We live in troubling times. Lauren Conrad is an ”author.” Human carving board Heidi Montag is a ”singer.” And something called a ”JWoww” is now marketing herself as a ”fashion designer.” Alas, in an era where shameless attention-mongering is valued over actual talent, where doltish and reprehensible behavior can serve as an express ticket to fame, fortune, and widespread acclaim, it’s enough to make you want to impose a total pop-culture blackout for the nation’s youth — at least until there are laws on the books that prevent Noah Cyrus’ parents from dressing her like this for public outings.
In that context, last night’s American Idol telecast was like a single lemming running away from the ledge, a solitary salmon (embossed with a Fox Broadcasting Co. logo, of course) muscling its way against the tide. As 25 million Americans collectively celebrated some mighty fine singing from the likes of season 9’s female semifinalists, I felt giddy — maybe even a little proud — to be partaking in a shared, (mostly) shame-free reality-TV experience.
Yes, yes, I realize that sentiment is as corn-filled as a Frito-pie. But after enduring 16 consecutive episodes of Idol that left me wondering if, perhaps, our nation’s pool of undiscovered singing talent had dried up — and that had me feeling a little wistful for the days of Mikalah Gordon and Anthony Fedorov! — I’m relieved to discover there’s a little life in Idol yet. In fact, based on the promise of performances by Katelyn Epperly, Lilly Scott, Crystal Bowersox, Siobhan Magnus, and even Michelle Delamor and Didi Benami, the show appears, in fact, to have a lot of strength left. (Sorry, I will now put the kibosh on trying to weld together this recap using scraps of Kate Bush lyrics.)
The hard part is, over the next two Thursdays, the current crop of 10 ladies is going to get whittled down to six — because gender parity is apparently so important to Ken Warwick & Co. that they’re willing to risk the hopes and dreams of Paige Miles on the belief that a small but passionate segment of the voting public wouldn’t seriously want to endure another seven or eight weeks of watching Jermaine Sellers communicating with God. (Actually, come to think of it, that might be kind of amusing — if said conversations weren’t preceded by 90 seconds of the dude’s pointy-haired caterwauling.)
Still, with only two of the remaining female semifinalists totally tanking tonight, that means some semi-controversial cuts are coming. With that in mind, let’s divvie up the lay-dees into three clearly defined groups:
Group A: Go Directly to the Top 12; Do Not Pass Ellen, and Do Not Collect 200 ”Greats” Crystal Bowersox, Lilly Scott, Siobhan Magnus, and Katelyn Epperly.
Group B: Go and Start Rehearsing Your Top 16 Ditty, on the Off Chance You Don’t Get Fewer Votes Than Haeley Freakin’ Vaughn Michelle Delamor, Didi Benami, Paige Miles, and Katie Stevens.
Group C: Go Directly to the Holding Pen Where Fox Is Storing the Musical Aspirations of Ariana Afsar, Taylor Vaifanua, and Stevie Wright. Lacey Brown and Haeley Vaughn.
Based on the women’s pre-semifinal bodies of work, there are definitely some surprises in the aforementioned rankings. Ten days ago, I’d have bet all the money I’ve ever spent on Paula Abdul’s music (more than you’d think) that Didi would be a shoo-in for a spot on the Idol summer tour, nor would I have expected Katelyn to emerge as a serious contender for the season 9 crown. And as for Paige Miles, well, 10 days ago she was just a supporting player to the uni-monikered Theri in the battle of the ”Bad Romance” singers.
NEXT: Crystal’s Clear-lead