Welcome back, Idol fans! It’s time once again for the (extreme) torture and (mild) triumph of America’s favorite show. I hope you’ve all gotten over those nasty McPheevers and framed your Soul Patrol membership cards for posterity, because we’re starting all over again with a new crew of fresh faces, famewhores and wannabes. And who knows, there may even be a singer or two thrown into the mix for good measure. As we open with dramatic horns signaling the changing of lives and the coming true-ness of dreams, Ryan helpfully reminds us all of last year’s winner
Joe SegerTaylor Hicks, as well as the previous successes of Kelly, Ruben, Fantasia, Carrie, and various other also-rans. Apparently, Idol alums have produced over 100 Number One Albums. Amazing isn’t it? I had no idea there was even a chart for warmed-over pre-fab.
Glad It’s Not My Hometown
My grandmother AuntieDaughter once told me there will never be a shortage of Americans willing to get in front of a camera and make fools of themselves, and American Idol has been profiting from this wholesome tradition for five long years now. So of course our journey begins as always, with the audition rounds, because, well, I’m pretty sure the producers hate me as much as I hate the audition rounds. Minneapolis, Minnesota has the honor of kicking off the season, and I have to share with y’all that I was thisclose to being in that crowded arena, except that I had the good fortune not to wake up at 3AM for the sole benefit of a bunch of producers and editors eager to make me look like a fool. Others, I fear were not so fortunate. We see clips of a stadium bursting with hopes and aspirations, and more than 10,000 people dedicated enough to wake up at dawn for the chance to be on the TV. It’s actually quite an impressive sight, especially when everyone spontaneously busts out with an in-tune chorus of Prince’s “1999,” which I know had to be completely spontaneous because that’s just how Minneapolis gets down, or something. This is going to be a long two hours.
Ryan soon informs us that they will once again be employing guest judges to winnow away the chaff at some of the auditions. Helping out in Minneapolis is sadly not our own Purple Highness, but rather folksy songstress and “poet,” Jewel. She, Randy, Simon, and Paula seem in high spirits (but seriously folks, when is Paula not in “high spirits”? [/cheap shot]), but can they last through the day? Have I never seen this show before?
Time For A New Idol
Our first unwitting victim is one perky little Jessica Brodie from Cottage Grove, MN. She says she wants to be an artist who inspires people, like her very own idol, who OMG just so happens to be Jewel. And Jessica just so happens to be on first! Sounds like serendipity, doesn’t it? I mean, when serendipity is spelled “s-e-t-u-p.” Ryan shocks Jessica with the news that she will be singing in front of Jewel herself, and Jessica gets misty at the mere thought. I’m thinking this doesn’t bode well. Once in front of the judges, she tries for a minute to collect herself, and then launches into a weird, squeaky version of “You Were Meant For Me.” It’s only bad because it’s so very forced, but Simon of course mugs as if it were the worst thing he ever heard in all his 69 years, or however old he is, and then drily quips that hearing Jessica was “just like listening to the record.” Randy asks Jewel if she thinks Jessica rose to the occasion, but Jewel says she doesn’t want to say. Way to be an idol, Jewel. Suffice it to say that Jessica leaves the judges without a golden ticket. After a hassle with the exit doors, the poor girl collapses into tears of disappointment, but soon enough calms down and declares that she won’t stop singing. I, however, suggest that Jess move on to a different creative arena. Perhaps she could put out a book of prosaic and indulgent poems about love and childhood. Because that totally worked for Jewel.
I Love A Parade … Of Fools
So, the first dream crushing is over, and Minneapolis is off to a rocky start. Will the city be redeemed? Cue the first Montage of Horror, beginning with Troy the ‘Urban Amish’ killing us with a homespun ditty about wanting the judges to be nice, and ending with the deliciously deluded Jesse Holloway, self-proclaimed “guy who can hit notes like Mariah Carey,” maliciously and wantonly slaughtering Celine Dion’s “My Heart Will Go On,” not once, but twice, before launching into a dreadfully out of tune version of “Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough.” Somebody come and lock the boy up already for maiming my ears. Jesse has the honor of being the first disgruntled contestant of the year, berating Randy and Simon for not being able to sing themselves, and Paula for not having a hit since, oh, 1990 or so. All valid points to be sure, Jesse, but not so much able to turn your tone-deaf screeching into anything like music, so away you go.
We’re then treated to a guy named Charles dressed up like Apollo Creed, complete with red, white, and blue robe and boxing regalia. He says he has a surprise for Simon, and Ryan impishly points out that “a guy in a robe says he has a surprise for Simon.” *wink-wink* Oh, Ryan. Would you stop with the projection already? Anyway, Apollo knocks out an aria of some sort, and then takes his rejection with a smile, and then gets fouled up by the doors on his way out, kind of eliminating all the grace from his exit. I mean, all the grace he had left after showing up on national television in a star-spangled bathrobe.
And Hankies … Now!
Our first official sob story is up in the form of 16 year old Denise Jackson, from Madison, WI. Denise has had some struggles, being born to a drug-addicted mother, and placed in foster care before her grandmother took her in. Singing kept her focused, and I’m guessing this back story is going to keep her in the competition for many days to come. She’s certainly a brave girl, auditioning with the show-stopping “And I Am Telling You” from the musical Dreamgirls. Denise is no Holliday or Hudson, but she does a pretty good job with the song, duly impressing all of the judges and in Simon’s words, “sailing through to Hollywood.”
Cruel and Unusual Punishment
Denise’s victory has apparently entitled the producers to introduce another long string of suckage, and so we next see a montage of unfortunate schmoes mumbling through their forgotten lyrics. This bit culminates with Teshawn Moore, a Minneapolis girl who wants to represent with some Prince. Yeah! Too bad she has no idea how to do that. It’s not just that Teshawn can’t sing, and it’s not that she supports her non-singing tomfoolery with the saddest looking electric slide I have ever seen. But she stumbles around for interminable lengths of time trying to remember the words to fricking “Kiss,” a song with maybe 40 words in it. Why did I have to see this? Why, producers, why? I have to break my recapperly professionalism for a moment (shut up, I am so professional) and say that Teshawn was my last straw. I’ve indulged the freak acts and producer plants for nearly an hour and seen exactly one person with a passable voice. Knowing that these people go through intense screenings to even end up on my screen at all, I just can’t take anymore crap for crap’s sake. So I’m totally going to be bitter and unpleasant from now until Hollywood. As if you’ll be able to tell the difference, but whatever. Let it be known.
Wasn’t Shakira On Last Season?
Let’s move on to Perla, who happens to be from Colombia like Shakira, but who totally does not want to be compared to Shakira. She does want to have bleached blonde wavy hair like Shakira, and shake her hips like Shakira, but still she’s an entirely different person. This is why she chooses to sing a bad karaoke rendition of Blondie’s “Call Me.” The judges then have her sing a Shakira song, which is only natural; I mean she is freaking Shakir … oh wait, no. She’s not. Jewel calls Perla’s voice middling, but Randy and Paula really like her when she sings Shakira, and so they put her through.
Brokenote, Take Two
Ryan informs us that the ladies of Minneapolis are kicking butt and taking names, and it’s too bad we haven’t been able to see them. But maybe it’s time for the guys to rise to the occasion. He introduces us to Matt Volna, a “real man” who sounds suspiciously like Napoleon’s brother Kip. He’s a country boy, and wants to be the next Johnny Cash. This is a very tall order, and this being American Idol, I don’t have a lot of faith in old Matt. Sure enough he sings “Folsom Prison Blues,” and I had a fleeting, but scary moment of wishing someone would shoot me in Minneapolis to watch me die.
Oh, Wow. Only Halfway Done.
Yep, it’s the end of the first hour, and still only one successful audition. But one short reel of horracious man-singing later, we arrive at Jared Fowler, a Navy man, who may turn the tide for us. (No pun intended, but ha! anyway). Jared won his ship’s own Idol-style singing competition. We get a lengthy package about the Ronald Reagan, and his officers saying nice things about him, so I’m guessing he sticks around. His version of Rascal Flatts’s “God Bless the Broken Road” sounds pretty mediocre to me, kind of weak, and all over the place with the pitch, but Simon, Paula, Randy, and Jewel all vote him through to Hollywood.
Then there’s some girl who auditions as The Cowardly Lion, but that’s such a gimmick that I can’t dwell on it. Plus, there’s drama around the corner anyway! Stephen Horst, an honest-to-goodness vocal instructor, is up and auditioning with Aerosmith’s power pop rock ballad, “I Don’t Want to Miss A Thing.” He starts off innocently enough, kind of vanilla, but by no means offensive, and then all of a sudden he’s playing Bizarro Steven Tyler, driving all the neighborhood dogs crazy with his screeching “high notes.” Or maybe that’s playing Regular Steven Tyler. Either way, not a good idea to throw those things in the audition. I don’t think Stephen has a bad voice; his issue is really that he can’t sing. Funny, since he’s in charge of teaching others how to do just that.
Simon and Randy agree with me. Paula says there was too much vibrato going on, and Randy points out that as a teacher he should be able to control that sort of thing. After a bit more berating from the judges, Stephen looks
hurtpissed, but the breaking point is Randy telling him he should tell all his students to look at his audition as an example of what not to do. Stephen then says Randy’s just giving him a hard time because he’s a vocal coach. Yeah, so? As much as I loathe The Dawg, he’s right here; if you call yourself a professional, you should be able to back it up. Simon delights in getting to call Randy the rude one, and then Stephen receives unanimous rejection from Simon, Paula, and Randy. Oh, and Jewel was there too. Seriously, I don’t think she’s said 10 words this whole night. She must be storing it all up for her next book. A Day Without Talent? Sounds like a bestseller to me.
Requisite Blonde Girl
Hey now, are we turning a corner here? Enticing me off the Idol ledge with people that can make Kelly Clarkson look like an amateur? No. No, we are not. But we are taking a brief respite from the bottom of the barrel to deal with a girl who actually has a chance. A bubbly-blonde Michelle Steingas is in the house singing a cute little country ditty called “Is This Love.” I know what you’re thinking, but this isn’t another Kellie Pickler. This girl can actually understand Ainglish. She has a pretty enough voice too, and charms the judges with her quirky moves and confidence. Michelle gets her trip to Hollywood, and immediately reports that she’s quitting her job. Now that’s the American Dream in action.
I’d Like To File A Grievance
Pretty Dayna Dooley is not so lucky. Her boss flew her from California to the Minneapolis auditions. Someone must’ve spread this little story in the judging room, because as soon as they see her, Randy and Simon drop several innuendos about her and her boss having a special relationship. Gross. And so wholly inappropriate. Dayna sings Rufus and Chaka’s “Tell Me Something Good,” and she does an okay job. She definitely misses a riff and goes flat, so she loses the melody for a second, and there’s a weird scream tossed in for embellishment. It was a bit rough, but she’s not horrible by any means. This is the first bad audition today that I could possibly attribute to nerves. Randy and Simon however continue to nudge each other and arch their eyebrows like Dayna’s the next Monica Lewinsky. I have to say it again: Gross. It borders on harassment when they bring in her boss, who says that he and his wife support Dana, and then they make Dayna serenade him. She does a much better job with “Fever,” but the judges write her off and then continue to dish about Dayna and her boss long after they're gone. I hope they get sued. Yeah, producers? That was enough of Randy and Simon acting like pigs, k? Never do that again. Love, MotherSister.
Hope! Glorious Hope!
I guess after that bout of chauvinism, it’s time for a strong male voice to shine. But the best we get is 16 year old Matt Sato. He sings “California Dreaming” pushing way too hard on his diaphragm, and kind of spoiling the effect of the groove in the melody, but the judges eat it up anyway. Simon calls Matt’s voice very mature, and they applaud as he gets his ticket to Hollywood. Matt takes the opportunity to earn a few fans by calling his unsupportive mother and crying to her about Hollywood and blah, blah, true dreamz, yackety smackety. I’m still angry about Dayna.
Army Reservist Rachel Jenkins is next, and she succeeds to wipe some away some of that bitterness with her cheerful demeanor. I don’t even mind that she showed up in her fatigues. At least the army brand will keep those leches formerly known as Simon and Randy from teasing her. Uncle Sam doesn’t play that. Rachel gets lengthy clippage shown about her husband in Baghdad and her work in a body shop, calculated to show how oh so precious and unusual she is, but her real endearment is her voice. Finally! Someone who really just sings well. Rachel does a little of the hymn “His Eye Is On the Sparrow” (it’s a gospel-y remix, for those of you who missed out on that cinematic classic, Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit). I really like Rachel’s voice; she has a rich tone, and decent control, and the judges give her a bit of obligatory hassle, because heaven forfend they let us figure out who the talent is on our own. And then Rachel gets her golden ticket. And a little flame of hope for this season grows within me.
Sarah Krueger also gets by with a version of “Over the Rainbow” that blows away McPhee’s overrated effort of last year. I’m guessing she’s supposed to be one of the under the radar kids, because she gets short shrift on the show, and thus short shrift here. Sorry, Sarah. See you in the top 24.
We’re in the home stretch, and we still haven’t seen any crazy-crazies with the potential of becoming the new Scary Mary or Raging Rhonetta. That’s no good! We need some deludenoids to keep us from looking back in anger at the crapfeast we’ve been fed. So, thye show is made complete with Jason the Juggler, who tap dances in sneakers and juggles what I think are toilet brushes? And gives us our first profanity filled rant of the year. After being summarily rejected by the judges, Jason pitches a bleep-filled fit and bursts into tears, saying he’s “never been so insulted in all his life.” I find that hard to believe.
Not to be outdone in the crazy stakes is Brenna Kyner, who say Idol is her BFF. I weep for her. Her friend sucks. Brenna howls her way through something sounding nothing like “Under Pressure,” and all that little hope I was thinking about maybe forming, is gone. The judges humor her for a bit, and she asks if there’s anything she can do to improve. Simon says she can leave. Oh, goody, can I?
No. No I can not. There’s still the mandatory “Watch Everyone Murder This Song” thing, and it’s “Kiss,” because it’s Prince and Prince is Minneapolis, and please kill me now.
And now we come to our final act of the evening, one Josh Flom, who cites Chris Daughtry as his inspiration to try the show. Oh, this should be delicious. He sings Live’s “Bad Day,” and by “sings” I mean he shuts down his throat and squeezes out some raspy, raspy things which in the interest of description I will call notes. There were two of them. Josh doesn’t look like his technique is painful, but by the end of it I definitely need a couple of throat lozenges. Simon states the obvious and fears that Josh will be one-note. Josh replies that he can make anything his own, and Simon instructs him to come back in 15 minutes and sing him a song by ABBA. Cue frantic footage of Josh trying to hustle up ABBA lyrics, and by the time he makes it back in to sing “Dancing Queen,” I’ve already emotionally checked out so I can fully indulge in my laughter at his death-growl version of the song. Poor, poor Josh. He tries again with “Copacabana,” and it’s so cartoonishly surreal, those fluffy bunny lyrics coming out in that voice. Simon and Company patronize him for a while before letting him go on his hoarse little way. Randy takes the opportunity to mock his singing after he’s left the room. I continue to hate Randy.
And that's all, folks. Ryan tells us that out of 10,000 folks who showed up to audition in Minneapolis, only 17 of them made it through. I wish we could’ve seen them. Now that the midwest has been sufficiently embarrassed, tune in for Dinahann’s super recap of the Seattle auditions to find out how many more talented people we won't get to know, and how many more fools these people can shove down our throats.
I miss Elliott.firstname.lastname@example.org om