The theme this week is either "The 1960s" or "The British Invasion" or both, and I think the rule is that they're allowed to say "Beatles" but they're not allowed to sing any of their songs, thanks so much Michael Jackson. Instead of anyone interesting or relevant, we get Peter Noone, a cartoon of some sort, and "Lulu," an enigmatic (and, it turns out, awesome) woman who is like if you took Marianne Faithful and Twiggy and split the difference. Haley works it so damn hard, knowing she's up against elimination. She chooses "Tell Him," which Randy (correctly) says was an impeccable choice, and is about 75% naked, which Simon figures will be what everyone remembers. Noone lowballs us on Chris R.'s ability to sing the melody so much that when Chris is softly and sweetly on-pitch with "Don't Let The Sun Catch You Crying," any potential boringness is swallowed up by his faked-up triumph over adversity. Rave reviews. Stephanie picks Dusty Springfield's "You Don't Have To Say You Love Me," and her listless and utterly uninspired performance calls up the ghost of Nadia Turner, who proceeds to give everyone a beatdown. Noone's back with Blake, and he's super crotchety about how maybe little girls like all that spitty beatboxing Blake does, but he certainly doesn't. Once again, Blake's "Time of the Season" is more of a triumph of arrangement and vibe than actual singing, but this time the judges appreciate it. And then Ryan makes a fool of himself 100 times in under a minute, including trying to beatbox.
After some truly artificial haggling with Lulu over what she should sing, LaKisha settles on "Diamonds Are Forever" and makes Simon think he's watching an old lady sing. Phil sings a song called "Tobacco Road" that doesn't sound at all British, but that's probably okay since things are temporarily upside-down, evidenced by the fact that Phil's lower notes were way better than his power notes. Jordin chooses Shirley Bassey's "I Who Have Nothing." Two Shirley Bassey songs and no "Goldfinger"? This is bullshit! No matter, as Jordin's voice came to play. She was hitting some Melinda notes there. The judges love it, though Simon found the song gloomy. Sanjaya's "You Really Got Me" offers him an opportunity to forget about singing entirely, which is a good thing because he's actually interesting. Of course, that's all overshadowed by the batshit-crazy awesomeness of the hysterical crying thirteen-year-old girl in the audience who gets more airtime than anyone else and who I think got her own 1-866 number. The whole spectacle is maybe the greatest thing I've ever seen on this show. Gina and her awesome new haircut try on some "Paint It Black," and I thought she was great, but Simon strongly disagrees, and after four weeks of telling her to drape rocker affectations all over herself, he dings her for style-over-substance. Sligh continues to be a giant wannabe-Blake by singing the second Zombies song of the night, "She's Not There." He walks all through the crowd trying to cultivate an "of the people" vibe, but he only achieves "desperately glad-handing." And then he apes Taylor and yelps out "Fro Patrol" and is thus DEAD TO ME. Melinda is predictably great on "As Long As He Needs Me," but she makes Little Miss Sobshine lose it in the audience again, which makes it all worthwhile. Seriously, that little girl made this whole episode. I'm off to vote for her right now! Tomorrow: results. Going home: I'd say Stephanie or Phil, but wouldn't it be ironic if the only week Sanjaya was at all compelling, he got bounced?
So now that the eleven remaining contestants have cleared the hurdles marked "Auditions," "Hollywood," "semi-finalist" and "finalist," the next arbitrary plateau they have to reach lest they be branded gigantic failures is to make the top 10. That way they get to be on the tour! At which point they'll spend all summer dealing with Blake's hair products, and LaKisha's crying kid, and Melinda's Gayles, and Chris R.'s groupies, and Phil's blood transfusions, and Haley and Gina's jealous boyfriends, and Sligh's...oh, man. A whole summer stuck on tour with Chris Sligh. You think he's gotten tiresome now? Anyway, sorry, Ryan's trying to tell us something. The top 10 is what our Idols seek, and they'll have to brave 1960s Britain to do it. This is American Idol.
We'll start with what Ryan looks like, as we often do, and while the gray tailored suit is nice, I suppose, if you're going to a wedding, I am not in love with the many-shades-of-eggplant striped tie. Then again, maybe Ryan's just very Catholic and wants to wear his Lent colors. HA ha ha ha! Right. Like Ryan Seacrest has beliefs. As the top 11 parade across the stage, Middle America's very own flesh bazaar, we see that Haley is wearing hot pants, Stephanie has chosen to get into the spirit of the evening with some go-go boots, Gina and Melinda have gotten their hair cut, Phil isn't wearing a hat (dammit!), and Sanjaya has gone back to his original floppy moppet hair, but he's given last week's tangle of curls to LaKisha, who wears it proudly. Next we meet the judges, and Paula's glassy-eyed and seal-clapping, so I guess it couldn't last forever. I feel like she's going all Algernon on us, like if I tell her how articulate and awesome she's been for the last month, she wouldn't even understand it anyway. When asked about how the contestants should deal with their nerves, she slurrily suggests they picture Simon naked. Ryan, as you might expect, gets all giggly and weird at this not-at-all-pre-planned remark, while Simon's all lean-back about it, because everybody wants his bitch-titted fine self.
So there's a theme, this week. And it's "The British Invasion," or so Ryan tells us. Which means Britain in the 1960s. And because they think we're stupid but they don't think we're that stupid, the retrospectical montage begins with The Beatles. What Ryan's voice-over doesn't say is that we won't be hearing any songs by the Beatles tonight, because Michael Jackson sold the rights to those songs to a fourth-grader in exchange for a glimpse at his belly-button. (Too much?) So, yeah, it's "British Invasion" week without the Beatles. Next week, look for Disco Night without Donna Summer or the Bee Gees. Instead, we're left to marvel at the awesome power of Gerry and the Pacemakers and The Searchers. And, okay, the Stones and The Who, and Dusty Springfield, and Shirley Bassey are awesome, and I'm sorry if this is your chosen musical genre and I'm just being an ignorant moron about it, but come on. The Beatles! Do the theme right or don't do the theme! Your season can live without the Peter Noone ratings bump.
Which indeed brings us to our guest mentors this week. I've been struggling since Tuesday to find a proper allusion for what Peter Noone's face looks like. Like he should be on a box of Rice Krispies? Or in a Schoolhouse Rock video? It's the buggy eyes and the giant maw and the orange complexion...he's like a caricature drawing. Yeah, that'll work. He's like a caricature drawing...of Prince Charles. Yes. Okay, glad I got that out of the way. Peter Noone was in a band called Herman's Hermits, and they had some hit songs back in the day, "Something Tells Me I'm Into Something Good" being the one I've heard about. Really edgy stuff, I'm sure. Lulu, meanwhile, looks like Twiggy. That impression starts to go away once she starts talking, at which point she starts moving closer to Julie Christie, Marianne Faithfull, "I've smoked cigarettes bigger than you, Malakar" territory. So Peter's working with the dudes, while Lulu (who can still sing, it turns out) will work with the girls. Like the guys need to be disadvantaged any more than they currently are, whatever. Peter Noone bugs the hell out of me already. Clapping along to his own empty, saccharine song like a simple-headed person. He's going to be a horrible influence on Sanjaya, I bet.