Well here it is, guys and gals. It's the moment we have all been waiting for...it is time for American Idol 3! Yes, that's right. The search is on again to find the next Kelly Clarkson or Ruben Studdard, and tonight is the first of the "audition shows". Tonight's show opens with everyone's favorite host, Ryan Seacrest. Oh, come on…admit it…the show is better without Brian <s>Dorkleman</s> Dunkleman. Ryan still wears the funky clothes and is still sporting that highlighted, spiky 'do. Ah, the more things change, the more they stay the same. Anyway, Ryan is standing in the middle of a huge crowd of people in a football stadium (the Rose Bowl, perhaps?). He says, "This is going to be huge. American Idol 3 starts NOW!" Cue the intro! Yes, it's that theme song we all know and love, but there are no background vocals this time. It took me a minute to realize that something was different about the intro this year, and that's what it is.
Anyway, we come back from the intro music, and Ryan reminds us (with the help of a video clip) that it was not all that long ago that Ruben Studdard and Clay Aiken were battling it out for the AI title last season. We all know how close that competition was…will this year's version be as close? After the Ruben/Clay video clip we have brief chats with each of the judges (yes, they are all back) where they tell us what they're looking for this time around. Simon even goes so far as to say that since they have told the hopefuls to "raise the bar", they (the judges) have to "raise the bar" as well. He even says that some of the people who were good enough for AI1 or AI2 may not be good enough for AI3. Hmm…I wonder if he had anyone in particular in mind when he said that. Ryan tells us that the audition "tour" will visit six cities this year: New York City, Atlanta, Houston, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Honolulu. The first stop on the tour, and the focus of tonight's show, is New York City.
We come back from a commercial break, and Ryan tells us that over 12,000 people auditioned in New York City. It may be "The City That Never Sleeps", but is it also "The City That Can Sing"? Well, obviously, not everyone can make it through to Hollywood, and we are shown some rather disappointed people as they leave the Waldorf Hotel. My personal favorite was the girl who said, when talking about Simon, "He can shove his crumpets up his a**!" Don't hold back, sugah…tell us how you really feel, OK?
It is time to see some actual auditions, and first up for us is Martha Krabill. Martha is 19 years old and is in the Army. As if to emphasize that point, Martha arrives for her audition in full uniform. For a minute, I have flashbacks to Lill Morris from Survivor: Pearl Islands, but I quickly recover (thank goodness *shudder*). Anyway, Martha enters the audition room, and Simon tries to embarrass Randy by telling Martha that Randy said just the night before that his fantasy was to have a girl in uniform walk through that door. Oh, puhleeze. Randy says it is not true, and we have to sit through some silly back-and-forth banter between Simon and Randy before we can hear Martha sing. Martha finally does get her chance to sing, and she performs "Dancin' In The Streets". I think her voice is good, and I would have voted her through to Hollywood if I were one of the judges. However, I am not one of the judges, and the three of them thank Martha but tell her that she's "just not right" for the show (even though Simon calls her "absolutely adorable"). Martha takes the rejection well and then goes off to phone her boyfriend/husband/significant other with the news, including the bit about Randy's "fantasy". I can just imagine the person on the other end of the phone rolling their eyes as they hear about this from Martha.
Continuing the military theme, we next hear from Paul An. He marches in (à la Josh Gracin last season) and then launches a soliloquy full of "military speak" that I just do not understand. The judges do not seem to get it either, as they all have a look on their faces that says, "Ohhhhhhhhhhhhkay". Anyway, Paul informs the judges that he can perform anything, and Randy tells him to go for it. Well, apparently Paul was not lying when he said he could perform anything, because for his audition, he has chosen to perform some Japanese rap. Yes, you read that correctly…Japanese rap. At least, I think that's what it is. It may have been that Paul had a bad stuttering problem and just never got going and tried to cover it up by turning into a human beat box. I don't know. Needless to say, Paul does not advance to Hollywood.
We come back from another break, and it is time to hear from some of the international contingent that has shown up at the Waldorf to audition. First up is Roland Maxharj, who is originally from Kosovo. Roland looks like an anorexic Tiny Tim and has chosen to sing Elton John's hit "Don't Let The Sun Go Down On Me" for his audition. He starts off, and Randy and Simon do not even try to hide their opinion of Roland's performance; they laugh hysterically throughout the whole thing. When Roland is done, Simon tells him, "You couldn't have even made it on Kosovo Idol." Ouch. Roland does not make it through to the next round, and he tells Ryan out in the lobby that, after that audition, he thinks he will focus on his other love: acting. After seeing Roland on TV, I suddenly imagine a whole throng of acting teachers rushing to change their phone numbers so that they will not be able to help Roland in his quest.
The next person we see perform is Carmen Varjabedian. Now, Carmen looks cute enough, and she tells the judges that she finished in the top seven in a competition similar to American Idol…on the island of Cyprus. She tells the judges that she'll be singing Cher's hit "Strong Enough", and she lets out a voice that is deep enough that would make Barry White take notice. However, there is something about her performance that sounds strangely like Cher. Unfortunately, "Strong Enough" is not good enough, and Carmen does not get through to the next round. I guess the judges learned from last year and did not want another relatively talentless Carmen to go on to Hollywood.
Up next is Leah Vladowski, a 16-year-old girl originally from Bulgaria. Leah tells the judges that her parents were singers in their native country, and they decided not to return home after being allowed to go out on tour one time. Leah sings the Whitney Houston song "I Believe In You And Me", and she sounds great. The judges agree, as they all vote "yes" to send her on to the next round. Leah is on her way to Hollywood.
We come back from a commercial break, and we meet brothers Jesus and Noel Roman. Ryan tells us via voiceover that Jesus and Noel have just been reunited after six years apart (due to "family troubles"), and they have decided to embark on the road to Idol-hood with each other. They go in to audition together, and Jesus goes first. He sings "In The Still Of The Night", and I think he should definitely advance. I do not know the name of the song Noel sings, but he does a very good job as well (though, IMHO, not quite as good as Jesus). The judges are impressed by both of them, though, and Simon says, "I think this is the first time we've ever said this…you're both going to Hollywood!" Jesus and Noel are thrilled, and so am I. I think they both deserve to advance.
Do any of you remember Cara and Rhian from last season? They were the identical twin sisters with amazing harmonies who sang Alicia Keys' "Fallin'" for their audition. Well, we have another set of identical twin sisters this time around in Katrina and Edwina Rosado. Hmmm…they are identical twins like Cara and Rhian. Could their harmonies be just as good? Well, they could be, but they are not. In fact, they are far from it. They sing "Ain't No Mountain High Enough", and I only wish there was a mountain high enough that I could climb so I would not have to hear their screeching. It goes without saying that Katrina and Edwina do not advance to Hollywood. In fact, Randy even tells them, "You need a lobotomy if you think those harmonies are good." Yowsah! It looks like Randy may have taken some lessons from the Simon Cowell School of Critiquing.
The fun continues with Rasheedah McDaniel, the next performer we see at the NYC auditions. Rasheedah has chosen to sing "You're The One That I Want", and, while I may be the one she wants, I can assure you that she is not the one that [/i]I[/i] want. Rasheedah tries to sell the performance, but she really does not have anything to sell. The performance is atrocious. When she is done, Simon tells her, "The only decent thing about that performance was the end." Rasheedah disagrees, and Simon makes a bet with her. He tells her that he'll bet her cash (we never find out how much) that if she were to go into a bar or restaurant and start singing that at least half of the crowd would leave within five minutes. Rasheedah takes him up on the bet, and we see Ryan escorting her to a nearby bar. Ryan explains why they are there, and Rasheedah launches into her song. As expected, most of the patrons make a quick exit.
After another commercial, it is time to hear from Michael Keown. We learn that Michael has sung for the Pope as well as twice for former President Clinton and his wife. OK, I'm sufficiently impressed. Michael informs the judges that he has chosen to sing "Unchained Melody". Uh oh. This is one of Simon's all-time favorite songs. Michael had better be pretty damn good if he wants to make it through to Hollywood. Michael starts to sing, and I have to say that he is pretty damn good. In fact, when he is done, Simon calls the performance, "One of the best versions I've ever heard". Wow…I am impressed. Simon didn't even heap that kind of praise on Clay Aiken when he sang the song last season.
After Michael, it is time for us to hear from Jacqueline Roman. Jacqueline has chosen to sing "Route 66" for her audition. Hmm…interesting choice. What is even more interesting than the song choice is Jacqueline's interpretation of the song itself. In fact, "interesting" is not quite the right word. "Frightening" is probably a better descriptor. I think Jacqueline was trying to do some improvisation "scat" singing (in fact, Randy calls her "Scatgirl" when she's done. Either that, or he was just telling her, "Scat, girl!"), but she is definitely no Ella Fitzgerald. She is not even Stinky Fitzgerald from my fourth grade music class. I cannot even make out a single word until she is almost done with her performance, and, even then, I am only able to pick out words here and there. The judges are not kind to her, and Jacqueline looks upset. She starts off, "Well, with God on my side…", but, before she can tell us about Tara or how she will never go hungry again, Simon interrupts her with, "Well, he took the day off today." Ouch! If Simon is like this during the auditions, I can only wonder what he will be like later on in the season.
After yet another commercial break, we meet Colin Leahy. Now, Colin tells us, "I'm like Clay" because he, too, is a camp counselor. Could he possibly have just as amazing a voice as Clay? Well, he could. However, I am here to tell you that he is definitely no Clay Aiken. He's not even Clay Jordan from Survivor: Thailand. When Randy asks him what he is going to sing, Colin says, "I'm going to sing 'One Step Closer' by The American Juniors." Oh, for the love of God. Of all the songs in the world he could have chosen, he chose a song by The American Juniors? Now, I will have to be honest here. I have never heard the AJ's version of "One Step Closer", but I feel safe in saying that it sounds nothing like Colin's rendition. Paula took the words right out of my mouth when she told him, "That whole song was one note". In case there's any doubt, Colin does not advance to the next round of the competition.
Next up is John Stevens IV. Now, John is an interesting AI hopeful. He looks like a miniature Conan O'Brien, and he starts his audition doing his best Dean Martin impersonation (and, I have to say, it is a pretty good one). Simon tells him that they cannot let a person who does impressions through and asks him to sing in his "regular" voice. John obliges and sings "The Way You Look Tonight". The judges are all impressed and unanimously send him on to Hollywood.
We see a montage of people who include dancing as part of their audition, and we are then treated to clips of various contestants who brought along props (everything from a little stuffed horse to batons) to their auditions. What is that song from Gypsy…"You Gotta Get A Gimmick"? Well, these folks certainly had gimmicks, but it didn't seem to help any of them make it through to the next round.
The final person to audition on tonight's show is Nicole Tieri. Originally from Grand Rapids, MI, Nicole is now living in Manhattan and is attending New York University. She tells us that exactly one year ago, she was on a plane to a center in Arizona to receive treatment for anorexia nervosa. She completed treatment and moved in with a family in Grand Rapids who taught her "that it's OK to be yourself" and that you can be loved just for who you are. Nicknamed "Scootergirl" because she travels everywhere (well, at least everywhere at the audition) by means of a scooter (complete with a pink straw basket, thankyouverymuch), Nicole certainly has an engaging personality. However, does she have a voice to match? She sings a song she wrote about her scooter (really, she does), and when the judges don't immediately warm to that performance, she tells them that the scooter was just a gimmick to get her into the audition and that she can sing something else to really showcase her voice if the judges would like. They indicate that they would, and she sings a portion of Celine Dion's "The Power Of Love". Randy is still not impressed and votes "no". Paula and Simon both are impressed, however, and they both vote "yes". It is a split decision, but Nicole is on her way to Hollywood. However, she cannot bring her scooter with her, so she and Ryan head out onto the street to find some caring soul to whom they can give the scooter. They finally settle on a man who is probably one of the most unlikely people you would ever see on a scooter, but he agrees to take it off their hands. After a jokingly tearful goodbye hug, Nicole parts with her dear scooter and sets her sights on Hollywood.
Well, that's it for the New York City auditions. Out of the over 12,000 people that auditioned, 30 were selected to advance to Hollywood. The next stop on the American Idol 3 Audition Tour? Why, it is Atlanta, Georgia. Yes, that is where we first met Tamyra Gray and Clay Aiken. Of course, it is also where we met the infamous Keith last season. What will the city have in store for us this time? Tune in Tuesday night to find out!
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