This week's non-drama drama on American Idol dealt with the fact that 11 contestants remained at the top of the elimination episode but only the top 10 get to go on the summer tour of malls and state fairs. I'm actually not sure where the tour goes, and am probably mixing it up with large portions of That Thing You Do!, but the point is that this week's big hook was that the loser wouldn't get to do the tour. (They left out the fact that, by summer, the tour roster will really feature one winner and nine runners-up, but whatever.) Having such a fuss made over the top 10 just a couple weeks after the hubbub of who would make the top 12 seemed at first antithetical, until I realized the producers just want another story beat between the announcement of the top 12 and the indulgent "Idol Gives Back" concert somewhere around the week of the top six.
The performances were slightly less trying than last week's, but then, Ke$ha kind of wrecked the curve. Miley Cyrus, whose studio tracks still can't hide her mediocre voice, pushed her way through her latest single with a look of constipation and anger. Her voice is just terrible. There's no getting around it. But she made a good pair with the ep's later performance, a duet by Joe Jonas, of the Jonas Brothers, and Demi Lovato, of probably something. They just kind of growled and grunted at each other with no detectable melody, but the kids in the crowd cheered just as they had for Miley. And I don't mean "kids" the way we too-weary twentysomethings use it to mean college students; I mean actual children, like middle schoolers. Their shrieks were piercing, and I remembered again that 12-year-olds have shitty taste. We were no different. It should also be noted that Joe and Demi laughed at how their current audience was "just a step" bigger than the one at the Houston Rodeo, so rodeo defenders, let them have it.
The parts of the episode that dealt with the contestants seemed to be fewer and farther between, and padded when they arrived with more banter that's reaching Jeopardy! levels of awkwardness. The top 11 kicked off the episode with a group version of "Wake Me Up Before You Go Go," though sadly no one exploded. The eliminations skipped quickly through those contestants whose secure fates were a guarantee, like Mike, Siobhan, and Crystal. When Ryan pointed out that Kara and Simon had given Crystal conflicting advice about her guitar (Kara said to lose it for a week, Simon said to keep it), Crystal grinned and said she'd make up her own mind.
The bottom three wound up being Tim, Paige, and Katie, though Katie must have just barely missed the cutoff because she was given a reprieve as soon as she was called out. Then it was just Tim and Paige. Both gave equally bad performances this week, but voters opted to give Paige the boot, meaning she'd have to sing one last time to earn a possible save. However, Simon stepped in with a pre-emptive note that I hope becomes a pattern. Sparing the poor girl any false hope, he told her that no last-ditch effort would save her and that she'd be going home for sure. I think that helped immeasurably. At this stage, it's unlikely the judges would use their one save to help someone not good enough to make the top 10, and by telling Paige she'd be certain to go home, they freed her up to just sing a swan song instead of use that performance as a final plea for rescue. I'm all in favor of this being the new standard. Spare the cheap suspense and just tell the loser they've lost so they can go out on their own terms.
So that's your top ten, America. Look for them this summer at amphitheatres and Ford dealerships.