We open on an official looking motorcade, complete with police escorts, but before you get to thinking that American Idol has been pre-empted by something more important, let me put your mind at ease. That’s Rymon in that lead limo, chatting about the cornball radio announcer way Ryan speaks to us and just generally working on their relationship. Nothing could be more important than that.
They Just Won’t Stop Believing
Also, we’re in Jacksonville, Florida tonight (Edward Waters stand up!), and so there’s a labored little deal about it being Randy Jackson-ville, complete with footage of Randy looking laughable in his salad days as Journey’s bassist-cum-black-spandex-and-red-fringed-vest-wearer. It goes on a bit long, but I don’t mind because I enjoy the thought of millions around the world engaging in diffuse mockery of Randy Jackson all at the same time. Make as much of a joke of Randy as you wish, show. You’ll not hear any complaints from me. “Don’t Stop Believing” plays cleverly as we see all the 12,000 people who showed up to Jacksonville who maybe should stop believing but no one will tell them so here we are.
Up first! 22 year old tile layer Joshua Ulloa, who takes care to do his hair just so, in order that he might always be compared to Justin Guarini. He leaps into the judging room and breaks into “Let’s Get It On,” attended with all the insturmental wah-wahs you’d ever want to hear come from a guy who can’t sing. Simon thinks he was good in the parts where he wasn’t corny or gimmicky, which is a clever way of saying he was never good. But the judges all think he’s fun and entertaining, so they give him a free vacation to Hollywood anyway because Joshua will probably appreciate it. I kind of love when that happens.
Next up, a cute little Shih Tzu named Sasha who unfortunately comes as part of the package that is Sharon Wilbur. It’s Sharon who’s doing the singing but she brings her dog into the audition and plops him on Simon’s lap anyway because who would want to give up being on TV? Sharon’s the next American Idol, according to Sharon, and she proves it by singing a creaking door version of “Superstar” that even Britney herself would disclaim. Kara calls out the Britney allusion, Paula pretends to maul Kara for some reason, and then Sharon gets through. And, she nearly kicks Sasha as she bursts through the door and gets swept up in the joy wave, so good times had by all.
Off and On Course
Ryan’s touring the Jacksonville area in a golf cart and getting lost in the rain forest because no one really needs to take this stuff seriously anyway; meanwhile, a misguided girl in a fedora and a hot pink shift shrieks out “Through the Fire” like she’s on her way to an actual fire. Simon says she doesn’t have the voice for Chaka Khan, and when the girl says she’s open to taking direction, Simon points her toward the exit (zing!) through which Fedora Girl leaves with good grace.
Ryan is back in the building just in time to introduce us to young Kaneswa Finnie, who he marks as being unnaturally confident for a 16 year old. She smiles and says it comes from her mother, who walks into the shot and agrees. Confident Kaneswa goes to be judged, while her mother and Ryan chat some more about what a superstar she is, and how she’s been performing around Jacksonville since she was five. The judges miss out on that convo, so they also miss out on the richest comedy of Kaneswa’s eventual audition, wherein she sings Anita Baker’s “Rapture” exactly like a five year old whining for her sippy. The judges laugh through the whole thing as per usual, and then Simon says the singing got progressively worse, which is a killer because he thinks she smiles nice. Kaneswa gets all, “Of course you’d say that because you’re the bastard,” and then everyone asks to see her mother. Ms. Paula strolls in and Simon tells her that her daughter blows; Ms. Paula is similarly disbelieving, and then they leave. I’m glad I watched that.
Not so much this: 19 year old Julissa Veloz, Miss Latina something-or-other who laughs like a mouth-breather and who wore her crown, sash, and her Sunday wig for us to see. Then she sings “I Have Nothing,” which, to be honest I can’t listen to anymore because my mind glosses over when I hear it. So I don’t know how she did. Simon declares himself surprised by her voice, but then says Julissa “didn’t actually make the song sound nice.” Well, but who could, so that’s not so much of a barb. Then he and Kara rag on her laugh and are consumed by their own voices, so they forget Paula’s there. Paula gets up and leaves in a “huff,” Julissa follows and it’s just odd. Then everybody but Simon loves her Kara sing-songs “Kooky-kooky-kooky!” because she’s hip to the game even after such a short while, and Simon finally relents and gives Julissa her unanimous vote.
Bring on the Night
Also fitting the Kooky-kooky-kooky bill is Darrin Darnell, 28, from Houston. We meet him whooping and dancing and smiling all over everybody in his vicinity, and introducing us to his newest bestie, some guy named Devin. Devin’s unsuccessful bid at a golden ticket brings Darrin crashing down like a bear market – Darrin turns into a blubber bucket in no time flat and then changes his song to “It’s So Hard to Say Goodbye to Yesterday.” Cooley High does signify all things despair, but it’s absolutely odd to watch Darrin tremble through this song like he’s just lost a Cochise when really he just lost the equivalent of the guy who sits next to you at the bus stop. However. Simon cuts him off after about a minute, and Kara says if he’s crumbling this severely at the pressures of an Idol audition, no way should he be allowed to pursue a music career. Or a driver’s license. Kara refers to her advice as doing Darrin “a huge solid,” and I refer to her as ridiculous.
Naomi Sykes is the last one in for Day One. She jitters in and they ask her how she’s like Mariah Carey. Naomi confesses a similar ability to hit the high notes, and they all smirk scornfully. Then Naomi wants to bring in her friend to drool over Randy, because her friend has a mental problem and that obviously needs to be more represented on TV. They do a slo-mo fade with a moody trumpet playing, and then the wacko sits on Randy’s lap, Paula sits on Simon’s lap, and they have to beg Ryan to sit on Kara’s lap, where she bounces him like a baby. Naomi meanwhile offers herself up to the gallows with “Loving You,” and promises before she begins that she will deliver that famous whistle, but the mission’s really already accomplished with the friend and the lap-sitting, so Naomi doesn’t even try with the song. I mean, her friend can’t even keep a straight face. Simon refuses to treat Naomi like a serious audition, and she whips out the fake tears and says how everyone loves her, and she keeps it up until she’s well out of the camera range.
Ryan and Simon have a little post-game breakdown in which Simon pronounces the day “mostly terrible,” and I can find no way to improve upon that sentiment. So, since Day One was chock-a-block with losers and people who succeeded in spite of being pretty loserish, I have no choice but to hope that the latter half of Jacksonville Fun Time is more worth watching.
Cute Overload and Acute Overgrowth
Batting first for Team Optimism is 16 year old Jasmine Murray who has an unbelievably adorable passel of siblings and a mother who almost died to bring the gift of Jasmine into the world. I am being sarcastic about absolutely none of that. Audition-wise, Jasmine sings Fergie in a voice just enough better than Fergie’s to be good, and tickles the judges into good cheer. Simon thinks Jasmine is cute and commercial, and that’s not the damnation it is on Top Model, so we’re still all smiles. Paula likes her voice, Randy says something idiotic, Jasmine gets voted through, she and her sisters and mother get the spirit and Ryan teases them, then they hold hands and dance off into the mid day sun, trailing sunshine and lollipops, rainbows and everything that’s wonderful behind them. I’m still not kidding. The segment really was that cute.
Here now, though, is the antithesis of cute – sorry, but a segue’s a segue – one George Ramirez, an 18 year old physics student with a beard that’s unreasonably large for anyone other than Pa Ingalls. Ryan thinks people are too often scared of physics but he’s wrong on that one. We’re scared of physicists, which is different. Sensible too, as we next see George thrashing around like a raver which is something you should never see in broad daylight, so clearly we have a point. George finds it difficult to decide whether he loves music more than physics, and then he finds it more difficult to humor Simon’s question about where he sees himself eleven years from now, and it all gets awkward forever until George is finally like, “Can I sing now?” and they go “Sure.” George goes on to stumble around the borders of my favorite morning song, “Walking on Sunshine.” It’s obviously a no-go, but then the judges ask him what he and his friends like to do, and we get through rock climbing and playing guitar before they’re tired of batting around the string and let George go. Out in the hall, he seems truly disappointed but assures Ryan that we will see him around, although perhaps not in any way affiliated with American Idol. I really hope that’s true.
All About Anne Marie
Anne Marie Boskovich is from Nashville, and she has her guitar with her in line to prove it to you. She also wants to prove that she knows who “Kara DioGuardi” is because that’s an automatic in, so she sings some song Kara sang one time in Nashville. Everybody marvels over her very pretty voice for a minute and it’s all very Eve Harrington meeting Margo Channing for a little while, until
Addison DeWittSimon chimes in and says she’s too much of a frump in her jean jacket and prairie skirt. Oh, it’s all going according to plan! They tell her to go and rework her image and come back at the end of the day ready to win her big award.
In the in between time, we’ve got T.K. Hash, a Carolina boy who is back for his second year in front of the judges. He sings a very overworked “Imagine,” and has a great voice to do it with. Paula says he sounds even better this year because she sees through time. Randy hated that he added all the decorations, somebody says something about Archuleta inspiring him and T.K. is like, “Sure, whatever, I’ll say whatever as long as I can get out of North Carolina.” And then he makes it and his family is all over the place with their happiness.
More random families get to say things ranging from endearing to creepy about their Idol hopefuls, and this all leads us to 18 year old Michael Perrelli, whose mother adores him. There’s footage of Michael being busky with his guitar around Jacksonville and talking about how awesome he is. Then, tragedy strikes and Michael starts hyperventilating when he learns that he can’t use the guitar during the audition. Confidence shattered, he heads into the judging room without any sort of Plan B but determined to sing “Jumper” of all things. Simon thinks his voice isn’t interesting enough to make the show, and Kara advises him to stick to venues where he can lean on his guitar. Michael starts to beg for another shot because he’s nervous, and Simon is subconsciously willing him to take their advice and be good about it, but he won’t. They all pass on him, while outside his family is telling Ryan that all Michael does all day is play music and dream of being a superstar. Which is fine if you’re 11, but once you’re sprouting hair, you really need to wise up and start thinking about B-Plans. Like jobs. Simon says so much only not as nice, and tells him to start a band. Michael rejects this, and then out in the hall he similarly rejects a comforting kiss from his mommy and pat on the back from his big brother. Ryan is downright ashamed of Michael’s being such a whinybaby. Michael continues whinybabying to the camera about how much he wants this, and says “I don’t want to be arrogant, but…” I just want to say, there’s no way to finish that sentence. Continuing to believe that you’re the awesome when you’ve been told by people with more credibility than your mom that you are not is pretty much the textbook definition of arrogance, so I don’t want to hear anymore.
Anne Marie’s back to bookend this thing properly. She’s shed the jacket, put on some makeup and tousled her hair and so she passes muster and gets to sing “Bubbly.” Then the judges lavish her as they should’ve done in the first place without wasting our time with the makeover montage, but it’s the end of the show so who really cares!
We’re done with Jacksonville, probably forever, because only 16 tickets were handed out and a bunch of them went to Miss Latina, Guarini 2, and Sasha’s Mom, so. We’ll just montage out with all of Jacksonville singing “Walking on Sunshine” as we all agree never to speak of this episode again. Next up is Salt Lake City. MsFroggy will be around to tell you how they get down in Archuleta Town. I’m going to go set my alarm for Hollywood Week. See you then!