After nearly 15 minutes of fluff, American Idol opened its eighth season with auditions in Phoenix, Arizona in 106 degree heat in tonight’s two-hour premiere.
We were treated to a flashback sequence of the last seven seasons and a recap of last season’s finale where 55 million Americans watched 97 million votes tallied to name David Cook the newest American Idol. But this is old news, on with the new.
After a montage of nameless hopefuls and an ode to the desert, we were introduced to the newest addition to Idol, Kara DioGuardi who will be take up residence as a fourth judge.
But a new addition doesn’t mean that life on Idol has changed much. By the third on-screen audition, Paula and Simon were at each other’s throats after he made a dig about her song “Straight Up” and she responded by flipping him off.
Seeing this example of life as a judge, Kara jumped right into the fun the second day when she told a bikini-clad contest to “hang on a minute, bitch.” And Season 8 is off and running!
Let’s just talk a minute about Ms. Bikini, because I’m sure she’s going to get a lot of press. Model Katrina Darrell banked on her assets and her gimmick got her a ticket to Hollywood. You can’t fault the girl for that. But she’s not going to be able to wear a bikini throughout the whole season and insulting a judge is not the best way to win points in the long run.
But Katrina’s talents weren’t the only ones in question tonight. In these auditions episodes I’m never surprised by the number of people who butcher songs – everyone overestimates their talents once in a while. However, I was honestly surprised by the number of these people who listed music-related careers as their profession.
Oakland-resident Shawn Vasquez, Oakland listed musician as his job. But I think Dionne Warwick might disagree after hearing his version of “I’ll Never Love This Way Again.”
Performer Aundre “Xray” Carawy professed that music was his thing. He might want to rethink this claim after getting four vetos from the judges.
And Tears for Fears’ “Mad for You” was butchered by music student Will Kunick. Stay in school Will.
Many others with be remember for more than their meager vocal abilities. Tuan Nguyen, the Michael Jackson fan with the gigantic Afro showed us that you can combine ROTC moves with tap. We still aren’t sure if that’s a good thing or not.
Randy Madden, the Axl Rose look-a-like who works in an office, proved that just because you look like a rock star doesn’t make you one.
A heart-to-heart pep talk with fan and songwriter hopeful Lea Marie Golde showed us that Kara has a softer side.
And of course, we learned the lesson that auditioners still can’t seem to grasp – asking to perform another song doesn’t change that resounding no to a yes.
But Phoenix wasn’t all duds. The four judges found a few diamonds in the rough – 27 in fact. And we got to see 11 of the winning auditions – three the first hour and eight the second.
The first to grab a golden ticket was Emily Wynne-Hughes who sang “Barracuda” by Heart. Her mom, singer Patty Wynne-Hughes probably isn’t surprised by this accomplishment, but the rest of Emily’s all-girl rock band will be because she didn’t tell them she was putting her membership in the band on hold for a chance on Idol.
Sixteen proved to be a “golden” age for J.B. Ahfua, Arianna Afsar and Stevie Wright. J.B. is hoping that his ticket would be his chance to change his life. He’s 16! How much life has he had to want to change it?
Arianna, who definitely could cash in on the cute factor, picked a perfect song with for her voice and age with “Put Your Records On.”
And Stevie’s – yes she was named after Stevie Nicks – bubbly personality made me want her to go onto Hollywood even before I heard her rendition of Etta James’ “At Last.” After I heard her sing, she because my favorite female of the night. Simon told her she needed to “grow some teeth” if she’s really going to compete.
Bartender Deena Brown also had plenty of personality to go with that bluesy sound she had when she sang “Sitting on the Dock of the Bay.” It’s a good thing she got her ticket if not she was going to come back next year for this “once in a lifetime opportunity.”
Some of our better auditions were a bit of a surprise just because the voice just didn’t seem to match the person in front of us.
Roughneck Michael Sarver’s rendition of “Thank You” by Boys II Men proved that just because you have the fifth most dangerous job in the world doesn’t mean you don’t have a soft side. He was my favorite male singer of the night, but I have to say that I secretly expected him to sing “Leaving on a Jet Plane” and then announce that he was headed to outer space to save the planet from an astroid.
High school student and horror film producer Cody Sheldon showed us that he has a lighter side with “Wonderful World” by James Morrison. Cody’s friends told Ryan that Cody has “wanted this for a really long time.” It’s a good thing Cody made it this time because at 17 he’s all but washed up.
Meanwhile college student Alex Wagner-Trugman, 19, overcame a case of mold sickness after teaching himself to sing at night in a closet to produce a perfectly pitched (according to Randy) rendition of “Baby, Come to Me” by James Ingram.
The only contestant of the night to squeak by with only two votes, including a tie breaker by Simon, Brianna Quijada gave us a new nickname for the Brit that we all love to hate – Simy.
And closing out the evening was the touching audition of blind pianist Scott MacIntyre. Although he might be visually impaired Scott’s audition of “And So it Goes” by Billy Joel proved that he’s musically capable. This guy’s got lots of potential. His biggest challenge will be building a stage presence without his piano.
Although the first hour looked a little thin, Phoenix came through with some interesting talent with a lot of potential heading for Hollywood. One city down, seven more to go.