American Idol: Week 3 (or is it Week 2?)

Before we get down to business, the linguist in me needs to settle a semantic question: do I call this post Week 2 or Week 3?  Last week’s post was Week 2, so logically, this post should be Week 3.  However, last week’s Week 2 post really covered week 1, but was titled as such because we were heading into week 2.  This week’s post will talk about the week 2 shenanigans, but renaming may cause some semantic confusion.  So now I have to decide if I continue down the naming path I started on, and if so, is it confusing?  Granted, once we hit theme week, it will become a lot easier, because I can lose the numeric qualifier, but still.  These are the questions that keep me up at night.

Oh, you don’t care?  You just want to talk about Idol?  Ok…

So I slacked a little on Idol this week.  The optimistic glow from last week must already be wearing off, because I didn’t turn Idol on until Monday night, and that was only because I knew I had three hours to slog through.

This week we started in Milwaukee, WI.  Do you remember Mean Girls?  The last film that a relevant Lindsay Lohan was in?  One of my favorite lines from that movie is when Regina George tells Gretchen Wieners to stop trying to make “fetch” happen.  Idol was really trying to make Milwaukee happen, if you know what I mean.  I care so little about Milwaukee that I didn’t even bother to look up what they’re actually famous for.  Because, you see, there’s generally more to a city than being the hometown of Danny Gokey.  Right?

We moved on to Nashville, TN, a place that Carrie Underwood is neither from nor where she auditioned.  I’ve always wondered how the producers decide which show gets two hours of airtime and which one gets just one.  Was Milwaukee infinitely more exciting than Nashville?  Was Nashville infinitely more boring than Milwaukee?

Last week I mused that Steven Tyler had not yet proved himself annoying with his howler monkey screeching, but this week he came very close.  But let’s back up.  I did enjoy the beginning of the Milwaukee episode where he shook that tiny tin of Altoids and sang with Randy.  That was kind of cute.

I’ve decided that Randy is my favorite judge, because in lieu of Simon Cowell gems (like telling a contestant he looks like a bush baby), Randy’s attempts to hide his laughter are pretty amusing.  I also enjoy his wide-eyed, open-mouthed, wtf stares.  He seems to be caught in a lot of priceless awkward moments, like when the one crazy contestant asked if s/he could have a sip from his sponsored Coca-Cola cup, and after a few moments of silent disbelief, he managed to tell the contestant that it was Coke Zero, and that he was sure there was plenty outside the audition room.

My jury’s still lukewarm on Steven Tyler.  People really seem to like him, and I do enjoy the way he gets into the singing and sings along (most of the time).  Maybe it’s because I didn’t hear any Aerosmith songs until I got to college, but I don’t understand the worship, especially the one girl who cried when she was in the same tent as him.  He continues to offer good, constructive criticism – I like that he’s able to reject contestants without being too mean and harsh, but I also like that he doesn’t pussyfoot around the issue.

(Paula was a master at this – whenever she had a less than praise-full critique, she started by talking about how gorgeous the contestant looked.  That’d be like if a guy turned me down, but tried to soften the blow by telling me he liked my shoes – it doesn’t help.)

Luckily for us, where Paula is gone, Jennifer Lopez has filled her role.  Now here is someone I really don’t understand the worship for.  All these contestants who are starstruck in her presence, and clearly she’s basking in it, because this is the most important she’s been in a long, long time.  I thought her outfit on the second day in Milwaukee (with the treble clef) was very cute, but aside from that, she’s fairly bland and inoffensive.  The one critique she has offered that I thoroughly agree with is voting against some of the 15-year-olds because she thinks they’ll get swallowed up in the whole process.  For some 15-year-olds, this is definitely true, and I’m glad that she’s at least able to look past the ratings and be a bit practical.

The judges seem to have a good rapport, and watching Steven Tyler curtly correct Jennifer Lopez when she called him Steve or Stevie or whatever was a highlight of the week for me.  If the contestants give us nothing to look forward to, at least the judges do.

Contestant Rundown
Now let’s do a quick rundown of the contestants (or at least the ones I can remember).

  • Deep Country Kid – I liked him.  I was a little worried for him with his first song, and I think he’s going to be one of those contestants who you hardly see again or is inexplicably in the top 3.  Also, he needs to find some better fitting pants.
  • The Skunk from Colorado – This was the 15-year-old girl who was decent, and who cried buckets of tears when the judges expressed some misgivings at putting her through.  Similar to the Embarrassment from Springfield from last week, watching this one have a complete breakdown on national TV will be spectacular.
  • The White House Intern who Went to Harvard – She had a good voice, and I would have liked her better if she (and the producers) didn’t remind us ten times that she is a White House intern.  She has the “whole package” (alleged brains, good vocal ability, very pretty), so expect Idol to pimp her, a LOT.  If you don’t hate her already, you will soon.  Also, the dig at Monica Lewinsky?  Lame.  Is it 1998?
  • Summerfest Girl – She had a very nice voice, but I don’t really care, nor do I think it’s ironic that she works at Summerfest but thinks she should be performing at Summerfest.  Grasping at sob story straws, Idol.
  • Chris Medina – The one contestant whose full name I remembered, mainly because I was waiting for his audition all week.  First, he sang my current favorite song (with his “own spin” even!), so major points.  His story was touching (I was bawling on the couch by the end of it), but I still maintain that this should have no bearing on the competition.
  • 15-Year-Old with Wet-Looking Hair – She had a really nice voice for a 15-year-old, but she did this really obnoxious inhale thing on a high note that bugged me.  She also smiled a LOT, while nodding with wide eyes, which could get old.
  • The Guy who Sang Marvin Gaye – Very nice.  No back story, so we’ll see if he makes it far.
  • The Girl who Looked Like She Was Having a Seizure – This was a blonde girl who tried out previously.  She was practically doubled over in melisma-induced ecstasy.  Make her stop.
  • Ex-Couple – Once, I lived with an ex-boyfriend for months after we broke up.  It was not enjoyable.  Neither were these two.
  • Miss Teen Whatever – A rival for The White House Intern who Went to Harvard.  Let’s all pray for a girly throwdown.  If she continues to remind you that she was in a pageant, she and the Intern will compete for the most hated/most lusted after female contestant since Antonella Barba and/or Bikini Girl.  A true honor.

A special section devoted to the rejects of this week:

  • The Tattooed Guy – I liked this guy.  I thought he had an okay voice, and it was sweet how well he took the criticism.
  • The LARPer – This guy was reality TV gold.  Between the Civil War costume that he’d cobbled together from various reenactments, to his hippie dad, to his oversharing of his dad’s sex life, to his saluting the judges…it was a masterpiece.  And let’s not forget that he couldn’t sing.
  • The Honeymooners Radio Kid – He seemed sweet enough, but the microphone claw thing was strange.

General Thoughts
Idol is really ODing on a few things this year: 15-year-olds, sob stories, and golden tickets.

The majority of the 15-year-olds they’ve shown this year have been pretty good, but there are some definite trainwrecks in the making.  Watching teenagers who may or may not have finished going through puberty yet grovel, beg, cry, whine, and plead with the judges to go through because this is ALL they’ve ever wanted leaves a bad taste in my mouth.  It seems like most of the 15-year-olds fall into two categories: barely holding it together and 15-going-on-30.  Dislike.

The sob stories are really out of control this season.  In past years, Idol has done a good job mixing the mockery with the sympathy, but with the new softer, gentler Idol, they’ve swung heavily to the pity side.  Half the fun of watching Idol used to be observing just how far human delusions can take you, and it’s a bit disappointing to see Idol abandon some of its bread and butter (mocking horrifically bad and terribly out of touch contestants) in favor of people they’ll never show us again anyhow.

And similarly, who doesn’t go to Hollywood?  I suppose it’s nice that they’re giving the potential contestants more screen time (because as noted, if you get no screen time, you’re virtually guaranteed not to make it out of the Top 24 round, or whatever they’re doing this year), but it seems like the majority of contestants shown make it through.  Here and there they do a segment of rejects – I love the camera pushers the best: Get that out of my face! – but for the most part, it’s all happy ponies with a small dash of rejects.  Idol is supposed to entertain, and as a viewer, I demand more bad contestants who don’t make it through, preferably with verbal altercations.

Also, we need more Seacrest!  File this under Guilty Pleasure: I totally love Ryan Seacrest.

What’s there to look forward to this week?  It’s the last full week of auditions.  Two days this week, and only one day next week, and then onto the good stuff!

American Idol is on Wednesday and 8/7c and Thursday 8/7c this week.

Editor’s Note: Last week I incorrectly stated that we would be watching auditions from Atlanta.  I have no idea where I got that from.

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