It's a mash-up of both Cleveland and Orlando auditions tonight, which means only about a half-hour of L.L. Cool J, but all he does is hug people anyway, so it's no big loss. I had all kinds of theories about why they combined these cities, like maybe the weather or something, but no: there's just not a hell of a lot of talent in either of them.
The Good: Jaclyn Crum (16, Cahanna OH), while emotionally unstable and possessed of a bat-like scream, is adorable and has a great, scratchy, pretty voice. She is the first of 31 (out of 15,000 auditioneers) to make it through from Cleveland. And while Scott Savol (28, Shaker Heights OH) looks like a brain-damaged thug, he sings like a fucking angel. Seriously one of the best voices this season. Maybe ever on this show. A horribly orange young man named Patrick Norman (17, A Farm, OH) is breathy, contrived, shiny, a square-dancer, and a pearl-clutcher. Briana Davis (18, Thornville OH), despite looking like a indigo-haired Wiccan Clown from the circus, is super-delightful and sweet, and has a magical, beautiful voice that I think in person might choke me up. Anatole "Anthony" Federov (19, Trevose PA) upholds the Pennsylvania tradition of being supremely likeable, in addition to looking like Harry Potter as a blond and having a truly amazing, surprisingly deep teamster voice. He even has a miraculous congenital victory story that doesn't involve Neil Diamond.
Vonzell Solomon (20, Fort Myers FL) sings "Chain of Fools" incredibly well after jumping and kicking a lot. Dezmond Meeks (21, Pineville LA) convinces Paula he's the actual James Brown and she throws a damn wobbler to get him through. Lots of people pretend to have failed, then shock their friends and family and Seacrest by having won. Maybe it's an Orlando thing, I don't know. Maybe people from Florida are secretly huge liars or something. Anyway, only 16 of the 9,000 Orlando auditioneers make it through, which is weird, because that's where they grow them. I think they just haven't checked Lou Pearlman's crawlspace yet.
The Bad: This very cool girl named Sarah Sue Kelly (18, Hillsdale IN) sings a show tune in a technically perfect but still clearly show tune way, but Simon makes sure to point out that the real problem is her looks. Which sucks, but she totally gets love from L.L., which rocks, and besides, she is way more realistic about the whole thing than the other judges. Derek Fenningdorf (22, Brighton, MI) has spaz hair, a sad teenager mustache, and bad singing. Edwin Smith (17, Cleveland) chooses to read the words of his song off a card, but since he is illiterate, there are definite drawbacks to this plan. Christopher Quick (17, Frankford WV) has a cool name and a great future ahead of him, if he lives through high school in West Virginia. This future, however, does not lie in music.
The Ugly: Andre Pittman (27, Cleveland) should not be singing, ever, and Randy tells him so. Pigeon head Ebony Lewis (18, Ashtabula OH) sings like she's terrified of something only she can see. Sampson Ingram (18, Cleveland) -- I don't get Sampson Ingram. I think he's singing in Japanese or something. Marissa Ganz (24, Spring Valley NV) sings a show tune in a terrifying, senses-disarranging, disturbing way I've never heard before. It's like having a hundred tiny people in your frontal lobe, all independently singing and dancing crazy. Eschine Orcel (24, Malden MA) admits that sometimes, "when I hear the sound that comes out of my voice, I wonder if it's coming from somewhere else." Oh, that it were.
The patriotic young lady that was the first thing we saw this season auditions with her sister, and we get to know her whole family, and hang out in their house, and all for no reason, because while the sister is not terrible like she is, she's not good enough to be on the show. Farewell, Leandra and Lashundra Jackson, of Cleveland. Don't know why I know you as well as I do, now, but I wish you both luck. Ryan Miller (23, Elm Grove WI) sings "I Believe In A Thing Called Love." Fired.
Wednesday: San Francisco, with Moesha. If you've never been to San Francisco, let me tell you what it's all about. It's just queers and stripper chicks with piercings from here to the Bay. That's all there is to San Francisco, and you know? I always hoped that was true. So now we know, thanks to Seacrest and the clips from tomorrow's show. Thanks, American Idol. No, I really mean it. Bring on the homos and suicide girls, you stupid show!
We join Seacrest now in San Francisco's "Cow Palace," apparently a stadium or something. An even more hyped-up set of flashes takes us through many of the auditioneers -- a trombone player, some acrobats, a girl grinning maniacally in a ballgown, a Michael Jackson impersonator, an Asian guy wearing an awesome shirt that says "I'M NOT HUNG," a tool pretending to be auditioning for Ryan's job -- and tonight's celebrity guest, the lovely and talented Brandy, who has a bit more snark in her than expected, but keeps quiet about it.
The Good: ADAM PRATT! Only for like two seconds, but still. A couple of "crooners," Jamie Koehler (28, Gillette WY) and Ross Williams (26, Portland), who both sound likeâ¦crooners. I can never tell the difference. They all just sound to me like my archenemy, Harry Connick, Jr. Ross is boring, while Jamie is loveable and ineffective. Albert Minero, Jr. (24, Petaluma CA) does not blink and is a jerk-off, but gets through. I can't even remember what he sang and it was like an hour ago. Justin Clark (17, Atlanta) sings "Ma Cherie Amour," gets through, and then has to physically carry his mother out of the building because she completely loses her shit altogether. Can you imagine if he wins? She'll die. Nadia Turner (27, Miami) is incredibly magnetic and beautiful, well put together, and has giant hair that all the judges love, but not as much as her wonderful voice singing an Aretha song. Clearly inveterate jackass Ivan Ganchev (27, Martinez CA) sings "We Are The Champions," and the judges all freak out about how he sounds like Freddie Mercury. He doesn't, but then where Brandy and I disagree, Simon super-agrees, to the point where he calls Ivan an impersonator and karaoke star, which Ivan only admits after he's left the room. Hee! In total, there are 32 winners through, for an audition-round group of 193 going into the workshop. Meaning 145 people crying before we even have to make them do it with the phone!
The Bad: She got through, but I find this Elizabeth Pha (24, Stockton CA) offensive, so she's here. Everything I hate is what this girl is, all baby-doll retarded sexuality and little-girl voice and SVU victim working the pole. This is what I feared on Vegas night (not that she outshines the awesome disgust evoked by Mikalah, which is perpetual, but she just might equal it). I think Simon puts her through simply from perversity, because I can't come up with any other reason. She's kind of screamy, too. Later on, I'm going to feel sorry for her, probably, but right now? Gross. Then comes Christopher "Wylde" Noll, my ultimate HITG, undercover tonight as a male nanny-slash-rapper, and is just as equally repugnant and charming as usual. You know who I'm talking about -- he was on Trading Spaces and Strip Mall and looks like the even twitchier twin of Steve the Dell kid. Then J.P. Molfetta comes by for some failure, looking better this time around, but acting, sadly, like a completely desperate freak.
The Ugly: James Mohr (24, Sacramento) is a completely uninteresting dork with a stupid mohawk and sings a song about how he's an elephant. Michael Garcia (20, San Francisco) comes back this year looking twice as gay and half as cool, sporting a stupid mohawk of his own, and singing just as badly as last time. Victor Mercado (23, Mercer Island CA) is completely deluded, both about his abilities and about the terms of a certain bet Simon offers him to prove what a loser he is. Jackass. Also a jackass: Jessica Murphy (16, Watauga TX), who comes out of her rejection with a completely made-up version of the things that happened in the audition room, and totally lies about it as though there were no cameras in the room with her during her audition.
The Unethical: Chris Ciompi (27, West Hollywood -- clearly) has a fucking freakout like he's possessed, talks crazy about how he "went to" (not graduated, necessarily) Rice University, for opera, and sang on a cruise ship for six months. He is perpetrating either a big joke on us, or a big joke on himself, in which case he's crazy and should not be on the TV. Then came Mathew Miller (20, Fresno CA), who has always wanted to be a singer. Specifically, come to find out, a female singer. Specifically Kelly Clarkson, actually. And he goes for it, and I mean he goes for it, and everyone except Mathew is ashamed and has little to say. It's kind of confusing, but I'm glad Mathew has grown up in an environment where he gets to be himself. That's all I'll say about that -- he's inner-directed.
Next week: Boot camp! Laughter! Bonding! Hugging! Dreams dying left and right! That awful clique thing where they form teams and then choose one person to ditch so that they get cut! Good times! Bad times! Fighting! Stripper girl getting Mean Girled, and whining about it! Simon and Paula, fighting! The Fonz, crying! A girl might die! But I doubt it!
Tonight we're going to both Cleveland and Orlando. Which is weird, because of all the boyband guys in previous episodes. I mean, isn't Orlando where they grow them? There was some kind of thing where half of the Florida people got flown to New Orleans after last summer's hurricane, I think, so who knows where we actually are at any point tonight. But who cares? What matters -- this week -- is that we will actually see people make it through to Hollywood, rather than just hearing about them later from Seacrest as they whiz by so fast you can't consciously remember them.
And speaking of Seacrest, he spins some boring information about how back in 1952 ("about the time Simon was a teenager"), a radio DJ ("like myself," as though it helps his image to remind us of that) named Alan Freed coined the term "rock and roll" to describe the "new R&B sounds that were exploding at the time." Making Cleveland the heart of rock and roll, I guess. Except rock and roll sounds nothing like what it sounded like back then, and we are not going to be hearing anything like rock and roll tonight, and Seacrest is using terms like "R&B" completely without regard to the current context. So basically, due to something that doesn't exist anymore and has nothing to do with something else, from over half a century ago, we're now in the heart of rock and roll, Cleveland. But I mean, what else are you going to call it, the heart of Howard the Duck? It's Cleveland. "So is the heart of rock and roll still beating in Cleveland?" Oh, Ryan. Sometimes I weep for you.
There were fifteen thousand auditioneers in Cleveland, so they were in a stadium, but then there was a big storm, and everyone got put down in the tunnels to "sweat it out," according to Ryan. Ew. So they're all cramped together and snitty, and this one bug-eyed guy complains, "They got a hotel in St. Louis, they're getting one in DC -- but we get a stadium! It's a conspiracy!" Ah, entitlement. I do love it. Too bad you're being forced to be here doing something voluntary, not to mention stupid, and aren't being treated like a king. Too bad you can't count to 15,000. Too bad 14,999 other people have created a conspiracy to audition for this show, just to fuck you over. Or maybe he's joking, I can't tell because he's a bit wild-looking.
We will be joined tonight by hip hop legend LL Cool J, who is possessed of six straight multiplatinum albums, and has been in over seventeen films, although that has nothing to do with anything. Ryan is just going on what the fact checkers gave him, because he doesn't know who LL Cool J is. Weird mix of numbers coming at you and pictures of LL looking fine. "But will he send anyone 'Back to Cali'?" Okay, that's funny.
The first girl up is crying before she even comes in, for no damn reason. This'll be good. Meet Jaclyn Crum (16, Gahanna OH), a tiny bit off, but pretty sweet, very silly, spaced-out girl. She's very cute. She immediately starts telling Paula how much she loves her, and then begins to sing. There's a nice tone to her voice, kind of smoky and cool. I'm way too pretentious to know who Joss Stone is, on the record at least, but that's who she sounds like. "You look scared to death," they tell her, and yeah. They really like her voice and think she needs and deserves training. LL brings up Joss Stone, because he's keeping it real and is not pretentious like me, and says that American Idol would be a good place for her to make her start. Randy likes her, but doesn't think she's ready, and Paula votes her through so that she can prove him wrong. Then Simon gives the final yes and she comes shooting out the door screaming like a bat; it's startling and almost inaudible. Then she cries again, still for no reason. Yeah, she's 16. She'll calm down one day.