To paraphrase perennial contestant favorite Celine Dion, American Idol auditions go on…and on…and on. Unlike the Titanic, however, the ratings just don’t sink. The last gasp of audition week is usually reserved for the worst of the worst, but this season FOX is tossing the viewers a bone – instead of murderizing our eardrums with a full hour of bad auditions, we’re promised some never-before-seen good ones. So tonight, we get a dose of the good, the bad, and one heckuva cute puppy.
God’s little joke
The rigors of auditioning for AI, which include getting in line at 4 a.m. and standing in the rain (something I’d happily do to get tickets if Led Zeppelin decides to tour, by the way) unfortunately isn’t enough to deter the likes of Luke Reeder and Victor Villegas. The former is sporting a strange-looking hat with earflaps, making him look a little like The Iron Sheik without the moustache, while the latter bleats like Mary’s Little Lamb. It made the judges laugh and play, laugh and play, laugh and play, and both Luke and Victor are sent home from school.
Amy Davis, 25, is another AI hard-luck case, being one of six kids from a poor family. Which must explain her shoes, four-inch heels adorned with gold sequins. I can almost hear Carrie Bradshaw sobbing in the background, but Randy compliments them. Fortunately, Amy’s voice is much sweeter than her taste in footwear, and she turns in a charming rendition of “Blue Bayou”. Simon gives a quick yes, and Randy likes the “possibilities” of Amy’s vocals, so she’s off to Hollywood. As for Paula, she does her part by promising to take Amy on a shopping trip to Prada.
Tiffany McCampbell has a voice that’s a “gift from God”. Not only that, Tiffany also claims that the Holy Spirit told her to try out for AI. It’s true, God works in mysterious ways. Tiffany partakes in some vocal warmups that sound oddly demonic in nature, proving that someone who just stands too close to Ryan Seacrest is subject to evil influence. God’s gift has chosen to sing “Hallelujah”, natch, but her vocal performance is so horrid it’s a wonder a bolt of lightning didn’t smite her halfway through. Simon snickers and asks Tiffany if God has a return policy, and as Tiffany looks confused he reverts to the patented Cowell eye-roll and tells her she cahn’t sing. Randy and Paula blow her off in a more kindly manner, and Tiffany is sent back to damage the ears and spirit of her fellow parishioners.
K-Fed squared, with Brit before the crazy
Season 7 has apparently been the year of duos and couples auditioning, but tonight we have something new – our very first AI love triangle, set to the theme song of “Three’s Company”. On board this love boat are twins Cory and Chris, a matched pair of Lacoste-wearing prep-school types, who have both fallen under the spell of 19-year-old Ashley Lawing, an apparent fan of tanning spas and Crest Whitestrips. OK, fine, I’ll stop, as that makes me sound like a mean, catty, middle-aged woman. Oh, wait…I am a mean, catty, middle-aged woman. But in the spirit of the competition, I promise to apologize if it turns out that Ashley can really sing. *snicker* Cory & Chris have had the
appalling bad tastesad luck to both fall in love with Ashley. Curse that identical DNA! Ashley, clutching a Pomeranian puppy that’s much cuter than the twins, giggles maniacally while explaining that she initially fell in love with Cory, but at some point switched over to Chris. Or the other way around. Does it matter, anyway? Now, she’s sort of dating them both. However, as she never releases her grip on the Pom, it appears she’s already made her choice. Maybe she’s not as dumb as she looks.
Auditioning first are 22-year-old Cory & Chris, who have made the doomed choice of A) Auditioning as a pair and B) Choosing to perform a lame rap song. Anyone surprised that they suck? Anybody? Cory (or Chris) even forgets the words. Randy, not surprisingly, is a no, while Simon sneers that it was all very amateurish, and Paula grits her teeth and tells the boys they’re “charming”. She may have even meant that sarcastically, but I don’t really remember as my attention was beginning to waver at that point.
It’s Ashley’s turn, and she makes a good first impression, courtesy of the adorable little “Panda” that the judges all bill and coo over. Simon positively fawns over the pup, and joshingly tells Ashley that he’s stealing her dog. Ashley smiles hugely and tells Simon he can have whatever he wants, as long as he puts her through to Hollywood. Simon’s eyes light up like a Christmas tree, but I’m pretty sure that’s for the dog and not Ashley. Finally, we get around to the singing part, which is a predictably horrendous version of “Red High Heels”, embellished with some arm-waving and hair-tossing. Simon, cheery smile still nailed to his face, tells Ashley that it was “excruciating” and chortles that even her dog is struggling to get out of the room. Happiness is a warm, cuddly dog, indeed. Meanwhile, the twins titter evilly in the holding room, telling Ryan that they convinced Ashley she was good enough to audition. Maybe, like K-Fed himself, they’re not so bad after all. When put up against the alternative, that is. Speaking of, Ashley is still dumbly astonished that the judges really think she can’t sing. She asks, “Is it opposite day?” Why, yes, Ashley, it is. Here’s your golden ticket. You’re the next American Idol. Oh, and your puppy is fugly. Finally, though, Ashley takes her dog and leaves, waving cheerily to the judges, and departs with her twin suitors. So everyone achieved their goal of being on TV, and we got to watch Simon turn to mush over a puppy. Win-win.
Nashville’s Cardin Lee McKinney, 20, has a big voice, bordering on shouty, that leaves the judges split. Simon thinks her rendition of “One Night Only” from Dreamgirls is too theatrical and that she doesn’t have a hope in hell of ever becoming a contemporary recording artist. Paula and Randy, though, think there’s room to grow, and Cardin is the first diva of the day off to Hollywood.
JoAnne Borgella, 25, is a plus-size model. For the record – she’s not that big, and possesses an undeniably lovely face. It would seem the girl has some vocal chops, too, as she was already tapped to sing the national anthem at Madison Square Garden for a college basketball game. The judges are all anticipation as JoAnne starts into Celine Dion’s “I Love You”, and if she’s not the greatest singer ever to appear on the AI audition stage, girlfriend can certainly hold her own even with Celine. Paula falls all over herself complimenting JoAnne, praising her looks, her tone, and calling the performance “quality”. Simon is unimpressed, though, and barks out a “no” vote. Randy thinks JoAnne can sing, however, and his yes vote is a gold ticket for Diva No. 2.
I’m goin’ to Dollywood!
Every once in a while, Paula manages to score a point. Not often, mind you. She has as much luck pitted against Simon as Chester does against Spike. Today, though, Paula’s salvation comes in the unlikely form of 19-year-old Alesha Stezl, who has a very strange, breathy little Betty Boop-type speaking voice. To make matters worse, Alesha has chosen a Celine song – the bane of the bad, mediocre, and oftentimes, the good singers – and not surprisingly, it’s pretty bad. Oddly enough, though, it’s just barely perceptible that Alesha actually does have the ability to carry a tune. Now, 99 times out a 100, the judges wave off this type of audition, and Simon has some fun needling Alesha. Paula, though, thoughtfully muses that it’s not “dreadful”, as Simon says, and Alesha has “nice tone”. Simon guffaws, but Paula is insistent, saying that she sounds like Dolly Parton. Randy agrees and tells Alesha she should have picked a Dolly song. I’m almost sorry for Alesha, who clearly doesn’t know what a Dolly is. Simon decides to join the party and tells Alesha to go learn a Dolly Parton song and come back.
Poor Alesha rejoins her mom outside the audition room, and they go on a mission to find someone who knows the lyrics to any Dolly song. Some kind soul produces a CD of “Islands in the Stream” (which would be kicking around any AI set anyway, seeing as how often it’s been a Hollywood-week duet number), and Alesha dutifully sets about learning the lyrics. She reappears in front of the judges and…damned if she really does sound like Dolly Parton. Simon, nonplussed, asks, “Where should we go from here?”, but refuses to cast a vote. Randy is pleased and likes Alesha’s “sweet” tone, and Paula agrees to bestow a golden ticket. A stunned Alesha departs with her prize, and Simon helps himself to a heapin’ helping of humble pie, admitting that Paula was right. Paula whoops triumphantly, and Simon admits to being “really disappointed – it wasn’t the ending I wanted”. It’s probably not the ending Alesha is wanting, either, as she doesn’t have a hope of making past the first cut in Hollywood, but hey, it was fun while it lasted.
The mack daddy, and Simon the scullery maid
A couple of weirdo contestants not worth mentioning are seen, then we’re on to 25-year-old Joshua Mooreland, aka “J-Smooth”. Um, OK. Look, I can’t even type “J-Smooth” with a straight face, so it’s going to be “Joshua” here. Joshua not only has the “wow factor”, but he’s also a ladies’ man extraordinaire. He’s so respectful of the lay-dees, he even removes his hood and sunglasses in front of Paula, and dedicates his original song “Beautiful Lady” to her. It’s by far the cheeziest R. Kelly imitation seen thus far on the AI audition set, and Joshua’s falsetto causes Simon to observe that approximately 10,000 dogs have gathered outside as a result. Paula giggles that she likes Joshua’s “accoutrements” – the glitter and rose petals scattered as he emoted. Randy rather kindly says he’s just not ready, and Joshua is sent back to charm the girls in his neighborhood. An unfortunate girl with a headset and AI t-shirt appears to sweep up the discarded glitter and flowers, but Simon thinks it’s more of a job for Ryan, and trots off to fetch him from the holding room. The FOX staffer is caught in the middle of some hostile banter between Simon & Ryan, the end result seeing Simon clumsily tidying up the stage. Nice to see he’s finally earning that 43-million-dollar salary.
Audition time, and the livin’ is Eze
The producers decide the time is ripe to have a few yucks at Simon’s expense, focusing not on his flimsy v-necks, but on his lack of knowledge of U.S. geography, and his inability to pronounce (or read) the contestants’ names. Which, of course, segues into the ultimate name-challenge, 22-year-old Chikeze Eze. Chikeze is a failed hopeful from last season, and sighs that the judges just weren’t “feelin’” him. This year, he channels a little Luther Vandross, with a smooth and sonorous version of “All The Woman I Need”. Simon thinks Chikeze is “interesting”, but is unsure about his voice. Paula thinks there’s talent there, and Randy’s comments are unrevealed, but Chikeze emerges victoriously, waving his golden ticket.
Another unsuccessful contender from last year is 17-year-old Danny Noriega, who blames his past failure on nerves and a bad song choice. He plans to redeem himself this year with his take on “Proud Mary”, and although his performance is somewhat marred by silly arm gestures, the kid has a great, great voice, all the more astonishing when you consider it’s coming out of this scrawny, shaggy-haired teenager. Simon is enormously pleased, and approves of Danny’s voice and confidence. Randy loves it, and tells Danny he’s got “a gift”. Paula is also blown away, and it’s an easy 3-yes hat trick that sends Danny to Hollywood.
In case you don’t completely appreciate an hour comprised of more good auditions than bad, there’s a quickie reel of the crazies, along with some inspiring highlights of the actual gold ticket recipients. Next week, the 164 successful audition contestants land in Hollywood and the real competition begins – the drama, the tears, the forgotten lyrics, the hostilities among the judges…oh yeah, and the singing. Because after all, this is a singing competition, right? With a little something extra this year, because the hopefuls will be able to use their instrumental skills as well as their vocals to win over the panel. And best of all? Audition Hell is over for another season.
What’s your gift from God? PM me.