Pop Life: American Dreamer

American Idol has been through a lot of trials and tribulations this season, but one thing will never change: Paula sure does like this show, doesn't she? You can't kill her enthusiasm, even when everybody else is getting that shellshocked despair in their eyes. Paula makes Idol soothing to watch — if the "Forever Your Girl" kid can put herself through this punishment, week after pitchy week, who are the rest of us to bail? For me, the most touching moment this season came when Carly Smithson sang "Total Eclipse of the Heart," driving Randy to the edge of existential rage — the poor guy looked like he was about to bang his head on the judges' table, Don Music-style, wondering how he can keep putting up with all the ridiculous vocal atrocities on this ridiculous show. It was scary to see him muttering to himself, "It wasn't in tune!" But it took Paula to talk him down off the ledge ("I don't know how you can say that!"). This season would definitely be scary without her.

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