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American Idol: Little Action In Jacksonville

Lyndsey Parker
Reality Rocks

Tonight's AmericanIdol audition rounds took place in Jacksonville, Florida, which for reasons Istill can't quite figure outprompted Idol producers to runarchival footage of judge Randy Jackson rocking out to "Don't Stop Believin'"with Journey back in the day. But who cares what the reason was? The spectacleof Randy with a flat-top Cameo haircut, Dynasty shoulderpads, and pegged-legged skinny (or not-so-skinny) jeans made for some trulyawesome TV. (I bet if someone walked into Randy'saudition room now wearing a getup like that, he wouldn'tsay, "You're through to Hollywood, dawg!") So...canwe please see more old, incriminating judge footage on future shows? Please? Atleast a couple reruns of those terrible Paula Abdul videos co-starring MC SkatCat and Keanu Reeves?

So anyway,after a touching tribute to Randy that mostly featured a lot of Jacksonvilliansbarking like dawgs, Randy and the other three judges settled into their foldingchairs and the auditions proceeded. And in walked all those wannabes who just couldn't stop believin',all wanting to take that journey to Hollywood.(Sorry, I could never resist a Journey pun.)

First upwas Guarini-haired Joshua Ulloa, saying he liked being compared to AmIdol season 1 runner-up Justin Guarinibecause "it helps people to remember me." (Really, now? Who remembersJustin Guarini? That poor schmuck has been reduced to competing on CMT's GoneCountry 3 alongside Tara Conner and Richard Grieco.) Anyway, Joshua's audition actually reminded me more of some sortof laboratory hybrid of Blake Lewis and Taylor Hicks--the former because he did someodd beatboxing, the latter because he fake-played a harmonica. (Meaning he didthat Michael Winslow-from Police Academyshtick and mimicked a harmonica sound with his mushmouth.) Simon Cowell, however, didn't compare Joshua to Justin, Blake, or Taylor, but to Inspector Gadget becausehe "had all sorts of things coming out of his face." Joshua's singing, however--when not upstaged by hismimicry and/or gimmickry--was actually decent. And he made itthrough, even with a semi-reluctant "yes" from Simon.

Sharon Wilburwas next, toting along Sasha, her fluffy pet shitzu. But would her voice be shitzu? Would her dog be justanother distracting gimmick use to deflect attention from lackluster vocals (like,say, a bikini or a pack of cute kids)? Actually, Sharon turned out to be an a'ight singer aswell, with a nicely raspy tone (although she got a little bleaty in parts).Sasha was bored, yawning throughout Sharon'sperformance while he sat on Simon'scold lap, but everyone else seemed to be into it--Paula Abdul and Kara DioGuardiso much that they started fake-smooching each other (again, for reasons Istill can't quite figure out). Guessrumors about Paula and Kara not getting along have been greatly exaggerated!

Soyeah...two people walked into the audition room who I'd assumed would suck, and they didn't.Phew. Good start to the show. But would it last?

In a word...NO.In two words? Heck no!

Overconfident teen Keniswa (spell?)came in next and according to Simon got "progressively worse" as hersong went on and on and on. And on. Her mom Paula, who'ddone her best (or should I say worst?)to foster high self-esteem in her daughter, really did Keniswa a disservice by ever tellingher she could sing. Some lies parents tell children are kind andwell-meaning--like saying Santa Claus exists or it's the Tooth Fairy who leaves dollar bills under the pillow. But telling a kid she can sing--whenshe sounds like Keniswa--is just plain cruel. But then again, maybe Keniswa's mom was just lying to herself: She seemed utterly convinced of her daughter's exceptional talent, and nothing (not even beingmarched into the audition room and told to her face by all four judgesthat Keniswa's audition wasterrible) could change her mind.

Sometimes mother does not know best.

Miss Florida Latina USA, aka Julissa Veloz, sang next, and I expectedher to be worse than Keniswa. She had a grating stoner laugh, plus she waswearing her crown and sash which made me instantly dislike her. (Pageant chicksalways suck when they go on reality shows and start doing their Stepford shtick,whether it's on American Idol or America's Next Top Model or So You Think you Can Dance. In fact, they even kinda/sorta suck on TLC's MissAmerica: Countdown To The Crown.) But Julissa was actually okay. Notfantastic, mind you, but I agreed with Simon: She was better than expected. True, she"didn't make the song soundnice" (the song Simon was referring to was Whitney Houston's "I Have Nothing"), but her 's performance inspiredPaula Abdul to march off the set to engage in some weird, possibly pill-inducedimpromptu skit with Julissa (again,for reasons I still can't quitefigure out), and after all that, Julissa got through.

"Thisis a bizarre show," observed Randy.True dat.

Darin Darnell came in later and blubbered like Josiah Lemingon a bad day (although his crying was nothing compared to subsequent contestantMichael Perrelli--more on him later). Then Naomi Sykes walked in and had the gallto compare herself to Mariah Carey. "Soyou're a talented loony?"retorted Simon, (Touché, Simon, touché.)

Then Naomi chose to butter up the panel notwith bikinis or shitzus but by bringing along her BFF Samantha, who justhappened to have a massive crush on Randy. Yep, more Jacksonvillelove for Jackson.

What proceeded was a gushy, giddy Samantha plopping down on Randy's lap, which in turn inspired Paula to sit on Simon's lap, and then Ryan Seacrest even sat on Kara's lap. (Unsurprisingly, Ryan seemed veryuncomfortable and unenthusiastic to have such close body contact with a member ofthe female species--but he played along for the cameras.)

Naomi then attemptedto serenade this group of snugglers with Minnie Ripperton'shighly challenging "Lovin' You."But no one was lovin' it. "Everyonetells me I'm great," Naomiinsisted--again, too many people have been lying to this girl, and it's mean--plus she insisted she'd successfully hit that bigdog-whistle note at the song's conclusion. I assure you, she had not.

Simon was convinced Naomi's entire audition was a huge joke and accusedNaomi of such--the same mistake Kara made with a contestant last week, with thesame result: Tears.

Oops. Simon didn'tseem to feel as guilty about his faux pas as Kara did about hers last week,though, and he refrained from participating in the sympathetic group hug at the endof the session.

Oh well. At least Samantha had her dream come true, and got to meet her idol, Randy.

Plucky, naturally talented teen Jasmine Murray then sailedthrough with little drama--she didn'tneed it, because she had a fab voice, period--and then it was back to the bad auditions. Beardyintellectual/Unabomber-type George Ramirez sang next, looking like of like oneof those hirsute indie-rock dudes from Built To Spill or Iron & Wine or Grandaddy(or the Killers during their Sam's Town phase). No more beards, people! Unlesswe're talking about ZZ Top here,beards and popular music do not mix. All musicians are better beardless, in my opinion.However, I don't know if George theself-described "physics freak" would have benefitted from a closeshave, judging by his terrible performance.

If anything, maybe his facial hairwas a blessing because it slightly muffled his rendition of Katrina & TheWaves' "Walking OnSunshine," a normally happy ditty that he managed to turn into the saddestdirge of all time. I've seriously heardhappier singalongs at funerals, or at Staind concerts. Unshockingly, George walked--andnot on sunshine--straight out the door without a golden ticket. That was one hairy audition.

Anne Marie Boskovich auditioned next, and although I thoughtshe looked just fine as-is, and sounded fine too (singing snippets of her idol KaraDioGuardi's songs), the judges hadsome cockamamie idea in their heads that she needed some sort of insta-makeover. "Come back as another person," Simon told her puzzlingly. Yeah, sure, easy-peasy.

Um...huh? Why did they do that? Lotsof good singers enter the audition room looking waaaaay worse than Anne Marie,but they make it through and then the Idolstylists get their hands on them and turn them into stylish superstars.(Perfect example: KimberleyLocke.)

So why was Anne Marie told she needed to immediately go "look for herinner superstar" and come back a few hours later looking spiffier? My guess is simply because it built up a little fake suspense during what was a decidedly unsuspenseful episodetonight. So anyway, Anne Marie returned looking almost exactly the same--herhair was slightly mussed, she'ddabbled on some extra makeup, and she was wearing different shoes. The judgesfawned as if this was a transformation straight off the finale of The Swan and gave her a golden ticket, which I'm sure they were going to doall along.

Lame! And staged! Lamely staged!

Season 7 reject T.K. Hash then gave it another go, singing"Imagine"--his version was not as good as John Lennon's, obviously, but better than David Archuleta's in my not-so-humble opinion--and this time hemade the cut.

Good for him for not giving up, as this was one repeat auditionerwith actual talent.

Next, and last, was the aforementioned Michael Perrelli. A sensitive singer-songwriter type with an apparent fondness for the PlainWhite T's, he freaked out when helearned he would be unable to audition while playing his beloved acoustic guitar.I didn't quite understand why thiswasn't allowed--after all, last season Fox madesuch a big deal about how contestants would be permitted to play instruments onthe show from now on. So why not let them audition with them, too? But for somereason--and I'm sure the reason wasthe melodrama that would ensue and make for good television--Michael was toldto set his guitar aside.

As a result, he flailed and floundered during hisattempt at Third Eye Blind's"Jumper" (he seemed ready to jump off a ledge himself). The sad situation onlyworsened when the judges advised him he'dbe better off with a guitar (um, duh)and Simon said, "You would struggle within the parameters of thiscompetition." Simon was actually unnecessarily mean to this seemingly nicekid--and made him cry! Boo! Michael may not have been the most talented hopeful in Jacksonville, but he wasn't terrible and more importantly, he wasn'twas of those snotty brats with a big attitude and a big shoulder-chip. So suchnastiness was totally undeserved. However, Michael did deserve a subsequent scolding from RyanSeacrest when, in his agitated post-audition state, he was prickly to his well-meaningmother. (Michael's mom tried tocomfort him and he barked, "Don'ttouch me!")

And so the epsiode, as usual, ended with a sob story. But thiswas one sob story that had no rising-fron-ashes happy ending. Oh well, at least Michael got hisguitar back. And maybe all his crying will get him some attention, too. Hey, it workedfor Josiah Leming! Then again, that kid was super-talented. Waterworks just aren't enough sometimes.

So Jacksonvillewasn't as fruitful an audition stopas some other cities have been this season; the town'sresidents didn't exactly do namesake judge RandyJackson proud, here. But tomorrow night Idolmoves on the Salt Lake City,home to last season's David Archuleta--and,rumor has it, a few actual Osmonds who will audition. Will they bea little bit country and a little bit rock 'n' roll, or just a whole lot of awful? Come backtomorrow to find out.

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