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The gospel
according to...Mandisa?

The gospel
according to...Mandisa?


"Jesus Take the Wheel," as Carrie Underwood would sing--because on this week's American Idol there were some serious wrong turns. Part 6 of Dave White's continuing AI wrap-up

I have blind gossip items and I'm going to share them. That's one of the perks of being a bottom-feeding entertainment journalist in Los Angeles. You're always meeting some half-drunk and fully disgruntled person at a party who works behind the scenes and is willing to cough it up after half a dozen beers. Here's what I learned this week from someone who works for American Idol...

Item # 1: One of the stronger male contestants is not exactly who he portrays himself to be. His endearing presence is more for the cameras than anything else. Item # 2: One of the female contestants is guilty of the exact same sort of image-pumping fakery. Item # 3: Another male contestant is not especially well liked by most of the people involved with the show.

Guess with your friends! It's fun and easy and will take your mind off the war and your eroding privacy rights. And, no, I'm not mentioning names. That's why they call it a blind item.

On to the crappy singing. And this week--songs of Right Now!--was insane with it...

Kids, remember how they told you in that secular humanist public school you went to that it was very, very important to have simply oodles of self-esteem and that you could do anything you set your mind to and that anyone who got in your way was just an obstacle, jealous of your shining talents? Well, they might have overstated their case just the eensiest bit. Because, see, truth is that you're not so special or unique or wonderful, really. At all. You're just not. No one is. Oh, you can sing pretty well? That's nice. So can 10 jillion other people. Oh, and you say you want to sing a Kelly Clarkson song tonight? Sure! Why not? That's not a loaded gesture or anything. Because you're uniquely, magically you and your version is going to be your own. Everyone will see that when you're done. You'll transform a fresh-on-everyone's-mind hit from the very first and most beloved American Idol winner to date and erase its memory from the public's consciousness. From now on people will say, "Oh, yeah, 'Because Of You,' that Lisa Tucker song? I love that song! It makes Kelly's five-times platinum album version sound like a demo. Plus, Kelly's all old and stuff now, nearly 30, practically dead. Long live Lisa!"

The judges rip into little Miss Tucker and she makes a pouty face. How dare they!

Pick Pickler is up next, cute-ifiying a big hit from country radio called "Suds in a Bucket." I know this doofus song because I genuinely dig country music. But the judges clearly do not, so they rake her over the coals. Simon even mentions "lassoing." British people are adorable when they're being dumb. But the problem isn't the stupid song. The problem is, was, and will continue to be Pickler. I already attacked her makeup once, and though it remains thick and barfy, I'm not going to harp on it again. Today I choose instead to harp on her overall performance aesthetic. See, country music is essentially soul music for toothless white people. It's based in pain. And therefore the coolest country singers are capable of conveying that barren landscape of the soul with a few carefully selected vocal signifiers. My favorite one is the sort of yelpy, yodely, cracked-voice thing. It's a staple of country sadness, and Pickler is either incapable of it or chooses not to go there. She'll never be Dolly or Patsy or even Leann Rimes. And she doesn't want to be. She wants to be Faith and Shania and Martina McBride, all of them fancy ladies and complete bores. Pickler wants to be one too. Of course, she'll have to learn to stay on key. Or not. Faith never does.

Ace is "going to show America a little more of a rock edge" tonight. Ace is running scared, it's clear, unraveling like a ball of really dumb yarn. You never knew that yarn could be dumb. But this is Ace's yarn. He's living in Daughtry's shadow and his decision to cover "Drops of Jupiter" by cruddy band Train is the sad evidence. Ace's wimpy delivery makes Train look like Norwegian black metal by comparison. He's also been taking indicating lessons from Elliott, touching his hair when singing the line "drops of Jupiter in my hair" and a playing peek-a-boo with a difficult-to-see scar on his chest when the word "scar" pops up in the song. I hope that when he gets to the part about "the best soy latte you ever had" that the on-camera coffee-getting guy from Isaac Mizrahi's talk show brings one to him and throws it in his face. When it's over Paula gets super horny for Ace and says, "Is that a scar you were showing us?" Ace leans into female attention like a plant to the sun.

"Yes, that's a real scar on my chest," he says (emphasis mine, but just barely).

"Someday you're going to have to tell me how you got that," says Paula, sweetly. Suddenly it's all Basic Instinct 2 in the house. Simon and Randy jump in to reprimand her. Paula gets defensive. Cut to Corey Clarke in the audience rubbing his own nipples. OK, I made up that last part.

Taylor Hicks is up next. Cut to a super-fan-child down front with fake gray hair. Seacrest points him out. Taylor must be used to shocking young children into being prematurely gray because the sight of the child delights him. He thinks it's the kid's real hair, and he encourages the boy not to dye it. Then he says the boy can be his "Soul Patrol" deputy. Good idea, Taylor. Because everyone loves it when pop stars spend lots of time hanging out with young children.

Taylor's outfit tonight is--Simon takes the words right out of my mind--just like something Clay Aiken would wear. Ugly collarless jacket, "fashiony" T-shirt and gay-ass appliqued jeans from New Religion. Or maybe Paper Denim & Cloth. Or maybe Rock & Republic. Or maybe Seven for All Mankind. Or maybe Chip & Pepper. They've even cut his hair all Clay-ish. This is a bad move. The audience wants the gork. They don't want him to look like that gross slag celebrity stylist Rachel Zoe came in and dressed him in her own clothes. But now it's too late.

And now that I've harshed on him as much as I can, I have to say that his vocal performance was not horrible. He only pulled the Zodiac Killer face once or twice, didn't make weird YOW! noises or flail around. You know you're in for a bad night when Taylor Hicks is in the running to be your favorite person of the show. Cut to Hicks's geek-squad predecessor George Huff from a couple seasons back, sitting in the audience, thinking, Taylor should bounce up and down more like I used to. I'll have to give him some pointers after the show. Cut to the judges, who tear Hicks a new one. Only Paula is nice. She says, "You are an old soul and you're teaching the new generation a lot about legends of who you look up to." There are three different sentences in there fighting to get out. I pause the TiVo and try to see if I can parse them out.

I can't. Paula's ways are inscrutable.

P.S. Did you know that if you go to Taylor's Web site, you can get Lance Armstrong-ish rubbery "Soul Patrol" wristbands? It's all to show your support for the worthy cause of Taylor Hicks. Because, you know, fuck cancer.


Oh, Mandisa.

She comes rolling down the ramp shouting, "This song goes out to everybody that wants to be free! Your addiction, your lifestyle or situation may be big, but God is bigger!" Then she launches into a pitchy attack on Mary Mary's "Wanna Praise You," yelling (her preferred singing style) about Jesus (her preferred lyrical topic). Now, I ain't mad at Jesus. In fact he's just alright with me. And I don't want to jump to conclusions about Mandisa's attitudes concerning The Gays. But everyone knows that the word "lifestyle" is a code word used by gross, amoral religious jerks who refuse to do what Jesus told them to do (that whole "love everybody" stuff) And their secret definition of the word "lifestyle" is "burn in hell, faggots." Except it's not a secret. Maybe someone should tell Mandisa about this.

Oh, wait, maybe she already knows. I just read on this very Web site about how Mandisa's favorite writer is a bona fide crazy person named Beth Moore who thinks that young lesbians are recruited by predatory old lesbian vampires and Satan and that they all hate men. Nice. Simon calls Mandisa's performance "self-indulgent," but it's Paula who really gets under Mandisa's skin by saying that millions of people just joined the "Church of Mandisa." Mandisa begins to vigorously shake her head "no" and you know she wants to start testifying about how she is nothing and God is everything. Except there's that little nagging detail about how Mandisa joined a talent competition intended to do nothing more than make a STAR out of the winner. A celebrity. A person put on a pedestal by the rest of the population, adored for all time, footprints in cement, stalked by the mentally ill, and showered with cash. That's what humble and meek servants of God do these days.

Time to backpedal. Seacrest brings up the fact that Daughtry covered crappy '90s alterna-band Live's cover of Johnny Cash's "I Walk the Line" last week. Daughtry nods and says, "Oh, yes, Live is my favorite band," or some kind of nonsense like that. But it's totally clear what happened last week, at least to conspiracy theorists like me. Daughtry probably did talk about Live in his "personality reel" the week earlier and it was probably chopped to make him look like a True American Original just long enough to win tons of votes. The producers have a serious hard-on for him to win. And no, the drunky AI employee didn't feed me this info. I came up with it all by myself in my beautiful mind. And I just know I'm right. And then he gets down to the singing part and DAMN IT, CHRIS DAUGHTRY, WILL YOUR AWFUL TASTE IN BANDS NEVER END? He's chosen a Creed song tonight to shout-growl along to. Creed is maybe the worst band of this entire decade. Maybe of forever. So of course he likes them.

The McPhee-ver blahs her way through some song by Christina Aguilera. Whatever. I'm still pissed at Daughtry. Seriously, man, you like some shitty bands.

Bucky runs around the stage like a hound dog in heat, grunting out a Tim McGraw number that I'm pretty sure is titled "Cattywhompus." Every time he thrusts out his crotch you can hear a six-shooter firing, and I swear he just sang the words, "Just a pinch between your teeth and gum." The judges hate it, but Bucky doesn't give a flying f-u-double hockey sticks. Cut to Bucky's beaming wife. He just made her pregnant from 35 feet away.

Paris is beyond excited. She's lunging into a Beyonce song with great white shark force. Her hair is doing nine things at once, slapping her in the face while she sings. She doesn't care. She's being 17 and making that booty go pop like she wants to break it off. For her efforts the judges give her grief. Stupid judges. Why can't they see that she's rad at all times, even when she isn't singing well? I worry for her now because I think people are starting to see her as Fantasia Jr. and the backlash may become overwhelming. But I promise that I don't worry more for her than I do about the fact that our own military just banned the use of privately purchased body armor for troops even though they've been criminally negligent in supplying the troops with that armor themselves. I worry for Paris much less than that. No, really.

Captain Caveman Elliott inspires an argument in my house. I'm still down with him, and I don't care if he's singing a dumb Gavin Degraw song and getting just a bit too wigga-mania with the bouncy dance moves. He's laser-focused on staying with the song, and he nails it up, down, and sideways. But the other folks gathered in my living room can't deal with him. And how shallow is this? It's all about his look. Yes, he's not conventionally cute. But you know what? Straight teeth are for losers anyway, and orthodontists are capitalist oppressors. Where's the Dove Soap ad campaign for fugly dudes like sweet little Elliott? Where?

And welcome to Chopped & Screwed night...

Seacrest says, "An Idol's life is a busy one" as he shows the Top 10 doing stuff like posing for photo shoots and rehearsing and watching Fox's new piece of animated crap, Ice Age: The Meltdown. So yeah, big whoop. You stood around while someone took your picture and then you practiced your song for the week and then you watched a movie. Then a stylist picked out your clothes and you shot a Ford commercial on what looks to me like the Warner Bros. lot. The Fox lot's fake "city" streets look grimier than the ones on the WB lot. I know this because I wandered around the WB's fake "city" streets just the other day and they're spotless. Then I saw Alexis Bledel driving toward the Gilmore Girls soundstage just as a tram of tourists rolled past. I thought about going, "Hey, tourists. Check out Alexis Bledel. She's texting someone while she drives." But then I remembered how much I can't stand slow-moving, in-my-way tourists and decided they didn't deserve a B-lister sighting. All the power in that moment was mine. It felt good.

Where was I? Oh, yeah, the Ford commercial. It's all steel-drums-meets-stupid as the kids prance through the streets. One of them hands a Popsicle to a central-casting biker. Daughtry looks embarrassed, halfheartedly waving his arm in time to the dorky song. And it's all over too soon as Seacrest introduces Shakira and Wyclef Jean. Together they're dueting on "Hips Don't Lie," an awful song. Shakira is giving it all she's got, though. She has to. She knows that it's not enough to sing anymore. You have to be a belly dancer too, bending over backward to offer Wyclef Jean a tequila body shot. I want them to sit her down with the girls and an interpreter so she can break it down for them all, warn them to get out of the music business now while they still have a reasonable amount of skin left unexposed and youthful happiness left in their souls. And Wyclef Jean must be under some kind of ganja house arrest tonight because he's lucid and clear-eyed. I was invited to see him at the Hollywood Bowl last year--free box seat tickets and free meal, so of course I went--and the man never once finished a complete song. Every single one of them devolved into him sing-shouting, "SMOKE DEE MAREE-JUANAAHHH!" over and over. Seriously. I was like, "Dude, I'ma half to just to make it through your wack-ass show."

Then it's over. Cut to commercials. One for Verizon that just happens to be starring Shakira and Wyclef Jean. Coincidences like that make you say, "Golly!" The next one is for I don't even know what. But William Hung is in it. Getting paid. I love that William Hung is getting paid. And his teeth are way more jacked-up than Elliott's, so I'm done listening to the haters.

Bottom 3 = Ace, McPhee, and Lisa T. When asked about her fears, McPhee says, "Whatever God's plan for me, that's all I have in my mind right now." Little does McPhee know that Mandisa actually owns God and together they decided that McPhee's "lifestyle" isn't really compatible with God's having any sort of plan for her. Then Lisa gets kicked. That "lifestyle" thing bit her in the ass too, I guess. Paris cries. Paris cries for everyone.

Oh, and here's something I just realized. Seacrest's "lifestyle" doesn't include saying, "Seacrest OUT" anymore. Thank God.

Advocate Channel - The Pride StoreOut / Advocate Magazine - Fellow Travelers & Jamie Lee Curtis

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Dave White