America’s Next Top Model Review: Video Killed the Radio Star
This special recap of the latest America’s Next Top Model episode is brought to you by someone who hasn’t watched the past few cycles of the show, was unaware that the current one is an All-Stars round, and was thus pleasantly surprised to see the lovably crazy Lisa D’Amato on her screen after years of deeply-felt absence. A lot of these faces are unfamiliar- even the ones that shouldn’t be (Seriously, did Shannon Stewart get some sort of work done on her jaw, or what?)- and some are oddly familiar despite my never having seen them (Allison looks like something Tim Burton hallucinated on a weekend bender, for example.)
This week’s Tyra Mail is some annoyingly precocious kid named Madison who’s supposedly a Youtube sensation on account of her being able to give makeup tips or some such? I don’t know. Her only purpose is to tell the models that she hopes they can “keep a beat,” leading them to suspect a music-related task. Right on cue, the illustrious Mr. Jay Manuel enters the sprawling mansion to announce that the upcoming elimination challenge will be all about “going viral,” dropping the term several times, treating each utterance as if it were an explosive revelation that he’s been dying to unveil. No one butts in to remind him that it’s no longer 2007, so he introduces Tom Polce of CBS Records, who will help the contestants write and record their own individual pop songs. “Think about how going viral worked for Rebecca Black and Justin Bieber!” Jay exclaims. Yes, of course; Rebecca’s success can’t be disputed, so he’s got us there, but who’s this Bieber fellow?
The ladies get to work on their singles, which are really just pre-recorded tracks handed to them for some improvised lyrics to be slapped on top. The reward for best songwriting ability is a loved one of choice being flown in for a visit. These folks only have 20 minutes to write their lyrics for the instrumentals Tom has given them, and none of them look like Billy Joel to me, so I don’t expect much. Crazypants Lisa, my favorite recording artist of this generation, knows she has it in the bag, and she’d like to see her “better half” in the flesh as her prize. Angelea wants to write a battle song, while Alexandria is singing something about a clock ticking, Allison practically drowns in her own frantic tears of anxiety, saying she feels overwhelmed by the task. To no one’s surprise, Lisa wins for best song written under duress; it’s an approximation of rap with a lot of goofy girl bravado. Angelea asks the camera, “Can this bitch stop winning, please?” so apparently, it’s a trend.
Tom takes the models to a studio to record their gems. First, they’re told that the phrase “Pot Ledom” needs to be incorporated somehow into each of their tracks, which is an idea so useless and absurd that it had to have come from Tyra Banks herself. (“It’s ‘Top Model,’ but backwards, so it’s like a totally awesome mystery secret code that adds a whole new layer of wacky adventure to the challenge,” thought Tyra and absolutely no one else with a brain or sense of humor.) Angelea is first in the booth; she decides to riff on the words like Alicia Keys, in a husky spoken intro at the top. Shannon is flat and a bit tonally challenged when her turn comes around, but unlike Kim Zolciak, she’s at least self-aware about it. Allison is still nervous, murmuring her song into the microphone timidly, not noticing that the others are impressed with her ability. Dominique’s song is something called “Tooch Ya Booty,” which makes me kind of uncomfortable for some reason, and Alexandria dons dark shades at the mic, imagining herself yelling at an intern for more vitamin water and honey. Lisa is amped up as usual, singing her winning masterpiece, “I Be Like Whoa.” When the recording session is over, she gets to see her fiance Adam, who seems as quiet and straight-laced as can be. Lisa notes that opposites attract and that he’s always been there for her in her hour of need. He’s cute, and I wish them all the best.
It’s the final phase of the challenge. Jay rides a sports car onto a sound stage where the models await; he wears a tacky fedora and cheesy smile, claiming to have listened to all their songs and liked them a lot. Allison tells us she wants to finish this challenge as gracefully as possible, though her fears remain. Then, popular hip hop performer Game walks in, and Angelea loses her shit, running around and screaming like a chicken with its head cut off, which I’m sure is really attractive to desirable men. Apparently, Game is here to help direct the music videos that will accompany the contestants’ songs, and he doesn’t look all too excited.
First, Dominique performs “Tooch Ya Booty” by writhing in front of the camera with big hair and a sparkly mini-dress. She’s sort of flailing and jerking out of frame a lot, so Game tells her to stop dippin’ it low. Dominique jokes to the camera that she’s not actually dipping; she’s tripping and falling. I find her admission pretty adorable. Alexandria goes to shoot her video, looking and sounding like the next Euro-pop star. I sort of dig it, but Game is all “More Cowbell!” about her using the red car as a prop. He wants her to make love to it or pretend it’s her boyfriend or something like that, but she’s moving about in a somewhat wooden way, mouthing her lyrics with less enthusiasm than desired. Jay calls her awkward and rigid, while Game compares his job to “oiling the Tin Man.” Harsh words.
Soon, Tyra walks in with the words “Pot Ledom” on her shirt. Of course, she’s found a way to worm her way into each of the videos, so she tells the women that they’re all going to be lucky recipients of a Tyra cameo, whether it fits into their concepts or not. Beloved Youtube lip-syncer Keenan Cahill will be joining her, she reports, before he saunters in with a smile. The next video filmed is Shannon’s; she does her best Faith Hill impression and remains largely bland and unwatchable. Lisa tells us she wants to do 800 times better than everyone else and not simply win the challenge. She indeed goes pretty hard in her shoot, but she should make it look a bit more effortless than she does. Someone called Laura, who I’ve barely noticed thus far, is doing a Sweet Valley High routine, laying on her stomach atop a bed; unsurprisingly, her song is titled “Sweet Southern Girl.”
Angelea’s video consists of her grinding against a wall; Jay scolds her for having dead eyes. Allison is still nervous and receives a pep talk from Game to boost her confidence before shooting. Once she performs, all worries are put to rest, as everyone is in awe of her sound and appearance. It does seem miles more professional than what everyone else churned out, even if she is quite unsettling to look at, in a way.
Judges’ Panel: Tyra introduces Andre, Nigel, and Game is her co-judges. They go through each video one-by-one, with Tyra and Keenan appearing as total non-sequiters in the middle of every clip. It’s pretty awful. Under examination first is Dominique, who Game refers to as “a little Beyonce, a little JLo;” Tyra, naturally, tells her to exaggerate her mouth movements more. Nigel thinks Laura’s very pink girlie video is “fun,” and Andre calls it “giddy and charming” while refusing to state his true opinion. Angelea’s video isn’t engaging enough for Game, and Tyra tells her she should give it more attitude. I don’t know what this constructive criticism is for, since none of them will ever record another song, probably. Nigel and Andre agree that Alexandria’s low-octane car video is boring, and Game says it just didn’t register for him.
Shannon doesn’t have a glint in her eye while she performs, according to Nigel. Her video looks like a perfume commercial. Lisa’s video is ridiculous but fun; her shiny hot pants and pink tank top are appropriate for the track. It seems pretty generic, but Andre says he loves the lyrics (whatever they were), and Game wishes he had it on his iPod. I’m sure someone can make that happen for him. Allison’s video is last, and Tyra and Keenan look the most preposterous in this one, since it’s all white and ethereal and beautiful, haunting, and melodic, and they’re miming like goofballs in the middle of it. Nigel reacts with a “Whoa!” and says he’d buy the single. Game tells Allison she’s the most weirdly beautiful girl he’s ever seen. Tyra claims of the song, “It’s touching something inside of me.” Coincidentally, that was the title of the latest episode of her daytime talk show.
The judges deliberate, with Tyra saying she lost sleep due to having Lisa’s song in her head all night. Game argues for Allison, saying any sane guy would be into her. Nigel thinks she’s not broad enough in her appeal. Tyra does her creepy, self-important whisper voice to announce the contestants who will continue in the competition. Allison wins, called first, and then a butt-hurt Lisa, and then the rest until Angelea and Alexandria remain in the bottom two. Angelea is safe, sending Alex home, since, as Tyra explains, she was just a model and not a convincing singer superstar in her video. Sent home for being too much of a model? All’s fair, I suppose.