American Idol
Top Five: Performances

Episode Report Card
Jacob Clifton: A+ | Grade It Now!
A Lofty Roach Soufflé

Top Five! Full of surprises, that little group. Lee, the sudden standout. Casey, the down-home full of potential big brother. Aaron, our little wiggling Yoda. Mike, the theatrical schmaltzer. And Crystal, who better fucking bring it. And why, oh why, are they all dressed like pimps from the jazzy nightclub of your nightmares? Why it's Harry Connick, Jr. This is not going to be pretty, folks.

Sir Anthony Hopkins is in the audience, representing whores. Maybe he just thought this was an open audition for literally any old trash and that's why he's here. I was about to say I missed Tony Bennett, but I guess he's here on his behalf. Kara looks pretty, with shiny hair, and Simon's 3/4-sleeve tee is quite flattering, given that you can see all the way to Oklahoma how far it's unbuttoned. Maybe this won't be so bad.

The Idols mostly look pretty great in their Idlewild finery, except for -- weirdly -- Casey, who looks incredibly stupid. Lee looks like he's hunting down aliens with Tommy Lee Jones, everybody else just looks like a particularly weird theme party from Gossip Girl. And then we learn about Harry Connick's horrible fucking mushface. He's got a certain thing, I call it "That Face," that puts him in the company of Tom Cavanaugh and Zach Braff, two people whose work I'm told I would love but simply cannot enjoy because of That Face. (Also Ed Chigliak, but there's a plethora of workarounds there considering everybody else's face.) I like Connick in Copycat, and in Bug. Basically anything where the role was written for that face. He's like the anti-Chris Isaak in every possible way, isn't he?

So yes yes, HCJ loves Sinatra, which is his business and not something I'm interested in judging anybody for. I like all kinds of obnoxious things myself, so I'm not throwing stones. But I wonder how this episode is going to go, because Sinatra is one of those things I have learned to keep quiet about. You know how people always say they like "all music except rap and country," which means "I don't actually have opinions"? That's how I feel about Sinatra. I will listen to literally anything else before I will listen to that. If I were on a desert island with the entire works of Frank Sinatra, I would make up my own songs instead and burn that wax for a cheap toxic high.

HCJ would like us to know that he has fussed and muddled and messed with all of the Idols, taking away from them their God-given right to arrange their own songs into total messes that we can jeer at. "You think Shania was up in here doing this?" No, no I don't. And for once, that speaks in her favor. He comes strutting down the steps on the stage, still cutting a fine figure in his hired-killer suit at the age of 67. Standing next to Ryan Seacrest he looks like a lighthouse lit by fake tanning next to a smaller fake tanning lighthouse. He informs Ryan that in addition to arranging the songs for them, he's also I guess going to play with his own band while they sing. What did he like about the Idols? Their humility.

See, here's the deal with singing. "You have lyrics and melody," Harry Connick Jr. says for those of us not in the business. "That sounds like a basic thing," Harry Connick Jr. says, but in fact it's not. It is shockingly easy, even for him, to get on stage and somehow "forget that you need to be singing words." Thanks for helping, Harry Connick Jr. He explains more about "words" and how you should remember that you are singing these "words," and finally Ryan -- realizing that Harry Connick Jr. has apparently forgotten as we speak that his job right now is to say words -- cuts him off, and says that Aaron is the first one through this particular woodchipper.

The little girls in the audience smile so hard as Ryan walks by! He introduces us to Harry Connick Jr.'s daughters, who seem to be about seventy... Oh, they're Sinatra's daughters. The Real Housewives Of New Jersey look makes a lot more sense now. They give Simon a monogrammed hanky that once belonged to their dad, and Simon couldn't give a shit, and it's hilarious.

"Here's what happened when Harry Met Aaron," Ryan riffs, as though anybody here is old enough or hardcore enough to know that was HCJ's big breakthrough, and then Aaron sits on the bench with Harry and sings super pretty. I hope Pianist Michael is in Boca this week, drinking Mai Tais and getting rubdowns from towel boys. He deserves it. I couldn't handle it if HCJ came into my life and did my job for me for a week. Harry tries to explain harmonics to Aaron about a particular note he's hitting wrong/for too long, and it's nice that he gets it. When he wishes Aaron well at the end of the package, it would seem that he is about to barf. Seriously, watch it back. He swallows some puke at the end there.

Aaron sings a reedy, lame "Fly Me To The Moon," and the amount of adorable that he is looking clearly has not helped his nervousness. I mean, it's a very pretty song and he clearly wishes he understood what the words were about, but instead of standing still and jutting his notes, he struts around and tries to have man-type feelings and forgets the whole "singing words" thing altogether. On the other hand, the way the band is rocking out behind him, tossing their string-section middle school hair with abandon, is awesome enough that you don't even have to listen.

The crowd goes way too nuts for way too long, given that bullshit, and Jackson says that the point is who's "in it to win it," and that he was worried about Aaron, and then lies that he did a really good job. The audience shit themselves, and then Ellen's intense fauxhawk wars with her crowsfeet in some kind of head-located bird fight. She's a lovely, youthful woman! Something has happened here, and I hate and fear whatever it is. Kara asks Aaron to pull it together and have some kind of damned charisma, pointing out that Sinatra wasn't even much taller than Aaron, and thankfully leaves Ryan out of it. Simon agrees with Kara, after thanking the Sinatras for his Sinatra-sweat piece of fabric, and says that Aaron was corny and like a mouse version of Sinatra's lion. "You do try hard," he says lamely, and prays as hard as me that Aaron finally goes home this week.

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American Idol




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