Last night, American Idol abandoned its “big city” auditions and hit Omaha, which is apparently a small, “not very exciting” town, even though it has a population of about 420,000 people. But that doesn’t mean that there weren’t lots of gratutious shots of corn, crop circles, and locals whimsically painting on street corners! Anything to try and make the show interesting at this point, I guess.
Now that the fallout from last season’s “bush baby” comment has apparently settled into a bland pile of Simon Cowell meekly telling hopeless hopefuls that he “likes them” and that they have great personalities, the audition episodes seem to have a lot of the life drained out of them–the freaks are playing to the camera, the decent singers are pretty convinced that they’re going through, and the pacing of the episodes just seems all off. Excruciatingly off, at that. Even the guy near the end with the gold-sequined jacket and the manic version of “Shout” seemed to just be going through the motions, cramming as much of his crummy version of the song as he could into the time that he knew he’d been allotted. Next season, perhaps the producers should condense the audition episodes, or at least work on the pacing, or at least, I don’t know, mix it up a bit somehow?
THE WINNERS: Omaha sent 19 aspiring singers through to Hollywood, and judging by the montages of singers the Aguilera/Robin Thicke aesthetic is still ruling the roost. Attempts to make the winners interesting were sorta halfhearted: Jason Rich forgot the lyrics but still managed to get through because of his aw-shucks farmboy charm and rugged good looks, while Rachael Wicker wore a gold-sequined top and showed off her arm-wrestling skills against an obviously incapacitated Paula. (Which seemed kind of like arm-wrestling a three-legged kitten that was missing an eye.) And then there was David Cook, a bartender with a bad dye job and a fauxhawk who crammed for his audition with Daughtry tapes the night before and who auditioned with a musical-theatery version of “Livin’ On A Prayer” that will probably make Richie Sambora start drinking again should he hear it.
HARDEST-LUCK CONTESTANT: Angelica Puente, a 17-year-old from Kenosha, Wisc., who was trying to win her extremely strict father’s love back… by getting on American Idol. Her dad’s so strict, she moved out of her immediate family’s house and in with her grandmother! She auditioned with Celine Dion’s “The Power Of Love,” and despite the fact that the judges thought her audition was pretty much a recreation of the song and not so much of an interpretation she made it through. (Apparently in the judges’ minds Aguilera mimics are more OK than those of Celine, since that’s the first “you’re not really interpreting the song” critique I’ve heard yet.) And then she called her dad, crying, to tell him that she went through to Hollywood… and he said that she’d always been his American Idol. Awww.
MOST ILL-ADVISED TACTIC FOR “STANDING OUT”: Not only did Sarah Whitaker stretch her eyeliner all the way to her eyebrow (?!) and tout her pro wrestling background, she apparently forgot to wear a bra, a fact that became uncomfortably obvious when she let loose with one of her demonic, nipple-hardening laughs.
BRIBERY: IT WORKS! The first contestant, Chris xxx, not only brought a photo album of him and Kelly Clarkson and presents for the judges, but doing a handstand in the middle of his weak performance of “Since U Been Gone” probably wasn’t the best way for him to entice the judges into allowing him a singing . But he did somehow get a gig reporting on the Idol finale for the local Fox affiliate, because apparently Simon Cowell now has the power to hire and fire on-air talent for the entire company, and not just Idol-related programs. Did I mention that the producers decided that it would be a good idea to spend a good five minutes on this guy? At least if you’re going to do that, let Simon unleash his inner asshole.
PAULA ABDUL OUT-OF-IT SCALE: 9/10. At the outset of the episode, her plane was “delayed,” so she didn’t show up until about 16 minutes in. But she certainly made her presence known during the rest of the day, sending singers through with a four-martinis-by-noon aplomb, hiccuping, and handing over her judging duties to Ryan for a bit. Who knows how high this number would be if she’d actually been at the episode from the beginning?