(Miami is nice, Miami is nice; Miami is nice ... ) In case the 80s synth, the opening shots of beachfront skyline, and the aqua and pink logo didn’t clue you in, let me be the first to inform you that American Idol is all up in Miami tonight. Almost everything I know about Miami can be summed up in three words: The Golden Girls. (Or alternatively, Philip Michael Thomas.) But as Ryan so helpfully informs us, over 10,000 folks came to show us what Miami is all about. Slather on some Coppertone and come with me, won’t you, as we find out if any singers are hiding between all these gratuitous shots of women in bikinis.
I guess The Miami Sound Machine is going to be our soundtrack for the evening, so be careful, or else that rhythm will get you. Apparently, we haven’t been to Miami since season two, and that gets everybody all excited to prove that they’re worthy of us being there now. The crowd is all screaming and proclaiming their Next-American-Idolness as the judges wander in looking like they’re wondering where they are. The Miami heat is making everybody randy (except Randy) -- Simon’s got his moobs on full display, and Paula’s wearing a very short, unfortunately leopard-printed dress. Simon leers at her approvingly and says, “Very slutty,” and I’m officially filing for workman’s comp.
While I get my paperwork in order, you can hear about perky little over-accessorized Shannon McGough, an 18 year old who can never say no to colors and belts and sequins and beads. I can tell you that she grinds sausage and belches a lot, too, just in case you’ve already had your lunch but weren’t very attached to it. In front of the judges Shannon sings a Janis Joplin song and fully demonstrates through her wild arm movements and cutesy melisma that she has no idea what Janis was all about. The judges mock her a bit and crush her soul as she begs to sing something else, and Shannon decides to stomp all over some Aretha before saying no one has ever before told her she can’t sing. Simon says that people never know what they’re talking about. Randy calls her tone deaf, which is really just him being a jerk, and Shannon is dismissed. Her mom can’t believe it because Shannon’s won every singing competition ever, but I guess she can’t say that anymore. Ha.
Smiles and Silly String
Robbie Carrico used to be in a boy band back when that was cool, and now he’s moved on like the rest of the world. He sings Skynyrd’s “Simple Kind of Man,” and his voice is really pleasant, if generic. I also like how he does the “I’m pointing up to the sky because I really mean this part” thing. He gets a golden ticket, and then goes flying out into a wave of silly string and Christmas crackers courtesy of his family. Ryan’s all uncomfortable like, “Sir, this is TV! We don’t do such things here!” As if this is even close to the tackiest thing that’s ever happed on Idol. I thought it was kind of sweet.
More cheesecake shots, and Ryan tells us that the women in Miami are on fire, but the men are mostly cannon fodder. This brings us to Ghaleb Emachah, a “27” year old Venezuelan living in Miami, who plays the guitar and smiles really big at nothing. He sings a Mark Anthony song, and Simon says Ghaleb’s talents are best appreciated by the inebriated. I’m not sure if that’s an insult or a come-on. Paula says his accent is a little too thick, but the voice is nice. After some squabbling and weird theatrics from the judges, Randy and Paula eventually put him through. Ghaleb is so
Boratsmiling and happy and quirky that he kisses everyone in sight, including Ryan, who gets the chance to do some quality protesting too much.
Let’s see if I can get through this section without making any allusions to The Weather Girls.
Brittany Wescott and Corliss Smith are two loud, vibrant, long-time friends from Jacksonville who like to sing and like to grind all up on unsuspecting men. I think the joke is that they’re big. I’m not sure. Anyhoo, Brittany likes ‘em scrawny, but Corliss is after the beef. After all that goofy build up I know I was expecting them to get in front of the judges and act a fool, and they did. But! they did it while singing really well, so good for them. After coming on to Randy and so earning my enduring wrath, Corliss gives a pretty, stylized but not annoying rendition of “Take Five.” Brittany does a good job of singing “My Guy” to Simon and he tries to pretend he’s not interested, and then they both get unanimous passes to Hollywood. Hijinks ensue, Ryan is scared to be near the door when they come bounding out, and so on.
Now to bring it back down to the schmaltz we all know and … know, is our first sob story, in the form of a single mother named Suzanne Toon. Her musical flowering was interrupted by motherhood, but she’s looking to American Idol to make her dreams for herself and her daughter come true. Not to be down on dreams or anything but I can’t imagine hitching my hopes to anything so flimsy. But this isn’t really about me, so cue beauty shots of the adorable daughter in question, and Suzanne getting to sing her heart out in front of the judges. Her “I Can’t Make You Love Me,” is a little overwrought and uncontrolled, but her voice is appealing, and so she gets a golden ticket.
Blasts From the Past
Remember Jasmine Trias? I don’t, but I’m told she is a huge success and a positive example to Filipinos everywhere. At least that’s what Ramiele Malubay thinks. She’s one of those people who are so cute that they say “think you” instead of “thank you,” and when she announces that she’s going to sing “Natural Woman,” Randy and Paula patronize her and say, “Ooh, big song!” because she’s tiny. And then Ramiele belts it out. She’s so small, and then out comes this powerhouse of a voice, and you know that always impresses people, so Ramiele is through to Hollywood with Paula and Randy’s blessings.
Syesha Mercado is also a graduate of the school of Big Things in Small Packages. I consider it a grand testament to the immense suckitude of The One: Making A Music Star that no one in the world but its former recapper remembers Syesha as a contestant on that show. Oh, my misspent youth. How I mourn you. So, Syesha’s a believer in positive thinking, so her story about her dad overcoming alcoholism and addiction isn’t for you to sob at, it’s more for you to vote for her with. Once in the actual audition, we see that Syesha has a great big voice and doesn’t know what to do with it. Man. I have to admit I’m someone who hates the description of any and all loud singing as “shouting,” but there’s no other way to describe what Syesha does to Aretha’s “Think.” Simon speaking in euphemism calls it “a little bit of an effort,” but Paula and Randy are eating Syesha up like pudding. Randy calls her the best they’ve seen in Florida, and for vague reasons that makes me kind of sad. She gets all yeses though, and gets a hug from dad while we see a short train of successes like Natasha Blach, who sings a breathy, decorated “At Last,” and Ilsy Pinot who for some reason chooses to sing Rihanna.
Of course, we need the yin to our yang, so a sucky bunch of sucks follows this, including but not limited to a skinny dork in a pleather jacket, a crazy guy in a stonewashed jean jacket, and a girl in a frumpy church blazer. I see a theme in there somewhere, or perhaps a life truth, but I can’t quite make it out. Then we get a lengthy introduction to Richard Valles, perhaps to lull us into the comforting belief that he’ll be worth listening to, but nope! Those cruel editors fooled me again, and Richard singing Rascal Flatts in all of his nasally glory is perhaps the worst I’ve heard so far. God bless the broken ears.
Return of the Overgrown Junior
When we meet Julie Dubela, she is amazed and a little insulted that Ryan doesn’t remember her from her stint as a top 20 contestant on that television classic American Juniors. This gives us a hint and a half of Julie’s overall aura of grossness right off the bat, but we spend a lot of time with her anyway, including video trips down memory lane, with Julie still knowing every pointy pose and cheesy note of the routine she did at 12. Julie says she doesn’t believe in mediocrity, and aside from that statement being philosophically unsound, um … Julie, sweetheart, you overconfident nightmare, you’re a reject from American Juniors. Mediocrity is you.
The judges rib her about AJ, and she kind of doesn’t get that it’s a huge joke on her. She sings what she calls “Me and My Bobby McGee,” and if I didn’t dislike her already, that’d do it. Plus her singing is littered with phony grunts and mangled lyrics and weird, stagey gestures. Simon cuts her off and calls her precocious, and she strikes a Pickler-like expression as she says “What does that mean?” Seriously, keep this girl away from me at all times now and forevermore. Randy busts her for practicing every hunch and flail in front of a mirror, and instead of taking the criticism with the grace expected of a proto-child star, she reacts like the brat she is and starts in on “Butterfly.” Boo. Simon tells her to become an actress, and I don’t understand why he hates the viewing public enough to wish that on us.
Out in the hall, Julie whines about being called precocious, even though she doesn’t know what that means. She pouts and is awful and says “dude, shut up,” to no one or maybe the world, Simon calls her overindulged, and the editors twist the knife in Julie’s gut by splicing her creepy, smiley Juniors version of “Rainy Days and Mondays” in with it all. So long Julie. We hardly knew ye, and we are glad.
Last and Least
Some skinny kid named Brandon Black is in one of Notorious BIG’s suits from the “Hypnotize” video, and he also has on a wig, which he thinks is hilarious. He slides into the judging room cracking “jokes” in a voice that’s a nerve-splitting mix of Chris Tucker and Katt Williams, but when he sees the judges are not amused, he reverts to his regular voice and wants to sing “I’ll Make Love To You,” which offends Paula for some reason. I’m only offended once he starts singing. It’s your average mediocre audition, plus ten pounds of squeakiness. Then he sings something about being the next American Idol. He goes back into his comedy act, and Simon says he looks desperate; I think he looks like a corny fool. Tomato, tomahto.
And that’s all from Miami. Seventeen lucky ducks got passes to Hollywood, and we actually saw quite a few of them. Ryan waxes poetic about the many thousands rejected, and we get to see a fun, angry-making clip of bratty Julie brushing away her mother’s comforting pat on the back. Nice. Next week we’re headed to the ATL, and it’s even money that Simon will tell someone she isn’t as good as she thinks she is. You won't want to miss that.
Anybody out there want to retire to Miami and eat cheesecake with me? You can even bring your crazy mother. PM me if you’re interested.