Last week, American Idol had pretty much set the stage for what to expect in the coming season. Nicki Minaj was obnoxious and over-the-top. Keith Urban was mellow, laid back and easily overshadowed by Nicki's nasally antics, Mariah Carey thought she was above it all (especially Nicki) and Randy Jackson was, well Randy was Randy. It was clear from the readers' comments that many felt American Idol hadn't done themselves any favors with their new ensemble of judges; in fact, many predicted the demise of the show.
Then came Wednesday's much hyped and anticipated episode.
The episode that was to feature the knock-down drag-out fight between Mariah and Nicki that had been creating incessant buzz months before Idol even premiered. Reports of threats between the two females judges, increased security and the show's production coming to a halt surfaced and resurfaced while viewers waited for the show's return.
Well, like so much of the gossip surrounding celebrities, the argument between Maria And Nicki was much ado about nothing.
Although Nicki did walk off the set in a huff, the disagreement was no more severe than some of the spats between Simon Cowell and Paula Abdul once upon a time. In fact, to call it a "Mariah and Nicki argument" is oversimplification at its best when it was more like Nicki versus the world.
If Ryan Seacrest's voice-over foreshadowing can be trusted, the disagreement had been brewing all day. When contestant Taisha Bethea auditioned under the premise of being a "rock" girl, Keith, Mariah, and Randy were perplexed by her decision to sing Johnny Cash. After doing a pretty decent job on "Folsom Prison Blues," the judges began to squawk about who she really was as an artist. Quickly, Taisha offered up some Alanis Morrisette as proof of her rock sensibilities but Randy and Mariah weren't sold and said 'no' to a Hollywood ticket. Keith also doubted her allegiance to rock but gave her a 'yes.' Then it was Nicki's turn and something very bizarre happened.
Nicki made perfect sense.
She voted 'yes' for Taisha, adding that she didn't care what type of artist Taisha wanted to be. This created quite a stir between Randy and Mariah who stared knowingly at one another, their communication, though silent was clear enough. It went some thing like this:
Mariah: Randy, dahrling, can you believe what that pink-headed little toad just said?
Randy: I cannot. She is not worthy to be sitting on this panel with the likes of you, my lady. Not that I ever thought she was. I mean, in my mind, she can't compare to Your Highness, for me, for you, for me.
Then Summer Cunningham auditioned, singing the song, "Lean on Me." Her voice was really beautiful but of course the judges started to question her about who she wanted to be as an artist. A line of questioning that never quite made sense. Isn't it possible to have an artist who is eclectic? Someone who has enough talent to perform in multiple genres? Nevertheless, Summer made a misstep when she stated, "Well, I did the country thing," instantly offending Keith Urban. He remarked that her comment was like someone saying that they did "the brain surgeon" thing. Yes Keith, both are obviously equally difficult to perform.
Randy and Mariah, who were like BFF's on Wednesday, then joined in to badger Summer. Summer, sensing that her ticket to Hollywood was dependent upon her allegiance to country music quickly folded under the pressure. Within moments she was delivering an impassioned ode to the genre, claiming that country music was like home to her. Thankfully, what she lacks in integrity she makes up for in talent.
Meanwhile, Nicki Minaj who had spent a good portion of the day on her phone, was becoming annoyed by the line of questioning. She complained that the judges were making the contestants lie about who they were as artists because that's what they thought the judges wanted to hear. Randy and Mariah were offended, claiming that they were only trying to help the contestant. A few digs were thrown back and forth and then Nicki walked off the set.
And that, my friends, was the much hyped brawl between Mariah and Nicki. And while it didn't result in Nicki and Mariah quitting (best case scenario) it did the next best thing: It proved that Nicki actually had something legitimate to say and was willing to stand up for what she believed in. It can't be easy to be on the panel knowing that your peers and half the country think you're a joke – and she certainly doesn't help herself out with her costume choices and silly antics – but on Wednesday she made perfectly valid arguments. Would it have been more productive had she not stormed off the set like a two-year-old? Sure, but let's give the girl a break, she made a good point and didn't do it in a British Accent. Baby steps!
Whether it was because of the relief of some built-up pressure or the judges just needing some time to find their groove, the rest of the episode was actually very entertaining. Enough so that it gave hope that American Idol might still have a little magic in its belly, even after all these years. The episode, despite some judging drama, also featured some memorable auditions:
- Rodney Barber: Rodney claimed that he was known as the voice of Charlotte and that he shares the money he earns by singing on the streets of Charlotte with those less fortunate. Rodney himself was once homeless and feels it is his duty to help others the same way he was once helped. His voice was good but his story and personality were definitely better and earned him his ticket to Hollywood.
- Isabel Gonzalez - Isabel was the second contestant to be nominated to audition on the show. This is a painfully silly new concept that reeks of desperation by the producers to add some spice to what they fear is becoming a stale formula. Thankfully this time Randy traveling out to give someone who didn't want to audition in the first place, an invitation to audition, paid off. Isabel was truly talented and earned her ticket to Hollywood.
- Seretha Guinn: Seretha showed up to the audition sporting this season's token toddler and telling a story of both hardship and triumph. Her daughter's father had been critically injured in an accident and Seretha had come to audition without his knowing, in hopes of making it through to Hollywood and being able to bring him home some good news. Seretha automatically made the list of interesting contestants when she opted to sing the Fresh Prince of Bel Aire. She had a great voice and her daughter, though cliché was uber-cute.
- Candice Glover: Candice was a contestant from Season 11 who was let go during Hollywood week and she was determined to earn her way back onto the show. After describing herself as a female Joshua Ledet (last year's second runner up) she gave what the judges exclaimed was one of the best auditions of the season. Compliments that would have been more meaningful had we been a few more shows in but chances are, Candice's audition may hang on to that title right through the end. Mariah and Randy gave viewers a flashback to last season by giving Candice a standing ovation while Nicki opted to express her fondness in words, "I want to skin you and wear you." Well . . . that's one way to put it.
Tune in on Thursday to see if Idol can keep the momentum going. Is it possible that Nicki could actually turn out to be likable? Will Keith Urban make it through an entire show without leaving early? Will the judges continue to hound people about their musical loyalties? Share your thoughts in the comment section!