It’s still early in the sixth season of American Idol but environmentalists like Al Gore are already clamoring for this year’s cast to be extended indefinitely. With all the waterworks coming from the semifinalists, a little bit of engineering could provide enough water to irrigate the entire greater Hollywood area and make droughts a thing of the past.
OK, that’s an exaggeration … but not by much. The tears were flowing on Thursday’s results show, and the “Idol” cameras caught them all. Gina Glocksen was sobbing, Jordin Sparks had a hard time holding it together, Melinda Doolittle’s eyes were moist for the entire show, Sundance Head was teary-eyed throughout … and they were some of the ones coming back next week.
Of course, it’s an emotionally jarring experience to perform on national television, get insulted by judges from two continents, and then deal with Ryan Seacrest trying a little trickery to fool sure-fire winners into being nervous. And, of course, one of “Idol's” strengths is that everybody likes each other, or at least pretends to.
It’s not like Donald Trump is picking the winner based on who’s the better backstabber — the American public makes the call, and a few tears of relief or commiseration hasn’t cost anyone a vote yet. Contestants advance by outsinging their rivals, not by forming an alliance to vote them out. Why not just be friends with everyone?
But this season seems to have more criers than most. Even Kellie Pickler nearly broke down at the end of her guest performance. Not only is she not a contestant, she’s already sold dozens of records, guest-hosted “The View,” and apparently hired Dolly Parton’s wardrobe consultant, hair stylist and comedy writers. Apart from having to deal with Ryan’s dumb jokes and Simon’s stare again, there’s no reason at all for her to get emotional.
It was just that kind of night … where the entire group led off the show by singing “Joy to the World” and spent the rest of the time looking more like they were at a funeral. America voted to save two of the worst singers, and four more semifinalists were sent packing.
Not much of a feverThe first two contestants voted off weren’t much of a surprise. Nick Pedro’s “Fever” never got much above 99 degrees, and Alaina Alexander was “Not Ready to Make Nice” but also not able to rock out. Neither performance was terribly bad, but neither was memorable either, and there’s too much competition for anyone to stick around for long by being bland.
Alexander wound up setting the tone for the evening, turning to the rest of the already sniffling women and telling them, “Everybody that’s left, sing your butts off. I love you all, OK.” That got the tears flowing and the group hug going — to the point where Alexander had to take a break from the song and let the backup singers take over until she got it out of her system and came back for the finish.
The second eliminations were a little more surprising, in that they didn’t take the form of Sanjaya Malakar or Antonella Barba. Both had to go onstage with Ryan to hear their fate … but it was just one big tease. Instead of rejecting them, the voters chose to reject the music of a jazz legend.
Feeling badNina Simone was a legendary jazz musician, songwriter and civil rights activist. Were “American Idol” around when she was a teenager, she would not have needed the program to make her famous.
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And it’s a good thing, because America rang out a loud repudiation of the Simone style on Thursday. Both AJ Tabaldo and Leslie Hunt chose to sing her hit “Feeling Good,” but it didn’t make the voters feel anything other than apathy, as they were both kicked off the show.
Tabaldo sang well enough that his ouster was a surprise. It was certainly shocking to Malakar, who admitted that he was stunned he was advancing instead.
Though the five-time auditioner was one of the better male vocalists, he apparently took too long to develop a fanbase. That’s something Malakar clearly has. But what is that fanbase hearing that the rest of us aren’t? The teenager’s vocals just haven’t been up to the standards of his older rivals.
As for Hunt, she shared the stage with both Barba and the 17-year-old Jordin Sparks. Barba got sent to safety first, as the teenage boys hoping for more risqué photos to crop up on the Internet carried the day. Sparks was apparently kept on stage as a test to see how far the show could push a teenager’s emotions without actually risking criminal charges, but it was Hunt who was shown the door instead.
Hunt was not surprised, telling Ryan that she “had a feeling” she’d be at risk. She was still in tears at the finish, though not as much as Sparks was, and showed a little humor when she closed her vocals by singing “why did I decide to scat” instead of actually scatting.
It wasn’t much consolation, but at least the line may have helped a few of her friends onstage laugh through their tears.
Craig Berman is a writer in Washington, D.C.