American Idol: San Diego Auditions
Christopher: "I understand your opinion, Simon, and I am going to sing the song in a lower tone."
San Diego, California. Where the talented flock to make their dreams come true and where many of them stay after that dream fizzles. Never mind that Carly Hennessy, er I mean Smithson, over there has already had a major record deal with MCA Records back in 2001, she's got a sleeve of tattoos now, a new husband and name so she's a fresh-faced undiscovered talent all over again. So just shut up and don't question it already, capische?!
Gallery: AI '08 San Diego Auditions
There is definitely a larger focus on the good singers this season. Finding the right balance is the double-edged sword that Idol dances in these early episodes. The "If I'm gonna be stuck in traffic for an accident I'd better damned well see some bodies" mentality that loves the terrible and those who get sick of the overwhelming parade of freaks and weirdos we've been subjected to the past few seasons.
Of course they couldn't all be great, but things did start off strong...
Tetiana Ostapowych, (24, Venice, CA - "Someone to Watch Over Me," Ella Fitzgerald) is a pretty blonde, but Simon said "I don't think you're as good as you think you are." She did sing with a smug arrogance that never translates well unless you're Celine Dion, and Tetiana ain't all that. Simon went on to say "I don't think you're ever gonna be great. I think you're good, but you're not great." When it comes down to the vote, she asks Simon to let her prove him wrong and he puts her through. I agree that she probably won't stand out enough to even make it to the Top 24, but she's a pleasant enough face and vocal to get to Hollywood.
Things looked up from here, though as Perrie Cataldo (27, Phoenix, AZ) bellowed Boyz II Men's "I'll Make Love to You" as if it had been written for him. Add to that the sympathetic back story that he's a single father due to his three year old son's mother meeting an untimely and violent end and we have a guy who will stand out and be memorable. The Idol formula for making the Top 24. And now that it's been a few minutes, do you remember that one chick they opened the show with? Yeah, me neither. See how that works?
Things kept rolling right along as Aussie-American Michael Johns (28, Los Angeles, CA) came in and was dubbed "a white soul singer" by Simon for his rendition of Otis Redding's "I've Been Loving You Too Long." I've got to be honest with you, he did way too many vocal runs up and down the scales for me but it seemed to work with the judges.
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One of the weirder auditions of the night was that of Samantha Musa (20, Baldwin Park, CA). Her sister and she have an obsession with Simon, to the point where her sister throws in a paper airplane note begging Simon to let her sit in on the audition. He does her one better by allowing her to judge it while sitting on his lap. A very weird setup for a pretty solid singing of Aretha Franklin's "Until You Come Back to Me." Samantha has a pretty face, a good style but beyond this silliness with her sister and Simon, how memorable is she really? Honestly, I'm thinking she'll struggle to stand out on her vocal abilities alone.
One guy who won't have any trouble is sixteen year old David Archuleta (Murray, UT). Not only does he get the sympathetic back-story ("I used to have a paralyzed vocal cord and struggled to talk but now I can sing like an angel") but he has talent, too. It'd be more cloying if it weren't true. This sixteen year old, whose talking voice is still youthfully high, has a mature singing voice well beyond his years. He had the best song choice of the night with John Mayer's "Waiting on the World to Change." A youthful song that suited his years. He's adorable and brilliantly talented. Look for him to go pretty far and he's definitely one of my favorites.
The final audition of the night was Carly Smithson (23, San Diego, CA), who apparently had that big contract when she was a teenager but never really got anywhere with it. Be pissed off about that or not, but the broad can blow! Not everyone can pull of Chaka Khan (though way too many try), but Smithson sings with a voice and discipline that definitely backs up the theory that she's a seasoned professional. If she's legally qualified to be involved in the show, then I guess I don't have a problem with it. Now if Britney Spears gets dropped by her label and then tries out next year, that's different. Well, aside from the fact that she probably wouldn't make it to Hollywood based on her vocal talents anyway.
San Diego sent thirty-one talented people to Hollywood, but it can't all be good, or it wouldn't be American Idol. Do the math, if 12,000 people tried out 31 people made it, that leaves a whole, whole lot of crap out there. I give you Exhibit A.
Valerie Reyes (20, Riverside, CA) is Mariah Carey. Just ask her. And just as Mariah would, Valerie did a lot of vocal runs in her audition too but the effect wasn't quite the same. Reyes said "I'll be singing anywhere, when I'm walking down the street, wherever and people are like 'whoa, did you have, like, Mariah playing.' I'm like 'no, that was me.'" As it turns out she must hang out in a lot of deaf communities because no one told her that doing all of Mariah's vocal affections does not Mariah's talent give you. Not to mention the fact that poor Phil Collins' "Against All Odds (Take a Look at Me Now)" was never meant to be sung like that. Poor Val even did Mariah's really high runs. Simon compared her vocal sounds to "Mariah Carey's CD left out in the sun for a year and then trying to play it."
In the greatest irony of the night, before her audition, Reyes talks about how hilarious all those terrible auditioners are and then afterward says "Now I'm gonna be on the rejects, now that I think of it. Oh, that's so not cool." But you know, Valerie. It is cool in it's own way. Most people get nothing and now you're going to be seen on television and if you're god-awful enough you can gain Idol infamy for that. Isn't that better now?
Speaking of Idol infamy, I think we all remember Blake Boshnack (22, Long Beach, NY). And not for his singing ability either but because he dressed up like the Statue of Liberty two years ago. Well, it turns out he's tried out ten times prior to this year and he's back again, with his Idol obsessed mother in tow. This year he comes in no costume, which the judges find refreshing. And after belting out Ben E. King's "Stand By Me" for the judges, he can head back home and start working on his costume for next year.
The angry auditioners of the night, who are very tame compared to other cities are friends Monique Gibson (24, San Diego, CA) and Christopher Baker (22, San Diego, CA). Since they're both so great they both decide they can take on Whitney Houston. Gibson brings us "I Believe in You and Me," but it's the Whitney and the Chipmunks version, with her working her goat bleating vibrato. When the judges failed to see the brilliance in that performance, she tried a few other songs. Simon tried to tell her "There's not a song, not a word, not a note that is going to rescue you. Nothing." But she can sing. She can. She said so. In her post-audition interview she's "very hurt," but "hopefully my friend makes it."
Christopher decides to show us the "Greatest Love of All," and it involves a lot of yelling. Constant loud yelling of the lyrics to the point where he can't even hear the judges trying to stop him. Somewhere a death metal band is nodding in approval. Christopher was extremely polite in his denial of the fact that he can't sing. But he's a good looking guy and he sings just as well as his friend Monique, so there's your silver lining, buddy. Now stop singing and let these nice men take you out of the room to think about it. Christopher and Monique give it a good effort, cursing and bashing the show but their hearts just aren't in it and they leave after only a few minutes. So much for the ranting and raving crazies in San Diego.
Fulfilling the slot for the oddest performance of the night was Alberto Hurtado (28, Chula Vista, CA). He sports nice long crack/cocaine fingernails, long beautiful frizzy hair and coddling and overly supportive parents. He probably gets a pat on the back and a cookie every time he makes a doodie. He said a bunch of weird crap that I think he thought sounded spiritual and intellectual and deep (it didn't) and then proceeded to depress the hell out of the judges, me and all of America with his original composition "Live." Simon tells him "It's probably the most depressing song I've ever heard in my life" and "You are the equivalent of a storm cloud on a sunny day." But it's okay because his mom thinks he's beautiful (he's not) and talented (he's not) and artistic (he's not).
In the promos, Idol touted Sarah Long (24, San Diego, CA) as possibly the new William Hung. And while Randy did ask her about him, we only got to see about six or seven seconds of her audition. It was enough, however, for me to figure out who she sounded like, even if I had no chance in hell of understanding what she was singing. She was South Park's Eric Cartman; maybe she was singing Styx's "Come Sail Away."
But far and away the audition of the night was a brilliant rendition of Oleta Adams' "Get Here if you Can" by Joseph (21) and Juanita (17) Mejia from Menifee, CA. It was a Penn & Teller inspired duet, with Juanita playing the role of the dancing silent mime. Joseph's vocals weren't that bad actually but the rest was so odd and distracting that tragically their journey ended here tonight. I'm sorry, I can't go on. I'm gonna go light two candles in a silent vigil while you vote for who you think was the best of the night.
Tomorrow night we go to South Carolina for that sweet southern hospitality, so I'm sure everyone will be both polite and cordial. Yeah, right! See you then.
|Tetiana Ostapowych||7 (2.3%)|
|Perrie Cataldo||45 (14.8%)|
|Michael Johns||43 (14.1%)|
|Samantha Musa||23 (7.5%)|
|David Archuleta||107 (35.1%)|
|Carly Smithson||55 (18.0%)|
|Sarah Long||15 (4.9%)|
|Joseph & Juanita Mejia||10 (3.3%)|