Season 4: Making Love Out of Nothing at All

Eeeuw, what's that smell? That's the smell of canned babblings coming straight from Ryan Sleazebag. He stands on the stage and manages to string together an assortment of meaningless greeting card sentiments like "we're down", "all on the line", and "the road to the finale stops here". Charmed, I'm sure. The credits can't come fast enough.

The stage doors of the Thunderdome open to allow Ryan "Whenever! Wherever! Hereover! Thereunder!" Sleazebag to walk in in a million-dollar ensemble of purplish T-shirt and black suit. The shirt has squiggles of what seems like an apple with steam rising from it (maybe there's an Adam and Eve - or Ryan and Tuttie - meta-joke in there somewhere) and, from what I can see, the letters B and A on the row right under the apple and the letters S, S, and S on the next row. B-A-S-S-S-T-A-R-D? Hmm. Sleazie works the hackneyed charming speak machine located in his voice box a little harder than usual, saying that he can't believe that he and me will be at the Kodak Theatre in seven days from today and how we will all have to buy crappy merchandises from the new American Idol then. Yes, I can't wait. He says that as of tonight, so far there is only 1% separating the number of votes from each of the Three. Call me cynical but I find it hard to believe that the one-dimensional pitchy-grinny Vonzell actually manages to get that many votes compared to the new Kewpie when it comes to the numbers of delusional and fanatical fans, Bo Bice, and the robotic downgrade of Piggy Di Guano, Cattle Underwood. Sleazebag tempts people with the expert advice of Randy Randy ("Dawg, it's alright!"), Charmaine Miss Paula ("..."), and King Tut ("Please, you still think Vonzell is going to win? The ha's on you, sucker!"). Seated beside Randy Randy is of course Clive Davis, the Boss of Everyone, reprising his role as the guest judge on this very important We Make You Sing, Monkeys, So Sing Monkeys Sing episode.

Sleazebag says that tonight's episode is all about choices, so, he says, song choices are important. Wow, this is just like how when it was all about KFC, I know then that chicken tastes yummy. Or something. Anyway, as he explains in the staged Red Room nonsense that they waste money on every week, the Three will first dance to the tune of the Boss of Everyone before getting to hang themselves with their own choices, right before they have to perform whatever the three judges think is the best for them. There is only one genuine moment where the Three are allowed to choose their own songs, so I don't know why Sleazebag is talking as if the Three have a hand in making all their song choices tonight. Anyway, in the Red Room, he shakes hands with all of them, wishes them luck, and leaves the room only to giggle because he has deliberately not washed his hands after using the toilet.

Sleazebag lets the audience know that each contestant has two numbers tonight, therefore their fans can dial to their hearts' content at the end of this episode. With that out of the way, Sleazie introduces the tribute clip to the Boss of Everyone, mentioning that the man has proudly helmed the debut albums of Kelly, Ruben, Kewpie, and Fantasia. No doubt the Boss of Everyone isn't as proud of his part in the debut albums of Justin Guarini and Piggy Di Guano. Sleazebag concludes the tribute clip by saying that the Boss of Everyone knows what he is doing. I'm sure Justin Guarini will agree with that assessment.

The Boss of Everyone announces that he will be choosing Dionne Warwick's I'll Never Love This Way Again for Vonzell because he feels that this is a "positive song" for her, as if a song about being heartbroken in love can be in any way construed as "positive". Vonzell comes out in a nice dress and proceeds to what she does best in a ballad where there are no background vocalists to catch her when she falters: the bad notes start detonating all over the place like Kandahar Landmine Party '05. Her voice strains weakly as she pushes herself into blasting "Hold on! Hold on!" the way a woman in labor would sing in a bizarre musical where she tells the baby to wait until mommy has reached the hospital first. Throughout it all, she is smiling happily as if her falling out of love is the best thing to ever happened to her.

Ruben was guilty of this as well, of course, but the judges never called him to it the way the Boss of Everyone called her on it in his critique. Then again, he wasn't there to judge in the second season. Still, he thinks that Vonzell sang well enough (then again, will he admit on TV that his song choice for Vonzell is decidedly uninspired?) to earn his approval. Randy Randy finds the performance pitchy. Miss Paula agrees with him but tells Vonzell that she "nailed it" at the end, the same way people always "nail it" when they start hitting high notes all over the place. Glory notes are the new good, blah blah blah - the usual. King Tut says that there were some "bum notes" in that song but he is glad that she wasn't as nervous as last week - Vonzell laughs and agrees with him here - and he hopes that she will make use of her next two performances to her best advantage. He calls her "love". He knows she is as good as gone after this week.

The Boss of Everyone believes that Bo is worthy of carrying the "great standards" of the Queen of England (Elton John) and her consort Bernie Taupin. Yes, the rocker of the show is going to sing a freaking Elton John song, and even better, one that has been oversung to death by Kewpie. That's right, Bo will be singing Don't Let The Sun Go Down On Me. Ugh, I'm ready to set the TV alight because this can only be an embarrassing disaster in the making... oh, is that Bo I hear? Singing freaking Don't Let The Sun Go Down On Me? Oh, alright, rockers are allowed to sing a bombastic ballad or two, I suppose. He's not cut out to shriek high notes emotionlessly like Kewpie, of course, but he's much better than that. He gives the song a decidedly rockish interpretation (not an original one, but still) and turns it into some rock power ballad that is just screaming for a swooning audience all waving lighters in the air. Bo doesn't try to hit the glory notes, instead he delivers a nicely understated version that shows off the timbre of his sexy voice very well. "Losing every-thang!" is now the new "Give it to me, baby!" Who is that joker that thought that this song is an awful choice for Bo again? I dare you to answer that.

The Boss of Everyone opens his mouth and begs to be allowed to lick Bo's shoes with his tongue. He promises not to stop until those shoes glisten in shiny Sleazie's Botox-glazed forehead. Randy Randy says that Bo is now in his dawg pound because that performance was like "Bo can do anything, dude!" So can Bo come over here and let Randy Randy lick his shoes clean too? Miss Paula says that she thought Bo is already in the dawg pound. Randy Randy says that Bo is now forever in the dawg pound, as opposed to, um, being in the dawg pound for one year, I guess. Miss Paula sees the "pure brilliance" in that "magnificent" performance and promises to lick Bo in any other items of clothing that he'd like her to. King Tut pauses in his slurping of Bo's rear end to tell Bo that he'd like Bo to sing this kind of song every time. After all, he doesn't care for rock music, only, er... slurp, slurp, yummy.

The Boss of Everyone would love to hear Cattle sing the "great classic" co-written by Roy Orbison and covered "incredibly" by kd lang, Crying. Cattle sits on the stage and, accompanied by the tender strums of two guitars, proceeds to launch into a chilling, absolutely haunting, just beautiful version of the song. I like this performance very much even if I can say that she chose to sing only the least challenging parts of the song while her expressionless face with her shark-like beady eyes prove that Cattle may be technically the best singer of the three, she still has a long way to go in becoming anything more than a shiny, glittering, robotic music machine.

The Boss of Everyone wishes wistfully that Cattle sang in the falsetto of Roy Orbison, but he's giving that self-confessed redneck farmgirl idiot too much credit if he expects her to know what a falsetto is. He loves the performance. So does Randy Randy. So does Miss Paula. King Tut likes it because he likes shiny plastic fembots, but he feels that he has to point out the missed last high note and the fact that Cattle's performance is "wooden". Come on, you know that dirty old man has to put "wood" and his precious Cattle in the same sentence somehow. King Tut gives this round to Bo. "Bo?" echoes Cattle, her smile tight enough to threaten to stretch her skin across her plastic forehead and show off the shiny wires pulsing under the skin.

Now it's on to the Three's choices round. Vonzell kicks off this round with Aretha Franklin's Chain Of Fools. How many times has this song been performed on this show? Six hundred? Vonzell is in her element here, running around the place and smiling inanely (and I must admit, infectiously) as she detonates once more plenty of bad notes and off-pitch beltings all over the place. Is this performance fun? Oh yes. But with Vonzell probably trying too hard to follow the diva footsteps of Fantasia and even Trenyce on this show, this performance only shows how lacking she is in the voice department compared to these divas.

The Boss of Everyone thinks that Vonzell lacks the "soul" to carry off the performance. Randy Randy bravely insists that the performance featured the best vocals he has ever heard while Miss Paula straight out insists that Vonzell did have soul. She'll be sorry when her mood stabilizers kick in later. King Tut diplomatically says that vocals didn't matter too much in that performane because Vonzell has the "likeability factor" (read: the vote of fans so desperate to root for a soul diva that they will pretend that Vonzell is so much better than she really is). He says happily that they have a competition tonight. How nice of him to pretend that Vonzell has a chance to move on after this week.

Sleazebag announces that Bo will be doing something that has never been done before on the show. Something bold, he says. Bo will be singing without a band! Wait a minute, didn't every wannabe sing without a band in the audition episodes? Okay, I know what Sleazie is trying to say, so I'll be nice. Bo stands on stage which then goes dim, allowing only a conical funnel of light to shine over Bo and make his eyes look positively demonic in a sexy, mean, and bad way. What is Bo singing tonight? The Badlands' In A Dream. The original performance was sung acapella so Bo isn't being too original here. Still, Bo manages to sustain the melody line perfectly. What I really love about this performance is that, barring that slightly below average "And see your fa-aa-aaa-ace" run towards the end, Bo doesn't try to show off by oversinging. Instead, he puts on a tender, mesmerizing performance that simultaneously makes me swoon and demonstrates perfectly his vocal control and sense of pitch. If you are aware of the Badlands' history or the fact that the lead singer Ray Gillen died of AIDS-related complications in 1995, the lyrics of this song may have a more personal feel to them. Bo's performance could easily be a tribute that the late Ray Gillen would be proud of, I think. It's good. Bo's good.

The Boss of Everyone waves a recording contract before Bo and begs Bo to come over here so that he can worship Bo the way Bo deserves to be worshipped. Randy Randy begs to given a chance at Bo when the Boss of Everyone is done. Miss Paula asks whether anyone wants to see how wet her underpants have become during the performance. King Tut believes that Bo has just put 34 of the bandmembers back there out of job. The camera cuts to the cute tubby drummer and a rather dour-looking lady who look like they're going to hold Bo down and shave him when he's not expecting it.

Speaking as one of the ten straight women in the world who despise Air Supply, I cringe when Cattle comes out next and perform the cheesy group's Making Love Out Of Nothing At All. At least it isn't Without You, I suppose. Since Jim Steinman wrote this song with Air Supply, there are plenty of opportunities for Cattle to ooh and aaah at the top of her voice. That is, after all, why she chooses to sing this song. What, you think she actually relates to her songs? This is a lady who writes the lyrics of the songs on her palm we're talking about here. Cattle's performance is pitchy and awkward in the transitions from the Bonnie Tyler-esque bridge to the chorus. It's a decent, serviceable performance, but I have a feeling that Jessica Sierra will do a better job with this song. One of my dream performances will be Bo and Jessica doing a duet of Meatloaf's I'll Do Anything For Love (But I Won't Do That).

Anyway, back to Cattle. The Boss of Everyone toots his horn, reminding people that he was behind that Air Supply record when it hit #1. He feels that Cattle's voice "soared" during the performance so he really liked it. Randy Randy says that Cattle "can blow". He says it, not me. I'm just passing on the information so I'm not responsible for any Cattle and Randy Randy rumors. Miss Paula yammers about "effortless" and "unbelievable" la-la-las. King Tut thinks that Cattle performed better in the previous round and adds that he wouldn't have liked it if he had to follow Bo. Cattle agrees. King Tut thinks that Cattle had oversung that song, pushing it too much in the middle and towards the end. The audience boos him. Right on cue.

Now, we go to the judges' choice round. Before each performance, the clip of each of the Three being informed of the judges' choice through fax is played on the screen at the back of stage. Vonzell is at Fort Myers, Florida, demonstrating to her adoring fans the mating call of llamas when the mayor reads out the fax from King Tut. King Tut has chosen for her Donna Summer's On The Radio because he knows what she does best: vapid upbeat songs. Vonzell comes out and performs this song like she's never left Solid Gold and it's 1980 all over again. This performance sums up everything about Vonzell. Pitch problems? Check. But they don't matter, right, in this performance? Yes, check. An unchallenging song that actually flatters her thin voice? Check. A really cute giggle when she hears the vibrating echo effect of the last note? How adorable. How can someone who launch Westlife into the world can at the same time know innately what will make an average performer sound good? King Tut is such a mystery sometimes.

The Boss of Everyone thinks that King Tut made a great song choice because Vonzell was right in her element. Randy Randy and Miss Paula both say pretty much that it's great to see Vonzell having fun on stage. King Tut smugly says that he agrees with everything the Boss of Everyone said. Of course he would.

Bo is interrupted in the middle of his orgy in Alabama by the mayor and her toyboy who both share duties in reading out Miss Paula's fax to Bo. Overlooking the obscene stuff on the fax that those two choose not to read aloud on TV with respect to Miss Paula, carefully avoiding the doodles of stick figures doing things that are banned in Alabama, they read aloud that Miss Paula wants Bo to sing the Rolling Stones' (I Can't Get No) Satisfaction, not only because it's the only rock and roll tune Miss Paula knows but because Miss Paula hopes that Bo will get the message behind the song and, um, rush rush to her side. Oh well. Here comes Bo onto the stage. The mic seems to be switched off during his first line, but other than that, this is a rip-roaring performance of a song that doesn't require much from the performer other than plenty of headbanging and running around. If you don't like Bo, this performance will do nothing to change your mind because this performance requires Bo to be just... Bo. If you like Bo, you'll love this and want to line up at his door to help him look into his inability to get satisfaction from life.

The Boss of Everyone gushes that Bo has sung three different songs tonight and did every one well. This night, he says, is Bo's. Randy Randy feels that he was at Bo's concert during that performance and says that no matter what happens tomorrow (read: Bo moving on to the Final Two), Bo has rocked the house tonight. Miss Paula tells everyone watching the show that all they have to do to hear one more week of Bo is to send him moving on to next week. Poor Corey, his heart must be breaking when she says this. King Tut says that Bo came on very strong tonight (ooh baby) but he feels that the song was light fluff, "just like Paula", that he has heard at weddings before. I'd be very interested in just what kind of weddings he attend where people play songs about the lack of gratification.

Cattle is in Checotah getting a rewiring in her circuitry when the mayor reads aloud the fax from Randy Randy. He tries to make a joke about not wanting to read aloud the title because men in Oklahoma will rather die before they say or do anything that casts a doubt on their heterosexuality. Anyway, Cattle will be singing Shania Twain's Man, I Feel Like A Woman! tonight. At this point, I'm starting to revise my opinion of the judges' choices. All three songs chosen by the judges are fluffy bouncy tunes from the Three's niche genre (Vonzell - upbeat disco, Bo - rock and roll, Cattle - country), so I suspect that this round is actually a test to see how well each Three entertains the audience while being straddled with the most vapid happy tune from his or her niche genre. That makes sense as being a pop star means that you have to know how to command a stage and make the audience love you. In this case, Vonzell and Bo pass the test with flying colors. Cattle, however, falls flat on her face, although that shouldn't be surprising at this point of the competition. Randy Randy's choice is particularly cruel because this performance needs someone who can put on an appropriately sassy or, failing that, a vampish air to pull it off. Shania isn't sassy, for example, but she looks great dressed up in vampish bodysuits. Cattle, on the other hand, can't project the mischievous demeanor needed for this song. She does her usual self-conscious hip-swaying act and squeals "Man! I feel like a woman!" as if that will overcome her Amish-lass-in-a-honky-tonk-bar sense of awkwardness throughout the whole performance. Songwise, she doesn't sound too bad. However, she bombs in stage presence for taking a fluffy fun song and turning it into a painful exercise of awkwardness.

The judges love her, with King Tut taking extra pains to shift the blame of any painful moments of the song into Cattle not sounding like Cattle, whatever that means. It's like me saying that I can't be blamed if I sound horrible because when I don't sound good, I'm not sounding like myself. Nope, it still doesn't make sense to me.

Sleazebag stands with the Three on the dais and recaps the show. Simply put, Vonzell is out of her league, Cattle is good but Bo trumps her because he doesn't come off like a singing android on stage. Sleazie then reminds the audience that only a 1% difference separates the votes each of the Three received last week so everyone watching this show must vote, vote, vote. Drum roll - Sleazie? Out!

Results show. Sleazebag stands in the audience and announces that two of the Three will be competing in the finale next week while Vonzell, oops, someone will be going home. With that shocking revelation out in the open, it's time for the credits to start.

Sleazie walks out in a white shirt and grey jacket. There is no tie and there will never be a tie for Sleazie tonight because he is never fit to be tied - ever. He describes this show as one with "very mixed emotions", mixed as in boredom mixed with sleepiness, that is. He then introduces the judges and recaps the performances of the previous night. Is it just me or this show is rushing its way to finish up the season as soon as possible? Sleazebag then reveals that after the show last night, the entire audience are sent off with the Three to a special preview of that crappy movie Star Wars Episode III: Revenge Of The Sith. It's a Sith-y movie but I know you will watch it so I'll just move on to other things. Like Vonzell pretending to be excited that she is going to watch the movie. Back to the present, Sleazie asks Carrie what she thinks of the movie. "Like it, I did!" she says. Because there are always people watching this show who won't get it, like that sixty-five year old granny who doesn't watch other TV shows, listen to the radio, or read the papers but tune in to this show to check out the hot ass of that Bo Bice fellow, Sleazie asks Cattle whether she is doing a Yoda impersonation. She says that she is.

First, the show decides to provide some tantalizing glimpses into what each of the Three get into when they embarked on their homecoming visits in the previous week. Let's see Vonzell's trip to Fort Myers, Florida first. She boards the Marquis Jet home, where the first thing on her itinerary is a visit to the radio station B103.9, where she is asked why her face has a strong resemblance to a camel's. Nah, just kidding. She then visits the post office where she to pay for pretending that she loves her old job by having to be nice to her ex-coworkers and acting like she missed that old job of hers. And then it's off to a CD signing where she seems to sign more signs bearing her face rather than actual copies of that crappy American Idol: The Showstoppers CD. She is then taken to join her family for a trip on a four-million dollar yacht, which takes her to the Centennial Park where her fans cheer as she launches into her two-cent version of I Have Nothing. Oh yes, she has nothing if she doesn't have Fort Myers, she sings. Be careful what you wish for, Vonzell. I will laugh if she ends up back in Fort Myers working at the post office. The Mayor gives Vonzell the key to the city. I never understand why people get keys at ceremonies like this one. Personally I'd be happier with a free shopping spree. Then it's late and Vonzell has to go back to LA. She says goodbye to the camera and then drops her chin quickly to her chest in what I suppose is a "humorous" pretense at instantaneously falling asleep in the limo.

Sleazebag says that the life of an Idol is "not bad at all" but wonders how long "it" will "all last". He then invites Vonzell to the stage to perform Chain Of Fools, which may or may not be related in any way to Sleazie's thought-provoking questions. Vonzell sounds good as she sits by King Tut to flirt with him and the camera catches her butt crack in all its dubious glory.

The show then cuts to a Ford clip with the Three singing Blondie's One Way Or Another as the Three dodge pesky paparazzi in their Ford vehicle. It is never too early to start complaining about fame even before you've had it, of course.

Now it is Bo's turn to show off the highlights of his recent trip home to Helena, Alabama. Meeting him at the hotel are Rickey Medlocke and Ean Evans who have taken the trouble to leave their nursing homes to give Bo some moral support. Bo gets police escorts, as if two ancient near-dead geezers breathing over his face aren't great enough, on his trip back home. He goes onto the Rick & Bubba show where he spends some time describing the finer techniques in refining cocaine. Bo feels "presidential" in his limo. He signs records and waves at cheering fans while Medlocke and Evans must be thinking in their heads, "This is the first time I've seen so many, er, homely big-sized Baptist housewives attending a pseudo-rock concert. I guess I better save the Viagra for another day!" A little girl asks Bo whether she can touch his hair. Bo sighs because it was only ten years ago that women were asking him whether they could touch him in other places. Now? He has to cater to underaged little girls and their Southern Baptist mothers. It's enough to make one take up an old habit, so to speak. Bo gets the key - as usual (bonus points deducted for it not being the key to his very own prison cell) - from the mayor in the City Hall and is proclaimed "the favored son of Alabama". Bo cries a little and is lost for words, a gesture that causes everyone attending the ceremony to clap passionately for Bo. He then performs with the two dinosaurs on stage for 8,000 people, none of whom listened to a rock CD until the Mayor declares that it is not a sin to listen to Bo because Bo is now famous and therefore approved by Jesus. Bo tells the camera that he is loving his life. Cool!

Bo now goes on stage and performs In A Dream. Because the song isn't special until he has Summertime'ed it to death by performing it eight gazillion times before the season is over. There is a sign in the audience that says "Bo is the real thing!" That's right, Bo is real, or at least as real as this show would allow him to be.

Cattle now shows off her trip to Checotah, Oklahoma, where she insists that she has never been on a plane before, just like she has never had a boyfriend before (yay) or how she has never had any original thoughts in her head before (even better) or how she is a special child who speaks to animals (Jesus approves). She drops by at the local Fox station where the host tells her that Sleazie always looks at her funny and she goes, "Whatever!" Even she knows that Sleazie looking at her for any reason other than envy for her managing to have illicit sex with Trachea Boi is too ridiculous to contemplate. 10,000 people come out in the streets to see Cattle and her grandfather sit in a wagon and parade the streets. I know we are talking about some redneck hickweed place but I really don't think that there is anything going on between Cattle and her grandfather. Cattle says that her cheeks "hurt" from smiling too often. She then sings the national anthem badly before an adoring crowd before listening blankly to the mayor as he announces that May 13th will always be known as Cattle Underwood Day. And then, when she loses the title to Bo, they will quietly change the name of the day back to Friday. Cattle is also inducted into the Oklahoma Hall of Fame. Finally, after performing for an adoring crowd of little girls who want to have shiny hair like Cattle when they grow up, Cattle goes home to her fat sisters and fat mother and they all pretend that they miss her instead of being so jealous of that skinny cow and wanting her dead. Cattle also terrorizes the animals in her farm. As it's late, it's time to call it a day before she goes to bed and dreams of Trachea Boi.

Cattle now takes the stage to do some Crying. She sounds better now compared to the previous night, but she has this weird half-smile on her face while she is performing this song, so as usual, she's an idiot who can sing well but has completely no idea what she is singing about.

Sleazebag now has all Three stand with him on the dais. He announces that 37 million votes came in last night and adds that the Three should be proud because they manage to lure in enough suckers to enrich the pockets of Uncle Nigel. After recapping the praises the Three received from the judges in the previous night, Sleazie banishes Vonzell, whom he calls "the one who has grown the most" on the show, much to nobody's surprise. Cue the eulogy clip, cue to the final sing-out of the Brotherhood of Man's United We Stand where Vonzell duets painfully with Bo and Cattle (these three have no harmony at all when they are singing together), cue to Vonzell screeching out the ad-libs to the song, and then the show is done. Next week, Cattle will be crowned the winner. But I'm sure they will find a way to stretch the show to ten hours so that people will still have a reason to watch. Be patient, folks. There's only one more week before this interminably dull season will be done for good.