Okay, American Idol fans, here’s the ultimate Andrew Lloyd Webber-night head scratcher: Can you do more damage to your credibility by remembering every line of your script than by noticeably flubbing your lyrics?
In the case of tonight’s American Idol episode, the answer is a resounding ”yes!”
On one hand, we had Brooke White’s jaw-dropping stop-and-reboot on ”You Must Love Me,” David Archuleta’s badly botched second verse on ”Think of Me,” and (sigh) even Carly Smithson’s rhyme-busting substitution of her song title (”Superstar”) when she should’ve repeated ”Jesus Christ” on her first run-through of the chorus.
Though these obvious gaffes didn’t exactly bolster the trio’s fortunes tonight, they couldn’t come close to the integrity-immolating antics of Randy Jackson, Paula Abdul, and even Simon Cowell, who might as well have been reading their critiques off cue cards written by Nigel Lythgoe himself.
Yes, folks, it appears that in a post-Taylor Hicks era, Idol doesn’t trust its 29 million viewers to do the right thing. And that means when a preordained member of the final two forgets his lyrics for the second time in seven weeks, all three judges flagrantly ignore it. (Paging Wayne Brady! On second thought, scratch that.) And when a cannon-fodder contestant like Syesha Mercado dares to deliver a showstopper that’s oozing with sass and sex appeal, you will not hear one word implying that she’s in any way a threat to crack the top three, only the nagging implication that she’d be better off pursuing a career in musical theater than getting her hopes up for a ”This Is My Now” moment.
I know, I know — the show has always played favorites to a degree, but tonight’s pimping was so out of control I’m wondering if it’s worth going to my DVR and watching Idol back in slo-mo, just to be sure the producers aren’t slipping in subliminal messages — ”Vote for an all-David finale, or a newborn seal will die!” — at regular intervals. Yet with all apologies for putting big-eyed, white-furred baby mammals at risk, I’m not drinking the Kool-Aid.
Which isn’t to say Little David’s ”Think of Me” didn’t have its merits. For starters, I appreciated the kid’s efforts to reinvent the showy stage ballad in a more contemporary (or at least adult-contemporary) fashion by infusing it with some acoustic-guitar action. And interestingly enough, by taking Lloyd Webber’s advice and keeping his eyes open during his performance, Little David seemed more emotionally connected to the material than he has in weeks. That said, how could Paula use the phrase ”absolutely perfect,” and how could Randy dub David ”the one to beat” following a performance in which the line ”Imagine me, trying too hard/To put you from my mind” got reworked as ”Imagine me, [mumblemumble] softly/[Mumblemumble] my mind”? (I’m not even gonna harp on the lack of breath support during several big notes.) And conspiracy theorists take note: The show’s producers chose to cut to a weird overhead shot (showing the back of David’s head) at the very second he began to struggle with the lyrics. Yeah, Simon called it one of Little David’s ”weakest performances” but then promptly declared the performance was ”absolutely gonna get you through to next week.” To take an adjective from the cranky British judge: Appalling!
At least Little David himself had the courage to look out into the audience and mouth what looked to me like a sheepish ”sorry” — though whether it was to his dad, to his fans, or to Lloyd Webber himself, I’m not certain.
NEXT: Brooke breaks down