Thursday, February 7, 2008

More Than Just Leftovers

Before we begin with a review of Wednesday night, there's news that the new Idol exit song has been chosen. It's called "Hollywood's Not America," and its by artist Ferras, whose album drops April 1. If you want to "meet" Ferras and hear a sneak peek of the song, click here.

So, we were prepared for another filler show on Tuesday, a "here's a bunch of leftover clips from the auditions you haven't seen yet" melange, consisting of mediocre remains of what hadn't aired during the first seven shows of Season 7. Ryan Seacrest promised us some of the best and worst auditions the judges saw. We said, "Uh-huh." But guess what? He wasn't lying. At least about the best part. Maybe not outstanding, get up on your feet and cheer auditions (don't think we've seen any of those this year at all), but we were actually shown more of the supposed 24 semifinalists on this one "leftover" show than we saw in any of the city editions. There were four: Joanne Borgella, Amy Davis, Chikezie Eze and Danny Noriega.

We even got to see Cardin McKinney, rumored by many on the Internet to be the next Idol because she was the producers' favorite. That was, of course, until the semifinalists' list was leaked and her name wasn't on it. Anyone want to wager that she already has signed with J Records instead of having to compete?

Interestingly, we've now seen all of the supposed female semifinalists and only half of the male semifinalists. As regular viewers know, contestants who don't get on-air face time before the semifinals begin are at a tremendous disadvantage with the voting audience. Those 2 to 3 minute audition segments when the home audience learns your back story, gets to see your personality and how you react with the judges can be very memorable indeed. And that usually equals votes that place you in the final 12 or, more importantly, the Top 10. Contestants who aren't shown during the audition episodes rarely -- if ever -- make it beyond the semis.

The first of the evening to receive a Golden Ticket to Hollywood was Amy Davis, a pretty well-endowed girl who dressed in a fairly low-cut black camisole-like top, assuring the attention of both Simon Cowell and Randy Jackson, and perhaps even Paula Abdul. Paula asks her ethnic background (why?) and Amy informs her that she is part Japanese on her mother's side. In the pre-interview Amy tells us she came from a family whose income was lower than lower middle class and that she wants to help pay back her sometimes single mother, who raised 6 kids. Oh course, one might ask, if they didn't have the income, why did they have that kids? But that's just so Judge Judy on us to ask, that we'll just move on. Although she's no Linda Ronstadt, we enjoyed Amy's rendition of "Blue Bayou." Simon and Randy both said yes based on what they felt were the possibilities of her voice. Paula said yes, as well.

Watch video of Amy Davis "Blue Bayou":

Getting through without a nod of approval from Simon was plus-sized model Joanne Borgella from Hoboken, N.J., who sounded to us as if she also had a plus-sized voice. She has performed the national anthem at Madison Square Garden before a college basketball championship game. Although Paula wasn't crazy about the song choice, she thought Joannee had beautiful tone and quality when she sang Celine Dion's "I Love You." Randy thought she could sing, but that her voice got small in the upper register. Simon was definitive with his without comment "no," but after a bit of hesitation Randy out her through.

Watch video of Joanne Borgella "I Love You":

Fondue-restaurant waitress Cardin McKinney had a good feeling that she was getting through and she was right, although she, too, barely made it through. She sang "One Night Only" from "Dream Girls" (Note to self: Sigh, is there no other show that contestants can select must from?) Simon thought she came over as a very theatrical singer. Duh, ya think? Wonder why that is? He added, "I don't think you're a contemporary recording artist. Paula thought she had a very mature voice. Fortunately for Cardin, Randy gave her a hesitant yes and Paula, of course, agreed.

Watch video of Cardin Lee McKinney "One Night Only":

We had not a clue as why the judges put through Alesha Stelzl, who first did a horrifyingly bad rendition of Celine Dion's "Surrender." Simon hated it, calling it dreadful. But Paula heard something in her voice that Randy defined as a Dolly Parton-like quality. Randy asked her to sing some Dolly, but she didn't know any, so they sent her out to learn some. She returned and did a barely credible version of "Islands in the Stream." Honestly, if she had come in with that as her original song, she probably would have been rejected, but because she came back and her voice did resemble Parton's, Jackson and Abdul put her through. When she left the audition room, Cowell told them, "I hate to admit it, but you were right," adding he was disappointed that it hadn't been the ending he expected. But, seriously, we can't believe that Alesha lasted more than 3 seconds in Hollyweird. One thing we did learn from the segment: Randy and Ryan better not quit their day jobs. Neither of them can sing worth a damn.

Watch video of Alesha Stelzl "Surrender" and "Islands in the Stream":

The contestant that captured the hearts of the judges the most was Ashley Lawing. Well, not exactly Ashley herself, whose vocals they hated, but her 6-week-old black pomeranian puppy, named Panda. Simon threatened to keep Panda. Ashley told him, "As long as you put me through to Hollywood you can have whatever you want." Uh-huh. This coming from a girl who is dating twin brothers (more on that later). Ashley, who, like Season 5 finalist Kellie Pickler, is blonde and hails from North Carolina, sang the artist's "Red High Heels," except she changed the lyrics to "black high heels" because she said Panda chewed up her red ones. Uh-huh. Ashley has the same level of confidence that Kellie did (what DO they put in the water in North Carolina?) but may actually have a few less IQ points. Simon called her performance "excruciating." Ashley said, "exru-she-atin'?" He then called it torture. Ashley: "Oh my gosh! Simon, you're lying." Then she said, "Is today opposite day?" Simon, "No, today is not opposite day. I mean, even your dog is struggling to get out of the room right now." Randy gave Ashley a "no," but said "The dog is through to Hollywood." Simon agreed.

Watch video of Ashley Lawing and Panda "Red (Black) High Heels":

As for Ashley's squeeze/s, well she came to the audition with identical twin brothers Cory and Chris Lane. Ashley says, "First off, I met Chris Lane ... and then Cory starts calling behind Chris' back ... Then I started hanging out with Cory and we've been together for a year now." Apparently the fun-loving twins knew that Ashley sucked as a singer, but told her she was good, just so she'd come with them and audition as well. What a fun trio! Cue the "Three's Company" theme song (er, they did). Cory and Chris think they're rappers, but, oops! they forget the lyrics and we have to sit through about five "here we go." Unfortunately, they continued before they actually went.

Watch video of Cory and Chris Lane:

Things went much better for Chikezie Eze, who tried out last year, but who didn't make it, because as he told Randy, "you weren't feeling me." Well we felt Chikezie just fine this year. In fact, at this moment he is our favorite contestant and the one we're rooting for. He is the male R&B artist that "Idol" thought it had with Ruben Studdard, but we think we would rather take it easy with Chikezie. We really loved his vocal on Luther Vandross' "All the Woman I Need." It was one of the few cases where we disagreed with Simon, who didn't find his voice that interesting.

Watch video of Chikezie Eze "All the Woman I Need":

Danny Noriega "buckled under the pressure last season," but like Chikezie, decided to come back and take another shot. Also like Chikezie, he not only made it to Hollywood, he apparently made it all the way to the semifinals. We thought he version of "Proud Mary" was good, though not memorable. But perhaps there more to Danny than we've been shown. Simon tells him he has a very good voice and there's more comfort coming out of it this year than last year. Randy loves the audition, telling Danny, "I think it's one of the best I've seen ... nice control, you've got a gift, Danny." Danny's jaw drops open and his eyes go wide with disbelief. Then the smile comes. He leaves with three strong yesses.

Watch video of Danny Noriega "Proud Mary":

Watch video of Simon having name pronunciation problems

And here are, as Ryan called them, some of the worst. Nah, we've seen much worse. Nothing really worth commenting on, but take a peek, if you care.

Watch video of Tiffany McCambell "Hallelujah":

Watch video of Victor Villegas:

Watch video of Luke Reeder:

Watch video of Jay Smoove, Joshua Mooreland "Beautiful Girl":

Watch video of Brandi Gregorie:

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