If you’re the lone sadist who didn’t get their fill of amateur singing during American Idol’s last seven audition episodes, then last night must have been manna from cutting-floor heaven. For everyone else, though, the episode of unseen “highlights” that were just “too good” to leave unaired was like the deleted scenes on a DVD: exciting in theory, but maddeningly dull in practice. Bonus footage is always the extra of broken promises.
Talent, at least in the traditional sense, was not present last night; instead of showing us some of the more impressive ticket winners who had previously been eschewed in favor of “Pants on the Ground,” they gave us, well, more “Pants on the Ground.” Ryan Seacrest narrated a clip reel demonstrating how General Larry Platt’s ode has become a viral sensation, which, in turn, means that meme is officially dead.
The hardest audition to watch was that of Adrian, the 6’8” swimmer with the voice of a mouse from Cinderella. To be fair, his singing wasn’t as bad as they made it out to be — weak, yes, but passably melodic — but the absurd juxtaposition of a huge man with a girl voice was too paradoxical to reconcile. Far more awkward were his repetitious descriptions of himself as “the big Kahuna” and “a big beautiful man flower” with “big petals of glory.” His oddness seemed more like mild autism than mere quirkiness, leaving one to think the producers probably should have resisted their point-and-smirk instincts and left him off the airwaves.
The other highlights (as it were):
• Jessica Furney’s caterwauling take on Joplin bombed last season, but she was back for more, wisely performing Leona Lewis’s “Footprints in the Sand,” co-written by Simon himself. She assured them this had nothing to do with sucking up, but four yes votes for that middling performance indicated otherwise.
• Amanda was an overly dramatic teenager who could impersonate Britney and talk with her mouth closed … so you know this double threat is going places. The judges felt she let her theater training get in the way of connecting emotionally, but they gave her zealous ambition another shot. There was also a perplexing moment of cognitive dissonance when the marmoreal, emotionless Victoria Beckham assured her, “It’s good to be dramatic — I’m dramatic.”
• Lacey made the top 50 last season, but her languid take on “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” was just plain irritating. Even though she drew out all the wrong syllables, the judges must have recalled her previous vocal flair because they gave her a pass.
• Stephanie, who dressed in a style that could best be described as “hooker from the year 2025,” told Beckham she idolized her fashion sense and sang a gulping, tremulous version of “Fever.” They rightly gave this seventh-time hopeful the boot, but Posh Spice should have at least lied and complimented the girl’s outfit to ease the sting.
• Hope Johnson, a 19-year-old who made up for her vocal limitations with a charmingly earthy take on Lee Ann Womack’s “I Hope You Dance.” Randy slipped up and accidentally gave her some helpful advice, correctly stating she needed to work on closing her phrases while singing.
• Didi, who honored a late best friend with an elegant, jazzy “Hey Jude.” Convinced but not amazed, Simon gave her a small yes, though the three other yes votes came in huge percentages.
• Aaron Kelly, a young-looking teenager whose aunt and uncle took over raising him after his parents proved unfit. This story caused Seacrest to extol his “resistance” — resistance to what, negligent biological parenting? Aaron, who may be our next Archuleta, sang Miley’s “The Climb” and actually did a great job making it teen-dude friendly. He had a strong voice for a 16-year-old and told us, “I might even be a role model someday.” Sure, why not.
• Kimberly Bishop had big, generically altruistic dreams: She wanted to use her “impending” fame to promote recycling and help kids in Africa. (She’s apparently leaving world peace to the winner of So You Think You Can Dance.) It might have helped her selfless cause had she not shown up to her audition seemingly soused. After assuring Randy he lost weight, she assaulted the judges with a catlike yowl masquerading as Katy Perry’s “I Kissed a Girl.” In spite of singing like her lips were glued shut, she gets props for preemptively asking, “May I be excused?” before the judges could tear into her. Though whether this was motivated by self-preservation or an urgent need to go throw up was unclear. Guess for yourself by checking out the clip below.
Gil Kaufman from MTV.com decided Hope had “an innocence and starry-eyed quality that seemed custom made for the Idol dream machine.”
TV Guide’s Adam Bryant was not “convinced that we’ve seen anyone yet who is destined to be standing at the Kodak Theater on finale night.”
Entertainment Weekly’s Michael Slezak, however, felt last night’s episode “finally began to resemble a search for the nation’s next singing sensation.”