‘American Idol’ Shoves Off For Hollywood

American Idol (FOX)

American Idol (FOX)

Last night ‘American Idol‘ aired its “Best Of The Rest” clip show, which featured auditions that for various reasons didn’t make it into the audition episodes. (Those reasons included: Overreliance on the guest judges’ backstories as a way to establish narrative; dudes showing up in bikinis; and a desire to flog the anti-saggy-jeans polemic “Pants On The Ground” — now available on iTunes! — as often as humanly possible.)

Unlike the seven (!) audition episodes that preceded it, the episode focused mostly on the hopefuls who were given golden tickets to Hollywood Week — which was nice, since in the previous tryout episodes it felt like the audience was only given a chance to see a handful of the 181 people who made it through to the next ‘Idol’ round.

A few motifs that emerged from the evening: more hard-luck stories (one contestant described the poverty she dealt with growing up by telling the producers “I thought a lot of kids didn’t eat dinner,” while another dedicated a very overwrought performance of “Hey Jude” to a four-years-deceased pal); the continuing power of the youth movement, complete with “they’re only 16” montage; Simon’s crankiness, which was a bright beacon signaling that he’d decided to check out of ‘Idol’ long before he announced his departure from the show last month; and the high irony inherent in the fact that hopefuls who pretty much imitated the guest judges’ schticks didn’t get through (poor Kimberly Bishop, thinking that some well-placed shimmying could redeem her take on “I Kissed A Girl”).

Most of the singers who were waved through to Hollywood were more “decent” than “good,” with a lot of them relying on old tricks from the ‘Idol’ playbook on the big notes — belting, raspiness, — to make up for faltering lower ranges. I guess they get extra points for knowing what “works” in front of the judges’ panel, but it makes me wonder just how easy it was for the judges to trim the auditioner pool from 181 to 24 when they were in Hollywood last week. Also, for all of Simon’s complaining about a music show called ‘Jazz Today’ not being all that popular of a show with American audiences last week, a lot of the singers who entered the callbacks’ inner sanctum sure had voices that were very amenable to standards!

Given that there was no real narrative last night except “hey, we have to show at least a few of the good singers so you’ll sort of care about Hollywood Week after the initial bloom of Ellen DeGeneres’ arrival has worn off,” and most of the singers barely got more than a few minutes to smile for the cameras, this episode’s best-singers countdown is a bit truncated. Oh, clip shows! You even make your recappers get glib.

The Top Three

3. Rose Flack. We didn’t get to hear her sing this year, but last year she got the full-on sad story treatment, and her season-eight audition with “I Feel The Earth Move” was a little clenched, but enjoyable. Unfortunately this time out we only got to see Simon not remember her, despite his claims last year that she was an auditioner to remember. Maybe things will click when everyone arrives in Hollywood?

2. Aaron Kelly. An adorable, spiky-haired 16-year-old (there’s that number again!) who poured his backstory into his performance of Miley Cyrus’ “The Climb” — he was adopted by his aunt and uncle when he was very young, right before he and his brother were about to be shipped off to foster care. . But don’t think there wasn’t a bit of savviness afoot as well: Simon picked “The Climb” as the coronation song for this year’s winner of ‘The X Factor,’ and I’m sure he was tickled by the idea of trotting the inspirational track out once more.

1. Michael Lynche. A big guy who had rumors about his dismissal from the show swirling around him, his backstory focused on his workout routine (he likes to lift!) and his forthcoming child (he and his wife didn’t know if it was a boy or a girl at the time of filming!). His voice had an incredible quality to it that made me want to hear him sing a lot more than the 45-ish seconds of “Unchained Melody” shown on the episode — and if the spoilers floating around the Internet are to be believed, that outcome is in the cards.

Next week, finally, we get to some actual narrative on the show, with the whittling of the contestant pool down to 24 people and the arrival of Ellen DeGeneres!

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