What could have been a brilliant show on “American Idol” last night ended up being a series of missed opportunities and bone-headed choices — with just enough fine performances in-between to keep you watching.
Like many, I was looking forward to watching Season 8 runner-up and current Queen front man Adam Lambert help the remaining eight wannabe stars step up their game as they tackle the iconic British rock band’s catalog of songs. But it didn’t take long after the contestants sang “We Will Rock You” during the opening for me to realize that this episode might be a rocky enterprise at best.
Let’s start with the positive, though. Jeremiah Lloyd Harmon definitely won the night (see video above). Not only were his church pastor father and mother — who weren’t pleased when he recently told them he was gay — have since reconciled with their son and were in the “Idol” audience for the first time. Jeremiah gave a nuanced, emotional and technically wondrous rendition of the ballad, “Who Wants to Live Forever.” He then doubled up on that achievement by sharing the best movie song duet of the night with another stand-out this week, Madison VanDenburg, with “A Million Dreams” from “The Greatest Showman.”
Also shining bright was Laci Kaye Booth, who got Laine Hardy out of his boy-toy “pardy” zone and acting a bit more mature during their duet, “Jackson,” about a quickie marriage that soon flames out that was a hit for Johnny and June Carter Cash and featured in the biopic “Walk the Line.” I do object to judge Katy Perry trying to commit social media arson by suggesting the pair are a thing, but if it helps these two, so be it. And she totally nailed her Queen song, “Love of My Life.” Instead of just focusing on hitting the notes, she made us feel the heartfelt lyrics and her throaty vocals proved to be a benefit.
The rest of the two hours, however, was pretty meh to me.
*The minute Walker Burroughs, who at least picked a fun Queen song to suit his voice and personality with “A Crazy Little Thing Called Love,” started to move about the stage and try to engage the crowd, it just felt forced. What saved the performance for me was the ending when he and the back-up singers briefly sounded like an acapella group – which is something very much in Walker’s wheelhouse since he is participates in such a group. If only he did more portions of the song that way instead of pretending to be a showman, it might have been truly memorable.
*Then there was Madison, whose pipes are perfection. It is hard to believe she is only 17. But why did was she given such a world-weary Queen song like “The Show Must Go On,” whose lyrics contain lines like, “Inside my heart is breaking, my make-up may be flaking, but my smile still stays on.” She clearly isn’t a diva type – at least not yet — and while her voice is dramatic, she probably hasn’t lived enough to truly sell such a tune. Plus, why place a hedgerow of nails in her hair? This isn’t Trent Reznor night.
*Our “American Idol” recapper Denton Davidson enjoyed Alejandro Aranda and Walker’s duet on Simon & Garfunkel’s “Mrs. Robinson” from “The Graduate,” but I thought it was all over the place. For one, the band was too loud and I didn’t hear the words clearly. And the harmony, which is what that song is all about, didn’t quite click between them. And note to wardrobe: Few people can pull off tie dye outfits – especially clashing tie dye. For that to work, they should have done a song from “Easy Rider.”
*OK, so Adam tells big dude Wade Cota to stand before the mike stand to sing “We Are the Champions,” and belt the anthem with authority. What does he do? He holds the mic and walks all over the place. He never owns this massive number and also bungles the lyrics. Sure Wade recovered but that was the last straw for me. And whoever thought to saddle Alyssa Raghu with Wade as they try to be Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell on “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” went pretty low in this choice. Instead of it being a duet, it was like two strangers doing their own thing on karaoke night and never meshing. I wish they had put Wade and Alejandro together or something instead of endangering another female singer.
*The general awkwardness of the night, including bouncing from Queen to doing movie duets, was jarring. Also uncomfortable was how Alyssa asked for water from the judges and generally had to waste time talking to them so she would collect at least a few live votes before the last commercial break and the clock hit 9 p.m. on the East Coast and 5 p.m. on the West. How torturous was it as Wade, who clearly thought he was on the chopping block, watched in shock as Alyssa and Walker were the ones going bye-bye instead.
Now, I will let you tell me what might have elevated the night to a truly memorable one. Take the poll below and pick your favorite of my suggestions of what the “American Idol” team could have done better last night. And please express your own thoughts about the show in the comments below.
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