Thursday, February 8, 2007

Mess of the Rest

I would have paid Fox $5 to have missed at least half of Idol's Season 6 audition episodes. And it would have been money well-spent. Obligatorily we sat through the "Best of the Rest" -- now there's a misnomer -- final auditions show. And what did we gain? Yes, we saw about 6 more people who advanced to the Hollywood rounds, and some seemed quite good. For that we were grateful. But then we realized that 172 contestants received Golden Tickets to Hollywood, and of that number we had certainly seen less than a third over the past month. Instead, just like last night, each audition show had been bloated with the bad performances.

In an interview with, "American Idol" director and executive producer Ken Warwick explained why we must sit through all these lousy Idol auditions:

"The thing is that our mandate is to show it the way it is. If the predominance of singers that walk through that door are bad, then the predominance of singers you see on the show are bad. We try to keep it to look relatively proportional to what we actually see, because obviously we get a lot of stink from the critics and 'Why do you only show bad things?' Because most of the kids who walk through that door are bad singers. We're only showing you a cross-section of what … and that's right, in reality, that's what it's about. Who walks through that door? Show us a proportion, a correct proportion of the type of people that walk through that door. If you see a show, as you did at the beginning, if 90 percent of them were bad, it's because 90 percent of them were bad."

Yes, Ken, but Idol is not a scientific study. Idol is supposed to be entertainment. Most of us don't mind seeing the really funny bad auditions, but we've also been subjected to a barrage of just sadly delusional people who can't perform and aren't funny. In fact, they've become decidedly unfunny at this point.

How many stupid costumes, bad voices or snarky attitudes do you have to sit through before you stop laughing? Overdosing on the brigade of losers is akin to getting beaten everyday. After awhile, you don't even feel it anymore and it becomes background noise. So we're grateful that Idol is finally moving on to the Hollywood rounds and will dispose of them in a quick two episodes.

In two weeks, we -- you and us -- will be judging the Top 24 semi-finalists and we'll have a vested interest in watching each show because for the first time this year we, not the judges, will determine who is the best, who will survive to sing another week and who will go home accompanied by a cheesy "journey" clip reel set to the strains of a song that will no doubt become this spring's pop hit (Daniel Powter's "Bad Day" anyone?). Amen.

We saw a few acts last night that really impressed and we're hoping they did well in Hollywood (and yes, although we revealed the spoiler list of the 24 semi-finalists, nobody will know how accurate it was until Wednesday night. In fact, we're still hoping that Brit Tom Lowe made it).

One of our favorites from last night's show was LaKisha Jones, whose rendition of "Think" during her New York audition should put Aretha Franklin on notice that there's another Big Voice in town. She took the "stage" with confidence, immediately launched into the big notes and had the judges in the palm of her hand from the get-go. Simon was so enamored with Jones' voice he could barely contain his happiness. But there was a mention at the end of the segment about some drama in Hollywood concerning LaKisha's 3-year-old daughter, so we're keeping our fingers crossed and hoping that the "Lakeesha Young" on the spoiler list is an inaccuracy that really should be LaKisha Jones.

Our other favorite was Ebony Jointer, one of a trio of California roller-skating waitresses who are also friends and decided to try out together. Simon warned them they wouldn't be friends for long, and maybe he was right, because two got through and the third, Heather Rennie, who sang "Bless the Broken Road," skated off into the sunset. Number 2, Ashley Cleland, did a reasonable job of Sarah MacLachlan's "Angel," not an easy tune to keep in pitch. Paula tried to advise the 17-year-old to tone down her heavy pancake and overly theatrical makeup. And Simon roared with laughter when Ashley told Paula it was like getting motherly advice. Not the word that Paula, who likes to think of herself as twentysomething, wanted to hear.

But it was the tall and strikingly lovely Ebony who definitively stole the show with her amazing version of Whitney Houston's "I Believe in You in Me." Simon not only told her she was in another class from the other two, he added she could sing the phone book and it wouldn't matter.

Of the three others who we saw succeed on the show, two appear on the spoilers list. Gina Glocksen, 22, of Napierville, Ill., who previously tried out and made it to Hollywood, apparently made it all the way to the semi-finals this year. She was very open about her adoration of Simon Cowell, telling him she still loves him and even admitting to having had racy dreams about him. He, of course, complimented her on her good taste. He also liked her soulful performance of Alannah Myles' "Black Velvet." We thought her good, but are surprised that she is apparently on the short list when stronger female voices -- Jory Steinberg and Sarah Krueger immediately come to mind -- are missing from the tally.

We also heard the soulful voice of 25-year-old California pool serviceman Paul Kim, another supposed semi-finalist, whose inspiration to try out was William Hung. He auditioned to prove that Asians can sing as well as the best of them. Point made. He certainly had Paula swooning over his version of Shai's “If I Ever Fall in Love Again.” In an amusing bit, Simon kept cutting off Paula's critique and when he asked her whether it was "yes" or "no," she glared at him with a what do you think look, so he said, "So it's a 'no' from her and a 'yes' from me."

The only other good performance of the evening came from Denver pedicab driver Tami Gosnell, whose song choice, the Allman Brothers' "Whipping Post," seemed eerily appropriate as it immediately followed Simon's inquiry over whether her customers ever whipped her (pedicab driver, get it?). The judges all loved her bluesy voice and warm personality, though we must admit that we weren't that taken by either her voice or lip ring. And honestly, if anyone needs a makeover it's Tami, who seemed of indeterminate gender to us until she started speaking.

So much for the good. Then there were the bad and the ugly. Those included Christa Fazzino, dressed in bizarre garb that she said was influenced by how she felt, which elicited from Simon, "So you feel like the inside of a dustbin?" Unfortunately her attire was better than her voice. How bad was it? Paula
leaned over to Randy to ask him what song it was. He said he didn't think it mattered, while Simon found the whole thing ridiculous. We tittered when Christa asked if there was anything else she could do and Simon said, "Juggle."

Ryan's intro told us that Jack Odanovich got his inspiration to sing a capella from Bo Bice's amazing performance during Season 4. However, we learned that Jack's and Bo's names should never even be invoked in the same sentence. When informed by Simon that he is deluded, Jack apologized and beat a hasty retreat, though outside the audition room he told us he'll never give. Jack, give up. We'll give you $5. Use it for therapy.

We were also subjected to the torturous stylings of William Emil Samland III, aka WES, a self-proclaimed musical visionary in a bright yellow satiny shirt, who sang his original composition "Don't Hurry, Don't Worry," accompanied by foot-stomping that would make Mr. Ed jealous. When asked by Simon how he thought he did, he responded "great." WES, the bus to Delusion leaves in 5 minutes. You can sit next to Jack.

We think that Edward Sanchez, 26, already knew he couldn't sing, but that didn't stop him from attending the San Antonio auditions. After all, he really just wanted to meet his idol, Paula Abdul. He not only met her, he received a hug and a kiss (on the cheek) from her. He told Paula she was better looking in person, then went on to make Ritchie Valens turn over in his grave with his rendition of "Donna," leading Simon to tell him he was blind and deaf. But Edward didn't mind the humiliation one bit. He had achieved his true goal.

Finally, there was the sadly pathetic Alexander Nazario who busted a move for the judges and told Paula he learned the weird movements from her. With his singing as bad as his dancing, Simon asked Randy what advice he'd give Alex should he walk into Randy's office. Randy told him he'd suggest a theme park. Oh yes, that would be Talentlessland. At least Simon told him he'll never be a good singer and that he needs a reality check. But Paula, sensing Alex's wounded pride assured him it was only one audition, that he is a lovely person and gave him a hug.

Well, that's a wrap. It's off to Hollywood. But make sure to check in frequently before then for Idol news and updates.

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© 2007

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