American Idol: Top 8, The Future Belong$ to Tho$e Who Believe in the Beauty of Their Dream$
By T.Vo|Wednesday, April 9, 2008 | 9:09 pm | 12 Comments
Ah, but a man’s reach should exceed his grasp,
or what’s a heaven for? – Robert Browning
I openly mock people who print out motivational quotes in Comic Sans font and post them on their walls. I avoid the Maya Angelou section of Hallmark cards like they’re filled with anthrax. I desecrate any song with the “wings,” “hope,” “Sweet Jesus” and “gravity” by replacing the words indiscriminately with “hot dog.” So when I learned that it was Inspiration Week on American Idol, I squealed like a little piggy being force-fed greasy deliciousness.
Nothing is more American than the pursuit of delusions powered by one’s overinflated sense of self-entitlement and bad wardrobe decisions. Except for bacon-wrapped hot dogs dipped in batter and then deep-fried, topped off with onion rings and melted cheese. Maybe we should send those to the kids in Africa instead of the millions of dollars in aid that still haven’t been released from last year’s Idol Gives Back donations, eh? Yeah, yeah, you plan to disburse the money over two years, but that’s not helping little Babatunde and Ekenedilichukwu! And throw in some free Charity Water, since you’re not releasing your accounting files!
Seacrest keeps telling me that I make the shots by calling in. But how un-American is it that American Idol claims that the winner is based on the popular vote? If we really want to be American here, a shit ton of those votes should be thrown out. Al Gore laughs bitterly every time Seacrest says that we, the people, have the power. If AI is as American as it claims to be, there’s gotta be the equivalent of superdelegates (producers, judges, the crazy cat lady backstage in props) an the Electoral College/Supreme Court (Nigel Lythgoe) to undermine the popular vote. Yet we don’t have any ballot-related issues because oh hey, they never release numbers! Yes, that is my final thesis. Oh, also, these people are awkward on stage when they are asked to just stand still and not say anything.
Seacrest has the contestants walk through the deadly sliding doors and, because I watch episodes over and over, I notice that David Cook appears to not follow his assigned position in the lineup. He looks like he’s supposed to go somewhere in between Syesha and Brooke, but then abruptly veers stage right to sandwich himself between KLC and the Fetus. Smart power play, ’cause standing next to Fetus automatically gives you some immunity. It’s a psychological thing, people. Michael Johns is visibly pissed as he tries to jockey for his position in between KLC and Douche-id Cook, pushing them aside so he doesn’t have to stand behind them. Douche refuses to move, though, so Michael Johns’ left shoulder and arm are hidden behind Douche’s craptastic white jacket. It is awkward and hilarious.
“But…but…Maaaaaaam! He pushed me!”
Michael Johns appears as the silk scarf-wearing (the Ascot lives on from last week! Gross) skeezeball you’d meet at a distant cousin’s wedding. The guy who brags about how wildly successful he is at life and how much he loves his schooner, plies drinks on you all night – and then passes out on top of you in a supply closet to the strains of “The Chicken Dance.” After he’s convinced you to smear Marmite all over your boobies. Did I mention he looks like an alcoholic this week? Get it together, man.
Then again, this is the guy who believes you should dream on until your dreams come true. It doesn’t work that way. Oh, hey, he’s doing “Dream On” by Aerosmith. I’m not sure if he realizes “dream on” is a sarcastic phrase, being Australian and all. But I totally paused this episode during his video confessional because he looks just like a poor man’s David Cook for two seconds. Those two are having serious walk-offs backstage.
He’s flat, and the verses are more unstable than Sylvia Plath right before she stuck her head in an oven. At least he’s learned to hold onto his mic stand instead of flailing around like a Stretch Armstrong meets a Jibber Jabber toy. But now it just looks forced and unnatural, like a PA superglued his hands on with rubber cement. Memo to MJ: The “authentic rocker” slot was filled eons ago by David Cook. He scrunches up his face and dignity to hit the signature falsetto and scream at the end. My ears, they are bleeding. You can’t really go out and sing songs by singers who are so established/iconic. Unless you cover it with an original, striking arrangement, you’re just going to look derivative. And by derivative, I mean a total flopping knockoff bought off a street vendor or the swap meet.
P.S. Scarf’s supposed to hang from the mic stand, not your neck, ass monkey. Sloppy Kisses, Steven Tyler
Michael takes a note from Brooke/Carly and starts to protest when Randy critiques him, insisting that America is all about having dreams come true. No, that’s Disneyland, which just extended its Year of a Million Dreams as a favor to the sagging US economy. Don’t say the R word yet, Alan Greenspan! I promise to blow my $600 federal rebate on piÃ±atas, embroidered Mickey Mouse ears and text messages not covered by my phone plan.
Randy deems it a’ight due to pitch problems and a meh song selection, and notes that MJ is no Aerosmith. He doesn’t buy it. MJ retorts that he picked a good song, yadda yadda yadda, living the American dream = whatevah, ah do what ah want!
“This show is not about having your dream come true, it’s about being the best singer,” Randy shoots back. You just got knocked out by the Big Dawg, yo. Also: Sinbad is in the house.
Paula couldn’t disagree more. It’s perfect, and that he sounds as good as he looks (sounds: Reno-based impersonator , looks: J. Crew with STDs ), and something something chihuahuas yelping. Oh, the falsetto. I’m sure Paula could sing into the whistle range (like Kristen Chenowith does) thanks to the five platinum Wonder Bras choking her chest. She can rest her chin on her boob shelf now. Simon snorts that only on this debacle of a show could we get from dreams to Chihuahuas. He agrees with Randy that MJ comes off as a rock star impersonator, and suggests the wise advice that MJ focus more on blues and R&B. And then he calls MJ a wannabe. Don’t worry MJ, you’re now overshadowed by the Aussie Incest Controversy with the 61-year-old dad who recently had a baby with his daughter. Never mind that he walked out on the family when his daughter was a baby and they met like 30+ years later. Oh, and their first baby died of a heart failure, for some reason. Grosser than licorice-flavored jellybeans!
I’m worried about Syesha. Last week she dipped into Asia’h territory with her diva song choice, and this week is no different. Why should it be? I keep making excuses for the girl (“She does such a good crying baby!”), but we’ve been waiting for her to arrive longer than those existential kids who were waiting for Godot. I’m tired of waiting for her to stake out her territory and wow me.
Pulling out Fantasia’s torch song “I Believe” is just about what I’d expect. Like chick flicks, which are so predictable that I’d still be able to guess the lines word-for-word even with my frontal lobe removed, this song blows chunks in the word department. Syesha’s take on inspiration is the following: If you believe yourself, anything is possible, you can do anything. But it first starts with you.
And an iPhone. I am nothing without you, iPhone. How could I give back without first Facebooking my friends, downloading tracks on iTunes and then Googling some directions for my journey to success?
“Have you ever reached a rainbow’s end?” Syesha croons. Nothing inspires me to find the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow than these folks from Mobile, Alabama:
Big notes. Big notes. Big notes. Boring. I am no longer paying attention. Syesha has more emotional connection to her baby cry than this song. She’s not bringing anything new it, which is probably why she’s a commercial actress and not making films. She’s never quite hit the sweet spot for me in her performances. Also, “I Believe” is the melodic equivalent of awful-quotes-turned-refrigerator-magnets like “Dance like no one’s watching! Love like you’ll never be hurt by a lying scumbag-who-uses-your-credit-card-to-buy-hookers again!” It’s a song that I would never download for free, let alone pay for.
Randy has been sipping some of Simon’s truth serum. He points out that it paled in comparison to Fantasia’s version. If Randy knew the word “meh” he’d say it was meh, dawg. Syesha pulls a Brooke and starts asking Randy what he means — is he comparing her to Fantasia or is she personally not connecting bloop bloop blah? Ugh. Syesha, don’t do that!
“I don’t get the theory of relativity; go over the gravitational constant again, please?”
Predictable Paula defends Syesha and says not many people can take on songs like that. Nor should they, because they can’t top their predecessor. She goes as far to call it one of Syesha’s shining moments. Yeah, well, everything looks shiny to you, Paula, after you got some glitter embedded in your retinas. Simon yawns and says comparisons are inevitable, but that she lacked the emotional connection and personality that Fantasia brought to the song. Aw Simon, your yawn was contagious.
Jason Castro is starting to look like Gonzo from The Muppets. He busts out a small ukulele for his take on Israel Kamakawiwo’ole’s version of “Over The Rainbow.” I love Israel’s rendition and wish he were still alive and making music. Look how cheerful he is!
Oh hai. I can has rainbow!
Castro’s song selection couldn’t have been more perfect for this week. Few songs are more inspiring/hope-filled/heart-lifting than this tune, and this arrangement includes plinky, twinkly chords and soaring melody. He lifts the melody line directly from Israel’s version, but makes it work and nearly impossible for me to hate him. Plus, ukeleles remind me of Homestar Runner and you can’t help but smile when you watch Strong Bad e-mails.
Ukelele bites man’s hand off, news at 11.
This is a single that people would actually buy, in part because Israel’s version is so well-known and beloved, but also because Castro doesn’t butcher it. He pulls off songs that are spare and simple yet resonate, and he doesn’t dress it up in fancy trimmings and runs like Carly and Syesha or even David Cook. It’s endearing and feels sincere because he’s an Austin hippie and all. Girls are going to vote twice for him and guiltily admit it on their Facebook status and MySpace bulletins.
I have also discovered Castro’s stylist, and I must say that I approve.
The judges go wild. Randy grins and yells that Jason Castro is blazing molten hott and back in the game! Paula says he’s perfect and sparkly and definitive and she wants to pet his dreads like Dolly did last week and waxes on and on in an infinite loop of love.
Just hit the restart button on Paula, Randy.
Simon says the first time he heard the song, he wasn’t sure, the second time he loved it, and the third time, fantastic. And he smiles super-quickly and briefly, so fast I couldn’t even catch it in a screenshot! So he didn’t like Israel’s version as much as Castro’s, or did he have to sit through dress rehearsals?
Seacrest introduces Kristy Lee as the girl who is desperate to stay outta the bottom 3. I’ve been predicting that Kristy Lee is going to pump the “I’m country, pretty and perky!” bit as long as possible, tonight will require some sequins and cleavage-enhancing tank tops. Next week? Sequined halter minidress, swiped from Deal or No Deal. And if she makes it to the next week, which I highly doubt, she will don a sequined thong swiped from Elizabeth Berkeley’s Showgirls collection. Oh, and even my neighbor’s goldfish knows that KLC is singing a country song this week, probably Faith Hill or Martina McBride. Goldfish have a memory span of 2 seconds, btw.
KLC Confessional: “You pour out your soul and give everything you have, and if people don’t like it, you should do it anyway ’cause it’s right.” Kristy, is that a Bushism? I don’t have it on my daily calendar. It’s not about what’s right for you, it’s about the collective auditory health of America. You need to stop while you’re slightly ahead. That would be now.
My boyfriend observes that her sparkly boobs look lopsided. They are, and I am so over KLC I don’t even care that he looked that closely at her breasts. Her flesh-colored Bedazzled tank top evokes Britney Spears’ naked bodysuit, doesn’t it? Smart. Because she sings in one key, and that’s flat. Kristy, just blow some prominent politician or Nigel Lythgoe and ride the wave of notoriety to the Top 5. I would like to see her try something that’s more poppy, like “Suddenly I See” by KT Tunstall. All you need to know is that she’s performing a Martina McBride song. Fine, it’s called “Anyway.” As in, what’s she still doing on this show, anyway?
It sounds like this: DREAM! LOVE! HOPE! GOD IS DEAD!
Translation: KLC has a weak voice, but since she’s singing country, she can pass for mediocre/decent. Any other song would’ve caused America’s ears to bleed. So because she’s sucked like a Hoover shredding carpet before, she’s now relatively decent compared to past weeks. On a positive note, she’s starting to look like Rachel Blanchard, the girl who played Cher in the “Clueless” TV series (post-Alicia Silverstone) and most recently played Sally on a few episodes of Flight of The Conchords.
The judges and America have collectively lowered the bar for KLC. It’s obvious when all she needs to do is not sound like Alvin the Chipmunk on speed in order to get compliments from the judges. And oh, it’s fine if she’s got a few pitch problems here and there. She’s like the retarded kid in your elementary school class who got more drool than correct answers on their tests, and never mastered tying their shoes. But everyone would still be like “Aww! Good job!” if the class idiot managed to not eat the entire tub of paste during arts & crafts time.
Lunging for Life: The Kristy Lee Cook Story
Case in point: Randy tentatively says, after pointing out that she had a couple of pitch moments, that she was “really good.” What he leaves off is “FOR YOU, YA RETARD.” Because the judges just can’t even compared her to the rest of the contestants anymore, she’s in the the 5th realm of the underworld if Fetus’ singing skills relegates him to the asscrack of St. Peter and the Pearly Gates. Stop cutting her slack! Sparing someone criticism never improved shitty singing. Paula is WHAT. EVER, and promptly dismisses Randy’s brief criticism. She says it’s Kristy’s best and tra la la, it’s so easy to sing songs that inspire you, let’s go to the Marmalade Forest! Isn’t inspiration fun everyone?
The only way I would ever vote for KLC is if she sang a binary solo.
And if the humans were dead.
Simon, smelling Paula’s breath and her dogged determination to undermine his opinions as the most consistently truthful and perceptive judge on this show, points out that he’s in an awkward position. How can he criticize KLC after that glowing endorsement from P-Crazy? So he cites Randy as evidence. When you can choose from such a broad selection of songs, you have an opportunity to show who you really are as an artist. So the standard excuses of “Oh, this song was written for a tranny!” or “I got last pick because Ramiele bawled her eyes out and I let her cut” fail. He said he thinks she was very, very good indeed. But he didn’t say good at what. Simon obviously means she’s good at amateurish country singing and also at doing lunges. He never explicitly said that she sang well.
After the commercial break learn that MySpace is indeed sleeping with American Idol as Seacrest rattles off a URL for us to look at that isn’t Apple. And some leather-jacket-wearing, ratty-haired hippie is sitting on Simon’s lap. Sketchy!
“Everybody has a good heart at the end of the day,” intones David Cook. He either got that in his fortune cookie, or has been reading the diary of Anne Frank. That’s a nice thing to say on TV, Douche Cook, but your hair doesn’t believe you. Your torso wishes it was a self-immolating monk about now, because you stole a fug white jacket that was turned down both by Michael Jackson and Prince and insisted on wearing it for this performance of “We are Innocent” by Our Lady Peace. It’s pleathery-shiny and is uglier than any marching band uniform I have ever worn.
As Douche Cook starts to actually sing, I start to panic. Something is wrong, and it’s not the show’s sound system. His voice just sounds weak and all wrong, and maybe it’s leftover heart palpitations. He can’t maintain the pitch or the energy, and the effect is that of Syesha attempting to sing death metal. I am not going to blame Canada for this one. His voice just isn’t suited to the song at all. But he has the gall to walk through the crowd like Jesus, only he doesn’t heal anyone, he gives them face AIDS instead.
Of course, Paula is excitedly clapping like she’s at her 6th birthday party and just unwrapped her first rhinestone-covered scrunchie. As Douche makes his way to the judges table to give them a little visual lapdance, he shoves his hand at the nearest camera and we see he’s been penning words of encouragement on his hand with a Sharpie.
My other hand says “Free Tibet.”
So you want to be Bono. Is it possible for a contestant to fellate his own ego so much that he starts to parody himself? You betcha. But it’s probably not enough to land him in the bottom with Kristy Lee, Syesha, and Carly.
Randy doesn’t get it either. He points out that D. Cook throws it down every week, usually, but not this week. Song choice, people, song choice. Paula must’ve turned off her hearing aid, because she just tells David that he is “it” and it’s time to play duck duck goose, but first she believes in him and he is just so great. “Thank you, Paula,” interjects Simon, as Paula scoffs at a comment Simon hasn’t even made yet. She’s certainly feisty tonight, jumping on either Simon or Randy is she disagrees with them in the slightest. Just like a yappy Chihuaha with hair extensions. Simon, a man after my own heart, calls David pompous. David is someone who would sell his framed belly button lint on eBay and send the proceeds to Darfur. But not before nominating himself for a Nobel.
We get a little tiff over the alien-looking white Jacket of an Awful Future. Simon hates it, Randy likes it. Paula keeps stuttering and stammering and yammering, and Simon finally tells her to calm the eff down while she squeals she saw “Think Big” scrawled on Douche Cook’s hand.
Carly is channeling Emily the Strange and the angst of a thousand Goth high schoolers tonight. Her voice barely conceals acid bitterness when describing her song choice, “The Show Must Go On” by Queen. And her belief that you should “use every moment of your life to make every moment count” is just crazypants talk. She’s just pissed because she blew her record deal and thinks she’s above performing on Idol even though it’s really her only shot at getting more exposure after flubbing her debut album.
Unlike ANTM and other reality “talent” shows, though, Idol never explicitly promises anything to its contestants as the prize. No spread in Seventeen Magazine or photoshoot with some old photographer that Anna Wintour loves? Wah!
Rather than heed Simon’s fashion advice, Carly stitched up some stripey socks from the Wicked Witch of the West into a camisole. And her pants make her look lumpy. I’d be pissed if I was born into the wrong decade too, Carly. Just ask MCA to buy you a teleportation device set to the ’70′s/ ’80s. The song is set in minor key, so you don’t get the major resolve you get with a happier-sounding key like D major. Instead, you just feel kind of hopeless and stressed out by Carly’s performance. She has a solid voice, but she just sounds bitter/angry/tee’ed off that she still has to be on this show. I’m going to sound like a yoga hippie who believes in the healing power of crystals here, but you get serious negative energy from her performance and her whole aura.
I’VE ABANDONED MY CHILD! I’VE ABANDONED MY BOY!
Randy sayz: It didn’t hit the mark, and was disconnected. Paula sayz: She’s agreeing with Randy a bit (voice good! song bad!) and didn’t feel engaged with Carly. This does not bode well, since Paula loved everyone before Carly and will probably love everyone after her. If Paula isn’t praising your ass, you’re fucked. Simon sayz: He likes her outfit. We are clearly in bizarro world, where Simon Cowell uses irony and pretends he’s Paula. He complains that Carly oversung it to the point of losing control, and that it verged on angry and didn’t fit with the theme of the show. Concurred. …and she could be in trouble, he adds, as the coup de grace. The audience only boos half-heartedly at Simon’s proclamation, so I think Carly’s on her way back to the bottom three.
FETUS! Our little boy is all growing up, and he’s borrowed a flowered shirt and some tight khakis from Jason Castro. He tells us a little about his early morning and late night rituals, and seems oblivious to the double entendres he is spinning for us.
“I hope I don’t wake the neighbors, I can get pretty loud.”
So, Fetus had a few ballads in mind this week, but didn’t know which one to pick. Slow, sentimental piano ballad or slow, sentimental piano ballad? Gosh, it’s hard when they’re all so good! Oh, heck, let’s go with “Angels.” For a second, I thought he was doing “Angel” by Sarah McLachlan, which is really quite heartending (I’m more indie than a hipster sandwich made of lines from Juno but I’ll admit I was into that Lilith Fair stuff when I was in middle school). But no, it’s the Robbie Williams song that I hear Simon actually likes. Jessica Simpson covered it, but you don’t need to know that.
What if Fetus had picked “Candle in the Wind”? Anywho, he’s at the piano all precious moments and whatnot, and singing that he loves angels. Any other hot-blooded teenage male would be imagining the Victoria’s Secret angels. But little ole’ Fetus is thinking of poor people who don’t have television sets in their shantytowns. “Despite what you’re going through, there’s always light at the end of the tunnel…” he croons.
Psst. It’s an oncoming train.
Fetus hits the big babymaker notes that immediately cause women in menopause to start ovulating again because they want to have a child as talented as him. He smartly throws some riffs and runs in there to make the song a bit more soulful, and you know Randy is all over that. Everybody screams for Fetus and he does his bashful embarrassment routine which actually may not be a faÃ§ade. After all, he’s a Mormon kid from Utah, and all my Mormon friends really are this earnest and sunshiny.
Randy loves the runs and smacks his fist for the Fetus, crazy, crazy, crazy hott! Loved it! Paula concurs and says it sums it up for her. Fan-effing-tastic. Simon says it’s the best song choice of the night (what? more so than Jason Castro?), because it’s one of the best pop songs ever written. He admits that he’s nitpicking about Fetus’ voice being sub-par and nasally because Fetus will sail on the Good Ship Lollipop-of-Slow-Cheesy-Ballads to the final two. Could it be David Cook versus the Fetus?
Every time you vote for Fetus, a beedog gets its wings.
We get a shot of Ryan in the mosh pit with two female security guards. Alrighty then.
Brooke’s closing, so I pop a Xanax (okay, it’s a Flinstone’s Kids chewable but it works as a placebo for my Brooke-induced anxiety) and brace myself. She’s dressed in a flowered pillowsheet designed by Tori Burch (gag), and wants to be Carole King. So, “You’ve Got a Friend” from Tapestry it is. Can she perform without instruments? Brooke and Michael Johns clearly had the same choreographer, because now she’s clinging to the mic as well, with one hand on it at all times. Anything’s better than an “improvised” spontaneous twirl.
Two words: Vintage Brooke. Her devoted fans will eat it up, but if you don’t like her by now, you never will. I am in the latter camp, and am utterly bored. I go to rummage in my fridge for something to eat, because I am always transported to the supermarket by Brooke. The song just strolls along (more of a stroll than a saunter, for sure) until it ends. Nothing really happened. We didn’t get any tempo changes or dynamics worth noting or vocal fireworks, and I’m sure you’ve had more exciting times when dropping the kids off at the pool. We get close-ups of Brooke’s lower lip trembling on the vibrato, and I only wish I was going blind like that Amanda girl from ANTM a few seasons back. Something about this song evokes the theme song from Gilmore Girls too, only the GG song is way more upbeat and strummy-strummy la la!
Lorelai pwns Brooke.
Randy pulls that “I wasn’t jumpin’ up and down but I wasn’t mad at you either.” Paula loves this song because her sister played it over and over and over and it was a good way to close the show. Hmm, no excessive praise? Brooke looks ready to pull a Ramiele. Simon remarks that it was a pleasant walk in the park. Nice. But was it original? No. (Randy agrees.) Was it pleasant? Yes. Dismissed! Brooke’s going to go backstage and have a complete meltdown. Just you wait.
I’d have to say Jason Castro’s performance tonight was my favorite. I just can’t swoon over Fetus (no offense, Fetus-lovers) because I keep thinking about how much pressure his dad must put on him and how if Fetus wins this competition, his life will be lost to contractual obligations and a franchise. But if he loses, his daddy will surely beat him. It’s a Catch-22 of the worst kind. Two words, Fetus: legal emancipation.
My bottom three this week? Carly, Kristy Lee, and Syesha. David Cook will probably be spared by his rabid fans. The ultimate diss would be sending Carly home for her angsty-angry performance before KLC gets the boot. You can always get a tat to commemorate getting kicked off, Carly. The show must go on, children in Africa must get their bottled charity water and Hannah Montana must discover that people in Kentucky are so poor, they have to go to KFC to lick other people’s fingers!