Know your Idols


With every translation of the Bible comes a new translation of names. These changes are sometimes slight — Jesus becomes Jesús in Spanish — or can be very dramatic — Simon becomes Peter in Greek. Six years ago, a new Biblical translation emerged from a group called 20th Century Fox. Their first translation was so successful that they’ve issued a new one every year since. This year’s religious experience features a few evangelists who are amongst the most powerful ever recorded. Swooning true believers claim the 2007 edition compelling enough to recapture those who have strayed and powerful enough to convert atheists. It will permeate your consciousness, either by choice or proximity. So make it easy on yourself. Give in. Here’s a handy guide to the names Fox has given to the 12 Apostles.


(in Fox, Melinda Doolittle)

After the Ascension (in Fox, “elimination rounds”), Melinda took leadership of the Apostles. Even though she appears to lack a neck, her miracles, while simple, are profound: she has the ability to make a song you’ve heard a thousand times over sound brand new. The first of such miracles was “My Funny Valentine,” the second, “I’m a Woman.” Melinda can also miraculously produce spontaneous tears from Jesus:


Melinda affects a constant surprise at her success, which gentiles must endure to have her perform another miracle.


(in Fox, Phil Stacey)

Although not one of the inner circle, Phil has proven his devotion to the Almighty by missing the birth of his daughter to become an Apostle. Many of this year’s crop has had preparation and Phil is no exception; the armed forces of America trained him to be a good soldier and a good singer. Phil is an unusal serviceman in that he doesn’t shy away from his feminine side, which he demonstrated by his confident crooning of LeAnn Rimes’ “I Need You.” He shines his head each night with the spittle of Melinda, hoping some of her glory will seep through his bare skull and into his vocal chords.


James The Greater
(in Fox, Brandon Rogers)

The first of The Twelve to be martyred. Though no one really seemed to care all that much. Brandon did little to distinguish himself amongst the others, relying perhaps too much on his natural good looks. Like Apostle Doolittle, Brandon was a professional back-up singer, but he was unable to remember the words to “Can’t Hurry Love,” and so he was punished. Or perhaps he was punished for his frequent name-dropping of saints such as Christina Aguilera.


(in Fox, Lakisha Jones, a.k.a. “Kiki”)

Possesses many of the same miracle powers as Melinda, but Lakisha has a stronger narrative push. Before Apostlehood, she worked in a bank in the good-luck town of Flint, Michigan, and is raising a five-year-old mini-Apostle all on her own. Kiki has a rawness to her that’s vastly appealing; in this case, being less-telegenic and hardly-trained is a very good thing. Her path is obviously one of overcoming, but the sizeable question of whether she can overcome the prejudice embedded in her size remains to be seen, not heard.


(in Fox, Haley Scarnato)

The true miracle of Haley is that she became an Apostle at all. Perhaps she is beloved for her resemblance to last year’s Apostle known as “McPhee.” She has shown courage in her song choices covering the likes of Whitney Houston and Celine Dion, but emulating such saints only highlights the vast differences between Haley and her idols. Haley has the ability to turn any song into a Broadway performance and perhaps, if her luck continues, she will go on to the heaven known as High School Musical. She also has shown courage in her fashion choices, obviously daring to ignore any stylist that might plead with her to wear a dress that fits.

(in Fox, Chris Richardson)

Has branded himself as Justin Timberlakeian, but has yet to give us any surprises in a box or otherwise. While Timberlake is urban, Chris is suburban, mastering only two to three dance moves. If only he had been chosen for the Mickey Mouse Club in his youth. Chris impressed with his loss of forty pounds several years ago, as many idolaters have struggled with their weight. His song choices have shown diversity and an ability to be combined into sentences: “I Don’t Wanna Be” a “Geek in The Pink.”


(in Fox, Jordin Sparks, here towering over Pontius Pilate)

Formerly a high school junior, Jordin became one of the most prominent Apostles, particularly last week with her rendition of “If We Hold On Together.” She’s not in the same ballpark as Melinda and Kiki, but she’s in the ballpark’s parking lot. She makes treacle interesting, or at least interesting to look at, as we wait in suspense each week to see shape her glorious mane will take: will her locks be naturally explosively curly, straightened and sophisticated, or ponytailed, like Loretta Tortelli? In addition to her distinguishing hair, she’s a tall drink of water. Her height gives her a commanding physical presence.


(in Fox, Chris Sligh)

Chris had tried to be an Apostle many times before, but succeeded after letting his hair grow out until he resembled another Fox Idol, Sideshow Bob. While once the funniest of the Apostles, his desire to succeed has tempered his humor and we miss it. We miss the jokes, Chris. With his hair and girth, Chris doesn’t look like an Apostle, but then again, neither did last year’s Top Apostle Taylor Hicks. Chris claims to have been saved not by the love of Jesus but by the love of a woman, who either is his wife or is an actress from Poughkeepsie looking to make some extra dough during pilot season.


James The Lesser
(in Fox, Gina Glocksen)
Gina is the Party Apostle, the one you could probably endure longest at a social gathering or seaport bar. She has endeared herself to many not just through her rendition of Heart’s “Alone,” or her resemblance to one of the sWell Whatsiters, but because she has actually changed on this mission. Her singing’s gotten better and she’s finally learned that a ripped T and red satin bra triumph over the dress she wore to her prom. Throughout her growth, she has performed the miracle of making tattoos and a tongue stud magically appear and disappear at will.


(in Fox, Blake Lewis)

Along with Melinda and Lakisha, he is part of the privileged inner circle. He’s a beat-box zealot, able to produce sounds that should come from a machine. Stepmothers around the world swooned to his version of “Somewhere Only We Know,” but others were put on red-alert by his passion for comedy improv, demonstrated one day during an interview segment. It was a secret some wished he had not revealed, as his hipster tattoos and smooth dance moves went from interesting to advertising for his own sitcom.


(in Fox, Stephanie Edwards)

Many speculate that Beyoncé is masquerading as Stephanie Edwards in an effort to soothe the burn left by Dreamgirls. But once again, Beyoncé takes a backseat to other, more powerful performers. Tick tock. At some point, Beyoncé is bound to explode.

Judas Iscariot
(in Fox, Sanjaya Malakar)

Sanjaya has betrayed the other Apostles simply by his presence in their midst. His hula moves have been widely praised, his teeth whiter each week, but it is his hair that we bow down to; even at its Diana-Ross-worst, never has the force of God been so thick, so strong. While the same age as Apostle Jordin, Sanjaya actually seems seventeen, a sweet young lad in need of protection. A legion of pre-teen girls and gaggles of legions of the pre-tween set have come to his defense, girls who have vowed to strive, to seek, and to find a way to preserve his place amongst the Apostles, girls who will never yield to the pressure of pitch, parents, or payments to Cingular. Admire him from afar but look at him closely: this is the face that has galvanized an entire generation. He is our off-key future.

26 responses to “Know your Idols”

  1. Lane says:

    Now this puts the FUN back in fundamentalism!

  2. Perfect call on Gina as a SWells lookalike. We say that outloud every time she’s on.

    The real battle here, of course, is Melinda and Lakisha, though I fear that both may not make it to the final two. I’ve never seen people on this show who can sing like those two, including last season’s booted-way-too-early Mandisa. Melinda and Lakisha are so good they make the guest vocalists look like wannabes. I spend most of my week looking forward to their performances — which is hard to believe, considering I started watching this show primarily with ironic intent (and to bring the family together a couple nights a week for something other than dinner).

    Loved this primer.

  3. Here’s a link to Melinda’s performance (of what should have been a rather inane song) that made Paula (Jesus) weep.

  4. Tim Wager says:

    Okay, Waterman, how many hours do you sleep? Or do you have some kind of special relationship with time, able to expand and contract it at will? You teach; you write books and conference papers; you write posts and comments; you go to the Russian baths; you know every hip new band, have downloaded all their albums and seen them live; you bicycle your kids to school; you have sampled the cuisine of every friggin’ restaurant below 14th St.; you know way more about oysters than most people; you go on sailing ship cruises; you coach basketball; you travel the country starting up record clubs and reading the letters and poetry of obscure American authors; you cook; and now, you also have time to watch American Idol! What gives? How can we learn the secrets of productivity? Teach us, sensei.

  5. Marleyfan says:

    Haven’t you seen the Superman tatoo?

  6. Marleyfan says:


  7. Rachel says:

    Some possibilities:
    1. Deal w/ devil (a la Robert Johnson)
    2. Wheatgrass juice
    3. Magic elves
    4. There are six Bryan Watermans. One writes books; one only listens to music, etc.
    5. Mojo
    6. Is a robot
    7. Has a secret P.A.
    8. Hyperbaric chamber
    9. Gets power from fabulous hair
    10. Restorative effects of sentimental literature

  8. are you guys telling me that none of the rest of you (still) watch idol? to partially acknowledge tim’s comment — it’s pretty much the only thing i watch right now. that said, it’s a pretty big commitment, esp. early in the season. but i prefer it from here on out — final 12 on down.

    if you’ve watched in the past and haven’t watched this season, i challenge you to link to those YouTube clips of Melinda’s and Lakisha’s performances and *not* decide to watch tomorrow night.

    If you have been watching, where do you fall on the M/L divide?

  9. lisa t. says:

    Idol is such a guilty pleasure, no?

    Rachel, I first read your list above (until I got to #4) as a take on each Idol contestant. Try it; it’s fun.

    bw, I am so heavily on the Lakisha side of the divide that I cringe every time Melinda belts out yet another miracle of song…but, like ww notes, Lakisha has “the stronger narrative push.” Melinda’s already been a back-up singer. All that humility? An evil ploy to get a record deal.

    Lakisha is serious. She ain’t fakin’ and doesn’t take no mess. Plus, her song choices are better.

  10. Demosthenes says:

    If Paula is Jesus, Simon Cowell is God. I am not a fan of his extremely hairy hands, however, I do agree with most everything he has to say about Idols singing. He is quite a bit nicer this season also. If Simon is God, and Paula (who I dislike) is Jesus, I guess that would make Randy the Holy Spirit dogg. Live on Holy Trinity.

  11. i like your designations, demosthenes. i have a slight hunch that you look like one of the idols yourself, but i’m not going to out you if my hunch is right.

    and why haven’t the (south)west coasters been willing to weigh in on the sWells/Gina lookalike issue? i thought for sure some of her students would break their lurker status and echo their agreement … or maybe scotty could tell us how he sees it.

  12. W2 says:

    I’ve wondered about the voting system: why is it set up to have folks vote for their faves rather than for the ones they’d like to eliminate? Is it to get more votes? To create a thick fan base? Or simply to be different?

  13. pre-tween voter says:

    Because I’ll vote as many times as I can before my mom takes away the phone!

  14. Lisa T — here’s a link to a Jody Rosen article in Slate that makes the case for Melinda *because* of her careerist impulses …

    Jody’s Am Idol blogging is fantastic, but I think WW wins major points for this thematic/schematic intro.

  15. Tim Wager says:

    Judging by the photo above (for I have not seen her on the Idol), Gina looks more like Steph’s sister, Suzanne, whom Swells also resembles of course.

    I watched a couple of the clips and must admit that some of the singing is quite good. I just cannot truck all the padding and ads on shows like this. I think I’ve seen a grand total of 10 or 15 minutes of the Idol in all its seasons put together. I’m extremely impatient for actual content and just cannot handle the many cringes either (bad singing in early rounds, over-the-top drama, fake build-ups, etc.). Antiques Road Show is much more to my liking: no fluff, great pacing, real stories, history lessons, expertise, and narrative payoff with a price tag.

  16. Dave says:

    Wow, just watched those videos. Melinda and Lakisha are amazing. And thanks to YouTube, I won’t even have to watch the show to follow their progress.

  17. Stephanie Wells says:

    Okay, I will confess to not having seen this show more than once, a few years ago, until last week when several of my students started telling me I HAD to see it because Gina looked EXACTLY like me. So, I was pretty surprised to see WW and BW echoing this! (We tuned in, and when she came on the screen, Scott said “That’s her, all right.”) And as for my sister Suzanne, I emailed her this morning (after reading your comments) to ask her if she had been getting the same comparisons, because she does look more like Gina than I do. But it’s funny you should all say so, and I’m not sure how to respond . . .

  18. Ruben Mancillas says:

    Thank you.

    I mean, for absolving every last shred of guilt I might have ever felt about watching The Bachelor and the like.

    Wasn’t American Dreamz (dreams with a z) supposed to be a parody of some sort?

    I don’t watch the show (too busy with LTL, RHOC, and DWTS) but do listen to Stern’s recaps. He’s getting on the vote for the worst bandwagon and has these hilarious spots where bad celebrity imitators (Ozzy, David Lee Roth, Arnold) have taped promos urging us all to vote early and often for Sanjaya.

    Re: # 7, when Rachel listed “Mojo” at number five of how Bryan does it, she was talking about his helper monkey, right?

  19. bryan says:

    i missed tonight because i was at a show.

    can someone provide a sum-up? i’ll youtube the highlights tomorrow.


  20. Miller says:

    Is anyone familiar with the film classic entitled Mac and Me? Is so, doesn’t Phil Stacey bear a striking resemblence to the eponymous extraterrestrial? If you disagree, pay close attention to the way he bugs out his eyes at puckers his mouth while performing.

  21. Scotty says:

    11: sorry I haven’t wieghed-in on the Swell look alike Idol. I see it a little, but the funniest part is that Swell’s students who told her that she looks like Gina, of course, had to add, “but you’re a lot thinner than she is.”

  22. W2 says:

    Was 60’s British Invasion Nite. And yes, someone “sang” a Rolling Stones tune. A song list provided by the deacons of AOL:

    1. Haley Scarnato: ‘Tell Him’ – she actually looked hot, wearing hot pants & heels and a silky halter – and really looked like an “after” instead of a “before” from one of those extreme makeover commercials

    2. Chris Richardson: ‘Don’t Let the Sun Catch You Crying’ – the guitar was the star of this song, and was actually on screen more than Chris Timberlakeardson

    3. Stephanie Edwards: ‘You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me’ – Boring. Not very Beyoncé like. Not very memorable

    4. Blake Lewis: ‘Time of the Season’ – inspired even Ryan to try try and beat-box, which was terrifying. This Blake dude could win this whole thing

    5. Lakisha Jones: ‘Diamonds Are Forever’ – Shirley Bassey made surprise cameo in a pretty green dress

    6. Phil Stacey: ‘Tobacco Road’ – chemo boy was awful. The unanimous choice to go home (at least in this living room)

    7.Jordin Sparks: ‘I Who Have Nothing’ – pretty great, actually. Most memorable. How can she be 17?

    8. Sanjaya Malakar: ‘You Really Got Me’ – best part of the performance: the repeated cuts away to a crying – literally sobbing – nineish-year-old girl who was either overtaken with joy or liked the sensation of her ears bleeding

    9. Gina Glocksen: ‘Paint It Black’ – mmm. Good song. Bad cover. Bummer.

    10. Chris Sligh: ‘She’s Not There’ – consensus seemed to be that while this was good, he won’t be around much longer. Everyone seemed to have cut their hair this week – the curse of the bored stylist – and maybe he lost some of his powers

    11. Melinda Doolittle: ‘As Long As He Needs Me’ – No tears from Paula this time (or pre-tweeners), but still such a groovilicious singer

  23. W2 says:

    Or there’s this take on Sanjaya.

  24. PB says:

    Thanks to the evangelical Waterman family–we have been saved from our disbelief in the Idol phenom and are now devoted. Watched this week at the neighbors because our TV was on the blink. No-neck all the way.

  25. holy cow.

    my family just called from NY to tell me who got the boot! i’m shocked! though isn’t it true that the #3 slot usually turns out to be most successful? apparently voters assume the frontrunner is safe and go overboard for their #2 favorite. zoiks.

    my other american idol story for the day, though, makes up for tonight’s heartbreak: lakisha was on my plane from NY to LA! and yes, i exercised great restraint, though after she made eye contact and smiled at the baggage claim i did ask for an autograph for anna and molly. she graciously provided one on a photo she pulled from her bag. she was sweet as apple pie — the real deal.

  26. Mr.Marleyfan says:

    VeryVeryCool BW. We just started watching (9:00 W.C.)