Amidst a rather heroic amount of filler designed partly to introduce us to the half dozen or so women we've never, ever seen before, the twelve female semifinalists perform songs of their choosing. Some chose better than others.
Just Mandisa sings Heart's "Never" and rocks that shit out. Seriously, Ann and Nancy are some sort of good omen nowadays because Mandisa just shot herself up to the top ranks. Kellie Pickler continues to push her hard luck story onto an oh-so-suspecting public, but she's also showing signs of incrementally pulling her shit together. She pulls a Carrie (I know, right?) and sings some Martina McBride, and it's not all that pleasant, but the judges lie to us about it anyway. On the bright side, Kellie spends the rest of the episode jamming to everyone else's performances, which was lovely to see.
A freshly McNamara/Troyed Becky O'Donahue sings "Because the Night," words and music by Miss Natalie Merchant of Jamestown, NY. It's awkward, but part of that is because the song -- much as I love it -- doesn't fit this show too well. Still, Becky's a lot of not good here and her face is suddenly deader than Paula's, as if that were even possible. Ayla Brown is seven feet taller than Seacrest and loses her upper lip when she smiles, but I still like her. She sings the traditional Japanese soul hit "Reflection" by Japanese Woman Warrior Mu-Lan, and she's very good. And the judges take a rest this week from their campaign to sandbag her at every turn, so a good night for Ayla all around.
Paris Bennett continues to let her hair zig while we all zag. Meanwhile, she sings "Midnight Train to Georgia" (written and recorded by Carol and Mike Seaver in that one episode of Growing Pains that I still remember) with a ton of enthusiasm, including no less than fourteen "choo-choo!" arm motions. Girl's a performer, and the judges eat it up. Stevie Scott has a voice that blows right past me, and I know a lot of people find her wonderful -- my lovely and talented co-recapper among them -- but I don't like anything I hear her sing in her Melinda-Lira-proof video package. She sings a Josh Groban funeral song and it is high-pitched homicide the entire time. She's totally going home on Thursday. I'm sorry, Jacob!
Brenna Gethers is an absolute nightmare of a human being, as you all know, but she tries to fool us into thinking otherwise with the phantasmalogically boring song choice of "You Are the Sunshine of My Life," originally written by Anwar Robinson, or at least it should have been. So to make up for singing us what is essentially a minute-and-a-half excuse to check and see just what the preferred pronunciation of Irina Slutskaya is, Brenna and Simon decide to perform a one-act play of their own making in which not one second is authentically true. Heather Cox, Melissa McGhee, and Kinnik Sky are all the same doomed person and neither their newfound back-stories nor their boring as sin performances (Heather sings the fucking Tsingle, people) are going to change that.
Lisa Tucker is in no way sixteen years old and sings Jennifer Holliday with a lot of eyebrows and is judge-approved. Kat McPhee sings a song that was originally a multi-artist collabo between Bjork, Otis Redding, and Dave Brubeck, and I'm not sure what the song is all about, but what Kat is all about is being awesome. I like her more and more each week. And she gets the pimp spot and the judges adore her, so she ain't going anywhere for the time being.
So, predictions: Heather and Stevie will be eliminated on Thursday, unless Melissa McGhee's self-fulfilling prophecy of no screen time comes true for her, and I really hope it does. Oh, and I also predict that Paula will never be as chemically out of it as she was on this night. Girlfriend was looped.
Tomorrow: Jacob gets the Dawg Pound and continues to hoard every single second of Will Makar screen time.
Ryan's standing on a balcony that is new to the semifinals studio (right?). It's actually the RC Cola anteroom with the one wall ripped out so it overlooks the stage now. I really like it, mostly because watching how the contestants act while one of their own is performing is maybe my favorite part of semis. Who's being fake? Who's being less fake? Who's being only a little bit fake? Who's being Constantine? Ryan explains the process of this round to us (two nights of performances, separated by gender, fans call in and vote; on Thursday, two men and two women with the lowest votes will be gone) and says we're doing it "ladies first" this week, like it's chivalry and not a shrewd marketing move to neutralize the Sasha Cohen fan base.
Then: a decade of filler. Honestly. Ryan makes a joke about crying cowboys and the Brittenum twins -- because yeah, we're the assholes for caring about that stuff when that was literally all that aired a week ago -- and then introduces the twelve women set to compete tonight. They've all clearly been instructed to walk past the camera, smile, and wave. And I certainly hope the boys will be expected to do the same, lest this all turn into some A League of Their Own "a lady reveals nothing" sexist bullshit. Of note: Becky O'Donahue has had Botox and/or has completely forgotten what to do with her face when there's a camera on it; Ayla Brown needs to stuff some tissue under her upper lip like that one bird-faced girl on Top Model Cycle Four; and Brenna Gethers knows exactly what she's doing at all times. Ryan then intros the Dawg Pound, which is so funny because more than half of them were not even alive to remember Arsenio Hall. Then the judges and Ryan go the "Know Your Current Events" route by bringing up how mean Simon has been this season. I love when they do this shit. It's like they're holding a press conference in the middle of the show. Even if Simon's answers consist of content-free smug expressions and Paula's answers are content-free bewildered gibberish. If it's good enough for the White House, you know? Anyway, Ryan and Simon go as follows: banter, banter, Brokeback, banter. Ryan does note how uncommonly harsh Paula has been this season -- which I do think is probably accurate -- and Paula is the most coherent she will be for the next two hours when she says that nowadays "everyone in the audience is a critic," and then she and Simon bicker about that being his line and she's already turning her back to him, which is among my favorite Paula Tics (see what I did there?) because it's very pre-school "if I don't see you, you're not real." Randy says this year's Idol will be a "boy," which is what he says every year, I think. But this year it's true because Ace is totally winning.Done with the filler yet? Oh no. Because now we have to remind ourselves "how the girls got here." This is dumb in several ways, because it's just a series of clips of various girls walking in and out of auditions, without any real dialogue or singing or any story progression at all. So unless you've already been watching all season, none of this makes sense to you. But if you've been watching all season, why the hell would you need the video package? And then? Commercials.