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"Don't Audition
for American Idol"

"Don't Audition
for American Idol"


In Omaha and Miami, singing cattle are led to the meat packing plant and turned into ground entertainment.

for American Idol" " >

I can only assume that Fox was too cheap to go hire some actual aliens to make a show-opening American Idol logo crop circle in the middle of Omaha (part of what people in television call "the flyover states"), where Tuesday night's audition show takes place. It's undoubtedly the work of some poor postproduction drone in Santa Monica who sat in front of a computer until 4 in the morning making a cornfield look authentic and was then expected to be back in the office by 9 the next day to digitally erase age spots from Jack Nicholson's face for the Blu-ray DVD release of The Bucket List.

The credits roll. And no, I wasn't mistaken, The Boogie's head is completely chopped off of his torso as the fame elevator rises past shots of the other Idol winners. And I don't think it's too paranoid to say that this is clearly intentional. Why, I don't know. And really, I don't care all that much. But I think it's odd. I'm sure the folks on "The Boogie Board" have opinions on the subject. Oh, yes, no lie. It's called "The Boogie Board." I just learned this recently. Someone started a fan board and my stupid nickname for Taylor Hicks is responsible. You really never know who's paying attention. Naturally, I'm honored.

The camera pans over wide-open fields and rolling clouds. Eek. Rolling clouds now remind me of that frightening "Anonymous" video that's going around, the one that's making ominous robot-voiced threats to the Church of Scientology. It took someone even scarier than Tom Cruise to make that video. and now I don't know whose side to be on. But that has nothing to do with this show -- for now -- so I'll get back on topic.

It seems that there are no buildings where people can go to do things in Omaha, because when Seacrest does his little voice-over about the strong music and art communities that exist there, the camera cuts to (a) three kids playing violins on a sidewalk and (b) some dude wearing a belt and suspenders and an apron painting on a canvas that's sitting on an easel. In the middle of a brick road. His painting is of a building. The title of that painting is "This Is My Now. And Right Now What I Need Is a Building to Do This in So That When It Rains My Painting Won't Get All Wet."

Then Seacrest talks about how Omaha is most known for corn. True. Disturbing, genetically modified corn. And if you've watched this odd little documentary that came out last year called King Corn, then you'll know that that Frankencorn is in virtually everything you eat and drink now. It's been subsidized out the ass and so now food manufacturers use synthesized versions of corn in everything from Coca-Cola, American Idol's biggest sponsor, to, well, touch something in your kitchen that's not an organically grown piece of kale. That. The thought of it makes that cheeseburger in a can that's been floating around the Internet all week sound appetizing.

Things that are bothering me already about this audition episode:

1. No Paula. Her plane was delayed.

2. Randy's red freak-out shoes.

3. Simon's very visible and floppy dong outline in his jeans when he is shown walking toward the camera. To the left, FYI.

That's it, really. The other things that bother me about this show are ongoing. So let's get to the INs and the OUTs...

The INs:

1. The staggeringly cute 21-year-old farm boy from Stout, Iowa. They give him multiple chances to remember the words. That's what hotness gets you in life, way more chances than you deserve. It doesn't even matter that he's got weird hair gloop happening or that he's got tacky double-pierced ears.

2. The arm-wrestling girl. She takes on Seacrest. Nice guns, skinny host-man. But it turns out that they're mostly just for decoration, because she kind of takes him. Then she sings. She's very, very, very country. Her voice, I mean. She's got that vintage female country holler, the kind with the yodel-yelp punctuating it all over the place. In other words, the kind of country singer I love. Simon and Randy, however, are not interested in this. Simon says that she sounds 50 years older than she is. Randy explicitly states that he hates the yodel-yelp. Good going, judges. Here, I have a time machine. Let's all get into it and all go tell Kitty Wells that she sucks too. Still, they give her a gold ticket. But not before Randy advises her to knock off singing like a country singer. Then Paula wants to arm-wrestle her.

3. The sweetly low-voiced girl who sings a Norah Jones song and who auditions for Simon, Randy, and Seacrest (Paula is forced to stand outside and do Seacrest's job for five minutes). Seacrest asks her how her "interview" went. I don't know exactly what interview that is, but I can guess. It's fairly clear that out of the 10,000 people who show up for these things, about nine of them actually get in to see the judges, and those nine are people who manage to jump through whatever arbitrary hoops are set up by producers and story editors and whoever else. There are message boards with all this information on it, but I'm not interested enough in behind-the-scenes stuff to go find out about it. In any case, Simon tells Seacrest not to say shit like that on-camera.

4. A montage of good singers who make it through, each one getting about three seconds of screen time. One of them goofs on-camera and says she wants to be America's Next Top Model.

5. The girl who cries because her father doesn't approve of her desire to SING! Then she sings. Gets the gold ticket. Cries. All two dozen of her family members are happy. Dad's not there, though. Seacrest calls Dad with the good news. Father love restored. TV makes everything better.

6. What hath Daughtry wrought on America besides that shitty "I'm Going Home" song and bad fashion choices? It seems that more and more "rock" people want to come on Idol and do their "rock" for the judges. Cut to a guy from Tulsa who looks like what would happen if Daughtry put a baby into Blake Lewis's Easy-Bake. Out would pop this guy. Black and gray argyle sweater vest. Stupid hair going in a million directions and dyed partially red. And he's got that scratchy "rock" voice. Great. I hate voices like that. If you are going to be in a band, I have the man you need to emulate. And his name is "IT." IT is the guy behind the visionary behind Swedish outsider black metal band Abruptum. That dude just growls and moans and shrieks. Anyway, this "rock" person may go far because Nickelback is still the law of the land.

7. The Gay One. And by calling him the Gay One, what I'm trying to get across is that he's the first of the many, many, many gays we've seen on this show over the years who's actually walked into the audition, announced his gayness ("My mom always said she raised the perfect homecoming queen. Too bad it wasn't one of her daughters") and then sung well enough to get the judges to give him a ticket. Now, I know that there was some gay last season who'd been in some U.K. boy band and there was some press about it. But we hardly ever saw him, and he never said, "Look here, everyone, for I am a poof." But this guy is full-on homo. It'd be interesting TV if he progressed. Usually the only gay we get on this show is baiting between Simon and Seacrest. And as much as I love that and need there to be more and more and more of it, it would also be unusual and maybe not awful to have some small-town fag going all the way.

The OUTs:

1. The 25-year-old gay from Fremont, Neb. He's "so happy [that he] feels like [he] could explode and happiness is gonna go flying everywhere." Then he says, "I come one in a million." You know, kid, if you posted a video clip on XTube of your one-in-a-million happiness flying everywhere, you could make a little coin that way. Depending, you know, on trajectory and all. He brings gifts to the judges. A stuffed animal for Randy, a stuffed animal for Absent Paula, a photo album with shots of nothing but him standing next to Kelly Clarkson and a warm-up jacket for Simon that reads "England" across the chest. Then he cries. He sings "Since U Been Gone," if by singing you mean the moaning that occurs during the videotaping of those xtube clips. Then he does a handstand. Randy and Simon tell him no, obviously, but then they promise that he'll be allowed to report on the red carpet at the finale for the Omaha Fox affiliate. The kid goes ballistic, and even though his happiness doesn't go flying everywhere, he shrieks and jumps up and down like a gorilla on a Samsonite suitcase. I like this little gay. He could be the next Ross the Intern if he plays it right.

2. Lady Morgue, a PVC-trench-coated goth bulldozer of a woman and former wrestler who shrieks and cackles and, I'm assuming, has starred as Magenta in the Rocky stage show at the Dundee theater on more than one occasion. And now the Omaha readers are like, "How does he know about the Dundee?" I make calls. I know people. I got 'em all over. Anyway, my favorite part is when she hits Seacrest.

3. The zoo volunteer in the gold sparkly shirt. He sings "Shout" by Otis Day. Nothing special about his particular brand of delusion.

Wednesday night they go to Miami. They've revamped the logo to look like the Miami Vice opening credits. If Seacrest had thought to stop shaving for three days, he could be Don Johnson. Randy as Philip Michael Thomas. Simon as Phil Collins and Sheena Easton. Paula as Edward James Olmos.

Cut to the assembled crowd of hopefuls singing "Rhythm Is Gonna Get You." Because in Florida it's the law that everyone know that song. It's one reason to hate Florida. I have weird conflicting feelings about Miami and the whole state, really. All I ever think of when Florida comes up is Anita Bryant and rigged elections and Flannery O'Connor-ish serial killers and mosquitoes and inbred morons. Then, on the other hand, thanks to my pal Xtreem Aaron who graciously reminded me of it as we sat on the couch processing our emotions about it all, I also think of the awesomeness of Miami Booty Bass and Tootsie Rolls and "Pop the Coochie" and chicks in thongs with oiled-up asses sitting on mixing boards. These life-loving images of Florida are the ones I'm going to carry in my heart.

I'd go with a list of INs and OUTs here if the show had been that straightforward. But it wasn't. They let this one Venezuelan guy through. The second he appears on-screen, my husband/partner/whatever says, "See, I knew Melanie Griffith would be the ruin of Antonio Banderas." He sings some Venezuelan pop song. I think he sucks, but for some reason they send him through. Simon agrees with me. Paula and Randy send him through. But they have to qualify their endorsement by giving him bullshit advice and telling him that he needs to get rid of his accent. Because that kind of thing really held back Shakira.

They also let through two women who, in my house, are already known as the Weather Girls. Two BBW-BFFs. One of them says that Seacrest is the love of her life. This means, of course, that she has a lot in common with him, because I guarantee you that Seacrest is also the love of Seacrest's life. And both Weather Girls can sing.

But the biggest thing of this week, for me, is how the auditions carry on a theme begun last week with the arrival of Carly Hennessy/Smithson. You know, the Irish girl with the ink-face boyfriend "wanting a second chance" even though it's actually her third chance and they never really explain her actual first chance. (Briefly: She had a record deal with MCA back in the day -- while Randy was head of A&R, by the way, so if anyone thinks there aren't ringers on this show, then, well, they're dumb -- released an album, no one bought it, was dropped, etc.)

And that theme, after seeing a couple of the people this week -- and really, they're the only two you need to hear about -- is clearer now than it was last week. This season is where the subtext about the damning, dooming pursuit of fame is finally made, simply, the text itself, as people who've already been eaten up and shat out by the music industry come back, ready to be devoured and defecated all over again.

Example #1: Robbie Carrico

Scruffy, rockerish looking person. Sings well. Seem familiar? He was in a go-nowhere group called -- and this is so gay I can barely write it without feeling like my penis is about to fall off -- Boyz N Girlz United. They were two boyz and two girlz, something like an S Club 7 minus 3 (and stay with me on the S Club thing; it comes up again later), they burned briefly at the turn of the '00s, toured with Britney Spears (and he dated her for a bit) on a European tour, released a CD, then disbanded due to lack of interest from any human being with ears. He gets his gold ticket, the audience is wrongly told that he "used to be in a boy band," and off he goes, ready for round two of his never-quite-was career.

Example #2: You know, sometimes Seacrest gets tired. He wants to sit on a pretty, flower-print fabric sofa and have a little one-on-one time with a person who's auditioning. Really get to know them. So he'll spontaneously just pull anyone out of the line, lock eyes with an intense "You and me, babe. You and me," look on his face. At this moment he has picked Julie Dubela. If you think she's been hand-selected by anyone prior to this moment, then you're the cynical one.

Unimportant History Lesson: She was on American Juniors. Remember that one? It was Idol's attempt to NAMBLA-fy the franchise. And the Brits who thought up that country's Pop Idol and then in turn American Idol were, back in those days, convinced that what pop music listeners consumed in England would be swallowed just as easily in this country. In the U.K. it was a tween version of the group S Club 7 who, if you paid attention to this kind of thing, had exactly one hit single in the States called "Never Had a Dream Come True" as well as a sitcom on ABC Family that ran in the afternoons and featured cast members Linda Blair and Barry Williams. It was weird. Anyway, the kiddie group version, called S Club Juniors and then, later, S Club 8, was formed from a show called S Club Search. In the States the show was called American Juniors. The kids from American Juniors actually wound up singing lots of songs written for the S Club Juniors, because the clip we see is of the Juniors belting out an S Club song. Creepy digression: With lyrics like "hold on to my lovin," it was sure to make the skin of sane adults crawl. Thanks for all the sexualization of children, Fox.

But, unlike in the U.K., where people will actually listen to records featuring a gang of 10-year-olds -- and, for that matter, songs sung by cartoon characters, puppets with zippers for mouths, and Natasha Bedingfield -- here it was a big bust and totally embarrassing for all involved. Julie Dubela, at age 11 or something, was one of the American Juniors, and now she's back and full of the entitlement that all 16-year-olds possess until the world beats it out of them. Worse, this is entitlement based on previous success in the corporation. She thinks that her legacy status is her "in" and that the machine isn't a machine, that it's part of her life, something close to being her family. She tells the judges that her experience on American Juniors was a lot of fun, even as Seacrest proceeds to not remember her at all, even though he hosted that show, and as the judges mock her and the show itself (Simon: "I love hearing kids that age sing"). To her face. WON'T IT BE FUN TO SEE THIS CHILD CRUSHED? YES, IT WILL BE! LET'S WATCH!

She sings. She's not horrible. She's not amazing. Her crimes are easily fixed: oversinging, overbreathing, overtanning, working it too much. She could easily get a gold ticket when you think of some of the other people -- Venezuelan guy -- who've been sent through this week. And think of Blake Lewis. That boy was nothing if not a calculation. The show has no fixed center and no agenda but to provide minor shocks of pleasure or discomfort before asking you to forget you ever witnessed it. So why not discard this kid? It'll be funny, right? So the judges tell her no. She begins singing again. This is the Idol equivalent of grabbing the ankle of the boyfriend who's walking out on you after he's punched you in the face and knocked you to the floor. Julie is in disbelief. She's asking for notes. For tweaks to fix it. She thinks she's got the gig; it's just a matter of working it out in the rehearsal process. As they kick her out the door, both Randy and Paula tell her, "It's all good." Yes, it is. To them. Cut to a clip of this kid at age 12, singing "Rainy Days and Mondays." And now she can sing that same song at 16 and know exactly what it's about. She cries.

You are watching the humiliation of a 16-year-old on TV. Isn't it great? Don't you feel good about all the dreams coming true?

Now, I get that for a creative person to do the kind of work they want to do, it requires that they brand themselves as a product that other people want to consume. If people are going to see you act or hear you sing or enjoy the way you flashdance or (ahem) read your book, then you have to be known. Which is to need to be famous to some degree or other. It sucks, but that's how it goes. Otherwise you toil in obscurity and you do your work in a vacuum and no one ever sees it and you die thinking you failed.

But as soon as you finish reading this recap you need to go find a book called Colors Insulting to Nature. It's a hilarious novel by Cintra Wilson, probably this country's foremost forensic surgeon of fame. It's about a woman who debases herself over and over to achieve the lowest level of fame. It sounds gross, I know. And it is. But the kind of gross that's really funny. You'll see when you read it.

Anyway, the Julie Dubela story has a happy ending. At least it has the beginning of a happy ending. Because her last moment on-camera -- when she fixes her gaze on the lens and gives it a sickeningly, sarcastically sweet smile and delivers her parting words -- makes me happier than anything I've seen in the first three weeks of this show. In fact, happier than anything I've seen since "The Hotness." It makes me hope that this is the moment when she woke up to her own humiliation and unwitting participation in the destruction of her soul. I hope she goes off and forms a psychotic noise band and de-tans herself and never finds crazy-making fame, only contentment and well-being. She says, "Don't audition for American Idol. Don't watch the show."

for American Idol" " data-page-title="

"Don't Audition
for American Idol"

" >
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