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In the world's ultimate talent search - where the eyes of a nation are upon the best undiscovered singers in the country, where the audience has the power to make or break you, and where a million-dollar recording contract is on the line, there is only one rule: If you can sing it, bring it.

The second season of the blockbuster series crowned a champion in Ruben Studdard, whose album, "Soulful", went to number one upon its release.

Recaps by Gordon Pepper (and a few friends), GSNN

January-May 2003, Fox
Ryan Seacrest
Judges: Paula Abdul, Simon Cowell, Randy Jackson
Creator: Simon Fuller (based upon "Pop Idol")
EP: Cecile Frot-Coutaz, Simon Fuller
Packager: 19 Entertainment, FremantleMedia North America

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January 21, 2003 - Gordon Pepper

'You think you know me....' - Edge's theme.

So why would a computer geek like me be interested in covering this sort of show? I graduated college with a Music and Communications Double Major. In high school, I made Regionals, All-State and All-Eastern is percussion, and I also have perfect pitch, to boot. I still perform in both percussion and singing, and the last recent concert that I performed in was the 'Downtown Messiah' in December at The Bottom Line Nightclub and at the WIntergarden at the Financial Center (right next to the World Trade Center) It was an emotional rush to perform right next to Ground Zero - an experience beyond compare.

But enough about me. The reason why I bring this up is because 1. That's my background on why I wanted to cover American Idol, and 2. Since I have perfect pitch, I want to relate to you thst if people are out of tune, to me thats the equivalent of taking Freddy Krueger's bladed hand and scraping it down a black board. It's also like taking a cat, sticking it in a vat of boiling water, and keeping it there for 30 minutes, until the cat is nice and poached and is served with mashed potatoes and a fine red wine.

There was a cat symphony this past Tuesday night on the premiere of American Idol 2.

But lets not put the cart before the horse (or cat, in this case). The three judges, (Singer Paula Abdul, Record Producer Randy Jackson and everyone's favorite critic, UK Record Executive Simon Cowell) are back to puncture more egotistical balloons. Also returning is Ryan Seacrest (though his co-star does not).

We start in Miami, with 6,000 people, then we go to Detroit with 6,000 people. Next is Nashville - with 5,000 people, followed with the 6,500 in Atlanta. They also had 6,000 people in Austin audition. The overwhelming majority of them were awful.

11,000 people in Los Angeles - and most of them were rotten too. Here are some of the better put downs - 'They said you went to Fame High School - did you get thrown out?' - (Simon). 'Did you ever try to start the car, and the car won't start and it goes wrrrr-wrrr-wrrrr - that's what you sounded like' - (Randy).

This time around, the contestants can answer back in the American Idol Focus Room - and they are not nearly as clever as the judges. Another new item this year is the interview with the potential Superstars as they move up the ranks - and Kristin Holt (one of the potential Superstars from last season - yes, the table woman) will be doing the honors.

We first see my city - the Big Apple. 9,000 people showed up to audition, and most of them were - you guessed it - awful. 'You could be the worst singer in New York' (Simon).

To make it even more embarrassing, they put the names of the singers who sing badly on the TV, so we can all ridicule them - like Chris, who gets this from Simon 'If you were living 2,000 years ago and sung like that, they would have stoned you'. I won't mention any last names, but it was pretty bad.

New York finally gets their first talented singers in the form of Cara and Rhian Morgan, 17 year old twins from Macedon, NY. They do sound decent - but there's one problem - there can only be one American Idol. Simon tells them that only one of them can go forward, but one won't go without the other, and Paula agrees. The judges do compromise and send them both to Hollywood (but I don't see them getting into the finals).

But back to the bad singing - Nathaniel (I'm not putting up the last names of the rotten singers to spare the humiliation to the singer and his kin) decided to be original with ripped up pants. He also sounds like he had a ripped up throat - and he and Simon get into it, with Simon, of course, getting the upper-hand.

Simon - 'I think the reality is that I've heard better people sing outside Subway Stations'
Nate - 'That's fine, but I worked really really hard'.
Simon - 'So do they'
Nate - 'Do they stand outside in the cold for 2 days?'
Simon - 'Well, if they're outside, yes.'

The three judges tell Nate that he's horrible, but he decides to attack them on the fact that they don't sing. 'You dont have to bring people did not have to say that I was horrible.'
Simon 'But you were horrible' (Yes he was)
Nate - 'So were you'
Simon - ''Fine...we have something in common.'

Time to go back to singing school for Nate, as he rants, calling Randy fat, telling Simon he's an A$$hole, and storming out. 'He took that well' said Simon. This is the core of American Idol - and a very entertaining core at that.

But we wouldn't have this show if it wasn't for people who sang well - and for two of these contestants, there is a sub-plot to it. Kristin Barrera and Janine Falsone, know each other - Kristin's current boyfriend is Janine's ex. They are both here to try out for the show. Kristin goes first - and she belts out a nice tune. The judges agree, and Kristin gets to go to Hollywood.

Janine is next - and she is not as strong as Kristin. Janine requests a do-over. She gets it and redeems herself. They also send her to go to Hollywood, but not before exchanging this dialogue between Simon and Paula:

Simon - 'Im just bored today'
Paula - 'I could stand naked in front of you, for that matter everyone in this room can stand naked dancing the hula-hula.'
Simon - 'I would agree with you - if you stood naked in front of me, I would not get excited.'

Ouch. But both women make it - and this could be really interesting later on down the road. Christopher is not that interesting at all - but Simon makes it interesting. 'If you were to win, and sing a song, you would kill The American could possibly be the worst singer in New York.'

As a joke, they take Christopher around to see if there's anyone worse than him - they can't find anyone and they eventually leave him singing alone on a street corner. Too bad he couldn't find Nate.

Julia DeMato, a hairdresser from Connecticut, was so terrified that she wrote the lyrics to the song on her hand when she sings. She didn't need to. She belted out a sweet rendition of 'Unbreak My Heart'. They tell her that she's great job, and she breaks down. She hugs Paula and tells Simon - 'You scared the Sh#t out of me.' Awwwwwwbarf.

We find the first male vocalist who goes to Hollywood - Danny Rodriguez, who does an interesting rendition of 'Fly Me To The Moon' (The pitch was there, the tone wasn't, but I guess you need SOME male representation from NYC, don't you?)

Cynthia is next, but she forgets the words. 'It wasn't dreadful, it wasn't horrible - it was absolutely ghastly.' (Simon). I don't think she was that bad, but 'There's only so much punishment that a human being can take.' (Simon). She was better than they next bunch of contestants that come in. It went so bad, that the judged came in and told the people that the talent so far has been awful, and 'How bad do you want it?'

Tirrell Anthony, from Brooklyn NY, wants it - and Paula likes his voice (though I don't), Randy agrees with me, while Simon likes the voice, but doesn't like the image. Tirrell says that 'Mr. Luther Vandross' told him that he has a special voice. 'Would you invest 1 or 2 million dollars of your money into Tirrell?' says Simon. Paula says yes, and she convinces Simon - but Simon tells Tirrell to change his image before coming to Hollywood. We'll see how successful Terrell is in doing that.

Frenchie Davis is next - and her friends raised money to send her to NYC. Now she is - shall I say - 'full-bodied' - so let's see if that image holds true. She has a very nice voice. They all applaud her performance. 'I was waiting for that for the past 4 days' says Randy. They unanimously send her to tinseltown.

On to Miami we go. Unlike New York, the people got to sleep out on the beach (awww, poor babies). At least New York does not hoard all of the bad singers - there were plenty to go around in Florida. Terra is next - and the Mariah Carey wanna-be is not remotely close to her singing caliber. 'Terra, there is only one resemblance to Mariah Carey - your hair'. (Randy) Ouch.

Heidi Hall is the first good singer in Miami. Her mom braves it out with her, and it pays off, she sings a nice version of 'When I fall in love' and she goes to LA.

Natalie Galan joins her with a nice Sarah mclaughlin (Angel) song. She gets in barely, 2-1 (Paula says no) and cries in her mom's arms after realizing that she's in. Lots of girls from Miami get in, but Sean Campos wants to be the first successful R and B Asian male - and he is by far the best male so far. He gets in 3-0 and celebrates by chest-bumping his friend, and then chest-bumping Ryan.

We also find the worst (and possibly scariest) contestant on American Idol - Edgar. He brutalizes Enrique Iglesias' 'Escape' Randy - 'I have one phrase for you. 'Don't sing ever anymore'. Edgar disagrees - 'I want to hear from (Simon) Cowell'. Are you sure of that? Heeeeere's SIMON! - 'You're one of the worst singers I have ever heard in my life.' Edgar, still in Dreamland, still thinks he is going to L.A. Maybe he can get there if he spends some money for airline tickets.

And the insults keep on coming. 'You're going to school for pharmacy? Good, I may need some medication after that.' (Randy). Bashir is next - and he is good on every facet - except his voice. Randy agrees with me, but Paula and Simon say that everything else outweighs the lack of singing, citing that most pop stars today do not have a good voice. They give him a pass to go to Hollywood.

Back comes Edgar - and he tells the producers that the judges wanted him to come back. They obviously don't, and Edgar gets stopped, escorted out by security and banned from the building. Maybe if FOX does 'Psychotic Idol', Edgar will be coming back.

But the judges do not come back to Miami - they come to Austin. This is a rugged terrain - and with them comes some rugged singing. Unfortunately, 'rugged' is not an adjective used with good singing. Dana Clark brought 27 members of her fan club with her - this will either be a great celebration of a huge disappointment. I've heard better, but she's not bad, and she should be good enough to go to CA. And she does, getting in by a score of 2-1 (Simon being the dissenter).

Kimberly Caldwell is next - She has a booming sweet voice, with a nice twang to it. That, plus her Christina Aguilera outfit, should make her a shoo-in, and she is, 3-0. Cedric comes in a bright yellow suit, and he starts out well, but the pitch falters and his choreography does him in. 'Not even for Bulgarian Idol' (Simon). Cedric came down by himself - and he's stranded. On one hand, you can't help but feel sorry for him, but on the other hand, what sort of moron comes all the way out there with no place to stay? Oops.

Coffey's clock is ticking - in more ways than one - he has a kid on the way. I think he should be going back to his kid, but I think his voice will be passable enough to go to Hollywood. He survives with a 2-1 vote (and yes, he does come back in time to see little Coffey Jr's birth.). Jacob John Smalley, who's next, blows Coffey's performance out of the water with Shyne's 'Should I Fall in Love' and should get in easily. He does, as he clicks with the judges, 3-0. Katherine Edmonson should be joining the guys with a sassy edition of 'Fever'. Randy says no (which surprised me) but Paula and Simon overrule him, and off to CA she goes. 36 people get selected to go from Texas - the most people form one state so far.

On our next episode, we will see LA, Detroit and more, but first, AMERICAN IDOL - WHERE ARE THEY NOW????

As you all know, all of the American Idol finalists went out on tour together and were one big happy family (blech). We spend the first 5 minutes discussing the tour. But after the last song was sung, everyone goes out on their own way.

(I'll also start out that maybe they were not as much of a big happy family as previously thought, as neither Ejay Day nor Jim Verraros gets a profile on what they are doing now. Whatever the black sheep of the family are doing now, your guess is as good as mine).

Tamyra Gray now has a contract with Babyface and will be having a new CD coming out in 2003. She also has been in Boston Public.

A.J. Gil - 'I'm looking around for the best deal available' (which means that he probably hasn't done squat).

Ryan Starr is recording and has gotten acting and modeling deals. She is pursuing a new musical style - but she is also pursuing designing - and is working on new fashions.

Christina Christian still hasn't finished college yet, but she has been working as a correspondent for FOX, MTV and other entertainment networks. Christina will be an American Idol insider for TV Guide.

R.J. Helton was sighted singing the Star Spangled Banner at the WUSA Championship and was also doing Old Navy commercials with Ryan (Seacrest), Christina, Nikki and Tamyra.

Nikki McKibbin runs a Karaoke bar in Michigan, and is taking her sweet time to make a new album.

Justin Guarini got to be on the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade Float. He's also in the midst of making a new movie musical with him and Kelly Clarkson.

Kelly Clarkson has been all over the place (which as the winner is to be expected) such as Leno, Regis, etc. She also sang in Las Vegas with her own idol - Reba McIntyre. Kelly had a number one hit (A Moment Like This) which jumped from 52 to 1. Unfortunately, the American Idol people are trying to rewrite history by saying that the song has had the quickest jump - that's not true. There have been a few songs that have debuted at number 1, including 'We Are The World' by USA For Africa). And, of course, the movie with Justin.

We'll be back tomorrow to see which people have a shot to be on a future 'Where Are They Now?' American Idol.

January 22, 2003 - Gordon Pepper

We continue the first round search of American Idol in Los Angeles. We see our first real glimpse of Ms. Kristin Holt interviewing the people who are camped out of the Rose Bowl in Pasadena. 11,000 people line up and the contestants who get stickered gets moved over to a local hotel.

Paula arrives early to give some love to some of the contestants, while Simon comes in fashionably on time for California. fashionably on time would be equal to around thirty minutes late, which of course makes the contestants even crankier than they ordinarily would be.

Equoia Coleman got bit by a poisonous spider and has to sing in a cast. Fortunately for her, the spider didn't take away any musical talent. 'Why haven't you been signed to a recording contract yet?' asks Simon, as they unanimously pass her.

But not everyone is that good. The cats are coming out for the poor boy who did 'Celebration'. 'You will never ever in a million years make it as a singer.' (SIMON). We also had someone who looked like a lion (I guess looks are everything), but the sound is pretty rotten.

The first male who is passable is James. I don't like him as much as the voices on yesterday, but the judges unanimously pass him. Robin is next, as her mom (who is more nervous than she is) is waiting outside. After her first song, Paula asks her to sing something more upbeat. Her mom, waiting outside, asks, 'What are they asking her to do, sing the whole list?', and adds, 'You're not going to make a big mistake unless you're bogus.' Well, the judges are not bogus (since Paula does advance), but if she didn't, mom would have 'pulled out his (SIMON's) testicles. I don't care what happens to them.'

Speaking of lack of testicles, Anthony sounds like he has no testosterone whatsoever. He is 6'7" and his voice sounds like he hasn't hit puberty. His musical talent hasn't grown in yet either. 'I think you're amazing - amazingly dreadful. I think that no one else on the planet will ever sound like you - thank God.' (SIMON) Even Ryan makes fun of him. Anthony in the after interview tells Simon to bite his little thing attached to his testicles.

Carrie Hunt belts out God Bless America, which I think is a bit strong. Simon thinks she is brilliant and its a unanimous. Another patriotic guy is Daniel, but in singing the Star Spangled Banner, he forgets and not only mangles up the music, he mangles up the words. 'You're in a class of your own...your one of the worst singers that I've ever heard in my life.' A real patriotic guy, Joshua, who is in the corp, will be singing a song from O-Town. He's not bad, and is actually better than the first guy who was on. The judges all agree, and mission accomplished for Joshua, who gives out a little wolf howl and a call to his sister.

Alyson sings 'I'll take you there' - and takes them to the land of no lyrics. She sings another song - and she was better when there was no lyrics. She falls into the trap of nerves. Simon says yes, but Paula and Randy says no - Alyson wants another shot, but the judges aren't going to give it to her. Despite the rejection, she continues to sing - and Simon continues to say yes, while Paula continues to say no. She is pleading with Randy, who is actually making her kiss Simon - which she does, and then kisses everyone else for good measure. Alyson is begging with Randy, and he finally gives in and Alyson gets to move on to the second round.

Other people don't get that second, third or fourth shot. We get a montage of really bad singers. We have another set of twins who come in - Who were there last year and sing 'Give me One More Chance' 'No' (SIMON). They say that he is naive, but Randy and Paula side with Simon. 'When you two were singing, you were out of tune.' (RANDY) 'You should go out, don't buy any money on singing lessons, go buy out a realistic attitude' (SIMON) 'We came out on top' say the twins 'And we'll be back'. Only if you take singing lessons.

Marie comes in and says that she'll be happy even if they say that she's the worst singer in the world. The positive attitude didn't work. 'You may have felt the music, the music didn't feel you.' (SIMON) The last we see of Marie is her cursing out the judges in the back on the feedback camera.

Then we have another blond African American with red streaks 'If you can imagine Linda Blair in the exorcist singing, while she was tied up in the bed, you were singing like you were six people...that's not a compliment.' (SIMON). Then we have Dino. 'No matter what they take from me, they take away my dignity.' They took away your vocal talent, Dino. Randy is cringing while Dino's singing and Dino is staring at the ceiling, not noticing. He notices when he's done. 'Have you ever been on a farm...(you are imitating) the sheep trying to sing. Baaaaaaaah.' (RANDY).

Melody comes in dressed like Dorothy to sing 'Somewhere Over the Rainbow' in a bizarre fashion, the mangles the melody, but the voice is good - good enough to get in - 'As long as you click her heels' (RANDY). She does, and she gets to Hollywood, which is a lot further away than Kansas.

Next up is someone who is dressed like Tarzan. Paula likes the voice, though the image is rotten. 'I couldn't disagree with you more.' says Simon, who says no. Randy gives him the benefit of the doubt and Tarzan leaves the jungle.

Those are the highlights of the men - the rest are, well, I'll let Simon say it. 'I quit....You can't sing'. (SIMON). Enter J.D. Adams, who is related to the presidential Adams. I don't like him, his tone is off, but he is in tune, so I'm betting that the judges will like him. 'Thank you God...Brilliant.' says Simon. The other two judges agree and the presidential relation brings him into Hollywood. 44 people in total qualify from the city of the roses.

Next up is Detroit - the motor city. But is it also the vocal city? The early results seem to be no. 7,000 people braved the 25 degree weather. Bill was up first, and people who thought that he was homeless gave him stuff. Apparently, his singing talent needs a new home too, because it wasn't in his body. 'It was a flat unemotional audition' (SIMON). Bill tells Simon to kiss his a$$. Antoine the Lifeguard is next, and he doesn't do much better. 'If your life guard duties were as good as your singing, lots of people would be drowning.' (SIMON)

Dennis, an ex-stripper is next. 'Your problem is that if you want to be successful, A. You have to have talent, and B. You have to be a role model, You can't be a role model walking around like that...and you don't have any talent.' (SIMON). Dennis tells Randy to continue to eat.

Kewanna finally gets Detroit on the winning track with a powerful voice. The music was off, but the sound may be good enough to get her through. The judges barely pass her - but in she goes, and Kewanna thanks Jesus and grandma.

The next three people have ok tones, but you can't understand what they are saying. Tea may not be able to understand what she's saying - she has an attack of nerves. She uses a chair to strut out a version of 'Sweet Thang' - she's better off on concentrating on the song instead of the skit - because she was good until she started moving around - then the sweet thang turned sour. 'You didn't make any eye contact with us, so you were viewing something, instead of us enjoying it. (PAULA) 'You were on every key. Terrible.' (RANDY) 'There's always other shots...the chair, on the other hand, had potential' (SIMON).

The next woman. Kimmie, gets in. 'Simon even liked me, cool', shouts Kimmie, who jumps up and down and screams. 16 Year old Michael Craig does a weird version of 'What's Going On', but he was in tune, and Paula likes it. Simon, though not liking the performance value, agrees, and Randy makes it unanimous. The first man gets in.

Karissia's mom didn't her to get in. The song that she picked was completely wrong for her, but her voice sounded well. The problem is that Karissia doesn't want to go home, because she doesn't want to face her parents, who want her to do something other than singing.

The judges probably hoped that some people had parents like Karissia, 'There's a line in the song that says everything - When I'm bad, I'm so bad.' (SIMON) 'I'm starting to believe that the Mo has left the Town'. (RANDY) Randy (a singer) tried to do a song and dance. 'As bad as your dancing was, your singing was even worse' (SIMON). A French Elvis impersonator doesn't help out things. 'That's got to be the worst I ever heard' (RANDY) 'They say you got fired for singing...I would have fired you for singing there...that was absolutely atrocious.' (SIMON)

Ryan has to wake up the next person, who fell asleep - Frederick - and for all purposes, his vocal chords were still sleeping. This is the quote of the week, and possibly describes the judges mood at this point. 'Can I just say one thing, and I want to thank you for this - you have summarized Detroit for us'. (SIMON)

Nicole is called 'Lady Tiger', and she is sleeping on the street and is a female boxer. Unfortunately, it's her vocal chords that take a knock out. 'Nicole, you just didn't make the grade - it's as simple as that.' (SIMON) As a single parent (her husband was murdered), Nicole has to take her kid back out ad look for another way out of the city. 'You ain't goin' nowhere in Detroit....I'm a Christian and I'm keeping my dreams.' Very heartwarming, but it's not about being heartwarming - it's about singing - and only 22 people in Detroit make it to the second round.

Next time around - we'll be finishing up Round 1 Auditions, and we get to find out who the worst singer of the world is (I bet you just can't wait for that, eh?).

January 28, 2003 - Gordon Pepper

We are down to the last 2 cities - Atlanta and Nashville. Will we be experiencing some down home southern comfort? Or will Simon, Randy and Paula want to down a lot of Southern Comfort booze after hearing these guys sing?

Well, in this case, the booze hounds will only be Simon and Randy. Paula had a previous engagement, so the crowd instead gets Randy and a VERY Cranky Simon. So what will those Atlantans expect from Simon? 'I'm not in a great mood today...I'm going to give you some advice - We will judge you, not just on your singing ability - we will judge you on how you walk in the room, we will judge you based on your singing, and most of you won't be able to do that...and we will also judge you based on how you react to positive and also negative criticism.'

Nickie Nickolson, the first person to go on, makes Simon less cranky. She gets in with flying colors. Jessica Cox also gets in, and tells everyone. 'If you go in there and be yourself, and they are not that bad people. (sic)'

Johnny didn't take that advice. He sings one of Simon's favorite songs - 'Ain't no Mountain High Enough.', which turns into 'Can't get him done quick enough.' Simon - 'Well, it was one of my favorite songs.'

Omega combines singing (well she calls it singing) with an aerobic workout. She combines it into performance art. 'All I was thinking about when you were performing, was how I can pay you to stop.' - Simon. She says that when she gets famous she will invite them to her show and she can judge them. I hope not.

Clay Aiken looks like a geek - but he has a good voice. 'You don't look like a pop star, but you've got a great voice.' says Simon, as he and Randy agree with me. Clayton gets to go to Hollywood - and he hugs Kristin Holt on the way out.

But not all of the guys get the better of the doubt. Joshua Reece actually sounds pretty good, and quite honestly, they let people with worse voices advance to Hollywood, but Simon says 'You don't sing like a pop singer - you sing like a cabaret singer. I can imagine you on a boat in the can make a living out of your voice, but you're not coming to Hollywood.' I think Josh got rooked, Josh thinks he got rooked, and the words continue when Simon comes out - with a policeman. The verbal sparring continues, which culminates in Simon saying, 'Fine, don't work on a boat, then.' This is really the first person that they rejected that I don't agree with.

Make this one the second. Maria Ward sings a song called 'Taker forever and Shove it up your A$$.' I liked the song but not the voice that was singing it. Simon and Randy liked the creativity, and she gets to go to the next round. Maria gets a hug from her husband. So they leave a nice crooner out and put the vulgar woman in? Wha?

Mitchell Asa has a funky shirt - and I don't think he's as good as the boat singer. Simon hates the shirt. 'This is one of the worst shirts that I have seen throughout...the good news is that you have a fantastic voice...wrap (the shirt) into a ball and give it back to Ryan (Seacrest).' Mitchell does just that - and he advances.

Making matters worse is Joshua Strickland, who looks like Ryan's lost brother from South Carolina - and he sounds like it. Once again, the judges have taken a leave of their vocal senses. Simon - 'On a positive can sing well...I think it's very important that you have role models in your life. But what I would suggest is to always try and find a good role model. I think you have possibly seen maybe Ryan Seacrest too much on TV...really try and move away from that.' Ryan comes in. Simon - 'I want to see what you will look like in 20 years...would you promise me that you will move as far away from Ryan as possible, image-wise?' Joshua does get in, as Simon will get to make fun of him some more.

Vanessa Olivarez, who arrives in a punk outfit and a nice sparkly mohawk, comes in and sings 'Bohemian Rhapsody'. She's passable, and should get in. The judges and I finally get back on the agreeing track and she gets to go to Hollywood - and as a reward she lies down on Ryan.

Keith is telling Kristin about him - not about his singing, but about how he has grown out his hair - that's not a good sign. A worse sign is when he opens his mouth. He does a perfect vocal style of Madonna's 'Like a Virgin', gyrations and all. There's only two problems; 1. He doesn't sound like Madonna (maybe her younger sister, Craponya), and 2. He's a guy, and the male gyrations don't really work on Simon nor Randy. Randy is so disgusted that he is covering his head with a sheet of paper. Seeing Randy in such pain, Simon gleefully asks Keith to do another song. He does 'I Wanna Dance With Somebody' by Whitney Houston - gyrations and all.

I'll let Simon handle this one. 'Last year, I described someone as being the worst singer in America. I think you're possibly the worst singer in the world, based on that performance, and I'm absolutely serious. I've never ever heard anything like that in my life. Ever.'
Randy - 'It was horrific, man. When you said interesting and unique, you were a mouthful.'
Simon - 'There is nobody on this planet who sounds like you.'
Randy 'Keith, What else do you like to do?'
Keith 'I like to dance'.
Randy 'Then why don't you try dancing.'
OUCH. I didn't think he was the worst singer in the world, but it was pretty grotesque.

After a montage of really bad singers, and singers who forget the words, and singers who leave the wrong way, we see Stefanie Schultz with a nice rendition of Alicia Keyes 'Falling'; a little flat, but good enough to go in. Simon and Randy agrees. A lot of talent gets to go to Hollywood from Atlanta - and American Idol record of 42+ people get to go.

We are up to the last city - Nashville. Paula has rejoined the cast - and she may have wanted to leave once she sees Edwin, who drinks out of Paula's glass without asking. He gives them a complimentary CD and sings 'Somebody to Love', calls Simon sexy, and offers to give him a kiss. Simon? 'You're wearing pajamas... you're wearing a strange hat, you're wearing some sort of robe, and you snarled through a song. Why do I need to say anything?' 'Because I rock', says Edwin. No you don't.

We then see a montage of people doing the wrong things - like asking the judges to sing along, arguing with yourself, burping and farting, screaming instead of singing, forgetting the words, and only singing the words of a song called ' I Love You.' Paula is looking around and wondering why she left from her previous engagement.

Ruben Studdard, a pleasantly plump guy, sings 'Ribbon in the Sky' and he is arguably one of the best male voices heard so far in the competition. He gets in unanimously to go to Hollywood. He says hi to his mommy and is hugged by his brother.

Next up is Ira, a 5 year old black kid who tries to sing - maybe he can make his duet with Keith from earlier. Paula and Randy likes it - Simon, of course, didn't. 'The Caucasian guy didn't like it. The brown dude liked it' Ryan - 'The Caucasian dude don't like much.'

The Caucasian dude liked Alden Wynn - not the one writing this, but Simon. He was ok - and the judges liked him better than I did. Most of the people who are auditioning from Nashville, aren't from Nashville. Amber is from Nashville - and she is reeking of flat notes. John joins her in the land of suck. Maybe you guys are better off with the non-Nashville people.

Corey Clark is next - and he looks like a dark colored Justin Guarini. He sings like Michael Jackson - and not nearly as good as Guarini - but since male talent has been really hard to come by this time around, he should get in. And he does get in with a 3-0 count.

The men were hard to come by, but in the Nashville location, a lot of males have come in and gotten accepted - more males get in than females. Kelly Renee has a powerful voice and she has a nice tone - so she should break the just men streak. She does, as the judges accept her in unanimously. Kimberly Locke, though not as strong as Renee, joins her, as Simon makes an interesting Style Vs. Image argument.

The last person to audition is Ricky Smith, who sings just as well as Stoddard. Despite dressing like his dad, he gets in, and once hearing the news, he breaks into a chant - specifically, Disney's 'Hercules! Hercules! Hercules!' As he gets a warm celebration from his family, and while the judges continue to argue whether or not they thought Kelly Clarkson was this good this early, we find out that 29 people make it out of Nashville.

That brings us to a total of 234 people. By the end of next episode, that number will be down to 32. We'll see who those 32 are in 24 hours.

January 29, 2003 - Gordon Pepper

Hooray for Hollywood!!!! 234 of them show up on the scene on Monday, December 9, 2002. 202 of them will be gone by the end of round 2. Mysteriously, we are down to 48 without knowing what happened to everyone else.

Oh wait a sec - here we are - it's flashback time. We see Tony Bennett (who was actually eating at a restaurant I was at. SHRIIEEEEK!!!!!') As Simon explains, 'One of you is about to be very happy and very rich in around 5 months time. Good luck.'

We then go to Tuesday - people are in a chorus line, and Frenchie Davis says that 'she does not have long hair in the back and she is not a size two.' She then sings 'and I am telling you that I am not going.' - specifically to Simon.

We see Marcus Curtis with a ring for Paula. We see the return of the twins as well as Rene Tem and Ruben Studdard, and Bettis Turrisman.

But there can only be one American Idol - down go the Twins. Them and a lot of other people get cut - half of them to be exact. A priceless moment is when Simon calls out one woman, who is screaming for joy - only to find out that almost everyone else accepted and she is one of the few eliminated. But Frenchie is still there - as well as Ricky 'Hercules' Smith. We are down to 120.

Wednesday comes around, and it's time to cut more people. This exam is to create a melody based on a set of lyrics that are given to them. Josh the Marine gets a thumbs up from Simon, while Danny Rodriguez and Clay Aiken (without the nerdish look) also shine through.

Stephen Franklin takes off his jacket - and sings out of tune. 'That was absolutely ghastly...that's not a compliment. Ghastly means awful. You have managed to turn this into Chippendales.' - Simon. Vanessa, she of the red mohawk, sings right at Simon, who acknowledges it with a smile. Following him is Coffee Anderson, (he who had the kid), and who had his mind elsewhere as he was rotten. He gets cut - and so do 39 more. We're down to 80.

Here is the next They are then cut into groups of three - and then the groups are supposed to sing a song together. Some people take it very seriously and sing the whole night. Marcus Curtis and his group sound sweet, Kim Caldwell's group decide to meet after an hour of eating - their partner, Julia Demato, is waiting for them - and they didn't show up after the hour has passed.

Other people don't take it nearly as seriously and spend the night out on the town. Stephen and Alden decide to have some drinks - with a contestants mother. Corey Clark, the Guarini look-alike, decide to join Stefan and Alden, much to the chagrin of his partner, Patrick Lake. Julia is chagrined, because her partners haven't shown up, and it's 10pm. The other three guys party all night long. 1am - everyone is done - except the guys and Julia. But what about Julia's teammates? Ahhh - they were practicing, and apparently there was an error in communication.

We are up to 8:10 am - and the guys started first. Well, they try to - Stefan and Olden and Cory all showed up late. The bus finally leaves - but not before everyone loses practice time and the people in the bus want to string up all of the late guys.

Meanwhile, in the girl's crisis of the hour, Kim's group is still singing - without Julia. Julia's sister tries to intervene for her behalf, and it's not working. They are all continuing to sing separately. This does not bode well for any of them.

But it's the guys turn to go first. Ruben Stoddard's group begins the day, with him and Rickey 'Hercules' Smith. Randy and Paula and Simon give them all raves. 'You guys have a lot to live up to' warns Simon.

Not nearly as raveful is the montage coming up with some of the other male groups. A lot of guys are screwing up the words, which include Mr. Rodriguez, Josh the military guy, and the non-nerdish Aiken, and it's not going to be pretty. 'First of all, why did you bother applauding, because that was was seriously painful to listen to - and watch...actually one of the worst things I ever heard.' growls Simon.

It's now Corey's turn - and he blanks out on the words - but to make it up, he changes the words to Paula and he comes over to croon to her. Did this save him? For Paula, it did, but for Simon, it didn't. 'I didn't think you sounded great either.' Randy - 'Dog, make you be in tune, yo - you need to sing the hell out of it to be in tune.'

The last group is Stephen and Alden - the 2 major party people. Bettis, the one person who did actually study, does fine as the lead vocalist, but Alden and Stephen just mangle the words and music. I see nothing good coming out of Simon. 'I'm picking up a vibe here, and the vibe here is that this is a joke...Why don't you stop wasting my time and everyone's time and just leave...You three, the two of you in particular, are an insult to this competition. If you think that you can do better, then good luck to you.'

Here comes the judges decision. Or do we get one? 'You've now created a problem for yourselves. We are now going to see the girls perform before we make the final decision, and it could be, depending on how they are, that there could be now an imbalance of girls against guys.'

So the ladies, if they perform well, could be represented more than the guys in the final 32. Frenchie and Kimberley Locke work together as a duo. That strategy seems to pay off. Randy and Paula and Simon like them both, and they seem to be a shoo-in for the round of 32.

Tensions are boiling with the guys - and everyone is getting on Alden and Corey's case, specifically Marcus, who apologizes to the judges, and Alden accuses Marcus of being a brown-noser. 'I'm not brown-nosing, this is me everyday, and if they can't accept it, the Hell with them.', says Marcus. I'm guessing these two will not be exchanging Valentine's Day Presents any time in the next century.

Back to the women - and they are struggling as badly as the guys are. 'If this was a live TV Show, we would be the laughing stock of America.' But one good thing happened. Frenchie Davis united Julia with the rest of her team, and they are now a 4-some - but are they good? her and Kim Caldwell stood out, and were told so by the judges. 'I feel like a star' says Julia. I have a feeling that the judges agree...

So now the judges cut this down to 48 people. Line 1 - Corey and Alden and Marcus - they are all staying - the one bad night didn't cost 2 of the party boys. Line 2 has Stefan (the final party boy) and Danny Rodriguez (who mangled his lines) - and they are gone. Line 3 has Hercules, Bettis Richardson, Patrick Lake and J.D. Adams - and they are staying as well. But there are only 21 guys - so that makes it disproportionate to the women, who would mathematically have 27.

Line 1, with no one being mentioned in particular, is going home. Line 2 has Kimberly and Frenchie - and they stay on. Line 3 has Julia and Kimberly Caldwell - and they advance as well. Line 4 does not advance, but Line 5 stays on as well. The people who are departing get everyone to sing 'Happy Birthday' to Ammee (what a rotten birthday present), while Danny Rodriguez croons 'My Way'.

This is the last day - and for the final day, everyone has the stage by themselves. Kim Kelsey goes first - and she doesn't sing too badly. The problem is - is it good enough? Everyone has their own story - going through some new ones for you - Candace Coleman is trying to escape her life from washing tables. Can Patrick Lake be a rocker who makes the top 30? What about Julia and Kim? Marcus, Frenchie, Alden and J.D. also ponder their fate.

Verdict Time - There are 3 groups of 16. 2 Rooms have just winners. One room has losers.
Room 1 - Some of those people include Ricky, Joshua, Vanessa, Ruben, Candace, Bettis, Corey, Frenchie and Kimberly Caldwell - and they all advance. Mission accomplished for Joshua - and everyone else in the room.
Room 2 - Some of these people include Marcus, Alden, Stefanie Schultz - and this is the last that we are going to see of them, because they do not advance. We get to see all of the tears, and a distraught Marcus doesn't understand why he is out. 'I was 100% better than most of the people who were here...I gave it my all the whole time'. Well, him and Alden get to discuss this over some tea and crumpets - or maybe not.
Room 3 - Some of these people include Julia, Patrick, J.D., and Kimberley Locke - they all advance too. All of the celebrities are mugged and the 32 people are finally selected.

So now what? Well, the rest of the competition will now be decided by...YOU. You get to decide what happens and call up after 8 people perform. The top 2 people advance to the Top Ten.

Here is your first batch of 8 - J.D. Adams, Kimberly Caldwell, Julia DeMato, LaShandra Collins, Meosha Denton, Patrick Forston, Bettis Richardson and Charles Grigsby. We'll be back next week to see who does what -- and who I think should be going on.

February 4, 2003 - Gordon Pepper

Welcome back to American Idol! The good news for these 32 people is that they have come back to sing again. The bad news is that only 2 of these eight people will be happy campers after tomorrow night's episode.

In the studio, where our 8 finalists will be performing, there is no audience - just Ryan, the judges, and a back-up piano. Ryan takes us to the Red room (which is the musical version of the actor's Green Room) - and in addition to the singers, we have the families of those vocalists hanging out in the background.

Ryan takes us back to a flashback of their first interviews for the camera. 'We can help them with their image, we can help them with their performance, but once they are on front of the camera, they are on their own.'

We start off with Kimberly Caldwell. She is dead broke - and almost didn't get on thanks to her skirmish with Julia DeMato. She sings 'Come to My Window' by Melissa Etheridge. She is not as strong as previous performances, and her voice is flat. She definitely could have picked something better to showcase her talent. Paula, Randy and Simon liked her performance, with Simon saying that she sounded better than he remembers hearing her. I disagree.

The next person up is Patrick Fortson. He got in on a split decision from the judges, and we haven't really seen that much of him - that's not a good sign. He sings 'Unbreak My Heart' by Toni Braxton. I have a major problem with a guy who sings a woman's song. It's even worse when he sounds more like Toni Braxton than most women who would be trying to match the song do. I had a very hard time trying to get through this performance.

'I think the outfit sucks.' says Simon 'If this is the front of the record sleeve, then G-d bless American Idol. I also thought that the choice of song is awful.' I have to agree with Simon.

Patrick's dad, outraged by Simon, comes out of the Red Room and onto the stage to have a chat with Mr. Cowell. He comes on the stage with a much spiffier suit. 'You two should have switched outfits.' Simon and Patrick's dad gets into it arguing about style over musical image. The problem was that I thought that the suit was the best part of Patrick's performance.

The third person up is presidential relative J.D. Adams. 'You are what this competition is about.' says Simon in a flashback. Will he still be saying that after his performance tonight? I'm not. He is the best singer so far - and he picked a challenging song, but he's not in tune and I don't like his song either. Simon 'I thought that was OK. I thought you looked like the American Idol - I'm not sure you sounded like him. I thought it was OK.' I agree with Simon - and I'm zero for three so far in terms of liking the people. Maybe I am just cranky. I did not do well in bowling last night (though my team won) and maybe it's affecting my judgment.

Trenyce (who used to be called LaShandra Collins) sings a song from the Bonnie Raitt library - and she actually puts in a good performance. This is the first one that I actually liked. Randy likes the energy. Simon doesn't like the choice of song, but he liked the way that she sang. 'I'm just in love with you right now.' says Paula. So at the halfway mark, we have one singer that I like, one singer that was good but I thought was better earlier, and two guys who are forgettable.

Meosha is next. One of her highlights was being corrected by a vocal coach. That's not exactly a vote of confidence. She sings 'How can I live without you?' She wasn't really in tune and it wasn't as good as either of the females performances. The judges agree. 'I think you walked out there as a loser, and I think that comes into the So What? Category.' that comes from Simon - and he's right on the money.

Contestant #6 is Bettis - and he's hoping that he doesn't burp, fart, or trip. 'My confidence is back, and I'm ready to impress the judges - and America too.' He sings 'Thank You', which was made popular by Boyz II Men. Wayyyy too much choreography and movement for me - but the song is solid and has a lot of energy, which makes him the best male singer so far. Unfortunately, that doesn't say much and once again, this is another male who is about to be hammered by the judges. Randy - 'I did not enjoy you vocally at all - I was waiting for it to end.' Paula agrees with Randy. Simon - 'Bettis, I think you blew it - big time.'

Charles BGrigsby is next - and he tells Simon that he's ready for him. Charles actually picked a good song for his vocal range - 'Overjoyed' by Stevie Wonder - but he's not 100% on pitch either. Randy liked it, and so did Paula and Simon. 'You did very very good - well done.' says Simon. He is the best of the male singers, in terms of the total package - but I was not impressed with any of the male singers performances tonight.

Julia DeMato is the last contestant for the evening. If she was so nervous that she had to write the lyrics to the song on her hands, how is she going to be able to handle this? She tries to put some closure between the fight between her and Kimberly Caldwell by saying, 'We're friends now...there's no more out, Simon.'. She sings 'Son of a Preacher Man.' Not as much energy as Trenyce, but she is in tune and she's got a sweet voice for this. Paula is happy, but Randy thought that it wasn't special - he wasn't moved. Simon? 'I think this contest has proven that the girls are much bitchier than the guys.' He thought that she sung better previously, but that she did a good job. I'll have to agree with that.

I don't think any of their singers brought their 'A' game tonight. I'm probably still being cranky here. I think the 2 in this group who should get the nod are Trenyce and Julia DeMato (with Kimberly Caldwell as the third person). But it's not up to me (well, it's partially up to me, since I voted), but it's up to you guys. We'll be back tomorrow with the results, but in the meantime, have fun voting!

February 5, 2003 - Gordon Pepper

We are at the first night of the day after the first set of auditions. Ryan is back, the judges are back, the contestants are all in the same room as the audiences, and the contestant's families are all in the Red Room.

We get a flashback of the good singing, the bad singing, and the angry parents. We also get to see the American Idol viewing party, where we Julia and Kim as far away from each other as humanly possible - although they SAY that they made up (yeah, right, ok, and I have a bridge to sell you).

We go to the eight singers - and once again Julia is in the top row and Kim is on the bottom. Sure they made up. We start with Trenyce - and she is not in the top three, which surprised me. Patrick is next, and not surprisingly, he doesn't get in.

Julia is next - and America thinks that she deserves to be in the top three. Kim actually gives her a standing ovation as she sits into the final three pedestals.

Bettis is next, and he does not make the final three. Kimberly, however does make the final three, and she joins Julia on the pedestals. Ryan continues to talk to the group and I don't hear any chairs breaking or fists landing, so I guess the girls are OK for now...

Back to the contestants - Meosha gets her heart broken by America as she does not make the final three. That leaves J.D. Adams and Charles Grigsby. We'll see who is the third person...after we see Terry Tate knock the stuffing out of some streaker and see a dumb movie about men streaking and cars streaking around a track. Do we sense a theme here?

Kim is sooo playing to the camera 'We're not thinking about ourselves, just thinking about each other...and thank you America' says Kim, as she waves to the camera. The third person selected is Charles, and he is shocked.

We then go see what the judges pick. Both Randy and Paula say Kimberly and Patrick will advance, while Simon says that Kimberly and J.D. should advance. Randy and Paula are trying to be nice in saying that the singers sang well, but leave it to Simon to sprinkle in a little reality check to the group.

'I thought the show was dismal, overall, in terms of talent...Sorry guys, based on last night's performances, you're not good enough at the moment to come back for the Wild Card show, and for any contestants watching who are coming on next week, I really think us and America are expecting you to do better. We said the bar is being raised, we're looking for originality, and for the two of you who go through, I'm expecting as are these two are, a Hell of a lot better, because I'm telling you what, if it's the same performances next week, there's going to be fireworks...I mean it - you've got t raise your game.'

So who did America thought had their game raised? America has spoke, and the person who comes in first is...CHARLES GRIGSBY! I am somewhat surprised, but he was the best male singer of the four males that performed on Monday, so I can't really disagree with that. I would have stuck him in the top four (with Kim as the fourth). Charles gets to sing a reprise of 'Overjoyed', which he no doubt apparently is.

So which woman will be joining her? It surprises me that one of the women will not be going on (though I do expect that the woman who doesn't get in here will be seen again in the Wild Card round). I expect that the woman who advances will be Julia, for 2 reasons; 1. Julia had the better performance, and 2. Kimberly was portrayed as a real b!tch during the prelims, and I think her being nasty to Julia (the ultimate underdog) is going to cost her dearly.

So back to Ryan. He polls the judges - and they all stay with their predictions of Kimberly. Ryan announces that the woman who came in second is - JULIA DEMATO!! Kimberly hugs her. Awwwwwwwbarf. Julia sings a reprise of Son of a Preacher Man, and while she's doing that, Kim is crying in the background. You know what they say about that nasty Karma thing coming back to get you, Kim.

Kim gets to sing a reprise of 'Come to My Window', and she invites the rest of the group to sing with her. She is really flat and off this time - but what can you expect. I'd rather be throwing the microphone at Ryan. The rest of the outcasts sing - and they are so off that you know why they didn't get picked. They sing warbly off until we get to the fade out.

Next week - Candice Coleman, Jacob John Smalley, Jennifer Fuentes, Clay Aiken, Hadas, Kimberley Locke, Ruben Stoddard and Rebecca Bond will be the next 8 that get to be judged by you. I'll be seeing you guys on Tuesday with my input.

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