The good news for American Idol is that the Memphis auditions seemed to elicit more talent than Seattle and Minnesota combined; however, that’s not really saying much. Anyone who can hold a tune for seven seconds could outclass those two miserable audition cities. However, even though Memphis was the source of my new favorite contender (Melinda Doolittle — take it all the way, baby!), it also had its fair share of duds, oddballs, and awful facial hair. You know, the usual Idol mix.First off, let me just put up this disclaimer. I didn’t actually take notes on this episode of Idol because I wasn’t going to write it. However, some logistical entanglements have occurred, and now I find myself racing against the clock to get this bad boy up before the next installment airs. Apologies in advance if this seems hasty. Also, apologies if I sound particularly bitter. I watched Babel last night, and it has cast a pall on my day. Way overhyped.
Anyway, first up was a male cheerleader/captain/choreographer/possibly gay man named Frank Byers from Waldo, Arkansas. He was so excited for his audition that he brought along the entire cheerleading squad AND the marching band. I’m not convinced that the booster club and football team wasn’t that far behind either. Well, I don’t know if it was because I was so used to the God-awful auditions last week, but I thought Frank sounded good. In fact, I turned to J-Unit and said, “Of course they put a good singer first.” As he continued to sing, I then noted, “He’s really good.” Imagine my surprise when all three judges gave him firm, assured No’s. Huh? Maybe it was a little shaky because of nerves, but it certainly deserved a golden ticket, especially considering that equally or less talented people (cough, all the guys so far, cough) have made it through. The judges lambasted Frank for being too over the top — as opposed to that crack baby last week who belted “And I’m Telling You” so loudly that the microphones nearly broke.
Well, there was nothing left for Frank to do but shuffle out of the room and do one last cheer to his audition failure. Poor guy. Next year, audition in the North.
Of course, the audition may have been over, but the chaos was just beginning. Frank’s marching band started tooting away as if they had just entered the Rose Bowl. Pushed to the limit, Simon stepped out of the room and asked the kids to “SHUT UP,” which I totally backed. I used to live in a dorm in college where on every game day, the freakin’ marching band would run through at 9 AM and blare some dumb song like “The Saints Go Marching In”. Let me tell you something: hearing a marching band at 9 AM on a Saturday when you’ve just been out drinking ’til 3 the night before is not fun.
Next up was a girl named Timika Sims. The producers informed us that she had no talent, personality, or stage presence, which was true. She also sounded like the love child of Nelly Furtado and a deflating balloon. She was fairly awful and not particularly memorable. Moving on…
We then met Christopher Rivera, who was terrible in a generic way. The only thing noteworthy about him were his ridiculous jeans which had some sort of spiral stripe of patchwork snaking around him. He sang “Superstitious,” or perhaps, I should say he bleated “Superstitious.” His performance was peculiar mostly because the longer it went on, the less distinct the words and lyrics became. At a certain point, I was convinced he was merely riffing on the sound “EEEeeeeooooOOOWWwwAAAAEEEE.” Needless to say, his anti-skat was not rewarded with a golden ticket.
Similarly awful was the next girl, Alexis Partee, a girl whose gums looked like the Great Wall of China. I felt bad for her, on account of her horse mouth, but at least Simon didn’t mock her on national TV like poor, deserving Kenneth Briggs. Alexis may have been a sweet girl, but her attempts to channel Tina Marie only sounded like a terrible Prince impersonation. Sorry Alexis. Not happening.
Next up was a hefty, hirsute man named Sundance Head. That’s right. Sundance Head. His parents were hippies (hence, “Sundance”), but before he became a flower child, Sundance’s dad actually scored a number one hit that was eventually dethroned by The Beatles. Anyway, what to say about Sunshine. We knew he’d be good because he had the “He’s a good one, America” music scoring his interview. However, as much as this competition is about wonderful vocals and whatnot, one can’t overlook physical appearance. I’m sorry, it’s a factor. You can try to act all above it and whatnot, but if someone is near impossible to look at, that’s going to be a major hindrance to being an American Idol.
WELL. Sundance had two major problems. A) He was entirely too comfortable showing off his thick chest hair. B) The Brillo pad on his chin was beyond distracting. It looked like a trowel of pubic hair. Somebody get this guy some clippers and a shirt button, STAT. Until he fixes one or both of these problems, I cannot endorse Sundance.
Nevertheless, he sang nicely, and the judges loved him, which meant he was moving on. Simon said he’d be shocked if Sundance didn’t make it to the finals, and already, I knew I’d have the guy I’d hate all season lined up. I’m telling you — the goatee. I can’t get beyond it. I’m sorry. It’s superficial, but very, very horrendous to me!
Next was Wandera Hitchye, a girl with an okay but non-distinct voice — not to mention a ghetto fabulous red wig. The judges told her that there were thousands of girls with her identical voice trying to break into the music industry, and she simply didn’t bring anything special to the table. Harsh, but true. This resulted in Wandera storming out and cursing the camera… much like so many before her. Man, everything she does really is generic.
After a montage of the judges denying hopefuls, we then met some guy who wanted to sing a song for his girlfriend. He looked normal enough, but the sappy music that accompanied him was almost too sappy, almost as if he were being set up for a huge prank. Plus, when he started emphasizing how emotional this song would be, we knew we would be in for a disaster.
Sure enough, the first thing this guy (a.k.a. Travis McKinney) did was get in front of the judges and have an epileptic seizure. At least, that what it appeared to be. Turns out it was just the opening, spastic dance moves for his performance, which featured maybe two bars of singing and a whole bunch of breathy rapping. Truth was that if he had actually sung a song, he might have done okay (assuming he dropped the insane choreography), but alas, Travis was sent packing. He had no regrets, however, because this was a very special song in his mind. His crazy, crazy mind.
Next was a girl with messy, bizarre blond hair and a Sarah Chalke face. Her name was Danielle McCullouch, and she said she just wanted to make the judges smile and have a good time, and since the music behind her was not condescending or silly, we had a feeling she’d probably move onto the next round. Anyway, Danielle was pretty good; although, much like Wandera, I didn’t see how this girl was any different from all the other Xtina-wannabes out there. I guess the difference between Danielle and Wandera was that Danielle was blond and pretty whereas Wandera was hootchie and gruff. Anyway, Danielle got the golden ticket, which means hopefully she’ll stop getting her hair cut at Fantastic Sam’s.
Speaking of fantastic, the next auditioner, Christopher McCain had quite the back story. His wife had just recently left him, on account of her desire to hook up with other men (read: guys who weren’t fat, bespectacled, and saddled with Ken Burns hairstyles). Now Christopher, an ardent Paula Abdul fan, was going to make his ex rue the day she ever left him. He was going to not only go to Hollywood, but make it to the finals where fame and fortune would certainly lure her back. BUT WHATEVS! He don’t play that, yo! He wants a woman who likes him for him, not because of all the fans he would surely accrue with Idol. Personally, I thought this guy was lucky to have even had a wife in the first place; although, I’m wondering if having a female ally in your World of Warcraft guild really counts as “a wife” in the first place.
Anyway, the best part about Christopher was that in the pre-audition interview, he seemed careful to sound like the bigger, better man by not trashing his ex too bitterly. However, once he stood in front of the judges and Simon asked him why his precious girly had left, Christopher just shrugged and said “Because she’s… a bitch?” Right on, brother!
Well, Christopher sang “Footloose,” and while it wasn’t as truly awful as I had expected it to be, it certainly wasn’t Idol worthy. Simon jokingly asked if that was the song Christopher had sung to his wife the night before she left, causing cackles in the TVgasm offices. Looked like Christopher wouldn’t be achieving the passive-aggressive fame revenge he was hoping for, but as Simon said, at least he got to call his ex a bitch on national TV, and that’s gotta count for something. And if anything, her sex life has probably come to a screeching halt now that every man in America sees that she’s Christopher’s sloppy seconds. That guy? Really?
Next was Janita Burks, a skanky girl who somehow thought that having her boobs falling out of her top qualified as classy, demure, and conservative. Her audition was terrible, but quite frankly, I really don’t remember what her voice sounded like on account of me watching the underside of her right boob slowly inch out of the skimpy top that was keeping it in place. At one point, she full on bent over, and I expected those mammaries to tumble out like Niagara Falls, but she somehow kept it all together. And then she was dinged. In the immortal words of that woman from Weakest Link: Goodbye!
Quietly entering the room next was Sean Michel, a hairy, hairy man who looked like Bo Bice, Fidel Castro, and Tom Hanks in Castaway all rolled into one. I couldn’t tell if he had a dry, sardonic sense of humor (he mentioned that people think he’s just a homeless bum) or if he was merely a wack job (he then said how we’re all homeless in a weird sort of way — groan). Either way, his facial hair, while long and copious, was not nearly as obnoxious as Sundance Head’s; so already he had an advantage.
The real shock with Sean was that when he started singing, he sounded a little weird, but the longer he went on, the better he became. By the time he was done with his audition, a part of me thought he might actually go ahead to Hollywood. Sure enough, the judges decided to roll the dice and sent him to Hollywood. He wasn’t my favorite, but his low-key demeanor won me over. Plus, I really liked how he stomped and clapped. I’m easily won over by simple percussion. That said, if he makes it through to the semifinals, I’d be shocked.
Mel Gibson has a boner now.
Next was my favorite — Melinda Doolittle. The poor woman was so nervous, even my TV was shaking. She not only had the best voice of the season so far, but she had one of the most compelling stories with a built in arc for the season. Basically, Melinda was a backup singer, and that’s what she’s been doing for quite some time. She loved it because she could do what she loved — singing — but not put herself out there. Essentially, by hiding in the shadows, Melinda could live her life in the safe confines of her comfort zone. Now she was stepping out for the first time, not because she particularly wanted to, but because she needed to. Without even singing, I already loved this woman. We had a Class 5 Cinderella Story in the making.
Of course, Melinda’s big problem was that she was so nervous and meek that she looked like a waitress asking if the judges wanted a refill on their Diet Cokes. Not a lot of presence. But that all changed once she began singing.
“Would you like to try our curly fries?”
In a word, Melinda was a-mazing. She was one of those great auditions where time stops for two seconds, and you feel like you’ve just stumbled onto the next superstar. Melinda was totally effortless, the rich tones in her voice totally obliterating all the other wannabe singers. Okay, I’m clearly gushing, which is not very cool; so I’ll just get to the point. Melinda earned the gold ticket without a problem — Randy said she was one of the best auditions EVER. The only catch was that she needed to work on her confidence. I would say that Melinda’s going all the way, but I wouldn’t be shocked if she somehow faces a Mandisa-ish upset midway through the finals.
For every high, however, there’s a low. And this low came in the form of the chip-toothed Robert Lee Holmes. He kind of looked like a ghetto version of Chad Johnson, and he claimed that he sounded just like Elvis. He was right. Robert sounded just like Elvis… minus the husky, deep voice or ability to hit notes or carry any sort of a tune. Yes, he was terrible, and he was raining on my post-Melinda afterglow. No surprise — he was denied.
We then saw a montage of crappy singers, including many sartorially challenged rotund girls who probably should have thought twice about appearing on camera with that garb.
The Hotness returns!
Kaley Cuoco returns!
Finally, there was time for one more audition, and since the radio commercials were promising the most outrageous audition of all time (literally), I was getting very excited. Too bad it was a total cocktease.
Instead of a ridiculously shocking audition, we had Philip Stacy, a shaved-head weany of a guy with an affable, if not goofy grin and rosy cheeks. The whole story with him was that he had missed the birth of his daughter to audition for Idol. That’s what I call priorities! Memo to Philip: Idol will still be around next year. You could have skipped out.
Anyway, Philip started off singing “My Girls” as an ode to his wife and two little girls (including the newborn). At first, I thought my ears might start bleeding. He began the song with a high, strained note that probably was not unlike the sounds his wife was making just hours before. However, once he got into it, he turned out to be a good singer. The judges felt mixed, mostly because he had started off so bizarrely, and in an effort to sawy them towards a golden ticket, Philip sang the song he was originally planning on, “Let’s Get It On” (which obviously wouldn’t have been as charming a tribute to his little daughters). The same thing happened — horrendous first few notes, followed by a decent performance. Simon diagnosed him as a guy who simply could not start songs well, but despite that, the judges sent him through to Hollywood. If he does make it to the semifinals, I wouldn’t be shocked if he were cut the first or second round.
As the show ended, we then watched some camcorder footage of Philip reuniting with his wife and newborn girl. It was sweet and touching for most people, I’m sure. I found it kind of annoying — like some dumb segment on Oprah. URGH.
And with that, the show ended. Only one hour on account of the State of the Union. We’re back up for two hours tonight (yay!) as the judges hit the Big Apple. What did you think about Memphis? Should that first guy have been denied? Or were my ears simply in need of cleaning?