Welcome to Idolator’s American Idolatry, our look at the star-producing juggernaut that is American Idol. Last night’s audition episode took its footage from the tryouts in Memphis; because of the State of the Union address, it was only an hour long, and most of the winners were introduced in a people-running-out-of-the-audition-room montage at the episode’s end. Which meant for an even higher proportion of awkward moments and tough-luck stories–we’ll have those after the jump.
This week’s episode opened with shots of Memphis’ empty streets, and it reminded us of the superb used-car-lot documentary Slasher, which was also set in Memphis and had as its elusive prize a car that cost $88. On American Idol, of course, getting the judges’ nod of approval seems even more difficult than sweet-talking a car salesman into cutting his list price, and the Memphis episode showcased a lot of sad dream-chasers: You had the Ashanti wannabe who seemed to learn all of her songs from a radio with really bad reception, the guy who paired an ode to his ladyfriend with super-awkward dance moves, and the obligatory montage of people butchering Elvis Presley’s “Burning Love,” which included one guy who took off his underwear while keeping his pants on. Yeah, it was that kind of episode.
HARDEST-LUCK CONTESTANT: Topher McCain‘s wife left him. Why? She decided that she didn’t want to stop cheating on him. He entered the audition room with two hopes: first, that he’d win the competition as revenge, and second, that Paula Abdul would be his rebound. You can probably guess that he left empty-handed.
MOST ILL-ADVISED TACTIC FOR “STANDING OUT”: College cheerleader Frank Byers wins this category for two reasons: He actually refers to himself as “Frank And Beans,” and he brought along his entire squad–and a pep band!–for some post-rejection cheer.
PROOF THAT ALL THE BARBERS IN MEMPHIS WERE CLOSED THAT DAY: Two singers who made it to the next round–the freak-folk refugee Sean Michel and the Bobby “Blue” Bland-singing Sundance Head–had absolutely atrocious facial hair, although Head’s steel-wool chin won the “ick” contest by a mile.
BEST RETORT: Robert Lee Holmes introduced himself as a writer who was “writing his own story.” “Oh? How does the current part end?” Simon asked. “With a period,” Holmes replied. Zing!
OH, HONEY: Janita Burks–whose ample curves and low-cut top prompted Simon to quip that she was a “handful”–talked to the interviewers about how she possessed “confidentiality.” She wasn’t talking about looking like an extra in a spy-themed Skinemax flick, either.
PAULA ABDUL OUT-OF-IT SCALE: 4/10. She was okay until Holmes’ audition, when she suddenly jerked to one side and grabbed herself, a pained look on her face. Was it Holmes’ lousy Elvis rendition, or did Randy kick her under the table?