Friday, March 25, 2011

American Idol, Season 10 -- Top 11 Results Show

I'm a seasoned reality TV fan.  I no longer believe when Chris Harrison tells me this will be the most shocking rose ceremony ever, so when AI producer Nigel Lythgoe went on Twitter yesterday promising a "shocker" on that night's results show, I was skeptical.  I will never doubt Nigel again.

In my wildest dreams, in my most insane fantasy scenarios for what last night's results show would bring, I could not have ever imagined judges' pet Casey Abrams would -- for one brief, shining moment -- be kicked off the show.  The rest of the evening is just a blur.  In fact, I must be hallucinating, because as I remember the show, Hulk Hogan came out and scared two contestants before going after Ryan Seacrest, the lady from Sugarland was dressed like a Christmas tree, Jennifer Hudson was trapped in a dark and smoke-filled room that weirdly distorted her voice, and Haley Reinhart was told she was on the AI summer tour.  As I said, weird stuff.

But what I do remember clearly is the moment the clouds parted, the sun came out, the birds sang and all was right with the world.  Ryan Seacrest had the final group of three, one of whom would be at risk for going home, the other two moving back to the couch.  It was Naima, Haley, and EW's pick for the season winner, Casey.  Ryan said one was safe.  Naima, and all of America, points to Casey.  But, no, it's Naima who is safe.  That leaves perennially bottom three member Haley along with the anointed one.  They elbow each other in a cute, joking fashion, but you see that the cloak of invincibility has slipped ever so subtly from Casey's shoulders.  The ego inflated superiority that has infused him since the first moment the judges crowned him king is starting to show a fissure. But, once he hears Haley's name, he'll recover and his swagger will return.

And then Ryan says what I thought I'd never hear.  Casey, you're in the bottom three.  I think my heart skipped a beat.  America, whose taste has been questioned repeatedly by me, got it right.  Casey cannot sing, or if he can he has chosen not to show us that particular talent these last few weeks.  He can pose and posture and put on an act, he can shout and growl and scream.  But he couldn't carry a tune if he had a bucket full of notes. 
But still, that had to be the extent of the shocker for tonight.  Casey being in the bottom was more than anyone could expect.  He'd be quickly sent to rejoin his compatriots, and chalk all this up to faulty phone lines or over-confident fans distracted by the NCAA basketball games.  Ryan brings the bottom three together midstage -- Casey, Stefano Langone and Thia Megia -- and we all wait for Casey and Thia to take their places on the couch while Stefano sings his swan song. 

Then something completely unbelievable happens -- no, not an unbilled-Stevie Wonder singing Happy Birthday to a 63 year old Steven Tyler.  No.  Stefano is safe and CASEY is the one in peril, about to be sent packing, 86'ed, told hasta la vista, baby, on the road to Palookaville.  There was barely time for any of us to catch our breath.  Stefano walks over to the couch and Casey is handed a microphone.  With the ten American Idol contestants assured that they would all be part of the summer tour fiasco, I mean, extravaganza, it is now up to Casey to shout, scream, growl for his life.

He started "singing???" I Don't Need No Doctor.  Now, for many AI fans, when we think of "Casey" and that song, this is what we think of:

But instead, a You Tube search of "Casey" and that song will now lead to this:

That was, though abbreviated, the consummate Casey Abrams performance.  Self-indulgent, over-the-top, and out of touch with what is going on in music today.  His attempt at scatting?  That wasn't interesting forty years ago.  That is not so-old-it's-new-again cool.  It's "I saw Louie Armstrong do it in a movie and I'm going to try and copy him to mask the fact that I don't actually have a good voice" awkward!  People...this is a singing competition.  I'm sorry to bring back one of Simon Cowell's famous lines, but the ability to sing should be a prerequisite for success on the show.  Having an off night is excusable, not being an actual singer is not.

So the judges cut him off in mid-song, not because they're so sure about what they want to do, but because they don't want us hearing just how bad Casey sounds moments before they're about to save him. Then they give him the good news, he's not going anywhere.  And Casey has an epic reaction.  First, he turns whiter than he already was, then cups his monster mitts under his mouth as if about to catch whatever has been percolating in his stomach for the last hour.  Then he, well, let's look at the tape:

He quickly moves through Elizabeth Kubler Ross' Five Stages of Grief, wallowing a bit in denial.  Apparently, they don't have acting classes at the school he goes to because from the minor heart attack, to the Sally Field moment, to seemingly making out with Ryan Seacrest, and all the rest of his antics (don't forget to kiss Momma!), Casey's reaction strikes me as more calculated than genuine.  Casey has instantaneously scripted the first moment of his Phoenix story.  Because he now will rise from the ashes and fly through the next few weeks even if he were to go on stage and read a book on paint drying out loud for his two-minute act. 

There is simply no way he will not be getting the lion's share of votes for the next few weeks after that spectacle.  But I can console myself with the knowledge that, at least for one week, my fellow Americans did not fall for the judges' pimping and saw Casey Abrams for the vocally weak contestant he is.  In fact, buried among the comments from last night was a telling one from Jennifer Lopez, who encouraged Casey to stop with the weird facial expressions and grunting and get back to singing.  Perhaps if she and the other judges had told him that weeks ago, and not continued to stroke his ego, he might not have found himself in such peril last night.

The only thing that will save this season now is if Jacob Lusk gets voted off next week and there is nothing the judges can do to save him.  A girl can dream.


  1. I agree with all of this. He should have gone home!

  2. I think I'm kinda glad the only AI I'm getting this season is through you, Shari. Cuz those little clips were FAR more than I needed to see to show my that MY Casey was definitely an aberration on that show. Yikes! And,um, what was the deal with Gold Dress Barbie and the side ponytail? I felt like I was having a flashback to 1986 for a minute. Not okay. Not even a little bit. Seriously, I had a doll that looked just like that. It's kinda scary. Thank goodness for you, Shari. Thank you for shielding us from the horror of AI 10. You're a good woman.

  3. AI10 is the worst season ever, IMO. None of the contestants interest me and the judges comments are a total waste of time. Everything is hype and I don't see any substance. Even Ryan Seacrest is trying way too hard.

    I'm not going to watch this train wreck any longer. Thank goodness we have Casey James and can have fun following his career!

    Thanks Shari for your blogs!

  4. In all the excitement, I forgot about Haley's hair. My husband asked who chopped off her other pigtail? :)

  5. Bravo, Shari!

    EXCELLENT commentary!

    Couldn't agree more.

  6. very well put Shari,that's the 2 i wanna see go.
    Lusk is just creepy,to girly girl.Casey A.fozi bear or geico caveman?uhm eyes are very scary to me.looks like any moment he'll pick up some weapon and go beresk.Jlo please quit calling him sexy he's not sexy your causing him to act like a fool on stage cause he wants to impress you.kinda like a stalker ooh......

  7. and I thought I was cynical. Shari, I believe everything that happened in reference to the judges - cutting off the song, saving Casey, etc. - was planned. But Casey's reaction a calculated act? Unless the guy's some kind of dramatic genius, there's no way that was an act. he didn't know he was going to be in the bottom, then cut off while singing and saved. So in the split seconds all of that happened there's no way he could have thought to do everything he did, which was 1) visibly shake 2) start to fall over on stage 3) repeatedly look like he was going to throw-up 4) say I can't breathe repeatedly 5)walk to the table and ask judges in a high-pitched five-year-old voice "It's top 11. Why would you do this to me?" 6)plant face in Ryan's crotch while falling 7) sit on steps 8) grunt 9) walk on stage then turn to judges and say "I'm gonna make you proud?", etc. Sorry, dude should win an Academy Award if that was acting. I personally think it was borderline unethical for the producers to put him under that kind of stress considering the last couple of weeks he went to the hospital twice because of a seriously illness exacerbated by stress.

  8. Totally agree-season 10 is awful! Who can pick a winner out of that loser bunch? I'll stick with the awesome Casey James!

  9. I'm not a Casey Abrams fan, but he should be given credit for the fact that he made it to this level ahead of so many that didnt. Of course, much on AI is staged, but I believe the talent this year is amazing, and we just have to pick our favorite personality. (mine being James Durbin) He doesnt bring the perfect voice that Pia does, but always exciting and fun to watch!I appreciate most that the judges are giving constructive criticism instead of the mean spirited, irresponsible comments typical of Simon Cowell.

  10. I think most people do better with constructive criticism. When you're put down, it's harder to get back up. I like Lauren, Jacob, James, Pia, and Stephano. I watched some old videos of some years past and there was harsh criticism that didn't help the kids know where to go from the place that they missed it. I like the new atmosphere surrounding the show this year! More free to enjoy the kids instead of worrying about them being crushed in the machine.

  11. I am so disappointed. I really enjoyed reading your blog last year. There was musical insight and constructive criticism. But something happened since Simon left, and now you've taken to bashing everyone. Not just for their singing mind you. But for their looks, personality, age, upbringing, basically anything even remotely relating to them. Maybe something happened to you personally in the last year(in which case I'm sorry for whatever happened.) but you've turned just plain Mean. Verging on Bully.

    I've studied Music for a long time. Music is my profession. I give constructive criticism to kids and adults for a living. I try to be honest, but encouraging. Sure that's not the only way, but in my experience the response to it is positive. I listen to music of every genre, always trying to broaden my thinking and understanding.

    I'm curious as to why you hate Casey Abrams so much. Other than the fact that first name is the same as Casey James, and he's not CJ. CJ is a brilliant Guitarist/Musician and I really enjoyed him last year. But you have to admit, he didn't always have the best performances(especially when he was so sick). Casey A is a very different brilliant musician. His understanding of Harmonics/Rhythms/Pitch Placement are unprecedented this season. He understands "sounds". Not just music, but all the little intricate sounds within the music. That's Jazz. Jazz is an acquired taste. It requires you to listen and think. It can't just bowl you over like Bella Voce(like Pia sings). It requires an investment from the audience. If you're closed off, you won't get it. That's why so many people don't. As for his "ego"...don't you remember 20 year old guys? It's not ego, it's a sense of humor. Couldn't you tell that Steven Tyler's comment about a "Big Ego" was a joke? He's self deprecating and giggly, there's a lot of sarcasm people.

    I'll be the first to admit that "I heard it Through the Grape Vine" wasn't his best performance. I personally think it was the wrong song. I would have preferred something like Stevie Wonder where you can really take advantage of the harmonic structures. But his performance certainly wasn't the worst of the night.

    As to his reaction to being saved. Definitely authentic and the best reaction I've seen on Idol. You can't fake that. They've never saved someone at 11 finalists before. And wouldn't you hug your family if you were given a second chance? TMZ also found out that AFTER THE CAMERAS WERE OFF he was still hyperventilating back stage and fell in the hallway. He's a kid. give him a break. Even CJ would tell you that nobody's perfect, don't be so quick to judge without personally knowing them.

    There. I feel better now. ;)

  12. Seize,

    Glad you got that off your chest! :) I've written a post to deal with most of the issues in your comments. But as for Casey Abrams, I believe that his ego may be the natural result of being an only child, of older parents, and someone who goes to a "super-cool" music school. It rubs me the wrong way. His reaction seemed disingenuous since he had to have heard the judges' unwavering praise these past few weeks. Maybe I'm wrong -- as you said, no one's perfect!

  13. LOL...I could be wrong too. sorry if I got "preachy", I didn't mean to. I guess his personality reminds me of my little brother. Also a music major and 20. Sure a little snotty at times...but I've seen much much worse from musicians. I don't think it's ego, but an attempt at showing self confidence. I know that's what it is with my brother, because it's scary putting yourself out there on a stage for the whole world to see.

  14. I think i share the same views as Shari when it comes to Casey A.his ego is way over the top.90% of it comes from Jlo s comments it wouldn't surprise me if he thinks she's getting a divorce to marry him.he probably hasn't gotten alot of attention from girls.{just joking about the Jlo thing}I wonder if alotta
    girls are giving him attention now.I'll bet theres some certain girl out their that is twittering him.

  15. ITA with Sieze. If Casey was acting then he does deserve and Oscar, Golden Globe and Emmy. I grant you he seems emotional--but he has been thru quite a lot in the last few weeks. Not only dealing with AI--but a very bad flare up of UC during this chance of a lifetime on AI. Casey has been hospitalized twice since the top 13. I bet there have been quite a few times in the last few weeks that he thought he would have to leave the show. The day of results show on Thursday he had another blood transfusion as well. So, being a kid who just turned 20--I think it demonstrates quite a bit of fortitude, courage and strength of character to carry on under the circumstances.
    (Plus, he has never used it as an excuse or tried to milk it for sympathy on the show.)
    I think this kid is very talented. You really have to be talented to be a jazz musician. He doesn't have soaring vocals like some--but as Sieze said there are a lot of great things he does vocally that I think you are missing.
    I also don't know how you think he has a big ego. You are assuming a lot. He seems like a nice kid who is probably insecure.