Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Atlanta has Attitude, Little Else

We're not sure if we're running out of steam for "Idol" or if the show, itself, is running out of steam. All we know, is that we had a hard time dragging ourself to the TV to even watch the Atlanta edition, even if it was the city where Clay Aiken, Jennifer Hudson and Fantasia were discovered. Truth be told, we were more interested in the results of Super Tuesday, perhaps because, in a real sense, it will ultimately affect our life a lot more.

Anyway, writing this 10 hours after watching the Atlanta auditions, we found it hard to remember anyone we much cared about, although, if the leak is correct, three contestants in the group we were shown -- Asia'h Epperson, Alexandrea Lushinton and Amanda Overmyer -- made the top 24 semifinalists list. (Note to self: Does one have to have a name that starts with the same letter as their audition city to make it to the semifinals?)

Actually, we did remember Asia'h Epperson more than any other contestant from Tuesday's show because her story was sad, and actually *embarrassed to admit it* made us cry during her pre-performance interview when we learned that two days earlier, after talking to her father as she headed to the auditions, he was killed in a car accident. Thinking about it after a little sleep, we're not sure whether we admire Asia'H's strength to carry-on and win a place in the Top 24 because that's what her father would have wanted her to do -- succeed, or whether we think she's a little nuts to think it was more important to be at an audition rather than with her family two days after the death. Did she even attend the funeral?

But then, we should realize by now that to some people "American Idol" is more important than, in the words intoned by the immortal Sam Jaffe as Dr. Zorba at the beginning of every episode of "Ben Casey": Man Woman Life Death and Infinity.

Asia'h is a pretty girl and does, indeed, as Simon Cowell noted, have a lovely smile, and Paula Abdul liked the way she came "dressed for success." She decided to change what she originally planned to sing, and instead chose "How Do I Live" in tribute to her father. As she came to the choking close of her audition, she had Paula, and us, in tears. She was easily was put through by the judges, who obviously liked her as much as her singing. Simon called her a "sweetheart" after she left the audition room, and Paula was so overcome with emotion, she had to go off-camera to get a tissue.

Watch video of Asia'h Epperson

Alexandrea Lushinton, who seemed more than her 16 years, brought what seemed to be her entire family -- including her 93-year-old great grandmother -- to her audition. We don't know that we'd do the same, but great grandma was soooo cool when she high-fived Ryan Seacrest that we wanted Alexandrea to get through on that alone. Dressed in dreads and fatigues she did, though we don't know that we loved her somewhat odd and jazzy arrangement of "My Funny Valentine" quite as much as the judges did. Her audition segment was, in fact, so short, it was hard to tell much about her other than she was pretty and sounded good.

Watch video of Alexandrea Lushinton:

We weren't sure what to make of skunk-haired, motorcycle-riding rock 'n' roll nurse Amanda Overmyer, especially when she started belting out Joplin's "Mean Woman," sounding like the newest Janis imitator in what has been a season full of them. But we learned this was Amanda's true raspy voice when Simon made her change it up and sing something else and she broke into "Traveling Band." Paula loved her, saying she was "authentic and real." Randy and Simon also gave her yesses. It looks like Amanda will be this season's Gina Glocksen, only better.

Watch video of Amanda Overmyer:

The only other girl who showed some talent was beauty queen Brooke Helvie, who is Miss South Florida Fair. But she was as annoying, if not more so, than last week's "America's Juniors" semifinalist Julie Dubela. She was so sweet and full of herself, we started feeling hyperglycemic. Looking like a cross between a not-as-pretty Carrie Underwood and Kellie Pickler, Brooke said she wanted to prove to Simon that pageant girls can sing. Much to his regret, she could with her version of "Who's Loving You." He made it clear once she left the audition room that she was the most annoying contestant he had ever seen and he had wanted her to fail. So did we. We still do. She will. Never fear.

Watch video of Brooke Helvie:

Speaking of Carrie Underwood, she seems to be J.P. Tjelmeland's biggest claim to fame (it certainly wasn't his singing). Apparently, 3 years ago, when Carrie auditioned, she sat 2 chairs behind J.P. (can't believe that Fox dug up video of the two of them from Season 4 sitting near each other). He called her his "audition buddy," and said he now regrets that he didn't take the opportunity to get to know her better and keep in touch with her over the years. As if! Looking like a caricature out of a comic book, J.P. did a version of "Me and My Gang" by Rascal Flatts that had Simon's eyes bulging. J.P. pled, "I really, really want this. I don't want to do four year in school." Ugh! How pathetic. He also told them he was a music major. Randy Jackson was in disbelief. "No! What do you major in, composition?" he asked. "No, singing," said J.P. "No!" Randy exclaimed. "I am not that bad! Was I that bad?" J.P. said. Yes, Simon told him, you are that bad. "My pen has got more charisma." Randy and Simon give definitive "no's," but Paula, always trying to waffle a bad audition, just can't bring herself to actually utter the word, leading to a series of clips.

Watch video of JP Tjelmeland:

Watch video of Paula Abdul, who just can't say "no":

The one guy who we did see get through had, of course, a strange backstory. The final contestant was Josiah Leming, 18, who has been living in his car for the last year. We never really fully understood why, except that he tells us he loves it. We find out that it upset his mother when he dropped out of school and that he's been travelling around performing. "Wherever the wind blows, that's where I go." Er, OK. But then, he starts crying saying how scary and lonely it is not to have anybody to hang out with (then why are you doing it, you idiot!). He sang his own composition, titled "To Run." It was OK, but the weird thing about Josiah, Simon notes, is that when he sings he acquires an English accent (is that like when English people sing they lose their English accent and sound American?). Simon asks him to sing "Chasing Cars." He does. The accent happens again. Of course, Simon loves this. We almost believe he got through on that alone. Oh, yes, and probably because he's weird and lives in his car.

Watch video of Josiah Leming:

Then we had the weird people who didn't have talent. There was Josh Jones, whose eyes, Simon says, look demonic when he sings.

Watch video of Josh Jones:

There was Eva Miller, who slid on her paper number when it fell off, leaving her spawled on the floor with legs wide open. Eva started crying when Simon was convinced it was a put on and not an accident:

Watch video of Eva Miller:

There was obnoxious Nathan Hite, who walked in with an ATTITUDE larger than his stature. Simon told him his singing was like a bedroom audition. Nathan asked Simon if he had that written down on a piece of paper. Then it really got nasty. Simon asked whether Nathan wanted to listen or just be a smart ass. Guess what Nathan the smart ass opted for?

Watch video of Nathan Hite:

And then there were just the run-of-the-mill weirdos and oddballs:

Watch video of oddballs and weirdos:

Watch video of a less than "Glamorous" medley:

Finally, we got to meet Ryan Seacrest's parents who came to visit him at the auditions in the host's hometown.

Watch video of Ryan Seacrest and his parents:

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