This is so not comics, but the Final Three go at it tonight and we’d been saving up some notes. We started watching American Idol a few years ago because we felt the need to pay attention to at least one thing that wasn’t nerdy but instead reflected the more mundane and/or inane side of culture — something universal, just so when we had to hang out with normal people we wouldn’t be entirely defenseless. Plus former judges Simon and Kara talked about music a little and it was interesting. But that was then. This season’s judges, Steven Tyler and Jennifer Lopez excel at nothing but praise, blather and administering something called the “amazing” scale:
1 amazing = about ready for Rocktime Karaoke at that place down behind the mall.
2 amazings = will someday star in a YouTube video
3 amazings = talent
Actually we did have some kind of comics metaphor in this season’s AI — when everything is amazing…nothing is. (Paging Bob Parr.) As much as we try to be egalitarian in this comics world, we do it no favors by letting sentimentality get the better of us and praising substandard work because we feel bad. That actually hurts the GOOD work. That’s not elitism — it’s common sense.
Not that anyone cares — ratings are up, JLO is the world’s most beautiful woman, and Tyler has a bestselling book. Exposure works!
Anyway, on to the contestants.
We were a little surprised when James Durbin was voted off last week. Unlike every other contestant, he didn’t care how he sounded and just sang with emotion. Unfortunately this led to blubbering like a walrus half the time. Plus, in his first appearance it was mentioned that he had both Tourette’s Syndrome and high-function autism. The first one was very much in evidence with the funny faces and squintables he was always having. If he won, it would have been one wild ride.
So on to those who might win.
Haley Reinhart — 13-1
The one person who the judges don’t shower with amazings and beautifuls, probably because she is young and doesn’t really know what she’s doing. She knows how to look pissed, however, as the above still shows. Although a real cutie, America does not like pissy pouty girls who get annoyed when they’ve been judge-f*cked. HOWEVER, last night she did herself solid by doing well on actual non-country songs that people had heard, by Led Zep, Fleetwood Mac and Alanis Morissette,
Lauren Alaina – 7-1
Thank god she’s a country girl! Only 16, Lauren exemplifies the fear and insecurity most of us have when we’re sixteen by not knowing how to take a chance. Mentor Jimmy Iovine rightly nailed her when she didn’t hold the right note in “Unchained Melody” — everyone from Ricky Nelson to Bono knows that “need” is the money note! Nonetheless, Lauren’s non-threatening country demeanor should take her to the final two. She does have a great voice but all three songs last night were total snoozers…to us anyway.
Scotty McCreery – 1-2
Scotty’s winning has been a forgone conclusion ever since he unleashed his smooth country baritone at auditions, even if he does hold the mike like he’s about to blow it, oh so tenderly. At first we were very impressed by this 18-year-old’s poise, standing up for what’s right, and natural talent, but ever since he figured out he was going to win he’s gotten a little unbearable with the country pronunciation that sounds like a parody, and pandering crap like a 9/11 song. But it doesn’t matter — he’s got “it” … true star quality.
After James’ behavior and goofy past (see above) I was impressed at how the behind the scenes info about American Idol is kept so highly classified or at least obfuscated — like the bit about the Idol’s mansion being so haunted that Zak Bagans wanted to investigate — though word is that all anyone found was Taylor Hicks’ career. For Idol junkies, one recent book did break the seal a bit. Former production assistant Justin Buckles has written American Idol Exposeda rare tell-all — the writing is “pitchy” but it does give some idea of the production realities — and petty rivalrys and jealousies — that go into making this amazing, beautiful, amazing show.
Heidi MacDonald is the founder and editor in chief of The Beat. In the past, she worked for Disney, DC Comics, Fox and Publishers Weekly. She can be heard regularly on the More To Come Podcast. She likes coffee, cats and noble struggle.