Last night was eliminations night on American Idol, with the top four being whittled down to the top three.
I apologize for the lack of video links. There seems to be a problem with the site where I get them.
At the top of the show, host Ryan Seacrest announced the musical guests would include No Doubt, Daughtry, and Randy Jackson. No, actually, he was kidding. Paula Abdul would perform her latest single.
In this week's Ford video, more PhotoShop fun. The top four are 2-D figures, stepping off billboards, newspapers and T-shirts, all piling into a car and driving away down a pop-up street, to the song "Move On."
As soon as the commercial ended, the one and only Slash (in a top hat), kicked off the group song, "School's Out" by Alice Cooper. The choreography was kind of funny in this song. They sounded pretty believable, for the most part, although there was some feedback early in the song. At one point, Allison was punching all the others, who just smiled like you do when your little sister hits you: "Ha-ha, that tickles." Slash served up a mean guitar solo.
As Ryan talked to Slash afterward, he told him he wanted him to take his sunglasses off. Slash refused. "He does have eyes under there," Ryan asserted. Slash didn't have much to say much about his upcoming album, except there will be some unnamed stars on it.
Ryan interviewed the top four. Kris Allen said it's surreal being in the top four and that he feels really blessed. Upon goading from Ryan, Simon Cowell told Kris not to be so humble any more. Adam Lambert said he was thrilled with rock week and liked his outfit. Danny Gokey admitted that, listening back to his final note from the night before, he had "laughed the whole night."
Asked about talking back to the judges, Allison Iraheta said, "I'm not the type that talks back. She was asking for it, so fine, I'll give it to you." A reaction shot of the table showed no Paula, because presumably she was getting ready to perform.
Her performance, however, definitely seemed prerecorded and lip-synched, along with putting her voice through the type of modulator that's currently all the rage. In the future, songs with that sort of modulation will sound as ridiculous as the drum machines of the '80s.
Paula being Paula, she sang and danced with a lot of hot guys. There were plenty of cutesy tricks: like kicking over a mike stand on a round base (Weebles wobble but they don't fall down!), standing on top of a box with fake flames, and then stage diving into the dancers' arms (stunt double maybe), and of course pyrotechnics. Trying to impress us much?
At the end, the screen showed the words, "Live! Love! Sing! Dance!" with Paula's signature. Cut to a commercial. When we return she's in a different outfit, talking to Ryan about the new album.
Then, continuing with the music, No Doubt performed their most famous hit: "Just a Girl." Unlike Paula, Gwen Stefani was definitely not about flash and dazzle. She bounced around the stage in a white wife-beater over a lime green bra, with black pants and a glittery shirt tied around her waist. I loved when she kicked her Army boots to accentuate the line, "I'm just a girl, all pretty and petite." Her energy was contagious, as she ran into the audience and then did pushups on the second stage while the band vamped. She even got the audience to sing along and pushed through them, awkwardly, as if trying to start a mosh pit. Now, that's a real rocker.
Ryan interviewed her, and she said that she's going to do a tour and then do a new album, getting inspiration on the road.
Then, after a video of previous Idol finalists doing their hometown tours, Ryan explained how it would work tonight. There were chairs for the top three, and the finalists would be announced in random order.
Of course, he's always got to trick people, so after giving summaries of Allison and Danny, Ryan said, "After the nationwide vote... we move onto Adam" and gave summaries for him and Kris.
Kris, who many predicted would be the one going home, was actually the first one declared safe. Whoa. Did this mean that Danny, who had tanked badly the night before, would actually be eliminated?
As the three remaining contestants awaited their fate, Ryan reminded the viewers that three years ago, at this stage in the game, Chris Daughtry, who had been considered a lock for the win, was sent home. This, of course, made all the Adam Lambert fans nervous, since he's considered a lock for this season. Would history repeat itself?
Chris Daughtry's band, Daughtry, performed"No Surprise," which didn't surprise me at all by sounding great. At the close of the performance, Kris Allen presented Chris with a plaque commemorating 5 million sales of his first album. A second will be dropping later this year.
Then, returning to the result, Ryan emphasized again that they were in random order. The second person in the top three was Adam Lambert. Whew!
So it was down to Allison and Danny. Finally, Ryan announced that, after a record-setting vote of 64 million, Danny was safe.
My first thoughts on hearing of this were to type: "I love Allison, and I hope she does really well. I know I'll be buying her album!" In fact, I have bought almost every single one of her songs from the show, released on iTunes.
Still, she had a bittersweet moment, alternately smiling and looking sad as she watched the good-bye montage, with tears in her eyes as she sang her heart out one last time on "Cry Baby."
The first finalist she ran to afterwards for a hug was her honorary big brother, Adam. He said something muffled to her, and immediately, she was smiling and bouncing around the stage. This reminded me a lot of what Chris said earlier in the show, when Ryan asked him how it had felt to be eliminated. He said that it felt like it was the end of the world, but he was over it 30 seconds later.
So, why was it Allison's turn to take a bow? Really, she hasn't done anything wrong, although she did talk back to the judges last night, which has hurt other finalists in the past. I think that, rather, it comes down to song choice, as the judges pointed out. Janis Joplin's "Cry Baby" is one of my favorite songs and one of the few that I can sing all the way through without help, but it's not one of her best-known songs, so it probably didn't resonate as much with other viewers as it did with me. "Piece of My Heart" may be somewhat overdone, but it's infectious and well known. If she had performed that Joplin tune instead, she might have received a more enthusiastic response from viewers at home.
Other reviewers have noted that Allison often lacked a sense of emotion in her singing, something that she only recently has begun to display. However, that might have been far too late, given that her three competitors have all had their emotional "moments" earlier in the season, memorable songs that converted many semi-fans into fans. Allison didn't really do that until last week, when she rode a terrific performance into the top two. I'd argue that her performance this week was as strong or stronger, but I also believe it was too late to make an impression on voters who had already committed themselves to one of the other finalists.
Instead of focusing on what she might have done wrong, though, I'd like to focus on what she did well. From the start, Allison was a dark horse. She didn't get a lot of help from the producers of the show, who gave her almost no screen time during auditions week. She rarely got prime placement in the show. The judges often criticized her harshly, even on her better weeks.
And yet, she managed to make it to the Top 4, relying solely on her talent. Clearly, that's something of which she should be proud.
Now, she had been in the bottom three several times before, which shows that her voting base was not as steady as some of the other finalists. Whether it was because viewers didn't (to use one of judge Kara DioGuardi's favorite words) connect with her personally or because she wasn't as flashy or as memorable as some of the other contestants, she had to struggle to make it as far as she did.
In the final weeks, the margins traditionally narrow, so the slightest thing, such as Danny viewers voting frantically to save their favorite, could make the difference. And so it's Allison hugging good-bye to her fellow finalists under the ending credits.
I predict this girl will be another Daughtry, another Jennifer Hudson, showing America just how wrong they'd been about her and achieving beyond what anyone might now dream.
Don't cry because it's over; smile because it happened.