Wednesday, March 21, 2007

A Steph in the wrong direction

So "Idol" Nation, what'll it be? Aside from a few standouts this season, it looks like the choice is largely between bad and boring - and based on the results shows so far, bad is winning. How else to explain that the talented but tentative Stephanie Edwards got the boot last night, disappointingly but none too surpisingly, and was joined in the bottom two by Chris Richardson, he of mild handsomeness and smooth vocal stylings as exciting as plain oatmeal? Meanwhile, Mr. Off The Wall himself, Sanjaya Malakar, will grace us with his presence at least one more week. Go figure.

Although most members of the wholesome "Idol" nation probably aren't on drugs, Sanjaya's continued survival suggests they want to be, or at least want to feel like they are for a few minutes each week, when this dude takes the stage and vaults all things "Idol" into the realm of the surreal. Second-last last week, the 17-year-old will o' wisp wasn't didn't even have to make the "you're in the bottom" walk of shame to the middle of the stage this week, despite a performance that cried "worst high school talent show of all time!" And oh, did you hear the way the crowd cheered for him when Seacrest told us he wasn't in this week's bottom group? Kevin Covais and other past Jokes of the Top 12 never experienced that kind of adulation. Now, thanks to his showing, Sanjaya has at the very least guaranteed himself a place on this summer's "Idol" tour. Eardrums of America, you've been forewarned.

Granted, I'm thinking that people voting for Sanjaya know he's no "Idol." Instead, it's as if they've decided they want a humorous distraction amid some of the other contestants' less-than-memorable contributions, and so keep Sanjaya up there in spite of himself. Accordingly, his vote totals have thus far varied inversely to the quality of his performance. Merely abysmal? Bottom two! Epochally bad? You're safe, safe, safe! Sanjaya is the clown of this whole three-ring circus, there to provoke laughter while the likes of Jordin and LaKisha sail above it all on a trapeze (with, say, Blake balanced on a tightrope nearby). Clowns have their place and all, but when it comes down to it, they aren't worth the price of admission alone (and before irate clown-lovers consider deluging me with complaints, let me stress I mean this metaphorically and am not suggesting the painted, bewigged entertainers are anything like Sanjaya, except maybe when Sanjaya sports a perm).

Amid this, Stephanie departed the "Idol" stage, perhaps prematurely, although both she and Chris Richardson were bound to be eliminated at some point, probably sooner than later. To be fair, Steph had just as much of a chance as any other contestant to make an impression, and she didn't exactly do it. She shed a tear after Seacrest informed her of her fate, but fittingly, it seems, time ran out, and she didn't even get a word in edgewise, even to say thanks, leaving us with silence.

That aside:

On second viewing (courtesy of the recap): Paula's attempted-deadpan suggestion that contestants should "picture Simon not dressed" to relieve performance jitters...still not funny! But Jordin's performance? Still really, really good.

Blake, you may be onto something here: "Seacrest dancing and beatboxing made my night," Blake enthused in a clip presumably recorded after last night's program, where Seacrest, indeed, danced and beatboxed. That Blake could appreciate the sheer riduculousness of that is a good sign.

Wait, there's another side? "Chris (Richardson) showed us his tender side," Seacrest's voiceover informed us during the recap.

Carrying the '60s torch not just musically...was guest coach Peter Noone, who definitely sported a blue paisley blazer as he sang. With "sang," for him, not exactly meaning what it did in the 1960s, although his performance was warm and spirited.

Sandy, is that you? As a friend and fellow "Idol" devotee pointed out in a phone conversation last night, the utterly delightful guest coach Lulu didn't just look like Olivia Newton-John, she underwent a transformation much like the one Newton-John's "Grease" character did, going from a fairly demure and age-appropriate look Tuesday to a tight, black, skin-baring, off-the-shoulder number as she performed Wednesday. And because I adored her as a coach, I'll also reserve comment on the last few big notes she attempted. Oh, my.

Aw, gee, I think we'll find a way: "How are we gonna fit this show in?" Seacrest joked at one point - you know, after 15 minutes of filler, and before the other 13 minutes of filler that were sure to follow.

Dude, I wouldn't get too comfortable: After learning he'd live to see another week, Phil Stacey - who was in last week's bottom three - acted way excited and more than a little too relieved, releasing multiple, louder-than-Taylor Hicks "Whooooos" and continuing to "Whooo!" and high-five every living thing in sight even as Seacrest read the next batch of results.

Rife with meaning, eh Ryan? "This week, we want to send out a message to Corporate America: We need you," Seacrest said, soliciting donations for the "Idol Gives Back" charity extravaganza that awaits us in the weeks to come. American Idol? Reliant on Corporate America? Knock me over with a feather!