Totally/Technically Great: Jordin's "On A Clear Day" is joyous, and the girl is gorgeous, but her antics before and after the song are wearing thin. She's a kid. Doolittle sings "I've Got Rhythm" in a seamlessly polished performance that schools everybody and brings a trite tune back not only to life but to awesomeness. LaKisha sings "Stormy Weather" in what I'm being told is a fabulous fashion, but I don't get the point of that song, so I was mostly lost.
Boring But Serviceable: Gina sings an understated -- yet not sentimental or cheesy -- "Smile," then Paula correctly praises her for these exact reasons. "Mr. Saturday Night" is another song I can't stand, but Chris's messy notes and all-over-the-placeness: obvious.
And Blake. "Mack The Knife"? My most hated song, in my most hated songbook, sung in my most hated David Radford crooning bullshit Sinatra impression. I'm not going to bed angry, I'm just going to bed. We don't actually need to talk about it or anything, it's fine. You should probably just go. I'll call you tomorrow, I promise. Don't look at me like that, I'm not mad. I'm not anything, I just...I'm really tired, okay? You too. Bye.
Creepy, Bizarre, Upsetting: Phil sings "Night And Day" in the style of an American singing like a French person singing like a German singing like Sundance Head: creepy and a tad disingenuous, but at least he dedicates it to 9/11 some more. Haley's "Ain't Misbehavin'" is a moving violation in many spooky, crazy ways; Tony Bennett has to remind her that the song is anti-sluttiness, her dress disagrees. Sanjaya's white Wolfe-suited "Cheek To Cheek" is the usual masterwork of Dadaism. Only way it could be more offensive is if it were delivered wearing a pith helmet, and he knows it.
Irrelevant: Idol Gives Back, standards. Tony Bennett.
Hitting Seal: Phil, Haley, hopefully Blake. Just enough to hurt, like Ryan can send him right back to the stands in like one hot second, but I want him afraid next week.
Going Home: Haley, please.
When it comes to singing a song and telling a story, or in fact talking forever about nothing in particular, we got Tony Bennett. He's spent sixty years having hits in every decade, starting with 1950. 106 albums and $50M worldwide sales, 15 Grammies and eighty years of age later, he's a legend. He sings with Xtina and is beloved by Stevie, Barbra, and Bono. His Duets is his biggest album ever. Everybody loves him, he's a legend. He jumped on the "ironic cover" bandwagon after everybody else had finally jumped off it, desperately grasping for the tweener buck, and still couldn't equal the emotional power in one pinkie toe of "Hurt." He represents a bygone age when men were men and women were women, and he's still stuck there, along with countless fans and members of the Greatest Generation. Like so many of his fans and fans of the show, he prefers to hear the songs he's heard a million times before, performed just like they have been performed a million times before, because he is deeply afraid of change. His comfort zone is the circumference of the action of a pair of wingtips, in the middle of a lazy soft-shoe. He is a performer par excellence, much like his whole generation of showmen, and is thus part of a phenomenon in which I have a notorious lack of interest. To say I would rather throw myself off a tall, tall building than ever hear Clay Aiken "interpret" a dusty old standard or five thousand is not to say that Clay Aiken is untalented. I'm given to understand he's good at doing this thing. It's just that he's doing something I don't care for. There are people who are good at golf too, but I don't want to watch them being good at it.
The Idols cheer, as they do every week, on Tony's arrival. He describes them all as "very competent," and tells them that he likes all of them. He then explains that, coincidentally enough, the songs in which he is most proficient happen to be "the best songs ever written in America," and explains to us that the "whole idea" is longevity. Keep doing the same thing for sixty years, never growing or changing or challenging your audience in any way, and you too could still get wheeled out onstage for applause when you're billions of years old, like a toothless tiger in a decaying circus cage. You too can be complicit in the consensual illusion that things were better in the past, when racism and misogyny were the order of the day; you too can look back fondly on the Depression and two World Wars and have the gall to get misty about it. You too can be part of the lie. You too can say -- with eyes wide open -- that Sophia Loren still is, and will always be, the sexiest bloated corpse on the planet.