Wednesday, January 28, 2009

American Idol Season 8
Jacksonville Auditions

Maybe it's us. Two days in Jacksonville? For what? We should have known the planets weren't aligned properly in Florida when we saw the order at the judges' table. From a viewer's perspective, Simon Cowell was sitting on the left, instead of the far right, and next to him was Kara DioGuardi, where Paula Abdul should have been. Paula was to Kara's right, with Randy Jackson sitting in what we're been accustomed to thinking of as Simon's seat. What goes? And, sure, they found a couple of singers who shined (unlike the weather, which was actually rainy if you look at the audition pictures on the American Idol site), but it felt as if the judges were pushing auditioners through to Hollywood who were barely marginal. Even with doing that, they only handed out 16 passes for the next round. Cowell seemed totally bored. Since when does he give a slide to tryouts who shouldn't make the cut? Randy, yeah; Paula, absolutely; Kara, when she's guilted into it. But Simon? The man's going soft on us.

For example, tile layer Joshua Ulloa, 22, who said he gets compared with Justin Guarini (is that a brag?), was the first one up. He performs Marvin Gaye's "Let's Get it On," complete with musical sound effects (trust us, he's no Blake Lewis). He doesn't have a bad voice, but the performance is over-the-top, the kind the judges usually dismiss out of hand. But, as we've read, the producers this season said they are going for personality as much as voice (or more). Simon tells him there were some very good parts, some corny parts, some gimmicky parts and that overall he came off like Inspector Gadget (er, OK). And though we thought he was actually more annoying than he was entertaining, he gets put through by all four judges. Is this the beginning of a bad evening? Well, yes.

Watch video of Joshua Ulloa

We all know, as does auditioner Sharon Wilbur, 25, that Simon is a sucker for dogs. So worrying more about her career than her canine companion, she drags along her shitz shu, Sasha, to the tryouts. Of course, we also know that contestants who bring an animal to the auditions can't really sing well enough to appear on "Idol," ergo the pet prop. Sharon was no exception. She dutifully handed Sasha over to Simon (the keeper of all canines brought to auditions) and sings a jazzy version of Karen Carpenter's "Superstar." She has a not totally unpleasant raspy voice, but the jazz affections and runs are, again, annoying. Simon rolls his eyes at Kara during the performance and even drops the dog to the ground before she's done. Kara tells Sharon she sang "baby" like Britney, and Paula says that Sasha was yawning during her audition (well at least the dog has good taste). OK, we're ready for four thumbs down, when Simon utters, "I think you've got a nice voice, I'm going to say 'yes.'" Huh? Randy jumps in with, "I'm going to say 'yes,' I like your tone." At this point, it didn't matter what the women said, she's through. But before they vote, Paula jumps Kara and they start fake making out. (Paula actually held her hand over her mouth while "kissing" Kara. Talk about paranoid). After Sharon leaves the room, Kara announces that she thought Simon was going to try to kiss her, not Paula, and that her work isn't done there until Simon tries something on her. She was kidding overtly flirting with Cowell. And for the record, Sharon got four yesses. What the ...?

Watch video of Sharon Wilbur

We finally get to someone the judges aren't afraid to say "no" to. Student Dana Moreno, 24, enters the room with a short red mini dress, a black fedora and no voice. OK, she has a voice. A bad one. She attempts Chaka Khan's "Through the Fire," and we're begin to think sitting through this show has been a trial by fire. Stop! please! Stop now! Simon tells her, "You can't sing those big songs." Simon, she can't sing any songs. Cowell then shows her the door and spares us from another unworthy contestant getting through to Hollywood.

Watch video of Dana Moreno

Sixteen-year-old Kaneswa Finnie, is confident and not only has a great smile, but also the look of someone who's going to be a contender. She's not. She sings Anita Baker's "Caught Up in the Rapture of Love," and as Simon correctly points out, it got worse as it went along. He tells Kaneswa she's got a great smile, but that her voice is just terrible. He asks her, "Are you surprised?" and the confident teen answers him, "From you? No I'm not surprised." But she also doesn't agree with him. Kara asks who told her she has a good voice. Kaneswa says her mom, so they call mom in, who obviously hears what she wants to hear emanating from her daughter's vocal cords, rather than what really does. Well at least Kaneswa is still her mother's "American Idol."

Watch video of Kaneswa Finnie

We were on the fence with "Latin American beauty queen" Julissa Veloz, 19. She's definitely got a powerfully good voice, put a really strange laugh. She's also a little too cocky for our taste. She has no trouble handling the vocals on Whitney Houston's "I Have Nothing," which surprises the judges (us, too). Simon tells her that she's better than he expected but that she didn't make the song sound nice. He gets three "huhs?" from the other judges. Kara makes a comment, then Randy announces, "OK, let's vote. Simon ..." Paula mumbles, "Well, I guess my opinion don't matter," then in a fake huff gets up and leaves. Julissa smartly chases after her, knowing that Paula is the source of all "yes" votes, and convinces her to come back to the judges' table. Good move. Kara says she has to say "yes" because Julissa brought Paula back. Paula likes her and Randy agrees. Simon is on the fence. Randy says, "C'mon Simon Cowell." As Cowell silently deliberates, Kara chimes in with, "Kooky, kooky, kooky," obviously the byword for this season's contestants, and Simon says, "All right, yes." Not a ringing endorsement and she'll no doubt not make it past Hollywood, but Julissa is LA-bound.

Watch video of Julissa Veloz

The same can't be said for tennis instructor Darin Darnell, 28, who is jumping around the holding room as the life of the party, that is until his friend gets cut. Darin doesn't just take it badly, he totally falls apart. He is so choked with emotion, he can barely get started in the audition room. But then we discover he really has no voice anyway. He performs Boyz II Men's "It's So Hard to Say Goodbye," and we discover that in this case the song's title holds no truth. We can't wait to say goodbye to Darin. Kara asks what he's so upset about, and Darin tells her everything. She says, "OK, sweetie, let me tell you something, the music business is not for you. Because it is pain, with heartache. And if you can't take it in this room, we did you a huge solid." You tell 'em, street girl, LOL.

Watch video of Darin Darnell

Next comes the delusional act of the night, food server Naomi Sykes, 25, who compares herself to Mariah Carey, leading Simon to say, "so you're a talented looney." She then tells Randy that her friend is a HUGE fan of his. Of course, the judges invite the friend in and she sits on Randy's lap to watch the audition. This leads Paula to sit on Simon's lap and Kara calls in Ryan Seacrest to sit on her lap, cooing at him like he's her child. We cringe when we hear that Naomi is going to sing Minnie Riperton's "Loving You." (What is it with that song? We never liked it from the time it charted and now we have to listen to a seasonful of squealing cats try to sing it.) She starts her dreadful performance and it is so bad that judges start singing the "la, la, la, la, la/la, la, la, la, la/la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la" verse with her. Naomi smiles, thinking they're really into her. Do we even have to say how awful Naomi was? Well, yes. So awful, Simon thinks it was a joke. "You're telling me this was serious? It was not a joke?" Now, we're having déjà vu of last week's show when Kara thought Rebecca Garcia was trying to be funny singing Carrie Underwood's "Before He Cheats." Of course, both ladies were as serious as a heart attack, and Naomi, as did Rebecca, starts to cry. The other three judges get up and give Naomi a group hug. Simon stares at them strangely, looking as if he thinks he's in "The Twilight Zone." Outside, Naomi tells us, "I don't know what I did wrong. I mean, I hit my high note and everything, and I did that really well this time." Oy.

Watch video of Naomi Sykes

Thank goodness, the next performance is a breath of fresh air. Jasmine Murray, 16, came to audition with her pack of older sisters -- she is the baby of the family. Well she didn't need any support. She knocked our socks off with her rendition of Fergie's "Big Girls Don't Cry." Even though it is somewhat nasal, this girl has a great voice and a great look. We are really lovin' on Jasmine. Simon calls her cute and commercial. She, of course, easily gets her golden ticket. We're betting she made it past Hollywood week to the Top 50 and even into the Top 36.

Watch video of Jasmine Murray

Although Jacksonville broke the pattern of having a good singer with a great sob story, it held with having a really humiliating audition (Naomi Sykes) and a really bizarro audition, at least as reminiscent as those of Ross Plavsic and Akilah Askew Gholson. In Jacksonville, that honor went to physics major George Ramirez, 18, who has a beard like the Smith Bros. of cough drops fame. To begin with, when he enters the room and Paula asks, "How are you?" He answers, "Not so bad." Huh? Then Simon asks him where he sees himself in 11 years time. When George gets vague, Simon says, "In your wildest dreams." George thinks awhile, then tells us he'll be have a simple house with nice floors -- I want marble. Randy says, "nice," as Simon rolls his eyes. Yep, it's time for the looney bin. But not before we're treated to the musical stylings of George singing Katrina and the Waves' "Walking on Sunshine." It was unrecognizable, unless you know the lyrics. If you recall, this is a super high-energy song. George sings it in an off-key monotone, very low and very slow. No ... energy ... at ... all. Yikes! Randy tells him that it was, by far, the quietest audition he ever heard. Clueless George says "I just didn't know how loud I should have done it." Simon asks, "This isn't for you, is it?" George thinks, and thinks, and thinks, until Simon, exasperated says, "Well, OK, I'll tell you. It's not." As he leaves, Ryan says, "We'll see you." George says, "I mean, definitely, why not? Probably not right here, but, you'll see me around." OMG, too funny.

Watch video of George Ramirez

Then came Anne Marie Boskovich, 23, a waitress-nanny (does she do both jobs together?) from Nashville. She is a major Kara DioGuardi fan, having heard her perform, and breaks into one of Kara's songs. Simon thinks she is a very attractive girl and has a great voice, but that she doesn't have the confidence of a star. He wants her to leave and come back later as a different person. And she does. She changes her outfit slightly, has someone apply makeup and bowls everyone over singing Colbie Caillat's "Bubbly" (we liked it better than the original). What is it with nannys? Last season Brooke White also blew everyone away. And like Brooke, Anne Marie is pretty and seems like a natural singer. Nothing forced, nothing put on. We look forward to seeing her again.

Watch video of Anne Marie Boskovitch

T.K. Hash, 23, from North Carolina, auditioned last year and didn't make it. He has a good voice, but his over-stylized version of John Lennon's "Imagine" was -- all together now -- annoying. In many places it sounded as if T.K. had rewritten the music. As Randy told him, "It was too over-the-top, it had too many runs, changed the melody too much. With a song as great as "Imagine" it's OK to sing a great melody." Right dawg. Paula says, "I think you were inspired by David Archuleta," and T.K. says a little bit. But much as we weren't crazy about Archuleta's version (though everyone else was) even he didn't butcher Lennon's song that badly. Simon, unhestitatingly votes "no." Paula and Randy jump in with "yesses." It was up to Kara, who hesitates, then says, "You're going to Hollywood." But we don't think we'll see him after that.

Watch video of T.K. Hash

In some ways musician Michael Perrelli, 18, was the most interesting tryout of the night. We find out that he never leaves the house without his guitar and is horrified to learn that he can't audition playing it. He does however audition and sings "Jumper," by Third Eye Blind. We like his voice and his selection. But, much to our surprise, the judges aren't impressed. Simon told him that he was quite interesting, but his voice wasn't and that he would struggle within the parameters of the competition. He tells him to get a job like anyone else does and in his spare time he should put a band together. Cowell gets a chorus of "yeahs" from the other three judges. They all say "no," and Cowell, annoyed by his pleading and whining, boots him from the audition room. Personally, we'd take Michael over T.K. (and most of the other golden ticket holders from Jacksonville) any day. Outside the audition room, Michael, in tears, rebuffs his mother with "Don't touch me," when she tries to comfort him. Ryan says, "That's your mother, you can't do that." Well, Ryan, he did. Get over it. What would you know about disappointment? Outside the building, his mother by his side (ha! Ryan), Michael says, "They say I'm not good enough. I don't want to be arrogant, but I know I am." And somehow we're left with the memory of Josiah Lemming, a contestant from Season 7 who was better than good, and who cried after his arrogance caused him to blow lyrics during Hollywood week. Instead of considering the talent he had showed prior to that moment, he was cut. He's about to release a CD. We've heard his EP. His songwriting skills are superb. As far as we're concerned, he was the one the "Idol" judges let get away. Michael Perrelli might be another. Only the future will tell.

Watch video of Michael Perrelli

Next, the show travels to Salt Lake City, Utah

Interesting note: Kara has been at every audition, when her hire wasn't announced until Aug. 26, after the auditions were over. Hard to believe no one leaked her presence at the judges' table to the press prior to that. And Randy still couldn't get her first name right in Jacksonville, pronouncing it Kaahra. Sheesh.

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Perrelli was too vanilla and whined way too much. Nothing new there. Like Simon said, maybe with a band or something but he definitely needs a plan B. Get a job kid.