The footage has faded for American Idol's inconsistently pronounced St. Louis auditions, and as the world's recappers sputter and the world's watchers taper off, let's stop to consider the fact that Ryan called season 11 "the most successful road auditions we’ve ever had." Fact-checking American Idol is for nebbishes and fools, but nevertheless, how does one even measure this? It's not ratings. Number of golden tickets, perhaps, but that's like bragging about your college's acceptance rate ticking up to 34% from one-third. J. Lo hit her peaks of divatude and fashion sense years ago, Randy defies superlatives, lately Ryan does too, and Steven's magnanimous preening is a success only for himself. Certainly this means more successful than season four, whose champ Carrie Underwood probably made up a sixth of this episode's total runtime.
This is getting complicated; let's just take Idol at its word. These auditions were the best, Hollywood Week will also be the best with the best medical emergencies ever (blugh), and the talent that does osmose its way to the top 24 will best Idol's previous best. And the ratings will bloom once more, criticism will flow from the judges' lips and the show will become a fount of the 2010s' most exciting talent.
Or else there'll be the likes of:
THE HOPELESS: 25-18
25. This Quote: “My parents auditioned for American Idol in season 4.” Feel old? In two years, Idol will be a teenager, and in four years, Idol will be old enough to audition for Idol.
24. Husbands: What is up with all of these husbands holding their wives back this season? It seems like one female contestant an episode breaks down about their ex-husband destroying their dreams, and then sings an “I hate men” song. J. Lo’s empathetic responses might has well have been followed by “coughMarcAnthonycough.”
23. Randy Jackson: His rugby shirt (black, blue and neon red all over) said more than he has all season. The latter is still preferable.
22. Steven’s Style: For outfit one, Steven sported a silk snake print beige collared shirt with a white vest and purple hair feathers. For outfit two, he wore the top half of a girl scout uniform (no sash of patches), a necklace with a white gecko straddling a golden orb, and a Carmen Sandiego hat. Where in the world is Steven Tyler’s dignity?
21. The Guy Who Bungles "Rolling In The Deep": Leftover Adele-montage footage.
20. The Bundle Of "Firework" Singers: Leftover X Factor footage.
19. The Woman Who Wears A Truffula Tree Hat And Sings The Doors: Leftover... something.
18. The Man With The Bare Chest And White Elvis Shirt, To Whom Steven Spouts His Own Lyrics: Steven, realizing the show now runs on leftovers, decided he should skim a little royalty pay from its coffers. He said so himself!
For more of Steven than you ever wanted to see, click NEXT. (Because this recap is like The Monster at the End of This Book.)
THE HAPLESS: 17-13
17. Steven Tyler: Steven is a man of extremes. There's the Steven who chastely paces in the auditioners' midst, giving unpeppy talks like "Whatever you've got, you know you've got it." There's the Steven who drums on his underbelly and needs a pandemic map to plot his hookups. To one of these Stevens, the sexiest thing in the world is a cracking voice. You go think on that, then once you're done, read on.
16. The Large Poster Of Steven's Tongue: So much for pretending that the parts of Steven we can’t see don’t exist.
15. Oliver McCrary: Only mediocre, but he made the mistake of calling the music his wife. Husbands!
14. This Redundant Quote: “One of the best male/female voices we’ve heard this season.” This comment is said so many times per episode that it no longer means anything. Kind of like the term “pitchy” during the first eight seasons. Simon (tear) would employ this compliment so rarely that it held top-10 style gravity. (Psst...Simon...Stop firing people and come back here! Bring anyone you want! Except Scherzinger.)
13. Ryan Seacrest: What is there even to say? He’s affable and absent and will probably surf on outta Idol this June in a whoosh of moolah and reputation intact. Oh, right, there’s this to say: “All I want is to hug an Astro Pop at the end of the day.” Richard Lawson's shipping just exploded.
For arches and archness, click NEXT.
THE HARMLESS: 12-7
12. Mark Ingram: He's a hotel auditor, which means we were treated to a scintillating montage of budgets and revenue. In silent-film style. There are at most two people in the world for whom this juxtaposition is knee-slapping; they are clearly soulmates whom we can only hope find each other. Mark Ingram's voice flails more the more he tries to do with it; it's good enough for a cruise ship performer, which is probably a crappier job than hotel auditor, so it's for the best that he didn't make it. Let's hope his stuffy workplace gives him an outlet for his "nun-UH," though; it's flawless.
11. The Arch: Like the eyes of the Mona Lisa, the famous Gateway Arch followed the cameras wherever they went. Couldn’t they have featured other famous St. Louis landmarks like--er--come back to us.
10. Jennifer Lopez: Little do we know, her star-embroidered frock was knitted painfully by hand by a faraway princess to break a spell for her and her six swan siblings. It's huge on her, because fairy tale characters don't have Hollywood proportions, but in theory, once she put it on, she'd be freed from judge duty and become a pop star again. You should have figured out by now that true magic cannot exist in Idol's chambers.
9. Reis Kloeckener: Bullying is repulsive. That doesn't mean Reis would get more than maybe two bars a song if he were in a boy band. But nevertheless, Steven cried, dry-eyed.
8. The Silent Film Folks: An amusing gag kept amusingly short! The editors have learned restraint! Now if only they'd learn about history's glorious vulgarity, or even about checkout-line insult books, they could turn Steven into the libertine he wishes he was.
7. Ethan Jones: He got a cut on his forehead from facepalming, and every Idol recapper quailed in terror for the future. Anyway, his dad helped found one of St. Louis's biggest unnamed bands until he went to "drug and alcohol rehabilitation" (as opposed to rehab), and apparently it really is a big band, because his whiny-but-competent "I'll Be" rendition apparently made Edwin McCain's song chart at, right now, No. 68 on iTunes. This is the worst collateral damage ever.
For perky Madonna, less perky taxi drivers, and no-longer-husbanded singers, click NEXT.
THE FLAWLESS: 6-1
6. "Give Me All Your Luvin": Of course Madonna has her own personal squadron of cheerleaders wehreever she goes. And a red jersey/crowdsurfing carpet. In the Madonna video pantheon (because Madonna videos are comparable to gods), this isn’t Zeus so much as, oh, Hestia. It’s still more awesome than anything on Idol.
5. Walter The Taxi Driver: Awesomely bitter about a) having to drive through swarms of auditioners; b) being past the auditioning age himself; c) not being able to chauffeur a single celebrity even though he's in a Ford! Nevertheless, we love and respect his curmudgeondom.
4. Lauren Gray: Her father owns a wedding and/or rock shop, she only plays a wedding singer on weekends, and she is functionally Lauren Alaina. Her voice is possibly 90% of Adele's, which four years ago would be good enough for a two-album contract and probably still is. In Idol terms, she is one of the best female voices this slate of judges has heard. Do you catch the faint whiff of semi-praise? You're astute!
3. Johnny Keyzer: His single father is an excellent mother and a father and a brother, which means Johnny Keyzer is a character in Chinatown. He does a competent, if slightly pitchy, Sam Cooke impression, enough to draw incessant noises of love from every single judge mid-song. They cut to the door outside for his high note, which strikes us as a mistake; his ending jump flashed some ab, which almost certainly was not.
2. Madison, Rachelle’s Daughter: Basically, Sandra Bullock’s daughter in Hope Floats. In other words, the cutest kid we’ve seen yet. She wears glasses, a shirt that says “Mommy’s biggest fan,” cowboy boots, and a purple bow (far more successful than Steven’s purple feather). She dances the two step with her mom during the audition. Rachelle got Rachelle to Hollywood; Madison may get her to the Top 12.
1. Rachelle Lamb: Or if the top 12 doesn't work out, her biggest dream is to chase her dream of singing, so there's always Inception. Her whole segment is rehearsed, from her moving on at a remove to her fantastic country voice wasted on a too-topical, too-jaunty song. She could be a Gretchen Wilson, who's surprisingly moving on ballads, or a Kellie Pickler, who has yet to get there. This means Rachelle will sing a ballad in the next few weeks, and it'll either be transcendent or disastrous.