Welcome to Idolator’s American Idolatry, our episode-by-episode recap of the ratings machine American Idol. Last night’s two-hour audition show was set in New York City, and it marked probably the only time you’ll ever hear Ryan Adams’ music in the Idol context. The show opened with a fur-wearing jerk and ended with a palm-reading cowgirl, and in between, there was a lot of vibrato, many awkward dance moves, and a lake of tears.
After the jump, we look at the show’s best and ugliest moments.
Simon’s put-down for this season seems to be referring to hopefuls’ singing styles as “cabaret”; he was in super-cranky form for the New York auditions, while the other three judges–including guest judge Carole Bayer Sager–were in higher spirits. But Simon wasn’t there for what may have been this season’s cruelest moment; when Virginia native Nakia Claiborne, whose friends call her “Little Shirley” for an alleged vocal resemblance to Shirley Caesar, ripped out a killer version of “Dancing In The Streets,” prompting the three judges to dance along. But Nakia’s looks were, well, lacking, and you could see the judges looking around at each other nervously, trying to figure out how to tell her she wouldn’t make it to Hollywood. So they had her sing a slower song, and she botched it, giving the judges an easy out. It was a skin-crawling moment, especially because it had been preceded by two pretty, bland-voiced Jersey girls making the Hollywood cut.
HARDEST-LUCK CONTESTANT: Sarah Burgess, who tossed off a sorta loungey version of Blondie’s “Call Me,” snuck away from her parents’ house–in Ohio– to try out for Idol, risking the chance of being grounded. (Even though she’s 19.) But when she called her father to confess her running-off-to-NYC ways, the following exchange took place:
SARAH (crying, eyeliner running): Please don’t be mad at me.
SARAH’S DAD: Who is this?
MOST ILL-ADVISED TACTIC FOR “STANDING OUT”: Who sings Toto’s “Africa” when you’re trying out for American Idol? Astoria, N.Y.’s Fania Tsakalakos did, and it was just as ill-advised a choice as you might expect.
GIVE THAT GIRL A HAND: Palm-reader Isadora Furman’s rendition of “Lady Marmalade” was a combination of clogging, crying, and orgasmic sighs, and afterward, she mentioned that her performances sometimes got her arrested. How did she not get through? Don’t worry, Isadora: There’s always Cyborgasm 3.
OH, HONEY: Ashanti Johnson had made it to the Hollywood round twice over the past two seasons; in this outing, she warbled “Loving You,” and when she was told that she sounded “old-fashioned” and “cabaret,” she launched into a monologue about her ambition, her struggles with her weight, and her fighting spirit, and it never ended. Could you imagine what this woman is like when she goes on job interviews?
PAULA ABDUL OUT-OF-IT SCALE: 2/10. Not having Simon around early on day 2 helped; she took charge then, and seemed to be developing something of a crush 16-year-old Jenry Bejarano. Then again, he did sing a LeVert song.