*deep Randy Jackson-esque inhale through the teeth*
Here we go again.
The new season of American Idol begins with a slightly revamped intro as if to say, "Look at me, world. I am slightly more relevant than I was last year." But don't be fooled by fancy graphics. Inside the audition room, it's the same old story. Same old song and daaaaaaance, my friends.
Of course, things are a little different behind the judging table. No box-cutter hairdo. No shrill "sweeties." No nipple rubbing. (Don't rule that last one out. The season's very young.) There is still plenty of poor grammar, thanks to Randy Jackson, lone survivor of the Judgepocalypse. He gets a little help in that department from adverb-hating Steven Tyler, who likes to repeatedly tell people that they "sing beautiful." And then there's Jennifer Lopez—pleasant enough but really just a sober man's Paula Abdul.
Steven says he wants to find "a Janis Joplin for this era." Is he having a senior moment? Because I'm not sure he really understands where he is. J.Lo just wants the auditions to "be great." Oh, honey, don't we all? Randy says something hot. You know it, baby. When the judges finish expressing their hopes for the season, Seacrest hyperbolizes like only he can. THIS YEAR HAS THE MOST AUDITIONS EVER. IT'S THE BIGGEST TALENT WE'VE EVER SEEN. THE JUDGES ARE HAVING THE MOST FUN EVER. THE 20 SEMI-FINALISTS HAVE ACTUALLY DISCOVERED A CURE FOR CANCER—THE WORST DISEASE EVER. AND THEN THEY WILL TACKLE AIDS! BUT NOT BEFORE FIXING THE HOLE IN THE OZONE LAYER, WHICH IS CURRENTLY THE BIGGEST IT'S EVER BEEN!
Season 10 kicks off in New Jersey, so the Jersey Shore references flow like Boone's Farm, despite the auditions being held in Jersey City, which is practically in New York. I don't have high expectations for this first stop, mainly because I lived in that shithole during the worst year of my life and the only talents I saw were acrobatic roaches. But wait...they're at the Meadowlands, so I think that's technically Secaucus or East Rutherford or some other place in which I never had the misfortune to live. And it's still not the Jersey Shore.
Up first is Rachel, an opera singer (I think?) who originally went to Hollywood in Season 6. J. Lo immediately claims to remember her and Rachel is beside herself. Please. Jen remembers this girl about as well as anyone remembers Angel Eyes. Rachel breaks out "Hallelujah" (get used to it) and does a fair to middling job with it. Everyone likes her, so she's in.
Next is Caleb, whose fun little Ray Charles cover is accompanied by Steven on desk percussion. Steven gives his trademark wail (again, get used to it) to signify that he approves of Caleb. Everyone else does too. And why not? The boy's got a beautiful head of hair.
Time to see what lowering the age requirement has wrought as 15-year-old Kenzie steps up to the plate. As he is contractually obligated to do, Randy reminds Kenzie (twice) that she is only 15. She sounds a lot like any number of interchangeable female pop singers, so naturally she gets a golden ticket.
Then, more people get golden tickets. Wow, this is riveting.
Finally, a knucklehead emerges in the form of Achille from De Ivory Coast. Equal parts Grace Jones and Marlene Dietrich, Achille huskily drones her way through Madonna's "Dress You Up." No one makes a joke about how singing is her Achilles' heel. J. Lo finally has to say "no" to someone and she acts like it's so hard for her to be "mean." This is interesting because, if you believe everything you read in the tabloids—and I absolutely do—the woman is a raging beast of a diva.
Tiffany (Star Tits) appears to be a train wreck waiting to happen (the ridiculous bikini top, the idolization of J.Lo, etc.) but she actually turns out to be not half bad. Her original song is kind of amusing but the high notes are kind of painful. Since the judges like her, they let her sing a Celine song, which is much better, albeit way too loud. She makes it through.
Now there is a montage of all the bad singers that Jennifer has to turn down. Oh, the struggle! However, some terrible chick named Melkia finally helps Jen find the will to just say "NO!" If only she had figured out how to the casting director of Maid in Manhattan.
Did you think that one of the changes for this season would be to eliminate the sob stories? If so, how naive of you! Here comes the first Very Special Contestant: 16-year-old Robbie, who I predict will be the Jewish Archuleta. Robbie earns his VSC stripes by revealing that he spent a brief period of his childhood confined to a wheelchair. Then he sings "Yesterday" in a blandly pleasant manner with a lot of unnecessary runs and glory notes. And you know who loves unnecessary runs and glory notes, don't you? I was gonna say The Dawg, but apparently everyone else loves that stuff, too. Of course Robbie makes it to the next round. And Randy is still amazed that 16-year-olds can sing, despite having been visited by a 15-year-old singer not long ago.
Another montage: this time, it's a bunch of girls lusting after Steven and, in response, Steven acting like a horndog. Remember the Paula Abdul/Corey Clark scandal? That was nothing. If Steven doesn't bang at least five contestants this year, I'm going to be extremely shocked and disappointed.
Chris, the last 18-year-old Boy Scout, has no shot. At anything. Why? Because he's an 18-year-old Boy Scout. And he's got terrible bangs. He also filmed an embarrassingly awful video about the dangers of texting while driving, a good deal of which the producers air to ensure that this kid never gets laid, EVER. Chris tries to impress the judges with a terrible Sinatra impression, while Seacrest feels up the kid's grandmother in the hallway.
Next, we're treated to a bunch of rejects, including Belching Michael, who must be kidding. He sings "Proud Mary" as he imagines Cher might, much to the judges' dismay. But because the guy so obviously wants to make an ass of himself on TV, they let him do another song before showing him the door.
Ashley wants to be the next Britney, and she seems mentally unbalanced enough to pull that off. Strangely enough, she auditions with a Broadway tune. It isn't really "bad," but she's screaming like it's Broadway for the deaf. The judges are all a little unsure of what to make of Ashley, so she cries and begs and acts generally weird until they send her to Hollywood.
Victoria likes smiling! Smiling's her favorite! She is 16 AND THREE-QUARTERS! She was created in a lab by the creators of the Miss Teen USA Pageant! Ugh. This girl needs to crash and burn immediately. Unfortunately, she has enough technical skill to warrant a golden ticket. I will be patiently waiting for Hollywood to eat her alive.
The end of Day 1 brings us the second VSC: Melinda from Kosovo. Her parents got to America through the Green Card Lottery, escaped the bombs, yadda yadda. Whatever. She's got a nice voice; that's all I care about. She's through to the next round.
Kicking off Day 2 is Devyn, a Stardust waitress. Randy isn't sure about singing waitresses, but I've been to Stardust and, believe me, those people can sing their asses off. She's very good and the judges love her, but feel the need to give her grief about her "image." She's wearing a tee-shirt and jeans. So what? Tyra Banks would totally approve of that outfit.
Another montage of rejectees takes us to the break. Upon returning, we finally get to see this dude Seacrest has been hyping all show, Yoji Pop. Wow, Ryan, this is what we were supposed to be breathlessly waiting for? A Japanese Michael Jackson impersonator who spazzes his way through Miley Cyrus's "Party in the USA?" Almost as quickly as he appears, the show cuts to a montage of auditioners singing the same song and Yoji is never seen again. I think it's safe to assume that he didn't make it. But you never know with this show.
Brielle, a 16-year-old from Staten Island, is wearing a flower in her hair and a sundress with boots, guaranteeing her a spot in Hollywood. Also helping? She's a VSC! Her Dad had throat cancer and was afraid he'd never live to see Brielle try out for AI. Of course, he's now cancer-free and he is there for the audition. As the judges are about to present Brielle (who is really just an average singer) with her golden ticket, Randy brings the Dad in to extend the Lifetime moment.
At the end of Day 2, many people leave the Meadowlands in tears. Some because they didn't make the cut, some because they were really looking forward to seeing Simon Cowell and some because they couldn't believe they came to New Jersey for this.
The final audition is another VSC, 16-year-old Travis from the Bronx. His Dad was also sick, and for a while his family had to live in a shelter. He sings "Elanor Rigby" and "I'm Yours" very well (although I feel like he was affecting too much of a Mrazzy sound on the latter) and makes it through. Once again, family members are invited into the audition room to hug it out.
According to Entertainment Weekly, 325 contestants will go to Hollywood and, of those, 60 will move on to Las Vegas for a Beatles songfest. That group will be whittled down to 40 for another Hollywood round, leaving 20 semifinalists. Then America will choose 10-12 finalists.
In all, 51 people from Jersey made it to the next round and we only saw 11, none of whom really rocked my world. I suppose Caleb was my favorite, so I'll go out on a limb and say that he'll at least make it to Vegas.
Tomorrow night, the audition bus rolls in to New Orleans. Don't be surprised if Steven gives golden tickets to any female contestants who show their boobs.
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