Blond twinkies Haley and Baylie also get the ticket



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Clockwise from left, American Idol’s Simon Cowell, Ryan Seacrest, Paula Abdul, and Randy Jackson.


The first 10 minutes of the last audition episode of American Idol featured a young woman named Haley, a 24-year-old wedding singer whose performance was called controlled, tuneful, unoriginal and — judge Simon Cowell’s favourite disparaging term — “a bit cabaret,” whatever that’s supposed to mean.

None of them, however, could come up with a compelling reason not to let her advance to the next round, which makes her something of a test case for the Idol aesthetic.

If Haley survives past the first eliminations, even advancing to the finals, is tuneful, unoriginal and cabaret exactly what

Idol favours, by its nature?

It’s hard to see what distinguishes her from another blond — named Baylie, strangely enough — who Simon calls “commercial with a capital C,” and gets the gold ticket to Hollywood as well.

If Haley goes further than Baylie, would it say something about entirely arbitrary standards that differentiate one blond pop twinkie from another on Idol?

Stay tuned, I suppose. I have no choice.

The Idol paradox is embodied in Ashlyn, a remarkably cute young woman who gets rejected by the judges because her face betrays real passion when she sings, instead of the usual anodyne, mannered mask.

No sooner has she tearfully left the room than the judges — it feels like contrived drama, like everything else about Idol, but let’s suspend our disbelief — experience a moment of regret and call her back.

They scold her for having some bad vocal habits, then give her the gold pass to Hollywood, insisting all the while that originality is really what they’re looking for.

The balance of the San Antonio show is taken up with a montage of contestants being foiled by a locked door while exiting the audition room — a set-up that the judges and producers are a bit too amused by — and those monsters of self-esteem that seem afflicted with a cognitive disconnect that makes them oblivious to the dynamics of being judged by strangers.

“You don’t know me or anything about me,” says one rejected contestant bitterly, as if staring into the sucking maw of neediness and self-deception will reveal a spectrum of talent, hidden like ultraviolet rays, beneath a facade of atonal horror.