For years I’ve heard that you’ve got to watch the audition phase of American Idol, that it was the best part of the show. Either I’ve been misled or Idol is losing its touch.
The up side was that out of the 19 advancing to Hollywood, we actually saw nine of them audition. Interesting that the city that turned out the fewest Hollywood contenders, also showed us more of them.
The downside, for those that enjoy the freaky and bizarre, is that we only saw three auditions that didn’t make it. The show lead off with the gift-bearing Chris Bernheisel who was just as happy to try out as a red carpet host as he was to audition his vocal talent and that’s a good thing since even bribery couldn’t earn him a ticket to California.
Also vetoed was Sarah Whitaker, the former Goth professional wrestler known as Lady Morgue from Iowa and the gold-jacket wearing Johnny Escamilla who rendition of “Shout” would not make James Brown proud.
We were treated to two montages – one of contestants forgetting the lyrics to their audition songs and one of contenders trying to sing “Stuck in the Middle with You” that included a guy dressed as cupid, a renaissance couple and a man in a shower cap and robe.
I know I’m probably the odd ball out, but I prefer these montages to the full out auditions of the eccentric. We get just a taste of all the strangeness while not giving any of them too much air time and without hearing the berating commentary of the judges.
And now for my thoughts on the nine we saw that are headed to Hollywood.
Iowa farm boy Jason Rich had a good voice if only he could remember the words to his audition song. Let’s hope those nerves settle before Hollywood.
Six-time arm wrestling champion Rachael Wicker split the judges’ vote with her rendition of Lee Ann Womak’s “Don’t Tell Me.” She seemed more interested in arm wrestling Paula (who she beat), Ryan (it was a draw) and Simon (he declined) than singing. Not sure that bodes well for her chances in Hollywood.
The quiet Samantha Sidley barely got out Norah Jones’ “I Don’t Know Why.” She’s going to need to work on her stage presence if she wants to be a contender.
We saw quick tidbits of Elizabeth Erkert, Denise Jackson and Michael Sanfilippo. Erkert’s version of “I Heard it Through the Grapevine” was the best of the bunch. But her slip of the tongue in telling the cameras that she was going to be “America’s Next Top Model” won’t help her much in Hollywood.
Wisconsin-native Angelica Puente will need to find her own sound before Hollywood, but her mimicking of Celine Dion’s “The Power of Love” was enough to buy her some time.
Although “A Song for You” by Donny Hathaway was enough to prove that Iowa-native Leo Marlowe had a nice voice, it was his story that I found entertaining. If asked if he was popular in the 200-person town of Charlotte, Marlowe replied that hiss mother raised the perfect homecoming queen; too bad it wasn’t one of his sisters.
And my pick for the night was rocker David Cook. I’m partial to rock so I was overjoyed to here the Tulsa-native perform Bon Jovi’s “Living on a Prayer.”
For those of you wanting to review, here’s the rundown so far: