It’s finally over, people. No more bullshit. The auditions for American Idol have ceased, and it only took a month to get through them. I don’t think I’ve ever been more excited to head to the Hollywood rounds. Not because I love this next phase of the competition or anything. I’m just really sick of auditions. I think three weeks is where auditions should top off, and anything longer should be repurposed onto DVD, Fox Reality, or a some corporate website.
Nevertheless, tonight’s episode promised to be the very best and very worst of all the rest, which really didn’t excite me. It’s like trying to find a gem in a bargain bin — all the good stuff is already taken. Since the truly best and worst had already been handpicked for us in previous episodes, this batch constituted mostly forgettable tryouts that were sometimes miserable, sometimes great, but mostly rather blah. Man, I could have used a night off…Tonight’s show was kind of a clip show, kind of not. In one sense, it was assembled from the scraps of other audition episodes. However, all the material was new, which kind of made less clip-showy. Basically, it was like “Oprah: After The Show” but for aspiring musicians. The producers framed the hour with a series of lessons that we, the audience, were intended to learn from the experience should we plan to audition next season (don’t count on it).
Lesson 1: The Look.
Seacrest sarcastically told us that would-be singers should have a distinct look that would separate them from the crowd. This meant we then had to sit through a montage of oddballs in strange costumes until we reached Christa Fazzino, one of Birmingham’s finest. She was dressed in some weird outfit that was nearly impossible for me to describe with my limited, non-Michael-Kors-ish vocabulary. She wore checkered pants, a black and red corset, a red shawl, and a little, retro, round hat-thing on her head that I’m sure has a proper name, but again, since I won’t be a Project Runway judge anytime soon, I’ll let the fashion aficionados cough up the terminology.
(Let it be known I just spent ten minutes surfing the internet to find the name of the hat. I was unsuccessful. Oh, what I’d do for a visual dictionary right now…)
Anyway, what Christa lacked in fashion sense she made up for with… well… nothing. She was the typical, terrible singer — flat, weird, off-key. The judges panned her, and when Christa asked if there was anything else she could do to change their opinions, Simon suggested she juggle. Needless to say, there was no juggling. Instead, she slunk to the door and started to cry about how she really, really needed this. The tears were enough to change Paula’s vote, but no one else’s. And with that, she disappeared into oblivion (although, she did promise to be back).
Next was Tami Gosnell, a cheery and energetic woman who may or may not have been a lesbian. Didn’t really matter, but it would have been a rare sight for Idol. Anyway, she was a pedicab driver with a textured voice. She easily won over the judges with her take of “Whipping Post,” and in no time, she was collecting her ticket to Hollywood. Sounded promising, but I’d be shocked if Fox would let a lesbian get to the semifinals. For now though, she could be happy in knowing that Simon loved her. I mean loved her. Personally, I think he was just trying to charm his way into a free pedicab ride.
We then learned lesson 2: seek inspiration.
Seacrest informed us that auditioners should have a role model in mind when they try out. This kicked off a montage of people comparing themselves to other, more talented Idol stars — with the exception of Paul Kim, a pool boy who held William Hung as his inspiration. Before you start groaning, hear Paul out. His whole beef was that William Hung was essentially the reigning Asian male singer in pop culture, and Paul wanted to change all that. I hoped for his sake, as well as Asian American males across the country, that Paul would be an improvement.
Sure enough, he was! Paul performed a husky rendition of an old Shai song. His voice was great; although, I thought it was a bit too heavy on the smokiness. Still, considering how weak the men have been this season, it’s nice to hear any guy who can carry the most feeble of tunes.
Well, no surprise here. Paul earned raves across the board and easily moved onto the next round… unlike the next guy, Jack Odanovich, who pulled his inspiration from Bo Bice’s seminal a cappella performance from season 4. Jack sang the same song, and yet it somehow lost all its power and sincerity. Maybe that’s because where Bo could hit notes, Jack could merely fantasize about notes. The newbie’s audition was off, to say the least. However, when the inevitable rejection came, he told us, “I will never, ever, ever give up.” Now that’s the spirit. Don’t worry, Jack. I’m sure you can find a local talent show to participate in. Maybe 7-Eleven Idol?
Speaking of never giving up, the third lesson was, you guessed it, Never Give Up.
In case you hadn’t noticed, there seemed to be a high number of returning Idol rejectees this year, and several of them were kids who had actually made it to Hollywood and then choked. I already thought we had seen a good amount of them, but little did I realize there were so many that hadn’t even graced our TV sets yet. Thankfully, another montage revealed another handful or more of recycled wannabes, and they were capped off by the return of Gina Glocksen, a singer from last season who I seem to remember being a dentist or a dental hygienist or something like that. Anyway, I was always sad that she never made it to the semis because I really liked her (I don’t remember, but I feel like she did something terrible during the Hollywood round like forgetting her lines or something). Anyway, she was back, and this time, she was singing “Black Velvet.” No need to elaborate on this one. She was good last year, and she was good again this year. Gina earned a spot back in Hollywood, not to mention a hug from her favorite judge, Simon. All I gotta say is that it’s a good thing she didn’t sing Minnie Ripperton because we all remember the last time a returning Hollywood-er sang one of her songs…
Next was an affable guy named Edward Sanchez who had a warm smile and a mildly psychotic obsession with Paula. No sooner had he entered the room than he was already praising her hotness and his desire to consummate their burning love to the tune of “Blowing Kisses In The Wind.”
Okay, maybe he didn’t go that far (although, there’s no doubt he had that harpsichord twinkling away in his brain). Never one to deny the amorous attention of younger boys, Paula rose from her seat and gave Edward a big hug with a boozy kiss at the end that seemed to say “Call me… I’m in room shlizx.” I don’t know how he recovered from this rush, rush of wish fulfillment, but somehow, Edward managed to pull it together and perform a very special version of “Oh Donna” just for Paula. And by “very special,” I mean truly awful. All my warm and fuzzy memories for La Bamba dissolved in one regrettable instance.
Afterwards, Simon amusingly commented that Edward was “not just blind, but deaf as well.” Ooh! That zinger burned Edward AND Paula! Despite the harsh criticism and rejection from the judges, Edward kept his head (and boner) high, ultimately saying it was all good because Paula was still hot. To this, our goofy pop singer let out a Fran Drescher laugh (“Happy Hannukah!“) and then, just as quickly as “Vibeology” disappeared from the charts, Edward left the room forever, a love affair abruptly squelched before it had even reached full blaze. That’s okay. It was worth it to see his victorious cheer as he exited the building. I felt all warm and tingly inside knowing that dearest Edward would have a vivid fantasy to wack off to for weeks to come.
Hey Seacrest, what’s lesson 4? Audition On Your Own!
I’ll spare you a description of the montage. Our next wannabes were a group of girls who called themselves Frisco’s Carhops. From what I could gather, they were all waitresses at a drive-in, hence their retro outfits and rollerskates. Anyway, their names were Heather, Ashley, and Eboy, and they were trying out for American Idol because, well… I’ll let them describe.
“Hey, American Idol. I’m American!” one of them said. WELL! Consider yourself through to the next round!
Anyway, the girls entered the audition room together, but they each sang one at a time. First up was Heather, who was okay at best, but mostly she was flat and off-key. Not the worst, but definitely not Idol material.
Next was Ashley Cleland, a hot blonde girl who seemed to have mixed up her blush with her cocoa powder. She was definitely better than Heather, and in fact, I would go so far as to say she was really good. However, she paled completely next to Ebony, the tall star of the group who was not unlike the unholy union of Robin Givens and Scary Spice. She’ll also definitely be standing in the top twelve, barring any major disasters (or pot-related arrests in her past).
Simon told Ebony she could practically sing the phonebook and move forward, and quite honestly, after having heard that expression so much, I’d like to see someone show up and sing a damn phonebook for once. Anyway, Randy then asked the girls, “Are you guys all friends?” To which Simon replied, “WERE.” Hey, he’s snarking for me! Thanks for making my job easier, Simon!
Nevertheless, Heather was quickly denied a golden tick. Ashley, on the other hand, earned a yes from Randy and Olivia Newton John (these were the L.A. auditions). Before Paula doled out her response, she tried to give some advice to her about makeup — advice that Ashley innocently referred to as “motherly advice.” This caused an uproar in the room as Paula cackled about being a mother and Simon instantly warmed to the unintentional insult. You had to be there.
As my friend says, long story long, Ashley and Ebony both got tickets to Hollywood while their less-talented and soon to be resentful friend Heather went home empty-handed. See ya on the way down, Heath!
After the commercial break, Ryan introduced us to the much-hyped songwriting contest being held this year and then segued into a montage of singers who came to the auditions with their own original works. I particularly enjoyed Melissa Ferlaak’s whimsical, awful “Flow This Desert,” which was only made better by her attempted, semi-operatic/semi-horrendous singing voice.
There was also Brandon Reid who beatboxed his way through his own composition. The song kind of sucked, but his beatboxing was fairly impressive. So hey, that’s something, right? Okay, maybe not really. Personally, I was hoping that Cowardly Lion girl might be back with an original song, but alas, no such luck (however, we did get to see her during a season-thus-far recap at the end of the show; so I was mildly satisfied).
We then met William Emil Samland, or WES (his initials). He was bald, wore a shiny, yellow shirt, and proudly sported many missing teeth. WES came with all the requisite confidence that befits a crazy person, and as he walked into the audition room, he announced he’d be performing his own song, “Don’t Worry, Don’t Hurry.” Do I really need to tell you how awful it was? The lyrics were some sort of simplistic hodgepodge of uplifting clichés, all of which were emitted through WES’s hoarse excuse of a singing voice. Admittedly, I did kind of enjoy the chorus, but that’s only because I’m a sucker for people who clap and stomp their way through songs.
Olivia Newton John looked absolutely shocked by the performance while Paula once again reached her happy place, eagerly dancing along to the beat. When WES was done, the judges asked him how he felt he did, and he responded, “I think I was great!” Yes, I’m sure the homeless man down the street who spends his afternoons punching at flies would agree. No Hollywood for him.
Lesson 5: Shake Your Moneymaker?
We then saw a montage of bad dancers, culminating with some guy who made little, whimpering, girly noises. Hard to describe except that it was fairly awesome (in a tragic and embarrassing way).
Speaking of which, we then met Alexander Nazario, a Latino dancer who sort of reminded me of a younger, more flat-chested version of Charo (with a penis, of course). I actually thought he was a girl until he opened his mouth to speak. Nevertheless, he entered the room and dazzled the judges with his strange, flexible dancing — something he claimed to have learned from Paula and her “Opposites Attract” video. It was all mildly off-putting, but not nearly as much as his voice which started off pretty poorly and then ventured into intolerable territory as it hit a long, extended falsetto portion. Just imagine a squeaky door hinge singing karaoke.
“I would like to dance to the trumpet of Mr. Dave Coulier.”
Eventually, Simon cut him down, saying he’d never be able to sing… EVER. Alexander looked devastated, but his hero, Paula, saved the day by commenting, “I think you’re lovely.” Well, that’ll really help! Ultimately, Paula gave him a warm hug, and even Randy called him over to shake his hand. I guess it was nice, but it kind of undermined the touching display when the old guy last week got special handshakes after singing to his deceased lady love (sniff sniff).
And now the very last lesson of all: clarity.
Yes, future singers should be sure to work on their diction and make their songs recognizable. We then watched three different singers butcher three different songs. My favorite of them was one bespectacled girl who sang an utterly flat and hopeless version of some song from Annie, I believe. Oh, she was awful. Purely, purely awful. And thus, my favorite.
Last of the night was a girl named Lakisha Jones. I nearly did a double take because I went to middle school with a girl named Lakisha Jones, but this woman, I’m sad to say, was not the Lakisha I knew and loved. Well, mostly just knew. This Lakisha was a big bad momma, and I mean “bad” in the good way. Essentially, she was Mandisa 2007, and as such, it was no surprise that she happily tackled a song by the original Mandisa: Aretha Franklin.
Quite easily, Lakisha powered her way through the performance, causing the judges to groove in their seats. Even our old favorite, CaBaSa (a.k.a. Carol Bayer Sager) couldn’t help but get jiggy like Joan Collins at a Dynasty after-party. When the performance was complete, Simon couldn’t help but hone his inner queen and announce, “LOVE THIS GIRL!”
Lakisha blew away the judges, and in no time, she was barreling out the doors, embracing her joyous family, including a dapper grandma standing around with a walker. Moments later, we saw Lakisha and her young daughter sharing a tearful embrace, which was supposed to melt our hearts, but since I’m an icy bastard who already used up all his sentimentality on the old guy last week, I merely exhaled with relief that our audition journey had finally come to an end.
So who do you think has the best shot to make it to the semi-finals? Any early favorites? Who are your top three guys and top three girls?