You’d think with both Kanye West and Kelly Clarkson (pictured) performing at last night’s American Idol results show, the behind-the-scenes action would at least be marginally less enervating than the completely predictable voting outcome, the most cringe-y group performance in Idol history, and the anti-climactic announcement of the new rule that will change the face of the show forever in the way that it very well may never been enacted at all. Not so much. While Kanye and Kelly did both get me grooving, I regret to inform you that there wasn’t much behind-the-scenery to chew on. But chew we must, and chew we shall, even if our jaws grow sore from all this metaphoric mastication.
After I raced over to CBS Television City in order to (barely) make the 4:45pm (PDT) pre-tape of Kanye West’s performance — it’s shocking, I know, but Kanye wasn’t performing live when he took to an Idol stage sans contestants and with a bunch of tweens standing behind the judges’ table — I was packed in with the rest of the audience outside the studio for another 20 minutes while the crew scrambled to finish setting up and checking the sound. (Seems those first-week wrinkles still haven’t all been smoothed out yet.) We were finally rushed into the Thunderdome, my seat about as far away from the stage and as safe from making it on camera as one could get, and as the CBS pages scrambled frantically to fill in the crowd, I tried to ignore the creepy pixelated eyes curiously blinking back at us on the Idol Thunder-screen. A production assistant instructed the Swaybots on the correct technique for clapping over one’s head, another PA corralled those aforementioned tweens onto the judges’ platform, Justin Guarini worked the room like a pro, and Ryan Seacrest took to one of the Idol Crow’s Nests to introduce Kanye West.
And that, dear readers, is when Cory the Warm-Up Comic, so missed during Tuesday night’s show, at last emerged into the Idol firmament like Gollum re-surfacing to lay claim to his ring. It was a quick entrance, just long enough for Cory/Gollum to instruct us to be really quiet when Ryan was talking and really excited when Kanye was performing, but it was enough to make me feel like the full dysfunctional Idol family was finally back home. My heart was now at peace. Then I bore horrified witness to the spectacle of Scott MacIntyre struggling to perform sub-Six Flags choreography with anything even remotely resembling dignity, and my heart was consumed whole by the rebirth of the snark demon who takes up residence on my shoulder during Idol season. He is called Smirkelstiltskin, and he has missed you all.
But I’m getting a little ahead of myself. I love “Heartless,” and I’m a Kanye fan, but maybe he’s not the most dynamic live performer, since I was transfixed instead by the Lady Gaga-esque broke-down robotic dance spasms unleashed by Kanye’s female backup singer — you know, the one bedecked in polygon shoulder pads bigger than her head. You got just a taste of this woman’s delicious weirdness at home, believe me. Once Kanye was done, he had a quick conference with the Idol producers, most likely to determine if they wanted a second take. They didn’t, and Kanye was Audi 5000. The Swaybots were shoved to the side so the crew could strike the band’s equipment, and I took the opportunity to scope for celebs. To my honest surprise, I saw not a one, save the return of Phil Stacey and Chikezie, this time seated much closer to the stage alongside impending tour-mates Gina Glocksen and my one and only Melinda Doolittle.
With 15 minutes to go before we were live, Cory teased me by starting his warm-up routine not with his customary “Awwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww yeah make some noize,” but by getting the Swaybots to sing along to the chorus of Ms. Clarkson’s seminal “Since U Been Gone.” He’d barely dangled the hope of a fresh routine in front of me, though, before he was back to hauling women on stage to show off their best booty-shaking Beyonce dance and saying “don’t be skured” instead of “don’t be scared.” Finally, it came time to introduce the judges, but when Cory gave Kara DioGuardi’s name the full NBA stadium intro treatment, the spotlight panned to an empty stage door, and I caught exec. producer Ken Warwick yelling presumably for the new judge to get her package-artist behind to the stage. The 13 contestants began lining up on the Idol Thunder-stairs, and all the judges worked their way in, all of them clothed in black. Make of that what you will.
The show began, the Top 13 lip-synced and two-stepped through a Jackson 5 medley so bad it didn’t even belong in a Christopher Guest movie, and Smirkelstiltskin perched himself on my collar-bone just in time to see the finalists move en masse to the couches and leave Scott MacIntyre behind, standing alone in the middle of the stage, presumably thanking his good fortune for never having to watch what he had just helped bring forth onto the world. (Sorry, that was Smirkel’s doing. He doesn’t mess around.) I’m not kidding, by the way; they really did leave Scott behind. And it wasn’t the last time, either. After Jasmine was kicked off and the show went to break, the Idols all swarmed her for a big group hug, and much like after the group
massacre song, it was left to the inestimable Debbie the Stage Manager to escort Scott to where he needed to be. Where’s Scott’s seeing-eye stud when he needs him?
If you’re wondering, meanwhile, whether the judges truly deliberated over whether to save Jasmine and Jorge while they sang for their lives, most of them actually did: Paula, Kara and Randy talked during both performances, but Simon leaned as far away from them as he could. Randy finally did engage Simon in a brief exchange towards the end of Jorge’s “Never Can Say Goodbye (Until They Make You On Idol),” but otherwise the Brit gave off a decidedly I’m-so-over-this vibe, up out of his seat for the ad breaks before the show was even completely off the air.
Poor Jorge. Watching the Idols as they sat together on those benches was a bit like observing a high school cafeteria — you can glean rather quickly who’s in what social group, and who are the outsiders left holding their trays, desperate for a place to sit. It could have easily just been nerves, but after Jorge and Anoop were singled out for possible exile from the Idol San Simeon and the show went to the break, none of his fellow contestants talked to the Puerto Rican balladeer. Gokey, Kris, Giraud, Adam and Allison all traded jokes while Scott and Sarver, sitting on opposite sides of the group, tried to get a word in edgewise. Megan, Lil and Alexis, meanwhile, quickly flocked together to form the official Idol Mom Triumvirate as Alexis blew air-kisses to her daughter in the audience. Anoop first made a beeline for the bathroom, and then seemed to float gamely between the two groups. But Jorge just sat there, glumly, his fate already written clear across his face, as willfully disconnected from his fellow finalists as they were seemingly happy to let him stew.
Jorge could barely even muster the gumption to clap along to Kelly Clarkson’s bumpin’ “My Life Would Suck Without You” — clearly not an issue for Anoop, who quietly sang along to pretty much every single word. When Kelly was done and zipped off stage, Anoop even collapsed back on the couch in full swoon while Sarver and Allison mock-fanned him. I wonder if ‘Noop Dawg got the courage to ask for Kelly’s number.
Finally, the guillotine fell for Jorge, and as he watched his Idol journey on the Thunder-screen, the Idols made their way to him (this time Alexis taking Scott’s arm from the start) for the requisite goodbye group clutch. After the 19 Entertainment twinkle played over the speakers, Paula made a beeline for Jorge, took his face in her hands and then clasped him to her (Smirkel’s making me use this word) bosom. Kara, Randy and Simon followed, each taking their moment to wish Jorge well, then working their way over to Jasmine, who’d turned up again on stage after her banishment at the midpoint of the show. Anoop and Kris even shared a solid, both-arms-around-the-back hug. And as the Idols finally trickled off the stage, for the second night in a row the Swaybots made their feelings about Adam Lambert loud and clear when he bent down to shake their hands and their arms instead seized him en masse and began to envelop him whole. Don’t worry, he survived. For now.
So, PopWatchers, how are you feeling about the first results show on Idol‘s big stage? When did you suspect Kanye was pre-taped? Do you think there was any significance to the judges’ all-black ensembles? And should there should be some sort of new judge rule that penalizes the Idols when they forget to help the visually-impaired contestant to his seat?
More on ‘American Idol’
Michael Slezak’s ‘American Idol’ recap: Two Birds, One Show
‘American Idol’: On the scene at the Top 13 performance night
‘American Idol’ recap: This Is Thriller Night!
Carrie Underwood’s ‘American Idol’ exit song: A vast improvement on ‘Celebrate Me Home’
‘American Idol’: Our Advice for the Top 13
‘American Idol’: Tracking the Top 13 Finalists with our Idol Tote Board
‘American Idol’: Q&As With the Top 13!
EW’s ‘Idol’ Headquarters