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JESUS
CHRIST!

JESUS
CHRIST!

20080425_idol_carly

It's OK to ask him to take the wheel but not necessarily vote-getting to shout his name in song in a way that suggests that you might be kind of pissed off at him. It's a lesson Carly learns the hard way as the six are whittled to five...

The husband/partner/whatever is always thinking of me. Last week, while driving through McDonald's to get a bag of diarrhea-to-go, he also brought me home a Happy Meal. Well, actually he ate the Happy Meal. But he brought me the toy. It's a little plastic American Idol action figure, about four inches high, in the shape of a country-singing guy. The little guy has a blue face and huge black cowboy hat. In fact, his head is the same size as the rest of his body. And when you flick a little switch on the back of his head some wafer-thin electronic music in the style of Flatt and Scruggs comes scrinching its way out of the hat. And that's it. That's what happens. According to the bag he came in, his name is Country Clay and you can collect him and the others -- Rockin' Riley, Punky Pete, Hippie Harmony, and Lil' Hip Hop. With the exception of blue Clay and green Harmony, the others are white. I thanked my husband/partner/whatever and told him to stop eating at McDonald's or he would die young.

So the show starts. And here are famous people in the audience. There's David Duchovny (new X-Files movie to promote) and Allison Janney (just here for kicks?) and some not-famous child. I'm always annoyed when I see nobodies in the crowd. And this kid isn't even pulling his weight. He should be bawling or holding a sign that reads, "I CRAP BIGGER THAN ARCHULETA!" But nothing. He offers nothing. He should be ejected from the building for crowding the shot. Then the camera cuts to some apparently famous woman I've never seen before. I should be ejected from this recap for not knowing her.

Seacrest introduces the kids and the judges (Paula must have a new hairstylist because it just looks consistently good now) and also tells everyone that it's Earth Day and that American Idol is doing its part for the environment by employing something called "green power" at the finale. I think that's a made-up thing, but I have no way to call him on it right there onstage, especially since I'm sort of not there and just on my couch eating some chocolate ice cream with Girl Scout cookie Thin Mints crumbled over the top. But with my full mouth I say, "Liar!" quite forcefully, getting ice cream on my T-shirt that I won't notice until about an hour later after it's all hard and stuck to me.

Tonight's theme is the music of Sir (Or is it Lord? Fuggit. I don't care.) Andrew Lloyd Webber. Don't know who he is? OK, imagine it like this: drama queen ballads + London's West End in a nonstop masturbation contest with Broadway + Sarah Brightman + WTF + people on roller skates + nuclear war. With the exception of the very rad Jesus Christ Superstar, he is responsible for some of the most mind-boggling product that musical theater has to offer. And so now, in spite of "that sounded too 'Broadway'" being a fallback criticism for the judges when a contestant teeters too close to the brink of the Aiken Abyss, the kids are going to sing BROADWAY!

Now, I know lots of you gays like Broadway and are all into it and stuff. Hell, even my heterosexual brother called me last week and was like, "Have you seen Wicked? It's fantastic!"

"Did you have sex with a guy afterwards?" I asked. "Because that's what Wicked does to people. It's like that conveyor belt that George Jetson used to get on in the morning that would shower and dress him. He'd go in one way and come out quite another. And now that you've seen Wicked, I hate to inform you of this, but you are 100% a fag."

"No, you're the fag," he retorted. So clever with the comebacks, the straights.

"No, you are," I said, zinging it right back to him. My family engages in this kind of Algonquin shit all day. Anyway, I'm not into show tunes, or musicals really. I've seen exactly six of them in my whole life: Cats (I liked the part with the tire); Les Miserables (I liked the part where they all shout triumphantly to that march-y kind of song at the end): Dreamgirls (I liked the part where you could see that Jennifer Holiday had lost all the weight and you could make out the fat pads under her dress. I also liked the part where ladies in the audience stood up and yelled at her while she sang "And I Am Telling You." They were all, "YOU SING THAT!" like she was about to pole-vault over the audience with her lungs); Hairspray (I liked the part about not being able to stop the beat); Company with Debbie -- sorry, Deborah -- Gibson (I liked the part where she was doing solo bits and I was like, "Wow, it's Debbie Gibson!") and Rent (I liked the part when it was over).

Time for singing:

Syesha meets the composer (ALW from here on, by the way. I hate typing long names) and announces that she will be singing "One Rock and Roll Too Many," (Wikipedia says it's from Starlight Express, and it's all done on roller skates or something with people dressed like characters in Tron). "Interesting choice," says ALW.

"Yes, it is," says Syesha. So confident. So tiresome. Such good hair. She's excited because she gets to act, kind of like in that commercial she did back in Florida. I always get the feeling that Syesha wants to use Idol to break into musical theater anyway, so this ought to be a good night for her.

Well, shit, I'm actually enjoying this. I like how loose she seems, dancing around, vamping it up with pelvis-rotating and behatted bandleader Ricky Miner, cuddling up to the guitar player so he can get a good, close-up gander at her front-and-centers, then back over to Ricky, who has stopped leading the band and is simply snapping his neck back and forth and wishing he could leap off the stand and freak Syesha right there onstage (but, you know, in that safe, Broadway, gay-dancer-bumps-up-to-the-leading-lady way).

This is the best thing I've ever seen her do. So I won't go on and on this week about how I think she's kind of full of herself. Even though I think she still is.

Jason Castro is up next. And I promised my anonymous friend from last week that I'd give him some equal time for his whole JC-fixation. So this friend and I talked on the phone and he explained how JC is, in his opinion, the only Idol not playing a role, the only unique one on stage, that what you see is what you get, that he embodies the spirit of the indie artist far more than David Cook does, that he fits the Moldy Peaches-ish, offhanded, muttery, sometimes camera-shy, sometimes awkward "goofy foot" way of life, something the Idol stage has never seen. However, when pressed, my friend also went on and on about the dreaded one's perfect skin ("It glows!") and his "dreamy eyelashes."

"That's funny," says Xtreem Aaron, sitting next to me on the couch and having been fairly silent so far tonight, "I think he looks like if Predator had a teenage daughter."

Castro is going to sing "Memory" from Cats. It's the song that the old prostitute cat sings before she dies and gets lifted up to the ceiling on the tire. At least in my memory her character was a kitty of the night. I could be misremembering that. I saw it in 1989 in London at a Wednesday matinee. It was me, a handful of other tourist nincompoops, and about 700 screaming British schoolchildren off on a field trip. In that context it was kind of a mindfuck but not as bad as the reputation it has. Those kids were into it. I remember thinking, Ha. Those cats are singing.

I think it's kind of great that JC picked this one, made most famous by Barbra Streisand. ALW is sort of refreshingly blunt about how appropriate he thinks this song is for Castro. "He kind of understood it. I think," offers the song's writer.

Castro's response: "I didn't know a cat was singing it."

YES, YOU DOPE. IT'S FROM CATS. THERE ARE NO NOT-CATS IN THE WHOLE FUCKING SHOW. CATS SING ALL THE SONGS. CATS DO ALL THE ACTING. CATS DO ALL THE DANCING. IT'S ABOUT CATS, CATS, AND MORE FUCKING CATS.

It's a big-voice song too. So this ought to be interesting. He sits on a stool and tries to give it the Iron and Wine treatment. But the thing about Iron and Wine's Sam Beam is that he's got controlled whisper-singing down to an exact, spooky, heartbreaking science. Castro, on the other hand, feels like he shouldn't even be upright. Instead I would like for the show to allow him to be fully himself from here on and give him a couch to lie down on and a bag of Cool Ranch Doritos to munch while he gives each week's selection the somnambulant treatment that is fast becoming his trademark.

The judges aren't into it.

Onward...

By now the whole world (well, the "world" of people who follow this game show) knows that Brooke blew it this week. She started her song, "You Must Love Me" from the movie version of Evita, forgot the words, and then started over. And the jury is out on whether or not that was professional. The judges couldn't agree, the audience didn't seem to mind, certainly the voters didn't care because she's still safe at the end of it all. Personally, I think you soldier on. You blather on like Leslie Uggams about "June is busting out all over with the fruh-fruhs and be-jeebus and the garblegrablefrakkinlicious stairs" and you just fuckin' get through it. You just do. I like to think that Kristy Lee Cook sat Brooke down this week and said, "Look, you've got this vulnerability angle all sewn up. So here's how you work it, see? You fuck up the song at first. Then you give 'em those pleading cry-eyes you got. Pout some. You're good at that. But fuckin' get it wet. Be on the verge of a breakdown. Get the shakes. Everyone will feel sorry for you and you'll sail on through. AMERICA! FUCK YEAH!"

So Brooke plaints her way through it, at one point holding out her hand, palm open, fingers stretched wide, aching to catch the must-love she's begging for. Rick Schroder is in the audience. He looks concerned. Also like he'd enjoy must-loving her a bit.

And then it's Archuleta time. Does he actually get younger every week? What if by the finale he's back in diapers? And then retreats into his dad's womb? Sorry, I obviously meant his mother's. It's not like his dad's a sea horse or anything. Seacrest invites little girls up onstage to hug the boy and he seems SO comfortable with that. Well, if he wins and gets a bodyguard, it'll never have to happen again. For all I know he already has a 500-pound ex-con named "Tiny" watching out for him. And if he doesn't, he'd better sign one onto the payroll soon or he's going to have the life squeezed out of him by every fourth-grade girl in the United States.

OK, Carly. But before I talk about the singing, I have a Jesus Christ Superstar story to tell you that I think is very relevant to what goes down on the results show. I was, I don't know, 8 or 9 years old when the film version of that musical hit theaters. And it was rated G, so being a movie-obsessed kid, I was all set to go see something that was clearly MPAA-approved for my consumption.

And then my oldest brother, who was in his late teens at the time and, thanks to some family weirdness you don't need to hear about, had a significant hand in raising me, and who had just become a born-again Christian, put his foot down. "No," he said, "because that movie disrespects and mocks Jesus."

"How?" I asked. Because in my kid-mind, I just assumed that God didn't care much if you disrespected him. He was God, after all. Didn't stuff like that just roll off his back?

"It makes Jesus look wishy-washy. They make him out to be a fool," said my brother. And since he was now brand-new friends with Jesus, I figured he knew. And since I was a fairly obedient child, I waited to see the movie until I could be sure my brother wouldn't find out. So I bought a ticket to see yet another repeat-engagement of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory at the kid matinee, and then walked straight into the matinee of JCS. I have very few memories of it now beyond chicks with Afros go-go dancing around Jesus in a couple of scenes, but now that I'm older, I realize that the show was about a very human Jesus and that it still has the power to offend a lot of hard-core Christians.

Now, Carly had chosen to sing some crap ballad from Phantom, so desperate for the judges to tell her how she was finally becoming the Kelly Clarkson of their dreams. But ALW cuts her off and tells her he wants her to sing the title song from Jesus Christ Superstar. She seems very happy to be allowed to do this. She does it. She knocks it out of the park. Ricky Miner keeps dancing. But I sit here watching and I think the following things:

1. A song like that, one in which another character in the show is using as a way to grill Jesus on his intentions and his self-perception, is going to be widely misunderstood by the viewing audience, especially an audience that isn't familiar with the show it comes from. You can't take theater songs out of their story line and expect people to understand unless, like "Memory," they can stand alone as pretty songs that people simply like to sing along to.

2. When the tattooed lady who wears all black is up onstage shouting, "JEEE-SUS CHRIIIIST!! SOOOOPER-STARRR!!" with her clearly joyful-but-still-very-intense face, a face that could be easily read incorrectly as someone simply yelling, "Jesus Christ! Take out the trash! I've asked you three times already!" is when a nation of lunkheaded, culturally illiterate, nominal Christians are going to look at each other and say, "What that girl say 'bout Jesus?! She's blaspheming the Lord!"

3. She is amazing. And she is doomed.

Then David Cook comes out and holds the microphone all tentatively, like a porn girl holding a dick, and attempts a straightforward reading of "Music of the Night." He probably thought, How would Our Lady Peace tackle this? and then maybe thought better of that impulse. Whatever. Am I so divorced from the way normal people think that I'm missing something about him? Is he truly incredible and I'm just flat out of my mind? I think not. I think he sucks.

Now for Chopped, Screwed, Mashed, Pulverized, and Deflated Night.

And I have no list of events. Just a rant. The events can suck it this week.

But in the interest of completeness, I will tell you that a bunch of stupid shit happens, including a visit from Leona Lewis (whose song is a straight-up snooze) and Clay Aiken (whose entire career makes Leona Lewis's song sound as revelatory as "I Wanna Hold Your Hand"), and then a taped message from our despicable president and his robot-wife. I have no idea what they were on the show for. I fast-forwarded through it. I can't stand to hear one more word from his evil lying lizard lips. Oh, and another thing: Fuck them both.

Brooke and Jason Castro are, inexplicably, safe. Brooke freaks out, goes to the safety-couch and puts her head in her hands. I hear from other bloggers who were in the audience that she wept openly and then spent time lying facedown on the couch. Where were the cameras when I needed them? Why am I not getting my entertainment value for the time I invest in this show?

Then they kick off Carly. And I know it's not cool to care. But I do. In this moment I care about the dubious integrity of this ridiculous show, a show I believe intentionally sabotaged its most interesting and talented singer. Week after week she was attacked by judges, forced into a box of come-on-get-happiness that she was too mature to giggle her way through in anything resembling a convincing manner, told that her clothes were all wrong and made to feel psyched out, messed up, and frightening. Her super-inked, tattooed-skull-having husband was kept as far from the camera as possible in early episodes, lest he terrify voters by proxy. But as time went on he got more and more camera time. LOOK, AMERICA! THAT WOMAN CHOSE TO MARRY THIS GUY! HOW DOES THAT MAKE YOU FEEL ABOUT CARLY?! OOKY, RIGHT?! The message of this elimination is: Be the character we're trying to create for you or get the fuck lost.

So goodbye for now, Mrs. Smithson. You were too cool for this bullshit. I will download your next CD from iTunes someday.

Seriously, fuck American Idol.

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