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Emmys 2017
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American Idol recap: All I Got Was This Stupid T-Shirt

Jamie Foxx tries to get the Top 4 to perform ”without boundaries,” but the show’s producers set up the contestants for failure with a list of lame-o songs

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Lee Bowersox
Michael Becker/Fox

American Idol

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

This just in: The producers of American Idol are about to take control of all your favorite reality shows. On Top Chef, contestants will be asked to create a tempting amuse-bouche made from clams, pearl onions, and at least three flavors of Skittles. On Project Runway, the designers will be making functional evening gowns for their mothers using fetid animal hides and barbed wire. And on America’s Next Top Model, the girls will carry flaming batons while they walk a fashion tightrope that’s hoisted over a giant, kerosene-filled pool.

You’ll love these changes, America, because at the end of the day, there’s nothing more entertaining than seeing a group of ambitious and talented young people get set up for abject failure! Or, then again, maybe not.

Which might explain why I’m feeling so low after watching tonight’s cinematic-themed Idol telecast, in which season 9’s Top 4 contestants faced off against an army of the lamest tunes ever to appear on a movie soundtrack. And just in case you think I’m exaggerating, do head over to iTunes and check out the the 50 suggested ”Songs of the Cinema” currently streaming under the American Idol banner. You’ll find everything from dated Lite-FM fare (”My Heart Will Go On,” ”It Might Be You”) to Disney Princess themes (”Beauty and the Beast,” ”A Whole New World”), from kooky camp classics (”Ghostbusters,” ”Jai Ho”) to songs covered earlier this season by Aaron Kelly (”I Believe I Can Fly,” ”I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing”).

To be fair, the contestants can, in fact, ask the show’s producers to try to get additional songs cleared, but given the show’s breakneck scheduling, is it any wonder that each and every one of the six songs performed tonight was culled from the aforementioned list?

And that’s why, on a lot of levels, it seemed unfair tonight to hear the judges repeatedly take the contestants to task over song selection; Simon Cowell himself flapped his gums about the contestants having ”thousands” of tracks to choose from. Surely, he knows that’s not entirely truthful.

I mean, dude, come on. Don’t put your jockey on the back of a mule, then complain when he doesn’t win the Kentucky Derby.

But I digress. Because at the end of the day, we pick up our phones and vote (or don’t) to try to find the next young singer to follow in the footsteps of Kelly Clarkson, Carrie Underwood, and David Cook. And to do that, he or she has to treat the competition like a video game, advancing through the 14 rounds — three weeks of semifinals; 11 levels of finals — until the screen flashes, the confetti falls, and the whole thing reboots for another season. So let’s see who’s racking up the points, who’s running out of extra lives, and who deserved an ”Artist” t-shirt from non-starter mentor Jamie Foxx.

NEXT: Lee’s outfit and song battle it out in a race to the bottom