We’re liveblogging the American Idol XIII Premier Boston/Austin auditions! Join our party.
So what did you think guys? Did you like? Did tonight’s premiere wipe the bad taste of last year’s season out of your mouth? I thought it was a well-paced two hours, that contained so much music, I could barely keep up. So many sights and sounds! The producers set a positive tone, with room for some disappointment. This is show biz, after all. Not everyone can reach their dreams.
What did I tell you. Harry Connick Jr. is the break out star. He cares so much about his craft, he can’t help but be honest with the hopefuls. I feel cautiously optimistic that Harry will continue to play truth teller, even in the finals, as he grows closer to the contestants. I don’t think he worries what people think of him. And I expect him to piss people off–particularly later in the competition when fans have their favorites.
The big standouts for tonight were Sam Woolf, Savion Wright and Malcolm Allen. These three represent a nice cross section of artists. Sam is the sensitive singer songwriter teens and moms will love. Savion is a nu-soul-rock performer and Malcolm sings traditional soul/gospel. Yes, there were a ton o guitar strummers, but overall, I thought there was a nice cross section of genres represented tonight. Honorable mention goes to Munfarid Zaidi for playing along with Harry’s antics.
Marrialle Sellars – 17 – Grenade – The auditions begin with a cold open. Detroit auditioner, Marrialle Sellars takes a minute in “The Chamber” before she faces the judges. She enters, guitar in hand and promptly blows away the panel with a soulful/jazzy version of the Bruno Mars hit. Harry says she’ll be a “nightmare” for the other contestants. Keith rips off a third of a ticket to offer to Marrialle. Harry wants to hear her say “I’m Marrialle Sellars and I plan on being the next American Idol.” She does. Out of 75,000 hopefuls who auditioned, will she be the next one to wear the crown?
The credits play! Very quickly, before quick cut scenes in Boston. Hopefuls hold up signs like “I Am On My Way” shots from Foxboro stadium, instagram style split screens offer glimpses of the hopefuls. The imagery is full of cool ambiance, and with a markedly different feel from the past. Nest, the judges lounge around the hotel lobby and talk about how serious their jobs are, finding a new star. Harry hates making people cry, but he has to be honest. Keith loves giving hopefuls their first break.
Troy Durden – “Over The Rainbow” – If 10 is the highest, I’m 100…I got this golden ticket!” says Troy. He’s full of hubris. I smell a joke singer. He loves to twerk. That’s a bad sign. Jlo says she’s not much of twerker. He gives it a shot while the others clap along. “I can twerk better than that,” snarks Jlo. When he sings, it’s a surprise. He opens up with a full throated “Over the Rainbow.” He’s not great, but he doesn’t suck. “I kind of like that” says Jlo. The others want to see him twerk and sing “Over the Rainbow.” He does it, happily. They all vote yes. Jlo advises him to work on his vocals and take it seriously. “It’s a longshot,” says Harry. “But it just might twerk!” Oy! “We’re back” says Keith. “We’re so back,” says Jlo. 3 yeses
Sam Woolf – 17 – “Lego House” by Ed Sheeran – First sob story. Sam’s parents couldn’t take care of him, so his grandparents took over. They are adorable. Grandpa is his agent. “I call him Mr. Wonderful!” he says. All three sit in a coffee house as Sam sings “Lego House” by Ed Sheeran. The performance morphs into the audition room, where the song continues. Beautiful editing! His rendition is full of emotion. He’s has a beautiful, arresting tone. He’s sweet, like an angel, with an appeal that will simultaneously make the little girls squeal, and pull the mommy strings. WATCH OUT FOR THIS ONE. The judges love it. Keith says the tempo was fast, like an auction song, but he has beautiful pitch. Jlo says he seemed timid at first, but the song eventually opened up, like a flower. She loved it. Harry compliments him on his treble clef tattoo, a little irritated because he’s told his teen daughters no to the ink. He adds that his girls will go “absolutely crazy for that kid.” 3 yeses
Shots of of hopefuls take us out to commercial. The audition format is basically the same, but the tone is completely different. I could float away on the hope and optimism, here.
Ooh. “The Chamber” It’s the last stop before the “biggest moments of their lives.” Now, an introduction of the new/old judges panel. JLO IS BACK. She’s the ultimate triple threat. She’s transformed the global entertainment scene!. Keith has 5 platinum country albums. YEE HAW. “I want to give them the best critiquing and guidance I can, without humiliating them,” says Keith. Harry is the ultimate musician. “I want it to be a dogfight,” he says of the competition, “I want the people at home to say, ‘How do we pick?'”
Ethan Thompson “Bring Me Down” – Original Song, Jillian Jensen – “Not Over You” by Gavin Degraw and Lindsey Perricone – “Bottom of the River” by Delta Rae – Here’s a montage. The cool thing? As the singers perform they talk about themselves in voice over. Sure, it’s quick. But we LEARN something about each. All three are impressive. Jillian competed on X Factor 2. She was cut at judges houses. The judges unanimously vote them through. But not before pulling Jillian’s chain with a no. Oh, Jillian’s favorite TV show in the whole wide world is “Will and Grace,” which Harry guest starred in. 3 yeses
“Jen…I am impressed by the rocks that you got!” exclaims Harry.
Taylor Hildack – Before He Cheats by Carrie Underwood – Ryan Seacrest takes a selfie with her outside. “I would freaking kiss you but that would be uncomfortable.” Taylor is attending a low rent jazz college, but hopes to transfer to somewhere more prestigious after she gets her associate’s degree. If she’s a jazz vocalist, not sure why she’s singing country? She’s not bad, but Keith felt her range was limited. Harry thinks she has a grating quality. “It just doesn’t do it for me.” Harry says no. Jlo says Yes. Keith shuts her down, even after she begs. “I’m sorry baby,” he says. Jlo is peeved! That was a big mistake. Actually, she wasn’t that bad. She had a strong voice . I’m surprised they didn’t advance her. 2 nos Jlo says yes
Next, a montage of failures roll by. The judges let them down more or less gently. Harry says to one, “In an age where we have pitch correcting software…you could really use it.” Harsh Harry they call him!
Stephanie Hanvey – 16 – “Price Tag” by Jesse J – She’s a Jersey girl! Her favorite artist is Jennifer. She would love to follow in her footsteps. Keith says the singing needs work. But loves the way she performs. Harry finds her composure powerful, but also thinks the voice needs work. Jlo felt there was something emotionally lacking. Her parents wait outside nervously for the result….and we go into commercial. She’s not a good singer. And I’m not sure where they’re seeing the it factor, with this one, quite frankly. Jlo says it was inconsistent, but says yes. Keith and Harry also say yes. She dissolves into tears. Her parents enter the room and Stephanie sobs in her arms. She tearfully hugs Jlo. I hope she has fun. I don’t see her lasting long in Hollywood. 3 yeses
Morgan Deplitch – 15 “Paris” by Grace Potter – She’s another big Jlo stan. She’s not a Harry fan, but her mother loves him. He rolls his eyes. Yes, he’s old! She has a decent, throaty alto. Nothing special, but very mature for a 15 year old. Jennifer thinks she has something…but notes that she lost her breath. She likes her confidence. Harry is bothered that a 15 year old would sing such mature matter. The lyric “Shaving me smooth” really creeped him out. He was thrown by it. Keith wasn’t thrown by it all, citing a young Tanya Tucker singing “Delta Dawn”. Harry reluctantly says yes. “That creeped me out.” He repeats. Point taken. I agree with him. – Three Yeses
James Earl – 22 – “Everything in Life” (Original Song) – Joke contestant dead ahead! James is Mr. Razzle Dazzle. That’s what he’s gonna bring to Idol! Harry is completely smitten by the cool factor. James says he wants to be like Michael Jackson, R. Kelly and Luther Vandross. Harry says he practiced to Luther on the way to school in 83. “I wasn’t even born yet!” James mumbles (He does that, mostly, unintelligibly) Poor Harry is reminded of his age at every turn. James’ sings an original song, and it’s ridiculous. Harry tells him he’s really cool, but the voice isn’t there. Keith wants to know if he can do anything else, and James tells a corny joke about hot dogs that delights the panel. They love his many talents, but they have to say no. See, no humiliation here. “I love him!” says Harry, “I want him to open my show!” 3 nos
Jacqueline Verna – “You Do I Do” from Dreamgirls – Back from break, Jacqueline is trilling a tune, which doesn’t impress him at all. He says he’s not as taken with the “smoke and mirrors of pentatonics” as the rest. I think he means runs. Jlo likes her! But thinks she needs another year. After she leaves, Harry gives her a music theory lesson. The takeaway: He’s not going to dumb it down for America. “You know too damn much,” says Jlo. 3 nos
Austin Percario – 17 – Titanium by David Guetta and Sia – His mom is such a stage mome. That’s the shtick here. She’s advising him to the point of micromanaging. STOP MOM. He’s excited that he’ll be 18 at Hollywood, he won’t have to bring her with him! Harry suggests she come in and watch his audition. She’s going to pee and then cry, warns Austin. They hope she cries first. Mom sways back and forth. Harry’s like “You could be one of my backup dancers.” FYI: This boy was a member of the X Factor season 2 group, InTENsity. His singing was…it was OK. Generic boy band. Jlo likes his sound and his look. Keith calls him “Justin Beiber at 5 am.” He likes his raggedy edge. They all vote yes. Mom and son scream and celebrate as they leave the room. “She peed!” says Harry, “Somebody have mop?” “I’m going to Hollywood…without mom!” says Austin. 3 yeses
Kaitlyn Jackson – 15 – “Another Angel” (Original Song) – Here’s backstory number 2. She wrote this original song for her grandpa, who had a heart attack in the stands watching her sing at a concert. He died before he could here the song. The song is plaintive, classic country story song. The prose is clean and affecting. Really, not bad at all. “If you can write a song like that..wow,” says Keith. They all say yes. Harry says, Grandpa’s heard it. 3 yeses
Keith Londoner “Roar” by Katy Perry – He’s a handyman! He wants to better his life. Oops. He has a false start, but then is off and running. It’s not bad in that “turning a pop song on it’s head” way. Keith has a pleasant tone and nice phrasing. I wonder what else he’s got, though. He comes off a bit amateurish. Jlo wasn’t a big fan of the song, but he made her like it more. Harry isn’t as impressed. Keith says he’s going to remember his unique look and sound. Harry says no, “I don’t think you’re a good enough singer.” I get his point. He’s like every YouTube strummer you’ve ever heard. 2 yesses Harry says no
Sam Atherton – 23 – “Love Doesn’t Last Forever” (Original Song) – Here’s your second joke contestant. He’s like the classic Idol bad auditioner, walking in with a lot of phony hubris is a clue. He insults Keith right off the bat, calling him “Einstein” sarcastically when he guesses he plays the guitar. Singing an original song, Sam it tuneless and completely talent free. “That song was lasting forever,” says Harry. “It wasn’t good.” Sam mocks then in his little post -Idol interview. He calls Harry “Tony Connick Jr”, which is the funniest moment of the audition. 3 nos
Next, is a montage of auditioners who adore Jlo. Keith and Harry barely register. Harry takes a girl bragging about being a mensa member to. He is too. And his score is higher. OOOH TWITTER POLL. Take it people. Is this singer going to Hollywood? She’s going to Hollywood, and YOU agreed.
Shannon Wilson – “I Want You” by Luke James – Big guy looks like Ruben! He was a football player in high school. SO WAS RYAN SEACREST. Back when he was fat, he played offense. He attempts to play in the waiting room, and slams his crotch into the top of a chair. OUCH. Inside the audition room, He’s got that smooth R&B sound, like Ruben. Not as good. Then he hits some huge high notes and I swear dogs across America are howling. Jlo holds up a golden ticket. Hm. I don’t think that sounded good, but whatever. 3 yeses.
Stephanie Petronelli – 22 – “Paris” by Grace Potter – Oh look. It’s a Patriots cheerleader. She’s not a bad singer, with a raspy soulful voice. But Harry isn’t impressed. He notices that she sings from her neck up. She’s already hoarse. He’s not feeling her vocally. Jennifer disagrees “I will slap you on national television” says Harry. “That will never happen,” sniffs Jlo. She sees potential. Keith thought her nerves were interfering with the vocals. He’s on the fence, but he ultimately says yes. Harry doesn’t think she sings well enough. He’s very straightforward, and sticks to his guns. I like that. Three of her cheerleader pals enter the room squealing. And Harry now regrets saying no. Ha. The boys try some splits, afterward. It’s a little pathetic! Two yeses Harry says no
The action moves to Austin TX
Keith talks about how nervous he’d be auditioning as we see a split screen of hopefuls nervously waiting.
Duran Cree – 17 – “Cupids Got a Shotgun” by Carrie Underwood – Harry wants to know if she’s a big deal in high school. YAH she says, all proud of herself. And in that second, Harry sort of shoots her down. But not in a mean way. Basically, calling her a big fish in a little pond. He doesn’t think she can handle the pressure, so he says no. Jlo says yes. Keith says “Oh baby…” and the next shot is Duran meeting her family, in tears. 2 nos – Jlo says yes.
Now, a quick montage of mediocre singers. Aw. Tears…until we see one who made it. YAY. Happy yeses are next. Hard work pays of y’all.
Savion Wright – “Dark Side of Me” (Original Song) – This singer waited 8 years to audition. He didn’t think he was ready yet. He had ADHD, trouble in school. A guitar his parents bought him saved his life. Harry jokes that he’s “Chris Isaak” when Savion claims to be a fan. Heh. Accompnaying himself on guitar, the guy has talent. Good voice, charisma, solid songwriting skills. Keith says he performs with everything. Harry says his fellow singers will envy him. They fake him out with nos. But of course its a yes. Savion introduces his mom as a big Jlo fan, but she’s so happy, she ignores her! Tears. – 3 yeses
Terrica Curry “I Who Have Nothing” by Tom Jones, Justin Fira “This Love” by Maroon 5, Shelby Comey “Delta Dawn” by Tanya Tucker– A montage of 3 contestants, once again, we hear them sing, and we hear their story. Really nicely done. The first two singers are pretty solid. The country girl, Shelby, with the cowboy father is a little iffy, but all three singers get yeses. 3 yeses
Madelyn Patterson – 22 – “Up To the Mountain” by Patty Griffin – She’s got a BIG powerful voice. She hits some mighty big notes. “Don’t say another word please,” says Jlo. Harry wants to hear something else. Keith wonders why its necessary. Keith and Jlo say yes right away. Harry isn’t having it. “Some of the people on this panel are very easily impressed by licks.” Jlo hands her a ticket. Harry is irritated. “I was going to give you some advice…I guess it will wait until Hollywood,” he says. Jlo denies being easily impressed. But the tape reveals Keith and Jlo reacting visibly to Madelyn’s little tricks. Harry never says it, but I’m sure his point was similar to the issues he had when he mentored last season. Adding licks for no reason really bugs this man. Having said that, Madelyn is a good singer, but tends to clobber over the head with her voice. She needs to develop some finesse. 3 yeses.
Viviana Villalon “Love Somebody” by Maroon 5, Savannah Young “Toxic” by Brittany Spears, Ben Boone “Too Close” by Alex Clare – Three more hopefuls. Quirky, Viviana accompanies herself on an ukulele. The thing that ties these thee together, they play stringed instruments and have a unique style. Ben gives Jlo her first goosies of the season. THE DREADED GOOSIES. – 3 yeses
One auditioner complains that the guitar players have an advantage. OUCH.
Malcolm Allen – 21 – “Superstition” by Stevie Wonder – Not to be outdone by the strummers, Malcolm brings his buddy “airy”–his trusty air guitar– into the audition. It’s the coolest pretend instrument ever. Malcolm brings a TON of musicality into his performance–completely soulful and effortless. “You are such a natural,” says Jlo” I want to throw this pen at you.” Malcolm declares he’s dead serious about music. It shows in his polish, and the way music just seems to ooze out of his pores. Malcolm is definitely one to watch. Harry thinks he sounds great. The best singer of the day. 3 yeses
Rolando Guerrero – 21 – “Hold it Don’t Drop It” by Jennifer Lopez – Auditioner is completely in love with Jlo. Jlo, finding him absolutely adorable, asks for a hug. He breaks into a whiny cry and it’s a little creepy. “I never thought I’d meet you this soon” he cries. Keith and Harry joke about the way he keeps using both names “Jennfier Lopez.” And Jlo looks straight into Rolando’s eyes and says, “They don’t get us!” When he finally collects himself to sing, it’s pretty bad. The excitement and nerves aren’t helping, but it’s obvious dude can’t sing. His voice is super whiny and nasally, and just unpleasant. Jlo thinks he’s adorable. Hm. Keith thinks he’s a sweet spirit, but says no, as does Harry. He does that thing, where contestants start over thinking they can still impress. Uh. No. Afterward, Jennifer says she didn’t even recognize her own song. 3 nos
Next it’s “Who Dat” a montage of hopefuls who have no freaking idea who Harry Connick Jr. is. They’re googling him in the waiting room!
Munfarid Zaidi – “Crazy for You” by Adele – Munfarid came to Texas by way of Pakistan. And finally, Harry gets a stan! The singer says he reads Harry’s Wikipedia page every night before he goes to sleep. Heh. Harry is so happy, he takes the stage to hug him, lifting him off the ground. Keith suggests that he carries him. Harry promises, “If you blow us away on the first song, I’ll hold you like a baby on the second. “I see a cradle coming on” says Jlo, as Munfarid displays a feel for the song, a nice tone and a few cool vocal tricks. Harry, true to his word, picks him up like a baby and suggests he lay his head on his shoulder. Munfarid sings “I just want you close…,” totally cracking up Jlo and Keith. Harry carries him over to the table to pick up his ticket and walks him out the door. That Munfarid was totally in on the joke and 100% game, is what made the bit so hysterical. 3 yeses
The episode ends with Keith celebrating his FUSE #1 with a cake. Harry holds Keith like a baby too. A montage of hopefuls with their golden tickets sing “People Like Us” to end things.
21 Golden Tickets are awarded from Austin. 25 from Boston.
More austin auditions tomorrow! Plus, San Francisco.