American Idol isn’t the only bit of reality TV viewing here at TIG headquarters. One of the other items on that list is Celebrity Apprentice.
Penn Jillette was the latest celebrity to be fired by Donald Trump, and in the car ride that closes each show he said something quite meaningful: “I can tell you the rules of chess, but I can’t tell you the rules of Celebrity Apprentice.”
Now, why did I detour from the land of Idol and bring that specific point up? Because in a very real way, that’s why Elise Testone went home from Idol. She either never quite got her hands around the rules of Idol – or, alternately, didn’t give a crap about them. If anything, the real miracle is how despite that, she lasted this long.
Rightly or wrongly, there are some “rules” that are expected of contestants on Idol. Be likable, don’t talk back, pick popular songs, etcetera. Elise… seemed to ignore most of them. She may well be the most “honest” person ever to appear on Idol. She chose songs that were foreign to most viewers. When she was pissed about the latest mostly ignorant comment from the judges, you knew. (Much as I like Elise, I have to admit that her stankface is one of Idol legend.)
As I’ve said before, Idol isn’t necessarily about being the best singer. It’s about being the one most people like. That was a part of the game of Idol that Elise never seemed to fully understand. Or maybe she did, but was just uninterested in playing that part of the game. There’s no way to say this without sounding overly rude, but: she was the oldest left by a decent mile. By all appearances, she was far less willing to put up with what she perceives as nonsense. It’s the sort of thing that might come with age.
Age was a double-edged sword for Elise: it definitely helped that her age gave her experience that helped her turn in polished performances. The downside of that, though, was she seemed very set in her ways: outside of Vienna, her five-star performances were songs she was already familiar with from before Idol. But you need more than that to do well on Idol; you need to be able to deal with themes and songs that you’re not familiar with.
The one cardinal rule of Idol is: you have to be able to roll with the punches – musically or not. Ultimately, that’s what doomed Elise. Ryan asking her if she thought she was held to a higher standard was a giant trap question – and she walked right into it. Elise wears her feelings on her sleeve. Unfortunately, that’s not always something that works on Idol. Of course, she got pretty far despite that tremendous handicap. How did she do it?
There’s really only one good answer for that. When she was ‘on’, she was untouchable. Whole Lotta Love will probably be this season’s best performance, and has a good chance of going down as an all-time Idol great songs. But good as it is, that’s not her best work for me. Vienna holds that distinction in my book. It’s not the rocking Elise we got with Led Zeppelin and Queen, but there’s an elegance to it that I don’t think has been matched so far this season. The studio is simply superb. One can only imagine how things would have gone if Elise had been able to perform with just that bit more consistency.
The Power Poll
I haven’t been able to do the Power Poll for a few weeks, so here’s the top 5 as I see it:
1. Phillip Phillips
This early, I’m already mentally preparing myself for the idea of Phillip winning. This might get ugly.
2. Jessica Sanchez
Ungodly talented, but needs to get back in the rhythm she was before her save. Hasn’t really been the same since.
3. Skylar Laine
If a WGWG has to win, please let it be a girl.
4. Joshua Ledet
How badly screwed is he with the British theme?
5. Hollie Cavanagh
Please, Hollie: surprise us. This is a theme that’s basically made for her.