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Auditions: Greensboro - January 24

The Auditions Roadshow continues to two hours north of where I'm at, Greensboro, North Carolina. If you go an hour east, you see where Clay Aiken was reared. Continue 15 minutes west, you'll reach High Point, where Fantasia came from. Two idols, one state... why not?

First up... Sabrina, the Teenage Witch. She says she sounds like Faith Hill and that men are always hitting on her. Is that true for Sabrina Oakley (26, Greensboro). Singing Bill Withers' "Lean On Me"... No. And she messed up the lyrics to boot. Cowell: "More like hitting. If I'm being honest, you are more Jerry Springer than American Idol." Randy thinks she's drunk. It's a three-way no.

Cachet Robinson (25, Fayetteville.. hey, I know that place) thinks she's the total package. "I'm a shower singer." She sings "I'm Every Woman" by Chaka. She has the tone down for the first two.. words. And then it all just goes to hell.

I just want to take this moment to tell everyone that not everyone in Fayetteville sounds like her.

Paula didn't recognize the song at all. Simon wants her to buy a soundproof shower. Another three-way no.

It got worse. We have a drought from the girls of Greensboro, and it continues through Amanda McManaway (28, High Point). She oughta go back "Over the Rainbow".

Hopefully she'll run into KelliePickler (19, Albemarle), a waitress at a leading drive-in restaurant chain. Mom left when she was 2. Dad's been in prison. She's obviously worked up about this. But how is the voice? She tries "Since U Been Gone" by Kelly Clarkson. Good choice, she's one of our favorites. She admits to having big shoes to fill, but it doesn't seem like she's got a problem with it. Sounds like Carrie singing Kelly, but still, really really good. Paula loves it. She gives 20 seconds of "Broken Wing" and proves her versatility. She's... loud. Simon thinks that she's terrific, but she needn't oversing. We have another three-way, but on the good side...


Shawn De Salazar (17, Davie, FL) is on a mission to revive the standards. I think Buble already beat you to it, but hey, do your thing. He brought his little brother and a sign: "We told my school I'm out of town on a "Family emergency". I'm probably in big trouble, but I don't care." I like this guy. He sings "That Old Black Magic". Maybe it's just his voice, but it's a little nasally. Simon thought it was average. Randy thought he was a singing waiter. Paula likes the voice, but is confused by the outfit. Three times no.

Little brother... "I'm surprised."

Everyone seems to be bringing in props, and everyone seems to be laughed their way out. How about Richie Garland (25, Mooresboro) and his dummy Scotty (19, a suitcase)? He sings Westlife/Ruben Studdard's "Flying Without Wings," which he sung to his wife a year ago. He's actually pretty good. Sounds like Ronan. Would've liked it better if it sounded like Richie. Simon: "Good voice, but am I looking at a star?" Randy enjoyed the dummy, but thought that the song was just "okay." Randy and Simon say no. But Simons sends him off with these words: "There's nothing wrong with working with a dummy (eyes Paula)."

Ronda Jones (21, Greensboro) is not a dummy herself, but she does have a high pitch. Mom tells her that she's a cross between Carrie Underwood and Britney Spears. She sings "As Long As You Love Me" by the Backstreet Boys... Like a cartoon character. Simon: "I'll tell you what put me off... it sounded like the original." She wants it more than a whole pack of gummi bears. Simon would've said yes, but Randy and Paula said no.

Next up, Sgt. Steven David Jr. (28, Dalzell, SC) US Air National Guard, the polar opposite of Ronda. He's an entertainer. He's airborne. He's decorated. He's ... coming onto Paula. He sings "Let's Get It On" to Paula... He overshoots, but sounds good otherwise. And Paula (reluctantly) dances with him. Actually sounds better than previously. "Don't get too close," Simon warns. "This is a weird show," Randy says. He says the vocals were strong. Simon: "Good-ish." The boys say yes... Paula... "I gotta tell you something... You're going to Hollywood, and it's a yes from me, too."


... and here comes his wife. Heh.. Where's Dr. Phil when you need him?

Meanwhile, Halicia Thompson (27, Eden) brought in 15 family members to cheer her on. She sings "A Different World" by Aretha Franklin, used as the theme to the show of the same name. The voice I like, but I would've chosen a better song. Sounds like she's just bland a bit. Paula likes her. Simon calls her a natural. Rewarded with a kiss. Looks like...

Halicia Thompson: GOING TO HOLLYWOOD.

Meanwhile, a former member of the Atlanta Boys Choir takes on the toughest room. Donny Meacham (19, Alpharetta, GA) thinks he's the best undiscovered talent out there. He sings "Bridge Over Troubled Water", the first time he's sung for his mom since he was 8. Some things were just better left undone. It's just nasal and breathy. And the pitch, all over the place. Simon: "You just murdered one of the most beautiful songs of all time." Paula: "I don't know if singing's right for you." No golden ticket for Donny.

Maybe one for Kendra Winston (24, Greensboro)? She was a ward of the state, and she's been in 42 different places in this state. She married too young, and had three children. From there, she tried to get her children out of public housing through college. She looks like Whitney Houston. She's singing Diana Ross's "Ain't No Mountain High Enough". She's got the guts and she sounds in tone, but was a little flat. Randy thought it was nice, Paula calls her a breathe of fresh air, and both say yes.


Back in the room, Kenneth "Chase" Bush (20, Richmond, KY) idolizes Kelly Clarkson... He sings "I Have Nothing". And we enact the Gordon Pepper Men-Singing-Women's-Songs creepiness. If it didn't sound bearable aside from the vibrato, I'd be weirded out. Paula says he's unique. Randy calls him a young Wayne Newton, and Simon ... isn't asking him to wear a dress. Randy says yes. Simon says no. Paula, again, against logic ...


And it seems that Simon's catchphrase this year is "I don't mean to be rude"... Push that book boy. He's not rude, just honest.

So is Chonna Clepper (20, Quinlan, TX). To Ryan: "You're so short." He blames it on the California air where he was brought up (C-Note: Seacrest is from Georgia). Chonna says her wardrobe came from her mom, who was a stripper (mistake #1). She sings Faith Hill's "Bring Out The Elvis". She sounds pretty good, but looks pretty trashy. Paula suggests vocal lessons. Simon agrees. They say "Keep working at it." Simon... "You guys got weird ideas about lingerie."

After day 1, the girls have stepped up, but the guys have started to dry up. Maybe Brandon Haithcox (23, Randleman) will turn that around. He sings "Follow Me" by Uncle Kracker... like a bad Michael Jackson cover band reject. Another reject. His.. companion suggests that if he was dressed by someone famous, he'd make it. (C-Note: No, you'd just be a bad singer and a snappy dresser)

Nerves start to take hold. Will they grip Jeffrey "Ryan" Baysden (27, Salter Path)? He wanted to be a singer his whole life. His weapon of choice: "Broken Road" by Rascal Flatts. I'm not a fan, but I can understand how the judges could like him. He's got the voice. Simon: "First Ryan I've ever met with talent." All three give him the go-ahead.


How about Cedric Robinson (22, High Point)? He WAS related to Fantasia, after all. He also sounds like her singing Aretha's "Chain of Fools"... Not exactly a good thing. Simon? "It was absolutely dreadful." No, no, no.

Next, Paris Bennett (17, Fayetteville... GA), whose grandparents were singers and whose mother, Ann Nesby, was a founding member of Sounds of Blackness... Hopes are high. She sings "Cowboy Take Me Away" BETTER than the Dixie Chicks do. This is definitely one of the favorites that Greensboro had to offer. Paula asks for another performance. Paris delivers. Paula calls her incredible. Simon: "Unbelievable. Where've you been hiding?"


So after day 1, 24 golden tickets. Tomorrow... a very SPECIAL day. It's Simon's birthday, and he's spending it doing what he does the best... tearing apart the dreams and hopes of a generation.

Marcus Behling (22, Powder Springs, GA) hopes to get a present from the birthday boy.  He's a talent show veteran, who believes that he's unique, calling himself a mixture of Ginuwine, R. Kelly, and Usher. He sings "She's Out Of My Life" by Michael Jackson. Too long, boring, and nasal. Ladies and gentlemen.. the next William Hung. I echo Simon: "What the hell was that?"

He got the Randy & Paula DVD... That explains it.

And there goes the DVD.. Crushed, like his hope, into a million pieces.

The key to getting your foot into the room is personality. We've said it before. Jimmy Crabtree (24, Mebane) is full of it... and we don't mean personality. He likes karaoke, and that landed him a wedding job. He sings "Broken Road"... Bring back the first dude...

Meanwhile, Sammy Neighbors (22, Greensboro) says he's raw. The UNCG Spartan sings "A Whole New World" from Aladdin... hence, the magic carpet. I'd like to use the magic carpet to make him disappear, and I bet the judges would as well. "Sylvester Stallone's younger sister singing Paula Abdul." He can make people happy... but that's all he can do.

Tyra Juliette Schwartz (24, New York City) broke up with her boyfriend, took an 11 hour train ride to Greensboro, and braved the weather, to give a reasonably good performance of "In the Still of the Night." Paula notes a nice tone. Randy says, "Good control." Simon thinks she'll brush up well.


We hope she finds a good man in Hollywood, because there wasn't many to choose from in Greensboro. Perhaps she could get in with MJ impersonator Seth Strickland (22, Rome, GA)... Or not.

The judges are getting cold. Time to bring in a firefighter. Meet Jordan Southerland (24, Beulaville), singing "You Raise Me Up". You want to talk about overpowering? You Google "shouting" and you'll find his picture. Paula doesn't think it's bad. Randy thought it was okay. Simon controls his fate. He agrees... with.... Paula.

"OH MY GOD!!!!"

Jordan Southerland: GOING TO HOLLYWOOD

Now the moment we've been waiting for... we had "The Derek" from season 1. Keith from season 2... William Hung from season 3... Leroy from season 4... And Mary Roche... Now get ready for... Rhonetta, who looks like Mary J. Blige and dresses like Britney Spears. She's got high hopes for herself, doesn't she? She thinks she's bigger than J-Lo (Simon: "In a way, she is.")

Ladies and gentlemen, singing .. something..., Rhonetta Johnson (24, Charlotte).

Ladies and gentlemen, singing... something else... Rhonetta Johnson.

All together now... GET'EM SIMON!

"Absolutely never."

But it's not over. Sure she's civil now. But when she leaves, she lets 'em have it.

Uh... yeah... We can't really repurpose her argument again Paula, but it ends with "Bow down, (^_^), because I'm the (^_^)." Actually, it ends with "Hey Simon! (^_^) you and your birthday (^_^)! You should've chose this number (^_^), with your old (^_^), you money hungry ($_$). Y'all wanna make some money, if y'all woulda chose me, you woulda probably make more money, but you chose to choose the (^_^) that probably can sing but the (*_*) can't move. So here, take this number back and dream about it! You're gonna wish that you could've picked me, (^____^)."

Actually, it ends with me laughing my ass off.

That'll do it for Greensboro, as only nine people join the 24 from yesterday. We end with a REALLY bad montage of "Fame". Only makes me look forward to San Francisco. We're going out west next time.

Special thanks to Cat Cheng, Justin Carter, Rebecca Golden, and Colin Anderson for their assistance in compiling this recap.


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