Despite some questionable judging decisions in the final audition episode of ''American Idol,'' our critic learns to accept the things he cannot change

By Michael Slezak
July 02, 2006 at 04:00 AM EDT
AMERICAN IDOL: Ray Mickshaw/FOX
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”American Idol”: Learning to live with Simon

Today at work, I had an instant-message argument about the vocal abilities of American Idol season 2 finalist Trenyce. When my friend (clearly suffering from a temporary case of dementia) wrote that the uni-monikered diva had not given a single memorable performance on the series, I could feel a vein in my forehead begin to pulsate. ”Did you not catch her rendition of ‘Proud Mary’?” I began to type, hoping she’d feel the sting of huffy incredulity coming through her computer monitor.

And then, looking at what I’d just written, I came to my senses and hit the delete button. No, not because I’ve wavered from my long-held belief that Trenyce never got the respect to which she was entitled, but rather because we’ve only reached week 4 in this season’s competition and, as I’m sure any mental-health professional would tell me, I’ve got to pace myself.

Indeed, I’ll have the rest of February, all of March and April, and most of May to engage in Clay-vs.-Ruben-style debates, to get indignant about the popularity of folks like John Stevens and Carmen Rasmusen, and to grow unreasonably attached to marginal contestants who won’t even survive past the semifinals. (I’m not the only person in America who still smiles thinking about Aloha Mischeaux’s ”Work It Out,” am I?)

With the realization, then, that Idol is a reality-TV marathon, not a sprint, I hope you’ll forgive me for deciding to emotionally disconnect from tonight’s seventh and final 2006 audition episode. Why not light a stress-relief candle and focus on the episode’s lighter moments, like the flower falling out of Irada Jafarova’s hair as she undulated her pelvis and cleared her throat through a woeful ”Unbreak My Heart”/”Chain of Fools”/”Into the Groove”/”How Can I Live” mash-up? Or enjoy the fact that the show’s producers kept the clip of Laurence Soares’ goofy and good-spirited ”Gonna Make You Sweat (Everybody Dance Now)” short enough that it didn’t get a chance to annoy me? Heck, I even got a chuckle out of Katherine Hofmann’s ”Love Will Lead You Back,” which was so impossibly off-key that it actually made me nostalgic for Mikalah Gordon’s nasal rendition from last season.

See, I can do this! Idol need not always lead to sweaty palms and increased blood pressure. I’m at peace with the show’s decision to show only 4 of the 28 folks who cleared the Paula-Randy-Simon gauntlet in Boston to earn a trip to Hollywood, even if that means I missed the joy of listening to the other 86 percent of the good auditions. And I’m fine with the way Paula backtracked on her initial negative assessment of gizzorgeous twin Rebecca O’Donahue’s ”Black Velvet” — a smoky but not terribly smooth rendition that would’ve been above average only in a karaoke dive bar — and voted with Randy to send her to Hollywood. It’s okay, really, even though all three judges put the kibosh on rehab worker Holly Corrente’s Idol dreams, despite the fact that her ”Left Outside Alone” was arguably superior to both basketball star Ayla Brown’s ”Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” and Tatiana Ward’s wobbly ”My Cherie Amour.”

Better to concentrate on Paula’s winning defense of pint-size optimist Kevin Covais, whose ”You Raise Me Up” was one of this season’s more promising male auditions. When Simon implied that only the octogenarian set would be won over by the diminutive teen’s charms, Paula snapped back, ”That means I’m 80,” while tactfully pointing out that the kid with the crew cut and impossibly bushy eyebrows would appeal to underdogs everywhere. Now whether or not the kid’s got the pipes to share a stage with Greensboro auditioner Paris Bennett, well, let’s save that debate for tomorrow, okay? Like I said before, there’s a lot of Idol left in front of us.

What do you think? Did tonight’s judging seem especially random? Did these preliminary auditions go on way too long? And who have you picked to make it to the finals, or to flame out early?

Ryan Seacrest hosts as Katy Perry, Lionel Richie, and Luke Bryan guide aspiring singers on their way to superstardom.
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  • 16
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  • 06/11/02
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  • Simon Fuller
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