Camp Should-A-Been - Season Eighteen
Uh, hello? (* tap-tap *) Can everyone hear us? Sorry for the zillion-way video call, but the planet is still being rocked by the deadly COVID-19 pandemic. Safety first! However, just as American Idol figured out a way to hold a credible competition in the Year of Social Distancing, so will your resourceful, tech-savvy head counselors at Camp Should-A-Been. Buckle up, because we're going from 20 semifinalists to 1 winner in just four intense, snark-packed days! Maybe perky New York subway singer "Just Sam" will repeat her remarkable championiship run, or maybe she'll be dethroned (co-throned?) by any of a small army of guitarists, singing from living rooms and decks all over America. And Canada. Nepal too, we think. It all happened so fast, we're not entirely sure. Anyway, get ready Idol fans, because once we get rolling, nothing can stop us fro--...(beep!) [40-minute Zoom limit reached; conference ending.]
In light of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the need to maintain diligent precautionary measures against its spread, the Undersecretary of the CDC is hereby prohibiting all US-based Reality TV outdoor convocations for the purpose of conducting a secondary seasonal competition, commonly known as "Replay Camps", from opening in 2020.
This decree is irrespective of any preventative measures your camp may have planned to put in place this summer, including but not limited to: social distancing, use of personal protective equipment, frequent hand washing, body temperature scans, body cavity scans, limiting the number of spectators on any given day, limiting the number of train wrecks in any given episode, restricting inter-camp sporting events, blowgun prohibitions, ground beef sanitizers, or any other warped trope that you intended to foist on your camp's hapless inhabitants. This is not a time for levity!
The CDC wishes to emphasize that one particular replay camp, which shall remain nameless, has been found responsible for the majority of snarkborne illnesses among singers in the 15-to-28 age bracket the past 12 years running. That campground has been placed under lock and key and is being patrolled around the clock by the California National Guard, the United States 10th Mountain Division, and one Adam N. Levine, concerned citizen, who seems to hold a particular animosity towards it. So tell your head counselors not to try anything stupid.
This decree has been reviewed and unanimously supported by the entire CDC, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the full United States Supreme Court, all 537 members of Congress, the Office of the President (who voted nine times), the United Nations Council on Human Rights, the International Court of Justice, the National Academy of Recording Artists, and the National Cattlemen's Beef Association, who also seem pretty miffed about something.
Thank you for your cooperation in this matter.
Dr. Anthony S, Fauci, M.D.
Semifinals: Top 20
Fine. We'll do it this way, then.
Welcome to our first fully-virtual Camp Should-A-Been replay! On the line with us right now we have all 469 American Idol contestants, including the Top 20 from Season 18. We've also conferenced in our three eminent judges -- Katy Perry, Lionel Richie, and Luke Bryan -- along with host Ryan Seacrest, mentor Bobby Bones, AI founder Simon Fuller, our three ultra-eminent Disciplinary Counselors, Rocco, Viktor, and Serge...and of course, our three royally irritated Head Counselors, who plan to get the last laugh somehow. We're just not sure how quite yet, but we have four days to think of something. Everyone is live in one gigantic grid on our computer screen, which looks like we're rebooting The Brady Bunch using the Osmonds and the Jacksons.
We've supplied this year's contestants with everything they'll need to produce top-quality performance videos: iPhones, ring lights, microphones, cabling, recording equipment...uh, well, no. Actually, we instructed them to keep the goodies that ABC shipped them in April, and to ignore those persistent repo agents who hammer on their front door. We did, however, provide every camper with a care package of stuff they'd need to replicate the CSAB experience from the comfort of their homes, which they're all opening even as we speak. We can hear the squeals of, uh, joy already. Heat lamps, with humidity attachments. Live mosquitos the size of hamsters. An industrial-sized bottle of Eau de Camp Aurait-dû-Être, for that great overcrowded-cabin aroma in your very own home. And, you guessed it: a four-day supply of meatloaf. Bon appetit!
Once the unpacking was through and the gagging subsided, we got down to business -- namely, replaying the entire AI18 Semifinals in one day. Kimmy Gabriela kicked things off with a solid 53 on "Leave Me Lonely", and right out of the chute we had our first holdover contestant. That would mean at least one real-life finalist would be left on the outside looking in, and Jovin Webb graciously stepped up next and ended the suspense. His 30-rated Beatles cover (Joe Cocker? Please. Unpopular Opinion #9741: Ringo sang it way better) would turn out to be tied for sixth-lowest on the season, putting the dreadlocked Louisiana dad on the Virtual Bus of Shame. Per the 2020 CSAB ground rules, Webb would have to take a walk around the block wearing a canine cone-collar. Pity, he was one of our favorites, too. Two down, 18 to go.
Franklin Boone was next, but he didn't fare much better: his 31 also fell squarely into the season's Bottom 10. Next came Olivia Ximines, who delivered only the second rendition of "bad guy" in human history in which listeners could actually make out the lyrics. The first was when Ximines sang it two months ago. It wasn't any better the second time around. One in, three out, 16 more to come.
We then welcomed Louis Knight, the English-born Philadelphia pizza delivery driver, to the stage. He'd be an interesting guy to take to an Eagles game. We had high hopes for our fellow Delaware Valley native, but his cover of "If The World Was Ending" only barely squeaked into 3-star territory, not quite enough to advance. Out went our second real-life finalist. On the bright side, Knight talked his boss into his offering a free side of meatloaf with every pizza purchase.
Knight's spot in the Top 10 would be filled by Mikayla Phillips, who the judges dramatically selected after much deliberation with their only Save of the season, as if there were ever the slightest chance in hell they'd decline to use it. Phillips earned her Finals seat at CSAB without a need for nondivine intervention. Thereupon followed three more Cone Of Shame performances, courtesy of Aliana Jester, Faith Becnel, and Nick Merico, before Lauren Spencer-Smith became AI18's second holdover contestant and CSAB's first from the Great White North. She did it in style, nailing the top-rated performance of the semifinals: a 67 on "Mamma Knows Best". Which became a 55 after we converted it to American currency. Oh well, it was still good enough.
During the dinner break, we pondered the irony that, through the first half of the show, three contestants who the voters chose to eliminate were in, while the two they chose to advance were out. (*Sigh*)...2020 has been that kind of a year.
The evening session began with Cyniah Elise delivering a 48 on Demi Lovato's "Warrior". That approval rating feels a little low to us, but such is life: Elise would bow out in 12th place. Up next was our first real-life Finale contestant: guitarist Francisco Martin, singing "Donna" in a phone booth to...um, sorry. He just looks uncannily like Lou Diamond Phillips in La Bamba. That scene was all we could think of every time he performed. Anyway, Francisco from Francisco did a surprisingly entertaining cover of Katy from L.A's. "Teenage from Dream", a 63. We thought it was the best performance of the episode, to be honest, but either way it was easily good enough to advance. He was quickly joined in the Top 10 by another real-life Finalist, wacky Sophia James. Five of the ten spots in tomorrow's show were filled, with seven singers remaining.
In a field that boasted a British-American, a Filipino-American, and a Nepalese-American, not to mention a Canadian-Canadian and the first LGBT real-life winner, Florida's DeWayne Crocker was also a trailblazer: American Idol's first We-Celebrate-Christmas-In-April-American. A vastly underrepresented community, we might add. Once again, alas, his underjuiced, 13-rated "I Got You", delivered inexplicably in front of a yule tree, earned the promising contestant a quick exit from the competition. But perhaps it worked out for the best, because it meant Crocker could have turkey instead of meatloaf at his family's Thanksgiving dinner tomorrow night.
Next came a pair of 4-star backyard performances from Finale contestants. First up, Dillon James. The heavily tattooed Americana singer took time off from a side chat with Carly Smithson to deliver a fine 65 covering Ray Lamontagne. He'd be Finalist #6, and #7 was right behind: Dibesh Pokharel, going by the nom de Zoom Arthur Gunn, who dug out the ancient Big Band Blues gem "Lovin' Machine" -- a #3 hit on the Kathmandu Top 40 in 1952. Gunn cruised into the Top 10, becoming the first Finalist from Kansas in AI history. (He was the first semifinalist from the Sunflower State too, for the record.)
Over to New York City next for Julia Gargano. Her rendition of "Human", a song that rarely falls flat on Idol, scored a 66, second-highest on the night. Outside again we go for Grace Leer. sheltering in place at her mom's house in California, The Nashville-based country singer became fourth straight camper to advance with a 56 on Faith Hill's "Cry". We docked her a few points for that fringed denim jacket, and a couple more because a bird pooped on her head as she sang, but meh, she had plenty of points to spare. Nine spots down and two singers to go!
Time for another cross-country trip to New York, where defending champ Samantha Diaz was...whoops! She's still in California, isn't she? Not a big deal in a video conference call, but wouldn't it have been awesome if Ryan and the judges had to hop on a redeye for every performance? Maybe next pandemic. Anyway, Just Sam made a very questionable song choice: Season Three's coronation song "I Believe", sung for the seventh time in competition for no particularly good reason. Diaz almost dragged that carcass to 50 for the first time since Fantasia. Still, sitting in 11th place, she'd have to wait nervously to see what our Head Counselors decided regarding the Save. Jonny West closed to show with a 63, particularly impressive since Margie Mays was vacuuming the living room as he sang. She might still be a little annoyed at getting cut in the Semis two years running.
Our Head Counselors quickly put half a thousand people on hold, partly because we could and partly because we needed time to debate what to do about Diaz. Her real-life title was not a factor, inasmuch as everything about Camp Should-a-Been was based on how the competition would have unfolded using only episode-by-episode approval ratings. Our policy on Saves has always been clear: "Pthththt!" But, was this really a save? It felt far more like a judges' selection, consistent with previous years where the voters chose the first six or so Finalists, and the Idol Machine, channeled by the judges (hell, for $8M+ a year, we'd channel them too) chose the remainder. This year, it just happened to be 10-and-1, not 6-and-4. We returned to the call and informed Just Sam that she would indeed be the eleventh member of the AI18 Top Ten. She was thrilled! We also told her this meant we'd be sending her another four-day supply of meatloaf tomorrow. Now she wasn't! Such are the ups and downs at CSAB, real or virtual.
So that means our AI18 Finalists would be:
- Kimmy Gabriela
- Julia Gargano
- Arthur Gunn
- Dillon James
- Sophia James
- Just Sam
- Grace Leer
- Francisco Martin
- Makayla Phillips
- Lauren Spencer-Smith
- Jonny West
Two newcomers in italics, replacing Louis Knight and Jovin Webb. OK, campers, it's 10pm -- lights out time! Sorry for you West Coasters where it's only 7 o'clock, but rules are rules. We'll see you bright and early tomorrow when the Season Eighteen Replay Finals get underway, and practically finish too.
Final 11 (Home)
My Father's Eyes
"Okay, campers, quiet please. While the judges are tallying tonight's scores, we have a few announcements to make. First, we hope everyone received this morning's shipment of meatloaf. Amazon now refuses to carry it in their trucks because it violates their hazmat policy, so we had to go with alternative logistics: namely, drone delivery. For your safety, please do not interfere with the drones or refuse to accept your package. That just gets them angry, and they'll come back with reinforcements. Resistance is futile. You should've figured that out years ago.
"Second, a message to this year's contestants: could you please, you know, try to spice up your videos a bit? TV ratings this season were down, and our YouTube view counts so far this summer are no better. The nature of home recordings makes it hard to differentiate one performance from another, as reflected by our 2020 WNTS approval ratings, which gave an entirely new meaning to 'flattening the curve.' This was only the second season in which no performance reached 90."
"I wuz robbed!"
"Stay on mute please, Joey. At any rate, a few special effects won't kill anyone, unless you're James Durbin, and even then it ought to be good for a few extra clicks. Third, the unusual circumstances of AI18 had an impact on Camp Should-a-Been that we should have foreseen, but didn't. Namely: because the bell curve of approval ratings this year was so narrow, and because we did only a fractional post-season normalization, the decay curve for projected ratings got flattened, too. Holdover contestants will see their scores drop much more slowly than in previous replays. As in: Lauren Spencer-Smith might actually win this thing! We'll have to see how it plays out. We'd try sabotaging her with extra drone deliveries, but it turns out the Canadian Border Patrol is really adept at shooting those things out of the sky.
"Ah, here comes Ryan with the results from the Final 11 show. Once again, Julia Gargano was the star. Her heartfelt cover of Gotham's reflective anthem, "New York State of Mind", earned an 83. Even on the Idol stage that's an excellent number, but doing it from her parents' spare bedroom was doubly remarkable. Congratulations, Julia, for delivering the highest-rated performance of 2020."
"I wuz robbed!"
"Stay on mute please, Sam. We don't curate Hawaii performances. Besides, your sweet tribute to your grandmother was second-best tonight. You'll both be singing tomorrow in the Final 7, along with two holdovers: Spencer-Smith and Makayla Phillips. Perhaps the judges didn't make the optimal Save choice this year, but they appear to have made a strong one regardless. Rounding out the field are Jonny West -- uh, Jonny, ask Margie to wait until after you sing tomorrow before she grinds her coffee beans -- Francisco Martin, and a third holdover: one Sophia J. Wackerman. Surprisingly, she's the only "James" to get to the penultimate round, as the other's attempt at a country-folk makeover of "Yesterday", which your Head Counselors actually rather liked, didn't resonate with the voters. D-James would have cruised to the Replay Crown had he made it through tonight, but now it's anyone's ballgame.
"Also taking a late-night stroll around the block are Grace Leer, Kimmy Gabriela, and -- surprise -- another erstwhile Finale participant, Arthur Gunn. Wethinks that while a rustic John Denver song works well in many settings, a suburban deck backdropped by tractor-trailers rumbling by on the interstate is not one of them. This spring's runner-up is out in 11th place.
"Finally, a hearty shout-out to La'Porsha Renae and Ada Vox. They dug out a couple of the old CSAB Code Red disguises they made back in Season Sixteen and showed up on tonight's call dressed as sheep! It gave us all a much-needed laugh in these difficult times. Those truly were the most ridiculous costumes that American Idol has ever seen."
"I wuz robbed!"
"Stay on mute please, Katy."
Final 7 (Disney / Mothers' Day)
Look Through My Eyes
How Far I'll Go
Both Sides Now
When Will My Life Begin?
We Are Family
Adam Levine was interviewed on CNN this morning. He was sitting in the Head Cabin at Camp Should-A-Been, with his feet up on the desk, bragging about how he was a front-line worker bravely enforcing social distancing in these difficult times. The little rat looked smugger than an undercover fox at a chicken convention. The worst part was us knowing that all we could do about it was seethe. Some summer vacation this has turned out to be.
Meanwhile, Day Three at Camp YouTube was about as exciting as the first two. Absolutely nothing is happening. Just one big all-day video call where a bunch of polite millennials sit around and compliment each other on their body piercings. A planned video game tournament was over before it started when there was a 500-car pileup at the Mario Kart starting line. Disturbingly, some campers are turning to Internet challenges to relieve the boredom. Sanjaya Malakar became the first person in history to complete the Ice Bucket Bird Box Cinnamon Tide Pod Challenge, which involved...aw, don't ask. Coincidentally, Alejandro Aranda successfully completed the Crying Girl Challenge, which involved watching all of Sanjaya's AI6 performance videos in one sitting. Both of them looked afterwards like they'd been run over by a Wichita delivery truck. Thus far, there've been no takers for our Meatloaf Challenge, but we'll keep you posted.
Well, at least there's only one day of ennui to go. Tonight's Final 7 show wasn't bad, but like everything else this summer, its highlights weren't terribly high. Some of that no doubt had to do with the theme of the first hour. Let's be frank: as far as AI is concerned, Uncle Walt's fabled magic has basically been bibbidi-boppity-exhausted. Front-running Julia Gargano delivered the first Finals performance to fall below 3-stars: a 19 for her smooth jazz/scat version of "Beauty and the Beast". It was an arrangement whose time never came and hopefully never will.
Thankfully, the Mothers' Day theme worked out a little better. Francisco Martin delivered the second and last 5-star outing of the abbreviated season, making a strong song choice of Leon Bridges' underrated "River". For her part, Gargano bounced back strongly with a 67 for "Sweetest Devotion", by you-know-who. Would that be enough to offset her earlier 19 and earn the New Yorker one of the five tickets into the Finale? As the judges were giving their critiques, there was a knock at Gargano's front door; she excused herself to answer it. (♪Dum-de-dum-dum-da...♬) PFFFFFFT!–*thud*. Oh, sorry -- did we forget to mention that Rocco's day job is a UPS delivery driver? Anyway, Gargano's combined 86 wasn't good enough to advance; she'd go out in seventh place. One elimination down, one to go.
We were heartened at first when Lauren Spencer-Smith's projected ratings came in at 14 and 12, but then we realized those numbers were in Celsius. Sigh...it's like we're enrolled in Compound Interest 101: Three hits down this year's modestly compressed curve, and she's still comfortably above 50. The slower decay rate this summer is mathematically sound but competitionally aggravating. If a semifinalist wins CSAB on one 67-rated performance, we'll never live it down.
Anyway, LSS finished second on the night, and fellow holdover Makayla Phillips was close behind in third. Sam Diaz had an off-day by her standards, but a combined 102 was enough for fourth place. She playfully announced the she was going to celebrate by ordering dinner and sending us the bill. Heh - wait'll she sees her new room service menu.
The final spot came down to a razor-close race between Jonny West and Sophia James. West's unusual "cover" of "Amazing Grace" consisted of him singing the familiar first verse, then segueing into an entirely different song, resulting in an enormous 27 standard deviation. Plus, Margie Mays decided to rewire the circuit box in their house while he sang, which was awkward. On the surface, James had 100 to West's 99, but hold on: we noticed in the spreadsheet that both of James's projected ratings had only just rounded up. West could still win this on decimal points. We put everyone on hold while we checked the database, plus fixed a four-course dinner and watched Netflix for a bit.
Turns out, both of West's numbers also rounded up. By the unlikely score of 99.28 to 98.62, the Wack Pack stacked a plaque in their knacksack. Or something like that. What we mean to say is, for the second straight show, the night's final eliminee would have won our AI18 Replay if he'd advanced, but fell just short. So our Replay Finale tomorrow night will pit the defending champ against Francisco Martin and three holdovers, one of whom is the first semifinalist to make it all the way to the last day at CSAB. Um, sure, nothing weird about that. Quite honestly, this being 2020, nothing short of a Mars invasion would surprise us, and only then if they were wearing Simon Cowell masks. See you tomorrow for the conclusion of this increasingly bizarre mini-series.
America The Beautiful
99 Bottles of Beer On The Wall
Leader Of The Pack
The Song That Doesn't End
What if we gave a Finale, and nobody came? Truth be told, it's probably just as well. After four days, it's clear that Camp Should-A-Been isn't cut out for online operations. Opportunities for high snark are few and far between, and the recipient can just put us on mute anyway. A few campers have gone so far as to set up cardboard cutouts of themselves in front of their webcams. Honestly, considering how stiff many semifinalists looked onstage during their brief runs, how can we possibly tell? (*Sigh*)...Other than arranging for each morning's four-day meatloaf shipment, our job satisfaction is nil. Somewhere in the north woods, Adam Levine was cackling his head off.
We tried lining up a world-class array of talent for tonight's show, but no luck. Lauren Daigle and Rascal Flatts brusquely sent us the URLs to their YouTube channels. We hoped to book Grumpy Cat again, but turns out he died over the winter. RIP, old friend. Lionel Richie tried leading all 460-odd campers in a heartfelt rendition of "We Are The World", but Internet lag made it sound like a crowd of drunks at a baseball game singing "Take Me Out To The Ballgame".
Which, ahem, didn't seem so bad after we calculated tonight's approval ratings. Would you believe that only one (1) performance broke 50 (fifty) all freaking night (¬day)? It's true: "Alaska" and "So Far Away" both rounded up. Defending champ Just Sam was the hero: her rendition of Andra Day's gospel-tinged "Rise Up" gave her a commanding lead, plus earned her a sitting ovation from everyone on the conference call and a gift certificate for the local tattoo parlor from Dillon James. All young Ms. Diaz had to do was avoid a crash-and-burn on her second number, and she'd be our 2020 champion. Which is a little like winning a spelling bee during a nuclear attack, but hey: somebody's got to do it.
Our three holdover contestants completely whiffed on what the theme "Favorite Repeat Performance" meant. Online or offline, some things happily never change. Sophia James was still going when we brought her and Francisco Martin "onstage" to announce the fourth and fifth place finishers. Martin had a 49.78 for "Alaska" and a 35.36 for "Adore You": 85.14 total. James's two ratings were 44.42 and 41.25, for an 85.67. For the second straight night, the queen of the rounding errors wins the tiebreaker. James couldn't give a proper victory speech (♬"Some people starting singing it not THANKS! knowing what it was..."♫) but she nodded her head gratefully before her parents led her away for deprogramming.
Camp Should-A-Been Finale ResultsAI1: Kelly Clarkson 215, Tamyra Gray 174
AI2: Clay Aiken 180, Ruben Studdard 144
AI3: LaToya London 174, Fantasia Barrino 173
AI4: Bo Bice 155, Carrie Underwood 131
AI5: Elliott Yamin 184, Chris Daughtry 182
AI6: Melinda Doolittle 208, LaKisha Jones 142
AI7: David Cook 168, Syesha Mercado 149
AI8: Kris Allen & Allison Iraheta 164 (tie)
AI9: Crystal Bowersox 216, Lee DeWyze 125
AI10: Lauren Alaina 179, James Durbin 160
AI11: Joshua Ledet 171, Hollie Cavanagh 148
AI12: Candice Glover 194, Angela Miller 163
AI13: Jena Irene 194, Alex Preston 185
AI14: Nick Fradiani 184, JAX 173
AI15: La'Porsha Renae 215, Trent Harmon 213
AI16: Maddie Poppe 218, Jurnee 164
AI17: Jeremiah Lloyd Harmon 191, Laine Hardy 169
AI18: Just Sam 117, Lauren Spencer-Smith 96
Earning the bronze: Makayla Phillips. The high school refugee from Camp All! American! Talent! went 0-for-2 at being advanced by America this spring, but wound up third this summer. It's been that kind of a year. In second: Spencer Smythe-Smythe, or whatever her name is. One performance, 67 rating points, silver medal for Canada. Good grief. If they ever reboot Canadian Idol, we're sending Melinda Doolittle and Jeremiah Lloyd Harmon north to kick their polite little butts.
But our winner, coming to you direct from a Los Angeles hotel room, via Harlem, with a change of planes at O'Hare: Samantha "Just Sam" Diaz! Deftly refusing Julia Gargano's offer to rearrange "Stronger" for her, Sam's modest 44 was more than enough to make the 21-year-old subway singer the seventh joint winner of AI and CSAB. And, this time, she even remembered to set off the confetti cannon we'd shipped her. Except we didn't load it with confetti. Or pine needles. Should, ah, you ever find yourself in Sam's predicament, a mild soap solution of one part Mr. Clean to three parts warm water will remove most beef-based stains from wallpaper.
And that's it for Camp Should-A-Been this year. It was, we admit sadly, rather anticlimactic, but the talent level was strong, and the unusual format provided some relief through a few disheartening months. We hope that 19E and ABC see fit to allow some of this year's contestants to try out again in the future, when a real Hollywood stage awaits. On hundreds of little squares on our computer monitor, we saw campers delicately packing up their excess meatloaf for drop-off at their county's solid waste disposal sites. (*Double-Sigh*) If only there was some way we could...
...Wait a minute.
Folks, stop! Don't throw that away! Leave it outside your front door -- we'll send the drones to pick it up. We know exactly where to make it rain from the sky. Heh-heh...Bon appetit, Adam!
— The End —
Quarantined for the Winter.
Thanks For Visiting!
Reopening Summer, 2021.
Camp Should-A-Been – Season Eighteen Results
- Just Sam
- Lauren Spencer-Smith
- Makayla Phillips
- Sophia James
- Francisco Martin
- Jonny West
- Julia Gargano
- Kimmy Gabriela
- Grace Leer
- Dillon James
- Arthur Gunn
-- The staff of WNTS.com
(With a hat tip to Correspondent Jim for drone logistics.)