Coming off a disastrous rendition of My Girl the previous week, young John Stevens tried to break out of the crooner box for this performance. Donning a reddish-brown blazer that clashed noticeably with his red hair, Stevens embarked on a bouncy, dancing, finger-snapping cover of Elton John's throwback classic, Crocodile Rock. Even Sir Elton himself had deep reservations about the song choice, noting ominously during the intro clip, "I'm worried for Johnny." And the rest, as they say, is history.
The judges, even sweet Paula Abdul, could find nothing good to say. Randy likened it to watching a really bad high school performance, while Simon, at a loss to find a suitable musical analogy, compared it to the legendarily awful movie Plan 9 From Outer Space. The Idolsphere was not much kinder, as the hapless Stevens became the first Idol to post back-to-back approval ratings of under 10.
Normally we don't lose much sleep pondering that a performance with a single-digit approval rating might somehow be over-rated in our system. However, given that "Crocodile Rock" is often cited as the worst finals performance in Idol history, we suppose we should explain how it scored as high as 9.
WhatNotToSing.com base ratings are calculated primarily from Internet reviews written between the performance itself and the announcement of that show's voting results. We do take into account "Best Of The Season" and "Worst Of The Season" compilations from trusted reviewers, but only for fine-tuning after the fact. At any rate, "Rock" was roundly panned by the overnight reviewers, as you'd expect, but it also had three weak positive forces working in its favor.
Having watched the relevant performance videos many times, we may not entirely agree with all three bullet points, but we find each to be plausible (particularly the first one.) On the overnight reviews, "Crocodile Rock" initially rated out to a score in the low teens, but it dropped as we factored in "Worst Of The Season" lists. We freeze approval ratings at the end of each season, so it can't fall any further.
As for what we thought of the performance itself: Even without the memorable Curly Howard falsetto, this was a weak vocal. But we agree with those critics who wrote that the bigger problem was the painfully amateurish presentation throughout; watch it with the sound turned off to see what we mean. The campy "Crocodile Rock" was not just the wrong song for Stevens's voice, but also the wrong song for the young man's shy and reserved personality. We admire him for taking a big risk on national TV, but some gambles pay off and some do not, and this stands as Idol's archetypical example of the latter.