"Back to Hollywood" -
From all across America, by bus, by train, by plane, 193
of the best undiscovered singers are about to convene on
the same stage that will either make or break their
chances of becoming the next American Idol. For the next
two weeks, it's sudden death time, as the dream ends for
169 of them.
First... We have to cut
it down to half. As Mario Vasquez says, "It's American
Idol, it's season 4, it's a competition. Simply put." To
that end, some slept while some worked on words and
appearance, and some just chilled.
Monday, 7am: Boot camp (aka
"Five Days in Pop Star Hell") begins. The first phase is
split over two days. The players are divided into two
groups and two buses. One bus sings TODAY. The other
sings TOMORROW. In this phase, they have to sing one of
12 songs picked by the producers. They had one week to
learn the melody and the lyrics (which is what they will
have should they make the Top 12). Meanwhile, we work
with a pianist and vocal coach Debra Byrd.
Meanwhile, Bus 2 is
touring Hollywood. Back in the theatre, the contestants
are divided boy-girl and grouped into 10.
First up, farm girl
Carrie Underwood. She sings "Young Hearts Run Free"
Still as nice as ever. Definitely a contender after a
shaky start. Now to wait while we hear Jaclyn Crum
("Ain't No Mountain High Enough") and Sarah Mather ("You
Don't Have to Say You Love Me") belt gold. Mother of
twins Tamesha Foote climbs the "Mountain" without a
sherpa... and it sure sounds like it. She blames the
pianist for not playing in key. Now to decision time...
Simply put, yes or no.
Carrie: Unanimous YES
And Sarah... has a baby
waiting at home. Damn. Anyway, Tamesha still has choice
words for Carrie, who, to Tamesha's benefit, did bungle
a lyric or two.
Now the guys, as we have
tracheotomy-survivor Anthony Fedorov, whose rendition of
Coco Lee & Julio Iglesias' "When You Tell Me That You
Love Me" reminds me of Clay Aiken. Has a little
overtone, but he shrugs it off. Next is Michael Liuzza,
who was distinct in New Orleans. He was different and
unique... but now, just off-pitch. WAY off-pitch.
Back at the tour, they
seem to forget that they too have to protect their
instrument for tomorrow. Well, almost all of them.
Shunta Warthen seems to have gotten on the wrong bus and
now has to find a way to get back to the theatre. "Get a
cab and go!" So all of a sudden, American Idol becomes
"The Amazing Race".
Back at the Orpheum
Theatre, as Rashida Johnson is having the worst morning
ever. With a cold and laryngitis, she may have to bow
out. She belts "Baby Come To Me" with a Toni Braxton
vibe. It should be noted... I LOVE Toni Braxton. Her
And Shunta is still
looking for her cab. Ah, there it is, but will she make
Back at the theatre,
Amanda Avila, Travis Tucker, and Lindsey Cardinale move
their "Mountain"s to the delight of the judges.
On that note, we get to
another question, "Why should you become the next
American Idol?" If you remember from last year, Fantasia
said that she has a big mouth and a bigger talent. QED
on both accounts. This year... we have long,
complicated, explanations that you could read out of ANY
beauty pageant handbook. And an overuse of the words
"inspire" and "Role model". But then there are these!
"I think it'll give me a
better chance to meet Johnny Depp."
"I'm worth idolizing."
"Bald is beautiful."
"I'm FFT, fat, fashionable, and of course, talented."
"I clean up well."
"I don't look like I sound."
"I'm a nice Greek boy."
"My job sucks."
"I'm Simon's little brother."
With that, we get
another performance from Rich Molfetta... after we get
Ross Williams croon his way through "Crazy Little Thing
Called Love" and bald-is-beautiful posterchild Sean
McNeill run Stevie's "You Are the Sunshine of My Life".
Both rather well. Now Rich with "How Can You Mend a
Broken Heart." Sounds like he will be joining JP
Molfetta sooner rather than later.
Ross: Unanimous YES
Rich: Unanimous NO
"I choked." Yeah, that's
about right. And back at the theatre is Shunta with
minutes to spare! On stage, it's "Sunshine" with Nadia
Turner, David Brown, Scott Savol, Anwar Robinson, and
Jeffery Johnson. The verdicts...
Nadia: Unanimous YES
David: Unanimous YES YES YES
Scott: Unanimous YES
Anwar: See you tomorrow.
Now for the racer,
Shunta belts out "Young Hearts". Sounds like the trip
was well-worth it.
Shunta: Unanimous YES
The sun goes down at the
beach, and it proves to be an emotional experience for
Francisco Torres. "Brooklyn beaches don't look like
Theatre pan: Melissa
Figueroa wants to know "How Will I Know". Not the best
I've heard. Vonzell Solomon also "Knows". See above.
Regina Brooks (the woman who pawned her wedding rings to
be here) lost 40 pounds is next with "Crazy Little Thing
Called Love". She believes in it... but she tried to do
more with less, frankly.
Regina: Unanimous NO
A heartbreak for her and
54 others. For 48 others, the dream continues as they
tour Hollyweird. For the bus 2ers... it's D-Day. First
up, farm boy Patrick Norman and New Yorker Mario Vasquez
sing "How Can You Mend a Broken Heart". Again,
Patrick does more with less. Mario does more with more.
Mario wins this one. Sorry, Patrick. Francisco is next
with "Baby Come To Me." He just sings out. Not bad. Now
Mario: Unanimous YES
Now to Marlea Stroman,
who found boot camp to be a little tiring compared to
caring for her child (C-Note: This is relevant. You'll
see why later). She sings "Let There Be Love". Very hip.
Marlea: Unanimous YES.
She's in with no
problem. She's in shock. Meanwhile, Bus 1 is on the set
of "The OC". Yeah. Okay. Back at the theatre, Marlea is
still in recovery mode AND feeling the cuts of everyone
else. Now to Constantine Maroulis, the nice Greek boy
who quit his band to try out for Idol. Other rockers
include Aaron Kelly and Bo Bice. And all three pick "The
Letter". All are better than some of the stuff on top 40
radio. They're all in.
But what about opera
chick Briana Davis? Will she have luck with the Letter?
Briana: (Simon: "The
nerves got to you. It's a no, sweetheart.")
And while Briana is
escorting herself off stage, Marlea is having second
thoughts as well. In contrast, Mikalah Gordon, the
singer who wanted to buy her mom implants. She
personalizes "You Don't Have To Tell Me You Love Me"
after Simon calls her the most confident 16-year-old in
the contest. And rightly so. She threatens the object of
her desire with a date to the prom (she missed
homecoming) if she's not picked to go on. Well, he's not
going to the prom...
But the mood isn't as
rosy for Marlea, as EPs Ken Warwick and Nigel Lythgoe
(yes, the host of "The Enemy Within" on BBC America)
have a heart-to-heart-to-heart with her. "I really miss
my son. I want to go home. I love the entertainment
world, but this is my life, mother. I've decided to
leave the competition." So for the first time, a
potential Idoler walks away. Meanwhile the show
continues for Janay Castile (in), and others. As the day
draws to a close, we are halved at 97. And the worse was
yet to come with group performances. And what's so bad
that Nigel has to step in? The Enemy is still Within