The mother of stripped down singing competitions started its farewell season with a bunch of extraordinary talent and heartfelt surprises, but it was a different story in week 2. Only a handful of potential finalists and a lot of mediocre additions. This week, it’s the last batch of auditions. The last ever chance to try out for American Idol. Well, until it comes back, of course.
You can’t announce Idol’s 15th season the bookend, if you’re still not sure about renewing the show for next year. So I do believe everyone involved who claim this is the end of the line. However, even though the ratings have dropped over the years, they’re still adequate. Besides, Idol isn’t just a reality show, it’s an institution. For some, it’s a downright religion they live and breathe. A show soaked into the capillaries of American culture. I do believe the movement of people who’ll want to bring it back will grow louder and louder, until it’s 2019 and season 16 will see the light of day. From what I understand, Harry Connick Jr, Jennifer Lopez and Keith Urban are happy to return.
Episode 5: Teletubbies, Claps and Samurai Swords
But for now, let’s not get ahead of ourselves and listen to Teletubbies enthusiast Miranda ‘Poh’ Scott. Sister of a former Idol contestant, who’s ‘speechless’ during Miranda’s audition. So speechless, in fact, that she can’t shut up about it. There’s nothing to be nervous about. Although Poh occasionally gets a fright of her own big raspy voice coming out, it’s clear she’s got what it takes. A pretty feisty blonde, ready to take over the world. Another rasp, but a more mysterious one, comes from Amelia ‘blunt samurai sword’ Eisenhauer. A mystical red-haired singer who also plays the violin. These two have got their work cut out for them, because they’ll have to compete against the big voice of Joy ‘put me in the game, coach’ Dove. Her name’s accompanied by two claps, just so you know.
Medleys, Acid Trips and Piano Ballads
The smartest contestant we’ve ever seen must be Mackenzie ‘jury pleaser’ Bourg. He’s immediately bonding with Harry over their shared birthday date (I never understood the importance of a birthday, but it seems to butter Harry up), and then starts singing his audition medley. He plays a Keith Urban song (‘Stupid Boy’), segues into a Harry Connick Jr song (‘Come By Me’), even squeezes in a massive Jennifer Lopez hit (‘Love Don’t Cost a Thing’) and ends on another one of Keith’s (‘Making Memories of Us’). How do you reject a guy like that? You don’t. How do you reject two brothers, singing a duet? Easy. Especially if they’re called Andrew and Aaron Birdwell and they’ve prepared a sort of ‘gregorian acid trip’. Jenna Renae’s audition is one ‘by the book’; just a professionally sung ballad at the piano. Nothing more, nothing less.
Blindness, Confidence and Heaven’s Door
Being blind shouldn’t keep you from trying out for American Idol. Too bad for Mario Bonds, though. He does have a strong presence, but his voice just isn’t good enough. Adam ‘another shot at redemption’ Lasher has cut his hair, put on a nice outfit and tries his luck one more time. He’s been to Hollywood before, and his original take on ‘Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door’ sends him back there. Another former Hollywoodian is Emily ‘shy girl no more’ Brooke. What a difference a year makes. She’s ‘put in the work’ and has gotten herself all the confidence in the world.
Episode 6: Dreams, Balloons and Belly Dancing
Jessica ‘thick lush low voice’ Cabral is going for the American dream, and gets one step closer to her goal. Dreams do get shattered, too, though. It doesn’t always play in your favor if you put on a blue dress with stars and holding a little dog called Tinker Bell in your hand while auditioning, as Gina Naomi Baez will tell you. You can also be too versatile. The prize for weirdest combination of talents goes to Cody ‘pink lone ranger’ Ostrenga. He shoots balloons while riding horses at 45 m/h for a living. He’s also a belly dancer. Not much of a singer, though.
Impersonations, Guitars and Walks in the Park
Bryan ‘Mister Boombastic’ Dale Brown was picked by the preliminary judges (who have the hardest job of all) to audition for real, because Harry, Jennifer and Keith would probably find him entertaining. After Bryan’s impersonations of Scooby Doo and yes, a turned on Keith Urban, nobody really expects much of this guy. His singing is pitchy and over the top, but for some reason he gets three yeses and goes through. One who does absolutely deserve the golden ticket is Melany Huber. She beat cancer, so convincing Harry of her talents is a walk in the park. Then we have a little montage of three contestants who’ve brought a guitar player with them. Rachel Karryn (with grandpa), Caroline Byrne (with brother) and Bianca Espinal (with dad). They all end up going to Hollywood, too. That’s going to be the opposite of a sausage fest; Jodie Foster’s wet dream, I suppose.
Finger Monkeys, Puppy Dogs and Kelly Clarkson
Sometimes there’s a fine line between admiration and obsession. Justin ‘Kelly Clarkson is the greatest artist of our generation’ Sullivan lives, eats and sleeps the first ever winner of American Idol. A duet is still very far away; he’s just not good enough. Chynna ‘ecstatic’ Sherrod is. Laidback, chill, awesome, you’re so pretty Jennifer, no you’re so pretty Chynna, she’s buried under compliments. There’s something incredibly sexy and cool about a woman who knows how to play guitar like Chynna does. After some of Harry’s (finger) monkey business, Lillian ‘puppy dog eyes’ Glanton is up and plays a song of her own. It’s great, she’s got great storytelling skills, but the jury’s having a hard time collecting two yeses. Jennifer’s got the deciding vote – ‘no pressure’ – but hey, if you put through Mister Boombastic, Lillian deserves a spot in the next round as well.
Jon Bon Jovi, Bono and High Heels
Speaking of the boys, there aren’t an awful lot of them this year. And most of what we’ve got so far are pretty traditional country singers. Sure, Scotty McCreery won, but it’s going to be tough. Anyway, the judges take all the masculinity that they can get, and I think that’s the reason why Kacye ‘perfect mashup of Jon Bon Jovi and Bono’ Haynes gets a ticket. Also Zach Person gets a chance, and although he does have a fine voice, I’m not sure what he does better; sing or play the guitar. Usen ‘background actor’ Isong will probably make it further in the competition. Harry: ‘You’re a trouble man’ – a guy the other guys had better watch out for. As long as he doesn’t trip over his high heels, that is.
Red, Green, Black and Furtado
The girls continue to shine, like nanny Colette ‘natural redhead’ Lush. Like Jaci ‘green and black’ Butler, who seems to be a much better singer when she isn’t surrounded by her garage band (or should I say mommy’s living room band). Like Stephany Negrete, who’s already dressed perfectly like a popstar. And like Avalon ‘how do you look like a singer?’ Young, who doesn’t have a sense of style – the Roxy Music song lyric tattoo on her biceps notwithstanding – but she can sing beautifully, very Nelly Furtado-esque, actually.
The last audition “ever” is Manny Torres’. It’s not exactly clear what he’s going for. A golden ticket for crazy Hollywood Week, or just the touch of Jennifer’s hand. He plays a great version of ‘This Love’ by Maroon 5 and will just have to win the whole thing, I guess, before he can devote his attention to J-Lo. Bummer. There are a few more people who went through to the next round, but due to time issues, didn’t get more than just a couple of seconds of screen time. The seats are taken, the roster’s complete, Kanye West is probably practicing really hard at this very moment, it’s time to set the stage and separate the maybes from the definitelies.