Sunday, January 30, 2011

American Idol - Week One Auditions New Jersey

Season Ten of the iconic (and arguable) star-maker American Idol began last week with a dramatic upheaval at the judge's table. Only Randy Jackson remains from the previous seasons, which left at least two available slots open.

Jennifer Lopez and Aerosmith's frontman Steven Tyler stepped up to the plate to weed through all hopefuls for Idol's new season, including tender young 15 year olds who were finally allowed to audition for the show.

It was with slight trepidation and an abiding hopeful enthusiasm that I sat to watch the first show of the season. Sure I was going to miss the acerbic wit of our favorite caustic Brit, but I was excited to see what having a true rock Idol on the panel would mean for the contestants.

What never would have made it past Simon might actually get a chance now.

I was giddy at the prospect.

Rock idols and pop idols are two completely different animals.

So I'm kinda digging the fact there is one of each on the panel now.

I wasn't sure how I would feel about J-Lo on the panel. For all we know she's a diva who is ready to crush the dreams of these hopeful wannabes under the heel of her stiletto pumps.

I'm surprised and somewhat happy to report that is not the case.

In fact, of the two Steven is primed to be the rather firm voice of reason whereas Jennifer may provide the softer touch long missing since Paula's departure.

The only difference is... Steven's the one who's going to pop off with random quotes we're all going to be repeating at the water cooler.

Actual quote from an upcoming episode we have to look forward to:

"Well, hellfire, save matches. *Censor* a duck and see what hatches."

Of course Ryan is back to recite his usual mantra that this is the best batch of talent we've EVER seen. I will miss his playful, homo-erotic banter with Cranky Cowell, but the promise of more hardcore mainstream music and rock expertise by Jimmy Iovine does much to make up for it.

Let's hope that our Sinatra theme nights are far behind us.

I'm all about Jersey/NYC being the first stop on the audition trail... and not just because <3Constantine<3 kicked off the show with a brief but memorable flash of video. I still squeal like a 13 year old girl at her first Bieber concert, and when I tweeted as much I was rewarded with a response from the C-man himself.

In a word... SQUEEEEEE!

Things were off to a rockin' start.

One thing that became crystal clear during the season premiere is that Steven and J-Lo haven't yet endured the hell of Hollywood Week. They allowed a lot of folks through that are destined to be cut the first day.

This was especially true for the first contestant featured, Rachel Zevita.

Her rather theatrical vocal performance from season six won her a spot to Hollywood, but she ended up being scrapped the first day. Despite being cute and seemingly sweet, her voice just doesn't *fit* mainstream music that Idol seeks to produce. Jennifer surprised the young singer by telling her she remembered seeing her before and not knowing why she was cut. After Rachel warbled her way through an overly dramatic version of Hallelujah, I think the mystery was solved.

Steven believed she had the "what-it-is-is" and encouraged her to sing more like how she speaks, and she ended up back in Hollywood.

I don't hold out much hope.

NY musician Caleb Hawley was next, and he burst outta the gate belting out a blues tune.

Shrewd movie, given Steven Tyler really digs those rhythm and blues. Steven got into it and encouraged Caleb through a fun audition that resulted in another golden ticket.

All I wanted to do was comb the boy's hair.

He's got potential, and I'd really like to see what happens to him when he gets the benefit of a stylist.

The first young'un hit the stage.

Fifteen year old musical theater student Kenzie Palmer displayed a surprisingly mature vocal, but Steven wasn't sold on her rather lack-luster performance. J-Lo fought for her to get through to Hollywood, and I think her chances to go all the way to the top of the heap depends entirely on how much she's willing to "step it up a notch."

That Steven ultimately caved to peer pressure and went against his initial impression that she was lacking some star quality made me wonder if he'd have the backbone of Simon when it came to knowing what he wanted and what he was willing to settle for. The Gold Rush continued and I grew more concerned that Hollywood Week was going to bite some serious ass.

No offense to Rod Stewart, but in Idol Land the first cut isn't always the deepest.

Finally Achille Lovle took the stage and tried to fight her way through a Madonna tune. The new judges were quick to jump in and tell this aspiring singer the truth about her performance, but The Dawg himself was the one who delivered the fatal blow with, "It's not your thing, baby."

In fact, pulling a no out of Jennifer looked almost painful. She and Steven both seemed to get idea that they were in the position to be dream killers.

They don't seem to enjoy it as much as Simon did.

For those who tolerate the "mean" audition process to get to the good stuff, this might be good news.

(But I don't think it will last.)

The next contestant to hit the screen has the potential to reach the annoying levels of Those Who Shall Not Be Named from seasons past. She flaunted her full figure for Ryan - which is a bit like trying to sell a T-bone steak to a vegetarian.

His emphatic "no" he would not look down at her butt just made me long once more for the flirty game of boy-on-boy love that used to happen between our favorite metrosexual host and the tight-sweatered object of his affection.

All throughout the audition I was convinced that this dancer (?) was a trainwreck waiting to happen. She burst into tears seeing her Idol, and then when the magnanimous J-Lo went to embrace her fan the guys took advantage of the tender moment to get a good look at her more naturally given attributions. The boys bonded over cleavage, especially when she tried to belt her way through her own original song.

As it turns out, Tiffany Rios is fairly talented and earned a trip to Hollywood. I'm not especially hopeful that she'll make it past Hollywood week, even though Jennifer did try to convince her she needed to tone it WAY back to be taken seriously.

Jennifer continued to struggle with saying no, although Steven seemed to get the hang of letting the hammer fall.

It wouldn't be Idol without the requisite sob story, and that came with Robbie Rosen, the 16 year old that had recovered from being paralyzed as a small child.

His smiling, happy face beamed with his enthusiasm as he sang his own version of Yesterday. Despite his unconventional looks, there's definite potential for his winning the hearts of tween girls across the country.

Can you say David Archuleta? I knew that you could.

We may call Randy the Dawg but Steven brought his Rag Doll/Walk This Way/Sweet Emotion raw sex rock attitude quite literally to the table. If he gets through this without a lawsuit, we will finally have proof that there is a God, and he loves Aerosmith as much as we do.

As his antithesis, 18 year old boy scout Chris Cordeiro was next to audition, determined to revive the regrettable "Sinatra Night" of last season with "My Way." The best thing that could be said of the experience is that it was the most aptly titled song for his audition, because he certainly did do it his way.

Too bad it wasn't a good way.

Burper Michael Perotto came next - and if you need to know how he did, re-read the first part of this sentence.

Let's just say Steven found his inner Simon with the ever so tender critique, "Did you eat a lot of paint chips as a child?"

Move over Chris Crocker, 25 year old Ashley Sullivan cites Britney Spears not only as her idol, but her goddess and her BFF for life as well as a sister - at least according to the Zodiac. For some unknown reason she picked a song from a musical to perform for her audition, all the time letting her own little freak flag fly.

Normally I like this... but Ashely is one of those types of folks you have to take in small doses. After about two minutes of her audition I was already done, as was Randy Jackson.

Thanks to the new judges, she got through to Hollywood. Steven pledged, "I'm going to personally work that into something good."

God knows... I love his optimism. I personally predict she'll be gone by day one in Hollywood.

(And I missed Simon for the first time in the whole show...)

Sixteen year old (and 3/4) Victoria Huggins from South Carolina is another one of those "must handle in small doses" certainly has the confidence to make it .... somewhere.

If she doesn't make it through on Idol no doubt she'll be the next Internet Sensation crushin' it with her over-the-top personality.

If nothing else... she's good TV.

(But I'm fairly certain her summer of 2011 won't be especially busy with any pesky tours...)

Our next sob story was actually rather unique among Idol Sob Stories in that the family were war refugees from Kosovo.

Sixteen year old Melinda Ademi successfully tackled an Alicia Keys tune to prove her worth on the Idol stage.

Waitress Devyn Rush followed, and belted God Bless the Child with a distinct jazzy undertone much more advanced than her 20 years.

Steven described it as "delicious," and Randy told her she had the "right amount of sauce." J-Lo advised her to work on the total package with her image, and with the right stylist she could add another flavor to Season 10.

Here's a tip to all you wannabes out there... if the judges start singing louder than your already loud audition... that might be a *no*.

Also you might not want to sing a song that you hate for your audition, unless... of course... you can do it well. Because no sweet MJ moves are going to save your gold shiny self if you do.

Especially if it's a Miley Cyrus song.

*Just say no.*

And speaking of songs never to sing again, someone please take every last piece of sheet music that has Endless Love on it and kindly destroy it. For my own sanity. No one should sing it, especially a sixteen year old.

We got a two-for Sob Story right at the end.

Brielle Von Hugel was the 16 year old girl who sang Endless Love, no doubt in honor of the dad who thankfully beat cancer because he was so inspired to keep hanging around so he could watch his daughter grow up and reach her dreams.

(Honestly, though, I don't see her passing the rigors of Hollywood Week.)

One I do feel has potential is 16 year old Travis Orlando from the Bronx.

The family hit hard times in the city and ended up living in a shelter in a scary neighborhood after they lost their home. He doesn't have a whole lot of confidence, but he has a dream to save his family. This is another young'un who put his own creative spin on a Beatles tune. Like Robbie Rosen before him, he has a talent to spin a tune and make it his own.

And what a sweetheart. I think I kinda wanna adopt him.

So that was our first show of Season 10. Fifty-one people made it through to Hollywood, and of those I like the sound of Robbie, Travis and Devyn.

Who will make it? Who will get cut?

These are the questions I will answer for you on Driving on the Sidewalk.

Same bat time...same bat channel.

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