I don’t know how I got roped into watching every damn episode of American Idol this season (oh, wait, yes I do), but wife N. and tween daughter E. summed up the experience nicely as 17-year-old winner Scotty McCreery soaked up the glory.
Just as I was thinking to myself, Man, that boy is gonna get some serious play, N. pipes up, “He’s gonna get more cookie than the Keebler Elf.”
E. wasn’t quite on the same wavelength. “He’s gonna get a cookie?”
As Randy Jackson would say, “What kind of show is this?!?”
Ryan Seacrest had the best quip of the night, after a clip reel of Randy Jackson saying “in it to win it” about 100 times: “We gotta get you a new writer.”
(Okay, shit, this is going to get long winded, so if you want the quick hit, you should just watch Jim Cantiello’s American Idol in 60 Seconds. Always the most trenchant Idol commentary, even if he can’t get down wit the country.)
The whole show unfolded like a 70s-80s variety show in the massive Nokia Theatre in L.A. There were so many celebrity surprises and crazy moments, I’m just going to have to do a list.
- The final 13 kicked things off with rendition of Lady Gaga’s Born This Way.
- James Durbin sang with with the actual, in person Judas Priest, complete with their sole original member. And was that Rob Halford or not? I think it was, but it’s not like anybody’s giving him any props.
- Jacob Lusk sang with Kirk Franklin and the full gospel choir. He also got the celebrity surprises started in earnest with Gladys Knight.
- Family dog favorite Casey Abrams did a fat-boy (frat-boy?) version of Fat Bottom Girls with Jack Black. I used up most of our DVR commercial buffer fast forwarding past it in order to get the ladies back in the room. (Considering whom the producers later paired Haley Reinhart with, putting Casey with Jack Black was kind of a major dis.)
- The girls came back out singing a Beyonce medley, topped off with an appearance by Beyonce herself. Did I mention Beyonce is friggin’ amazing?)
- And then the Jack Black/Casey Abrams dis was complete when they trotted out none other than Tony friggin’ Bennet himself with Haley Reinhart. Take that, Casey! Burn!
- The girls came back out to do a number with TLC, performing without the late, great Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes. An emotional moment for N., who adored Left Eye.
- Scotty McCreery shared the stage with Tim McGraw, singing Live Like You Were Dying, one of N.’s all-time country faves.
- Then, the musical highlight of the night. Marc Anthony with the full Latin orchestra doing Hector Lavoe’s Aguanile. I say: “A real Latin Band. That’s cool. He’s singing in Spanish. That’s cool. A woman playing timbales. That’s cool.” N. says: “Hey, isn’t that Sheila E?” Marc Anthony says: “SHEILA EEEEEEE!!!” and she friggin’ kills on a timbales solo. Then J Lo comes out, butt first. “I’d know that ass anywhere,” I say. She proceeds to friggin kill it on a butt shaking solo. I think to myself, yeah, Mark Anthony is a talented band leader and singer and all, but that’s not what makes him the luckiest SOB on the planet.
- The boys come out with a Tom Jones medley… Can you guess who comes out to join them? Oh yeah, it’s Tom Jones, still sexy after all these years. Cut to Jack Black in the audience, looking like he’s going to throw his panties on stage.
- Fulfilling the foreshadowing of the first number, Lady Gaga appears on a giant Star Trek rocky planet set piece. Pretty soon she takes off her overcoat. “I knew she had a leather bikini under there somewhere,” says N. “Doesn’t she always?” says E. She’s got the Solid Gaga Dancers below, and she lifts her leg up on her keyboard, showing the full ass to the camera. Then, keepin’ it even more family friendly, a boy dancer joins her on her perch and simulates hot sex before they fall together into the abyss. Randy’s down there saying “What kind of show is this?!?” I’m saying “Gaga’s in it to win it yo!”
- Lauren Alaina belts one out with her idol Carrie Underwood.
- Another clip reel with Casey sounding bitter. I don’t think he’s acting.
- Beyonce comes back pleading with me to make love to her. The ladies in the room are extremely uncomfortable at this point. I’m saying, the woman’s got pipes. She can dance. She can produce. Beyonce is IN IT TO WIN IT!!!
- Bono and The Edge perform the ultimate self-parody with Spiderman flying through the house. Edge always seems like an imposter to me. After all these years, he still doesn’t really have much in the way of guitar chops. The kid singing with them does Bono better than Bono. And he’s better looking, too, and probably doesn’t avoid paying taxes like Bono. N. says “What are they singing, anyway? ‘If you send fries to above?’” Then spidey descends for a JLo kiss, but JLo says no friggin way. I mean, WTF was that all about anyway?
- Steven Tyler does a passable cover of Dream On. Wait, is it a cover if he was the original artist? And where the hell is Joe Perry? What is this, the Steven Tyler Band?
- Lauren looks like she’s about to pass out right before Scotty is announced the winner. Scotty gets some girls wondering when he says of Lauren “we’ve been together for a long time and we’re going to stay together.” He goes to sing his debut single, hugging his whole family in the front row, then some random old guys with long hair — wait, was one of those guys John Voight? — but leaving Jack Black hanging, arms outstretched.
In between there are lots of clips and integrated Ford ads (“The whole thing is a Ford ad,” says E.).
At its worst, American Idol is crappy reality TV, with all the exploitation and ginned-up drama. Not that that’s not entertaining some times. One clip reel featured Idol crew sticking their cameras in the faces of crying rejects and their parents.
“You want me to kick you in your [bleepin bleep] you better get the [bleep] outta my way,” says one mom, shielding her crying kid. Then she turns to her kid: “Shut up, Maria.” Then she smacks the camera.
But ultimately it comes down to old-fashioned singing and dancing, which is what kept me coming back. A hot band and some young up-an-comers leaving it all on stage.
I told the women-folk, when we go see the Idol tour live, you can’t walk out of the room when Casey takes the stage. “Oh yes we can,” says N., who thinks she just might have to take a little stretch right about then.
- Beyonce is friggin’ amazing. A show biz juggernaut at 29.
- If you ain’t got much going on musically (Pitbull), hire some Vegas show girls to wiggle and strut.
- If you got musical bona fides (Cee Lo Green), they gonna put you on a flying piano and flip you upside down while you sing a full version of an Al Green song and a truncated version of the censored version of your own smash hit. Ain’t that some shh…?
- Brittney Spears is making a play to stay relevant, but I didn’t stay up long enough to see it. (From what I heard on the radio, she’s working hard to sound like Ke$ha.) DJ, turn it up…
- Will.i.am thanked the thousands of software engineers and technicians who make it possible for him to perform and be a mega star. Cuz god knows the man can’t sing without auto-tune.
- Fergie who?
- Did I mention Beyonce is friggin’ AMAZING?
Also, did I mention my entire summer is being planned around pop culture events? Or that my tween daughter isn’t entirely comfortable with me becoming familiar with current pop music? Or that I can’t get Katy Perry’s weird Extraterrestrial out of my head? Take me, tay-tay-take me….
Enough… I gotta go listen to some vintage Nuyorican to cleanse my palate.