All Hail 'Imperial Idol'

"American Idol" producers finally threw off the pretense they're doing a nice little singing competition and revealed the show for what it has become: "Imperial Idol" -- a bloated, overproduced, marketing barge on which the show's judges, host and contestants are being forced to row faster and faster.

There's no time for small talk on "Imperial Idol."

You say you're hoarse LaKisha? Can't chat now -- gotta cut to commercial.

You want to explain, Jordin, why, though you are only 17, judge Simon Cowell thinks you look and sound like an aged beauty-pageant queen? Sorry, gotta run -- love ya!

Reading the phone numbers that viewers were supposed to call in order to vote for their favorite Idolette, as the show progressed host Ryan Seacrest sounded more and more like a voiceover artist reading, rapid-fire, the possible side effects disclaimer at the tail end of a pharmaceutical ad.

"I'm Not Finished!" Simon roared after being cut off just as he was getting rolling on his comments about Idolette Blake Lewis.

"We've got a lot to do," Ryan told Simon apologetically, adding "We'll get back to you.

By cutting off the judges and competitors, "Imperial Idol" producers were able to squeeze in both Coca Cola-presented viewer questions for the Idolettes. At least that segment revealed to viewers more of the much missed creepy side of Idolette Melinda Doolittle, who once told us that if one of her hands gets cold she is compelled to touch something cold with the other hand very quickly lest the wheels come off the universe.

This week we learned from her that on the first album she ever bought, Michael Jackson's "Bad," her mother crossed out the title and wrote in "Good."

Later, showing she's her mother's daughter, Melinda told guest coach Barry Gibb she would sing his song "How Can You Mend A Broken Heart" but planned to change the lyrics -- we think it was the part about "How can a loser ever win?" -- because she's been very careful not to sing any song about being a loser on the competition.

Judges and contestants were pushed out of the way in a mad dash to banter with Judge Judy, who was in the audience and who rushed Simon and kissed him after Ryan said she and Simon had been separated at birth. Ryan then added that the two were also dating. We'll think about that tomorrow.

The Judge Judy bit was a real headscratcher, given that her show is produced by CBS, not Fox network's parent, NewsCorp.

There was also plenty of on-air time for Barry Gibb, who we're going to find out from Ryan on Wednesday's results show either a) has a new CD or b) is going on tour.

Editor's note: For more on last night's "American Idol," read Lisa's TV column.

By Lisa de Moraes  |  May 9, 2007; 6:00 AM ET "American Idol"
Previous: It's Not About Winning | Next: LaKisha Out

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last night's show was sooooo boring. could they maybe dig up someone a little older and more out of date (and with worse fitting dentures) than barry gibb?? oy vey.
i love beegees songs but you know who sounds best signing them? the freekin' beegees.
melinda: technically on but oh so boring.
lakisha: better than the judges thought. why is it screaming when lakisha sings and 'fantastic' when jordin does the same thing?
jordin: 'to love somebody' is one of the all time great songs. woman in love is not. it showed. and simon was right on about the pageanty look--for heaven's sake, she's (say it w/me folks) 17 YEARS OLD!
blake: absurd, horrid, embarrassing, painful...let me count the ways

Posted by: methinks | May 9, 2007 9:00 AM

Hey Lisa -- please stop the relentless Melinda bashing. It is getting as old as Blake's beatboxing.

Posted by: Steve | May 9, 2007 10:10 AM

I have to agree with Liz on the Melinda bashing. She's a good technical singer, but I just don't like her personality. And the little teapot dance bugs the heck out of me. Can we please comment on Lakisha's second dress? I was embarrassed by her boobs hanging out. Isn't Idol supposed to be a family show? People were all over Haley for her short skirts, but those were just legs. Lakisha's boobs were out there for everyone to see!! Modesty young lady, modesty!!! I did not like that one bit.

I like Blake the best. He at least is doing something that is different and interesting.

Jordin is great as well. I agreed that her second song wasn't one of her best.

Posted by: Eliz | May 9, 2007 10:18 AM

"At least that segment revealed to viewers more of the much missed creepy side of Idolette Melinda Doolittle, who once told us that if one of her hands gets cold she is compelled to touch something cold with the other hand very quickly lest the wheels come off the universe."

Lisa,

This comment was downright insensitive. What Melinda described about "touching something cold" is a classic symptom of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). If she does suffer from it, then that admission was quite brave. Calling her "creepy" is appallingly mean-spirited.

Posted by: Anonymous | May 9, 2007 10:23 AM

people were all over haley because she's young and slender (w/nice extras). they see her as a sexual person. lakisha is a 'big' lady, therefore it's okay to show off her 'extras' because she's not seen as a sex kitten. but i'm w/you Eliz...a little (and i mean lit-tle) goes a long way.

Posted by: methinks | May 9, 2007 10:25 AM

Lisa, you're so right on about this one -- we used to like this show and it's been a fun family ritual at our house since Season 1. But this season has been dispiriting. We, too, were dismayed last night that they were cutting off the judges' comments, especially Simon's. Have they forgotten that listening to the judges analyze the performances is what makes the show interesting? I wonder if it's not just for the reasons you suggested, but because at this point in the season, the producers' management company is looking ahead -- they now know based on past experience they have a financial interest not only in the winner, but the other three as well, so they don't want to allow too much time for honest assessments.

Do you notice, as well, that they've ditched those "get to know the contestants" video clips from past seasons? Not that they couldn't be hokey and contrived, but notice that this year they are making NO effort to let us know more about who these people are and where they come from -- I don't count those segments where they take a trivial question from a viewer. Maybe that's because they'd have to show Lakisha working as a bank teller, Jordin going to high school, Blake gigging in little clubs in his home town, and Melinda working in a recording studio singing backup, and then going on tour with Aaron Neville -- oops! How'd she get into this competition to give a break to someone outside the music business?

We also thought the BeeGees music was a big part of the problem--whose idea was THAT? By and large those aren't soloists' songs. In previous seasons, they'd at least give the contestants a chance to pick music from an entire decade or genre. Under the circumstances (not to mention the schlocky arrangements) we thought those poor contestants did their best. We also don't get the Lakisha-bashing by the judges -- they're always going on about being "original" and "putting your own stamp" on a song, and "singing from the heart" and when she does that, they tell her she shouldn't mess with the melody, tempo, try singing something made famous by that great diva Carrie Underwood (but they didn't tell Jordin she shouldn't try a Streisand song last night -- guess they were up against the time limit). I guess all good things come to an end, but I want my mindless fun back!

Posted by: Hellion | May 9, 2007 10:32 AM

I didn't think the Idols would pull off Bon Jovi songs better than they did Barry Gibb's songs, but I agree that last night was painfully boring. Perhaps it's because many of Barry Gibb's best-known songs feature great harmonies. Like Hellion said, they are not solo artist songs.

Barry Gibb looked equally bored!

Posted by: Sunshine State | May 9, 2007 10:41 AM

Melinda - love the voice, would buy her recordings, but she needs to find a way to "turn it up to 11"

Blake - His style is as hip and contemporary as New Kids on the Block and Kid'n'Play (of course, those were also the days when Paula was on the charts). The beat-boxing thing is over, dude, and you might be also.

LaKisha - Once again affirmed that she is uncoachable. A great raw talent, but she has done nothing to develop it. Loved her in February, but it's time to say goodbye.

Jordin - The first song was great, but I just do not get the "jeans-with-dress" look.

Who should go? Blake or LaKisha.

Who will go? I would not be surprised to see any one of them get the boot tonight, since voting patterns on this show can be so capricious.

Posted by: Doc | May 9, 2007 10:43 AM

And was it just me, or did Barry Gibb sound like he was doing a Sean Connery impression when he talked?

Posted by: Doc | May 9, 2007 10:46 AM

I think they should have a REALLY shocking boot -- kick them all off and cancel the entire show unless, in the next season, they get back to the original concept of finding and developing a new talent. All 4 of the finalists have positive and negative qualities but to my way of thinking none of them are truly marketable.

Posted by: pnina | May 9, 2007 10:53 AM

I don't understand why the show keeps reaching back 30 + years for music for the Idolettes to "refresh" for a modern audience! Barry Gibb, Barry Manilow, Dionne Warwick - great artists - but very dated for a modern show.

Agree with picking a decade of songs for nostalgia for one or two shows, but this is overkill. Aren't they going to try to market the winner to that all important 18-35 year old CD/Ipod purchaser?

Poor Barry Gibb, looked and sounded like he came directly from his gig doing the Geico "caveman" commercials.

Posted by: mad dog | May 9, 2007 10:58 AM

To Doc -

I totally agree with you - Gibb did sound like Connery!!

Posted by: Anonymous | May 9, 2007 11:00 AM

I agree w/Lisa - Melinda's bag of tricks is back and that's not good - I can't watch her while she sings. I love Jordin's voice and Blake is fun to watch. I like the fact Blake changes things up with these old songs. I think LaKaisha's going to go tonight.

Posted by: Milwaukee | May 9, 2007 11:28 AM

Lisa....the idol bashing is back, I think that is starting to get old. I would love to see you write a column where you only discuss the good things from the show. If you can't find any then STOP WATCHING THE SHOW!!! If you hate it so much wrute about Dancing WIth the Stars or Lost or CSI or something. Your relentless negativity gets old after a while. We are a smart audience...we know that money and commercials drive the show. Wy else is there a Ford video every show and well placed coke cups for all to see. The show was running long and of course they had to get to their commercials. Who else is going to pay the bills and keep the lights on. SO thanks for the uninsightful insight and enjoy tonights show!!!

Posted by: HappyDad | May 9, 2007 11:48 AM

It is pathetic to see Lisa's weekly attempt to prop up the disaster that is Lakisha. She is a one-trick pony who can sing R&B ballads and not much else. Yet we have Lisa singing her praises each week even when Lakisha erupts with a croaking bark at the end of her second song.

On the other hand, Lisa must weekly snipe against Melinda, who may have idiosyncracies in her life and singing style that annoy some (not me), but this ought not detract from the fact that she is clearly the best singer on the show. But why let talent stand in the way, Lisa?

I also would agree with Milwaukee on Blake. Of all the contestants ever on this show, he tries to do something with a song other than follow the pattern establihed by the original artist. Admittedly, he is not always successful, but I credit him with, to the degree possible, trying to be inventive.

Posted by: Pelty | May 9, 2007 12:12 PM

Blake-The beat box thing is as old as Flavor Flav. He should go tonight.
Jordin-They gave her old songs to sing and she wore a dress the match the song. She stays
LaKisha-Is a one trick pony like most artist today. Her breasts are just as big as Pamela Anderson's only hers are real, and she wears clothes that fit unlike Mariah Carey. She stays.
Melinda: She best singer on the show. She stays.
Barry Gibb: Is the Geico caveman.

Posted by: Lisa1 | May 9, 2007 1:01 PM

Boobs? Nobody has "boobs" on American Idol. Great big mukluks. That's what they have. Great big mukluks. And a limited vocal range.

Posted by: Jean | May 9, 2007 1:14 PM

A very loud snort to the person who said Melinda did a "I'm a Lil Teapot Dance" - that's exactly right. I thought her jeans were too tight but she did it in a dress too.

I'm hating Blake's hair and his beatboxing is so 1980s. I keep expecting him to break out the cardboard and/or begin to running man. [That said, there was a death here in Conn due to "battle dancing" so what do I know.]

Poor LaKisha. She seems like a nice person but THIS....is not American Idol (to paraphrase Seacrest).

Speaking of Seacrest - why wear a suit and not shave. It's not edgy, it's just weird. Ditto with the jeans and dress look, Jordin.

Posted by: Ex Cap | May 9, 2007 1:34 PM

Ok, I don't actually watch the show, but I do enjoy Lisa's column and especially loooooove the comments, but last night while turning to House at 8:00 p.m. (central standard time of course) I had to get through an extra 60 seconds of AI, I made it through no problem, it wasn't the end of the world as I always thought, but what is with the "Seacrest Out" bit at the end? You people watch, does he do this every show? If so, why? Can the show not end until he says this?

Posted by: Anonymous | May 9, 2007 2:07 PM

I don't particularly care for Blake, but I know that he is popular. As a musician and singer, though, I have to say that Blake needs to lose at some point. The AI contract for the winner would be the worst thing that could happen to him (remember, Daughtry?).

Part of Blake's charisma and draw is his uniqueness and his own style. If he were to win AI, he would be swallowed up by the AI spider and so caught up in the web that he'd have to sacrifice a lot of his originality to cater to the AI machine. He would be driven to do tours and record the cover album and wouldn't have enough time to do his original work.

And I can't believe that people really think that this is a close contest. Despite the fact that Lakisha has the best voice and Jordin has a youthful charm, neither of them performs nearly as well as Melinda. And if you look over the weekly stats, including dialidol and various other forums, Melinda is significantly more popular than the other two. I think that the AI machine is pimping Jordin as the closest competitor to try to keep this from being the runaway event that it has looked like from the start of the SF (top-24) round. I know that there is a lot of Internet buzz about Jordin, but let's face facts that of the 30+M that vote, I would guess that less than 25% of that group are Internet regulars that blog/post/etc.

I do agree that Jordin would be very marketable, but Melinda is just more professional and ready-to-market. Jordin will take some work by an able team of handlers to convert the raw talent into something big. The best numbers producers from seasons past (Clarkson, Aiken, Daughtry, Underwood) have all been ones who are ready to go as soon as the cameras go off after the finals. Doolittle fits that mold and will be big and working hard during the AI tour. By the end of the tour, she'll be ready to put out an album and move on by herself. Sparks will take longer to market as she is very young, inexperienced and raw. She'll be at the mercy of her handlers for a few years before she's ready to fly solo.

Posted by: DadWannaBe | May 9, 2007 2:14 PM

On the judges comments:

They're pathetically redundant.

How many times can one hear Randy Jackson say "Yo, check it out, check it out?" Paula is always flattering until someone else breaks the ice and is critical. Simon's nastiness schtick comes over as just that, schtick.

They stopped offering meaningful criticism about 3 seasons ago.

The show seems more like a vehicle for the "mentor" than the contestants. What is the point of seeing if someone can sing old BeeGees? Why would three chicks want to sing Bon Jovi? If they're going to offer them a challenge, make it a challenge that's suited to their individual abilities and not connected to someone's (usually a has-been) upcoming album or tour. Pfft.

Posted by: b | May 9, 2007 2:19 PM

"Seacrest Out" is his tagline - he came up with it a couple of seasons ago I think, but I honestly thought that he stopped doing it b/c people made fun of him!

Posted by: Betty | May 9, 2007 2:23 PM

This is our reward for watching this show from January?
They finally get the the final four which I think in there own right are all very talented and they make them sing the Bee Gees!
The Bee Gees sing falsetto and in a group. They have got to change there format, last night was pathetic. Why can't they just let them sing what they do best instead of punishing the audience. I thought it was one of the worst shows ever which doesn't make sense when you finally have the four best singers. This is when we should really be enjoying it.
I'm sick of them forcing these tired has beens on us and making the poor singers try to make something of it.
Also what was up with Barry Gibbs teeth?

Posted by: Sadie | May 9, 2007 3:17 PM

The judges' comments are redundant? Hey we're all judges. I thought most of the performances were replete with stinkiosity. Original enough?

Posted by: Jean | May 9, 2007 3:19 PM

HappyDad didn't sound very Happy. I think he should change is name to Irritated-with-Lisa-because-she-writes-
negative-stuff about-AI-Dad. But maybe that's too long?

Posted by: methinks | May 9, 2007 3:23 PM

Same thing I said last week, Bon Jovi week is as bad as Aerosmith or Van Halen week would be.

Only thing worse is Bee Gees week, which not only makes solo singers sing songs known for three-part harmony, but whose greatest hits were done during the disco period, an era which doesn't hold up particularly well without atrocious clothes, flashy lights and copious amounts of cocaine.

At least Blake tries to bring something new to songs that are ancient.

Jordin makes anything fun to listen to, and has amazing nerves of steel at an age when most kids are succumbing to self-esteem issues and peer pressure.

Kiki is a fine singer, in the Baptist choir mode, but should go home tonite. Her strong voice is offset by the fact that she seems to be forever doing a Nell Carter impression, on the way to a road tour of "Ain't Misbehavin'".

Melinda is the finest singer, but there IS something inherently unfair in the idea that a professional singer, who has made a career singing backup to recording artists, and has spent time in studios and on tour, is competing against a high school novice.

It's as if the upcoming Spielberg reality show on Fox with first time filmmakers featured three aspiring filmmakers in high school competing against a graduate of NYU/USC film school, with a graduate degree at AFI who had worked as assistant director on a number of Hollywood films.

And is anybody else annoyed that Ford has all this money to throw at AI, both in sponsorship, music videos and AI Gives Back, at a time they are laying off 30,000 US employees?

Just yesterday, they announced they are now closing their Cleveland plant. Yet they have all this money to enrich AI and children around the world. How about concentrating on giving back to the children of your own longtime loyal employees for a change?

Posted by: filmex | May 9, 2007 3:40 PM

Melinda is the finest singer, but there IS something inherently unfair in the idea that a professional singer, who has made a career singing backup to recording artists, and has spent time in studios and on tour, is competing against a high school novice.

Posted by: filmex | May 9, 2007 03:40 PM
=====

filmex--I disagree with you. The stakes here are very high. The chance to get a major "break" for a big-time recording contract, professional handlers and professional scheduling and networking. For that, anyone who isn't already a name in the business deserves a chance. There have probably been hundreds of backup singers that have auditioned for AI (remember, Brandon Rogers was also a backup singer and was the first of the top-12 to get KO'ed). Also, tons of other professional gig players including Lewis, Glockson, Scarnato, Daughtry, and more have auditioned for the show and had their chances. Just because someone is 17 and amateur doesn't mean they get a yellow brick road paved for them to a recording contract.

This is supposed to be a competition to find the next great unknown. And backup singers, small-time band singers, band members, wedding singers and others who are in the business but as-yet undiscovered, all looking for their chance at the limelight as a lead/solo singer all deserve a chance at grabbing the ring.

If they didn't, I would think it was unfair. I mean just because someone has worked hard for years and found their way to the bottom of the professional ladder, they are disqualified from competing and someone like a kid in high school who has worked hard for months can waltz right by and get the golden ticket? That would raise the bile of just a few million people in a very Animal Farm kind of way.

Posted by: DadWannaBe | May 9, 2007 5:07 PM

Must have been pretty bad...that thing that Melinda did to Lisa! I have never seen such biased bashing by a so-called critic. Why not comment on LaKisha's fat....or Jordin's amazonish bod....or Blake's silly dancing??? Come on Lisa.....let's be fair!!!!! The girl has REAL talent.

Posted by: barbwitt | May 10, 2007 11:02 AM

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