“American Idol” Recap: Did I St-St-Studdard?

There’ve been complaints that last night’s American Idol, themed around the hits and performances of past Idol winners, was old-fashioned and schmaltzy. Hey, morons: That’s why I watchAmerican Idol. I want ancient, Wayne Newton-y performances from Mormon teenagers in pain. I want the new Rosemary Clooney to woo me in a collared denim dress that her great-grandmother weaved. I want singers who pick songs by Kenny Rogers or Alannah Myles to feel “naughty.” Bring me the home-schooled!

I loved last night’s episode, even when truly awful songs like Ruben Studdard‘s “Flying Without Wings” threatened to curbstomp us with hopelessness. For me, ranking the top 10 was a cinch — though apparently I disagree with most of you about how interesting Angela Miller is. Guys, her emotions range from “happy” to “happy, but quiet sometimes.” Come on.

One last note before I write another 200 words about Lazaro Arbos that amount to “Good try, Laz!”: To me, the worst judge last night was AGAIN Keith Urban, with his pat compliments and phony conclusions like, “It was great though, I loved it.” No. That’s some Ellen DeGeneres-level nothingness right there. I agree for the most part with this killer article — namely Kara DioGuardi‘s high ranking, though I’d have put her at #1 over Simon Cowell‘s nonsense biases — but Keith has no intuitive read on any of these performers. He’s baffled by originality and can only purr with approval at Candice Glover‘s high notes or Kree Harrison‘s bleat. Unnecessary.

Now, on with the old-fashioned schmaltz that we love so dearly/schmearly.

10. Lazaro Arbos, Kelly Clarkson’s “Breakaway”

First, an important note: Lazaro seriously gets hotter every week. Measurably. To me, he’s a hyperventilating, mall-brand version of Robert Roldan from So You Think You Can Dance, and I once nicknamed that man “Gay Porn Aladdin.” That’s a fine legacy to chase, Lazaro. Let’s try a tiny purple vest next week and an H&M fez. Sweat encouraged.

But God, come on now. “Breakaway”? For one thing, “Breakaway” is not an exciting live song. It’s a radio jam. Secondly, oh, Lazaro. You are not Kelly Clarkson, you’re not a wing-spreader, you’re too petrified to fly, and the only “risk” you take involves the saturated shades of turquoise you pick out from Express For Men. The entire song sounded wobbly and off-key, and I failed to see the defiance behind his hazel eyes. He’s adorable and should’ve stuck to the similarly adorable catalog of, say, Kris Allen. Would’ve killed to hear Lazaro (or Paul) trill Kris’ excellent single “Live Like We’re Dying.” Because now he’s just dying like he’s dying. In front of us, out loud, and with teeth chattering. Choosing Kelly Clarkson can be suicide, which means that Lazaro Arbos? Is more like Diane Arbus. BADABING, celebrity suicide joke.

(P.S. I hope Lazaro lands an H&M commercial where he peers into the camera and coos, “Style. Did I stutter?”)

9. Curtis Finch, Fantasia Barrino’s “I Believe”

I came to enjoy Curtis during his introductory clip package, in which he did not come off like the self-important ghost of Michael Lynche or Jacob Lusk. Too bad his version of Fantasia‘s coronation anthem “I Believe” was fraught with, well, self-disbelief. He was nervous and totally off-key, even if he appeared likable to my eyes. Wish there was more to say, but this is how it goes with singers who get ninth or tenth place: Because their failures are nondescript and forgettable, they’re sent packing pretty fast. I imagine that’s the case tonight.

8. Burnell Taylor, Ruben Studdard’s “Flying Without Wings”

Worst song of the night for sure. For SURE. “Sorry 2004″ would’ve been a more acceptable Studdard ballad. I’m not kidding. That song was at least distinctly unbearable, unlike the Velveeta/Boniva goopiness of this damn thing. Plus, I can think of a whole bunch of things from 2004 I’m actually sorry for, such as the horrible Sex and the City finale, Gwen Stefani’s dumb cameo as Jean Harlow in The Aviator, or the ubiquity of Hoobastank. Actually, “Sorry 2004″ is downright relevant to my life. Missed opportunity, Burnell.

The judges condemned Devin Velez for being “safe” at the mic, but is any other word is appropriate for Burnell’s choice? This added nothing to our perception of him as a performer, and I was too busy dozing off in that sea of Brigadoon stage smoke to care about how well he vocalized. Also, Dear Keith Urban: There was nothing distinct about Burnell’s “timbre” this week, but thank you for opening up Roget’s so you didn’t have to say “tone” for the 900th time. I’d be OK with Burnell’s dismissal, personally. Cute kid though, one whose jean jackets are endlessly patterned.


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