ETA: After the jump: surprisingly few unfair criticisms!
Did you know that Ellen is exactly the same height as Randy? And Simon? And Kara? Weird.
Mike Lynche, “Miss You.” Some Girls was the Stones’s disco-inflected album, and this was a well-picked song. It was also a good, different arrangement, kind of Michael Jacksonesque to steer, smartly, away from any Jaggerisms. It wasn’t perfect; kind of over-exerted, but pleasant.
Didi Benami, “Play with Fire.” Our first Hot Rocks song, which will get you docked, and the first person to tackle a Mick-vs.-underbelly-of-jet-set-society song. A little jarring in that register, but once I got used to the altitude, it sounded competent. Some serious Law School Musical acting in the middle. Spacewoman wanted me to point out the menorah in Didi’s clip.
The Outlaw Casey James, “It’s All Over Now.” A canny version of a song that is a bit of a cheat – the Stones version may be the best known, but it’s a cover. Casey does it justice (I’m not fond of the Stones version, so maybe that’s just my preference for the straight blues take). Maybe it’s small and bar-bandy (as Simon believes), but it wouldn’t sound out of place on the Austin City Limits stage either. I don’t know if this would sell a lot of downloads, but I like it. I’m floored that we’re three songs in and nobody has embarrassed himself. Is Casey’s mom Arlene from True Blood?
Lacy Brown, “Ruby Tuesday.” Wearing an outfit stolen from Patty Smythe circa “Goodbye to You” but with a banquet napkin mod, singing a Hot Rocks song (docked!), using the Cyndi Lauper back-of-the-throat little-girl voice and the pageant hand motions – I don’t get it, and I’m not surprised.
K.D. Lang, “Gimme Shelter.” Our third Hot Rocks song (docked!), though I’ll bet Garcia actually owns Let it Bleed. This could have been interesting, given Garcia’s gang-scion background, and I don’t care one bit about Randy’s pitch issues, but it just felt a bit small, a bit tired to me. For once, I agreed completely with Kara. But how much of a wasted opportunity was this? I was really hoping Garcia would take on a Keith vocal like “You Got the Silver” or “Happy.”
The Dumbest Girl in the World, “Wild Horses.” Hot Rocks, docked! Katie promises to put Connecticut on the map. I had no idea that with some Elton John piano and modest strings this could be a passable adult-contempo weeper. Though she’s been reliably bad so far, Katie has a pretty good voice, unusually strong (though not necessarily accurate) in the lower register, and did a commendable job with a theme she clearly didn’t relish. Now my map now has all 50 states!
Tim Urban, from a bangs-loving family, “Under My Thumb.” Hot Docked!. This was one of the weirdest and creepiest fucking things I’ve ever heard.
Siobhan Magnus, “Paint It, Black.” Dockrocked! Not wild about the version, but it hit all the Idol compulsories. Great pipes on this girl. I wish she didn’t just stand there on stage and do the Celine Dion loose grip with the mic, but it all seemed to work.
Fake Name Lee DeWyze, “Beast of Burden.” I absolutely love this song, and it was smart for Lee not to mess around with it too much. It was the Blunt/Mayer sensitive-frat-sex-folk version, but that’s okay, because this pretty much was a sensitive-frat-sex-rock song in its own right back in the day. Simon: “I wish you would yell more, like that last girl. She yells, that one, she does, gov’nah.”
Paige Miles, “Honky Tonk Women.” Hotcked! Let me ask you: if you were going to go to all the trouble to change the lyrics, not just for gender , but also dumb stuff like saying “VIP” because you don’t want to say “divorcee,” why would you leave in the cocaine-and-sex reference (“she blew my nose and then she blew my mind”)? Baffling. Lyrics aside, this was a pretty solid country crowd-pleaser. Impelled to mention – best country version of this song? “Country Honk,” by some British band that none of these kids except for the hippies and the guy with the neck tattoo has ever heard of.
Haley Osment, “Angie.” My first thought, as soon as I heard the song title, was “no no no no no.” But this was certainly the best version of “Angie” that one could hope for from a boy who has never had to change the blades on his Mach 5.
Crystal Bowersox, “You Can’t Always Get What You Want.” Hdrockd! That was the best sounding version of the night. A little obvious, not very adventurous, but really – can you even have a coherent competition where one contestant wants to have Disney night, one does a weird reggae-lite crooned song pro-misogyny polemic, and another one effortlessly carries the torch for classic stoner rock? The show is weirder now than when it was 100% square.
So I have to say, I completely expected a train wreck, like the Beatles, Rat Pack, and Michael Jackson nights. Instead, the Stones were a perfect theme – both broad and familiar enough to play to almost everybody’s strengths. And I say that even though there were eight (!) Hot Rocks songs and zero (!) non-Hot Rocks songs from the greatest three-album run in rock history, Let it Bleed-Sticky Fingers-Exile. I would have bet money on someone doing, as I said to Adam and KCos, the Justine Bateman version of “Satisfaction” (I guess that will be in the group sing). I don’t know who won the night, but really, only Tim Urban embarrassed himself; I guess I’d put Didi and either Lacy or Andrew in the bottom three with him.