Fight Night on ‘Idol’ as Nicki Hits Boiling Point

Nicki Minaj on "American Idol" (FOX)

You know a city doesn’t have much to offer when the first two “American Idol” auditions of the night are both horribly bad. So it wasn’t a good advertisement for Charlotte, N.C., when Naomi Morris, a clothing designer who had a special connection with Nicki Minaj because her spiky shoes and bra were “poppin’,” and Joel Niemeyer, a guy who learned everything he knows about singing on the floor from “Idol” Season 5, gave two ear-shattering auditions.

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Producers quickly made up for the depressing lead-in with something more depressing—a guy whose wife has appendix cancer. They don’t tell us, by the way, that she is alive until the last possible moment, and it’s a cruel, sick way to play this game. Anyway, turns out his very much alive wife is pretty funny, because even though Brian Rittenberry is a half-decent singer, she has to tell him to “please go to the basement” when he sings around the house. Apparently even those who come within an inch of death still have the wherewithal to pick on their husbands.

There was a streak of unanimous yesses after that, and a montage about them that revealed Nicki’s judging crutch: one word, over and over. Jimmy Smith, a country singer who says Keith Urban is his inspiration, got five “poppin’s” from Nicki, and Na’Chelle Fullins-Lovell, who went off into Mariah Carey upper-octave territory, got at least five “works.”

Watch the Judges’ Confrontation:

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In other news, Keith Urban was hungry.

Seeing as how tonight was the night “Idol” decided to exploit the fighting between Nicki and Mariah (if you consider the two previous nights not exploiting so much as forcefully reminding), producers seemed to focus on backstage chit-chat a little more than unusual, at times with an “X Factor” quality to it. Like Keith asking Mariah when she started writing music, and all the judges talking about Billie Holiday and lunch. (Actually, in regards to Billie Holiday, Keith said he “missed all of that growing up” and I’m wondering why Australia in the 1960s didn’t have access to one of the greatest jazz singers of all time, and yet they had access to the blandest forms of modern country that made Keith who he is today.)

The fight came out of an ongoing discussion so far this season, where Randy Jackson, Mariah and Keith all try to figure out what box the contestant goes in, while Nicki sits there and looks bored and then argues that the contestants should be kept box-free. It happened once already last week, and tonight twice more, beginning with Taisha Bethea, a lead-singer in an alt-rock band who started out doing Johnny Cash and then finished with Alanis Morissette. Because they didn’t get the juxtaposition, Randy and Mariah gave Taisha a no, while Keith and Nicki sent her through to Hollywood. “I don’t care for you to make a decision of what kind of music you like,” Nicki told her.

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Summer Cunningham was the tipping point. A nice, solid audition with “Lean on Me” with a touch of yodel in each phrase, Summer insulted Keith when she told him she “did the country thing” and considered herself more of a country-soul singer. Randy and Mariah jumped to Keith’s defense and proceeded to insist that Summer was a country singer and only a country singer. Nicki slouched in her ergonomic office chair and rolled her eyes for a few minutes while the others humiliated Summer and simultaneously decided her entire future. Keith even quizzed her about why she loves country music, as if that were now a prerequisite for this show. But then Nicki chimed in, accusing the others of “scaring her into lying,” and “forcing her to claim something,” which, honestly, is exactly what every person in any position of power on this show (and likely in the music industry) is doing, but doesn’t exactly talk about in quite this type of forum. So, props to Nicki, who gets up and walks out. Ryan Seacrest makes a big deal about the exit, but it appears that the work day was over anyway.

It was time for a commercial, at any rate, after which, we’re treated by a montage of TV entertainment show hosts talking about the argument. The fight was really between Nicki and the rest of the world, but Mariah did get a few zingers in, so I guess this furthered the hate-myth a little.

But nevermind, because Day 2 is a new slew of contestants and a new hat for Nicki, something blue and pleather and jeweled and cop-like.

Day 2 brings some unusual characters, like a girl with a name that is at once boozy and Founding Fathers-ish: Brandy Alexandria Hamilton, a Navy reservist whose audition was great, but who failed the sanity test when she walked out of the audition crying, and pleaded with the judges, “Please don’t fight, it makes us sad.” And Ja’Bria Barber, who kills frogs. And Brad Harris, who goes by the name Bakon.

And Ashley Smith—an infuriatingly annoying attention hog-who cut in on other people’s interviews in a total bitch move, and yet shockingly sang really well. She did Carrie Underwood, and there was the usual shock from the judges that a black person could sing country (which happens on every one of these music competition shows, every single year), even though there were like five black people who sang country tonight really well. Including Rodney Barber, a formerly homeless guy, who, like Ashley, gets four yeses.

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The last hour brought two very serious contenders. Seretha Guinn closed the show. Her boyfriend was seriously injured in an accident, and their adorable daughter London came in with Seretha for the audition. London had a nickname for Nicki: Dun Dun. She danced with a pink teddy bear while her mother sang a jazzy version of “Fresh Prince of Bel-Air,” followed by “How Do I Live” (what? Country!) and somehow didn’t get in trouble for doing two different genres.

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And Candace Glover is a returnee who got eliminated in Vegas in Season 11. She made little impression last year, but has definitely improved. The church singer got a standing ovation from Randy and Mariah, and Nicki, in the scariest comment of the night, told her: “I’m obsessed with you. I want to skin you and wear you.” So now that we know that Nicki is the real Bloody Face, I guess I can skip the season finale of “American Horror Story.”

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The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.

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