America has voted -- and sent a ringing command: no more mush.
That's the quick 411 after seeing Michael Sarver, Scott MacIntyre and Matt Giraud land in the bottom three. The latter two hadn't even been bad the night before -- dutifully crooning Motown oldies -- it's just that the parade of well-scrubbed, comely young men singing earnestly is beginning to merge into a gelatinous mass of unthreatening, unmemorable manhood.
Call it the Danny Gokey-Kris Allen-Anoop Desai-Giraud-MacIntyre pileup.
Given the march of the wholesome clones, it wasn't hard for Megan Joy to survive another week, despite a cruise-ship rendition of "For Once in My Life" and a stylist who's doing his or her best to destroy Joy's offbeat charm, turning the one-time grungy hippie chick into a makeup-laden Kewpie doll ready for a swing through the Miss America pageant. For better or worse, Joy stuck out at least, apparently a nifty trick when you're trying to get teenagers to dial your number.
Until now, Sarver has survived mostly because of a compelling personal story as a real-life roughneck from a real-life oil rig. Like the singing firefighter who stoked hearts after 9/11, Sarver has presented himself as the warbling blue-collar hunk, an increasingly endangered species. But even his affability and a genial ability to parry with the judges no matter what they say couldn't erase the residue of his shambling version of "Ain't Too Proud to Beg."
And so Sarver -- as the contestant with the least votes -- had to sing for his life.
Of all the changes wrought this season (the fourth judge, the return of the "Idol" house, etc., a judge's save has turned out to be the most compelling, as contestants are forced to sing one more time, with their fate hanging in the balance. Watching Alexis Grace last week, and Sarver this week, it's hard not to think that this will probably be the contestants' last brief touch of rock stardom. This is the exact moment when the road diverges in a deep, dark wood, and the "Idol" wannabes are cast back to take the road usually taken: scrambling to get by, working for a paycheck, living a small life in a small town. Some do go on to smidgens of professional success or life as part of the "Idol" universe: the former "Idol" contestants who continue to feed off the mother planet. (Ace Young, Kimberly Caldwell and Carly Smithson were all prominently sitting behind the judges Thursday night.) Yet most disappear back into the lives they had before.
So far, the pressure has been clarifying for the contestants on the chopping block, as Grace and now Sarver performed with more emotional intensity and focus than they did during the week's competition.
With Sarver, however, the judges did not even make a pretense of taking his case seriously. Paula Abdul stood up and danced as he sang, and Kara DioGuardi bopped along. When it was over, it was clear that nobody had even bothered to discuss the merits of Sarver's singing. But Simon Cowell delivered the guillotine chop: "Michael, you're going home."
Abramowitz filled in for Richard Rushfield from the Idoldome.