This is really it? These are the four best singers the Idol producers could come up with? Last night's competition episode, featuring Crystal, Mike, Lee, and Casey, was one of the dullest in weeks, built on the kind of dry and forgettable performances that got everybody else sent home. The only good thing to be said about the show was that it ended on time.
This week's theme is music from the movies. For reasons that stretch the limits of understanding, Jamie Foxx was the musical mentor. I have nothing against the guy personally; Collateral was pretty good, and I know that we all learned to laugh and love by watching Booty Call. But his laughable recording career and his Oscar for mimicking Ray Charles hardly qualify him to speak with wisdom about what it takes to be a musician. In an irony so rich it could choke you, he told each contestant that he would award them with a T-shirt reading "Artist" or "Contestant" to determine their potential and willingness to win. Because the guy who did a Ray Charles impression at the beginning of "Gold Digger" knows artists.
Lee started things off with "Kiss From a Rose" from Batman For as Long as You're Willing to Put Up With It, but it felt like bar-level karaoke. On one hand, it's easy to see why he and the other contestants slid a bit: They're all a few steps better than everyone who's been cut so far, so maybe they weren't ready to have to really step up this week. Big Mike followed up with "Will You Be There," Michael Jackson's awful earworm from Free Willy. Ellen, surprisingly enough, summed up the weak performance best by calling it "a little bit predictable." He sounded okay, but didn't have the energy he's shown before.
Then came a duet just for the hell of it, as Lee and Crystal did "Falling Slowly." It was much better than anything that came before, and one of the few highlights of the night, even if it did rush to bring on the swelling strings in an attempt to hammer home the fake emotion.
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Casey's performance of "Mrs. Robinson" on mandolin was one of his better ones, though he's still not great at emotionally connecting with the audience. I doubt he worries about it too much, though; he performed sitting on the stage with a gaggle of girls around him, who reacted just like the girls did to the "Paparazzi" kid, so I'm pretty sure he's doing fine with the groupies.
Crystal ended the solo performances with "I'm Alright." Yes, from Caddyshack. It wasn't her best, but it was far from her worst, and it was easily the best solo song of the night. This really is her game to lose at this point.
The show ended with Mike and Casey doing a mediocre duet of "Have You Ever Really Loved a Woman?" from Don Juan DeMarco, but aside from shamelessly giving royalties to Bryan Adams, the song raised a bigger problem. Namely: These are the songs they came up with? More than 100 years of American movies, and they went with singles from Free Willy and a Batman sequel? Why not "Tiny Dancer" from Almost Famous, or "In Your Eyes" from Say Anything, or "Unchained Melody" from Ghost? Casey could've killed on "Old Time Rock and Roll" (Risky Business), and Big Mike could've scored some serious points for effort if he'd pulled off "Kissing You" (Romeo + Juliet). Lee could have attempted "Streets of Philadelphia" from Philadelphia while Crystal went for any of Aimee Mann's songs from Magnolia. (Or if she wanted to stick with kitschy retro, "Stay" from Reality Bites.) It just feels like no thought at all went into picking good or interesting songs that would match the singers' voices and also be fun to hear. This episode, maybe more than any other, had a ton of potential, and it was all shot to pieces.
Ah well. Maybe Jamie Foxx will perform and make it all better. I can't believe that's what it might take.