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American Idol returned for more auditions Tuesday night, with our band of merry judges flying into Birmingham, Alabama to check out the local talent. Ryan Seacrest proudly noted that the region was home to more Idol finalists than any other, with Bo Bice, Reuben Studdard, and Taylor Hicks all hailing from the area. And what storied careers they’ve had…
Nevertheless, Birmingham was kind of like the anti-Seattle. Golden tickets were in the majority, and singers with bush baby/Asperger syndrome were few and far between. In fact, when it came to freak shows, one only had to look as far as the judging table where Paula Abdul, possibly on one of her prescription-fueld benders, was loopier than ever. The poor woman could barely sit still, let alone speak a word. Ah yes. After New York’s triumphant auditions where Paula was actually insightful, it was comforting to have her back in bonkers territory.First of the 11,000 people who auditioned was a girl named Erica Skye (or as she pronounced it, “Ska”). She was a student at Auburn, and if singing didn’t work out, she wanted to go into the dental field. Memo to self: avoid all dental practices in Birmingham.
Anyway, Erica sang “Unchained Melody,” which she credited to Leanne Rimes, and here’s a shock: she couldn’t hit any of the high notes. This certainly wasn’t the worst of auditions, but it was fairly out of tune, despite what her friends who were listening at the door might have said. “She hit ‘em!” claimed one girl, who must have had the earphones to her iPod still in because there was no note Erica hit.
Sure enough, the judges panned her, with Simon saying, “Erica, you are an absolutely hopeless singer.” The other judges agreed, but Erica was not about to go off to the dental field so easily. She began singing some Dixie Chicks song and was so annoying that Paula had to actually leave her chair and cower in the corner, lest Erica’s voice trigger violent Oxycontin-based hallucinations. At long last, Erica slunk out of the room, but not before brushing dust off her should, a little Fuck-You-From-The-Dental-Community gesture.
We then saw a montage of crying failures, and once that was out of the system, we met Katie Bernard from Orlando. She had a unique situation in that her voice was crazy high pitched — kind of like the squeaky heir to Carol Kane. However, she claimed that her singing voice was deeper and more tolerable. Well, I couldn’t be more intrigued. Could this girl actually cary a tune? The answer, surprisingly, was yes. She sang “A House Is Not A Home,” and even though her performance was muddled with affectations and melisma, we could hear that her voice was actually pretty good. And completely different too.
When it came time for judging, Randy gave her a yes. Paula, meanwhile, suddenly wound up on the floor, kneeling at the table like an orphan begging for porridge. She didn’t know what to say, and since Simon gave Katie a no, it was all on our druggy (and breasty) singer in the middle. To help her make the decision, Paula then asked Katie’s husband to come in the room, and as you can imagine, he was quite the sight. He wore a polo shirt buttoned to the top with the collar sticking up — a lame attempt to be trendy. It was almost enough to distract from his goofy grin and wide eyes, symptoms of being totally, unabashedly starstruck. Honestly, he seemed barely able to even say a word, but that’s okay because Katie made up for it with nonstop babble about why she should be accepted to Hollywood. She went on and on, her voice getting higher and faster. SHUT UP! At last, Paula melted and said yes. Congratulations! She was going to Hollywood (where she’ll certainly be rejected after one week).
Next up was Tatiana McConnico, who for some reason I thought would be bad, despite attending a performing arts high school. I was wrong. Tatiana was good. She was very good. A super-fidgety Paula giggled with approval. You know how this story ends: you’re going to Hollywood, dawg!
Not faring quite as well was Diane Walker, a Mandisa-ish girl who unwisely eschewed Mandisa’s knit poncho in favor of a very, very bizarre outfit that did nothing to slim her figure. Still, Diane seemed like a friendly lady, and she even joked about how she was a cheerleader in high school. Needless to say, she was the base of the pyramid.
What she made up for in spirit, she certainly lacked in singing talent. Diane managed to butcher “Saving All My Love” by Whitney Houston. I mean, it wasn’t the very, very worst, but it was pretty damn bad. Unsurprisingly, the judges sent her home empty-handed, and after she left the room, Simon reflected, “It was the most extraordinary dress I’ve ever seen in my life!” Amen, my friend. Plus-sized women — they really don’t have a lot of non-mumu options, do they?
Bernard Williams II showed up next, and he nailed Michael Jackson’s seminal disco classic, “Rock With You.” Simon gave him an unequivocal yes, but Paula, shockingly, said that she thought his tone was good but off key. Huh? What? Paula is officially high.
Luckily for Bernard, Randy also liked him, and he made it through to Hollywood, despite Paula’s dubious concerns.
There was no confusion about the next girl. Her name was Margaret Fowler, and she was fat and dressed like Big Bird, if Big Bird were an old stripper. Margaret claimed she was twenty-six, but we could tell she was much older. This wasn’t her biggest offense. No, Margaret’s big problem (aside from the fact that she blatantly was doing whatever to get on TV) was that she had no problem parting her shirt and revealing her massive, rippling gut. Make it stop… make it stop… Is this what Big Bird does to Snuffleupagus when we’re not watching?
Anyway, I know this might come as a shock, but Margaret was terrible. The judges warmly rejected her, and then Simon asked what her real age was. She smiled bashfully and said thirty three. C’mon now, Maggie. Your real age. She paused, smiled again, and finally admitted that she was fifty. SHEEEEE’S FIFTY! And she likes to KICK! STRETCH! AND KICK!!! SHEEEEE’S FIFTY!
For whatever reason, Paula then cooed, “You are amazing!” Huh? She was a looney who lied about her age. There’s nothing intrinsically amazing about announcing your age.
But then I remembered that Paula was crazy and calmed down.
We then watched a montage of all sorts of people getting the golden ticket. Curiously, almost all of them were girls. Would the trend continue for Jamie Lynn Ward, the biggest sob story since week one’s crack baby diva?
Jamie was kind of like the second coming of Carrie Underwood: sad backstory, Southern accent, middle American appeal, and totally boring. Her whole thing was that she lived with her grandma and daddy because her daddy was paralyzed and she took care of him. Awww. And if she won Idol “I would get my grandma a house with one floor!” That’s so sweet. NOW SHUT UP.
Interestingly enough, Jamie’s sob story had an intriguingly dark and grim underbelly. That’s because Jamie’s dad had paralyzed himself after he had shot himself in the neck. Why did he shoot himself in the neck? Because he had caught his wife, Jamie’s stepmom, cheating on him.
“And it wasn’t the first time!” Jamie noted, as if this somehow made any of this totally okay and normal. Yes, apparently Jamie’s dad had actually shot the cheatin’ ho’-bag first and then shot himself, making him the victim of a botched murder-suicide. Lovely! Sure enough, the judges really didn’t know what to say about all this. They kind of just let out a bunch of sighs and sympathetic “Wows.” Jamie, meanwhile, was just like “Oh, it’s okay,” as if she’d just told them about the time in first grade when she spilled some apple juice.
Nevertheless, Jamie sang a song that I didn’t particularly like. It was too Broadwayish for me, and at times, I thought her voice was off. Still, the judges liked her enough to send her to Hollywood, warning her to not force her voice too much, otherwise it’ll get nasally. The judges then all pet Paula, who pretended to be a puppy (don’t ask. Blame it on the pills).
Next was a guy named Chris Sligh, who I kind of wanted to hate at first on account of his unwieldy, curly hair, but he turned out to be pretty cool. His pre-audition material was a bit too jokey and ironic for me, and the producers were definitely trying to set him up to look like a total failure. Too bad the promos all outed him to be a great singer.
Anyway, Chris pretty much won me over when the judges asked him why he wanted to be on Idol, and he said, “I really want to make David Hasselhoff cry.” Shockingly, Simon and perhaps Paula had no idea what this was in reference to, but they still laughed nonetheless.
Enough joking though. Time for some singing. Chris managed to blow them all away with his soulful and controlled rendition of “Kiss From A Rose.” Paula had a near orgasm in her chair, and when the song ended, her convulsions morphed into a standing ovation, complete with the patented seal clap and all. No surprise here. He was going to Hollywood.
Sadly, Paula’s antics for the night then came to a close. We headed onto Day 2 in Birmingham, and Paula was nowhere to be found. Ryan said she went back to Hollywood “for a family obligation” (read: rehab), and so the remaining auditions were conducted solely by Simon and Randy.
First up on this second day was Victoria Watson, a peculiar girl with six feet worth of hair. Yes, she’s was a latter day Rapunzel, but I can’t imagine any Prince Charmings rushing to save her from a tower. Speaking of fairy tales, Victoria said she sounded like a Disney character, which could not have been a good thing. However, she seemed like a nice girl, and her ambitions to touch people with her music and voice was admirable, if not lofty.
Anyway, the judges, particularly Randy, were impressed with Victoria’s hair, and they even called in her jittery mom, who had similarly long hair to boot. The mother, it should be noted, seemed more nervous and less poised than her daughter. As Victoria sang her way through “You Raise Me Up,” her mother made all sorts of nervous faces, which almost distracted me away from all the hair (not to mention the Amish-esque clothing).
Well, Victoria’s Disney assessment was true. She sounded like she could be Snow White. Unfortunately, this is American Idol, not Freakishly Cartoonish Voice Idol, and so she was rejected, with Simon saying it was a very “daughter to mom audition.” This eventually led to full scale bawling outside. No matter how long the hair grows, it still won’t be big enough to sheathe THE PAIN!
Speaking of pain, the next girl had such a bad voice that my ears literally hurt listening to her. Lakia Hill claimed she had the total package, but clearly that was the total package of AWFULNESS. Her cover of Deborah Cox was nasally, grating, and simply horrendous.
“You have probably one of the worst voices in Birmingham,” Simon said. Curiously, Lakia responded with a simple, “Thank you!” Uh… what? This then kicked off a montage of people politely thanking the judges for cruelly rejecting them, and then we met Nicole Gatzman. She had kind of a weird story. She claimed she could sing, but her mom, despite wearing a Team Nicole t-shirt, insisted that her daughter had no talent. How very Helen-Mirren-in-The-Queen cold.
Well, Nicole sang “Something To Talk About” for the judges, and I thought she was really good. Husky, rich — all that good stuff. Clearly I was wrong. Randy and Simon both thought she had problems and swiftly rejected her, despite the fact that she was about ten times better than that awful Jamie Lynn. Hopefully she’ll come back next season because that rejection just wasn’t right.
Last but not least — okay, maybe least — we met Brandy Patterson. She sang a truly awful version of “Like A Virgin.” I wanted to say it was bad karaoke, but that would be an insult to bad karaoke. Simon labeled the performance as “rotten,” shocking her completely.
“Maybe it’s the floor or something,” she suggested, as if the finish on the parquet had somehow distorted the sounds coming out of her mouth. Simon and Randy immediately cracked up and sarcastically told Brandy to try another song, but this time from the carpet. Unsurprisingly, she actually did this, squawking out a miserable version of “Proud Mary” from the non-parquet portions of the floor.
Afterwards, Simon joked that the carpet made all the difference, and Brandy nodded enthusiastically, clearly unable to hear the sarcasm dripping from his mouth. Eventually, Simon popped her bubble and said she was terrible on both surfaces. “No, I was better on the carpet!” she insisted, still grasping to the notion that a carpeted singing career hung in the balance.
After a while, however, Brandy realized that she wasn’t going to Hollywood. She started mouthing off to the judges, but Simon had the best put-down at all when he warned her, “Don’t stand on the non-singing floor!” Who would have ever thought parquet jokes would be so hilarious to me?
Brandy continued her rant outside the room, her flames further fanned by Simon and Randy who popped out briefly to do whatever. She accused Randy of being fake, but the entire scene was fairly lighthearted; so I kind of zoned out. However, Brandy started to listen to her own words, and suddenly, she seemed to be actually very mad at the judges now. That’s right, Brandy. Let the subtle realization that you’ve been humiliated on national TV sink in. Turn that mortification into rage!
Anyway, at the end of the two days, Ryan announced that twenty singers would be moving on to Hollywood. And speaking of Tinsel Town, the auditions now move to Souther California — Pasadena to be specific. According to the previews, it looks like our favorite banana-head will be making it to the big show. Congratulations!