During the Season 10 auditions for American Idol, I fell in love. It was a special kind of love. Not the kind of love worth singing or crying about. It wasn’t homo or hetero - it wasn’t sexual at all. It was a different breed of love. Not like “I Will Always Love You” love or even “The Greatest Love of All” love (that would be inside of me). It was more akin to the love one feels for a child or a puppy. A proud, nurturing love. A caretaker’s love. A father’s love. I loved a boy, an Angelboy as a matter of fact. His name was Jacee Badeaux. He was 15, from Lafayette, Louisiana.
For his audition, Angelboy sang Otis Redding’s “Sittin’ on the Dock of the Bay.” His voice, so pure and pristine, rang like heaven’s handbells on christmas morning. His fat little cheeks pinched his eyes puffy and his tousled hair was what happens when Mom tries the Bieber Cut at home. He breathed much too heavy for a 15 year old, but then again, all that soul don’t come easy. Angelboy.
Oh Angelboy. He was a shoo in for Hollywood Week, but it was only a matter of time before the darkness would corrupt him there.
A few episodes after Angelboy, another young singer was showcased. Scotty, a gangly country bumpkin, 16 years old, from Garner, North Carolina. He described himself as an All-American Kid, singing since before the age of one, retelling his doctor’s tale about coming out of the womb humming “Bye, Baby Bunting.” It was apocryphal. He played baseball and had smirk lines tattooed on his face.
His voice was deep, in tone only. He sang Josh Turner’s “Your Man.” Admittedly, it was the right choice of song. It showcased his style: overtly hick with a tinge of rapist, and he got to do his George Strait head bobs at the end of every phrase. Scotty made it through to Hollywood and oh yes, he went on to win Season 10 of American Idol.
As far as reality TV competitions go, Idol’s Hollywood Week is right up there with eating a donkey shit covered cockroach while amazing racing through Sri Lanka with a Kardashian sister and 8 kids. It breaks people. And the absolute nadir of human existence is broadcast on network TV as the hotel lobby at 4 AM during the Group Stage of Hollywood Week. Nineteen year old demi-divas with their weaves a mess and voices hoarse, singing motown, acapella, while the white girl struggles with leaning right on the “1 and 3 and 1 and 3 and” choreography.
It is in this world where our two contestants meet. Angelboy, the beloved, so pure and so rare, joins a group called the Guaps. As they begin to assemble, we hear the faint echoes of carnage in the background. It soon becomes an incessant 3 second stream of noise: “baby lock them doors and turn the lights down low… baby lock them doors and turn the lights down low… baby lock them doors and turn the lights down low…” It’s Scotty. He’s singing the opening line of the Josh Turner song, on repeat. Robotically. Like some kind of twisted singing cowboy machine used to tell redneck fortunes in Alabama. Scotty couldn’t find a group and was now whoring himself to anyone who’d listen. He finds his way to the Guaps, gazes off into nothing and shows em what he can do, “baby lock them doors and turn the lights down low…” It is Angelboy, the merciful, inviting him to join their ranks. Angelboy the Merciful.
There they stood, side by side, until Sabatoge! The Guaps have mysteriously decided to reduce their quintet by one. Such a sudden change. Why? What demonry of black magic and destruction, Mcreery? Scotty Saboteur! Saboteur! I hiss at the screen. Young Angelboy is asked to leave the group. Abandoned by the ones he came to save. The cold shoulder from some unimportant dipshit named Clint with obnoxious white glasses. Angelboy’s beauty replaced by a rival who looks like the slow-witted younger brother of the MAD magazine coverboy. It is hard to watch. Hard to fathom. Angelboy is fighting back tears, but pain comes so flush in the face of one so pure.
“It’s ok. Y’all have fun, ok? It’s ok. It’s ok,” Angelboy says to the ones who spurn him. He means it. His kindness knows not irony. He walks idly through the lobby. Lost and bewildered. And then he begins to weep.
What happens after this no longer matters to me. What’s lost is lost forever.
Angelboy, 15, from Lafayette, Louisiana has learned of betrayal. Pain. Pain of the heart. Is this who we are now? A group of savages ripping apart the innocent boy? All for what? For Hollywood Week? For sport? For making it through to the Top 13 and holding the microphone like some god damned one-handed piccolo while you awkwardly bobblehead your way through ruining another country classic? How fitting you’ve become the American Idol, Scotty Mcreery. Savage. This is who we are now - savages. And for that, I will never forgive you.
I still think of him often, Angelboy. Our Angelboy, 15, from Lafayette, Louisiana. I’m reminded of him when I see betrayal. I’m reminded when I see kindness. I’m reminded whenever I see a fat white kid with maple colored hair. And every time I witness pain of the heart, I think of him, how purity is lost, not at the hands of time, but by the cruelty of others. All it takes is a little singing competition.