Okay, so: Diana Ross and Donna Summer are two totally different people. Diana Ross is the not-dumb one that is the black Stevie Nicks, but she'll slap you. Upstaged here by RYAN SEACREST'S NANA! My favorite Nana of my favorite boy! Ahem. So the Janay-amounts-of-terrified Brandon continues to be beautiful, screwing around on "Can't Hurry Love" like a clichÃ©d mess, which is like his entire thing. Doolittle rocks "Home," from The Wiz, into something resembling a song that might hold your interest, then bends over backwards to make it amazing, and the judges cry about how awesome she is. Sligh ruins "Endless Love" into Coldplay, which is what happens when you're a douchebag trying to out-Blake Blake. Yes, that's hostility: when the judges tell him the arrangement was pathetic, he indicts them for ignoring his vocals, boringly good, and then gets sulky and whiny about how next week he's going to sing a better-arranged song since the vocals don't matter anyway. Gina "pronunciates," per Miss Ross, "Love Child": she's the female Sligh and only slightly hanging on because of her less egregious but more fake charmer personality. Lot Lizard Sanjaya sings "I'm Coming Out" while wearing chandelier earrings and scaring the bejesus out of everybody in the room, the viewing audience, the world. His lack of ability goes crazy all over his draining charisma long enough to remember that it was actually an uninspiring version of "Ain't No Mountain" that he was singing. My bad. Luckily, Simon makes him cry.
Some girl I've never seen before dedicates "Missing You" to her fiancÃ©, which Miss Ross implies is like dancing on Marvin Gaye's grave. Paula tells her it's okay she forgot all the words, because the audience is stupid. Not making that up. Phil finally gives in to his affliction that makes him so hellish to look at, screwing "I'm Gonna Make You Love Me" to the wall, ironically enough. Lakisha sings a "God Bless The Child" created just for her, and rocks it out in her workhorse-like way: doesn't engender much conversation; she's miles above everybody else, yet still hard to care about. Stephanie sings a forgettable but charming song, again: "Love Hangover." The judges totally diss her for leaving out what they openly refer to as "the good part" of the song. OUCH! Blake produces himself up a hot fuss cover of "Keep Me Hanging On" that manages to make Sligh look idiotic and the judges old and incontinent, though they're right: strip off the lights, the beats, the camera, the action, the strings, and the total vivid hotness of Blake, and what you have is a barely passable vocal with some ornamentation. But take those things away, how's life even worth living? As a straight vocal, it's crap; as a performance, it's up there with Doolittle. And therein lies the mystery of this show.
Chris R. sings "The Boss" and does a terrible, awful job of it -- but is so counterintuitively lovable and charming that it barely matters. Which Simon pretty much tells him is a bad thing, and I guess in terms of longevity it may well be, but I certainly never agreed to look at the kid with anything but disdain and lately I find myself looking forward to him, so who knows. Finally, Jordin! sings "If We Hold On Together," from The Land Before Time, a film I hasten to point out is literally titled in her case, because it came out BEFORE SHE WAS BORN. If that doesn't kill you, surely nothing will.
Who should go home: Phil or Haley. Who will go home: Phil, Haley, or Stephanie. Tomorrow: Diana Ross sings live!
Wait, this shit is two hours? Did we know that? Why in hell is it two hours? That's ten minutes per person, including commercials. In which nothing happens. That's bloaty. And then tomorrow is half an hour...FOX, I know you are crafty. And when I figure out your game, I'm blowing it sky high. Mark my words!
Ryan mentions in passing, as always, the award-winning and platinum-selling people that once had to do with this show, and now do not, as though it somehow reflects well on the show that they're succeeding: Kelly's awards, Chris's sales, Carrie's country awards, Fantasia's terrifying scary face, J-Hud's Oscar...do we really need to talk about this? "They eventually overcame the embarrassment of being associated with this show, and fought tooth and nail for recognition, which only took some of them five years. Aren't we a force for good?" As though in agreement, technical goes haywire: his mic drops, the camera's shaky, he starts saying true stuff! He calls the show "the best platform in the history of TV," with which I can't argue with, and asks us to vote. Credits, and then the audience screaming like freaks off the leash, holding posters that say shit like "FRO PATRO." Question: How can something be hilarious and racist at the same time? Answer: It cannot. Only slightly less offensive is Ryan's reminder that this shit is going to be going on for another three months. "Son of a bitch," is what my notes say. He indicates the finals band, and it's huge: horns, and strings, and little Japanese girls in crazy outfits, eight scary robot white ladies in Nagel makeup pretending to play guitars, a man with a banjo, and an otter with a washtub bass and faith in the spirit of Christmas.
Simon and Paula giggle madly as Randy talks around the idea that the boys are on shout now and for all time, and Paula says they're finally "ready to come into their own now," like excellence is something you should hold back until the last possible second, and Simon explains that the guys are fucked because they weighted the Top 24 precisely to fuck the guys, and that "this stage can make you or break you." And then in five years, you'll actually have built up your reputation to the point where your career should have been at the first place, and you can finally start working on getting recognition as an actual musician, and hopefully one day getting your money stolen by labels and A&R reps, instead of this show, as God and Valenti intended.
Speaking of the truths about the industry we prefer to ignore, meet What's Left Of Diana Ross. We see thousands of pictures of her looking dubious and spooky from many decades and -- in case you're young enough to be watching this show without kinda hating yourself, which I honestly hope you are -- we learn about who she is. Long, long ago in the dawn of time, when the value of a dollar meant something and women did what they were told, there was a lady named Diana Ross. At fifteen, she joined a group of singers called the Supremes, and they had 12 #1 hits. Five thousand years later, their story was turned into a mediocre-to-good Broadway show and then a mediocre-to-great film, about which I now know more than I know about actual things that matter to me, despite an utter lack of interest and complete personal media sanction for the last few months, because Dreamgirls is the new Arrested Development, or maybe Jesus: there are people whose love of it means for some reason that you really, really need to love it too, and you risk inducing some super fucking hardcore suspicion if you evince any disinterest, which only increases their determination, in a vicious circle that never, ever ends. So sometime after that, she dumped the bitches, acted spooky some more, and was creepy looking all the time. She played my girl Billie in Lady Sings The Blues, won 279 Tonys and 11,000 Grammy nominations, and all this time, her album covers were terrifying, she made scary faces, and had unique fashion sense. Somebody, I think Joe R, decided she was the Female Entertainer of the Century, and I can't disagree. ["You know, I was all set to take vehement offense to that, but after this week, I kind of love Diana Ross and all that she's done." -- Joe R] American music of the century pretty much pivots on the popping of blues, and she went there with the rest of Motown, and is an icon. And all creepiness aside -- which is an issue you get with every single icon ever, eventually; I'm not singling her out -- you have to admit she's pretty much totally awesome.