The “American Idol” quest for the tween audience suffered a couple of crippling blows this week. The first was the Frank Sinatra theme that forced the remaining five finalists to sing tunes that were old when their parents were young, and the second was that Aaron Kelly got voted off the show on Wednesday.
(Well, there was also the little matter of the not one but two group sings during the results show. But that offended audience members of all age groups and wasn’t tween specific.)
Kelly was by far the youngest contestant remaining among the final five. Though he claims to be 17 years old, it’s a little surprising that the birther movement didn’t demand he produce his own certificate to prove it, since he looked like someone who gets turned away from PG-13 movies if he shows up without a parent or guardian.
Despite his youth — or perhaps because of it — Kelly became a favorite of the judges. He has a big enough voice to carry off challenging songs, and even when he didn’t, he always seemed to get a pass. Even Simon Cowell always treated him gently, as if he were afraid Kelly would race back to his third-grade homeroom in tears if he were criticized. When the judges didn’t really like his singing, they compensated with metaphorical pats on the head and cheers for trying.
Meanwhile, they ripped into Casey James on Tuesday night as if they were jealous of his other offers, since those $50 checks and free meals must be hard to resist. First they took away his guitar for the evening — “don’t take my guitar away from me again,” he said afterward — and then they ripped him after he finished. Even guest mentor Harry Connick Jr. said the contestant was much better in rehearsal.
But what kind of audience did “Idol” expect for a show with Connick and the Sinatra theme? It clearly was much more weighted to the “Cougars for Casey” crowd, and less toward the tweens, and perhaps that made the difference. While Kelly went home, James wasn’t even among the two lowest vote-getters, as Michael Lynche once again flirted with elimination. The big guy has more escapes than Houdini this season, which is appropriate since he can bench press way more weight than Houdini ever could.
Apart from the elimination, the biggest question of the night was “Lady Gaga: pants, or no pants?” The answer for her live performance was “no pants.” And also “no shirt.” Just something that looked like underwear covered by a black fishnet. The poor Fox censor in charge of that one deserves a raise for the stress it must caused.
As a reward to all the older viewers who didn’t change the channel in shock at Lady Gaga’s “Alejandro,” Harry Connick Jr. came onstage to perform as well. But forget about that — there’s a much better reason why he needs to come back.
That’s because he had the best guest mentor rip ever. “Idol” killed some time with behind-the-scene footage and jokes of the Connick mentoring experience, which looks like it will require the finalists to undergo serious therapy but made me laugh, so I don’t care.
“The word ‘pitchy’ does not exist, judges,” Connick griped. “We need to stop saying that. ‘He’s singing out of tune’ — that’s how we say it.”
Please, “Idol” people, bring him back next year as a judge. I don’t care who goes, I would just like one judge who I can count on not ever using “pitchy” ever again.
Craig Berman is a writer in Washington. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/craigberman.