It’s a cliche, but time really freaking flies. Not only is Season 8 of “American Idol” now in progress, but it really seems like yesterday that we were crowning David Cook Season 7 champ. Season 1 was in 2002, now SEVEN years ago. They did a little retrospective to kick off Season 8 last night, and at the end of the montage they showed a bunch of little David Archuleta fans screaming “NOOOOO” when Cook was crowned by Ryan Seacrest back in May. Funny, funny stuff. Reminded me of New York Jets’ fans at the NFL draft, but worse.
Anyway, a fourth judge has been added to shake things up. Songwriter Kara DioGuardi (pronounced Dee-o-GWAR-dee) who has written somewhere around 100 hit songs and from what we found out, has a decent voice too, gives the panel another female perspective and she definitely adds some spunk and even more humor to the already eccentric judging contingent.
The first month or so of every season begins with twice-a-week auditions from various cities, and last night was the round from Phoenix, Arizona, home of Season 6 winner Jordin Sparks. There is a pattern to this every season, and the producers of the show only show us the really great and really horrible auditions, accentuating the absurd. It’s a ratings party, and last night was no exception. To streamline, we’ll just highlight the good and bad as briefly as possible…..
Tuan kicked things off, and he aspires to be a cross between Michael Jackson and Britney Spears. Do I need to go further? Okay, I will…he had an afro box haircut and flapped his arms wildly as he attempted to sing. See ya…..Randy, a 27 year-old office worker who thinks he is a rock star because of his haircut and a few tattooes, attemped to sing Bon Jovi’s “Livin’ on a Prayer” and while he wasn’t awful, he was not AI caliber. But dude seemed to think it was his lot in life to be a rock star, and started crying when told he should go back to his cubicle. Michael Gurr was so nervous that we couldn’t understand what he was singing. Literally.
Then they showed a montage of a few contestants, but as they did, they showed a video clip of the artist they were trying to emulate — Tears for Fears, Dionne Warwick and Celine Dion–and let me tell you, that really put things in perspective. I mean, the gap is as wide as the Grand Canyon (ha ha)…
Andre, who calls himself X-Ray, performed his own song, “Cactus Baby,” and was very odd, dancing while he sang in a way that resembled a bag of noodles…..22 year old Elijah had a deep, preacher voice and when he tried to sing Barry White just didn’t have it….Leah Marie, a 16 year old from Connecticut who idolized Kara, brought her book of 100 original songs up to her, and then proceeded to mess up her audition. She can sing okay, but the judges and I agreed she’s not ready. Spunky and ambitious, though. Eric, who was nicknamed “Sexual Chocolate,” was a 17 year old singer who took on a Stevie Wonder tune, something that no one should do on a first audition, and while he was okay, he wasn’t good enough. There were several more clips of really bad auditions, but the producers of the show have found a good balance between focusing on a few of them and speeding through the rest. For that, I thank them.
It’s always fun to watch the great auditions and start speculating on who will go far and how far they will go. Here were the talented ones from Phoenix…
Emily Hughes, a tattooed, pierced rock star singer who also fronts a band, was a shoe-in to begin with. Her mom gave her the singing genes, and she just belted a version of Heart’s “Barracuda” that was about as close to the Wilsons as you can come for an amateur. I thought it was maybe a bit too much song for her, but the elements of greatness are there and the judges saw it. Emily said she was going to have to tell her band that they couldn’t go on a European tour if she advanced, but that it would be worth it in the long run….Ariana, a really spunky 16 year old whose feel-good story is that she founded a group of fellow teens that performs in nursing homes, had a really nice voice for her age and is heading to Hollywood…Stevie Wright, named after Stevie Nicks, was another 16 year old with great tone who sang the standard “At Last” beautifully. I see her going pretty far, but as Simon Cowell said, she needs to “grow some teeth” and realize she will have to compete to win….Michael, a big dude who works on an oil rig in Texas, had a monster voice and surprised everyone.
And then there was Katrina, aka “Bikini Girl,” who was wearing a bikini so skimpy that you know it was borderline that they could actually show it on TV, wowed Randy and Simon, naturally, but did not impress Kara or Paula so much. She was good, but the bikini made enough of an impact to send her to Hollywood, but not before she tried to make out with Ryan Seacrest. You could just see Ryan using the side of his mouth so as not to get any, um, diseases. I’m just sayin’…..Brianna, 22, who was also pretty spunky and sang “Let’s Hear it For the Boy,” was shunned by Randy and Kara but let through because Paula and Simon saw something in her…Cody Sheldon, 17 and from Detroit, was a punk looking kid with medium-long hair and sang a James Morrison song, but looked like he should have been singing something heavier. Sheldon makes horror movies in his spare time so this kid has a weird streak already, but he was a decent singer….Alex Wagner was another dude who didn’t look the part, but had a great voice and took on a James Ingram song…finally there was Scot McIntyre, a 23-year old legally blind dude. The producers milked that one by showing a preview before EVERY commercial, and while the guy was good and inspiring, I’m not sure he’s a good enough singer to take this very far.
So there you have it. Tonight the auditions move to Kansas City, home of David Cook. See you all tomorrow with the recap, and it’s great to have you on board again for Season 8!