Season 7 Auditions – Philadelphia

Last year, the Idol premier began with huge fan fair. Many minutes were devoted to boasting about the many millions of records, the awards and other accomplishments of Idol alumni. This year the show begins with absolutely no horn tooting, despite the fact there are bona fide post-Idol success stories to brag about, like Carrie Underwood and Chris Daughtry.

Instead, the producers immediately highlight this year’s contestants, emphasizing the fact that each one of them has a “unique story to tell.” The backstories are definitely front and center tonight.

This year’s premier is a kinder and gentler beginning to the new season than the Minneapolis/Seattle freak show that introduced us to Season 6 last year. Even Simon, while managing to get in a few zingers, is toned down, offering the contestants mostly constructive criticism and even a few kind words.

As the camera pans the stadium crowd singing “Philadelphia Freedom”, Ryan Seacrest tells us that Philadelphia has the biggest crowd to ever show up at an Idol audition.

Last year’s Minneapolis premier didn’t feature a talented singer until 30 minutes into the broadcast. Yeah, I timed it! This year, the show’s first featured contestant is a good singer with a juicy back story…

Joey Catalano 19, Mays Landing, NJ – “Sunday Morning” by Maroon 5 – Joey’s lost 204 pounds. Wow. We see the before and after pics. He and Ryan sit and have a little heart-to-heart (Ryan is former chubster himself). This kid seems pretty grounded. He’s got a sweet falsetto voice. Simon thinks he’s got a great voice, but he thinks he may not be Idol material. He says yes anyway. Paula and Randy say yes. As Joey leaves the room, Simon says, “Put on some weight” and then remarks to Randy and Paula, “He looks hungry.”

Allaa Youakeem 25, Jersey City, NJ – “How Deep is Your Love” – Youka (his nickname) is from Egypt and has some challenges with the English language. He reminds me of that old-school internet sensation, the I Kiss You guy. Ahhh, the good old days of the internets…but I digress. Youka mangles the English language, calling the Bee Gees the “Mister Beegees” and that he will love a girl from the “top of her head to her nipple” (!!!!) He’s a terrible singer, of course. Paula is impressed with how he “phonetically learns the songs.”

Melanie Nyema 26, Los Angeles, CA – “Unwritten” by Natasha Bedingfield – I remember this chick. I saw Taylor Hicks in Chicago and Boston last spring, and she sang backups. Melanie says that Taylor is “fantastic, ” and a “total southern gentleman.” Randy asks if he said a lot of nice things about the judges and she says, “He didn’t talk about you much.” Ha, ha. Melanie is there to prove she can step out to the front of the stage, but her audition is tentative. She lacks confidence, and her singing is average. Simon isn’t impressed, but Paula and Randy say yes.

James Lewis 22, Philadelphia PA – “Go Down Moses” Paul Robeson – We see James dressed in Revolutionary war garb. He’s a tour guide in Philly. During his audition, he compares himself to Robeson and Eddie Veder (!!!!) and you almost think he might be a good singer…But then he opens his mouth and the strangest sort of low pitched moan comes pouring out. His sound is quite…astonishing. Sort of like a beached whale. Paula and Randy are laughing. Randy is doing that thing where he hides behind his papers as he’s losing it. When he finally composes himself, he tries to say something, and James starts to sing again. Randy finally says, “This is not your thing dawg.” Paula apologizes for laughing. James is undaunted. He’s going to try out again next year with more contemporary material. Mr. Eddie Vedder perhaps?

After the break, we got your montage of crappy singers that leads to….

…a montage of talented singers…

Jenot Joyner 25 Bowie, NJ- “I Guess that’s Why They Call it the Blues” Elton John – Jenot has a nice, soulful voice. Three yeses.

Jose Candelera 23, Bayonne, NJ – Jose has a big set of pipes. He sings a song in Spanish.

Jonathan Baines 17 Smyrna, DE – He’s a young pop singer. The tweens will love him.

Temptress Brown 16 – “And I Am Telling You” by Jennifer Hudson – She’s a middle line backer for her high school football team. She says, “Make me mad enough, and I’ll break your bones” Alrighty. Temptress is auditioning for her mom, who is very sick. She comes to her daughter’s audition toting an oxygen tank. Temptress, is unfortunately, a horrible singer, but the judges feel bad for her. She introduces her song as “I’m Not Going Nowhere” (You sure aren’t, honey) by Jennifer Hudson. Simon says, “You are a sweetheart and I like you…you’re not a great singer sweetheart…” Remember, this is the kinder, gentler judging panel. Temptress’s bottom lip quivers and she starts to cry. Big group hug! Temptress is afraid to disappoint her mom, so the judges walk out with her to break the news to the fam. The ever tactful Simon announces abruptly “It didn’t go well.” Now, that’s the Simon we know and love.

Mark Hays 18, Folsum, NJ – He can do cricket noises! After he sings “White Christmas” atonally… Yeah, they go there with the obvious joke…*crickets*…

Udgeet “Udi” Sampat 28, Horsham, PA – “My Way” by Frank Sinatra – Udi works for a car financing company, and as he brags about how he’s going to blow the judges away, you can just sense how fakeity-fake-fake his is. After his tuneless rendition of “My Way” he tells Simon he can take constructive criticism. Simon says, “Keep your batteries in your calculator.” Yeah.

Next, is a montage of crapola singers warbling “I Love Rock n Roll”.

Ryan promises us Philly’s scariest woman…after the break.

Alexis Cohen 23, Allentown, PA – “Somebody to Love” – Jefferson Airplane – Alexis tells us up front, “I march to a beat of a different drummer” She’s got purple lipstick, sparkly eyeshadow and big plastic earrings. Randy tells her she smells like incense (patchoulli, probably, ewww). The cameras take a peek at her life in Allentown. She lives in a one room apartment with her mom who seems equally, uhhhm “different.” Their apartment is so tiny and unkempt, the camera’s presense feels a little voyeuristic. Alexis is also a painter. And you know, it turns out she’s not a horrible singer. But she’s so weird, they don’t put her through. After they dismiss her and she leaves the room, Alexis has a mini-meltdown. She calls Simon a prick and says, “Why do I feel like giving the camera the finger?” before she actually does. This chick and her mom will be back for the finale, no doubt.

Angela Martin 26 Chicago, IL – “Signed Sealed Delivered” by Stevie Wonder. Angela’s story is the backstory of the night. She has a handicapped daughter. Her super supportive family is along for the ride. Her daughter has Rett syndrome and is in a wheelchair. Angela is a very determined mother. The fact that she can sing is the icing on the cake. Simon says he thinks she’s old fashioned, but encourages her nevertheless. Geez, he’s actually constructive! What’s up with this nice Simon? Everyone says yes, and Angela is on to Hollywood.

After the break, Day Two begins…

Alyse Wojciechowski 20, Havertown, PA – After citing Eva Cassidy and Lauren Hill as her influences, Alyse rendition of “It’s a New Day” is all batsh*t screamfest crazy. Simon says it is “exactly identical to a nightmare I had last week.”
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Milo Turk 39, Atlantic City, NJ – There’s always at least one over-aged contestant featured during the auditions. Last year, it was the touching Sherman Pore. This year it’s the pointless Milo Turk singing a song he wrote called “No Sex Allowed” Although, I have to admit I kind of enjoyed his dancing that involved marching in place while spastically waving his hand back and forth. Simon says, “Creepy” and “Since you’re too old, we can’t even vote.”

Kristy Lee Cook, 23, Selma OR – “Amazing Grace” – Kristy’s backstory is presented as if she’s just this little ole’ girl, living in a cabin in the woods. And she sure loves to sing, she do! Thanks to the magic of the internets, we know that in between all that kickboxing, fishing, and cage fighting Kristy supposedly does, she actually found time to sign a record contract, and record a single and video! You can read all about it here…don’t click if you don’t want to be spoiled. Her first attempt at stardom failed, of course, which is why she’s trying out for American Idol. Hmmm… Kristy is pretty and can sing, in a generic sort of way. I’m sure she’ll go far.

Ben Haar 27, Newark, DE – “Doncha” by the Pussycat Dolls – He’s wearing a cloak over his costume, which reveals a belly dancer outfit. Ben is a big hair bear in a bikini, which grosses Paula out. He offers to get his chest waxed. He leaves, and comes back later with a smooth, beet red, freshly waxed chest. Ew. Simon doesn’t let him sing, even after all his trouble. Ben walks out of the audition sporting major butt crack. I could have lived without ever seeing that.

More bad singers follow, including Shekhinah Bathyehudah, who is the kind of singer who turns two syllables into 15. With hand gestures. Yikes.

Paul Marturano 32 New Hope, PA – Oh wait. This guy is over the age limit, but the judges never mention it. He’s written a song about stalking Paula. He manages to fit every possible word that rhymes with “stalker” into the song, including “Jimmy Walker” and “caulk her.” Security escorts him out.
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Beth Stalker 28 Grand Blanc, MI – Really, that’s her name. It’s not a typo. Beth is a nice stay at home mom with an equally nice voice. Simon doesn’t think she’d stand out in the crowd. (I agree) and says no. Randy and Paula say yes.
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Chris Watson 20 Dover, DE – “Follow Me” by Uncle Kracker – I’m really impressed for the first time tonight. Chris has quiet charisma and a sweet, smooth voice. Simon thinks he looks like a star, and that he could have an interesting recording voice. Plus, “the chicks will love it.” Indeed they will.
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Kristina Talisano 24 Enfield, CT – “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me” by Elton John – She dresses like Princess Leia for her audition, announces that she wore her outfit for the 30th anniversary Star Wars convention in LA, and she thinks she has a good voice. She doesn’t, but she blames her failure on the her dorkitude. As if she didn’t dork it up on purpose. Can’t have it both ways…

Brooke White 24 – Van Nuys CA – “Just Like a Star” by Corrine Baily Rae – Brooke is pretty, blonde and has never seen an R rated movie. Seriously. She was raised that way! She’s married, and she’s a nanny for twin girls. And just like her personality, her voice is pure as the driven snow. Yet, like her personality, the singing is rather bland. Brooke might want to get out a bit more. A few R rated movies wouldn’t hurt. All three judges say yes. Brooke is on to Hollywood. And beyond.

Twenty-nine contestants from the Philadelphia auditions make it through to Hollywood.

This year, Ford Motors sponsors the “Voices in Sync” Montage of Awesome Singers who make it to Hollywood.

The episode ends with Princess Leia bitching bitterly to someone on the phone about how all the folks going to Hollywood are pretty clones that lack diversity. The underlying montage disproves her point, of course. It’s a handy way for the producers to make the point that OMG Idol really does make stars out of ordinary people!

That remains to be seen…

Tonight’s episode didn’t leave me wanting to take a shower like last year’s Minneapolis premier. That’s a good thing. However, there were no stand-out auditions that left me wanting more. Maybe tomorrow night’s Dallas episode will be a little more exciting…

About mj santilli 30193 Articles
Founder and editor of mjsbigblog.com, home of the awesomest fan community on the net. I love cheesy singing shows of all kinds, whether reality or scripted. I adore American Idol, but also love The Voice, Glee, X Factor and more!