American Idol: Dallas Auditions
Simon (to contestant Beth Maddocks): "What was that?"
Randy: "It's called 'Beautiful Disaster.'"
Simon: "Okay, well we'll stay with the last word on that."
I'm thrilled that we're getting to see more of the good auditions this year than we have in recent years but, and I'm so ashamed to admit this, it actually made the show a bit boring. Or maybe there just weren't as many crazies in Texas as there are everywhere else. I don't know. There were some good singers, even a few really good singers, but I found myself just kind of like "Eh, I wonder what else is on" during long portions of it. In fact at one point I wrote a letter.
Dear American Idol,
Stop giving us background stories on people who suck. We don't need to get invested in them because they're through. Quit wasting our time. And you do know how contrived these "bad" auditions are becoming, right? Sure, it was funny the first few years because so many really didn't know they were that bad, but they know. Come on, Idol, they know! You can't tell when a comedian is playing for face time on television? You're smarter than that ... aren't you?
Gallery: AI '08 Dallas Auditions
You're a seasoned show, Idol, and I think your formula's starting to show a bit. I still believe in you and have confidence that once we get to Hollywood you'll get it together, but how many will you lose before we get there? First impressions are important, remember.
There were 13,500 (and almost one) people waiting for their chances to wow the judges. The "almost one" is little Jamil Labarron Idol McCowan up there (what a cutie!). Antoria Gillon was nine months into her pregnancy when she lined up to audition. And apparently being full term and having to face the judges for the opportunity of a lifetime was enough to put her into labor. She still did the audition, as best she could through contractions, before rushing off and delivering Baby 'Idol." Was she good enough to still make the cut?
According to news sources she was, but apparently she wasn't good enough to make the show. A quick mention of her at the beginning and then nothing. You'd think with a story that got national play like that they'd have at least let us hear her sing. They could have traded in half of Douglas Davidson's (27, Austin, TX) excruciating audition to squeeze in a little Idol love for little Idol's mama.
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When things went bad tonight, they went very bad. Douglas' audition was about ten minutes of very bad. Two minutes into it, I was looking for sharpened pencils to jam into my ears and rupture my ear drums. And then it just kept on going. In his pre-song interview, Douglas told us that his dad didn't support his singing and actually got angry when he heard him sing. I felt bad for the guy, what an a-hole non-supportive dad! Yeah, I'm on Dad's side now. Every note was wrong and he was still auditioning when security ushered him out the door.
But Douglas wasn't the "Lone Star" of horror tonight. Paul Stafford (25, Crosby, TX) got a "two thumbs up" from his family, but this baseball park attendant made me think of old Hanna-Barbera cartoons with his overwrought rendition of Elliot Yamin's "Wait for You." I kept expecting Magilla Gorilla to come on camera with Snagglepuss and Dastardly and make it a quartet. Paul does get the line of the night, though. After he leaves the audition room, rejected but not harshly so, he says, "Simon didn't come down on me like I thought he would. That's always good, 'cause he goes down on just about everybody." Is that how he got a*ahem*head in show business?
There must have been a memo going around Texas Stadium because Beth Maddocks (18, Coppell, TX) continued the streak of cartoon characters butchering past Idol contestants songs when she belted an Alvin & The Chipmunks-inspired version of Kelly Clarkson's "Beautiful Disaster."
In fact, Kelly Clarkson, who was discovered in the Dallas auditions of Season One, had her music butchered all night. Even a guy who fashioned himself the next Daughtry chose to sing a Kelly Clarkson song. To his credit, Kyle Reinnick (20, Edwardsville, IL) did choose one of the "rock"-est songs in her catalog, "Never Again." In his interviews he was all bad-ass with his "guy-liner" and his blush and his effeminate little rocker shouts. He was just the most pweshuss wocker you tould evah see, wadn't he? Yes, he was! And he sang about as awesome as he rocked! Did you know Kelly Clarkson is huge in the gay community. I'm not saying anything...I'm just saying.
The hits just kept coming. Angela Reilly (24, Dallas, TX),newly married, bouncy, enthusiastic and pretty. Her husband's a hunk (he's a real-life honest-to-gosh model). When she reveals that her husband helped her pick out her songs the judges invited him in and let him pick what she sang. And it was amazing, no matter what song he picked ("Baby Love" by The Supremes followed by "Hit Me With Your Best Shot" by Pat Benatar) she was equally god-awful singing it! And he clapped and cheered and loved her through it all. Newlyweds are delusional. Give them another five years and he'll be throwing the cat at her to shut her up!
The producers must have thought Renaldo Lapuz (44, Reno, NV) was the highlight of the night because they hyped him the whole show and gave him the last eleven minutes of it. I wanted to be pissed that once again they were giving so much screen time to someone who clearly isn't going to make it on the show (the guy's over-age for starters!), but I found myself liking Renaldo despite myself. Not as much as he liked Simon, calling him "Heaven's chosen to give chance to any talent for free of charge." Yep, Renaldo's clearly as loopy as his outfit (he's Missy Elliott's pimp).
He sang a Renaldo Lapuz original called "We're Brothers Forever," and for the first time in seven years, we got to see Paula get up and get her dance groove on. In fact, by the time it was over it was Renaldo, Ryan and Randy singing the song for Simon with Paula pantomiming and dancing in front of them. As fun as he was though, was he really necessary? What was the point of him being there?
Renaldo may have been their favorite, but not mine. I am in love with Tammy Tuzinski (24, Grapevine, TX), The Queen of Charisma! She had me at "Uh..." followed by twenty-six seconds of silence. She has one expression, as if she'd botoxed every square inch of her face (Hey, Joan Rivers!), and on a scale of 1 to 10 in enthusiasm, she pulls the throttle and lives at a constant .000001. Based on that description is it any wonder that she sang Celine Dion's "The Power of Love" and/or "If You Ask Me To." She was nervous and got confused. It's okay, Tammy. You're awesome. Somewhere, I think she's still out there, staring blankly ahead trying to think of what to say. Say you love me, Tammy. Say it.
Every season, at least a few times, the judges cut someone I like. I don't get what I'm hearing that they're not because usually I agree with them. Tonight's casualty was Bruce Dickson (19, Bastrop, TX) who did a pretty solid rendition of Bill Wither's "Ain't No Sunshine." Maybe the problem was less with his singing and more with his creepy never-been-kissed story. He's saving himself for marriage at his Dad's behest. That's all fine and good but the key (Bruce wears this) and heart (his Dad wears this one until he meets his wife, when he'll give it to her) necklaces made the whole thing borderline disturbing to me. So while I disagree that he wasn't good, I agree that maybe he shouldn't go to Hollywood. Therapy maybe, but not Hollywood.
Brandon Green (21, Lucedale, MS) did an amazing job with "Rich Girl" by Hall & Oates. The judges think he needs to pull out of himself a bit and engage the audience a bit more, but he gave me those tingles that very few performances manage to do so I'm on board the Green Machine! The problem is he brought along a bag of his fingernails with him. Apparently he has been peeling them off and collecting them for seven years for... hell, he doesn't even know. He kept it secret, but now that it's been on television poor Brandon will never get laid again. Good thing he got through to Hollywood.
Some of the contestants tonight made it through to Hollywood, but other than that left no real lasting impact. Colton Swon (18, Muskogee, OK) is one of those. He sang Little Big Town's "Boon Docks" and even though Simon said he could take him or leave him, he made it. I don't remember what he looks like. Drew Poppelreiter (24, Saltillo, MS) is a hay farmer, and while he channeled George Strait with "Check Yes or No," he didn't wow me either. And if Nina Shaw (24, Burleson, TX) didn't have legs that went on and on and on and on and on and on, I wouldn't remember her at all.
Pia "Zpia" Easley (24, Chicago, IL) channeled a little Angie Stone and a little Mary J. Blige with her soulful rendition of Gladys Knight's "I've Got to Use My Imagination." A back-up singer, Simon is impressed that she doesn't carry herself like most back-up singers (as if they'd been a whipping post). I don't know that I thought she was as good as the judges did, but she's definitely different than all those cookie-cutter singers Christina last night said were the only ones getting through.
A combination of Kevin "Chicken Little" Covais and Clay Aiken, Kyle Ensley (21, Valiant, OK) is an aspiring politician who'd give it all up in a heartbeat. And just like Clay Aiken, I am stunned that this skinny kid with square glasses and a nice shirt and tie on it has some pipes. Simon is stunned too: "You weren't as bad as I thought you were going to be." Randy thought he was a bit too academic, but as long as he promised he wouldn't go all "Clay" and make his hair stupid and wear bad outfits, Simon and Paula put him through. His campaign slogan: "I think I should be your next American Idol because not only can I sing good but also I make good decisions." He's got my vote.
Jessica Brown (24, Longview, TX) opened up the night with her inspirational story. Addicted to crystal meth in college, she nearly lost it all before she managed to turn her life around. Singing helped her find recovery, and it was even Idol's own Carrie Underwood's gut-wrenchingly appropriate song "Jesus Take the Wheel." Tonight she sings The Pretenders' "I'll Stand by You" and does a damned fine job with it. I like the variation in her vocal intonations and even though her pitch slipped a bit here and there, she's through to the next round.
Probably one of the happiest contestants you'll ever see, you'd never guess that, Kayla Hatfield (24, Campbell, TX) is lucky to be alive. After surviving a near-fatal car accident when she was 18 where she, according to her mother, lost half her face, Kayla lives each day with a joy that most of us could only try to aspire to. She embodies the vocal stylings of Janis Joplin a bit too closely for my taste with her version of "Take Another Little Piece of My Heart." I worry what she'll do with...oh, I don't know,...any other artist? Janis is a very unique vocal. Paula is concerned too and says "no." But Randy says "yes" and Simon says "Under the assumption that all rock and rollers should be slightly mad, in a good way, I'm going to say 'yes.'"
The final two contestants didn't have amazing stories or inspirational lives, but they more than made up for it with their amazing voices. Katie Malloy (18, Houston, TX) can not only do a spot-on imitation of Britney Spears' vocal technique, among others, but blew the judges away with her Katie Malloy rendition of The Righteous Brothers' "Unchained Melody." Breathy and beautiful. Simon went so far as to tell her: "I think, of all the people we've seen so far this year, you're the best." He has a feeling about her. I don't know about all that but she's good.
Alaina Whitaker (16, Tulsa, OK) was my favorite of the night, though. The depth of voice she possesses at sixteen is nothing short of astonishing. And Faith Hill isn't the easiest vocal to pull off, but Alaina pulls of a way beyond her years "Stronger. A pretty young girl with a pretty strong voice, I think Alaina has Top 24 written all over her.
BONUS QUICK HIT
I don't care what language it was in--I refuse to believe that Gregory & Mia Tobias (18 & 16, Ennis, TX) were both singing two parts of the same song. In fact, I wouldn't even swear that they were singing. I think they were re-enacting their parents arguing over how their kids became so deluded into thinking they should audition for American Idol.
Some good singers, some touching stories but nothing ground-breaking here. I'm still feeling good that we're looking at a really good crop of singers in Hollywood week; I'm just not sure how much I want to slough through the detritus to get there. 24 of 13,500 (and almost one) made it through to Hollywood from Dallas. San Diego's next week. I'll be there. Will you?
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