AI: the live blog (tape delayed)

Hey, the first cattle call is in Minneapolis! The convention center. I was an AMS gofer there. The memories . . .*

Already with the guest judges? Jewel brings very little to the table. She looks dutiful and a little uneasy, making the best of it with a bland fixed smile, like a college girl working a kid’s birthday party for her summer job at Chuck E. Cheese.

The first girl, an archetypal upper-midwestern girl with that upper-midwest accent. “I want it so bad. You don’t even know.” It’s “tales of desperation” all over again. Maybe she’s good, maybe not. During the “profiles in stardom-wanting” video intro build-up, you don’t know. That’s one reason to watch this phase of the competition. You’re waiting for them to begin and you never know.

Long pause. Then she sings. There are recognizable intervals. But what the hell is she singing? Diction is key – ask Micaela (sp.?) from last year. No dice: she’s not going to Hollywood. “Are you kidding me”? she asks over and over, collapsing to her knees. “She’s begging. Lame.” says my son. Leaves; “other door” (Simon) — a nice detail of humiliation: pwned. The camera lingers on her genuinely anguished howls and the spectacle of her family shocked, comforting her. It’s obscene, incredibly intimate. I shouldn’t be seeing this. It’s like watching someone being told her child has died. But it’s . . . just singing. You don’t have to be good at singing, you can be good at other stuff, says Randy. Very true, but we always forget this. I forgot this, too. (Not singing, playing the piano.) Uncomfortable, sort of an extreme moment. This is one reason to watch TV like this — “limit experiences.” Is this wrong? Probably.

“Urban Amish.” Aw, c’mon. The freak show is on. Playing up the hayseed angle — I mean, haven’t you seen Fargo? Obviously this guy, and all the others with dumb “acts” and costumes and props, is just trying to get on TV. They’re never funny, they’re never cute, but there are a lot of people who love it. Who are those people?

The guy who can hit notes Mariah Carey can’t – now he’s genuinely deluded. The question of what makes someone bad is kind of interesting. Other door.

More BS: the gay boxing dude. But he can at least sing notes. Sounds like an Irish tenor in a barbershop quartet. Who saw that coming?

A crack baby from Madison. She’s pretty sexy, actually, though with a strangely old face. Without accompaniment most of these power-ballad type songs sound like a series of disconnected vocal gestures delivered with Kabuki intensity. But they’re the right gestures, so she’s in.

Some stupid BS with people forgetting their words (“other door”), then the flirty short cute girl singing Blondie with a Carmen Miranda accent. She’s singing actual notes but the style is weird and homegrown. (And again, what the hell is she singing?) She doesn’t have a hope in hell but the judges seem strangely into her. Probably calculating that she might be “interesting” down the line. Colorful cannon fodder. Last season was the first time they salted the later, realer phase of the competition with weirdo no-hopers, hoping to give the morons who are into AI for the freak show something to hold onto later. I deplore this trend. Note to producers: do not sully the purity of the later competition with the meathead aesthetic of the cattle-call stage.

Dude from the Navy can sing. But will he have time to grow his hair out? Simon likes a man in uniform.

The inevitable “this was the worst city ever” montage. Big, cornfed girl who does an impression of the Cowardly Lion comes in with a poster of herself as Dorothy and the judges as . . . I didn’t pay a lot of attention. “Do you guys want the poster?” “No.” Pwned. Then Randy picks a fight with a vocal teacher. We’re all secretly pleased. Simon is at his most charming egging Randy on. Randy: “Off-Broadway you’d be amazing.” Ouch.

Michelle Steingas from Excelsior, MN. She’s in. I just love that some Minnesotans are getting a shot tonight. You know, I lived there for ten years. I bitched about it the whole time I lived there and now I’m all regionally self-identified with it. This is another thing to like about AI — geography plays a surprisingly huge role throughout the competition. It’s a way of experiencing ths US as a patchwork of distinctive regions, each with a fiercely loyal constituency.

The office girl whose boss flew her out. Please don’t invite him in . . . oh God. “My wife owns 51% of the business.” Squarejohn Americans confronting slickster entertainment pros. It’s like “The Devil and Daniel Webster,” only the devil always wins. Another part of the spectacle.

Someone from Minnetonka in fatigues. Husband in Iraq, she’s a reservist. Not great, but are you gonna say no?

OK, I’m losing steam. It’s just a mean, lowminded show. My son is shocked to see grown men cry: the sixteen-year-old boy who juggled and got eviscerated. (Wrong door.) “Swearing and crying,” says my son, amazed. I hate this part of American Idol. Every show is the same. Freaks trying to get on TV. Freaks who don’t know they suck. Freaks who can sing but are still freaks. Freaks, freaks, freaks. Who are the biggest freaks? The people at home, getting off on tears and humiliation. Am I one of them? Probably.

“Minnehopeless.” Minneapolis is the worst city evar. But they always say that.

*UPDATE: My wife read this and pointed out that the AMS was at the Radisson down the street. So much for my memories. Well, the buildings in the background look familiar, OK?

About Phil Ford

Chairman of the Committee for the Memorial to the Victims of Modernism
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One Response to AI: the live blog (tape delayed)

  1. Anastasia says:

    i liked carmen miranda does blondie. a lot. it was weird and perky and fun.

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