San Antonio, the last city of auditions we'll have to sit through this season (with the exception of tonight's "Best(?) of the Rest" audition show). What can we say? Yea! Thank god it's over. Now, please, let's move on with the competition. Three weeks of auditions is about two weeks too much.
Although we learned 22 made it through in this Texas town famous for the Alamo, it was again one of those evenings when bad outweighed good. In fact, we thought there was barely anyone worth mentioning until Jimmy McNeal (or Jimbo, as Simon called him), the final auditioner, took the stage. Loaded with charisma, an engaging smile and a good voice, he gave a thoroughly enjoyable rendition of "Cupid" (it was actually a Sam Cooke medley that began with "Another Saturday Night," then morphed into "Cupid"). Jimmy easily and deservedly earned his Golden Ticket. There was a giggler at the end when Ryan encouraged McNeal, 23, to tell his little girl that's he's going to Hollywood and she looked him straight in the eye and said, "So."
The evening didn't start out that smoothly. First up was Bryan Kyrish, 27, of San Antonio. When he described himself as a combination Billy Idol-Ozzy-AC/DC, we knew we were in trouble. Anytime contestants use a hyphenate to describe their sound, you know that the only thing they sound like is bad.
Kyrish's loud, animated and scary rendition of Billy Idol's "Rebel Yell" made rocker Idol's original version sound as if it had been sung on Prozac. All we could say was we didn't want "more, more, more." And although the judges agreed, they seemed almost afraid to tell the rather large and aggressive-seeming Kyrish that his performance sucked. They rather gently thanked and dismissed him.
In total contrast to Kyrish was the meek Jasmine Holland, who timidly entered the room and barely spoke to the judges before she broke into a nasal and off-key performance that was so bad that the Randy didn't even try to hide his laughter, while Simon unsuccessfully attempted not to snicker. However, after being told she wasn't any good, formerly meek Jasmine turned into a hellcat telling the judges they were rude and negative. Well, yeah, with a singing voice like hers what did she expect? After dissing Randy, Jasmine angrily left the audition room, returning to the bosom of her waiting family, who, in one of the evening's funniest moments, started dumping on foreigner Simon. How dare he judge an American, they said, when only Americans know what true music talent sounds like ... What is he French? After Ryan told them that Simon's British, Jasmine's mother retorted, "He should fly back to British." BTW, they also had a sign that read: "Jasmine: Are Next American Idol." Uh-huh.
We also had to suffer through the bizarre Sandie Chavez, 21, who claimed to have sung for the mayor of Houston (is he hearing impaired?). Simon said, and we agreed, that he couldn't understand one word of "Black Velvet" that came out of her mouth and asked if she was serious. At this point, the clearly delusional Sandie (who we later were told is a music teacher!) broke down in tears. Paula tried to placate her, but Simon made another deprecating remark, so Paula hit him. Yea! These are the Idol moments we live for.
Then there was Jacob "Jake the Snake" Tutor, 21, who we were sure was separated at bush, er, birth from Kenneth Briggs. Oh no! Another one with weird eyes, a pointy chin and wispy mustache. What is it this season with those strange looks and locked audition-room doors? After trying to hide his sniggering behind his Coke glass, Simon told Tutor that he should only sing in a dark bedroom. Tutor gave us a bleeped barrage of obscenities as he exited the audition room.
A montage of bad singers featured Deborah, who was asked by Simon how people usually reacted when she sang. She answered, "Sometimes they cry," to which he retorted, "I'm not surprised."
Then there were cousins William Green and Akron Watson. William, a big lumbering guy, took f-o-r-e-v-e-r to badly sing "Amazing Grace." Randy started laughing right away and Paula joined in. Green seemed to know he couldn't sing and took it well when Randy said he thought the song was going to take a couple of days to finish and Simon told him it was neverending. On his way out, he set it up with the judges that he was going to "talk some trash" for the cameras as he exited, shocking his cousin, who was not in on the joke, but leaving Randy, Paula and, especially, Simon in stitches in the audition room after he left.
Fortunately, cousin Akron, 23, was much better. Simon told him he has a good voice but a personality problem and that he had been bored by the performance. Akron broke into another song after Paula told him he should be doing something to change Simon's mind. The three decided to give him a second chance in Hollywood. But in a weird turn of events, not shown on the show, Watson was called by one of the show's producers just prior to his Hollywood departure and told he had been eliminated.
"They said we're not gonna let you go. And I asked 'Why?' " Watson told Dallas' Pegasus News. "And he said 'Well I'm not really sure' ... and then he gave me some alternatives for what I should say to people if they asked why I was kicked off ... He told me to tell people that I was now an alternate ... That would protect [me] and protect the show."
"Idol" had already filmed a feature on Watson to be used on the show, during which the singer discussed the obstacles he had overcome, including the times he skipped school and chased girls, as well as his drinking and pleading guilty to possession of marijuana after police found pot in his car. Watson said he also discussed his “wakeup call” and dedication to being a good Christian after his brother died.
When the paper’s reporter contacted the show’s publicist to inquire about Watson’s sudden and unexpected elimination, he was told that the show would never give a reason for Watson’s removal from the competition. Watson has started a “Bring AkBack” campaign on his MySpace.com site.
Meanwhile, Ashlyn Carr, 18 of Sugar Land, had an experience that was a first time ever happening on "Idol." She sang Nina Simone's "Feeling Good," and the judges really liked her voice but expressed concern over the strange expressions she made and the way she contorted her face while singing. Randy and Paula gave her a thumbs down. After she tearily left the audition room, Simon said he would have said "yes," and was concerned that they shouldn't have dismissed her, at which point Randy and Paula said, well then bring her back in. Ryan chased the family into the street and brought Ashlyn back to the room to audition again. The singing was once again fine, and the judges, though still concerned about her facial expressions, decided to give her another chance in Hollywood.
However, in another strange quirk of fate, it turns out that Carr also appears to have a police record. As Reality TV Magazine reports, an August 26, 2006 article on MySanAntonio.com about the "American Idol" San Antonio auditions mentions Sam Houston State University student Ashlyn Carr, 18, of Sugar Land, while a November 14, 2006 article in The Houstonian Online, the student paper of Sam Houston State University, reports on a student who had sugar poured into his gas tank. The student gave the University Police Department a list of people that he thought might be responsible. The paper says that, “One of those suspects, Ashlyn Carr, 19, was called in by UPD and confessed to the crime. She was arrested on Criminal Mischief charges, a state jail felony and booked into the Walker County Jail.” Since the arrest occurred after Ashlyn’s Idol audition, it is uncertain what impact it had on her continued participation.
Two other singers that were shown made it through. We thought they were adequate, but not outstanding nor memorable. The first was Haley Scarnato, 24, who sang "I Can't Make You Love Me." Paula liked her control, but Randy was unsure and Simon thought she was a bit cabaret. But they decided to grant her a second chance.
Faring a bit better was 16-year-old Baylie Brown. Although her looks reminded us of a blonde Jessica Biel, her small-town farm girl story and prettiness were reminscient of Carrie Underwood. When they showed a clip of her home and the horses in their barn in Krum, we wondered whether, like Carrie, she was going to tell us that she sang to the animals. This country girl who loves fashion and is aching to break free to the city easily won her Golden Ticket after singing Faith Hill's "Stronger." Simon found her very commercial and marketable and a record label's dream (though in a wonderful Duh! Moment, Baylie inquired whether that was good), and told her she was born to be a pop star, while Paula waxed poetic about Brown's name, saying she wished that her name was Baylie.
LONG ISLAND'S OWN
According to a story by Ronnie Gill in Newsday it looks as it Long Island gets another shot at the Idol title this year with Jared "JL" Cotter. Cotter, 25, who tried out at the New York-area session, has not yet been shown auditioning in any of the show's clips. But the R&B and hip-hop artist with Usher-like good looks and style has a Web site that has been temporarily taken down, not unusual for contestants who have progressed to "Idol's" live rounds.
Cotter's musical pedigree seems impeccable according to a biography of him on HitQuarters.com. It states his grandfather James Reese Europe was the first black jazz artist to play Carnegie Hall and that his father, Robert Cotter, played with Nile Rodgersand the late Bernard Edwards in the group Big Apple Band, later known as Chic.
BandSpace.com states that Jared's debut album, "The Album B4 the Album," was released in 2005 and described it as a mix of midtempo sounds and slow jams.
In an October 2005 interview on singersroom.com, Cotter said that his musical influences include Stevie Wonder, Donny Hathaway and Brian McKnight, and that he writes 95 percent of his material.
Cotter's current music can be sampled on his MySpace.com page.
TRACK YOUR FAVORITE FINALISTS
Ever wonder where the most Idol finalists and semi-finalists live? Is it in your state? The South, North, East or West? According to another story by Ronnie Gill in Newsday, a new Web site will tell you all that and more.
The MapMuse.com "American Idol" site is an interactive locator map of "American Idol" finalists and semifinalists from all five seasons. On the site you'll find a map of the U.S. mainland with pinpoints for each finalist. Click on a part of the map to zoom in on a specific area. Easier still, or for finalists who reside outside the mainland, such as Hawaii's Jasmine Trias, you can use the site's windows to enter a city, state or ZIP code.
We typed in "Long Island, N.Y." and a map of the Island appeared with the message "2 American Idol Finalists on this map." The message also instructed us that we could either hover our mouse over the designated points for an overview of the finalists or click on them for more detailed information.
Sure enough, hovering over the first point revealed a photo of Joseph Murena, the town he comes from (Smithtown), age at the time he competed (26), the season he competed (four) and his outcome (voted off 3/25/05). We found similar information for season 5 finalist Kevin Covais of Levittown.
We then clicked on each point for more details and found we could choose to update information. The detail pages also contain links to the finalist's page on the official "American Idol" site, a preset Google search window with the finalist's name, and the current weather conditions for the contestant's town.
MapMuse.com says the idea is for "American Idol" fans to build upon the site by adding descriptive information about their favorite idols. Once a visitor suggests a change, it is reviewed for appropriateness and then posted within a few hours. Adding information is free.
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