Perhaps delusionally, I nursed a desperate hope that this week's American Idol theme would be "songs used in Quentin Tarantino movies." Seriously, I even worked up a sort of dream list of songs I thought the seven remaining contestants would choose from brilliantly soundtracked flicks like Jackie Brown, Reservoir Dogs, and Death Proof. Alas. I was mistaken, of course: this is "Music from Films" week, and Tarantino - who joined Simon Cowell, Paula Abdul and Randy Jackson at the judges' table waaaay back in Season 3 - was merely on hand as a mentor. Indulge me for a second and join me in imagining just how kick-ass "Quentin Tarantino Week" might've been: Adam Lambert turning "Hold Tight!" inside out, Allison Iraheta tarting up "Woo Hoo," Danny Gokey sinking his frat-dude teeth into "Hooked on a Feeling." I mean, damn. But I'll take batshit, overexuberant Quentin any way I can get him - his Inglourious Basterds [sic] won't hit multiplexes til summer - even if it just means that his role is to nudge and cajole our Top Seven into top-tier performances.
* Words cannot express how ecstatic I am that tonight's Idol is only an hour long - or how glad I am that only two judges will critique each performance in the interests of keeping the program on schedule. * Fashion Forward Department: Randy appears to have been run over by a road-striping machine, while Paula enjoys being caught in the leisurely clutches of a diamond-studded manatee. * Danny Gokey sings Lionel Richie's "Endless Love"; I have mixed emotions. I mean, he did a great job and given the fact that he's a widower - my wife noticed that he still wears his wedding ring! - the song obviously has huge personal resonance for him. But it's such a boring, boring ballad, and "endless" is a great descriptor in this case. * Matt Giraud's rocking the rogue, off-duty chauffeur look tonight, isn't he? Poor Matt. He is capable, yes, but he's more forgettable than anything else. When I was dreaming up that QT-songs-to-sing-list, I couldn't remember him for the life of me. Just blanked on it. His performance of "Have You Every Really Loved A Woman" - Bryan Adams' song from the Don Juan DeMarco soundtrack - suffered from pitchiness and, well, just being a dull song. And I'm relying on notes here, because I can't remember anything about about it. For real. * After hearing Allison Iraheta's dress rehearsal of "I Don't Want to Miss a Thing" (Aerosmith), Tarantino was stoked: "I think on the night she's gonna belt it out - she'll do a great job." Unfortunately, he was wrong. Iraheta's cover was labored, with notes blown out all over the place. It was a bit like listening to a child play-acting; she's too young for so many of the songs she picks, and it shows. Paula, who as usual seems to be living in a different universe: "I've championed Adam from day one, but what I noticed tonight is that you have the same special sauce." No, no, no, Paula. * For viewers of a certain age - which includes yours truly - Bryan Adams' "Everything I Do (I Do It for You)" has special generational value. We danced to the Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves ballad at high-school mixers. It was on the radio all the time for a long while. Love it or hate it, if you were coming of age when "Everything" was hot, you know all of the fucking words and their respective inflections by heart. So when it was revealed that Anoop Desai would be taking it on - and when Tarantino encouraged him to "rough it up" - we steeled ourselves for disaster. But holy Hannah: he pulled it off, and well! He was hesitant, nuanced, kinda sultry with a tune that Gokey would've crapped all over had he gotten his mitts on it. Randy: "It was in tune, you had some emotion in it, I think you did a really good job with it!" Indeed. * Katie Couric is here for some reason, without Lil Wayne. * Lil Rounds, you hurt my heart. Every week, when I'm sure your stock can't sink any lower, you bottom out again. Tonight, you whiffed on "The Rose." Piled on the trembling. Blew the glory notes. Even midway through, when you opted to take the melody to church, you stunk it up. Simon said that you weren't "the artist we thought we met seven or eight weeks ago," and you lashed out with claims that you were trying to do different things - which the judges wanted you to do - ignoring the larger issue: you simply aren't all that and a bag of Doritos, after all. *Tarantino gives Kris Allen props for cherrypicking from "a movie that meant something to him," but that's probably the most encouraging thing anyone can say. There wasn't necessarily anything horrible about how "Falling Slowly" was sung; it's just a limpid, blah song.
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*"Born to be Wild" is a lot like "Bad to the Bone" - they're formerly classic movie songs that have been ground into tasteless paste through overexposure. As such, "Wild" was the perfect cinema tune for Adam Lambert to breathe new life into, riding an oddly electronic arrangement into rock-star Valhalla. He worked the crowd - and the backing band - like the pro he is, conducting everyone like a maestro while whipping the song into a frenzy. Lambert could have gone for a sustained over-the-top performance and gotten away with it, but to his credit, he didn't; he's a showman, and he knows that there's value in going for vampy, falsetto notes selectively, thereby upping their impact. Simon: "Vocally, incredible. The downside for me is that it was like watching the Rocky Horror musical in some parts." My wife: "That was like a concert!" America, your projected Bottom Three: Matt Giraud, Lil Rounds, Kris Allen. Who's Going Home: Matt Giraud. Who Should Go Home: Lil Rounds.