American Idol Week Two: Memphis and New York City Go Auditioning!
American Idol ebbs and flows with excitement, and though last week's tour through Minneapolis and Seattle left us listless, Memphis and New York City kicked some serious ass in the audition room.
I noticed something that the producers are making us more privy to this season, which is that Simon Cowell is always on his cell phone. And sometimes more than one. As he arrived to the second day of auditions in NYC he had count 'em three cell phones on hand: one stuck to his right ear, and another two collapsed into a small silver pile on his left shoulder. He must be popular. What an efficient multi-tasker he must be, too, to be able to juggle so many conversations at once.
Speaking of Simon, he finally uttered one of my favorite one-word criticisms: "horrible." It's a classic.
I'm waiting now to hear other recurring favorites like "pure." That one might not come out for a few more weeks, though he is back to labeling things "cabaret," which I like very much, and is usually a spot-on assessment when he chooses to use it.
There was a new snarky Simonism last night that filled me with delight: "That comes under the category of annoying." Surely it's the best quote of the night.
I am also beginning to find Simon rather sexy, but I digress. I still don't like how he condescends to Paula on occasion, but I have to say that on Paula's behalf, she was in tip-top shape this week, and didn't look even a little bit drunk. In this week's Us Weekly she is also quoted in the "Loose Talk" section confirming again that her interview with a Seattle TV station, in which she appears slurring and disoriented, was due to technical difficulties. She says she had a Birmingham TV station talking to her in one ear, and Seattle in the other.
In Memphis she was her usual smiles and enthusiasm, and the same goes for her appearance in New York. So far this season, she sounds sharp and articulate--at least compared to previous seasons where she sugar-coats contestants with lines like, "I think you are a star." I don't believe this is what any contestant wants to hear from a judge, because ultimately it is not constructive, and rather misleading. Not all of them are stars. The top 5 at best will go on to make celebrity names for themselves.
Kelly Clarkson is the only one from season one to make it big, while the flavorless Justin Guarini (look how annoying he is!) hangs dully in her shadow . Last year's Idol was probably the season that yielded the most marketable singers. Idol winner Taylor Hicks and runner-up Katherine McPhee (whose self titled CD debuts on January 30th) are the biggest names across the airwaves, but we've heard, too, a lot from Chris Daughtry and even the good-looking, if somewhat boring Ace Young. Seasons past gave us some surprise stars like Jennifer Hudson (who's now nominated for an Oscar for her supporting role in Dream Girls), but generally, the contestants who don't win have a sticky start to stardom.
The judges are under fire recently for being too harsh on the hordes that show up for auditions. But I have to wonder how these critics expect Randy, Paula, and Simon to react to the delusional and tone deaf who so often plague the auditioning room. I mentioned last week that Simon, clearly Idol's most blunt judge, can be rather responsive and encouraging if the contestant is a) good, and b) self-aware. The bad contestants have to show up because they are entertaining, and because they are the life-blood of the show during auditioning. The judges could take them with a grain of salt, but if they are too lax with the mediocre, or just plain bad, they end up sounding condescending with praise that leads the contestants to failure. The judges say it over and over, "We're looking for the best." "Good" just doesn't cut it.
Last night in at the New York auditions, Ashanti, a singer who was back to audition for her third time, pleaded with them to let her go on to Hollywood with such disgrace and melodrama that it became embarrassing to watch. These are the kinds of contestants that need to learn how to bow out with decency, so as to avoid the backlash from Simon, which in Ashanti's case ended with a terse, "Get over it."
I always look at auditioning season as a lesson in manners, and it's astounding to see how many contestants just don't have any. Instead they come out of the auditioning room cursing and name calling, and when the words get too dirty they are happily bleeped out with that bubbly blue American Idol logo over their lips, while being escorted from the building by security.
Speaking of swearing, Simon, Paula, and Ryan all said swears last night! Ryan called Simon an @!*-hole, and I think that's what Paula called him, too. Maybe things are feistier this season?
And here's a short run-down of the people I liked this week: "Sundance," Melinda Doolittle, Kia Tompson, Jenry, Jory, and the girl who said she was "militant" in her training (though she was kind of annoying).
Next week: Birmingham and Los Angeles auditions