”American Idol”: Now we the people get to judge
You’d think that with three full seasons of American Idol in the can, the latest crop of contestants would have brushed up on a few simple rules for success. But you know what they say about those who cannot remember the past. As Simon, Paula, and Randy winnowed the Hollywood contenders down to 24 semifinalists, plenty of misguided Idol wannabes made classic, unforgivable mistakes that prevented them from reaching the all-important semifinals — and lost the chance to let average Americans like you, me, and the entire population of Hawaii pass judgment on them. Let’s review some of this week’s memorable ”journeys” (to use one of Paula’s favorite words) to obscurity.
1. If there’s one clear-cut truth about Idol, it’s this: If your ego exceeds your talent by a multiple greater than 5, the producers will delight in taking you down. In other words, one of these kids was destined to receive the Fourth Annual American Idol Pre-Semifinal Ego Smackdown Award (PSESA).
Now tell me you didn’t suspect from the moment she auditioned in St. Louis that this year’s lucky recipient would be Aa’shia Jackson. Remember how the pint-size hip-hopper, who looked and sounded like she was auditioning for Honey I Shrunk Da Brat, brashly put her sing-rap skillz to work before even saying hello to the judges? Remember how her mother screamed to the rafters that her daughter had this whole Idol thing wrapped up? To paraphrase Catherine Zeta-Jones in Chicago, ”Aa’shia had it comin’!” Especially after her insane, heliumy rendition of ”Never Can Say Goodbye.” The girl might as well have shown up in a preppy red sweater emblazoned with a big yellow ”A” and belted out the theme from Alvin and the Chipmunks. (Doo-doo! Do-do-do-do!)
Still, I almost had to admire Aa’shia’s spunk on Tuesday’s episode when she found out that she and the other contestants in the ill-fated room 3 were being sent home. ”I’m the hottest thing in this country!” she declared. ”I wasn’t fed with no silver spoon — but I’m rich.” Rich in what? Delusions? Misplaced vanity? The ability to sound like an animated rodent?
2. Of course, if you?re quarantined in the room with a person as arrogant as Aa’shia, you’re going home as well. You could sense mean girl Carrie Zaruba’s emotional shutdown when she saw she’d been grouped with not only Jackson but also Solid Gold reject Dezmond Meeks.
3. It’s better to be Ruben than to be Rubenesque. Or in other words, if you’re bigger than a size 6, or homely, or badly dressed, pray that you’re not a woman to boot. How else to explain the delightfully unskinny Jennifer Todd failing to make even the final 44? Sure, her take on the Pointer Sisters’ ”I’m So Excited” was merely competent, but how could the judges eliminate a woman who — despite getting maybe two minutes of total screen time — managed to create a massive Internet buzz based on her early audition of ”If I Ain’t Got You”? Jeez, you think her size had anything to do with it? The real shame is that we’ll have to wait at least another year to see if America can fully embrace a big-boned gal like Todd.
4. The one thing that comes close in entertainment value to watching egomaniacs get their comeuppance is watching the emotionally ransacked get pushed to the point of collapse, then rejected by the Idol judges. Whether or not people want to admit it, hysterical tears make for good TV watching. So everyone, raise a Kleenex and bid adieu to the brilliantly named Tammy Wynette Nash, the brilliantly unhinged Faith Gatewood, and the not-quite-brilliant Jaclyn Crum!
5. This one’s actually my own personal rule, but I’m glad the judges implemented it: If you wear the world’s most hideous yet patriotic ‘do rag to the most important callback of your life, then you will not be getting good news, dawg. Too bad for Jamar Jefferson — he didn’t get my memo.
Rules, however, are made to be broken, and a few of the contestants who leapt into the final 24 did so despite their failure to follow the most obvious Idol procedures. For starters:
6. Try not to dress like a common street prostitute. Under that heading, Aloha Mischeaux might want to hang her ill-fitting, black-lace ho-wear (complete with yellow blazer and pumps) in the Idol hall of shame alongside the pink flared debacle designed last season specifically for Jennifer Hudson.
7. It’s important to have confidence, but if you like yourself better than any of American Idol’s 30 million viewers do, you’ve got problems ahead. I’m actually an enormous fan of Mario Vasquez, Mikalah Gordon, and Travis Tucker, but all of three seem to be headed for the corner of Confident and Obnoxious.
8. Semifinalists Bo Bice, Jared Yates, Jessica Sierra, and Vonzell Solomon need to learn from last year’s talented finalist LaToya London. A big voice needs to be accompanied by a big personality — unless, of course, you’d be satisfied with coming in fourth.
And while we’re doling out advice to the contestants, perhaps Idol’s producers could learn a simple rule too: It’s all about the music. While 24 semifinalists were revealed on Wednesday night’s episode, somehow we didn’t get to hear all of them singing. And that’s unfortunate (and a little unfair).
After all, some of the best moments on Tuesday and Wednesday night’s editions were footage of talented singers who seemingly hadn’t made it on air over the last several weeks. The wonderfully unique Judd Harris may look like a prepster geek, but his ”Crazy Little Thing Called Love” has me convinced that he must — I repeat, must! — make the final 12. And who is this talented Celena Rae who seemed to pop out of nowhere?
Wouldn’t seeing more of the semifinalists at work be better than enduring all kinds of inane blathering from Ryan Seacrest on trivia like how many seconds it took for the contestants to ride the elevator from their holding pen to the judging room upstairs? Watching this arrogant amateur at work is enough to make a guy long for a little Aa’shia Jackson. At least the girl knows how to come up with a good one-liner
What do you think? Should Jennifer Todd have made the final 24? And if so, which contestants should have gotten the boot to make room for her? And is ”Seacrest — out!” starting to sound like a good idea?