Five Questions on American Idol: Are All Four Judges Getting Fired?

Whatever doesn’t deafen you makes you stronger: Grantland’s Jay Caspian Kang, Mark Lisanti, and Emily Yoshida have returned, bowed but not broken, to tackle another season of American Idol. With a potential top-to-bottom shakeup on the horizon, are these the last days of Idol as we know it?

One

Who gave the best performance of the night?

Kang: They all seemed nervous last night, didn’t they? Angie sounded shrill for the first time this season (although I suppose the strain of giving two hours of live performances, recording five Ford commercials, and doing whatever other silly crap they put the singers through might be catching up with the vocal cords) and Kree looked about as happy as my cat does when I pick her up and scream “Who’s a cutie? Who’s a cutie?” in her face. Candice kept up her boring march toward the finale, so I guess I would rate her “Somewhere” as the best performance of the night because it didn’t make me want to shove crayons up my nose.

Crayons aside, I have to voice some displeasure with Candice. You could have been an all-timer, Candice, but you played it waaaaaaay too safe. Where was your Whitney-blasting moment? Why didn’t you try to out–“Vision of Love” Mariah? Where was your Celine? At some point, you forgot that winning American Idol is meaningless in the long term. What you have to do on the show is establish your niche, Chris Daughtry–style. So what’s your niche, Candice? Belting out old songs to a bunch of half-cocked, Xanaxed olds on a cruise ship?

Lisanti: The consistency-seeking part of me wants to pick an Angie song, especially the one where she was behind the piano. And then I realize I can’t remember what song she did behind the piano. I remember that it was nice. I remember that she did her behind-the-piano thing, the thing that the judges always respond to, the thing that defines her in the competition. But it’s probably not a great sign that I have no idea what the actual song was. Was it another hot Colton Dixon jam? (You sing one Colton Dixon song and I’m going to expect it every week. It’s a curse.)

I’m going with Candice’s “Somewhere,” too. Was that the one that made Nicki weep? I didn’t weep because I no longer experience emotions due to three consecutive seasons of IdolFactor recapping, but I feel objectively like this one could have elicited tears from a human being who isn’t irretrievably broken.

Yoshida: I was watching Idol with my mom last night. My mom doesn’t like Idol. She watches The Voice, and has all kinds of arguments for why The Voice somehow has more integrity than Idol. Normally I would nod along, but at this point, the time when I had the energy to muster up any opinions about anything within the realm of televised singing contests seems far away and laughable. It’s like, “Sure, being drawn and quartered is a classic, but the rack is just so much simpler from a logistical standpoint.” Anyway, my mom came into the show a skeptic, and I was trying to watch the show through her eyes, because she hates Mariah Carey and melisma and likes when people do truncated renditions of classic rock songs on live television. When Candice started in with “Somewhere” and kept the ad-libs in check, I was like, “Oh, good, my mom will see that Candice is a true talent and a West Side Story fan and won’t have quite so much disdain for Idol and won’t worry about me on Wednesday nights anymore.”

Well, the conclusion to this story is that I just asked my mom what she thought of Candice’s “Somewhere” and she said she couldn’t remember because at that point she stopped paying attention and was playing Words With Friends instead. Hearts of stone: totally genetic.

Two

Jimmy ranked the rounds thusly:
Round 1: Angie
Round 2: Kree
Round 3: Candice
Did he get it right? Or was he just trying to generate suspense by giving one round to each?

Kang: Angie’s flatiron won all three rounds. Keep the hair straight! To date, your hair has been a cross between Cheryl Tiegs and “Hey, I just watched this TV show called Friends and that Rachel sure has some interesting hair!”

Yoshida: We should probably start our recaps of this show right after it airs because at this point anything that isn’t sung by Candice is passing in and out of my brain in real time, and I don’t really remember what who’s-her-face and what’s-her-teeth sang. Let’s give a round to Angie though, sure. I think she was trying very hard. But Round 2 has to go to Candice, because even though the judges didn’t think it was ambitious enough, a song like “Next to Me” would be the only thing that Candice could do post-Idol that would be in her wheelhouse and also have mainstream appeal. So at least we got a glimpse of what a viable Candice Glover career would look like, and it wasn’t too shabby.

Lisanti: I would not award any rounds to Kree. Kreedom is dunzo. Even Jimmy must see that from beneath the brim of his $900 baseball hat. Maybe the UV rays from his tanning machine have finally compromised his eyeballs. They’ve already altered his brain, because how else do you spend $900 on a baseball hat?

Three

Who had the best hometown visit?

Kang: I did some reporting on this one and asked my friend who lives in Beverly, Massachusetts, if the town had gone crazy over Angie. Her response: “There was a parade and a concert. I went to Trader Joe’s.” There you have it. Disney, my travel expense form for this reporting trip will be filed within the next two weeks.

Her cat looks very much like my cat. #journalism #cats

Yoshida: Best? Candice. Most emotionally manipulative? Kree and her haunted tragedy house. Kree says she visits the empty, condemned-looking home of her dead parents on a somewhat regular basis to “remind herself where she came from.” KREE. What are you — no. Stop doing that. I don’t think it’s helping. Why are there still Kree-shirts in — ugh. I hated this. I guarantee you that whether or not Kree wins Idol she will shoot her first music video in that house. I hope she at least converts to screamo first.

Lisanti: Beverly Strong, baby. “Guys, want to ride in a LIMO with me?” [Fifteen-second group hug-squeal. CUT TO: montage of the gals taking turns hanging out the moon-roof of a stretch Hummer, drinking neon orange Jamba Juices, TP'ing their high school.] I can’t even deal with Kree’s tragedy house. It’s way too sad. Again, for a person who has feelings.

Four

Assuming this report about how Fox wants to fire the entire judging panel and give the show a “massive makeover” is accurate, can the show be saved? Or is it too late?

Kang: I want to say yes, it can be saved, because there’s still a small part of me that enjoys the show, but I just don’t know where they would go. Every famous singer out there is either currently judging or has flamed out of a singing competition. I suppose there’s a chance that the next Simon is just waiting around for his opportunity, but that seems like a risk better suited for a younger show. They had a great run. Might be time to just move on to other things.

Yoshida: Yeah, seriously, just give it up, Idol. Your time is over, your ratings will never be what they used to be ever again, except WHAT IF THERE ARE NO JUDGES AND WE LIVE-VOTE ON FACEBOOK AND IF YOUR APPROVAL METER DROPS BELOW 30 PERCENT YOU GET HOT LASAGNA THROWN AT YOU? Call me, Kevin Reilly. You still have a really great high-profile platform on your hands with this show; all you need is someone with my know-how to help you optimize it for the complete downfall of Western civilization.

In the meantime, I guess I’ll settle for Ryan Seacrest sassing Mariah about her carb intake.

Lisanti: Part of me wants to say that it’s never too late. That the show is just three or four new judges and three or four hundred fewer Motown theme weeks from regaining its magic. But another part of me thinks that maybe it’s just time to let it all go. If it’s not Fox doing the letting go, then maybe it should be me.

Haha, j/k. I’m going to watch every season of this show, no matter how awful, until the day I die. I’ve already devoted 12 seasons to it and I don’t understand the concept of sunk costs. I’d hate for those dozen years and thousands of hours to have been a waste. In a few weeks, the new judge rumor mill will get cranked up, we’ll be excited by the prospect of a Kanye, Timberlake, Mary J. Blige, and Randy panel (do you believe for even a second that they’re going to abandon the “incredibly overpaid brand names” strategy? Or that they can remove Randy without lethal force?), and we’ll do this all over again. The hamster craves the treadmill. The blogger also craves the treadmill.

The blogger also is really tired of all The Voice talk. Does it matter if it’s the “better” show? Or the “higher-rated” show? This is the “older” show. That has to count for something. Hold on, I have to put my catheter back in. It tends to slip when I get worked up like this.

Five

Who’s gone? It’s Kree, right?

Kang: I hope so. She certainly isn’t winning the congeniality award. Her stink-face last night was unbearable.

Yoshida: Never underestimate the power of a screamo tragedy house, but yeah, it’s probably Kree.

Lisanti: Set to the tune of that George Michael song. You know which one:
Kreeeeedom
Kreeeeedom
Kreeeedom!
You got to give up all your votes.

That might not scan perfectly. But now it’s in your head for the rest of the day.

Jay Caspian Kang has a cat, in case you haven’t heard.
Emily Yoshida has been recapping
The Voice on a private LiveJournal all season.
Mark Lisanti is lip-synching in a bath tub.

Filed Under: American Idol, Fox, Idol, Keith Urban, Mariah Carey, Nicki Minaj, Randy Jackson, Reality TV