American Idol: Second-Rate in the Second City
During American Idol's Chicago auditions, Ryan Seacrest reminded us of an important fact: Barack Obama. Yes, that fact. It/he had a lot to do with the howling losers who flooded the audition room, apparently. Other than giving Seacrest the chance to tout the president's '08 acceptance speech, Chicago did nothing to prove itself a breeding ground for talent like Jennifer Hudson, Kanye West, or Luc Longley. We saw a few lucky winners earn tickets to Hollywood, but the night's greatest moments were -- like any Illinois gubernatorial race -- mostly unintentional.
3. Shania Twain seemed like a participant in the music industry.
Victoria Beckham punctuated her judging stint in Boston last week with remarks about contestant apparel and "nice faces" and "politeness." Mary J. Blige judged contestants in Atlanta by covering her face and laughing like the Duck Hunt dog for 90 minutes. But Shania Twain, the country-pop legend who hasn't put out a full album since 2002, approached the panel with grace, restraint, and cords on her shirt that she twirled like a Pez-blasted kindergartener. Perfection. When appraising Little Rock native Charity Vance's light warble, Twain gave good advice about honing in on the better parts of her voice. She mentioned nothing to her about throwing out her wardrobe and buying a hooded leopard jumpsuit, but that's a Top 36-level critique. All in due time.
2. Asthma jokes that will leave you breathless
The night's biggest tearjerker was the triumph of Paige DeChausse, a teenage contestant who once survived a near-fatal asthma attack. Idol is sensitive to her trauma. Cue this (actual) Ryan Seacrest v.o.: "Paige DeChausse is hoping to breathe new life into the competition." Give me a good joke about a young girl's tragic inability to breathe, and I'm set for my week's laughs. Paige earned a golden ticket with her take on Sam Cooke's "A Change is Gonna Come," but I bet she's hoping to earn access to Idol's patter scribes. "Inhale this!" she may/should scream. (P.S. Google says that spa-going, spiky-haired Ryan Seacrest has never been called "Colonic the Hedgehog." I start the revolution now.)
1. An unbelievable stream of losers.
The night's flux of fuck-ups included a contestant in a wedding dress, a not-all-there auditioner's squeaky rendition of "Tiptoe Through the Tulips" (complete with apropos choreography), an un-nice, un-slow singer's version of "Nice 'N Slow," and a zaftig young woman named Amy who purposely jolted her breasts when screamsinging at the panel. Kara DioGuardi called it "boob-boxing," and I have to hand it to PanderBot: That's funny. But without even a "Pants on the Ground" viral sensation to emerge from the evening, this episode is Idol's flattest so far. I'm not too concerned, because here's the thing: Barack Obama.