It seems that while I wasn't looking, the city-to-city audition round came to a close and we're on to the next step in Hollywood. Yay! Watching every other episode proved to be a very good idea. It sure made the worst part of this show fly by faster and now we can all focus on cutting the fat. Similarly to the previous 197173 seasons of Idol, this episode is all about lining the contestants up against a wall and pulling the trigger. Well, almost. Those who are left standing after being allowed to squeak out something resembling a song for 10 or so seconds, will be moving on to the next round. Those who can't cut it will be sent back to their mommies. Simple enough, right? Let's get on with it.
The hype, always poured on thick on this show is off-the-charts this season. Randy crows that Idol has never seen this much talent in all ten seasons, never mind that this is what they say every time, while Ryan attempts to ramp up interest the usual way: with stats. Twice the contestants! Twice the drama! Only one chance! This would all sound good have we not seen the audition episodes which were largely comprised of people trying to coast by on the back of some tragic story, mediocre singing ability or both.
Cry me a river
As the Idol wannabes arrive in Hollywood, we learn that Ryan wasn't kidding. Shockingly, there are a grand total of 327 of them this time around. Just exactly how much chaff is mixed in with the usual little bit of wheat? Based on previous seasons, I'm going to guess about 95%. Randy, who seems to revel in his new role as lead judge, tells the contestants that they only have one shot to impress them. The format is familiar: They will be paraded in front of the judges in groups of ten to sing a cappella for a few seconds and will receive no feedback at the end except a yay or nay.
Awkward, sixteen year old Brett Lowenstern from Florida is the first victim up for judging and he does a good version of Let it be which earns him a spot in the next round. However, we get to see little of the others as they're herded off the stage without much fanfare. In fact, with so many contestants to get through, the entire night is one big cattle call of nameless faces that will never be seen or mentioned again.
Some other lucky ones are Rachel Zavita from New York, 15 year old Thia Megia and Seth Rogen lookalike, Casey Abrams. Annoying perky 17 year old, Victoria Huggins thinks highly of herself and is very impressed by Hollywood. She tries hard to energize the room with a shouty rendition of some cheesy religious flavored song but she fails to advance to the next round.
Young mom, Paris Tassin and San Francisco weeper, James Durbin, are both proud owners of multi-layered sob stories involving diseases, teen pregnancy, more diseases, job loss and who knows what else. James turns on the waterworks even before he starts singing and tearfully reveals that he's been laid off. Cry me a river, dude. Paris earnestly covers Celine Dion which would earn her a disgusted smirk from Simon and the truth about her shaky upper register but these judges seem to be all rainbows and sunshine. They're supposed to give no feedback but of course contestants still get impressed smiles or nods. Not all contestants, mind you, just the ones preselected, with good sob stories. The rest are just filler. Lots of filler.
Before allowing him to sing, Idol helpfully cues in a reminder about poor James' horrible medical conditions, just to hammer home the point with the grannies at home. His shaky, unrefined wail and weak vocal control yo, James, the screaming needs to be in tune and if your neck veins are popping and your face is all red as you strain through the notes you're doing it wrong, man! - are painful and the fact that he starts crying in the middle of it all is ridiculous but the judges seem impressed with the spectacle. Of course they were also impressed with half of the people they're going to send home today. Weeper dude with the bandana and the sob story makes it through. Expect to hear more about how sick he is and every other hardship he's got up his sleeve in the next episode. I predict a dead sibling/parent/family member or even gasp pet.
Beauty queen, Stormy Henley has a talent for pageants and tepid vocals while Lauren Alaina likes to murder as many notes at once as she can get her hands on. Lauren and Paris are through but Stormy is back to walk in pageants. Steven will miss her.
It's harder to laugh than to cry
Remember the dude with the girlfriend who was in a car accident? Chris Medina seems to be one of the anointed ones this season, less for his voice and more because Idol can't pass up all that delicious ratings-grabbing drama. He's another one who cries before his audition what is it with these people bawling left and right this season? - and while his vocals are decent he reminds me of that Gokey dude with the dead wife a couple of seasons back. Scream oooooon! I get the creeps just remembering him. Chris is of course going to the next round along with a few other people nobody cares about. But not before he can launch into another pathetic round of made-for-the-camera tears. Kill me now.
Ryan says day one is coming to a close and it's not a good end to the day. Aside from the filler people that Idol doesn't even deign to name, we get a parade of faces that have been previously highlighted. In other words, Idol is telling us serving them up on a platter this year, even more so than before. Chubby teen, Jacee Badeaux has a nice tone to his unschooled voice and he's got the cutesy factor, Robbie Rosen and Hollie Cavanagh both have good vocals and they all coast by. However, accountant Steve Begoun is a distinctly non-Bieberesque 27 years old who, despite a Jason Mraz-ish tone, is a goner. Some other older looking ones, and by older I mean over 25 years old, are also eliminated. Hope nobody got attached to that belly dancer chick.
Don't cry because it's over
Day two is off and running and with 163 contestants left to go, it's going to be another busy day. Ryan says 160 people performed on day one which would bring the total up to 323 people for both days even though he said 327 people made it to Hollywood. Hmm. What happened to the other 4 people or did Ryan just do some fuzzy math there? The things I worry about!
Things seem to be off to a bad start as some of the filler sing horribly out of tune proving that they were only advanced to pad the lineup around the chosen ones. Among the chosen ones are the exes from Nashville, Rob Bolin and Chelsee Oaks, who both sing their way through to the next phase. In a dramatic twist, Austin lovebirds Jacqueline Dunford and Nick Fink are cruelly separated by the ruthless
producersjudges as Nick is sent packing after a lackluster try. Instead of just being happy that at least one of them made it, he begs the judges for another chance to stay with his girl and even after Randy tells him he only had one shot, Nick awkwardly sings his way out of the venue embarrassing himself and everyone else in attendance. Methinks this Juliet bet on a selfish Romeo.
A few more left to go and they all recycle their audition songs. Scott McCreery has a low voice and a country style and will be one of the token country entries this year. Jackie Wilson and Gerome Bell both do well with their reheated auditions and pass muster as well. Meanwhile, Jersey entrantsTiffany Rios, who impressed with her assets, makes it through despite an obnoxious display. However homeless boy Travis Orlando who got a big pimp package back during the Jersey auditions complete with visits to his homeless shelter, is sent packing despite his made-for-TV sob story of hardship. He vows to be back next year. A few more are through but I'm not going to bother listing any of them. Most have been featured in previous audition episodes and half of them will be gone next week anyway.
Next week it's the group round and it promises to be full of well-edited drama and much more tears. I'll be back next Wednesday with a box of Kleenex at the ready. I'm sure I'll throw it at my screen within the first 10 minutes. You didn't think I was going to use it for anything else, did you? Didn't think so.