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American Idol -- Top 8: Allison Gets (Some) Respect

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RESULTS SHOW UPDATE:

OK, the results are in. With a reduced vote of 34 million, the bottom three were Anoop, Scott and Lil. (I predicted Scott, Lil and Kris.) But Lil was safe and it came down to Anoop and Scott. Only 30,000 votes separated them (this show is a great education for kids: your vote does count; just ask Al Franken) and Scott was on the bottom. After some hemming and hawing by the judges who didn't want to bum rush him the way they did Megan Joy, Scott said goodbye.

It was a nutty night that proved American Idol is the heir to Ed Sullivan. You have celebrity guests in the audience (including Mario Lopez, who is partially responsble for such high unemployment by holding down about four different jobs). You've got a crazy range of performers from Frankie Avalon (shakily singing "Venus," a hit the year Simon was born), to Flo Rida rapping out (poorly) his current #1 hit "Right Round" to an almost unrecognizable Kellie Pickler singing (very, very poorly) her new country single. My favorite moment was Ryan checking out Flo's scantily clad backup singers before checking out Flo's muscles and saying "I've got to hit the gym."

We also had a group sing-along from the year Idol was born -- 2002 -- and thank God, they were actually singing live this week instead of lip syncing. The result? Lil actually surprised by standing out the best and sounding good in her mid-range on an awful song choice, Kylie Minogue's "Can't Get You Out Of My Head."

When it came down to the bottom three of Anoop and Lil and Scott, judge Simon Cowell said a "couple" of them deserved saving, which means of course that one of them absolutely didn't. Frankly, none of them seem to be headed towards the finals and even Lil, given weeks of bad song choices and bad performances, doesn't deserve a save.

It came down to Scott and -- with Kara and Paula cheering Scott on and Simon and Randy confabbing -- there was no surprise when Simon said that two judges thought Scott should stay and two thought he should go. Then they all just kept talking. Why? If it's not unanimous, the person goes home.

Again, they need to have both people sing (they certainly had time tonight, which almost ran short) and THEN find out who is on the bottom and then have the judges decide. The performance has nothing to do with whether they should stay. And the only question the judges should ask themselves is, Do we think you can win it all? If the answer is no, then goodbye. Clearly, Scott wasn't going to make the finals and thank goodness Simon finally dropped the hammer and said it was over.

What do you think about how they're handling the save? And do you think Lil or Anoop deserved to be saved if it was them?

UPDATE: The ratings are in and Idol is still dominant but down this season. According to Marc Berman of Mediaweek, Idol scored a 12.2 on Tuesday, which wins the night but is down quite a bit from the 14.4 rating of one year ago. Remember that the overnight ratings do not include people who record the show and watch it later that night or during the rest of the week o their DVRs, so some of that slippage is technological. I'm still trying to determine whether the weekly Nielsen ratings include DVR+ watchers.

Dial Idol -- which makes automated phone calls to see which phone lines are the busiest and thus represent the most popular contestants -- puts Kris Allen at the bottom of the pack but insists it is too close to call for anyone but Adam Lambert, who they say is safe. If Kris is at the bottom tonight, I predict the judges will use their save since Scott or Anoop at the very least (and perhaps Lil) should go before him and they would believe Kris could make the finals. They should also save Allison but I'm not quite sure they will given Simon's indifference to her and the fact that the vote must be unanimous.

Go here to read the recap by Michael Slezak of Entertainment Weekly and go here to read the on-the-scene report by EW's Alynda Wheat.

Come back tonight and I'll cover the results show on this same post.

ORIGINAL POST COVERING TUESDAY'S PERFORMANCE SHOW:

On a day when photos circulated on the internet showing Adam Lambert apparently kissing a guy or two, the big news in the parallel world of TV Idol was Anoop's defensive attitude (better known as obnoxiousness) coming across too much last week. Ryan gave him a chance to apologize, which he seized on. Kara of course said there was nothing to apologize for and Simon encouraged him to get more obnoxious. The real scandal was that the show ran WAAAAY long, well into the 9 p.m. hour. You'd think that DVRs would be able to adjust by now and know when a show is running long but no such luck. They don't get programmed in real time. And obviously Fox wouldn't cut the commercials; there were a ton of them in the last 15 minutes. People like me who DVR it and only set it to tape a few extra minutes were scrambling. My initial recording cut off well before Adam's intro began and I only caught the middle of his song. (I caught the rest online, of course.) Is this more fall-out from having four judges?

The theme was songs on the charts the year you were born and that meant trotting out baby photos of the judges followed by the Top 8 singers. (Ryan Seacrest had a serious overbite!) In my mind, there was a serious scrum to be in the bottom three: two spots are a lock but the third one is up for grabs since a number of people stumbled. (Read the AP recap here.)

1. Danny Gokey -- Born in 1980, Danny pulled a bait and switch by covering "Stand By Me," the biggest hit of Ben E. King's career. It hit the charts in 1961 (going to #4), but was covered by Mickey Gilley on the Urban Cowboy soundtrack and went all the way to #22 on the pop charts. Anoop Desai could have also covered this tune since King's original version re-charted and went back up to #9 in 1986 (the year of his birth) after it was featured in perhaps the best film based on a Stephen King short story, also titled of course Stand By Me. (No, I'm not a big fan of Shawshank Redemption.) Of course, it also charted in one version or another in 1965, 1967, 1970, 1975 (John Lennon's version), 1985 and 1998, so we could be hearing this for years to come on birthday week. Gokey looked nice and started off very slowly, moved into a medium tempo mid section and then got upbeat towards the end. Despite a little scatting, it was fairly reserved and frankly restraint suits him nicely. When he tries to take it to church, he oversings. I thought it was strong and all the judges agreed. Including Paula, who praised his "chord substitutions," which caused Simon to gape and ask her off camera, "What are you taking right now?"

2. Kris Allen -- Born in 1985, Kris sang Don Henley's "All She Wants To Do Is Dance," one of four singles off of the once and future Eagles' second solo album, Building The Perfect Beast. Kris looked casually cool (though I still think he should shave) and told a funny story about being at an amusement park, having the guy running the Ferris wheel recognize him from Idol and then asking him to tell Adam that the guy said hi. Kris meant it as a goof on other contestants being more popular than he, but it had an extra zip given the online implication that musical theater lover Lambert might be gay. Kris performed in a mosh pit surrounded mostly by those sorority girls, who always seem more focused on the camera than the singer. It's just never played well for me; the singer always looks too into being surrounded by fans than by the singing and the audience as a whole. Plus, Kris was wielding a guitar but it must have been turned all the way up to 2 because I could barely hear a note. I've been a big fan of his but this felt very, very anonymous to me, even though the vocals were solid. The judges were pretty negative. I started dialing in for Kris right away (I was watching on DVR) because I knew he'd need help tonight and I still think he's good.

3. Lil Rounds -- Born in 1984, Lil sang Tina Turner's only #1 hit, "What's Love Got To Do With It." I knew she was in trouble when Lil came out dressed like Tina and tried to move like Tina and then sure enough she sang most every note exactly like Tina. Lil made a great first impression but she keeps falling flat and not showing any spark. Of course, they just told Kris he shouldn't have changed the arrangement of the Henley song and now she does literally the same arrangement as Turner and they say that's wrong too. Randy says Tina is not her, but Mary J Blige etc is. Huh? Doesn't Blige flow from Tina? Kara says she needs to take a song no one's done before and make it her own? How? By performing an original? Simon says it best, as always: "We've lost you." Sometimes we can get caught up in the critiques when it all comes down to this: good or not good. Lil was not good tonight and she's run out of good will.

4. Anoop Desai -- Born in 1986, Anoop foregoes "Stand By Me" and tackles Cyndi Lauper's "True Colors." Lauper has had two #1 hits so far (and is a hell of an actor, as well) and both are standards: "Time After Time" in 1984 and "True Colors," the first song from her second album. Sitting on a stool, Anoop just sings the song and perhaps as long as he sticks to ballads he can get by for a few weeks. Upbeat tunes are not gonna do it for him. But he sings this one simply with a few soulful touches to prove it's not karaoke and ends on a lovely last note...but he also plays to the camera on that last note, a la Justin Guarini and it grated on me. He may be a great guy in person but Anoop definitely has an obnoxious frat boy side to him that's slipped out. The judges praise him a little strongly but not without reason and he should be safe.

5. Scott MacIntyre -- Born in 1985, Scott sang one of the other songs by Survivor (their biggest hit being "Eye Of The Tiger" of course, which my nephew picked as the best song of all time a year or two ago and then asked me if I'd ever heard of it -- "It's really good!" he said.) Scott's choice was the #4 hit "The Search Is Over." He stood on a bare stage with an amp in the background -- to toughen up his mellow image presumably. I never thought Scott belonged in the Top12 and he keeps proving it: he started off flat, then his vocals wavered all over the place, then he got REALLY screechy when he went for a high note and mumbled the last words with "my eyes" coming out as "myyyyyyyyyyyyyeyes" and I'm sort of giving him that last word since he barely sang it at all. Just awful. Paula struggled to say something nice, which is always a bad sign. But Scott was very loose and funny, joking that he played the guitar because "It's my punk side coming out." It doesn't help him that the producers keep the camera off him when the judges are talking because it's hard for him to know exactly where to be looking with all the noise in the room. Now that Megan Joy is gone (sorry, Aaron), Scott has been embraced by Vote For The Worst as the worst singer on the show Ouch. But it's true.

6. Allison Iraheta -- Born in 1992, Allison sang Bonnie Raitt's "I Can't Make You Love Me." Raitt had an even bigger hit with the #5 song "Something To Talk About" but perhaps because that's originally a John Hiatt song, this tune has always seemed like her signature number to me. Allison has goofy pink hair piled up in an ugly bun and a bad dress with all sorts of frills, but happily no one mentions her look because she was terrific yet again, despite perhaps garbling her last line as well. Soulful, smart, on-key -- Allison is just so confident in her singing and so mature in her selection. Simon almost begrudgingly has to say, "Honestly, I thought it was very good" (finally!) and then goes on to say she's not very likable. Allison immediately jokes "Nobody likes me?" because she is in fact likable, just a bit laid back. Simon was more on point when he said people didn't know her very well. Fine, but I don't see her turning down any airtime. The others all praised her with Randy again invoking Kelly Clarkson, which is on the money.

7. Matt Giraud -- Born in 1985, Matt sang Stevie Wonder's last #1 hit, the tiresome ditty "Part-Time Lover." Really, the only Stevie Wonder song I like even less is his #1 hit before that, "I Just Called To Say I Love You," but at least that has a good melody. "Overjoyed" is a great late period Stevie song and you can't go wrong with anything from the 1970s. But I'm bored by "Part-Time Lover" as soon as it starts. That's not the only reason I take my biggest exception of the night to the judges' opinions. Along with Lil, I thought Matt looked terrible -- it was so clearly Halloween and Matt wanted to be Justin Timberlake that I thought it was embarrassing. His vocals were fine, I guess, especially on a second listen when I avoided the video, but still he was riffing and growling all over the place and had a bad attempt at a soulful wail and a weak ending that just sort of stopped. At least that's what I thought. But they praised him to high heaven and had nary a bad word to say.

8. Adam Lambert -- I kept mentioning the photos of Adam online and Kris's anecdote because I was pleased to see Adam's taped intro to his performance. He all but came out, to my mind. He may not have actually said it, but you'd have to be clueless not to realize it. Adam's parents talked about how when he was little he was interested in everything. His mom said, "He loved books; he loved music." And his dad added drolly, "Sports? Not so much," and smiled. That cut right into Adam saying, "I just loved playing dress-up. But not soccer," and then laughing himself and going on to talk about how he loved performing. Good for him.

The very first winner of Pop Idol -- Will Young -- came out immediately after winning and we've had a number of Idol contestants who seemed gay and later said they were gay. Adam looks like the first contender to basically make clear he was gay in the midst of competition which is great, especially since so many are calling him the front-runner. He could have run in the opposite direction from jokes about dressing up and not liking sports but he didn't.

Born in 1982, Adam got clever like Danny. But instead of reaching back into the past, he got more contemporary. He chose the Tears For Fears song "Mad World," which charted at the end of 1982 -- in the UK. It was their breakout hit overseas but never made it in the US...until 2003, when a terrific, moody cover for the film Donnie Darko (a great, great movie and only watch the original version please) made waves all over again via composers Michael Andrews and Gary Jules. I wonder how the heck Adam ever figured out it was eligible as a song for the year he was born? And did he have to do anything convincing?

Anyway, Adam did the Donnie Darko version straight on and this is the second time in a row I've been able to applaud him. I'm still half waiting/fearing for Adam to break out the wailing (and you know it's coming again, soon) but he certainly has a great voice and it was a terrific cover -- who'd expect to hear someone singing on Idol, "And I find it kind of funny/ I find it kind of sad/ The dreams in which I'm dying/ Are the best I've ever had." The producers went all out, giving Adam eerie blue lighting and a spotlight just perfect for the song and Simon topped it off on a show that went WAY over time by giving a standing ovation on behalf of all the judges. They seem to think the competition is all but over, but once Adam starts wailing again, I think Allison or Kris could give him a run for his money. Besides they thought it was over last year with David Archuleta as a lock to win it all, right? (Of course, so di I, so don't go making any bets on my predictions.)

THE BOTTOM THREE -- The bottom two I think will definitely be Lil Rounds and Scott MacIntyre. The person joining them in the bottom three is a tough call: my heart says Matt Giraud despite the judges' support but my head says Kris Allen, even though he's never been in the bottom three. I just pray Allison finally gets a little momentum going and stays out as well. I'm gonna say that joining Lil and Scott is Kris, thanks to being second and having the judges come down pretty hard. Lil and Scott will be the bottom two and Scott will go home.

Come back all day Wednesday for updates. I'll link to other reviews when available, give you ratings info and critique the results night show as soon as it's over.