I watch a lot of television. Many would say entirely too much television. And yet, this is somehow my very first episode of American Idol. I’m no TV snob – I loves me some America’s Next Top Model, and don’t get me started on Scott Baio – I just kind of never managed to watch more than three minutes of this show. So I hope to provide a unique perspective. Now, I’m not entirely oblivious. Naturally some information has trickled down to me in that weird pop culture osmosis kind of way. For example:
- Randy says “Dawg” a lot.
- Simon is a bitch, and/or desperately in love with Ryan Seacrest.
- Paula Abdul is a tiny adorable crazy person who spouts kind but frequently incoherent praise at pretty much everybody.
- In general, people take themselves very, very seriously.
- Ryan Seacrest is a tool, but he’s really good at his job, and charming in that way that makes you not know if you want to punch him in the teeth or make out with him. Also, he likes gay jokes.
What a coinkidink! I do too!
So that’s what I’m working with here.
I thought that since we’ve moved on to the actual competition part of the competition that I might have missed all the Crazy. I had not. And I pretty much know how this whole things works, i.e., more camera time = probably relevant later, so we’ll follow that formula here. Off we go!
Apparently this is a year of firsts for American Idol. The contestants they like get a free pass, like a bye week in the NFL. But the ones whose spirits they break right there in front of God and everyone? Those guys get another shot this time around. This is also the first year the contestants are allowed to use instruments, which, like the rotating Carousel Bar in New Orleans, is somehow both the worst idea ever and the awesomest idea ever.
So the very first person to play a fake piano on American Idol is…Brooke White! She’s pretty and nice and seems like the kind of person who’d sign an Abstinence Pledge in high school. She sings a song called “Beautiful,” which is not the one by Christina Aguilera OR James Blunt (see above re: pop culture osmosis). Anyway, Simon likes her Carly Simon/Carole King thing she’s got going and everyone agrees, so yay Brooke.
Time to celebrate! Have a drink!
You guys, there are like eleventy billion of these kids to sit through. No wonder Simon is on his period all the time and Paula can’t bring herself to show up sober. I couldn’t either, Paula. Anyway, Ryan Seacrest tells us that the whole “musical instrument” thing didn’t work out especially well for some of them. So we get what I suspect is a regular feature on American Idol: the Montage of Shame. The moral of the story is this: if you’re not especially good at the guitar, maybe don’t give Simon more ammunition with which to make you cry quietly into your Hollywood Best Western pillow tonight.
One guy even plays the drums. Like, an entire drum set. Even Ryan Seacrest is all “Really? DRUMS?” It is not well received. Picking “Hooked on a Feeling” didn’t do him any favors either. And then this next guy is doing exactly the sort of thing that makes me want to pull my ears off, which is that Christina Aguilera “oouuhhuugggughuuugh” thing where they turn every syllable into seventeen, and they love him. Love him! Fascinating.
They also love Amanda, the Rock ‘N’ Roll Nurse From Atlanta. That’s a catchy name, Amanda. Touching music plays as Ryan Seacrest pesters her about the car accident she was just in last week. I like her because she can speak in complete sentences and is shaped like a girl. Also, she does have a nice deep growly Janis Joplin voice, but Simon and I agree that she should maybe think about toning it down a little.
And wear a seat belt.
Next Montage of Shame: people forgetting lyrics. Their humiliation oozes out of the television and into the pit of my stomach. This is not for the faint of heart.
Ghaleb, from Venezuela, by which I mean, Benethuela, touches everyone too much, literally, and I kind of feel like I could get scabies just by looking at him. I think he’s kind of awful, and not just because he picked that Bryan Adams song from Robin Hood. They all agree that he didn’t do as well as he did in Miami.
Josiah says he lives in his car, but he looks like he probably gets carded at PG-13 movies. He does this charmingly spastic James Blunt thing, with keyboard, and they eat it up. Go figure. You just never can tell with these people, can you? Paula finds him magical, Simon gives him a “flying yes,” and Randy looks at him like he’s about to ask him to sign his copy of Tiger Beat.
Danny Noriega needs a haircut and is also the very least heterosexual person in the room. I’m including Simon AND Ryan in that assessment. Go Danny! The Gays need their own American Idol! (Clay Aiken doesn’t count because he is still, to this day, pretending to like girls). Ramiele Maluba, whose name is awesome in a “sounds like a body part or tropical parasite disease” kind of way, is actually rather good.
Carly Smithson wore a tank top so you could see her totally bitchin tattoos, cause she’s a rebel like that. A rebel who sings “When I Need You.” You are so badass, Carly! I do like her better than anyone else they’ve fawned over. Michael Johns is the second person so far to sing “Light My Fire,” but wow, I bet they’re tired of attractive white guys in faded jeans singing Doors songs. He’s good though.
Poor Antonio Banderas has been put through the ringer, hasn’t he?
And ha, speaking of songs everyone’s tired of, there is actually an entire montage of people who picked that same Bryan Adams song. David Cook and his soul patch sound pretty good in spite of that, though, and looks like he would do really well fronting an emo band or something. I like him. Simon doesn’t. Kyle from Texas apparently wants to be either President of the United States, or American Idol. That right there tells you all you need to know about the future of our country. He’s kind of fascinating – like the unholy spawn of a union between Owen Wilson and Screech. He is a one-man show choir, this kid, and Paula’s incoherent ramblings about his spirit cause Simon to dramatically flee the room in a bitchy and entirely arbitrary huff. Wow. I’m totally starting to get this show.
So it’s hour two, and it’s time to crush some dreams! Because they enjoy torturing these people, they parade them out in groups of ten, to sing a capella. Yikes. They treat us to two of those “I’m a single parent and I want to give my son/daughter what I didn’t have” sob stories, then immediately say yes to two kids we didn’t even hear, and send both of their single parent asses home. Dude. Also on this show, people like to say “journey”. A lot.
Amy Flynn is a dance captain, and that’s pretty much all you need to know about her. Dance Captainy goodness oozes out of every word and gesture, and she actually comes out and says that she “preaches about abstinence.” Goooooo celibacy! She sings a song she just learned yesterday. A Taylor Dayne song. And ooh, they’re tricksy, because last group they made the two good kids step forward and sent everybody else home.
Well, I’ll be abstaining. So thank you.
This time they tell Amy and some other kid to step forward, but surprise! They’re the ones going home. Eight people we didn’t hear a peep out of are moving on. The next ten ALL get the shaft. This goes on for awhile, occasionally interrupted by hushed commentary from Ryan Seacrest and a portentous soundtrack. People cry. So much.
Jeffrey, who auditioned with his sister, is completely insane, and gives good old Danny Noriega some competition for “least heterosexual person in the room.” I mean, I don’t even know where to start with this guy. What are these people even doing here? I thought they left the “just sit back and laugh uncomfortably then feel guilty about it” types behind? Anyway, he’s incredibly excited and also not especially good.
Angela, single mom from Philadelphia, had me at hello when she picked “Lovely Day” by Bill Withers, which is a beautiful song, even though she doesn’t actually like, sing the actual melody. Also, her goddamn DAD was KILLED between auditions and she’s standing up there anyway. But she goes home, and Jeffrey the Bouncy Gay Ruben Studdard goes on. The hell? Seriously, people. She’s the only person there who has any real right to fall to pieces, and yet she’s articulate and poised and gracious.
You are too good for this dumb show, Angela.
Okay, so that’s the first round of cuts, and now we have to cut some more. The ones who didn’t go home after that grueling a capella nightmare get to sing with an actual band today, and 24 of them will keep going. And there’s another wacky new twist – they can have backup singers.
David from San Diego is good. He’s also adorable. Also, everyone loves him, even Simon. And wow, who knew the kids liked Bryan Adams so much? He sings “Heaven,” and apparently that Christina Aguilera thing I hate so much is like, mandatory in this competition, but he at least doesn’t let it take over the song. I got my eye on this one, folks.
Show Choir Kyle is still just so very very dorky, but he really does much better this time, in a “jazz hands!”/ Michael Buble kind of way. Simon apologizes to him for being a pouty little bitch last time and he gets to stay. Jeffrey the Inappropriately Exuberant Ruben Studdardalike fails to win Simon over with that “Whole New World” song from Aladdin. Your novelty has worn off, Jeffrey, but you had a good run. Good luck to you and your sister and your pig farm.
Give Babe my love, babe.
Syesha, who somehow squeaked by the last round even though she can barely talk, is the first to employ the backup singers, and can I just say, that’s what I want to be. I do not want to be The Next American Idol. I want to be The Next American Idol Backup Singer. Call me! Anyway, she’s doing much better, and she looks kind of smokin’ hot in her little shorts ensemble, which doesn’t hurt. Michael Johns sings Bohemian Rhapsody, which is ambitious, especially considering there are seven parts to it and he only has three backup singers. He’s another one who just kind of sings though, a nice white boy soul voice. I like him and so do they. And also with the “smokin’ hot” thing.
Carly the tattoo girl, who’s Irish, incidentally, gets my vote right away because she has a big fat deep voice that’s got enough range to make this Heart song sound pretty good. Three yeses! Asia’h, which is not a typo, has a pretty nice raspy soul voice and some truly unfortunate hair. Three more yeses!
In spite of bangs. Nice.
We have another Brooke, who is wearing a top from a 1986 Pat Benetar video. She’s a beauty queen and I kind of want to punch her. Especially when Randy says no and Simon says yes and she pesters Paula, pesters her, whinily, to break the tie. She just starts singing again in the middle of Paula trying to make up her mind, which was real dumb because now you just pissed off the tiny drunk woman who holds your fate in her shaky hands. She says no, and Brooke is STILL all “Paula, please!” as she goes offstage to cry about how she wasn’t given a fair chance. Honestly, Brooke. “She now has to face the harsh reality of rejection!” Ryan Seacrest voiceovers. Ryan Seacrest’s redundant and overly portentous voiceovers are possibly my favorite thing about this show. More people cry. Lots of crying going on here.
You’re gonna look awesome with a Dairy Queen hat.
Josiah, the inexplicably charming James Blunty piano kid, is last. He had a baaaad night. He’s pretty much unrehearsed and he’s running on 2 hours of sleep. And the kid’s got spunk, I have to tell you. He gets on stage and thanks the band for all their hard work, then asks if he can have the stage to himself. That’s kind of awesome, Josiah. I guess living in your car gives you balls of steel. It doesn’t pay off, however, and I surprise myself by being kind of sad about it. Randy “didn’t get it,” which is apparently something he says a lot. Paula tells him sometimes you just make the wrong choices. You are so wise, Paula.
But yeah, there are awesome choices, and there are the right choices, and sometimes they’re not the same ones. Simon is an absolute virtuoso at breaking people’s hearts. It’s truly a sight to behold. But Randy gives him a pass based on his previous performances, and I’ll be damned, so do Paula and Simon. Josiah’s face goes from humble to expectant to wide-eyed terror to genuine joy and gratitude in like 14 seconds. He proceeds to lose his shit backstage, but hey, sleep deprivation and a carefully, deliberately crushed spirit can do that to a guy.
I wonder if Josh Groban pulls this crap backstage.
Side note: The very existence of “Moment of Truth” is a clear and terrifying sign of the apocalypse.
Another montage! Does every episode of American Idol consist of 10% singing, 10% crying, 5% bitchy huffing, and 75% montage? If so, then yes, I can see why everyone is so obsessed with it. But there are more cuts to be made! There are 50 bright-eyed ingÃ©nues out there, and they only have room for 24 (ideally very attractive) finalists. Audition Polaroid montage! Montage of Randy and Paula saying “I like this guy” and Simon saying “No no no no no!” And that’s the last montage of the evening, friends. They’re going to cut them down tomorrow night, and I do find myself kind of curious about who makes it.
So fine, I gave in. I did my patriotic duty and watched American Idol like a good citizen, and it was fascinating. So did I get an accurate picture? How many huffy walkouts does Simon usually get per episode? Paula was kind of weird, but she could totally form words and coherent thoughts – is she turning over a new leaf, or does it take a few more episodes to turn her into a spastic, slurring basketcase? Is it all downhill from here? Do more people really vote for this thing than vote for President, or is that just one of those things people say on Teh Internets? Perhaps I will tune in discover for myself.