Seriously. Simon held a press conference after the first day of auditions, calling the 9000 people who showed up at Seattle’s Key Arena in the pouring rain to try out “the worst bunch of miserable contestants ever.” I’d argue with that, mainly because I remember the Austin Texas auditions from last year when he said the same thing, but they were pretty darn bad. Hee. If you saw the show – and you probably did, because FOX execs are rubbing their hands in glee over the 37.3 million viewers who tuned in for the premiere – then you know what I mean. If not, then you didn’t miss much except the usual assortment of weirdly dressed tone-deaf contestants who were each bad in their own unique way. And if you missed the premiere be sure to catch MotherSister’s excellent recap here.
Dressing Up In Seattle
Brandon Groves is the first featured contestant. Brandon was the season five hopeful who, dressed in a khaki law enforcement uniform, sang I shot the Sheriff. Not the whole song, just that one line over and over until we wished someone had shot him. He’s back again, this time dressed as Uncle Sam and singing God Bless America. He hasn’t improved, and I can’t figure out his angle. Does he think America wants to see him dress in costume and belt out a public-domain ditty each week? Whatever, Randy makes a lame joke that Brandon is “under cover” and he’s quickly dispatched. *Ba-dum ching* Dispatched, like when an officer is sent somewhere, get it? Okee-dokee folks, I’ve had a long day and it doesn’t get any better than this, so be warned.
Next up is Jessica, who promises to “deliver the hotness” That is, if your idea of hotness is a cheap hooker ensemble, dark lip-liner and flesh colored lipstick, and 40 extra pounds. The hotness is delivered with a kind of tuneless groaning more appropriate for the late-night soft porn channel than a family TV show. Simon tells her she should get a job in the port (as what, a hooker? A fishmonger?) and she shoots back that he should get a job as a brain surgeon and give himself a lobotomy. Ooh, feisty but short on talent. I haven’t seen that before. [/sarcasm]
Outside on the street corner she commiserates with Uncle Sam, who says he may try out again. She wanders off after flaunting her hotness for the camera, possibly to look for that port job.
The Tragically (Un)Hip
After a few more lame auditions we meet Amy. She has a husband and a three-year-old son, and a set of seriously surprised eyebrows. Hubby says she’s wasting her time but Amy’s here today because her three-year-old believes in her. Seriously. I mean, what is the kid gonna say? He depends on her for food and shelter. After a terrible beginning she asks for a drink of water; Simon tells her she could lay in a bathtub with her mouth open and it wouldn’t help. Looks like Amy should’ve listened to her husband instead of her adoring son.
Darwin Reedy is next, trailed by her mother. That’s never a good thing unless you’re Clay and need your mamma because she’s your only friend. Darwin and her mom wrote a novella inspired by Simon, who looks a little scared at being the object of their adoration. Both sport the same thickly applied lipstick, heavy eyeglasses and unfortunate fashion sense. Darwin evidently doesn’t believe in undergarments, and gravity is not her friend. She bounces into a sad-sack version of “Don’t cha” that has the judges appalled and my eyes burning. I can’t believe she dresses like that in front of her mother (not to mention 37 million viewers) but mom seems to think she’s great. No. Just… no. The two are satisfied with their 15 minutes of fame although I predict Playtex 18 hour Bras ™ will play a bigger role in Darwin’s future than a singing career.
Going To The Dogs
Finally there’s a decent audition. Tommy Daniels quit his job as a gas station attendant and spent two nights sleeping behind the dumpsters to try out for the show. Actually, he says this is the third time he’s tried out. I don’t remember him from years past but he has a nice tenor voice. Either that or my expectations have been lowered by the caliber of singing I’ve heard thus far. Paula calls his voice soothing and Simon agrees that he sounds good. He’ll be going on to Hollywood, and he celebrates with his family and his teacup Chihuahua. I wonder if the Chihuahua will be going to Hollywood too, maybe he could meet up with Paris Hilton’s Chihuahua and they could be friends? Paula and even Simon mug for the camera holding the runty thing and Paula says if she and Simon ever have a love child it will look like the dog. It’s not such a stretch considering Paula yaps like an annoying little dog, but I’d have figured Simon more of the Devil Dog, Hound from Hell variety.
Next up is Karlene, a big girl who is oddly doughy-looking and has carted her toy Pomeranian along to stand in line with her. She wears an eclectic outfit that incorporates Madonna’s fingerless gloves, a too-tight skirt suit and ankle high hosiery with heels. It was a great look in 1985. She also has a weird skin color, sort of an angry pink, but that could be a reaction to Simon’s incessant carping. She riffs on herself by singing "I Like Big Butts." She’s fun but when she gets serious with a Christina Aguilera tune the judges give her performance a pass. She wasn’t dreadful but she did hit a few sour notes, and the outfit didn’t help.
Blake Lewis says he’s the area beatbox champion. I have no idea what beatboxing is until Blake demonstrates by making noises that sound like mouth-farts. Huh, my brothers used to make those same sounds to irritate me when we were kids. Funny how that still works when you’re all grown up. Randy compliments him and since Randy is the expert on all things musical Blake must be wonderful. When Blake sings, Simon is not impressed and Randy says his mouth-fart noises are better than his actual singing. Paula loves him, natch. Blake says he’s been performing for seven years but hasn’t been discovered since he lives in Seattle instead of LA. Um, yeah, because no one’s ever heard of Kurt Cobain or Eddie Vedder. Blake makes it through by the spikes of his generic boy-band hair but when he leaves the room Simon brands him as obnoxious.
More bad auditions follow, including a Michael Jackson impersonator and David, a guy with the personality of a dead fish. Simon calls David's audition the worst of the day, and in a fit of insight David calls the experience a “major wake-up call.” Hooray for insight, wish we’d seen more of it.
Talent Comes In Twos
Just when I despair of seeing any decent singers, brother and sister Sanjaya and Shyamali get their turn. Two beautiful eastern Indian teen-agers, their dad is a classical musician who made sure the kids had music lessons beginning at a young age. The siblings thought about auditioning together but decided to try out separately because they like to compete.
Shyamali goes first and sings "Summertime." I worried that she would try to imitate Fantasia, who did such a great job on the song during season three, but Shyamali makes it her own. Oh no, I’m turning into Paula. Quick, somebody bring me a drink and a young male contestant. *hic* Randy says Shyamali has a nice voice. Paula thinks she was nervous but very good. Simon says she’s nothing unique and he’s not jumping out of his chair. Shyamali jokes that she would be shocked if he did. Simon’s faint praise notwithstanding, Shyamali has earned a ticket to Hollywood. She celebrates with her family outside the door as her brother enters.
Randy asks Sanjaya which one of the siblings is the better singer and he says he’s not sure. After a bashful start he does a great job on "Signed, Sealed, Delivered." He has a pure singing voice and Simon says he’s much better than Shyamali although she has more stage presence. All three of the judges agree, and it’s off to Hollywood for Sanjaya and his sister. I foresee plenty of opportunities for sibling rivalry fanned by Simon and hurt feelings soothed by Paula.
We’re almost through the first day and so far I haven’t seen anyone fantastic – you know, “Oh my god I know they are going all the way” good. And I won’t be seeing them now either. Instead I get Nick Zitzman, a self –taught musician who works with computer software for his day job. He says he’s a leader, and his coworkers encouraged him to try out for the show based on some recordings he made playing the guitar. He says he didn’t actually sing on the recordings so I’m assuming the coworkers are mean-spirited nitwits who egged him on to make an ass of himself, but they could all be “revenge of the Nerds” type guys like Nick, with his scary-looking wide eyes.
Nick sings "Unchained Melody" because it’s Simon’s favorite, and of course he is hideous and tone deaf. Somebody needs to chain that melody up quickly because it’s getting away from him. For some reason the producers decide to let Nick sing the entire song, and Randy does his patented eyebrow raise/wide-eyed look that always reminds me of the cook in that old politically-incorrect Three Stooges short. Simon wants to know what the hell that was, and tells Nick he sounds non-human. A shell-shocked Nick wanders back outside to Ryan, who wants to know if he’ll try again next year. Nick isn’t sure, and like Forest Gump, that’s all he has to say about that.
The last audition of the day is 28 year-old Rudy who is originally from Venezuela and plays in a band back home in LA. He seems suave and self-assured but doesn’t know if they will like him or not. He does a decent version of Journey’s “Open Arms.” Simon says no, Paula of course gives him a “million percent yes” and Randy wants everyone to know “Open Arms” was a great song because – say it with me, folks – he played bass for Journey. Rudy will be going on to Hollywood, but the judges will be going on to their hotel rooms since it’s the end of day one. Will tomorrow bring better things? I hope so but won’t hold my breath.
Second Verse, Same As The First
Day two in Seattle is much better weather, at least. We get more shots of the Space Needle, Puget Sound and 9,000 screaming wannabe’s. Our first contestants of the day, however, are much scarier than Nick from the previous evening. Kenneth and Jonathan bonded while waiting in line to try out, and they are steadfast friends already. They were perhaps *ahem* skimped on in the looks department, but they're all heart. At least that’s what the producers would have us believe. Jonathan is extremely heavy with a mild lisp, and Kenneth bears an uncanny resemblance to a lemur.
Kenneth is up first. He tries to wow Randy by liberally sprinkling the word “dawg” into the conversation and compares himself to Justin Timberlake or Lance – I think he means Lance Bass, although I don’t see the resemblance. It must be in the dancing and hand movements he makes to the NSYNC song he sings. He’s not shockingly bad, but not great either. Simon rudely says, “He looks like one of those creatures that live in the jungle – a bush baby.” Kenneth takes it like a man and stands outside the door while his friend auditions, crossing his arms and fingers for him.
Jonathan’s song choice is “God Bless America” which he sings with heavy vibrato and several key changes. The judges are kind but tell him he’s not right for the competition. Afterwards Jonathan says he thinks America would have voted for him, but neither he nor Kenneth seems to take their dismissal badly. They leave with arms slung around each other’s shoulders. I’m taking bets now that we’ll be seeing the two of them in the finale.
Twist And Shout
After another montage of bad auditions the show sinks to a new low. I know, I know, you’re thinking, “is that possible?” Meet Hairdresser Eric. He has salt and pepper hair, a two day growth of beard and the burning desire to jerk and yell “Soul Patrol” at people.
We get a cheesy video with his clients pretending to grab at him. He says he’s a celebrity in his hometown because he reminds people of Taylor Hicks. It’s important to remember that he’s different from Taylor, though, so his catch phrase is either “Twist Train” or “Twist Away,” I couldn’t tell which. He has none of Taylor’s charisma and all of his annoying traits so I’m going to stay far away from the “twist train.” Maybe it’ll run him down.
He does the herky-jerky act for the judges, and launches into a pitiful version of “Drift Away.” Simon gets him to swear on his mother’s life that he’s absolutely serious about the audition. It’s a well deserved no for Eric, who attempts to apply hair gel to Simon’s hair and is escorted from the room by several large bodyguards. Outside he tells Ryan that Simon was scared of him. More like repelled, I’d say. Deeply, deeply repelled.
The Long And Short Of It
Anna Kerns is a waitress from Texas. She’s 6’7” in heels and seems especially tall compared to Ryan, who’s one step removed from midget status according to a montage poking fun of his height. She joined the Air Force but had to leave before graduation when they discovered she had a weak heart. She sings “R E S P E C T” but she’s no (Jennifer, Fantasia, Aretha, Kelly) insert name here. Simon says she’s the tallest girl he’s ever seen and calls her performance a little old fashioned. Randy and Paula like her so they begin growling like dogs every time Simon tries to speak. Simon gives up and passes her through to the next round. Paula can’t wait to see what she looks like in the Hollywood groups of three and Simon tells them they’ve just put through a giraffe. Simon must’ve visited a zoo recently as all his most creative insults tonight have to do with wild animals.
The best audition of the show is given by 16 year-old Jordin Sparks from Arizona. Her father is Felipe Sparks, a former NFL player. She does a credible job of Celine Dion’s “Because You Love Me” that Simon calls sugary sweet, labeling the performance a bit over the top. I don’t see that at all, and it is worlds better than the other Seattle auditions. Randy calls her a natural and Paula predicts she’ll do really well in Hollywood.
After another weird montage of terrible singers singing “Don’t Cha,” it’s time for the final contestant of the evening. Steven, AKA Big Red, says he looks like Carrot Top but he’s way cooler. That’s not much of an endorsement, Steve. He has a peculiar death stare, a pasty white face, an orange-y red ponytail and is missing a tooth or two. Picture a hillbilly from one of Rob Zombie’s slasher-flicks and you’ve got a good idea of who Steven really resembles.
Steve says he’s only watched an episode or two of the show because he likes to keep busy
as a serial killer. He says he’s as good a singer as Freddie Mercury from Queen, and to prove it he sings “Bohemian Rhapsody” in an off key falsetto. Randy does his “I’m hiding my face behind this piece of paper so you won’t see me laughing at you” schtick, except he guffaws at 100 decibels so everyone knows he finds it humorous. Paula laughs and Simon calls Steven the weirdest singer he’s ever heard. Steven challenges Simon to coach him. Needless to say it’s a big N O for Steven, who leaves quietly to sharpen knives and dream of Simon.
Well, that’s it folks, two hours of scarily bad auditions and maybe half a dozen decent singers going on to Hollywood. Next week is Memphis with the requisite Fake Elvises, or is it Elvi? Let’s hope Memphis has a better pool of talent than Seattle, and let us never speak of this week’s auditions again.
Chris Daughtry’s new CD is great. Have you heard it yet? Email me at Dinahann@fansofrealitytv.com