For some reason we open with the Disembodied Voice of Seacrest prodding two old fishing fellas with their arms around each other to welcome us all to AI: San Diego Style, and do it with feeling. There’s no way that’s not creepy. Is anybody else noticing how many older folks seem to be getting the spotlight this season? Personally, I blame Margaret Fowler for this glut of elderly auditioners. Not to force her back into your memories or nightmares or anything, but she lives in mine, so what the heck.
Seacrest, he of the heavenly fresh breath, informs us that this is Idol’s first visit to San Diego, and just the mere presence of the machine made the town go ca-razy, as evidenced by the hepped up surf rock guitars that usher in the shots of the thousands of auditioners. Ryan throws us a familiar question: Could the next American Idol be among this crowd? Don’t answer until we’ve gone through them all. Or until May. I want you to do your best on this quiz, so take all the time you need.
First up to bat is 24 year old Tetiana Ostapowych, which name I couldn’t sound out even if someone was beside me telling me how. She’s way tanned and blonde in a way that clashes with her orange shirt, yet she’s still confident and excited to sing “Someone to Watch Over Me.” Randy’s got a smug look on his sideburns as if he’s amused by the very thought of that. But Tetiana turns out to have a very interesting voice to go with her overall orangeness. She takes an eternity to get through her few measures, and when she’s done, Simon says he doesn’t think Tetiana’s as good as she thinks she is. Randy and Paula seem to disagree with him, so Simon further says that Tetiana’s good but she’ll never be great, but when she asks for constructive crit, he has nothing to give and puts her through to Hollywood. As she flies out of the room with joy and such, Simon calls her obnoxious, and I wish that was a double-sided mirror he was holding up.
Ryan introduces this next Touching Moment walking alone in a quiet hallway to especially highlight the poignancy, so be prepared. Ready? Okay. Meet a disarmingly cute kid named Avion and his single-parent father, Perrie. Perrie says a lot about his struggle all while doing “dad things” with Avion and talking about how he wants to make a better life for him. To his credit doesn’t go into much detail about Avion’s mother while Avion is sitting on his lap. Once in front of our judges, Perrie sings one of my most-loathed songs in the history of songs, “I’ll Make Love to You,” and he’s pretty good, if a little overzealous with the rhythm snaps. Simon likes him, Paula loves him, and Randy has to put on his “hip” accent just to tell him yes, so he must be head over heels. I kinda hope he goes all the way, just for the potentially awesome Lifetime movie we could get out of it.
The Good, the Bad, and the Deluded
According to everyone, ladies love guys with accents, so Michael Johns should be a shoe-in for this year’s heartthrob. He’s originally from Australia, you see. I think he way overdoes “I’ve Been Loving You Too Long,” but he has a nice voice and does manage to lull all of our judges into a stupor, (the most Simon can say is “you’re like a white soul singer,”) so I can’t really be against him. He gets a unanimous pass to Hollywood, of course.
Not so lucky is everyone in this, our first mocking montage of the evening. Piercing screeches, incomprehensible lyrics, and derisive laughter, oh my! But enough of that quick, superficial humiliation; it’s time to get deep and lengthy.
“Young, fresh” Valerie Reyes gives a shy thumbs-up to the camera as she pronounces herself the next American Idol. Ryan zeroes in on her with her iPod and inquires about her favorite music, and poor, naïve Valerie begins to ramble effervescently about her love for Mariah Carey, and how much she sounds like Mariah Carey so that strangers on the street ask her if she is Mariah Carey, as if Mariah Carey would ever make herself visible to strangers on the street.
Ryan then asks what she thinks of the auditions in general, and Val takes the
ropeopportunity to hang herselfsay that she loves kicking back and laughing at the weirdies who think they can sing. Oh, Valerie. It is not an auspicious moment for thee!* Her time in front of our tart trio does not go well; she sings “Take a Look at Me Now” with the oddest combo of creaking-door vibrato and random riffs that it’s hard to keep track of her actual voice. Under all that ridiculousness, I think Valerie does have a pleasant singing voice, if only she knew how to sing. Randy makes me question my own opinion by echoing it, but yeah, I still think I’m right. So I guess we … agree? Simon makes some analogy about Valerie sounding like a warped Mariah CD, and Valerie struggles to keep her face from falling as they rake her over the coals. Eventually, she realizes that yeah, somewhere in the world Scary Mary is laughing at her. Harsh reality, Val, but you knew the job was dangerous when you took it.
The Bum’s Rush
A mime and a guy in Ugly Betty’s poncho do a duet of “Get Here,” and that ushers in a reel of gimmicky rejects including a balloon artist and a girl in a lobster suit, leading us to Monique and Christopher, whose only gimmick is that they came to the auditions together. First in front of the judges is Monique, who says she’s going to sing Whitney Houston’s “I Believe in Miracles.” I'd have done “I’m Never Gonna Dance Again.” Simon asks her if she really thinks she can sing that song. Monique takes a deep breath of hesitancy, but thinks she can. And in Monique’s defense, she can sing it. Just not well. She notices that the judges aren’t buying it and switches to some En Vogue style “Who’s Loving You,” and I can’t say how much that switching to another song thing is always a mistake. Monique does it three or four more times and then tries weeping but all to no avail, and then Simon says, “There’s nothing wrong with walking out of her knowing you can’t sing.” That’s maybe the wisest thing ever said on this show, but Monique ain’t about to hear it. She knows she can sing and promises that she’ll be back when she finds the right song.
Her friend Chris flames out in a similar manner, with a Whitney song even, and when he won’t stop singing the muscle actually shows up to guide him out of the room. Once out in the hallway the two of them get in some choice bleeps and a couple pixelated shots, and come up with a little improv’d ditty about how much the show sucks, and then they’re off into oblivion. The moral of this story is: even without a gimmick, you can still suck hosewater and be on TV, so save the 50 bucks on the costume rental and keep it simple.
The Showmance Novel
Now a montage of disturbing people who love particular judges, complete with Ryan’s oh-so-convincing shock that anyone could ever love Simon. Samantha Musa thinks Simon’s “rilly, rilly hot,” and her sister does too; she begs with a cleverly launched paper airplane to be let in to the audition room because she wants to meet Simon as much as she wants to meet Oprah and, as Simon calls him, “Oh-bummuh.” I’m sure Oprah and Barack are thrilled to be in such leagues. Simon obliges the request and hijinks ensue as the sis joins the judges panel on Simon’s lap. Samantha sings “Until You Come Back to Me,” and isn’t half bad, especially for a crazy. The judges alll love her, but Simon leaves it up to the sister’s opinion. Things are tense, but Samantha gets all four requisite yeses and after a creepy group hug, the Simon-loving sisters are on their way out.
All of these beauty shots of San Diego in late summer are making me really dissatisfied with the -4 temperature and +4 inches of snow that are my life right now. Just needed to vent. And to explain why I’m not so much with the extreme sympathy for the supposed heat oppression that Ryan says warmed over the talent pool on Day Two in SD. But Blake Boshnack can stand the heat. He’s proud to say that he has auditioned a bunch of times since the third season, including a stint as the Statue of Liberty in season five. This is
perhapsdue to his mother who claims total obsession with American Idol and her son becoming it. I couldn’t look her in the eyes while she was going on about sleeping on the sidewalk and doing things “we can’t even imagine” to get her son to his rightful place on that Kodak Stage. This kind of crazy is the kind that actually makes me sad. I would prefer to forget it. So, Blake goes in and the judges remember him; he sings “Stand by Me,” while his crazy mother like almost wets herself in the hallway. The judges say some things that all mean “No,” and Blake graciously leaves with some words of encouragement and perseverance.
Even a long montage of rejects a-plenty can’t prepare us for the ridiculousness of Albert Hurtado. A kook with super-long hair and even more inappropriately long fingernails, who enjoys smelling flowers and “revealing his soul through singing.” Yeah. We get shots of him in his shirt with an eagle on, twirling Barbie dolls and holding flowers in his toes, and saying things like “I live in my imagination too much,” just so you get the point that he’s a fruit loop. For today he wrote his own song with which to reveal his soul. I’d guess it’s called “It’s a Traaagedy,” because he keeps repeating that in between talking about “this is me,” “spreading wings,” and while it … wouldn’t necessarily be out of place at an AI coronation, Simon finds it too dark. Not to mention too awful. It’s a unanimous no for Alberto. What a traaagedy.
Now here’s David Archuleta, who looks about 12, sharing a real tragedy: his vocal cords were paralyzed for a long time and he thought he’d never sing again. But thanks to the wonders of modern medicine (and probably also the tonic of believing in oneself and one’s dreams) he is here to sing for us today. He sings “Waiting on the World to Change” with Randy joining in on the background echoes, and his voice is pretty good indeed. There’s evidence of strain still, but Randy’s impressed, Simon likes him, and Paula wants to squish him, so it’s pretty clear that he’s on. And it’s pretty hard not to be happy for him. Look at the little baby face!
Last up in San Diego is Carly Smithson, an Irish lassie who lives in San Diego. She runs a tattoo place with her husband who is a walking tattoo. Carly tried out and impressed the judges back in season five, but something with her visa fell through so she wasn’t able to participate. There’s some other stuff floating around about a botched record deal and album too, but I don’t know much about it so the only thing I really have to hold against her at this point is the faintness of her Irish brogue. It’s quite a disappointment. But, Carly appears once again before the judges and owns herself as really nervous before launching into a pretty serviceable rendition of “I’m Every Woman.” Paula and Randy are thrilled with her, but Simon freaks her out by saying she isn’t as good as she was two years ago. Oh, Simon, as if you remember. Wasn’t he supposed to be on his way back to British anyway? As it is, she gets approval from all three of the judges and can barely control all the happiness at getting a
secondthird chance. It’s kind of sweet. Kinda bland too. Like a Fig Newton, if you will.
And I guess that’s as good an ending as any to this round since even though Ryan says that 31 folks earned tickets to Hollywood, I wasn’t too particularly impressed with anyone. I don't think we'll be heading to San Diego again. Next up is Charleston though, and hopefully the south shall rise again. So be sure to stay tuned, because the brilliant AJane will be here with all the dirt, or Carolina clay if you like.
Oh, I forgot to refer to Paula as the gift that she is. Any suggestions on how to make it up to her?