In which American Idol took the trail to Portland, Oregon with choleric recappers behind it (a joke the show did not make); in which no birds were conspicuously put on anything (we checked; the show didn't make that joke either); in which everyone was named a derivative of Brittany and every male voice was either falsetto or basso, in which the producers did indeed manage to get somefone to utter the word "hipster," in which the post-production team made a typo and in which, somehow, nothing pissed us off more than it could have.
(Oh, and a logistical note before anyone else mentions it: Yes, we've seen the alleged top 24 list. We choose to disregard it, because there's always a chance one hopeful will spontaneously contract a prior record label or go on a guns-and-streaking spree. Even if they don't, you can't trust everything that washes up on the Internet. And even if you can trust this bit o' news, believing it would make recapping very boring, and we're pretty sure 50% of the girls had a variation on the same name.)
For endless quirkiness, 2112 and lipsmackin' good blurbs, click NEXT.
THE HOPELESS: 23-17
23. Ben Harrison: Ever seen those experiments where dudes contort themselves into ridiculous lady poses? Ben "I'm adorable!" Harrison is what you'd get if you gave Zooey Deschanel's quirking to a man. His vocal cords manufacture their own helium, he says "We're going to have some pizza..." in roughly the same tone as "I've got a dungeon downstairs...", the Queen hath been murdered once more, and Randy's "You think they don't [compliment you] because you're not good?" is the most criticism we've heard all season, placed where the criticism doesn't go.
22. This Promo Quote: “Stick around for a lipsmackin’ good time!” Idol has resorted to promoting Idol during Idol by likening Idol to a restaurant.
21. Stock Sound Effects: Crickets. Cuckoos. Having lost their Photoshopping college whiz to graduation, and having lost most of the show's remaining college audience, the post-production team remembered Paula Abdul still had a resume on file.
20. David Weed: Someone on Fox payroll is a Rush fan geeking out about International Rush Day (2/1/12). And a stoner. There's overlap.
19. Ryan Seacrest: "Everybody is searching for the recipe for that Golden Ticket." One part puns, wilted; two parts canned cadence; one (more) moppety Ryan Seacrest replacement to be coached by the offscreen real thing. We're writing our Ryan Seacrest/Steve Jones buddy-comedy pitch as you read this.
18. Steven Tyler: His quirks are limited to table pattycake, his sauciness is limited to one languid "Smokey" joke and cussing whenever a woman enters the room, and his witticisms were limited to "I'm too young to be this old" (helpfully tweeted by Idol, in case someone saw it as less than a Quotable Moment.) Subtract all of this, and what's his point?
17. Steven Tyler’s Styler: Was that Steven Tyler’s twin brother who only sorta dresses like a paisley Pocahontas? Such restraint, in everything.
For "Super Bass," "Dog Days Are Over" and other classic Portland songs, click NEXT.
THE HAPLESS: 16-12
16. Ben Purdom: Pitches cable TV on the street with a smile and novelty Southern accent; alas, his pitching didn't generate sales so much as punning up Ryan's inner hosting works ("If your singing is anywhere near as good as your pitch... anywhere near the pitch..."), so his boss told him to audition for American Idol. This probably qualifies as a hostile work environment. Anyway, he sang Lady Gaga like Josh Groban with whiskey mouth, then sang "Super Bass" in the boom-ba-boom-boom treble clef, and neither was good, exactly. Sang better than the chipmunking, though.
15. Randy Jackson: His repeated words could constitute an entire filler segment. This is a major missed opportunity.
14. Sam Gershman: Gershman, not Gershwin, despite her forcibly flopped Ira joke (sound down, crickets up, that's the way Idol likes its yuks.) Her cover of "I'm a Woman" knows no restraint and spares no screech, but it takes phenomenal control to sound this splayingly bad, and if she used those talents for good, she has an awesome theater career ahead. Meanwhile, over/under on the amount of takes it took Steven to alter his line to “Could you have been any more perky? You could make a good Easter bunny"?
13. The Soundtrack: Opened with Florence + The Machine (so incredibly Portland), and featured old-school classics like “Baby Face” (1926), older-school choices like “Moonlight Sonata” (1801), and painfully literal classics like “Cryin’” during...
12. The Cryin’ Segment: Surely these “weepy wee-jects” (why not) appreciated the irony of a tune sung by the man who just denied them playing in the background of their rejection segment. How are we supposed to feel during these? The woman crying in her husband’s arms makes us sad, but the woman who will “go Naomi Campbell on [our] asses” makes us laugh. And run for cover?
For divatude and lingering ick, but decent voices, click NEXT.
THE HARMLESS: 11-7
11. Jermaine Jones’ Mom: “The night I delivered Jermaine, I sang a church concert.” Way to make us feel lazy. We got to hear some of her soprano notes when she screamed over the phone at Jermaine’s happy news; if no violins are available for the next Psycho remake, she would make a proper understudy.
10. Ryan’s Replacement: For 30 (pointless) seconds, an teenage P.A. (pointlessly) filled in for Sir Seacrest. Was this Idol’s way of saying, “See! It could be worse"? It could indeed be worse. Ryan could, for instance, prank with shrubbery.
9. Jennifer Lopez: Got a segment of hand-waving diva freakoutery about missing her black tights, curtailed for time limitations and the overwhelming ubiquity of neutral tights in a room of performers. Idol blamed her woe on divatude; after last episode, we blame it more on her wanting the means to garrotte someone. That segment, incidentally, is pretty much all she did.
8. Naomi Gillies: Does her jazzy alto outweigh the lingering ick from her playing this episode's Steven Tyler supplicant? The answer's the same as the one to whether her success "keeps the dreams of Portland alive." The dreams of Portland and the dreams of American Idol have never intersected.
7. Romeo Diahn: After fleeing the Liberian civil war, he came to American Idol from refugee camp, which is one of the last places you should probably go from refugee camp. Anyway, this is not the sort of thing to joke about, and even if the tone of Romeo's segment was ever-so-slightly off (because, you know, Idol's track record with cultural sensitivity doesn't really exist), the right producer could totally adapt his staccato crooning for radio. We doubt it'll happen, but why not?
For two Brittanys/Brittnees, plus the best quote of the episode, click NEXT.
THE FLAWLESS: 6-1
6. Britnee Kellogg: It is easy to sound growly and indignant on "You're No Good." I'm more interested in her story arc. Ryan pop-quizzes her kid about whether Mommy's a good singer, so we're in America's Best Home Videos. But the kid doesn't snark, so she talks about her marriage and her husband holding her back, and we're in a Kate Chopin book. But she doesn't die, so she asks J. Lo what it's like to be a mom and have kids (all the producers' men couldn't put the word "divorce" together from this footage), and J. Lo exclaims "you don't have to leave your kids," and we're in A Doll's House. But an entourage and her kids spawn from the doors, preventing her from doing so, and we're in an Idol success segment again. Hooray!
5. Brittnee's Sons:They blow kisses. They wear shirts that say “I
2. Jermaine Jones: Mama's boy and church singer, the sort of contestant whose segment is scored to "Set Fire to the Rain" while he pleads with the audience about it being his time and his turn and who sounds like Jacob Lusk but better. (Look, let's not argue right now.) Does it even matter that the criticism isn't quite fully formed, isn't quite developed past "when you show the dynamics, with the low, with the power, with the softness..."? Does it matter that Steven's biggest compliment was "I actually heard the song through your nerves," which suggests he's possessing other people's central nervous systems? No. This is the embryonic, fluffy stuff of Idol ideals. Don't think. Bask.
1. Brittany Zika: Four things worth noting:
1. She dreamed of being on stage with Sara Bareilles, and since this is Idol, where dreams are forged from judges' tears and Steven's split ends, she was on stage with Sara Bareilles! Specifically, she wrote a pleading sign, and Sara wasn't like "I'm not gonna write you a self-insert fanfic" but "OK." It was all very YouTube.
2. She calls herself "Tripster the Hipster." Here is how that played out behind the scenes:
NIGEL LYTHGOE (off-camera): Tell us something quirky.
BRITTANY: I was on stage once with Sara Bareilles.
NIGEL: Sara Bareilles is functionally indistinguishable from Michael Buble. We are in Portland. Tell us something actually quirky.
BRITTANY: Um... this one time as a joke, my sister called me Tripster the Hipster?
STEVEN: Oh, perfect! This one bad trip I had...
NIGEL: Not necessary. The words are fine, but you are bubbly! You give the camera winsome looks! (Brittany looks confused, does so involuntarily, catches herself and frowns.) Brian, make yourself useful.
RYAN: (gamely bounds into frame behind Brittany, claps loudly)
3. She's actually very good; her voice does some lovely corkscrew twangs. She's maybe Brooke White minus all elements of Taylor Swift; although she could watch the wailing (and although it's a dice roll which folkie Idol uses for its one-Joni quota), those turns of melody deserve a studio and soon.
4. Randy said this: "Take the glasses off. Take the hat off. TAKE THE BOOTS OFF! ...Yes, yes, yes, yes, please, yes!" This man should never patronize an airport.