If the Idoldome were a Magic 8 Ball, and you asked it whether Scotty McCreery would be this year’s winner, the Idoldome would have responded, “It is decidedly so.” Last night’s performance show felt like a coronation at times, particularly after Scotty finished crooning Kenny Rogers’ “She Believes in Me.” After that song, one guy in the audience screamed, “Welcome to the finale, Scotty!” Other folks settled on less imaginative chants, such as “We love you, Scotty” and “You’re awesome, Scotty!” I mention this because the Idoldome is my only window into what a sizable group of people thinks about these contestants. Based solely on this sample, Scotty is the most beloved of all, followed by Haley and then Lauren. But the Idoldome has been known to cheer for things like the Black Eyed Peas, so its judgment cannot always be trusted.
Behind the scenes, everyone was on their best behavior, and that made for a less satisfying show — at least from my audience seat. Nigel Lythgoe never activated the Swaybots or sent a throng of girls onstage to hug Scotty or planted a 19-year-old boy in the audience for Lauren to serenade. (Lythgoe tweeted that he was “under the weather,” so that could explain why he wasn’t up to his normal scheming.) Randy and J.Lo didn’t criticize Haley’s song choices for a change, and Ryan Seacrest didn’t show off his balloon-catching technique. But don’t fret, PopWatchers, as there are still plenty of Idoldome tidbits worth sharing, including Haley’s fall, Lauren’s gaffes, a birthday celebration, and Elijah Wood’s furry friend. Here we go:
Haley’s fall: We all know that Haley tripped on the stairs in front of the judges’ table while singing Led Zeppelin’s “What Is and What Should Never Be.” On TV, all you saw was an overhead shot of Haley getting back up without missing a beat. But before she got back up, Haley turned toward the audience and flashed a giant smile, as if to cheerfully say, “Whoops!” And I love Haley for that. There wasn’t the slightest moment of self-pity — she knew she had goofed, but what can you do but laugh at the blunder and then soldier on?
At the end of the song, Randy gave Haley a standing ovation, but J.Lo turned toward Randy and shook her head. J.Lo is clearly of the opinion that you have to be judicious with your standing ovations, just as she has been judicious with mentioning her goose bumps.
A hobbit and his dog: Elijah Wood was in the audience, joined by Australian actor Jason Gann. The two were there to plug FX’s new comedy Wilfred, in which Gann literally plays a dog (but appears as a man dressed in a dog costume). So, naturally, Gann was dressed in said dog outfit while attending the show. Midway through the program, Wood and Gann started to exit the studio but then briefly stopped to chat with Lythgoe. I’m sure that seeing a British man engage in a serious conversation with Frodo Baggins and an anthropomorphized dog will give my subconscious plenty of usable material for future dreams.
Scotty’s high (note): Before he started singing Lonestar’s “Amazed,” Scotty was onstage watching his mentoring clip with Beyoncé. Scotty visibly grimaced when his video-clip doppelganger attempted to hit a high note in the song. Maybe he didn’t like what he heard, or perhaps he was thinking about the fact that he was going to have to hit that same note again in a minute or two. Either way, the women sitting around me found his brief expression of pain adorable.
One thumb up: During her Beyoncé mentoring clip, Lauren kept her back to the audience the whole time — except for one brief moment. Right after Beyoncé identified herself as a diva, Lauren looked over her shoulder toward the judges and flashed an energetic thumbs-up. She then quickly turned her upper body back toward the video screen. What does it mean? Does Lauren approve of divas? Or did she just want to convey to the judges that she was in good spirits?
Lauren gaffe No. 1: The silver stools had been set up for Lauren and Seacrest’s pre-audition clip interview, but nobody was onstage. Soon we found out, via a backstage camera, that Lauren’s pantyhose had ripped. Shortly thereafter, Lauren emerged onstage and walked slowly to the stool as Debbie the Stage Manager held her hand. Lauren was shaking her head, and I couldn’t tell for a moment whether she was laughing or crying. It was the former.
Lauren gaffe No. 2: Lauren paused in the middle of The Band Perry’s “If I Die Young” and looked toward the ground, as if lost in thought. I initially considered this her attempt to add dramatic weight to the preceding lyric: “Funny when you’re dead, people start listening.” But the judges interpreted it as a slip-up on Lauren’s part, who then inexplicably confessed that she missed a key change. As we went to commercial, Lauren walked offstage exasperated with her hands on her head.
To be a kid again: During one commercial break, Scotty was seated on the silver stool where Seacrest would soon interview him. Rather than sit patiently on the stool, Scotty started spinning around in his seat. One woman in the audience took it upon herself to squeal every time Scotty momentarily faced her as he continued to spin and spin and spin. It was a quick reminder that despite his confident stage presence and low-register voice, he’s still a 17-year-old kid.
Turn the lights down low: Scotty watched his audition clip, where he sang Josh Turner’s “Your Man.” With Seacrest sitting just a couple of feet away, Scotty the Body mouthed the final verse, “Just to be your man.” During a later commercial break, Seacrest walked over to Scotty’s parents and started chatting. I couldn’t hear most of the conversation, but Seacrest did say the following words to Mr. and Mrs. McCreery: “…because I’m a Southern boy.” Hypothesize away.
Haley’s Johnny Depp connection: Like the actor, Haley seemingly has an issue with watching herself on-screen. During her entire audition clip, Haley stared at the floor. That’s what Seacrest was referring to when he later noted that Haley had the “eye of the tiger.”
The identity of Lauren’s onstage crush: Let me quickly talk again about that 19-year-old guy named Brett that Lauren sang to three weeks ago. We already knew that Brett wasn’t an actual audience member, as he immediately left after Lauren’s performance. But as I walked toward the Idoldome yesterday, there he was again, standing outside the studio working as some sort of production assistant or intern. So, for those of you who dream of having your mug broadcast on American Idol while a contestant sings to you, start polishing that Fox internship résumé.
Birthday cake: After the show, Haley sprinted down to the judges’ table to talk to J.Lo. They were laughing about something — it’s nice to see that there are no hard feelings between the two after J.Lo’s recent harsh critiques of Haley. And then some stagehands rolled out a birthday cake for Fox executive Mike Darnell, and the Top 11 contestants — I didn’t see Karen or Ashthon — walked onstage to sing “Happy Birthday” to him. I’m guessing they were all on hand to rehearse for the finale. Or they really like birthday cakes.