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The Penultimate Anticlimax

The Penultimate Anticlimax


Want to know how to make the American Idol season finale even less interesting? Kick the best singer off before it ever happens, that's how.

Even if you don't watch the show, you've already heard that Melinda received the death blow this week. Even if you don't care about who wins or loses, you realize that this is bullshit. It doesn't even feel like a good moment to me. That's because the worst we have right now, Blake--and really, Blaker Girls and Blaker Gays, just get off my back, because your boy is as interesting as a pair of Gap khakis--is simply run-of-the-mill dull. He's every popular, boring, cute, safe novelty trend to come along in the past 20 years all rolled into one manicured, pointy-sideburned, human-shaped lump of cream cheese. I guarantee you that one of his dopey little tattoos--he says there's more than that one you see on his forearm--is a UPC bar code because he thought it was statement of rebellion to The Man, man. At least Daughtry could sing in tune. And I know that by dissing Blake in the first paragraph of this recap I'm flying in the face of the opinion of the very nice dude named Michael who interviewed me yesterday for the HRC show on XM radio. He's a Blaker Gay too. But he seemed to be with me on the Fantasia-being-better-than-anybody-else-ever trip, so I hope we can still be friends.

Anyway, it's all no fun. That's because last year when Hicks won instead of Elliot (Remember him? He was last year's Melinda, a note-hitting machine who sang circles around everyone else but presented a marketing challenge) it felt like Spaz Liberation Day. I was happy. I had no intention of buying his record, but I liked having his goon qualities on TV week after week. (In fact, given the sluggish Ruben Studdard-like album sales he's racking up, he should have been given his own Fox variety show called The Boogie instead of a recording contract. Simply listening to the man's disembodied singing voice is like smelling the cookies baking but not getting to taste them, you know?)

"Tonight they fight..." says Seacrest, opening the Tuesday night show. Well, let's make it a cage battle, then. One with Rage Virus-infected zombie chimps tossed into the mix. And those razor-sharp flying stars that ninjas throw at each other. And I want Sanjaya standing outside the cage with a fire hose connected to a gasoline tanker. And I want The Hotness to strike the match.

The camera pans the three remaining contestants as they sit in front of makeup mirrors. Melinda and Jordin grin like normal people. Blake seems genetically resistant to the idea that a simple natural smile might make him seem less of a dick, so he goes right for the Comedy Face (big O-shaped Montclair moment mouth, bug-eyes, brows to the ceiling). WACKY MCGEE IS IN THE HOUSE, Y'ALL!

It's No Mentor night. Instead, the Final Three will all travel back to their hometowns to experience people they already know treat them all weirdly because Now They're Somebody on TV. It's also three-songs-each night. Nine miniature performances. And I'm with The Disco Lion on this one. It would be nice if just once, outside of the finale, someone got to sing an entire song instead of first verse-chorus-key change-chorus again. I don't think this is asking for too much. To keep it manageable for you, the beleaguered reader, I'm going to do it bullet-point style like I did last week. OK, yes, I'm also doing it for me, because, you know, fuggit.

Jordin's First Song: "Wishin' on a Star" by Rose Royce. This choice is read to Jordin by the nice lady mayor of Beige, Ariz. Actually, I forgot the name of the town. But that's what it's named in my heart. It looks like the parking lot of a mall. Anyway Rose Royce's "Wishin' on a Star" is an OK song. But it's no "I'm Goin' Down" or "Car Wash."

Chosen by: Simon, who claims to be a Melinda man, but for some reason has decided not to sabotage Jordin for it by making her sing something like "99 Luftballoons." I would have.

The Performance: Nice dress. I like the return of the curly hair. I'm not so much about the nude lip gloss, but whatever. She does a very nice, controlled job. Camera cuts to her dad applauding. He never seems to smile. What's that about?

The Judges: Randy, having no other means of expressing himself, strings together "bring the heat" and "in it to win it." Paula: "Good for you." Simon hated the hotel-lobby-jazz arrangement. Me too. And after all these years I'm still not clear on how much say the kids get in the arrangements. I mean, besides That Maverick Blake.

Etcetera: Jordin seems confused now. Sticks out her tongue, makes faces, created a heart-shaped thing with her hands and holds it over her voluptuous 17-years-in-the-making bazooms, generally cutes it up while Seacrest talks about how to dial the phone. Blake is off to the side, freaking Melinda and mugging.

Commercial Time:

1. Stomp the Yard is out on DVD. It's no You Got Served, I'll tell you right now. And yes, I've seen both of them, so I know what's right here. Trust.

2. I hate that one where the little girl is all OMG and BFF with her mom, leaving the poor cell-phone-bill-paying mom in a befuddled, butt-of-the-joke state. Kids are pieces of shit.

3. If only you will buy several Old Navy swimsuits, your summer will be a nonstop fuck-a-thon.

4. Bones season finale, featuring Ryan O'Neal. If you've not yet read my amazing book, Exile in Guyville, then when you do you will thrill to the story of how he rented an apartment around the block from me while his Malibu fortress was being renovated and Griffin-proofed. He used to walk his dog twice a day in front of my building. I resisted the urge to go up to him and shout, "HOWARD BANNISTER!" I resisted that urge daily. It was superdifficult.

Blake's First Song: "Roxanne" by the Police. Paula. I forgot to mention that I'm watching the show with my husband/partner/whatever and our housemate and friend Xtreem Aaron and his boyfriend, Gary. XA works at the biggest Los Angeles music store there is. It's called Amoeba. He has unassailably great taste in music. Upon hearing that Blake would be singing the song about how Sting saved a prostitute from the streets, he responded thus: "I don't want to listen to music ever again. I'm quitting my job tomorrow."

Chosen by: Paula. Well played, Abdul. You chose a nonsingery song for him to butcher. She's not as dumb as she consistently looks and acts. The mayor of Blake's hometown of Bothell, Wash., appears to have gone to high school with Blake. Everyone in this town is blond.

The Performance: He wisely doesn't go for the superhigh notes of a young Sting. He just keeps it chill, biding his time until the end when he gets to slide to the front of the stage on his knees, package first. I never really noticed it until tonight, but he's kind of packagey. Must be the homemade pants.

The Judges: Everyone's happy but Simon, who calls it merely "good." How dare he!

Etcetera: Sweater-vest manufacturers of the world must love this kid.

Melinda's First Song: "I Believe in You and Me" by Whitney Houston.

Chosen By: Randy, who cannot resist the opportunity to dawgify everything he touches. Sends a fax to the governor of Tennessee that begins "Check it out!" The gov calls him Randy Johnson. Melinda then says, "Thank you, Randy Johnson!"

The Performance: Impeccable, of course. What else does she do? But here's the problem, and it's my only problem with Melinda, because in general I kind of love her. She often seems like she's taking a really important test when she sings. Her "pro" takes over, and I think she imagines that she's still a backup singer and there's no camera on her, so her only job is to make it sound great. She doesn't sell it, she doesn't sex it, she doesn't open up whatever locked up thing is still locked up inside her. Maybe people feel that, I don't know. With LaKisha, even when she fucked up the singing part, you could feel her need and you could almost read her mind. That mind pretty much had one thought (I'M A SINGLE MOM! I GOTTA BUY MORE FUCKIN' HUGGIES PULL-UPS! DO YOU KNOW HOW EXPENSIVE THAT SHIT IS?!) but at least you knew where she was coming from. Melinda is an enigma to me. Hence my question, "Is she a clamped-down lezzie who gets no lady action?" a few weeks ago. And I still don't know.

The Judges: Blah blah they love her. They think she's a shoo-in for the finale. But I can't really pay attention because the mail just came and KELLY CLARKSON IS ON THE COVER OF THE NEW ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY. I just stopped and read the whole article. Mostly I have Fantasia days, but right now I'm having a Kelly one. I want to hear that new record, not only because I think Kelly is brilliant but because fuckin' MIKE WATT from the Minutemen played on it. And if you don't know who Mike Watt is or who the Minutemen were, then I want you to go right out and get a CD called Double Nickels on the Dime because it may be one of the greatest albums of the past 30 years. It's more than a punk-rock record. It's like a fuckin' bible of how music should sound.

Etcetera: Where was I? Oh, yeah, Melinda. She's great. Also doomed.

Jordin's Second Song: Wait for it. First we have a stupid viewer question. "What is your favorite song of all time?" asks Someone from Somewhere. Jordin's response is "Mmm Bop." Well played, Sparks. That truly is a great song. As in "Smells Like Teen Spirit" great. I'm not being sarcastic here, either. I wrote in a review of a '90s compilation boxed set once, for this other gay magazine that fired me, that this is the song you'll be getting that embarrassing, meaningless lower-back tribal tattoo lasered off to someday. It's kind of perfect, that song. Inspired by this choice, I take a quick room poll. Here are the results:

Husband/Partner/Whatever: "Bye Bye Bye" by the very cool band Jellyfish. They put out like two albums and broke up. That's the perfect amount of albums for a band too, by the way. No worries about a sucky third and then painful descent into nothingness.

Me: "Ride The Pony" by Ginuwine.

Xtreem Aaron: "Pull Over, That Ass Too Fat" by Trick Daddy featuring Trina. Also a good one.

Gary: "Power of Love" by Huey Lewis and The News.

Anyway, Jordin's going to sing "She Works Hard For the Money" by Donna Summer.

Chosen by: The producers.

The performance: Lazy, as in "Fuck you, producers! Fuck you, America! I'm not working hard for shit." I think I heard Donna Summer say once that this song was based on a real woman who had like five jobs or some craziness like that. I had three jobs at once in college, though, so five isn't so much more than that. I worked in the dish room of a women's dorm cafeteria, and I also was the morning attendant for this friend of mine who had really profound cerebral palsy. It was my job to go wake him up, shower him, dress him, brush his teeth, shave him, wipe his ass (yes, really) after his morning poop, and then feed him breakfast. I washed my hands between the last two parts, so don't freak out. Anyway, I also worked in a record store and sold White Lion records to jerk-off frat boys.

The Judges: Simon's making no sense. I'd go back and try to parse it out, but none of it matters. The Princess can do no wrong now.

Etcetera: No goofy cutesy faces this time around. She exhausted her entire repertoire during the first song.

Blake's Second Song: Again, wait for it. Another viewer question. "What's it like being a dullard?" OK, lie. It's "If they made a movie about your life, what would it be called and who would play you?" Blake's response: "Jim Carrey would play me, and it would be called Organized Chaos."

This is Blake, distilled. His wacky facial jive and his earlier confession about how he's invented a slew of Komedy Karachters is all about how he sees himself as a new-school Carrey and his life-story film title is exactly what a too-full-of-self-esteem young man who thinks he's a "wild and crazy guy" would say. Based on his Abominable Snowboy outfit, I think his movie should be called Hustler White. But that one's already taken.

He's also singing Maroon 5's "This Love."

Chosen by: The producers.

The Performance: Contains beatboxing as a garnish. He got slapped by them for doing it too much last week, so at least he listened. But he'll never outgrow it. He gets way too much positive reinforcement for it. The crowd goes buck-wild every time he does it, like when all the grown-ups crack up when a 3-year-old learns to say "shit" out loud.

The Judges: So pleased. So...I don't know. Who cares?

Etcetera: ...

Melinda's Second Song: "Nutbush City Limits" by Tina Turner, a song about yelling.

Chosen by: The producers, who clearly want to sink her with this one.

The Performance: She hammers the shit out of it vocally, but doesn't have Tina Turner's pre-escape from Ike, pre-Buddhism, pre-What's Love Got to Do With It? insanity. The assembled viewers in my living room begin changing the title and words, calling it "Abortion City Limits" and shouting lyrics that are so vile I can't repeat them here. It is then agreed upon that someone this season should have done the song called "..." You know, it's that silent John Cage-y one from Pootie Tang, a favorite movie among residents of this house. When, oh when, will an Idol contestant throw the whole thing for the sake of an amazing joke and sine their pitty on the runny kine?

Jordin's Third Song: "I Who Have Nothing." Total cheating, by the way. She sang that one already once. At this moment I would like to make a valiant, heroic stand for my integrity and refuse to write any more about it.

Blake's Third Song: "When I Get You Alone" by Robin Thicke. But first he goes back to Seattle to beatbox for a crowd while Sir Mix-A-Lot does "Baby Got Back." Then Sir Mix calls Blake the "new king of Sea-Town," which is generous of him. Gotta hand it to Sir Mix. He knows how to be gracious. I think Blake should do "Put 'Em on the Glass" as a thank-you to him. But he doesn't.

Chosen by: Blake. As the Dane Cook of singing, he's gotta go steal someone else's white-hot act for three minutes.

The Performance: I must say that I enjoy the sample of Walter Murphy's disco song "A Fifth of Beethoven." Otherwise I'm just counting the number of times I have left to listen to this kid sing. I pray for the sweet release of the finale's final moments. He'll be released out into the world, and I won't have to deal anymore. I can focus exclusively on the new Kelly album. And the Boredoms' Super Roots 9 that I've been listening to almost every day for a week and is an amazing CD you should go get if you care about your ears being happy.

The Judges: Blah blah we like it blah.

Melinda's Third Song: "The Babysitting Blues" from the amazing film Adventures in Babysitting. OK, lie. It's the "W-O-M-A-N" song. But I wish it had been the former instead of the latter.

Chosen by: Melinda. God knows why. The lyrics are about lard from a drippin' pan. And that is, of course, delicious, but sounds fairly gross when you think about it.

The performance: She's so down for the background-singer struggle that she makes the three backup chicks come out onstage with her. She also drops her coat on the floor, a bluesy belter's devil-may-care move. It's a start.

The Judges: Cannot see how she won't be in the finale. Well, just wait 24 hours, judges. Then let's see what you say.

Etcetera: Not much else to say. Best singer of the night, of the season, of the past two seasons. Getting kicked off tomorrow night.

And now on to the elimination night:

1. Homer Simpson introduces the night in an animated clip. Wants to know if it's too late to vote for Fantasia. Technically yes, but in my world it's never too late.

2. The D-List celebrity dragnet scraped up Jackie Collins and plopped her down into the front row.

3. Melinda's wearing a T-shirt that says "Death" on it. I'm not making that up. She must have gotten it out of someone already.

4. That discarded guy from earlier in the season is sitting in the audience. I forget his name. The one who was also a backup singer. He seems relieved.

5. Seacrest talks to the kids on the couch about going home, making personal appearances, singing for hometown folks. We see Jordin's dad smile for once. Then Jordin hugs her best friend of 15 years, a girl named Bailey who will never see Jordin again after this is all over. That cell phone number's going to change every month.

6. Haley is in the audience. So's LaKisha, seething next to that other guy I just mentioned. Dang, what is his name?

7. Blake goes home to Washington. More face-pulling. Jimi Hendrix music plays. Blake goes to the Space Needle for the first time (?). More faces. Mouth open so wide it simply begs for a fist to be inserted into it. The Special Olympics guy from the auditions is there, cheering him on. Blake says, "Home is where the heart is." He hugs his mom and dad. Dad cries. Blake sings a Keane song. Dad sings along. Blake encourages the fans to "party" with him. He sings the National Anthem at a Mariners game.

8. The former Captain Caveman, now slickly packaged (well, sort of), Elliot's here to sing. New weird hair. New weird teeth. Like too big for his mouth, I think. New weird manicured beard. It's an omen. Are you reading it, Melinda? Best singer from last season? Third place? That's you in about 15 minutes.

9. Melinda goes home footage: A little girl claims that Melinda's gotten her through "a lot of tough times." In four months how many tough times could you have had, kid? The crowds seem older, less manic than in Seattle. That's a bad sign too.

10. Maroon 5 is here to sing their new Franken-song. Based on one listen, I think it's about microwave oatmeal and lukewarm water in a plastic cup. That male model they have singing for them wears a suit really well, though. Everyone has a talent.

11. And Melinda goes home. A shiver of joy runs down Jordin's spine as she realizes, "HOLY SHIT I JUST WON AMERICAN IDOL!" My TiVo cuts it off, but I heard from some folks after the fact that it becomes a game of Hot Potato with bouquets of flowers being passed back and forth from Blake and Jordin to Melinda to the backup singers. She's a classy lady, that Doolittle. She will do lots! of Adult Contemporary radio and opening slots for Anita Baker. That's not a bad life.

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