“American Idol” Top 7 Redux: Re-Born This Way!

The chicks and chavs of American Idol wailed two jams this week: one post-2000 anthem and one “soul” song in the tradition of Soul Train, the most phenomenal music series of all time. (Sorry, Dick Clark! I still watch $25,000 Pyramid reruns every day, so no disrespect.) Though it was awkward when Don Cornelius‘ son Tony appeared in the audience not two months after his father’s self-destruction, much of the night was a splendid musical spectacular. Hot. And a couple of beleaguered contestants rebirthed and came alive for the first time in weeks. Wee!

Now, if I were performing this week, I’d have chosen “Work It” by Missy Elliott (I love inventive vagina slang!) and “Ease on Down the Road” from The Wiz. Both would feature Timbaland in a scarecrow costume, if that helps you to understand my vision. Onward to our rankings!

7. Colton Dixon, Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance” and Earth, Wind and Fire’s “September”

More like “Blah-dee-ahhh,” am I right, Earth, Wind and Fire?! It took my exhausted aunt Steven Tyler all night — literally, up to the very last seconds of the telecast — to announce his first truthful observation: It’s all about song choice at this stage of the competition, and Colton’s selections felt as inappropriate as a Soul Train montage on the day of Dick Clark‘s death. The svelte Mr. Dixon usually scores in the top half of my rankings because he’s that rare Idol fit, a belter who remains sincere while acting the part of a “package artist,” but last night his tiny-panted blandness robbed his song choices of any power.

“Bad Romance”? I have news for you, Colty. “Bad Romance” was a sensation in 2009 because Lady Gaga is actually weird, and she commits to kooky melodrama like no one since The B-52s, John Waters, or the cast of Cold Mountain. The faith-touting Colton can’t approach that level of bizarreness with his safe-ass “rocker avatar” getup from The Sims, and so his rendition was cleverly arranged, but ultimately flavorless. “September” was a more obvious failure, as Colton stripped it of its dance beat and driving melody. The late Don Cornelius would’ve purred in despair, then forced Shalamar to take the stage and wake up the room. I notice that Colton wore a pink/red streak in his blond ‘do this week, much like Erika Van Pelt. Death knell, anyone?

6. Elise Testone, Alicia Keys’ “No One” and Marvin Gaye’s “Let’s Get It On”

Last week I declared that Elise Testone is my favorite singer left in the game, but I have a dastardly confession to make: I’d prefer she just lose now. The crouchy, boppy, vaguely crestfallen chanteuse isn’t “connecting,” as they say, and the American Idol viewership isn’t about to appreciate a classy rock/jazz vocalist in the vein of Rickie Lee Jones, Toby Lightman, and latter-day Joni Mitchell. Not going to happen, particularly if her astounding forebears Allison Iraheta (4th place) and the fabulous Carly Smithson (6th place, dear God) are any indication. Simply put, she’s the one contender with no shot of winning, and I’d rather see a tight race than an uneven, uncomfortable one where a talented dame like Elise has to hold on for dear life every Thursday.

Anyway: “No One”? Fine enough. Awful, tangelo-colored dress and Emancipation of Mimi wind machine, but the vocal was serviceable. And “Let’s Get It On”? Crazily, I thought she started off on the right foot. Very controlled and effortless. But then the chorus hit, and Elise summoned the sexuality of a bored geometry tutor. Where was the Soul Train fire this week? Hit me with Aretha Franklin‘s “Rock Steady” or something, child. Twirl and jive, thanks.

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