A new wrinkle in the elimination curve! The return of a prodigal Idol winner! A performance from a self-important pop-rap blowhard! Two more contestants falling under the proverbial sword! The first of the dreaded Ford-sponsored videos-cum-advertisements! Gratuitous decolletage courtesy of Paula Abdul! This...is American Idol! * Get this: the judges can perform one 11th-hour stay-of-execution save of a contestant who America wants to send home. Just one. Did they decide to save Jorge Nunez or Jasmine Murray, who got the lowest number of votes this week? Hells no, thankfully. * Did you notice that in eliminating Nunez, all potential for dramatics this season have pretty much been excised? The remaining hopefuls are by and large a staid, calm group. Just sayin'. * I think we can all agree that "Kanye West Week" - wherein the Louie Vuitton Don mentors would-be Idol winners - would simulaneously be great fun and make no sense whatsoever. Bringing producer/rapper West on otherwise is a total ratings grab; the sheer singing-purist illogic of having a dude whose last album consisted of Auto-Tune balladeering pimp a single on American Idol is so bald and blatant than no more really needs to be said about it. As for the performance itself, it was total spectacle, with West emerging from two huge, orange semi-circular props that glowed like a star while blinding white light shone behind him, singing "Heartless." He blew it in this live setting, but the accompanying pagentry was so bugged-out what-the-fuck that it was tough to care. West clad in all-denim with black leather gloves, like Bruce Springsteen in the '80s or something; backup singers and musicians done up to resemble Daft Punk dopplegangers, suicide-bomber artistes and Fashion Week refugees. At the very least, some sort of statement was made, though I'm hard-pressed to translate it for you. * The first Ford video isn't too terrible, which is a relief and hopefully a sign of things to come. Images of the contestants singing Queen's "We Will Rock You" are superimposed onto skyscrapers in some anonymous city at night. Not exceedingly humiliating! * So, um, the mansion where Idol hopefuls stay when they aren't being run ragged? It's got a bowling alley equipped with hot-pink bowling balls! * Isn't Kelly Clarkson awesome? So often Idol alumni show up and bunt whatever wares they're hawking: Bucky Covington, Bo Bice and Fantasia, we're looking at you. But Clarkson always brings her A Game in terms of songwriting and performance, and "My Life Would Suck Without You" tonight was no exception. What's neat to me about this song is that it's maybe the first time a pop song has borne the word "suck" in its chorus and title with total sincerity, without any sense of rebelliousness or sarcasm or shock value intended. "Suck" in this context is just another word used to express a real feeling. Another passage from the Book of Sanjaya: "I hadn't shaved in a few days; I was trying to grow in a beard and mustache, but I was only seventeen, so it wasn't coming in quickly at all. So a stylist grabbed a razor and cleaned up my cheeks and sideburns, then took some mascara and filled in the empty spots in my goatee."
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