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Auditions: Memphis (or "The King is Dead... Accept It") - January 23

This recap would be best illustrated by the lyrics of Marc Cohn's "Walking in Memphis"...

"Put on my blue suede shoes and I boarded a plane,
Touch down in the land of the Delta Blues in the middle of the pouring rain."

That's precisely what happened with American Idol today in this town of 650,000... except the "rain" in this case is people who think they can sing... but obviously can't.

The denizens of this town have descended upon FedEx Forum, the home of the Grizzlies, to try out.

"WC Handy, won't you look down over me..."

First to go is Frank "Frankenbeans" Byers (21; Waldo, AR), a cheerleader for Southern Arkansas University. He's brought his entire pep crowd with him. He's "Heard It Through the Grapevine". We need a decent soul singer in the crowd. And after that.. we still do. Simon thought it was corny... and a song change doesn't help. The other two agree. Aaaand cue the trombone... "Wah wah wah waaaaah."

And Simon comes outside to tell them to put a sock in it. Tell ya, man... Cheerleaders... They're always there for you. One down, 15,999 to go.

Next, Timika Sims (16), who'd have to be animated to get past "corpse stage". People just call her Miky... Hmm... After Simon's reminded of who Mya is (as opposed to Meyer or Mayer or Mayor), she sings a very lifeless, very nasal "Rock Wit U" by Ashanti. Another song change, another denial. It's another no.

Next, Chris Rivera (18; Black Mountain, NC) sings "Superstition". Good news... it's better than Timika... Bad news... it's still not good. Alexis Partee (20; Southaven, MS) has her way with the Hollywood Squares theme music (aka Teena Marie's "Square Biz").  That's a no-go as well.

"Yeah, I've got a first class ticket, but I'm as blue as a boy can be."

Jason "Sundance" Head (27; Porter, TX) claims to be a personification of the Blues. At least he's got the DNA to be the American Idol. His father, Roy Head, was one back in the 60s with "Treat Her Right". He has no moves. He sings "Stormy Monday" by Bobby "Blue" Bland. Here's your decent soul singer. Paula calls it powerful. Simon calls it one of the best.  "I'm gonna be amazed if you don't make the finals."


Is Wandera Hitchye (23) next? No. Cookie-cutter. The rest of her time comes off as your typical episode of "Cheaters", complete with the "Get that (^_^) out of my face."

"I'm walking in Memphis, I'm walking with my feet ten feet off of Beale,
I'm walking in Memphis, but do I really feel the way I feel?"

The "no" club is a big one today.

Travis McKinney (22) is going to sing for his girlfriend. He wants to bring emotion to American Idol for the first time. If that's emotion, I'd rather do without, thank you.

"Muriel plays piano every Friday at the Hollywood,
Brought me down to see her, and she asked me if I would
Do a little number, and I sang with all my might,
She say 'Tell me are you a Christian child,' I say 'Ma'am, I am tonight!'"

How about Danielle McCullough (18; Collierville, TN)? She just wants to make them smile today.  She sings "Baby, I Love You" by Aretha. She's on tone and she's got the energy. Randy didn't think it was amazing, but Simon liked the bluesy feel. Randy says she's gone first day. Paula and Simon disagree.


Day 1 ends there. Day 2 begins with Paula getting love from the people... Her biggest fan today, Topher McCain (28; Kennesaw, GA). His wife was messing around, so she left. Why? "Because she's a bitch." "I believe the auditions are a new beginning for me." He gets "Footloose"... but the pitch was all over the place, and the energy wasn't really there. Simnon compared it to a performance from a wedding after a few beers. "It's all good."

"And you called your ex-wife a bitch on national TV!" Always on the bright side, Simon.

Next Memphis belle... She thinks that first impressions are lasting impressions, and that the judges would probably say that she's really neat, conservative, all that. Then we take a look at the first impression... of Janita Burks (20) singing "Disco Inferno". It's a handful. The guys say no to the vocals.

Next, ... we're doing Communist Idol with Fidel Cas... err, sorry, it's Sean Michel (27; Bryant, AR). He sings "God's Gonna Cut You Down" by Johnny Cash. Nice soulful rendering. Paula likes the tone. Simon says yes. Paula says yes. Randy says yes.


Melinda Doolittle (28; Brentwood) is a professional background singer. She thinks of it as fun, wanting to be in the background. So what's changed? "I need to get over the fear and stand in front of people. She sings "For Once in My Life", the Stevie version. Very loud, but at the same time, very true to the nature of the song. Paula says she's good. Simon calls it brilliant, but she needs to amp up the confidence.

Melinda Doolittle - GOING TO HOLLYWOOD

"Saw the ghost of Elvis on Union Avenue,
I followed him up to the gates of Graceland, and I watched him walk right through."

Robert Lee Holmes (21) swears he sounds just like Elvis. He tries singing to "Burning Love" by the King. ... at least he got the words right. The rest of it.. terrible.

"Now security did not see him, they just hovered 'round his tomb."


"But there's a pretty little thing waiting for the King down in the jungle room."

Finally, we have Phil Stacy (28; Jacksonville, FL, who made the ultimate sacrifice to be on Idol. Right now, he's missing the birth of his second baby. The last thing she wants to hear today is the name of his song, "Let's Get It On". Was the risk worth it?

Wait, we have a change in the play, it's "My Girl." Starts out rocky, then gets better. Randy likes the voice. Paula wanted to hear something else.

Back to "Let's Get It On." Randy and Paula thought that was better. Simon thought "My Girl" was better.

Better hurry to your baby girl to tell her...


And at the end of the day, it's a new beginning for 22 singers.

"Put on my blue suede shoes and I boarded a plane,
Touch down in the land of the Delta Blues in the middle of the pouring rain."

And we're doing it all again next time... in New York City.


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