Round 1 – Bobby’s Picks

Wade Cota – “You Are the Best Thing” (Ray Lamontagne) Judges’ take – Katy – “Bobby Bones took you out of your comfort zone. You met that challenge. The next two songs, let it go, shake it off.” Luke – “I like how you didn’t try to overdo that song. Watching you get confidence is what this show is about.” Lionel – “You can do it and you can do it in spades. Enjoy the ride. You’re on your way to something huge.”

Wade probably earned no votes with his “I was upset” whining over Bones’ choice. To be fair though, he probably has reason to grouse—this rendition of Lamontagne’s tune is nothing more than sound-alike karaoke. It exposes Wade’s limitations and derivativeness. Not a good start. Grade: C

Laci Kaye Booth – “The House that Built Me” (Miranda Lambert) – Luke – “I’m glad we saved you. I think it’s so important that week in and week out you give us soulful, you give us style.” Lionel – “That song fit you perfectly. You’re a storyteller. Your vocals, it was the best I’ve heard in a while. Keep focused on what you’re about.” Katy – “The stakes are so high right now. The only way to win this show is to turn it up a notch. It’s taking chances. You turned it up with that song. The next two songs keep taking those chances.”

Oh how precious. Luke’s glad they saved her. Luke and his country bumpkin ass is probably the ONLY one who actually wanted to save Miss Bland Blondie, while cutting on of the best voices ever heard on Idol. Grade: C

Alejandro Aranda – “No Woman, No Cry” (Bob Marley) – Lionel – “You have taken a Bob Marley song and turned it to a Alejandro song.” Katy – “I think I just saw you in real time step into the power. This is going to be a real interesting last two shows.” Luke – “That was the most out front I’ve heard. You commanded that vocal. You’re going to change music.”

Change music. Luke has reserved some of his stupidest, most non-sensical inanities for tonight. “You’re going to change music.” From what, to what? Miles Davis changed music. The Beatles changed music. What, exactly, does Luke expect Alejandro to do? Alejandro is a talented musician. But he also has no voice, no charisma, and his highly-touted “arranging” skills amount to making virtually ever song he performs sound the same (and usually only mildly different than the original, despite the Three Stooges’ constant breathless praise).

This was passable, but hardly noteworthy in any way. Grade: C-

Laine Hardy – “Can’t You See” (Marshall Tucker Band) Judges’ take – Katy – “Let’s pretend that you don’t win the show. The next two songs, I want to see the fight even more. That guitar is your girlfriend. Treat her good.” Luke – “Great song choice. Great arrangement. Way to make it modern-day funky.” Lionel – “What you have to do now is attitude. Give us attitude.”

The arrangement was changed more than Alejandro’s Marley cover, and it works well. But it’s still totally forgettable bar band blues rock. Laine just hasn’t shown any growth. Grade: B-

Madison Vadenburg – “What About Us” (Pink) Judges’ take – Luke – “Way to show up every week and keep digging
in. We notice you interacting with the audience more. Keep digging.” Lionel – “With a voice like that, 17 and ready for show time. It’s amazing how much you’ve grown.” Katy – “It’s happening right now. Right now it’s happening to you. What you showed us at the end of the song, that’s crazy musical talent. If you bring that out in the first 30 seconds, you’re going to win.”

Good voice. Nothing to write home about. These jokers, er, judges, they know good and goshdarned well that good singers are a dime a dozen. Go on YouTube any time, any day, look up literally ANY pop hit and find literally DOZENS of interpretations that are more interesting than ANYTHING Madison has ever brought to the Idol stage. She does what she can, but the fawning by the Stooges is sickening.

Round 2 – Elton John

Wade Cota – “Rocket Man” Judges’ take – Lionel – “You’re doing something right and perfect. You’re playing with the character. You took a song that was difficult for you and you took it to something you enjoyed.” Katy – “I love when you bring your character out. We know you’re really funny. The way that you held us in the first part of the song was so connected. Stay connected.” Luke – “I think you should have left your sunglasses on the whole time. You had us laser-focused on you. Even your whisper is the most believable whisper. You slayed us in the first part.”

Slayed us? You’re really funny?? Playing with the character??? The nonsense crap from the “judges” has reached the point of surrealism. Wade’s somnambulistic take on an iconic classic recalls his “We Are the Champions” embarrassment from Queen night. Grade: D

Laci Kaye Booth – “Saturday Night’s Alright” Judges’ take – Katy – “You’re not just one thing. We like it. You’re a pop star.” Luke – “Way to come out here and liven up the crowd.” Lionel – “You killed it. You turned it into your song. Don’t worry about anybody else. Just be you.”

Okay, kudos to Laci for finally—first time ever!—choosing an uptempo song. While this isn’t amazing by any stretch, it’s the kind of variety that might’ve made Laci more popular over time. Grade: B-

Alejandro Aranda – “Sorry Seems to be the Hardest Word” Judges’ take – Luke – “Have you been holding back? You are owning the night. Wrap your head around being a ginormous star.” Lionel – “You’re probably going to receive a note from Elton, but I’ll tell you telepathically what he’s saying – You killed that.” Katy – “That song was so sad, I’m so sad right now. You were so connected. You decided to actually play in this competition and it shows.”

A pretty good rendition of a non-classic Elton tune. That’s it, nothing more. A ginormous star, Luke, really? When exactly was the last time Idol produced anything remotely resembling a “ginormous star?” Oh yeah… Carrie Underwood. Give me a break. Halfway decent covers of Elton John songs isn’t going to make anyone a “ginormous star.” The public is going to forget about this guy just like they’ve forgotten about every winner, runner-up, and Top Ten finalist for the last several seasons. Grade: C

Madison Vandenburg – “Your Song” – Lionel – “You knocked it out of the park. You came into the competition with a bat to knock everyone out.” Katy – “You just gave us the ketchup and the mustard. You keep singing like that.” Luke – “We have to focus on how soulful your voice is.”

More Madison. Never any surprises. The clown panel decided she was going to be top two (at least) from her audition. Grade: C

Laine Hardy – “Something About the Way You Look Tonight” – Katy – “Did you go to a voice coach or something? It really shows. You pushed yourself, you challenged yourself.” Luke – “We heard you singing tonight. It was really amazing.” Lionel – “You have that look, that style, you have that sound. That’s called a winner.”

Much like Alejandro earlier, Laine delivers an acceptable cover of a non-exceptional Elton song. He looks sharp in a silver suit, he put down the guitar for once, and decided not to growl blues rock. Let’s face it, he could’ve pissed off the side of the stage for 90 seconds and Katy would’ve acted like he was Elvis reincarnated. Grade: C

Round 3 – Song Dedications to Personal Heroes

Wade Cota – “Hard Luck Woman” (Kiss) Judges – Luke – “Great performance. One of the better ones.” Lionel – “You were born enough. You just have to recognize that power inside you and go forward.” Katy – “I’m so proud of you. You’ve come so far and it’s just the beginning for you.”

Nice pre-performance moment between Wade and his folks. And his best performance of the night. Grade: B

Laci Kaye Booth – “Dreams” (Fleetwood Mac) Judges’ take – Lionel – “It’s so refreshing to see the decision we made – you’re coming back stronger than ever.” Katy – “That was a great song choice. I’m so proud of you.” Luke – “That was a complete into the future visual of your career. That was a beautiful rendition of that song.”

Also Laci’s best of the night. Grade: B

Madison Vandenburg – “Make You Feel My Love” (Bob Dylan) Judges’ take – Katy – “That must have been so difficult.
You’re singing to your mom. You were so elegant, and timeless, and classic, and beautiful.” Luke – “You’re a powerhouse.” Lionel – “I’m going to use three words, vote, vote, vote.”

More Madison. No surprises. Tasteful but forgettable. Grade: C

Laine Hardy – “Hey Jude” (Beatles) Judges’ take – Luke – “Great job.” Lionel – “Vote.” Katy – “That was just super cool. You’ve got this. Whatever happens thank you for coming back and agreeing to do this all over again.”

The clown panel doesn’t even bother with mindless praise this time. They know Laine’s going to win. They’ve known it all along. Why bother pointing out that “Hey Jude” simply DOES NOT conveniently boil down to 90 seconds. Felt like it was over just as it was getting started. Grade: C+

Alejandro Aranda – “Blesser” (Original) Judges’ take – Lionel – “What America is watching is a phenomenon. We’re watching American history. Vote.” Katy – “Stay humble homey.” Luke – “I’m not worthy to be judging you. From here on out I’m your champion.”

Luke, you’ve never once judged him before—why start now? More good piano playing from Alejandro. So-so singing. Hookless tune. If this was a piano-playing contest, he’d win. But instrumental skills are irrelevant in this (or at least, they should be). Grade: D

Going home: Wade and Laci

I honestly thought Wade would stay and Alejandro’s number was up. But Moe, Larry, and Curley have apparently convinced enough viewers that he’s the modern-day Mozart. Mark Luke’s words: HE’S GOING TO CHANGE MUSIC. Also keep in mind something Lionel said at the beginning this episode: you’ve all already won. They’re ALL already destined for superstardom on a staggering scale! Because they can carry a tune while covering Elton John! Amazing!

Look, I like American Idol. That’s why I watch it, that’s why write about it. But I liked it a whole lot better when the judges were actually judges.

Cinema Lowdown

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