Can we reasonably agree that disco itself - the music, that is - isn't so horrible? What's worth detesting, looking back in time, are the associated lingo, fashions and overall smarmy vibe of that bygone era, which goes a long, long way toward explaining why the disco-themed parts of reality-show competitions are inevitably unwatchable. This is American Idol's "Disco Week." I'd be lying if I said I'd been awaiting this with bated breath, though the promise of two contestants heading home was certainly tantalizing. Then I watched Tuesday night's episode. Here's what I came away with: *This week's Bottom Three will be a mirror image of last week's - as will this week's Bottom Two. So Matt Giraud, Anoop Desai and Lil Rounds will be on the chopping block, then Anoop will return to safety, then - the chaff out of the way, at last - Season 8 will really get interesting.
* Vince Neil is in the audience, and he seems especially sunny and happy for some reason. * Idol producers: I realize that you're valiantly attempting not to run over, time-wise, but if you want to sustain everyone's interest, you need to con some star or washed-up star into mentoring this show every week. Aren't there a few surviving Bee Gees out there?
* Screw the judges. I really liked the arrangement Allison Iraheta went with for Aretha Franklin's "Hot Stuff" - a slow-burning balladeer's intro that quickened the pace a bit once we'd made it into the meat of the song. She deserved her standing ovation; Allison is back.
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* I get the sense that Lil Rounds simply doesn't care anymore: she knows the gig is up, the shoe has dropped, the writing's on the way, insert your preferred applicable metaphor here. Ergo the skintight era-appropriate outfit, ergo the disasterous, karaoke version of Chaka Khan's "I'm Every Woman."
Why she tried to defend herself Tuesday night is beyond me; casters of sympathy votes for whatever vocal condition she overcame this week are gluttons for punishment. Kara: "You've been every other woman in this competition, every woman except yourself." Ouch. * Kris Allen's coffeehouse, open-mic-night spin on "She Works Hard for the Money" wins points for being a drastic reinterpretation of a disco standard - it made me feel like I was trapped in a Sade video or something - but he's still about as exciting as a whupped beagle. My wife: "I don't like it! I don't like the reggae." More entertaining: Paula's convoluted praise involving shopping in men's departments, or women's departments, or whatever it was she was babbling on about. * Danny Gokey: the new Michael McDonald! There's nothing wrong with that; there will always me a market for mid-life-crisis cheese. Earth, Wind, & Fire's "September," weirdly, is a natural fit for him. Simon: "Can't fault the vocals, but as a performance, I didn't get any sense of star power."
* Speaking of frantic disco presented at ballad-speed, Adam Lambert's "If I Can't Have You"? Breathtakingly emotional - beforehand, he told Ryan Seacrest that this was a song that meant a lot to him - with a lush, sensuous vibe that brings Paula to tears. Whew! * Someone had to sing "Stayin' Alive," right? Matt Giraud's version was as showy and overblown and unoriginal as you'd expect it to be. And fun! But he still needs to go home. My wife: "This dude is not Justin Timberlake!" Paula: some bowling-metaphor nonsense about how amazing she thinks Matt is. * At this point, one of my favorite things about Anoop Desai is how proud he is to fly the preppie flag. (Jamar must be so proud, wherever he is.) Dude is prep chic to the extreme. Seriously, a pink sweater? A blue dress shirt with a white collar? A pinstripe suit? Tonight, with Donna Summer's "Dim All The Lights," Anoop looks a whole lot better than he actually sounds, swinging for a lot of big notes and missing, coming off corny as all heck. But looking totally fantastic up there, which must count for something.