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May 26, 2011

American Idol Recap: Smells Like Teen Spirit

Posted: 01:27 PM ET

AJ is a floor director for HLN's "Morning Express with Robin Meade". She has been obsessed with this season of Idol, and takes notes to share with the Morning Express writers and producers. The opinions below are AJ’s alone and do not necessarily reflect those of the staff of "Morning Express with Robin Meade" or HLN. For one last time this season... these are her impressions of last night:

American Idol winner Scott McCreery

For whom does the confetti fall? It falls for thee, Scotty McCreery, and how he lapped it up. Taste the rainbow, Scotty! It tastes like victory.

Despite faux drama and suspense brewing since Tuesday night, the country boy’s coronation capped off two hours so chock-full of performances and celebrity appearances it’s like they were being doled out by Oprah. You get a Beyonce! And you get a Jack Black! You! I don’t like you, you get a Marc Anthony. Don’t feed him after midnight.

Of course there was a series of tepid numbers reuniting the top 13. If you cocked your head and thought “Who dat?” You weren’t alone…a handful of these people might as well have been strangers. Remember Ashthon? Thia? Yeah, me neither. But They Were Born This Way, clad in white and waiting to be raptured. The girls did a Beyonce medley, joined by Ms. B herself, but in my opinion they were far overshadowed by the men singing Tom Jones, or more specifically, Tom Jones himself. Tom freaking Jones! What kind of legend are you if you’re still picking ladies undergarments off your suit at 70 years old?

In the spirit of Dreams Coming True n Stuff, our final few got paired off with some of their own idols. James, coiffed, bedazzled and in fine spirits, hollered with Judas Priest, Jacob preached it with Gladys Knight and Kirk Franklin, and Haley sang beautifully and danced awkwardly with Tony Bennett. Casey sang a bizarre bromantic Fat Bottom Girls with Jack Black, during which they tried, and failed, to out-weird each other. Let’s call it a draw, boys. As for our final two, Lauren sang “Before He Cheats” before Carrie Underwood and her greased up legs joined her. It was a fine performance, but it looked like they were really into pantomiming like, “Yeah, it really sucks he cheats! No? We really can’t relate on any other level!” Scotty leathered up to sing “Live Like You Were Dying” with Tim McGraw, a song with the implicit wisdom that if you are, in fact, dying, you should participate in activities like skydiving and bull riding. Although my dying wish would be to just look at Tim McGraw a little more…Scotty’s been touted as a sex symbol in the making, but standing next to that t-shirted man mountain, it’s clear he has a long way to go.

As far as solo performances, a few Idol mentors returned to show the little kiddies how it’s done. Beyonce slunk around and taught us that the best bedroom conversations involve math. Marc Anthony emerged from his goin’ out coffin and sang in Spanish while JLo-hontas shimmied her fringe in his face. The whole thing there was kind of icky. Lady Gaga, looking like a Star Wars extra perched on cliff, groped and gasped through her new single, “Edge of Glory”. She’s on the edge, get it? Literally and, uh, maybe figuratively. Double ick. Then she made out with the shirtless man and they jumped. Yawn. Typical Gaga. Some Steven. Some piano. Ah, memaw Tyler never gets old.

Then it’s Scotty, everyone, and he crumpled over before making out with Lauren, I think, and hugging everyone in ‘tarnation while singing his victory song, “I Love You This (shudder) Big”. He was probably trying his hardest to avoid actually singing the song. Boss move, McCreery! A pro already. He got a little loopy, poor boy, catching confetti in his mouth and generally being odd, and somewhere someone was probably whispering his ear, “Hey kid, millions of people are watching you make a fool of yourself on TV,” but he didn’t care, dernit, he’s just a fancy singing sweet pea who just won American Idol, and if he wants to pretend confetti pieces are delicious snowflakes and ramble on about Lauren Alaina and God and sit down on the stage and weep as the credits roll, that’s what he’ll do, thankyouverymuch!

So that’s the season, Idol watchers. Through angst (why so country?) and shocking eliminations (Pia!), frustrations and threatened boycotts (Idol hates women!), a very deserving fellow prevailed, with equally deserving contenders trailing behind. Only one can win. Was it the one you wanted? What did you think of the season? Will you watch again? I thought it was pretty awesome, guys!

Let’s have one for the road: was it…'in it to win it?'

Special thanks to AJ for really going above and beyond the duties of "Floor Director" to write these recaps all season. We hope they made you smile at LEAST as much as they did for all of us at "Morning Express with Robin Meade." Maybe we'll be able to convince her to be our "Idol Expert" again next year.

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Filed under: American Idol • Beyonce • Carrie Underwood • Extras • Gaga • Gladys Knight • Jack Black • Jennifer Lopez • Judas Priest • Lady Gaga • Lauren Alaina • Marc Anthony • Oprah • Randy Jackson • Ryan Seacrest • Scotty McCreery • Steven Tyler • Tim McGraw • Tom Jones • Tony Bennett


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May 12, 2011

Morning Express American Idol Recap: A Whole Lotta Gaga

Posted: 12:13 PM ET

AJ is a floor director for HLN's "Morning Express with Robin Meade". She has been obsessed with this season of Idol, and takes notes to share with the Morning Express writers and producers. The opinions below are AJ’s alone and do not necessarily reflect those of the staff of "Morning Express with Robin Meade" or HLN. These are her impressions of last night:

American Idol Top 4

A Whole Lotta Gaga... actually it was a whole lotta show in general. The second week of double dips from our singers gave us some drippy songs that inspire, and vintage Leiber and Stoller. Then of course, there was some Lady Gaga, with her sad panda getup and the kind of advice only a bizarro 25-year-old pop creature can give. I kid! I liked her. More on that later.

JAMES: Was anyone else all "OMG WHY" when the Durbs announced he was doing Journey? I calmed down when I realized he sounded good, even though this song is on the "No Fly List" of every restaurant/bar/back-alley karaoke joint ever. It's nice to hear the Idol types sing songs they actually know and like, as opposed to ones they've crammed into their brains in the span of a week. Luckily, no cramming for James, he picked up Love Potion #9 for his second set, and at the behest of a touchy-feely Gaga, went about the painful and complex task of actually moving his body with the music. Piano jumps? Yes. A little bump and sway? No. That's not what the Durbs is about.

HALEY: Growly earth girl totally harshed my mellow with MJ's "Earth Song". Yeah I know it's like, really meaningful and stuff, but that biz can get kind of preachy, especially since Haley, of all the contestants, is the least developed emotionally. Shall we defer to the judges? JLo and Randy continued their anti-Haley campaign, spurring a super awkward tete-a-tete. Like last week, she was revved up for her second song, "I Who Have Nothing". I thoroughly enjoyed Gaga as mentor, so often she appears to be riding the highest of horses but here she was – dare I say – down to earth? Haley took her nugget of theatricality and turned out solid, but the judges, swinging wildly from one side to the other with her, may have overpraised her out of guilt.

SCOTTY: So Scotty the Body is a thing now. Ok. If I had a million words, I couldn't explain to you how much I hate the song "Where Were You When the World Stopped Turning." But it was timely (except for that gem about not knowing the difference between Iraq and Iran. Oof.) and delivered with the level of McCreery aplomb we've come to expect. And Scotty and Gaga? Love. He tried to be as little freaked out as possible when Gaga instructed him to stick his tongue down the throat of his microphone girlfriend. "I better have a good lookin microphone," he quipped. Such a diplomat! Oddly enough, he surpassed Gaga in weirdness with his series of psycho cherub faces during his take on "Young Blood". Instead of pointing that out, and possibly weeping in terror, the judges' observations have just devolved into a series of hilarious quotes, like this one from Steven to Scotty: "You make Gaga's yaya go lala." Hahaha! Ew.

LAUREN: She framed her inspirational song in light of the tornado devastation in her part of the country, which was a smart move and lent some dimension to her usually cotton-candy kind of appeal. And gosh, Martina's "Anyway" sounded great on her. As for the fancy-pants mullet dress, well! That's a LOT of dress (though not enough, at the same time? A conundrum!). La Alaina was actually concerned about repeating the word "evil" ad nauseam in her Elvis cover. "I don't want America to think I'm evil!" she squeaked. Cowgirl, please. We'd have an easier time believing you were The King himself. However it is disappointing how unconvincing she was during her second performance, no matter how nice her voice, and I found myself wishing Haley had done this song instead.

And there's your top 4. What did you think of Gaga as mentor? Do you think the judges are too hard on Haley? And whose apple is going to be plucked from the Idol tree tonight?

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Filed under: American Idol • Extras • Gaga • Jennifer Lopez • Lady Gaga • Randy Jackson • Ryan Seacrest • Sheryl Crow • Steven Tyler


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May 6, 2011

Morning Express American Idol Recap: Cinco de Idol

Posted: 10:43 AM ET

AJ is a floor director for HLN's "Morning Express with Robin Meade". She has been obsessed with this season of Idol, and takes notes to share with the Morning Express writers and producers. The opinions below are AJ’s alone and do not necessarily reflect those of the staff of "Morning Express with Robin Meade" or HLN. These are her impressions of last night:

*SPOILER ALERT: THE NAME OF THE PERSON ELIMINATED LAST NIGHT IS RIGHT BELOW THIS PICTURE*

American Idol

Goodbye, Jacob Lusk. For weeks we have been watching you wail, flail, jig and preach, as your competition got picked off one by one. Now, amongst a waterfall of Lauren tears and Luther songs, we bid you too adieu.

But hey, he got a starring role in this week's Ford music video, which I actually forced myself to watch and listen to attentively. Just be yourself, guys! No matter whether you like to toss cards or park a car telekinetically! Gosh, my standards are low…which is probably why I found the group sing of "So Happy Together" totally amazing, in the fact it wasn’t nearly as traumatic as it could be.

Probably the best bit of the night was the nail-biting two-parter with Gordon Ramsay of Hell’s Kitchen infamy. It was all pretty funny! And kind of sad. Really, no one knows how to make an omelette? Or turn on a stove? Lauren rose to the task, bless her, and Jacob by default (some sick, ironic foreshadowing there?) and they went head to head in a blind taste test wherein Lauren prevailed again by identifying tofu (ew, yuck! Say all of the omelette-challenged others) and… a hot dog! What a refined palate this young lady has. My favorite Idol throughout was Scotty, though, who just could NOT stop giggling. Food, man! Hilarious!

Country juggernaut Lady Antebellum did their new single "Just a Kiss". I guess they’re pretty good – there’s the girl, and the dude, and the other dude who doesn’t sing but plays all the instruments so he’s always the awkward extra in their music videos. Whatever, they have Grammys, and the song was pretty catchy. To steal from the judges, "You can't judge that."

Which brings us to the most important moment of the night – JLo tore it up (in a taped segment, by the way) with rapper Pitbull as they urged everyone to get on the floor and/or dance the night away while putting their drinks up. Having a good time is so complicated. But of course they pulled out all the stops for the Lady of Idol – there was a rising platform (please please PLEASE use this in the finale!) and aerial shots and dancers in man-brassieres. There was also the issue of her sparkly Hammerpants, which an astute friend described to me as "the only outfit in the world that accentuates ZERO of the things that make her the world’s most beautiful woman." True dat.

Oh, and someone got eliminated. Ryan, who sits around in his lair plotting things like this, forced a safe Scotty to essentially choose the bottom two, either Lauren and Jacob or Haley and James. While a gigantic DUH rose above the crowd, Scotty demurred. Good boy.

So then there were Jacob and Lauren. La Alaina has never been in the bottom group, and was weeping so profusely and obviously it sucked all pain out of Jacob’s eventual fate, if there was any pain to be had in the first place. I will admit, seeing his family in the audience did it for me, and during his final lap with "A House is Not a Home", a new affection rose in my cold, black heart. Isn’t it funny how these chaps are most likeable as they walk out the door?

What do you think, fellow Idol-ers? How many weeks overdue was Jacob’s departure? Who would have/should have gone home instead? Who else really really wants to read Steven Tyler’s new book?

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Filed under: American Idol • Extras • Gaga • Jennifer Lopez • Lady Gaga • Randy Jackson • Ryan Seacrest • Steven Tyler


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May 5, 2011

Morning Express American Idol Recap: Then, Now and Wow

Posted: 10:39 AM ET

AJ is a floor director for HLN's "Morning Express with Robin Meade". She has been obsessed with this season of Idol, and takes notes to share with the Morning Express writers and producers. The opinions below are AJ’s alone and do not necessarily reflect those of the staff of "Morning Express with Robin Meade" or HLN. These are her impressions of last night:

American Idol

Okay, I guess things are getting serious now. "This is the most important performance show…EVER" bellowed Ryan. Randy beat the snot out of his catch phrase: in it to win it! (by my count, at least five, but then I got tired and zoned out on Steven’s red ladyblazer instead. Homegirlyman knows how to dress!). Even guest mentor Sheryl Crow was fed the script, promising a great show.

Sheryl, you liar.

So it wasn’t the best Idol installment ever, but we did get treated to some amazing performances (Haley! Lauren!), if we clenched our teeth through the bad ones (Jacob!). Let’s look at the rundown:

JAMES: His 30 Seconds to Mars cover just wasn’t up to snuff. If you know this band, you know it’s fronted by Jared Leto, and their repertoire is pretty intense. James is wild, and entertaining, but he’s not really intense, you know? Case in point: he darts out of rehearsal for his second song, "Without You" to sit indian-style in a parking lot and boohoo because the song makes him think of how much he misses his family. Ha ha! What a water balloon. Joke’s on me though, because his tender, imperfect, emotional performance had me choking up. Now that’s the right kind of intensity for him.

JACOB:: Did Jacob really think singing "No Air" was a good idea? It was a total mess – from his flailing vocals to, perhaps the worst part, the unhelpful gaggle of backup singers who seemed to bring him down even more. Unacceptable. His take on "Love Hurts" was much better, but lacked nuance. Maybe I was spoiled by Sheryl, who threw out a few bars that were so soft and perfect it made Jacob's performance seem even more heavy-handed. No matter, the vocals were mostly there and that’s what counts, right?

LAUREN:: Well hot dang, Lauren has come to play. Her Carrie cover "Flat on the Floor" was flat-out entertaining, and she was really channelling a nice rocker girl vibe. Also, unimportant, but she looks amazing, no? A little toddler-beauty-pageant with the makeup, but hey, she's young, she can figure it out. Her "Unchained Melody" was also a win. "Nothing to judge here!" said JLo, while secretly trying to decide whether Lauren's outfit was a dress (yay!) or a jumpsuit (sinful!).

SCOTTY:: What an enigma, our Scotty. I truly feared for his life as he leaped off the stage during his fantastic Montgomery Gentry song. He might be the most strung out performer in the group, but as soon as the song stops he snaps back into this cherubic poker face that makes it seem like he's baffled about how, exactly, to look into a camera. Odd. Then, barely had he time to calm down before "Always on My Mind." It was subtle, mature and very enjoyable, but I may be biased. I think the boy is great.

HALEY:: Haley went for a deep cut with an unreleased Gaga song, "You and I." I was surprised the judges didn't support her more for taking a chance – haven't they been encouraging her to find herself? No matter, Haley seems to keep calm and carry on. The real story of the night was her "House of the Rising Sun." Easily one of the best performances of the season, definitely the best of the night. Flawless a cappella opening, attitude, soul, it had it all. And frankly I think Haley is a little blank most times. But not tonight, by any means! She's in it to…well, you know.

So there’s your Top 5, America. Who’s it gonna be tonight? Don’t say it, don’t say it! Let’s keep it to ourselves.

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Filed under: American Idol • Extras • Gaga • Jennifer Lopez • Lady Gaga • Randy Jackson • Ryan Seacrest • Sheryl Crow • Steven Tyler


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May 26, 2010

American Idol recap: Hippie Chick vs. Your Average Cool Guy

Posted: 02:59 AM ET

Keri's control panel

*Note: the "American Idol" recaps are a series of blog posts from "Morning Express with Robin Meade" Technical Director, Keri. Keri knows what every button on that giant panel (above) in the control room does, and she presses most of them while putting "Morning Express" on your TV every day. Keri is also a long-time Idol fan and provides the Morning Express writers and producers (who typically go to bed way too early to watch "Idol" live) with a recap. We get a kick out of Keri's "take" on the show, and thought you might as well. The opinions below are Keri's alone and do not necessarily reflect those of the staff of "Morning Express with Robin Meade" or HLN. Here are her impressions of last night:

This is it… the final performance show of Season 9 (as I do a little happy dance).  And Simon Cowell’s last chance to dish out those witty but cynical critiques (and my happy dance turns into sobbing).  The Top 2 battle it out for the title of “American Idol.”  Regardless of Ryan and the judges throwing in their best fighting terminology, I’m not sure how much battling there was.  We didn’t even get a battle title to latch on to.  But what were they going to call this?  Hippie Chick vs. Your Average Cool Guy?  The Mom vs. The Paint Salesman?  I suppose it is better that we leave this one untitled.

The Top 2 each had 3 songs to sing.  First, the contestants chose their favorite performance from the season to reprise (Ugh… Those are never as good the second time around).  Second, Executive Producer Simon Fuller chose one for them.  And third, they each sang a song that will be released by the winner as a single.  Here comes the latest installment of the bluebirds-flying-through-rainbows-around-care-bears-with-lollipops cheese fest of an original Idol song… NOT!  It turns out they will be singing cover songs!  Really?  I know, I know.  Idol has a bad history of bad coronation songs, and heaven knows we don’t need another one.  But this just feels like a copout.  Oh well, it is Season 9 after all.

Crystal and Lee enter through the isles of the Nokia Theatre amidst 7000 screaming fans.  Both look nervous.  Crystal drops her mic and appears lost, looking at the floor for her mark and just standing there, not realizing that she was supposed to continue on to the stage.  When she finally gets there, she exclaims, “This is a lot of people!”  “And a few more across the country,” Ryan adds with the understatement of the night.  No pressure…

Crystal and Lee

ROUND 1 – CONTESTANTS’ CHOICE REPRISE:
LEE: From Inspirational Week, Lee was first up with his reprise of “The Boxer.” Predictably, it didn’t have the same sentiment (especially after seeing his hometown visit break down, with his parents and myself following suit.)  The music buried him (which I think, became a theme for the night when it came to Lee).  It was “nice,” but Randy wanted more energy.  Ellen felt it was better than the first time, and declared, “I couldn’t be prouder if I birthed you myself.” Simon expected more passion, “That was a kiss on the cheek when I want a kiss on the lips.”

CRYSTAL: From Billboard #1 Week, Crystal reprised “Me and Bobbie McGee.” It started off a little coffeehouse, but she really tore into it.  Ellen thought Crystal and her guitar filled up the entire room.  “You have fire in your belly,” Kara proclaimed.  Simon was reminded of when they fell in love with her and thinks they have themselves a competition.

ROUND 2 – EXECUTIVE PRODUCER’S CHOICE:
LEE:  Simon Fuller chose “Everybody Hurts” for Lee.  His rocker voice gave it a nice edge.  Ellen thought the moments he really got into it were exciting, but then he kept pulling it back again.  Kara didn’t think it was a perfect vocal but loves that he is “emotionally accessible.”  Simon thought he went a little off melody and can feel his nerves.  He tried to drive home the importance of this night in terms of changing his life (Umm, not helping with the nerves buddy).

CRYSTAL: Simon Fuller chose “Black Velvet” for Crystal, a song Simon Cowell is “almost allergic to” from all the times he’s heard this song murdered in auditions.  Despite wearing a prom dress and making me terribly nervous for her as she walked down the stairs in those heels, Crystal really made this song work!  And I didn’t even care when she went off now and then.  Randy howled, “Mama Sox is in it to win it!”  Ellen thinks, “It is like a Cher concert in here” with all the wardrobe changes (commenting that it must’ve been hard walking down the stairs).  “That was fantastic,” Ellen continued as she gave Crystal a standing ovation.  Kara, with the overstatement of the night, said this was the night “to kill yourself on that stage” (Whoa. Dramatic much?).  Simon thinks she “absolutely nailed it.”

ROUND 3 – THE WINNER’S SINGLE:
LEE: If Lee wins, “Beautiful Day” will be his single.  I’m sorry. I just have to say this again… Really, Idol?  A new artist releasing their first single, and it is going to be a cover song?  I guess it could be worse.  It could be “No Boundaries.” (Ooh, I can feel my mom’s cringe at that comment seeing as she has Adam’s version of “No Boundaries” on heavy rotation in her car.  Sorry Mom.)  But I digress…  Lee had the violins on stage with him.  And the big stage afforded the opportunity for many wide shots from behind, looking out at the audience, but all I could think of was, “Pull up your pants, Lee” as he paced back and forth on the stage.  By the middle of the song, Randy thinks he got his groove back with a strong rock voice that is, “Good on you, baby.”  Kara thinks the song swallowed him up.  For Simon’s final comment about Lee, “This is what this competition is designed for… somebody who needs a break.”  Simon wished him the best.

CRYSTAL: If Crystal wins, her first single will be “Up to the Mountain.” I wrote one word in my notes during this… Wow.  Sitting there alone on a stool in front of this huge audience, Crystal was captivating.  Like Dunkin Donuts coffee, it didn’t need any frills to be awesome.  Even the choir, for the first time, felt fitting and not overdone.  “This is one of the greatest performances, and one of your best moments, at the perfect time, on this show,” Randy decreed.  “If you’re making an album, I’m going to buy it.  If you go on tour, I go on tour… If you make a salad, I’ll eat it,” Ellen gushed, happy to be a part of the rise of her career.  Simon thought it was the best performance of the night.  And for Simon’s very last critique ever on this show… “That was outstanding.” (Aww, come on Simon. That’s it?)

The UK’s original “Pop Idol,” Will Young, closed out the show singing “Leave Right Now” as a tribute to Season 9.  It was accompanied by a montage of clips from the season, reminding us of what could have been (Oh, where are you little mushy banana?).

Going into the finale, I thought Lee had the edge.  He’s shown some impressive growth, and Idol made him look really good last week.  But last night, Crystal blew his sox off!  Of course, that doesn’t mean she has it in the bag.  It is not exactly a heart-stopping, nail-biting, edge-of-your-seat finale (like Grey’s Anatomy… OMG!), but it is anyone’s game.

What do you think? iReporter Thetalesend was AT the show and agrees with Keri. WATCH

Did Crystal’s moments or Lee’s charm have you dialing all 4 of those numbers for all 4 of those hours?  Or did you just change the channel when it was over… out of sight, out of mind?  Who will take home the crown?  What surprises are in store for Simon’s send off?  And will anyone miss 9 seasons of perpetual booing from Randy during every Simon introduction?

My finale prediction… It will run late.

Now that that’s over, time to get GaGa for Glee.

*P.S. – if you are new to Morning Express, hello! Please visit us on our main showpage CNN.com/Robin and get to know anchor Robin Meade, meteorologist Bob Van Dillen, business correspondent Jennifer Westhoven, sports anchor Rafer Weigel and news correspondent Richard Lui. Get your "news in the fast lane" on Morning Express with Robin Meade weekdays from 6 to 10 Eastern time on HLN!

*P.P.S. – "Like" Morning Express with Robin Meade on Facebook and we'll update our status as soon as Keri's next American Idol recap is up... you'll also get behind the scenes videos, and opportunities to share "your views" on the day's issues.

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Filed under: American Idol • Crystal Bowersox • Ellen Degeneres • Extras • Gaga • Kara Dioguardi • Lady Gaga • Lee DeWyze • Randy Jackson • Ryan Seacrest • Season 9 • Simon Cowell • Will Young


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May 6, 2010

American Idol elimination recap: Gaga for Sinatra

Posted: 02:56 AM ET

Keri's control panel

*Note: the "American Idol" recaps are a series of blog posts from "Morning Express with Robin Meade" Technical Director, Keri. Keri knows what every button on that giant panel (above) in the control room does, and she presses most of them while putting "Morning Express" on your TV every day. Keri is also a long-time Idol fan and provides the Morning Express writers and producers (who typically go to bed way too early to watch "Idol" live) with a recap. We get a kick out of Keri's "take" on the show, and thought you might as well. The opinions below are Keri's alone and do not necessarily reflect those of the staff of "Morning Express with Robin Meade" or HLN. Here are her impressions of last night:

*SPOILER ALERT: We will reveal the name of the person eliminated from American Idol on Wednesday 5/5 in this article!

Results night! The Top 5 become the Top 4. But there is a whole hour of filler to get through first.

And you know what I just realized? This season, I’ve actually been looking forward to the results night guest performances. Those used to just be filler, like the tissue paper and fake grass in gift baskets that you just want to rip through to skip to the good stuff. This season, they are more like double stuffed Oreos… Mmm, the filling is best part! Maybe that’s because this whole season feels like filler, mostly boring shows just taking up the prime time space once filled by a TV behemoth. Idol hasn’t been filling its purpose in my life… to supply a momentary distraction from the more important things in the world (the things I get so much of at work every day). I did enjoy performance night this week, but that was because the mentor, Harry Connick Jr., had enough personality and charisma to fill the gaping hole. But yeah, I know, “American Idol” is about the contestants, not the mentors and certainly not me, so let’s get the focus back on them…

We got a look at the hectic days that are Tuesdays for the contestants. Waking up early. Catering. Time-lapsed hair and makeup. Rehearsals using stand-in judges with the same haircuts as the real ones, but they only say nice things. The Randy stand-in says, “Say Whaaat?” Ryan has a confused look on his face. Crystal does a funny jiggley dance in her gown. And Crystal and Mike’s babies… how impossibly precious they are!

The Top 5 provide us with a Frank Sinatra medley group performance. Oh no. Please can I fast-forward? It doesn’t sound anything like them… the magic of lip-syncing I guess. Maybe they got coached on how to conceal their mouth with the mic (to better hide the lip-syncing?) because they are all shoving them in their faces. Love the fedora on Crystal though. Let’s get to the results…

Oh, but wait! Another group performance! Say it isn’t so. Please. Pretty please. (Gosh, my begging isn’t working tonight). Following a Harry Connick Jr. package and performance (which I will get to later, because now, it is all about the contestants, remember? Though you’d never guess that after this show), the Top 5 sang a medley of Harry’s songs. Not nearly as cheesy as usual. Afterward, it was back to Harry for his ‘When Harry Met Sinatra’ story. A nervous Harry forgot the words when performing at Sinatra’s 75th birthday party. And when he introduced himself later, Sinatra told his now-wife-then-girlfriend that she was beautiful, kissed her on the lips, and left. OK, now the results…

THE RESULTS:
After much praise from the judges on Tuesday, Lee was first sent to safety early on in the show.

Ryan later split the remaining 4 contestants into two groups – Crystal & Casey and Mike & Aaron. Ryan turns to Lee sitting by himself in safety. Oh no Ryan, don’t! We all know what’s coming. Lee does too and just drops his head and nods. Ryan is going to make him choose who he thinks is in the top and bottom. I hate this part. Thankfully, and strangely, Ryan just asked if he would pick the safe group, if asked. Lee simply said, “No.”

It is Mike and Aaron in the Bottom 2. Whoa! No Casey? Wow. The really harsh judging must’ve lit a fire under the frightened Casey fans. I guess we’ll have to endure more of that singing-thru-a-wind-tunnel vibrato. And since he scolded Idol in the open (“Don’t take my guitar away from me again.”), he’s sure to be back behind the comfort of the 6-string next week.

After 32 million votes, Aaron is going home. Fortunately, Big Mike doesn’t pick him up and bench-press him or anything, just gives him a slightly awkwardly long hug. Following a too cute look at his journey, Aaron sings us out with a reprise of “Fly Me to the Moon” (more time with Harry on stage). Better this time around, but still no swagger. Idol was determined to get out on time. They ran the credits over Aaron’s song and practically cut off his last note. Bye-bye cutie pie.

Next week, The Top 4 will head to the movies and sing songs of the cinema with Jamie Foxx for a mentor. Jamie again? I think I had enough of him when he mentored last season’s Rat Pack Week. Harry is an actor… Can’t we have him again? On second thought, after tonight I think I’ve had enough of him too (overkill, Idol, overkill).

And can I just ask, what was up with Kara’s outfit? Jeans and a white T-shirt tank? Thanks for dressing up for TV. Oh, I’m sorry. She added a glitzy necklace so it must’ve been OK.

GUEST PERFORMANCES:
LADY GAGA: She started off with a short “Bad Romance” intro before she got into her new song, “Alejandro.” Not my favorite GaGa song, but there were plenty of dark and twisty things happening on stage to distract from that. Her piano was decorated with so many black spiky twigs that it looked like the surface of the comet in “Armageddon.” (Or was it “Deep Impact?” Same thing.) She was covered head-to-toe, fingers-to-face, in fishnets and began enshrouded with a strange gauzy cape. There was a flaming angel, literally, an angel statue with wings that shot up fire. Oh, now I see… The flaming angel is a fountain, the black spiky things are trees, and there are benches… It was a park scene from the “Armageddon” comet. Of course, there were plenty of scantily clad male dancers too. Family show? Sure.

HARRY CONNICK JR.: In stark contrast to GaGa, there was Harry. Before he sang, he got yet more TV time with another look at his work with the Top 5. Hysterical. Harry is totally funny. Talking about working on “colors and shapes” when little Aaron didn’t understand something. Flirting with Casey. Sticking his foot in his mouth when he mistook Crystal’s insulin pump for a cell phone or pager. Explaining to the judges that “pitchy” isn’t really a word. Afterwards, he sang the Beatles song “And I Love Her” off his latest album. He sounded terrific, but as Randy might say, a little sleepy dawg. At points he looked like he was singing “I love her” to the microphone, or maybe it was just the camera angle. But oh so smooth.

Keri will be back next week with her recaps of the top 4 performances. Songs from the movies? Which stars would you cast to play characters if there was ever an "American Idol" movie?

*P.S. – if you are new to Morning Express, hello! Please visit us on our main showpage CNN.com/Robin and get to know anchor Robin Meade, meteorologist Bob Van Dillen, business correspondent Jennifer Westhoven, sports anchor Rafer Weigel and news correspondent Richard Lui. Get your "news in the fast lane" on Morning Express with Robin Meade weekdays from 6 to 10 Eastern time on HLN!

*P.P.S. – follow HLN on Twitter @HLNTV and we'll update you as soon as Keri's next American Idol recap is up... you'll also get breaking news, and opportunities to share "your views" on the day's issues.

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Filed under: Aaron Kelly • American Idol • Big Mike • Casey James • Crystal Bowersox • Extras • Frank Sinatra • Gaga • Harry Connick Jr. • Kara Dioguardi • Lady Gaga • Lee DeWyze • Michael Lynche • Mike Lynche • Mommasox • Morning Express crew • Randy Jackson • Ryan Seacrest • Season 9 • Simon Cowell


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