The top of tonight’s American Idol telecast was slightly altered from the way the show usually opens: The three judges were already sitting when Ryan introduced them, whereas Idol‘s announcer usually gives the trio a proper introduction as they walk out from behind the big screen on the stage. Did you notice that change at all? Maybe it mattered none to you all out there who were watching on TV, but as someone who was in the Idoldome, I will tell you for sure that you missed a glimpse of something very important because of the seemingly harmless alteration: J.Lo’s smokin’ hot, diamond-encrusted heels. (See: Even the photo here doesn’t show it!)
Yes, Idol watchers, when the judges were introduced to the crowd inside the Idoldome a few minutes before the show went live, Randy, Jennifer, and Steven all walked out from a pair of “elephant” doors off to the right of the studio to cheers and screams and all that goodness. But when Jenny emerged, dazzling as always, she was even more dazzling than usual because of those insane heels. I’m really not kidding when I say that there was a collective gasp from the audience. The shoes literally sparkled for days. And even after she got to the judges’ table and sat down, with her heels far into the darkness under her seat, I swear they continued to sparkle. Like, I kept wondering: Are batteries included with those things? They were akin to the ruby slippers that Dorothy rocked in The Wizard of Oz, but instead of red rubies, it was like the entirety of each pump was covered in Swarovski crystals.
I know I’m obsessing over this tiny, tiny detail, but my edict here in these “on the scene” posts is to reveal to you, dear readers, what you didn’t see on television. This is important information I’m relaying to you! Obviously. And I will also tell you that I clearly wasn’t the only one who was obsessed with the shoes. There were multiple points during the commercial breaks that found groups of girls screaming their heads off about them. I heard “Show us your shoes, J.Lo!” at least once, and later, “J.Lo, we love your shoes!” Lopez, always the lady and consummate professional, politely waved to her fans but never kicked her heels up, to the disappointment of the audience. J.Lo’s people confirmed to me after the show that her shoes were designed by Brian Atwood. And despite my ramblings here, there is just one word for them: Hot.
Now that I have sufficiently gayed out this post as much as possible, I should move on to other things about the show. Like, you know, things that are performance-related, maybe? Sure, sure. Here’s a bit-by-bit digest of what you might not have seen and other things that tickled my fancy while I sat on my perch in the rafters of the Idoldome this evening:
• Early Faux-Citement: Did the show feel extremely screamy and overly crazy at the beginning of the episode? It took a lot for Cory, the warm-up guy, to get the crowd all pumped up to do all that yelling in the introduction. Because honestly, before the show, the Idoldome was the most demure and quiet I’ve seen it so far this season. I couldn’t necessarily put my finger on why, but maybe it has to do with some fan favorites (Casey, Pia…) being gone now? Who knows. Maybe it was because it has been so hot outside the past week or so in L.A., and everyone was just trying to cool off. Things, however, did heat up as the show went on.
• James’ Pre-Performance Ritual: During the video segment before James opened the show with 30 Seconds To Mars’ “Closer to the Edge,” there was a moment where the singer stood in the dark on the stage, with his back turned to the crowd…and stretched. Like, really stretched. Big time, with his arms in the air and all. It’s as good a pre-singing ritual as any.
• Jacob Backlash: Sadly, the crowd seemed averse to Jacob from the get-go inside the Idoldome. Ladies around me in the audience were complaining about everything from his attitude to his singing chops well before he even started singing Chris Brown and Jordin Sparks’ hit “No Air.” His choice to sing both parts of the duet, too, didn’t help lighten up the mood around me any, but I could have just been somehow sitting in the Anti-Jacob Area.
• The Power of Nigel Lythgoe: As you might imagine, during American Idol‘s commercial breaks, all kinds of things happen with the audience. Warm-up comic Cory hosts singing competitions, dancing competitions, surveys the signs in the crowd, etc. At one point, he pulled 6-year-old Grace on stage and interviewed her. She eventually revealed that Lauren Alaina was her favorite contestant, and Cory gave her a Lauren-loving shirt. But not before executive producer Nigel Lythgoe sweetly snatched it from her, went back stage, and had Lauren herself sign it for the girl. It was a sweet moment, and Lythgoe seemed positively over the moon to make such a thing happen. In fact, Nigel seemed positively giddy all night. Maybe because Idol is having such a good season?
• And the Screaming Started…: …with the announcement that Scotty McCreery would be appearing on stage next. Really, though, from the inside, when Scotty came on stage to sing Montgomery Gentry’s “Gone” is indeed when things really got going for the night. Finally! Randy called it “concert Scotty,” and that certainly was the case.
• Haley’s Piano: During the third commercial break, the production crew wheeled out a piano. And even though you already knew it was going to be Haley Reinhart’s turn to perform because everyone else already had, at that moment, you just knew it was going to be Haley. It was weird because, when it appeared on stage, everyone sort of went, Oh, here comes Haley. That’s a good thing, of course.
• Celebs in the House!: I know they announced that Anthony Hopkins was in the audience on air, but did they also tell you (or show you?) that season 4’s third-runner-up LaKisha Jones was in the house? I can’t think of LaKisha and not think of her super-stunning version of “And I Am Telling You.”
• Haley’s ‘Tude: Was it so apparent on the TV screen? During the judges’ critique of Gaga’s “You and I,” Ms. Reinhart had her hand on her hip nearly the whole time in that “Don’t even mess with me, I’m gonna stand here and tap my foot” kinda way. And then, later, after she killed The Animals’ “House of the Rising Sun,” she kept doing this hair-flip thing, back and forth, back and forth, where she’d fling her hair one way, and then back the other. I use the word “attitude” not in any kind of disparaging way — I think it’s a good thing that she’s looking more confident and sure of herself. Kudos.
• James’ Cougar Contingent?: During James Durbin’s tear-filled performance of Badfinger’s oft-covered “Without You,” two older-looking ladies in the row in front of me tried to start the whole swaybot thing up in the rafters to no success at all. And a question popped into my mind for the first time: Does James have a big cougar-type voting block? These extremely mature ladies were extremely into him. Weird. And sorta gross?
• Biggest Cheers of the Night: That would have to go to the moment when warm-up comic Cory promised the crowd that he had an iPhone 4 to give away. The crowd went wild, and then the ever-tricky Cory clarified: He had an iPhone 4 case to give away. But it was just funny that the crowd almost went more nuts for this than for Haley, Scotty, or the other Idols.
• Where’s Sheryl?: Maybe she’ll be there on the results show, but did anyone else find it odd that Sheryl Crow wasn’t there in the audience after she did all that mentoring? Maybe it’s no big deal — and surely it isn’t — but I kept scanning for her with no luck.
• Lauren’s Dress: Okay, this post is getting gay again. Lauren’s “Unchained Melody” dress was — how should I put this? — a big ol’ hot mess. Right? It actually reminded me, in style at least, of that messy dress Carrie Underwood wore in the season 4 finale. Just like, not a good look on anyone — but in Lauren’s case, mostly because it made her look about 20 years older than her 16 years.
• More Sparkles: This time from an unexpected source: music director Ray Chew! He was wearing the coolest, sparkly black hat all evening. You might have seen it the couple of times he was actually on the stage with the performers last night.
• The Lone Standing O: You all probably noted this yourselves, but it was interesting last night from within the Idoldome that the only standing O of the evening went to Haley Reinhart when she blew-out with “House of the Rising Sun.” It was definitely a marked departure from earlier episodes this season I’ve been to where the judges stood up for multiple performances. Is that what Nigel Lythgoe is telling the judges during his commercial-break pow-wows? That they shouldn’t stand up so often? The night seemed to elicit less standing in general from the crowd, too.
• The Friendly Goodbye: As the performance recap reel rolled on the video screen, the Idols gathered on stage to say goodbye with Ryan at the end of the episode. The major observation from this time? Haley and Lauren are seriously close pals. At least it looks that way. The two gals stood next to each other and whispered to each other the whole time. And a less major — but none-the-less still important — observation? After the sign-off, the Idols, as usual, were rushed off stage. The harried dash off stage found Scotty accidentally — or was it “accidentally,” considering my commentary above — stepping on Lauren’s monstrosity of a dress and her giving him a push in retaliation afterward. I suppose it doesn’t matter either way whether it was accidental or “accidental,” but the whole thing made me smile a bit.
Tanner on Twitter: @EWTanStransky