Is That All There Is?
UPDATE: Added screenshots. Click on the jump…
Gah. I’m not one of the many Idol fans who feel that Season 5 will never be topped. Let me rephrase that. I’m an Idol fan who WANTS to believe that this year will be better than ever, because I dig the show MORE than I dig any individual Idol.
However, if tonight’s premier in Minneapolis, Minnesota is representative of this year’s talent pool, we’re in for a looong season. I’m just hoping the producers are saving the best for last.
The show opens with a clip of Taylor Hicks winning American Idol last year. Next, Ryan Seacrest ticks off the growing list of accomplishments from Idol graduates: There’s a montage of Clay Aiken, Ruben Studdard and Kelly Clarkson. We see Stevie Wonder announcing Kelly Clarkson’s Grammy win and Carrie Underwood tearfully accepting her CMA. We hear about Jennifer Hudson’s Oscar buzz and Daughtry’s huge sales numbers. We see Katharine McPhee duetting with Andrea Bocelli. Ryan boasts that Idols have amassed over 100 #1 CDs (quick montage of album covers–even some of the also-rans are featured, like Tamyra Gray, John Stevens, Jon Peter Lewis and Justin Guarini. Yes, I’m pathetic, I watched it in slo-mo…) Finally, Ryan claims that last year’s season 5 finale was the stuff of legends, and we see Elliott Yamin singing with Mary J. Blige.
Whoo. That’s some major horn tootin’ right there. And who could blame them. 2006 was truly an incredible year for American Idol. And that’s quite a bit of momentum to keep going. Can they do it?
And as if we needed more proof that the Who will sell their songs to anybody (“Love, Reign O’re Me” as a 7Up commercial? Sniff.) “Baba O’Riley” is the backdrop for a fast-motion montage through the crowds at all the audition cities.
Clips from Prince’s surprise star turn at the finale last year introduce the city of Minneapolis. Prince lives and works in Minneapolis, in case you didn’t know. In fact, Minneapolis has at times, had quite the music scene. From Prince, to Paul Westerberg and the Replacements to Husker Du (Minneapolis was home to a mad punk scene in the 80’s). Considering, the history, at the very least, I expected some charming quirk from the fine folks in Minnesota.
Guest judges are brought back this season. Pop singer Jewel joins Randy Jackson, Paula Abdul and Simon Cowell at the judges table. She sits right between Randy and Paula. And she adds nothing. She unfailingly follows the judges lead when she choses to put someone through or not. And come to think of it, there was very little dissension among the judges at all tonight. It was very much in keeping with the bland and predictable tone of the entire show
Jewel’s only meaningful role tonight is to play foil to a contestant who happens to be a really big Jewel fan.
Jessica Rhode, 21 Cottage Grove, MN (left) does make-up for one of those glamour-shot booths at the Mall of America. Her dream is to become a singer, and Jewel is her favorite. When she auditions, she does a poor Jewel imitation at best. After Simon tells her that she’s not a good singer, and that it’s good she knows that so that she can move on–when Jewel can’t really look her in the face to tell her the truth–it becomes obvious this is a contestant who is not ready to hear the truth. She walks out of the audition crying. The cameras linger on her sobbing with her family. This is supposed to be heartwarming? Just Eww. Poor thing.
Troy Benham, 24 Sarona, WI (left) claims to be Amish and sings a very strange stream-of- consciousness ditty. Ok, if he’s Amish and he lives in a house without electricity or TV, how would he even know about Idol? I smell a fake. Or maybe not. Unless there’s someone out there who can explain it to me…
Jesse Holloway, 19 Gary, IN claims to be unique. But he’s uniquely bad. He abruptly leaves the room to get a drink of water, claiming to be nervous. Of course, when he comes back he sounds as bad as before. Simon: “Jesse, why do you think we’re looking for a two-year old who can’t sing?”
Charles Moody, Age 26, Brooklyn NY sings opera dressed as Apollo Creed. *Sigh* After 5 seasons of “bad” auditions, there really is nothing new to feature. I’m soooo bored.
I timed it. It took 30 minutes before a contestant is featured advancing to Hollywood. That contestant does an average rendition of “And I Am Telling You” from “Dreamgirls”. However, she has a killer backstory. Crack baby. Mom on drugs. Kind Grandma who comes to her rescue. Now she’s making something of herself. That contestant is sixteen year old Denise Jackson. (left) Cute as a button, and admirable that she seems normal despite her sad history. But the singing? She’s very shouty with little control over her vocals. Jennifer Hudson has nothing to worry about.
Tashawn Moore, 27 Minneapolis MN is the obligatory contestant who forgets the words. She sings an unrecognizable “Kiss” by Prince. They let her go on for minutes without stopping her. She goes on and on and it’s pretty tedious. She finally kinda remembers the song and goes for a big, weird finish. Needless to say, she isn’t put through.
The second second Hollywood bound contestant is put through nearly half way through the show. Her name is Perla Meneses, 25 Margate, FL. (left) She does a horrific version of Blondie’s “Call Me” and then Randy gets a brainstorm and asks her to sing Shakira. I guess because she kinda looks like Shakira, Randy figures she’ll kinda sound like her too. Perla does an imitation of Shakira singing “Hips don’t lie” and Randy and Simon’s eyes light up. Simon says, “Great fun” as he stares at her chest.
Randy says that more girls are coming out of the room with tickets to Hollywood.
Matthew Volna, 25, Elk River MN (left) says he has “flair and pizazz”, which of course means he has absolutely none. He tells the audience this in a completely deadpan monotone which stays intact through his rendition of Johnny Cash’s “Fulsome Prison Blues”. Matthew is wearing some sort of cowboy outfit. The judges don’t quite believe he’s real, and I don’t either. There is one of these “deadpan” characters every year. Seriously, the producers have got to change some of this crap up. It really is getting dull.
A third contestant is advanced to Hollywood just shy of 9 pm. Jarrod Fowler, 27 Peoria, AZ (left) is an intel specialist for the US navy. He’s stationed on the aircraft carrier, USS Ronald Reagan in San Diego CA. (Taylor Hicks did a USO show there over the holidays) which held something called “Reagan Idol”. Jarrod does a fair to middlin’ version of Rascal Flatts’, “God Bless the Broken Road”. But that military backstory is irresistible, so the judges put him through. Simon says “I think people will like you” Indeed they will.
It’s half-way through the show, and I’ve yet to hear one singer who has knocked me off my feet. This show is dragging.
Trista Giese, 22 Brainerd, MN loves the Wizard of Oz and does a really uncanny, but creepy imitation of the Cowardly Lion. Next, please.
Stephen Horst, Age 28 New York, NY (left) is a vocal teacher. His performance of Aerosmith’s “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing” really isn’t that bad. Well, except when he sings in his “refreshing upper register” as Paula would say. Ok, the falsetto was murder, but the rest of the song is OK. Inexplicably, Randy begins to attack his singing quite viciously. Simon then goads Stephen, “Are you going to take that?” For a moment, I thought I had just dropped into an afternoon talk show. Hello, Maury? Sheesh.
At 9:15, three-quarters of the way through the show, a 4th contestant, Michelle Steingas, 19 Excelsior, MN. is advanced to Hollywood. Another singer who’s just OK. But she’s sweet and blond. The judges love her fresh Midwestern personality. Simon says, again, “I think the public is really going to like you….absolutely yes.”
Forty-five minutes left in the show. I’m still waiting for the payoff–that great voice that makes makes me forget all the suckage I’ve had to endure.
Dayna Dooley, 27, Inglewood, CA auditioned and failed in Pasadena. Her boss offers to fly her to Minnesota so she can try out again. The boss not only gives her the time off, but accompanies her and her sister out to the audition. It’s a great hook. It gets her in to see the judges, even though her high notes could make a dog howl in pain. Her boss is a very nice guy.
The 5th Minneapolis contestant to be put through to Hollywood is sweet Matt Seto, 16 Maplewood, MN. (left) He sings “California Dreamin'” by the Mama’s and the Pappas. Cute kid with a nice, if not fully developed voice. He is irresistible and the judges all give a thumbs up. He calls his Mom, who says she is very proud of him. The inference is that she does not say this very often to Matt. He starts to cry. There is an awful lot of crying in this episode.
The 6th Hollywood bound contestant of the evening is Rachel Jenkins, 21 Minnetonka, MN. (left) She works on cars in her parent’s body shop. Her husband was deployed to Iraq 2 months after they were married. She’s in the Army Reserves. She shows up to audition in Army fatigues. She performs an utterly average version of “His Eye is On the Sparrow.” Yes, she makes it through to the next round. Simon, again says, “You’re not one of the best singers, but I think people will like you.”
Sarah Krueger, 19 Eau Claire, WI (left) is the 7th and final contestant to advance to Hollywood tonight. And she makes it through because…are you ready? She can sing. That’s it. No backstory, just a great voice. She performs a confident, soaring version of “Over the Rainbow” and the judges put her through. Who’da thunk it.
Jason Anderson, 16 Burnsville MN, juggles, sings and dances. And he really, really wants to be famous. This was another heartbreaker. Randy laughed at him and suggested that he try out for “America’s Got Talent”, Simon’s Las Vegas talent show (lots of plate spinners, I hear). Simon tells him that he “summed up Minnesota today” (bad) and that even his juggling was pathetic. He runs out of the room crying. “I wanted to start out famous” and his mother assures him that he will be famous. Therein lies the problem, methinks.
Brenna Kyner, 24 South Holland, IL, the “Idol Superfan” auditions (do we know her?) She claims that she and Idol are BFF (Best Friends forever!11!) She’s very droll. I begin to wonder if she’s for real. She says that she loved Ace Young last year. Randy says, “Who’s he?”. She’s shows off a heart tattoo that Ace supposedly drew for her. Then she launches into a horrible version of the Queen/Bowie tune, “Under Pressure”. After Simon tells her she’s terrible, she says she’s had 10 years of vocal training. Hmmm. She seems unfazed as she leaves the audition.
Josh Flom, 20 Chisago City, MN, is inspired by last year’s rocker, Chris Daughtry. Josh wants to follow in Chris’s footsteps. But unfortunately, his “rawk” vocal consists of a very hoarse, tuneless “Bad Day” by Fuel. When the judges claim he’ll have trouble with theme nights, they send him out to learn an Abba song. He’s game, but sounds exactly the same singing “Dancing Queen” as he did when he sang Fuel. When he attempts to tackle Barry Manilow’s “Copacabana” in the exact same “rock” voice, it’s funny. He’s so disappointed when the judges turn him down, that he starts crying during his exit interview. Again, more of the crying. This kid is for real, and it’s not fun to watch.
So, the show finally finishes with a short montage of Hollywood bound contestants captioned “Who’s got the edge?”. I dunno, you guys tell me. Geez, almost two straight hours of predictably bad auditions. A handful of Hollywood contestants who are more backstory than bonafide singers. A guest judge–wait there was a guest judge? Oh yeah, the completely ineffectual Jewel. Why bother? And then there is Randy, Paula and Simon who agree on every contestant and react to them in the most predictable way.
On a scale from 1-10, I rate this premiere a 4–really a yawner.
The stats: Nearly every contestant tried to leave the audition through the wrong door. 10, 000 hopefuls auditioned. “1999” was the city group song. “Kiss” was used in the montage of bad singing. Only 17 made it through to Hollywood from Minneapolis.
Tomorrow, Seattle. From the previews, it looks to be like something out of a David Lynch movie. Yikes.