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American Idol, Week 1: The Good, The Bad, and The Tone Deaf
Well, everyone, the second season of "American Idol" has arrived! This time, the promos promise us plenty of good auditions and even more bad ones. Say what you will about truth in advertising, but we weren't let down this week. While there were definitely some Mariah Careys and Stevie Wonders in the crowds, there were just as many (if not more) Mariah Scarys and Stevie Blunders. We knew this wouldn't always be easy to take and would sometimes be painful. Oh hell…who am I kidding? It was easy, painless, and often times downright hysterical…for us who were watching from the comfort of our own homes, that is.
Ryan Seacrest is flying solo and hosting by himself this year. Yes, that's right, folks…someone at FOX heard my pleading and got rid of the albatross otherwise known as the painfully unfunny Brian Dunkleman. Secondly, Kristin Holt has joined the show as a "special correspondent". Now, I'm not sure what that means, exactly, but I think it means that she mills around among the hopefuls, talking to them and trying to seem more important than she really is. At this point, I'd say she's no more vital to the show than that nearly-invisible host of "Joe Millionaire", but I digress. Another change is the inclusion of the new "American Idol Focus Room" where the Idol hopefuls can talk directly to the camera before and/or after their audition. I thought this was a bit of an odd name for the room until I remembered that one of the major sponsors of AI is Ford Motor Company, makers of the FOCUS automobile. :rolleyes
With those formalities out of the way, what say we head on to our first audition city?
New York, NY
Ah, the "Big Apple"…home of Broadway, Radio City Music Hall, and the Juilliard School. Surely, there are all kinds of talent to be found there, right? Well, sure, there's plenty of talent in NYC. We meet Cara and Rhian, identical twin sisters whose harmonies were, according to Randy, "the best I've heard in…well, ever". They are unanimously sent on to Hollywood. We are introduced to Kristin and Janine, two girls with a boyfriend in common (Janine used to date him; Kristin does now). They are both sent through to Hollywood. We see Julia, the hairdresser who is so nervous that she wrote the words to her song on her hand. She didn't need them, though, as she does a great job and gets the thumbs up from the judges. Danny sings "Fly Me to the Moon" á la Frank Sinatra, and he gets the green light. Tirrell presents an interesting dilemma for the judges. They all agree he has a nice voice, but Simon and Randy don't think he has "the look". In the end, he is sent to Hollywood. Then, there's Frenchie. Frenchie didn't have enough money to get to the audition, so her friends raised it for her. She should thank her lucky stars she has friends like those, as she belts out her song to unanimous approval. Frenchie is going to Hollywood.
But, just as there are lots of talented people in the audition room, there are a lot of people who just should not have gotten it in their head to try out for the show. When Simon tells Brad he's "terrible", Brad responds with "Well, at least I live in a country where people brush their teeth twice a day!" Ouch, Brad…what a burn (:rolleyes). I'm sure that had Simon shaking in his shoes. Oh, and Brad…I'm not going to tell you how to live your life, but most dentists recommend you brush your teeth three times a day. Note to self: Don't ask Brad for a dental referral. Outside the audition room, we meet Nathaniel. Now, in an effort to make himself "stand out" from the rest of the contestants, he's decided to rip his jeans all the way up the outside of both legs (And he also tells us that he's wearing a thong. Eeeuww. TMI.). Nate, honey, what might have made you stand out more is if you could actually carry a tune. Anyway, Miss Thing sings, and when all three judges tell him he's terrible, he starts to cop an attitude. When the judges try to talk to him further, he just throws up his hands, says melodramatically "I'm spent!", turns on his heels, and sashays out of the room. Finally, we meet Christopher. Christopher sings "All or Nothing", and I'm immediately having flashbacks of A.J. Gil singing the same song last season (and that is not a place I ever wanted to visit again, thankyouverymuch). Like A.J., Christopher butchers the song, and Simon tells him, "If you sang and made a record, you would kill the record industry. You could very well be the worst singer in New York City." Simon challenges Christopher to find one person—just one person—who is a worse singer than he is, but our boy Christopher is unable to meet the challenge.
In the end, 35 people were chosen from the approximately 9,000 that auditioned in New York City.
The next stop in the search for the next "American Idol" is Miami. Things have got to pick up here, right? Well, it doesn't look like that for a while. But, then we meet Heidi, a 17-year-old whose mother slept out on the boardwalk to keep Heidi's place in line and let Heidi stay in the hotel room. Heidi impresses the judges with both her voice and her look (Simon and Randy both note that she doesn't have the "slutty" look that many female singers do today), and she is sent through to Hollywood. Girl, all I have to say is if you go far in this competition, you owe your mother big-time. We are also introduced to Natalie, a 16-year-old who sings Sarah MacLachlan's "Angel" and is "one of the few people to sing that song and make it interesting", according to Simon. Paula and Randy both remark on the maturity of her voice. Natalie's going on to Hollywood. We also meet Sean, who wants to be "the first successful Asian-American R&B singer". Simon doesn't think R&B is Sean's "thing", but Sean gets the green light anyway.
Like in New York City, there were plenty of people at the Miami tryouts who hopefully have a backup plan should their singing "career" not pan out. Terra is a Mariah Carey fan who even brings a picture of her and Miss Carey to the audition with her (as if that's supposed to earn her points with the judges or something, I guess ). Simon tells her, "The only resemblance you have to Mariah Carey is your hair", and Randy chimes in with, "Call your vocal coach and demand a refund." Then, there's Edgar. Now, Edgar knows he's the next "American Idol". You might be the next "American Psycho" maybe, Edgar, but you're not the next "American Idol". He butchers Enrique Iglesias' "Escape" so badly that Simon tells him, "You're one of the worst singers I've ever heard." Randy adds, "Don't sing anymore…ever." Apparently, Edgar is this season's Stephanie Sugarman, as he leaves the room and tells anyone who will listen, "I'll see you in Hollywood." He even goes so far as to try to audition again, telling the AI2 crew that the judges told him to come back. The crew doesn't buy it, and Edgar is banned from the audition room and escorted from the building by security. Edgar, Edgar, Edgar…what part of "no" don't you understand?
All in all, 20 people are selected out of the approximately 6,000 that auditioned in Miami.
By the time the auditions hit the Lone Star State, people are beginning to wonder if they'll find any good male singers. Sure, they had found a few in Miami and NYC, and they had found plenty of female ones so far. But the testosterone faction was seriously under-represented at this point, and people are beginning to worry. But, then judges (and we) meet Jacob. Jacob could be this year's Justin "The Human Chia Pet" Guarini. His hair isn't as big as Justin's, but it has potential. He's also got the big smile and a voice good enough to send him through to the next round, with Paula saying, "You've got that 'X' factor." We are introduced to Coffey (pronounced Café). While he's auditioning, his wife is at home and is due to give birth that same day. He sings and gets a "yes" from Paula and Randy. That's enough to send him through to the next round, at which point he says, "It was good to have met two of you." Hmph…take that, Simon! Dana shows up at the audition with 27 members of her family in tow. They're everywhere—in the audition room, in the lobby…hell, there were probably some in the parking lot waiting to jump the judges if they didn't pass the "Diva Deluxe" on through to Hollywood. Not to worry, though, as Dana does a good job and is sent on to the next round. Could Kimberly be this year's Ryan Starr? She shows up to the audition wearing a miniskirt and a fringed halter top. She gets the thumbs up from all three judges, and Randy even tells her, "You have the whole package." Hell, with as little as she was wearing, we could all almost see the whole package. Anyway, Kimberly's going to Hollywood.
They say that everything is bigger in Texas, and that applies to the bad as well as the good. Cedric shows up to the audition looking like a pimp in a school-bus-yellow suit and black fedora. He's come on the bus all the way from Kansas City. He's here by himself and doesn't know how he's going to get back (apparently he doesn't have enough money to make the return trip). Unfortunately, he probably should have thought about that before making the trip, as he doesn't impress the judges and is not sent on to Hollywood. Come to think of it, if he doesn't have enough money to get back to Kansas City, how is he going to get to Hollywood? In all seriousness, though, Cedric's honesty after being told he's not moving on is actually touching. Then there's Patsy. Patsy tries to turn her 30-second audition into the Gettysburg Address by singing an already slow song even slower. In one of the funniest moments of the week, the editors emphasize the slowness of her audition by overlaying her vocals with pictures of the seasons changing, the sun going down, and even a baby yawning! Needless to say, Patsy does not make it through to the next round.
When all is said and done, 36 people of the roughly 6,000 that auditioned in Austin are selected.
Los Angeles, CA
The first person we meet in Los Angeles is Equoia, who shows up to the audition on crutches because she was bitten by a spider. In spite of that eerie Michael Jackson connection, Equoia sings well enough to be sent on to Hollywood. James impresses all the judges—with Paula going so far as to say his voice is "pure" (is that better or worse than her infamous "fab-u-lous"?)—and gets the green light to go to Hollywood. Robyn also does well enough to make it to the next round. Now, Robyn doesn't show up with a posse like Dana did in Austin, but she did show up with her mother. It's a good thing for Simon's sake that Robyn passes the audition, because Mama says she would have "pulled out Simon's testicles" if her baby hadn't made it (and thank you ever so much for that visual, Mama ). Carrie sings "God Bless America", and Simon deems her audition "brilliant…one of the best auditions so far." Carrie's on to Hollywood. Alyson is initially told she doesn't make the grade, and she begs and pleads for another chance. Without really waiting for the judges to give her that second chance, she starts singing again, and in a rare occurrence, the judges reverse themselves and send her on to Hollywood. Side note to Alyson: In Hollywood, take the gum out of your mouth before you start your audition. And, for God's sake, don't stick in the pocket of your skirt! J.D. (who is related to two of our former Presidents, he is quick to mention) knocks the socks off all of the judges, with Simon going so far as to say, "Thank you, God. J.D., you are the business."
While James, Carrie, and J.D. are at one end of the spectrum, Daniel is way, way, WAY at the other end. Daniel's song choice is our national anthem. There's certainly nothing wrong with choosing that to be your audition song, Daniel, but for the love of God…KNOW THE WORDS! I mean, come on…it's our national anthem! It's not like it's some obscure Gregorian chant or something! Daniel is so bad that Simon calls him "one of the worst ever." Dino's voice cracks so badly during his audition that he sounds like Peter Brady did on that episode of "The Brady Bunch" when he was going through puberty. Marie, while rivalling Kathie Lee Gifford on the perkiness scale, is so bad that Randy says, "You sound like you're in pain."
Of the nearly 11,000 people that auditioned in Los Angeles, 45 are chosen to continue on to Hollywood.
In Detroit, we meet Kewanna, who shows up to the audition in some kind of one-piece macramé outfit. If you ask me, it looks like she just strung a bunch of plant holders together, but what do I know… Anyway, what Kewanna lacks in fashion sense, she makes up for in vocal talent. She's through to the next round. Candice is a waitress and looks a tiny bit like Kelly Clarkson (IMHO). She sings well enough to get through to the next round, too, with Simon saying "Thank God for you" and Paula commenting on her "nice tone". Michael is one of the few male singers to make it through to Hollywood from the Detroit auditions. My favorite Michael moment is when Kristin asks him who his favorite contestant from the first season is—obviously setting him up to say, "Why you, of course, Kristin!"—and, without hesitation, he said, "Kelly Clarkson." Ouch!
Just like every other city so far, Detroit has its share of the less-than-talented. Antoine ends up basically reciting Aretha Franklin's "Think" rather than singing it. Antoine, you'd better think again about that singing career you want. Teya is so nervous that she throws up in the bathroom before her audition (and did we have to see that? ). As she begins her song, she takes off her jacket. Then comes her sweater. Then her hat. Thank goodness the judges stopped her before she went any further. Though she was upset and started crying in front of the judges, Teya seemed to take their decision well enough in stride. Nicole—a local boxer known as "Lady Tiger"—is knocked out of the audition ring almost as soon as she begins. When Simon tells her that she isn't good enough, she bristly says, "I beg to differ." For a second, I thought I was going to be watching "WWF Smackdown!" on the WB, but Nicole keeps it together and leaves the audition room. We meet Nicole's son, Dominic, and we hear how Nicole has raised him alone since his father died and how everything she does is for him. Nicole, stick to the boxing, hon'. You've got a much better future there.
When all is said and done, 22 people are selected to go to Hollywood from the roughly 6,000 that tried out in Detroit.
Well, folks, the first week of "American Idol 2" is in the can. As the song goes, you take the good, you take the bad, you take them both and there you have…oh wait, that's "The Facts of Life". We've got 2 more cities to go next week (Atlanta and Nashville), and then it's on to Hollywood where the hopefuls will be narrowed down to the 32 finalists who'll get to compete on live television for our votes. Will there be another Kelly Clarkson in this group? It's too early to tell. Let's just hope there's not another TA-MEE-KAH.
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Last edited by lobeck; 01-23-2003 at 11:02 AM.
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