The auditions are almost over! The auditions are almost over! Huzzah! I don't know about you, but I've never been so ready for the Idol contestants to get through to Hollywood, already, than I have been this season. Season 8's auditions haven't exactly blown my mind, as few of them have been truly mind-blowingly bad and even fewer of them have been truly mind-blowingly great. I've been counting the episodes till Hollywood Week, and after tonight's auditions in both New York and Puerto Rico (packaged together under some sort of feeble West Side Story theme), I won't have to keep count anymore! The auditions will finally be over. In Simon Cowell's words, brilliant.
First up, in San Juan, was Adeola Adegoke, claiming she was (speaking of combo packages) Mariah Carey and Mary J. Blige all wrapped into one. She was so sure of her Mary/Mariah magic, in fact, that she'd already quit her paying job, assuming she'd soon been heading to Hollywood. So then she auditioned with the big Dreamgirls ballad "And I Am Telling You," and it was more like Nightmaregirls. And I am telling you, it was awful. Or, as Simon put it, "shockingly bad." Never before had an Idol judge spoken so literally than when Kara DioGuardi advised, "Keep your day job." Simon asked Adeola if she'd actually already submitted her resignation letter to her day job, and when she said yes, I imagined some sort of Three's Company-style wacky sitcom caper, with the judges helping Adeola sneak into her ex-boss's office in the middle of the night to snatch the still-unopened letter out of the inbox.
That wasn't necessary, as Simon showed a moment of actual human-ness, for a change--feeling so bad that Adeola had walked away from a stable job in these tough economic times that he actually got Adeola's former boss on the phone and begged for the reinstatement of Adeola's gig. Luckily, the boss said yes, and so Adeola had a slightly happier ending than some other rejected contestants. Let her story serve as an example for all aspiring auditioners: It's always wise to have a backup plan.
Jorge Nunez auditioned next with a Spanish-language version of Frank Sinatra's "My Way" and an English-language version of Louis Armstrong's "What A Wonderful World." He sounded more comfortable singing his native tongue, but there was some definite potential here, in any language, and so he made it through.
Another contestant who seemed to have potential, based on her previous track record, was Jessika Baier, who'd supposedly won a whopping 700 singing contests (including chances for her to sing at the Rose Bowl and open for Drake Bell and Corbin Bleu in concert), and had in fact won a contest that provided her with the trip to audition for Idol in San Juan. But of course, the biggest contest of all, in the whole country, is American Idol, and it turned out that's one contest Jessika will never win. She sang a painfully shrill, histrionic rendition of Celine Dion's "I Surrender" (I'm talking shrill and histrionic by Celine Dion standards, here), and when she belted, "I SURREEEENNNNDDDEERRRRRR!!!" Simon replied, "So do we!" She argued with the judges for about 10 even more shrill, histrionic minutes after they told her no, but in the end Jessika finally found out what it felt like to lose a competition.
Cutting back over to New York (weird bi-city editing tonight, very disconcerting--forgive me if I forget who auditioned where at this point), Melinda Camille was ready to give it a go, psyching herself up with a bunch of hippie-dippie-trippy affirmations. "I want to uplift humanity to a place of love," she gushed ethereally. "There's a shift going on in the universe, and I want to be a part of it." She also mentioned, repeatedly, that she enjoys dancing naked in her bedroom and would like to join a nudist colony (well, that's one way to one-up Bikini Girl), although I must say she looked very nice fully clothed in her pretty pink maxidress. I expected after all this new-ageiness she'd be some kookoo mess once she actually auditioned, but her performance of the standard "Feeling Good" was a feelgood moment indeed. Maybe she imagined the judges naked and it helped her keep calm. (Simon suggested she envision Randy Jackson in the buff, but the very thought of that was enough to scare me into muteness, Tommy-style.) Whatever Melinda's secret was, this "happy little thing" (Kara's words) was through to Hollywood. Maybe she'll be the show's first Nudist Idol. Let's just hope no pics of her in her birthday suit end up on the Interweb, lest there be another Antonella Barba/Frenchie Davis-esque scandal this season.
Bloozy rocker chick Jackie auditioned next with a slightly scattershot interpretation of Jason Mraz's "I'm Yours," but she had a nice husky tone to her voice (sexy-husky, like prime-era Kathleen Turner, not lung-hacking husky like Patty & Selma from The Simpsons), and so she got her golden ticket. I have a feeling this girl might be this year's Amanda Overmyer, minus the skunk-stripe, bugeyes, and pleather pants.
Comic relief then arrived in the form of Joel, the "Human iPod," a dude who pulled out all the stops to get attention--a giant cardboard iPod costume, a lion puppet, a Danny Noriega haircut--yeah, he had everything. Everything, that is, except a good voice. But hey, he got his YouTubeable, Soup/Best Week Ever-worthy 15 seconds of fame, and I have a feeling that was all he really wanted, judging by the silly way he sprinted out of the audition room chanting and cheering, "It's a no!! It's a no!!" as if he'd won the Lotto.
Far funnier was Norman Gentle, aka Nick Mitchell, a cabaret comic in a terrycloth sweatband and shiny Night At The Roxbury shirt who sang his own drag-queenly version of "And I Am Telling You," pulled crazy faces during "Amazing Grace," and even managed to do what few contestants have done before: put Simon in his place and get in the last word. I admit it, Norman/Nick was hilarious. Stoopid, but hilarious. Kara was "so entertained," in fact, that she was willing to put him through, even though she knew he had "no chance in hell." And then PAULA said yes. And...then...RANDY said yes. And so, somehow Norman/Nick actually got a golden ticket, while Simon, Ryan Seacrest, and undoubtedly millions of TV viewers looked on in abject horror. But I was actually delighted. Sure, I agree with Kara that this wackjob has no real shot, but I cannot WAIT to see him flounder during Hollywood Week. He's certainly going to keep things interesting.
A couple montages--one of good contestants, one of not-so-good ones--followed, but I admit none of them made much of an impression on me, as I was still reeling from the Norman Gentle Experience. Then sweet-16 Monique Garcia Torres showed up, toting along her own gimmick/good-luck charm: her cute-as-heck little 9-year-old brother, Christopher. He was more interesting than she was, honestly--presenting the judges with a shell as a present, confidently talking up his sister like her was her Ari Gold-style agent, giving her singing advice--but unfortunately he's still a few years away from the minimum contestant age, so he couldn't be on the show. Monique was easily upstaged by him, so much so that she almost didn't make it (Randy and Kara said no), but Paula was charmed (probably more by Christopher than by Monique herself), and even Simon could not resist, casting the deciding vote in Monique's favor. Oh brother!
Last up in New York was Alexis Cohen, aka Glitter Girl, the crazy anger-management-class flunky from last year and one of Idol's all-time most memorable sore losers. I was a little bummed to see Alexis return as a kinder, gentler version of her former furious self, all Buddhist-chanting and yoga-practicing and hand-shaking and baby-kissing. Who wants to see that? All I want to see from Glitter Girl is profanity-laden tantrums. Well, maybe her attitude had improved, but her voice had not. Her version of "Like A Prayer" didn't have a prayer of pleasing the judges, and thankfully when they rejected her for a second time, she started swearing and flipping Simon the bird like the old Alexis I know and love (and fear). At least that made for some good TV tonight.
The final successful audition of the evening was by Patricia Lewis Roman, who capably but somewhat forgettably sang Whitney Houston's "I Wanna Dance With Somebody" and barely scraped by. Not the most exciting way to end the season 8 auditions, but that just makes me even more eager to move on to Hollywood Week, once and for all.