'American Idol': Sensitivity Training

To the uninitiated, the Best of the Rest auditions episode of "American Idol" may look like leftover bits and scraps collected from earlier episodes in which the competition's judges visited audition cities around the country. And Wednesday night's so-long-it-lasted-into-next-week bit, in which "Idol" judge Simon Cowell learns how to hold a broom, did nothing to change their minds.

But serious students of "Idol" know the Best of the Rest episode is super-important. Serious students know contestants with whom viewers have not bonded tend to get the fewest votes -- and the hook -- in the early voting. Serious students know the Best of the Rest episode was conceived as a way for the producers to let viewers get acquainted with some of the wannabes the producers would like to see get through to the final competition.

Such as Amy Davis, who tells us that growing up with a family "lower than lower-middle class" -- we think that means "poor" -- has given her an "extreme drive" as we watch footage of her shaking her booty for the "Idol" camera.

Watching the judges interview the other contestants for the job of American Idol is like a training video from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on What Not to Say to a Prospective Employee During a Job Interview.

Amy's interview, for instance, went like this:

"You are in a very good place right now," Simon says.

"Yes, you are in a very fantastic place," judge Paula Abdul adds.

"And nice shoes!" adds judge Randy Jackson, pulling out the traditional "Idol" euphemism for, um, "shoes."

"Thank you!" Amy gushes with extreme drive.

"You're a very pretty girl," says Paula. "What is your ethnic background?"

Amy is not very good, but they put her through to Hollywood because they like "the possibility" of her "vocals."

Which is this season's new euphemism for "nice shoes."


Cardin McKinney (Fox)

And here comes Cardin McKinney, who is a total letdown, given all the blather about her in the blather-o-sphere. In her black-and-white photos on all those fan blogs, she looks very hot. In the Best of the Rest episode, she's a bit of a frump in a shapeless wrinkled red dress, and her performance is very small-town nightclub act. She tells the judges she's a "server." "Server" is to waitress what the Screen Actors Guild's "female actor" is to "actress" a.k.a. The Same Thing.

They put Cardin through because they think she can "grow."

By "grow" they mean . . .

And plus-size model JoAnne Borgella. By "plus size" they mean "like the majority of people in the country." Which gives Paula permission to tell JoAnne she thinks her size has "always been an issue for you," adding patronizingly, "I think you're stunning."

How about Alesha Stelzl, who has a voice like Dolly Parton's, only she tries to sing like Celine Dion.

Paula and Randy tell her she sounds like Dolly Parton -- Simon thinks they're crazy. Randy and Paula tell her to go learn a Dolly Parton song and come back. Alesha does not know who Dolly Parton is, but she learns a few bars of "Islands in the Stream" and comes back and she sounds -- like Dolly Parton. So Randy and Paula put her through to Hollywood, even though she lacks Dolly Parton's "shoes."

"I hate to admit it -- you were right," Simon tells Paula and Randy about the whole Dolly Parton thing.

Randy and Paula are stunned. "This is the first time it's worked out," Paula gushes. She high-fives Randy.

Chikezie Eze is back -- he auditioned last season. He's at least as good as any of the chicks the judges put through this episode, but Simon doesn't want him to go to Hollywood because having heard him sing he feels he knows all about Chikezie. Even Paula can't make sense of that and she and Randy put Chikezie through.

But perhaps the most offensive interview was that of Danny Noriega, also a previous season rejectee, who says he's going to sing "Proud Mary" to which Randy replies, "Of course," and Paula adds that Danny knows who he is.

"Of course" and "you know who you are" appear to be this season's euphemisms for "we think you're gay," replacing previous seasons' "too Broadway."

By Lisa de Moraes  |  February 7, 2008; 7:20 AM ET "American Idol"
Previous: 'American Idol' Auditions: Acts of Charity | Next: 'American Idol': Rehabbing Hollywood

Comments

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Each of these audtion photos makes it look like the singer is about ready to pee all over the stage.

Posted by: DeezNats | February 7, 2008 8:23 AM

Anybody else notice the strong gravitational pull on Simon's eyes during Amy's audition? He tried to look at her face -- Lord, he tried -- but they kept falling toward her "shoes" and places in between. Shouldn't there be some sort of ban on contestants who've been contestants on other shows or who have hagiographical Web sites?

Posted by: JD | February 7, 2008 10:11 AM

Lisa, I love your comments. You so nail IDOL. The main reason I read the Post is you. I wish you could also comment on the political scene which seems to be modeled on IDOL these days.

Posted by: SK | February 7, 2008 10:21 AM

Love reading your recaps, even after watching the show myself! I really liked JoAnne Borgella last night. I have to say, I'm looking forward to Hollywood so much this year, since we saw a lot of good singers in the auditions. Can't wait to see who makes the top 24!

Posted by: Amanda | February 7, 2008 10:37 AM

"But perhaps the most offensive interview was that of Danny Noriega, also a previous season rejectee, who says he's going to sing "Proud Mary" to which Randy replies, "Of course," and Paula adds that Danny knows who he is."

When Randy said "Of course" I almost blew milk out my nose.

Posted by: Rob | February 7, 2008 1:27 PM

"But perhaps the most offensive interview was that of Danny Noriega, also a previous season rejectee, who says he's going to sing "Proud Mary" to which Randy replies, "Of course," and Paula adds that Danny knows who he is."


Oh go buy a sense of humor.

Posted by: EP Thorn | February 7, 2008 2:33 PM

Lisa, you hate this show, and we can tell. One has to wonder how much you must hate writing about AI becuase your comments are so negative.... maybe pessimistic?

Posted by: Jay | February 7, 2008 4:16 PM

Jay, Lisa writes this way about pretty much everything. And we love her for it.

Posted by: arlington | February 7, 2008 4:26 PM

Lisa, Randy's comment wasn't negative. My partner and I laughed hysterically when the answer to "Proud Mary" was "Of course" with a smile. The kid obviously is out and Proud! I noticed a number of obviously gay kids getting thru to Hollywood this year. I hope a couple of 'em make it to the finals. For a show like Idol, it's amazing there hasn't been anyone Out and Proud in the finals so far.

Posted by: garyarlington | February 8, 2008 10:46 AM

Garyarlington - appreciate your POV, but doesn't the Out and Proud part conflict with the popularity part of the voting process? Clay and Taylor made it...

Posted by: Rob Iola | February 8, 2008 12:47 PM

Well, the closest that Idol has come was way back in Season #1. Jim Verraros was second eliminated from the top 10 (hence #9). He came out after finishing the AI show and tour.

Season #1's RJ Helton (#5) was in the closet at the time, but came out during Season #6. When he came out, he said he mentioned it to the show assistant producers who advised him not to talk about it.

Posted by: Dadwannabe | February 8, 2008 1:15 PM

I love the yearly euphemistic shift, too. But really, they saw over a hundred thousand people. Even if the three judges didn't see each and every one, they saw enough people to run out of unique things to say. I'd probably be repeating myself after about a couple hundred people too. There are only so many ways you can tell someone they suck.

Posted by: LLL | February 8, 2008 5:35 PM

Rob,

My gaydar never twigged for Taylor and neither he nor Clay would be my type if I were available. If Clay is ever confirmed gay, I really feel sorry for him. Hiding who you really are sucks, big time.

I was most surprised when Blake confirmed he's straight. Still don't quite believe that, until the new album cover...

It's far past time for an out contestant. This show has a very high gay viewership. Plus, the audience skews young, female, and not far-right. Demographics not likely to punish-vote an out contestant.

It's going to happen on Idol before MLB or the NFL...

Posted by: gayarlington | February 8, 2008 9:17 PM

I only perceived Paula Abdulls comment of "he knows who he is" as to mean he knows what he needs to sing to showcase his style or talent". Too many people are seeking out hidden meanings to everything someone says. And some of them find meanings even if they aren't there.

Posted by: Joe | February 13, 2008 1:13 AM

I've noticed that Randy, Paula and even Simon don't seem to mind the prospect of gay idols. Simon seems to approve of gay auditioners as long as they're cute and have talent. But he seems to have no toleration for overly feminine or flambouyant flamers. As long as Danny Noriega doesn't "advertise" or bring un-necessary attention to his "gayness", I think he'll do well. That is, if his talent holds out.

Posted by: Joe | February 13, 2008 1:20 AM

Okay - why are people supporting the fat girl just because she's big? Do you really see amazing talent there? Joanne Borgella is not going far. She's a crybaby who is blaming her past failures on her weight. Sorry, hun - you're just a bad singer, and you won't make it to the top 12.

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