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You may be a fan
of Gwen Stefani, but she's not really a fan of you

You may be a fan
of Gwen Stefani, but she's not really a fan of you


Week 11 of Dave White's American Idol recaps reminds you that meeting your idols may not always be such a good idea.

"Question!" teases Seacrest, opening Tuesday's show and wearing a snappy hip-banker suit with a skinny tie, a look that really elongates him and that I approve of wholeheartedly. "Gwen Stefani fans here with us tonight? [Do you] like Gwen Stefani?"

The audience goes ape-shit--including one blond lady who looks like a grown-up Six from Blossom--not realizing that Seacrest is about to psych! them with the information that G.S. isn't actually going to appear in person tonight at all. But boy, do they EVER like Gwen Stefani. If she hit the stage right now, someone would no doubt (Get it? I said "no doubt") climb onto the stage and attempt to swallow her whole, keeping her a tiny hostage in their O.C.-ska-loving stomach. When you'd put your ear to that lucky celebrity-cannibalizing person's torso, you'd hear "Spiderwebs" 24/7.

Now, I'll be the first person to be annoyed by the glad-handing presence of a dude like Peter Noone on this show, and I've often wondered what it would be like to have a non-oldster come along to coach the kids, to have an actual pop star from today show up and work with the contestants. But what possessed Gwen Stefani to come on this show besides her management begging her to do something to move her new CD? I think we're all about to find out that the true answer to that question resides in the fine print of a contract somewhere. But whatever, my friend Aaron, who works at Los Angeles's biggest record store, Amoeba, says that since last week they've sold out of Lulu completely. So that shit works.

Seacrest explains tonight's theme, and it's a complicated, arbitrary one: No Doubt songs and songs from the artists and bands who inspired Gwen. In other words, Gwen songs and songs by people Gwen's heard of. Then Seacrest introduces the judges but doesn't bother giving out their names. You know them by now. I just wish they'd close up on the black ruffly puffy-sleeved blouse made of hammered licorice Paula's got on. But instead we get a Gwen Montage. Gwen in a knit cap, Gwen with No Doubt on a checkerboard background, Gwen in a red dress, Gwen inside a giant heart, Gwen jumping with that old mid-'90s hair-- you remember, the thing with the curled-under bangs--Gwen wearing a T-shirt that reads "Anaheim," Gwen with a bindi. Seacrest says, "Gwen's infectious energy, platinum hair, and toned tummy have made her an icon."

I love the idea of a tummy being iconic. I should capitalize on that myself. My tummy is somewhat different from Gwen's, as mine has been honed to a Santa Claus-like-roundness by regular play dates with cupcakes and beer, but it's no less adorable, and I want to be celebrated for it. My player-hating doctor is encouraging me to lose about 30 pounds, something about preventing heart disease and diabetes, but what does he know? This is my signature gut and it's going to make me famous. And meanwhile, Gwen makes her entrance into the rehearsal space wearing a sweater. It's a really cute sweater too, with trompe l'oeil straps and buckles woven into it, but it's completely swaddling her toned tummy, one I was promised just moments ago. What gives? Stop cheating us all, Gwen Stefani!

Gwen refuses to cheat us on dispensing wisdom, though. She talks about how having a great big voice isn't so important when you're looking to apply for the position of pop star. And she should know. Not that she's a bad singer or anything. Her voice is just fine, but if anyone knows about presentation-uber-alles, it's this woman. Why just sing when you can create a perpetual-motion, hip-hop Cirque du Soleil of dancing dollies, sword-swallowers, unicyclists, cholas, and skate-rats to surround you at all times, a distracting entourage that Nelly Furtado would give her left lung for?

Gwen faux-empathizes about how nerve-racked all the kids must be, and I'm nervous just listening to her talk. She has a sort of lockjaw thing going on, like someone's sewn her teeth shut, and I think I'd like it, I'd consider it an endearing bit of humanity, if I hadn't ever seen her before. She continues with, "I feel very, kind of, like, excited for them. I can't wait to see who's gonna win." As she says this she appears to be struggling to not betray that she's completely bullshitting straight into the camera, doing her best to trick all those people out there who know a lot about the facial tics of liars. Then she finishes up with, "It's kind of excite--I'm really kind of--I've invested in it now. I'm really [slight but mind-bendingly insincere pause] into it."


LaKisha's up first. What advice did Gwen give? It's good. So good. "After LaKisha's performance I'm actually finding myself sweaty. Like, it was like, really, she really blew me away."

As LaKiki finishes her rehearsal, Gwen hugs her and smiles straight into the camera. She must have watched Lulu really go for it last week and then thought, Well, fuck all that helping-them-sing shit and giving them actual pointers by demonstrating how it's done. Diana Ross took the easy road. So am I.

LaK comes out in a hot red-and-black boob-presentation garment. Gwen's just happy she didn't ask for a LAMB outfit "because, like, know, we don't, like, MAKE those sizes!" The outfit and her sleek straight wig combined are pretty much all you need to fall in love with her. And the DMV nails are bigger, whiter, and more squared-off than ever. Now all she has to do is beat the shit out of Donna Summer's "Last Dance," which I'm confident she'll do because even in the opening slow bit she says "Cuz when I'm bad I'm so so ba-a-ad" and pronounces that first "bad" like it's "bade." She's here to make this song her bitch. It's also her "last chance...for"

In the middle of the song she waves her hand toward the camera, almost begging it to come closer so she can give it a left hook, stands at the edge of the stage like maybe you should be a little scared, like don't make her come down there and say again that you'd BETTER FUCKIN' DANCE WITH HER RIGHT NOW OR SHIT'S GONNA GET UGLY. And as she finishes it off, confident she's beaten it all to a pulp, she whips her head around to show off how silky and flowy that fake hair is. I'm in super-love with her right now. She looks like she might launch right into the 18-minute version of the "MacArthur Park Suite."

The judges are happy. Randy is pleased she's chosen an "up-tempo joint." Paula praises her too. And we finally get a good look at Paula's hair tonight, and it's a masterpiece of confusion, moving in so many directions at once that it's like someone's conducting it and giving it contradictory directions. Simon says LaKisha's 30 years younger this week. Which still makes her 20 years older if you do the math from his last week's comment about how she was 50 years older after singing "Diamonds Are Forever," dig? Cut to her old work friends holding a sign that reads "Provident Bank Is Banking on LaKisha to Win!" Translation: "We seethe with envy that, even if she loses, she's never coming back to make us feel less miserable about remaining trapped here."

Seacrest asks Chris Sligh one of those viewer questions. "What do you do in your downtime?" asks Someone From Somewhere. Sligh delivers one of his usual not-exactly-hilarious-but-still-cleverer-than-anyone-else-on-the-show answers: knitting, crocheting, playing bongos in his boxers, he tells Seacrest, whose job it is now to reflexively recoil at the thought of--UGH--a MAN--in UNDERWEAR! Because that shtick never gets old.

Gwen has zero advice for Chris Sligh. She wants him to stay on tempo. "Where's the drummer?" she asks, all jokey, effectively insulting the piano player who's already fed up with her ass. Thanks, Gwen, you make Diana Ross look as effusive as Lulu now.

Sligh's hair is sad tonight. Back when he started this show his curls were big and sassy. Now they look damp and depressed. It's like they sense his mood. He's grown progressively more polite and safe as the season has progressed, and his hair can tell that he's feeling constrained. You just know someone gave him a stern talking-to after his shout-out to Dave from last week, so now he's subdued and so is his hair. It's like a Jheri curl on the mopiest member of Kool and the Gang.

Sligh tries on The Police's "Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic." It's all coming through his nose, he's off-key, and he seems nervous, like maybe he knows his old Bob Jones buddies are having conniptions right now because the song is about "magic" and he's singing about being "turned on" by some lady--perhaps not even his wife--and her Jezebel-ish occult practices. My friend Sean, seated across the living room, is convinced that Sligh is an "ex-gay." His evidence? That a few weeks ago he sang a song about being "saved by a woman." I don't believe this is enough evidence for a diagnosis. On the other hand, he does love a coded gesture. The judges annihilate him, and that's a just response, I think, since he annihilated the song. Paula rambles on about staying "in the pocket" and how his vocal was an "eyesore." Also an "Earache My Eye." And don't forget, kids, that the audience won't know if you forget the lyrics. So far this season, Paula's been, relatively speaking, more lucid than in the past, so there hasn't been much wacky Paula recapping to do on my part. The "eyesore" comment makes me deliriously happy. I've missed you, weird-sentence-constructing lady, like the deserts miss the rain. Simon really lets him have it and calls the performance "a mess." But then, that's just because I think he's mad at Sligh already. And being British, he also hates Jesus. Sligh admits that he was off and then says, "My bad."

Gina the Red gets all weepy at meeting Gwen, who in turn can only respond with "Aww" while cocking her head like a puppy. Then we get a full shot of Gwen standing at the piano. Her midsection is obscured by the instrument, but that's not what's important here. What's important is her fantastically crazy, Balenciaga-ish, super-sky-high white heels, the kind that you have to look twice at to realize that whoever made them decided that shoes should be truly fucking weird at all times. Then you have to wonder how long a person can truly stand on things like that without harming themselves. Give G.S. this: She dresses 15-minutes-into-the-future almost all the time. Compared to Gina, whose Hot Topic getups and pierced tongue are sort of cutely 15-minutes-ago-on-every-other-MySpace-page, Gwen invented fire.

And now that I'm done harshing on her outfits and tongue (the latter I'm sure pleases her boyfriend), I will reiterate that I truly like Gina because she wants it so badly and she seems like the person who's going to take it hardest when she's finally eliminated.

Anyway, Gina's very controlled and sweet rendition of the Pretenders' "I'll Stand by You" makes up for her terrifically hideous choice of dress and black-and-white-gothic-crucifix-go-go-boots. I recently saw Bobby Trendy out at an event here in Los Angeles and he was dressed like a gay pirate/dominatrix. And I bet even he would reject these boots. The judges ignore the dress and hideous boots, save for Randy, who actually likes them, which is pretty typical for Randy if you consider how he used to dress when he toured with Journey. Go to Google Images and I bet you'll find the evidence. Simon gives the fragile young woman a bit of a freak-out when he begins, "It wasn't one of your best performances... [followed by a pause for dramatic emphasis that 19 Entertainment should really consider trying to copyright, because DANG, someone is always pulling this shit on this show]... It was your best performance." She begins to well up. Simon trots out an Englishman-ism, "chalk and cheese," which is their version of saying "apples and oranges," as a way to describe her past performances and the one she just delivered. I have to agree. I fuckin' HATE this song and she did it up nice anyway.

Time for commercials, but before that happens, they give us a teaser of Sanjaya's wacky hair. It appears to be a mohawk of some sort, and I guess we'll see exactly what type of mohawk it is after the break. They make sure to cut back to Seacrest and zoom in on him while he raises his eyebrows and makes a "Can you believe this shit?" face. They should have included a big BOI-OI-OI-OI-OING! noise too, so we'd all be sure we got the message--that message being that the show no longer wants to be associated with Sanjaya, that the official position is, "What are you gonna do? We wash our hands of this kid. We didn't pick him," when, in fact, they did pick him just for the ample opportunity it would give them to turn him into the butt of a joke. Now, of course, everyone is getting antsy that he might keep sticking around. And to that I say, "HAW HAW HAW HAW HAW."

And we're back from commercials. My favorite one of the moment is the one from Visa with the young white chick in gray who breaks a heel. Then she's rescued by an African-American woman singing "Downtown" and escorted to a salon where they That Girl her, then a dress shop where she's outfitted in pink and given a million pairs of shoes and then carried through the streets by male models. This is the perfect life that Visa will give you if you'll only indulge yourself. Because you know what? Your dreams of luxury HAVE TO COME TRUE. THEY MUST. You deserve lots of new shoes and hot clothes and an amazing haircut, and after you get them people will dance around you and sing in unison and you'll skip merrily into the future, your credit rating blown, collections people calling you at all hours, receiving offers of new cards in the mail every single day, your limit raised in spite of it all. Then when you try file for bankruptcy you'll be denied, thanks to the new, more stringent laws. I recommend a book called Maxed Out about how the credit card companies are seriously out to get you and will fuck your life over by any means necessary. It's also been made into a new documentary in case reading anything but frivolous American Idol recaps isn't your bag.

Did I say we were back from commercials? Yes, we are. And it's time for Sanjaya. Gwen can't fake-grin enough when she's near him. She's visibly recoiling from being associated with this kid. And I assume that this must have been the last straw for this beleaguered boy. He's decided to rub Gwen's face in it by singing "Bathwater," a No Doubt song. Her retaliation is to say, "I feel for him. I think it's gonna be really difficult for him. It's a hard song. But he chose it. So good luck for him." She giggles at the end of her statement. It's a punctuating laugh that says, "I have several Grammy awards and I'm still pissed that Kelly Clarkson beat me for my next batch of them and now I'm going to take it out on this show and especially this kid."

Enter Sanjaya and a mohawk constructed of seven vertical ponytails. My partner/husband/whatever just called him "Foghorn Lame-horn." But to me it just looks like he's a character in Apocalypto. In any case, I hope, I pray, that this is Mr. Malakar's turning point and that the hair is a fuck-you gesture. He jumps into the song and wiggles his head around to make the hair bounce and flutter. He emphasizes the weird lyrics about having a "pregnant mind" and loving "to wash in your old bathwater" and quickly recovers from forgetting the words. He seems freer now than even last week when he butchered that Kinks song. He has to know what people are saying about him, has to have seen Andy Samberg impersonate him on Saturday NightLive, has to know about the racist conspiracy theories surrounding Indian customer service phone banks somehow conspiring to vote for him. I like to think that he's daring us to not vote, to kick him off so he can get a little peace. If that's what he's doing, then Tonight He Becomes a Man. I'm kind of surprised and disappointed that he didn't engineer some guerrilla Harajuku girls to dance behind him, frankly. When he finishes, Randy claims to be "speechless" and then scolds S.M. a bit for not being a better singer. "Come on, man..." he pleads. God, Randy is so annoying. Paula mimics Randy on this one. Simon speaks the truth: "I don't think it matters anymore what we say." This gets a big grin from S.M. Seacrest grills him on the hair. "At what point were you inspired?" he asks. S.M., of course, seems to only be able to respond to inquiries in a typical, borderline-petulant-teen tone of exasperation, and says, "I just wanted to have a mohawk because I thought it'd be fun!" But what he's really thinking is, I'm 17! Stop fucking asking me so many fucking questions! Fuck!

"Thank you for the entertainment," concludes Seacrest, who seems to want nothing more than for John Travolta and Nancy Allen to pour some pig's blood all over this kid's head mid-song next week.

Haley's up next, singing one of Gwen's favorite songs, Cyndi Lauper's "True Colors." And Gwen tells you what she thinks of Haley with her eyes, which dart back and forth, as if she's trying to focus on not lunging for Haley's throat. Then Gwen tells you what she thinks of Haley with her mouth. "She started doing this other kind of melody which I think is so unnecessary for the song."

Onstage Haley is wearing a relatively demure black dress. That surprises me, as I expected her to be completely nude after her triumphant boobie show from last week's episode. As usual, and completely expected, is her ability to suck all the air from a song, turn it into a flat, sodium-free, soup cracker and make you long for the interpretive stylings of Hilary Duff and Jessica Simpson. Randy, in the nicest way possible, tells her she was boring. Paula looks distraught. Haley's pals--oh, wait, one of them is the one that looks like Six!--go ape-shit, screaming, "WE LOVE YOU, HALEY!" and generally disrupting everything. Thank you, Trashy Girlfriends! Simon tells her she was forgettable and that she has to do better. He's right. But I don't think she's capable.

I know I've been calling Phil Stacey "Nosferatu" during this competition, but my assembled friends here in the living room are with me when I assert that it looks like a prankster makeup artist got hold of him and did him up like the Xerxes character from 300. Other offerings: "Emma Thompson in the final moments of Wit" and "Nicolas Cage's younger sister." Gwen has nothing to offer Nos--who'll be singing "Every Breath You Take," one of the most overexposed pop songs of the past 25 years--except for her already-standard advice of "Stick to the melody." When he's done with her she says he was "really, really good" and then cocks her mouth to the side, like, "Are we done yet? How many are left for me to see? Can I just go?"

Nos starts the song. Oh, this song. So tired. So drained of whatever it was that people originally found enticing about it. And I know I've been crapping on the outfits a lot this week, but it's like someone decided to prank these kids with some of the fugliest getups ever. Nos is wearing a ridiculous knit cap on his shiny head, the aforementioned caked-on makeup and overly shaped-and-plucked brows, a stupid silk-screened hoodie underjacket that features grommets and cords and long black loops of telephone wire hanging from the bottom. Oh, and freakish, metal-studded elbow patches. Because you gotta keep it classy. Meanwhile, back to the song. It's so awful, the kind of thing dumb people have sung at their weddings because they don't realize it's about stalking, they just think it's "their song." And this guy is the male Haley. Not an ounce of anything interesting coming out of his mouth. Ever. Paula tells him, "There's so much personality and color to your voice," a balls-out falsehood of an opinion that could be fueled only by a massive amount of cocaine sitting inside what must be the secret compartment of the giant white flower-shaped ring she's got on her left hand. Paula says she's never done drugs, of course.

Melinda, along with LaKisha, is the only one so far who's gotten a halfway decent response from Gwen. Maybe you can be a backup singer for me someday, she's thinking. And like Lakisha, Melinda goes for a Donna Summer song, "Heaven Knows." I like it. Not as much as I like LaK's "Last Dance." But then "Last Dance" is a better song to start with. And ho-o-o-wee, speaking of awful outfits, the Pucci-esque thing she's got on is chopping her in about four different places. Honey, I love you. Please get one of your Gayles on the case. Or maybe get rid of that Gayle if she's the one doing this to you. It reeks of sabotage.

Blake has dreamed of being Gwen for years now, so getting to sing for her is his fondest wish come true. He plans to do the 311 version of the Cure's "Lovesong." That way he gets to stink it up the way he likes best, by layering it with reggae. Gwen warns him against beatboxing, but she's subtle about it, not coming right out like a decent mentor would and saying, "LOOK, KID, BEATBOXING IS OVER. OVER, DO YOU HEAR ME?" But either way she manages to make him not do it. And it's a subdued performance--even his hair is lying down, half asleep, not about to get into a competition with Robert Smith. And it's not like it's a hard song to sing anyway. It's got about four notes in it. He's in a gentle reggae world, floating on the love of Rosie O'Donnell and Elizabeth Hasslebeck, who both showed up on The View this week wearing "Blaker Girl" T-shirts. Sigh...

Paula, former Laker Girl and present Blaker Girl herself, enthuses, "I loved what you did! I love the Cures!" Oh, all right, she didn't call them the Cures. But you know she probably would if not coached properly beforehand. She thinks he's "hip and cool and contemporary." I mean, yes, he is if you live in the suburbs and think 311 is hip and cool and contemporary. Simon compares him to Daughtry, another safely "hip" person (and also a total copier of other bands) and calls him "the front-running guy." In my house that's known as "damning with faint praise." Some girl in the audience has a sign that says, "Blake, will you marry me?" I'm guessing the answer to that one is no.

Jordin is going to sing "Hey Baby." This genuinely shocks Gwen, who knows better than anyone that it's barely a song at all. It's like singing "Another One Bites the Dust." It's just some stuff that happens to be in the vicinity of some music. It's three notes away from being rap. She could have just as well have said, "I've decided to sing Fleetwood Mac's 'Tusk.'" Gwen, for her part, is happy to get the royalty check. Jordin seems to be having fun singing the song, even if she also seems a little out of breath. But whatever. She's the poster girl for If her outfit were made of kitties and cotton candy, she couldn't be more adorable.

Chris Not Sligh is going to get smacked by Gwen for inflicting his "vocal Olympics thing" on her own "Don't Speak" song. She bites her lip as he sings. And can I just say here that I have fully enjoyed watching Gwen Stefani contort herself into the closet approximation of good manners she could muster this week. When celebrities unwisely dive into uncomfortable situations in the name of self-promotion and then start to squirm and bite their lips, that's when I fall in love with them. The judges are mixed on Chris Not Sligh's actual performance. Randy is more or less on board. Paula calls him "goo-oo-ood" in way that actually sounds more like "I want to lick your chest" and Simon's "not crazy about the vocal," warning him to pay more attention to, you know, the singing.

Now on to Elimination Night, a task they could accomplish in two seconds that is, instead, stretched out to 30. That's why I feel no guilt when I just skim through it like I'm about to do for you right now...

1. Seacrest wears a Sanjaya pony-hawk wig. Then he throws it at Simon.

2. Last night's show is instant-replayed.

3. The next Ford commercial, a cover of "I Fought The Law," featuring Chris Not Sligh dressed as the Man With No Name and everyone else in various cowboy getups, chasing him with Mustangs. If I were the rest of those guys, I'd be resentful of Not Sligh being showcased as an Old West stud and getting all the screen time. And it would have been funnier if it had been Sanjaya. But that's Ford for you.

4. Idol Challenge Question for Dummies: Who was known as the Velvet Teddy Bear? Hint: Pick "B" for Ruben Studdard.

5. Idol Gives Back got itself hooked up with Exxon/Mobil, and I feel warm all over.

6. Gwen Stefani sings some song with Akon, a typical gimmicky Gwen novelty song, featuring some guys in suits with a trumpet and a trombone, her now-familiar Japanese dancer girls, a squadron of dancing guys, and a repeat of last night's crazy white shoes, paired with black tights, sparkly black outfit, white shirt and necktie. Luckiest Motherfucker on Planet Earth Award goes to the mind-bogglingly talentless Akon, who does NOTHING onstage but say, "Whooo-hoooo!" and "Yeah-Hoooo!" I'm waiting for the seal that balances a beach ball on its nose to be lowered from the rafters. When it's done Seacrest reminds Gwen that the results of the voting are going to happen next. At this moment she fans herself with her hand and actually pushes the sides of her mouth up into a smile.

7. Paula's dressed exactly like Gwen. Did they call each other and decide it was matchy-matchy day? And is Blake upset they left him out of the phone tree?

8. Bottom 3 = Phil, Stacy, Sligh. Sligh goes home and says to Phil, "You owe me 50 bucks." You gotta like a guy who votes against himself and wins, you know?

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