Top Model may already be a handful of eliminations into its current Americans versus Brits season, and while editor Becky Lang and I have been secretly keeping an eye out on the show to make sure Bankable Studios isn’t in the process of covertly trying to reignite the Revolutionary War (now sponsored by Cover Girl!), we can’t in good faith keep mum on the subject any longer when Miss Tyra is out there teaching master classes on the art of the “booty tooch.” And just like that I’m powerless to the charms of an insane woman and the transparent reality television conventions of a show that now has as much to do with the real world of fashion as one of those Barbie Makeover Closet computer games did back in the days of Windows ’98.
Obviously aware of the entertainment goldmine that was last season’s All-Star music video challenge, Tyra has once again asked her aspiring models (that she hasn’t created a word for this concept by this point – probably something like “aspidels” – is absolutely astounding) to make like the best Bravolebrities and record truly terrible dance singles, which unfortunately wasn’t par for course for models in the glory days of Naomi Campbell. Last season’s challenge ended up touching upon an unexpected emotional nerve when Creepychan Allison Harvard looked past being required to shoehorn the phrase “pot ledom” (to quote Lisa D’Amato from last season, “in case you’re not wizards, that’s ‘Top Model’ spelled backwards”) into her composition to write what ended up being a weirdly mesmerizing song about her recently deceased father. Considering this year’s songs were actually co-written by D’Amato, who no doubt won the All-Stars season just to make Tyra look medicated in comparison, and given names like “Stop Drop ’N’ Tooch,” and “We’ll Mash You Up,” any chance of musical subtlety was gone quickly even before Lisa welcomed the girls by calling them all hussies. Lisa’s songwriting partner is also the former drummer for Letters To Cleo, which is something I don’t want to talk about.
Tyra splits the girls into country appropriate girl groups and introduces them to their special mentors, Nadine Coyle of the U.K’s Girls Aloud (only history’s greatest white girl group) and Jessica Sutta of the Pussycat Dolls, the latter of whom Lauren calls “the best mentor you could ever possibly hope for.” No one from Danity Kane makes an appearance, which is sort of sad.
The girls take a trip to the recording studio to record their vocals (which end up resembling Autotuned raps more than actual singing) and while the U.K. girls mostly impress by utilizing their cocksure accents Lily Allen-style for maximum attitude, the Yank girls end up with largely flat performances, save for Lauren who jumps at the chance to turn her rap into a phone sex hotline audition in case the whole modeling thing doesn’t work out. Androgynous Azmarie draws ire from the U.K. girls for her quirky delivery style, which surprisingly never gets called out as the lame Nicki Minaj impression that it is, instead sounding more like Amber Rose recovering from a nasty scalp burn. Scared doe Kyle is even worse, but I’d be lying if I said her utterly soulless “Hi! I’m Kyle! I smile for miles” line didn’t make me laugh out loud all 100 times it was played.
What follows is maybe one of the most gloriously outrageous segments in Top Model history, and that’s including the mini movie inspired by Tyra’s ModelLand book series that the contestants were forced into making last season right after they posed in kiddie pools full of Greek salad ingredients. Marching in proudly in a sleeved yellow shrug and workout pants emblazoned with the words “booty tooch” on the ass, Tyra greets the girls in a dance studio to teach a class on “the art of the booty tooch” which includes lessons on how not to break any of the cardinal sins of toochin’ (including the dreaded “hoochie tooch,” “pookie tooch,” and the “dookie tooch) and tips on how to live your best tooch or something. Azmarie, apparently feeling secure following her repeat best photos of the week, balks at Tyra’s requirement for the ladies to wear synthetic butts for their lessons fearing that it will spoil her androgynous image, stating “I’m a grown ass woman. I don’t have time for this shit.” Normally she’d be right, but considering the show has been on for 18 batshit seasons already, participants should probably just prepare to convince themselves that posing in NBA mascot costumes is fashion by this point. Azmarie’s pride gets her removed from Tyra’s seminar (I’m calling it a seminar), which is a real shame because she doesn’t get to join in with the others when Tyra leads the girls in a spirited Stomp The Yard style chant of “We don’t want no dookie tooch!” while pretending to sit on a toilet.
On the actual video set, which looks like some nightmarish version of a Wong Kar Wai film via Epcot Center, things are relatively calm minus Kyle’s sexless ineptitude and Laura’s growing animosity towards her following an incident involving a stuffed animal, a pool, and the memory of a dead friend. It doesn’t make much sense and Laura jumps at the chance to make it explicitly clear that the teddy bear is a metaphor for the connection between her and her deceased friend, which at least means she paid attention in 10th grade English class.
At panel, Tyra scares the shit out of me by revealing she’s actually self-aware of her psychosis (I mean, I always knew this, but it’s entirely jarring to hear her say it aloud) by suggesting that the music videos are supposed to be like something out of a cartoon. Fashion P.R. maven Kelly Cutrone is on absolute fire for the entire night, praising Lauren’s baby Ke$ha theatrics by calling her a “Silver Lake Lower East Side Ratta Tat Tat Rapper Dance Girl” and blasting Eboni for not pulling on her pigtails hard enough and for not doing a “robot girly baby dance,” which is direction that is abundantly clear.
The U.K. girls handily walk away with the win (and the first four photos) by producing a video that Tyra gleefully compliments by saying “I felt like I was watching a real music video!” Ahhh, more self-awareness! At one point Kelly says Sophie’s performance is what Edie Sedgwick would want to resemble today, which is essentially a suggestion for Sophie to die young. It’s Alisha and her magical gams that get first photo, while Azmarie and Kyle predictably end up in the bottom two. What’s not so predictable is that Azmarie actually gets the boot, a decision that’s a tad surprising considering the majority of her edit this week made it seem like it was merely serving as the narrative hiccup that all eventual winners must face to create even the tiniest modicum of suspense when they’re in the final 3 at the cycle’s end.
Tyra’s lame decision leaves Team USA (or shall I say the “United Sirens of America,” as their band name previously heralded. Brits, don’t laugh. The best you could come up with was “Fiercely British”) with some pretty lame competitors. No lesbian winner this year, unless you’re counting Lauren’s supposed Katy Perry-style drunk girl bisexuality, which I refuse to. So much for progress, Banks!
–Marcus Michalik still can’t believe Tyra didn’t bring up “Shake Ya Body” once the whole hour.