‘American Idol’ Top 10 Boys: Sorry, Charlie
When quirky, jazz-handy ginger Charlie Askew first appeared on “American Idol” this season, he was depicted as a merry misfit, an adorkable urchin who happily marched to the beat of his own hippy-dippy drum. But when he performed on “Idol” Season 12’s live show this Wednesday, he revealed the startling darkness behind his sparkly manic-pixie-boy persona, when he suffered a minor meltdown after receiving his first (overly) harsh critiques of the season.
And it was kind of harsh to witness...
When Charlie emerged on the “Idol" stage Wednesday, there was something different about him—he looked like a Venice Beach hair-braider, wearing an ‘80s-rocker ponytail, a grungy tank top that flaunted his pale biceps, a feathered dreamcatcher earring, and the remnants of a scraggly mustache. And then he started belting out Genesis’s “Mama,” a disturbing song about a prostitute that probably wasn’t the best choice for this conservative show (or for a 17-year-old). But at least it was original.
As the broody, moody ballad built, Charlie started screeching like the immaculately conceived lovechild of Ronnie James Dio and the Darkness’s Justin Hawkins. And while his unhinged performance was fascinating to behold, and actually kind of awesome just because it was so unique, and it probably would’ve made total sense if he'd been fronting a righteous rock group…it was a little too bizarre for “Idol.” At least, it was too bizarre for the judges (even Nicki Minaj), who all came down hard on the kid and even outright laughed at him at one point.
“The expressions on [audience members’] faces were varied; if nothing else, we’ve definitely offered some diversity tonight,” chuckled Keith Urban, who suggested Charlie start a band. Nicki was aghast, saying: “The last time I saw you, I wanted to cradle you in my arms. Where’s my little baby at? What happened? I don’t want to see your arms. I don’t want you working out. I don’t want to see that ponytail. I don't want to see that earring. Lose the mustache immediately. I feel like someone stole my kid. I want my cute, cuddly Charlie back!” Randy Jackson even said he was “a little worried.”
Maybe Randy had reason to be concerned for this sensitive contestant. When host Ryan Seacrest asked Charlie why he’d given such a sinister performance of such a strange song, Charlie answered, visibly trembling: “All I can say is, I needed to vent a little bit.” And then he started to cry, and his fragility was on full, uncomfortable, almost-too-real-for-reality-TV display. Suddenly, the judges seemed like bullies, and they weren't laughing anymore. And the mood in the theater grew dark. “A lot of people think I’m a very happy, buoyant person, and the only reason I smile so much is because I feel like I have to," confessed an unsmiling Charlie, in what seemed like a televised cry for help.