Hey! Welcome, The One Watchers, all 4 of you, to what promises to be a fabulous show. Fabulous, in the “not actually that great” sense of the word, obviously. For weeks ABC has attempted to work the buzz about this show into a fever pitch by keeping these contestants snugly under wraps, and I for one am ready to dig in and see what we’re working with for the season. Let’s get started!
This Ain’t Your Mama’s Idol. It’s Your Grandma’s.
Our host is George Stroumboulopolous (no kidding, that’s really his name), and I instantly despise him for all of his superfluous “u’s.” Because my sanity demands it, I shall dub him George Jones. After a brief montage of the still unnamed contestants saying shiny, happy optimistic things, George brings them out, and they launch into a bright-eyed, bushy-tailed performance of Foreigner’s “Feels Like The First Time.” There’s a whole lot of posturing going on, and everyone is trying to show off and make a stronger impression than the rest. Still it only takes a few bars for me to figure out that we’re dealing with a pretty mediocre group. There is no Elliott Yamin here. But, probably in an effort to block the specter of AI that hovers over every aspect of this show, a number of these kids are playing instruments, practically screaming, “I’m a musician! Honor my credibility!” We’ll see how far the musical chops take them later. (Hint: It’s not very far.)
After the pretty mild group-sing, George introduces us to the judges. First, we meet Mark Hudson, apparently a legendary writer or something. I didn’t catch all of his bio, because I was too distracted by his green eye shadow, green shades, green velvet suit, and tri-colored beard. I don’t quite yet know what to make of him, but I do know I’m staying far away from his Lucky Charms. Next is music mogul Andre Harrell, the man who ran Motown into the ground in the mid 90s, and who also gave the world P. Diddy. Two sins for which I will never forgive him. And filling the Paula role, we have Kara DioGuardia, a reputed songwriter and producer that I have never heard of, but I’m sure she’s got at least as much cred as Pauler. The judges do their banter thing, being super nice and sanguine and bland, and just before my eyes permanently glaze over, George announces that it’s time to get the singing started! Cool. Maybe we’ll finally learn some names.
Wait, What Do You Mean This Show Is Two Hours?
It already feels like the show is moving at a glacial pace, but it’s not slow enough, because of course, we’ll also be treated to introductory vignettes of all the contestants. Yeah, filler! Score! First up is Jackie Mendez from Miami, FL. In case you can’t tell, she’s Cuban and she really likes it. In her vid she says she really wants her music to be a fusion of the music she grew up with – Cuban classics and Madonna hits. I don’t quite know how to tell her this, but we already have Gloria Estefan, and she is still quite fabulous (in the “yeah, she’s really awesome” sense of the word, obviously). Jackie may need to come up with a new game plan. However, she struts out quite confidently, doing an appropriately spicy version of Donna Summer’s “Hot Stuff” in a this tiny black dress and very tall heels. Her voice is pretty dull, her moves are pretty lame, and I am pretty unimpressed with the whole. The judges however, are all over her. Andre says Jackie was spectacular, like a Cuban dessert (so. . .she’s flan?), Mark says she was so hot she almost changed the color of his beard, and Kara says she loved the energy, and felt Jackie nailed the song’s ending. I on the other hand think she sawed the ending to pieces, but I admittedly don’t know that much about manual labor.
Next up, we get a little taste of what life is like at The One Academy, and as it turns out, the academy is pretty much just a big old studio. So the name “Academy” is probably just ABC’s idea of a clever metaphor. Because you know an academy prepares us regular folks for life, and the studio . . . does the same for musicians, right? Or maybe I’m digging too deep and ABC was just being pretentious. I don’t know. At any rate, all the kiddies are thrilled to see the excellent musical equipment at their disposal. ‘Cause they’re real musicians! Remember that! Recognize!
That little slice of airtime swallowing heaven over, George next introduces us all to Jeremiah Richey, of Waxahachie, TX. Say that 5 times fast and you are my friend for life. In his confessional Jeremiah admits that he doesn’t quite know who he is musically, but wants this show to help him. He describes himself as “a smorgasbord of different [musical!] stuff.” Oh yeah, I’m hungry for your genius, Jerry. Give it up. He’s chosen to perform Foreigner’s “Waiting For A Girl Like You,” all duded up in indie-type threads, including a coy fedora and extra-wide tie. His singing, however, is not so stylish; between the nasally twang of his voice and the shallowness of half his notes, I’m thinking there was maybe 20 seconds of good in the entire thing. But again, the judges disagree. Kara calls Jeremiah’s performance honest (-ly awful?), and Andre says he was shaky at first, but came shining through by the end. Must’ve been after I tuned out.
Nope. Not Even Halfway There.
After a break, we meet Jadyn Maria (pronounced with an ee-yah), from Nashville, who says she wants to be the next Mariah (pronounced with an i-yah). And sure enough we’ve got a shot of her backstage, preening while stylists hover near, spraying and fluffing her hair and adjusting her clothes. So she’s got the diva bit down, but does she have the pipes? I’m thinking no, but I’m a cynic that way. Jadyn’s chosen to sing the Supremes hit “You Keep Me Hangin’ On,” but disco style! She comes out in her 54-ready short shorts and shiny shirt, and proceeds to trill and flourish her way through the song. Mark is unimpressed though, chiding Jadyn for wimping out on the glory notes that are her birthright. And I get that much more evidence that cynicism is a completely viable and practical life philosophy.
Syesha Mercado of Sarasota, FL is our next hopeful, and she loves her some church. She says her faith will carry her through, and Andre must agree because he says God is coming through Syesha when she sings. Cut to Sy potentially shattering all the glass within her sight by belting out a super high note, just cause she felt like it. If that doesn’t say awesome power, I don’t know what does. She’s chosen to sing the Aretha standard “Chain Of Fools,” all decked out in a retro striped dress and a ‘fro to rival Sly and everybody else in the Family Stone. Her performance is not bad, but it’s nothing to write home about, or come to think of it, write a recap about. The judges criticize her for being too theatrical, and say she needs to get in touch with her soul. Did they not see the ‘fro?
Now we get video of some guy who’s up next (So I don’t know the names. Neither do you. And you don’t care! Admit it!). We see him smoking, drinking up a storm, horsing around the pool, and staying up all hours. Then, we see Andre chastising him, claiming that he can’t do the drinking thing, and Mark saying he can’t do the smoking thing, and the wild life has got to stop if he wants to make it in the business. A dirty pack of lies, says I! And says anyone else who’s ever seen . . . well, dude, like every pop and rock musician ever. But, nobody ever said reality TV was about reality.
After commercials we learn that No Name Guy is actually Winston-Salem native Michael Cole. And if the heavy drinking and chain-smoking didn’t convince you that he’s all about the RAWK, perhaps the seven ties wrapped around his head will do the trick. Perhaps not, though. Striking a Jagger-esque pose in the middle of the stage, Michael starts wailing Mitch Ryder’s classic “Devil With A Blue Dress On,” apparently taking every opportunity he can get to convince me of his overall suckage. His tone is thin and flat, and the “intensity” screams he tosses in every downbeat or so are definitely not whipping me into the proper hip-shaking frenzy that this song should inspire. But the audience seems muy impressed by Michael’s rough hewn notes, and all the girlies scream whenever he lets out a mighty rawker holler and reaches into the crowd. The judges approve; Mark thinks Michael’s just proven himself the Good Bad Boy, and I’m sure he means that as a compliment.
Crap, I’m Blind! Oh, No - Just My Eyes Glazing Over Again.
At first glance, the eyeliner and the just-trendy-enough-in-2004 haircut might make you think Memphis’ own Austin Carroll is some kind of edgy emo boy, but he immediately bucks that impression by singing The Band’s folksy rock classic “The Weight” and accompanying himself on the piano. Austin’s got a pleasant enough voice in this mellow state, and when the band joins him at the chorus, his tone is even richer as he ups his volume. Austin’s definitely the best I’ve seen so far in this competition. Which, okay, isn’t exactly the same as winning the Tour de France, but it’s something. The judges love him. Andre especially; he says he doesn’t know who Annie is (at which statement I scream, “It’s Fanny, you soulless hack!” but that’s neither her nor there), but he likes Austin because Austin has a great connection, which is what great art is about. Austin looks pleased as punch, and I have the smallest urge to give him a little pat on the back for a job well done.
George then introduces us to Aubrey Collins from Littleton, CO, who says her biggest influences are Pat Benatar and Metallica. So, I’m thinking she overslept the day Rock Star was scouting for talent. That, or she was too crappy to make that cut. Anyway, she’s here at The One now, undoubtedly making my life much richer. Aubrey’s chosen to sing Steppenwolf’s rebel anthem “Born To Be Wild.” Looking very much the rock chick, complete with distressed knit top, hipster cap, black liner, and legs-akimbo-guitar-strumming posture, Aubrey churns out her very congenial version. Politely disobedient, I call it. Andre didn’t buy it either, but Mark thought she rocked. And he should know, because his beard is blue and purple and green and that carries all kinds of authority in the rock world. I’m assuming.
We are now treated to another slice of life vignette, all about luuurrve. Aubrey and fellow contestant Nick have become sweet sweety sweethearts, all in a week. They flirt and wrestle and such, and improvise a little ditty that’s full of unresolved sexual tension. Whoo! Hot enough to make me take off the light jacket I’d put on when I felt a chill this morning. I have on long sleeves though, so I should still be okay.
It’s Nick’s turn to tell us all about himself, and he makes no bones about being a wild and crazy guy, all about having a good time. Kara immediately slams him for not taking this competition seriously. In principle I’d like to join her, but I really can’t blame the guy for that. Nick’s decided to sing Marvin Gaye’s “Let’s Get It On,” and for the life of me I can not understand why, as he proceeds to dry up every single drop of soulfulness and sexiness in the song, all while murdering the rhythm and melody. Nick is so bad that I want to smack him with his own guitar. And this violent impulse shocks me, because I’ve sworn that I would NEVER hurt a guitar. But the boy is plumb awful. The judges lay into him, and Andre complains that Nick never once had the groove or the sexy. And that’s the first really honest thing any of the judges have said all night.
Fess Up Now, Who Took The Groove?
Let's meet Scott Granger. He’s a hometown boy from New Orleans, and he feels that the sorrow and pain of his experiences during Hurricane Katrina will turn him into a better musician. The back story worked on me, because I already like this kid. Looking like a preacher’s son in his daddy’s suit, Scott busts out the Temptations classic “Ain’t Too Proud To Beg.” Now, I don’t like nobody messing with my David Ruffin, but Scott does quite all right with the song, even hitting some gorgeous falsetto notes here and there. He also exhibits some of Mr. Ruffin’s legendary energy on stage, jumping, spinning, and in general getting down with his bad self all over the place. The judges completely enjoy Scotty, Andre comparing him to Jackie Wilson, and Kara commenting that he had great feeling in all of his licks. (<----- Sounds dirtier than she means, I’m sure.)
Seattle’s Caitlin Evanson is a fiddler. Get your minds right; she really plays the fiddle for various country artists. She also confesses to a problem with alcoholism, which leads to a touching “I’m OK, You’re OK” moment with Mark. Caitlin says she drank because she felt isolated and is hoping that the community she’s found with the other contestants will be helpful to her. She strides on to the stage fiddle in tow, fingers flying, and getting everybody in a foot-stomping hoe-down mood before launching into . . . Robert Palmer’s “Addicted To Love”? An odd choice for a country girl, but I must say the fiddle fits in fantastically. Well, all right, I really only said that because I love alliteration, but the fiddling does add a certain brassy sassiness to the song that I appreciate. And her voice is pretty decent as well. I want Caitlin and her fiddle to stick around. Because I think she’s got skills, but mainly because I want to keep saying “fiddle” all season. Why yes, I do have the mind of a 6 year old. The judges agree with me anyway – Andre says he loves Caitlin’s “raspy rock country soul.” Kara says she loved the fiddle. Heh. Me too, girl!
Last up (Oh, wow. I can even see the light at the end of the tunnel!) is Adam McInnis from Jackson, NJ. A self-taught singer, pianist, and guitarist, Adam says that a couple years ago he was tone deaf. Yeah, not the best way to introduce yourself on the music show, buddy. Singing “American Woman” by The Guess Who, Adam begins by mellowing the tune out, slowing the tempo and singing very softly, accompanying himself with a muted guitar. He peppers his phrases with all kinds of grimaces and sighs designed to let the audience totally feel his intensity and passion. He must’ve had a hint and a half that this wouldn’t fly, because the band joins him a few bars in, bringing the rock! with them. Adam hops up and proceeds to rock our socks off, figuratively, with his thin, plain voice and awkward skipping around the stage. He sounds pretty darned bad, and see, this is where his little comment about being tone deaf comes back to bite him. Because now I get to say, “Oh! You were tone deaf? So what, now you’re just tone deficient?” The judges ought to pan him, but instead they offer up insipid comments about his style and his focus. They must be ready to go home. I do sympathize.
And boom! There went two of the most uninspiring hours of my life. And man, this is coming from someone who once spent an afternoon watching paint dry, but at least I got some good Dickinsonian poetry out of that:
Sun -- bakes lacquer into place,
hiding the true face.
Dark brick, ugly mortar --
Never to see the light of day.
From this I get nothing. But hey, the season’s just beginning. There’s room for growth and improvement. Not that I think it’ll happen, but I’m very interested in mocking everything about this show until it does.
So, what do you miss most about American Idol? Drop me a line at MotherSister@fansofrealitytv.c om.