Two seasons ago on American Idol, Sanjaya Malakar began acting out when he realized that the show was happy to regard him as a joke. But Sanjaya was a teenage boy, and a little immaturity goes with the territory. I don't think anybody two months ago could have foreseen that jazzy Utah mom Megan Joy would someday become Sanjaya's match in bizarre behavior. It's still hard to say what is going to be remembered from this season -- so far it's Bikini Girl, Norman Gentle, Hurricane Tatiana, and "Ring of Fire" -- but the way Megan exited Season Eight is likely to be high on the list.
Megan had been getting increasingly animated during the results shows, most notably two weeks ago when she was caught making an ugly grimace when Scott McIntyre was declared safe. The charitable explanation for this is nerves, since there's little question that was one of the biggest problems with the inexperienced Megan's performances. After needing the wild card just to get into the finals, and after being harshly criticized in three of the last four weeks (and she was essentially given a health pass for her lousy job during the other week), Megan no doubt started to feel as if her number could be up at any time. Performers are allowed to go online to see what is being said about them, and if Megan did this on Wednesday, she likely saw not only more bad reviews, but the widespread prediction that she was finally doomed.
So Megan appeared determined to get the most out of her last big moment in the spotlight. She made more silly faces and provided exaggerated frowns all night. When she was announced as being in the bottom three, she flapped her arms and reprised the "Caw! Caw!" call that was the weirdest thing about her "Rockin' Robin." When her bottom three cohorts Allison Iraheta and Anoop Desai were returned to safety, she told them "Don't forget to caw!" There was little question that the judges would not use their save powers on her, but here things unfolded a bit differently than they had the past three weeks.
Earlier in the show, Megan had said "I love you Simon, but I didn't really care" when asked what she thought of his withering appraisal of her take on Bob Marley this week. When Ryan Seacrest asked if the judges might use the save, Simon had his answer ready: "Megan, with the greatest respect, when you said that you don't care, nor do we. I'm not gonna pretend we're even gonna contemplate saving you. So this is your swan song. Enjoy it." Unfazed by this dis, Megan reprised "Turn Your Lights Down Low" as someone doing a Megan parody might, bending the notes even farther, gyrating wildly in her trademark unrhythmic fashion (which she had not done on Tuesday), and grinning crazily at the judges all the while.
A little piece of Megan's true feelings slipped out, however, when she teared up while watching her goodbye video to "Home Sweet Home", when telling her son she was coming home, and while hugging the final eight. I always like these segments because they take you back to the time you first meet the contestants, and everyone seems equally unformed and full of promise. Simon had been legitimately intrigued by Megan after her audition, and so was I. But while she had some interesting instincts and never did lose that jazzy tone, she simply had no performing skills, nor any way to stay consistently in tune. She was mediocre during her semifinal, worse than that when she undeservedly made it into the Top Thirteen as a wild card, and was uniformly terrible for four weeks of finals, and it depressed me that I wound up resenting someone I had once had such high hopes for, as better singers left before her. But as someone who lasted a lot longer on Idol than she should have, Megan ought to have chosen to go out with more class.
So should Allison be concerned after a second trip to the bottom in three weeks? Even though she is now half the remaining female field all by herself, it seems that her time is about up. I felt that this week was the first time she's even been below average, but whether it's her general appearance or simply a failure of Idol viewers to appreciate female rockers, it is now clear that people just aren't responding to her. Anoop has slipped in the judges estimation and likewise is in need of a lightning strike to regain momentum. His image took a dent when he became visibly upset with his critique on Tuesday, but his gracious admission that Scott had outsung him this week won him some poise points.
The timekilling part of the show was as pointless as usual, including a group performance of the inexplicably iconic "Don't Stop Believing," and a look at the hectic pace of the average Idol week, which apparently involves posing for lots of pictures and eating lots of cake. But one interlude provided a not-so-pleasant glimpse of Danny Gokey. We had previously heard Matt Giraud delivering a decent impression of Danny, which prompted Ryan to solicit some other impressions. Anoop sang a good-natured version of Kris Allen, and Allison added her own take on what Danny sounds like. These were exaggerated, but not unflattering. But when Danny imitated Matt, he went back to Matt's truly awful version of "Viva La Vida," making sure to ramp up the bad vibrato. What kind of person would use this lighthearted segment to stick a knife in the back of their competition?
Current Idol David Cook appeared in the "return of the conquering hero" segment of the hour, and perfectly illustrated the dilemma facing people in his position. On the one hand, he looked good, sounded good, and carried himself like a star: not bad for someone who was an unknown fifteen months ago. On the other hand, he's at the mercy of his material, and that new single of his is pretty mediocre. The other musical guest was Lady Gaga, performing her current hit "Poker Face" (apparently not a tribute to Megan). Many people saw Lady Gaga for the first time last summer when she popped up on So You Think You Can Dance, and now she's one of the biggest new stars in music, for reasons I can't even begin to fathom. Typically you need a great voice, an original approach, or at the very least killer looks, but Gaga has none of these things and was even stranger than usual last night, wearing a zipper over her eye. It should have been covering a different part of the face.
Next week, it's a return to a favorite Idol theme: songs from the birth years of the contestants. So if you love the '80s, I'll see you then.