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''Idol'' recap: Voter misfire

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Carly Smithson, Syesha Mercado, ...

American Idol

type:
TV Show
Current Status:
In Season
seasons:
15
performer:
Harry Connick Jr., Jennifer Lopez, Keith Urban, Ryan Seacrest
broadcaster:
Fox
genre:
Reality TV

”Idol” recap: Voter misfire

I’m not gonna lie. I shed a couple tears at the end of tonight’s episode of American Idol. Over the past 10 weeks, I’ve slowly but surely fallen for Carly Smithson, looked forward to Tuesday nights so I could hear her wrap her big, bombastic rasp of a voice around whatever musical theme the show’s producers threw at her.

Not that I ever had any illusions she might win this thing — or even crack the top three. Carly’s tattoos, her unwavering delight in showing off said body art, her husband’s tattooed face, her desperate desire to please Simon Cowell, her angsty facial expressions, the pre-season brouhaha about her failed 2001 major-label CD, her sometimes off-putting stage banter, her occasional vocal inconsistency (see ”Idol Gives Back” week), and even the fact that she’s from Ireland, well, they were all warning lights that combined to spell a simple, disconcerting message: ”For a limited time only.”

And yet, as in most doomed relationships, I simply didn’t know how to quit Carly Smithson.

Ah, well, at least we’ll always have ”Crazy on You.” And ”I Drove All Night.” And ”Come Together,” ”Blackbird,” and ”Here You Come Again.”

And as Ryan Seacrest reminds us all twice a week: ”This…is American Idol.” Heartbreak and disappointment are integral parts of the ritual, as fans of Kristy Lee Cook, Michael Johns, Ramiele Malubay, Chikezie, Amanda Overmyer, and David Hernandez can confirm.

Which is one of the reasons that tonight, right after Carly’s exit package — including that heartbreaker of a post-audition interview, in which she tearfully talked of the way her dreams have repeatedly slipped through her fingers — I poured myself a soothing little glass of Hazelnut Kahlua, toasted the Irish barmaid, and (for lack of a better exit song) celebrated her home.

Heck, if Carly could manage to keep her chin up and keep smiling, seemingly at peace with America’s decision to send her packing on a week when she brought the freakin’ house down, and Brooke White performed as if she’d accidentally stumbled onto the set of Don’t Forget the Lyrics, who was I to come emotionally undone?

Better still, when I sat down at my computer to start writing tonight’s column, I found a special treat in my in-box — an e-mail from the iTunes store titled ”Your pre-order for ‘Top 6 (American Idol Studio Version) Single’ is now available.” Which means that at this very moment, I am listening to Carly’s amazing rendition of ”Superstar” — and it sounds even better the 16th time through. (Admitting you have a problem is the first step to recovery, no?)

Before this TV Watch morphs into an uncomfortable, unsuccessful stage show called Carly Smithson Superstar, however, let me make a couple troubling observations about her behavior during tonight’s results show, which hopefully can also serve as advice for current and future Idol contestants.

1. Never, ever, ever ignore a fellow contestant while he or she is delivering what might prove to be his or her final Idol performance. Carly and Ryan definitely put the ”ack” in ”tacky” during Syesha’s encore rendition of ”One Rock ‘n’ Roll Too Many,” completely ignoring what was happening on stage to, well, I don’t know…discuss rising gasoline prices? Place bets on whch David is going to take home the season 7 crown? Swap breathy anecdotes about getting their first tattoos? Whatever caught their attention, it could’ve waited till Syesha had finished singing her heart out. (Yes, Syesha’s could’ve-been-an-exit-number was far stronger than Carly’s tonight.)

2. Unless your backfield is firmly planted on the hideous blue-velvet ”safety couch,” you do not look into the cameras and tell America what you plan to do for your next performance-night spectacular. Yeah, I know, Carly was like a presidential candidate with a catchphrase, determined to drive home the point that she was going to have more fun on stage (fun!) than any (fun!) contestant in the (fun!) history of any (fun!) televised performance show, but at its best, her sound bite seemed premature, and at its worst, kinda cocky.

NEXT: Syesha’s risky stage business

Speaking of things contestants should try to avoid in the future — aside from flubbing their lyrics at this late stage in the competition (Brooke!) and flagrantly yawning while under the scrutiny of a large viewing audience (Jason!) — how about not telling America that you have more fun role-playing than actually being yourself up on the Idol stage? Yes, I speak of Syesha!

Seriously, as much as it pained me to see Syesha land in the bottom two following her best performance of the season — and one of the best performances of Tuesday night’s show — her onstage banter (and her neck-craning to follow the camera during the not-so-harmonious group rendition of ”All I Ask of You”) underlined why America is probably never going to warm up to her. Then again, at least she didn’t hiss or make an obscene hand gesture when Paula declared, ”If you are sitting on that stool, you should be proud,” at exactly the moment Syesha was plunked into the bottom two.

Not that it would really matter if Syesha suddenly pulled an Oprah and gave out new refrigerators to everyone in the Idol audience. It wouldn’t take Sherlock Holmes to pick up the clue the show’s producers dropped when they tabbed David Cook and David Archuleta as the first two contestants to hit the safety couches this week, thereby maximizing their side-by-side exposure. ”Look! One’s young and adorable and causes sexually non-threatening heart palpitations! And the other one! He’s a little dangerous and moody, and sports molten-hot stubble! Prepare to watch them duel for the right to release a dreadful first single plucked from the songwriting competition Ryan almost never mentions anymore!”

(Side note: Adam B. Vary and I listened to all 20 entries. Click here if you want to read the gory details.)

Brooke, meanwhile, scored a few points by stating she’s making an effort to curb her ”habit of interrupting the judges.” But seriously, I’m still stunned she didn’t land in the bottom two, if not get eliminated, after hitting control-alt-delete during her Tuesday-night rendition of ”You Must Love Me.” I mean, as much as I’ve enjoyed some of Brooke’s performances, it’s clear that her nerves are starting to get the best of her. At this point, wouldn’t it be kinder for her fans to send her gently into that post-Idol media tour (and maybe a nice record deal with a midsize folk label) than to keep watching her tremble like a Chihuahua in a handbag in front of 29 million viewers?

Meanwhile, in other random results-night news: Clay Aiken’s new ‘do is a hot honeyed mess. It’s great to see Tamyra Gray doing well on Broadway, but where the heck is the follow-up to her debut disc, The Dreamer? Leona Lewis was looking and sounding gorgeous, but how ’bout spending the pyrotechnic money on backing her with a real live band and singers instead of forcing her to perform over a tinny track? And do you think Danny Noriega cried ”ish!” when the Ford ”music video” was a rocked-out rendition of his exit track, ”Tainted Love”?

Speaking of booted contestants, catch part 2 of the Idolatry exit interview with Kristy Lee Cook (below), in which she talks about her song-choice strategy, then head to our very active message boards and discuss tonight’s elimination and bottom two. Other topics: Was Simon’s positive review of Carly (as he muttered off camera) ”probably the kiss of death” for the Irish lass? What did you make of Jason’s ”oh boy, oh boy, oh boy” and peculiar humming while he awaited word of his fate from Ryan? And can you envision any scenario at this point that doesn’t involve an all-David finale?