For the millions of fans who put Jordin
Sparks on the radio last year, they’re the four words that you’ve been
waiting seven long months to hear. THIS... is “American Idol!”
We start, as always, with the biggest round
of auditions ever devised for television. From all the bodies, only one
will win a recording contract worth a million dollars and the chance to
become a superstar.
And the search begins, quite appropriately
enough, in the birthplace of the cheesesteak. Welcome to Philadelphia,
home of the first American museum, library, daily paper, and of America
itself. Will we find the next Will Smith? The next Boyz II Men? The next
Az Yet? Or are things just going to get a little... “Rocky”?
PHILADELPHIA, PA – Wachovia Center
Of course you know these three, producer
extraordinaire and former bassist for Journey Randy “the Dawgfather”
Jackson, Grammy-award winning singer/dancer/choreographer Paula Abdul,
and international media mogul (he paid me to say that... no he didn’t)
Season 7 begins with Joey Catalano (19; Mays
Landing, NJ), who lost about an entire person before doing this (204
lbs). He’s still the same inside. There’s something in him that’s on
fire. His piece for the judges is Maroon5’s “Sunday Morning”. Randy
thought it was pleasant. Simon thought his voice was great, but is he
the American Idol? THROUGH TO HOLLYWOOD, 3-0. Good start, there.
A patriotic crowd has shown up, and Alaa
“Yuka” Youakeem (25; Jersey City, NJ) is about as American as it gets...
for a guy from Egypt. He loves the Bee Gees. He also loves American
girls, and wants to save himself for someone he can love from head to
nipple. His words. And apparently he has a sexy face. Does he have a
sexy voice? He tries out “How Deep Is Your Love”. And everything Joey
was before... this guy isn’t. Paula is impressed by the way he learned
the song. She appreciates the work. But this isn’t the competition for
him... because... well, no one actually fields that one.
Melanie Nyema (26; Los Angeles, CA) shared a
stage with Taylor Hicks (singing backup). She sings Natasha
Bedingfield’s “Unwritten”. And we have our first strong female presence.
Paula likes everything about her. Simon is neither here or there. Randy
likes it, so she’s THROUGH TO HOLLYWOOD, 2-1.
James Lewis (22) is hoping to keep things
going in the right direction. He has a history of doing that as a tour
guide. He likens himself to Eddie Vedder, and says his specialty is
anything low. “Go Down Moses” is about as low as it gets, both tonally
and morally. Judges can’t stop laughing. That’s definitely not a good
sign. Appropriately enough, he sings “I’ll Fly Away”. Please do.
Lunch time, and as we see the famous crack
in the Liberty Bell, we hear another crack, the voices of Nick Stano
(22; Massillon, OH), Sybill White (16), Zhengzhong Yu (20; Guilderland,
NY), and Junot Joyner (25; Bowie, MD), but in the latter case, it’s
actually a decent crack in the armor of suck that seems to be outfitting
the city of brotherly love. Simon says it’s good. Good enough to go
THROUGH TO HOLLYWOOD.
Following him to the Wood are Jose
Candelaria (23; Bayonne, NJ) with “Regresa a Mi (Unbreak My Heart)” by
Il Divo and Jonathan Baines (17; Smyrna, DE) with “A Little More You” by
Little Big Town.
Golden tickets are flying out of here. Will
Temptress Browne (16) take one? She’s a middle linebacker. Seriously.
She’s doing this for her mother, because she’s very sick and it’s hard
for her to breathe. (C-Note: Already, I’m rooting for her, personally).
She sings “I’m Not Going Anywhere” by Jennifer Hudson. Personally, give
her a few years for her voice to mature. Simon: “You are a sweetheart
and I like you... You’re not a great singer.” It’s a three-way no. But
she does get a group hug out of it. So it’s not a total loss.
Mark Hayes (18; Folsom, NJ) can do a cricket
noise as a heckle. After hearing his rendition of “White Christmas,” ...
well, it’s called karma, dude.
Next is Udgeet “Udi” Sampat (28, Horsham),
who incorporates music into his job as an auto financier as a means of
motivation. He dresses up like MC Hammer. Already, hopes are not high.
He tries out “My Way” by Frank... Stick to your day job. Simon: “Did you
honestly think you had any chance of getting through and winning?” He
did. “Well, you’re nuts.”
“I Love Rock’n’Roll” fake-audition montage.
Real auditions continue with Alexis Cohen
(23, Allentown), who loves to sparkle. She likes her look. She thinks
“Allentown” was written by Bon Jovi (lucky this isn’t Jeopardy!). She
lives in a one-room apartment with her mom, where she studies to be a
vet and is an artist. “Always have true faith, and always be victorious”
is her mantra. “Somebody to Love” by Jefferson Airplane is her audition.
I think she overcooked it myself to the point of the pitch bending.
Simon thought it was possessed. He suggests being a vet or, as Randy
would put it, the leader of a 60s cover band. 0-for-3 on their judgment.
And she takes it with all the maturity warranted for the situation.
“Simon didn’t like me, but he’s a big fat bad-word. Very-very-bad-word.”
She then goes on to call him a (^_^) and moon the camera while Simon
compares her to Willem Dafoe. She says she’ll leave here with her
dignity. Right before she gives the camera the finger, so... yeah, so
much for that. Good luck with your “actressing.”
Hour 2 begins with more golden tickets...
and more cute kids and moms. Angela Martin (26; Chicago, IL) is both.
Her daughter has Retts Syndrome, like cerebral palsy. This was a
development after two years of age. She wouldn’t be where she is without
her family and friends. This is for them more than anyone. Fame has
nothing to do with this. She has her own band (she plays bar mitzvahs).
She sings “Signed, Sealed, Delivered, I’m Yours” by Stevie. Reminds me
of Fantasia. That’s a good thing, by the way. Simon thought it was a
good audition, but filled with bad wedding-band habits. She’s also very
infectious. Angela... three yeses... THROUGH TO HOLLYWOOD.
And down goes Seacrest.
The next day in the Illadelph begins with
the crowd joining in one of the man GSNN mantras: spreading the love.
We’re off to the races with Alyse Wojciechowski (20; Havertown), who
dances like the drunk girl at a party and sings like Lauryn Hill, Alicia
Keys, and Regina Spektor... allegedly. She sings Michael Buble’s
“Feeling Good”. It’s a little bipolar. Simon thought it was identical to
a nightmare he had a week before doing this. Nightmare continues with
Teresa Anello (22; Sewell, NJ) and Brandi Park (25; Chandler, AZ).
Meanwhile, Milo Turk (39; Absecon, NJ),
despite being overage, balding, and not even stickered, is trying to get
into the toughest room with a song called “No Sex Allowed”. I’ll leave
it to you to determine all the things that are wrong with that last
Next is Kristy Lee Cook (23; Selma, OR), who
lives in a log cabin, loves camping, rides and trains horses, and looks
freaking hot. She had to sell her horse to get to Philadelphia. Oh yeah,
and she trains for cage fighting. She sings “Amazing Grace”. Apparently
she doesn’t need to throw a punch to knock out the judges. Simon is
reminded of the 60s in a good way. Paula loves her control. Three votes
say yes, and Kristy Lee is THROUGH TO HOLLYWOOD.
“Family Guy: Blue Harvest” is out on DVD.
That’s relevant, because Ben Harr goes into the judges room dressed as
Princess Leia from “Episode 6”. He says that his chest hair is
distracting, and decides to take a minute to do something about it.
Meanwhile, we get the frightening likes of Pedro Rivera (19), Shekhina
Bathyehuda (29), and others who are free to use their free speech to
freely express the phrase “(^_^) American Idol”.
Next up, Paul Marturano (32; New Hope, PA).
The only thing you need to know is that he wrote a song about stalking
Paula Abdul, breaking into her house, and putting on her underwear.
You know something, an hour into this, and
for what we’ve heard about instruments, I haven’t seen any.
From one stalker to another. Time to meet
Beth Stalker (28; Grand Blanc, MI). She’s a stay-at-home mother/club
singer who cut a record when she was 4 as “Little Liz”. She sings
“Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered”. Now she’s no Ella, but she does
take me back to that. But she’d have a problem standing out. Paula’s the
decider... 2-1... and she’s THROUGH TO HOLLYWOOD.
Ben Harr is back in the same get up... but
with less hair. He took it all off for American Idol, and he tries out
with “Don’t’cha” by PCD. He’s one bar in before we give him the hook.
Hey, say no to crack, man. “All because that fat lump wants to be on
For Chris Watson (20; Dover, DE), it’s more
than just TV. He wants to be a legend 30 to 40 years on. He likes a
little bit of everything. He sings “Follow Me” by Uncle Kracker. Simon
thought it was pretty good, and that he both looks and sounds like a
star. Randy says he can afford to take a few chances. Paula feels good
about him, so hey, he’s THROUGH TO HOLLYWOOD.
Auditions went downhill from there.
We’re down to two girls, Christina Tolisano
(24; Enfield, CT), a Star Wars fangirl who wants to be a corrections
officer. “If you don’t know this hairstyle (C-Note: the... uh...
thing... from, uh... that one guy who was wearing the jazz a few minutes
ago... did we mention that “Blue Harvest” was on DVD?), then you’ve been
living on the other side of some M-class planet on Star Trek somewhere.
She sings the Roger Daltrey version of “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on
Me”. Seems like she’s trying to do a lot with not much. Randy: “That was
a strange audition,” in both the audition and the costume. She thinks
they need a goofball. They do, not going to get it here, though. “Give
my love to the Wookiee.”
Love, your Leia bun fell out again.
On the other hand, we have Brooke White (24;
Van Nuys, CA). She could be the goofball we’re looking for. She’s a
nanny. A singing nanny. Something interesting about her: she’s never
seen an R-rated movie, drank or smoked. Her OR her husband. She sings
“Like a Star” by Corrine Bailey Rae. Very wonderfully. I think we’ve
found the Philadelphia goofball. Randy and Simon think that she’s
genuine. Simon hopes to drag her kicking and screaming into the dark
side. (Brooke: “I dare you.”). It ends with Brooke being put THROUGH TO
HOLLYWOOD along with 28 others.
And Christina Tolisano has one more bunch of
sour-grapes for whoever will bother to listen.
And so our coverage of AI7 begins. Here’s an
January 15 – The auditions begin... Dude,
you just read it
February 12 – We separate the good and the great, and the final 24 to
the rest of the great in the dreaded Hollywood Round
February 19 – The Semis begin with the final 24
March 6 – The final 12 is revealed, and so is a little wrinkle in our
annual Fantasy Idol competition. We'll let you know what it is when we
March 11 - The road to the Kodak begins with the final 12.
May 21 - After five months of watching,
three months of voting, and 1 hour and 55 minutes of filler, the next
American Idol is crowned.
We’ll leave Philadelphia and look to the
home of the very first American Idol Dallas tomorrow with these words of
wisdom. Star Trek... Star Wars... a Time Lord cares not about these