(CBS) Have you been feeling frustrated lately? Have you felt like a passive citizen, watching old people trying to make decisions of vast importance? No, I'm not talking about politics. I'm talking about something far more significant.
For last night was the beginning of six hours of "American Idol" this week. Here's where the judges - real combined ages surely over 150 - matter not. Instead, victory is decided by those ordinary people (mainly lonely children) who grab their gadgets and vote.
Fox has devoted three nights in which dreams will be shattered, stories will be told and Steven Tyler will hopefully keep his clothes on.
Talking of disrobing, Tyler took to Jimmy Kimmel's show this week in order to disabuse anyone of the notion that, at the Oscars, fellow judge Jennifer Lopez had inadvertently shown a nipple, two of which he himself had revealed on last week's "Idol."
How appropriate, then, that last night it was the boys' turn to turn America on. First was Reed Grimm. Mature, talented and very slightly insane. What an odd choice of song - "Moves Like Jagger" is from Maroon 5, whose lead singer is one of the star attractions of "The Voice." You'd have thought his songs were banned.
At the beginning of these "Idol" live shows, some contestants are stylistically challenged - in the garb area. Grimm wore a grim, gray concoction straight from a J. Crew window circa 2001. But he did bang a drum. The young girls roared. The mothers stood and reminded themselves of what it was like to be a young girl roaring.
The judges gushed. Although it was hard to tear oneself away from Randy Jackson's shirt, which was made out of several rejected fabrics from "Project Runway." Steven Tyler tried to attract attention by offering the word "ass," though. Which was bleeped.
Another mature contender, Adam Brock, was next. He believes there's a large black woman trapped inside him. If this performance of Aretha's "Think" is any guide, that large black woman has been on the South Beach Diet. This was pleasant, but faint.
Tyler believed Brock was "setting the bar high." "It's hard to make a comment about anything here," he added. Oh, not that hard, surely.
Seventeen-year-old Deandre Brackensick began with a falsetto that was lacking the "tto". His high voice wavered like a Michigan Republican in the voting booth. He then rallied, hitting some extremes.
Jennifer Lopez called his voice "perfect." That was a slip.
Colton Dixon sang a little Paramore. He is, indeed, very pretty. He even left the piano. Jackson was delighted that "Idol" finally had an "indy, alt-rocker." Gosh, to think this is someone these same judges rejected before this stage last year.
Lopez adored that he sang from his heart. She described him as "a relevant artist." Tyler, never at a loss for words, used the very same ones.
Jeremy Rosado is the face of an Infectious Diseases Clinic. No, really. He works on the front desk. He chose Sarah Bareilles' "Gravity." Again, the live audience might just have intimidated him a little. This was not infectious. But he has a lot of front desk charm that still might carry him far.
Lopez said he was one of those people who "open their mouth and infect people." Wait, perhaps it was "affect people." She loved it. The judges all loved it. They have given up their judgeships, you see. They are now in marketing.
"I'm as confused as a baby in a topless bar," said Tyler after one of the 37 commercial breaks. He then mimicked Lopez non-nip slip. These people have a career in stand-up. In remote Dakota.
Indeed, Ryan Seacrest - himself enduring a clothing mishap at the Oscars - must have wished someone still had some of Kim Jong Il's ashes to pour over him.
Aaron Marcellus had to follow this amusement. He chose "Never Can Say Goodbye." This was competent, good even. Even more admirable, it was professional. The problem with professional is that it doesn't always move the soul. That is Marcellus' challenge. But, in case you wondered, the judges all loved it.
Chase Likens is a country singer. He also likes whistling. He looks like he is vaguely related to Harry Connick Jr. Tyler disagrees. He thinks Brendan Fraser. Whom he called "Brendan Frazier." All of this debate is more exciting than Likens' delivery of "Storm Warning," which was about as stormy as the Bay Area in July. The judges, though, thought he had range - and many other blandly positive aspects.
In order to get to know all of the contestants, we were shown their homes. Creighton Fraker's place in New York is tiny. Yet his performance was not. He channeled Cyndi Lauper. There's something curiously enchanting about Fraker, even though he's not related to Brendan Fraker. His "True Colors" managed to rise above the predictable and the mediocre to a place that resembled, well, at least a two-bedroom in Park Slope.
Lopez called it "beautiful," then worried that half of these lovely boys would be sent home by Thursday night. Jackson made a beautiful faux pas: "You've definitely got the voice." Randy, that's the competition.
Phillip Phillips doesn't want to be famous "just for fame." Phillip, this is a reality show. Still, he took Philip Collins' "In The Air Tonight", chopped it into little pieces, took the pieces, rearranged them and turned the whole into something a nice man on Top Chef would call "deconstructed." So much so, in fact, that many might have missed the melody entirely.
Of course, this wasn't entirely something the little girl voters on American Idol would appreciate in their Barbie boudoirs. But he is quite Ken-ish, so there's hope.
"You got a crazy kind of voice," said Tyler. But he loved it. Jackson wasn't so keen on the deconstruction. This is "Idol". Originality is often frowned upon, in case it doesn't sell.
Eben Franckewitz is 15, sweet and delightful. Why on earth, some might wonder, was he singing the pained torture of Adele? His "Set Fire to the Rain" was, sadly, flatter than a trampled pancake. He desperately tried to reach for the right notes, only to find they were sold out.
Jackson admitted there were some flat notes. Lopez theorized that he couldn't hear himself in the live atmosphere. Tyler suggested he listen to some blues records. He didn't suggest he should listen to Tyler's rendition of the national anthem.
Heejun Han wants to show that Asian people aren't merely good at "getting a high score on the SAT." He's a character, this one. His version of Robbie Williams' "Angels" wasn't quite celestial, but Lopez thought his voice was "smooth as silk."
The producers seem to have instructed the judges to emote more during the performances. During Joshua Ledet's promisingly smooth "You Put Me Through," Tyler twisted his face as if a bee had stung his behind and Lopez shook her head and bared her teeth as if she had accessed certain predatory instincts. Meanwhile, Randy Jackson seemed to be experiencing convulsions brought on by an excess of vodka-laced beef stroganoff.
Ledet has to go through, for he already has a nickname: Mantasia.
"I just don't know what to say," said Lopez. She admitted the aggressive instincts one had suspected, however. "I just want to punch you," she said.
Then the big twist. No, not Melanie Amaro, but one extra singer: Jermaine Jones. The gentle basso profundo was given a second chance to add a little gravity to the show.
The momma's boy offered "Dance with My Father," a song about wanting a second chance. This was oddly affecting, mostly in a good way. But is he good enough to be in the Top 6 of males? It's a peculiar sort of democracy that will decide it.
TOP SIX: Creighton Fraker, Joshua Ledet, Phillip Phillips, Reed Grimm, Jeremy Rosado, Heejun Han