Tonight the American Idol audition process moved on to Orlando, home of the Disney World "Idol Experience" attraction (where I plan to take my next vacation, of course). It's the place where "dreams come true," according to Ryan Seacrest. So presumably, this should have been the city in which many prospective Idols were discovered. But of the 10,000 or so Orlando hopefuls wishing on a star tonight, I considered most of them to be just Mickey Mouse also-rans.
In addition to this sad lack of real attention-grabbing talent, I was also a little disappointed by tonight's guest judge, Kristin Chenoweth. Now, I love me some Kristin (as does Kara DioGuardi, apparently, since she and Kristin acted like instant BFFs on the show tonight). And actually, as tonight's episode kicked off, I thought Kristin was doing GREAT. But then she just disappeared. She was "called back to New York," and therefore did not participate in day two of the auditions. This was a letdown after her amusing comments during the first half-hour of tonight's episode, before Kristin went M.I.A. Why did the producers even bother to recruit her for the show, if she couldn't attend both audition days? I wanted to hear more from Kristin, but it was not meant to be. Sigh. Maybe next time, as her Glee song goes...
As for the people we did hear a lot from this evening--the auditioners, that is--as I alluded to in my opening paragraph, none of them really made much of an impression on me. Many of them were just coasting on their sob stories, an annoying new phenomenon I call the Gokey Effect, or maybe the MacIntyre Effect: Every since Danny Gokey captured the hearts of America with his tragic tale of widower-hood, and the visually impaired Scott MacIntyre defied all odds and made the top 10, it seems like the Idol producers believe every contestant has to have some horrific, sympathy-garnering back story in order to appeal to the masses. It's apparently no longer enough for people on this show to simply be talented singers and charismatic entertainers--no, NOW they all must be terminally ill orphans living in their cars with broods of fatherless special-needs children and ailing elderly relatives, too. And even if a contestant's sob story is more run-of-the-mill than that (parents are divorced, grandmother is getting up there in years, whatever), the producers will still craftily edit the show to make it seem like that contestant's depressing existence is fodder for a Lifetime Movie Of The Week anyway. It's all getting a little ridiculous, and despite my sincere sympathy for some of the auditioners who've led genuinely hard lives and overcome real adversity (like last night's Angela Martin), I still think all this maudlin melodrama is distracting viewers from the original purpose of this show: to find a singing superstar.
Just let these people sing! I thought Orlando was supposed to be the happiest place on earth! Stop depressing me, Fox, and let Idol be the escapist entertainment it's intended to be.
Anyway, here are the standout people who sang tonight--sob stories and all. Where's General Larry Platt when ya need him?
THROUGH TO HOLLYWOOD:
Seth Rollins - Cue the violins. Seth is a Michael Sarverian everyman, a likable father of two. And one of those two happens to be a kid with autism. So of course Seth got a lot of screen time tonight, with a serious situation like that. He did showcase a pleasant enough voice on his audition song, Frank Sinatra's "Someone To Watch Over Me," which was so smooth and soothing it had Kara and Kristin swaying in trance-like unison. Kristin appreciated the way Seth modernized the classic ballad; Kara told him, "I want to keep hearing you"; and Simon Cowell told him, "You know who you are." Randy Jackson was the lone dissenter, saying he craved more "vibe" from the somewhat bland Seth. I sided most with Randy here, but it was no surprise to me that Seth made it through (even Randy eventually said yes). I just hope he--or, should I say, more accurately, the Idol producers--don't exploit Seth's kid to gain audience sympathy. (The way the autistic son bawled in the audition waiting room, while the cameras swooped in, kind of bothered me.)
Shelby Dressel - Another sympathy case, this 18-year-old has a partially paralyzed face due to a childhood nerve condition. This made her a little shy during her audition, but she was brave and kept on singing...until she forgot the words to Norah Jones' "Turn Me On" and nervously yelled out an expletive. Normally Simon HATES it when a singer forgets lyrics, it's the kiss of death--but of course in Shelby's case, he made an exception. Simon was instead all smiles, and the other judges thought her swearing fit was the most delightful part of her audition. And so, she got through. I do wonder if the judges would have been so amused, and so forgiving, if Shelby didn't have her facial condition, a condition that made her nervousness more understandable and sympathetic. But the girl could sing, so she might shine during Hollywood Week if her nerves (seriously, NO pun intended) calm down. But no more swearing, Shelby. This is a family-friendly show!
Jermaine Purifoy - Jermaine was my personal favorite among those who got golden tickets tonight. A repeat auditioner from season 7, his performance of "Smile" was lovely. He oozed that all-important quality, likability ("Smile" was a superb choice for him, because he sure had a nice and inviting grin)--and there was a lot to like about his creamy voice, too. Randy said this was his favorite audition of the season so far, and gave Jermaine a trademark "2 bazillion percent yes!" Kara praised Jermaine's honesty and believability, and Simon pointed out the very crucial fact that "chicks will like you." The success of some past attractive male contestants (Davids Archuleta and Cook, Blake Lewis, and of course last season's Kris Allen and Adam Lambert) proves that the female demographic's vote is often key in this competition. So ladies, get your speed-dialing fingers ready now.
Jay Stone - Grrrr. This guy made me so mad. He came in all cocky, beatboxing through the Beatles' "Come Together," and claimed that he was bringing something new and different to this competition. Then I got even angrier when Randy pointed out that there'd been "some guy a couple seasons ago" who also beatboxed. Um, some guy? Hello? It was Blake Lewis, who went all the way to the season 6 finale and sold more than 300,000 copies of his debut album on BMG/19 Recordings. Blake's beatboxed interpretation of Bon Jovi's "You Give Love A Bad Name" in season 6 is also widely considered to be one of the best Idol performances of all time. So how could Randy forget him so easily? Then Jay proceeded to alienate all of the Blake fans who might've voted for him by dissing Blake's skillz. (Oh no he didn't!) Jay Stone, I know Blake Lewis. Blake Lewis is a friend of mine. You, sir, are no Blake Lewis. You give beatboxing a bad name.
Cornelius Edwards - Talk about a split decision! The judges laughingly let this buffoon through after he executed a split during his performance of the Tina Turner version of "Proud Mary" and split his pants in the process. I'm still unsure about Cornelius's voice, but any guy who learned his stage moves from his lady friends in "adult entertainment" gets my vote. This guy is going to be a hoot in Hollywood, I bet. I hope there's a stripper pole on the stage set up just for him.
The Desimone Sisters - Ugh. These Jersey girls were more annoying than last week's "Dit Sisters" (who, unlike the Desimones, were not real-life siblings). I would have preferred Jersey Shore's Snooki and JWoww to make it through tonight, if the show was going to take this route. Of these two brash bombshells, blonde older sister Bernadette (who sassed her way through "Hit The Road, Jack") was slightly superior, but her little sis Amanda (who performed Whitney Houston's "I Wanna Dance With Somebody" while Bernadette cheered her on) got a golden ticket as well. I think these two will, like Cornelius, be fun in Hollywood...but I am not so sure I want to see them advance after that.
Matt Lawrence - This regular dude was suspensefully set up to be the biggest sob story of the night (he sang last, in the "pimp spot"), positioned as a man in search of "redemption" via a reality show. He then proceeded to talk about his wild 'n' crazy teenhood and the mistakes he made as a dumb kid, and I expected him to rattle off a list of the usual juvenile delinquent transgressions: you know, ditching school, getting bad grades, breaking curfew, maybe smoking a little grass under the football bleachers. But no. This guy...ROBBED A BANK WITH A BB GUN AT AGE 15. Whaaaat? Now, I'm not saying a person shouldn't be forgiven for one's mistakes, and Matt did seem truly contrite. But some previous Idol contestants were eliminated when their far less serious skeletons were uncloseted (most infamously, Frenchie Davis in season 2, when it was learned that she once posed for topless photos--a much more victimless crime than, say, BANK ROBBERY WITH A BB GUN). So why is this guy being held up as some sort of sympathetic all-American hero now? Anyway, Matt's cover of Ray Lamontagne's "Trouble" (definitely a fittingly autobiographical song choice) was decent enough, although I actually think Taylor Hicks did a better version of it in season 5. And Taylor Hicks never ROBBED A BANK WITH A BB GUN!
IT'S A NO, DAWG:
Theo Glinton - Theo for the win! If a Blake-wannabe beatboxer, a pants-ripper, a bank robber, and an obnoxious sister act got through tonight, then why not this glittery caped crusader with the Lady-Gaga-on-a-budget makeup (what a poker face on this guy!) and aspirations of becoming a hair salon entrepreneur? Theo (who fabulously and fiercely, if atonally, shouted his way through Pat Benatar's "Heartbreaker") was also a one-man quote machine, saying he was "like a microwave dinner" and predicting, "If I don't win, then I am definitely gonna be in the bottom three." Sadly, neither of those dreams will come true for Theo, as the judges turned him down. Gawd, it continually amazes me this season how Simon and company are missing opportunities to cast the new Norman Gentle. Theo Glinton could have been Vote For The Worst's 2010 posterboy! Simon instead advised Theo to pursue his hair salon dreams. Oh well. Theo, you can style my hair (or better yet, do my makeup) anytime.
Jarrod Norrell - This sociopath sang "Amazing Grace" in an ingratiating attempt to "give it up to God." Well, when it came time to dole out the good singing voices, God clearly forsook this fellow. "A wretch like me," indeed! Jarrod actually sang like he was possessed by the Devil, so he didn't get a golden ticket. He didn't take this rejection with much grace, amazing or otherwise, and he threw such a fit that he was eventually escorted out by security in handcuffs. Perhaps he should have auditioned with "Jailhouse Rock." Or Creed's "My Own Prison." Or Tool's "Prison Sex." You get the idea: The man was arrested. Maybe Matt Lawrence can give Jarrod some tips on how to handle himself behind bars. [UPDATE: TMZ is reporting that Jarrod wasn't really arrested, and cops let him go once cameras stopped rolling.]
And that's all, folks. Come back next Tuesday to find out what happens at the L.A. auditions, when literally everyone will be "through to Hollywood."