Culture

American Idol: And Then There Were Six

Colton Dixon, looking like a cross somewhere between 1985 Billy Idol on MTV and 'Spider-Man' on Broadway, according to mentor Jimmy Iovine.

I can’t open every post about American Idol with the word shock in it, so I’m at a bit of a loss to explain last week’s finale, with heartthrob Colton Dixon sent packing.

Last week I confidently predicted that cute guys, this year represented by Colton Dixon and Phillip Phillips (ahem, cute white guys), tend to do well on AI. So what were both doing in the bottom-three vote-getters last week, a first for both?

Elise Testone committed capital murder against the memory of Marvin Gaye with a ghastly performance of "Let's Get It On."

With Colton, it’s fairly easy to explain. While he almost certainly drew a large number of votes from teenybopper girls, a larger chunk of his supporters came from evangelical Christians. Colton was fairly open about his faith on the show and sang songs from popular Christian acts such as Lifehouse. But this evangelical subculture is very picky about whom it chooses to follow. Any perceived deviation from what’s expected of a Christian artist quickly draws disapproval. Witness the near banishment of Amy Grant many years ago when she dared to perform crossover acts with the likes of Peter Cetera. (That was a full decade before she divorced her husband, an extra-bad no-no in these circles.) Colton’s performance of Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance” sent a very bad signal to his devoted followers in the evangelical subculture. And he didn’t choose just any old secular singer. He chose to cover a decadent songstress who celebrates homosexuality, no less. He’d sold out, gone worldly. He basically admitted as much when he said, “I’ve taken pride in knowing who I am and taking a stance in my faith, and by choosing ‘Bad Romance,’ I turned off a lot of those voters, who are my core voters.”

Why Phillip wound up in the bottom three on the Stools of Doom is another question. Frankly, I’m at a loss here. I don’t particularly care for Phillip’s routine, but he did turn in a competent performance. Perhaps voters, shocked that the über-talented Jessica Sanchez was nearly voted off the previous week, made sure that she wouldn’t face a similar fate and overcompensated. Ditto for Hollie Cavanagh. Or maybe not. It’s really hard to say what happened, but I suppose the only sure thing you can say about AI is that there are no sure things.

Except, of course, Elise Testone turning in a bad performance. She absolutely butchered Marvin Gaye’s “Let’s Get It On,” which should be a capital crime. Her shrieky, scratchy, off-key voice was no match for the honey-smooth vocals of Marvin Gaye’s original, and by choosing that song she contrasted her limitations against a master. (Never sing Freddie Mercury, Ann Wilson, Marvin Gaye, or Whitney Houston unless you have the goods.) Randy Jackson said, “It wasn’t really right for your voice.” That’s putting it mildly. Mentor Jimmie Iovine put it more succinctly: “ ‘Let’s Get It On’ caused a baby boom when it first came out. Last night there was no baby boom.”

I suspect Elise has used up her ninth life. The remaining singers are just too good in comparison, and I don’t see how she can survive another cruel cut. But then again I was so sure that Colton would be around to the very end.

Postscript: I have concluded that we can wipe out our national debt in only a few short weeks if we charge J-Lo $100 for every time she says, “It’s crazy!”