On 10/2/2010 history was made in Milwaukee, WI when American Idol came to town for the first time.
Steven and Randy say hello to the city with a rap about people who can’t sing and the confidence they bring. Rim shot. They leave it up to Ryan to welcome us and show us the crowds. He singles out a young woman as the city’s spokesperson and she says, “We don’t have an accent here; we just like our cheese and beer.” Cast your vote for the better rap. Personally I like the young woman.
All riiight, Milwaukee! Danny Gokey, native son from season 8, is in the crowd pumping them up. From Danny immersed among the hopefuls in front of The Bradley Center Arena, we zoom across town to the Milwaukee Art Museum, where the judges find their seats at a table in front of large angled glass windows overlooking the lake. Note: This is the third audition room with a body of water as background. Back at the Bradley Center, Danny Gokey is once again the keynote speaker. He rouses the packed house to cheers: Let’s hope the next American Idol comes out of Milwaukee!
Razzle dazzle and hoopla soften into a backstory of a young man from Garner, NC. Scotty McCreery, 16, is an all American kid who loves baseball and his hometown. The slender Scott with a pressed shirt loves to sing country, and his rich baritone opens up with “Your Man” by Josh Turner. He makes JLo smile and Steven to ask for a change-up (in other words, something with a little more pep). After bonding with Randy over Travis Tritt, he launches into one of his songs, which gooses Steven into commenting, “Well, hellfire and matches. Let’s **** a duck and see what hatches.” I guess that is the Rock and Roll way of showing appreciation for a country dude. Randy likes that Scotty is a throwback country baritone. After three YESES, Scotty leaves with a golden ticket.
JLo: With the right songs, we discovered him.
Joe Repke, 19, a college DJ finds a rapport and camaraderie with Ryan; but he would rather meet JLo. Once he demonstrates his radio voice for the judges, he sings “The Longest Time” by Billy Joel, snapping his fingers for rhythm. Steven, being brutally honest, tells him not to quit his day job. JLo and Randy agree – encouraging him to pursue a radio career. Joe, though, prefers not to hear them and finger snaps* his way into “Fools Rush In.” This time the unanimous NO has him rushing out.
Emma Henry, 15, drove all the way from Colorado with her family on a learner’s permit. American Idol is her dream, all that she wants. She sings, “True Colors” by Cindy Lauper and the judges try to find the words. Steven thinks she has a certain something, but he can’t put his finger on it, but it has a lot of character. JLo thinks she has a special quality to build on. Randy doesn’t think she is ready yet and calls for a vote. JLo votes No and Steven votes Yes. She cries to Randy that she wants it soooo bad. With soft background music playing, Randy gently tells her that he believes that she would get swallowed up in the whole thing. She promises to work soooo hard and Randy relents. Emma pulls a 2-1 golden ticket. Before she leaves to embrace her family, Steven gives her a vocal lesson; I guess to justify his vote. Once she is out of the room, JLo says that Randy was right – she will get swallowed up in the competition.
Snippets of bad singing lead into Kody Zalewski punching out Lady GaGa’s, “Bad Romance”, turning Randy’s eyes glassy; Juanita Borges wearing black underwear and a long black coat warbling something that makes JLo laugh; Kamil Anthony standing tall and belting out an off-key, “Paparazzi”, causing Randy to wince; and Kanisha Miller, who puts frowns on everyone’s faces.
Ryan is amazed that the morning round has been so bad because Milwaukee is home to the biggest music festival in the world – Summerfest – where Naima Adeldap works in janitorial services. She wants a singing career so she can provide for her family. Wearing oranges and yellows, she sings a Donna Hathaway song that JLo thinks shows the whole package, “One of the best we’ve seen.” Randy likes her a lot and Steven thinks she’s “all that.” Naima hugs her babies and heads off to Hollywood.
It’s time for people do stupid things in the large party tent acting as the holding room. A cameraman is lying on the floor so he can record a backflipper’s progress across the room for posterity. Instead the flipper lands feet first on the guy’s stomach and loud crunching noises are heard from the broken camera. If he wasn’t all right, they wouldn’t have shown it over and over and over again, would they?
That was lunch break, and the afternoon session brings more of the bad with Chris Kammer, a dentist, who brings his own giant toothbrush. But things pick up when Jerome Bell, a wedding singer, enters the room sans props. He sings Marvin Gaye’s “Let’s Get It On” and slides into a Steven Tyler high note which Steven appreciates. Randy blathers on about hot crazy vocals into control tender, nice dynamic, all of the “ism’s” jumping off. Steven comments that there was none of the “wuzzim’s” and that it was beautiful. Three resounding YESES give Jerome a golden ticket.
[Cue Age Package]
Here it comes: Ryan confirms that Bieber fever is the reason behind American Idol lowering the audition age to 15. Funny producers then place five year old Valerie in front of the judges to give Ryan a punchline; “That is a bit low.”
Thia Megia, 15, was going to wait until she turned 16 to audition, but when the age was lowered, she hopped a plane from CA, unable to wait for an audition there. She sings an Adele song from which JLo discovers the total package. Steven loves her voice. Three YESES and she is hopping the plane back to CA and Hollywood.
Ryan marvels that after Thia, every fifteen year old that afternoon walked out with gold.
[Wrap Age Package.]
Just when Steven is feeling so good about having people who can sing, in walks the bad and out walks the ugly with the in your face cussing and camera shoving. Steven, you should have known better.
The Union stands strong when Civil War re-enactor Nathaniel Johnson comes on the scene. He arrives in full regalia including a munitions bag and his father, who, he insists, is not a hippy because hippies believe in sex. With “Glory Hallelujah” ringing in our ears, Randy returns the corporal’s salute and Nathaniel, standing at attention, tries on “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” in falsetto. With a straight face, Steven says that he likes the song, even if it is not for American Idol. (Steven found his let-them-down-easy with this phrase – look for it to be repeated.) When Nathaniel receives his three NOS, he snaps a salute, does an about face and marches out to the sound of Taps.
A nervous Mason Wilkinson takes Randy’s advice and turns around in order to take a deep breath. The panel stares at his back and waits and waits and waits. Finally he turns back around, opens his mouth and should have turned around again. Take some more breaths as you leave, Mason.
Molly DeWolf Swensen just graduated Harvard and has landed an internship at the White House. She loves the current President, though not in a Monica Lewinsky way. Upon taking her place on the platform, this cheerful woman immediately calls Randy out for whopping her in the face when he was high-fiving down the aisle in the holding tent. Of course there is footage of the incident and it plays and plays and plays – just like the flipping crunch earlier. Randy apologizes profusely and we get to her song, “Sitting on the Dock of the Bay”, where she shows a full range. The panel is impressed with her control and rich voice. They appear dumbfounded and give her three BIG yeses.
The judges close out Day One in Milwaukee, pronouncing it AMAZING!
To open Day Two, they show scenes of the Bradley Center filling up, Danny rousing the crowd, and Steven making a Rock Star entrance.
Holly Reinhart, a Chicago reject last year, is in Milwaukee to give it another try. She tells Randy that she has improved. By throwing in some gravel among the high notes in “Oh, Darling”, she captures them and three yeses.
Tiwan Strong, who also traveled from Chicago, “Twists The Night Away” and finger snaps his way to Hollywood.
Steve Beghun is a CPA who took a day off work to audition. We get to see him working away at his desk with “Workin’ In A Coal Mine” backing him up. He confesses that because he is an auditor, he doesn’t have many friends; but that hasn’t stopped him, apparently, from singing at weddings and funerals. He prefers weddings. I don’t catch the name of the song he sings, but Steven likes the resonating notes and finds him to be disturbingly great. He is taking his greatness to Hollywood.
Oh dear; Vernila Patterson flows into the room and sings, “Loving You”, in a small voice, but that is not the cardinal sin – the cardinal sin, as always in American Idol, is forgetting the words. She re-starts off key and la-las herself right out of the room. Her upset sets off a film role of crying and angry contestants.
Albert Rogers, III, an O’Bama impersonator, sort of, sings and finger snaps “Stand By Me”, managing to put the panel down for their nap. Steven uses his new let down line and tells Albert that he liked it, but it is not for American Idol. Randy is much more blunt, saying it is terrible. Three Nos. Bye.
Scott Dangerfield, a 22 year old student teacher, bounds onto the platform wearing glasses, side-parted floppy hair and shorts. Steven teases him about his red lips but he has a ready quip about kissing a girl while waiting. His witty personality and soulful singing wow JLo, who thinks he might be the favorite of what she has seen so far. The guys are equally wowed and send him to Hollywood with a WOW WA!
Randy loves that this is the Unassuming Season. You should never judge a book by its cover. JLo wants Scott to keep the hair and glasses.
A very bright personality is introduced in the form of a young woman who comes from a family of Green Bay Packer uber-fans. She shows off her scream in the holding tent, but when Megan Frazier brings the screech to Justin Bieber’s “My Baby”, a unanimous NO sends her from the room, bright smile un-dimmed.
Finally, a rocker chick! Alyson Jados is an Aerosmith groupie who Steven thinks looks like one of his…he thinks better of getting bleeped again…but he is enamored and they go for the hug. She sings, “Come Together,” by The Beatles while Steven wills her to do well. Then Randy goads her to sing Aerosmith’s “Dream On” and Steven helps her out with the high note she can’t reach. A very sad Steven calls her pitchy. JLo likes her performance quality and says Yes. Randy doesn’t think she’s ready and says No. In the tie-breaker, Steven gives her a break and says Yes. Pitchy Rocker Chick is going to Hollywood and I should be happier.
The last story in Milwaukee is tragic in scope. Chris Medina, 26, is engaged to Juliana and they show a cute clip of him proposing at a Starbucks. Two months before the wedding she was in a car accident and suffered a traumatic brain injury. Though she came out of the coma a month and half later, she requires constant care which is provided by Chris and her mother. His commitment comes from the vows he would have taken two months after the accident – in sickness and in health – and though engaged, not married, he takes them to heart. He wants to go to Hollywood because he thinks it would give her something to make her happy again. He sings, “Break Even” by The Script in a lovely voice, which is well received by the judges. At the request of the judges and with golden ticket in hand, he brings Julie in her wheelchair into the audition room. The three gather around her with pats and hugs. As they leave she holds the ticket and everyone is smiling. Tell me tears didn’t well up for you like they did for me.
And That’s All for Milwaukee, folks . Altogether 53 made it through to Hollywood.
NOTE: I must commend Production for their tight packages this year. So far they have squeezed the bad and ugly together and let us see more of the good singers who make it through, while keeping the sob stories to one per show. I hope they keep it up.
* There is a lot of finger snapping in Milwaukee
Nashville opens up to American Idol for Thursday’s show. Will it be all country all the time? MsFroggy will have that answer and more.