Confidence Abounds at Idol NY, San Juan Auditions

January 30, 2009

Confidence was the name of the game tonight as American Idol combined auditions from San Juan, Puetro Rico and New York City before heading to Hollywood.  Unfortunately, much of that confidence was misplaced.

Adeola Adegoke was so sure of her talent that she actually quit her job as a bank teller in preparation of her journey to Hollywood.  Maybe instead of a resignation letter, she should have let her boss critic her version of Jennifer Hudson’s “And I Am Telling You.”  It might have saved Simon the call to ask for her job back.  Who says that Simon doesn’t have a soft side?

Confidence didn’t work for Jessika Baier, a waitress in a 50s café, either.  She won the trip to Puerto Rico to audition in a contest and was sure that was her ticket in.  But after hearing “I Surrender” the judges thought differently.

But the self-assured did win out in a few instances.

Cut up Nick Mitchell, who couldn’t even get through “Amazing Grace” without some antics entertained the judges enough for a second chance.  It’ll be interesting to see what he brings to Hollywood.  But as Kara said, he doesn’t have a shot in hell.

And nine-year-old Christopher had enough confidence to help snag a golden ticket for his sister Monique Garcia Torres.  Her version of the Supremes’ “You Can’t Hurry Love” resulted in a split vote.  Personally, I liked this girl, but she definitely needs to be choosier about her songs.

Pleasantness just oozed from the very upbeat Melinda Camille who aptly chose to sing “Feeling Good.”  Kara called her a vitamin boost.  However, I have to say that I will remember her bubbly personality more than her voice.

A healthy dose of optimism helped Jackie Tohn through when her first song choice “I’m Yours” by Jason Mraz left the judges a bit undecided.  Personally, I’m not totally sold on her either, but she was kind of funky and it’ll be interesting to see what she does later in the series. 

For a couple contestants, their fluency in Spanish was enough to secure them a spot in Hollywood.

The judges were not initially impressed with Patricia Lewis Roman when she sang “I want to Dance with Somebody,” but when she sang in Spanish the judges – all but Paula – were swayed. 

College student Jorge Nunez got a similar reaction when the judges preferred the Spanish version of “My Way” to an English version of “Wonderful World.”

The accent was very alluring in their singing and adds an interesting dynamic to their voice, but I have to wonder how well they’ll fair – especially when they will have to sing on theme nights.

Among the clips of the wild and weird, we were treated to a montage of a trio headed to Hollywood but who we didn’t really get a chance to hear sing – Ashley Hollister, Kenny Hoffpauer and Kendall Beard.

Overall not a bad night of auditions.  Nine tickets were given out in Puerto Rico and 26 in New York.  The only down point was a return visit from Alexis Cohen did nothing but swear in the Philadelphia auditions last year.  I don’t have a problem with her auditioning again.  I hate the Idol gave her more air time.

Next week we start with Hollywood Week.

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Osmonds Headline Salt Lake City Idol Auditions

January 29, 2009

You might think you’ve seen everything on the American Idol auditions over the years.  But the appearance of an Osmond at the Salt Lake City auditions tonight has me screaming gimmick!

You can’t tell me that the Osmond family don’t have enough star power and influence to launch a career for one of their own.  So the appearance of David Osmond as a contestant seems like a setup.  Are the Osmonds that desperate to resurrect their name that they must use the Idol hype? 

Or were the Idol auditions so boring this year that we needed a few big names – Osmond, Jason Castro’s brother – to drum up some enthusiasm?  And if the Osmond name wasn’t enough, David had a story to go with his audition – both he and his father have MS.

David, who sang Take 6’s “Something Within Me,” is the son of Alan, the oldest of the performing Osmonds.  You could tell that he came from a family of performers.  He was very polished and despite his family’s notoriety he took the judges’ criticism well.

Following David, two golden tickets were given to young moms – Frankie Jordan and Megan Corkrey — both had nice voices and a big cute factor.  Simon even called Megan memorable, but couldn’t remember her name in the closing montage.  These girls will need to work hard to distinguish themselves from the masses.

The rest of the evening went to high school students, appropriate because Salt Lake City is home to both last year’s runner up 16-year-old David Archuleta and the High School Musical franchise.

Perseverance won the day for senior class president Austin Sisneros whose voice had potential but his audition was hampered by bad song choices.  Still the judges were willing to give him another chance in Hollywood.  He’s going to have to really work on choosing better songs.  Maybe if he wears that class sweater, it’ll help.

Memories of Jordan Sparks might have helped Taylor Vaifanau snag a trip to Hollywood.  But her rendition of “Joyful, Joyful” was probably enough to nail it for her.  This girl has a nice voice, but will it be enough?

And last up was Rose Flack, the 17-year-old who lost both her parents.  Although she had a decent voice when she sang “I Felt the Earth Move” by Carol King, I don’t think it’s enough to win the title.  But the judges saw something they liked in her and gave her a golden ticket.

Most of the rest of the hour was filled with montages that showed us very little of the good or the bad.  But we did get treated to a couple of interesting performances including Tara Mathew, the girl who claimed to have ESP and dressed in all black (although she swears it wasn’t a Goth statement), but couldn’t see the rejection coming.

And then of course, there was Greg the Rabbit.  You got to love a man willing to wear a giant pink bunny suit to support his buddy.  Anyone else have flashbacks from the Christmas Story movie?

We get an extra night of Idol this week when the show returns on Thursday with a double feature of auditions from both San Juan and New York.

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Idol Jonesing for Talent in Jacksonville

January 28, 2009

I’m starting to get a bad feeling about Season 8 of American Idol after watching the slim pickings at the Jacksonville auditions.  Only 16 tickets were given out tonight.

Let’s face it the judges were more entertaining than the Day 1 contenders.  First they mixed it up with Simon sitting next to Kara and Randy to the right of Paula.  They really mixed up the seating arrangements later when Paula sat on Simon’s lap and Ryan sat on Kara’s because the friend of an auditioner sat on Randy’s lap.

We were also treated to a weird scene were Paula pretended to give Kara a kiss for what seemed no apparent reason.  And during another audition, Paula got up and walked out when no one asked her opinion on the singer.  Anyone else see foreshadowing there?

Due to some technical difficulties with my local Fox station, I didn’t get to see the first few minutes and judging by what the judges let through that first day I’m not sure I’m missing anything.

I tuned in in time to see Joshua Ulloa add a few sound effects to Marvin Gaye’s “Let’s Get it On” to win a spot in Hollywood.  Personally I just thought it was weird.

Next up Sharon Wilbur asked Simon to hold her dog Sasha while she sang “Superstar” by Karen Carpenter.  Simon must have gotten really attached to that dog, because I still can’t figure out what the judges saw in that performance.

But the judges were definitely seeing or at least hearing something I wasn’t because then they put through beauty queen Julissa Veloz whose performance was anything but flattering to Whitney Houston.

Even the rejects were boring for Day 1, but things were looking up the next day when we met three real contenders.

Accompanied by her adoring sisters, Jasmine Murray showed us that “Big Girls Don’t Cry.”  Not only did she have a nice voice, but as Simon put it, she was cute and commercial.

Also winning a ticket was two-time auditioner T.K. Hash.  I don’t remember having seen T.K. audition before, but I liked him tonight.  Randy thought his version of John Lennon’s “Imagine” was over the top.  I was more impressed with it that I was with Archuleta’s last year.

And the last golden ticket winner we saw was Anne Marie Boskovich.  The judges actually made her come back twice.  I don’t know why since she obviously had strong enough voice to be a real contender.  They told her she need to show her inner star and she did with Colbie Caillat’s “Bubbly.

The second day was much better than the first in Jacksonville, but overall the talent was pretty thin.  Tomorrow Idol heads to the home of last year’s runner up David Archuleta – Salt Lake City.

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Idol Looking for Thoroughbreds in Kentucky

January 22, 2009

Tonight American Idol judges set up shop at Church Hill Downs for its fourth city of auditions.  But can they find a thoroughbred in the Blue Grass state?

This guy sang about zebras.

This guy sang about zebras.

After a very disappointing appearance in San Francisco, I was pleasantly surprised to see the Louisville auditions get a good jump out of the starting gate.

Although the producers spent way too much time on the dud that was the first audition, we didn’t have to wait long to see Philadelphia-native Joanne Pacitti get her golden ticket.  The Philadelphia native rocked to Pat Benatar’s “We Belong.”  Although it was no surprise to learn that Joanne was previously signed with A&N, you have to wonder what went wrong with that deal.

But it was a good night all around.  Even those that didn’t get sent on to Hollywood were more interesting in Louisville.  We learned the original of the expression “your name is mud” from Mark Mudd, a descendent of Dr. Samuel Mudd the physician who fixed John Wilkes Booth’s leg after he shot Lincoln. 

Ross Plavsic taught us about Chinese characters and the judges jammed with Aaron Williamson’s “Have You Ever Seen the Rain.”  We also saw Kara make a faux paus when she misinterpreted Rebecca Garcia’s rendition of “Before He Cheats” as a joke.

Even the montage of rejects was colorful.  I especially like the variety of jobs -toothbrush company employee, school gym worker, online variety show host, pizza server and ice cream server.

And speaking of interesting careers, Matt Giraud of Kalamazoo has a pretty unusual job – dueling piano player.  But it wasn’t his piano playing that won him a golden ticket.  It was his vocals.

Likewise, powerful vocals won stay-at-home mom Alexis Grace a trip to Hollywood.  Who knew that a petite girl like her could belt out Aretha Franklin’s “Dr. Feelgood” like that?

We had another montage of winners that included Kris Allen, Felicia Barton, Ryan Johnson and Shera Lawrence, but we didn’t get to see enough of any of them to get a real feel for their abilities.

And rounding out the night was college student Leneshe Young.  Despite the sad story and the decision to sing an original song, Leneshe proved that she was the real deal and will be joining the others in Hollywood.

Next week Idol heads to Jacksonville, Florida for a little fun in the sun.

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Talent a No-Show for Idol San Francisco Auditions

January 21, 2009

After the auditions last week, I was looking forward to seeing a preview of Hollywood Week potential in the third city of American Idol auditions.  I couldn’t have been more wrong.

This guy thought the coat was his ticket to Hollywood.

This guy thought the coat was his ticket to Hollywood.

San Francisco only produced 12 golden tickets – that’s less than half of what either Phoenix or Kansas City yielded last week.

And judging by what we saw in the hour-long Idol show tonight, the judges really had to push it to get that dozen.

The first candidate to get the green light for Hollywood was Tatiana Del Toro who couldn’t wait for the auditions in her home Puerto Rico.  Despite her “guaranteed” success — her psychic told her she’d be in the Top12 – she felt the need to bring her own press kit.  I think the judges let her through because she was colorful.  It definitely wasn’t because of her vocal talent.  Kara was the only one to say no.

The next golden ticket was issued because the judges – well all of them but Simon – couldn’t say no to Jesus Valenzula’s kids.  This guy didn’t have a bad voice, but he was definitely trying too hard.  But at 29, isn’t Jesus over the age limit?

The next three were so borderline that they had to show them to us in a montage.  Music teacher John Twiford sang “Overjoyed.”  His voice wasn’t bad, but it definitely wasn’t anything to write home about.

And high school student Allison Iraheta’s voice actually cracked during “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman.”  I can’t even imagine what possessed the judges to put her through.

Raquel Houghton, the waitress/bartender from Los Angeles, just didn’t have the chops to pull off “Son of a Preacher Man” with any believability.

At this point, I was really wondering if there was anyone with potential in the Bay City, especially considering the amount of time devoted to Dean-Anthony Bradford’s plaid coat and Akilah Askew-Gholston’s anatomy lesson.

But in the final moments, San Francisco pulled through with two contenders.

Stage actor Adam Lambert, who has been a member of the cast of “Wicked” for the last year and half, pulled off a theatrical “Bohemian Rhapsody.”  He had a nice voice, but those in the past with theatrical tendencies haven’t done well in the long run.  It’ll be interesting to see how long he lasts.

And the final golden ticket went to Kai Kalama, caretaker by day/musician by night.  Kai did a nice rendition of “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes” by the Platters, but I have to agree with Simon who told him he had the personality of a ship singer.  Kai will need to work on his stage presence if he wants a chance at the title.

Tomorrow, Idol heads to Louisville.

Nothing Like Starting the New Year with a Slip of the Tongue

January 16, 2009

Every year we host a New Year’s Eve party for my kids and their friends.  It’s a great system – the kids entertain each other in the playroom and the parents get toasted in the kitchen.

I know what you’re thinking a New Year’s Eve party for three year olds?  Don’t knock it, we have a blast.

One of the activities we do to build the excitement with the kids is “Countdown Bags.”  Every half hour the kids get to open a brown paper sack to find some new piece of paraphernalia – hats, horns, etc. – to help with the countdown to midnight.

This year one of the bags held beads in hot metallic colors for each of the kids to wear.  On the end of each strand of beads was a disco looking ball.

I’m big on pictures and I wanted one of all the kids with their prize.  So I liked the kids up and asked them to “show me your balls.”

Honestly, this incident was still early in the night and I had only had one or two drinks.

Luckily, the kids were too young to understand the double entendre.  Now the parents they are a different story.  They totally understood what I said and I spent the rest of the night trying to live it down.

Idol Judges Find Another Castro in Kansas City Auditions

January 15, 2009
Two nights into the competition, American Idol tries to hit the jackpot with auditions in David Cook’s hometown, Kansas City.  But the judges did not find another Cook.  Instead they found another Castro.
Banana Man

Banana Man

Last year’s fourth place finisher Jason Castro accompanied his brother Michael to the audition.  And apparently golden tickets run in the family.  Michael, who claims to have just started sing 20 days before the audition because if Jason could do it, so could he, impressed the judges with his version of Gavin DeGraw’s “In Love with a Girl.”  In fact, Kara called him “ballsy.”

I liked Michael better than Jason, but he seems to share his brother’s carefree attitude – as well as his interesting taste in hairdos.  Unfortunately, the laissez-faire attitude probably won’t bode well for Michael in the competition.

Another 26 will join Michael in Hollywood.  And continuing in the kinder, gentler format we saw in Phoenix, Idol showed us more of the Hollywood contenders than the train wreck performances.

That’s not to say that Kansas City was without a few memorable rejects.  The one that really stands out in my mind was Banana Man.  College student Vaughn English not only came dressed in banana colors, but he sang some type of ode to the banana complete with props.

Aside from Andrew Lang, who came with his own cheerleaders, the rest of the rejects were pretty forgettable.  But that left more time for our real contenders.

And the contenders seemed to be coming in pairs tonight. 

Sister act Asia McClain and India Morrison opened their auditions with a rap on “Cookies’ dedicated to Randy.  Unfortunately, the pair will have to split for the Hollywood trip.  India deserved the bid that she got.  She shows some real potential.  And was it just me or did Asia really look like she was just there to encourage her sister to audition?  If she was disappointed in her dismissal, she hid it well.

Also making the trip to the audition together were best friends bartender Jamar Rogers and music teacher Danny Gokey.

Danny had this very heartbreaking story about how his wife passed away four weeks before the audition, but it was his rendition of “I Heard it Through the Grapevine” that won me and the judges over.  Danny was my forerunner for the night.

But Danny’s situation had me intrigued.  So, I asked my husband if I were to have an untimely demise if he would then try out for American Idol in my memory.  He told me no, he was going to Hooters instead.

But unlike Danny, his friend Jamar wasn’t quite as memorable and I think the judges were a little lenient here although Jamar did get the okay across the board.  In my opinion, Jamar really missed out on the rhythm of the song – “California Dreamin’.”  He might have a decent voice, but I just wasn’t impressed.

Maybe the judges were getting tired, but I thought they let a couple slide tonight, including Von Smith and Dennis Brigham.

There is a fine line between a powerful voice and shouting, and I think Von, who sang “Over the Rainbow” was straddling that line.

And Dennis’ version of Chris Brown’s “With You” did absolutely nothing for you.  Maybe the judges put him through because he had that dream about Simon? 

Several other contenders showed some potential, but we just didn’t get to see enough of them to really form an opinion.

Ashley Anderson is lucky she had a strong voice, because I’m sure that singing the wrong words to “Footprints in the Sand,” a song Simon co-wrote did not help her case.  But in the end she moved on unanimously.

Then there was Casey Carlson who impressed the judges with her rendition of “A Thousand Miles.”  But honestly I’m more curious about her profession – bubble tea maker.  What is bubble tea?

Jessica Furney, who takes care of her grandmother, tested her chops on Janis Joplin’s “Cry Baby.”  Joplin songs are tough audition songs.  I’d really like to see what you could do on another song.

Behind the “geeky” look, Anoop Desai proved that he had some soul when he belted out “Thank You” by Boys II Men.  Which reminds me – if I ever go back to college, I want to find a program where I can study barbeques too.

But even among all the contenders we saw, a few stood out.  Not only am I looking forward to seeing what else they can do, but I liked how important family was to these contestants.

Matt Breitzke, the welder who sang “Aint No Sunshine” by Bill Withers, topped my list.  The judges were split on him, but I thought he had a nice bluesy sound.

And I might agree with Simon that the Michael Jackson tune wasn’t the way to go for Asa Barnes, the middle school band director.  However, I like singers that make me want to get up and dance and that’s just what Asa did.

And last of the night, but certainly not least was Lil Rounds who’s home in Memphis was taken out by a tornado.  Randy called her a combination of Fantasia and Mary J. Blige.  I thought her rendition of Stevie Wonder’s “All I Do” had some real potential.

Six more cities and 93 more golden tickets to go.

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