If you’re confused or upset about the results of tonight’s American Idol Wild Card episode, it’s time to take a deep breath: You’re just not looking at things the right way. Oh, sure, the best pure vocalist among the eight featured performers got treated like an old toothbrush, enlisted for one final usage, then tossed in the trash bin. And at the same time, a ”commercial” teenager whose performance contained more sharps than a Ginsu factory sailed into the top 12. Er, 13.
But like I said, all you need is a change of perspective, which can be best achieved by listening to a direct quote from Simon Cowell about how he and his fellow judges viewed their task of choosing the final four season 8 semifinalists: ”One of the jobs we’re gonna have to do tonight is that we’ve gotta cast this next stage, so that we’re not just gonna put the boring singers through. We’ve gotta put some personality through as well.”
Hey, you might not admire the man’s sentiment, but you’ve got to appreciate his honesty.
You see, tonight’s Idol telecast was not, at its heart, a reality show. And deep down, I think we all know nothing that happened on Idol’s Wild Card stage was ultimately going to affect the makeup of the top 13. I mean, the judges’ ”deliberations” took roughly the same amount of time as it does for the average Idol viewer to pee/select a snack/pour a glass of Malbec (choose one).
With the outcome all but set in advance, everyone had a role to play. Ryan’s opening monologue about the miracle of second chances let us know what was at stake. The judges’ comments served as little more than background music, telegraphing what emotions we were supposed to be feeling about the performances, no matter what our ears told us. And the contestants, well, I’ve got to say most of ‘em stepped up and sang like they really believed they had a chance to affect their fates.
Seeing how tonight’s Idol encroached on CSI’s Thursday-night turf, it’s interesting to note that America’s favorite talent competition seemed to follow the strict outline of a scripted crime procedural. Let’s break it on down…
A victim must be identified in the opening moments. You knew it wasn’t looking good for Jesse Langseth when she got picked as the show’s opening act, and by the time the judges had finished with her, she might as well have sprawled out on the stage and let Ryan draw a chalk outline around her body. Which isn’t to say the death of Jesse’s Idol dream was all her own fault. The woman has a unique, husky tone to her voice that’s easily identifiable, and as Paula pointed out, Jesse came out strong and energetic, determined to make an impression. What’s more, it’s nice to see an Idol contestant pick songs — like ”Bette Davis Eyes” and tonight’s ”Tell Me Something Good” — that a person (okay, that I) might actually listen to in real life.
Unfortunately, though, in Simon’s mind (or in the script he got from the producers) Jesse’s choice of Rufus & Chaka Khan’s R&B party-starter was ”slightly indulgent” because it was ”more about [Jesse] than anything else.” Yes, exactly! Perhaps the woman who scored a Wild Card because the judges loved her ”bluesy” tone should’ve picked something from an animated Disney musical! That said, Kara and Randy were correct that Jesse occasionally went a little flat, especially during the verse — in Randyspeak, this is called making ”interesting note choices” — which helped make their final decision look a little less ridiculous. Too bad, though, the judges didn’t swap Jesse with our next contestant up for discussion.
NEXT: A song from Mulan? Really?