Well, it's official: American Idol has taken over the world.
Oh, say what you want about Jordin Sparks' "disappointing" record sales, Taylor Hicks and Ruben Studdard losing their label deals, or Idol season 7 sinking to all-time ratings lows. But when Ryan Seacrest is the MC, Jordin Sparks sings the National Anthem, and Paula Abdul uses the pregame show to relaunch her music career--all at the Super Bowl, aka the globe's most-watched televised event--then I think it's safe to say that American Idol is indeed the most inescapable, influential pop-culture powerhouse on the planet.
Either that, or maybe it's just because the Super Bowl aired on Fox this year.
Anyway, for starters, this year's Super Bowl featured its first-ever red carpet segment, with Ryan Seacrest "bringing Hollywood to the desert." Huh? Red carpet? At the Super Bowl? I wondered if Ryan would ask all the parading celebs "What are you wearing?," a la self-appointed fashion police Joan and Melissa Rivers. That just didn't seem like something America's armchair jocks would want to watch.
Sigh. I miss Brian Dunkelman...
Oh sure, Fox desperately tried to make Ryan seem a little mas macho and football-friendly by unearthing some ancient archival footage of him tossing the pigskin around back in high school. But Terry Bradshaw voiced what every amused American viewer was thinking when he told Ryan, "The only time I thought I'd see you at a Super Bowl would be as a cheerleader!" (Touche, Terry. That was a classic barb even Simon Cowell would've been proud of.)
Oh, but I digress. Speaking of cheerleaders, the big pregame news this year was that former Laker girl and current Idol center judge Paula Abdul performed her new song (her first in a decade!) off her fellow judge's upcoming compilation album, Randy Jackson's Musical Club, Volume 1. (Yes, gawd help us, there apparently will be a Volume 2.)
Ooh boy, I certainly had my doubts about this.
Let me be straight up. Pun intended. See, much as I love Paula Abdul's good cop/bad cop routine with Simon Cowell, her bizarrely encouraging seal clap, and her highly entertaining bipolar episodes, I've always found it odd that she regained fame by doling out singing advice on TV. Actually, I always found it odd that she gained fame in the first place by, well, singing. I mean, have you heard the woman warble? Seriously, even MC Skat Kat had better pipes than her back in the day. And if you've ever watched any of the Idol rejects who studied Paula & Randy's vocal-lesson DVD before auditioning, then you know she's no expert on this subject of song.
But it turned out that I needn't have worried, as Paula wasn't even singing anyway. No, she was most definitely lipsynching--and doing a pretty lousy job of it, too. Really, I hadn't seen such mushmouthed mouthing-along since Britney's botched VMA appearance last year. But I have to say, Paula's performance skills were far superior than Britney's--the woman proved she could still dance (hence the title of her comeback single, "Dance Like There's No Tomorrow"), and I must admit she filled out her black catsuit quite nicely. Plus, her canned vocals still sounded better than, say, Sanjaya's.
And the bottom line is, "Dance Like There's No Tomorrow" is, as Randy Jackson himself would say, an a'ight song. So I guess Paula's through to Hollywood! For this round, anyway...
And finally, this year's Idol-ized Super Bowl was topped off by a National Anthem performance by last year's winner, Arizona local girl Jordin Sparks--who had the Cowell-sized cojones to show up on Ryan's red carpet wearing a Giants sweatshirt. (Way to alienate half of America, Jordin! Guess all the Patriots fans voted for Blake Lewis.) But she had a pretty good excuse for her team bias, since her dad Phillippi used to play for the Giants, after all.
Anyhoo, Jordin sounded good, dawg, and she didn't oversing--in fact, she didn't sing at all. No, she was lipsynching as well...and lipsynching almost badly as Paula. Seriously, if American Idol was a lipsynching competition, Jordin surely would have been VoteForTheWorst.com's season 6 pick. This disappointing turn of events only made me daydream about what might have been if Blake Lewis had won Idol last year and had been invited to this year's Bowl instead. Oh, just imagine a beatboxed "Star-Spangled Banner," with special guests Sir Mix-A-Lot and Doug E. Fresh! Now that would've been a TiVo-ready moment really worthy of a hand-over-heart salute.
Overall, this year's Super Bowl was a nice, tame, very un-Nipplegate-esque affair (note that, perhaps out of fear of future "wardrobe malfunctions," former skin-flashing Idols Antonella Barba and Frenchie Davis were nowhere in sight). And I must add, when American Idol producers start enlisting celebrity guests to mentor the season 7 finalists, they really ought to consider Willie Nelson, Alicia Keys, and Tom Petty--all of whom put on Super Bowl performances truly worth idolizing this year.