Welcome to Birmingham, Idol fans! We’re sampling southern hospitality this week, and I’m on the lookout for some sweet tea and buttermilk biscuits. And if we happen to run across some folks with talent, that’s all good too. We’re nearing the end of the audition rounds, and we’ve seen oh, some 4 or 5 people so far with an actual shot at winning. Will tonight be any better? Or is Birmingham just full of hams? Well set a spell, sugar, and let’s find out together.
By law, there must be one section titled “Sweet Home Alabama.” So here you go.
The Mischievous Sprite legally known as Ryan Seacrest welcomes us to Birmingham, and because the Magic City has produced Ruben Studdard, Bo Bice, and last season’s winner Taylor Hicks, Seacrest dubs it “Idol Country.” How glad I am that no such place really exists. Could you imagine the citizenship test? Name three Paula Abdul albums. Recite the lyrics to My Cherie Amour. Define the term ‘pitchy.’ Anyway, Ryan was only kidding, so it doesn’t matter. Except I really would like someone to define pitchy.
11,000 southern hopefuls showed up to audition for our trio of talent-seekers and hope-smashers, including the mayor of Birmingham. Civil servant must not pay as much as superstar. The judges arrive, and Simon seems particularly impressed with the warm welcome that the crowd is extending. He must not know how often our southern smiles are hiding wicked wits. *grin*
She’ll Be Coming Home. Wait For Her.
It’s time for singing now, and first up to bat for Birmingham is 19 year old, hip-swiveling, white eye shadow wearing Erica Skye. She says she’s planning on a career in dentistry if the whole superstar thing doesn’t work out. Erica thinks the way to Simon’s heart is through mellow 50’s classics. She’s singing “Unchained Melody,” which you may remember as being quite chained and then shot by Kellie Pickler last season. Erica’s hoping to do better. I’m hoping she’s not too attached to that hope. Her version is horrible, creaky and tuneless. But her family, listening on the other side of the door, thinks she is doing a bang up job. One unidentified supporter says she definitely heard all the right notes. Hmm. Maybe wood has some magical voice fixing properties I don’t know about. Or maybe this lady’s nuts. Or! Maybe they all live in, like, a cat shaving factory or something where by comparison to the constant screeching of cats, Erica’s wailing sounds like music. I bet that’s it.
Anyway, the judges try to shut Erica down, but Erica just won’t stop singing. And then Paula gets up for no apparent reason. I assume she’s checking her makeup. Randy and Simon entreat Erica to stop. Singing. And she finally gets the message. Erica’s a pimp too, so she brushes her shoulders off, and walks out. Simon doesn’t get what that means; Randy and Paula are only too willing to explain in the context of the hallowed Jay-Z anthem. Simon looks intrigued; do I foresee a hip hop version of Il Divo in the works? Lord, I hope not.
Little Big Girl
Disappointment follows disappointment as we see a long string of sorrowful rejection giving and tearful rejection taking. But things may be looking up. Ushered in with the distinctive “winner lighting” is 19 year old Katie Bernard, apparently of the Paris Bennet School of Elocution. Katie knows she has a childlike voice, but she wants to be taken seriously as a singer. She’s tempting us tonight with “A House Is Not A Home,” made famous by the untouchable Luther Vandross, and performed adequately on Idol a few times. It's a tall order. But Katie thinks she’s up for the challenge; she goes on to a pretty good job. She is more than a little affected, and trying very hard to push out those “emotion grunts,” but I think she’s got potential. And I know everything. Randy wants to take a chance on her, but Simon says no. It’s all up to Paula, who thinks maybe Katie should just enjoy being married. Weirdness. I didn’t know happy marriages were all about giving up dreams and stuff. Anyway, Katie trots in her new husband, and with his blessing begs to be allowed into Hollywood. Simon says she’s starting to annoy him, and for that reason alone, Paula votes her through. Interesting technique, that. I wonder if it works with loan managers. Probably not.
The Yin and the Strange
Georgia-born Tatiana McWeirdlastname is up next. She turns up in her fluffy houseshoes, which is to say the least, an awesomely comfortable wardrobe choice. Also very visibly unappealing. But Tatiana’s right down to business, singing Aretha’s “I Never Loved A Man The Way I Love You.” Singing it really well, I might add. She gets a little showy, dipping her toes into La Aguilera territory, but it’s an audition, so what do you want. Tatiana gets raves from the judges, and she is tonight’s first verifiable success.
But alas and alack, Idol never gives us the good without ramming the
horribly, unspeakably awfulbad down our throats, and so next we get Miss Diana Walker, who thinks it’s totally cool to come on international television in a pink mesh shrug stretched out into a bedspread. She’s wrong. She’s also sporting one pink, be-glittered glove in an unfortunate Michael meets Madonna homage. Again, terribly wrong. But Diana says she is all that America needs. Dude, of course. Screw looking after health care and education; let’s just give everyone a copy of Diana’s weird, screechy, show-tune style version of Whitney Houston’s “Saving All My Love For You.” And then everything will be okay. Except not. There’s no golden ticket for Diana. America will just have to struggle on without her.
Nice As Pie Guy
We next meet clean-cut little Bernard Williams, 26, from Birmingham, all precious with his crisp white shirt and toothpaste smile. Bernard looks like the kind of guy you would send to the store for Absorbine Jr. and then reward with a moon pie. That is, if you were inclined to send out for Absorbine Jr. I myself have mine air-mailed, but you know what I’m saying. Bernard’s so sweet and optimistic that this has to be a setup, right fellow jaded AI viewers? Right. Psyche! Bernard is pretty excellent indeed. He sings “Rock With You,” an odd choice, because he’s much better than that. Still, he knocks it out nicely. Simon is impressed, and he gives Bernard an absolute 100% yes. Paula thinks he was off key. This is where, were I in the room, I would snidely and maliciously ask Paula when anyone ever complimented her on her singing ever. She would have no snappy comeback to offer, I’m sure. She’d be so totally pwned. Lucky for her I’m not in the room. Bernard tries to ingratiate himself with Randy by calling him “Dawg,” and it works, and I throw up in my heart a little, but I’m still glad that Bernard makes it through. Win one for the good boys, honey!
Can You Tell Me How To Get … Far Away From You?
In my long life full of illustrious relationships and profound inquiries into the nature of man, nothing, nothing I say, has prepared me for the sight of Margaret Fowler, who so takes her last name to heart that she has shown up to the auditions in blonde braids, bright yellow shades, yellow tights, a feathery yellow crown and equally yellow and feathery Sunday-go-to-meeting blouse. None of the yellows match, I’m delighted to say. If you haven’t quite got the mental picture, then I’ll say that Marge is looking quite like an ocelot. No, I’m kidding. She looks like Big Bird’s mama, and the producers make up some of those millions of cool points they’ve lost over the years by playing the Sesame Street theme all during Margaret’s interview. Hilarious. Also hilarious? Margaret professing to be 26 years old, when she was clearly older than 26 when all the 26 year olds in the world were born.
Margaret says she’s dressed in gold to match her golden ticket. I don’t know if gold’s really her color. She should try something in … well I don’t know. Is there a color for pathetic desperation? No? I guess she should stick with gold then. Margaret introduces herself to the judges, and when Margaret claims to be 26, Simon makes up some cool points of his own by saying, “Yes, and I’m eleven, she’s 9, and Randy’s 10.” Zing! Nothing like that dry humor to make someone feel like an idiot. As you shall see later. Margaret gets her time on television over with by singing some song I’ve never heard. Maybe it came out when Margaret was 26. The judges tell her no, but I’m sure she feels like a winner in her heart. Or at least in her big toe. Somewhere.
This Year’s Pickler
The judges said yes to quite a few more people, but they’re not particularly entertaining or insane, so it’s enough to gloss over them quickly; the producers see a sob story up ahead, and they have to get it on film. Meet Jamie Lynn Moore from North Carolina. I hate girls named Jamie, so I’m bound and determined to like nothing about this one. Determined. Even though it’s hard. Jamie’s only 17 years old, but she’s taking care of her paralyzed father and aging grandmother. According to Jamie, she wants to win American Idol so she can buy her grandmother a one-floor house. Why not buy a huge house and stick an elevator in it? Stingy! I knew there had to be something.
Once in front of the judges, Jamie unfolds a Lifetime-worthy saga: cheating mother, botched shooting, purrlyzed daddy, best smell-hound ran away, and so on and so forth. The judges are shocked, and Jamie looks the teensiest bit embarrassed to be spilling all this in front of the world. But she is praised for her strength, and then she expresses a wish to be an inspiration for young girls like her. I don’t know that there are many girls quite like her, so I think she just wants to be an inspiration to herself. Selfish! Hmph. Jamie sings Christina Aguilera’s “Reflection,” and, meh. Her voice is sort of nondescript, but she’ll go through because the producers probably want to exploit her family and then make her record a song about blue ballet flats. But wait! She hits a sour, sour note. Maybe she won’t go through. Nah, Paula’s smiling – she’s in. Or is she? This has been an Adventure Through MotherSister’s Stream of Consciousness. If you would like to start over, turn to page 3. If you would like to explore the cave, turn to page 19.
Meanwhile, back on the show, Paula compliments Jamie on her voice, when she’s not getting all nasally. Simon is surprised to be agreeing with Paula, and I’m surprised I care. He pats Paula on the head, and she wags and pants like a good little puppy. I’m so not kidding. Oh, and Jamie Lynn’s going to Hollywood. I guess Daddy and Grammy have to fend for themselves a few months. No biggie.
In Which MotherSister Falls In Love. Again.
So, it’s the end of Day 1, and let’s just say that B-Ham has not delivered the wow. There’ve been some good kids, but no one for whom I maybe might some time in May be inspired to dial like a maniac. Enter Chris Sligh. He’s 28, and from Greenville, SC, with a wicked awesome sense of humor. He looks like Jack Osbourne, plus 100 pounds, plus Sideshow Bob’s perm, but Chris deadpans that when he looks in the mirror he sees Christina Aguilera. Beautiful.
Chris says he’s a candidate for the AI crown because he has a fresh and interesting sound. And he doesn’t mean that as a euphemism for ‘crap awful.’ Awesome. He appears before Simon and Co, and they ask why he’s auditioning. Chris says he really wants to make David Hasselhoff cry. Love. Love! He explains to the judges that he was inspired by the shot of The Hoff getting misty when Taylor Hicks was declared winner last season. At this point I don’t even care if the boy can sing or not. I love him and will bear him three sons. But lucky for us, Chris can sing. He gives a little “Kiss From A Rose,” and he gets a little screechy on the high highs, but it’s a really nuanced vocal, and Chris is very comfortable playing with the song’s dynamics. The judges all like him very much, and Simon approves of his dry humor. Chris is through to Hollywood. They’re totally going to cut his hair though.
So, we’re done with Day 1, and the next morning, Simon and Randy return without their little seal-clapper. Paula has a family obligation in LA. If I were not sick of ranking on Paula’s suspect behavior, I would say that the Pfizer family of products does not quite qualify as an obligation. But I’m so sick of ranking on Paula’s suspect behavior, so I won’t say that.
Simon and Randy seem unusually chipper and ready to begin, so they are definitely game for playing with our first hopeful of the day. Victoria Watson (or as I have dubbed her, Walking Split End) is 18 years old, and she very proudly tells us that she has never cut her hair in all of those 18 years. Yeah, that’s interesting and all, but there’s a reason regular trims were invented. That was to keep you from being named Walking Split End. In front of the judges,
Cousin ItVictoria claims that she wants to be a role model and touch people’s hearts. So long as you wear a hair net, honey. She brings in her unfortunately-similarly-coiffed mother to meet the judges, and then goes on to sing a very Maranatha/Mormon Tabernacle-ish version of “You Raise Me Up.” Simon says that only her mother would like what she’s done. Aww. No Hollywood in store for Victoria. But she should be glad. They totally would’ve cut her hair if she’d made it.
People say Lakia Hill can sing. Or she says people say she can sing. We really have no proof, and her audition offers nothing but evidence of her being able to put ambulance sirens out of work. No need to dwell on that. Lakia thanks the judges for her rejection, and that ushers in a series of similar clips, rejects accepting their dismissal and doing everything short of walking backwards out of the room. Southerners are so well-mannered. While cameras are on.
But enough about that. Let’s move on to Nichole. (The ‘h’ is silent. And unnecessary.) She brought her own cheerleaders, complete with bright pink shirts and feathered hair. Among the number of Pink Positives is Nichole’s mother, who once said that Nichole had no talent. Well, boy did she prove her. Nichole sings “Something to Talk About,” and Randy and Simon quickly discharge her, saying that her sound is too old-fashioned now, but she should try again in a few years. Nichole cries and cries, and her mother holds her, in the back of her mind probably gloating about being right. Mothers. Gotta love them. Or …? No, yeah, you do.
Now, it wouldn’t be an audition extravaganza without a crazy-crazy to send us all to bed feeling good about ourselves. Filling the role in Birmingham is one Brandy Patterson. A 28 year old ball of life, from right in Birmingham. She says she has an extraordinary voice. Oh, I’m sure. What masterpiece has Brandy chosen to show off that extraordinary voice? Why, “Like A Virgin,” of course. It’s a terrible performance, but Brandy suggests that maybe it’s the wooden floor that’s doing her in. Because one can’t sing when one’s feet are uncomfortable, you see. She moves over to the carpeted area and proceeds to butcher “Proud Mary.” There’s no point in describing Brandy’s singing, because she’s not here to sing, man. I believe that Brandy is an evil genius with a master plan, who came on this show for one purpose, something even more valuable to me than singing: ragging on Simon and Randy!
On the way out of the room, Brandy begins her rampage, announcing that Paula is way better than those two numps, and that those fools wouldn’t know talent if it bit them in the bald spot or the man-boob. Okay, I might’ve embellished her words a bit, but once in the hall with Ryan, Brandy picks up where I leave off. Simon and Randy walk into the hall just in time for Brandy to call Randy a faker (woot!), and to call Simon stupid for trying to go through the wrong door. They continue to tell her she’s miserable, but Brandy only wants to berate them, calling Randy a fat *bleepity* and referring to them both as very cruel men.
Twenty B-Ham hopefuls made it through to Hollywood, but the producers give us more of what we really want, and Brandy’s musings take us home. She broadens the scope of her criticism, declaring that she’s a better singer than Taylor Hicks (who isn’t?), and that her dance moves would’ve catapulted her to a level of stardom light years ahead of everyone else. She says she is sorry to have wasted her time. I think she has employed her time beautifully. Brandy definitely earned herself a small place in my heart. And isn’t that what this show is all about? Well, no. But there wasn’t too too much star-making going on tonight, so I takes what I can get.
Stay tuned for waywyrd’s take on the LA auditions. Will "Hollyweird" finally shed that annoying monicker? Not if American Idol producers have anything to say about it.
Seriously, if anyone out there knows what 'pitchy' means, please clue a sister in. firstname.lastname@example.org om