”American Idol”: A tasty hour of leftovers
We’re goin’ to Hollywood, baby!
And I, for one, couldn’t be happier — not even if I were an aspiring singing sensation bursting successfully out the right-hand door of the American Idol audition room and into the screeching clutches of my seven siblings.
Of course, adding to my case of the excited tinglies is the fact that tonight’s episode — a ”Best of the Rest” highlight reel of previously unaired footage from this season’s seven audition cities — was the perfect appetizer for Hollywood week, offering glimpses of at least four, maybe five legitimate top-24 contenders, as well as some truly woeful performances that were presented with a tenderness-to-humiliation ratio that didn’t leave me feeling as if my laughter would be punishable by an extended stay in purgatory.
But let’s start with the good or, more accurately, the totally frickin’ awesome. I know we only got to hear a little snippet of Tami Gosnell’s ”Whipping Post,” but she delivered it with the ferocity and fearlessness of a woman who’s spent her life on an uphill climb — which may actually be the case, considering that Tami earns a living as a pedicab driver. Simon was right that the 29-year-old came off like ”someone who’d have been a big star in the ’60s,” and with her stringy hair, makeup-free complexion, pierced lip, and earth-goddess curves, Tami’s probably the closest Idol will ever come to a modern-day Janis Joplin. Let’s hope she can adapt to the sometimes deadly group sing-alongs of hell week so we can get a chance to see if she’s as good as her first impression.
If Tami is Idol’s answer to Janis, then the show may have found its season-6 Aretha in the form of 26-year-old Lakisha Jones. Clad in a fluorescent orange top (that drew attention to a rack of ages) and a zebra-print skirt, the zaftig diva delivered a rousing take on the Queen of Soul’s ”Think” that even Simon had to describe in superlatives. Better still, Lakisha appeared to possess that rare brand of confidence that doesn’t border on arrogance; she’d have to be deaf not to know she has ”it,” and yet she’s self-aware enough to realize that having ”it” is only a start.
Paul Kim, meanwhile, is one singer who could prove harder to compare to iconic vocalists of yore, mainly because — as he noted himself — there simply haven’t been many Asian-American artists who’ve topped the pop charts. All I could do was nod in agreement when Paul zeroed in beautifully on the trouble with Idol’s one-joke pony William Hung; how is it that there’s room for a lazy, ”Asian accents are funny!” mentality in the record business, but not for a legitimate Asian-American artist? It’s too bad Paul sullied an otherwise lovely rendition of ”If I Ever Fall in Love” with breathiness and vocal ticks that distracted from the song’s melody, but if he can rein it in a little, maybe he can bring some diversity to the charts.
While the Tami-Lakisha-Paul trifecta showcased more talent than Idol’s producers have trained us to expect in a single audition-show hour, they must’ve been feeling extra generous when they added Ebony Jointer’s audition to the episode. A tall glass of gorgeous who showed up with two coworkers to audition in their ”Frisco Car Hops” uniforms, Ebony served up a heaping plate of ”I Believe in You and Me” without the usual slathering of schlock we’ve come to expect from Idol hopefuls who tackle Whitney Houston. She was so delightful, in fact, that I can’t recall much about her pal Ashley Cleland (who also scored a golden ticket) except for that ”motherly advice” comment that had Paula howling, but also maybe a tiny bit rageful. And how happy was I to see an encore performance by Gina Glocksen, the tattooed babe who was one of my early favorites in season 5! Tonight, her take on ”Black Velvet” seemed a little rushed, and her cute bumblebee T-shirt and shameless (albeit amusing) flirtation with Simon upstaged her singing, but based on her work last year, she’s capable of better.
The only drawback to seeing so much talent in one night is that it’s left me wondering how many of the 172 season-6 golden-ticket holders I’ll never get to see. C’mon, Fox: How about next year, you offer a two-hour Saturday-night special during which we’d get at least a quick glimpse of every single person who made it to Hollywood? Personally, I think you can’t showcase too many moments like Tami’s mile-wide smile, Lakisha’s tearful embrace of her 3-year-old daughter, or Paul’s jubilant celebration with his family. Heck, even Ryan Seacrest has been downright charming (and funny) during Idol’s first eight episodes this year. Now give us more!
In fact, how about an additional Saturday-night episode that showcases the rude and deluded? Surely, there were outfits this season that rivaled Christa Fazzino’s black-and-pink Flashdancey corset with veil and long shorts in the fashion-disaster department. Plus, I wouldn’t have minded if they’d doubled the length of the montage of singer-songwriters. I mean, aren’t you curious how Faithon Gooding’s creepy-hilarious ”Do It, Do It, to Ya” ended? Or whether there was an intelligible word in Melissa Ferlak’s ”Flow This Desert”? And when I finish writing this column, I’m Googling the name William Emil Samland III (a.k.a. ”Wes”) to see if I can find a copy of the lyrics to ”Don’t Worry, Don’t Hurry.” Any song that uses the term ”next-level love” and rhymes ”towel” with ”trowel” must be printed out and quoted liberally.
Oh, and while we’re on the subject header of ”Things That Are Inexplicably Genius,” here’s hoping Paula Abdul’s upcoming Bravo reality series surrounds her with twentysomething men who spent their childhoods trying to emulate the moves from her classic ”Opposites Attract” (and maybe ”Cold Hearted”) videos. Seriously, watching her hug it out with Alexander Nazario after his screechy ”Making Love Out of Nothing at All” was one of those moments where I had to stop myself and ask, ”I wasn’t actually moved by that, was I?” (I take the fifth.) As equally adorable Edward Sanchez declared after getting the thumbs down for his tragic ”Oh Donna,” then receiving some Paula love, ”It was awesome!”
What did you think of this episode? Would you give up a two-hour block on a Saturday night if Fox promised to show more good auditions? And who’s on your list of front-runners now that we’re headed to Hollywood?