Ah, the 90s. Seems like only six years ago. But thanks to clever marketing and those “I Heart the ____s” clip shows on VH1, the recently-departed decade is already a nostalgic cottage industry. I’m sure we’ll all agree that lots of 90s music was great. Unfortunately, this is American Idol, so we know heading into tonight’s vaudeville showcase that what awaits is a rich pastiche of AM radio hits in mid-range tones with fat emotional endings. Can you smell the Celine? Can you hear the tintinnabulation of the pills in Mariah’s purse? Join me as the credits (still featuring outtakes from “Tron”) roll and ride Ginger’s Elevator past electronic billboard faces of winners gone by, among them Rooooooben’s, so large it could take up two Times Squares and still need a couple of buildings to accommodate it.
And speaking of pills (or is it booze? We need a polling thresd here), Paula and her jolly comrades-in-judgery are duly announced by Ryan Seafoam. (You know what’s kind of fun? Making up names for Dapper Ryan. Seafoam, Seabird, Seafood, Seagrapes, Seacucumber, Seaurchin, Seagram’s….try it at home!)
The cameras pan the audience, some of whom hold a sign which says “GRANDMA WANTS A DATE WITH BO”. Hmmmm. Is this a good thing for Bo? I think not. What rocker covets the geriatric demographic? Except those who actually ARE, now, of the geriatric demographic?
Seabiscuit takes us backstage for the least spontaneous banter ever as he drops “hints” to help the contestants figure out this week’s theme. Hints like: “It’s the decade that came after the 80s.” It takes the gang awhile (hey, they sing! They don’t have to have reasoning skills), but eventually Seacow reveals that – Ta da! (Or “ding ding ding” as Ryan puts it, hoping to launch another catchphrase that’s as infectious as “Seacrest out!”) we are reliving the not so distant, in fact really too damn recent to be a theme yet, past.
1. BO BICE – “REMEDY” BY THE BLACK CROWS
Bo does not remember the 90s, which he spent with his band. I think this speaks to Bo’s authenticity as a rock guy.
Obviously, I am pro Bo. Hence, I am filled with dismay when I see his urban cowboy hat, which looks as if something bovinated squatted on his head. Naturally, Paula wants to wear it, too, and wrests it from Bo during the song. Bo also has trouble with the mike kind of bobbing in his face from time to time. Otherwise, it is a solid, but not really inspired, Bo performance.
Randy: “That was hot. I’d love to see a rocker win.” (Oh yeah, Randy. You and the latter-years Journey really know from ROCK).
Paula: Babbles about hat. “Awesome.” (Bo, not fugly hat). Paula appears to have difficulty bringing her two hands together, simultaneously, to create the sound we call “clapping.” It’s almost as hard as that touch your nose thing the cops make you do when they pull you over for suspected DUIs.
KenJen: I’ll take Potent Potables for 40, Alex.
Simon: Didn’t like the song. Invokes Tired Wedding Singer Simile #347(b).
Gene Simmons: I should be a judge here. Paula and Randy are pretty useless by now. Besides, I’m Jewish, and that’s almost like being black. I think Bo has presence.
IN SHORT: Bo bored the masses this evening. But I still like him better than Constantine.
We break to ads. I don’t do ads. Ads are Satan’s Little Acre. I might wake up with a minotaur head in my bed and a spork in my eye. Still, every now and then, a commercial catches enough of my attention to wind up in my notes, so I will reference a couple. Which brings us to the burning question: Has the world really been waiting for an intelligent shoe?
2. JESSICA – SOME GODAWFUL SONG ABOUT ANGELS, BY LEEANNE RHIMES
Jessica went to her first concert in the 90s. Dixie Chicks. I hate people who are this much younger than me.
Unfortunately, subduing Jessica’s breasts (I don’t do fashion, either; that’s the province of the man with the firm, toned tush, but every now and then a sartorial comment sneaks through) appears to have subdued her pipes, as well. The audience claps politely.
R: “Not my favorite song, but you sang it well. Consistent. Good job, good job.”
P: Paula, in her sole lucid moment of the evening, thinks the song did not showcase Jessica’s abilities and that she should keep pushing for better songs. (See? Even Randy and Paula hate this song).
S: Gently informs Jessica that she has no “likeability factor.” Thinks that if she does not have a blow-out performance, the song or she herself will be “forgetful.” (I am pointing out this complete lapse in grammatical sense to please certain people out there who may be a tad obsessed (and I mean that in the most positive, endearing sense) with grammar. Consider that a shout out).
Carnie Wilson: I think we may have a body image problem, here.
Madonna: Oh, puleeze.
IN SHORT: Jessica’s still not as attractive as Carrie.
3. ANWAR – “I BELIEVE I CAN FLY” (A SONG I WOULD HATE BY NOW EVEN IF IT DIDN’T MAKE ME THINK OF R. KELLY PISSING ON UNDERAGE GIRLS) BY R. KELLY
I can’t remember what Anwar said about the 90s. He was probably in the Peace Corps, teaching entire villages to sing the score to The Sound of Music.
Ginger’s notes: Pitchy/whiney at beginning. Better on strong notes but still not blowing me away. Another big ending after a shaky start.
R: Thinks the lower register was pitchy. Says Anwar “gets the crowd with the big notes at the end” but needs to sing the “complete song.” I think Randy is a wise man, probably since I agree with everything he has just said.
P: “I have never ever heard such an incredible, original version of that song. You made me hear it as though I had never heard it before.”
KenJen: What is drug-induced euphoria, Alex?
Whitney Houston: Can I have some of that?
S: Thinks Randy was absolutely “spot on,” reminding us that Simon is actually British, a country where Kylie Minogue is still the Gold Standard of pop divas.
IN SHORT: Anwar may have peaked already.
4. NADIA – “I’M THE ONLY ONE” BY MELISSA ETHERIDGE
Nadia experimented with her hair a lot in the 90s. She is refreshing in that she discusses going from bone straight hair to her current, delightful, springy natural style without making it sound like a dense political statement.
I’m a Nadia fan, and I’m torn about the song choice here. I like the way she deliberately avoids the Whitney/Aretha Trap in her song choices, and I really like this song, and she sang it pretty well, but I am not sure it works for her and I HATE the way AI’s musical director truncated it. I’m still sulking about this when Nadia finishes up.
R: “You’re a great performer. Not the best singer in the competition but a great performer. You made something outta that.”
Melissa Etheridge: I’d do you.
Paula: You’re back!
S: “1000% improvement over last week.” He thought it was a good performance, but was nervous that the song choice would not please Nadia’s fan base.
IN SHORT: Nadia’s great but she needs another sock-knockin, blow-out performance to keep those text messages, er, texting.