Thursday, January 29, 2009
Forgive us if we yawn, but we're getting bored by the American Idol Season 8 auditions at this point, and they're actually shorter than last year's. Perhaps the producers need to go back to drawing board and rethink the number of weeks auditions should last, again. Instead of the current three weeks (though they snuck in an extra night on this, the third week), they should shorten them to two weeks next year by running two different cities on each night of Week 1, when the shows run two hours each evening. Hate to say it, but we're dreading sitting through today's last show, covering New York and Puerto Rico. Or maybe we're just bored because the contestants in Salt Lake City, Utah -- where Ryan Seacrest told us everybody is really happy (perhaps too happy) -- were for the most part boring.
Salt Lake City is famous for singers, among them David Archuleta and the Osmond (as in the Donny and Marie) family. So it came as no surprise, at least to the producers, that an Osmond auditioned. David Osmond, 29, is the son of Alan Osmond, the oldest of the original Osmond Brothers singing group. Both Alan and his son are afflicted with multiple sclerosis, which has flareups so bad it can be terribly incapacitating. Until recently, David was in a wheelchair. At the time the show was taped he appeared hale and hearty and Osmond good-looking. He performs Take 6's "Something Within Me," and it is pleasant. Period. His voice was OK, but neither it nor his song selection moved us. They were as bland as the Osmonds' bland good looks. The judges aren't overly enthusiastic either: Paula Abdul says David is so used to singing harmonies, he picked a song by a group that didn't feature his voice as a frontman; Randy Jackson says it wasn't his favorite song for an audition, while Kara DioGuardi says a song with all those runs doesn't tell the judges what kind of artist he'd be. Finally, Simon Cowell tells David that if he thinks he's contemporary he's going to be making a huge, massive mistake, because it will not work. So after all that less-than-positive feedback, no golden ticket. Right? Wrong. Yawn. Not a good start.
Watch video of David Osmond
The blandness spell is broken by bill collector Tara Mathews, 21, who claims she is not goth, that's just the way she dresses. All we know is that if we saw her approaching we'd pay up on our bills real fast. She also says she has "ESP pretty strong." Apparently her psychic powers don't work on her own future or she wouldn't have wasted her time -- and ours -- by showing up. She is a large woman with greasy bright red hair wearing a mini-length black dominitrix-looking outfit, complete with garters. She's scary looking in all the wrong non-dominitrix-like ways. Simon's eyes literally bug out like a cartoon when she enters the room. And when she announces she'll be singing "Some Day I'll Fly Away," from the "Moulin Rouge" soundtrack, Randy says, "of course," which we've come to know as code for "this is going to be a really bad can-I-keep-from-laughing audition." Simon tells her the whole thing was horrendous, from the outfit to the song choice. And what was even more frightening, he adds, is that she sounded like a baby. She doesn't hang around to listen to any more critiques, and gives the camera the finger -- multiple times -- on her exit.
Watch video of Tara Mathews
Three snippets of scary voiced-auditions are up next, including 19-year-old homemaker Aleesha Turner, killing (not in a good way), Carrie Underwood's "Last Name," and 18-year-old student Katie Sullivan, doing an overly theatrical version of "Gorgeous." In her case, singing "Look at me, I am gorgeous," was not convincing in the least. And as if that weren't enough, we conclude with Rich Kagel, 27, but who looks like a 47-year-old washed-up, drugged-out rocker from the 80s, unsuccessfully attempting "Ain't No Mountain High Enough." Rescue us. Please.
Watch video of Aleesha Turner, Katie Sullivan and Rich Kagel
And we were not yet done with bad contestants, though the next one wasn't nearly as bad and at least amusing. Chris Kirkham, a 26-year-old telemarketer, came to the audition with his good-luck charm, his very large friend Greg dressed in a pink bunny suit. As Chris says, some people bring a rabbit's foot, I brought the whole rabbit. Chris also wore a T-shirt with a drawing of Simon and carried a die-cut of the same image. Simon initially looked annoyed with the hare and props, but ultimately got a laugh out of the whole thing, especially after he received a bunny hug that literally lifted him off the ground. As for the singing, Chris wasn't terrible, but sounded a bit like a cross between a country singer and a Munchkin from the Wizard of Oz, first singing "Roll to Me," by Del Amitri and then "Ain't No Mountain High Enough" (is this a popular Salt Lake City song or just one suggested by the producers?). His big mistake was not auditioning in Jacksonville, where the judges put through a number of tryouts with no better voices than his. At least Chris was a good loser, saying "I got to meet and sing my songs. I guess they didn't approve, but what can you do?"
Watch video of Chris Kirkham and Greg the bunny
Before a commercial break, Ryan asks the musical question: Is waitress and mom Frankie Jordan, 24, the next Amy Winehouse? Whether he asked that because she sounds like Winehouse when she sings Winehouse's "You Know I'm No Good," or because she kinda resembles a very cleaned-up and much better-looking version of the singer, we don't know. She does have a nice voice as well as a bubbly and enthusiastic personality, -- the kind the judges seem to be seeking this season. Plus, she's got a great stage name. Simon tells her, "I actually quite like you. I quite like your voice and you've got a cute little face." Paula tells her she's got a very good defineable voice and that she's got it. Frankie receives four easy yesses.
Watch video of Frankie Jordan
Next up is newly divorced mom and font designer Meghan Corkrey, 23, a all-American natural beauty with Alice in Wonderland hair reminiscent of Cheryl Tiegs and Christie Brinkley -- a look that is a bit at odds with her fully tattooed right arm. We sense Meghan will get through on her looks alone. She sings "Can't Help Lovin' Dat Man" from the musical "Showboat," too fast for our taste and with no attention to phrasing. She has an interesting voice, but interesting can mean you like it or don't. We're on the fence with it, but tending toward liking it if she got some training. It could even be distinctive. We're wondering what the judges think. Randy tells her, "I kinda like you, man. There's something there." Paula tells her, "I really like you. I'm bordering on loving you. I think I'm loving you." Simon says, "One of my favorite auditions. Because you're different. You know, you are one of the few I'm going to remember" (though he later says that about another contestant and at the end of the show can't remember either of their names). He continued, "I like you, I like your voice. I mean, seriously good voice. I loved it." Kara tells her, "You're an interesting girl. You have a glow about you. You have an incredible face." Do you even need to ask? Of course, she's going to Hollywood.
Watch video of Meghan Corkrey
Not going to Hollywood is student Andrew Gibson, 21, who thinks he has a soul vibe. What he has is a very deep voice. He sings Harry Belafonte's "Oh Let Me Fly" ending first in a note deep enough to bury a body, then doing another take to prove his range by ending with a soaring high-pitched note. Simon tells him, "It's not going to work, is it?" Andrew shrugs, as Simon continues, "That was not my definition of soul." The judges conclude that instead of having soul, he has a soul. Buh-buy, Andrew.
Watch video of Andrew Gibson
Salt Lake City is filled with clean-cut all-American kids and next up was one of them, senior class president Austin Sisneros, 17, who is there to show his can-do spirit and "to inspire people and to tell them it's OK to follow their dreams." Damn, he is so good and pure, he has angel wings on the back of his T-shirt, LOL. Frankly Austin is a little too slick for us to believe he is the real deal, but what do we know? Maybe we're just jaded from living an urban/suburban life. Austin sings Train's "When I Look to the Sky," which the judges are not familiar with, and it doesn't work to his advantage, perhaps because they can't be sure he's doing it well. Randy thought it was OK, but called it a very weird, strange song choice and not the greatest song for Andrew. Austin's response, "I feel like you guys, you don't want me to fail. You want me to do good, right?" See? Some might call that having an optimistic, upbeat attitude. We call it calculated. Fortunately, Simon responded with, "Austin, we haven't quite joined the fan club yet." Yea, Simon. So Austin comes up with another song: "It Takes a Village," by Raffi, the children's singer. OMG. The thing is, Austin has a really sweet voice. Not as sweet as David Archuleta's, but nice and pure. Randy likes his voice and wants to give him another chance. Kara says there is something genuine (not) about him and he has a nice face. Paula believes in him and thinks he's charming. Simon tells him, "Austin, it's very simple. You've just got to become young. But for your age, you could be great, because you're likeable. Four yesses, off you go."
Watch video of Austin Sisneros
We just get a snippet of student Jarrett Burns, 24, but it's enough to know he's going to make it to Hollywood when we hear his spin on Corinne Bailey Rae's "Put Your Records On." Damn, he sings it better than all the women do.
Watch video of Jarrett Burns
Taylor Vaifanua, 16, is another tryout they keep pushing before the commercial breaks, with a clip of Randy saying she has the best vocals he's heard this season. Taylor and her family moved back to the states from Samoa so the children would have more opportunities. Taylor is tall and slightly reminiscent of Jordin Sparks, another 16-year-old who won the competition two years ago. She sings "Joyful Joyful," and frankly we're nowhere has impressed as the judges are. Best voice this season? Hardly. Unless the tour started in Salt Lake City. Nice, pleasant. Sure. Memorable? Not for us. But Kara saw her in the bathroom a few times practicing and says that she knows Taylor really wants this. Randy thinks she has really good natural potential. Paula says she has a good tone to her voice, with Randy chiming in with the clip quote, "I think it's one of the best vocals I've heard since we've been doing this season 8." He adds, "Because of the way you release the notes and the tone, you actually listen to what you are singing and it was on pitch." Taylor gets her golden ticket to ride.
Watch video of Taylor Vaifanua
We return to form with the final contestant being the best sob story of the night who also has a decent voice. In Salt Lake City, the honor(?) goes to endearing Rose Flack, 17, whose dad died when she was 13, and who lost her mom in a car accident when she was 15. She has a brother, but for the past year has been living with the family of a friend. Yes, we cried. So sue us. We liked her spunk (please, don't e-mail us the Lou Grant line on spunk from "The Mary Tyler Moore Show"). Simon likes her look from the moment she enters the room, telling Rose she looks fantastic. And when he asks her to tell him something about herself, Rose, with a mischievous twinkle in her eyes, answers, "I'm charming." You know, she is. She sings Carol King's "I Feel the Earth Move." She doesn't have the best voice we've heard in Salt Lake City, but there is something very enchanting about this girl. The judges feel it, too. Paula tells her, "You've got such a beautiful face, such a beautiful aura about you. You're just really cool. Gotta work on the vocals, though." Simon says, "Rose, I didn't think it was the best song choice, but there's something about you that I absolutely love. And you've got something special about you, and I don't know what it is, but you're one of the few I'm going to remember" (careful with that, Simon). Randy tells her it was a good audition and that she has a cool vibe. Kara gives her a definite yes, as do the other three. We hope she makes it past Hollywood week. We want to root for this kid.
Watch video of Rose Flack
And it's a wrap.
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