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'American Idol': On the scene for Top 7.2 results night

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Anoop_l

Anoop_l

Idoldome. Tonight. Had people. In it. Archie sang. Screaming happened. I am being brusque. Just like how Ryan tossed Lil Rounds to the curb. She had kids. She was courageous. And outspoken. She had a lot of fun up there. She is now dead to us. And Anoop left. He’ll be missed. Maybe not as much as his parents. But still. This message was brought to you by Ford, Coca-Cola, and iTunes. Catch me on tour this summer. More after the jump. Like how Allison Iraheta is my new personal life guru. Disco Night. Fever. Catch it. Wow. It’s a lot easier to write like this.

We now return you to my regularly-scheduled run-on sentences…

Want to start things off tonight by apologizing to the woman who I kicked out of my seat in the Idoldome upon arrival: I’m sorry I was so huffy about that. It’s not your fault that the CBS page told you that seat 1 was actually seat 9, even though “the first seat is 9, then it goes 1, 2, 3, 4…” really defies logic. I know you just wanted to sit on the aisle. So did I, and my ticket indicated my contractual right to do so, but I shouldn’t have been quite so passive-aggressive about everything. It won’t happen again.

No, from now on I am taking my cues from Allison Iraheta, a young woman with so much more to teach us than just the true meaning of rawk. I’ll spare you the majority of the Cory nonsense today (although I really enjoyed the Goonies-esque way he framed his warmup as “right now it is about us, it is our party”) and cut straight to a story from late in the show, when Allison and Anoop were seated on the Rejection Stools during the commercial break leading into Archumania: There was a tiny girl in my section named Gwendolyn, whose affections Cory had attempted to buy with an iPod earlier but found the exchange cut short by the actual television program being broadcast between segments of his ongoing experiments in repetitive human interaction. Gwendolyn was 8 (not really), she did not have a boyfriend (and did not want us to find her one), and her favorite Idol was Allison; Cory promised her she’d eventually get the iPod, and that he’d have Allison sign it to boot. But when he finally had a free moment — and a captive Allison, in Sadness Row — Cory pulled out the iPod and the Sharpie and realized he could not tell Allison how to spell “Gwendolyn.” Gwendolyn, being (not exactly) 8, couldn’t scream the spelling loud enough to carry to the stage. There was only one thing to do: Call little Gwendolyn up front to give Allison the spelling in person.

So there she was, 16 year old Allison “Pipes” Iraheta, (unfairly) on the chopping block for like the millionth time, facing (unfairly) the same uncertain future that my 2008 Idol, Carly Smithson, faced one year ago today. And in that, her moment of great trepidation and doubt, she was forced to deal with this miniscule sprite of a girl nervously trotting up to the stage with her teensy scrawled sign and her timid, needy face. Cory was nattering on about something or another, roadies were hauling way more amps than you’d think Archie could possibly require onto the stage, but all Allison could see was this girl who barely reached her waist. This girl needed her to be a celebrity, not a scared 16 year old. This girl needed an Idol. And so in that moment, Allison Iraheta squatted down to be on Gwendolyn’s wide-eyed level, and hugged her, then signed her iPod, then talked to her for a bit, then hugged her again in the most genuinely grateful way possible before sending the now visibly vibrating Gwendolyn to her seat. Then Allison got back up, and with a grin at Anoop, she started spinning around on her stool like the kid she herself still is. And this is who you keep trying to send home, America. Really. Really.

Back to the beginning: No celebs in the audience tonight, unless you count Jeff Archuleta, and I’m sure he’ll be crushed to learn I do not. The signs were average as well. (Dear future Idol attendees: Puns involving the words “Go” and “Gokey” put together in a way that indicates your positive feelings towards that opthamology nightmare are no longer of any interest to anyone. Do better. Unless you really do mean “GO,” in which case, by all means, fight on.) The judges came in without incident. The lights went down. The pack of three preteen girls behind me — who were so excited they spent most of the show clawing at one another’s arms, and I hope to god their mothers trimmed their nails beforehand lest they look like they were mauled by adolescent bobcats — let loose a rollercoaster shriek that essentially did not end for the next hour. And THIS… was American Idol.

I can tell you from experience — and those girls behind me aside — that the enthusiasm for David Archuleta has dimmed significantly since he was last in this room. The announcement that he’d be performing live on stage elicited nowhere near the life-altering decibels I’m conditioned to expect, and I think it was louder when Your!Top!7! emerged in the stage left pit to get ready for their Paula Abdul-choreographed group number. But it’s hard to tell, so absorbed was I by the amount of effort no one bothered to put into concealing the fact that the entire dance-lesson video was a giant commercial for AT&T. Then Paula was standing center stage in a dress I’m certain she thought evoked Liza Minnelli or Chita Rivera but actually just made me wonder what happened to her pants, and Ryan was introducing Paula, and Paula was introducing the kids, and the kids were dancing, but not singing, because if the world teaches us anything, PopWatchers, it’s that you can’t have everything all at once.

Honestly, none of the kids were that bad at dancing — Gokey missed a few cues, Kris Allen was having a hard time here and there, Allison kicked major ass, the whole thing was a mess in person but I’m sure it read fine on TV. Still, I don’t think that justified the Belmont Stakes-winning pile of flowers that were presented to Paula when it was over, as though she hadn’t just choreographed a simple and derivative ’70s dance ditty but had actually revolutionized the American theater and all those who witnessed it were forever changed. Like, it was pretty obvious the show was running short all night, and I know they were trying to kill time — hey, whatever happened to that call-in segment, anyway? — but it was also Earth Day, and dammit, those flowers gave their lives for a very dubious cause. During the commercial, Paula handed them to Debbie, who handed them to a P.A., who whisked them away, perhaps never to be seen again. There were a bunch of sign-carrying vegans in the audience tonight, and I can only hope the whole incident wasn’t too much for them to bear. Unless vegans don’t mind flowercide. I always forget what we can and cannot kill in this crazy world.

The first commercial break was all about the quick-change out of disco outfits and into street clothes, and Debbie shooed the contestants offstage with great verve. Four of the five guys made it back with plenty of time to spare, but Lil and Allison didn’t return until the middle of the Ford video, and the last dude to hit the benches was Giraud, who must have tried to squeeze in a pee break or something. Coming out of car hawking, the cameraman on the floor walked straight over and stood in front of Lil’s family, and I’d like to applaud them for not throwing a chair or anything when it was announced that Lil needed to step to the other side of the stage. There, Ry-Ry conducted the most dismissive dismissal in the history of this show, and just like that, the former sure thing, the past princess, the fallen frontrunner of So You Think You’ve Got A Pop Star On Your Hands 2009 was singing her final song in a hideous pair of white go-go boots. Simon appeared totally disinterested in this performance, but after saying he’d miss her mouthy family, I give him credit for turning and toasting them in the most respectful way possible while wielding a giant red Coca-Cola cup.

Everyone spent the commercial break embracing Lil — the biggest hug coming when she attacked Iraheta and they bounded around the stage like total dorks — and whatever Simon said to Lil by way of farewell made her laugh through her tears. Kara, meanwhile, could only muster a one-armed hug for Mama Rounds, the other hand planted firmly on her chisled hip as she dispensed what I assume was a malaprop- and cliché-laden bit of parting advice to the woman who Kara knows could have been a huge star if only she’d just sang a mother-loving Mary J. Blige song like Kara told her to. (Anyone else notice Ms. DioGuardi seems to have made the decision that, should this be her one and only season on this show, she’s at least gonna get a Pantene commercial or JC Penney modeling gig off the other end of it? Seriously. That woman is like a walking advertisement for the adjectives “svelte” and “lustrous.”)

Up next, the S.S. Idoldome set off on our dinner cruise to the Isle of Funkytown with the medley stylings of Freda Payne, Thelma Houston, and KC, of Sunshine Band fame, who I briefly feared had hired Flo Rida’s dancers. This played better in the house than it probably did at home, if only because it was finally freakin’ disco, and everyone over the age of 30 got to feel like this show cares about our needs. Meanwhile, about 75 percent of the pit crowd was ignoring orders and not clapping over their heads — but it could have just been because I think Thelma Houston might have flashed them a bit and they were in shock. The highlight for me was watching Ryan and Adam standing next to each other at the benches, each trying not to dance, and each having their own reasons for making the effort. As the medley rolled on, I could see the Glambert trying harder and harder to keep it together — no, not the knees; watch the hand; dear god not the hips — and I wanted to scream, LET YOUR FREAK FLAG FLY, BUDDY! I don’t know how many of you read this excellent, thought-provoking essay by my hero Ann Powers in the L.A. Times today, but I heartily concur with its gist and suspect a big part of why I don’t trust Adam is I don’t think we’ve met Adam yet. I look forward to finding out who he really is, as soon as he wins and spends two years under strict creative and personal lock and key courtesy of the billion-dollar Idol machine, serving at their family-oriented bidding, keeping his own aesthetic in check until… hey. Real quick: Remind me again why he wants to win this?

Once the girls behind me had switched from rollercoaster riders to whooping cartoon Apaches, it was time for the night’s historic second elimination, the prelims of which motored right along: Kris, safe. Adam, blah blah blah emotional connection, safe. Danny, whose Simon impersonation is not good and I worry that with Lil gone he’ll be given even more time to explain away criticism, safe. At Gokey’s announcement, Randy leaned back in his chair, pointed at someone near my door and mouthed, “Yeah! Yeah! Yeah!” (Wait. Please tell me that guy doesn’t have money riding on this.) Anoop got predictably shuttled to Bottom 3 Land, which left just Matt and Allison and… NOOOOOOOOOOO! When they sent my girl to the stools, all I could hear ringing in my ears was the conversation I had with Rushfield on this very night, one year ago: “If Carly goes home tonight, I am going to burn this place to the ground,” he told me, brandishing the pack of matches he’d concealed in the pocket of his customary green blazer. I laughed at him then, told him he was a fool, that no way could America take that much leave of their senses. Tonight, I was not laughing. Allison’s “Hot Stuff” was good, but it was no “Jesus Christ Superstar.”

And yet, Allison was laughing. Not in that eff-you-losers Megan Joy way; just in a sweet, unaffected, teenage-girl way. She bounded over to the stools, grabbed Anoop’s hands, said a few obviously calming words to her fellow gallows resident, and then threw one arm around his neck like girls who are spending a lot of time with guys start to do. (Sidebar: The effect living in a house with a bunch of handsome older dudes for three months will have on Allison Iraheta’s future relationships with men. Go.) Meanwhile, Debbie and a couple other stage managerial folk were meticulously placing excited, pretty pit girls on the steps to be used as props in the impending Archie-pocalypse. “Jeez,” said the guy next to me. “He’s not Elvis Presley.” Anoop obviously said something snarky to Allison, too, because I saw her say, “He’s cool!” and swing her arm like she was trying to smack him. 16. The girl is 16.

Biggest thoughts during Archie’s performance: 1) How much hearing loss must his touring band — who were very obviously playing to track this evening — incur from all the screeching they hear while standing behind that kid? 2) Does Archie’s guitarist really need to be in “rock stance” for this song? and 3) I dunno, dawg. It was just all right for me. He can definitely sing… but for me, for him? It wasn’t great. I guess I’m not sure what kind of artist he’s gonna be, based on that song. And let’s face it: David Archuleta makes Jesse McCartney look like Marilyn Manson, and puts Clay Aiken somewhere in the neighborhood of Bret Michaels. I don’t know what else to say about the waxy little robot child. He has always, and even now continues to, totally squick me out. Thank god they gave him like two minutes of interrupted airtime to console Allison and Anoop — who were sitting in a place he’d never experienced, and therefore could not empathize with, even if he did have emotions like a real boy — and explain about all the opportunities for opportunities they’d have because of the opportunities they’d get out of this show. Gosh.

We went to commercial, and Archie stayed to shake hands a couple more times with the Bottom Two, then walked to the center of the stage to talk to Debbie, who eventually shooed him to the wings. On his way out, he had to pass the remaining contestant dudes, and there was this really terrific moment where the four guys were huddled together and doing their very best to just keep chatting and pretend like last season’s runner-up wasn’t coming towards them. I don’t know what high school was like for David Archuleta (what little of it he actually experienced, that is), but I can’t help thinking this scenario was pretty representational of every time that poor boy tried to approach the cool kids in the hallway. “Uh, hey you guys!” I could almost hear his breathy, husky little voice gasping. “Hey, uh, what’s up?” Gokey finally acknowledged the kid, and the four opened up to engage in what from my distant vantage point looked to be a conversation about the only thing they all had in common: What it’s like to wear in-ear monitors. Then Gokey sort of gave Archie the “All right, man, see ya” brush-off, and he wandered into the wings with one last audible “Bye guys!” to the kids in the “mosh pit.” But the kids had, of course, long since moved on to watching something else. And if that ain’t a $5 metaphor, I don’t know what is.

Before we returned for the dreaded elimination, Debbie hugged both Allison and Anoop, then Anoop returned the earlier Iraheta love and slung his arm around her neck, pulling her in close to his chest. On the benches, Kris had his face in his hands, peering nervously over peaked fingers. When Anoop heard his sentence, Allison looked stunned, wandered slowly back to the remaining boys, immediately started to cry. Kris wrapped an arm around her, then Adam rubbed her shoulder, and she wiped away tears through the first half of ‘Noop Dawg’s final performance until something on my side of the stage made her smile. She pointed and I looked: It was Lil, standing just beyond the wings, dancing and singing along like her earlier elimination never happened. That’s right, Lil. You go seize all those opportunities for opportunity with your head held high. Maybe Vonzell Solomon can give you some hot tips on the regional theater action in central Texas. Wouldn’t that be fun?

One last thing on the night: I’ve never heard anyone thank the band and the crew while on their way out the door like Anoop took the time to do tonight, and I think that was by far his best performance on the show. His equally classy parents stood respectfully during the whole “journey” video, and when we finally dragged the short show’s corpse over the finish line, Simon was the first on stage to shake Anoop’s hand. And so does that kid’s chapter end, not necessarily a moment too soon, but boy I wish we could have maybe lost a Gokey or two first. I mean, you want to talk about someone who was utterly themselves from the get-go this season — I think you gotta look at Anoop as the prime example. I hope that nice blonde girl from yesterday doesn’t give up, and keeps trying to ask him out. He deserves the love of a good woman or 12. Kid’s a catch.

What did you think, PopWatchers? Did America make the right decision on this, the anniversary of perhaps their wrongest ever? I leave you to the comments, and in the capable hands of Adam “The Beav” Vary and his wingman Smirkelstitskin, who may or may not have hands, and who will be in the house for their always-awesome team coverage next week. In the meantime, keep your feet on the ground, and keep reaching for the stars, okay? And oh yeah: SAVE THE ROCKER!

More on ‘American Idol’:
‘American Idol’: Rat Pack Standards Night is up next
‘American Idol’ recap: Summer Lovin’
‘Idolatry’: Scott MacIntyre on his sense of humor and post-‘Idol’ plan for radio domination
‘American Idol’: Season 8 contestants enter the Steel Cage!
‘Idol’ Cheat Sheet: The season so far…
‘American Idol’ top 7 results: On the scene
‘American Idol’: Simon’s 12 meanest critiques
EW.com’s American Idol HQ