Randy Jackson, wipe that stunned expression off your stupid face. Jennifer Lopez, mop up your phony, ridiculous tears. And Steven Tyler, go back to bed. (Honestly, dude, you’ve been taking the world’s greatest public nap for the last six weeks — why get invested now?) Because while the three of you sat there Thursday night at the American Idol judges’ table, collecting your seven-figure salaries and expressing your anger over the obscenely premature elimination of the exquisite, talented Pia Toscano, you failed to acknowledge your own culpability in her demise.
Uh-huh. I said it. In the post-Simon Cowell era of Idol, the show’s everyone-gets-a-gold-star judging panel has ceased to act as a voice of reason, an antidote to voter apathy, a reminder that not all Idol finalists are created equal. (Oh, Jenny From the Block, you were doing so well for a minute!) And on Wednesday night’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame performance telecast, 24 hours before Pia was left sobbing in front of millions of nauseated viewers, Randy, J.Lo, and Steven hit new, personal lows — spitting up critiques as withered as Iggy Pop’s hide, as grotesque as hand-picked frocks from Gwen Stefani’s L.A.M.B. collection. (“You still wake up sometimes, don’t you? You wake up in the dark and hear the screaming of the lambs.“) Jacob Lusk’s screeching, pelvic “Man in the Mirror” was praised as “perfect in every way.” Casey Abrams’ forgettable turn on “Have You Ever Seen the Rain?” was labeled “revolutionary.” And Stefano Langone’s subpar “When a Man Loves a Woman,” complete with discordant falsetto foolery, was described as “amazing,” “magic,” “great,” and “beautiful.”
Meanwhile, Pia, who from a vocal perspective, owned those boys so thoroughly and completely that she’d already had ’em washed, dried, folded, boxed, and stored away in the attic next to an unopened box of J.Lo’s Glow perfume and a VHS copy of From Justin to Kelly, was told she needed to “research” the greats to learn how to work the stage. Did J.Lo and Randy have a point? Absolutely. (Or as the Dawg might say, “a billion zillion percent!”) It also needs to be pointed out that Pia should’ve shaken her groove thing instead of playing too cool/self-conscious to shimmy during the contestant hoedown that occurred as the credits rolled on Wednesday. That aside, by harping relentlessly on Pia’s weaknesses without ever acknowledging her weekly vocal domination of the bulk of the Season 10 lineup, the judges slowly and methodically painted her as less than the Top 5 shoo-in she deserved to be, and frakked up a crucial opportunity to get out the vote on behalf of a woman whose absence is going to resonate across the Idol stage for the next seven weeks and beyond.
Hell, you know there’s something stinky floating in Lake Idol when Chris Daughtry, David Cook, Jennifer Hudson, Dancing With the Stars‘ Maksim Chmerkovskiy, and even Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson (!) Tweet their shock and outrage over the results. And just like that, the “resurgent Idol” story arc that’s been building for the last three months seems to have come undone.
Is it naive of me to sit here and act surprised? Probably. Over the last two seasons, we’ve seen a grand total of two female contestants (the sublime Crystal Bowersox and the off-the-charts talented Allison Iraheta) crack the Top 5; now, with Pia’s elimination, Idol voters have sent home five consecutive women since the Season 10 finals began, not counting Casey Abrams, who — in a decision that seemed to favor Idol the TV Show over Idol the Viable Hit-making Machine — received the Judges’ Save after getting the lowest number of votes two weeks back.
You’ve got to wonder if somewhere in an oak-paneled Los Angeles bar, Jimmy Iovine, Will.I.Am., and a team of “all-star producers” (also 90 percent male) are knocking back scotches and cursing the cruel hand of fate and the inscrutable whims of Idol voters, and pondering what the hell kind of record they’re going to make should Stefano or Jacob (Pia’s fellow bottom-three dwellers this week) do one better than the hapless Jasmine Trias and claw their way to the final two. Good luck with that guys! I’ll be sure to download The Enunciation of Stefano Langone and The Man in the Mirror…Is Full of His Fabulous Self — if I’m not too busy watching The X Factor.
Anyhow, enough bitterness from this Idol recapper. The season must go on, even for poor Stefano, who looked so stunned when Ryan put down the final verdict that he might’ve pulled a Bruno Mars and caught a grenade for poor Pia — if Uncle Nigel would’ve allowed it.
And so now we have to brainstorm what kind of constructive advice Team Iovine and the judges can give Haley Reinhart and Lauren Alaina to try to carry at least one of them for another three weeks and into a Top 5 finish: “Hold the mic at a right angle to your head.” “Invest in some Crest Whitening Strips.” “Try slappin’ da bass!” “Arrogantly tell America that if they don’t vote for you, they have some kind of inherent sociological/psychological defect.” “Set a piano on fire.” “Get yourself a, um, boyzone?”
Hey, maybe that last one could work. After all, as “guest charisma coach” Russell Brand pointed out to James Durbin, a successful performer can’t be afraid of a little groin-centric action.
Okay, okay…let’s step away from that topic like I never even mentioned it, and do an abrupt subject change to a rundown of the night’s performances, with letter grades for everyone:
The Season 10 Top 9, “I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll”/”The Letter”/”Sweet Home Alabama” medley: Not really sure about slamming “put another dime in the jukebox, baby” into Lynyrd Skynyrd’s southern-rock anthem, but I thought Pia’s solo verse was the best of the night — and came to this conclusion long before she was sent to the bottom three. Also: Was anyone else thrown off by the whiff of Lusky Stank for the last 45 seconds? Grade: C+
Constantine Maroulis, “Unchained Melody”: An interesting, drum-heavy arrangement from the Season 4 alum, although I felt like Constantine didn’t really know how to end things after nailing the fearsome falsetto crescendo. It’s funny, though, that six seasons after his Idol tenure, the man is still trying to impregnate the camera with his lovemaking-eye technique and plunging neckline. Dude, you already got a baby! Grade: B
Iggy Pop, “Wild One”: If Satan himself cooked up a claymation ad campaign for the California Dried Apricots, it might look like this. That said, ABC needs to immediately book this lunatic for the fall 2011 edition of Dancing With the Stars, right? Grade: [Bleeped by Fox censors.]
And now, on to our awards ceremony for the evening!
Most Noticeable Fashion Repeat
Pia’s aqua-striped “Grenade” shirt reappearing in the Russell Brand segment
Judge Who Should Never Say “Uber”
Judge Who Should Stop Trying to Make Charcoal Silk Genie Pants Happen
Judges Who Needs to Stop Knowingly Nodding When Ryan Reiterates His Performance-Show Critiques
The “Why the Eff Are You Shocked Haley Is Safe and Jacob Is in the Bottom Three?” Trophy
A hat trick for…&#*&^%@#*^$#& Randy Jackson!
Segment That Made Me Want to Take a Silkwood Shower
The Idols visit TMZ!
Contestant Who Needs to Work on His Slouchy Bottom-Three Posture
Least Effective Product-Shilling Moment on Idol Since Mike Myers Promoted The Love Guru During the Season 7 Finale
“Stylist” Gwen Stefani trussing up the Season 10 ladies in “flattering” ensembles from her L.A.M.B. label
Unintentionally Spot-On Comment of the Night
“Who am I to tell them what to wear?” –Gwen Stefani on her grim dress-code for Pia, Lauren, and Haley (Anyone else think Pia might’ve outlasted Stefano if not for the spatter-patterned, thigh-expanding pantsuit?)
And now I turn it over to you: Is there any possible way to make sense of Pia’s ouster? How would you divvie up the blame among the judges, the producers, Gwen Stefani, Will.I.Am, Jimmy Iovine, and Idol voters? If you think Pia deserved to survive, who should’ve gone in her place? What about the performances by Constantine and Iggy? Sound off below, and for all my Idol news and commentary, follow me on Twitter @MichaelSlezakTV!