'American Idol' recap: Night of the Queen

american-idol-season-11.jpgIn dreams, the impossible is commonplace. You can fly, you're back in elementary school, you have a famous best friend. In my case, I dreamed last night that I was somehow in the final four of American Idol, which may be the most unlikely thing my subconscious has ever blurped up for my overnight entertainment. But then Hollie is still in it, so there's that.

No overedited pre-credits sequence tonight -- just Ryan on a misty stage, his hair reaching mightily to eclipse the neon AI logo behind him as he reminds us of the last two weeks of shocking results, and how it means our favorites are at risk. Then the top six move in to flank him as he intones, " This... is the least intimidating street gang imaginable." Or at least that's what he says in my head.

The judges enter from the aisles tonight, probably because Jennifer didn't want the audience to get a good look at her gold lame pantsuit. Steven Van Zandt is there in the audience with Jimmy Iovine for some reason. Ryan doesn't enter at all -- he's standing there at the judges' table when the announcer introduces them, hugging and greeting them like he's hosting an open house instead of a TV show. He's dressed like the Mentalist again with a three-piece suit and no tie as he claims that everyone is still shocked about Colton's ouster last week. I was, but I got over it. Then he makes an obligatory pun about the finalists being music royalty, by way of segueing into a Randy-narrated segment about Queen. There's a montage of past finalists like Chris Daughtry, Kellie Picker and Adam Lambert performing with the band's surviving members in a previous season before we get a look at some other guy with a mustache who used to sing with them. Yes, Freddie Mercury died in 1991, long before any of this nonsense had a chance to horrify him, but his bandmates have been wringing his corpse dry for the decades since. In fact, guitarist Brian May and drummer Roger Taylor (not the one from Duran Duran, I assume) crowded into a studio lobby for a sit-down. They basically give the top six some vague, touchy-feely encouragement and adjourn. Brian keeps claiming that Queen songs are very personal and that Freddie was really very shy. That'll be helpful to know.

Back in the studio, it becomes apparent why the stage was off-limits for the early part of the show: Roger Taylor and Brian May have taken it over to back up the finalists for the opening number. One can't help noticing that the bass drum head still says "QUEEN," even though it looks like it's been replaced in the past 21 years. Before getting started with the actual competition, the finalists do a Queen medley: all six of them harmonizing (quite well, actually) on "Fat Bottomed Girls," then passing around "Another One Bites the Dust" like a hot potato and smash-cutting to "We Will Rock You Slash We Are the Champions." Everything's all hacked up to fit the time window, of course, except Brian May's guitar solo (also of course). Nice ending, and they get a standing ovation from all four people at the judges' table (counting Ryan), but we know you're not all going to be champions, top six.