You’ve made it. You’ve soldiered on through week upon week of auditions designed to make you question your species, and catty criticisms designed to make you think thrice before showing up to auditions dressed like waterfowl. If you’ve read waywyrd’s fantastic recap of the Hollywood blur, then you know the time has come for the “ultimate cut.” After tonight, their fates will be in our hands – we’ll decide who takes their dreams back home, and who takes their dreams all the way to the top – the top including but not limited to gigs at Disney parades and state fairs. 12 guys. 12 girls. I can’t stand the suspense any longer. Join me in the Elevator Of Destiny, won’t you, as we find out who we’ll be cheering, jeering, and picking to pieces for the next 3 months. This … is … your top 24.
Sanjaya Malakar is the first to ride up the elevator and take his place in the lone chair before the judges. He’s giving his fiercest stroll; La TyTy must’ve gotten her hands on him at some point, because he is totally creating his own wind. He’s given solid enough performances in Hollywood, and of course there was that whole heart-wrenchingly [s]predictable[/i] dramatic scene of him being swooped through to the final round while his sister was cut from the competition. Sanjaya says he’s feeling mixed emotions. Simon tries to goad him into saying he was satisfied when his sister was cut, but Sanjaya gives one of those Michael Jackson nervous giggles, and says things are bittersweet. Paula quickly tells him he’s through, and Sanjaya reacts with what I can only call a Michael Jackson Grin and Fidget Combo. Hmm. So it seems I pay way too much attention to Michael Jackson, or Sanjaya does. Either way, not good.
Next to learn her fate is Tall, Tall Anna Kearns, who is very tall. She auditioned in Seattle with a rather breathless version of “Respect,” and somewhere along the way Simon called her giraffe, which, yeah. She’s really tall, you see. Anna calls Simon on the remark, and he apologizes in that cheeky way he has. Anna says it’s all right, because giraffes are beautiful, so she must be too. Hey, if circuitous logic is how you get your self-esteem, then more power to you, Anna. And I guess she’s got to get it from somewhere, because Randy deals her a swift rejection that leaves poor Anna shocked. She questions them to make sure they’re serious, and Randy leaves no doubt. Anna continues to question their judgment, claiming there’s never been anyone like her on the show. Well there’s a hint and a half that they’re not looking for your type, isn’t it? Yeah. Anna collects herself, and her very tall shreds of self-esteem, and walks out.
We fade quickly to my own beau ideal Bernard Williams, a sweetheart with a very good voice, whom you may recall from the Birmingham auditions. Paula makes short work of him, telling him he did well, but not well enough to cut it. Cut what, Paula? The huge thread of shenanigans and lies that keep a swell young man like Bernard out of the competition because he’s not loud and ridiculous enough to sell your freaking cola and cell phones! Is that what Bernard didn’t cut? Aw, let me stop. I’m not this boy’s mama. (Although, call me, Mrs. Williams; I’d love to take your boy out to the soda shoppe. With your permission, of course.) Anyway, Bernard earns himself a permanent place in my heart as he thanks the judges, and graciously walks out to the waiting room for his goodbye hugs and whatnot. Everyone seems shocked that he didn’t make it, but seriously, he was too sweet by half to survive this show.
Also quickly shunted is Aaron Davis, who I’ve never seen and have therefore never learned to love, and … WTBBQ? Is that Tami Gosnell? My newest love Tami Gosnell that they’ve axed with no explanation? Oh, show. It’s not looking good for us.
Melinda Doolittle is totally nervous. She talks some more about how singing backup totally scarred her for life, or some junk, and then Ryan shows us the mighty overcoming power of a big old spotlight, with a clip of Melinda powerhousing it up in Hollywood. She’s so awesome that there’s no suspense at all in her little interview with our judgmental gang. Simon tries to set it up by saying Melinda’s been a backup singer because someone else is always better than her, but I see that mischievous twinkle in his British eyes. He caps the comment by telling a delighted Melinda that she so deserves to be at the front of the stage. Melinda gives a demure little squeal that is so precious when coming from someone really humble. She gets her joy out in a hug and kiss from Simon and jumps out to cheers in the waiting room. Awesome.
The disembodied Voice of Seacrest next reminds us of the other backup singer in this game: Brandon Rogers, who is not quite as much knowing about the demure and humble as he says, “It’s kind of a weird feeling when you always felt like you should be the star, and you’re stuck behind someone else.” Egotism like that I can’t let slide without a bit of scorn, so: Oh please, dude. I doubt you’re the second coming of Marvin Gaye. Plus, you were totally out of tune on “Have You Really Ever Loved A Woman.” Take your pass into the top 24 and buy a pitchpipe. Also, congratulations.
Gina Glocksen will be the next to learn her destiny. This one’s always seemed a little to savvy for my taste, always knowing when to mug for the camera, and when to shrug and look anxious. I guess I should give her a pass since she’s had what, like 3 years of experience with this show? But I like my Idolettes a bit more wide-eyed and innocent (see above: Bernard Williams). The editors prime the knife for twisting by rerunning Gina’s previous show-related humiliations, but that just lets us familiar viewers know that this time will be different. Paula tries a fake-out by droning on melancholically* that these decisions are always tough, and Gina puts on an “acceptance” frown that I don’t quite buy, before Paula gives up the goods and tells Gina she’s in. She reacts with tears and squeals that I do buy, because they’re followed by the patented Beauty Queen tear fan and stomach hug once she’s all alone in the elevator. Those are the big guns. You only pull those out when you’re serious.
*It’s a word because I said so. Also, it just looks really cool, doesn’t it? Yeah. It does.
A Segment Too Boring To Title
Not fortunate enough to have cause for the tear fan and its accoutrements are Jimmy McNeal and Errick Johnson – their rejections don’t even earn them a minute of airtime, as they fade into the ridiculous short shorts and huge hoop earrings of Haley Scarnato. We get a brief flash of her oversinging “It’s All Coming Back To Me Now” (I know what you’re thinking: how is it possible? Ask Haley.), and raising her right hand to the sky – the universal gesture of raw emotion. Also, Ryan tells us that Simon likes her. Should be no surprise that Haley’s made it to the real stage. It’s a quick wrap-up of all her effervescence, and then we’re moving on.
It’s Phil Stacy’s turn to not surprise anyone by making the cut. After that backstory he gave, literally offering up his firstborn, I’m only surprised they don’t just give Phil the confetti and the “Flying Over Heavenly Clouds of Believed-In Dreams” song right now. But then again they did sell all those ads. So we get Randy rehashing Phil’s sacrifice and trying to stir up some melodrama before lamely saying, “Dude, you’re on the show.” But that’s enough for Phil, who leaps up and hollers all up into the camera for joy. Hey guy, I don’t need to see the spinach in your teeth. A thumbs up could do just as well.
Boy Band Breaks
We’re not even halfway through the carnage yet; 28 kids remain in the dark, but I’m sure they don’t mind, because they get to see a preview of The Simpsons Movie, those lucky ducks. Those fortunate … fish also get to meet Dave Silverman and hang out for a bit in the Simpsons studio. But Idol can’t be all fun and perks; indeed it can’t even be very fun or perky at all at this point where there’s all the drama to be mined. So we’re quickly back down to the business of slashing this unwieldy group of 40 down to a more manageable 24.
My future baby daddyChris Sligh is next in front of our triumvirate; he strolls in saying, “You guys are probably wondering why I’ve called this meeting.” Get it? He’s totally mocking the solemnity of the whole thing, and I totally killed the joke by explaining it, but I had to because otherwise there was no reason to type it all out. Point is, he’s funny. Also, not a bad singer. He’s one of the 40 thousand people who sang “Ever Really Loved A Woman” this week, and Simon tells him that he’s one of the most popular and personable contestants. Good, right? And Simon goes on to say that Chris is not one of the best singers. Even if I could agree with this (which I can’t do), really Simon. The guy who won last year? Chris could sing him under a table full of ribs and collard greens, so there’s that. Simon ends the suspense by telling Chris he’s made the cut. Chris gives a little head bow of relief, and the camera zooms in right at that moment, so … PSA Time! Chris, you know I love you, but I have to make you aware of the wonders of leave-in conditioner. Seriously. A dab the size of a quarter. Look into it. It’ll make those curls pop.
Blake Lewis needs no such advice re: hair products; his fauxhawk is well held in place by at least half a can of Aqua Net, so he’s all good. Blake, aka Beat Box Boi, is briefly taken to task for his persistence in beat boxing his way through a singing competition. And then Simon lets him through. I’m assuming Blake has some singing in there somewhere, but if it can’t fight its way through all the boomshikabrrrs and so on, he’s going to get old really quickly.
Thomas Lowe, the English chap who made a third in the Beat Box Band is so quickly dismissed I’m surprised his head isn’t spinning. Who’d he piss off? Alas, we’ll never know. And I don’t care anymore because it’s Rudy’s turn to get some news. Rudy Cardenas rounded out the boy banders and then turned in a beautiful, if decorated rendition of "Georgia" during Hollywood. Simon takes great care to point out that he didn’t like Rudy at his first audition in Seattle, and you can guess what that bit of means. Hip-shaking Rudy’s through with flying colors. Hooray!
Varying Degrees of Annoyance
Remember Paul Kim, who decided he hated William Hung for his gimmick of horrible singing? Well I’ve decided I hate Paul Kim for his gimmicks of underdressing and oversharing. Paul has decided that he shall go barefoot “from here on in.” Because he feels like it. Also? He wants you to know that he’s going to wear the same pair of underwear whenever there’s an elimination. He thought we’d like to keep that in mind from week to week. He was wrong.
We see refresher shots of Paul in Hollywood, singing “How Deep Is Your Love,” thoroughly being That Guy, the one who does the spirit fingers, and the head jerk along with every note of melisma. I kind of like Paul, but I don’t think I’ll be able to take him for a whole season. We’ll see though, because Paul definitely does have a nice voice, somewhere under all that affectation, so he earns his way into the top 24.
The judges next sport with young Jordin Sparks, who also auditioned in Seattle. Randy tells her she was great at the auditions, but was obviously nervous during the Hollywood rounds. He asks her how she thinks she did, and Jordin answers that she thinks she did her best, because seriously, what else is she going to say? “I was soooo flat during my group number, and just plain boring during my solo. All these other 39 people are worlds better than I. Indeed I am not worthy to wash Paul Kim’s feet!” Pffft. Randy gives up on the self-evaluation tactic and tells Jordin that she’s through, and Jordin screams and does that cute little excited-jitters thing with her hands all the way back downstairs. Cute.
Not cute is any reminder of Antonella Barba, who we find downstairs flirting with Tommy Daniels after seeing Tatiana McConnico, Olivia Quiba-Hurst, and Monique Vieras get rather unceremonious axes. Tommy says he’s been confident, nay cocky throughout this whole ordeal, but the wait is nerve-wracking. He then goes on to give me kidney stones by saying that sitting next to the “beautiful” Antonella Barba makes everything better. Right, if by “beautiful” you mean completely gross. Oh, you may protest that Antonella herself has done nothing especially reprehensible so far, but dude. She fully supported her best friend’s skanky rudeness. And are we not in some measure the company we keep?
But enough about those skanks for now. Five-time (!) auditioner A.J. Tabaldo is quickly informed that his persistence is paying off this time, and he celebrates or something, I can’t tell because we’ve moved on to Stephanie Edwards in the blink of an eye. She dazzles a bit with her solo “Until You Come Back To Me,” and even though she did it all in some big-ified 3rd grade party dress, the judges put her through speedily. Red-headed Leslie Hunt, and nondescript Nick Pedro also get their passes in a flash. Why are we shuffling so quickly through these folks? Trust me, you’ll understand at the end. And then you’ll be angry.
Quick Succession of Nothing Much
Alaina Alexander is a crybaby. She cries tears of joy after every round, but she doesn’t want to think about the bitter tears she’d cry if she were eliminated. Fair enough. She steps timidly into the judging room and declares that she would rather not sit in the lonely chair, but wants to stand. Also fair, and the better for showing off her kicky red wrap-dress. Randy gives her the third degree about not wanting to sit. What? Does the decision not count if they’re not in the chair? Does the chair beat Randy at night for every tush it doesn’t touch? We may never know the answers to those questions, because Alaina caves and sits long enough for her to ramble on and on about not wanting to go home. At this moment we flash back to Alaina’s solo, a rendition of “Without You” that’s closer to Bridget Jones’s cover than Mariah Carey’s. But no matter. She’s cute and
exploitableemotional, so she’s in. Alaina promises to work very hard, and asks for any advice the judges have; Simon tells her to blow her nose. Hee! Alaina’s a bundle of nervous laughter and excitement as she exits into the elevator and fumbles for the lobby button.
She trades places with Chris Richardson, who has my enduring wrath for his continual efforts to Timberlakeify beloved Donny Hathaway songs. He defiled “A Song For You” way back during his audition, and we see him now in Hollywood squeaking and groaning around “I Love You More Than You’ll Ever Know.” Boooooo!! Ahem. I’m obviously not a fan of Chris R’s, so I’m sure he’ll be sticking around for-freaking-ever, and I’m proved as right as I always am about these things. Chris is through to the top 24, and with my luck, all the way to the finale.
The similarly average-gifted Sabrina Sloan makes it through as well, by the power of one beautiful end-note on “Some Kind of Wonderful,” and she’s all “I love this show!” Mm hmm. We’ll see how you feel in 3 months.
Yay! That Is All.
People we won’t be seeing in 3 months: Jerome Chism, Joelle James, Princess Johnson and former Brokenote Matthew Buckstein. They console themselves as well as they can, while we flit on to focus on (Single mom! Don’t forget she’s a Single Mom!) Lakisha Jones. She wowed the judges with Aretha Franklin’s “Think” during her audition, and continued to impress during Hollywood with a rousing, crowd-moving performance of “Until You Come Back To Me.” She must be in. But Simon wants to play the “How do you think you did” game, and I continue to hate that job interview tactic so much I would ban it if I were ever Queen of the World. (Yeah, I realize there would be more worthy things to do with my royal time, but I really hate that question.) Lakisha gives some diplomatic answer about giving her all, and says that he’ll be thankful and have no regrets no matter what happens. She tears up a bit while talking about possibly going home, and Simon takes the opportunity to stomp on her heart by faking her out with the sympathy tones before finally telling her she’s in. Aw! Lakisha’s crying, Paula’s crying, Simon’s getting misty and even Ryan back down in the waiting room is a little choked up. He advises us all to get some tissue as we head to break. Yeah, maybe y’all need it. I’m straigh … oh, who am I kidding? Lakisha’s sob story and sympathetic presentation got to me too. I’m only human, you know. I have compassion in my heart, somewhere under all those layers of snark and old tin cans.
Send For The Rageahol! I Need A Drink.
So with Lakisha’s triumph, the show has filled its heartwarming quotient for the evening, and I guess we should be prepared for some crap now. Nicole Tranquillo, Amy Krebs, and Jared Cotter receive relatively quick and painless yeses, and then we’re down to the final four. Since there are only spots reserved for 12 guys and 12 girls, it’s time for two, count ‘em two versions of the ridiculously unnecessary and melodramatic one-versus-one showdowns that they love to save for the end. The ladies – the already bawling Marissa Rose and the aforementioned piece of grossness Antonella Barba – are up first, and they do a predictable “I love you no matter what happens” dance of disingenuousness before walking in to learn the judges’ decision.
We flash back to Marissa tearing up on Faith Hill’s “Stronger,” and Simon remarking that she was the best they’d heard all day, and then we go to Antonella, who mumbled and squeaked her way through “Until You Come Back To Me,” stumbling over the lyrics and generally making me hate her face. But this is Idol, and we should know by now that this show makes absolutely no sense. So it shouldn’t come as a surprise that they’re booting Marissa and keeping Antonella. It shouldn’t shock me. But it totally does. I’m even more shocked at the way the camera eats up all of poor Marissa’s heartbreak as the judges tell her she’s amazing and try to keep her from hating them. They don’t direct any similar effort at me, so I guess I’m free to hate them. Also a target of my hatred? Antonella, of course, who proves that nothing’s more important than smiling at your own good fortune of having shiny hair, while someone else is in pain. To be fair, Ant quickly remembers that she’s being filmed, so she does flip on the consolation switch as the girls hit the elevator. Poor Marissa is beyond consolation though, and it’s little wonder why. The show dwells thoroughly on her misery and tears, but I’m going to skip it, or else I’ll end up having to take a time-out in the Angry Dome.
Let’s move on to the last two fellas, Sundance Head and the self-proclaimed cocky guy Tommy Daniels. They’re not even going to fake the everlasting camaraderie or anything. Tommy jumps up and down in the elevator, because he needs his juice box or something, and Sundance looks on with mild disgust. Also, he looks like the Gorton’s Fisherman in a silly navy pea coat. We reminisce on Tommy’s wowing the judges and Sundance flopping horribly in Hollywood. This sounds familiar, doesn’t it? The judges give the final slot to Sundance, probably just because his name is Sundance. And Tommy is left to pick up the pieces, somehow. He drops a few choice bleeped-out swears in the elevator, and flips the camera the double bird, so maybe that helped. Down in the waiting room with Ryan again, Sundance tries to commiserate, and stupidly says to Tommy that if he makes it big, he’ll hire Tommy as his bodyguard. Really? With the daggers Tommy’s shooting from his eyes you might want to think twice about that one. Shmuck.
So this is how we end six four weeks of hopeful anticipation and promise? With the gloating of an undeserving chit and the awkward insults of a moderately talented schmuck? Well. It ought to be a fabulous season. Suddenly, Ryan snaps me out of my bitterness and brings us to the present-day, as the chosen kids each get a chance to dance their ways into our hearts. This is what we’re working with:
And that’s that. Okay, people. Get your fan names and your dialing fingers ready. We’re moving on to the semifinals.
I’m drafting an angry letter about how this all could’ve been done in about 15 minutes. Got anything to add? firstname.lastname@example.org om