During Wednesday’s round of particularly bad singers, 20-year-old Joshua Boson – whose singing style was so stunningly awful, it was an insult to those who were just merely crappy – wailed that our American Idol judges thought that “South Carolina sucks!” No, Joshua, South Carolina doesn’t suck. No state that includes Stephen Colbert as a native son can suck. What sucks is the fact that there’s a sad lack of vocal talent in Charleston and its surrounding area. Hell, even Colbert can’t sing.
The show opens (and closes, but we’ll get to that later) with Oliver Highman, 27, and his very pregnant wife. Mrs. Highman has most inconsiderately chosen today, Oliver’s AI audition day, for her water to break and labor to begin. Oliver, distressed by impending fatherhood and the missed opportunity, dashes off to find a Charleston hospital to admit his wife and hopefully make it back before Simon, Paula, Randy, Ryan and the rest depart SC.
The first actual audition hopeful is Richard – that’s Ri-CHARD – Henderson, also 27, who has brought with him an impressive ‘Fro and a monumental ego. Ri-CHARD claims that people think he’s the “black Clay Aiken”. Well, if being effeminate and having funny hair equals being the black version of Clay, sure. Ri-CHARD flounces into the audition room and starts into “I Can’t Make You Love Me”, and damned if he doesn’t sound like Clay after all. Simon, who never had a hope of being Clay’s fan club president, moans and comments that Ri-CHARD does indeed remind him of his nemesis. Randy finds him a bit OTT, and Paula thinks he’s a tad too theatrical, while Simon lapses into Season 5-speak and likens Ri-CHARD to a cruise ship cabaret singer. Cheer up, Ri-CHARD – maybe you and Clay can join Rosie O’Donnell on the Carnival Cruise Line mainstage one day.
Not just spitting in your food
DeAnna Prevatte has a bit of an anger management problem. She hails from the same small town as previous AI top ten finalist Kelly Pickler, but that’s not why she’s angry. She’s a roller-skating waitress, but don’t let the car-hop getup fool you – she’s just as likely to “bring you down with a baseball bat” as she is to serve up a side of onion rings. DeAnna complains bitterly to the judges – who have already substituted their hopes of finding a good singer today for some comic relief – about the voracious appetites of the Sunday all-you-can-eat crowd at her restaurant. Some people have the nerve to order up more than one helping when it only costs a buck to stuff yourself to bursting. The judges listen attentively, and Randy asks her the name of the restaurant, how close it is, and what the hours are on Sunday. Kidding, kidding. Randy’s way too scared of DeAnna to ever go near her place of employment. DeAnna is singing “Fancy”, and channels her anger into, uh, passion for her performance. She even drops to her knees part-way through. She snarls at Simon for mispronouncing her name as “Dina”, and Simon admits he finds DeAnna a bit too angry. As a somewhat angry man himself, though, he likes the passion – but not enough to put her through. Paula passes and Randy’s a no. Simon, again showing the new-but-not-improved kindly version of himself, calls after DeAnna and says he would only have one helping at the all-you-can-eat Sunday special. Alas, his effort at empathy is met with a poisonous glare from DeAnna, and the judges make a note to file the restraining order first thing tomorrow.
A little bit country, a little bit rock ‘n’ roll, and a lot weird
Although the judges never put through group acts, people continue to audition in pairs, trios, etc. The first duo from hell are Crystal Ortiz, 26, and Randy Stark, 27, a romantic “item” who met on the American Idol message board. See, aren’t you glad you hang here at the FORT instead? Randy dispenses “advice” on The Other Board about auditioning, which is mystifying in light of his apparent inability to successfully audition himself. The twosome are performing “She’s More”, and hold hands throughout. Well, it’s not as icky as a brother and sister holding hands and singing, right? Yeah, that’s up next anyway. Randy does the majority of the singing, unfortunate because he’s completely tone-deaf, while Crystal at least shows signs of being able to carry a note. The judges dismiss them, and Simon advises them to go check into a hotel.
Michelle and Jeffrey Lampkin aren’t exactly Donny and Marie, but they’re certainly two big happy people who like to give high snaps. You know, “two snaps up!” like that old In Living Color sketch “Men on Film” that Damon Wayans and David Alan Grier used to do. (OK, that was a long time ago, when FOX had comedy shows that were funny.) Jeffrey claims to have used the AI judges as style influences, though I’m not sure which one of them wears a men’s tie on their head. The siblings are warbling their way through “I’m Your Angel”, and though it’s awfully easy to make fun of them, both of them can actually sing (with Jeffrey having the slight edge). They join hands and gaze into each other’s eyes at the end of the song, which would be a lot creepier if it wasn’t obvious that Jeffrey isn’t the least bit interested in girls. Simon tells Michelle bluntly that Jeffrey is the superior singer, but gives a yes to both. Paula says they’re “very special”, and indeed they are. Randy gives a yes to Jeffrey only, but Simon & Paula like them both, so the Lampkins are off to Hollywood – the first of this audition day one.
Like a virgin, part II
Oliver Highman and his wife make a brief reappearance – the producers thought it would be funny to show them getting lost (Mapquest sucks) on their way to the hospital. Yeah, you know what would have been funnier? Ryan Seacrest playing midwife.
The first Freak Parade of the day includes a guy in a kilt, an evening-gowned diva, and a fat guy who takes his shirt off, all to the tune of Carrie Underwood’s “Before He Cheats”. All underscoring what’s already painfully obvious – there are no potential Carries in Charleston, South Carolina.
We fondly remember Milo, the anti-sex crusader from last week. This week, we have a younger, prettier champion for abstinence, in the form of 16-year-old Amy Catherine Flynn. Amy is also the captain of her school’s dance team, and likes to speechify to other teens about how you shouldn’t have sex until college. Or ever, maybe. She must be really popular with the other kids, because I know that teenagers like to be preached at by other kids even more than they do by their parents. OK, sorry, but I’ve been suspicious of overly-confident teenage girls ever since Mikalah Gordon. Amy Catherine sings “Reflections” in a pleasant, but not fabulous, voice, and Paula enthusiastically gives her a thumbs-up. Simon, however, isn’t impressed and thinks the song was “too big” and that lots of people will find Amy annoying. No argument there from me, but Amy squeaks indignantly and Paula & Randy lamely come to her rescue. Simon rolls his eyes and tells Amy she’s not as good as she thinks she is, but Randy figures the teen has “mad potential” and she’s off to Hollywood. Simon warns Amy to stay away from Seacrest – good advice for anyone, really.
Baby Highman update time (and it’s preferable to Bad Audition Clip Montages, face it). Oliver and wife have finally made it safely to the hospital, and are anxiously awaiting the arrival of their new baby daughter.
London Weidberg, 24, grew up on the sandy shores of Charleston and lost her dad to cancer three years ago. I suppose I should like London, but there’s something about her that leaves me cold, and her “Good Morning Heartache” does nothing to warm me up – she’s very good, as would be expected from a working musician, but a bit affected. Randy likes it just enough for a yes vote, and Paula also admires what she calls London’s “engaging tone”. Simon, though highly approving of London’s first name, shrugs that there’s thousands like her, but Randy & Paula’s votes are enough to earn London a golden ticket. With that, day one in Charleston comes to a merciful end, though apparently 16 people have made the cut and will be going to Hollywood.
The girl with the enormous…belt
Lyndsey Goodman, 28, has the kind of backstory that AI producers can only dream of in the off-season – she’s a C17 pilot in the U.S. Air Force, and she’s really good-looking. All she needs to do is be able to sing. Now, an accomplished young lady like Lyndsey should be at least as confident as Abstinence Girl, but apparently the Air Force makes one terribly frightened of C-list celebrity judges. Lyndsey trembles her way through “Black Velvet”, and her singing is as rapid-fire as those big machine-type guns she probably learned to use in basic training. It’s unfortunate, because Lyndsey’s not a bad singer, just a very uptight and untrained one. Randy sighs regretfully and says that although it was “pretty good”, Lyndsey’s just not ready. Paula shakes her head and expresses concern about Lyndsey’s nervousness, and Simon calls her a “very good cabaret singer”. So it’s back to the transport planes for Lyndsey, but on the upside, she’ll probably win all the karaoke contests at the base pub.
22-year-old Aretha Codner has some big shoes to fill, because she was named after R&B legend Aretha Franklin. But Aretha’s name isn’t the most notable thing about her. That honor belongs to her wardrobe. Oh, you thought I was going to say something else, weren’t you? You thought I was going to make some cheap joke about her haircut. Like I would stoop to that level. Aretha is decked out in a strapless powder blue dress and gigantic silver belt, possibly borrowed from last week’s Star Wars Girl. Not content to make an impression with her dress, she’s going to attempt Whitney Houston, an artist that’s a mistake for AI audition hopefuls 99.9999% of the time. This Aretha though, she’s a helluva diva, if nothing else. And though she’s not as bad as, say, the guy in the kilt, she’s not going to see Hollywood on American Idol’s dime. Simon lambastes her over her horrid outfit, and says she “murdered” the song. Paula complains that there were key changes and pitch problems, and Randy – who’s kept his eyes fastened on the judges’ table after his first glimpse of Aretha – simply gives his no. Aretha fusses and fumes, noting that she often draws a crowd while singing, and of that I have no doubt. Her protests are to no avail, however, and Aretha is doomed to never get any R-E-S-P-E-C-T from the judges.
Truly, the SC auditions have been such a debacle, there’s no point going over yet another parade of deluded souls. So let’s just move on to Oliver Highman, who is now the proud papa of tiny Emma Grace, the first American Idol baby. Oliver’s wife has managed to give birth and emerge from the hospital looking none the worse for wear to cradle her new daughter and support her husband, who’s been given a second chance to prove he’s the next American Idol. Daddy Oliver has chosen “Get Here” for his audition, but unfortunately for him, he’s Lyndsey Goodman-type good – not actually bad, but not good enough for a golden ticket. Simon thinks he’s corny and old-fashioned, Randy found his style problematic, and Paula consoles that his voice is nice but it just didn’t work. Oliver takes the decision cheerfully, and asks the judges if they’d like to meet his daughter. His wife brings little Emma in, and the judges all coo over the infant and giggle that they’ll be seeing her in about 15 years’ time. Perhaps, if Paula can stay away from the “Coke”.
All in all, a total of 23 somehow get their tickets to Hollywood. Next week, it’s more audition pain, all brought to you by myself and the incomparable MotherSister. See y’all next Tuesday!
How many helpings do YOU have at all-you-can-eat Sunday? PM me.