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Idol 2010: The King is Dead

Wednesday, January 13th, 2010

“I just like how he touches kids all around this world.”

No, this is not a reference to Simon Cowell. This is one American Idol contestant’s verdict on singer and domestic abuser Chris Brown. Truly, he is the new king of pop.

But Cowell is the one who has truly touched kids all around the world, often in cruel and harrowing ways, and now he’s touching us all again with his announcement that he’s leaving American Idol to bring the X-Factor to America.

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Some pundits are saying that this surely makes this the last season of Idol, but it won’t be. Idol still brings in better audiences than… well, everything else on Fox. If Fox can make Idol and X-Factor work side-by-side, they’ll do it; you know they’re at least going to try.

And Idol will probably fail without Simon Cowell, because although he’s not the whole show, he is key to the formula. Strong personalities and strong performances can provide some entertainment value, but there’s never any guarantee that those things will turn up. Cowell provides quality control, context, and the approval that contestants crave. The winner gets a record contract, but a kind word from Simon Cowell is the crucial milestone on that journey.

So this won’t be the last season of American Idol, but it’s probably the second-to-last season of American Idol.

(American audiences may wonder what the differences are between Idol and X-Factor. First, anyone above the age limit can audition for X-Factor, and that includes groups. Second, performers are split into girls, boys, over 25s and groups. Third, the judges each mentor one of the categories. It may also involve live audience auditions, as the X-Factor now does.)

Cowell has said he hopes to use this new show to find an American Susan Boyle. It’s worth noting, however, that a weirdo like Susan Boyle probably wouldn’t have got through on the X-Factor; she was on Britain’s Got Talent, and America already has a version of that and hasn’t found an American Susan Boyle.

Simon is going. Paula is already gone. Paula wasn’t a good judge, but her addled loop-de-loo happy ragdoll act will be missed. Her replacement, Ellen, doesn’t start until the live shows, so in the meantime we get a conveyor belt of music industry legends with time on their hands, like Mary J Blige, Katy Perry, one of the Jonas brothers, and Dame Victoria Beckham, who has come dressed as Po from Kung Fu Panda. Seacrest scrapes around for a relevant job description to give to Beckham, but never quite comes up with a reason why she would be a judge on a singing competition.

Speaking of singing, how is this season looking, based on the Boston auditions? Did any of those strong personalities show up? Did they bring any strong performances with them?

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Justin Williams (above) must be an obvious early favourite, at least in my house; he’s glowingly healthy and handsome, he sings like he’s taking your knickers off, and he fought cancer and won, so he even has a story. We last saw him last year, where he was in the same Hollywood Week group as Kris Allen and Matt Giraud, but he wasn’t as good then, because he forgot to tell anyone about the cancer.

Other performers with potential include Maddy Curtis, the sunny, farm-built girl with a muscular voice and heartstring-plucking Downs syndrome brothers; Katie Stevens, who sings Etta James quaver-for-quaver and slightly over-chews it, but does it better for her grandmother with Alzheimer’s; and Tyler Grady, slick, confident, and stylish in his retro skinny jeans – but he only has two broken wrists, so he needs to up the life-is-hard ante if he wants votes.

Another of my favourites is Mike Davis, who says he’s an actor on a speedboat. That’s a job, apparently. Mike seems like a blue collar working class Boston boy, and is thus adorable, though ‘actor on a speedboat’ is not a blue collar working class job. He’s only an average singer, but he has lots of charm. I want to hear Mike say ‘retahded’. It’s a terrible word, but I love how Bostonians say it. (Simon inexplicably throws a strop when Kara flirts with him, and like a good lapdog, Randy follows him out of the room.)

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Finally – after much build-up – there’s Leah Laurenti (above), billed by Seacrest as, “Astonishing talent like we’ve never seen before”. The second coming of Christ would struggle to live up to the hype lumped on her shoulders, and the audition doesn’t quite electrify through the television screen, but one can guess at what the judges saw in her. Her voice must have filled the room they were sitting in; she has a big, powerful Broadway voice. She could be a young Barbra Streisand – she has the look, the speaking voice, the singing voice, and even the nose (though she appears to be Catholic). I’d vote for her just to increase the chances of hearing her do ‘Don’t Rain On My Parade’.

Tonight’s show was just the first of seven audition shows (the second is tomorrow), and you can rest assured that I won’t be blogging every one of them. The Hollywood rounds start in early February; we won’t get to the real show until late February, when it’s back to 24 semi-finalists and no wild card, because everyone now knows that was a shambles. They’ll find new ways to be shambolic, though. They always do.

Idol: God, The Devil and Kris

Tuesday, May 12th, 2009

American Idol is down to just three. Despite a performance so awful as to have already become notorious, Danny Gokey has survived, and poor Allison Iraheta has been given the boot. We now know that whatever Danny does, the judges will praise him and people will vote for him. As a consequence, we now have the first all-male top three in Idol history.

Last week’s final four saw two rock kids go up against two Christian music kids. It was a mini-referendum, and rock lost (and most of Allison’s votes should now go to Adam). If Kris goes home this week, as expected, we’ll have a final two of such blatant symbolism that the punditry will explode with glee.

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In the Red State corner: Danny Gokey. Church ‘worship director’. Tragic widower. Loves Jesus and talks a lot about heaven. His performances show a complete lack of imagination. He never does anything the least bit subversive or original.

In the Blue State corner: Adam Lambert. Musical theatre performer. Blatant homosexual. Loves eyeliner and lives in California. His performances showcase his tremendous range and presence. He is inventive, magnetic and shameless.

Stuck in the middle: Poor Kris Allen, a good-looking lad who has become the dark horse contender this year, but who realistically is expected to end his journey this week in the face of the warring fanbases digging trenches either side of him.

People hate Danny Gokey. They hate him because he’s dull. They hate him because he’s smug. They hate him because they’ve seen him dance, and, oh dear God, no-one should ever have to see him dance. They hate him because he auditioned with his friend Jamar, and Jamar was better but didn’t get through. They hate him because he gets praised by the judges every week despite being the musical equivalent of gruel.

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Mostly they hate him because, thirty days after his wife died unexpectedly from complications in surgery, he auditioned for this reality TV show. He also wept to the producers and sent them footage of his wedding day so they could tell his story. Then he gave a friend a photo of his wife to hold up during one of his performances. He has repeatedly made gestures of remembrance for his dead wife, or chosen manipulative songs like Hero, Jesus Take The Wheel, What Hurts the Most and Endless Love. He has exploited his wife’s death to win votes in a popularity contest, and that’s sickening.

And people love him, of course. He’s the only contestant this year never to have been in the bottom three, and, most times, that’s the contestant who wins. The judges love him; he’s the only contestant to get good comments every week without fail. Christian conservatives surely love him. He’s a good church-going boy, and he’s struggling on through the grief and hardship of his wife’s tragic death to become a success; an example of what a person can achieve with God on their side, no matter what life throws at them. And he dresses sensibly and talks politely and never tries to scare the horses. He’s intensely nonthreatening and middle-of-the-road. He’s Billy Joel.

People also hate Adam Lambert. They hate him because he shrieks and screeches. They hate him because he’s arrogant. They hate him because he’s over-the-top. They mostly hate him because he’s gay.

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That’s probably not fair to his critics. It is in theory possible to hate Adam Lambert for reasons other than his gayness, but in most cases I think what people object to is his… flamboyance. His theatricality. His loud, proud and unapologetic sense of self. His… how can I put this? His gayness. Even a lot of gay people hate his gayness, but it was ever thus. No queen likes to be out-queened, and Adam Lambert is the queen bitch in charge.

And people love Adam Lambert. Win or lose this competition, he’s a phenomenon like this show has never seen before; an Idol who already sells records, already sets the media afire, and already appears on magazine covers even before the contest has ended. But if he does win, then change has come to America.

Adam Lambert is secretly a handsome and wholesome pop star, but he’s also a subversive godless sinner. He sneers and writhes and glowers. He’s sleazy and sexual. It’s all in a safe, cartoon way, but still it’s all there. I’m sure there are people in the midwest who refuse to accept or even consider that he’s gay, but he remains a totem of gayness. It doesn’t matter if they don’t accept that Adam Lambert is gay; if America votes for Adam Lambert, they have already de facto embraced the gay.

Adam is the salvation! He is the promised gay messiah. Perhaps Adam is actually the new face of the divine, and menacing wife-slayer Danny is the devil preaching scripture?

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On to tonight’s performances:

Danny’s first song tonight, chosen by Paula Abdul, is Terence Trent D’Arby’s Dance Little Sister. If it has a melody, you wouldn’t know it. It sounds like a coffee grinder that’s been left to run with nothing in it.

Kris Allen’s song, picked by the count-as-one-choice budget judges Randy and Kara, is Apologise by OneRepublic; a popular contemporary ballad that fits well with the sort of soft radio hit you’d expect from Kris. Kris breaks out the grand piano in a bid to impress. It’s a fairly heartless performance, and Kris isn’t actually at his swoony best here - some of the low notes are too low, and he’s not entirely comfortable with the falsetto. But it’s better and more interesting than Gokey.

Adam Lambert is the chosen contestant, so of course Simon Cowell picks his song (and Simon has come right out and said he thinks Adam will win). The song is One by U2, which Simon tells us he personally got Bono’s permission for, because Simon is all-powerful. This is Adam’s ‘nude’ performance of the night - less make-up, no costume, lots of raw emotion. It’s an arrangement I’ve never heard before, and it’s impressive. The boy has an amazing voice.

Danny’s second song, chosen by himself, is You Are So Beautiful, by his soundalike Joe Cocker. No effort required there. He sings on a stool, with a string quartet. The song is actually a little quiet, a little delicate, for his voice, but when he gets into it it’s the same competent piano bar rendition we’ve come to expect. I simply can’t imagine anyone going out of their way to hear this man sing. Interestingly, Kara praises his second performance as if she had criticised his first performance. But she hadn’t!

Kris Allen comes back with Heartless by Kanye West. Two contemporary songs, Kris? This is unprecedented! And he’s singing with just a guitar! Which he’s playing! Playing two instruments in one night is also unprecedented. It’s a delightfully upbeat performance, great fun to listen to (and a bit incongruous given what the song is about), and probably the best he’s ever been. Great stuff.

Adam’s song choice is Aerosmith’s Crying. In two words; it rocks. It’s not actually as extravagant as I was expecting it to be. He must be saving something huge for next week.

So is Adam Lambert going to be in the final? It would be the biggest shock in the show’s eight seasons if he didn’t make it. Is Danny going to be there? Almost certainly. But I’ve been hoping to see him sent home for weeks now, and this week is no different. An Adam/Kris final would be a wonderful thing. But Jesus wants a Danny/Kris final, and you wouldn’t want to disappoint Jesus.

Idol: Feed A Fever

Tuesday, April 21st, 2009

It’s disco night. Must we?

Last week the public decided it was sick of Matt Giraud and said could we please not have him and his Davros mole and his sickly rictus on our screens anymore? After all, he was a wildcard contestant; the public didn’t want him there in the first place. And what happened? The judges saved him. They used their one and only veto on that.

Did Matt deserve a third chance? Of course not. He’s always been a terrible, mewling, miserable streak of piss. But the judges were running out of chances to use their special save, and if they didn’t use it at all, it would suggest that the idea was a bad one, and they couldn’t have that. So for the third time, Matt Giraud was forced on a public that didn’t want him. Thankfully, he’s about the least disco person imaginable, so he has little chance of surviving this week, where two acts will now be sent home.

The first to sing tonight - and very probably the other person going home - is Lil Rounds, busting out of a black catsuit and singing I’m Every Woman. Lil’s cavalcade of dead ferret wigs must finally be exhausted, which means her time is through. I was once sure Lil would make the final three, but she’s made bugger all effort to impress and given every impression that she thinks she should get through on brass balls alone.

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Kris Allen has picked She Works Hard For The Money, and a loose white t-shirt. Both odd choices. Wouldn’t a tight white t-shirt have made more sense, dinky little sex-smurf? He’s reimagined the song as a Santana number. (I’m very annoyed that Paula has said exactly the same thing, which makes me fear for my sanity, but she then went off on a rant about men in women’s clothing, so no-one will remember that.) I think we’re going to see a lot of un-disco tonight, which is just as well. I actually like disco. But I like it done well.

Danny Gokey is singing September, by Earth Wind and Fire. And isn’t he looking chunky? Every week, there’s a little bit more of him to be bored with. This is one of his least comfortable performances, but it doesn’t matter; there’s no accounting for the appeal of Danny Gokey. Maybe it’s because he’s a good church-going boy? Maybe it’s still sympathy votes for his dead wife? Or maybe people just like safe and dully consistent? If we get the expected Danny/Adam finalé, it’s going to be very interesting cultural schism; the dependable holy widower versus the flamboyant godless homosexual. Porridge versus popping candy. And then Danny will win, because America is a soulless place.

(You’ll note I’m finally calling him Danny, not Downey. I know the joke wore thin about two months ago, but I just genuinely have trouble remembering that his name isn’t Downey.)

Allison Iraheta’s hair this week is styled in the fashion of the Cowardly Lion, and she’s wearing a PVC and rhinestone emo bee costume. It’s all very bold. The song is Hot Stuff, with rocks on - Donna Summer is this week’s Bryan Adams. It’s not Allison at her finest, but I think she now has some momentum behind her.

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Adam. The pattern says that Adam should go for something stripped down this week, and that he’ll have his hair swept up away from his face, but can he do ’stripped down’ in disco week? He has got the hair back in the pompadour, so the signs are good. The song is If I Can’t Have You, and - shock - he is sticking to his pattern. He is not going for 12-cylinder disco. He’s singing a Bee Gees song as if it were an emotional ballad. Not as good as his Mad World or Tracks of my Tears, but he’s still outsinging the competition and cementing his place in the hearts of grandmothers everywhere.

Ryan Seacrest looks hilariously tiny next to Adam’s hair.

Matt Giraud is singing Stayin’ Alive, because you really want to be doing another Brothers Gibb number after Adam, oh yes. Bad falsetto, a hectoring pace, and appalling sub-Timberlake shuffling. Did we really deserve another week of this guy and his supermarket fish counter hats? Why? What did we do wrong?

The one good thing about saving Matt is that they can’t save Anoop, who is last up this evening. I’ve learned that Anoop’s fans love him because of the R&B timbre of his voice. And also because they want to hump his cartoon eyebrows. They don’t care about his limited range! They don’t care about his lack of vocal control! They don’t care that he’s been in this contest three months too long! They lurve him. The song is Dim All The Lights, by… Donna Summer! Simon gives it the worst comments of the night; he has decided that Anoop has got to go. I can’t disagree.

Two people go home this week, which changes the voting dynamic quite a bit. It ought to be two of Lil, Matt and Anoop, and any such result would make me perfectly happy, but after last week’s reprieve, I’m very keen to see Matt kicked out of here. Go home, Frankenstein!

Idol: Unlucky For Some, Possibly Us

Tuesday, March 10th, 2009

The ‘final thirteen’ perform tonight, and the theme is Michael Jackson. Simon Cowell gets things off to a heartening start by announcing that two people will go home tomorrow, setting the show quickly back on track to the right number of contestants. This surprises me; I thought they’d delay the double dismissal for a while so they’d have a safety net against the discovery that any of the contestants were hookers or drug addicts or conservative talk show hosts.

Lil Rounds opens the night with The Way You Make Me Feel. She’s predictably strong, confident and bluesy, so it probably won’t matter that she’s in the graveyard opening slot. It’s the strongest opening the show has had this year. Lil’s outfit today has a Pretty in Pink Gladiatrix shoulder ruffle. She left her bedazzled net and trident backstage.

Ryan tells us there is a special number for the ‘extra’ thirteenth contestant. This is not because Ryan is superstitious, but because when Idol decided to have 13 contestants, they forgot to check if the ‘13′ version of their phone number was available. It isn’t. It’s a phone sex line number.

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Blind Scott is next, and I should stop being so cruel and drawing attention to his impairment. I should call him Talentless Scott instead. Scott’s song is Keep The Faith. It’s not Bon Jovi night, Scott! Anyway, Scott is terrible and shrill, but they’ve given him a piano to play with, and people get unreasonably excited about blind pianists, so he should be fine. I’ve never heard this Jacko Keep The Faith song before. Thirteen contestants, and they can’t find thirteen good Michael Jackson songs? Simon Cowell’s brilliant criticism of Scott: “It’s fine being artistic; just not on this show”. Quite right, Simon! No art here, please!

Downey Gokey tells us he comes from a precocious and irritating musical family where they all sung their homework. Ugh. No mention is made of the dead wife, which has started to irritate even usually biddably sentimental Americans. The thing is, as unctuous and annoying as Downey is, his rendition of PYT proves he’s a pretty good singer and not a bad performer (apart from his saddlesore John Wayne dance moves).

Chunky blue-collar man Michael Sarver is a very unlikely pop star; he keeps doing soul, but country is surely the only genre that would have him. He’s singing You Are Not Alone, which is so un-country it could have its own parking garage. Michael wisely dodges the high notes with a tactical rearrangement. His phrasing is chewy; his tone is appealing; his dress sense is a bit Rush Limbaugh. I like him.

Jasmine Murray. The Idol blogger at Entertainment Weekly really hates Jasmine, even though she’s sweet-voiced and seemingly completely inoffensive. I don’t get it. Jasmine sings I’ll Be There, and though she has a young voice (and goes flat in a couple of places) she has obvious talent. She also looks great in her shiny 60s mini-dress. She’s a mini Supreme! Shut your dirty bitch mouth, Entertainment Weekly blogger!

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Kris Allen got no exposure in the early shows, but he’s rilly rilly good-looking, so he got voted through in spite of this disadvantage and a lacklustre live performance. His video package introduces us to his wife, so this may be the last we see of Kris. Dressed in a lumberjack shirt, and mechanically strumming a guitar, he sings Remember The Time like it’s a Hootie & The Blowfish song (which it might as well be; it’s a terrible song). Kris is still an inferior singer, but he seems to be enjoying himself, and he is rilly rilly good-looking. Simon agrees that he shouldn’t have introduced America to his wife. His wife does not look happy about this comment.

Allison Iraheta is the smoky-voiced, carnelian-haired Dora the Rocker girl. I have no idea what MJ song she’s doing, but she must have dug deep into the back catalogue to find a song she could rock to. She’s very good, but lord knows how far she can go in this contest. Some rockers do well, but they all tend to be guy rockers.

Anoop Desai. I can’t help feeling his scream-inducing, message board-bothering audience popularity - out of all proportion to his talent - is based in a patronising post-Slumdog attempt to appropriate those adorable big-eyed, thick-haired, coffee-skinned Indian fellas as new mascots of American diversity. They might as well have voted for a Webkinz. No obscure highly personal ‘this is me’ number for Anoop; he’s all about the gimmicky karaoke stunt performances, so he grinds and whines his way through Beat It. Horrible. The judges hate it too, but Anoop’s die-hards have lost him once in the early rounds, and will be voting in droves to make sure they don’t lose him again. Based on Anoop’s performance, Simon says he wouldn’t have made this a top 13. Ouch.

Puerto Rico’s Jorge Nunez reminds me of Justin from Ugly Betty. Bless ‘im. The population of Puerto Rico is small, but I suspect they’re passionate about seeing themselves up there on TV, so Jorge definitely has a voting bloc behind him. His Never Can Say Goodbye gets off to a horrible start, recovers slightly, wavers, recovers, gets shrill, does not recover - it’s basically a wreck, and he’ll be needing those island votes. On the other hand, his ‘nuh! nuh! no!’s are adorable.

Perky, booby, strawberry-and-creamy Megan Joy is next, with her floppy dancing and all-devouring smile. In what may be the most bizarre song choice ever in the history of Idol, Megan sings Rockin’ Robin. Or I’ve sustained a head injury and am imagining this ridiculous children’s TV performance. She ends the number by screeching ‘caw caw’, which isn’t even a noise robins make! Lunatic! I suspect Tatiana Del Toro is using voodoo to work through her and destroy her, because Megan Joy took her spot. “You picked the right song”, said Paula. Oh dear, the loonies are sticking together. Then Simon consults Gordon Ramsay, and now I’m sure it was a head injury.

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Supah-gay Adam Lambert is here to save the day, hooray! I’m terrified that Adam will be sent home too soon because of the photos of him snogging boys on the internet. He’s such good fun! He’s so confident! The song is Black Or White, but you might not recognise it from the ridiculously huge drunken Axl Rose/Bonnie Tyler/Rocky Horror mash-up vocal he hurls at the audience. He gets a standing ovation from the entire cosmos, and he earned it. Brilliant showmanship. He should win this and RuPaul’s Drag Race!

Matt Giraud has not been punished enough for his rendition of Viva La Vida, and he needs to go home, the big stupid pianist. His video package tells us his parents love him. Good to know. The song is Human Nature, which he makes sound like Al Jarreau doing the Moonlighting theme. “Summm wak ba-hy naaaa-ha-a-ight, summm flah bah dayyyyyy…”

Finally, virgin/whore Alexis Grace - once wholesome and peppy, but since she arrived in Hollywood she’s put a coloured stripe in her hair! Jezebel! This is why she’s been given the phone sex line as her voting number. She sings Dirty Diana, which is wonderfully apt, because with her short blonde hair and slutty little black number she could actually pass for a dirty Diana. “There were three of us in this menage“. Alexis is pretty good, and in a contest with so few girls, she could do well.

Two people go home tomorrow. I predict it will be Megan and boring, boring Matt Giraud. We’re also promised a ‘twist’, which I suspect means they’re introducing the X-Factor element where the judges save someone from the bottom three, rather than just sending home the least popular contestant. How exciting! Clap clap clap!

Idol: Hooray for Hollywood Week

Thursday, February 5th, 2009

“I’m one of those kids that’s been through a lot, and it means something to me becase music has always been the anchor that keeps me from freaking out when something bad happens or when I didn’t have people around me to support me like other people. And I just want this more than anything. It’s on my skin, and it just bursts out of me whenever I’m on stage, and I don’t know why.”

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Welcome to the world of Nate Marshall. Nate wears a headband, and sometimes a tie, and flip-flops, and sometimes a pair of cheap plastic seaside sunglasses that probably cost eighty bucks at Urban Outfitters, and he has acne piercings and haystack hair with a swoosh. Nate is an American Idol contestant, and Nate is what we like to call ‘theatrical’.

‘Theatrical’ is a word that Simon Cowell likes to use dismissively about many of the male contestants. On a show about standing on a stage and singing for public acclaim, we are told that it is bad to be theatrical. And the public sits up and listens. In last year’s final 12 boys there were four ‘theatricals’. Colton Berry got sent home in the first week; Jason Yeager in the second; Danny Noriega in the third; and David ‘gay go-go dancer’ Hernandez in the fourth. There is no room for theatrics on the stage of the Kodak Theatre! In Hollywood!

Still, in Nate Marshall’s case it’s probably fair to be concerned. He is theatrical, but it’s one of those free theatres you get in the food courts at amusement parks, where cheesy teens recite their parts by rote for the thirteenth time that day while you try to ignore them and plan out the best route to get to all the remaining rollercoasters after lunch. Unfortunately, Nick survived the first week of Hollywood week. (Hollywood week airs across two weeks; it’s confusing, but no more so than the fact that ‘group night’ always happens by day.)

The first hour of bootcamp this week was all about the singing line (one: stand in a line; two: sing), which gave everyone a chance to bellow like horny walruses. Even Lil Rounds, who is surely destined for the competition’s top three, managed to deliver ‘I Will Always Love You’ as more of a threat than a promise, but the judges just love her (”I just love you,” Paula said, probably), so they all pretended that this did not happen.

Also bellowing for all he was worth was Von Smith, who had to sing after two talented black guys with big voices and unwisely tried to match them. Von Smith is another theatrical. Von Smith is Shirley Bassey trapped in the body of boy scout and screaming to get out. Von Smith is a ‘YouTube star’, apparently, which is worrying new territory for this show. In spite of a performance that Simon calls “indulgent nonsense”, Von Smith gets through, so apparently singing terribly is no bar to success in this competition.

Other theatricals take to the stage. Adam Lambert, of the dreadful assymetrical hair, stupid boots and wonderful theatrical voice, sails on through. Norman Gentle has a bumpier ride. Norman is the comedy character who somehow survived longer than any comedian has ever managed before in the face of Simon’s withering scorn, possibly because he’s both a decent singer and genuinely quite funny. He sings that one bellicose Dreamgirls song, which I think is called, “And I Am Yelling At You, I’m Not Singing”. To everyone’s surprise, Norman survives, to be sent home another day.

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Also surviving the first day in Hollywood against all odds is Hey Everyone Come Look At The Tiny Triangle Of Cloth Covering My Pubic Mound Girl, who has been more widely dubbed ‘Bikini Girl’ (above; bikini not pictured). Simon does not find Norman Gentle funny, but he finds his own schtick where he keeps putting the slutty skanky girl through even though she can’t sing absolutely hi-la-rious. Keep the laffs coming, Simon, you wit.

Some people who are neither theatrical nor quirky also get through, but who cares about those people? Actually, I do care a little about oil rig worker (and adorable giant teddy bear) Jeremy Michael Sarver, who was ‘Jeremy’ when he first appeared on the show but is slowly transitioning to ‘Michael’ and is currently in that awkward ‘two first names’ stage. (This is not the first time a contestant has done this, but I might be the only person who has noticed this strange phenomenon, which I think is called ‘we can’t market someone called Jeremy; what’s your middle name?’). Jeremy Michael has a lovely voice and absolutely no idea what to do with it, but I’m hoping they can fix that.

And so we head into the second hour of Hollywood Week; ‘group night’. Group night is when all the contestants form into groups (ah, you see?) and try to put together a group performance of a song, thus testing their ability to create a showpiece and work well with others - skills that have absolutely nothing to do with this competition! They might as well have juggling night, or a Ready Steady Cook round.

No, the reason there’s a group night is not because it’s useful to the competition; it’s because it creates a tentpole of interpersonal drama in the middle of Hollywood week, between the first solo round and the second solo round. Group night has nothing to do with talent and everything to do with finding out who’s a bitch.

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Tatiana (above) is a bitch. Tatiana is a world class bitch. And she has no idea she’s a bitch; she thinks she’s the nicest person in the world, trampling through life with her satanic empty giggle and her disregard for the feelings - and possibly the existence - of others.

When Tatiana says, “This is everything to me. You don’t understand. This is not a game to me. This means everything to me. I’ve been to hell and back to be here”, she either honestly believes that she’s the only person who feels this way; or else she just thinks that if she says it loudly enough it can only possibly be true for her. Tatiana is certifiably bugfuck. When one girl says how tired they all are in the group, Tatiana replies, “Don’t say that about me. Ever. Ever. Never. Ever. Ever.” All with a broad, nutty, I-will-kill-you grin on her face.

Despite the fact that Tatiana is both an awful person and an awful singer, she survives the week, as does the rest of her group, who come out the other side of the process looking like they have known war and seen death and understand the true horror of man’s inhumanity to man.

Yet such is the effect of Tatiana that the tremors of her tantrums manage to reach out and destroy the chances of Nancy Wilson, who is in a completely different group! (Of course, Nancy Wilson already had a career with Heart and is now in her 50s, so she shouldn’t even be… oh, different Nancy Wilson. The jazz singer Nancy Wilson? No, it’s not her either. Reverend Nancy Wilson of the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches? I need to spend less time on Wikipedia.) 

Nancy Wilson will return to the spotlight one day, as I think she’ll hunt down and kill the dumb blond girl she was singing with. Meanwhile, the machinations of Tatiana will surely claim more victims before the week is through. On getting through the day, she proudly proclaims, “You all make this a part of me. You’re all a part of me.” Psycho.

Bikini Girl also tries her best to destroy the hopes and dreams of the people around her, in her case by going to bed while the rest of the group is still rehearsing - she needs her trampy sleep, poor thing - and then by claiming she’s too ill to get up for more rehearsals the next day. But she’s magically well enough to slip on a slutty little nothing and shimmy on down when it’s showtime!

Thankfully the scheme doesn’t work, and Bikini Girl gets sent home, despite claiming that she only went to bed because she has scoliosis. (”You wanted to go to bed early because you were in high heels all day”, says Simon brilliantly.) Unfortunately her rejection does not seem to matter in the least to Bikini Girl. She did not come here to sing; she came here for exposure. She’ll probably never sing again. You can see from the steely glint in her eyes as she sashays off the stage that she’s already moving on to phase two.

danny-gokey

One of the strangest things about group night is that apparently every group needs a name for their once-in-a-lifetime performance, so Nancy Wilson and Nate Marshall are part of ‘Team Compromise’ (nothing says ‘reach for your dream’ like the word ‘compromise’; was ‘Team Give Up And Go Home’ already taken?), Bikini Girl is part of Team Diva, and Danny Gokey (above), the Robert Downey Jr lookalike I choose to think of as Downey Gokey, is in Rainbow Coalition. What? Are they named after the former ruling coalition of Kenya? The Mizrahi Democratic Rainbow Coalition in Israel?  The ruling coalitions of Finland from 1995 to 2003? (Back on Wikipedia again; sorry.)

Incidentally, Downey Gokey has a great voice (and a dead wife; don’t forget the dead wife), but it’s such a soulful and - may I say - black voice that I keep expecting him to come out with, “I know what dude I am. I’m the dude playin’ the dude, disguised as another dude”.

On which note, the worst name of all the groups may be White Chocolate, but they were the first group to perform, and their inspired arrangement of ‘I Want You Back’, complete with beatboxing and rap, was so completely brilliant that it probably made everyone else in the theatre vomit their hearts out into the aisles. 

Among those who lost their cool were a couple of surprises. Rose the Hippie hated Bikini Girl so much that it made her forget her lines. David Osmond of the Utah Clan Osmond is sent home despite the fact that he’s a motherfucking Osmond, and even the chipper little ‘yay spirit team’ kid, who is president of every club in his school, did not get through. Not that he seems at all bothered. Gee willickers, tomorrow is another day! 

And thus ends the second hour of Hollywood Week. The week continues next week, with the second solo rounds, and a full hour of people standing in a lift. TV does not get more compelling than this.