Friday, January 30, 2009

American Idol Season 8
New York-San Juan Auditions

It was an interesting evening. The last audition show for Season 8 was the first in which two cities were shown on the same night, or so Ryan Seacrest claimed. In this case it was New York and San Juan, Puerto Rico. "Idol" tried to tie the two together with such commonalities: This was the first time the cities have been linked since "West Side Story" (proving the producers reside neither in the Empire State nor The City That Never Sleeps) and they are both are islands. Hey producers, we found another one: Both places have trees!

After the show we discovered that "Vote for the Worst" had received a leaked list of the Top 36 Idol semifinalists, which it and Jo's Place, the Web site responsible for the majority of correct Idol leaks, believe to be accurate. We have posted the list on another page, so as not to spoil the surprise for those who want to wait for the Feb. 11 official announcement. But it you can't wait, click the link in the posting at the bottom of this page.

Finally, we received a funny and nice comment from Chris Kirkham of Ogden, Utah. You may recall him from Wednesday night's show. He brought his good luck grabbit (friend Greg dressed in a pink rabbit suit) into the audition room with him. We had written that "Chris wasn't terrible, but sounded a bit like a cross between a country singer and a Munchkin from the Wizard of Oz" and that "His big mistake was not auditioning in Jacksonville, where the judges put through a number of tryouts with no better voices than his," to which Chris responded:
Hey there! This is Chris Kirkham. Good coverage! Glad you enjoyed us bounce around haha! Twas a fun experience, next time I'll head to Jacksonville. Without a Grabbit.

And I think next time I'll sing the "Lollypop Guilde!" Haha! Country Munchkin sounds like a great band name too.

I actually gave them some of Eric Clapton's "Change the World," which I thought was my stronger song, but due to copyright reasons they told me to sing another, which ended up being Ain't No Mountain. (It was infact the song they had us learn for the audition process).
Fun times! Hope I get another chance next year!

Thanks Chris! We never know what fun will await us next with this blog, LOL.

The episode starts with Adeola Adegoke, 19, a bank teller from The Bronx. As soon as we hear she's singing Jennifer Hudson's version "And I Am Telling You," from "Dream Girls," we suspect things won't go well. After all, how many contestants other than LaKisha Jones from Season 6 are going to knock it out of the park singing that song? Adeola tells the judges that she is so confident that she will be the next American Idol that she quit her job. They look discomforted, especially after she opens her mouth and becomes the prime example of that old saying, "Don't quit your day job." Simon Cowell calls her rendition "shockingly bad," but after she leaves the audition room, Cowell feels so bad about the whole fiasco, he calls her boss and asks if Adeola can have her job back, saying that he thinks she is terrific. Adeola's boss agrees with Simon and says, "yes," she can have her job back. Whether Adeola knew it or not, it was the best "yes" vote she could have received that day.

Watch video of Adeola Adegoke

First up in San Juan is student Jorge Nunez, 20, who will have much better luck that Adeola. Jorge first sings "My Way" in Spanish and it is beautiful, but Paula Abdul is concerned about how Jorge sings in English, so he gives her a bit of "What a Wonderful World." It's also very good, but not as strong as his first song. Kara DioGuardi tells him that she felt more when he sang in Spanish (we agree)and that there were some pronunciation problems with his English. Once again Simon is the voice of reason, explaining to Kara that they're in Puerto Rico because they actually wanted to find someone who sings with an accent, otherwise they would have just gone to Omaha. Randy Jackson tells Jorge, "Dawg, I loved you, man. I thought it was brilliant, man," with Paula adding, "he has the power of Marc Anthony." Let's just hope he doesn't have Anthony's cocky attitude as well. Jorge receives four emphatic yesses. We are happy.

Watch video of Jorge Nunez

Waitress Jessika Baier, 20, traveled from Michigan to Puerto Rico to audition, where her odds should have been good considering how few people showed up there as compared to the other "Idol" venues. (As we recall, instead of the thousands elsewhere, it was reported only a hundred or so actually turned up in San Juan.) She tells the judges she has been in 700 singing competitions and won a lot of them. That singing is her source of income. She sings Celine Dion's "I Surrender." It's not terrible, it's OK, but it is very loud and shrill. Simon is put off by her immediately (well she isn't one of the perky pretty blonde he seems to prefer this year) and when she hits a very big note singing the lyric "I surrender," Cowell puts up his hand for her to stop and says, "So do we." She begins to plead and he tells her it was absolutely awful and he can't believe she's won all these shows. Her pleading gets worse including a childish foot-stomping tantrum. Kara appeals to Simon to give her a chance with another song, but that just pisses Cowell off more. Randy tells Jessika the sound of her voice is not on point and that it's not good. Jessika tells Simon she can prove to him she can sing, to which he retorts, "Jessika, I can swim but I'm not going to win 10 Olympic medals at the Olympic games." It's getting ugly and uncomfortable in the audition room and at this point, we're really annoyed with the whining and begging. Paula tries to explain to Jessika that the entire audition bordered on "shrilling." Kara tries to jump in, but Simon ends the debate with a vote. At last, it is over and Jessika is gone.

Watch video of Jessika Baier

It's back to New York for Melinda Camile, 21, a pretty young woman with an infectious smile. She is a bit of a flake, though, so we're not surprised to learn she is unemployed. Says she feels a shift in the universe and wants to be part of it, is "down for any experience that can bring enlightenment" and gets great joy from dancing naked at home. Alrighty then. Still, there is something about her, even before she sings. Simon tells her she looks very fresh when she enters the room. It could be that loose summery dress with no undergarments and very revealing cleavage. But when she starts giving Simon her Miss America "I want to uplift humanity with my voice" speech, his eye-rolling begins. When she gets to the shift in the universe section, Simon says, "Paula's been saying that for years." Paula takes it seriously. Now we're rolling our eyes. When Kara asks if she wishes she could be naked right now, Melinda answers, "If all of you were." Is this getting interesting or boring? Fortunately, she gives what we think is a great audition with "Feeling Good," in tune, good phrasing, nice tone. She giggles afterward, and Simon says, "You're a happy little thing, aren't you?" Randy likes her voice, while Kara tells her she's like a vitamin boost. Needless to say, since they exist on the same astral plane, Paula says 100 percent yes. The other three judges agree and Melinda is through to Hollywood.

Watch video of Melinda Camile

We remain in New York for actor-singer Jackie Tohn, 27, a rocker who has been performing for 10 years, encouraged by her father who also told her there are many singers and that she should learn to play an instrument (she does, guitar). She has a contemporary feel and a pleasing raspy voice. She starts off with Jason Mraz's "I'm Yours," but Simon wants another song that will demonstrate her normal voice. She sings "I'll Do It All," and we really like it. Paula says, "Jackie, you're unpredictable and surprising and it's all good." Randy like her husky tone (we do, too). Kara likes her, as well, and wants to see what Jackie will do next, so Jackie asks her, "what direction do you think I should go in?" Simon tells her "The worst thing you can do is ask ..." when suddenly the sun shield on the windows behind the judges' table collapses. It's a scary moment and they're lucky none of them were injured. Simon takes it in stride and continues, "The worse thing you can do is ask, 'Who should I be?' A good artist knows who they are. Jackie ... you've got four yesses, out you go."

Watch video of Jackie Tohn

Now it's goofy time at "Idol," and we start with street performer Joel Contreras, 23. We see footage of him acting like an idiot all over the city. He comes to the audition dressed as, he says, "The Human iPod slash Guypod." Oh, joy. Kara asks, "Who's going to press "play"? Actually, it is pretty funny when he makes believe he's turning the iPod's wheel and mimicks the sound it makes pretty damn near exactly. Simon's eyes begin to roll as Joel presses the play icon on the cutout he's wearing. He begins to sing and Simon stops him after a couple of seconds and asks for another song. Joel throws his cutout to the side and actually begins to sing ... very dramatically, stopping after every line and posturing. Sad thing is, he has a good voice. We think he could actually sound like Marc Anthony if he could only get serious. Ha! Simon stops him saying, "OK, I can't listen to this anymore. I really really can't. It's just awful. It's everything I hate. ... I mean, the whole act is excrutiatingly bad." Unfazed, Joel pulls out a lion puppet and begins to sing "The Circle of Life." He gets four "no's," picks up his props and runs out of the room screaming (as if he won), "Yeah, baby, I got a 'no.' I got a 'no.' I got a 'no.' " We had to laugh. We still do, rewatching it. Even the judges look amused.

Watch video of Joel Contreras

New York, never to be outdone by another city, offers up Nick "Normund Gentle" Mitchell. He runs into the audition room wearing a horrible shiny polyester shirt, shorts, glasses, wristbands and a sweatband. Simon immediately tells him, "Normund, I hate comedy. I don't want you to be funny, I just want you to be serious." Nick/Normund says OK, and sheds the glasses and sweatband and pulls his shirt out on his shorts and says, "You know what, then it's done. No more comedy. No more comedy." He starts to sing "And I Am Telling You," from "Dream Girls," and after about 20 seconds, Simon stops him and says, "Normund, you said you weren't go to make this funny." Nick/Normund grabs his head and says, "Oh! You hurt me where you get kicked sometimes. That was very hard." Simon, pissed and tired of the gay routine, bashes him with, "I would have thought you would have quite liked that." But Nick/Normund gets the best line of the night and the best laughs, even from Simon, when he shoots back with, "You mean the way you like it when Seacrest does it?" then gives a shimmy of his hips. Laughing, Simon says, "That was funny. That was actually funny," and continues, "Normund, you're sort of becoming more likable now." At Randy's urging, Simon gives Nick/Normund another chance. He's going to sing "Amazing Grace," but Simon warns him not to pull faces. It starts out OK, Nick/Normund actually has a voice, but he can't resist reverting to type. Simon is upset, but the other three are laughing hysterically. Paula smacks the table and declares, "I love you!" Kara declares, "I am so entertained, this is the first time today ... You don't have a shot in hell, but thank you, I'm energized," and gives him a "yes," as do Randy and Paula. Nick/Normund gets his golden ticket.

Watch video of Nick "Normund Gentle" Mitchell

Then we a few of quick clips of three who make it through, receptionist Ashley Hollister, 21, singing "Baby It's You"; Kenny Hoffpauer, 16, doing Jason Mraz's "I'm Yours"; and pretty, blond Kendall Beard, 23, singing Martina McBride's "Ashes" and looking like just the kind of candidate Simon is going to love.

Watch video of Ashley Hollister, Kenny Hoffpauer and Kendall Beard

Back to San Juan for Monique Garcia Torres, 16, who has a moppet's face and looks 12. She also has a wonderful relationship with her younger brother Christopher, who comes into the audition room with her and pimps her to the judges. He gives the judges a shell he brought for them (but it broke) and advises Monique to "think carefully" before choosing the song she will sing. Before she begins, Monique tells her brother, "I love you," and the judges appear to love him, too. Monique first sings The Supremes' "You Can't Hurry Love." We think she has a nice voice, certainly nicer than some who have been put through in previous episodes. We like her next song, "I Turn to You," even better. But Simon thinks she should have done something more in her range and Kara feels her voice isn't fully developed yet. Kara would prefer that Monique have the confidence that her brother exhibits. Randy says "no," that she's not quite ready and Kara agrees. Paula, however, says, "I like you. I say 'yes.'" Now it's up to Simon, who determines the vote in a tie. He does a face shrug looking at Monique's brother, standing stoically on the sidelines with his arms crossed as Monique puts her hands to her face. He tells her the auditions were very old-fashioned and cabaret, but that he's going to give her another shot. Yea!

Watch video of Monique Garcia Torres

We really could have lived without seeing the last New York contestant. Alexis Cohen, 24, she of the foul mouth and FU finger pumps from last year's Philadelphia show. She's obviously somewhat deranged and really annoying, as well. Her first appearance was somewhat humorous but we didn't need a repeat performance. Alexis claims to be a new woman, with a new attitude. Gone is the garish blue sparkly eye makeup from 2008. And she wearing a very proper shimmery silver dress. Still, we know what's coming. She can't sing and overdramatizes Madonna's "Like a Prayer." Simon tells her it is fairly horrendous and that she's actually gotten worse, fully establishing that she can't sing. Alexis answers, "Well, thank you," then swears. She says, "I don't know what else to do but give you the finger," which she does double. The judges applaud and Simon says, "So we're friends again." Alexis tells him, no I don't think we ever could be, that she's come down there too many times just to be told to go home. And on the way out, she calls him an asshole. Well, that was refreshing.

Watch video of Alexis Cohen

We switch back to San Juan for the last performance of the evening, that of singer Patricia Lewis Roman, 20, who comes to the audition with a pack of family and friends. Patricia hopes the venue will be lucky for her, because her parents got married there. But she makes the error of singing Whitney Houston "I Want to Dance With Somebody." Simon tells her that he didn't think that it was good enough, that it was a crazy song choice because it's even a more difficult song to sing than the Whitney ballads, adding "You're always going to come off second or third best," which is what happened then." He gives her 30 seconds to change their minds, and she sings a song in Spanish. It's better. Randy says yes. Paula, surprisingly remains unconvinced and says "no," but she gets through, though we never discover how Simon or Kara vote. She emerges with her ticket to Hollywood and her group bursts into music. The crew brings them all into the audition room and the day ends in celebration.

Watch video of Patricia Lewis Roman

In all, 9 from San Juan and 26 in New York get golden tickets. Next week, we all go to Hollywood, ticket or not.

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