Ryan tells us last week was a "sigh of relief," but since everyone got a reprieve, the pants-shitting desperation is going to be doubled in front of mentor Jon Bon Jovi. I'm not really paraphrasing, here. Ryan's stubbly and in varying shades of black as he tells us almost $70 million was raised last week, between corporate sponsors and private donors. We'll see how much of that goes to "Africa" and how much goes to "America." JBJ interviews the exact same thing everyone else has, about how the contestants have to tell stories with their songs. Dude, Jennifer Lopez said the same thing ten times more interestingly. I was thrilled about you mentoring, but could you please act like it's not past your bedtime? That said, this episode rocked, no pun intended, and I love that you actually made/let the contestants sing your songs. Yay for JBJ!
Phil sings "Blaze Of Glory," and sounds a little rough in the rehearsal to me, although not to JBJ, but maybe that's because Phil has been practicing the song for fifteen years. Not making that up, either. He starts in the audience, which makes sense given the double elimination desperation factor I alluded to earlier. Fortunately for him, he sounds a lot better in the live version, and he's -- dare I say -- somewhat engaged in a very good performance for the third week in a row, all the way up to a huge power note at the end. It's starting to become not a fluke, which could really make this competition more interesting. Randy name-checks himself, and Paula falls into Simon's lap, but in a good way. Not like the old days when the judges hated each other. Randy and Paula love Phil, but Simon is not interested in Phil stepping out of the country box he created two whole weeks ago, and thus thinks he's going home. If that's true, it'll make a fitting sing-out, at least, but I'm not so sure Simon's got his finger on the pulse here. However, Phil, as usual, listens to Simon, if his needy double-thumbs-up and five thousandth appeal to the viewers is any indication.
Jordin is singing "Living On A Prayer," and I thought anyone and everyone else in the field would have picked that song ahead of her, but here we are. Gina's in the audience, adorably, and then Jordin tells us how her mom (kill me here, honey) grew up with Bon Jovi. JBJ is wary of how tough this song is but is impressed with how good Jordin is at her age. Maybe that's because he has kids older than she. (I'm guessing here; don't e-mail me.) Jordin goes for the big hair with Gina-tribute red streaks, and I love her for that, but the band totally overpowers her on the first verse, so she's fighting a losing battle from the beginning. She sounds too measured on the bridge, the phrasing is weird and there's not enough belting and cutting loose, andâ¦the song is just too big for her, which I think JBJ feared without saying. Randy basically tells her she sucked, and Jordin, I think to her credit although I'm not completely sure, agrees from moment one. Paula also knows it sucked, and Simon hated not only the singing but also the look, although he tells her she was shrieky and out of control, when it seemed to me that that was the complete opposite of what happened aside from the full-on assiness of the vocals. Jordin straight-up admits that this theme was not her bag, which won't do anything to change anyone's opinion about her, but might not have been the best move in getting people to the phone lines.
LaKisha has fully flat-ironed her hair, which seems completely anti-theme to me, but is nicely really talkative with Ryan, if in a completely fake way. At least she's giving it a try here, you know? She sings "This Ain't A Love Song," which is not a hair song and as such means I will be checking out for a moment here. Because, come on, it's BON JOVI. The song's in her comfort zone, and she's not overly yelly like she's been the last two weeks, at least at first, but come on. The first half had me drooling on the keyboard. But she pulls out some attitude and some sass in the second half, her voice comes to life, and I'd certainly say this is her best performance in ages, if not on the greatest song. The second half is so good that Simon full-on makes out with her, and seriously, I AM NOT MAKING THAT UP EITHER. He gives her props for rising to the challenge, andâ¦it was the best half of a song so far, but let's not go overboard.
Dude, Blake dyed his hair black! And he's singing "You Give Love A Bad Name"! It is in my interest as far as the pool I'm in to root for him to suck, and yet I cannot, because he is awesome and I love him! Even though there are moments when I think he might be just a little bit of a poser! JBJ thinks Blake is taking a big risk on the arrangement, and we see in the rehearsal there's going to be beatboxing. And wow, is there ever. There's basically no instrumentation except for the drums, and he's crazy beatboxing on everything but the chorus. The first verse is unfortunately very flat, but he makes up for it on the chorus; he lets the backup singers do the work when necessary, but he's actually a lot more powerful than I thought was normal for him, and more importantly, this is the most fun of any performance in ages. Randy and Paula give him credit for doing a seriously original version of the song, and I completely agree. I don't agree that it was the huge risk they seem to think it was, because it's not like his fan base was going to stop voting for him over it, and he's going to cause the people who don't like him at least to sit up and take notice, but whatever, I'm barely a recapper here, much less a judge. Simon thinks half the audience will hate it, and I not only understand what he's saying but have noted the evidence of it among everyone I've seen post about the performance. He goes on that it was completely the right thing to do, and with that I agree, because there's no way Blake is going home tomorrow.
Ryan introduces Chris as "Justin Timberlake," and Chris looks a "nasally is a type of singing" level of pleased at that one. He's singing "Wanted Dead Or Alive," and JBJ is aghast that he doesn't know the words, butâ¦was he even born? At least someone's singing this song. And speaking of nasally, Chris brings that to bear here. If you hate him, this performance certainly isn't going to change that, but he's comfortable with the song, he goes all creepy eyes, in kind of a good way, with the performance, and although he's probably going home, he has nothing to be particularly ashamed of. But if you're a Chris fan, as I am? Be afraid, as the judges give him the sort of terse, generic praise that signals bad things for your future on this show. The silver lining is that he performed one of the iconic Bon Jovi songs, and maybe that's worth something, but I kind of doubt that will be enough, much as Simon tells him.
Melinda! JBJ tells her he can teach her how to rock. Unfortunately, she's singing "Have A Nice Day," so I don't know how good her chances are with that. JBJ loves her, though. And as well he should, because? She rocks it. The vocals are beyond discussion at this point, but she's wearing a tank top, doing a headbanging act with the guitarist, and telling us to have a nice day in a way that doesn't actually mean she wants us to have a nice day. I mean, she's not L7 or anything yet, but it's something. Randy didn't adore the vocals but loved the performance, Paula thinks she's a rock star, and Simon thinks she's a young Tina Turner and was miles above everyone else vocally.
And then things get ugly, as George W. and Laura Bush appear and thank everyone for their participation in the Idol Gives Back week. I will give that all the ink it deserves.
To wrap up: Phil sounding pretty damn good to me but maybe back on the going home train, Jordin sucking ass but surely being safe, LaKisha back in the game for the first time in weeks, and we'll see if she's not too late, Blake being about as awesome as he gets, which is saying a lot, Chris doing a reasonable job and totally going home tomorrow, and Melinda showing once again that she can do anything. Oh, and the kissy stuff continues, as Simon and Paula share a super-cute smooch at the end of the show. Have a nice day!
Just in case anyone cares, Joe R proposed to me months ago that when May rolled around and we were both inevitably sick of our shows, we switch things up for a week to keep from boring both the readers and ourselves. Unfortunately, or at least inequitably, I got one of the best episodes of a season I was already quite enjoying, and he got stuck with a trite PSA. Sorry about that, dude. I'll buy you a drink at TARcon.
Wow, I really went on and on in the recaplet, didn't I? I just couldn't shut up! It was really hard for me to adjust to this show! It's just not my thing! (Sorry, I lapsed into a Jordin impression.) Okay! On the monitor in the background, we see footage from last week, showing each of the six remaining contestants learning that they will live to perform in this dog-and-pony show another day. Ryan's in a black suit with a darker black shirt (black = rock on this show, as we'll see), and he tells us that two of the six hopefuls will be heading home, as we view a live pan across the contestants standing in a line. Notable: Blake has theme-obediently dyed his hair black, and Jordin has frizzed out her 'do and added Gina-like red streaks to it. For someone who will claim that this week isn't her bag, she certainly did the best in matching her hair with the zeitgeist of the theme, that being: Bon Jovi. I'm sorry, I meant BON JOVI! When I picked this episode, we didn't know who the mentor was going to be, and I wouldn't blame Joe if he was hoping that I got Martina McBride instead. (No offense, but... she's not Jon Bon Jovi, is all I'm saying.) Ryan asks which of our kids has the chops. "This! Is American Idol."
Wo wo wo! Ah AH!
Stubbly Ryan comes out (no, not like that) to the usual applause. Gina is in the audience, looking adorable and seriously thrilled to be there. Ryan thanks everyone for opening their purses last week, and tells us that between private giving and corporate donations, they raised almost $70 million dollars. And the breakdown of how that money gets spent will no doubt be publicized as heavily as the Idol Gives Back slogan. Ryan thanks the celebrities who participated as well, declining to make a Ben Stiller-related disclaimer due to time constraints, and then introduces "our three needy children." Part of the reason I like this Top 6 so much is that Ryan's statement couldn't actually apply to that many of them as well. The judges all look like they're in a great mood, and of course they should be, because did I mention the Bon Jovi? Video tribute: Slippery When Wet, hair that caused New Jersey to smile and the ozone layer to cry, JBJ getting geometrically hotter as he got older. Ryan VOs that the band has sold 120 million albums, and then we get shots of JBJ and keyboardist David Bryan, and the two of them just happen to be "rocking out" together in a studio when the Idol hopefuls wander in. JBJ gives them all a thousand-watt smile and self-deprecatingly tells them that his kids love the show. JBJ camera-interviews that all the Idol hopefuls want the title bad, and given that, they'll have to "make the songs [their] own" and "tell stories" with them. I'm thinking JBJ's kids don't watch the show alone, if you take my meaning. JBJ, with the perfect amount of wide-eyed stonerosity in his voice, says he has no idea what's going to happen tonight, but that's why America's watching. The idea that people watch AI for the unpredictability is an idea that could charitably be called "interesting," but his records have sold billions and he's scorching at age 45. Whatever you say, JBJ.