Wednesday's "American Idol" premiere was all
about the judges. But now that it's been quickly and firmly established that Jennifer Lopez is tolerable, Randy Jackson is disposable, and Steven Tyler is THE COOLEST PERSON ON THE PLANET
, on Thursday the producers' and viewers' attention turned to the contestants. You know, the people who may potentially win this thing.
And you know who's probably gonna win this thing? A geek. A nerd. An outcast. Someone who's been bullied and teased all his/her young life and has turned to music for solace. Seriously, perhaps not since Clay Aiken or "pen salesman" Jon Peter Lewis had I seen such promisingly, likably dorky contestants on "Idol" as I did on Thursday's New Orleans episode. You know that "It Gets Better" campaign? Well, life is about to get a whole lot better for some sweet downtrodden kid in America, thanks to "Idol"--and that kid's name just might be Brett Loewenstern or Jacee Badeaux.
More on those two in a second. First, I do want to acknowledge the irony that a show famous for viciously bullying and ridiculing auditioners for the better part of a decade now seems to be openly championing goofy kids like these. But this is a kinder, gentler, post-Simon "Idol," you know. The resident alpha-bully judge is gone. I honestly wonder how Simon Cowell would have critiqued some of these oddballs if he were still on the show, but luckily, the new judging panel gave them a chance.
So here are the singers, geeky or otherwise, who really stood out for me in New Orleans:
Brett Loewenstern - OK, now we've got a competition on our hands, people. Mark my words, all of America--girlies, grandmas, Gleeks--will fall in love with this little hippie with the headful of dreams and Raggedy Andy ringlets. A self-described "red apple in a pile of green apples," this effeminate, 16-year-old Robbie Nevil doppelganger and bully target proudly positioned himself as a role model for any high school misfit, lispily declaring: "You should just be happy with yourself no matter what, because there's only one life to live." Preach on, Brett! Then he charmed the panel with a quirky and surprisingly confident rendition of Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody." So, basically, Brett Loewenstern for the win. That's all there's left to say.
Jacee Badeaux - A beneficiary of "Idol's" newly lowered age limit, this chubby, unassuming 15-year-old with the rosy Campbell's Soup Kid cheeks and Bieber bowlcut walked in looking like Justin Bieber's plus-sized, much-younger brother...then quickly proved he's got more talent in his bangs than Bieber probably has in his entire body. He oozed old-soul Southern charm and even a little bit of swagger during his smooth cover of Otis Redding's "Sittin' On the Dock Of The Bay," and while his voice was not the biggest and boomiest of the bunch, the kid showed potential and was impossible not to like. As Tyler put it, this boy's got a "double helping of ooh-yeah." That's a good thing, I think.
Sarah Sellers - This season's postergirl for geek chic, a blonde Lisa Loeb type who's a music/food blogger by day, Sarah actually bonded with Steven immediately over their similar luscious lips. Seriously, this chick looked like a long-lost Tyler relative, with that puffy pucker of hers. "Where did you get those lips?" cooed Steven, flirting in a manner so inappropriate that even disgraced ex-contestant Corey Clark would disapprove. "You had me from the second you laid eyes on me." Luckily, Sarah had Randy and Jennifer the second she opened those beestung lips and sang. She exuded a supercool nerdy-girl vibe, and J.Lo even said she possessed one of the best voices in the Big Easy. And sure enough, Sarah and her lips scored an easy ticket to Hollywood. I like this girl and hope she'll go far.
Jordan Dorsey - OK, so it wasn't all about the geeks this evening. There was also this model-handsome Southern gentleman. Honestly, when this music teacher admitted to being tough on his students, I thought it was all a setup--I thought he was going to sound horrific, and then when faced with a tough critique, he'd throw a tantrum and prove that he can dish it out but not take it. Well, it turns out Jordan has been justified in holding his pupils to such a high standard. The man, plain and simple, can sing. Jordan's velvety, jazzy cover of "Somewhere Over The Rainbow" was impressive enough to give J.Lo "goosebumps all over my body," and if Jordan can do that, then he might be a real heartthrob this season.
Jovany Barreto - This showoff actually kind of bugged me--he shouted his Luis Miguel tune, he didn't really sing it. But he deserves a mention for "bringing the Cuban flavor"--which, specifically, meant ripping off his shirt to flaunt his Situation-style abs in front of his goddess, J.Lo. (Apparently Jovany must've thought he was on the New Jersey "Idol" episode from the previous night. Fist pump!) This daring act, in turn, prompted Steven and Randy to also bare their chests. Ack! My eyes, my eyes! My lunch! Oh my, this was not a pretty sight, people. But it was a funny one.
Paris Tassin - Honestly, I'm already getting a little tired of the sob stories on this show. We're only two episodes in, and already there's been a recovered wheelchair kid, a Kosovo refugee, a Bronx-bred homeless boy, and the daughter of a cancer dad. But Paris's tale was a doozy of especially Gokey-esque proportions. The young single mom of a special-needs child not expected to live past birth, Paris had a back story that "Idol" producers milked dry, so of course there wasn't a dry eye on the set by the episode's end. And when she warbled Carrie Underwood's five-hanky tearjerker "Temporary Home" and cried out, "I do it for my daughter, because I want to teach her to go for your dreams!"--well, that thawed out even my jaded journalist heart and, more importantly, it made ice queen J.Lo cry. "When you sang, I felt it. It brought a tear to my eye," Jennifer sighed. Jen even went out of her way to meet and hug Paris's five-year-old daughter after the auditions. Aw. Paris was not the best singer ever on the show, but she was good enough, and she's the kind of contestant America roots for. The kind of contestant who wants and needs this bad. She'll probably go far, so keep the Kleenex box nearby this season.
So there you have it. Who will prevail--slick charmers like Jordan Dorsey and Jovany Barreto, lovable geeks like Brett Lowenstern and Jacee Badeaux, or this year's token single-mom sympathy case? Well, they all have good shots, and of course, there are several more weeks of auditions ahead. But for now, I'm betting my Yahoo! paycheck on Brett. To loosely borrow his catchphrase, I think he's got this.
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