We're in week three of auditions with an actual end in sight. Just one more of these are we're free of all the freaks, the people with terrible delusions, mental problems and tone deaf families who “support” them. With that kind of support, who needs enemies? As the AI circus rolls into Salt Lake City, Dimcrest breathlessly announces that this is the home of David Archuleta and, who else, the Osmonds. Groan. This is going to be a long episode. But don't worry, I'll edit out the really revolting parts. You're welcome!
Lookee, an Osmond! What were the odds?
A sea of wholesome-looking, neatly coiffed Salt Lake residents are packed into a sports arena with visions of
their own 15 minutes of famemusical glory shining in their eyes. We find out that Salt Lake City is the friendliest city on earth and a dude with a rainbow guitar even says “it rocks”. It rocks? Really? Well, if they say so. Randy arrives in a Superman shirt and leopard shoes, Paula is weirdly covered up in a matronly blouse, Kara looks bewildered and Simon gets hugs from total strangers who take turns rubbing his biceps. Allrighty then.
The scene is thus set for the most predictable AI style cheese I can think of. Among the hundreds of thousands of Osmonds roaming the planet, there is one, believe it or not, who has so far not been shown on TV. Incredible, I know. I would have liked to keep it that way, but the AI producers have other other ideas. This particular
ringerspecimen of fine Osmondly generic blandness is called David Osmond, 29, from Provo, Utah. His distinguishing features, aside from the whole family thing, are extremely neat spiky hair and the fact that he suffers from MS. His daddy is the oldest performing Osmond who, along with about 3% of the entire Osmond population, is assembled in the kitchen of their family home. Naturally, we're treated to clips of Osmonds singing, Osmonds looking creepily identical and more Osmonds grinning into the camera after which comes a well-rehearseddetailed description of why we should like young David. I fast forwarded through that. There's only so much I can stomach. Sorry.
David starts off singing some song I've never heard of by an outfit I've also never heard of, called Take 6. I googled them and it's safe to say I won't be rushing off to Ticketmaster to buy tickets for their next concert. The song is called Something within me and David delivers it with the kind of imitation boyband earnestness that was big with junior high honor roll students circa 1990. Simon sighs heavily, sips his Coke and looks ticked off while the others listen stone faced. Paula's gripe is that he didn't pick a song by a solo artist, Randy didn't like the song, Kara was distracted by all the run-on runs and Simon says he shouldn't try to be contemporary. Naturally the Osmond spawn with the cheesy backstory gets a golden ticket and I get a horrible, horrible vision of a future Osmond themed AI night. Somebody, make it go away, please!
Gothic with a side of bunny
To show that Salt Lake City does in fact have diversity, our next contestant is Tara Matthews. She is sporting an unnatural shade of red hair, heavy eyeliner, pale skin, garters with black stockings, long black gloves and a short too-tight black dress that shows off every, er, curve. Not a pretty picture, trust me. This, apparently, is what passes for Goth attire in Salt Lake City. Seacrest questions the authenticity of her “look” but Tara claims she is not trying to make a point and that it's all her. Of course. She is also psychic and when prodded by Simon, she admits that she has a “pretty good feeling” that she'll win. Naturally. He song is One day I'll fly away from the Moulin Rouge soundtrack. Or it would be if it didn't sound as like the wailing of ten hungry puppies. Goth girl gets no ticket and must seek her fortunes somewhere else.
There are more sadly misguided people in Salt Lake and AI is eager to show us all of them. Aleesha Turner, Katie Sullivan and creepy, lip-licking Rick Kagel all bomb in their own special way. If talent and looks are in short supply, one must resort to a gimmick, and what could be a better gimmick than having your own giant, hairy, bearded pink bunny! Greg the Rabbit stands behind Chris Kirkham as he sings Roll to me but Simon stops him saying he can't take the bunny anymore. Even though neither the bunny, nor Chris make it to Hollywood, Simon is treated to big bunny hug. I freeze-framed it because it was just so cute! It will be a while before Simon lives this one down.
Happy, happy, joy, joy
In such a happy place as Salt Lake City, even the usual array of delusional time-wasters are quite polite when rejected. Some chirp their thank yous happily, they smile, they wave and generally act like they're honored to be kicked to the curb. Are drugs legal in Utah? Just asking. Clearly, none of them has a clue. So much good cheer is getting on Simon's nerves and he looks like he'd rather be somewhere normal instead, like say, New York City. Things degenerate to where Seacrest is forced to go out into the waiting room to tell everyone to be less docile and accepting and “fight for it”. Translation: gives us some drama so we can have footage to show, dammit!
As the whole waiting room giggles politely, it's Frankie Jordan's turn, 24, from Hollywood. She is a stay-at-home-mom with a young baby and she is confident in her abilities. That's usually bad news but Frankie sounds like Amy Winehouse and even looks a bit like her minus the beehive, the skeletal body and the vacant drug addict stare. She gets four yeses and a ticket back to Hollywood.
Suddenly, after so much robotic politeness, things are looking up. Megan Corkrey, is 23, has lots of tattoos and is a recently divorced single mother with a two year old son. They're shown playing happily together as Megan tells of her desire to try out for AI and pursue her dream. She sings Can't help loving that man of mine in a bluesy, jazzy voice that's really unique. Randy likes her, Paula likes her, Simon says he “absolutely loved it”, she's one of the best and Kara concurs with all of them. She gets through to Hollywood in no time and just like that we have our next (blonde) Carly Smithson.
As the crowds thin, a few more good apples are found – none of whom merit so much as a 10 second introduction. Maybe they justs didn't have a tragic enough, er, inspirational story. Andrew Gibson can do some break dancing moves but he bombs badly, even though he thinks he has soul. He'll be going back to school instead of Hollywood, which is a very, very good thing.
High school student Austin Sisneros is a fresh-faced, wholesome-looking, senior class president at his school. He wants to show people that they need to follow their dreams, which is why he's auditioning for AI. He sings a song by Train that none of the judges are enthused about after which he launches into some awful old fashioned thing called It takes a whole village with lyrics like “we want everyone to share the joy”. Gosh, golly, gee whiz! Randy takes pity on him, Kara saw something she liked, Paula believes in him and Simon agrees. The 17 year old class president is off to cry with his family in the waiting room after which he'll be going to Hollywood. Hopefully, he's leaving the village joy behind.
We fade back into another interminable commercial – the only kind available on this show – with Seacrest teasing another amazing story of courage and hardship. This one is about a girl whose father died when she was 13 years old. It's really sad, we're told, and to reinforce this, we are shown an entire montage of weeping wannabes who were cruelly rejected by the evil judges. What happened to all the happiness?
You will be impressed. It's expected.
Jarett Burns stands out by being good enough to go to Hollywood but there's an endless succession of screeching, tortured people whose auditions fade into a swirling cacophony of awfulness. Is there any hope left? Maybe Taylor Vaifanua of Samoan origin, 16 years old and 5'11” can turn the tide. Her song is Joyful, joyful which she does well enough to impress the judges, Randy most notably, who says she has the best vocals he's heard this season so far. Big words translate into a golden ticket for Taylor.
The day is drawing to a close but not before we can hear from the last contestant. Seacrest promised another gut wrenching story a couple commercials back and nobody is leaving until we get to hear from 17 year old Rose Flack, from Idaho, who she lives with her adoptive family, the Byes. At age 13, she lost her father then at 15 her mom died in a car accident. She has artfully disheveled platinum blond hair with a sprinkling of braids, wears hippie clothes and walks around barefoot in her hometown. Her current dream is to make it to Hollywood. She shows up barefoot in front of the judges to sing I feel the Earth move by Carol King, which she does with feeling and a pleasant voice. Simon didn't like the song choice, but loves her and will remember her, Randy likes her cool vibe, Kara and Paula give her the thumbs up and Rose is off to Hollywood amid cheers from her whole family.
The day ends with only 13 people getting a ticket to Hollywood out of that whole big stadium full of polite, happy and clean-cut Salt Lake City hopefuls. With only a couple more stops before Hollywood week, the show is slowly but surely pressing on. Next week, the Kodak Theater promises to be the scene of many a heartbreaking failure and perhaps a few successes too. Just par for the AI course.
Would you rather go barefoot or sing some awful song about a whole village in front of the judges?