After spending time helping others, Idol returned to the job of dumping someone from its ranks. Last night’s results episode dilly-dallied with recounting Wednesday’s philanthropy, which clearly unnerved the top eight contestants. Each must have been nervous about getting the axe. During the wait? Hot air from all three presidential hopefuls, and some truly awful performances. By now you know that Michael Johns’ is history. After the jump you’ll find out what last night’s five worst moments were.
5. Top 8 Perform “Shine to the Lord”
The producers have stumbled upon a great secret: even the worst of the Idol hopefuls sound better when backed by a full, professional gospel choir. Choirs been showing up more and more in recent weeks, and while they can certainly bolster a number, they can’t shine sh*t. The show’s contestants have always had a difficult time performing together—their musical styles don’t mesh, their competitiveness makes them tense, and you can practically see those in the background enviously hoping for the soloist’s demise. (David Cook, who got a plum role tonight, must have delighted his competitors with his pitiable solo.) “Shine to the Lord” was a wretched mess, but luckily a brief one.
4. Chris Brown and Jordin Sparks Do “No Air”
Season 6 winner Jordin Sparks should be a great success, or so the Idol story goes—the show is in the business of minting stars, not flashes-in-the-pan. Sparks, a talented vocalist with a charm reminiscent of America Ferrara, waltzed off with the grand prize last year, but her subsequent victories since have been comparatively meager. The show tried to glorify her achievements, trotting out fans with faux-gold records to celebrate her million-download singles, but the contestants and the viewers shouldn’t be fooled: Kelly Clarkson she isn’t. Ironically, “No Air” is exactly the sort of song that would be savaged on Idol: overproduced and under-sung, it’s radio fluff in the worst way. In an uncharacteristic act of mercy, Simon wasn’t asked to weigh in.
3. Jason Castro On Ukulele Prices
Jason’s fan base of screaming teen girls has easily secured him a spot on the safe couches, but isn’t he truly lacking stage presence? Simon has repeatedly chastised him for phoning in his performances, and he’s at his worst when being asked for a simple human thought or emotion. Perhaps the ‘tween set finds his chatter on the price of ukuleles (“from, uh, $150 to, uh, $600”) charming, but it’s unpolished and irrelevant – two qualities an Idol should never aspire to. Jason’s skills have taken him far, but there’s a lot more than vocal talent to being an Idol.
2. B-Listers Sing the Monkees
Idol’s commitment to charity is laudable—though, according to The New York Times, not unassailable—but one two and a half hour broadcast is enough. Peppering the results show with cutting-room-floor outtakes of Wednesday’s show – like the video montage of b-list celebs doing “I’m a Believer,” is nothing short of painful. Dr. Phil, Rob Schneider, Rikki Lake: was there no Jerry Lewis telethon or mall-opening to attend instead?
1. John McCain Attempts Humor
There’s no denying the clout of the Idol platform: it may not create stars every time, but evidently it’s substantial enough to become a stop on the campaign trail for some very confused-looking political contenders. Hillary and Obama, as usual, were stilted and charming, respectively; but it was John McCain who really stunk the place up. His stabs at humor are both specifically offensive (making light of the uncounted votes of Florida and Michigan) and generally bizarre (threatening Simon with an immigration plan that is, presumably, anti-British). His spiel was a tour de force in all the wrong ways. It just might be enough to secure an ‘08 victory for the Dems.
With the bounty of awful performances tonight, it’s easy to forget that there actually was one good one: Michael Johns’ swansong on “Dream On.” Michael’s dismissal from Idol is this season’s first absolute shocker: it was his first time in the bottom three, and certainly there were more deserving contestants. (Kristy Lee, all of America is looking at you.) Johns took his departure with grace and a deeply pained look, and in a dignity-restoring gesture, gave what may have been his best performance yet as he exited. Even Simon had to admit he was talented. He’ll be missed.