As we hit the snooze button after a generally lackluster Top 10 Guys night in Vegas, let us go ahead and crown Ryan Seacrest the winner of American Idol. The host's composure and instantly supportive words in the face of what seemed like an inevitable on-stage meltdown from Charlie Askew will go down in the books. All those history textbooks, with entire chapters about American Idol. We must never underestimate our often-bumbling, always-amusing host's role in ever so gently guiding these boyz II manhood.
Elijah Liu: Rihanna's "Stay" -- I'm really surprised the producers stuck this Mexican-Chinese Bieber type first. Despite a lack of early-season promotion, he's seemed like their pet for the past two weeks. But the unfortunate placement may have helped endear me to his performance, which was, looking back, possibly the most current song choice and delivery of the night.
I still think his voice is too soft, but it worked in this intimate setting, at least when the thunderous drum rolls weren't drowning Elijah out. Nicki Minaj can see Elijah's face on blankets, like "NKOTB-type ish from back in the days." So basically he is set for life.
"It hit me in the heart and that's what I wanna do," Elijah told Ryan re: the song choice. Cheesy, but sincere. He should stop identifying as a ladies' man on-camera and wait to charm people during random moments like that.
Cortez Shaw: Bruno Mars' "Locked Out of Heaven" -- It's too much. The "sexy pelvic thrusts," the fancy footwork, the self-impressed vocal gymnastics. Just too much flourish, too much going on and none of it was quite right. The judges commented that he should have gone a key or two lower, which is probably true, but I wouldn't even want to see him attempt it. No one wants to see the hardest-trying singer in the karaoke bar turn up on the after-hours playlist to do a bad, bad thing all over again.
"And a jean vest?" wondered Clown Bangs, dumbfounded. Best critique of the night?
Charlie Askew: Genesis' "Mama" -- This was off-putting from the start and it had nothing to do with the kid's singing. But no one could possibly focus on Charlie's vocal performance as he flailed around with his dangly earring, tank top, skinny ghost arms, "awkward turtles" necklace, and a gradually ballooning sense that maybe this charade was not carrying out onstage as well as it had in Charlie's head.
Nicki, who used to be Charlie's mom, complained "I feel like someone stole my kid" after her ex-son's angry-seeming antics. "Now it's like a darker thing -- I don't know what's going on, but I'm upset."
Keith noted the "varied" expressions of the audience members (a euphemism for "they looked totally freaked out") and told Charlie something felt "not truly genuine" about his performance. I think it was genuine for Charlie, but -- as he alluded to later -- the caution-to-the-wind classic rock god persona does not reflect what he's truly feeling inside. Music is his escape, and when he realized the judges weren't going to indulge him this time, Charlie's inner world and physical demeanor began to crumble. And then he confided in Ryan, on the verge of tears: "A lot of people think I'm a happy, buoyant person all of the time, and the only reason I smile so much is because I feel like I have to."
Heartbreaking! And so very uncomfortable. I hope Charlie doesn't get enough votes, because he can't handle this situation. A live-televised pity party is the last thing he needs. Continued support via sympathetic fans, a good month's sleep, and a complete absence of spotlights in his life would be a good start. This boy is not well. If he sticks around, the show will seem very irresponsible.
NEXT: When everything's made to be Boddington (weak!)