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Boot Camp: Unfiltered Chaos

I’m concerned about The X Factor. Simon, Paula, my new boyfriend Steve Jones, Nicole Schwarzenegger,
San Diego Reid, the children – by God, the children! I’m concerned about them all. This show is strange, you know? Like, even stranger than Idol – Ican’tbelieveItypedthat – in a way that leaves me puzzled. Is this good or bad? I don’t know. It’s just that I thought I was prepared. I’ve watched Idol and even its schizophrenic cousin America’s Got Talent once or twice, and The X Factor is pretty much all of those shows rolled into one with a pinch of The Voice added for flavor. The X Factor was never going to be original. I totally got that.
But does it have to be so … spastic?
For realz, friends, I almost got dizzy from the editing. My notes make absolutely no sense. I never got a chance to ogle Steve Jones. Even my kitties went to sleep during the episode, which I’m sure was a result of the seizure that was the Boot Camp episode. Great balls of fire, I don’t know where to begin.
Well, as Maria from The Sound of Music so wisely said, “Let’s start at the very beginning, a very good place to start.” Thank you, Julie Andrews. You have solved so many of life’s quandaries.
In the beginning …
162 acts arrived in Los Angeleese (thanks, Steve) en masse, burdened with all of their luggage and the hot California sun. If the producers intended for the contestants to resemble refugees searching for higher ground in a disaster movie, they succeeded tenfold. The only thing better would have been to witness them breaking down the theater doors. A girl can only dream.
Familiar faces …
In rapid succession, of course. People I kind of recognized flashed across the screen like memories from brief dreams I had a year ago. By the time I put a name to the faces, they were gone. All I gathered was that all these kids want it, like, more than they want anything else in the world. The $5 million. They can taste it.
Industry insiders …
In a rare move to differentiate itself from Idol, X Factor provided their captives (aka – the contestants) with vocal coaches (God speed, brave souls), stylists, and a choreographer named Brian Friedman who wears the most ridiculous clothes ever. He is a peacock preening his feathers at all times.
Dance …
In an awkwardly rushed segment, the contestants were forced to learn some of Friedman’s (dressed in a studded denim jacket) choreography the minute they entered the theater. Downtime is apparently not a thing in Hollywood. Some of the acts danced well. Others … didn’t dance at all. This was the point in the episode where I was sadly introduced to 14-year-old Brian Bradley, who was edited to look like the most horrible person alive, only packed up in a cute little body. He was all like, “Jay Z doesn’t have to dance, so screw this shizzle,” and I kind of wanted to send him to bed without dessert. You see, this is why the 12 & up age limit is a bad thing. Now I’m picking on a little thing whose voice hasn’t changed yet.
Cutting them down to 100 …
Before the first commercial break, I kid you not, we were treated to the most confusing montage of faces singing ever. After getting all tired and sweaty dancing, the contestants were instructed to sing for the judges alone. And then all kinds of action went down up there. Siameze! The Anser (still hasn’t learned to spell)! Caitlyn Koch and that girl who’s obsessed with Bieber! Names, names, names! Pipsqueak Rachel Crow! J. Mark! Chris Rene! At the end, Stacy Francis (single mom) sang a note forever and had Simon telling her that sometimes “less is more.” The judges did that thing that we’ve seen before on Idol where they split the contestants into 3 groups and tell one group to go home. The group that went home? I didn’t recognize any of the people. Well, I did recognize J. Mark, the philosophy student who studied abroad, pounding on the floor and wailing, “I don’t have a life! I don’t have a life!” So apparently the philosophy student thing didn’t work out for him? I don’t know, it was strange. Shall I define the X Factor as “unfiltered chaos”? Because that’s what it’s resembling. Just saying …
And then, finally, FINALLY, Sacramento Reid introduced some structure to the hot mess of an episode. He told the acts that they were splitting them into groups and choosing a song for each one, which totally isn’t like Idol because, um … Well, at least we didn’t have to see the catty group drama that amuses Ryan Seacrest so. In Steve Jones’ world, the focus is on personal triumph and trying to get out all the names before Rachel has time to write them in her notes.
Group #1 – Radiohead’s “Creep”
People whose names I managed to write down: Drew Who’s-her-witz loves Justin Bieber, rugby coach Caitlyn Koch, non-spellers The Anser, Audrey Turner was married to Ike (yeah), Elaine Gibbs who I don’t know, and Dexter Haygood is old and desperate
Young Drew dominated a lot of this segment with the ultra-serious teen-bot things she said (“I’ve always wanted to sing ever since I’ve been the age of having a goal.”) and her incredibly wide stance while she sang the first verse of the song. Then Dexter jumped up in there doing his Mick Jagger thing he does, and it was so obvious that the judges hated him that I felt kind of sorry for the old guy. I mean, aren’t his creative formative years in the past now? Let him pretend to be Mick Jagger. At least he’s attempting to get work. Some lady named Elaine Gibbs fumbled over the words, Audrey Turner was totally unlike Tina but still sang her part well, and Caitlyn Koch thankfully brought the performance to a pleasant end. It all reminded me of something you’d see if the circus had a variety hour. Take that as you may.
Group #2 – U2’s “Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For”
People whose names I managed to write down: Jazzlyn Little (I demand to see her birth certificate), human faucet Stacy Francis, the greatest person in the world Melanie Amaro, Arin Ray is forgettable, Special Guest, lots of hair
After Simon’s criticism of her self-indulgent, never-ending note, Stacy was stressing in every way that poor woman could stress. I’m actually a little concerned about how much she wants to win the competition. It just seems like her self-worth as a human being is riding on what the group of trained hyenas at the judging table has to say, and that isn’t the way life should be. So Jazzlyn started off the song, and she totally forgot the lyrics, which hilariously resulted in her sobbing and apologizing profusely to the rest of the group for “letting them down.” Stacy managed to clean her act up enough to actually sing the song and not screech at me or cry, so she’ll probably live to see the final 32. And then Melanie Amaro stepped in and proved that she’s still the greatest person in the world and seriously needs to be on every week so I can listen to her voice. Since I didn’t have a chance to recap her audition piece of “Listen,” I’ll just sum it up with one word: Wow. This group effort was a bit less frantic than Group 1’s, so I guess I liked it.
Group #3 – The Eagles’ “Desperado”
People whose names I managed to write down: Dani Knight is blonde, Cari Fletcher is also blonde, Skyeler Anderson sings country, Leroy Bell is the cumulative age of all the kids in his group combined (OK, I’m mean), Ben Rue is ?, and Paige Ogle with the last name of Ogle
The problem with giving a group of children (except for Leroy) a song like “Desperado” is simple – they don’t know it! Why not dress them in Renaissance outfits and force them to sing minstrel music instead? Aside from being an altogether dreary song, “Desperado” didn’t do many favors for anyone but Leroy (which, ahem). Paige Ogle and her endless dark roots sang like she was underwater. Gorgeous Dani tried hard but probably doesn’t have a voice that sounds good separate from autotune. Cari looked like Dani’s twin, but her voice actually has potential. I’ll keep an eye on her. Skyeler and his sweet little twang had no idea what to do up there, and he totally dropped the melody a few times. Leroy never opened his eyes, but he did get all the notes right and sounded good. He said in the interview portion that The X Factor is his last chance. Geez Louise, why are these people so fatalistic? Need I repeat my list of reality TV singing competitions?
Group #4 – Jay Z’s “Wish Upon a Star”
People whose names I managed to write down: Jennifay Joy Nichols is called Jennifay, Tinuke something-or-other, Lauren Ashley has an easy-to-spell name, “Reina” has dreads and a low voice, Brian Bradley is the worst
Now this was just wrong, giving a group a rap song when only 2 members can rap. I know that Brian Bradley probably needed something easy so he wouldn’t miss curfew, but really. Speaking of Brian, let’s hear what he had to say: “You give me about five more years. I’ll be better than Jay Z.” That Brian! Kids say the darndest things! Tinuke started us off with the melodic portion of the song, and I wrote that she sounded pretty but can’t even remember anything about her today. Then Brian started rapping over her, and there were timing issues. Then he forgot some of the words, which now that I think about it, was inevitable. Reina attempted to save things with her singing and rapping, making Brian look like a baby chump and leaving me in the awkward stage of deciding whether to be delighted or sorry. Lauren Ashley carried the song with her refreshingly pleasant head voice, and then Jennifay finished things up by looking a bit like Snooki. I don’t know. It’s in the face, I think.
Group #5 – Five for Fighting’s “Superman”
People whose names I managed to write down: L.A. didn’t “get” Tiger Budbill, Kompl3te (…), Nick Dean is a child, burrito chef Josh Krajcik, James Kelley and Thomas McAbee
The judges somehow managed to choose a song worse than “Desperado” for a show about finding a superstar. Well done. Brian Friedman pulled out a fuzzy vest to help this group of XY chromosome contestants. The only guys who made a good impression on me were James and Josh, who both managed to sing their parts with clarity and a bit of flair. Poor Nick Dean started the song, and he totally folded under the pressure. His singing started off horrible, and then it just faded away because he forgot the words. The desolate look in his eyes was Reason 1,877 That They Shouldn’t Have Kids on X Factor.
Group #6 – Every Lounge Singer’s “Feeling Good”
People whose names I managed to write down: Dreadful hipster Phillip Lomax, the actual worst Tiah Tolliver and her lips, misguided hair Nick Voss, gray-haired Austin Simmons, “performer” Chesi Spriggs, and cute Kelly Warner
Between Phillip, Tiah, and Nick, this group had enough awfulness to end the world twice. Steve made us remember Tiah, who must have nudie pictures of Simon somewhere because he threw a genuine hissy when the female judges didn’t want to vote her through to Los Angeles. Then there was Nick Voss, who acts like an Elvis impersonator but has Vanilla Ice hair and shaved out a chunk of his eyebrow. Phillip managed to sing decently in the opening, followed by Chesi, who didn’t sing that well and will probably never be seen again. I’m not sure what Austin sounded like because I was focused on his gray hair. Dyed gray hair. Because that’s apparently something people do now. Miraculously, Tiah managed to stop changing keys mid-song, which San Francisco Reid thought was amazing even though someone needed to tell him that even a baby can refrain from changing the key with a backing track. Her voice still sounded horribly unpleasant, but she had a lot of energy, and Nicole and Paula pretended that Tiah wasn’t awful anymore because women apparently can’t have opinions in 2011. Nick licked his lips a lot, and I don’t like him.
Group #7 – Whitney Houston’s “I Have Nothing”
People whose names I managed to write down: Pipsqueak Rachel Crow, Joshua Maddox, amateur magicians Illusion Confusion, failed out of school 4-Shore, De’quan Allen, Hayley Orrantia, and Ellona Santiago
I thought Randy always said that contestants shouldn’t sing Whitney … Oh, wrong show. My mistake. Steve made up a voice-over story about Rachel struggling with the song. Well duh, it’s Whitney! Everyone struggles with Whitney songs, especially 13-year-old girls who still shop at Baby Gap. Somehow, this scrappy group of singers pulled off the song without too much trouble. Even though Rachel struggled a bit, she managed to hang on and give it her best. De’quan is a mystery to me, but he sounded very nice. Ellona seemed to miss the key change in the chorus, though. It didn’t sound right. Kudos to the kids for finishing the song.
Group #8 – Snow Patrol’s “Run”
People whose names I managed to write down: Human rainbow Siameze, Jeremiah Pagan, Nervous Nancy Emily Michalak, not-quite-lovers Brock & Makenna, The Stereo Hogzz (zzzz), and Cesar De La Roza
I think Makenna might be leading Brock on for ratings. While he was trying to cuddle with her at the fountain, she looked stiff as a board and like the thought of his touch made her dry heave. Just saying. Brock is a lesson in unrequited love. Young Emily talked a whole bunch of drama about how nervous she was, and I eventually tuned her out. I can’t believe she expected to monopolize my time when I could watch Makenna emotionally abuse Brock. Siameze and Emily pulled off their parts rather well. Brock and Makenna were off. Jeremiah has a very high voice. Verrryy high. The harmonies at the end were hideous. To top off the episode, Emily angsted some more.
Tune in tonight (or tomorrow on my DVR) to find out who makes the Top 32. Sorry I missed so many recaps. We had a death in the family, and my mind was elsewhere. Does anyone else think this show is strange? Will Brian Bradley ever grow on me? What is more offensive – Tiah Tolliver’s huge red lips or her gapped teeth? And when the contestants live in the judges’ houses, are they actually living in their real houses? That just seems creepy to me …

Enough to get me over Seacrest? Hmm ... OK, yes. 

 Last night, The X Factor officially rolled into the United States, put on its parking brake, and started work on making this move permanent. And friends, I think this is one UK export that's here to stay. Idol be in trroooubbbbllleee now. T-R-O-U-B-L-E. How was I so easily swayed? Fatigue? Simon withdrawal? I don't know, but this show. This show! It's all the good things about Idol but with live audiences (!), no age limits (!), people who actually have to perform (!), and a British underwear model (!). Coca-Cola has been replaced with Pepsi. AT&T got the boot to make room for Verizon. Paula and Simon are now in a competition to determine who has better boobs. This is a whole new world! An X Factor world. Whatever the X Factor is.

Los Angeles Auditions

First, let's meet our judges. But don't get too cozy because the line-up will change.
Simon Cowell: Blah, blah, blah, we've heard this all before, blah, blah, blah, some shenanigans about him being the "most successful talent scout on the planet." Geez Louise, Simon. I know this is your show and everything, but tone down the narcissism just a tad, okay? At least until we get used to seeing your chesticles again.
Paula Abdul: Blah, blah, blah, remember all this from Idol, blah, blah, blah, still flirting with Simon like she's the girl getting her pigtails tugged in 2nd grade, blah, blah, blah, cleavage! So Paula's pretty much the same, only generously more coherent. Good for her.
Cheryl Cole: Blah, blah, blah, something about British pop music, blah, blah, blah, has a very strong accent, blah, blah, blah, it doesn't matter because Simon's going to ship her back over the pond.
L.A. Reid: I'll admit it now. L.A. Reid is kind of my new obsession. Sure, we have the at times extremely stern music producer to thank for Justin Beiber, but he's also worked with Pink and Mariah Carey. Plus, he's pretty much right about most things. I apologize now for comparing L.A. to Randy Jackson. They clearly have nothing in common, aside from the glasses, the bald heads, and the disconcerting tendency to name-drop big artists.

And now I must focus on host Steve Jones for a moment. Love. Him. I have a weakness for dark, handsome, and British guys. Meet Henry Cavill, the only reason I will watch the new Superman movie. Even though Steve's accent sticks out like a sore thumb, he's just so easy to look at. I still love Ryan Seacrest for being the most well-rounded worker in Hollywood, but damn, good choice, X Factor.

13-year-old Rachel Crow has sitcom potential in her future. Usually, I hate precocious children on my reality TV programming, but little Rachel is a sassy young thing. Dressed entirely in Baby Gap clothes and sporting a flower in her hair, Rachel explained that she wants to win the $5 million recording contract because "my family has, like, no money." Ah, good sweet honesty! So much better than "dreams" and "have to sing" and "wanna be a star." Good for you, Rachel. (And I love your name.) She sang Duffy's "Mercy" with a confident little strut that proved how much she wants her own bathroom. I wish I could sing for another bathroom. Allen and I are always fighting over getting in each other's way in the morning. I think that Rachel's personality with carry her longer than her voice, which was strong and undeniably good but in need of training. Still. This little nugget's here to stay for a while.

Rapid montage of successful auditions! In the blink of an eye, Terrell Carter looked handsome, sang decently, and got Cheryl Cole to double entendre it up about his ... package. Ellona Santiago is 14, has a difficult-to-spell name and nothing else to her credit because they only showed about 2 notes of her audition. And of course there was John Lindahl, 14, a skinny little thing with a gaggle of screaming girls in his corner who did a decent job with "Forget You" and fills that creepy Justin Beiber slot on the show. I am terrified of John Lindahl.

Sporting a lustrous Real Housewives hairstyle, Siameze Floyd (not the cat), 30, told us he wants to get famous and have an energy drink called "SiamEnergy." For you, Siameze, anything. His audition did funny things to me. It was ridiculous. He only sang every few notes in a whispery falsetto and spent the rest of the performance doing various splits in a mesh shirt. And by splits, I mean real splits. I was concerned for the man's scrotum. Backstage, Steve told the camera, "I can't take much more." But we did, and Siameze did, and by the end, I had somehow scrawled in my notes, "That was spectacular!" L.A. (probably rightly) gazed on Siameze with disdain and refused him, not because the audition was Gary Busey levels of crazy, but because it wasn't "original" enough. Yeah. Whatever helps you sleep at night, L.A. The others appreciated the absurdity, even though Cheryl was still unsure if the audition was "genius" or "weird." It was both, sweetums. And just a reminder: The clock's ticking on your job. Poor Cheryl was doomed. Dooooomed.

Then there was Simone Battle, 21, a beautiful young thing that may very well be a sign of the end times. I'm not sure. She described herself as a "threesome between a cheerleader, a hipster, and a drag queen." Well, at least she's self-aware. Dressed in bright red hot pants, Simone sang "When I Grow Up" and shook her tailfeather a little. The camerawork was slightly demeaning, but since Simone is pretty much awfulness embodied, I guess she didn't demand respect? Her voice wasn't spectacular, but she could sing. The stilted dance moves were awfultastic. She moved a bit like a sexy robot. Simon, who apparently has a deeply rooted compulsion to bring about the end times, loved Simone and called her "fearless." Yes, Simon, the monsters in horror movies typically are fearless. That doesn't mean you have to give them recording contracts. L.A. was all like, "No, this girl is the opposite of arousing. She actually makes my arm hairs burrow back into my skin and hide there for weeks." And Simon was like, "L.A., it's the show." But L.A. was like, "I'm a purveyor of talent, not wrath demons. I will not sully my name." But Simone made it through anyway. Don't give up, L.A. Vive la resistance!

Closing out the LA auditions was Stacy Francis, a weepy 42-year-old single mom who apparently couldn't afford waterproof mascara. Never again. She dated a guy when she was in her thirties who told her she was old and talentless. Naturally, she's just now getting over it. "I don't wanna die with this music in me, Simon," she said before her audition. Gag. Oh, whatever, go on, Stacy. Sing before the music backs up in your vocal chords and suffocates you to death. And sing she did. Belting out "You Make Me Feel (Like a Natural Woman)" with wild abandon, Stacy teetered the fine line between brilliance and cat in heat territory. For the most part, brilliance won out. But now that she's going to boot camp, she better check that screeching at the door. But I like her a little. She has a lot of heart.

Seattle Auditions

Oh, Cheryl Cole, we hardly knew ye! Simon packed her on a ship back to America, saying that he replaced her because she looked "bewildered" during the auditions in LA. Um. OK. I actually didn't mind Cheryl. She seemed genuine and refreshingly candid, but whatever. So who would be replacing the hapless Brit? "Yes. There's a pussycat in town!" Oh, Steve Jones, you cheeky minx, you. Enter Nicole Schwarzenegger Scherzinger and her endless supply of American American-ness. We will live to regret this decision.

Marcus Canty  practices his music on the toilet (his words, not mine) and believes that at the ripe age of 20, his music career will be over without The X Factor. You see, Mama Canty wasn't having any of this hoity-toity dream business. Marcus had 2 years to make it (2? Wow!), or else he'd have to enroll his cute behind in school. If only all stage moms were like Mama Canty. Fortunately for Marcus, he delivered a very entertaining performance of Stevie Wonder's "I Wish." He brought the house down and then promptly collapsed into a heap on the X Factor stage. Marcus, stop that! Stop that right now! Do not veer into d-bag territory right after I've decided that I like you. L.A. thought that Marcus was the 2nd coming of Bobby Brown. Simon thought he was the next Usher. Big shoes, Marcus. Big shoes. You better stay on the straight and narrow, or Mama Canty will get you an education. Literally.

"Boy band" The Anser (no, that is not a typo - it's how those idiots spell it) sang "Happy Birthday" to a totally humble, non-giggling, Nicole. And by that I mean that by singing to Nicole, The Anser somehow weaseled their way into boot camp. They were good-looking guys, but the positives ended there. The harmonies during their mash-up of "Rolling In The Deep" and "Till The World Ends" were painful to the ears. The one wearing the red condom hat did a decent job of carrying the melody, I guess, but no. It was bad.

Finally, we met 28-year-old Chris Rene, a trash hauler (politically correct term for garbage man) who just got out of rehab. 70 days clean and counting. Clean from meth. Oh, fiddlesticks. Is this really a good time to go on an exploitative reality competition show where the whole point is to carry an emotional narrative arc? Am I being a Debbie Downer? Oh well. Chris sang an original song called "Young Homie," which was suprisingly good despite sounding like every other song that plays on the only popular radio station in these parts. Well, that's good, I told myself. That means there's a market for the guy. I had to willfully ignore the way he did these strange hand motions that made it look like he was grabbing at invisible flies. I also had to willfully ignore his pathetically weak falsetto. But then, and only then, could I get behind the judges' enthusiasm. To Simon and L.A.'s credit, at least they told him to stay clean. I don't know how they plan to enforce that, but at least they addressed it.

Quick Rundown of the Absurd Auditions

Old people Dan & Venita proved that a couple can be both adorable and terrifying. Venita didn't seem all there. Like, I'm pretty sure she thought they were somewhere else. I don't know. L.A. regarded them with a vaguely sinister expression, but I can't blame him because their "Unchained Melody" sounded the brutal massacre of talking fairy tale animals. The teenage girls of You Only Live Once reminded me of the pain of my youth. One sang and the other one screamed bloody murder, kind of like the pop music was killing her. An older lady caused impotence in millions of young men by warbling "I Touch Myself" in the most inappropriate way possible. A man (read: sex offender) named Gio Godley stripped off his velvet pants to reveal what I can only assume was his nether region. That's ... that's a real sexual offense, right? I mean, by intentionally wagging around his man bits, he basically sexually assaulted the entire audience, didn't he? Something had to be covering it under that X Factor sensor, or security would have tackled him. Whatever was down there, Paula apparently got physically ill. I'm taking theories on what was under Gio Godley's trousers now. Tell me in the comments section. Some monstrosity named Nici Collins talked and talked and talked and sang like Cameron Diaz in "My Best Friend's Wedding." Simon summed up the reaction to mother/daughter group T for Two with this quip: "You just know they live in a field, don't you? Surrounded by no houses." Darren Michaels showed off his serial killer laugh and gave the second worst rendition of "Like a Virgin" I've ever heard. Finally, a group of dreery girls named The Sonnets prophesized impending doom with their version of Imogen Heap's "Hide & Seek."

That does it for the series premiere of  The X Factor. What did you think? Are you Team L.A. or Team Simon? If you were in high school, would you also hang a picture of Steve Jones in your locker? How long will it take for me to come up with a snarky bit for Nicole? And above all, is this better than Idol? The same? Worse? You decide! And for crying out loud, what was under Gio Godley's trousers? One episode in, and we already have a mystery on our hands! Tune in tonight for another 2 hour show.

 Yeah, the kitties are back!

The X Factor

Have you felt like something's missing in your life? Do you sometimes wake up in the morning, gasping for air, experiencing major withdrawal from a cheesy televised singing competition? Are the people in your life a little too nice for your liking? Do you crave the therapeutic effects of being exposed to acerbic British wit?

Well, perk up, my friends, because help is on its way. Simon Cowell is back! (Only on a totally different show. Totally different. Like, not similar to any other show at all.)

When we last saw Simon, he was taking immense pleasure in despising his job on Idol. You never would have guessed that he was getting paid millions of dollars to give his mean-spirited opinions. Granted, Simon was never a joyful ball of sunshine, but his final seasons on Idol were a little embarrassing. So he left to pursue greener pastures. And by greener pastures, I mean a show that has the potential to bury Idol for good. Remember a little show called Pop Idol? And you're probably saying, "No, Rachel. I have no idea what you're talking about. Quit assuming that I know." And that's OK because you aren't British. Pop Idol was the original Idol, the UK version that got this whole mess started. Oh, yes, Simon was well into his shenanigans before you ever heard of Kelly Clarkson. At some point, Simon decided - probably while fitting his newest black v-neck beside his giant money pit - that the Queen's people needed a bigger, better reality show competition about amateur singers. Voila! The X Factor, which has launched the careers of singing sensations like Leona Lewis and ... um ... Well, I'm sure there are more. The X Factor became a massive hit, and poor Pop Idol: The Original Badass faded into obscurity.

Now I'm not saying that The X Factor: USA will bring about the demise of American Idol. (I'm not saying it won't, either). But no. Conspiracy theories are beneath me. Besides, how much better can X Factor be? These shows are all pretty much the same thing presented in different wrapping anyway. My first love will always be the absurd dog and pony show that is American Idol. But ...

That doesn't mean I can't recap X Factor! That's right. On Wednesday, September 21 at 8/7c, I'll be committing my valuable time to America's newest singing competition. Expect drama! Snark! Mid-season meltdowns! Oh, Simon Cowell, it is so on.

But should you invest your time in the show, and by proxy, my delightful blog? Well, being the helpful sort, I decided to answer some of your burning questions about this new, radical show from over the pond. You're welcome. ;o)

What makes X Factor different from Idol?
1. Instead of the 15-28 age limit used by Idol, X Factor allows any person 12 and up to audition. And by "up," I totally mean that your grandma could go onstage and take America by storm.
2. The acts are not exclusive to soloists. So the next Taylor Swift can compete against the next Backstreet Boys. Oh, ye fates, what a revolutionary idea!
3. The auditions take place in front of live audiences. The preliminary auditions have already taken place, so the producers have tons of time to edit what we see. Simon wants to see how these people handle a crowd in his endless pursuit of the "X Factor," you see. I'm assuming that Simon's vision of the X Factor is a cross between Il Divo and Celine Dion. My goal for this season: Define the X Factor and make it my slave.
4. The winner, in contrast to receiving a Ford Focus and a very short career on Idol, will get a $5 million contract with Syco/Sony Music. In this video, Simon seems to suggest that he's putting up the $5 million for the winner. Ahem. I call shenanigans.
5. After the auditions, the remaining contestans will go to Boot Camp, which is probably like Hollywood Week only without the dapper suit stylings of Ryan Seacrest. At Boot Camp, the contestants will be segregated into groups (male / female / old people / vegetarians) and probably forced to compete by deathmatch.
6. Once the victors have wiped the blood off their weapons, they will be sorted into the Judges' Houses. Yes, the judges have houses. They pick their favorite contestants and raise them like little pups to become America's Next Mindless Commercial Hit. I have to see this.
7. From what I've gathered, the live shows will add more production value to the acts, like dancing and props and lights. Sadly, Idol's jaunty fiddle player from this season will not be attending.

Who are the judges?
Simon has assembled a crack panel of industry insiders, including ... SIMON COWELL! Oh, the narcissism! But lets focus on the other 3.
1. Paula Abdul because they're reunited and it feels so good.
2. Nicole Scherzinger - The one who sings for The Pussycat Dolls. I think she likes fringe.
3. L.A. Reid - ??? He looks like a thinner Randy Jackson who has better style. I would do more research on the man, but that would spoil the surprise.

Will this show eat my soul?
To be determined.

How will this blog be different from the Idol blog?
It won't be that different because it's still me. I'd love a good co-writer, but no one seems willing to step up to the plate. If you're out there, message me. I plan to create a different theme for this show. So say goodbye to the Tin Man. Shall I go with a fairy tale theme, perhaps? A noir theme? A soap opera theme? If you have an opinion on this, let me know.

So now it's up to you. Will you be giving X Factor a chance? If so, log on to my blog every day after the show for a recap. I won't be sending the post notices through email any longer, but I will post the link on Facebook. Please join me on what is sure to be a rollercoaster season and my neverending pursuit (and you know it will be) to define The X Factor. Accept the challenge, my friends. You know you want to.

The Official Site of The X Factor

The Victor Eats Glitter

In this year of Uncle Steven, many things have defied our normal expectations and launched into realms of awfultastic that were unknown until now. There were many contenders for the title of American Idiot: the guy who danced like he was being electrocuted, the growling lovebirds, the teen queen who may have sold her personality to the devil in the womb, the manic Southern Belle, the grown-up children. All of them gave it their best. But in the end …

TV Ratings: 'American Idol' finale soars, FOX dominates Wednesday
One Creepy Kid to rule them all, One Creepy Kid to find them,

One Creepy Kid to bring them all and in the darkness bind them.

Scotty McCreery, ladies and gentlemen, is your … American … Idol!

After a whopping 122 million votes (which, let’s be honest, I have no idea where they came from), Ryan Seacrest proudly crowned Baby Lock Them Doors the winner of Season 11. Can you feel the excitement? It was all very cute the way that Scotty took the news. After exchanging a platonic (?) liplock with Lauren Freakin’ Alaina (!), Scotty sang about every other line of his stupid “Love You This Big” single, opting to hug every member of his family, the other contestants, and the judges instead. Left out of the hugfest: Jack Black, who totally opened up his arms for one, yet was denied by the American Idol. Burned. Then Lauren Freakin’ Alaina (!) kissed the living daylights out of Scotty’s face (?), and he ended up collapsing on the stairs and catching confetti on his tongue like a child in a rain shower. Ah, the innocence of youth!

Scotty was a charming winner, that baseball-playing mama’s boy from the South. I hope he does well. Truly, I do. Once he hits puberty, the whole world will open up for him. Until then, let’s wish that Scotty remains the sweet boy that he already is mixed with the solemn man who once apologized to Jacee Badeaux for allowing him to be terrorized by Waldo. Scotty McCreery is one stand-up man-child, I tell you. Nice kid.

As for the rest of the show, let’s just dive right into it. Unlike last year’s Old Fogie Fest 2010 finale, this year’s finale packed tons of entertainment and (gasp!) modern stars mixed in with the Old Faithfuls. I didn’t get bored once. This … is … American Idol!

The Top 13 Do Multiple Formations to “Born This Way”
It’s so cute when they pretend they can dance. Especially James and Casey. They just look like flailing limbs. Paul’s presence was a welcome site, mainly because he kept deviating from the rigid dance move and doing his own thing. And since when did Ashthon look like a mini-Beyonce? Remember Ashthon? She sang some … stuff, right? This was one of the few times in the telecast that we got to see Lauren Alaina. She was mysteriously missing last night. I’m not sure what happened to her. I would have run and hidden after participating in such a worthless performance, too, but that’s, like, her job. I don’t know. It was nice seeing everybody, though.

Jim Durbin Plays Dress-Up with Judas Priest – “Living After Midnight” / “Breaking the Law”
I have no earthly idea why Jim Durbin was dressed like a male stripper / police officer. Sergeant Sexy Studs is taking you in. His strange outfit totally failed in comparison to Rob Halford’s cool trench coat. They had a lot of fun up there, though. Those boys. Jumping and screaming with fire. It’s always fun to watch Jim Durbin live his lifelong dreams, and I’m pretty sure he’ll remember his moment in the spotlight with Judas Priest years from now when he’s showcasing at tiny county fairs in Montana. Crap! Where did that mean stuff come from? Forgive me, Dawgs, I control not what my fingers type.

Jacob Lusk Meets His Soulmates in Kirk Franklin & Gladys Knight – “I Smile”
Oh, this was so joyful! I’m not kidding. I’m not being sarcastic. This trio, with help from the always dependable gospel choir, took me to church. A magical church where people jump and sing and shout with abandon. And Gladys Knight was stellar as usual. Jacob even controlled his melismatic tendencies out of respect for the older chanteuse.

Casey Abrams & Jack Black Compete To Be the Same Person – “Fat Bottomed Girls”
The world does not need another Jack Black, Casey. Nor do I need to watch the two of you scream in each other’s faces while surrounded by girls who, let’s be honest, weren’t all that fat bottomed. Moving on …

Ladies From the Top 13 (Minus Lauren) Do A Beyonce Medley (Plus Beyonce)
If you missed Thia Tequila after her elimination, fear not. She got a big solo. Karen Rodriguez Mi Casa? Totally featured. How about Pia? Holy schmokeys, that was a short dress! And Haley wore a red garter. Were these girls doing a Beyonce medley or auditioning for a burlesque show? They sounded really good during that medley, though. Better than they sounded when they competed, actually. It’s funny how things work that way. Beyonce took the stage at the end of the performance and forced the ladies to dance with her, which was kind of cute. This would not be last we’d see of Beyonce. Oh no, her night had only just begun.

Haley & Tony Bennett Act Adorable – “Steppin’ Out With My Baby”
See, Uncle Steven? This is how you’re supposed to treat younger ladies. No leering or perverted comments. Just sing with them and do a couple harmless dance moves. I loved this performance for its simplicity. It also gave Haley the chance to showcase her softer side with Tony (who is 85?!). The two of them didn’t miss a note, and it was tough not to get a feeling of joy from the whole thing. Well done.

TLC (Minus Left Eye) Is Back, I Guess? Oh, and Little John, too!
Holy 90’s flashbacks, where did they come from? I mean, one of their members is dead (Left Eye), and aside from the one’s smokin’ abs, they looked a little … less like they did in the 90’s. Plus, what was Little John doing out of Nottingham Forest? Shouldn’t he be helping Robin Hood fight the sheriff? Ohhh … I see. His name is Lil John. That doesn’t credit his appearance with any more sense. Don’t go chasing waterfalls …

Tim McGraw Teaches Scotty A Thing Or Two About Tight Jeans – “Live Like You Were Dying”
Well, I declare, Mr. McGraw, those jeans were downright … scandalous, I dare say. Wow. Faith Hill is one lucky woman. Scotty impressively held his own against the country superstar. Now all he has to do is a little weight training, wait ten years, and grow some facial hair. Then, and only then, do I think Scotty will be ready to fill Tim McGraw’s cowboy boots. They sounded excellent together, though. That may be the highest Scotty’s ever sung.

Marc Anthony & J. Lo Do The Marriage Dance For America
Whoo-ee! I need a cold compress after that mating ritual. I have no idea what song Marc Anthony was singing, but it put me in the mood to drink margaritas and do the Salsa. Did I know that Marc Anthony can sing so well? I don’t think so. When did that fact escape me? By the time J. Lo shimmied out onstage and started shaking her generous derriere, I was totally ready for a full-on fiesta. How hot is your wife, Marc Anthony? Now we know how that little gremlin nabbed the Most Beautiful Woman. He sang for her.

Guys From the Top 13 (Plus Tom Jones) Sing a Tom Jones Medley
This campy slab of cheese was too much fun. This season’s male finalists adapted well to the medley, allowing the silliness to help them along instead of deterring them. And gee willickers, that whispery Paul McDonald sounded good during his sinfully short “She’s a Lady.” Plus, I never realized that Stefano had such a lovely falsetto. The only one who seemed kind of tuned out from the party was Scotty, which is understandable, considering that the big news was looming over his future. Then Tom Jones entered, and … Nuts of wonder, his face! Cue horror movie scream now. What happened, Tom Jones? Yikes! At least he still sounds good, I guess.

Lady Gaga Does It On A Big Rock – “Edge of Glory”
OMG, that got a little graphic, don’t you think? I don’t. I don’t even. I don’t want to think about it right now.

Carrie Underwood Schools Lauren Alaina – “Before He Cheats”
Poor Lauren looked a little uncomfortable up there, didn’t she? I never considered Carrie all that intimidating, but I suppose she would be if I wanted to be her the way Lauren Freakin’ Alaina does. Carrie sounded great as usual, and Lauren sounded a wee bit scared. But most importantly, why were Carrie’s legs so orange? They looked like carrot sticks in her white shorts!

 I Told You Beyonce Would Return – “One Plus One”
Ah, simple math. Do tell, Beyonce, what one plus one equals. Two? We got a hot one tonight, ladies and gentlemen! A hot one tonight! Beyonce’s in it to win it! The song, with the math equations and the begging us to make love to her, was a little stupid, but Beyonce sounded great.

That Doomed Spider-Man Musical
Let’s ignore the whole Bono thing for a minute and discuss how freaking scared I got when that dude was launching all over the theater. Isn’t that musical cursed? All the people in it keep getting hurt. Safety first, Broadway. Safety first. It’s all fun and games until somebody loses a Spidey-Web. I felt a little bad for Reeve Carvey, the guy who actually plays Peter Parker (aka Spider-Man) in the show, because he had to take a backseat to that glory hound Bono. Sure, Bono sounded good. He always does. But nothing abated my anxiety that the dude in the Spider-Man costume was about to crash through the rafters.

Uncle Steven Reminds Us Why He’s Famous – “Dream On”
Well, even though he has trouble forming a coherent sentence, at least Uncle Steven can still sing. After several seasons of hearing Idol contestants massacre that song, Uncle Steven did us all a favor by wiping away the memories and singing it on his own. He even did the big finish. Remember that other time someone tried the big finish on Idol? Speed be with you, Uncle Steven and your scarf on a stand.

And now we have reached the end of the season. What a crazy carnival ride that was. After nearly five months of rambling to you about a reality show, I’m exhausted. It’s time for a break now. I hope you had as much fun as I did. Until X Factor, then.

Photo Credit: Fox

Scotty vs. Lauren: Blah

Image Credit: Michael Becker / Fox

Well, golly gee, Buffalo Bill Rangers, that was a tedious hour of television. In last night’s installment of Masterpiece Theatre, two creepy kids pretended to compete to become the next American Idol. It was all very desperate on the part of the show. The opening should have spelled it out for me with its footage of the Norman Rockwell painting kid and Little Miss Tuffet singing as wee ones while the show played eerie dramatic music in the background. The echoing and juxtaposition of the music with their innocent little voices made it seem like a scene from The Ring that had been left on the cutting room floor. Were you unsettled? I think we were supposed to be unsettled. Then the ghosts of baby Carrie Underwood and young chap David Cook made appearances, and I wondered if the video editor was trying to tell me something. Change the channel now, he seemed say. Nothing good can come from suffering through an hour of teen dream mediocrity. You don’t have to be a martyr!

Alas, Dawgs, I am a glutton for punishment. And willy willickers, was last night a chore for me (for you). The producers and judges pimped Lauren Freakin’ Alaina so much that the girl can retire at the ripe age of 16-years-old. It was all for naught, of course, because Scotty’s had this competition in the bag since the beginning. Poor Lauren could sing like a bird every night and still lose, while Scotty could kill kittens onstage and emerge the victor. Remember that pudgy guy who won last year? Lee DeWyze? Same story. Of course, if luck is on Scotty’s side, he’ll make a splash on the country charts. I don’t listen to country music, so someone will have to fill me in on his progress in the future. But if Kellie Pickler can make it big, anyone can! Right? Right. Ha. Lee DeWyze. That’s a funny memory.

Let’s name some creepy things that we witnessed last night: Randy’s disgusting jacket, Uncle Steven, Lauren’s wardrobe, Scotty’s eyebrows, LAUREN’S MOM, some creature named Taio Cruz, and a Nokia Theatre full of people pretending to be entertained. Oh, was that mean? I don’t care. That was the least memorable episode of American Idol I’ve ever seen. Did anything even happen? Did they even sing? I barely remember. Giddy-up. This … is … American Idol!

Image Credit: Michael Becker / Fox

Round One: Bore the Audience by Singing Songs We’ve Heard Before
No one likes this round, so I’m not sure why it’s still popular. I blame its continued existence on laziness.

Scotty “Nuts of Wonder” McCreery – “Gone”
As far as Scotty’s performances go, this was probably his best of the season. It’s a catchy song, and it gave him the chance to do some tough country guy posturing. By no means is the goofy-grinned Scotty a tough country guy, but I’m willing to work with his facial handicaps. This reprise was actually better than his original performance, and I credit Lady Gaga for his success. Between destroying Scotty’s perfect little world and prompting him to kiss crucifixes, she did make him stop holding his microphone like a taco. Small steps can make a big difference. I totally wish Pia Toscano was around to sing an inspirational song about this. Scotty jammed a bit with the band, but mainly that frisky fiddle player with the two-tone hair, and ended the song by swinging his microphone like a baseball bat. Not quite a homerun, Scotty, but I’ll give you a solid triple.

Lauren Freakin’ Alaina – “Flat on the Floor”
Does this girl really have the pipes and emotional maturity to be the next Carrie Underwood? No. But aw shucks, isn’t it fun to watch her pretend she can? But before I get to the performance …

Breaking News!
Before the taping of last night’s show, Lauren’s vocal cords were attacked by a vicious foe. The foe can now be identified as the heartless “Oversinging During Rehearsal.” Although Lauren’s life is not in imminent danger, we should know that a real doctor is keeping an eye on her. Thus, the very fact that she can take the stage and whisper is a miracle. Do not judge the girl on vocal quality even though this is a singing competition. Do. Not. Judge. Her. Voice. And now I’ll return you to your regularly scheduled programming …

Is Lauren really out of shape? I need an explanation for why she keeps gasping for air when she performs. If moving around the stage is too much for her, then she should stop. Despite her broken vocal cords, Lauren didn’t sound any different. I guess those drugs the doctor gave her worked. Drugs: Just say no unless you’re in a singing competition.

Round Two: Bore the Audience by Singing Songs Chosen by Invisible Strangers
This segment may have packed more of a punch if … oh, I don’t know … if we had actually seen or heard from Carrie Underwood and George Strait. What kind of rationale did they have for choosing those songs? What do they think of the contestants? Why is this show so boring? So many questions needed answers, but all we got was silence. What a weird show.

The Eyebrow Whisperer – “Check Yes or No”
Okay, so we’ve gathered that George Strait likes to hear his own music. What else? Well, Scotty got a chance to flirt with the type of young girls who think holding hands on the playground is romantic. So there’s that. Um. He sounded decent. Nothing else really happened. Scotty’s eyes worked overtime to keep my attention, but I remained unmoved by the performance. Afterward, I called my mom and told her how bored I was. She responded in the way that only a mom can: “Well, Rachel, if you don’t like it, you don’t have to watch.” To which I replied, “I have to watch! I have to recap this. The people are depending on me!” And then, after laughing at me, she said, “It is boring. That’s why I’m reading a book while they sing.” (Emphasis mine) Did you notice that the judges didn’t say a word until 8:30? What was the point of this? It isn’t like they would’ve said anything worthwhile, but still. I have routines.

When Fashion Attacks – “Maybe It Was Memphis”
Carrie’s song choice was far better than George Strait’s. It’s nice to know that she cares, I guess. Dressed in the world’s most hideous Toddlers & Tiaras costume ever (I seriously didn’t know they made those dresses in adult sizes), Lauren … Well, I can’t really tell you. The dress was all up in my face, and my mind kind of stalled there. I think she sounded okay, but I can’t write that with any certainty.

Round Three: Release the Crappy First Singles That No One Will Buy
Listen, my new heart tells me that I should be outraged on the contestants’ behalf. I’m not exactly outraged, probably because I think the songs they got stuck with were hilarious, but I will admit that this entire round was abysmal. Scotty’s song was clearly written for a five-year-old, and Lauren got saddled with a tune from Kristi Lee Cook’s failed album. The inhumanity!

Baby Lock Them Doors – “I Love You This Big”
How big do you love me, Scotty? The size of a donut box? The size of a helicopter? The size of the Empire State Building? Do us a favor, sweetie, and illustrate how big you love us by spreading your arms wide to indicate how, in fact, big, they say, you love us. Thank you. Was someone attempting to sabotage Scotty? I can’t imagine a fair world that would spawn such an abysmal song. It must have been created from the bowels of Elmo and Billy Ray Cyrus. Scratch that. I shouldn’t insult Elmo like that. Change that to Barney and Billy Ray Cyrus. Scotty, God love his little heart, did the best he could do with the song. He sincerely opened his arms several times, inviting America in for a group hug to get him through the horror. The range of the song wasn’t a great fit for his voice. But he finished it, and that in itself was an accomplishment. Wow. Poor Scotty. They really rolled the bus over him last night. I bet there will be a few surprised producers when he still wins.

The Pretty Little Princess – “Like My Mother Does”
Red alert! Red alert! Lauren Alaina’s mom is getting screen time. Repeat: Lauren Alaina’s mom is getting screen time. Shield eyes with creepy glare sunglasses in three, two … I haven’t seen this type of vote pandering since Scotty sang about 9/11. This was all so manufactured that I almost went into generic sugar-shock. Even Ryan Seacrest got in on the act, escorting Lauren down the steps like it was her cotillion so she could hug her mom. Don’t get me wrong. I love it when the contestants hug their parents. But was that choreographed? I think it was choreographed. It wasn’t nearly as touching as the moment during Scotty’s horrible single when they showed his mother crying in the audience. Not only did Lauren get the better song (which isn’t saying it’s good, per se, just better than Scotty’s), but she also got to pull on the heartstrings of moms everywhere. Just like Jimmy Iovine told us she would. Nuts of wonder, I hate it when they try to create a moment. And really, the song could have been sincere. Have you ever been strolling along, going through your day like nothing’s up, when suddenly you say or do something that reminds you of your mom? It happens to me all the time, Dawgs. I sound like her. I’m starting to look like her. That’s the inevitable conclusion to our lives. We all turn into our mothers (or fathers). And that’s okay if your mom is like mine. But poor Lauren Alaina. Her mom’s so creepy. The pretty little princess doesn’t even stand a chance. Lauren Freakin’ Alaina, meet your future. It’s called shopping for your clothes at the Baby Gap.

My Prediction

Scotty’s totally going to win this thing. If I’m wrong, then America is ridiculous for putting that young woman out in the spotlight so soon. Think of how different Lauren Freakin’ Alaina’s life would be if she’d been allowed to percolate for two more years. Now she’s likely to burn out at the age of 16. Not that I wish it on her, of course. That’s just how the Idol cookie tends to crumble.

Well. That was underwhelming. I shouldn’t complain too much because this season’s Children of the Corn gave us some awesome performance shows. Take a moment to remember our fallen heroes: Paul, Casey, Haley, Jim Durbin, Pia the Olive Garden dish, Dora the Explorer and her bilingual sass, Naima’s African dancing. We’ve shared many amazing moments, and just because these crazy kids are gone doesn’t mean they’re forgotten.

How did you feel about Taio Cruz and his silly song? Did anyone else wish David Cook could have taken one of the finalists’ places last night? Was Randy correct about Scotty and Lauren being in it to win it? Or has that phrase lost its original meaning? Granted, I hope that they’ve been in to it win it since the beginning. Why else would they enter a competition? That old badger Uncle Steven told Lauren she won the first round because she’s prettier than Scotty. Authorities, when are you going to do something about this? Tune in tonight for the 2-hour long results show! Yes. Two full hours. Smile, Dawgs. Scowling does not become you.



Idol-Induced Rage Tantrum: It’s a real thing!
“I hate Facebook and the voting of stupid teens who need their mommies and daddies to buy music but can vote 5 million times … 7.5 million kids UNDER 13 yrs old have Facebook accounts. At 50 votes each = ******* sabotage 4 anyone over 20. Idol needs to rethink this FB thing. F******.”
- The Incomparable vcbaoife in response to last night’s results

Screw you, Idol. You just aren't ready for this jelly.

Oh, this cursed show. We really couldn’t avoid the outcome, could we? Opie and Little Bo Peep: Your Final 2. This is where it’s been leading the whole time, right? From auditions until now, they’ve kind of been hinting that Scotty and Lauren would conquer the future. So now we are faced with the youngest finale in Idol history, a 16 and 17-year-old battling it out with some good old American country music. Nuts of wonder, I’m bored already. I don’t even. It would be easier if I didn’t recap this nonsense because, honestly, I probably wouldn’t watch next week if not for this blog. And my apathy has nothing to do with Scotty and Lauren’s talent. They’re both immensely talented kids. They’re just so boring, like watching paint dry on a humid day.

Tell me, Dawgs, how this promising year of the Children of the Corn turned into the year of Dreary Country Kids Singing about America. At least next week’s recap will be a no-holds-barred snark attack. You aren’t prepared for the things I’m willing to say about the season now. This … is … American Idol!

Il Volo – Some Italian Kids they pulled off the street are In It To Win It
Nothing says American Idol like three tragically average boys singing “’O Sole Mio.” Right? Right? I thought Il Divo was covering the market of young men trying to rejuvenate old music. Which member of Il Volo was your favorite: The smarmy baritone? The skinny kid with the stupid glasses? The chubby one? I’m going with the chubby one. He had the best voice of the three.

Nicole Scherzinger & 50 Cent Are In It To Win It
You can take the girl out of the Pussycat Dolls, but you can’t take the Pussycat Doll out of the girl. This song was such a non-entity that it isn’t even worth mentioning. What the hell was that noise? And why was that girl basically teaching sex education with her dance moves on a family show? I’m no prude, but if she doesn’t have a decent song to share, then I don’t want to see her silly stripper dancing. 50 Cent was also a non-entity, showing up for all of five seconds before he disappeared. I feel like this part of the show was a hallucination. It still hasn’t processed.

J.J. Abrams Is In It To Win It
This may also have been a hallucination. Was J.J. Abrams really on Idol last night? Like … why? And why was Jim Durbin there? Instead of being frightened of the movie, shouldn’t Scotty, Lauren, and Haley have been terrified of the ghost of the 4th-place finisher following them around?

The Hometown Visits Are In It To Win It
Tears Tally: 3 out of 3

Haley Returns To Wheeling, IL
The poor thing ended up in the rain during her hometown visit. I think that nature is rigged. What a cute thing Haley is. Such a free spirit. I loved how she was so concerned about all of the people showing up to see her in the rain. Haley seemed so unassuming about her newfound fame. She even tried to pass up the stretch limousine they had waiting for her in Chicago. I also loved the adorable banter between her and Aaron the Burly Bodyguard. “Are you crying yet, Aaron?” Haley traveled all over town, got a day dedicated to her, returned to her high school, and then paid a visit to Arlington Park for the benefit of 30,000 fans. Who else falls more and more in love with Haley’s dad with every week? If she ends up famous, he should totally be in her band.

Scotty Makes Grocers Proud
Between Scotty and his sweet mom, the tears flowed freely during his hometown segment. It was pretty adorable the way he quietly broke down in the limo, tucking his head against the seat like the man he thinks he has to be. Don’t be ashamed, Scotty. Cry. Cry like the wind. America feeds on your tears. How random was it that they took him back to the grocery store where he worked? There he lorded over all of the measly workers and customers, an American Idol in the heartland. Scotty officially has the creepiest fans, I think. Lots of crying women and girls. Why the crying, ladies? No one died. Josh Turner, original artist of Baby lock them doors and looking pretty hot, showed up to surprise Scotty at his concert. OMG, Scotty sounds just like Josh Turner. If only he looked more like Josh and less like Opie. (Too mean? Too mean.)

Lauren Evades The Police
“It wasn’t me! I swear!” she squealed while watching her escorts buzz around her vehicle back home. Oh, Lauren Freakin’ Alaina, if only it was you. Lauren’s mom made a soul-sucking cameo appearance during the hometown visit. Dios mio, her mom is creepy. That woman should come with a warning sign. I thought that Lauren’s hometown visit was the most heart-wrenching. She took the time to visit the tornado wreckage in the next town, and even my rusty heart melted a little at the emotional power of watching her reaction. Then she met with a little boy in a tie who saved his entire family from the tornado, and it was all too much. By the way, Lauren’s reprise of “Anyway” at her hometown concert was really good. I mean, it wasn’t so good that I think she’s emotionally prepared for the music industry, but good singing is good singing is good singing.

Paige’s Memorable Text Message of the Night re. Lauren’s Hometown Visit:
“This makes me want to barf.”

My Heartfelt Farewell To That Sassy Broad Haley Reinhart

Darling Haley,
Hot mess or not, you were one of the most interesting parts of this season. You’ve come so far. Earlier this season, I couldn’t understand a word you said. By the end, you stepped up as a kickass competitor. Sure, some people may find it unwise to talk back to Randy Jackson, but Dawg had it coming. Every time they stomped out your candle, you lit a bonfire. Bitches like us don’t go down without a fight. (Well, actually, I probably would, but I’m living through your awesomeness. My courage comes from the Internet. So just humor me.) Regardless of America’s questionable taste in talent, you had more Idol Moments than both of the remaining competitors. No one can take that away from you. And no matter what happens, you’ll always dress better than Lauren because I’m starting to believe that Lauren is partially blind, and her mom’s taste is too horrendous to help her. Keep that chin up, Miss Sassifras.
Your Late-Season Supporter,
P.S. – Watch out for Uncle Steven. His daughters are older than you, okay? I know he can be charming, but do you really want to get involved with all that fabric he wears? No. Only you can prevent bad relationships with aging rock stars, Haley.

Well, that’s the way the cookie crumbles, Dawgs. Are you happy? Disappointed? Apathetic? Wondering how you’ll stay awake next week? Remember that the performance show is on Tuesday night, not Wednesday. Jeez, Idol, pick a night and stick with it. How “in it,” say, are you “to,” what’s the term, “win it?” Only one week left, and then it’s time to prepare for The X-Factor, which I have officially decided to recap. You may celebrate in the comments section.

Two hours. Last night’s show was two freaking hours long. That’s bad enough, but if you’re like me and totally thought it was only an hour and a half, the torment is unimaginable. About halfway through the show, I was thinking, “Shouldn’t they speed things up now? This show seems to be taking forever.” And then it dragged on and on and on and on like there was no reason to hurry. Not until I went to bed and finally looked at a clock did I realize how long the show was. It took me a little while to believe it, too. I actually spent a few moments wondering if I blacked out at some point and was just waking up. Seriously. Nine performances in two hours? Is that really necessary, Nigel? Curse it. American Idol: Screwing up my bedtime since 2001.

Let’s discuss who was in it to win it last night. Or more importantly, let’s discuss the treachery of Ryan Seacrest encouraging Randy to make “in it to win it” his new catchphrase. Oh, what I wouldn’t give to hear Simon call someone “indulgent” just once. Since when did the things Randy says become cool? I’m not the only recapper who makes fun of that phrase, and I was under the assumption that people all over the world share my desire to see it go the way of Kara Dioguardi. But then I saw a shot of some kid wearing an “in it to win it” t-shirt during the hometown footage, and my heart rusted just a little bit more. Nuts of wonder, would any of the contestants manage to WD-40 my tortured new heart?

Last night’s format gave me many opportunities to fall asleep. I didn’t, but it could have happened. First, the remaining creepy children sang songs of their own choice under the mentorship of The Incomparable Beyonce Knowles. Then The Always Informally Dressed Jimmy Iovine picked their next tunes. Finally, the judges burdened the children with their notoriously bad song choices, and we had ourselves one hell of a time. There were a multitude of ballads, missed key changes, one pair of ripped pantyhose, several inappropriate comments from Uncle Steven, and one fall that somehow went over as the most honest moment of the night. Oh, and parents. Lots of parents. This is a family show, after all. Who are these creepy children who are vying for our votes and how did they do last night? I’ll break it down for you. This … is … American Idol!

Scotty “Nuts of Wonder” McCreery

Scotty McCreery
Kevin Winter - Getty Images

Age: 17
Hometown: Garner, NC
Favorite Things: Eyebrow contortions, Baby lock them doors, America, his mama, Jesus, baseball, and being many a woman’s old hometown regret.
Best Performance of the Season: “Gone” from Now & Then Week
In My Opinion, Scotty Is As Interesting As: Lightly buttered toast

His Pick – Lonestar’s “Amazed”
Ah, starting the show with a ballad. That’ll get some blood pumping in the old veins. Beyonce was very excited to meet Scotty because she’s a fan. Or so she says. Something tells me Beyonce is too busy being freaking Beyonce to spend time watching Idol. She isn’t some lowly couch potato like me. I can’t imagine her saying the words, “Shut up, Jay-Z. Scotty’s up and I don’t want to miss his performance. Idol’s important to me!” But whatever. Scotty managed his way through the immensely popular song without any major mishaps. His voice sounded rather strained during the chorus, but he didn’t miss any notes. My bigger problem was how he got behind the music near the end. Considering that they have a live band, I’m not sure why this was a problem. Ear monitor malfunction? Band director sabotage? I don’t know.

Jimmy’s Pick – Thompson Square’s “Are You Gonna Kiss Me or Not”
Gah. My country quota was filled after “Amazed,” but this is Scotty, so comatose symptoms are to be expected. I’m told that this was the moment Scotty became a country-rock star. That’s what the “in it to win it” parrot said. I want whatever potion the judges take to find Scotty’s performance interesting. Nothing against Scotty, who seems like a totally nice and talented guy, but this portion of the show is a black void in my mind. All I can remember are his creepy eyebrows and bugging eyes. Is it mind control that makes them gush over him? Something in the eyebrows, maybe. I’ll have to look into this.

The Three Buffoons’ Pick – Kenny Rogers’ “She Believes In Me”
There’s a hidden part of me that is pure Velveeta. That’s where I nurture my love for Kenny Rogers. Even though he now looks like a plastic orange covered in baking grease, that man’s music gets me every time. So while the rational part of me was wondering how Scotty could make the song relevant, the fabulous cheesy part was telling Allen how much I love this song. The judges chose it because they wanted to hear Scotty soar during the chorus. He managed it well enough. I mean, he’s no Kenny Rogers, but Scotty did all he could do for being a kid. Don’t worry, Scotty. Lots of “shes” out there believe in you. That’s why you’re going to win. If not for your voice, then because your dad is the most adorable thing since the last time Lauren Alaina giggled.

Lauren Freakin’ Alaina

Lauren Alaina
Chris McKay - Getty Images

Age: 16
Hometown: Rossville, GA
Favorite Things: Hair product, sharing clothes with her mom, Carrie Underwood, cooking omelets, poofy clothes, and pretending to be besties with Ryan “Peaches” Seacrest.
Best Performance of the Season: “Anyway” from last week
Mission Statement: “To be a star, y’all, so I can finally move out of the house and my mom can’t raid my closet anymore.”

Her Pick: Faith Hill’s “Wild One”
You know, I have a special place in my heart for teenage girls on this show. Sure, I criticize teenbot monstrosities like Thia Megia and That Teen Contestant Who Shall Not Be Named, but that’s only because I abhor what they have become. Lauren Freakin’ Alaina gets me right in the heart, though. She’s so young, so insecure, so entitled. And even though I think she fully believes that she wants to be famous, I’m not sure if that’s truly what she’ll want in a couple of years, once she has a chance to mature and escape from the grasp of her parents. When she’s on stage, there’s sadness in her eyes, a barely masked expression of fear. And while she puts on a good show, the veneer is starting to crumble. If Lauren Alaina really wanted this, y’all, she’d have more fun up there. Instead, she looks more and more uncomfortable with every week. I think that’s what Beyonce recognized the minute she met the girl. Although she’s shy in real life, Beyonce is a firecracker on stage. She knows that a performer has to put her insecurities behind her when it comes to performing. Can Lauren do that? Not in the clothes they give her, she can’t. She sounded a bit rushed during this song, but her vocal was good. The judges continued the fictional story that Lauren is totally in it to win it, and Lauren smiled, soaking up the praise like it was her life force. Fifteen minutes later, when the judges told Haley that she’d won the first round, Lauren’s face transformed from sweet southern belle to homicidal maniac. Yikes. How many times do I have to type that she isn’t ready for this. Will someone please listen to me?

Jimmy’s Pick: Band Perry’s “If I Die Young”
Someone needs to lose a job for the tent-like skirt Lauren wore last night. It was bad enough that we had to listen to “lean-to” Ryan talk about her pantyhose for long enough that I started to wonder if any laws were being broken, but then I had to deal with the constant fear that she would turn the wrong way and present America with a full view of her underpants. Beyond that, though, I thought this was Lauren’s best performance of the night. Even when she missed that key change in the middle, the moment felt authentic, and she kept going without letting it break her. This was a very astute song choice by Jimmy, who recognized that Lauren would blend well vocally with the tune while relating with it emotionally. Very well done. Let’s cover the important stuff now … Was she in it to win it, Randy? “Ryan, this one’s in it to …” Ryan’s soul shriveled a little as he was forced to say, “win it?”

The Three Buffoons’ Pick – Leann Womack’s “I Hope You Dance”
This song. Really? The judges, three industry insiders, couldn’t come up with a better song choice for Lauren than the one that inspired Scotty’s “nuts of wonder” mishap in Hollywood Week. Have they no mercy? The evil troll in the wardrobe department dressed Lauren in an aquamarine prom dress that only served to make her look like a little girl playing princess. Oh, so this was supposed to be like prom, huh? Well, I remember standing against the gym wall while all of my friends danced with their boyfriends to this song, unaware that my prince wouldn’t come until I no longer went to school dances (this is the first and last time I will refer to Allen as a prince). Thanks for the memories, Idol! No one was hoping I’d dance back then, the jerks. Oh, right, the performance! So Lauren sounded pretty, and everything went pretty much the way you’d expect a Lauren Freakin’ Alaina rendition of “I Hope You Dance” to go. I wasn’t blown off my feet, especially when I’m already so concerned that Lauren is miserable deep inside that fragile thing which is her mental state. J. Lo, on the other hand, got a multitude of “goose pimples” (they’re bumps, damn it – goosebumps) from it. Moral of the story: When J. Lo is cold, contestants get good critiques. When J. Lo is hot, Haley Reinhart must die. You know what’s fair? Telling Lauren she had the best round three performance before everyone had performed. That’s very fair.

Haley “Lipstick Massacre” Reinhart

Photo Credit: Fox

Age: 20
Hometown: Wheeling, IL
Favorite Things: Wearing cuter outfits than Lauren, making Randy stutter, growling, Casey Abrams and his beard, lipstick, sexy dances, kicking ass and taking names, and wind machines.
Best Performance: “House of the Rising Sun” from Now & Then Week
If Haley’s Life Were a Song, Her Anthem Would Be: Christina Aguilera’s “Fighter”

Her Pick: Led Zeppelin’s “What Is and What Should Never Be”
Aaannnddd best song choice of the night goes to … HALEY! Nothing beats a country snoozefest like some classic rock. Geez Louise, without this performance, I may have given up on this season altogether. I loved it, from the tentative opening that stretched her range to the part where she danced around the judges’ desk. But instead of gushing over how much I loved the performance, let’s focus on the part that made me laugh until the end of the song. She fell up the steps! Ha ha! Up them. Granted, I’m surprised that doesn’t happen more often with the heels those girls wear, but it was still hilarious because I’m a child who thinks juvenile things like falling are funny. How lucky was Haley to have her dad up on stage with her? They were so cute together. I think his presence helped her regain her composure. By the way, was the show trying to hide the fact that she fell? The cameras panned away the moment she started to stumble. Please, Idol. Nothing gains votes like an unfortunate tumble on stage. Or, if you’re J. Lo and need to justify an accident from over the weekend, music sometimes cuts out while you’re singing. OMG, that can’t happen to Jenny! Randy played a game during his critique in which he pretended he likes Haley. It was all very “sincere” and “convincing.” This one’s in it to win it, y’all!

Jimmy’s Pick: Fleetwood Mac’s “Rhiannon”
Why do we think Jimmy wears that hat all the time? Is he balding? Bad haircut? Premature gray streaks? What is under that cap? Does he have Darth Vader head or something, all scarred and vein covered? Somebody needs to make like Christine in Phantom of the Opera and tear off his hat during a live show. That would give me fodder for at least two paragraphs. Maybe three. Haley, though. Haley. I thought this performance rivaled her first one. Not everyone can sing a Stevie Nicks song and make it original enough to avoid comparisons. The wind machine ended up being a little much, though. It was cool for a little while, but then I started to worry that Haley’s eyes would dry out from the constant blast. Randy wasn’t sure about the performance because he likes big and loud things that go crash and boom. Shut up, Randy. That old badger Uncle Steven couldn’t stop thinking about Haley and that wind machine. Would she ever cease making his dreams come true?

The Three Buffoons’ Pick: Alanis Morissette’s “You Oughta Know”
Of all the songs in the world, of all the many, many greats songs out there, Larry, Curly and Mo saddled Haley with Alanis Morissette’s furious break-up anthem about none other than … Uncle Joey from Full House. Yes, you’re reading that correctly. Uncle Joey. He inspired the rage that has been mimicked by millions of angry women after a nasty split. Uncle Joey. Let that sink in. How inappropriate is this song for a family show? It includes the particularly wholesome lyric: “Would she go down on you in the theater?” And then Haley sang an icktastic line to Randy about running fingernails down his back. OMG, killing me softly. Vocally, this was one of Haley’s weakest performances to date. The verses were far too low for her range, and she lost track of the rhythm several times. For genuine nuts of wonder, I’ll give Haley a 10 for going through with it with a smirk on her face. She knew what the judges were trying to do there, and she wasn’t going to let them best her. Uncle Steven loved Haley’s vengeful side and declared her the best of the third round while the other two went with Lauren. Say what you will about how worthless Uncle Steven often is as a judge. At least he’s willing to voice a different opinion.

After the show, Uncle Steven returned to the wood-paneled study in his mansion, donned in an ascot and silk robe. Raising a cigar to his lips, he played the episode back on his television. Bloody Scotty, he thought, always surrounded by those lovely lasses. The one in the funny clothes is too young, but the other, the growling one … We could make music together, her and I. We could make music together.

My Predictions

I won’t be able to take an all-country finale. While Scotty and Lauren have large fanbases, Haley will probably pick up all the other ones. So I’m thinking Lauren Freakin’ Alaina will go because Scotty’s a boy. Of course, anything can happen at this point. We’ll have to wait and see.

Who was your favorite last night, Dawgs? Are you looking forward to the hometown visit footage? There will be tears. Also: Beyonce’s music video – fantabulous or awfultastic? (I personally think fantabulous.) You still in it to win it? Next week’s the finale, so gird your loins. There are a lot of ridiculous antics in store for us.

“God, I did so much stuff that’s never been done on this show before. In my eyes, in my mind, I did what I came here to do. Give Metal a chance.”
- The James Durbin Event, proving that he is both “humble” and “cognizant” of the fact that most of America really doesn’t care about metal anymore

James Durbin  Without You  American Idol Top 5  Video MP3
Crying: Jim Durbin did this sometimes.


How’s it going, Dawgs? You aren’t really all torn up because of Jim’s surprise elimination at fourth place, are you? As Ryan says every year, Chris Daughtry finished in fourth place. Daughtry. I wonder if he still has that creepy chin-strap beard on his face. I haven’t seen him since … last year on Idol. OMG. Will that be Jim’s ultimate fate? To grow a horrible beard and sing Nickelback cast-offs? I think I’d rather see him fade into obscurity. Let’s be honest. I doubt that America’s willing to give Metal a chance. We did that already, and we have the pictures of bad hair and leather to prove it. Sure, we like to revisit it when we’re feeling reminiscent, just like we’ll sometimes pull out the old ABBA tracks and dance in front of our mirrors. (You do that, too, right?) But does that mean we want disco to be a modern thing?

So how about the remarkable thing that happened last night? Two girls are in the Top 3. For the first time this season, ladies outnumber the men. Kind of refreshing, if you ask me. This whole boy’s club deal the past few seasons hasn’t really worked out for anybody, has it? Try to conjure up an image of last year’s winner real quick. It’s tough. At least we know that Idol viewers still know how to vote for the prettier sex. It was getting worrisome for awhile there, all those men surging to the top. Must all voting competitions be like political elections? America said no last night, at least in regards to fake reality singing competitions. Progress happens every day.

When Jim Durbin wasn’t crying about the end of his Journey, many people graced the stage (or the big video screen) to sing. Lady Gaga, Duchess of Fabulous, performed in her underpants. Enrique Iglesias seemed to have misplaced his mole and flirted with a gaggle of underage girls. Jordin Sparks lost a whole bunch of weight and shook her tail feather for all to see. And Uncle Steven, that old badger, has a music video out that features a monkey. “Only two weeks left until we take the big stage!” Ryan kept saying. Are you in it to win it? This … is … American Idol!

Your Top 4 Sing Country Duets
(I don’t think they were in it to win it.)

Scotty & James – “Start a Band”
I didn’t like this song at all. It was in a strange register for both singers, and the chorus was annoyingly repetitive. I kept looking at Allen, who repeatedly told me how much he hates Idol, and demanded, “Tell me you agree that this song sucks. It sucks, right?” James and country music go together like black licorice and guacamole. He shouldn’t even try it.

Haley & Lauren – “Gunpowder & Lead”
Let’s focus on how great Haley and Lauren sound together. Their voices blend beautifully, even though they come from different genres. It almost makes me wish for a Haley / Lauren finale. I enjoyed this Miranda Lambert tune way more than whatever the hell Scotty and James sang. It was feisty, and Lauren actually pulled off a convincing bad girl act. Where was that on Wednesday night, Princess? And holy hair, by the way. I haven’t seen that much hair-tossing since the “Hairography” episode on Glee. Work it, ladies!

Lady Gaga Performs “You and I” In Her Underpants

If only we were all so confident. Part of me wonders if the video of this particular song was a “take that” to Randy for complaining when Haley performed it last week. Now that I’ve heard the original, I feel even better about Haley’s interpretation. I think she did the song justice.

Enrique Iglesias Dances With Young Girls – “Dirty Dancer” / “I Like It”

Full disclosure here: Enrique sounds terrible live. And is it just me, or does he now look younger than he did in the 90’s? What the heck? Is Enrique Iglesias really Benjamin Button? And when did he lose the mole? Remember the mole?

Jordin Sparks Is All Grown Up Now – “I Am Woman”

I’m not sure if Jordin was focused on singing or auditioning for “So You Think You Can Dance,” but I was entertained the whole time. Funny thing is that I can’t stop thinking of her as the sweet-natured teenager she was in season 7. When she whipped off her silver trench-coat, I gasped and said, “Too much skin, Jordin! Too much skin! You’re just a baby!” The song was catchy enough, so I’m sure she’ll get some airtime from it.

My Heartfelt Farewell To The James Durbin Event

My Precious Jim,
That was tough for you, I know, the whole not being able to complete your Journey thing. From the beginning, you laid it all out for us like this: “A bunch of really horrible things have happened to me, and I have a dream. Only my courage and hard-work will help me achieve that dream, but also you, America. I did this all by myself, but I need your votes.” And America gave you votes. They gave you tons of votes even when you didn’t deserve them. Sure, I’ve been skeptical of your place in the competition since the first moment you cried about not having diapers for your baby because you were a struggling musician (and we all know that struggling musicians are incapable of finding real jobs). And sure, I may have referred to you as a Menagerie of Horror. And you are. But Jim, despite all that, you always entertained me. You’re the only person who has used pyrotechnics on Idol, and nothing gets my attention like fire. That time you cried last week made me laugh for a solid five minutes, and while that says a lot of bad things about me, it always says some great things about you. You, Jim Durbin, held my attention from the moment I hated your voice in the beginning to the times I started to warm up to you to the end when I decided I still don’t like your voice very much. But seriously. What are these things like “correct notes” and “staying on pitch” when you can make pianos burst into flames? Keep being that little kid who pretends to be a rock star. Never lose that innocence.
Best of luck!

Let’s start taking bets on who will cry in their “Going Home” segments. Scotty will cry. Lauren will cry. Haley may give someone the finger. This brings me to my favorite reader comment of the week:

“We are now throwing our votes to that bitch Haley b/c she’s a fighter and Idol deserves her wrath …”
-First text from vcbaoife

“Which she will no doubt heap on them.”
- Second text from vcbaoife

I’m totally on board with this sentiment. Kick some ass, Haley!

Every time that Randy Jackson says, “In it to win it,” a future Idol contestant loses its voice. That phrase. It chips away at my soul, throwing out all the things that were good about watching Idol and leaving a cheap, anemic version of Simon Cowell who can’t even sway the votes in a convincing manner. Remember the old days when Randy just shouted “Yo!” and threw people in the Dawg Pound? I miss those times. Now the show’s script is in the hands of an inarticulate gasbag whose greatest moment of honesty last night occurred when he patted his own back for being a member of Journey. I don’t get it. Rachel isn’t in it to win it. Are you in it to win it? How many of you are in it to win it on “Minute To Win It?” Questions for the ages.

Let’s discuss this week’s theme. “Songs That Inspire You” and “Songs By Leiber and Stoller,” or as I like to call them: Ben & Jerry, or Chip & Dale, or Simon & Garfunkel, or Hall & Oats. The list goes on and on. Every other duo in the world is more familiar to me than Leiber & Stoller. They wrote a lot of songs, though, didn’t they? Maybe songwriters should get more credit nowadays. Kara Dioguardi writes songs. Eh, I take that back. I’ve seen enough of Kara for a lifetime.

The special guest mentor was Lady Gaga (Gaga!), who never fails to amaze me with her general level of theatrical awesomeness. That girl’s nuts, y’all. Did you see her face? She had some type of prosthetic alien ridges on her cheek bones. I really want that woman’s magical powers. She goes all over the world looking crazy and horrible, and she makes millions of dollars for it. Beauty really is in the eye of the beholder when one can write super catchy pop songs and also has a hot body to distract from one’s face. Lady Gaga is the ring-leader in America’s Greatest Fake Show Ever. Ringmaster Gaga brought along her traveling circus act last night, and nuts of wonder, were they in it to win it. That’s what Randy the Talking Elephant said, anyway. In Ringmaster Gaga’s Fantastical Traveling Circus, even the animals can talk. This … is … American Idol!

 american idol final 4
Photo Credit: Fox

Your Top 4 Attempt a Number of Death-Defying Stunts

The James Durbin Event
Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’”
How “coincidental” that “Journey” happens to be the band whose bass was “played” by “Randy Jackson.” Jim said he chose the song because it reminded him of his long, arduous “journey” as The Event, and yeah, I can buy that. Jim’s life is a never-ending volcano eruption of doom. He’ll never stop believing, Dawgs. This one’s in it to win it tonight! Aside from encouraging Randy to sing along because he knows the words, which I found just a little bit annoying, Jim didn’t do very much with the song. The performance was far better than anything he did last week, but I still don’t think he can sing very well. That tone. It’s like he gets so consumed in his “I’m Jim Durbin! I’m important!” show that he forgets to concentrate on pitch. Plus, I can’t look at him. I know he can’t help his face, but really … that face. Can’t he pull a Bristol Palin and get a new one? (Too mean? Yeah, that was mean. I apologize.) So after Jim finished a third-rate karaoke impression of Steve Perry, the judges slobbered all over him like he had just reinvented rock and roll. J. Lo told him that he always sets the bar high, and Randy patted his own back by talking about the degree of difficulty in that song. Listen, Dawg, go to any drunken party, and people you never thought could carry a tune will sing that song like a champ.

Haley “Lipstick Massacre” Reinhart”
Michael Jackson’s “Earth Song”
This part of the episode was a dark (and awesome!) time for Idol. On one hand, Haley’s performance wasn’t among her best efforts. The 2 minute limit didn’t give her a lot of time to build the song, so it went from quiet intensity to screaming intensity in a jarringly short amount of time. On the other hand, what the freaking freak, Randy and J. Lo? Despite Haley’s faults, her performance was still better and more authentic than Jim’s. She exhibited a lot of passion during the song, and the screaming, while annoying to some, was similar to MJ’s original. Haley shouldn’t be immune to criticism, but neither should the remaining three contestants. This is the second week in a row in which Randy and J. Lo have attempted to throw her under the bus for song choice. As J. Lo went on and on (and on and on and on) about picking more “familiar” songs like Jim did with that song all the kids know from Glee, Haley’s expression grew darker and darker. Behold, Idol nation, what happens when a contestant is abused so much that she ceases to give a crap. By the time Randy started rambling on and on (and on and on and on) about the many reason he despises Haley Reinhart, it was war. Randy’s critique went something like this: “I agree with Jennifer, yo. The song just wasn’t working for me, you know? Like, it was way beyond your range, it was screechy, and you sounded like death warmed over. I like it when James screams, but you’re a lady, and ladies are supposed to sound like angels …” If he’d been allowed to continue, Randy would likely have said, “And you know, yo, I just hate the way you do your hair. And those shoes. Where did you get them? They suck. Why do you even bother on this show? Don’t you understand that I’m not allowed to let you win? Just jump off a bridge, Dawg. Put me out of my misery.” Haley, bless her little heart, gave Randy her best bitch eyebrows and fought back like she had nothing to lose. This only made Randy talk more, which is never a good thing, until Uncle Steven saved the day. I can’t believe I just typed that. Uncle Steven saved the day. “They’re both wrong,” he told Haley. “The audience loved it, and America heard it. Don’t believe them.” Randy tried to sputter out a few more words, but the audience booed him into silence. Fabulous.

Scotty “Nuts of Wonder” McCreery
Alan Jackson’s “Where Were You (When The World Stopped Turning)”
Ryan Seacrest, please stop calling this young man “Scotty the Body.” He’s a skinny, wee thing, and that nickname is gross. Stop it now. This Scotty kid, he’s a wise old man-child. With one song, he managed to invoke America, Jesus, simple men, and 9/11. You, sir, just got yourself a spot in the finals. I’m not saying that Scotty’s song choice was a stunt (I’m not denying it either). This is probably the type of music that really makes Scotty feel real feelings, and I can respect that. I still thought the performance was soooo boring and soooo safe. I think that I exerted more energy making coffee this morning than Scotty did on that song. But really, America, Jesus, simple men, and 9/11 did all the work for him. The judges, of course, thought it was brilliant. If only that heathen Haley picked high-energy recognizable songs like that, they wouldn’t have to criticize her all the time.

Lauren Freakin’ Alaina
Martina McBride’s “Anyway”
Princess Lauren wanted to sing this song for the victims of the natural disasters in the South that make Jim Durbin seem like the luckiest man on earth. Good for her. Not enough people are talking about the tough times down there, and I imagine it hits especially close to home for her. Remember that whole story about how Lauren is afraid of singing high notes? I still don’t buy it. She soared through the high notes during this anthem effortlessly, creating one of her best moments since “Candle In The Wind.” For once, her breath control was close to adequate, and she managed a lot of feeling beyond her typical act of bubbly southern belle. Randy couldn’t believe how in it to win it she was. Like, sometimes contestants are so in it to win it that Randy can’t even process how in it to win it they are. Unfortunately for Lauren, Ringmaster Gaga’s tigers must have gotten to the bottom of her dress because it was totally missing. This leads us to my first fun text conversation of the night:

Me: Her dress needs burned in a fire.
Sister-in-law Paige: Ha … Tom just said WHAT IS SHE WEARING! Who is her fashion advisor?
Me: Probably her mom. Or a drag queen.

Haley “Lipstick Massacre” Reinhart
Shirley Bassey’s “I (Who Have Nothing)”
Ringmaster Gaga wanted Haley to amp up the drama factor. “I want you to go a little psycho with it.” Thank you, great Lady Gaga, Countess of Fabulous, for guaranteeing that I remain entertained. For realz, can this woman replace Iovine? I wouldn’t miss him. Haley has more than a little Gaga in her, I think. Surrounded by a background of stars and supernovas, she wore a very dramatic black dress and delivered a poignantly chilling performance. Whoever that woman loves should be scared. Very scared. She clearly illustrated that there’s a fine line between affection and obsession. She may have been singing this while envisioning murder fantasies of Randy and J. Lo. Who knows? Whatever she was doing, it worked like a charm. She skirted effortlessly through the high notes and committed 100% to the performance. Afterward, the real dog and pony show started. J. Lo tossed her juggling balls while riding a unicycle: “That’s what we were asking for all along, Haley! It’s always so much better when you listen to us!” Sigh. J. Lo, I sincerely doubt that your comments twenty minutes before Haley’s pre-planned performance had anything to do with her success. Randy balanced a giant beach ball on his trunk and puffed out a great gust of air so Ryan could catch it: “I didn’t mean to offend you before, Haley, you loser. I just know that you’re capable of greater things, but you’ll always suck.” Ryan did some fancy acrobatics in order to force Haley to cozy up to the judges. She wanted none of it. The only one she touched with any affection was Uncle Steven, who after sticking up for her earlier in the show, smiled inwardly. Perhaps he had finally won that sassy broad’s heart.

Scotty “Nuts of Wonder” McCreery
The Coasters’ “Young Blood”
Oh, Ringmaster Gaga tried her very best to corrupt Scotty, but the refined gentleman wasn’t biting. She kindly instructed Scotty to stop holding his microphone like a freak and start singing right into it. Apparently, the only way to describe singing straight into a microphone was to tell him to pretend it was a delicious hot dog. That made Scotty’s eyes bug right out of his head. Was that a – was that a … d-dirty joke? Quick, kiss your crucifix, lad. Ha! I would totally watch a reality show based on Scotty and Lady Gaga traveling the country together. She would probably destroy his world on a daily basis. The performance was … very unsettling. Let’s just say that Scotty was the clown of Ringmaster Gaga’s Traveling Circus. The singing was perfectly fine, but those eyes. Dawgs, those eyes. He looked at all of us last night, and I didn’t like it. They poked around that stage like daggers, forcing innocent bystanders to look into them. “I’m quirky!” Scotty said with those eyes. “I’m a zany country guy with a sense of humor! Look into my eyes, and I will eat your soul.” Gah. I need a mental bath. I don’t understand a world where that was okay, but Haley gets persecuted for “Earth Song.” My brain hurts. Let’s just move on to my other fun text conversation of the night:

Vcbaoife: Is there any way that James can lose this competition?
Me: Scotty. Scotty can beat him b/c he loves America and apple pie and his mama.
Vcbaoife: And he kissed his crucifix so he has the higher power vote 2 I guess.

Lauren Freakin’ Alaina
Elvis Presley’s “Trouble”
Poor Princess Lauren. I don’t think she’s very smart. She chose “Trouble,” which includes the lyrics “I’m evil” multiple times, but she didn’t want people to think she’s evil. Holy grits and collard greens, Lauren, you’re the one who chose the song! That’s what it’s about! And singing a song with the word evil in it doesn’t automatically make you evil. It’s a song. Nuts of wonder. Ringmaster Gaga had this look on her face, like she was thinking, “Sweetie, stop being stupid.” But she kindly explained to Lauren that she could act and have fun with the lyrics without making people think she’s evil for realz. So Lauren gave it her best shot, seeking out her dark side on the Idol stage. I found her more convincing during her entrance, and then she kind of lost her sass in the end. Lauren has trouble keeping up with faster tempos, so she tends to get distracted. Perhaps “Trouble” was too big a stretch for peaches ‘n cream Lauren. It kind of reminded me of those performances you see the kids do on Toddlers & Tiaras where the creepy moms have taught them inappropriate sexy moves. Like Miley Cyrus dancing on a poll at the MTV Music Awards, Lauren was totally wrong for the role of evil sassy-cat. (Yes, I just made up the term sassy-cat. No, I’m not taking it back.) Uncle Steven wasn’t all that convinced by Lauren’s dark side, but of course he loved her anyway.

The James Durbin Event
The Clovers’ “Love Potion No. 9”
Ringmaster Gaga wanted Jim to loosen up on stage, which led to a very awkward moment when she got behind him and moved his hips. For some reason, touching Jim Durbin’s hips seems unclean to me. I mean, I’m sure his fiancée does it all the time, but yuck. Then Jim proceeded to go up onstage and do his best Adam Lambert impersonation. He even used the staircase! I’ll give him credit for giving the song his rocker edge. The opening was modernized and fun. I lost interest when he started acting all arrogant, though. Sure, the start and stop thing at the end was fun and dramatic. But Jim, you have to sing way better than you do to earn my enthusiasm. Nevertheless, what does my opinion matter? The judges loved it because they love everything that isn’t done by Haley. I don’t mean to seem bitter, but is this really a world where Jim Durbin will become a superstar? Just … we’d have to look at him, you know? Are we that evolved as a species?

My Prediction

If the judges get their way, Haley will get the boot. If the judges’ comments backfired the way I think they did, Princess Lauren will have to be home before midnight.

Who were your favorites last night, Dawgs? Is Randy annoying you, too? Did anyone have more fun that Casey Abrams in the audience last night? Maybe Paul McDonald, who groped Nikki Reed the entire time from their seats behind the judging desk. I guess they really are dating.


The Elimination of Jacob Lusk

Princess cupcakes are the best!

It was a dark, dark night, Dawgs.

Once upon a time, there was a pretty wittle princess. Her parents had the greatest kingdom in the entire world. They wanted to teach her great things one day, like how to take criticism like a grown up and how to become a fully functioning adult before wasting away her soul in pursuit of fame. Yes, they had great plans in store for the princess, but all those plans were ruined when they took a vacation to an evil, wretched land called Hollywood. In Hollywood, the pretty princess grew enamored with fame. She strived to garner acceptance from all the commoners around her. Every teenage girl knows that the approval from her peers is far more important than a little known thing called dignity. Whatever that means. No. The pretty princess wanted to be famous more than she wanted to one day marry Justin Beiber and cook omelets for him in their beachfront home. She wanted to be your American Idol.

So the pretty princess worked and worked, strived and strived, begged and begged for America’s approval. She giggled, sang like a bird, giggled, let a wicked witch dress her up like a street walker, giggled, and flirted with that disgusting old warlock who claimed to be a rock star. The pretty princess sacrificed everything for America’s love. But then the dark night arrived. The pretty wittle princess stood under the gleaming lights, her lower half covered in an unfortunate skirt supplied by the trolls in the wardrobe department. Sweat trickled beneath her golden hair. And then the charming dwarf who hosted the show, a dwarf she had taken to calling Peaches, turned on her. He touched her shoulder, pretending to give her comfort, and then cast her into the Pit of Despair. The Bottom Two!

The pretty princess cried a million tears. She cried and cried and cried until little ponds formed at her feet. Gazing at her reflection in the ponds of tears, she wondered, What did I do? Why does everyone hate me? This isn’t like homecoming court at all! But the dwarf took mercy on our pretty princess. He reached a hand into the Pit of Despair and pulled the pretty princess to safety. “It’s okay, Pretty Princess,” he said. “We’re cutting the very loud giant instead. You’ll live to see another week.”

But the poor pretty princess was forever changed by her appearance in the Bottom Two. She cried a million more tears, unsure if she could trust anybody ever again. Would she make it another week? Would she get her happily ever after?

May 5, 2011: The day Lauren Freakin’ Alaina proved that she totally isn’t ready for show business.

Aside from watching the destruction of Lauren’s soul, we also saw a whole lot of J. Lo, the return of Gordon Ramsey after the Langone Mom Debacle several weeks ago, and the book that Uncle Steven apparently wrote. Wow. Good for him, I guess. Ryan reminded us that Randy is nothing in life but the annoying judge on Idol, but since he’s in it to win it, it’s okay. Oh, and Jacob Lusk’s clock struck midnight, so he had to climb in his pumpkin carriage and go home. This … is … American Idol!

The Top 5 Do Horrible Things To “Happy Together”

Nuts of wonder, that was painful. The boys sounded especially abysmal. Jacob’s voice is naturally so loud, and he can’t blend at all. Blech. No more writing about this. I’d rather hear Sheryl Crow’s “Soak Up the Sun” all day than listen to that group performance ever again. And we already know how much I resent that song.

Lady Antebellum – “Just a Kiss”

This song is adorable. No lies. It makes me smile. Can I vote for the members of Lady Antebellum for the rest of the season?

J. Lo (featuring Pitbull) – “On the Floor”

Okay, Dawgs, I’m going to shock you now. Even though the producers tried so, so hard to convince us that the performance was live, going so far as to have J. Lo re-enter the show late, it was totally pre-taped. Ahhhhh!!!!! What do we do when reality TV isn’t real anymore? My brain is meeelllltttiiinnnggg! I think that J. Lo was only lip-synching a little, so props to her. Let’s not delude ourselves enough to believe she’s an actual singer. The dancing gets two glorious thumbs up. Only J. Lo can writhe on the floor with a platoon of half-dressed men and keep her hair looking so lustrous.

Jimmy Iovine Describes His Hate For The Contestants

He was the first one to make Lauren cry last night. I don’t think she’ll forget that. Jeez Louise, the way she acted when he predicted she’d be in the Bottom 2, you would have thought he’d just murdered her puppy. Lauren, precious, Jimmy wears a baseball cap to work, and he isn’t playing for the Yankees. His opinion should mean very little to you. Jimmy thought that Haley won the night with her performances, and I shouted “Thank you!” at the TV when he called Jim Durbin out for poor singing. At least one person on the show is willing to admit, although I still don’t understand how Jimmy rated him 8 out of 10.

Hell’s Kitchen Meets American Idol

Gordon seemed a little more sensitive during this segment last night. During his real show, he spends a massive amount of time screaming obscenities at the competitors, so his gravest sin of spitting out Scotty’s omelet almost seemed classy. I predicted that Lauren would win the challenge because she seemed really confident when she got her supplies. She probably makes delicious grits, too. (FYI, I have no idea what grits are.) And for the record, I wouldn’t have touched Jacob’s asparagus, lobster, and tomato omelet with a ten foot pole. It looked like vomit.

My Heartfelt Farewell to Jacob Lusk

Dearest Jacob,
Even though you’re a bit like the sloppy relative who overstays his welcome, I’ll still miss you. At one point this season, I actually found you refreshing. So that was good. We won’t talk about the times after that, the times when you sang so loud and so hard that you broke the sound barrier and created a new dimension. This is a “heartfelt” farewell; not a hate letter. I suppose that, like you said 5 weeks ago, America never got up the nerve to look in the mirror. If I’d spent more time looking in the mirror, I suppose I would have understood how awesome you are. I’m sorry, Jacob. We failed you. I admired the way you left the show, though. Oh, no, Jacob Lusk will not go quietly into the night. He will sing until he’s damn well ready to stop. Just sing and sing. Sing, sing, sing. Add a few runs and scats in there and just sing away. Oops, the show just cut you off! Keep singing anyway! I’d like to teach the world to sing in perfect harmony. I’d like to hold it in my arms and keep it company. You’re a delicate piece of special, Jacob. Never forget the good times.
Your Almost Fan,

Next week’s theme is the songbook of Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller. If you’re like me and don’t recognize those names at all, all you have to know is this: They wrote some songs for Elvis. Just in case the contestants missed some oldies this season, we’re going back to make sure they pick up the stragglers. The guest mentor will be … wait for it … Lady Gaga. OMG, please tell me that she’ll be allowed to dress the contestants!

Sound off in the comments, please! I miss your feedback, Dawgs!