Phoenix, Arizona 1.13.09

Phoenix, Arizona 1-13-09

Tight Black T

Season 8 of American Idol started out in Phoenix, AZ where 10,000 people showed up for the auditions and only 27 came away with golden tickets.

The show opened with scenes from the last seven seasons, culminating in shots of the winners during their winning moments. The “inspirational” intro continued with Seacrest reminding us that, “This show is not about the destination; it’s about the journey itself.” Rolleyes

All those in Taylorland were happy over plenty of sightings of Taylor’s picture during the audition. Last year it seemed like they tried to hide his face in every way possible. His face is actually quite prominent, as you get to see him every time a contestant leaves the audition room. Hey, it’s definitely a step in the right direction.

And how did the introduction of a fourth judge change the panel’s dynamic? More unanimous votes. What? I don’t think I’ve seen so many unanimous yes votes before. Were the contestants that good? Is this a kinder gentler AI? I don’t know, but it was just plain . . . freaky!

The two-hour show was not as much of a freak-fest as in past seasons. They did seem to focus on the good or at least passable singers. Of course, they started things off on freak footing with Tuan Nguyen whose hair was more impressive than his singing. “I’ve never seen anything like that, and not in a good way,” said Kara. Yup, that pretty much summed it up.

We were introduced to Lea Maria Golde, a 16-year-old from California who claims to be Kara’s biggest fan. I saw Paula cringing as Lea came over to the judges table with a book containing over 100 songs she had written. Her singing wasn’t awful actually, “better than Rhianna live” was a quote from someone watching with me. Haha Kara encouraged her songwriting and sent her packing.

And what the hell was with the girl in the bikini and why did she get sent through to Hollywood? Simon and Randy’s ears must not have been working due to the blood rushing to other parts of their bodies. And about that – she is not at all attractive, at least in my book. Pack only one bikini Katrina, you’re not going to be in Hollywood long.

My favorites from the night:

For cuteness: Arianne Afsar. She’s adorable, very sweet, and has nice voice. But I’m not sure she has the mental toughness to go very far.

Best female voice: Stevie Wright, 16 from California. When she said she was singing “At Last” by Etta James, I was skeptical – she’s 16, no way that’s going to work. But she pulled it off. I’ll admit, some parts of the song were a bit weak, but she nailed the parts that were meant to grab your heart, and that’s what mattered to me. She’s young, but I think she has the ability to take the coaching she’d get and really fly!

Best male voice: Scott MacIntyre, 23. Scott is a nearly completely blind pianist. His field of vision is basically limited to one key width on the piano. He entered college at the age of 14 and graduated at 19. I echo Simon’s sentiment, “You’re a cool guy, I like you.” He sang “And So It Goes” by Billy Joel, and the way he caressed the notes made me shiver. Oh, and Ryan, high-fiving a blind contestant – not cool dude!

So, it’s onto Kansas City on Wednesday night. Let’s see if the kinder, gentler Simon and AI continues or if they were just lulling us into a false sense of security.

Seacrest’s Hair

Seacrest’s Hair, a/k/a the long-winded one who refers to herself with the royal “we”, hasn’t watched much American Idol since Season Five, but found the new focus on not-retarded, not-emotionally unstable losers to be totally refreshing. New judge Kara is both sane and cute, which is a nice combination.

There was the irritating overview montage of the first seven seasons, including those screaming crying tweens that we’ve all seen on YouTube already, but luckily we could fast-forward through all of that. It does seem to be the theme for the year, though, this reflective montage (thinking about the “past winners” commercial that’s been running for at least a month).

Phoenix, apparently, thinks they are auditioning “So You Think You Can Dance”, as they are very, very, very into the dancing. Hence our first contestant, Twan something-or-other, who is half-Vietnamese, half-Afropuff. Hopefully he’s good at bagging groceries, because he’s not making it to Hollywood.

We’re getting a nice balance right off the bat with the pedigreed Emily Hughes (mom was a singer), who looks like Frenchie from Grease, but with tattoos. She’s a singer in an all-girl band and when she makes it through, she basically leaves the poor band in the lurch. We think she’ll go pretty far based on actually being able to sing Barracuda with no accompaniment. That song is hard, man.

Our next loser is Randy Madden, who seriously looks less like 28 than Taylor Hicks ever did. He’s a cryer, and his voice is as weak as the rest of him… and flat. “What else can a guy do?” he asks… and we answer, “Learn to sing, maybe?”

J.B. something-or-other (yeah, we could have rewound the tape) has a nice legato voice, but we agree with Simon that he’s gotta loosen up. The sound was a bit forced. Hopefully Byrd can do something with him if he makes it through the Hollywood round.

This next one reminds us of that Keith (“Keef”) guy who kept auditioning and got worse every year… but less confident. Michael Gurr was so scared that he actually made himself physically sick. We’re not even sure how he made the noises he made, but it sure wasn’t singing. We hope he didn’t land in the hospital, anyway.

Now the murder trio: Will Kunick, a high-pitched frog, murders Tears for Fears; D.J. Bradley not only murders Celine Dion but messes up the words, too; and Shawn Vasquez murders Dionne Warwick while making us wonder: was that a flamboyant boy or an ugly girl?

Andre “Xray” Caraway is a mess of long limbs, Jheri curls and way too much energy… we are certain there’s a place in the world for him but hopefully it’s far, far away from us. It’s nowhere near Idol, that’s for sure, and the nice man in white (ooh, security! SEXY!) is going to make sure he stays away.

Arianna Afsar is a do-gooder 16-year-old that we hope we won’t get sick of — she’s got a good “starter voice” that’ll benefit from training, and she’s probably a lock for the top 10 or top 12 or whatever we’re doing this year.

Elijah Scarlett is a basso profundo, and incredibly difficult to listen to. We won’t miss his complete lack of range.

Lea Marie (Golde, although she’s apparently not using her last name) is Kara’s “biggest fan!!!” and has written “over 100 original songs”. Well, that’s a bit harder than writing someone else’s songs, isn’t it? She’s got a stupid pink cowboy hat and bright red hair (and enough makeup to cover freckles that I am certain she has) and therefore reminds us of Kimmy Gibbler from “Full House”. Yup, she’s that annoying. Remarkably, she sings her chosen dance-pop song relatively well, but she needs a few more years under her belt for her voice to mature and lose the irritating edge. Luckily the judges agree.

Stevie Wright was named after Stevie Nicks… wasn’t there another girl a few years ago named Stevie as well? Anyway, this one looks like Jessica Biel, is 16 and a bit breathy, but has a good sense of pitch and excellent range that she shows off by singing “At Last”, which seriously we need to retire as an audition song. Please. Simon thinks she needs to “grow teeth” in order to proceed, and we agree, because more confident singers will plow right over her if she doesn’t. Let’s see what happens in Hollywood.

Michael Sarver is a right sexy married daddy of two who works on an oil rig (scary!). He’s a sweet, tough dude, and the ladies are gonna love him.

We’re treated to a montage of suck and pain. We fast-forwarded. Taping is the only way to watch this show and not go insane.

Finally we get to the ultra-promoted “Bikini Girl”, who actually has a name — Katrina Darrell. We swear we’ve seen her on other reality shows, or maybe just the work of whoever created her. She wouldn’t have gotten through with clothes on, that’s for sure. (And we’re still not convinced Seacrest is straight, bikini-stalking or not.)

Eric “Sexual Chocolate” Thomas is that guy we all went to school with, except in our school he was white, had frosted tips and wore a sideways sun visor. He was never going to get through. Yeesh.

Brianna Quijada spent all morning teaching some choreographed dance to the other contestants, yet still had a ton of energy. She can send some of that our way… She hasn’t got much of a range, and a baby voice, but if she can keep from “Wait, can I start over?” in the future she might have a chance. She got through on two votes.

When we first saw and heard Deanna Brown, we thought “Pickler”… and then she sang. What a delicious, husky singing voice she has! She’ll go far; we just hope that she records songs worthy of her voice.

Cody Sheldon provided the producers with the opportunity to use cliched horror movie cuts and background music, but he has a beautiful, radio-ready voice and surprised us by singing a James Morrison song. Maybe he can ditch the eyeliner for Hollywood? Please? He’d be soooooo cute.

Apparently Simon is so bored by the job that he created for himself that he has to ask the contestants, “Which three countries would you be popular in?” Perhaps he’s doing it as an intelligence test, because a large number of contestants aren’t sure what a country is. We’re definitely in America…

One of the few who knows what a country is and can name two oddball ones (plus Canada) is the socially-awkward Alex Wagner-Trugman. He’s got a good voice, the potential to look cute with grooming, and a weird nervous habit of saying bizarre things and following up with “no, not really”. We like him, but aren’t sure how that sort of thing is going to play when the public starts voting. Good luck, kiddo!

And now we get another montage of suck, featuring “Dead or Alive”… and we fast-forward.

Our last featured audition is Scott McIntyre, who shall be known as “Blind Guy” in the media. He’s hot. He’s a super-genius who started college at 14 and finished at 19. He plays the piano, he sings, better yet he sings Billy Joel… and he sings with his eyes open, which we vastly appreciate having been scarred for life by Andrea Bocelli.

We liked Emily and Deanna best, and Michael Sarver. Twenty-seven total through in Phoenix… next up is Kansas City, home of David Cook and hopefully a few more people who aren’t tone-deaf psychos…

Lil’ Dawg

Lil’ Dawg’s contribution this week is, well, small. Lil’ Dawg spent more time laughing at the freak contestants than paying attention to the good singers. At one point, after hearing the guy with the deep voice, she went in search of one of her favorite AI clips – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uqzF3YL8l…re=related Yeah, she’s sick. She did admit that she’ll be more into commenting once the numbers are smaller. Yeah, we’re gonna hold ya to that Lil’ Dawg.

X-ray (Aundre Caraway): Enthusiasm isn’t always a good thing. . . .

Arianne Afsar: I didn’t want her to stop singing. She sang “Girl Put Your Records On” better than Corrine Bailey Ray herself. Cute girl, I might add.

Cody Sheldon: Has a good voice but needs a little help. If he gets to the top 24, hopefully he doesn’t let them change him like they did Sanjaya. Reminds me a little of Danny Noriega.

Upcoming Schedule:
Top 36 Semi-Finalists Revealed Wednesday, February 11.
Voting Begins Tuesday, February 17.
Top 12 Singers Revealed After Judges’ Wild Card Round Thursday, March 5.
Top 12 Finalists Perform for First Time Tuesday, March 10.


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