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
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
Let the match
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.
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
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
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.
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
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
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:
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.
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
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.
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:
"McPhans!" 2. [unintelligible
McSomething that trails off] 3. "Bah
fah." Yes, she really said "Bah fah."
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..."
there's an important artistic pause.
And then he
speaks the word, with emphasis.
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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
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,
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!
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
Group sing time:
"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...
"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
And they finish
up the stupid medley with "Burning Love."
And I have a
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
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.
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
digs in the blade: "Chris, you are going home
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.
"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.