American Idol — Hollywood Week 1 Recap: Watch It Burn

Photo: Michael Becker/FOX.
It’s hard out there for an Idol fan these days. Remember when Simon Cowell ruled the school and it was all about the music and the whole thing felt so ALIVE? And then we all got 10+ years older and now we feel DEAD? And there are 15-year-olds all over the place who have never known a society without Ryan Seacrest? What a world, Dawg. (R.I.P. Randy Jackson’s terrible tenure.)

Still, I’m determined to watch this thing burn straight through the end, if only for J. Lo’s wardrobe and because I’m a masochist with a weak value system. So many of the contestants seem like identically programmed farm-to-TV dinner child stars now. I miss how much passion and real-life “Can I afford to diaper my baby one more week?” peril was constantly in play as hopeful wannabes gutted themselves on the stage. Because along with how much money you can hoard in a lifetime, aren’t overexposure and instant fame and endless Huggies what the American Dream is all about? This competition used to feel like something worth fighting for! A fiery burst of humanity and lasers! So far, the farewell season has been an over-edited sheen of slick voiceovers and half-assed props.

But the live shows are coming up, you know? I still want to believe. This is my last chance. There’s nothing out there for me post-this. (I already went to college.) So I’ll be here to watch our favorite reality sing-off crumble to the ground from now through April 7. What? It’s a perfectly fine date for a series finale/early mercy killing. Not shady at all.

If it seems like I’m stalling, that’s because Wednesday’s episode somehow boiled the plights of 190 contestants down to just a few minutes of actual singing footage, during most of which the contestants had to share screen time with their family members in the audience! Booooo. Never underestimate the power of a momager or a super fan. I’m sure you don’t, but if there’s ever any doubt. STEER CLEAR in particular of entire super fan families who have based their collective identity on a commitment to “reality.” Idol is also more keen than ever on showing the judges’ reactions instead of the singers themselves. Keith Urban, Jennifer Lopez, and Harry Connick Jr. are cruising down this highway to hell in full-on “fuck you, pay me” mode, which is honestly kind of funny. We all know who the real stars are here. Zoom in on Jenny’s low-cut gold jumpsuit if you require more details. I’d wager that one might never guess this is a singing series if he or she happened to flip onto it randomly. Ha! Like anyone watches live TV in 2016. What a terrific zinger.
Photo: Michael Becker/FOX.
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My favorite singer of the night — and coincidentally one of the very few they let sing on-air for multiple seconds — was single mom La’Porsha Renae, who powerfully purred a slowed-down cover of Katy Perry’s “Roar.” And Jessica Cabral, Emily Brooke, Sonika Vaid, and Olivia Rox continue to make a convincing case for a female winner this year. If those last two combined their names, the resulting hybrid named Sonika Rox would be unstoppable. Olivia Vaid, not so much. Top 40 at most. I’m also digging Jenn Blosil, who magically transforms from professional space cadet to focused human whenever she sits down at a keyboard. Let us pause here for this friendly reminder from the only lady judge: “Fuck the guys!”

The rest of the “Line of 10” footage (this is where contestants must line up in rows and declare J. Lo either beautiful or sexy depending on which vibe she’s exuding in the moment, now this one, now this one, etc.) is mostly a blur of head thrusts and mouth-stretching with barely enough audio to make a real impression. I must admit I struggle to get behind anyone who sings a cappella, even the ones we’re supposed to consider power-vocalists at this point. It’s just one long, aimless warble to me. Sorry. I’ve got to have the beat! I’m basic like that.

Thursday’s Group Round episode is a full two hours, so I’m hoping for equal parts triumph and trainwreck and a lot more emphasis on the performances. Will Trent Harmon and his raging case of mononucleosis hoard more screen time than Keith Urban’s chest tattoo? Stay tuned…
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