Thursday, January 18, 2007

Seattle: Don't Blame It on the Rain

Seattle, wake up and smell the Starbucks. This city, notorious for depressing, ugly and terrible things (rain, the Space Needle and serial killers) can now add tone deafness to its list. Sadly, the two-day American Idol Seattle sessions lived up to Simon Cowell's assessment as " ... the worst bunch of miserable singers that I've ever met in my life. It was two days of total misery."

And don't blame it on the rain, which drenched contestants waiting to audition on Day 1 for their shot at the brass ring. It would be too easy -- and wrong. Day 2 proved sunny and bright and the singing was as bad as, if not worse, than Day 1. Hmmm, maybe it is the water ... the drinking water. On a bright note, residents of this city apparently love their dogs, or maybe just bring them everywhere they go. Some clips looked more like a vet's waiting room rather than an audition.

But as bad as the auditions were, the two-hour episode
didn't seem nearly as tedious as the previous night's. Maybe it was because these contestants outstranged and outbizzared the Minnesotans. Or, maybe it was because Simon was back to being Mr. Super Nasty. In Minneapolis, Simon faked nice, even upbraiding Randy for his "rude" comments (we all knew it was a little Simon joke).

But Cowell dropped the pretense once the travelling road show moved on to Seattle. He seemed to relish picking not only on the singing, but also on the physical attributes of this lot of losers. Yes, perhaps it's cruel and unnecessary (as well as entertainingly truthful), but after five seasons, anyone who dares to take a shot in front of the judges should know what they're letting themselves in for. They've had ample proof that bad -- and sometimes good (remember the audition dis to Mandisa Hundley, and even Taylor Hicks, last season?) -- singing is likely to be met by Simon's ridicule.

For example, we had Nicholas Zitzman (man, what a last
name), who, after massacring "Unchained Melody," Simon's favorite song ever, was told by the judge that his singing was almost nonhuman. Our question: Why did we have to sit through his entire unbearably long and tortuous, swaying performance (though Randy swaying along with him was pretty funny)?

Then there was Day 2's first performer, bug-eyed Kenneth
. To us, he seemed creepy, but strangely amusing with his confident lack of talent. Telling the judges his voice had been compared to Justin Timberlake's, he dove into a performance of Backstreet Boys' "It's Tearing Up My Heart." Upon reaching the line, "I can't take it anymore," Simon jumped in dismissively with, "Nor can I." In the exchange that followed, Simon, who apparently couldn't stop focusing on Kenneth's lemur-like eyes, told him he looked like a bush baby.

But Simon wasn't the only one to pick on looks. In an outro before a commercial break, during a clip of gray-haired tryout Eric Chapman, Ryan's voice-over queried, "What if Taylor Hicks got hit in the face with a shovel and couldn't sing?" Too bad hairdresser Eric didn't escape then. After proving to the world he shouldn't quit his day job, he took an object out of his pocket (it turned out to be a jar of some sort of hair product) and stupidly tried to approach the judges' table because he wanted to fix Simon's hair. He was hastily escorted out of the room by two burly bodyguards.

The neverending parade of weird also included
Jennifer "The Hotness" Chapton, who said she acquired her nickname in high school because of her spicy personality. Er, don't think so. And it wasn't for her looks, either. She walked into her audition chomping on chewing gum and delusionally claiming she had a Mariah Carey-like voice. When Paula told her she had to take the gum out of her mouth before singing, and she asked where to put it, notorious Taylor-basher Simon told her to put it on Hicks' face on the backdrop behind her. She tried to sing "Gimme Your Love," until Simon stopped her and told her they wouldn't be giving her any love. But The Hotness wouldn't take no for an answer and continued singing until she was shouted down by all three judges.

There was the very bizarre and strange-looking duo of
Darwin "Mischa" Reedy and her almost identical twin-like mom. Their hair (except color) was alike, they dress alike, they laugh alike, they walk alike, at times they even talk alike, you can lose your mind, when cousins ... Oops, wrong show. Anyway, in a bold move of insanity, Mischa chose to sing the Pussycat Dolls' "Don'tcha." Er, no, we don't. But she was treated gently because mom was in the room. They left telling Ryan that they still love the show and will continue watching it.

But perhaps the worst audition award goes to final tryout
Steven "Red" Thoen, who began by admitting he had only seen a couple of Idol episodes and wasn't a big fan. He then compared his high-pitched voice to the lead singer of Queen. Poor Freddie Mercury must have been spinning in his grave if he was listening in on this rendition of "Bohemian Rhapsody." The judges couldn't control their laughter and Simon told him it was perhaps the weirdest audition he'd ever seen. Red argumentatively tried to defend himself before unsuccessfully attempting to leave through the left (wrong) door (yes the locked-door joke continued).

But this was a night when even contestants who won their
Golden Ticket to Hollywood were met with ridicule. One such ticket-holder was 6-foot-4 Anna Kearns, who gave a reasonable performance of Aretha Franklin's "Respect." Randy and Paula gave her a thumbs up, but also growled at Simon when he tried to critique her. After she exited the room, Simon quipped that Paula and Randy had put a giraffe through to the next round.

Other Golden Ticket winners included sister and brother
Shyamali ("Summertime") and Sanjaya Malakar ("Signed, Sealed and Delivered"), who performed decently and had matching million-dollar smiles. The judges preferred his voice, but her personality. Also getting through on his third Idol audition attempt was Thomas "Tommy" Daniels, who sounded like heaven compared to the rest of Seattle's offerings; and beatboxer Blake Lewis, whose spikey hair
seemed more impressive than his voice. We predict he will never make it past the Hollywood sessions.

Simon hated, but we kinda liked, Rudolpho "Rudy"
, an L.A. band member who sang Journey's "Open Arms," no doubt to impress former short-term Journey band member Randy. It worked. Randy and Paula put him through over Simon's objections. Getting three "yeses" was 16-
year-old Jordin Sparks, who sang Celine Dion's "Because You Loved Me." Her radiant smile was reminscent of America Ferrara's.

All told, over the two days, only 14 contestants were invited to Hollywood. Next stop on the tour is Memphis, which promises to be a good show.


... reports that Diana Ross told David Letterman
she is going to be a mentor on "American Idol" this season. "I'm going to do the 'American Idol,' as a mentor," said Ross. "And then I'll leave from there and I'll go on tour, March and April."

... The Hollywood Reporter says “Idol” averaged a monster 37.3 million viewers and a 15.7 rating/36 share in the adults 18-49 demographic for Tuesday night's season premiere according to preliminary data from Nielsen Media Research. The ratings were up 5% in viewers and 3% in adults 18-49 compared with last year’s premiere, in the second-biggest telecast for “American Idol” since it debuted.

... A New York Post story goes into the wild times off-set on American Idol and in the contestants' dorm. Season 5 runner-up Katharine McPhee says, "I snuck out. Totally ... They didn't know. And I did it often. I never slept in my parent's house, but I did go to my boyfriend's." The story covers other contestants' exploits over the past five seasons.

... According to Katharine McPhee
will appear as herself on the ABC's "Ugly Betty" on Feb. 1. McPhee will be a celebrity guest at the Mode Fashion Week runway show in the episode "I'm Coming Out." ... "American Idol" Season 5 finalist Kellie Pickler co-hosts on ABC's "The View" today and tomorrow (Jan. 18 & 19).

... According to Season 5 Idol
champion Taylor Hicks' self-titled album has been certified platinum, selling over 1 million copies since its Dec. 12 release. The first single, "Just to Feel That Way," goes to radio this week and Hicks begins his first headlining U.S. tour on February 21st. He appears at North Fork Theatre at Westbury on April 7.

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© 2007

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