As Randy Jackson would say, tonight’s “American Idol” audition was “just a’ight.” The editing tonight was a total hack job, and I frequently felt like the camera was in the wrong place–or I was. For some reason, “American Idol” thought it would be interesting to cut to the parents and friends out side the audition while the auditions were going on. Of course we don’t want to actually hear the person singing–we want to watch people reaction to hearing them singing. Definitely a “WTF?” moment for “American Idol.”
Continuing the trend we started noticing last week, Randy seemed intent on becoming the “mean judge.” The “American Idol” producers jumped on the bandwagon, giving Randy his own little introduction with graphics labeling him “Atomic Dawg!” While this was mildly amusing, Randy really doesn’t work as the New Simon. Simon was always relaxed, and witty, and totally committed to whatever heinous thing he said. Randy, in contrast, seems nervous and uncertain and his criticisms amount to a kid in a movie theater yelling “Boooo!” We’re not feelin’ it Atomic Dawg. Really. And for all of you viewers out there who are for some reason complaining that “American Idol” isn’t mean enough for you? Just shut up. Turn off “AI” if the pleasant vibe bothers you so much, and wait for Simon’s “X Factor” to hit the air.
Corey Levoy was up first in the Austin auditions. His back story included a sister he hadn’t met until they were teens. In the first of many “American Idol” stunts, the judges had his sister come in and sit at the judges table. Strangely, this made him even more nervous. Corey sang Bonnie Raitt’s “I can’t make you love me.” Maybe it’s because I love this beautiful, heartbreaking song, but Corey’s performance didn’t impress me as much as it did the judges. That’s because I didn’t recognize the melody for all the runs in there. Randy seemed impressed because Corey’s strangely high speaking voice normally would have been an indicator of some bad singing, but Corey had a nice sweet tone. Corey’s sister voted “Heck yeah” for her brother with the self-proclaimed “J-Lo bootie” and the three official “American Idol” judges added their own “Heck yeahs.” Hollywood it is.
Ironically, England transplant Hollie Cavanagh sang “At Last” in perfectly recognizable form and was scolded by Steven Tyler for being “all over the place” with the melody. I didn’t think Hollie’s voice was super-strong, but I liked her better than Corey, so I was stumped when the judges looked ready to turn her down. Randy jumped in first, telling her it was a no vote because she wasn’t ready. That’s when the tears started. Unlike some other auditions, the sobbing didn’t land her the ticket. Jennifer asked her to sing another song, and she tried to compose herself and tackle Miley Cyrus’ “The Climb.” Nerves shattered, Hollie started out worse than her first performance, but suddenly the motivational lyrics seemed to get to her and she bravely belted out the chorus in clear, solid notes. Randy changed his vote and it was a unanimous decision to send her on to “American Idol” Hollywood. There was a cute moment afterward, when Hollie’s dad had no idea how to react to his tearful daughter, who was crying but holding a golden ticket. Talk about mixed signals!
Next we got an interlude of bad cowboy singers, including the nerdiest dude in a cowboy hat you’ve ever seen, who informed the panel he was “completely heterosexual, by the way.” Steven was highly amused. After priming us with the worst of the worst, “American Idol” brought out cutie cowboy John Wayne Schulz, a sweet guy who loved his parents and wanted to make his family proud. “American Idol” host Ryan Seacrest talked with John’s father about how he’d wanted a “rough and tough” cowboy for a son, and Ryan joked that Mr. Schulz would have been disappointed in Ryan as a son. “If you were my son, you wouldn’t be the way you are now,” John’s dad quipped. Nice. Zinging the host of “AI.” Ryan was impressed.
John sang “Believe” by Brooks and Dunn. He had a nice, deep country voice, but “American Idol” seemed more interested in pimping the whole package. Jennifer Lopez commended him on his “faith” as he sang, then the judges asked him to bring in his family. John’s overwhelmed mother sobbed with joy as they announced he was going to Hollywood, and then like any good mom, wanted to know where the golden ticket was. Outside, John joyfully picked up a good-natured Ryan, who in turn actually picked up John’s dad–for which he was rewarded by being allowed to wear Mr. Schulz’s cowboy hat. Score one for Ryan, even though he did claim a belt buckle injury later.
“Amrican Idol” seemed to be setting us up with a crazy lady next, with 17-year-old Courtney Penry, who considered Ryan Seacrest the “sexiest man alive.” As she whimpered and fluttered her eyelashes at Ryan and threatened “he will be mine someday,” we caught the wink in her performance and realized the crazy was calculated. And Courtney was actually pretty funny. She also sparked an amusing exchange on the judge’s panel, when J-Lo chastised Randy for once again not letting her accept any love from the contestants. “Can’t I soak up one compliment?” she demanded.
Courtney blew Steven a kiss and then treated the panel and “American Idol” audience to her chicken impression–which was a different kind of crazy funny.. She then sang “Stay” by Sugarland and exhibited real vocal talent, but the panel was split. Randy voted no, but Steven and Jennifer gave it a yes vote, so it’s on to “AI” Hollywood for Courtney.
Next up was one of those annoying montages where we’re shown tiny snippets of singers who’ve gone through. In this case, Shauntel Campos, whose short-shorts were more memorable than her vocals; Alex Carr, who had a higher, strong voice; and Caleb Johnson, who had an interesting little husky-voice rocker thing going on as he belted out a Soundgarden tune.
Next up was Jacqueline Dunford and Nick Fink, one of the strangest couples we’ve ever seen on “American Idol,” and that’s saying something. Looking expertly coiffed and ready-made for TV with their ultra cuteness and we’re-so-in-love fluffy bunny sweetness, it seemed “American Idol” was setting us up with the next Heidi and Spencer. Terrifying thought. After Eskimo kisses and running through fields, the two declared they wanted to be the “power couple” of “American Idol.”
I braced myself for some awful caterwauling, but what we got instead was…interesting. Jacqueline sang Duffy song “Mercy,” and while she had a little bit of that stylizing method I dislike, I found myself being charmed by it anyway. But it was impossible to really pay attention, since the camera was catching Nick off to the side, grinning and winking and nodding and just totally grooving on the awesomeness that was his girlfriend. “Well, there’s one guy in this room that loves your singing,” Randy said, as J-Lo tried not to laugh too hard at Nick’s theatrical enthusiasm.
Nick sang Maroon 5’s “Sunday Morning,” with a lower-pitched, smooth delivery. I was really kind of digging it, but the judges were acting strange, and I had no idea how it was going to go for the king and queen of bizarrely charming cheese. Turns out Jennifer was feeling the unusual vibe–she told the contestants that they had sung typical songs that the judges had heard a lot of on “American Idol,” but that they had a “different take” on them that she liked. The guys agreed and the “power couple” has leapt their first hurdle on the way to number one!
Tennesse native Janelle Arthur wanted “American Idol” audiences to forget their misconceptions about all Southerners having no teeth and no shoes. Instead they’re just more laid back and all about family. Janelle Arthur had a nice country voice, but I felt like she wasn’t all that strong. Once again, the judges sent mixed signals, with Randy announcing abruptly during her audition “We’ve had enough!” I thought the bad news was imminent, but apparently all three judges wanted her at “American Idol” in Hollywood.
Before the last contestant we got an interlude of bad singers, including a girl who dressed as an armadillo and then was upset that they didn’t take her seriously. But I guess if the Seacrest-stalker, chicken-impression girl got through, maybe an armadillo should have gotten a shot.
The final “American Idol” Austin contestant was Seth Rogen lookalike Casey Abrams, who played a “melodica” (a flute with a mini-keyboard) and once again looked to be a joke contestant. After Ryan assured him that the judges were pumped at the end of the day, we did get a funny shot of the judges at the end of these Austin auditions, worn out, yawning, and then Steven–serenely asleep sitting up. Okay, so maybe not so pumped.
Casey played the first note on his melodica, then launched into a passionate performance of Ray Charles “I don’t need no doctor,” complete with scatting. Once again, I had no idea how to feel about this, but as Matt Dillon’s character said in “There’s Something About Mary,” “I kinda started to like it.” Turns out the judges did too. With a big YES vote from all three judges, Casey will be bringing his melodica to “American Idol” in Hollywood.
Overall the Austin Auditions of “American Idol” were…odd. There were some interesting performers, but no one I got ridiculously excited over. I’m probably most curious to see what the crazy power couple and the scatting melodica player are up to next. As for the episode as a whole, I’m glad it was only an hour, because the endless back stories on the few contestants we do see was getting exhausting. With all the sob stories on “American Idol” this year and every year, it makes us really jaded as an audience, and I think we start to become numb to people’s real pain. Some of the stories are truly moving, but the way “AI” packages each person in the same way, you start to feel manipulated too much and you unfortunately turn against the subjects themselves.
Tomorrow is the “American Idol” L.A. auditions. Considering how weird tonight was, it should be interesting to see what wackiness Los Angeles brings out.
Watch “American Idol” every Wednesday and Thursday night on FOX, at 8/7c. Check your local listings, as times are always subject to change.
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