”American Idol”: Naming the final 12
To put a twist on a catchphrase from American Idol‘s most frequently covered diva, Whitney Houston, ”Awww, Haley to the no!”
I mean, seriously, America, you were so close to getting the women’s half of Idol‘s season-6 finalists completely right. You had LaKisha Jones, Melinda Doolittle, Stephanie Edwards, Jordin Sparks, and Gina Glocksen sitting on their little silver stools, ready to tackle next Tuesday’s Diana Ross theme with supreme (sorry) gusto.
And you’d set free Antonella Barba, the pretty girl from the Jersey shore who hadn’t given a respectable performance since the New York auditions but who’d become a household name after some wretch distributed over the Internet photos of her posed on the porcelain throne. I actually felt for Antonella tonight, in the way one might feel for an innocent field mouse who’s getting bandied about by a pack of barn cats. With her tissue-papery voice and an unawareness of her vocal shortcomings so all consuming it actually bordered on impressive, Antonella never had a chance. Not up against the sheer force of LaKisha, the likability of Jordin, or the genre-driven savvy of Gina — to say nothing of the flawlessness of Melinda. So adieu, Antonella! Keep your chin up, and your clothing on! Who knows, maybe you’ll score a hosting gig somewhere in the basic-cable universe.
But let us not digress and instead get back to the source of my anger, America. You could’ve filled out the women’s bracket with Sabrina Sloan, who, by choosing En Vogue’s ”Don’t Let Go (Love),” exhibited an ability to think outside the Aretha-Whitney-Celine box that cages most Idol songbirds, and who, it must be added, delivered this midtempo chugger powerfully, and (mostly) in tune.
But instead, you went and put through a woman who, given her choice of practically any song, from any genre, in any language, and from any era, chose to breathily, tunelessly, and earnestly bleat the lyrics, ”If my heart had wings/I would fly to you and lie/Beside you as you dream/If my heart had wings.” In other words, you make a mockery of your God-given right to speed-dial and text-message by making Haley Scarnato a season-6 finalist. That was cruel, America. Cruel to the infinitely more deserving Sabrina. Cruel to Haley, who’s probably going to miss out on that paying gig at the Des Moines Ramada now that she’s stuck in Hollywood another week. And cruel to yourselves, America. What if Haley lasts into April and decides to ”rock out” again, as she did last week on ”Queen of the Night”? You’ll have no one to blame for the nightmarish flashbacks but yourselves!
The more I think about it, though, the less surprised I am that Haley advanced. By choosing a song that was most recently credited to Faith Hill, Haley filled this Idol season’s massive country-music vacuum. I’m not saying she filled it with any particular skill or gusto — after all, this is the woman who testily told the judges that her Idol approach was something along the lines of ”I clock in, I clock out” — but I give her some points for making a wise strategic play.
On the men’s side, I will not feign any outrage over the elimination of Jared Cotter and Sundance Head — even though it means we’ll have to endure one more week of Sanjaya Malakar’s careless stage whispers. Jared’s ”If You Really Love Me” was mostly in tune but was as generic as a government-cheese sandwich, something he proved again with his exit performance tonight. By the time I’d fast-forwarded through the commercial break that followed Jared’s number, and into the Idol ”Insult Your Intelligence Challenge” — hmm…is it Ace Young, Chicken Little, or that Daughtry dude who’s got this week’s No. 1 album? — I could not recall one detail of Jared’s performance.
Sundance, meanwhile, benefited from some revisionist history by the judges’ panel: Paula dubbed him ”one of our finest,” and Simon asked if the nation had turned its volume down on men’s night. To which I’d say, ”Yes!” — probably at the midpoint of Sundance’s wickedly pitchy cover of Pearl Jam’s ”Jeremy.” Sure, it’s a shame that the final 12 includes not only Sanjaya but the underwhelming Brandon Rogers, but if not for them, who’d be giving us something to rant about at the water cooler from now till Memorial Day?
Which brings us to our reader comments of the week — and there were lots to choose from! Charles made me chuckle with this observation about one contestant’s makeover: ”Ten years ago, every woman in the country wanted Sanjaya’s hairstyle. Of course, back then they called it The Rachel.” Someone by the name of Cough, Chew, Bark had me howling with a reaction to Wednesday night’s best performance: ”Melinda gives me eargasms. Sista makes you want to slap the person sitting next to you. She steps on that stage and tears it up with more passion than Eddie Murphy ripping up his Academy Award acceptance speech.” Finally, two TV Watchers had some thoughts on Idol‘s paid players. Lynn suggested that ”Randy should receive an electric shock every time he says ‘yo’ or ‘dawg.’ That would be funny to watch.” It might also expand his vocabulary. And poor Alison, well, I think we’ve lost her to some other series, and with good reason: ”Idol is over for me,” she declared. ”Seacrest made his way into my dream last night. That weaselly guy is everywhere!”
How did you feel about tonight’s eliminations, and how do you think this season’s top 12 compare to previous seasons’ finalists? If you could either save Sabrina or eliminate Sanjaya, which would you choose? And did anyone else notice Jordin’s rocker-grrrl hand signal during Sundance’s exit performance? Adorable! Finally, if you’d like to make an (audio) appearance on the next episode of our Idol webcast, Idolatry, click here and find out how.