Idol is Back!
I didn't plan on crying tonight. And to clear things up, I generally don't plan on crying any night. Unless it's American Idol finale night. Tonight, my friends and fellow AmIdol-ers, it was that night.
You're saying to youself, "That's absurd! That's like having Christmas in July!" My response: Yes, it is! Listen.
A couple of weeks ago Camille, who you remember from previous Idol reminiscing, sent me The Best of American Idol, Seasons 1-4 DVD for my birthday. She also included a few other goodies, including a fantastically funny article from The New Yorker, "American Idol World Court," that, taken in conjunction with the chocolate bar accompaniment, is probably one of the finest birthday gifts one could receive.
The Best of takes us from the beginning of Idol mania and brings us very near to the present, which as defined by the DVD title is Season 4, the year 2005. Paula does the voice-over that introduces us to the show, or as she tells us is more than such, but is very boldly "a phenomenon." Talk on, sister. We're treated to a solid sequence of tryout season, genuinely the heart of the television series. Again, this is the part of the show where we can gauge the difference between screechy, off-key performers and the buttery smoothness of singers with soul. Tryouts is our first chance to pick a side, find our Idol enemies and allies for the season. The DVD features a good dose of some of Idol's most entertaining tryout moments, like William Huang's rendition of Ricky Martin's "She Bangs," a performance that was diluted by subsequent Subway restaurant and New York City radio commericials exploiting the bit. His flavor went sour quick. But the Best of preserves his minutes before the judges in pristine form, gleefully showing us Randy, Paula and Simon's shock-filled reaction shots, and William's pre-commercialization earnestness, "I have no regrets," he says, he gave it his best. Paula congratulates him for his positiveness. Simon is bored. Yin and Yang.
I was tragically absent for Season 1 of the show, a bruised part of my past that still hurts. That scar partially healed tonight as I viewed the Queen of Idol, her majesty Ms. Kelly Clarkson rally the first finale crowd at the Kodak Theater with her winning song "A Moment Like This." People, you can't top Kelly. I couldn't believe my eyes as I watched every ounce of her vocal joy send shivers straight on down to the tips of my fingers. She is the essence of American Idol. Season 2 reviewed with the geek-to-studly-Seacrest-look-alike transformation of Clay Aiken, and the soft'n'sweet teary smile of Rubben Studdard. Their season was the last conducted by recorded instrumentals; in all later seasons a live band would orchestrate more textured moments of nuance to the singers' performances. Season 3's highlights were the funnest to relive as we watched the infamous Jasmine Trias slip her way past Latoya London for a spot in the top three. In the devastating scene, Latoya belts out her best, while the remaining three ladies, Fantasia Barrino, Diana DiGarmo, and the aforementioned culprit Jasmine stand to the side listlessly clapping to the beat of London's tune in utter shock. In this same shot America's Cutest, Ryan Seacrest, poses frozen and upright, hands clasped mannerly in front, his lip shrugging a frown. If I had a framed still of this moment I would call it "Idol Shame." But Season 3 stayed alive with the ultimate victory of Fantasia, who Simon so awesomely pronounced, "Fawn-tay-Zee-ah." I mentioned crying at the start of this column, you remember. After Fantasia's stunning "Summertime" and breathtaking "I Believe" I amounted to a mess of snot and tear-drenched tissues. You have to see it (again) to believe it.
The DVD player's menu buttons broke as the Season 4 rewind was about to begin, but I'm sure that segment will give us plenty to scream about, too. How could it not with such players as the controversial Constantine, his rival Bo Bice, and the country girl Carrie?
One Idol performer who I have neglected to mention is the sloth of Season 1, Justin Guarini. Yes, he carries a tune and probably has perfect pitch. But guess what? He is the most odious personality to grace the Idol stage, and he almost makes me glad that I missed Season 1. Almost, but not quite.
I can't be sure that what Camille has termed "the most ghetto (yet fun) DVD of all time," but known to us as The Best of American Idol, Seasons 1-4 is available for rental. I can't imagine there is a serious demand for this at your local video store. But if you're a fan--or just want to feel like one!--go to www.capitalent.com and purchase a copy. Also available is The Worst of American Idol, Seasons 1-4, and the Limited Edition combination set, The Best and Worst of American Idol, three discs of social life-ending hours of fun. Enjoy!