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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© 2009

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Season 8 Top 36 Spoiler

Vote for the Worst has released a list of who they believe are the American Idol Top 36 Semifinalists. The official list won't be revealed until Feb. 11.

We don't want to ruin the surprise for those who don't want to know until then, but if you can't wait to find out, CLICK HERE NOW.

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© 2009

American Idol Season 8
Salt Lake City Auditions

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.

e-mail Idol Addict
© 2009

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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