Watch This Space for Updates!
- Dennis Brigham – (audition) and Lil Rounds (audition) – VIDEO
- Nathaniel Marshall – 18 – Malone, NY – VIDEO
- Anoop Desai – (audition) Jasmine Murray – (audition) Rose Flack (audition) – VIDEO
- Stephen Fowler -26 – Beachwood, OH – Jorge Nunez – (audition) Von Smith (audition) – VIDEO
- Nick Mitchell – (audition) – VIDEO
- Jackie Tohn – (audition) – VIDEO
- Jamar Rogers (audition) Danny Gokey – (audition) – VIDEO
- Katrina Darrell (Bikini Girl) (audition) – VIDEO
- Michael Sarver (audition) Jesus Valenzuela (audition) – VIDEO
- David Osmond (audition) Erika Wesley – 26 – Portland, OR – Emily Wynne-Hughes (audition) – VIDEO
- Erika Wesley begs to stay – Paula and Simon fight – VIDEO
Let’s all let out a big sigh of relief together: Ahhh! The auditions are over and the Hollywood Rounds have begun.
Tonight, the first of 4 Hollywood episodes, have the contestants running a gauntlet. Over the course of two days, contestants will audition in rapid fire fashion in front of the judges. It’s typically a slash-and-burn affair, with a big chunk of contestants–43 when it’s all done–sent home packing.
Out of the thousands that auditioned, 147 contestants are sent on to the Hollywood Rounds. This year they take place at the big Kodak theater, where nearly every finale has taken place.
Simon tells the contestants, “You’ve got one shot today, it will be the most important day of your life, 100%, and all we’re looking for is a star. Good luck.”
Ah, but this year they’ve added a twist! It’s Idol boot camp, with familiar Idol staffers like music director Michael Orland, vocal coach Debra Byrd and makeup artist Mezhgan Hussainy on hand to coach the contestants. And look! It’s Barry Manilow, who’s come by to give the kids a little pep talk. “Preparation meets opportunity” is how Manilow describes the process of becoming a star. The kids scribble furiously in their notebooks.
Then, he adds, hilariously, “These judges want you to win, Believe it or not, they want you to be the next American Idol, as I do.” Yeah, all 147 of you…
On Day One, half the contestants go off sightseeing, while the others perform in front of the judges. Lil Rounds and Dennis Brigham are part of the first group of 8 contestants to line up to sing for the judges. Lil sings, “I Will Always Love You” and it’s loud and a bit warbly. Not as impressive as her audition, but Kara calls her “bold and brave.” O rly? Dennis’s goaty, scary, bug-eyed performance of “For Once in Your Life” is atrocious, but so was his audition. Simon calls Dennis’s facial expressions “Insane.” Indeed.
The judges split the kids into two lines. One line stays in the competition, the other goes home. Dennis looks ill as he glances at Lil standing in the other line. He knows he’s toast. After he’s eliminated, Dennis, bug-eyed and incomprehensible, sticks around on stage to tell off the judges (“more camera time for meeee…” he’s probably thinking). “Y’all suck as judges, ” he says. And to Simon, “You need to get a new wardrobe. For someone so rich, your pants are very very cheap.” I know you are, so what am I!
Nerves are getting the best of the contestants, says Ryan as Simon tells Frankie Jordan, “You way overcooked that one.” In a mini-interview backstage, Paula and Kara aren’t impressed with the singers so far. They name check Lil, but say the rest were pretty dismal.
Another lineup includes Nathanial Marshall. Paula calls his performance “monotone”. After Simon asks Nate why he picked the song “Anchor”, he goes off the deep end a little hinting at a tough childhood. Singing was the only thing that kept him “anchored.” Then he really loses it, going on about “wanting this more than anything” and how his famewhorish ways have caused a bad case of the hives. Or little alien babies to grow inside of him. Or something like that. The judges are probably thinking, “Must advance drama queen!”
Anoop Desai is next. Wow, he’s good. It’s as if TPTB are sending a message to the Indian community, “Sorry about that whole Sanjaya thing, we’re making up for that now.” Jasmine Murray is way too self-possessed for a 16 year old. Kara tells her she’s got “raw natural talent.”
And last is Rose Flack. Clips of Rose in boot camp show her unfocused and tentative. Byrd asks her, “What does it mean for you to be at American Idol?” Rose explains that she’s doing it for her now deceased parents. Not for yourself, Rose? At the end of rehearsal, she’s lost her confidence. When she does finally perform, she shows flashes of brilliance, but she really is unformed, at this point.
Nevertheless, the entire line advances to the next round.
The next lineup includes Von Smith, Jorge Nunez and Stephen Fowler. We haven’t seen Stephen before. He’s got that whole nu-soul vibe going on. Very nice. Paula says, “You nailed it.” Randy compliments him on navigating the difficult Stevie Wonder song, “Superwoman.” Jorge wows the judges, especially the girls. Von does the exact OTT routine he did in his audition, but this time, Simon calls it “Indulgent nonsense, a horrible song, a horrible performance, really annoying…” No kidding!
But, when it’s time to decide. Von moves on, as does Jorge and Stephen.
Debra Byrd lectures the kids in boot camp about song choice, and of course, picking the wrong song is the thing that sends many of these kids home. See ya! Of course, picking the right song is all about knowing who you are as an artist… So many of these kids have no clue.
Nick Mitchell is next, and oh how I love him. The so called “funny” contestants usually piss me the hell off, but I absolutely adore Nick. Because underneath the ham, I sense a sweet sincerity. And, if he calmed down a little, he’d be a decent singer. Plus, he’s effing hilarious.
I feel sorry for the rest of the peeps in his lineup, as Nick takes the stage and steals the show. Singing “And I am Telling You” he points at the rafters, yells for Seacrest, insists that you and you and YOUUUU are going to love him. Afterward, Simon calls him ridiculous, but Randy thinks he’s got some vocal skills. And Paula wants to hear him sing, “stripped down.” I’m guessing that’s going to happen, and when it does, Nick will be handed his plane ticket home.
Also making it to the next round: Scott MacIntyre and Frankie Jordan.
On Day 2, the the second half–83 contestants–run the gauntlet in front of the judges.
Jackie Tohn, the rocker chick from New York who, literally, blew the windows down (OK, not really) is featured in the next lineup. I have to say it–this chick, so far, really gets on my nerves. Her singing is OK–she’s got the Janis Joplin thing going–but she tries too hard. Not only is she a camera hog, but she pulls all these annoying faces while she sings. Like Von, she really needs to dial it back. But if she did, she wouldn’t be good TV. The judges advance her to the next round.
Best friends Jamar Rogers and Danny Gokey are next. Jamar reflects on the death of Danny’s wife right before they auditioned together in Kansas City. Jamar says Danny puts on a brave face, Danny says he’s happy to have his best friend with him. They audition as part of the same line-up. Jamar reprises his audition song, “California Dreaming”, and although he’s got some potential, he’s loud and lacks finesse. Randy seems to like him, though.
Danny’s raspy soulful voice navigates the tricky “Kiss From a Rose” with ease. He’s a natural. Paula says, “You’re ready to make records now.” While they both advance to the next round, I think this beautiful friendship is going to be busted up soon. More contestants advance, including Arianna Asfar, Matt Breitzke and Leneshe Young.
Katrina Darrell aka Bikini Girl is next, and she gets a segment all to herself. The thing is, she’s really not a bad singer. But, the producers are playing up this “girl vs boy” war between the judges to the hilt. It’s ridiculous that, when Katrina delivers a decent performance of Faith Hill’s “Breath”, Kara still pans her. It’s so obvious the entire segment is scripted, that it undermines anything the judges have to say to anyone else. This isn’t really very amusing. Unfortunately, we’re in for more fakery. Katrina advances to the next round. Katrina, playing along pouts “I told you she didn’t like me.”
Some favorites are cut, including Jessica Furney, Sharon Wilbur and Patricia Roman.
Family guys, Michael Sarver and Jesus Valenzuela take the stage next. Michael has an impossibly smooth, soulful voice that’s in sharp contrast to his macho job as a roughneck on an oil rig.”One of the best I heard today, dude, ” says Randy. Jesus is just…well…a’ight. I think we know where this is going. Michael makes it through to the next round, Jesus doesn’t. And Jesus isn’t very pleased.
The next line up features David Osmond and his pleasant-enough tenor. Erika Wesley is pretty good, but she doesn’t have the look. The last is Emily Wynne-Hughes, the heavily-tattooed contestant Paula predicted would make Top 5. She rehearses one song, “I Put a Spell on You” and then switches to a lame No Doubt song at the last minute. The judges are underwhelmed. Nevertheless, she, David Osmond and Alex Wagner-Trugman advance to the next round. I’m thinking Emily’s story arc is going to be, “front runner falls apart.”
Eliminated, is Erika Wesley, who pleads with the judges to give her another chance. She says she would have regretted not trying, and exits politely when the judges are unmoved by the fact that it’s her husband’s birthday. (as if!) Attempting to argue is worth the risk, at the very least, a contestant may get a little more screen time…
But this polite little tiff is really all about Paula and Simon who begin arguing. Paula insists she said yes. Simon calls her out, pointing to a piece of paper where she had clearly written “no.” Paula mumbles something about writing yes first, and then overreacts, “I’ll fight you tooth and nail on this.” Zzz.
Also advancing: Alexis Grace, Brent Keith, Ann Marie Boscovich and Adam Lambert.
104 contestants advance to the next round. Tomorrow: Group rounds!