Okay, you guys. I razz American Idol because deep down I’m secretly fond of it. I’m uncomfortable with love and I am slow to trust, so I hide my affection under a mountain of abuse. I give it the business out of tenderness, like my big brothers did to me in our youth.
Up until this week, that is. As of this minute, I believe American Idol is a train wreck. A giant wreck involving a thousand train cars, and each of those train cars is transporting model trains, and all those model trains are also colliding, and all of the model train cars are full of miniature nuns and orphans. You guys, season 13 is a goddamn mess. Now I am abusing this show because it deserves abuse (like my big brothers did to me when they were teenagers).
Let’s get into it. Please know that I am striking my computer keys super hard as I write this.
Okay: We begin, as always, with the endless entrance of our superstar judges. Honestly, if the show began with Harry, Keith, and Jennifer already sitting at their table, this show would be 11 seconds long. But nope, two whole minutes of our one life on this Earth must be spent watching three jillionaires lope onto a shiny stage and get their names chanted by an arenaful of teenagers and dental hygienists who’ve just been thrown Reese’s Minis by a zealous warm-up comic. It is resolved, after much discussion, that Jennifer is wearing a tank top, so of course Ryan, Keith, and Harry have to have a pun-off: “Tank you,” “No, tank YOU.” The moment is a straight-up lifebeater.
And then off to a rented mansion we go, to watch a well-lit, lavaliere-miked top eight sit on a Pier One outdoor sofa and have a rehearsed conversation about last night’s show: “Hey, did y’all see it when Harry kicked?” “Who thought Keith’s mullet was real?” “If all eight of us just went home and they replaced us with, like, the cast of Mixology, would anyone notice?” It is as stilted and painful as usual, until Sam takes Harry’s advice and Wikipedias Ricky Nelson. “Oh, you do look like him,” says Malaya. “Odd and confused.” Outstanding; speak truth to beigeness, Miss Watson. Alex reveals that he is booty-hurt about Jennifer’s criticism of his “Every Breath You Take,” and then he jumps in the pool with Caleb close behind. In their clothes and everything! Have you ever seen such a thing?
Oh, real quick, I know I didn’t discuss David Cook last night, and that’s because there wasn’t much to discuss. He seemed nice enough, and certainly eager to help the kids out, but his advice mostly amounted to “sing good.” Plus, he has embraced the rock star look so completely — the chunky glasses, the forearm tattoos, the hi-top fade — that I immediately assumed he’d become a barista. You come at me with a leather cuff and aggressive facial hair and I no longer wonder what kind of guitar you own, now I try to guess how detailed a leaf you can make out of milk froth. Anyway, he seems like a good guy, and I can’t wait to hear what Hoobastank album track will have him staring stalwartly into the middle distance next.
In the Ford Non-Music Video, the kids drive a Focus around town and play a lively round of Would You Rather. It starts with Jessica asking “Would you rather eat a handful of hair or lick a public telephone?” This is the part where I sigh so loudly my dog looks at me with concern. Okay, first of all, these people were all born in the 1990s, and you’re asking them a question that peripherally involves public telephones? Public telephones, like tamper-non-resistant aspirin bottles and respectful public discourse, are things they have literally never seen. (Also, obviously lick the public telephone. I guarantee you it will be the cleanest thing on the block.)
I am at annoyance factor five, and Randy Jackson hasn’t even chimed in yet. And as if to underscore his irksomeness, they have him deliver his reviews right into the camera, like he’s talking directly to you. Like you’re at a party, and he’s there, and he won’t stop talking. Here are his insights on Dexter, CJ, Jessica, and Caleb:
— Dexter has a lot more growing to do. I will repeat: The guy with the 11-word vocabulary thinks someone else needs to show some versatility. That’s gotta hurt.
— CJ showed the ache in his voice by going up an octave. I’d say CJ showed that his range doesn’t include that octave, but whatever.
— Jessica didn’t show enough attitude, but she’ll be safe. Sure.
— Caleb showed a different side of himself, and “it’s what Harry’s been wanting to see all week.” All week? Don’t want to do another take on that one? You’re the boss, Dawg(TM).
Caleb is safe! Jessica is safe! Dexter is safe, leaving CJ in the bottom two. On to the next four:
— Sam knew he needed to have a moment, so he did his thing, but Randy has no idea what that’ll do for him in the votes. Hey, thanks for that unique insight, Randy. Here is an oversize novelty check for more than any of us will see in our entire lifetimes.
— Malaya hit some of the notes, but didn’t hit other ones, and might be in trouble.
— Alex’s arrangement went too far afield (except he says it like: I didn’t know about that one, man).
— Jena’s performance was good enough to keep her out of the bottom.
Got all that? Great: Alex is safe! Jena is safe! Sam is safe, meaning poor Malaya is in the bottom two with CJ. Do you #IdolAgree or #IdolDisagree? I #IdolFear it will be Malaya who will be sent home, because that would be a genuine bummer and this show is determined to break my spirit.
And so it comes to pass. Malaya is cast off, with no Judges Save to buoy her. Here’s why this is unacceptable: Malaya is the very reason we have shows like American Idol. She is a true diamond in the rough, a girl with a personality as big as her glasses, a singer with style whose voice might not be perfect but whose potential is limitless. We are also in a time without a kicky young pop star just for the kids, a 21st century Jets or Five Star, and with careful cultivation, she could have been it (and I guess still could, but whatever, shut up, I’m on a roll). But instead, she got Randy giving her useless advice, Harry giving her expert-level singing lessons when he should have been getting her to simply loosen up, and styling that boomeranged her back and forth between nerd and princess. She got hosed, and so did you; even if you didn’t like her, you can’t deny this season needs her verve. #Justice4Malaya.
I’m as despondent as she is when she sings her farewell version of “I Am Changing”; she can’t sing the big last line for crying: “Nothing’s going to … stop … me …”
And by the last word, she’s just looking into the camera and speaking: