S10E38: We've been building towards this week all season on Idol and now we've finally seen the big, arena performances from our top two: Scotty McCreery and Lauren Alaina. They each performed three songs: one favorite from earlier in the season, one chosen by their own idols and one brand new song which would double as a single for the one that wins. All along, I've understood that Scotty was probably too strong for anyone to pass him up and take the winner's spot, but after last night, I don't think that call is so easy anymore.
Of course, it's the finale, so we can't have just contestant performances -- that would make too much sense. We got a little intermission with a performance from Taio Cruz singing a song co-written by a handful of people who submitted lyrics online. Genius, right? Nope. Fans submitted their lyrics, American Idol folks chose a handful, then fans voted on which ones were the best, and someone crammed them into an excruciatingly bland pop melody. The result is a song called "Positive" that Idol is GIVING AWAY FOR FREE; sure, that was the plan all along, but they'd have to give it out for free. It's worse than the watered down pop songs my friends and I used to write at middle school slumber parties while we were hopped up on grape soda and peanut M&Ms. Hell, our half-baked choruses even had more going on than "Positive's" recitation of the title over and over...and over. At least we diversified to something with multiple words like "you and me" or -- if we were feeling a little more adventurous -- "you and I."
David Cook also stopped by to perform the song that's been the Idol death knell all season, his cover of "Don't You (Forget About Me)." Sure, we get that it was a bit of a dedication to all the contestants who we will undoubtedly forget about in a few weeks, especially the ones who showed up at auditions dressed as Transformers and confederate soldiers. (Yeah, they included those jokers in the montage that ran behind Cook's head, ensuring there was no way we'd actually pay attention to him.)
Anyway, onto the performances that have actual weight, but before we get into it, I should note that Lauren almost didn't make it. At the last minute, she lost her voice and needed medical attention. Producers even brought Haley Reinhart on-set to rehearse in case Lauren had to drop out. Luckily for Lauren, she recovered and made it to the stage at the Nokia theater in Los Angeles to perform and maybe even get the edge on Scotty.
Round 1, Season Favorites
"Gone" by Montgomery Gentry
Scotty came right out of the gate with this rousing song and worked the stage like a professional. Not only does he own this song, but it's fast-paced enough that it helps push him a little closer to mainstream. This is dangerous for Lauren, because that's her demographic. Scotty has the hard-core country fans on lock, but those who are more interested in pop music would likely lean toward Lauren. This performance tows the line; it's a smart move on Scotty's part.
"Flat on the Floor" by Carrie Underwood
This would have been the best choice for Lauren if she had carried it the way she did the first time she performed. Maybe it was nerves, maybe it was the fact that she almost didn't get to perform, and maybe it's that the song is a very difficult one, but Lauren just wasn't as great as she usually is. Sure, she hit the notes, she hit her marks on stage, but the total package wasn't something we've come to expect from her. When Scotty comes out of the gate with infinite energy and complete confidence, her shaky and almost unsure performance took her down a notch.
Round 2, Personal Idols' Choices
"Check Yes or No" by George Strait
There's nothing necessarily wrong with this performance, it just wasn't anything special. Scotty did his usual Scotty thing, but the whole performance felt a little sleepy. When you've got someone like Lauren who forges a deep emotional connection to every song she sings, it's just a little disheartening to see Scotty who sings like he's taking a Sunday stroll. It also gives me time to focus on the elements of his performances that simply don't work for me; mainly, it's his facials that bother me. The laid back rendition just made me notice how much his wild-eyed look bothers me.
"Maybe it Was Memphis" by Pam Tillis
Well, I guess Lauren picked the right Idol. Her choice, Carrie Underwood, picked a great song to give Lauren that little push. The song was equally as easy-going as George Strait's choice (his own song) for Scotty, but unlike Scotty, Lauren knows how to give weight to any song. When she gets on stage, even the simplest lyrics mean something. The girl even brought emotion to "Unchained Melody" earlier this season and she's only 16. This song was the perfect way to showcase her knack for tapping into a song's emotional quality.
Round 3, Original Singles
"I Love You This Big"
Scotty did a lovely job with this song and it was certainly interesting to hear him perform a song that no one else has done before. Of course, I still feel like he has trouble connecting to lyrics, which makes sense, because he didn't write them himself and he's a 17 year old boy. I certainly don't hate the guy, but his emotional reactions during songs always have the air of an community theater play. There are always a few kids who overact, but can't actually tap into emotions. The result is a sort of emotional pantomime that undermines everything. Scotty is like those kids. He's got that great voice and that's what's carried him and if he wins, his voice will be the reason, but as an overall performer, he's just missing that little extra something.
"Like My Mother Does"
Well, damn. If her performance of the song itself wasn't enough, the fact that she got down into the crowd and sang this to her mother with big, crocodile tears in her eyes pushed her from contender to front-runner. It may not work, but like I said in round 2, Lauren has the ability that Scotty doesn't. She connects whole-heartedly to the lyrics and in turn connects the audience to those lyrics. That's exactly what a singer should do. Sure, the move to serenade her mother will likely be touted as a cheap move by Scotty fans, but it worked for the song and Lauren is a 16 year old girl. For those of you who've never been a 16 year old girl, let me tell you that most often, girls' relationships with their mothers at that time are extremely tumultuous and equally as loving. It's a very emotional time, so while it may be the "tactic" that pushes her past Scotty, I will disagree with anyone who finds it disingenuous.
Who's going to win?
I'm going to go out on a limb and say Lauren will. I'll probably be wrong, because Scotty is pretty much invincible and I think he expressed that in his performances, but last night really gave Lauren the fighting chance that, frankly, she didn't have at the beginning of the evening. It also helps that she came back from a widely-publicized medical emergency to get onstage and wow us. It's really anyone's game, but for the most part, it doesn't really matter. The last two contestants standing are essentially both winners, because one will win a record deal and the other one will be given a record deal. And really, does it matter which one Scotty or Lauren is?
After getting paid $28 million to NOT sing, Mariah Carey is now in talks with several major labels to get paid to sing. According to Reuters, several industry sources say that Carey, recently released by EMI's Virgin, has been canoodling with RCA, Island Def Jam and Elektra and is certainly a bankable recording artist. EMI has shown other poor judgment in letting artists go, as the Wallflowers were jettisoned just prior to their multiplatinum album in 1996, and Shaggy was given the heave-ho only to have one of the best-selling albums of 2000. Ah, good times.
In the battle for late-night television supremacy, The New York Times reports that ABC (having already nabbed football commentator John Madden from Fox) is going after CBS' David Letterman. If Dave jumps to ABC, that would sound the death knell for Ted Koppel's Nightline. Of course, CBS may agree to let Dave go if ABC promises to take The Ellen Show and Family Law off its hands, as well.
Jennifer Lopez is on top again! (We like the idea of Jennifer being on top.) J.Lo is queen of the music charts this week, as her remix album bested Linkin Park, Alan Jackson and Kirk Franklin.
After a 14-year lay-off, Madonna will once again tread the boards of live theater. The pop diva is to lead the cast in London's West End play "Up for Grabs," which premieres May 23. British citizens were heard to comment, "I don't care if she lives here, marries Guy Ritchie in a castle and appears in a London play; that still doesn't make her a citizen of the realm!"
It doesn't take an Old Testament Bible to know that Luke Perry returns to television this Sunday on Showtime's Jeremiah. Jeremiah takes place in the God-forsaken future (unlike Jeremiah the prophet, who lived in the God-forsaken past), when the planet's inhabitants have few resources and have to scrounge for whatever they get. Which largely describes Luke Perry's career since he left Beverly Hills 90210.
Fox, the network that brought you Who Wants to Marry a Multimillionaire?, sinks to a new low with Celebrity Boxing. The first few bouts will feature "the battle of the bad girls" (Amy Fisher vs. Tonya Harding) and Brady Bunch's Barry Williams (Greg Brady) vs. Partridge Family's Danny Bonaduce (Danny Partridge). We couldn't make up material this good. We're just waiting for Alex Trebek and Pat Sajak to rumble in the ring together.
More from the world of late-night television: Jay Leno's in trouble for a joke he made about a South Korean delicacy. Leno quipped that disqualified South Korean speed skater Kim Dong-sung "was so mad he went home and kicked the dog, and then ate him." Former South Korean prime minister Kim Jong-pil was so outraged that he called Jay Leno "ill-mannered." Apparently ABC prizes manners above all else, which must be why it's going after Letterman and not Leno.
The TV ratings for the Grammys this year hit a six-year low, Reuters reports. Although it dominated Wednesday night ratings, the Grammy show's 19-million-viewer average was still at least 6 million lower than each of the past three years. CBS has allegedly said it will pay for J.Lo to get a new dress for next year's show.
Paul McCartney is setting off on a new "Long and Winding Road" as he starts a 20-show, 19-city North American tour over the course of eight weeks. Reuters quotes McCartney as saying he is "chuffed" to start the tour, his first since 1993. We have no idea what that means, but we like how it sounds.
In a case of music's musical chairs, two former Destiny's Child members are suing the current members of Destiny's Child for making disparaging remarks about them on the current album by Destiny's Child. Confused? So are we.
Rebellious punk group Sex Pistols' acerbic version of "God Save the Queen" is being re-released to mark the current British monarch's 50th anniversary on the throne. (Help her, someone! She's sat down and she can't get up!) Of course, the highlight of the song is lead singer Johnny Rotten snarling, "God save the queen, she ain't no human being"--or is that just a recent quote by Prince Charles?
Continuing on the royal theme, the Queen's teenage grandson, Prince Harry, has been cleared by British police on charges of marijuana use. Prince Harry had no comment on the matter, though for some unexplained reason it appeared he was holding his breath.
If Freddy got fingered, then Tom Green got ignored. Three new movies that rely on gross-out comedy - recently popular with audiences - all but seem to be on the wane. Green's self-indulgent Freddy Got Fingered headlined the three, with Joe Dirt and Tomcats lagging far behind.
But Freddy didn't get fingered as one of the best movies of the year. In fact, not since Ishtar have reviewers been so united on the complete unworthiness of a movie.
"It feels manufactured ... [The jokes are] not working." - Rolling Stone.
"Freddy Got Fingered is not a comedy - it's an act of violence against moviegoers." - The Associated Press.
"One of the most brutally awful comedies ever to emerge from a major studio.'' - Variety.
"It's not just bad; it's jaw-dropping, head-pounding, tumor-inducing, apocalypse-summoning bad.'' - The Hollywood Reporter.
This is not the first wave of gross-out flicks. Despite Freddy's less-than-sterling performance at the box office - it opened in fifth place this past weekend, grossing about $7 million - it probably won't be the last. But the tide toward these types of one-upmanship in the realm of the ghastly, never-before-seen-ick movies seems to have ebbed.
American Pie (1999) and There's Something About Mary (1998) each grossed more than $100 million. Last year's Scary Movie was a big winner, raking in more than $150 million. Green also hit it big last year with Road Trip. But this year's crop of shock joke movies is falling flatter than any Green joke.
David Spade's Freddy-like vehicle, Joe Dirt, opened marginally better than Freddy, in fourth place during the weekend of April 14, bringing in $8.2 million. In the two weeks since then, Joe Dirt has struggled to stay in the top 10, and has only grossed $19 million to date.
Tomcats has fared even worse. Though Tomcats also placed the fourth slot upon release, it only brought in a mere $6.5 million the first weekend and has fallen out of the top 20 after four weeks in release. To date, Tomcats has reached just $13.5 million in ticket sales. It marks an inauspicious debut for Revolution Studios, the new production company headed by ex-Disney chief Joe Roth.
The simple difference is that while flicks like American Pie and Mary actually had a story line that held the jokes together, Freddy has no such concerns. The story: Gord (Green), a failed cartoonist, moves back home and torments his father. The feud - which escalates to the point that the world is threatened by nuclear war - is just so much background noise to Green's Idiot Culture antics.
Jokes such as masturbating farm animals and prancing around in road-kill skin seemed designed to do nothing but offend. And audiences beyond 12- to 14-year-old boys are tuning out.
Even a re-tread family movie sequel, Crocodile Dundee in Los Angeles, opened higher than Freddy, placing third with a box office take of $7.7 million. The third installment in the Crocodile Dundee series, this movie relies upon the tried-and-true comedic standard of the fish out of water: a tough croc hunter from the Outback finds himself unnerved by the big city. This surely signals the death-knell of the gross-out flick - for now.
The future of the genre now seems to hinge on sequels to its biggest successes. Scary Movie 2 will open July 4. Hot on its heels will be American Pie 2, coming Aug. 10.
Green is currently working on a movie titled Uncle, co-starring Jason Lee, and plans to start writing a new movie very soon. The punchline : There might not be an audience at all that wants to watch either Green comedy.