The other night, a crippling snowstorm hit Chicago, way more crippling than the sad little Snowpocalypses you East Coast whiners are heroically enduring. It knocked out my cable, and no cable means no American Idol, since I’m not smart enough to work the regular-channel TV settings anymore. That means I have no idea what happened on Idol Wednesday night, which made it impossible to generate surly rants about the show. So you’ll just have to use your imagination to figure out what I thought of Idol‘s trip to Austin, Texas. My previous Austin experience mostly revolves around the bleary, excited exhaustion that comes from seeing, like, Explosions in the Sky and Bun B in quick succession at SXSW, and then dropping into a coma when I get done writing about it at 6 a.m. So I’m going to just assume this Idol auditions episode was exactly like that. I mean, it had to be, right?
Fortunately, my cable clicked back on just in time for me to enjoy the all-snark L.A. episode of Idol, and I’m pretty sure my soul is broken now. It’s easy to make fun of Idol‘s tearful, sympathy-grabbing origin-story video packages, but those things, when they’re done right, add some emotional weight to the proceedings. At the L.A. audition, we didn’t get a single one of those stories. When the producers realized what was going on there, they should’ve flown in a kid who’d been raised by dinosaurs, or maybe a single mom who’d lost her toes to frostbite. Something. The closest thing we got to a sad story was a guy who did a James Brown impression and who was visibly deranged. The show’s cameras lingered on him way too long. When none of these people come with an inspirationally tragic backstory, all we have is a big group of people who really, really want attention. The only difference between the point-and-laugh freaks and the success stories is that some of them could sing. Though in this case, not too many of them.
In the long trainwreck that was the L.A. audition show, the only made-it-to-Hollywood auditions that really stuck with me was Heidi Khzam, a belly dancer hot enough to get one of those Speedy Gonzales cat-calls from Steven Tyler. I think she sang pretty well? I honestly don’t remember. It’s pretty embarrassing. We also got Tim Halperin, a perma-grinning goofball with a pretty good white-guy R&B voice; he needs to do something about that grin if he’s trying to make me not hate him. And then there were the Gutierrez brothers, two Mexican Irish twins who look exactly like each other and who also looked like they were about five seconds away from making out with each other. I’m glad that didn’t happen.
But oh, there were failures. There were the two obviously gay guys, who both sang horribly and who were weirdly introduced as “friends”, possibly just because one of them came with his parents. There was Matt Frankel, a fat guy with an unfortunate neck beard who raps appallingly (“let your body reach a climax”?); given all this, the show still made fun of him for taking the bus, like we all take yachts to work in the morning or some shit. There was one guy who, judging by the strategic placement of an Idol logo, whipped his dick out in front of the judges, who were surprisingly sanguine about the whole thing.
Two of those deluded abject failures actually had the good sense to call some of the judges on their bullshit afterward. A girl with a strangled-cat yowl made the perfectly valid point that J.Lo can’t sing. She is entirely right. As a singer, J.Lo is quite possibly the worst guest in Idol history (it’s down to her and Flo Rida). Now she’s a judge, which is weird. The contestant in question was at least kind enough to avoid mentioning J.Lo’s performance in Monster in Law. That movie is some garbage-ass garbage. And then the obviously batshit Tynisha Rhodes made the point that Randy Jackson is “all about giggles.” Also true!
Throughout the audition process, Randy has been doing his best to turn into Simon Cowell, and it’s not working. While someone on the panel needs to be OK with being mean, he doesn’t need to be a dick about it. Randy has adapted this facial expression that tells us he can’t believe some people have the audacity to suck. But instead of the great puzzled reaction shots Simon would always give, we get a big mirthless belly-laugh from Randy. When Tynisha Rhodes wouldn’t stop singing, he first stormed out of the room, then he tried to forcibly take away the shitty fake toy microphone that she brought with her. What an asshole!
People have been making the point that Jennifer Lopez is looking good on the show, and people are right. While she’s nowhere near her U-Turn-era hotness peak, the daisy dukes she was wearing through some of the show were a big win. Unfortunately, she eventually switched that up for a combination of white headscarf and gigantic jewelry, which made her look like someone’s rich, mean grandma. As for Steven Tyler, he wore an Aerosmith shirt through part of the episode, which makes him some sort of evolved, unkillable version of that guy.
Oh, and there was also something about MySpace? People auditioning on MySpace? I didn’t get it.