Pop quiz. What city has this show visited five times and spawned such ungodly horrors as Fantasia Barrino, Clay Aiken, Jennifer Hudson? Hint: It’s the same place that birthed our own Ryan Seacrest. Hmm. Does Smurf Village count as a city? No? Then the answer is either Alabama, Narnia, or the 9th Circle of Hell. Atlanta?! What do you mean it’s Atlanta? The fictional setting of Designing Women is a real place? Screw this quiz. This is American Idol. “Oh, so they have internet on computers now!”
Tonight’s guest-judge is Mary J. Blige, an artist whose entire body of work, in my personal experience, is limited to a single episode of The Ghost Whisperer that I saw one time. At least I think it was her. Maybe it was Jackée. At any rate, Mary is an actual singer and not a creature from Klathuu-27x, so that already puts her one up on Victoria Beckham.
Our first contestant tonight is one Dewone Robinson, who says that his great-uncle Clyde discovered Gladys Knight & the Pips, and that his “other kinfolks” is a drummer named Motown Bobby. He also makes outrageous claims like he invented the question mark and that his mother was a 15-year-old prostitute named Chloe, with webbed feet. Dewone sings his own composition, something called “Lady We’re Not Together Anymore” (and, to be precise, one must pronounce “lady” as “lay-tee“). His off-key, wonky falsetto, offset by a creepy, demonic baritone — because this is a one-man duet — is interrupted by Simon, who doesn’t understand what’s going on. By the time that’s cleared up, Dewone is accusing Simon of throwing him off his game. Or something. Because if he hadn’t been interrupted, this shit would have been brilliant, I swear. Rejected.
Keia Johnson is bright and friendly, with a bubbly — yet not annoying — personality. She’s also the first person this season to show up with the Justin Guarini Memorial Haircut. It’s a big old mop, but on her, it’s cute. Mary J. Blige informs us that Keia was in a Miss America competition (but certainly not the Miss America competition), where she won “Miss Congealialty.” You know, the famous challenge in which the girls must make chicken soup turn cold and solidify. Keia will sing, as she puts it, “Titanic Song” (points for her!) which she belts out most powerfully. She’s good, but I think she can afford to rein it in a little bit. Hollywood.
Oooh! Time for a Sob Story! Jermaine Sellers’s mother has spina bifida, which has something to do with…the spine? Yep. Painful growths on the spine. Jermaine is taking care of her, and — holy crap, Ryan looks good tonight! He’s dressed like a little gay lumberjack. Or a very handsome lesbian. Flannel is definitely his color. Anyway, Jermaine lets us know that he’s full of the Jesus and then sings “What If God Was One of Us,” which I haven’t heard in, like, a decade. I’d forgotten that song even existed. He’s pretty good, except for a ridiculous, Mariah-like run at the end. Randy calls him the real deal, and Mary calls the performance “anointed.” So the song was doused with water as part of a religious ceremony? I must have missed that part. Holy Hollywood.
Ugh. So this absolutely irritating creature, Christy Marie Agronow, is on my screen, overacting at being “herself” and telling us some shit about how she’s a TV hostess for “Georgia 411: The Show” and how you have to do these asstarded hand-gestures when saying “Georgian 411: The Show” or Christy will sit on you and sing the entire libretto of “Hairspray” or whatever the fuck this Twinkie-faced menace has in mind. Have you ever met someone and hated them immediately? It’s like that with me and Christy, except faster than immediately. She sings “Love is a Battlefield” in the most untalented-yet-showbizzy way imaginable. Mary J. Blige is like, “Bitch, please.” Christy is universally rejected, and then complains all the way out into the street about how fucking awesome she and and how stupid the judges are and www.shutthefuckupChristy. Dot.Com.
Other losers include: Cute Boy Who is Totally Worth the Time But Probably High-Maintenence. Pretty Girl Who Might Be Worth the Time, if That’s Your Thing, but Who is Definitely High-Maintenence, and Freddy “Boom Boom” Washington.
Vanessa Wolfe is a country girl who likes to jump off bridges. They sent out a crew so we can watch her do this. Off a Tennessee bridge she goes, into what looks like shallow water, followed by several Cloverfield-sized friends and relatives. Splash! Splash! It’s like a meteor shower with 92% body fat. Vanessa herself is skinny as a rail, sweet as pie, and poor as dirt. She doesn’t go out, she doesn’t go to the mall, and seems to spend most of her time on the porch of a very small and fragile-looking house — yet she’s surprisingly well-adjusted. She’s wearing her best $4.50 dress that she got at the dollar store, and I am not making that up. It’s sad, really, so I’m not going to pick on her. Much. Her voice is okay. Too twangy for me, in a “country bumpkin” way more than a “country music” way, but if anyone was ever to be shoved in a vocal box, it’s Vanessa. Disco Night would not be her strength. Or Rock Night. Or Motown Night. Still, she’s off to Hollywood, bless ‘er heart.
Okay, now I’m all for being mean, but right here is where the show crosses the line. Young Jesse Hamilton is the personifcation of Cletus Spuckler. He’s tall and lanky, with an highly unfortunate set of teeth on an otherwise cute face. Jesse claims to have “almost died” three times. First, as an infant, when he had tick fever and his grandfather found him in his crib, “limp as a dishrag.” The second time, was when he was out shooting with a friend and almost got hit with a bullet. The third time, he almost got run over by a truck in his yard. That’s all well and good. Maybe even a little funny. But the show goes overboard, staging self-described “cheap re-enactments” of Halloween-costume hillbillys playing the roles of Jesse and his family, with banjo music playing on the soundtrack. Jesse, unaware of this, of course, finishes his story by telling us he feels blessed. The kid is clearly genuine and out to do no harm. He just wants to audition and try his best, and who knows what kind of fucked up life he has. So what happens? He sings badly (after not remembering the song he planned to sing, and after that’s settled, not recalling the lyrics), and the judges laugh in his face. Not just laugh. That’s an understatement. They damn near fall over. Mary literally collapses into Kara’s arms. Randy is ready to piss himself. And the look on Jesse’s face says, “I get this shit every day of my life, everywhere I go. Now I’m getting it from you. Thanks a lot.” It breaks my effing heart. The judges cackle and Jesse maintains his composure, even to the point being polite to these jackasses. But you can see that they’re hurting him, and that’s not cool. So, for the first time this season (and not the last — especially with Idol Gives Back waiting in the shadows), I say: Fuck this show.
This is what’s next:
Guitar Girl can actually sing, which makes her whole get-up even more of a pain in the ass. What’s remarkable is that her vocal impersonation of Miss Loretta Lynn is good enough for the judges to overlook the “Baby’s First Drag Queen” outfit. Suddenly, rather than being a fame whore, Guitar Girl is “funny” and “hilarious” with “great personality.” Also “ballsy.” Whatever happened to “crazy” and “leave immediately”? Mary J. Blige wins major respect with “I don’t get it.” But three votes are magic, and Guitar Girl is off to Hollywood.
Then some girl, Mallorie Haley, comes in with volumes of long, luxurious hair and sings a passable, if shrill, version of “Take Another Piece of My Heart.” The judges are really into her looks and her confidence and her looks. Four ‘yes’ votes to Hollywood. Why do I feel like she’s going to haunt me well into the spring?
Skiiboski is a “character.” One of those contestants who shows up, not quite in costume, but with a persona and an agenda – which is usually getting airtime. And guess what? Those people usually end up getting airtime. So there’s something to it, I suppose. He’s a slick customer this guy. Random shapes and the Idol logo shaved into his stubbly hair. Gold chain. Red barber shirt (with his misspelt name on it, in gold) over a white shirt under it with a massive collar. He parades around like God’s gift to sex and manages to wear out his welcome an easy 10 seconds into his five-hour segment. He accosts somebody’s grandma in the holding area. This guy is like a supporting cast member from Oz. Unfortunately, his “Heard It Through the Grapevine” is good, and despite looking like a California Raisin-douchebag, he’s through to Hollywood.
Next are Carmen Turner and Lauren Sanders, two girls who look like Barbie dolls, except that one of them has a giant melon head, and both of them are wearing enough makeup to keep every hooker in Nevada covered till 2025. They’re both very plastic, but are totally sincere in telling us that they’re the best friends ever in the world and will support each other even if only one of them makes it because they’re like sisters and about love and are bonded together forever in spirit and girl power! So the Melon-Headed one “sings” like a mouse trapped at the bottom of a well. The normal-ish one, Carmen, is considerably better, but not enough to be a season-long problem. Carmen is through to Hollywood. Melon-Head is rejected. There’s hugging and tears as Carmen tells Melon-Head that theirs is a lifetime friendship, and Melon-Head is all, “I can’t wait till these cameras are off because I’m never talking to this bitch again, and if she touches me one more time, I will cut her.” Ah, girls. You can’t live with ‘em. So I don’t.
More rejects include: Girl With Sheep Voice, Girl With Man-Face, and Girl Who Stops Singing Because Simon Rolls His Eyes (if that were all it took, this show would be over in ten wonderful minutes).
Brian Walker is 25-years-old, looks at least 40, is a police officer, and he can sing very well. He’s also indescribably dull, and since I’d like to watch an episode of General Hospital tonight, which is also indescribably dull, I’m going to move on. Brian goes Hollywood. (And Simon exits the episode, because he must prepare for the launch of X-Factor.)
Lamar Royal looks like a Tracy Morgan character. Or maybe he just looks like Tracy Morgan. He’s very excited to be performing before Mary J. Blige. He calls her a superstar and says that he looks forward to meeting the judges. “I love taking constructive criticism.” Are you paying attention? Good. Lamar sings like someone is trying to remove his left foot from the inside, through his mouth. There is screaming and twitching. Possibly a death rattle. It is many kinds of not good. The judges explain this to him. “You, Lamar or Tracy Morgan, are not good.” Well, constructive criticism be arse-fucked. Lamar has a song in his heart. Can he sing another? No. Can he sing the same song again? Fuck, no. Randy and Kara think Lamar needs a lot of work. But Lamar keeps singing, because these judges are talking crazy. Mary is like, “Take a breath and listen.” So Lamar keeps singing. Then he starts cursing. He’s like a waterfall of profanity. He has taken insult. Oh, dear. Suddenly, as he starts belting out “Ma Cherie Amour,” security BAMF’s in from every corner of the room. Seriously, he has like four guys surrounding him. They escort him from the room, down in the elevator, and out into the street, where he is just screaming and cursing and singing and insane for the masses. He also gets actual drive-by applause from some women in an SUV, which is hilarious. Back at the judging panel, Mary J. Blige is like, “I was ready to get my duck ready,” in case he had a gun, and she demonstrates by half-hiding under the desk. She’d almost be my new favorite, if her music wasn’t poo.
Last up is General Larry Platt, a 62-year-old…um…well, I don’t think he’s homeless. He might not even be crazy. But he’s something alright. Larry performs a song of his own making called “Pants On the Ground.” It goes like this: “Pants on the ground/pants on the ground/Looking like a fool with your pants on the ground.” Got that? There’s more: “With the gold in your mouth/hat turned sideways/pants hit the ground.” Still with me? “Call yourself a cool cat/walkin’ downtown wit’ your pants on the ground.” Repeat chorus until death. I think it’s important that I transcribed those lyrics for the benefit of future generations. Oh, there’s also choreography. Maybe breakdancing. Maybe a broken hip. It is brilliant. You must look for it on the internets. Alas, Larry is over the age limit, so he can’t compete. Adam Lambert won’t have to worry.
But I’m worried, because there’s more of this shit coming next week. I don’t know how much because my TV Guide has yet to arrive — and it’s Wednesday! How can I plan for my future without a TV Guide? The United States Post Office has no sense of priority.
See you next week!