Thursday, January 31, 2008

Miami Heat

Wow, what a difference a day (or, as we discovered, a little creative editing) makes. Miami might have been the best audition show to date. Why? Well, the city just seemed chockful of talent. At least that's what we thought until we started doing the math. While supposedly the same amount of people showed up to audition in both Omaha and Miami (we were told 10,000 in each), there were actually two less people in Miami that received their Golden Tickets to Hollywood than in Omaha (19 vs. 17). How could that be? Apparently the producers decided to emphasis freaks an geeks in Omaha, while stressing the talent in the Miami clips. Note to the producers: As our friend Robbie has always said, the shows with the talented people are much more interesting and fast-moving.

In fact, the most-promoted freak act of the evening, Brandon Black, who closed the show, was just annoying and time-wasting. Apparently Brandon fancies himself a comic as well as a singer. We fancy him a fool. Period. Simon Cowell, apparently agreed, who, after trying to stop Brandon's "act," mumbled under his breath to Paula, "Get him out, get him out, get him out, get him out. I can't bear to watch him anymore." So let's get his video out of the way immediately and move on to more interesting and talented people:

Watch video of Brandon Black:

As it turns out (here comes a SPOILER, folks) three of the auditioners we were shown in Miami are on the leaked Top 24 list: Robbie Carrico, Syesha Mercado and Ramiele Maulbay.

Shannon McGough opened the show, and at first appeared very promising. Stylish, attractive, apparently a prize-winning singer, according to the awards hanging in her parents' meat market, a place Shannon was praying to escape. Guess grinding bloody meat isn't nearly as exciting as it seems. Unfortunately, neither was Shannon. Among Shannon's not so hidden talents (although we wouldn't have minded if she kept it under wraps) is her ability to belch. (Note to the producers: A pretty girl belching is about as pretty to watch as someone peeling his fingernails.)

However, her shrieky rendition of Janis Joplin's "Cry Baby," led Simon to remark, "Shannon, I had a late night last night, and I'm not feeling great, and you just made me feel a lot worse," and later adding "It sounds like you're eating when you sing." Why is it that these contestants won't realize that doing an impression of someone else -- a bad one at that -- is not what the judges want? They want to hear the contestant's own voice and style, albeit singing a cover tune. Poor Shannon, she was totally baffled by the negative reaction. Guess she'll just have to keep singing the blues to dead cows.

Watch video of Shannon McGough:

Fortunately, Shannon was followed by a long run of Golden Ticket winners. The first was former boy-band member Robbie Carrico, who has now turned to rock. He had a really nice, melodic strong voice, though his audition was more boy band than rock. Watching Paula Abdul's face, it was obvious she was smitten with him.

Watch video of Robbie Carrico:

After a montage of the lousy male singers, Ghaleb Emachah gets his chance. Ghaleb is from Venezuala and he says he plays Gypsy music with passion. He sings, what we thought, was a rather lame version of Marc Anthony's "You Sang to Me." Simon tells him, "I would like you if I was drunk ... sober I don't think it works." Paula thinks he has a very good voice, but thinks his problem is that he has a very strong accent that's hard to ignore. She then gets pissed at Simon interrupting her and sticks her finger in her ear saying "la la la la la la." Simon passes her and goes to Randy, who says "yes." Back to Paula. We think she puts him through just to spite Simon, then she gets up and hugs him to welcome him to Hollywood, extracting a promise from Ghaleb to work on his accent.

Watch video of Ghaleb Emachah:

Watch video of lousy male singers:

When we see who is up next, we figure it's going to one of the freak acts, first because Corliss Smith and Brittany Wescott are big girls, and second, usually when they send two people in together it's going to be b-a-a-a-d. But we're totally surprised to find out that both can sing fairly well. They have totally different styles, and like different kinds of men; Corliss likes them to have meat on their bones, while Brittany likes them thin. First Corliss serenaded Randy with "Take Five," doing a really nice job. Next, Brittany sang "My Guy" to Simon. After they both were put through, Paula encouraged them both to hug the men they desired the most.

Watch video of Corliss Smith and Brittany Wescott:

Suzanne Toon has one of those backstories that "Idol" loves. Promising music student takes time off from school, gets pregnant at 18, has kid at 19, relationship doesn't work out, now Suzanne is a single mom, telling us, with teary eyes, how she hasn't sung for three years but wants to succeed at "Idol" to make a better life for herself and her daughter. Did we mention that Suzanne is pretty and has gorgeous eyes? She did a serviceable rendition of "I Can't Make You Love Me." Paula liked the sultry sexiness of her voice and Simon said she became even more attractive when she sings. Randy told her to watch her pitch, but, ultimately, she received three yesses.

Watch video of Suzanne Toon:

After a spot pimping Season 3 finalist Jasmine Trias (huh?), whose CDs have gone platinum in the Philippines (maybe they don't hear as well there), we are introduced to Ramiele Malubay, who says she wants to be the first Asian Ameri-
can Idol. She is adorable, kind of like a pint-size Philippine version of Paula Abdul (is a pint-sized version of Paula even possible?) Needless to say, Paula found her adorable. When she blasted her version of Aretha Franklin's "Natural Woman," it was hard to comprehend that that huge voice was coming from this tiny girl. Simon told her she was a good singer, but he didn't think she was a contemporary singer (we never quite understand this comment. Is it based on song choice or style? After all, he put through Brittany who sang "My Guy"). Fortunately, Paula told her she was phenomenal and Randy agreed.

Watch video of Ramiele Malubay:

Syesha Mercado also came equipped with a big voice and a sob story. She is feeling good because things have been going well lately, but her father has just completed a rehab program for drug and alcohol abuse. We get to meet daddy with daughter and, of course, tears are shed, as their story is told. Inside the audition room, Syesha sings "Think" by Aretha Franklin. She no doubt has a powerful voice, and maybe we've listened to Simon one too many times, but to us, she sounded more as if she shouted than sang the song. Nevertheless she made it through.

Watch video of Syesha Mercado:

The most most annoying audition of the evening (yes even more annoying than Brandon Brown's) belonged to Julie DuBela, a former contestant on "American Juniors," a Simon Fuller-created show featuring, well, 12-year-old Julie and other juniors, and hosted by Ryan Seacrest. Ryan, however, didn't remember Julie, straight off, even though, as Julie told us, "Music is my life, this is my dream, I'm not a quitter." She felt her previous experience would give her a leg up at "Idol," which is why she decided to "give it a whack." When Simon ragged on "American Juniors" ("I wore out my DVD player. I just love hearing kids that age sing"), she didn't even get it.

Her performance of Joplin's "Bobby McGee" was so filled with acting and affectation that even Paula laughed during it. Simon called her "precocious." Julie wanted to know what that meant. Even when the judges told her to go back to Hollywood and pursue acting, not singing, she carried on like the spoiled brat she is because she was being rejected. That is, until Simon finally told her to pretend the camera was no longer on and that she could cut out all the (petulant) acting. When she left the audition room she cried to Ryan, telling him she turned down singing at a Red Sox game to come to the audition, as, inside, Simon called her overindulged and said she needed a reality check.

Watch video of Julie DuBela:

Watch video of Richard Valles:

Watch video of Miami loser auditions:

Watch video of Ilsy Lorena Pinot:

Watch video of Natashia Blach:

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