Update: Added Screencaps
Ryan starts off the show by claiming that “some people call Birmingham Idol Country.” Me? I call it the Pittsburgh of the South. Ahem. Anyway. Birmingham has produced two Idol winners-Ruben Studdard and Taylor Hicks, a runner-up, Bo Bice, and Diana DeGarmo–who was born in Birmingham, but did not grow up there.
So, it was about time, I suppose, that American Idol held their auditions in Birmingham. You know, make it easy so the eventual winners don’t have to do all that travelling. Heh.
The Birmingham episode was blissfully light on completely horrid auditions and featured some very talented contestants. I hope the worst is behind us.
Sweet Home Alabama….
Erica Skye 19, Auburn AL – Erica attends Auburn University and studies biological science. I hope she likes dissecting frogs. She chooses to sing “Unchained Melody” and says that since it’s Simon’s favorite song, maybe he’ll be kind. HA HA HA. Randy groans when Erica announces her song choice. He knows what’s coming. She bellows the song in a flat, vibrato-less chest voice. She tilts her head up to reach the high notes. It’s painful. Sadly, her family is outside the door listening, and they are completely delusional. Her mom says she “got chills” listening to Erica sing. Her sisters claim to hear her nailing the high notes. And then they pass around some more kool aid. Simon tells Erica it was “like a never ending torture.” She promises the bad singing is just nerves, and immediately begins to destroy another song. She doesn’t stop singing until Simon begs her to stop. Finally, when Simon tells her to shut up, she asks, “You hate it?” Yes Erica, THEY HATE IT. As she leaves the audition, she brushes off her shoulder. I guess that’s the polite, southern belle version of the middle finger. In the car on the way back to Auburn, I can imagine her family reassuring Erica that she’s the most talented girl in the world…
Katie Bernard 19, Oviedo FL – Katie speaks in a girlish high-pitched voice that seems easy to exaggerate for effect. It’s the kind of thing…like if her cube was next to mine at work, I’d want to stab her eyes out after awhile. Ok, not really, but you get it, right? When she performs “A House is not a Home” for the judges the squeak is gone, but her performance is still a little affected. Not bad, though. Randy puts her through, Simon says no. Then weirdly, Paula tells Katie that since she’s recently been married, she should just go off and spend time with her new husband. That’s called REALLY AWKWARD scripting folks. The premise, of course is to drag her new husband into the audition room so he can talk Paula into putting Katie through to Hollywood for the Tee Vee cameras. Alrighty then.
Good news: It only takes 7 minutes to put the first contestant through to Hollywood. Yay.
Tatiana McConnico 17, Austelle, GA – At 8:14 we get our second Hollywood-bound contestant. Tatiana is a student at a performing arts high school. She says she’s a “huge fan” of the show. Let’s talk, girl. Tatiana is a little girl with a great big voice. She nails Aretha. All three judges put her enthusiastically through. My second favorite of the night.
Diana Walker 27, Atlanta GA – Diana claims she was a cheerleader in high school. At 27, she’s a big girl with a terrible fashion sense. She’s wearing one pink glove. When she announces that she’s singing Whitney, it’s like she’s announcing “I’m going to suck”. Has anyone else noticed that these terrible singers have a penchant for Whitney, Mariah and Celine? Perhaps the really good singers know better. She screams, and her phrasing is quite, uhm, unique (I’m saving all my lohahahove). When Diana tells the judges she gets “standing ovations, ” Randy asks, “When they stand, do they exit really quickly?” Heh.
Bernard Williams II 26, Pleasant Grove AL- Bernard sings Michael Jackson’s “Rock With You” in a strong, warm tenor. It’s a little forced, but very good. Simon really likes Bernard. Paula notices that he’s off-key and says no. I’m surprised she wasn’t distracted by his cuteness. Paula is shocked when Simon puts him through. Randy is a bit hesitant, but finally advances Bernard to Hollywood. Watch this one.
Margaret Fowler 26, Atlanta GA. Bleah. This contestant is obviously a plant–an actress maybe. Margaret parades around in a yellow jacket and stretch pants. She keeps flipping her jacket up to show off her belly. Eww. Simon looks annoyed and says “I have no idea what this show is anymore.” You and me both, Simon. Margaret sings badly and then finally admits that she’s 50. Whatever.
After the break we are treated to a little montage of contestants who’ve made it to Hollywood
Jamie Lynn Ward 17, Reidsville, NC – Remember Back in my Memphis recap when I said that contestant Phil Stacey, whose wife gave birth on the day of his audition, had the “mother of all backstories”? I take it back. Ladies and Gentleman, I present to you, the greatest backstory of them all. When we meet Jamie Lynn, we learn that she lives with her grandma. She helps grandma take care of daddy who is paralyzed. She wants to buy grandma a one story house so she doesn’t have to climb steps anymore. Had enough? There’s more. She tells the judges matter-of-factly, “He shot hisself, like right here.” Jamie Lynn helpfully points to her throat. Then she adds, “but it’s ok.” It gets weirder. Jamie explains that her daddy shot her step-mom because she had been cheating on him. And hey, it wasn’t the first time! And then he shot himself. And now he’s paralyzed. No idea what happened to the step mom. She sings “Reflections” and she’s just average, very flat and strident on the high notes. But you know, her backstory screams “I will not be denied.” Randy and Paula say yes. Simon says no. Interesting, Simon is not smitten with this one the way he was with Kellie Pickler, last year’s country sob story. Indeed, Jamie Lynn may have the more shocking story, but alas, she lacks Kellie’s sparkle.
Chris Sligh 28, Greenville SC – While some think Chris Sligh looks like Jack Osbourne or Jack Black (I think he looks a little like Mark Volman…The Turtles rule. Seriously), Chris says he sees Christina Aguilera in the mirror. Hee. Chris also hopes he doesn’t sound like crap. Then he begins to worry that he might sound like crap. Chris is funny, quirky and self-effacing. When Randy asks him why he is here, he says, “I really wanna make David Hasselhoff cry.” Heh. Chris sings Seal’s “Kiss from a Rose”. Chris has a sweet tenor with a bit of a rasp. He cuts right to the emotion of the song. He’s really really good. Me likey. Watching Paula react, you’d think she was freaking out over one of her beefcake boys. When Chris finishes, she stands up and does a seal clap. Randy says yes. Even Simon is smiling. How about that. I think I may have found my horse in this race. Oh yeah. This is one to watch, sez I.
Sixteen contestants advance to Hollywood on the first day.
Paula is absent from Day 2. She has to go back to Hollywood for a “family obligation.”
Victoria Watson 18, Victoria has never cut her hair, ever. That can’t be good. Her hair nearly reaches the floor. Unless there is some kind of religious ritual at work here, I don’t see the point. Her mother also rocks the Rapunzel locks. Victoria says she wants to be the American Idol because she wants to be a “good role model and touch people’s hearts with her music.” Isn’t that special. Even Simon is a little moved. The judges ask Victoria to invite her mom in–pretty much just to stare at her hair. Victoria sings “You Raise me Up” in a school-girl soprano that’s way too old-fashioned for Idol. Simon tells Victoria, “I think only your mom will like it a lot.” Both Randy and Simon say no. She leaves the room crushed. Another dream, dashed. These are the hard ones.
Lakia Hill 20, Birmingham AL – Lakia feels like she has what it takes to be the next American Idol–the looks, the voice, the whole package. She sings “How Did You Get Here” and she’s ear-splittingly off key. She screeches the last note then suddenly stops. Simon says, “What the hell was that…that was a complete and utter mess.” Lakia adds helpfully, “People say I can sing.” When Simon tells her she probably had one of the worst voices in Birmingham, Lakia thanks him like he just paid her a compliment. Leading to…
…a montage of bad auditioners thanking the judges for telling them they suck. Unlike Seattle and Minneapolis, the talent in Birmingham is presented as freak-free and unfailingly polite. Considering the fact that something like 50% of the population there tunes into to watch Idol, I’m thinking TPTB are pulling their punches here.
Nicole Gatzman 17, Muskogee, OK – Nicole’s story is that her mom didn’t believe she could sing. That’s a refreshing change from the typically deluded parental units. Nicole sings Bonnie Raitt’s “Something to Talk About” in a husky voice that I rather liked. Simon says, “You are very old-fashioned, and you sing through your nose, and it’s a shame.” I have no idea what he’s talking about. Randy says, “You aren’t nearly ready for this…it’s a no for me.” As she leaves in tears, they tell her, “You could come back…” Harsh.
Brandy Patterson 28, Birmingham AL – “When I walk into the room the judges are gonna think, ‘Where have you been?'” That’s Brandy setting herself up as a really good actress looking for her 15 minutes, or a contestant whose world is lived entirely in some strange alternate universe. Sometimes it’s hard to tell. Brandy sings Madonna’s “Like a Virgin” and it’s terrible. Simon thanks Brandy for an “absolutely rotten audition.” The next 5 minutes are spent arguing with the judges. She insists she can sing. Simon insists she can’t. The argument spills out into the lobby. The funniest moment is when Simon tries to re-enter the audition room, and goes for a locked door–like so many contestants before him. Brandy says, “You can’t even go in the right door.” Ha. Sweet revenge.
A total of 20 people make it to Hollywood from Birmingham. Yee haw.
Tomorrow: Los Angeles.