Maybe there’s safety in numbers. American Idol host Ryan Seacrest announced at the outset of tonight’s results show that more than 34 million votes were cast Tuesday — the biggest total of the season so far. And lo and behold, that teeming mass of voters actually made some fairly reasonably picks. After last week’s disastrous near-elimination of Michael Lynche, America woke up. The result: Andrew Garcia and Katie Stevens are knocked out. Wait a second… Is Season 9 getting good? Well, sort of.
The big question is, how many people have been voting each week before now? (Ryan didn’t say). And why did so many cast ballots this week? Is it just that more people naturally start to pay attention as Idol narrows the field? Or perhaps the all the smart Idol fans who voted Adam Lambert into the Season 8 finals finally tuned back in this week and voted. It’s hard to say. We do know that if Idol doesn’t step up and provide some more compelling entertainment, it’s going to be hard to retain those viewers.
In a strange way, the opening number on this week’s show actually made sense: it’s Elvis week, and the Top 9 did the customary covers medly. Unfortunately, their lip-synced “tribute” to Elvis seemed influenced mainly by late-period Elvis. You know, fat, sluggish, half-singing, Vegas lounge-style Elvis. In other words, it wasn’t good. (How do we know? Because we found ourselves looking forward to the weekly Ford commercial. Hey, at least it had a message we can get behind: go green.)
For once, Idol producers chose to cut to the chase on a results show, and obviously, that could and would only happen on a night when the audience knows they have to stay tuned for a second elimination. After the ad, Seacrest gathered three of the guys — Casey James, Aaron Kelly and Andrew Garcia — at center stage, and after very little chit-chat, flatly tells Andrew that he’s going home. (Not that it was much of a surprise. After his “genius” debut with “Straight Up”, Andrew had turned in a string of weird-to-poor performances, save his excellent cover of Chris Brown’s “Forever” a couple weeks ago). Rather than play himself out with one of his better choices, he goes with James Morrison’s “You Give Me Something”. We’ll miss seeing that big pair of square-rimmed glasses held up by his fans in the crowd.
Ok, one more time…
But here’s something we’re actually looking forward to: the return of Idol Gives Back, a special fund-raising episode that will air next Wednesday. Performers already announced include the Black Eyed Peas, Carrie Underwood, Annie Lennox, Jeff Beck (making a return appearance) — and next week’s mentor, Alicia Keys. Wednesday’s Idol also included a great segment showing Idol finalist, deeply talented artist (and yes, guest blogger) Elliott Yamin visiting Angola with Kara DioGuardi to participate in the groundbreaking for a new school project. (Visit his official site).
Unfortunately, that commitment of air time to a good cause was quickly followed by a total waste of it, the duet by Season 7 finalist Brooke White and ex-Miley Cyrus boy toy (and Nashville Star contestant) Justin Gaston. They perform “If I Can Dream”, now available at iTunes for free. They’re over-charging.
After a fairly predictable whittling down of the contestants to evidently vulnerable trio Michael Lynche, Katie Stevens and Tim “I’m Just Not Leaving” Urban, Idol got around to one of the two reasons people tuned in in the first place: the return of Adam, who emerged from a dense veil of fog and green lasers to perform his single “Whataya Want From Me”. We’re big fans of Siobhan’s scream, but it’s just tough to compete with Adam’s spacy wail. He’s an original, and an example of the Idol process at it’s best.
Finally, the lights dim one more time, and Ryan dishes out the pain: Katie is sent home. As with Andrew, this isn’t a huge surprise. Katie has a strong if unpolished voice, and after a strong start, it became clear that her telegenic good looks would not sustain her for the long haul against slightly older and (let’s face it) better singers like Crystal Bowersox and Siobhan Magnus. but (And thanks to @somethingpitchy for maybe our favorite tweet of the night.) Katie bows out after singing last week’s cover, “Let It Be”. And we guess we will.
We’ve got our Top (lucky?) 7. So the question is, is the American Idol electorate now tuned in enough to make another good decision? Or was this a one-time-only event?