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American Idol, Week #7: Betrayalby Dana Walker -- 07/26/2002
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I have been betrayed and deeply wounded. But I’ll get to that.
Many thanks to my good friend (and fellow RNO writer) Mike for creating a new identity for the hosts (and I quote): “Since they might as well be one person, I'd call them Briyan.” How perfect is that? But since they are two separate entities, however ambiguous that fact may be much of the time, they will henceforth be “the Briyans.”
Okay, so the Briyans open the show with a recap of last week’s show. Wonderful.
The judges are introduced, and there’s a bunch of kids wearing “Vote for RJ” t-shirts sitting behind Randy Jackson. (Excellent camera placement for RJ’s family.) When the Briyans introduce Simon, one of them pipes up, “They say absence makes the heart grow fonder - they were wrong.” What a riot you guys are, really. Then one of the Briyans half shouts, “Hey Simon, did you get that shirt for Easter?” Please tell me that this was another insipid ad lib and not written for the show. Please tell me also that Brian Dunkleman will receive a written warning this week for ad libbing (following the verbal one he should’ve received for “Go back to France!” last week.) Simon does not waste his time responding to either comment.
We find out that the kids have been busy helping Habitat for Humanity build a home for a family in South Central Los Angeles. The kids talk about how rewarding it is to be a part of something that benefits those in need. (Warm fuzzies.) Good to know that all those hands are not “idle”…okay, now I’m not funny. Could I be one of the hosts of American Idol 2, then? Anyone?
Before each contestant sings tonight, the video clip shows them working on the house. It’s cute, but not essential to recap in detail. Onward.
Tonight’s theme is “Songs from the 60s.” Upon hearing this, I turn to my roommate and say, “How much you want to bet that McKibbin sings ‘Piece of My Heart’?” Ah, but I’ll get to that, too.
RJ is first. We find out that he volunteers for Habitat for Humanity in Atlanta. He’s so nice. He walks on to the stage. He’s wearing a nice shirt. He sings “Under the Boardwalk.” He sounds nice. He moves around a little. It’s very nice. Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz. Oh, what? Sorry. Nice job, RJ. And the judges say (again with the paraphrasing):
Randy: Hey, RJ, we’ve got people out there wearing shirts with our initials on them! Good job… you never overdo it, dog. (HEY! What happened to “man”? C’mon, Randy, don’t ruin the game… we got all this beer!)
Paula: You have such a great recording voice. You look comfortable up there. Good for you.
Simon: Although it was good, I don’t see you as an American Idol. (Audience: BOO!) I’m sorry. Compared to the performances I believe we’ll see tonight, I just don’t think so.
My sincere thanks to whomever had the decency to cut down on the post-performance commentary with the hosts. RJ does join them on the side of the stage, but they don’t launch into any painfully annoying dialogue this time. Whew.
Next to go is Tamyra. She’s such a pretty little spitfire, this girl. She commands the stage as soon as she steps on it, and that is something so few singers possess… the only other one in this crop that has it naturally is (as if you have to guess) Justin. It’s what determines the singer from the performer. Anyway, she sings “A Fool in Love” and, again, blows the roof off the building with her powerful voice. (Singing, not shouting - what a concept! Way to go, kiddo! You listening to this, McKibbin?) It’s a really boring song, but she does it so well that I almost couldn’t tell. Judges?
Randy: You look, you sound, and you are exactly what an American Idol should be. (If that sounds exactly like what he said to her last week that’s because it just about is.)
Paula: You have that certain je ne cest quoi (please forgive the spelling… I never took French) - you are a star.
Simon: See, that’s what I’m talking about… we’ve just gone from good to sensational. This is about finding a star, and you are a star.
And now there’s Nikki. The Briyans announce her - “Performing ‘Piece of My Heart’, here’s Nikki McKibbin!” - and I jump up from my bed hollering, “I am SO GOOD, and she is going to RUIN this song!” And she proceeds to do just that. While channeling Joan Jett for her mediocre-at-best rendition, she almost hit the right note once or twice. (And I say “hit” rather than “sings” because SHE DIDN’T SING AT ALL. Yelling is still not singing. It wasn’t last week, it’s not this week, and it still won’t be from here on after.) Please let the judges have some sense…
Randy: You’re back man… you’ve got the Nikki ensemble going on, looking great, looking fly… I don’t think it was your best performance, but it was good.
Paula: Song choice is so important, and this week’s choice far surpassed last week’s. You look great… good job.
Simon: I think the others have summed it up well. Face it, last week you completely screwed up. The problem is the change from last week to this week could hurt you, because it was so extreme. But you did so much better than you did last week.
Huh? Does anyone else find it rather odd that there’s never any mention of her (lack of) vocal ability (choice of song? True to a point, but please), that’s it’s always about her “original (pilfered from Pink) look”? Simon consistently emphasizes the importance of finding “the best talent,” yet he just completely sidestepped the obvious, along with Randy and Paula. I’m baffled (and more than a little irritated) by this.
Nikki goes to the side with the Briyans and says into the camera, “Hi Tristan, Mommy loves you!” And the American public is reminded that a) Nikki is a single mom, and b) that she should be taking care of him instead of traipsing about the planet trying to be a rock star. I personally think that as long as she’s a good mother, she should be able to pursue whatever the heck she wants, but I’ve a distinct feeling that many people would not agree with that. Major vote loss there, wild child. Next.
All I remember next is hearing, “Dude, that’s a haiku!” from the Briyans. (Sigh.)
A.J. Gil returns for all of his adoring 13-year-old-girl fans (with no taste). He does “How Sweet It Is” by James Taylor, and he actually sings it pretty well. Too many riffs, though… and he still sounds like a major wuss to me. He plays up to “his fans” - there are plenty from which to choose in the studio audience (comprised of the performer’s family members and a whole lotta paid extras). Oh, what do the judges think about Poseur Boy the Magnificent?
Randy: Were you nervous? (Poseur boy: No, just anxious.) Well, the competition is really tough. (Nice avoidance tactic from Randy.)
Paula: You started off a bit disconnected, but then about a quarter of the way through you connected. I didn’t know you could dance like that! You enjoyed yourself, and that’s the key. (Even nicer evasion move by Paula.)
Simon: Glad you enjoyed it, Paula… but this is about finding a star. Good isn’t necessarily good enough. But it was good…ish. (And even nicer slam from the master.)
The Briyans revive the milk-and-cookies commentary for A.J. in order to bring up some of his biggest fans. Oh, what a surprise! They’re 13-year-old girls! And they’re screeching! And one of them is clutching an O-Town CD and sobbing, “Could you SIGN this?”
Wait. That last part may not have happened. My mistake.
We move on now to Kelly. She comes out in a suit-tie thing with a black hat a-la Michael Jackson in “Billie Jean.” (Will she break into “I Want You Back”?) Alas, no - she performs the Carole King classic (made famous by Aretha) “Natural Woman.” The outfit suddenly makes sense in an ironical sorta way, and she’s tearing it up vocally. I mean, she is just… WHAT THE HELL IS THAT? On the line “You make me feel so alive” she busts out a Mariah Carey-esque shriek that, if performed correctly, would’ve been impressive. However… it was just under the right note. (Okay, Kelly - only dogs can hear you now.) But the audience is on its collective feet, because they don’t know the difference. So with the exception of the ear-splitting attempt at whistle tone, Kelly absolutely blew me away this week. And the judges say:
Randy: You continue to amaze me.
Simon: America isn’t known for nice singers, it’s known for sensational ones… and you are one of them. Congratulations.
(Let’s hear it for the dorks!! Woo-hoo!! You go, Kelly girl!!)
Christina follows Kelly. She looks absolutely stunning… but of course she does, she’d look beautiful in overalls and a cowboy hat, for Pete’s sake. She has an interesting song choice - “When a Man Loves a Woman” - and I like it. Her performance is very good… but she still needs a whole lotta work on controlling her completely out-of-control tremolo. And she ends with some major sharp notes. Yikes. But since the judges didn’t notice a) that Nikki still can’t sing or b) that Kelly’s display of the amazing range was actually flat, then maybe they won’t notice those things, either.
Randy: You still need to control that vibrato better, but it was good. (One strike…)
Paula: You overcompensated on some of the blues notes and ended up going sharp. (Two strikes…) But you were still very good.
Simon: Seems the girls are beating the boys tonight. (No offense to Simon or Christina, but when it comes to rating her vocal ability, he’s thinking with a different part of his anatomy.)
Justin goes next. He performs the song “Sunny,” which, vocally speaking, isn’t the best choice for him. It’s not that it’s difficult; it just doesn’t showcase what he does best. Nonetheless, his performance is typical Justin and the crowd loves it. But do the judges?
Randy: Not a great choice of song, but you did a good job. I’ve seen you do much better, though.
Paula: Star quality. You just have it. (Evasive tactics are Paula’s best friend.)
Simon: You’ve been out-performed by three girls tonight.
And here’s the moment that Justin’s over-inflated ego reached through my TV screen, grabbed me by the throat and suffocated a great deal of my admiration for him.
“Simon, I respect your opinion, but (turning to the audience) - What did you think?” They, of course, respond with thunderous applause and lots of cheering. I, however, am yelling at him (as if he could hear me), “Damn it!!! What are you DOING?”
He committed the cardinal sin of Dana’s American Idol Performers’ Commandments:
Did you not learn anything from Tenia or Kristin Holt? First - they looked and sounded really stupid. Second - they looked and sounded really immature. Third (and, perhaps, most importantly) - THEY’VE GONE BYE-BYE.
Oh, Justin… bad move. You’ve just gone and proven every one of your naysayers right. And I defended you. I said, “What’s wrong with knowing you’re good and backing it up with confidence?” But honey, it’s one thing to swagger on to a stage with an “I am the absolute shit” expression and blow people away with your tremendous talent… it’s quite another to not be able to accept constructive criticism which, HELLO, was absolutely true. Suck it up, kiddo. Humility is not a bad thing. (Of course, you did display the quintessential behavior of a diva… combine that with your enviable talent and stage presence and you have virtually guaranteed yourself a career as a pop star.)
Even still, I denounce you. Your are no longer “my Justin.” (But you’re still all that and then some… let’s not get crazy here.)
That pain will remain with me for quite some time, I’m afraid. Meanwhile, I must move on to Ryan Starr. She selects the timeless anthem “You Really Got Me.” Oh BOY, did she suck. Awful. Constantly flat, screaming the whole way through it, forgetting lyrics (because they are so difficult to remember - there are about thirteen different words in that song). I have to leave the room… even our cat can’t take anymore - he almost trips me, he runs out of my room so fast. To add insult to injury, that damn side part has returned with a vengeance. And - yes, the boys will just be knock-kneed over the outfit, but are you kidding me? Get over yourself, little girl. Ever so slightly worse than Nikki McKibbin, Ryan just single-handedly kept her in for one more week. But perhaps the judges beg to differ (they thought Nikki was good, so…):
Randy: I didn’t think that was good at all… that was really bad.
Paula: You lost track of the vocal… but you’re still sexy as hell. (And, as we know, that’s what truly counts in a talent contest.)
Simon: That was absolutely dreadful. (Paula chimes in, “I don’t think dreadful is the right word to use at this stage in the game.” Simon retorts, “You wanna bet?”)
Ryan’s reaction? “Simon doesn’t understand rock and roll. Simon is a popper, not a rocker.”
That is quite possibly the stupidest thing anyone has ever said in the history of the universe. What is she, twelve? Did she not hear Randy say basically the same exact thing about her performance? Does she honestly think that after raving about Nikki McKibbin for weeks that Simon’s ears are suddenly offended by rock music?
Stop me before I become irate.
After declaring Simon unfit for rock and roll, she goes over to the Briyans, sits down, and starts to cry. Very convincing display of self-confidence, sweetie pie. Now I feel sorry for her… but I refuse to cast a sympathy vote for someone who unequivocally sucked.
When asked for some final comments, Simon sums it up like so: “We’re looking for a superstar. Some were fantastic; some were okay; and one or two were just dreadful.” (One or two? Care to reassess anyone?)
Okay, so on to the results show.
The kids and the Briyans are already on stage. The Briyans ask Ryan Starr if she regrets her song choice. She timidly replies, “Well, the song didn’t express my vocal range, but I feel like it expressed who I am.” She’s already tearing up, fearing the worst. (She probably should.)
They turn to Justin and pose the question, “Do you regret what you said to Simon?” Justin stands behind his display of conceit from the night before, but directs this toward the judges: “Simon - I really do respect your opinion.” Simon pretends to care by sniffling a bit.
Just for the record, the Briyans attempt humor again and remain not funny.
There’s a skit loosely titled “Who’s the loudest kid in the mansion?” Who cares?
We’re forced to endure a hideously cheesy time filler of the kids sitting ‘round a simulated campfire’ (campfires being quite popular in L.A. during the 112° heat in the dead of summer and all) singing the song “California Dreamin’” in four-part harmony. (After seeing this, I’m growing more afraid of what else the show’s producers will have in store for us as we narrow down the playing field.)
The suspense is killing us… will you PLEASE get on with it.
Being included in the melodramatic genre known as reality television, American Idol does not disappoint. They’re going to pull the three kids who received the fewest of the 8 million plus votes. To do this, we’re treated to a recap of the judges’ assessments and let in on the big secret as to whether or not America agreed with them.
GET ON WITH IT!!
RJ stays. Kelly stays. Ryan… uh oh, get over there… you’re one of this evening’s possibly doomed three low scorers. (Shocker.) Tamyra stays. (Another shocker.) A.J… go over to the tape mark on the floor labeled “loser” and stand next to Ryan. Justin stays. Oh, boy… there’s one more. Who will it be? Nikki or Christina?
We’ll find out right after this commercial break. Oh, you evil bastards, you!
We return to our regularly scheduled program to find out that the girl behind door number three is… Christina?
What this means is that America considers scream-queen Nikki one of the top five singers. Top Five. TOP. FIVE. This is an unprecedented injustice of which you should all be ashamed.
While you ponder that one, we’ll find out what the judges’ reactions are to this week’s big news.
Randy: “They didn’t have great performances this week.”
Paula: “I like to look at the glass as half full, and I think they’ve done an amazing job so far.” (Way to be objective, Paula.)
Simon: (Pauses) “Simon?”
“Sorry, I’m still surprised at what Paula just said. All right… Christina wasn’t at her best (Paula interjects - “Last night you said she was sensational” - and he ignores her), Ryan was appalling, and A.J. - I’ve always been straight up with him. He doesn’t deserve to be in this competition.”
Good news, Christina - you get to rejoin “those that do not suck.” Hooray. She never should’ve left.
Now one of you, Ryan or A.J., will be going home - we’ll find out which one after this commercial break!
Throughout the commercial I’m still trying to figure out how Christina was perceived as less talented than Nikki McKibbin. (It seems the “mommy” thing worked for her after all…) I end up suffering a mild brain hemorrhage. (Do you think I should sue?)
So we come back, and the Briyans open the envelope that reveals who is going away. It is - (Ryan mouths her own name) - A.J. Gil.
Ryan has been crying this entire show, and I think she actually heard her name… and it’s clear to the audience that she wishes she had. A.J.’s expression is as though he just heard that it might be partly cloudy tomorrow. He’s standing there with all the emotion of a tree branch. While people are crying and they are showing his oh-so-touching American Idol memory lane video clip, A.J. looks like he’s figuring long division in his head. The audience gives him a standing ovation. (I’m still stunned that he’s the chosen one this week. Did parents actually heed my cries and unplug their teenage girls’ phones? Someone email me and let me know, because if that’s the case, I am so running for public office.)
When asked what he thinks he’ll remember most about his American Idol experience, A.J. says, “All my fans.” He goes on, “I know this is just the beginning for me. This was only my first audition, so…” Oh, nausea… what a familiar feeling.
Time to go back to our judges for some we’ve-still-got-two-minutes-of-airtime-to-kill feedback.
Randy - “You’re young, you came a long way. Just don’t give it up… keep working.”
Paula - “It’s your talent that brought you here tonight, and it will carry you even further. Also remember - this guy (indicating Simon) will never know the highs you experienced performing in front of all these people. The only high he’ll ever experience is if he smokes his own [t-shirt?].” (The last word of her sentence was unintelligible… regardless, it wasn’t all that clever, no matter what word you choose to interject there.)
Simon - “You want some advice? Get better. (BOO!!! Shouts the audience. Yeah! Shouts the trained vocalist/writer reviewing this show.) Because this business is a hard business, and - hey, I’m talking here - and he’s been out-sung and out-performed. Sorry.”
He continues: “Paula - you’re a choreographer - devote some time to him. (Paula babbles about Grammys and Music Awards just now - a reference completely lost when referring to A.J.) Talk is cheap, people. Ryan - you want to help him? Put him on your radio show.”
Paula ends the show with a line that was either so miserably scripted that yet another writer on this program needs to get canned, or that she ad-libbed and will go down in history as one of the most bizarre retorts to deliver to someone who out-mouths you every time: “This is what happens when you’re breastfed by your father.”
Thanks, Paula - just add to my hemorrhage. Much appreciated.
Okay, I’ve taken all I can of this for the week. Bye.
Dana Walker is a writer/singer/songwriter/former reality show contestant living in the Los Angeles area. Contact her at LilDanaSunshine@msn.com.
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