"It's either going to be fantastic or it's going to be a train wreck," says noted clairvoyant Simon Cowell at the top of last night's Rock Week episode. "I vote train wreck." Of course you do, Simon. That's why you're Simon! Also, of course it's going to be a train wreck. And how!
First up is LeRoy Bell, he of the honeycomb voice and suspiciously youthful appearance. "LeRoy is boring," LA Reid says before the perennially freshly scrubbed grandfather is brought out to sing. Unfortunately, on this particular night, LA is 100 percent correct about LeRoy's same-old, same-old Bob Seger cover. "It's live TV, and people need to make more of a connection," Paula says gently. Setting the tone for the night, Simon tells LeRoy that what he did with the song merits a zero. "Right now, you can't win this competition," he says. Nicole objects, but when Simon asks whether she thinks LeRoy can win, her answer ("Of course I'm gonna hold that possibility") does not bode well.
Rachel Crow is up next with "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction," one of the few songs in the episode that resides unquestionably in the rock canon. Wearing a dress of black and red fringe that suggests Animal from the Muppets has been scalped, Rachel packs a lot of energy and enthusiasm into her performance. She's one of the few contestants this week who looks really psyched to be there, and the judges seem just as happy to have borne witness.
"Can the trash lord of Santa Cruz adapt his hip-hop rap style to rock?" asks host Steve Jones before Chris Rene's performance. I'd forgotten that Chris used to be a garbage man, but now all I can think about is how Matt Dillon never starred in a movie called The Trash Lord of Santa Cruz in 1992. Frankly, it seems impossible. Chris has the unfortunate task of plowing through a very Maroon 5-ish "No Woman, No Cry," which veers from acceptable to not-so-much when he tries a Jamaican inflection. Simon takes issue with the fact that Bob Marley was not a rocker. "I don't care if he was inducted in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame," he says. "Bob Marley is reggae." This argument ends up haunting the rest of the episode.
Stacey Francis gets "a song originally performed by Meat Loaf," which is a borderline-cheating way to say that she sings Celine Dion's "It's All Coming Back to Me Now." To Stacey's credit, she does perform the song with a guttural trill that actually sounds more like the former artist than the latter. The song earns middling marks from LA and Paula, but it really seems to rub Simon the wrong way. "That was the kind of thing I'd expect to hear at the Hilton hotel, with people turning their backs," he says. Nicole tries to comfort her mentee, but it comes out like this: "There is a genre of rock called glam, and tonight you were a glam rock diva." The camera pan to Stacey's thousand-yard stare at this comment is the funniest moment of the night.
There's increasingly less to say about Melanie Amaro. Her voice is obviously incredible, but it sort of feels like she's plateaued in her ability to surprise us. Tonight she takes on R.E.M.'s spare, lovely "Everybody Hurts." Although she does a beautiful job, here is where LA and Simon's previous argument heats up. "Melanie, I love you. But that was not a rock song," LA says. When Simon defends her by claiming that Melanie sounded like Adele or Alicia Keys, LA questions whether either of those two can be considered rock music. It's a ridiculous question, though, because have you heard "Rumor Has It"? Also, duh, it's an R.E.M. song! Amazingly, the sniping between these two doesn’t end here.
Burly everyman Josh Krajcik is on deck now, performing a song by "one of the most important rock bands of today: the Foo Fighters." Against an ADD nightmare background, with millions of accelerated particles flying at your face, Josh gives a resolutely rocking performance. Perhaps it was the fact that this is the hardest rock song of the night, or maybe he just wears the genre well, but Josh gets a standing O from all four judges.
Puff Daddy's "I'll Be Missing You" sort of qualifies as a rock song, since it prominently samples the Police. Then again, right from the announcement that it was Rock Week, I'd wondered how Astro would fare outside of his homeostasis, and this is a decent solution. He uses Common's "I Used to Love H.E.R." trope of spitting a love-rap to hip-hop itself, and it works. It seems like the kid can do no wrong. "Can you just suck for once?" Paula asks.
Lakoda Rayne perform their second Fleetwood Mac cover, "You Can Go Your Own Way," and the judges pretty much tells the girls they can go their own way because they're not going to last much longer on the show. Even though LA admits that he didn't think much of the performance; when Simon starts to attack Lakoda's "stupid" choreography, LA tells him to stop being mean. "Watch your back," Simon deadpans in response – a culmination of all the night's tension.
Giving Drew a U2 song turns out to be an inspired choice, as her folksy twang takes it takes it to new levels of resonance. All of the judges, save for Simon, seem to have a problem with it, though. "This is the slowest rock song," Nicole says. Simon prevails upon his mentee to pay no attention to "the three witches" sitting next to him.
The final performance of the night is from Marcus Canty, whose purity is established via footage of the singer skyping with his pastor-aunt and her youth church. Why not also show Marcus thumbing through a bible or carpentering something? When the conservative young man performs Janis Joplin's "Piece of My Heart," the set is steeped in fire, and Marcus is flanked by so many half-naked backup dancers, groping his body as though trying to sex the church right out of him. Are you trying to give Marcus's aunt a heart attack, LA!? The judges ultimately have nothing but praise for the singer, but they do have some words for LA about all the "temptation" on stage.
Predictions for tonight's show: into each life a little Lakoda Rayne must fall, but now it is time for it to fall by the wayside. Peace out, ladies!
Last episode: Paula's Groups Are Dropping Like Flies