We were pre-warned that Season 2 runner-up Clay Aiken and Season 3 winner Fantasia Barrino would be performing tonight on “American Idol,” but nothing could have prepared us for the ultimate blast from the past: Paula Abdul. The superstar/former “Idol” judge made a surprise appearance during a review of Candice Glover’s Top 5 rendition of “Straight Up.” And we were almost as shocked as Candice was.
After getting the usual rundown from Jimmy Iovine (Candice sang great, is smart, blew his mind… oh and by the way? “Straight Up” is melodically narrow), Ryan Seacrest asks Randy Jackson if he heard from Paula about the performance. Randy says he Tweeted her, Facebooked her, called her, but wasn’t hearing back, which I’m finding hilarious—but still believable. So Ryan asks Randy what Paula would have said about the performance, which is starting to get a little suspicious, cause who cares what Randy thinks someone else thinks about something? And suddenly those lit-up doors open and out Paula comes, in a short and floofy red prom dress from the year Candice was born. She looks like a red velvet cupcake.
Everyone’s screaming, but Candice has no idea why, and it’s the best to see the look of shock on her face when she turns around to be greeted by the great Paula Abdul. Paula gets all teary telling Candice how moved she was to hear her “share your beautiful vocals on a song that has been a best friend to me.” I love that “Straight Up” is Paula’s best friend! But maybe for her it’s a little depressing, cause she’s full on emotional right now, but then, it wouldn’t be Paula if she wasn’t.
The judges are going crazy for Paula, Nicki Minaj is bowing down and showing us way more of her G-string than we thought we were gonna get tonight. Randy puts Paula in his chair, and the lineup of Nicki, Paula and Mariah Carey makes an image Ryan says he’s going to scratch off his bucket list. And admittedly, it’s kind of the best.
But while Paula was the “Idol” history bonus, let’s not ignore two other oldies who dropped by: the exceptionally red eyebrows of Clay Aiken, who did the exact same version, note for note, of “Bridge Over Troubled Water” that he did on the 2002 finale. And Fantasia, who classed it up in a Greek-ish white gown after showing up last year on “Idol” with the sides of her pants missing.
We also got an “Idol update” on LaToya London, a Season 3 contestant who at the time was grouped together with Fantasia and Jennifer Hudson as one of the “three divas” but today lives in Oakland and has basically fallen into oblivion. “I was like, man, gosh, why they gotta be on my season!?” she says in the video. You know some therapist in Oakland has heard that question about a thousand times in the last decade. LaToya’s there in the audience looking 10 years older and not a bit closer to her “Idol” dreams. And because I remember also being young and hopeful back when I was watching Season 3, I need to go curl up in a ball now and cry. Thanks for the memories, “Idol.”
Continuing the throwback theme tonight (and every night), we also got a 1970s medley of Donna Summer hits starring the Top 5 girls plus six random guys (one for each and two for Candice, it appears). Now, given what will probably become of all the guys who have been voted off this season (see LaToya above), maybe “Idol” could have thrown them a bone and hired them to march in place behind the girls, twirl around them occasionally, and offer their knees for them to sit upon. Or maybe, they should have just had these other nameless guys compete on the show. They are each more professional and full of energy than the five male finalists ever were. But then, probably none of them has a debilitating speech impediment, so where’s the appeal, really?
The ladies also have to go on another Ford Fiesta Mission, which sends five people in two cars (ever heard of carpooling?) around L.A., with no license plates, on a hunt for Matthew Morrison of “Glee.” They have to use the cars’ navigation system to find a bakery and a barber shop. There’s no name, no address, just the nearest one, they tell the cars. And apparently all the bakeries and barber shops are pretty well spaced out in Hollywood, so there’s no confusion as to which cupcake joint everyone should head to.
But who cares about believability, when results are what we came for. So in Jimmy’s recap, he didn’t like Angie Miller’s “Halo,” thought Candice did better on “When You Believe,” Janelle Arthur struck out, Amber Holcomb was brave to take on Mariah and Barbra Streisand, and Kree made bad song choices. Also, Janelle got a note from Dolly Parton, calling her a fake blonde.
In no particular order, Ryan announces that Candice, Angie and Amber are safe. Amber is like freaking out happy, because she’s usually reminded again and again on this show that nobody likes her. Kree and Janelle are in the bottom two, and it’s Janelle whom America is sending home.
But wait! One last week of the save! Will the judges use it for the sake of using it? I mean, why not? Janelle’s not bad, she could hang out one more week. It would be the decent thing to do. But no, even with a reprise of her best performance, a rejiggered “You Keep Me Hanging On,” the vote is not unanimous, and Janelle becomes one more LaToya London in this world.