January 19 - Auditions:
spoken rap lyric in the Ruben Studdard song, "Play Our
Song", sums it up quite nicely:
"Idol, the highest title."
And through the next three days, we'll meet thousands of
people searching for that high title occupied by Kelly
Clarkson, Ruben Studdard, and (to a lesser extent) Clay
Aiken. Back to bring'em up is host and walking
advertisement for Clairol, Ryan Seacrest.
And back to tear them to bits are cheerleader Paula
Abdul (who's looking for confidence and uniqueness),
truthteller and sometimes ass Simon Cowell (who believes
that the first two winners - and the judges - have
raised the bar this year), and dawg Randy Jackson (who's
looking for someone who has their own style and doesn't
sound like anyone else).
Next five months, eighty thousand will be whittled to
one. That said, for the first time in seven months:
"It's time for AMERICAN IDOL!"
(C-Note: as a freelance digital artist, I like the
updated opening sequence.)
First stop's New York. And first audition has no shirt.
From there we go to Atlanta, where we found both of last
year's stars. Then Houston, LA, My
three-hours-from-hometown San Francisco, and Hawaii. Why
would anyone want to go all this way for a
once-in-a-lifetime shot at super stardom? Well
considering that Ruben, Clay, and Kelly all entered the
charts at number one and together they sold over
9,000,000 CDs (I myself have two of them), it seems
But back to the NYC. We're at Grand Central Station for
the first phase of the preliminaries. First up, a real
fantasy for Randy and Simon... a woman in uniform.
Representing the 82nd Airborne is the worst shooter/cook
in the Army (Simon: "Confession: hopes aren't high at
the moment"). But when it comes to "Dancin' in the
Streets"... Martha Krabill can shoot a tune with the
cuteness of the best of them... Unfortunately, she
shoots it to wound, hitting several flat notes. All
three judges honorably discharge her, saying that she
belongs on television, just not this show. And now,
she's groveling. Yes, just go with your dignity now.
And the Army sends in another one: SSG Paul An, US Army,
and his five-year monologue. At ease, soldier. He busts
a rhyme... but someone forgot to tell him that it was a
singing competition. In English. Another honorable
We put the spotlight on three European defects in the
next segment. First up is Roland Maxharj, from Kosovo by
way to Hartford, CT. He sings "Don't Let the Sun Go Down
On Me." And right now I wish the sun would go down on
him already. Very very weak performance. But hey, at
least everyone's laughing.
Simon: "I even think you would do badly in Kosovo Idol.
That was absolutely horrific. Thank God you don't have
to sing to get immigration status."
Well, it was either singing or acting. Try acting,
Next is Bulgarian by way of Maspeth, NY, Karmen
Varjabedian, who, in a contest of 90 in Cyprus, placed
seventh. He... Sorry, she (voice is really deep here)
sings "Strong Enough." Strong enough to try out for bass
in the Achordants (my old a cappella outfit), but not
Randy: "Has anyone ever said to you that you sound like
Third is Leah Vladowski, a Bulgarian by way of Seattle,
who is the best of the three Europeans in this tryout
with her rendition of "I Believe in You and Me". The
judges believe in her, as she gets the first ticket to
Hollywood. Particularly taken aback is Randy, who
doesn't believe that "that gospel voice is coming from
Meanwhile, separated brothers Jesus and Noel Roman
reunite after six years for their audition of "In the
Still of the Night" and "If I Ever Fall In Love". Jesus
is dead on good. Noel is dead on even better. And both
are on their way to Hollywood, their first adventure
together in a long time. Awwwwwnext.
If you didn't get enough of the twin thing last year, we
have MORE TWINS! Okay, so we only see one pair of twins.
But why this pair? Why not, I don't know, people that
are good? The Rosado twins yell out "Ain't No Mountain
High Enough". High enough is right. Harmony is WAY off.
Everyone's just doing their own thing. Must resist urge
to kill. It was just wrong on so many levels.
Randy: "You need a lobotomy to work on those vocals."
Paula: "That was so wrong."
Simon: "It was painful."
Simon admits that he gets more and more frustrated as
the shows progress. Next up is Rasheedah McDaniel, who
sings "You're the One That I Want". Very flat,
intonation and emotion-wise. Simon agrees with me, and
he's willing to put money where his tongue is.
Seriously. She's made a bet with Simon that he'll pay
her off if she doesn't clear half a crowd at a bar. Ryan
and Rasheedah head to the nearest bar and, to MY
surprise, does WORSE than her audition, clearing house
in record time. No money. No Hollywood. No nothing. And
no audience, either.
Okay, Gordon. Let's get outta here. Oh wait. We still
have half an hour left.
On the other side of the break, too much preparation +
not enough voice = Jordan Ellis performing "Build Me Up
Buttercup" after a lengthy (but ineffective) warmup.
"Unchained Melody" is the song of choice for Michael
Keown, who has sung for the Pope and President Clinton
before. And rightly so, this guy is one of the best
they've heard. Very nice depth, good range. I like the
Paula: What can you say, it's a very smooth voice.
Simon: One of the best versions I've heard.
Michael gets his golden ticket. Meanwhile we get "Scat
Girl" Jacqueline Roman. She scats through "Route 66"
before finally remembering the lyrics to it. Maybe she
should've prepared for the words first and THEN the
scats. She sounds better scatting than she does singing,
and trust me... it isn't saying much. Very very VERY
flat. Oh God, she just screamed.
Simon: "What was that?"
And what's this? The next Clay Aiken? Well, he's a camp
counselor who likes kids. Not to mention that he has
"skinny geek white boy" written all over him (no offense
to the skinny geeky white boys in the house). But the
one thing that Clay has that Colin Leahy doesn't is ...
a voice, as he proves in a lackluster performance of
"One Step Closer" by the American Juniors.
Paula: That whole song was just one note.
And would you believe that even THAT note was off? If
it's one thing that Simon hates is gimmicks. So it
stands to reason that John Stevens IV's Dean Martin
impersonation doesn't go over, but when he starts
actually singing "The Way You Look Tonight", he gets
some raves... and a golden ticket.
Now it's time for the requisite dance montage! Next up,
Scooter Girl, Baton Girl, Kid Rageous, Tyrus "Star Boy"
Bush, and the worst pun in AI history. Stop me if you've
heard this one.
"You'll have to excuse me, I'm a little hoarse" (holds
up little horse)
But back to Scooter Girl aka Nicole Tieri, who was in
the hospital for anorexia. She overcame that to become
one of those "overachieving children." But does she
really flip for American Idol? Scooter Girl sings a song
she wrote called, appropriately enough, "Scooter Girl".
Good voice. Nice range. She tries again with "Power of
Love", without the scooter. And Scooter Girl just make
it, scooter or no scooter, as she proves herself a
Randy: You really belong on Broadway.
Paula: Pretty spectacular. I say yes.
It all comes down to Simon, who likes her sense of humor
in a humorless world. "You should never lose what is you
which is your originality." This girl could win. She
trades in her scooter in for a golden ticket to
Hollywood. But at least Ryan can get around the Big
Apple... for a while, at least. Can we give this thing
away? Yes, we can. Even with the basket and everything.
She joins 29 people on the bus to Tinseltown. And I join
everyone on the bus to the other auditions, namely
Atlanta. Which reminds me. We have to pick up Gordon at
Grand Central. I'll be back on Wednesday. So, if you'll
excuse me, I've got an engagement to catch.