Archive for the ‘Auditions’ category

Idol’s Best Auditions

January 23, 2016

In the aftermath of The Final Auditions Forever, I thought about putting together a list of my favorite Idol auditions. However, Yahoo Music’s fabulous Lyndsey Parker, an Idol fanatic of epic proportions, i.e. like me, beat me to it. So rather than reinvent a very nicely working wheel, I’ll share hers with you.

I do, of course, have my own musings on Lyndsey’s very fine list. I would have had Lauren Alaina much higher. Back on January 27, 2011 I wrote:

Alright, they finally did it. They finally found somebody to make me break my Don’t Get Excited Until Hollywood Rule: 15-year old Lauren Alaina, the last singer of the night. She’s got the look, the charisma, some chutzpah – asking Aero to sing along with her! –  and most importantly, a smoky, soulful, edgy vocal quality that I am a real sucker for. I am really hating myself for getting emotionally involved already. But of all the good people I’ve seen so far – and there are plenty I could get excited about eventually – she’s my top pre-Idolist to this point. Not to get too far ahead of myself or lead you with me but after the Nashville auditions Executive Producer Nigel Lythgoe had tweeted about a 15-year old that he thought could win. Some insiders believe he was referring to her.

Lauren did go on to become a My Girl and finish second to Scotty McCreery. More importantly, she’s had continuing success in the business post-Idol. Check out her new songs Next Boyfriend and History, the latter of which was on constant repeat on ESPN this college football season.

While I have no problem with Lyndsey’s #2 choice – no I’m not going to tell you – I was surprised by who she had at the top of the list. No, I’m not going to tell you that one, either. But I will say I’m not one for the tug-at-your-heartstrings auditions, so I would have never gone there for #1.

It may surprise you to know that I would have bumped up Phillip Philllps higher – I did really like his “offbeat style” at the beginning; and the same for Scotty McCreery with his I-didn’t-see-that-coming bass voice.

I’m very happy to see that Lyndsey included Todrick Hall, whose unjustifiably too-early send-off by the voters was one Idol’s biggest mistakes. About Todrick’s last performance I said :

Todrick, in particular, has a great voice which the judges have pointed out each week. And he is an engaging stage performer. His potential is great and tonight we finally got a glimpse of it.

Since Todrick has his own show now on MTV, I can say that I had that one.

And who didn’t love Pants on the Ground?

So here’s Lyndsey Parker’s list. She includes all the videos for her choices but I didn’t watch them. It was enough fun to read her reasons and reminisce about what I remembered.[1]

The 25 Greatest ‘American Idol’ Auditions

But I do want to include three videos that are mandatory viewing.[2] So you know how some contestants ask if they can sing another song when the first one didn’t go well? That second song wouldn’t come out of thin air. They are told to prepare two songs. If the judges are on the fence, they’ll get to sing that second song and on a few occasions the Evil Genius Producers showed us that. Sometimes the second song was better and the EGPs will show us that one and edit the whole audition as if the Idolist sang only one song. Sometimes they tape both songs and choose which one they want to air. The point here is that the wanna-be pop stars come prepared with two songs.

So we all now know that Adam Lambert famously sang Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody for his audition, impressing all the judges but Simon who thought he was “theatrical.” What isn’t as widely known is that Adam taped another song, Michael Jackson’s Rock With You. When you watch – yes, it’s mandatory – you’ll notice obvious signs of editing as some of the same material in the beginning of Rock With You appears in the beginning of the Bohemian Rhapsody audition that aired on TV. Oh yeah, that means you’ll have to watch the video of Bohemian Rhapsody. I’ll just go ahead and put it here first for you because I’m nice like that.

And then you’ll also notice that Rock With You was fabulous.

One other audition video needs to be noted. An omission from Lyndsey’s list was Never Got to Be My Girl Brandy Neelly’s audition in Chicago from Season XII. On January 18, 2013 I wrote this:

My star of the night – and she’s got serious My Girl potential – was Brandy Neelly. Yes, she’s another country singer, which is starting to get tiresome. She even went old school country Hank Williams on me That’s really trying my objectivity. But she’s really, really good and cute as a button.

To this day I remain blown away at Brandy’s audition which is one of my all-time favorites. And I’m mystified at how she didn’t get to the voting rounds that or the next season. The good news is that I became friends with her mom; and Brandy is busy working on her career the old-fashioned way from the ground up.

So yeah, this video is mandatory, too.


[1] And in the interest of full disclosure, I didn’t come to Idol until Season V, so I missed a few in Lyndsey’s list, including the epic William Hung.

[2] Yes, I’ve got the NSA watching you. If I find out that you didn’t watch the mandatory videos, bad things will happen to you.


The Last Ticket to Hollywood

January 21, 2016

I’m imagining a scene. Many years from now I’ll be watching Jeopardy in a retirement home. The category will be “Music for $2500[1].” The answer will be “Manny Torres.” And with no shame, I will stand and proudly shout, “Who was the last audition on American Idol?”

We probably won’t see much of Manny again but we can still cherish the moment.

On tonight’s Final Auditions Forever, Idol put their most reliable trope on full display – that of anybody, really anybody can be the next American Idol! Poultry farmer with 11,000 chickens! Teenager battling lymphoma! Ex-drug abuser! Obese guys! Young daughters with supportive fathers! Male Kelly Clarkson worshippers![2]

In the world of real reality, much like the Really Bad Auditions[3] – another familiar Idol motif we got plenty of tonight – none of the aforementioned people will be the next American Idol.

But here’s who might be.

Let’s go ahead and start with who the Evil Genius Producers started with – Jessica Cabral, a 21 year-old worship leader. None other than Idol’s mentor and record label dude Scott Borchetta tweeted about her.

The rest of my list:

  • Collette Lush – the cute redhead nanny about whom K-Urbs said, Gosh she’s good.” We agree, Mr. Urban.
  • Jaci Butler – the green-haired alt-rocker. I guess I like people with atypical hair?
  • Avalon Young – a different/interesting/compelling sounding teenager.
  • Usen Isong – the background actor came to the foreground with a riff-filled version of Sam Smith’s Not the Only One.
  • Stephany Negrete – I agree with J-Lo that she was over-thinking. I agree with HCJ and K-Urbs that she’s got a stunning, star-quality presence along with a lovely voice. I thought Collette Lush’s (above) version of Who’s Loving You was better but Stephanie’s was good enough.

I also want to give a special shout-out to Zach Person, the young brother who sang Gary Clark Jr.’s Next Door Neighbor Blues. I’m quite sure a young, black, blues-rock guy isn’t going to claim Kelly Clarkson’s crown in the last season of Idol. And if I’m being completely honest, he’s a better guitar player than a singer and singing is ultimately what Idol is about. But still. Gary Clark Jr? That made me so happy.

So, 190 prospective, hopeful, possible American Idols got Golden Tickets to Hollywood. As always, at least one-third of them have absolutely no chance, especially a lot of the teenagers they put through. But the Evil Genius Producers reminded us tonight how hard it is for the judges to say no – another familiar Idol trope. I guess that’s why I still miss Simon Cowell. No wasn’t hard for him.

Which is exactly why I should have been a judge. I would have said no a lot, too, but I would have been nice about it. 🙂

The fun of Hollywood begins next week and the pursuit of becoming The Last American Idol begins in earnest. In the meantime, I’ll be listening to lots of music since I’ll be housebound for days due to the impending apocalyptic snowstorm. I better remember to charge all of my iPods – yes, that was plural – in case we lose electricity. If I’m still alive or not in a wine-induced coma, I’ll be back next week.


[1] I have an Economics degree so I’m accounting for inflation.

[2] Yes, I have many My Girls. But I don’t have t-shirts made with their names on them. Nope. Not even for Britney or Amy or Hayley or Tori or Melanie or Katy B or Ella or Banks or Paloma or Liv or Jessie or Lianne or Zarni or Syesha or Alexis or Brandy or . . .

[3] Including a pre-audition where the Evil Genius Producers had the audacity to show a guy butchering My Girl Britney’s Baby One More Time. This is a sacrilege of unspeakably detestable proportions.

Reality Redux

January 20, 2016

Tonight we saw that reality singing shows have become a cottage industry.

  • Poh, sister of Shi[1] from Season XIV’s Top 24[2] is on her way to Hollywood. Poh has more swag than Shi. Does that sentence even make sense?
  • Google “Mackenzie Bourg” and you’ll get references to American Idol and The Voice. He was on Season 3[3] of The Voice aka The Game Show With Singing. He’s on his way to Hollywood after a clever audition of a medley of songs by each of the judges.
  • Adam Lasher was on Season 2 of The Voice aka The Game Show With Singing. And he was on Idol last year. He’s on his way to Hollywood again this year. He also happens to be Carlos Santana’s nephew.
  • Emily Brooke was worthy of a musing last year. She’s on her way to Hollywood again after singing a song by RaeLynn who was a country cutie on The Voice in Season 2[4].

Maybe we do just need one singing show if we’re going to see the same people on both. By the way, Yahoo Music’s Lyndsey Parker just wrote a great blog on the history of contestants on both Idol and The Voice.

In any case, the audition I liked the most was by Jenna Renae. HCJ said, “She’s good.” I agree, Harry. I also took note of 15 year-old Amelia Eisenhower who plays fiddle and plays with swords. I’m quite sure I own no music by people who do both of those things.

So on a night when I found myself wondering if any of those going to Hollywood have a shot at getting out of Hollywood, I now find myself wondering what will happen with Mackenzie, Adam and Emily. Mackenzie is the kind of White Guy With Guitar that does well on Idol. And the judges went out of their way to say how much better Emily is than last year. Adam, on the other hand, still doesn’t seem to me to the kind of artist that will go far on Idol. Frankly, I was surprised he came back.

Editorial comment – I was uncomfortable with the Mario Bonds audition. It was unnecessary to me. Yes, he has a great story – blind since the age of ten – and personality. But he isn’t a good singer. And as Katy Perry said when she was a guest judge, “It’s not a Hallmark Card, honey.” So why put him out there if he’s not very good? That seemed cruel to me.

I suspect that the Evil Genius Producers will have all kinds of special tricks for tomorrow’s Final Auditions Forever. I also suspect they’ll unveil a few people who can possibly win this thing. Until then, stay warm, dry and listen to some good music. I can’t guarantee I’ll stay warm and dry but I have the good music thing down pretty good.


[1] No, I’m not making up these names.

[2] And one of the most gorgeous Idolists ever. Too bad she (Shi) couldn’t sing.

[3] The year Cassadee Pope won and My Girls Melanie Martinez and Amanda Brown didn’t. 😦

[4] The year Jermaine Paul won (and never released an album) and Jamar Rogers and Juliet Simms didn’t. 😦

Interesting – and Sometimes Really Interesting

January 14, 2016

I get it. The Evil Genius Producers have to show us a sublime to ridiculous range of Idolists to make the auditions interesting. There’s no point in them only airing the two dozen that actually have a chance to win. They need to show us some that will quickly get discarded once they get to Hollywood, some that we believe in that will cruelly – even mistakenly get cut[1] – and some that we will eventually see in the voting rounds. We may have seen one or two of the latter group tonight.

I’m going to divide my list from the two hours of auditions into two groups: Interesting and Really Interesting. Interesting = deserves to go to Hollywood. Really Interesting = has a real shot of getting out of Hollywood.


Amber Lynn was the night’s first audition along with her not yet-but-soon-to-be-out-of-the-friend-zone-guy-friend. She has a nice soulful voice.

CJ did an interesting I-didn’t-see-that-coming version of Hall and Oates (I forget the song; I guess it wasn’t that interesting.).

Mary Williams is the champion mule rider[2] who had a nice voice but I agree with K-Urbs that she “performed rather than confessed” Tammy Wynette. I love that phrase. I’ve tried to convey that kind of critique over the years but never as succinctly as that.

Terrain the “Happy” girl from Memphis. Nice voice. Nice personality.

Ashley L. is a pretty, spacey, island girl with a sweet voice but her performance lacked gravitas.

Really Interesting

John Wayne Schultz. OK, I’ll go ahead and say it. I. Liked. A. Country. Guy.[3] I do remember it coming down to between he and Scotty McCreery in the last cut in Season X. Even my friend who worships Garth loved his version of The Dance.

Jordyn Simone is the 15 year-old who looks 25. There were a couple of hinky teenage-girl notes in her Jackson 5 classic Who’s Loving You but her voice grabbed me and shook me right from the start.

Elvie Shane was the last and best audition of the night for me. I didn’t even need the usual The Last-Audition-of-the-Night-Backstory. Really cool alt-folk version of House of the Rising Sun. He’s even got a rock star name.

Really Really Interesting

Yeah, I created an additional category for one contestant – Kassy Levels. They only showed a mini-clip of her and that mini-clip was really, really good. She came in dressed for success, showed a lot of confidence and sang great from the little we heard. I’m highlighting her because I think The Evil Genius Producers are waiting to spring more of her on us later when it matters.

That’s it. That’s my list. Next week is the last week of auditions and I’m sure the Evil Genius Producers put some great talent in the back end.[4] I’ll see you then. In the meantime, I hope you listen to some good music. I know I will. Last night was all about that sax – Art Pepper and Sonny Stitt.

P.S. Can we get some sort of ban against people singing Adele this season? Surely this is something liberals and conservatives can work together on for the benefit of the American people.

P.P.S Yes, I got Tori Kelly tickets for her show in DC April 23.

P.P.P.S. Yes, I got Adam Lambert pre-sale tickets today for his show in DC March 5. 🙂


[1] Can you say Tori Kelly, who didn’t make the final Hollywood cut in the Lee Dewyze season, widely regarded as Idol’s lowest point? Idol acted like they discovered her in their clip on her tonight.

[2] They won’t quit with the anybody can win thing, will they?

[3] I trust that you have your own visual of me typing “liked”, “country” and “guy” in the same sentence. Actually I didn’t really put them in the same sentence. I just couldn’t do it.

[4] Yeah, I know how that sounds. I’m not changing it. It’s clever in an It’s All About That Bass kind of way.

Lukewarm Brotherly Love for Philly

January 13, 2016

Tonight’s auditions in Philadelphia were brought to you by a joint venture of The Hallmark Channel and Comedy Central. [Cue music by Brenda K. Starr, who has nothing to do with either; I’ll explain later.] It was a fast paced episode full of human-interest stories, Idol nostalgia and light-hearted laughs – but also light on talent. HCJ said, “There’s gotta be somebody here in the Top Ten.” If there was, they must not have shown them to us.

The show began with a segment on Clay Aiken’s accomplishments on and off Idol. I’m guessing he liked this episode better than the season premiere, which he trashed via Twitter during that particular episode. Then we were introduced to Gianna Isabella, the beautifully named daughter of Brenda K. Starr[1]. Gianna certainly seems like a nice girl but given her setup by the Evil Genius Producers, I wasn’t as impressed with her singing as I thought I should be.

So let’s have a history lesson on Mom. In the 1980s, Brenda K. Starr was a rising dance music diva at Columbia Records. She was nice enough to give a demo tape of one of her backup singers to label chief Tommy Mottola. That backup singer was a teenage girl I like to call Mariah Carey. Enter Mariah and exit Brenda’s career as Tommy found somebody else to pay attention to, personally and professionally. To her credit, Mariah has always thanked Brenda for giving her a chance and even covered her biggest hit I Believe as a tribute to her former boss.

Back to Idol – we had a touching reunion of J-Lo and Brenda who have some shared history from when they were starting their careers in the business, and by the business I mean the industry.

Other than Gianna, I lukewarmly noted[2] the following:

  • Centerville, Virginia’s own Sara Sturm, an outgoing and confident 17 year-old who wouldn’t make the long list of the really talented teenagers in Idol history.
  • Jenn Basil whose quirky personality I was paying no attention to until she sang. I’m not sure how good she is – there’s a lot of affectation in her vocals – but she’s interesting.
  • Jonathan Arthur Greene gets the record for the saddest backstory ever – it doesn’t get sadder than accidentally killing your big brother when you’re 5 years-old with an unknowingly loaded gun. Like Jenn Basil, I’m not sure how good he is – there’s a lot of affectation in his vocals – but he’s interesting.
  • Ellis Banks. No. Just no.

I’m guessing we’ll see a lot more talent in the two-hour audition show tomorrow night. Ultimately, that’s what this show is about. And who knows? Maybe some of these lukewarm people will get hot in Hollywood.

In the meantime, I hope you get to listen to some good music. I know I will – right now I’m having my own little nostalgic moment of 80s sugary cheese[3] listening to Brenda K. Starr’s debut album I Want Your Love.


[1] I told you I would explain.

[2] What? You don’t lukewarmly note things?

[3] After all, it was sugary cheese that made the 80s so special. I place into evidence Def Leppard’s Pour Some Sugar on Me and rest my case.

Champion Chickens, Miss Alaska and One Killer Audition

January 7, 2016

Just when I was close to overdosing on the “Really, Anybody Can Be the Next American Idol and We Really Mean It” theme – even a girl who raises Grand Champion Chickens with big breasts (uh, I’m referring to the chickens) – the Evil Genius Producers wisely changed gears to show us – and by “us” I mean me – that the LWAI[1] might be somebody with real talent. I gave stars to six contestants tonight and one of them got three stars and is very, very serious My Girl potential.

L’Porsha Renae – Sang Creep while J-Lo held her baby. Killer tone, and straight butter vocal runs.

Trent Harmon – He’s a country boy who lives on a farm in Northern Mississippi that sang like he only gets one radio station – an R&B station from Memphis. Like J-Lo, I was dumbfounded by his sweet, gritsy, quiet storm R&B vocals.

Olivia Rox – I hated her sleepy arrangement of Bruno Mars When I Was Your Man but I liked her voice and sparkly personality.

Malie Delgado – Miss Alaska. She’s just plain cool. I want to be her friend. And if the singing thing doesn’t work out, she’ll be great at her radio DJ job.

Brandyn Burnette – The girls/ladies will like his Bruno Mars-ish eyes and smile. I liked him singing his original song. A lot.

Drum roll please . . . . . .


[pause. I need a few more hits of oxygen]

15 years old? Seriously??? AMAZING POISE. FABULOUS audition. STUNNING presence. GORGEOUS.

We’ll just call her my early favorite – subject to change as always.

Given the level of talent we saw tonight, I am eagerly anticipating who is going to be in the already decided Top 24 (or whatever the final cut number from Hollywood turns out to be). I’m especially curious if there will be a particular theme. In response to Ryan’s question last night, “What are we looking for this year?” to record mogul Scott Borchetta who will produce the LWAI’s album, Scott replied, “We don’t need cookie cutter anything. We need the new thing.”

I firmly believe that last year Scott wanted that new thing to be My Girl Jax but the voters didn’t cooperate. So I’m wondering if he and The Evil Genius Producers will conspire to provide the voters with a talented but non-traditional field. We have a long way to go to find out but I’m encouraged by what I saw tonight.

See you next week. In the meantime, listen to some good music. I know I will. Last night it was all three Adam Lambert albums (deluxe versions including the U.K. release with songs not on the U.S. deluxe version) from start to finish. 🙂


[1] Last Winner of American Idol

Anybody In America Can Win

January 6, 2016

In the premiere of The Final Season of American Idol (FSAI for short), the Evil Genius Producers went overboard reminding us that anybody – literally anybody – could be the next American Idol. To that end, we were inundated with, uh, Americans of every demographic. We had Indian-Americans, Police-Americans, Off-the-Grid-Americans, overweight[1]-Americans, over-sharing-yodeling-Americans, new-parent-Americans, hairdresser-Americans, arguing-husband-and-wife-Americans – and a very small demographic – world-famous-rapper-with-famous-gazillionaire-wife-Americans. Unfortunately no militia-Americans were available during the months of auditions. Can any of these Americans become The Last Winner of American Idol (LWAI for short)?

Well, I really liked that last guy, the rapper from Chicago. But America will never vote for him. I wish him well, though. Maybe something will work out for him.

I had two favorites tonight. Sonika was the cute Indian-American girl with a lovely soft voice. Not a lot of stage presence, though, or provocative personality. But who am I to argue with Carrie Underwood who tweeted that Sonika may be her favorite to win already[2]. I also liked Shelbie Z, the hairdresser with a cool name and sassy attitude. And I’ll give a little nod to Lindita the personal trainer who’s got a lot of soul in her voice but way too much Christina Aguilera-on-steroids with the vocal runs.

Having said that, none of them are of the OMG I think they can win variety. I recall too many knock-my-socks-off auditions like Chris Daughtry’s and Adam Lambert’s both of whom did eventually go on to win.

Uh, what? Really? They didn’t? Well, how the %$^# did that NOT happen?

OK, how about My Girl Jax’s audition last year? Or Should Have Been My Girl Brandy Neelly a few years ago[3]. These, likewise, were examples of this-person-can-win auditions more so than Sonika or Shelbie Z. But it’s early and I am quite willing to change my mind when they get to Hollywood.

As to Kanye’s appearance – yes, it was superfluous and gratuitous and unnecessary – and way out of context. Golden Tickets, acceptance and rejection, and tug at your heart backstories[4] are what Idol’s auditions have always been about. Sure, a little – and I do mean a little Harry! – hijinx with the judges is alright. But the reason for the show’s success in putting Idolists into successful music careers is that the focus was always on the contestants. Not the judges. And certainly not on celebrities who have zero connection to the show; or on Ryan’s friendship with Kim Kardashian. I’m fine with Kanye. I just would have preferred a killer audition to end the show – someone who would have left me with the feeling that this person can be the LWAI.

I’m so happy to be musing again. 🙂 See you tomorrow!

P.S. For some reason, Clay Aiken felt the need to go on a Twitter rant against Idol. I understand and am OK with people who want to hate Idol. But I don’t understand and am not OK with someone hating Idol when the show made you, dude. Seriously, what’s your deal?


[1] Not throwing shade. He called himself that.

[2] Carrie, please don’t do anything to, say, the headlights, seats or tires of my car.

[3] It’s the last season of Idol blogs. Prepare yourselves to hear the names of Adam and Brandy early and often.

[4] They did a great job tonight with flashbacks of some of the memorable backstories including Kellie Pickler’s.

A Good Ending to a Good Audition Season

January 29, 2015

We interrupt this blog with a special bulletin: today, on his birthday, Adam Lambert announced that the name of his new album will be The Original High and confirmed that the first single will drop in April. We now return you to your regularly scheduled blog reading.

As compared to last night’s hour of lethargy, tonight was a return to form. All of the elements of a classic Idol audition show were there. First and foremost, there were singers to get excited about, maybe even some who can get through to the Top 24. We also had humor, inspirational stories and a nice is-it-over-already pace. We also had several shots of one of my Idol favorites, Season 7’s Carly Smithson, on the payroll as one of the pre-judges.

Any concerns that I might have trouble staying awake like last night were quickly redressed[1] by Adanna Duru who came out strong with Lady Gaga’s You And I.[2] Girl can sing and I can easily see her in the Top 24. And by the way, she was on The Voice in Season 3, going out in the Battle Rounds.

But I have quite a list of other “persons of interest”[3]. That’s no surprise (which I said in my prior blog) given tonight was the last auditions the Evil Genius Producers would show us before Hollywood. And herewith is said list:

  • Hunter Larsen – immediately got my attention with her dark, gritty voice on an unusual sing choice, Sinatra’s That’s Life. She’s kinda cute, too, which also immediately got my attention. 🙂
  • Tara Honda – did a great job with Carol King’s I Feel the Earth Move. She, too, immediately got my attention because I couldn’t recall anybody singing that before.
  • Rocky Peter – grew up destitute in Africa and was our inspirational story with a voice to match. However, like Keith, is his vocal style compatible with what the journey Idol requires?
  • Jaq McKenzie – is an interesting 15-year-old who sang an original song. Jaq had me on the fence. She, like a lot of the young talented kids who audition, is good but not nearly as good as she’s going to be. I agree with K-Urbs that it’s a conundrum. Do you send them to Hollywood to see how they’ll stand up against stiff competition and gain valuable experience? Or do you tell them to get more experience and try out next year or even later? I guess if I think they are going to get better, I’d be inclined to send them through and let them grow some more in Hollywood. Plus she has a great name.
  • Tyanna Jones – had the glory spot so you knew she’d be good. She, like many before her, came with a classic rags-to-Idol-audition story. I wasn’t thrilled with her choice of Little Mix’s cool song Wings, though. Something with a little more gospel flavor fits her rich, alto voice better. And she was a little pitchy at times, which she was aware of. But Tyanna has the kind of natural talent that will make her someone to be reckoned with in Hollywood.

This audition season was a good one. Less hours of auditions was more in terms of adding entertainment value. While HCJ occasionally went off the rails and drew unwanted attention to himself, it was balanced by a more measured J-Lo. I liked the periodic shots of the pre-judging. And one new minor feature I liked a lot was seeing the Idolists sign their names on the big board after a successful audition. It’s an important, personal moment of celebration that I’m glad the show allows them to have.

And so off they go, 200-plus hopefuls to Hollywood, hopefully without any of last year’s oh-some-of-you-actually-don’t-get-to-go shenanigans. From what we’ve seen – and the Evil Genius Producers always save some great talent for later – the process has picked some really strong singers with a wide variety of styles. With all that’s at stake for the show this season, they need to have a strong pool. I think Hollywood Week is going to be good.

I loved what Rocky Peter said tonight, “Music is the one thing that doesn’t have to be given to you. You can get it.” Words to live by.


[1] Redress was an answer in the crossword puzzle I was doing before Idol. I thought I’d find a place to work it in.

[2] This song has become a reality singing show favorite. Ironically, it was sung first by Haley Reinhart on Idol before Lady Gaga released it.

[3] Using that phrase is a sign I have watched way too many police dramas with my wife who is addicted to them.

San Francisco, Part 1 – Trying to Stay Awake

January 28, 2015

Last stop – San Francisco! Cue Lights! No, not the house lights. I mean Journey’s song Lights about the city by the bay. That would have been the highlight of the night.

It’s ironic that somebody sang Katy Perry’s Wide Awake because I had a hard time staying that way during tonight’s episode of Idol. Psychic cats![1] Olympic sprinters![2] 60 people living under the same roof![3] Fake Spanish-language soap opera![4] Twins![5] Supportive moms![6] Even the Evil Genius Producers knew they had to do something with tonight’s uninspired auditions.

Toward the end of the audition rounds – tomorrow night’s San Francisco, Part 2 will wrap them up – I tend to get a little cranky. I need to see something that really stands out from what I’ve already seen and I get pretty dismissive when I don’t. And the producers’ attempted distractions don’t help.

Without much conviction, there were four people who would have received Golden Tickets from me tonight:

  • Music teacher Kellyeann Rodgers did OK with Donny Hathaway’s classic A Song for You. And I like how she spells her name.
  • Reno Anoa’i who lived in a house with 60 family members has a beautiful voice but I wonder how well his style translates to a broad spectrum of pop songs.
  • Good-looking and well-dressed Rayvon Owen from Richmond – shout-out to The Commonwealth of Virginia – didn’t blow me away with Katy Perry’s Wide Awake but it was serviceable.
  • I didn’t understand the judges gushing so much over the very cute Maddy Hudson with the supportive mom. She got the glory spot tonight but I found myself more intrigued more by her outgoing personality than her singing.

When the first audition is a 15 year-old girl whose psychic cat told her to try out and who believes her coat was given to her by David Bowie in the 70s, you get a sense of where the episode is going[7]. If the past is a pattern, I suspect tomorrow night will be better. Usually the Evil Genius Producers like to end the auditions with a bang to get us anticipating Hollywood Week.

So until the next time, I hope you get to listen to some good music. I’ve already started with Ella Henderson’s excellent debut album.


[1] Owned by somebody who can’t sing.

[2] A friend of somebody who can’t sing.

[3] One of whom has a nice voice.

[4] Starring somebody who can’t sing.

[5] Neither of whom can sing. Or tune a guitar.

[6] Whose daughter was alright.

[7] And a level of ridiculata that surpasses even The Bachelor. Not that I would know how to make that comparison.

Catching Up on Last Week

January 27, 2015

Carlos and Adam LAny time I can get a Carlos Santana sighting, that’s a good thing. And when I get that sighting on Idol the following week after getting a whole show of Adam Lambert, that’s a really good thing. I’ll probably have to pay the price later by watching my favorites leave early but no sense in getting ahead of myself and musing about soul-crushing exits.[1]

But Thursday night’s visit to New Awlins gave me more than Carlos. There was a strong contender for My Girl status in Erica Washington who sang Halo so great you forgot that’s Her Highness Beyonce’s song. She had me thinking, “Why isn’t she on the radio already?”
In addition, we could have a very rare sight – a potential My Boy in the fabulously, eclectically, refinedly[2] dressed Quentin Alexander. He sang Royals so great that not only did you forget that’s Lorde’s song but the judges threw in comparisons to Sly Stone, Terence Trent D’Arby and Andre 3000!

(Why am I getting sickening premonitions of soul-crushing exits?)

Believe it or not, I also thought there were a couple of country singers worth paying attention to: headbanded Tori Martin from Texas was my favorite from the montage of the trio of girls in the middle of the show; and the fabulously named teenager Ricky Dale Hendricks whose parents must be NASCAR nuts.

Carlos momI’m guessing a large number of ladies will like Adam Lasher who gets to refer to My All-Time Boy Carlos Santana as Uncle Carlos. My Crack Research Staff tells me Adam is the son of Carlos’ sister and found this old picture for me. My Crack Research Staff also tells me he failed to get a turned chair in the blind auditions on The Voice Season 2. My Crack Research Staff may also have a crush on him.[3]

Unlike the judges, I was not that big a fan of Anjelika “Jelly” Joseph who sang Adele’s Rolling in the Deep. I’m rarely a fan of any attempt to sing Adele, especially when it pales in comparison to My Never Got to Be My Girl Brandy Neelly’s take at the 2:34 mark in this medley on YouTube

Wednesday night’s auditions in the great music city of Minneapolis hooked me right away by using Ella Henderson’s[4] Ghost. And then I spent the rest of the auditions fighting off being hooked by the Evil Genius Producers into who they wanted us to pay attention to, such as the North Dakota guy with the man-crush on K-Urbs. As is the Evil Genius Producer’s pattern, there was a Montage in the Middle and I liked the raw quality of space-invading bartender Courtney Guns the best.

In spite of all the story lines and featured auditions, it was the performances at the bookends of the night that satisfied my critical needs the most. While 17 year-old Shannon Bethiaume was kicking off the show with House of the Rising Sun, I wrote “raw, very raw talent” and then “Joplin-esque” before the judges invoked that hallowed name. Indeed, Shannon had me imagining what a teenage Janis Joplin must have sounded like. She may be too untamed and unseasoned to get through Idol but I found her interesting.

Landscaper Mark Andrews closed the show with two songs. He underwhelmed on Soulshine but the judges must have known I was enjoying his raw[5], gritty tone when they asked him to sing another song. He chose Be Like You from Jungle Book and he nailed it.

As always, it’s way too early to get invested on the basis of 30 second auditions. Much can change in terms of the Idolists as well as my opinions of them. I expect a number of the people I’ve found interesting to this point to get swallowed up by the competition in Hollywood.

MelanieUntil the next time, I hope you get to listen to some good music. I know I will. Assuming the weather cooperates, I’ll be seeing Melanie Martinez live for the third time tonight.


[1] Good thing I haven’t experienced many: Sabrina Sloane, Chris Daughtry, Melinda Doolittle, Todrick Hall, Alexis Grace, Carly Smithson, Siobhan Magnus, Michael Lynche, Brandy Neelly, Jamar Rogers, Amanda Brown, Melanie Martinez, Judith Hill – oh, the last four were from The Voice . . .

[2] Yes, I know it’s not a word. Some things need made-up words.

[3] I won’t call them out by name.

[4] I mentioned Ella here

[5] Do you detect a theme?