It may not be as overtly violent as the death-matches portrayed in the 1985 classic Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome, but there’s a certain brutality to the structure of American Idol’s semifinals this season. As a dozen contenders take the stage each performance night — some hinting that they might be future singing superstars, others betraying the fact that they can’t hack the pressure of appearing before a televised audience of 25 million — I’ve been half-expecting Tina Turner’s Aunty Entity to pop out from behind Paula’s massive weave and repurpose the movie’s ”Two men enter, one man leaves!” tagline into, ”Twelve singers enter! Three singers advance!”
I mean, think about the bloodbath that’s coming Wednesday night. Even after you weed out the obvious train wrecks/insomnia curers from last night’s telecast — Dude With Headband, Lady Hot Legs, Vibrato Boy, Perspiring Welder, Shaggy Hair, and Girl Who Went First — that leaves six performers who made at least some kind of compelling case for why they deserve another chance to take the Idol stage this season. And of that sextet — Allison Iraheta, Mishavonna Henson, Megan Joy Corkrey, Jesse Langseth, Adam Lambert, and Kris Allen — half will face the Idol guillotine in less than 24 hours.
As any Idol addict will tell you, though, it doesn’t hurt to have heavy backing from the show’s judges and producers — which has to come as great news to Adam and be about as welcome as a two-by-four to the gut for Kris. As far as I’m concerned, however, Kris ought to win the guaranteed ”male contestant seat” over Adam, even if his ”Man in the Mirror” didn’t display the note-for-note technical perfection of Adam’s ”(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction.”
Sure, Kara was right that Kris struggled with the beginning of his Michael Jackson cover — particularly the lower notes in the opening lines of the verse — and I also observed he had a tendency to hold the mic too close to his mouth. But Paula and Simon were also correct that Kris nailed the number by delivering what could’ve been a trite ”message song” with real emotion and proving to have enough grit in his voice to overcome an absolutely monstrous karaoke arrangement from the increasingly bizarre Idol house band. (Dear backup singers: Either try to stay on pitch, or just don’t sing at all.) And while some folks might assign bonus points for the fact that Kris danced (yay!), or wore a black jacket from the nonexistent ”David Archuleta collection,” or that he looks a lot like Ugly Betty’s Val Emmich (as Simon noted, ”chicks are gonna love you”), the bottom line is that he’s interested in telling a story with his music, not merely engaging in a 90-second fit of aggressive vocal acrobatics. And that ought to count for something, no?
NEXT: Adam (unfortunately?) does his thing