), delivered by contestants who knew and respected Wonder’s music!

Granted, it took a while to get to those, past the kind of cheesy clip montage producers usually save ‘til the end of the show and past an abysmal performance Kellie Pickler’s probably going to want to forget.

The normally sparky, spunky Albemarle 19-year-old was forced into unfamiliar territory on Wonder night and it showed, as she delivered a listless, shaky rendition of “Blame It On The Sun.” Randy called it “a non-event…like it didn’t even really happen.” Simon said “everything went wrong tonight,” calling it her worst performance and “boring…like it was never going to end.” Even Paula – yes, Paula! – called it “too safe,” though she tried to recover by complimenting Pickler’s appearance. Pickler remained chipper throughout, cracking jokes and smiling amid the criticism.

And then there was Kevin Covais. Oh, Kevin: the skinny, pale, bespectacled 16-year-old Long Islander who occupies the bizarre middle ground between John Stevens (boring, can’t sing, square and seemingly not really too in on that fact) and Clay Aiken (hilarious, can sing, square and proud of it). He knows, he said, that he’s a sex symbol, and gosh darn it, he had to live up to that! So he did. By singing “Part-Time Lover” and dancing, though I suspect he’s not even at the point in his life where “1/16-time Lover” would be an apt tune to sing. (Give the boy points for deadpan humor and self-awareness, though.) With Covais warbling lyrics like “undercover passion on the run” and “knowing it’s so wrong, but feeling so right,” the result was full-time laughter, though his vocals were actually pretty on-target.
The American Idol he’s not, but he shouldn’t plan on buying a ticket home just yet.

As Simon correctly noted (how that’s getting to be a pattern…), the second half of the show blew the bland first half out of the water, with classy Katharine McPhee’s effortless “Until You Come Back to Me,” Taylor Hicks tearing into “Living For The City,” Paris Bennett belting out “All I Do” and Chris Daughtry rocking “Higher Ground” with mic stand in hands a la Bo Bice.

Now, for list o’ awards, notes and such:

Achin’ for Clay: Clay Aiken’s way-clever guest appearance on NBC’s “Scrubs” aired opposite the final half-hour of Tuesday’s “Idol.”

Creepy possible fetish moment #1: “I love the shoes, though, man. I’m a man that loves shoes.” – Randy Jackson, on Pickler’s retro-fabulous pumps.

Creepy possible fetish moment #2: Ryan Seacrest praising Mandisa’s soft-skinned ankles as he removed her painful high heels.

Fighting words: “It’s all right, I wasn’t expecting much from you anyway. So.” Kevin, after Simon called his performance “the point in the show where Stevie Wonder turns down the volume.”

I think we just need to repeat this exchange in full.
Kellie Pickler, speaking to Seacrest after Simon lambasted her performance: “I got some new eyelashes. I feel like I have tarantulas on.”
Seacrest: “Aren’t you an arachnophobic?”
Pickler: “Yes, I’m terrified of bugs.” (looks somewhat confused)
Seacrest: “You don’t look so scared right now.”
Pickler: “I am, but they’re not real tarantulas.”
Seacrest: “We could do this for three hours if you want.”

Most unwelcome news: Randy asserting that, “no, baby,” the dreaded “dawg pound” isn’t gone – instead, it just got bigger, and now includes The Entire Audience. The Audience responds by barking halfheartedly. “Oh, Simon, can we take it?” Seacrest asks. “I don’t know.”

Please tell me it’s too soon for this kind of self-reference: Simon says McPhee reminds him vocally of Kelly Clarkson.

Profundity in action: “Here’s a guy who’s not just battling blindness, but battling the same thing we all are, which is life,” said Ace Young, noting he was impressed, overjoyed and overwhelmed to meet Stevie Wonder.

So the answer is yes? “Taylor has feeling, and I believe that feeling is coming from his soul,” said Wonder, after Hicks stood near him wearing a t-shirt reading “Got soul?”

Trend unlikely to continue: Was it just me, or did Paula actually seem pretty coherent?

Trend likely to continue: For the second week in a row, a contestant made fun of Seacrest’s hair.

Worst dance moves: Wait, an award’s not worth giving if everyone qualifies!

Best performances: Katharine, Taylor, Paris, Chris.

Bottom 3: Bucky – Love this Rockingham guy’s enthusiasm for the music, like his voice, adore that he recently gave sweet tea a shout-out on national TV…still think he and his blond, flowing “Jessica Simpson hair,” as Simon called it, aren't long for the competition. Melissa – dude, yo, all right, so check it out, you’ve got a decent voice, but you forgot the lyrics to your song! Kellie – see above.

Who’s going home? Not Kellie. (Yes, this is a cop-out. However, feel free to share more conclusive thoughts.)