Paula Abdul thinks one song is two on Idol’s “chaotic” Neil Diamond night

Paula Abdul has been super well-behaved this season, and everything seems, well, balanced. She’s had her moments, like when she said she was going to decapitate David Archuleta, but mostly she’s been rather demure. While she didn’t exactly flip out last night during American Idol 7‘s unnecessarily frenetic performance episode, she did have the evening’s strangest moment, as she heard two songs when everyone else heard just one.

The final five performed two songs each, but the judges didn’t comment after their first songs. Instead, Ryan Seacrest brought the finalists on stage at the end of the first round, before the finalists performed their second songs, and asked the judges to give brief reactions to the first five performances. (Ultimately, the judges were only really impressed by David Cook, who needs to do a better job shaving/waxing his chest–or just stop–because he’s being filmed in high definition.)

When it was Paula’s turn to offer her feedback on their first songs, she proved to be incapable of being brief, babbling about Jason Castro: “Jason, first song, I loved hearing…” and “the second song, I felt like….” Then she said, “The two songs made me feel like you’re not fighting hard enough to get into the top four.” Members of the studio audience were audibly giggling and snickering at that point–because he’d only performed one song.

“Oh my god, I thought you sang twice,” Paula said. How exactly do you confuse one song with two? Besides the obvious answer, that Paula is out of her mind, she may also be thinking about the rehearsals, which she often references in her remarks. That may actually explain why last week she took about a minute to respond to Brooke’s start/stop/start moment, as having to critique something she hadn’t already seen threw her off. Maybe Paula has been judging the rehearsal performances all these years!

Because the format felt really weird, another possibility, albeit a really remote one, was that the show had been pre-taped, with the contestants performing their songs back-to-back and the judges pretending as though they hadn’t just watched both songs when offering their first, collective round of commentary. But that seems way too far-fetched, and I doubt the audience or anyone else would have reacted like they did.

Ryan Seacrest responded to Paula and said, “just once. You’re seeing the future, baby.” Paula said, “You know what? This is hard.” She actually had some support there, as Simon Cowell later said, “By the way, this is the officially the strangest show we’ve ever done. But I like that, I don’t know. It’s kind of a bit chaotic tonight.”

Whoever thought this show’s format was a good idea was probably the same person who thought Neil Diamond night was a good idea. Seriously, are they intentionally trying to torpedo the contestants’ ability to sell records? Neil Diamond might be a prolific songwriter, but listening to his music was like a flashback to the 1980s. Maybe that was Paula Abdul’s problem: she lost track of the decade.

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about the writer

Andy Dehnart is a journalist who has covered reality television for more than 15 years and created reality blurred in 2000. A member of the Television Critics Association, his writing and criticism about television, culture, and media has appeared on NPR and in Playboy, Buzzfeed, and many other publications. Andy, 36, also directs the journalism program at Stetson University in Florida, where he teaches creative nonfiction and journalism. He has an M.F.A. in nonfiction writing and literature from Bennington College. More about reality blurred and Andy.