No More Pencils: Slash (right) took American Idol's Final 4 to school Wednesday night. "Who will graduate from the school of rock? And who will just get schooled?" Ryan Seacrest asked, rhetorically, at the beginning of Wednesday night's episode of American Idol. We wondered, then. I smelled an upset, myself. Just felt it. Kris Allen should be going home, I knew - but the likelihood that America could screw up and shaft Allison Iraheta or Adam Lambert just as easily. (Life's too unfair for Danny Gokey to screw off, so I didn't even entertain that possibility.) Then Kris was safe, then Adam was safe, then Allison was outta there. Allison, we'll miss you like crazy, babes. Sure, you were an annoying teenager with a bathroom closet full of hair dye, but you also had mad microphone skills. And never forget: you were Season 8's last woman standing, and you were eliminated at the point Chris Daughtry was canned back in Season 5. That's a positive omen.
Onward! But first, some statistics: * 64 million votes were cast Tuesday night, the highest number ever outside of a finale. Does this mean that the Idol audience is expanding, or that voting via text message is way easier than voting via telephone call? * Only twice in Idol history has the Top Three consisted of one gender. Back in Season 3, Fantasia, Jasmine Trias, and Diana DeGarmo closed out the show; Season 8 marks the first time the Top Three is a sausage party. * In one of those bits of hammy stagecraft the producers so adore, Kris Allen was enlisted to present Chris Daughtry with a plaque stating that Daughtry has sold 5 million copies worldwide! (It's a good album with a gang of killer singles, but still, wow.) They both have the same name, do you see? Okay, enough with the statistics: * This week's Ford videomercial celebrates well-kept urban neighborhoods, newspapers, and rendering performers as paper doilies to the tune of "Move Along." *This week's group-sing is "School's Out," with Slash and his band. Which, duh, school is almost out for the hopefuls and school kids everywhere - unless their local school boards are skeeved out by swine flu fears. * This is mildly thrilling until Adam, Allison, Danny, and Kris cluster on a stairwell and Allison starts shoving the boys around, at which point it's just straight up contrived. * Danny Gokey on that scream: "I listened to it back and I just laughed and laughed," and "I think it's my funniest moment on Idol, that note." Whatever, dude; we know you were really just punching yourself in the face because you realized that you almost blew your deal there. * So, Paula's new single ("I'm Just Here For The Music"), and her performance thereof. Hmmm. The most interesting thing happening there: the choreography. That, and the stagecraft: pouring sparks, fluttering red streamers, killer lighting cues, the paparazzi simulation. The song itself if diva robo-pop circa 2007; neither you nor I nor anyone else ever need to hear it again.
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* The reunited, about-to-tour No Doubt [Woodlands Pavilion, May 31] were without a doubt (sorry) Wednesday night's high point. Neat to see 'em all back together, pogoing, dressed up more or less just like they used to back in 1997. Gwen in a wifebeater, chain wallet, fake Bjork hairdo, doing pushups at the edge of the stage like Love Angel Music Baby, Gavin and the kids hadn't happened yet; drummer with a Mohawk and too much makeup; Tony grinning with too much gel in his hair. What was the deal with the guy in dreads and a white track suit, off to the side? Was he supposed to be performing an interpretive dance? And you know what? Half the kids singing along out there weren't even born when "Don't Speak" was a hit. * Jeez, these "hometown hero" flashbacks are so icky and manipulative: Syesha Mercado crying about living her dream, David Archuleta getting bumrushed by cheerleaders, Clay Aiken's grandmom incredulous during a motorcade. Look at all those people out there. I mean, I love this show, too, but doesn't anybody have anything better or more important to do beyond cueing up outside a school auditorium or radio station to catch a glimpse of somebody who has just a fleeting chance of becoming culturally important? * Speaking of people who are culturally important, how about this new Daughtry single, "No Surprise"? Starts out like a prom-ish rock song, then the guitars gather momentum and kick. Then it shrinks back into prom-mode, then gets loud again. Not bad, if not as loud and anguished as the songs from the debut. "No Surprise" seems, on first listen, to be a song about realizing that someday we'll all be looking back at the present with some measure of fondness, which is fitting given which Idol episode this is. It's the kind of tune that improves as it progresses; now I'm pretty certain it's gonna be a monster hit. *Daughtry on his Idol elimination: "At the time, it felt like the world was coming to an end, but I got over it 30 seconds later." As ex-Fear Factor host Joe Rogan might say, what a trooper. *Allison's farewell version of "Cry Baby": even more cutting and memorable than the first, a hearty "fuck off" to everyone out there who didn't care enough to vote her into the Top Three, sung with the abandon of someone whose future is brighter than all the lights on the Idol stage illuminated at once. *Simon either doesn't care that Allison's out, or he's very, very angry about it. Hard to say which. This week's Bucky Covington Moment comes from "American Friday Night": "Cheers from a high school football game on an American Friday night/ Chorus of the pledge of allegiance/ As the red ones rewind the fight."