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Bore Me

Bore Me


Some things -- like maybe some people singing -- happen on the penultimate week of American Idol. But none of it is as interesting as Fantasia.

I left my thing in Texas -- that thing that Fox sent me that was a giant magnetic board for your refrigerator that had all the faces of the top 12 Idols on stickers that you'd affix to 12 boxes and then 12 more red letter X's that you'd put on their faces as they one by one got swallowed up into a Not-Fame Hole. That. I left it on my sister-in-law's refrigerator before coming back to Los Angeles. Oh, well. They like both the Davids quite a bit in that house, so it's not like it won't be loved and used, although I still think I could get some money for it on eBay from some obsessive Archie fan.

So the show starts, and Seacrest, I believe, just insulted David Cook by calling him a bartender. I don't think any bartender wants to be called a bartender. All the ones I know are actors or porn stars or real estate agents. And didn't Cook have a record out already? I haven't really been paying attention to his backstory besides the whole brother-with-cancer thing.

OK, I just checked. He did. He released a solo record in 2006. So yeah, he was a musician already who'd already seen his high school band get on the loop of those awful AMC Movie Tunes that you're forced to listen to before movies. But, you know, whatever it takes.

So then Seacrest talks about how the final three are "at your mercy" and blahblahblah and "This... is Ah-MER-ican Idol!" before he spins around in a sort of "Ole!" kind of way that I've never seen him do outside of close contact with Chikezie. The credits roll and the camera hunts for celebrities to fixate on. There's Marilu Henner.


Is she in some kind of contest with Denise Richards and Constantine? Why do the same famous people keep coming back to the show? I'm genuinely baffled by their need to be in the audience. The camera catches Marilu looking down at her hands, examining them for some reason. Maybe she saw the shots of Sarah Jessica Parker's hands thrown up all over the Internet on that slow news day earlier this week and is suddenly obsessed with making sure her own are still youthful and fresh-looking.

Also in the audience: that guy who got kicked off early in season 6, I forget his name; and that guy who's gay and Asian and on some TV show. I forget who he is too. I know, I should try to figure out his name. Sorry about that, Gay Actor Guy. But they're here. It's pretty exciting.

It's the week where the top three return to their hometowns for some Fox affiliate brand-reinforcement. It's also the week that the singers will each perform three 90-second renditions of dumb songs chosen by the judges, by the producers, and by themselves.

The hometown clips start with Archuleta returning to Utah, where the mayor of whatever town we're in, a guy with a wild American flag shirt and big cowboy belt buckle and one of those wacky handlebar mustaches that you have to wax, reads a note from Paula. She's chosen a Billy Joel song for him to sing. And why? What was her "'thought process' in choosing this song for David?" asks Seacrest.

"Well, showcasing the amazing vocals that you have, it's a beautiful song that shows the level of difficulty ... in the melodies ... that of which I know you can handle, and it will totally exploit the beautiful timbre in your voice."


She makes such excellent sentences. Really, the best sentences on TV. Of anyone. That "Iraq and such as" girl from that teen beauty pageant? An amateur. No one can do this like Paula Abdul. It would take a team of writers to come up with this shit. But Paula just spins it straight out of her head. And that's why the show can never get rid of her. I mean, yeah, Randy's useless. But Paula has a place here always, even when she's not stepping up her game and critiquing songs that have yet to be sung.

OK, time for the boy to sing. Oh, wait, no, Seacrest has to ask him how he feels about the song he's about to sing. This'll be great. Because, see, you'd think that maybe the one smart thing Papachuleta did for that kid before getting himself banned from backstage was to make him watch baseball players in postgame locker-room interviews, where they give the reporters nothing but make it sound like almost something. There's an entire scene in Bull Durham about it. Because up to this point he's shown zero discernible personality over the course of the season outside of an intense, naked need to please. So he needs to be fed canned speeches. But he's not a pro at it yet. He will be someday. Y'ever hear Ricky Martin talk? It's like the smoothest thing ever. He makes glass when he talks. And he says nothing. Archuleta's not there yet. So his answers to questions for the past five months have all resembled each other in quality, word choice, and excitement, a sort of lost, grasping, interrogation-style forced response: "Um. I was excited. It's a really pretty song. So."

It's a sort-of ballad. Very old-fashioned. He might as well be singing "Shenandoah." In fact, I'd like that more. That's a great song.

[Pause in the recap while recapper goes to YouTube to watch an old TV clip of Tennessee Ernie Ford singing "Shenandoah" in front of a ship's deck set where background guys in sailor outfits are lighting each other's cigarettes in a decidedly Querelle-ish way.]

So Mr. A keeps his eyes open for about 47% of the song, which is not exactly what Andrew Lloyd Webber asked of him, but it'll have to do for now. Song over, lips licked, the judges go "in the zone ... in it to win it ... you're such a storyteller ... a bit predictable," like you expect them to, right down the line.

Commercials: I haven't been really talking much about them this season because the show's been that compelling. Well, really I've just been too lazy and letting TiVo fast-forward its way right through them, but ladies, have you noticed the trend lately of the Transformersization of makeup? I was just looking at a magazine the other day and I saw an ad for "Bionic Mascara." Now there's a Jessica Alba Revlon commercial on for 3D Extreme Mascara. I have to ask my model pal Elyse about all this because she's a professional makeup wearer. Maybe she'll respond to my e-mail question before I file this recap with my editors. If she does, I'll include the answer later on. LADY MYSTERIES ARE WEIRD.

Back from commercials, the judges are here to help you appreciate the complexity of Ryan Seacrest's job by trying to read announcer-copy from the teleprompter while Seacrest does a "Yo yo yo whassup" Randy Jackson impersonation. He does a passable Randy, but none of them are good at being hosts. In fact, of all of them, Paula seems to have it down the tightest even though they're crowding her out of the shot.

Cut to Syesha riding in a car, going somewhere. She gets a text from Randy telling her that his choice of song for her tonight is Alicia Keys's "If I Ain't Got You." That's a really good song. She might not ruin it. At the very least all she'll do is copycat it. I wouldn't mind that.

Some gay in the audience (far left-hand side of the TV screen) is already clapping with his hands over his head. Not yet, Gay! Wait for Randy to explain his choice and for Syesha to explain how much she loves it. Then she'll sing. THEN you can over-the-head clap for her. She's got a big sparkly gold gown on. She looks amazing. And she does a very competent 90-second version of that song. I'm not peeing myself, but it's nice. Randy tells her she's peaking at the right time, whatever the fuck that means. Paula says nothing significant. Simon criticizes Randy's unadventurous choice for her. Seacrest asks her about her strategy. Has she been holding back until now? Syesha seems confused by the question. And anyway, she's the wrong person to ask about strategy. Go pull Kristy Lee Cook out of the crowd and ask her. Her staff of ex-Pentagon officials will get back to you with a full briefing on the matter. Until then, you never saw her here. She's traveling incognito on an intelligence-collecting mission.

But Syesha does, for the second time tonight, tip a bit of her hand. She says that she's over her nervousness now and ready to "be myself, you know." Except she says it with this fakey down-home accent, like an actress rehearsing for a Beth Henley play. And when the show started and Seacrest called her an actress, she made that framing motion with her hands, that A Star Is Born gesture. So I guess she might not be confused by strategy questions after all. She knows that the real her is a fake her.

Next up is David Cook back in Kansas City on a Fox morning show ,and he just happens to get Simon Cowell's text while he's there. I love it when things are timed just right by accident like that. Simon's chosen Roberta Flack's "The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face." That song's perfect. And it's perfect for Cook because he'll get to alt-rock it a little the way he likes to do, and then I'll have a version of it to hate. Seacrest uses the title of the song to engage in a little gay-baiting with Simon. I miss that stuff. They haven't done nearly enough of it this season. I need to be reminded by the larger culture that I'm still laughable or else I get too comfortable.

Cook starts the song, and a woman that I assume is his mother (if they've shown her before, I forgot) stands up in the audience, blocking the view of every single seated person behind her. Nice move, Mom. Meanwhile, Cook's dad is seated elsewhere. Don't know if that's a divorce thing or not. After the song DC wishes his mom a "happy belated Mother's Day, by the way." Kind of offhand and casual. He's so rock.

Next: contestants' own ill-advised song choices. Archuleta chose Chris Brown's "With You." He gets points for picking something from this decade and from a singer his own age. But then he succumbs to the song's mid-tempo-ness, failing to keep up. He sounds out of breath and unsure, wobbling around the stage, bouncing blandly to the beat. The show tries to help by swirling pink color-wheel lights on his face to make him glow. Show can only do so much, though. Judges aren't into it. Simon tells him he's a "Chihuahua trying to be a tiger," and Randy goes after him for singing a song with the words "my boo" in it, prompting nervous little Archuleta to mumble something about those words sounding weird coming from a white guy. Are we about to have an entire conference about race in pop music here? Wouldn't that be awesome? Get bell hooks to moderate. America would be enriched. Anyway, his version of the song was weak and winded. And maybe he's a balladeer for life. There are worse things.

Prop-intensive number from Syesha, as she cane-chairs her way through "Fever," telling Seacrest before she sings it that she's going to "walk around it a little bit, just work it a little bit, you know?" And again, she says that line with this odd, not-really-how-she-talks, actress accent. This time it's not the down-home dialect from before. It's a clipped, snippy, efficient, fancy lady giving directions to the caterer voice, like suddenly she's Megan Mullally on Will & Grace. Then she says, "Fever. Fun. Happy. Yeah," while waving her hands around like she's directing aircraft, telling you about how she's going to play the scene and to please cast her. And that's kind of everything you need to know about Syesha. If she's been holding back anything this season, it's the blatant overstating of her actressness. Now she's just going for it. Maybe she knows that this is her last week and she's ready for that touring company of Chicago to throw some love her way.

But she works that chair. Sings it all ass-forward. The judges aren't down. They don't want her to be an actress. They want her to be her. Except her is an actress, and if you vivisect any actress or actor, that's what you'll find inside: a database of impersonations.

Cook's choice is Switchfoot's "Dare You to Move."

Thanks, Daughtry.

His reward comes in the form of a lady of a certain age in the audience holding a sign that reads "Cougars for Cook." You have to love a woman who boldly calls herself that, maybe starts a club in her town for other cougars. They have cougar potlucks where they share tips on snagging somewhat attractive younger men in bands and where to buy "hot" outfits, read each other articles in More.

Finally, after a brief flash of Justin Guarini in the audience, it's time for producers' choice. They give Dan Fogelberg's "Longer" to Archuleta (of course), "Hit Me Up" from Happy Feet to Syesha (of course), and Aerosmith's "Don't Want to Miss a Thing" to Cook (of course, of course), who's changed into Duckie's prom jacket for this round.

I could maybe take a little nap here? I could. This is deadly.

Oh, look, it's Diane Warren and some other Power Lez. Is it weird that I don't give a shit about most of Diane Warren's songs but I think she seems pretty cool? Is there an inherent problem in that line of thought? Not that I care much, if there is. I've just read interviews where she comes off like a tough "broad" who doesn't care what people think about her. You kind of have to like that.

On to Chopped & Screwed Night. What happens:

1. TiVo cuts off the beginning of the show. Something staggering could have gone down and I'd be out of luck. And I understand that the odds of that are the kind that only Stephen Hawking could calculate. But still, you can't give up on possibilities in this life. Or where are you?

2. In the audience: Ramiele, Kristy Lee Cook, the Australian guy, and CARLY, BEST SINGER OF THIS SEASON. Also Andrew Lloyd Webber. Is there some good reason for him to still be here? You don't see Dolly or Neil or Mariah just hanging out. They're busy.

3. Interruption from a very quick reponse from model pal Elyse, who's working in Korea right now and not even in this time zone. But when I need her she's always there. So here's her explanation of mascara: As a professional makeup-wearer and eyelash-batter, I declare that "bionic mascara" and "3-D Extreme Mascara" are both prime examples of total mascara bullshit. Is there no adjective they will not apply to nonexistent mascara technology? Is nothing sacred? Those things are naught but black petroleum by-products; you slather them on your eyelashes to turn them black and slathered.

Women, you need go no more technologically advanced than Maybelline Great Lash in Blackest Black. I use it, all makeup artists use it, and that's all there is to it. Thanks, Elyse! And we didn't even have to wait until the Project Runway recaps for that.

4. Group-singing: "Ain't No Stoppin' Us Now." All three of them are loping along behind the band, dragging down the good times for an entire nation. What happened to the earpieces? Did they rebel against them? They might want to reconsider. In any case, it's great watching David Cook ditch his cred and do little disco choreography moves for millions of viewers. It's somewhat less great watching Archuleta. And by "somewhat less great" I mean sad and painful and full of sorrow. I'm trying to imagine Amanda giving in to the pressure and doing that same thing, fake grin on her face. Oh, look, there's Amanda now in the audience next to the gay stripper guy and Chikezie. I miss her.

5. Ford commercial: The kids stumble upon a fortune teller's tent, where they learn that fame and immense riches await them. Syesha will live in Brenda Dickson's "Welcome to My Home" house, have a portrait of herself over the fireplace, and wear gowns that are very dramatic. Archuleta will also live in a self-referential palace, with a pool featuring a giant painting of his face installed on the floor of it. There will also be a piano next to the pool. There will also be sprinklers making the piano soaking wet and unplayable. Cook will be a valet parking attendant outside one of these mansions. Either that or he will own an entire fleet of Fords. So you be the judge on which one of those scenarios is lamer. And is Archuleta even allowed to dabble in the occult like this?

6. Then Fantasia comes out to sing "Bore Me," a song from her latest CD. Contrary to the song's title, she does not, although I've been reading a lot of negative, untrue things about this particular Fantasia performance. Her hair (too red!), her body (too fat! too mannish!), her singing (too screamy!), her everything (too terrifying!) -- nothing is off limits when it comes to people hating this woman.

Meanwhile, I'm here to say they are all flat wrong and that this performance by Fantasia is, and I don't want to overstate my case too much, THE BEST THING THAT HAS EVER HAPPENED ON AMERICAN IDOL EVER.


First of all, her hair is raspberry Kool-Aid red now. In fact, it looks like she spent the final moments before her performance dyeing it that color and it may bleed out onto her forehead. She's wearing what looks like a black velvet one-piece halter-y pantsuit thing with chains hanging off it and giant hoop earrings attached to her head. She bounds onto the stage hollering, "HERE WE GO! EVERBODYINTHISBUILDINGGETUPONYOURFEETCOMEON!" At this command, the people backstage that you can't even see, people just wandering around being production assistants, are probably obeying her. I feel like not obeying her in this moment might have extreme consequences. Then she yells, "PUTCHAHANDSTOGETHAHLIKETHIS!" and begins swinging her big, muscular arms together and clapping like she's boxing the Incredible Hulk's ears and making him weep in submission.

Singing starts. Between each verse, she throws her body in two different directions at once, lightning-like, employing what may be an invisible Hula-Hoop of her own invention. More singing and more intense body-jerking and wiggling, while the backup dancers go "lah-deh-lah-deh-lah" and try to keep up. They mostly do.

Then there's screaming. It's always in the right place, this screaming. But she screams. And she screams. And points. And glares. And grins. And bumps her grind. And bumps her grind some more. And flares her nostrils. And makes the entire mosh pit of blond whippet girls take 10 steps back, unsure as to where the fire exits might be in case they need to use them in a second. She juts out her big ass, inviting the entire world to kiss it if they can't deal. Cut to Archuleta and Syesha. Thought bubble above Archuleta's head = "Keep the scary devil lady away from me, please."

Fantasia approaches the steps that lead to the floor. She pauses at the top, just as a courtesy, a warning that she's coming down there in a second and you might want to get the fuck out of the way. She runs around on the floor, screams some more and then heads back up onto the stage where a guy on a platform above the stage begins singing a little bit with her. Before the show, when they were searching around for males to keep their distance and sing with her, I wonder if Fantasia said, "You know, I always liked Dumb Donald from Fat Albert. Can you get him to duet with me?"

Except no one had the nerve to tell her that Dumb Donald was a cartoon. So they dressed up this guy like Dumb Donald and now here he is on a platform singing the bridge with her.

Quickly bored with Dumb Donald, she's back to center stage. Now she's going to spin her head completely around in a 360-degree circle and then breathe fire while simultaneously lighting her own farts with it.

Cut to Simon Cowell looking, as they say in England, "gobsmacked."

And then she takes a bow, flashes a giant grin that lets you know that you were not meant to be anything less than flabbergasted and in love with what she just did, and leaves the stage. Seacrest calls her back out to chat. She's hyperventilating. He asks her about her red hair. Her response: "I don't know, Ryan, I just tried it."

Him: "It's subtle, just like you."

Fantasia just laughs. She doesn't give a FUCK.

And this, viewers, is HOW YOU SING.

7. I think Syesha gets kicked off after that, sometime near the end of the show.

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Dave White