During the Las Vegas auditions of ''American Idol,'' Miss Sweetness and Light suddenly started telling the bitter truth

By Michael Slezak
July 02, 2006 at 04:00 AM EDT
AMERICAN IDOL: FOX
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”American Idol”: Paula shows her tough side

Not to sound like Simon Cowell, but if I’m being honest, I got the urge to hit my head against the nearest hard surface when I heard the news this week that Paula Abdul is enlisting the help of talk-show titan Dr. Phil in a televised quest to find herself a boyfriend. C’mon, CBS suits, I’ve got better things to do than to tune in to this prime-time special when it airs on Valentine’s Day — like sit on my couch obsessing over American Idol, naturally.

Still, after watching tonight’s Las Vegas auditions, I’m starting to rethink my position: Maybe MC Skat Kat’s former duet partner is already reaping the benefits of her newfound friendship with the forthright Texan. How else to explain Paula’s straight-up, opinionated assessments of Sin City’s subpar auditioners, the surprising highlight of an episode in which all of the standard Idol elements — the discovery of spine-tingling young talent, the guffaw-inducing wails of the self-deluded, and the caustic zingers from Cowell himself — proved mighty underwhelming? (If Mariah Carey wannabe Mecca Madison is the best Vegas has to offer, then perhaps it’s time the show threw its casting net in more unexpected directions.)

Anyhow, Paula’s first flash of discriminating taste tonight caught me so off guard I figured it was a brief, accidental peek behind her sunny-girl facade. After calling Alexia ”Dylon” Lincheta’s truly unamusing, faux-Jamaican ditty ”a fun audition,” Abdul was taken aback by Simon’s blunt (and spot-on) retort: ”It was just stupid.”

Those four simple words seemed to serve as the filament for the light bulb that’s been waiting to turn on over Paula’s head for four seasons now: Idol judges can — and should — get away with brutally honest critiques of contestants. In the end, isn’t it more cruel to leave your child’s tooth hanging loosely from the gums for days than to end the problem with one hard, briefly painful yank? Yes, Paula. The answer is yes.

Suddenly, we had a giggling Paula reversing course: ”Well, if you’re gonna go there,” she said to Simon, ”I wasn’t that entertained. I’m lying. I’m lying!” Perhaps those weren’t real tears from Dylon as he removed his cheap wig in the confessional and lamented not auditioning in his own persona, but if they were, you’ve got to wonder whether Dr. Phil would praise Paula or berate her for making a kid cry.

Certainly, he’d applaud her decision to vote no to Las Vegas gondolier Jason Andino, whose ability to carry the tune to ”Stand by Me” was negated by his decision to deliver said notes in a Backstreet-Boyz-II-Men melisma. Gah! Paula’s verdict — ”I think you have a decent singing voice. I do. But for me, not a breakout, standout voice” — wasn’t overtly cruel, but it was definitive.

Heck, Paula even gave the thumbs down to prison worker Heather Ward’s ”Redneck Woman,” correctly noting the singer had given Gretchen Wilson’s simple but winning ditty too rigorous a workout. Given Ward’s delightful demeanor, though, I was happy Simon and Randy overruled Paula.

Of course, don’t get it twisted by thinking Old Paula is gone for good. Telling Anthony Andolino (the dude who lives with his girlfriend and a sure-to-violate-some-health-code 75 pets) that his singing voice was better suited to show tunes than to pop not only left out his failure to hit half the song’s notes but also insulted every struggling actor-singer working the Des Moines dinner-theater circuit today.

What Andolino needed more than anything was a dose of New Paula’s forthright judgment. Tell the kid to go become a tax accountant, or a construction worker, or a furniture upholsterer. But don’t keep his delusions alive. ”I have tone, I have pitch, I have everything,” Andolino said as he exited the audition room. Yes, Anthony, and I have tonight’s winning Mega Millions numbers in my coat pocket. Now get off the American Idol set and haul your cat-hair-covered butt over to Dr. Phil.

What did you think of Paula’s performance tonight? Were you disappointed the producers chose to showcase only 3 of the 11 Las Vegas auditions that resulted in a golden ticket to Hollywood? And are you (like me) ready for the show to move on to the next stage?

Episode Recaps

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