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Revenge of the
nerds

Revenge of the
nerds

Idol_12

Alpha males have left the building: Daughtry and Ace are gone, Hicks and Yamin live on.

I got one more spy. This time a friend who spent some time in the vicinity of the Final Four. So here are four things this person told me. See if you can line them up to the correct Idol...

1. One is weird but fairly relaxed and easy to get along with. 2. One is arrogant and full of her/himself. 3. One is as sweet and decent as a human being can be. 4. One is, in the words of my friend, "a total pain."

Let the match game begin.

Oh, and P.S. Three of them are major chain smokers.

Seacrest does his standing-in-the-audience opening rap about how the finale will be broadcast to 50 million Americans and to over 34 countries and that "the winner will be a superstar." Not just a regular plain old "star." Anyone can be that now, thanks to stupid reality shows like Not This One. This is a Different Level of Quality. It doesn't make disposable, recyclable stars. It makes Superstars. You know, like Ruben Studdard. OK, maybe that's not fair. I liked "Sorry 2004," especially where he lists his many crimes against his lady and goes, "All them strip clubs / All them hot tubs." But what has he done for me lately? It's 2006 now, Ruben, so what's up? Where'd you go off to? You don't see Fantasia slowing down. She's going to be in a TV movie about her own life. Illiteracy, baby-daddy drama--it's going to be good.

Seacrest does that Doug Henning thing where he's in the audience one second and then coming out from backstage the next. Tonight he's in a three-piece suit, which is always weird and lawyerish to me. And what does a vest do for a person anyway besides adding bulk? On him it's kind of like seeing those dudes who are so tiny they can tuck their sweaters into their pants and they do it even though it looks stupid. It's their way of going, "Hey, check out this 28-inch waist!"

Someone in the audience has a sign covered in adhesive birthday present bows and streamers. The sign reads KAT LOVER! ALL THE WAY...FROM BEIJING CHINA! KAT IS WORLD CLASS! Forty years ago McPhee would have been shot by the Gang of Four's firing squad for being an artist who wore lipstick. Now China sends delegations to CBS Television City in Hollywood with crappy homemade signs.

The Idols went to Memphis this past week, to Graceland. You see them rolling up in their car. Hicks says, "The birthplace of rock and roll." Thanks, Greil Marcus. This is the second or third time this season that a contestant has decided to become a history teacher and talk about the origins of rock and roll. And guess what? No white person was involved. Not Cole Porter. Not Elvis. Not the Beatles. African-American blues and R&B musicians created rock and roll. The crackers took it and mutated it and sold it to other Caucasians. And that is that. Little Richard is home screaming at his plasma right now and spilling his Fanta Grape everywhere.

Marilyn Manson greets the Idols at the front door of Graceland. Oh wait, that's Priscilla Presley. She's a Scientologist, did you know that? And she's clearly taken a shine to the more plastic surgery-friendly tenets of the mysterious religion. Y'all didn't know you could be an OT 7 in rhinoplasty, did you? Then Priscilla surprises Tommy Mottola, who's having a "casual chat" with someone off-camera. "Hey Mariah...uh, Priscilla. How's it going?" says Tommy. OK, that's a lie. He didn't say that at all. I'm just trying to be cute. Anyway, Mottola is a good actor and pretends he didn't know this was about to happen. None of the Idols are running in the opposite direction as fast as they can yet. I wonder why that is. But that's all I'm going to say about Mr. Mottola. Because I'm terrified of him. I read those interviews with Mariah Carey. I don't want to wind up "disappeared."

Priscilla says that if Elvis were still alive, American Idol would have been one of his favorite TV shows. But hey, check it out, Priscilla--I consulted with a psychic friend today who talks to Elvis almost daily, and he told her to tell me to tell you that his favorite current shows are, in order:

1. Blue Collar TV2. Veronica Mars3. 106 and Park4. Pants-Off Dance-Off

On to the singing:

Hicks is first with "Jailhouse Rock," wearing a shiny purple suit from the After Six line of his Fuck You I'm Taylor Hicks and I Wear Ugly Shirts collection. He chose this outfit, I assume, because of the lyrics in "Jailhouse Rock" that mention "the purple gang." Left out of this truncated version, however, are the lyrics:

"Number forty-seven said to number three, You're the cutest jailbird I ever did see. I sure would be delighted with your company, Come on and do the jailhouse rock with me."

Yes, those lyrics are really in the original version that Elvis sang. And I got no comment.

Someone is holding a sign up that reads TAYLOR HICKS--TAKING OVER WHERE ELVIS LEFT OFF. Do they mean slumped over dead on the toilet? Probably not. But still. Think about these signs thoroughly before you make them, audience members. It's not my fault that this is the first thing it brought to my mind. It's yours.

The monkey is dancing and rockin' the party. Because that's what he does. He's hunchy and leg-knocky as usual. He twirls the mic stand. He begins to accidentally strangle himself with his mic wire. He doesn't care. People are jumping into the aisles to BE ON TV! OMG I GOT ON CAMERA AT IDOL! He dances past the whitest Fox sales department executive ever and the whitest Fox sales department executive ever's family and leaps onto the stage. He gets crotch-level with the onstage guitar guy but fails to do the glam rock move of licking the strings. I'm blanking on who did that most famously but you know what I mean. And if you don't then I can't help you. Go watch Velvet Goldmine or Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars. Hicks goes all spinny before the big finish and then slams it down shut. People go apeshit. It's a happiness convention.

Cut to Seven of Nine and her kid, sitting in the audience. I hope his name is Three of Nine. Cut to Paula, who's got some kind of heroin addict tie-off rope around her neck that I don't get at all but support wholeheartedly. Randy and Paula love Hicks and go blahblahblahweloveyoublah. But Simon has a bigger fish to fry. He finally, at long last, senses what's happening with Hicks. And it's as if he also just now realized that none of his nay-saying can stop the bulldozer. Because it can't. He wants the country to see that Taylor Hicks, in his superior opinion, would not be an appropriate winner of this competition. He is worried that Hicks will besmirch the "credibility" of the show. You can see it on his face. This is the man who created the noxious Il Divo and foisted them on the public--I just want to state that again for the record. But that kind of crap appeals to Sir Cowell's middle-brow, British sense of class consciousness. To him, blowhards like Il Divo are classy "artists" and Hicks is a corn dog at the food court. And he is that and more. He is Red Lobster is Ford Explorer is Pop-Tarts is Spuds MacKenzie. He is the down-market clown that Simon disdains. But one he'll gladly make money from if he has to. Simon, though usually right, has missed the Taylor Hicks hayride.

Seacrest and Simon get into it about which one of them knows more about what people appreciate in "the real world," after Simon says that in that real world Hicks is a karaoke performer. It's funny when super-rich people try to out-"real" each other. Especially rich people who take vacations together where the paparazzi get pictures of them Jet Skiing with their respective girlfriends off in the Caribbean or wherever. Hicks doesn't give a shit about this little spat. He keeps yelling "Soul Patrol!" I'm telling you, I don't hate him anymore, but I'd still like to use that future reach-into-the-screen-and-choke-someone technology when he pulls that move.

Daughtry is quick to share that he wears boxer briefs. Smart move when you're a rocker. Boxer briefs act like a Wonderbra for your junk. And when you are a rocker, even a bad-taste one like Daughtry, it's all about the junk being on display. The fans expect that sort of thing. He sings "Suspicious Minds" while wearing Lindsay Lohan's sunglasses and a parka. That's a good look, isn't it? On just about anyone, really. Maybe add a sparkly pair of the boxer briefs to that, and just wear that and the parka and the shades. And some cowboy boots or something. Also the wallet chain. Even better, he whips off the glasses at the end. Time to gaze into his soul. Now that Ace has left a tangly-haired void in the show, Daughtry is three seconds from referring to himself in the third person. Paula: "You forget how great that song is till you hear Chris Daughtry sing it." Oh, really? No one was giving enough love to "Suspicious Minds" recently? But then Super Creed-Impersonator Man stepped in to save the day? Thanks for clearing that up, Paula.

Elliott is next. Tommy Mottola doesn't seem so excited by Captain Caveman. He gives Elliott a stern warning: "Work on this. It needs practice." (Translation: "This kid is fugly. Isn't there a hot young chippie named Kat around here somewhere?") Elliott's hair continues to stun me. Now he's gone Troll Doll. It just stands up on end all matted and product-y. He sings a dumb "We Are the World"-ish song, I forget the name, that Elvis used to close his shows with. He knocks it out of the park. Now that Paris is gone I can focus all my love on him. Hicks makes me happy now, but I'd still never buy one of his CDs. Mostly because I wouldn't be able to watch him flail around in a nonvisual medium. But Elliott might sway me if he sang decent material and not pukey Gavin DeGraw songs or Elvis show-closing tripe about the Brotherhood of Man.

McPhee is going to attempt a medley of two songs: "Hound Dog" and "All Shook Up." Tommy Mottola is on board. "She really scored big with me," he says. Of course she did. When she sings, she gets all Taylor Hicks with it. She's spazzy like he is, only more so. At one point in the song Randy and Paula are dancing in their seats, engaged with each other but paying no attention to McPhee. If you slow down your TiVo--and really, if you're not watching this show with some kind of DVR pause-and-slow-mo function, then you're not really watching the show--you can see her give them a glance, like, "PAY ATTENTION TO ME! THIS IS THE BEGINNING OF MY GOLDEN SINGING CAREER!" I blame their antics for distracting her from the lyrics, because she kind of gets breathy and mumbly and turns her back to the audience for a second. But let's say she hadn't forgotten them. It would still be a medley, and she'd still be desperately forcing herself to step away from her cabaret queen persona and "get all crazy" with the kooky dancing. And kids, medleys are one of the worst things on this earth, right after a war in Iraq based on blatant presidential lies, From Justin to Kelly, Star Jones, and all the food at Olive Garden. Kooky dancing gets a pass, though.

Cut to Nikko Smith from season 4. I barely watched season 4 because everyone sucked, so I don't even know who he is. Randy calls McPhee on her lyric-fumbling. She cops to it. Paula: "That was the best part! You worked the choreography!" And Paula is nothing if not an expert at using dancing to distract people from minor flaws in singing talent. Simon says, "I hope you have a second, better song." McPhee gives him this "piss off!" face and says "OK." The spirit of Bobby Bennett is in the house! Even if Bobby Bennett himself is off in court being issued a restraining order by Barry Manilow.

Seacrest comes up and does the whole vote-for-her-etc., and McPhee does something weird. While Seacrest is talking, she's half-whispering, all-baby-talking the following utterances, interrupting him:

1. "McPhans!" 2. [unintelligible McSomething that trails off] 3. "Bah fah." Yes, she really said "Bah fah."

Second half...

Hicks makes mention of "a magical golf cart ride with Lisa Marie Presley." WHY AREN'T WE SEEING TAPE OF THIS, RIGHT NOW? Because I want to know if she used any of those Scientology healing powers I hear so much about. Like maybe they went over a bump in the golf cart and Hicks cut his head, a little nick or something, and she just did that laying-on of hands thing that Travolta demonstrated in Phenomenon. How awesome would it be to watch her do that? Travolta says he can do it in real life now. I bet Lisa Marie is at least as high up in the organization as J.T., so I imagine she's capable of it too.

Hicks is wearing a black leather coat that I do not hate and sings the abbreviated version of "In the Ghetto." And less disconcerting than his spoken word bit in the middle, and by "spoken word" I mean one single spoken word. And that word is "turns." He sings "As the world..."

And then there's an important artistic pause.

And then he speaks the word, with emphasis.

"Turns."

I don't know why.

But anyway, less disconcerting than the spoken word bit is the fact that these cut-for-time versions of the songs always lose a lot in the delivery. Because "In the Ghetto" is about the cycle of poverty and despair and anger and death in urban America, a late-'60s call to social conscience. But this lyrics-aborted arrangement (and it's not Hicks's fault, I know) turns into a song about a little boy with a head cold.

So that's weird.

The other weird but great thing is Hicks's body language at the end of the song, where he sings the words "In the Ghetto" one final time and holds out his upturned palm like a mystical waiter saying, "Ladies and gentlemen...I offer you...for your consideration...The Ghetto."

Randy loves it. Cut to some dude in the audience--maybe some actor I don't recognize, because he knows exactly which camera to look to and nods his head vigorously in agreement with the assessment of Hicks being awesome. He's making the number 1 sign with his finger. "Yes," his finger is shouting, "The Ghetto!" Hicks gets excited again and yelps "Soul Patrol!" three times.

Daughtry goes after "A Little Less Conversation" but he's barely loping after it, trying to catch its tail. He's probably trying to provide contrast from the beginning of the song to the end, but he's not powerful when he's subdued. He just sounds like he's saving his voice. Then comes the end, and all fresh hell breaks loose as he caps it with three nutjob shrieks, like the Howard Dean of crappy alt-rock.

Commercial time: A Hummer comes to life on the assembly line gently, like the machines are building the world's biggest, most delicate kitten. It reminds me of the video for Bjork's "All Is Full of Love." Except for the part about how it's an ad for Nonstop Destruction. The final line of the commercial is "Your Truck Is Ready." Yes, for raping the Earth and all of its inhabitants. 0% APR for 36 months for all qualified creeps.

Elliott's up next with "Trouble." His note-hitting machine is turn on full tilt, of course, but has Elliott seriously ever given anyone any trouble? I can't stop laughing when he gets to the line "I'm E-e-evi-i-illl!" His mother in the audience is going ballistic. I worry she'll collapse from the intensity of her happiness. Paula is going bonkers too, clapping with her entire forearms. I hit the REPEAT button on my TiVo several times to watch her do it. Have I said thank you to the universe yet this week for Paula Abdul?

McPhee eases on down to Ballad Town with "Can't Help Falling in Love." Before she sings there's another Tommy Mottola-clip moment. He's almost bashful around her, so strong is her man-crushing power. He talks about the "magical gleam in her eye." It's almost adorable. But then she sings, and all I can think of is the narrator in Last Year at Marienbad intoning over and over the words "baroque...lugubre...baroque...lugubre." She pours gallon after gallon of high-fructose corn syrup on the song, singing seven notes where one or two would do. It sucks. She might as well have done the UB40 version. She should go home tomorrow. As Seacrest does the "vote for Kat" thing again, she barely squeaks out one little interruption-flutter, "Vote..."

Chopped-and-Screwed Night!

Hey, it's Jerry O'Connell and Rebecca Romijn. Shouldn't they be at home having nonstop sex? Isn't that the hot-celebrity-couple imperative? Seacrest comes out in all-black Regis Philbin monochrome. Then a quick video recap of last night's performances. When it's over, the camera cuts to Paula on Simon's lap, being barely restrained as she waves her arms around defiantly. Why this is happening is anyone's guess. But one thing is clear: No one can tame The Abdul!

Ford commercial time: The Final Four sing "What a Wonderful World." It's for the new Hybrid. McPhee, driving alone, enters the driveway and gives a little wink to the passenger seat. Wait. Winking to whom? To what? Is there a mirror there? Then, oh no, the garage is filled with crap! Who will clean it out so McPhee can park the Hybrid? Daughtry! Hicks! Elliott! Do her bidding! Now! Double time! The menfolk clean and plant a lush garden and koi pond in the garage. Elliott stops to smell the pretty flower. A red parrot bobs and weaves on its perch, impersonating Hicks, who is in turn impersonating the Hicks-impersonating parrot. McPhee can finally park. Then we discover that she wasn't winking at nothing in the passenger seat. She was winking at Kermit the Frog, Muppet shill for Ford. Wouldn't it be awesome if Piggy came out and gave McPhee a big HI-I-I-YAH karate chop?

Finally, we get the clip of Lisa Marie's visit with the Idols. Does life get any better than watching surly, petulant Lisa Marie Presley, permanently embarrassed former wife of Michael Jackson and freaked-out Elvis obsessive Nicolas Cage, chauffeuring Taylor Hicks around Graceland in a golf cart? No, it does not. I could turn off the TV right now and be happy. I don't even care who gets cut tonight. And Lisa Marie will, no doubt, be donating tonight's royalties to the museum Psychiatry: An Industry of Death, which the Church of Scientology recently opened on Sunset Boulevard here in my lovely little city. Yes, this place actually exists.

Group sing time: another medley. Don'tbecruelbluesuedeshoesheartbreakhotel...

During "Hotel" Hicks is the soloist, and he gets so into the "been so lonely" bit that he almost forgets that he's needed onstage. He jogs to it, making a quick pit stop to look directly into some woman's lap, then leaps up the steps just in time for Areyoulonesometonightlovemetender...

On "Tender" Daughtry takes the lead while the other three line up for the ooh-ooh-ooh bits. Hicks is on the end, holding out his Mystical Waiter hand again. "Sir and/or Madam? May I offer you some Love Me Tender?" And is that a smirk I see on his face?

And they finish up the stupid medley with "Burning Love."

And I have a confession.

It's about the most awesome moment I've seen on this show all season. Make that several seasons. I experience a rush of non-ironic pleasure like none up to this point. And by that I mean that I have received none up to this point. So I recognize it as an alien emotion. As Hicks leaps up onto the platform behind the judges, McPhee does the same thing on the opposite end. He's laying it down, and she, freed from the nervousness of Gimme-Votes Night in her four seconds of solo, sings better than she did during both of her songs last night. But that's not the awesome part. That comes when they begin wildly monkey-dancing together. The Pretty Pretty Princess and The Geek. In the real world--Simon and Seacrest, please take note--this is the thing that never happens. Hot chicks like McPhee never voluntarily dance with the Spastic Nerdos. And they certainly don't do it with this much gleeful abandon. But they are, and they're in perfect sync, and if a choreographer got them to do it and they practiced it beforehand, then they should get a cash bonus, because it reads like the happiest who-cares-that-we're-actually-rivals-for-a-big-payoff moment of spontaneous joy that a big, dumb, bland, fakey, processed show like this can ever hope to provide. Even her hair looks happy. And when the song ends and McPhee looks like she might topple off the back of the platform, Hicks gallantly reaches his arm out to catch her. Right now I am Type 1 Gay.

Rebecca Romijn loves Hicks and wants an encore of "Jailhouse Rock." So she gets her request. Elliott's mom does a little monkey-dancing with Hicks. Everyone wants to monkey-dance with Hicks now. He is the screen-saver diaper baby on Ally McBeal. Melissa Rivers claps enthusiastically.

Time to divide and conquer. Hicks and Elliott are the Top 2. Daughtry and McPhee are the Bottom 2. Daughtry is clearly freaked out. He's making big grimace-y faces and exaggerated puffed-out cheek exhalations. Seacrest lowers the boom: "A lot of people predicted, Chris, that you could be the next American Idol."

A brief flash of "Well, yes, yes I could" on Daughtry's face.

Then Seacrest digs in the blade: "Chris, you are going home tonight."

Daughtry has the best Manchurian Candidate shock face ever. Five pounds of air just left his lungs, and double that weight in entitlement, from his shiny head. McPhee is stunned and confused and possibly somewhat guilty-feeling. Simon is pissed off. He rubs his lips with his fingers. Paula's head is slumped on the table. The entire studio audience is in danger of spontaneously shredding their own clothes from the grief and some may burst into flames.

So yeah, boo-hoo for Baldie. His recording contract with Clive Davis is waiting for him right outside the studio door of CBS Television City. In fact, it was waiting for whichever of these four got the boot. All that was left was to fill in the name.

The "You're Dead" reel plays, and the "Bad Day" song whimpers in the background. It ends with Simon saying, "Thank God for Chris." God: silent on The Middle East. But very concerned about American Idol.

30 Years of Out100Out / Advocate Magazine - Jonathan Groff & Wayne Brady

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