'American Idol' Recap: A Real Show - Rolling Stone
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‘American Idol’ Recap: A Real Show

Last night was all theatrics, including kissing, roasting and marching

Michael Becker / FOX

Because the pursuit of fame isn’t cruel enough, the contestants were tasked with insulting one another in video montages last night that revolved around agreed-upon quirks. There were a few softballs (“Casey Has a Beard!!!”), but mostly they were surprisingly spot-on. For instance, Scotty’s quirk was basically, “looks weird on stage.” So true! First: Scotty holds his microphone like a flute. “I think he was a flautist in a past life,” Haley offered. This is an untestable theory, but at least Haley’s working toward a solution.

Mystery Part Two: Scotty leans to one side. No theory suggested here, but to bring the point home, the producers flashed a series of pictures in which Scotty’s face looks affected by a strong easterly wind. Soon Scotty sang what in the Idol universe is known as “LeAnn Rimes’ Swingin’” (LeAnn was probably John Anderson in a past life.) He performed as always: bent over, microphone-as-flute, eyebrows and mouth flaring. It called to mind the insult session so recently concluded, and the judges did not like it. For the first time, they called Scotty “boring” and “safe.” All his friends gathered around him in the green room afterward, and he was maybe regretting going so hard at his flute-hands to please some heartless Idol producer.

More drama followed with James, who was extremely proud and in awe of that “craziness up there” that is his brain. He credited it a couple times for the show he put on, which was like the Disney Channel Movie version of a Good Charlotte concert. There were faux-British royal drummers, and James dressed up like a droog from A Clockwork Orange going to war. Everyone loved it! Jennifer pronounced it “theatrically the best performance of the night,” which she called an amazing coup since his was only the second performance of the night. (Maybe the rest was performed in a past life.) But here’s the thing: How much control does James actually have over all this? Can anyone just command whatever they want – drummers, elephants, hot dogs? If so, why are the other contestants squandering their power? The past-life theory cannot answer these questions.

Then came Casey, who slapped down audience members’ outstretched hands like he just wanted them all to go away during a performance of Maroon 5’s “Harder to Breathe” that was unremarkable until the end. At said end, Casey stomped up to the judges table, moved his face steadily and unflinchingly closer to Jennifer’s until he was basically threatening her, and pecked her on the cheek forcefully. Everyone needed time to process that. When the judges recovered, they realized they loved it! Steven congratulated Casey for doing what he (Steven) had dreamed of doing all season. As it happened, Steven was sporting a mysterious lipstick peck of his own that he said his daughter gave him. Okaaaay. Also, he was impressed enough by Casey’s attack on Jennifer to say the word “fuck” a few times. Ryan emerged in the fake beard featured in the Casey insult montage that came before. “You just kissed the most beautiful woman in the world,” he told Casey. They all talked about it like Jennifer wasn’t in the room, when in fact she’d been on the receiving end.

It was the kind of theatrics Idol loves (Ryan thanked Casey for “changing the course of the show”), but it distracted from the true high point: Haley’s simple version of Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep.” Haley has shown promise amidst the growls all along, and last night she turned the vocal extravagances down to reveal only her talent. There was no marching band, she didn’t kiss anyone, but she looked like a heartbreaker of old and sang with gusto and sincerity. Good job, Haley! You are a remaining girl and therefore should be treasured.

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