Night two of American Idol, and we’ve yet to see a breakout star. There were a few decent singers in the pack, but by this time last year, I feel like we already were already making mental notes on some of the future superstars of season five. Still, what these auditions in Seattle lacked in talent, they made up for in crazy, crazy freakshows. On at least two or three occasions, my jaw was firmly on the floor. Darwin? Kenneth? Red? No wonder why Paula’s been so looney recently. She’s still trying to purge the memories from her system.I could talk about the rainy weather and the nine thousand people who showed up to audition, but I’d rather just jump right into the whole mess. First up was Brandon Groves, a goofy guy in an Uncle Sam costume. If he looked familiar, that’s because last year, he auditioned wearing a cop uniform and sang, nay, butchered “I Shot The Sheriff.” This time around, he wanted to take on “God Bless America,” but unlike a fine wine, Brandon had not improved with age. Instead, he just reminded us once again that if someone comes to audition wearing stars and stripes, we should bolt for the door. Or at least the fast forward button.
At the end of the session, Paula joked, “Next season he’ll be dressed as an Indian Chief.” She thought she was making a funny, but we’ll see if she’s still laughing a year from now when Brandon waltzes in like Chief Massasoit.
Next up was one of the most vile creatures to ever make its way onto television. It’s name was Jennifer Chapton, and I suppose I should be so generous as to give her a female pronoun, but honestly, I do so begrudgingly. Jennifer informed us that her nickname was “The Hotness,” which was quite ironic since she looked like the slutty sister of Mrs. Potatohead. Faces don’t come much more tragic than this — bushy eyebrows, warts, generally bad bone structure. Everything was wrong. I wouldn’t so much call her The Hotness as much as I’d call her the My Eyes Just Went Blind-ness.
Feel The Hotness
Anyway, we knew she’d be terrible immediately when she raised those two red flags we’ve come to know oh so well. First she said, “I believe I have my own unique sound and style.” Okay, kids. Not being able to hit a damn note does not count as “unique style.” That means you suck. Secondly, The Hotness told us that she could be safely compared to Mariah. We weren’t sure what her rationale was, but I’m thinking it was something like “We both rely on food to exist.”
Armenia’s Next Top Model.
We then learned the storied history behind “The Hotness.” Apparently the title was given to Jennifer in high school. She claimed it was because she was so damn sexy and outspoken. No, Jennifer. It’s because everyone in your high school was MOCKING you.
Well, The Hotness performed a song by Tenderoni — also a bad sign — and man was she awful. Not only was she flat and tone deaf, but she punctuated her lyrics with breathless “Oooh!”s every two seconds.
The Hotness takes a dump.
Eventually, The Hotness was told to stop, and when Simon told her she was terrible, she entered full-on rebuff mode. “Your opinion don’t mean nothing,” she said, suddenly acting too cool for this competition. When Simon then asked why she was there then, she said she just wanted to leave no stone unturned on her path to success. Jennifer then questioned Simon’s musical qualifications, and next thing we knew, she was launching into a second song.
“If you can’t stand The Hotness, get out of the kitchen (but don’t take the kielbasa. I was about to eat that).”
Ultimately, Simon cut her down with one of his typically caustic, British comments: “Why don’t you get a job down in the port?” Who says she hasn’t already? After all, The Hotness was pretty much what I’d expect a fish monger to look like if she wanted to hootch it up.
Anyway, Jennifer eventually left the audition room and talked shit about Simon to the camera. “He don’t know shit about music,” she told us, oddly following up with, “He probably listens to that back country Englishmen sheep stuff; so I really don’t care.” I’m not sure if she’s right or not, but I think I have a great idea for a new show:
Back Country Englishmen Sheep Stuff Idol
I’m so auditioning.
Next up was Amy, a pleasant stay-at-home mom (a.k.a. homemaker) whose husband thought she was wasting her time coming down to audition. Gentle music played in the background; so the producers wanted us to think that this might be a touching story of perseverance and discovery (unfortunately, they had already shown her rejection just before the commercial break). Nevertheless, for Amy, this audition was more than singing. It was about staking her independence and showing her husband that she was worth more than he was giving her credit for, dammit! Amy had always struggled with herself, and singing had kept her going. In fact, she told us that she looks at her son, and he’s like “You can sing!” and then she replies “I can sing!” and that people don’t think she can sing, but at the end of the day, she’s actually pretty good at it. Or something like that. It was a sweet speech; although, an air of naiveté hung about it.
Sure enough, Amy marched into the audition room and stunk up the place with a terrible performance. It was the typical off-key song with painful high notes, and when the judges nixed her, she insisted that she was merely suffering from a cold and that she just needed water. Another memo to auditioners: water does not cure you from being tone deaf. Amy continued to suck hardcore, even after a few gulps of Fiji water, but again, she refused to admit that she simply had no talent. “I have a really dry mouth,” she explained, but Simon shot back, “You could line a bath with your mouth open, and you still couldn’t sing.”
Amy’s husband 1, Independence 0
We then watched a montage of terrible singers, culminating in one guy yelling “D-D-D-DARRLING!!!” It was either that or “DIE DIE DIE DARLING!!!” I couldn’t really tell.
Next up was a woman who made The Hotness look like a troll (and considering that The Hotness looked like a talking pyre of toxic waste, “troll” is a step up). Anyway, this kooky woman was named Darwin Reedy, and I swear, you’ve never seen anyone like this — except your nightmares. The girl had large, sagging breasts that were not unlike Ms. Choksondik’s cleavage on South Park, but while that was humorous and jarring, it didn’t compare to her face. Gosh, I really hate being so mean, especially since Darwin seemed like a generally nice girl, but she was cray-cray looking. Bright red lipstick was slathered on her face in the kind of style that seemed to say, “Thirteen different prescriptions and going strong!” It was one part clown, one part childhood-in-the-attic. Add to this some silly glasses, platinum blond hair, and teeth that seem magnetically opposed to each other, and we had the makings of one scary, scary woman. Even worse, when Seacrest asked her to describe her style, she said “sexy.” I guess she was kind of sexy, in that completely horrifying, penis-deflating sort of way.
Gwen Stefani has really let herself go.
But the best part of all was that we then met Darwin’s mother, who looked exactly like her, but with black hair instead of blond. Something tells me these two put out bowls of marshmallows and rutabaga for all the stray cats in the neighborhood.
“What is this bra concept you speak of, Mr. Seacrest?”
The real question, of course, was whether or not Darwin could sing. Apparently, it was in her blood because Mom had studied music in college. And as we all know, Darwin’s mom is a hit maker on the Top 40 Charts. I particularly enjoy her seminal hit, “I Just Made Out With A Tube of Lipstick.”
Anyway, Darwin walked into the audition room and informed the judges that she was not only a singer, but a writer too. She had even penned a novella that was about a singing competition, with one character based firmly on Simon Cowell. Wonderful! And by “wonderful,” I mean “creepy.” Hearing psycho strings inside my head…
Darwin then announced that she’d be singing “Don’t Cha” by the Pussy Cat Dolls, a.k.a. her future co-stars, if you ask me, but before she regaled us with her nightingale voice, the judges invited Mom in to watch. As soon as they saw that she was a carbon copy of her daughter, Paula turned to the camera and mouthed “OH. MY. GOD.”
Almost immediately, Mom told the judges about the novella all over again and then mentioned how the first song Darwin ever sang was “Straight Up,” by none other than our very own Paula. What a gift that song is: from one oddball to another.
“We’re going on Elimidate after this.”
Anyway, Darwin finally began singing, and here’s the shocker: she was amazing! Ha, no she wasn’t. Did you ever think that could be? Darwin was terrible, but the good news was that she took the rejection very well and seemed genuinely thrilled with the whole experience, which is the way it should be. Afterwards, she told Ryan, “We will continue to watch American Idol!” GREAT. I was really concerned that her viewing habits might be swayed!
“This is so going in the novella!”
Next up, we were treated to a montage of more crappy singers, set to the Milli Vanilli classic, “Blame It On The Rain,” a song I still begrudgingly enjoy. At this point, it had been about a half an hour, and we still hadn’t seen one person go to Hollywood. That was all about to change with Tommy Daniels, a cocky former gas attendant who sauntered into the audition room looking just a tad too similar to Justin Guarini for me to take him seriously. Pretty much it came down to the afro, a hairstyle that probably should be banned on Idol, simply because of the Guarini stigma.
Anyway, Tommy was pretty good. Not great, but compared to such luminaries as The Hotness and Darwin, he came off sounding like friggin John Legend. Eh, bad example. I hate John Legend. But you get the point. His voice totally entranced Paula, who smiled like a puppy seeing a biscuit. Sure enough, he earned the yellow ticket — the first in Seattle.
Next up was a girl named Melissa Carlene Stavros. She was bubbly, ebullient, and clad in hot pink netting. Yes, like 1985 Madonna meets 1985 Cyndi Lauper, Carlene (she went by her middle name) was all about the fish nets around her arms. Her massive, massive arms. I don’t normally notice fat arms, but in the case of Charlene, they were like two punching bags hanging off her torso, which wasn’t really that hefty. I guess some people just gain weight in weird areas.
Anyway, Charlene had a great personality, and she happily performed a little “Baby Got Back” per Randy’s request. However, when it came time to sing Christina Aguilera, her voice was all over the map. Truthfully, she sounded like she could have a strong voice, but it seemed untrained and out of control, and as the song continued, the worse she became. Plus, I couldn’t stop staring at the arms. So puffy. Or as she would say, “fluffy.”
Sure enough, Charlene was denied, but she took the rejection well and ambled off happily with her friends. Awww.
Next was Blake Lewis, someone I wanted to hate because of his giant, spikey, highlighted hair. I also wanted to hate him for being a beatboxer, but the truth was that he was actually really, really good with the beatboxing — so much so that he elicited the hallowed Paula Seal Clap, which was appropriate enough because Blake then sang “Crazy” by, you guessed it, Seal. Just like the beatboxing, Blake was a strong singer, and even if he wasn’t the best male vocalist we’d heard, his personality was surprisingly winning, and he was sent to the next round, despite not truly blowing away the judges. Yes, I really liked Blake, BUT I reserve the right to hate him later on — he’s registering very highly on my “Will Wear Thin” scale.
For now though, Blake was likable, thanks also to his dad who teared up when his son earned a golden ticket. Gotta love the crying fathers.
We then briefly met David Mills, an oily kid with a cracking voice, who brought shame to the legacy of Bill Withers, let alone Club Nouveau, with his version of “Lean On Me.” Simon, however, was surprisingly kind to him. He informed David that this was one of the worst days ever in Idol audition history, and David was one of the worst of this day. Shockingly, David did not receive a golden ticket.
Next it was time for yet another loser montage, which included some girl who said, “You definitely haven’t seen the last of Dina Lopez!” Um yeah, I think we have. Smell ya later!
A brother and sister tag team showed up next. They actually weren’t a team, technically. They were both auditioning independently. Anyway, their names were Shyamali and Sanjaya Malakar, and they looked like they were both a good ten years out from puberty. They claimed they were ready for Idol because their dad was a classically trained Indian musician, but would this be a case of McPhee 2.0 or just a raga nightmare?
Well, first up was the sister, Shyamali. She was a solid cutie, and more importantly, she could sing! I thought she was really good, but the judges thought she was merely pretty good. Shows what I know. Shyamali easily moved on to Hollywood.
Now it was time for her brother, Sanjaya. He had a very hateable look, falling into that Will Makar category of harmless, non-threatening teenage boys. However, despite this, he had a likable demeanor, and better yet, he too could sing. I wasn’t crazy about him, but the judges loved his voice. Paula let out a little “Yay!” and Simon declared that Sanjaya was better than his sister. Of course, he wasn’t about to tell her that, but she had heard the judges’s applause — something that she hadn’t received. Let the sweet nectar of sibling rivalry flow like a mighty river!
Because it had been entirely too long since our last freak of nature, in came Nick Zitzmann, a software engineer from Utah. But he was more than that. He was also a self-taught musician. That should be promising! Nick told Ryan that he came to American Idol at his co-workers’ urgings, which just proved that his co-workers have a wicked sense of humor. In fact, I’m pretty sure they all went to high school with The Hotness.
Anyway, Nick walked into the audition room with one arm nervously placed on his hip, kind of like a boy version of Mary Catherine Gallagher. A part of me really hoped he’d recite a monologue from a TV movie, but instead, he opted to sing “Unchained Melody.” It’s hard to describe his voice. Just imagine a dead fish. Now imagine that dead fish miraculously singing. That’s pretty much what this guy sounded like — a reincarnated flounder.
The judges were all stunned at how horrible Nick was, and Paula looked like she was dying for some sort of painkiller cocktail. Needless to say, he did not go to the next round. Afterwards, Ryan Seacrest merely stared at Nick, not knowing what to say. The moment was awkward and wonderful, especially when it ended on the strange note of Nick seeking out his sweatshirt. There’s always next year, Zitzmann…
The last guy of day one in Seattle was a Venezuelan guy named Rudy. He kind of looked like a young Scott Baio. Anyway, he sang a perfectly nice rendition of “Open Arms” by Journey, and since he was able to hit more than three notes, we knew that would qualify him for the next round. Shockingly, Simon said no (with no explanation), but it didn’t matter. Randy and Paula said yes, and we finally had another gold ticket. By the end of the first day, they had only doled out seven. Keep in mind that 9,000 people had shown up for auditions.
Yes, it had been a bad day, and just to underscore that, the producers resurrected our favorite song, “Bad Day,” for yet another montage. Luckily, when it was over, Ryan made some sort of comment like “Enough of that song” that had me optimistic that Daniel Powter would finally be eradicated from the Idol library.
Day two of Seattle was sunny, but the talent pool wasn’t any better. Kicking off this next batch were Kenneth and Jonathan, two quirky guys who no doubt will return for a cameo at the May finale. It’s hard to describe these two without being excessively mean. Okay, I’ve been excessively mean this entire recap. Why stop now? Anyway, Kenneth was short, skinny, hairy, and not unlike a circus freak. Quite honestly, his giant eyes made him look like a little lemur. Or maybe some new character on Spongebob Squarepants. Jonathan, on the other hand, was a big boy, and I think he might have been mentally challenged. Seriously. Not even joking.
Anyway, the two somehow met in line and became fast friends, perhaps forming the basis of a new Saturday cartoon. They had faith that they’d each get far in the competition, and first up to wow the judges was Kenneth. He told the trio that he’d been compared to Justin Timberlake. And Lance Bass too. He then noted, “I really liked Carey’s bathing suit on The Apprentice.” Okay, he didn’t say that, but he did bust out some old school N*SYNC for his audition piece. He sang “Tearing Out My Heart,” but more importantly, he provided all the necessary dance moves with it. Granted, this would have looked ridiculous for anyone, but it was made all the more special by Kenneth’s peculiar features. In short, it was amazing.
Afterwards, Simon commented, “You look like one of those creatures that live in the jungle with the massive eyes… bush babies!” Ouch. Kenneth wasn’t happy with this critique, but hey, if it made him feel any better, Lukas Rossi won Rockstar: Supernova, and he too looked like a little lemur. Big things can happen to simian people! But not to Kenneth. He was rejected.
Next was Jonathan, and as he walked innocently into the room, I instantly felt badly for him. He had already humiliated himself majestically, and he hadn’t even sung a note. This could only end poorly for him.
Well, Jonathan told the judges he could win because he was different and had an amazing personality. That would have been really awesome if this were a Differentness & Personality contest, which it isn’t. He then began singing, and here’s the shocker. He was pretty awful, but he wasn’t as crazy awful as I thought he’d be. In fact, there were some glimmers of competency and potential in there. Still, he changed octaves one too many times, and the crazy vibrato was just too much. This guy couldn’t move on. Paula commended his spirit (but not his shirt. Yikes!), and ultimately, Jonathan was given the big N-O.
Afterwards, Jonathan told us that people would have voted for him, which may or may not have been true. Kenneth, meanwhile, was still all hung up on the monkey thing. He didn’t look like some jungle creature, he insisted. Sorry, man. You’re straight up San Diego Zoo material.
The next guy was really annoying, but not in a fun, omg-did-you-see-that sort of way. His name was Eric Chapman, and he was a hairdresser. Most importantly, however, was that he had salt-and-pepper hair, just like you-know-who. Well, I didn’t really understand Eric’s intentions. On the one hand, he claimed that he was often confused for Taylor Hicks, and he wanted to prove that he was not Taylor but in fact a unique individual. But on the other hand, Eric seemed to embrace the Taylor Hicks thing, and openly confessed to emulating him in hopes of advancing further.
Whatever. He sucked. And not just because he sang “Drift Away,” a song forever ruined by Uncle Cracker. No, Eric sucked because he couldn’t hit a single note. Plus, he was spastic and strange, and after the judges rejected him, he approached Simon, saying he wanted to fix his hair. Eric pulled out a little jar of “product” (which may have been his own jizz), but before he could attack, the security guards chased him out. Turns out, he really did want to fix Simon’s hair. He dabbled his fingers in the mousse and applied to his own hair, thus proving his intentions were benign. Still not convinced that the stuff isn’t his own semen though.
Next was Anna Kearns, a super tall woman who stood at 6’4″ barefoot, and 6’7″ in heels. I thought she’d be a novelty act, but it turned out that she could sing. I thought Anna was pretty good — nothing special. The judges, however, were much more into her. Simon started to say something about how she seemed like a cabaret act at first, but he was interrupted by Randy and Paula, who randomly began to growl like angry dogs. Not happy at being interrupted, Simon shut up, which was fine because Anna was going to Hollywood anyway.
In my book, the best singer of the night was Jordin Sparks, the sixteen year old daughter of former NFL player, Phillippi Sparks (cornerback for the New York Giants alongside Jason Sehorn). Anyway, Jordin sang “Because You Love Me” by Celine Dion, a wildly original choice if ever there was one. Turns out she had an excellent voice, even though it was a bit unwieldy. Simon called her a bit too sugary, which I could definitely see. If she makes it to the finals, I can see her being of the Paris Bennett/Lisa Tucker variety — loved them in the auditions, but couldn’t stand their Mickey Mouse Club trappings in the big leagues.
Still, even though Jordin was great, she also benefited from being at the tail-end of two full nights of lackluster performances. I’ve yet to be truly blown away by anyone. Hopefully next week’s auditions will yield a better crop. Seattle only resulted in fourteen people total out of 9,000. That’s a success rate of .15%, down from Tuesday’s .17% success rate in Minnesota. Lesson to be learned: stay out of the cold regions.
Ah, but you probably thought I was wrapping up this recap, didn’t you? No. There was still more. We had our obligatory loser-medley, set this time to “Don’t Cha” by the Pussycat Dolls (is it me, or is this medley gag getting kind of old now?), and then there was one last hairy, bearded auditioner. His name was Steven Thoen, but he noted, “When people want to get my attention, they yell ‘Hey, Red!’” That’s because Steven had hair so vibrantly red that he could have just strolled off a viking ship. Of course, he hadn’t done that. He had instead walked off a Mentally Insane ship. With his untamed beard and chipped teeth, Steven had a bit of the old “I might just be a crazy bum!” thing going for him. He did tell us that he’s well-versed in karaoke, or as he called it, “Ka-rokie,” and furthermore, his voice was quite similar to one Freddie Mercury. Sounded like we’d be in for a treat.
Well, “Red” told the judges that his song of choice would be “Bohemian Rhapsody,” and I could only imagine what awful things he’d do to this classic tune. Would it be a loud, grating, sonorous rape of the melody? Or more of a psychotic, uneven drawling? It was neither. Steven employed a fragile, impossibly high falsetto that occasionally devolved into nothing more than a mere whisper. It almost sounded like someone rubbing the brim of a wine glass.
Needless to say, the judges — and America — couldn’t help but laugh in Steven’s face. Simon later said that it was one of the most bizarre auditions he’d ever seen in his life. Red immediately turned belligerent, demanding that Simon be his vocal coach. “Don’t sing it. Just bring it, aiiight?” he said, not really making any sense at all. Eventually, he finally left the room — going out the wrong door, of course, and with that, night two came to an end.
What did you think? Favorites? Anyone you hated? Who was the best of the worst?