The Long Road Home
Excerpt “From the Road: A trip to the finale – Almost there.”
The road to the finale is looming ever-so close. Our exit is coming up, so pay attention! You can almost see its glass and neon towers off in the distance, glowing like some fabled emerald city of lore. Gossipy steam and hairspray fumes rise slowly from the vast wasteland that lays before you on the highway leading into Idolville, we are about to pass through one of its many suburbs. This is the last stop before you reach reality mecca, a destination taken only once a year. A city home to the fabled Fantasia towers, already last year’s news. This year it’s all about the new digs being built out west of town. Built higher, sleeker and sturdier than any other Idol pedestal ever built, it’s gonna be big. Before we get there though, we had better stock up on some provisions at the Ryan Starr Café, Trash Emporium & Truck Stop, I’ve heard they have the cleanest bathrooms in town and I’m just jonesin’ for some good road trip snacks. Ain’t no road trip worth taking without great snacks; you know how I loves me some Cheez-Its! Please take out the Josh Gracin tape though honey, I’m depressed enough as it is. So here we are on the outskirts of Idolville, it looks like this section of town has seen better days. Look! It’s the Corey Clark motel. I’ve heard that some of the judges stay here when in town…ooh! Free HBO!!! Hey, over there! That’s the alley where they filmed the giant puppet Idol commercial and over there’s the parking garage where the kids went to that rave in episode 1! Oh this is all so very exciting. I wonder if Jim Verraros still runs The Loading Dock over on 57th? Oh never you mind, I didn’t pack my hot pants. What a breathtaking view as we pass over Frenchie gorge via the Mario Vazquez memorial bridge on our way to the finale, I’m so glad that we’ve taken this road trip together. I can hardly believe that it’s been twelve weeks! Well, if I hadn’ta stopped for so long at the museum of bad Idol haircuts it would have been sooner but there you go, and you got a t-shirt with Justin Guarini on the front of it didn’t you?! Sheesh! You try to do something nice. Oh, I can’t be mad at you…I can’t be mad at anyone, this is so exciting being able to share in the finale together. We should all be singing one big Idol sing-a-long! Look! There’s a sign. “The House of Yes welcomes Lindsey Cardinale fans” Oh, must be an old sign. Do they up-keep around here or what? Oh! Another sign, I think it says how far until the finale. Let’s see, we keep on this road until….What?! One week!!!! One week until the finale?! Sigh. Okay, might as well put in the Fantasia tape. But only this one last time. And only until we get to “Baby Mama.” It’s gonna be a loooong week.
Wow, that guy’s drunk! Hey Idol fans it’s almost over, can you believe it? Where has the time gone? It seems like only yesterday that I actually had a life. What am I going to do with my Tuesday and Wednesday nights after next week? Undoubtedly I will still sit and veg in front of the computer until the wee hours but still, I won’t have anyone to listen to my rants (unless of course you check out my Blog…everyone’s doing it! Well, not my blog per-se but everyone’s doing a blog just the same…I mean…sigh).
Next week we will have an Idol winner and an end cap in Target will be claimed by their Triple Platinum country-fried goodness. Not giving anything away here because that description actually covers two of the most logical choices left. Either way BMG US and 19 Entertainment wins! Hopefully this year’s winner, whoever it is, won’t languish in production like some people I know or drop out of sight like some people I know, or appear on ratings desperate sitcoms like some people I know. Oh come on, you were thinking it! I just said it. Nyah!
The Head greets us for the next to the last time, or as I like to say…the penultimate time. I could so care less about him at this stage in the game, I pretend that he is Rip Taylor just to liven things up. I do take special note of his standard T-Jack ensemble (t-shirt/jacket) this week, it is so “not-without-irony” as it says “Celebrity Gossip” on the front. He tries to cover it up but he also kind of wants to be noticed. He’s not that smart…or daring really. Please, couldn’t he dress up just this one last time before next week’s crowning? I begin to fantasize that if Rip Taylor were the host, he would be wearing something a little more tasteful like a magenta sequined suit with a nice Chartreuse colored ruffled shirt…and bow tie.
This week The Head introduces us to a fourth judge, Clive Davis. Great idea from last season y’all but didn’t we suggest that waaay back in recap #2 and isn’t it a little late for this? How is cracka going to sway my vote at this point? This guy is big money though, he is the Chairman and CEO of BMG US who will produce the Idol winner’s record, so listen up America, he has his pulse on what America wants to hear. Which reminds me I still haven’t picked up Ruben or Fantasia’s CD yet. Darn!
Okay, so let’s get down to it.
Zoom into fake Wednesday night with me. This week no gimmicks or giant maps of Candyland to look at, these kids have a Marquisjet to catch. The Head lays it down real quick and clear. They will all be singing three songs this week. One is selected by Clive Davis, one selected by themselves and one selected by one of the three judges. Okay, so three outfit changes…The Vonz is happy! The Head ends by shaking each one of the contestant’s hands and afterwards says he just touched the winner of American Idol, all the while looking right at Bo. He catches his Freudian slip and swirls is dainty head around the room and adds “which one is it?” I just don’t know!!!
Clive Davis Songs
Not wasting any time, Vonzell Solomon comes screaming out of the gate with “I’ll Never Love This Way Again” by Dione Warwick. Oooops! This song starts out in a low register, how does The Vonz handle around slow curves? If I remember, not too well. It is also interesting to theorize that Randy cannot use his Vonz defense on this one by claiming that she is the genius Idol who always picks the toughest songs to sing (whatever). This song was picked for her specifically. True to thought, she starts out wobbly in the lower register but eventually finds higher ground where she sort of floats along until the road gets bumpy. If Vonzell were a car, she’d be one of those Shriner’s cars as she is all over the road with this one. I have to admire the dress tonight though, very Kill Bill. We all know that Vonzie loves belts and when a belt won’t work try a sash…a ninja sash! Oh lord, she hits a high note and the House of Yes goes into cheer mode. There simply must be an applause sign just out of camera view because any little squeak into a higher octave and the crowd goes nuts…warranted or not. Finally it all comes to an end and none too soon. Clive thinks that she smiled too much during the song, she needs to act the song out. It was a song of remorse. Ha! I have to laugh, he was actually looking for stage presence over singing ability! Come on, people ain’t payin’ to see my stage production…I ain’t freakin’ Cher over here! Randy thinks that she is one of the better (uh, only) singers left but it seemed a little pitchy. Thank God, one of the rats is seen leaving the ship. Paula says it wasn’t the best key to start in and was pitchy. Simon says that it showed she was nervous and that is to be expected but she’ll have to do better. “Um, guys…is it too late to say that I’m having a bad day? That seemed to work last time!” Tee Hee, kisses, smoochies.
There is a sign in the House of Yes that says “The O.C. Loves Bo.” Hilarious.
Alt. indie-supported BoBice! coming at you next with “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down On Me” by Elton John. Stand back! I am all excited about this one, I even put my pen down and listened to this one all the way through without averting my eyes once. Bo is looking cool tonight, very calm and in charge. His hair actually looks washed. TV’s everywhere melt on impact. He is taking this one nice and slow, very sultry. He dips it in grease and southern fries it. It appears that he doesn’t really reach on the power chorus that this song is known for but singing this song alone is brownie points enough. Good job. Up until now this has been Clay’s song, the one that got him noticed before he did “Solitaire.” I still think Clay cornered the market with the song’s “rightful” audience but Bo covers it nicely for the strictly hetero crowd. There is a sign that says “Bo is pure southern comfort.” Whooo Hoooo! Clive says that he captured the song nicely. Randy says that he is forever in the dawg pound. Paula needs to clarify the whole rank in the dawg pound as last week he was Captain of the dawg pound. She doesn’t get it that you can be captain and still be forever in the dawg pound. Duh. Didn’t Paula ever have a fan club? She says it is pure brilliance. I think some of those jewels are just glued on her tonight, there is no scientific way to support a necklace like that in nature. Simon thought it was really great and prefers this style over his rock stuff. Bo grimaces, he doesn’t want to do a Constantine.
Carrie Underwood will sing the final Clive Davis pick with “Crying” by Roy Orbison. She starts out boflexin’ on the edge of the stage surrounded in the darkness. For capturing a mood, she is doing a great job. Clive will be happy, not a smile to be found here. I think that the country angle is a nice touch with this song however it doesn’t have the impact that the original version has. It comes out like something I have heard in Branson a million times over. The only thing missing is a Japanese fiddle player and a salute to America afterwards...and a clown. Too harsh? Not really. This really is a short version, I feel she would have had a better performance if she got more into the meat of the song, it came out like one big chorus. Clive missed the spark of the original but it was delivered with sincerity. Whatever. Randy thought it was perfect. It was hot! Okay, we use the word sauce now Randy. Paula thought the song was haunted. What? She said haunting? Oh my bad. You never know though. Simon thought she sang well but it was a wooden performance. I’ll have to defend Carrie U. here by saying that if I were to do “Crying” (which I will assuredly not) then I wouldn’t do much more than sit sullen-like on the stage to emphasis the hurt. At least she got up at the end of the song and walked around.
Up first with their own choosing is Vonzell with “Chain of Fools.” She finally gets to choose a song that will assuredly be called “difficult” or “hard” but really only involves a multitude of upper range choruses. The good thing here is that she is doing exactly what Clive had instructed her to do; she is acting out the song. Unless that devil grin is just normal. She is wearing a very refreshing spring colored “V” shape pattern shirt, it is very nice. It is not a bad performance at all but I will be cynical with all of these songs because they will each pick a song that suits them so what’s news? So the song ends and Clive indicates that although she gave a pop spirited rendition, it lacked the soul essence of the song. Well, if you can’t impress the guy who will produce the next Idol album, who can you impress? She’s 0 for 2 with this guy. Big Surprise Alert! Randy says that it was, I quote: “The best vocal…EVER!!!” (I kid you not) Yeah!!!! Whoooooo!!!!! Stop the contest!!!! Ding! Ding! Ding! Paula senses the sharp end of Randy’s car keys are pressed firmly up against her leg, lest endure some scarring, she lets out a “Great” with a side of “It’s all about you.” Simon is too far away from Randy but still goes with a flattering comment about how she is likeable and infectious so the vocals don’t really matter. Vonzie has some dirt on these guys, I’m telling you!
After the commercial break, in case there was any confusion, we give Vonzell’s numbers one more time…for no clear reason! Let’s get those numbers out there in case you weren’t on the bandwagon yet. If she wins, there’s conspiracy theory #1 all hot, steaming and ready to go.
Bo has chosen to commit hare kari right on stage tonight. Just kidding, he is performing an Idol first! He will be foregoing the band and using only his voice. He will be singing by himself. With no music. It is funny, The Head uses every word to describe what is going to happen except Acapella. He will be performing “Within a Dream” by Badlands. So not only is he going to risk everything by doing something no one has ever done at this stage of the competition, he is going to do it with a band that no one has ever heard of! Groovy. So if there is not going to be any band or flashy video screen, where’s the eye candy? That my friends, comes to us in the form of creative stage lighting. Unless I have been so busy criticizing everyone on this show, I have never noticed how dramatic they can utilize the stage lights until now. Bo is highlighted by this one radiant beam of white light, making a halo around his silhouette. All the hair on him makes it look really neat, like a Wookie at Christmas. The best shot though is the wide shot of him alone on the stage with that ominous disc hanging over the stage with the light coming down from it. It looks like a spaceship here to collect hippies for the planet Paisley Mushroom. Bo ends the song with a glory note acapella-style. This is one time the applause sign is not needed. Clive thinks that it was bold and risky and he pulled it off. Coincidentally, I ate some baked beans from Publix today that said “bold and risky” and I pulled it off. Weird. Oh, not to be too subtle about this but Clive also predicted working with Bo really soon and producing his album. I’m sure that there are nice parting gifts for Carrie and Vonzell. Randy uses the most intelligent feedback and likens it to the audition phase. No one really ever comes back to the style in which they first won the judges over with…until now. Brownie points for Bo. Paula says that she knows something that we the audience don’t (uh oh, better be careful Ms. Abdul), Bo is not just a gift on the outside, he is a gift on the inside. Paula cracks me up. Simon thinks that there are 40 musicians now out of work. Quick, call the Union! The Head only gives Bo’s numbers one time. So there.
Carrie has chosen (God knows why) Air Supply as her song of choice. She will be singing “Making Love Out of Nothing At All.” Right away we should call the Department of Sound Equipment Abuse as she throws the mic stand down. This girl is rough on equipment. It ain’t a plow honey! I don’t know if I really like this song or Carrie’s version of it. The last thing I remember liking really well from Air Supply happened to be on the Ghostbusters soundtrack and I usually skipped it to get to the Thompson Twins song. Not that the original artist matters, Carrie should make this her own. She picked it for some unknown reason so you would think it would be extra good. But it isn’t really, but not bad either. I think overall she is having a great night. I just don’t like it when a song feels like it is being shouted at me. Her blouse is nice. It has this ruffly umbrella sleeve sewn onto the front of it diagonally. It is random enough to work for her. Clive thinks that she threw herself into it and did a good job. Randy thinks that she can definitely sing, she can blow! But I guess not better than Vonzell - the best vocalist EVER! Paula likes it when she has fun, keep having fun. Paula looks sleepy. Simon says that Carrie has had a great night tonight. Carrie’s numbers are given only once as well. Hmmm, that’s odd.
When we come back from commercial we get a teeny taste of the fiesta we will have tomorrow night when we look back at the Idols’ trip to their home towns. We first visit Vonzell in Ft. Myers. The judge and everyone else who sweated in the heat at this press conference are on hand to hear Simon’s song pick for Vonzell. It’s “On The Radio” by Donna Summer. By all accounts, Simon is doing her a favor. This is right up her alley. Her dress is amazing tonight, it is like a giant pink Hostess Snowball. Fabulous! She has a lot of fun with this one. The way she acts, it makes me think this is exactly how she would have acted it out in her bedroom in front of a mirror. At the end of the song the mix guy adds echo which is still on when she laughs at the end of her song. HEE HEE HEE HEE HEE. Clive finally gets on the Vonzell paylist and says he likes it. He felt that she was in her element and really delivered. Like a 2 Day Priority Mail! Randy enjoyed it but he wasted so much energy on his last critique that he can hardly muster anything else. Paula wants her to keep on having fun. Clearly Paula is really invested in her Danielle Steel novel during their performances. We switch to hear Simon’s comments but the Producer is so tired of it all that he starts to play the outro music…ooops! It’s like the Oscars! Simon gets to finish by saying that he agrees with Clive but it also sounded forced in the middle.
Bo is back one last time with Paula’s pick “Satisfaction” by the Rolling Stones. Can I just tell you all that the only time that I have enjoyed this song was when it was sung by Justine Bateman’s fictitious band Mystery in the film Satisfaction (it had Julia Roberts and Liam Neeson way back when!). I have just heard this song to death! Ugh! And pardon my deliverance on this but, Bo’s style of singing just makes this one Coors shy of a total truck pull. It just drudges along like some slow dying dinosaur. I just can’t hear this song objectively. To top it all off, Travis Tritt, I mean Bo, is dressed like a butternut squash. This was definitely picked out for him, they must finally be using stylists. I hate to say it but I wish they would go back rummaging through second hand stores. Clive says that he nailed it. He sang three songs and made each one of them his own. Randy feels like he has been at a Bo concert. Paula hears Randy and realizes that it is just ludicrous enough to warp into her never ending loop talk. She says that for all of you, everyone listening on TV (she pauses to point in various directions) that you can get only one more week for free before you have to start paying! She means that Bo will be touring county fairs soon and you will have to pay cover. Simon feels that it is a bit like something he has heard one too many times before at weddings. Who invites Simon to their wedding, really? Bo certainly has had the best night of all though.
My favorite sign of the night is a simple completely square sign that simply says “Bo” in big black magic marker. That’s sauce!
Carrie is last with an uncomfortable visit to her hometown and its nervous mayor. He has to read in front of the entire town the song that Randy has chosen for Carrie. The mayor cracks me up, he takes a full minute and ½ to read the name of the song “Feel Like A Woman” by Shania Twain as if saying it out loud would make people think he was declaring a statement or something. Hmmm, me thinks thoust doth protest too much. Anyway, Uuuugh! (violently!) Carrie has to sing that awful Revlon commercial song. P.U! Randy must hate her. Can anyone sing this without thinking of what sounding exactly like that sell out Shania Twain? Really, it is like when Constantine tried to sing that Sting song. It came to bite him in the peaches. Not like she had any choice in picking this but I would assume that she would have stayed clear of the most annoying song in Country music. Heck, it isn’t really even country music, double reason for Carrie not to naturally excel at this song. Anyway, she goes through the motions in her Carrie way and comes off not making the entire thing stink, too much. Carrie is lovely in primary colors. Tonight must have been a primary colors night (and black) as well as a wear-your-watches night. I counted at least three performances where wrist watches were prominently displayed. Finally the song ends. Clive insults her by telling her that country pop is her element. He then fills the long vacant creepy guest judge role by telling her that it shows in her body. Randy thinks it was a perfect song for her. Oh really Randy? Did you pick the song? Paula says that she could tell she was having fun, she loves it when she has fun. Girls just want to have fun Paula. Simon says that she could get into the finals with that performance. Don’t mean to state the obvious but she is in the finals Simon.
Screeeeeeeech!!!! The tires make this Jasmine Trias-like sound as the car comes to a sudden halt in front of some old bag lady on the corner in front of the CBS Television Studios. Good grief, I almost hit her! “Uh, sorry ma’am, I was distracted reading this map to Idol stars homes. Do you know which YMCA Clay Aiken hangs out at?...” She hardly moves. I mean, she came this close to becoming a grease spot and still she just stares through me with her hollow eyes, her jaw agape. There is something familiar about this vacant shell of a woman that stands before me. You know, if the light hits her in just a certain way, like a stage light, it could almost be…OH DEAR LORD! It’s the animated corpse of Julia DaMato!!! What has this city done to you Julia!!!! She reaches out both of her hands as if to place a stranglehold on me. Slowly, he shuffles toward me like some thing out of a Living Dead movie. I fear for my life. In the panic I notice that she holds her hand in that all-too-familiar shape. I’ve seen it many times on the show I came to this town to worship, it’s the hand signal known four seasons over. It’s as if she thinks she is holding a mic. No! That’s it! It is not me she seeks. She feels no malice toward me and my trying to hit her. I must represent fame to her and its ever-elusive capture. She is reliving the moment that she lost forever ago and just won’t let go. No Julia, I am not fame. I am not your 15 minutes. That belongs to someone else now.
As I drive away I wonder if she will ever forgive me for not recognizing her right off. Is that the solace she now seeks, to not be remembered for the first person eliminated from Season 2 but rather for her inherent talent? I feel bad for anyone so caught up in it that they are reduced to this. I also feel bad for placing that “kick me” sign on her back. Farewell Julia, others will join you soon.
Excerpt from “Idols are Fame’s Speed Bumps”
Okay before I go, I found some really interesting things while searching the internet on my little vacation. First of all, worth checking out for the laugh value is http://carmenrasmusen.com/. Seriously hilarious. The yodeling Idol takes on American Idol in downloadable MP3 recaps just like mine…except not as witty of course and also only about 5 minutes in length each. Really, what can you learn in a recap that only takes 5 minutes to read? Actually, she reads to you and poorly I might add, but it’s funny!
Secondly, there is the fabled American Idol: The Magazine. http://aivg.k-online.biz/cgi-bin/29B1299B/mac/qryitems.mac/itemDisplay?qryType=GRPSG (copy and paste if the link doesn’t work). Honestly how can you live without this? They “say” that the first issue is sold out. Somehow Seacrest got the cover of that one…go figure. The show is about him you know. Anyway, I am sure it is on Ebay for a buck.