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Down the toilet

Down the toilet


It's "I've Got a Secret" week on Idol. No secret, however, is the fact that the men continue to be completely awful and the women continue to be only sort of completely awful.

You know what's great about this season of American Idol? If you said Antonella Barba (a.k.a. Meadow Soprano) on the toilet, then you have your priorities straight. She's really got this all planned out: a multipronged marketing strategy that employs not only glamour shots of her poopin' and a-grinnin' combined with candid pics where she adorably wields a dildo she unearthed on some sort of sorority scavenger hunt, but also a street team of faux-testers who've convened at the Kodak Theater to whip up public confusion, new feud-baiting comments from the ladies on The View, and a fresh round of Frenchie Davis talk-show appearances. Is Idol racist and weightist? Frenchie says, earnestly, "I don't know. Would you like me to sing 'Seasons of Love' for you?" while Rosie hoists the flag of rebellion high on her cruise ship and cries, "Yes, it is!" Meanwhile, Elizabeth Hasslebeck, grasping for coolness straws, adds, "We should all call and vote for the worst singers!"

Right you are, Liz. That's the only way viewers are going to have any fun this season if the singing continues down the stony end it's been traveling. In fact, the always awesome is recommending that we all cast our phone votes for Meadow this week. Consider it done, And though I disagree with the VFTW board of directors on Sundancehead's status as the worst male--because, really, it's Sanjaya--I will vote for him too because Sanjaya already has a fan base keeping him afloat.

Which brings us to Tuesday night and the men. The shitty, boring, desperate-for-pitch-correcting-software men. I'm lucky that I have the support of about a dozen friends in the living room tonight. We all just had some really awesome meat loaf and mashed potatoes, and the belching contest is about to begin. I mean the one on TV. For now.

Seacrest comes out and blah blah blahs, introduces the judges. Randy is wearing a blue shirt that says "Randy D. Jackson" over the pocket. I suppose that stands for "Dawg?" "Dork?" "Darfur?" "Down for Whatever?" "Dropper of Names?" No one's offering real information. Paula is wearing a hideous sparkly flowery browny crisscrossy lace-up something, and Simon has on a black sweater like always.

"It's a very big week for the show," says Seacrest. "Not only will we give you your Top 12 on Thursday, but we're going to announce one of the most important events in Idol history, nay, the history of theworld."

Or at least he should have added that last nay part so that I wouldn't have to. But the first part he actually really did say, and now I'm super-curious about what the big deal could be.

The theme this week is that each contestant, in their personality reel, will divulge some heretofore unknown fact about themselves. They will all be, invariably, noninteresting bits of information, and at least 50% of them will be pure lies. Let's go!

Blake Beatbox is first, and his secret is, "I love improv comedy, character acting, and Halloween is the best time of the year for me."

Hmm, a theater person, are you? Well, then, Mary, let's hear your song. Oh, wait, there's going to be proof of this love of "character acting." See, I thought he meant like he wanted to be the next Brian Dennehy. But what he really was getting at is that he enjoys immersing himself in the fanciful, anything-can-happen world of "characters." Evidence: He dons a cap and wig and fake teeth and calls himself Jimmy-Walker Blue, a sub-Larry the Cable Guy hillbilly with an uproariously amusing hick accent. Oh, comedy is fun.

He bops out, bouncing around with that horrible little faux-hawk of his, doing those little wikki-wikki-wikki noises and jumping into a 311 song that I don't know at all because, like most of the song choices by the kids on this show, it's from a band that I always thought sucked it like one of those newfangled wound-cleaning machines you find being used by better health care service providers. In the middle he breaks it down into some fast reggae toasting (I'm listening for the words "bun di chi chi man," but if he says it, it slips right past my ears). You know this is going to impress the judges, who will congratulate him on his freshness and currency with the young people. And I'm right: Randy calls him "current." Then the camera cuts to Blake's friends in the audience, a couple of dudes who I think are co-starring in the new indie film Boy Culture, directed by the groovy Q. Allan Brocka (who was, in fact, back in season 4, the king of recapping the episodes right here for this very site). All of that to say that I think Blake and his pals are straight-up not straight. But yes, I have no evidence. Unless you count Gay-Face as evidence. OK, digression over. Paula thinks he was "interesting." Simon agrees with Randy and Paula and reuses the word "current."

Seacrest asks Blake why he chose a 311 song. Blake tells him that 311 is his favorite band of all time. At this point, one of my meat loaf-enriched dinner companions says, "Then he's not gay."

"Why not?" I ask.

"No one gay likes 311," he says. Of course I believe this to be bullshit and I tell him so. Then I conduct a quick Heathers cafeteria poll around the room, all respondents homosexual men between the ages of 25 and 45, and I get the following answers to the question, "What is your all-time favorite band or artist?"

ELO, Blondie, Queen, KISS, Patti Smith, Prince, the Smiths, Skinny Puppy, Joni Mitchell, Tom Petty, Emmylou Harris, Enya, the Beatles, Prince, Jellyfish, and Royal Trux. One of the guys says Dead Milkmen, but I think he's kidding. Another one says the Flirts, and I know he's not kidding. Mine is Sonic Youth. But what this proves is that you can't go around thinking that men who are all about the pole are necessarily going to vote Celine Dion. A faggot can be down with 311 and have a horrible faux-hawk. And to my friend who's into Enya: I know your secret.

After a block of not very interesting commercials, Seacrest is taking time to enjoy life in Coca-Cola Dungeon with Sanjaya and Sundancehead. He's grilling Sundancehead, who, by the way, is getting his name changed this week to Lots-of-Makeup-And-Plucked-Brows-and-New-Stupid-Faux-Hawk-Head because they've really gone in and sanded down his rough edges. Trimmed the goatee and everything. It's kind of disconcerting. He looks like the Pierre et Gilles version of himself now. And Sanjaya's hair got itself ironed by someone with an even more pronounced lady-fication agenda than Sanjaya himself. "He resembles Susan Saint James," says my husband/partner/whatever. That man is always ready with the vintage cultural observations. You kids might need to go IMDB her to know who he's talking about. She played Rock Hudson's wife on a TV show back in the '70s. So anyway, Sundancehead admits to being a big crybaby and says he also lost it while watching Charlotte's Web. Me too, Sundancehead. Me too. Speculation that Sundancehead cried for the sake of the camera is quickly denied. And this week he'd better not weep too much or he'll have to blot and keep that eyeliner game tight. Seriously, All Their Base Is Belong To Him.

It's time for Sanjaya and his personality reel. Sanjaya's secret--well, the one he's willing to discuss--is that he can hula. We witness his ability to soften his wrists, hands, and hips while gently twirling in a hula rotation, and then he blows us all a big aloha kiss. It flies right out of the TV screen and hits my cheek! Thanks, Sanjaya, you're a doll--a doll whose brows were done by the same person who did Sundancehead's. As for the singing, it's got iron-poor blood. It's that bedridden kid from The Secret Garden, lying in a hospital and plotting to steal its comatose roommate's Jello. Sanjaya, my boy, you are the interpreter of maladies.

Randy hates it. Paula struggles for comforting words, and Simon trots out "weird" again, his favorite euphemism for "effeminate." But here's where Simon gets it wrong: Sanjaya isn't horrible because he's faggy. He's horrible because he can't sing well. The faggy stuff is what keeps us all entertained in the two minutes a week he's not vomiting into our ears.

Seacrest comes up on the stage and gets all "who's got extensions?" with Sanjaya and Paula. Paula chortles knowingly. Even Simon thinks this one is funny and doesn't try to turn it into an opportunity for gay-panic-ha-ha-ha with Seacrest.

And now we're visiting Sundancehead, whose campaign of obsequiousness bravely soldiers onward into battle. He goofs on his fatness for America, because that's what we fatties of this great land are supposed to do--laugh at ourselves before you do it for us. Well played, Sundancehead. You cry and then you clown. You know the rules of the game. Now if you'd only stop sex-winking and pick a song to sing that wasn't "Jeremy" by Pearl Jam. Maybe that "Mmmm Mmmm Mmmm" song by Crash Test Dummies. That would help you out a lot.

Back from more boring commercials, Seacrest introduces country star Travis Tritt sitting in the audience. TT has long-since abandoned his Super-Mullet in favor of a more current '70's outlaw shag. But I miss it. I miss all the outlandish country music hair of yore. First it was the fuckin' hats, obscuring the potential for awesome male coifs like Tritt's or Kenny Rogers's old lion's mane. Then it was the Shanias and Faiths of the world, obliterating sky-high rocket hair and Crystal Gayle/Mennonite chic. Now we have barfy Keith Urban, whose hair looks like he gets it cut in Shane's salon on The L Word. It's enough to make you sort of dig Pickler's new Tammy Wynette-ish, Mama-wears-curlers-to-the-Piggly-Wiggly cut.

But where was I? Oh, yeah, Tritt. He's sitting down now. And up next is Chris. Not Sligh, the other one. Anyway, his secret is that he used to be a 190-pound football jock in high school. Then he lost 40 pounds, and now he's a thin mint. Yawn. He mewls--ooh, I've got ESP--a Keith Urban song that sounds just like "Wind Beneath My Wings." I think Chris's cheeky-monkey cuteness is what's getting him by because he can't make it through an entire song without flatting-and-sharping the thing to death.

Carlton is up next. His secret is that he was a baller. He quit that NBA-wannabe shit, though, and now he's here to argyle the fuck out of a Stevie Wonder song. I don't remember which one, and I'm watching it right now, that's how boring he is. Paula encourages him to "color up" the way he sings. Simon rolls his eyes. What's going on now? Is Wayne Brady going to have to choke a bitch? If he comes back next week, I hope he's got a big clock around his neck and does "9-1-1 Is a Joke."

On next is Brandon. He's here to surprise you with his piano-playing ability. He studied it, and that's so nice. Watch him plunk away, scarf wrapped around his neck indoors. Is that a singer thing? Because it doesn't help him one bit when he launches into "Verb: That's What Happening." Or maybe it's some old Sly and the Family Stone song. This guy sang backup for Christina Aguilera? I'm always confused by him.

Nosferatu's big announcement is that he used to have hair. Isn't that an amazing secret? Now he covers up his blindingly buffed skull with a series of ugly hats. And this week it's one that's two sizes too big. For the troops, I suppose. And why not top off crazy with more crazy? Let's! It's time to sing a LeAnn Rimes song! Shout those high notes! Bug out those eyes! Be weirder! Plead for votes! 9/11!

Did you know that Chris Sligh used to NOT have hair? Seriously, it's unbelievable, all these hair revelations! I'm in thrall to every word spoken about what your hair used to look like, gentlemen. Sligh is here to bust out more Christian pop by way of DC Talk. I predict he's going to go far with this plan of attack, sort of like how stealth school board candidates get in there because everyone in their church votes for them. Then they end up burning all the science books containing the word evolution. Have you noticed how he's not so sassy lately, either? He even APOLOGIZES for not being great. What gives, man? I don't want to hear you say you're sorry for anything. Do you hear Sanjaya apologizing for sucking at singing? Does Antonella Barba apologize for being naked on a toilet on the Internet? Does the president apologize to wounded soldiers lying in mold-infested hospitals blocks from the White House? No, they do not. And yet, in spite of all this, I still sort of believe in Sligh's innate OK-ness, somehow. Am I wrong?

Now on to Wednesday. And what a change. Not only is there some decent singing happening, but I'm all alone on the couch with this episode. My dozen friends abandoned me. Time to online-message other, more reliable friends for stealable observations...

Seacrest is black-turtlenecked. Retaliating for this lack of neck, Simon is wearing a dude-decolletage top, exposing the moobs he's so fond of self-examining on live television. Paula has chosen to borrow Sanjaya's wig and to begin mummifying herself, starting with the silky thing wrapped tightly around her neck. But let's get on to the singin'.

Jordin Sparks is here to crap all over Pat Benatar's "Heartbreaker." She is not a rock girl. She is a big-voiced ballad girl. She gallops to keep up with the song but can't quite get there, and the backup singers end up doing all the heavy lifting. But she's adorable, and--here's her surprise--she loves football. She'll be safe for a while.

Next up is Sabrina the Pussycat Doll. Her secret is that she used to wish she was Katie Couric. Clearly, that dream was abandoned when she discovered dresses made out of aluminum foil like the one she's got on tonight. It makes her ass look like a ready-to-burst bubble of Jiffy Pop popcorn. She does an En Vogue song, "Don't Let Go," and it's just whatever. Furthermore, I "worry" (I had to put that in quotes because I really don't worry about any of these people) that her makeup is creating a harder-edged appearance than America wants to look at. I know that sounds superficial, but that's all this show has to offer most of the time, so we play by the Idol rules of discourse when we speak of these matters.

Antonella-Meadow Soprano-Barba, not content to merely do her bathroom business for still photographers, decides to take a dump on that cute little Corinne Bailey Rae song about putting your records on. I have no idea what that song is called. I saw CBR sing it on Oprah once, though, and she was dressed like a little girl. So is Barba. She's got on a conservative black kindergarden frock, and she sings the lines about the birds telling her she doesn't need to worry as though the lyrics of this song will whammy viewers into a haze of perceived innocence. It could work too. I mean, she already got the powers that be to change their rules about how much of a naughty little minx you're allowed to be before you show up for that first audition. She even has Simon telling her, post "singing" (again, quotation marks mean it's not really happening), that she's been treated badly in the press. He's actually rallying for this talentless child because she's so damn hot. Then he tries to have it both ways by telling her that she sucked. It's a good thing I never believed in this show's integrity or I'd be increasingly disillusioned right about now. For her whiny little part, Miss Pink Dildo-Waver of 2007 would like to be considered on her own merits and not endlessly compared to all the good female singers surrounding her. It's just not fair! Only she's allowed to do that sort of thing--remember last week when she placed herself in the same ballpark as Jennifer Hudson?--when it suits her. I'm totally voting for her.

Haley Scarnato used to be a gymnast. Who is Haley Scarnato, you ask? Yeah, I don't know either. I assume she's this chick standing in front of me wearing a red halter top that was recently attacked by a steroidal BeDazzler. She is a human bottle of BlingH20, and she's singing what may be the dorkiest song in American Idol history, something about how her heart has wings. No, really. She's going to jump mountains and sail to the sky with stars in her eyes. Someone wrote this song with a straight face. I'd Google it to find out what it is, but I worry that learning actual facts about it would be like watching that videotape from The Ring. Randy says there's not enough "Yo" in her performance, whatever that means. Paula limply offers support. Simon, agreeing with me, echoes my feelings about her anonymity.

Stephanie Edwards used to be really shy. Oh, so what. You're not anymore. Now you're a coldly professional singing machine sniffing for blood in the water. Does anyone else out there feel that coming from this woman? She's pretty, and she's a really good singer most of the time, but I feel insufficiently charmed by her, like she's going to aim her Insta-Freeze Beam at me if I don't get with her program.

LaKisha! She's afraid of all animals. Now, see, that's interesting. If you wanted to get in a fight with her and win, all you'd have to do is bring a hamster, set it loose, and that'd be it. What she's not afraid of, however, is tackling a Whitney Houston song, so she just lunges into "I Have Nothing" and devours it whole. Meanwhile, her family, in brand new LaKisha T-shirts--and yes, I still want one really badly--is jumping up and down in the audience, being cuddled by Seacrest, and generally embarrassing LaKisha, who says, "I told 'em, don't act up!"

After some stupid commercials that fail to make me buy stuff, it's pillow fight time in Coca-Cola Cocoon. Seacrest is being pelted with them by the ladies. He hurls them back and then they all braid each other's hair and talk about who's cute. Then he segues into harassing Gina Red-Streak a little bit, which, in turn segues into her "secret." It's that she uses good luck charms. "Yes, I rely a lot on luck on this show," says Gina. Oh, do you now? Well, what do you think Oprah and the author of The Secret have to say about that, young lady? Don't you know that the Law of Attraction says that you bring everything that happens to you on yourself? Both the good and the bad? So if you lose at this talent show, then you wanted that to happen? There is no luck! If you become an enormous celebrity, it's all because you deserved it and you envisioned it and you worked hard and were super-talented and you compelled the universe to bring you fame and fortune on the backs of lesser mortals who, in turn, wished genocides and child abuse and holocausts and cancer on themselves. And that's how the universe works, darlin', so don't go rubbing your little stuffed green pickle (her preferred good luck charm, now affixed to the chest of cute boyfriend), because that shit is just blocking your blessings. Remember, this is a LAW we're talking about here. Testing her luck, Gina, barks out an Evanescence song. I know this because Randy says that's what it is. Paula tells her not to oversing. Simon likes it and calls her a "breath of fresh air." Uh-huh.

Melinda No-Neck has OCD. OK, could I love her any more than I do right now? Fuck all the rest of you and your "my secret is that I love kittens." This woman just confessed to having a seriously debilitating mental disorder, and THAT'S AWESOME. Also awesome is her singing of the "W-O-M-A-N" song. It's second only to the time when Raquel Welch and Miss Piggy sang it on The Muppet Show back in the day. Further awesome is provided by Melinda NN's low-cut dress that allows me to see her neck. And finally, she has a chipped front tooth. CUTE! She is now my favorite. I'll still wear the LaKisha shirt, but I'm a Melinda No-Neck Man from here on out. The judges love her too, and Simon even takes this opportunity to bash Jennifer Hudson for her comment about Idol being a "stepping stone" on her career path, assuming that MNN would never say anything Jeez, last week she was "our first Oscar-winner," and this week she's simply known as a "previous contestant." He's a class act, that Simon.

And finally, it's Thursday. Four more get flushed away, back to regular jobs and future "Where Are They Now" segments on Extra. The show starts with all the kids singing "Stuck in the Middle With You," a song I can't hear without getting the itch to chop someone's ear off. But I can sit back and let them do it for me tonight. That's good. It's late in the week, I'm a little tired, and I'm not feeling up to committing stylish superviolence.

Going home = Jared "Carlton" Cotter; Meadow Soprano, whose foxiness was not enough and who now has a lucrative offer from the Girls Gone Wild guy if she chooses to accept it. No lie, either. He pitched a quarter mil her way to "host" a video. Maybe he'll let her sing too; Sabrina the Pussycat Doll is gone too, and she makes the best Alien-about-to-devour-Sigourney-Weaver face of all time as she leans in for the consoling hug from lesser talent Haley Whatserface; And finally, Sundancehead. Your brows were shaped for no good reason.

And here is your Top 12:

1. Blake Beatbox

2. LaKisha

3. Chris Sligh, who I just learned reminds my 10-year-old niece of me. Thanks, kid. He's totally fatter than I am.

4. Jordin Sparks

5. Nosferatu

6. Brandon

7. Melinda No-Neck

8. Gina Red-Streak

9. Chris Not-Sligh

10. Stephanie Edwards

11. Sanjaya

12. Haley Whatserface

Oh, yeah, two other things. That huge announcement that Seacrest was talking about the other night is something called Idol Gives Back, a charity to deal with hunger, natural disasters and poverty. And holy shit, Simon and Seacrest WENT TO AFRICA TO LOOK AT SOME POOR PEOPLE. We see them sitting in chairs while little kids sing to them. Afterward (in my daydreams, anyway, where everything is better), Simon says, "That was appalling. It was like we were at some stupid school in Africa and they brought out the kids to sing to us. Ghastly. I can't sell this."

So AT&T, Coke, and Ford are also participating in this. So are Bono and Borat. Oh, I can't wait.

And Carrie Underwood sings tonight too. Her new single. She's got a fiddle player onstage with her to remind you that she's supposed to be a country singer. Dang, she's pretty. But I keep imagining what it would sound like if Fantasia came out and sang this same thing. I'd probably not be bored out of my gourd right now.

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Dave White