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American Idol recap: The Crazies?

With a wide variety of woeful contestants to choose from, voters instead send a trio of halfway decent singers (and one obvious pick) to an untimely demise

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Tyler Grady Alex Lambert

American Idol

TV Show
Current Status:
In Season
Harry Connick Jr., Jennifer Lopez, Keith Urban, Ryan Seacrest
Reality TV

As the first results show of the American Idol season 9 semifinals came to an end tonight, I couldn’t help but feel like I’d just witnessed a horror flick. The pretty blonde girl got picked off early. Another vaguely defined character was introduced just in time to get dragged off into the bushes of anonymity. And at one point, a pack of two dozen zombies stalked the stage, bringing pre-recorded vocal terror to everyone they encountered.

With Ryan Seacrest doing his best Jigsaw impression — ”a brutal night of results,” he cooed, eyes burning with delight — all that was missing was the screaming. Wait, scratch that. I know I can’t be the only one still experiencing intermittent flashbacks to Jermaine Sellers’ wounded cockatoo impression on Wednesday night, can I?

Oh yeah, I went there. Because while there was probably a better chance of Simon using SPF on his crispy, honey-roasted chest than seeing Tyler Grady, Joe Muñoz, or Janell Wheeler at the Nokia in May, I’m still flummoxed by the fact that those three cats (along with Ashley Rodriguez) are paying the price for singing misdemeanors, while musical felons like Jermaine, Tim Urban, Alex Lambert, and Lacey Brown will live to threaten us again with (how can I state this in a politically correct fashion?) their ”creative selection of notes.” Granted, those latter four contestants had respective magical forces on their sides on performance night — a bolero jacket with tails, Justin Bieber hair, a mullet, and a floral tablecloth body sheath — but it’s still hard to accept how ”trainwreck awful” is a better strategy than ”subpar and forgettable” at any stage of the competition.

Heck, Alex himself seemed to have difficulty with the ”good” news, letting out an expletive when he found out he’d made the cut over Tyler at episode’s end. (Read my exclusive behind-the-scenes scoop about the dropped audio here.) The mullet-wearing troubadour, dressed in an outfit more appropriate for chopping wood in the backyard than trying to become the nation’s next singing sensation, looked so panic-stricken throughout the telecast, I thought for a second he might beg Ryan to spare Tyler, thereby freeing himself from the indignity of ever again being likened to an unripe tropical fruit by Ellen DeGeneres.

In any event, I’ve got to give Tyler props for having the guts to confront the judges after his elimination. At the end of Hollywood Week, if you’ll recall, we saw Kara and the judges openly declaring they wanted to see more of Tyler’s ’70s rock-god poses, only to ridicule him for fulfilling their request on Wednesday night. Which highlights (once again) the lack of specificity and the general cluelessness of the judges’ critiques: Wouldn’t it have just been easier on the guy if Kara or Ellen or Simon or Randy had succinctly explained that even the grooviest orchid peasant shirt and matching scarf can’t compensate for vocal performance punctuated by intermittent bum notes and a distinct lack of breath support?

Making Tyler’s ouster all the more unexpected was the fact that he was the featured player in Idol‘s pre-elimination b-roll funnies — a slot usually reserved for a contestant the producers want to pimp. That said, I don’t care how ”comfortable” you want to be while traveling from the hotel to your rehearsals. Making a public appearance in nothing but a bathrobe, boots, and socks is never — I repeat never — acceptable. Not for Joe or Jane Everyman. Not for an American Idol hopeful. Not even if your name is Kelly Clarkson or David Cook!

NEXT: Two Idol MVPs take the stage