I fry up some meat and pour a glass of wine, and sit down to "American Idol." I say "I bet we see the winner tonight and some of the other finalists, because we're in New Orleans, and the best singers are always from the south."
Gene Simmons is the guest judge. "Why do you want to do this?" he says to the 19-year-old David Brown. Brown looks perfect. He belts out "Long Time Comin'" beautifully. Randy tells him he's the best audition he's seen in four seasons of the show. Wow! He's suddenly the favorite to win Season Four. [UPDATE: As a reader reminds me, the title of this song, which does contain the words "long time comin'," is "A Change Is Gonna Come." I've written about that song before and especially regret the mistake, for it is surely one of the most beautiful songs ever, and I adore its composer, Sam Cooke.]
Next up is a yodeler. He yodels well. Paula: "That's not easy to do." They make him go behind a screen and try a Stevie Wonder song. (Stevie has long been the show's standard of perfection for the male pop singer.) He's not too bad, but he's still rejected.
Lindsay Cardinale is beautiful and sings beautifully. She makes it.
An earnest and very tall accountant named Sandeep sings "Eye of the Tiger" and is asked how he thought he did. He says he got the lyrics. He's rejected. His after-analysis: "The voice was in one tone. I needed to kind of mix it up with the tones. So … sorry."
Michael Liuzza wants to be the American Idol because "The world's a evil place. They got a lot of bad people. I'd like to give some good love around, you know." He sings "Do You Know What It Means to Miss New Orleans" – the Louis Armstrong version. It's elegantly modulated, but has a bit of a weird affectation some of the time. He reminds Gene Simmons of Rosemary Clooney, and he says that's all out of style. Randy says no, Simmons says no, Paula says yes, Simon makes a sound that causes Paula to say: "You take the joy out of me having fun and showing love." Then Simon gives him the chance, and Paula still calls Simon "obnoxious." The Simon-Paula thing is part of the game, part of the act. We see Liuzza running out into the street, exulting.
At every break, they promote Leroy Wells. They've preselected him as this year's William Hung. He'd better be damned funny. Okay. Here he is. He's happy. He's a clown. Dances. Talks, but you can't understand a word he's saying. Wait. I did understand when he got down on his knees and said, "Thank you, Jesus. 'Cause you gotta put Jesus first." Randy: "Yo, dawg. But can you sing? … Sing something!" They suggest James Brown. He tries to sing "I Feel Good," and can't do it. He has gold teeth that he puts in and out. They love him, but he can't go through. Yet, media-savvy, he understands that he's on TV right now! Success! "It's all good!" He walks out saying "Can you dig it?" And they all say "Yes!" America is entertained. He's raving, happy. He knows he's going to be on TV.
Next is a minister from Dallas, Jeffrey Johnson, who's shocked by New Orleans. He sings "In the Still of the Night." Simmons thinks he's a country artist, because of his ministry. Rock is about sexuality, he says. Simon says the public will love him. Randy's the deciding vote and he says yes. He's through.
Back to David Brown, in his Baptist Church. We see a closeup of him with a tear rolling down his cheek. We love this guy. Fox TV wants us to love this guy, and, yeah, it's manipulative, but we do love him.
After the commercial, it's all about twins. The first two -- the Jefferson twins -- are pronounced "good" by Simon and they make it. The second two … you get the vibe they're going to be bad. The Molfetta twins. They sing "I'll Make Love to You," and Paula is seduced. Simmons refers to "the oozy, oozy white boy thing." Simon thinks it's only the twinning that makes them seem approvable: "I don't think individually, you're good enough." But maybe one is better than the other? Judged individually, it's still a no. Randy and Paula get pissed and walk out. In the promo for tomorrow night, we see one of the Molfetta brothers returns in the Las Vegas auditions.
"They sure signaled to us that the guy to watch is David Brown," I say. Chris says: "I don't like when they give an unfair amount of air time to someone no one has voted on."