Pop Life

Idol Beat: The Final 36, Group 3

Peyton Manning flow - I just go, no huddle:

* Hey, Von, Alex, Scott, Taylor, Kendall? You thought you were trying to advance into the Top 12 tonight, didn't you? But you were wrong: in reality, you were just opening for Lil Rounds.

* Kara, do everyone a favor and quit'cher harping on the dire importance of "knowing who the contestants are." No one else cares. We want wet-dream fodder, disposable pop music to chew up than spit away like Bubblicious, glitzy content to break the clustered monotony of commercials and kill time between supper and blessed unconsciousness.

* Nathaniel Marshall, I gotta be real here: I really don't care that you and your convict moms used to flounce around to this crap Meat Loaf ballad when you were a tot. You shouldn't have gone there, girlfriend. It was one more fatal song choice in a night full of 'em - nay, a season full of 'em. You were clearly having the time of your life, but nobody else on Earth who happened to be watching was.

* You know, this set is like Sea World meets the holodeck from Star Trek: The Next Generation meets the soundstage for Who Wants To Be A Millionaire as imagined by a shit-hot '80s designer who's been in coma since the Berlin Wall fell. Or something.

* Texan Kendall Beard: looking very Stepford Wives last night. Maybe she and Kristen McNamara should start a club, given that Punk Barbie Kristen was apparently kidnapped, then bound and gagged in a silo somewhere by Fembot Barbie Kristen, who powered out a Tracy Chapman number for a grateful, oblivious nation.

* He's got about a snowball's chance in Hell at this point, but we're totally pulling for Alex Wagner-Trugman, a.k.a. The Great White Anoop. His version of Elton John's "I Guess That's Why They Call It The Blues" skated dangerously close to - and maybe over - the edge of mawkishness, daring us to hate him while doling out just enough money-shot honey to quell any bile that might've been rising.

Not too too Nick Mitchell, but almost. Simon: "You're like a little hamster trying to be a tiger." Ah, but there's a forest fire devouring metaphorical acres in every heart, Cowell: even dorks can bring the funk, and even dorks need a stand-in to cheer for on Idol. Hence: go Alex!

* Don't you have a Coke-sponsored glass design you should be drafting right about now? Chop chop! Contests don't win themselves.

America's choice last night was not at all clear. My druthers are below, for whatever they're worth:

GOING, GOING, GONE: Arianna Afsar

MONKEYS IN THE MIDDLE: Von Smith, Taylor Vaifanua, Ju'Not Joyner, Felicia Barton, Kendall Beard, Jorge Nunez, Scott MacIntyre, Nathaniel Marshall, Kristen McNamara

SO, SO MONEY: Lil Rounds, Alex Wagner-Trugman

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Ray Cummings