Paula’s gone. Ellen has not yet arrived. And so we begin American Idol‘s crucial Season 9 feeling a little aimless — heck, make that flat-out bewildered, now that we also have to contend with Simon’s impending exit. But if this show’s about to undergo a revolution, then we might as well start in Boston, right? Season 9 kicked off with two days in Beantown, where the judges (and guest Victoria “Posh Spice” Beckham) began the search for fresh meat our nation’s next superstar. And just maybe, sneak in time for constant, endless soundbytes that will haunt us all season.
In a lovely moment with Victoria Beckham, Kara DioGuardi said, “I like you. You’ve got a nice energy.” And by that she must’ve meant low energy, because we kept forgetting Posh was even there. She managed to chime in every third contestant or so — not to talk about their audition performance, mind you, but he had plenty to say about their “look.”
The first godawful audition of the season
Janet McNamara suggested that she would be more than qualified to make it through to Hollywood because she’s been practicing by playing the American Idol karaoke video game. Sadly, her painful rendition of Natasha Bedingfield’s “Pocketful Of Sunshine” failed to bring the girl power. Simon offered his first zinger of the year — he looked over his shoulder and quipped, “Does this window open?” How are we supposed to carry on without him, exactly?
The first decent audition of the season
Hello, Maddy Curtis. We learned that this 16-year-old is one of 12 siblings, and a few of her brothers have Down Syndrome. Incidentally, Maddy crooned Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” and received a golden ticket—but not before Simon snickered, “Amazingly, for 16 you’re not annoying.” Perhaps this is already obvious: Simon will not be mellowing in his final season.
First up is Katie Stevens, also 16, from Middlebury, Connecticut. Katie relayed that she wants her grandmother—who’s suffering from Alzheimer’s disease—to hear her sing (on TV, we guess?) while she still remembers who Katie is. But grab another Kleenex, because next we’re introduced to Justin Williams, 27, who found out seven years ago that he had cancer. (He’s now cancer-free.) Unmentioned was the fact that Williams made it to Hollywood last year—maybe this will be his year. Both singers made it through, and you can bet this won’t be the last time we hear about each of their personal plights.
What is the Idol audition process without a spate of OTT freakshows? Derek Hilton is a hippie dippy guy who cites Chris Brown and the Eagles (?!?) as his inspiration. His strangely nasal, all-over-the-place performance of Elton John’s “Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word” was met with four resounding no’s. Equally dire: seventeen-year-old Pat Ford, who gyrated through Britney’s “Womanizer”; Norberto Guerrero, who Simon said looked like “a three-year-old girl dressed like La Toya Jackson”; and anime nut Mary Doyle, who screamed through Janis Joplin’s “Piece Of My Heart” and said she wants to be big in Japan. Hey, Naomi Campbell had a hit album in Japan, so dare to dream, Mary!
Kara bonded with…
Amadeo DeRocco, who DioGuardi referred to as “my fellow pisan.” There was indeed a soul man inside the barrel-chested 28-year-old, who belted out an impressive take on Muddy Waters’ “(I’m Your) Hoochie Coochie Man.”
Kara sparred with…
The Clark-Kent-meets-Ashton-Kutcher-looking Andrew Fenlon, whose constant complaints that he, personally, was kept waiting all day made us want to reach through the screen and jam his glasses down his throat (even before he got in to audition for the judges). That all changed, however, when he started pissing Kara off—because then we were kind of rooting for him. “I just don’t like waiting around,” dour Andrew snapped at the four judges. “I am angry at you now, who I don’t like at all,” DioGuardi told him. Needless to say, he didn’t make it through. Kara added, “You need a spanking!” Suddenly it’s the first time we see Andrew smile.
The words that stuck in our heads
The sight of dejected contestants talking back to the judges has long since lost any real shock value. But when one walked off the set saying “see you next year,” Simon responded with “Well, that’s something to look forward to.” Except… we don’t.
The rest of the best in Boston
All in all, 50 aspiring Idols made it through to Hollywood during the two-day Boston auditions, including guitar strummers Benjamin Bright and Luke Shaffer, the “sultry” (by Kara’s reckoning) Ashley Rodriguez, drummer/singer Tyler Grady and nice guy Joshua Blaylock, who Randy said he can see “in a new group that sings Spandau Ballet-type music.”
Well, we know this much is true—Idol is back tonight with the Atlanta auditions. Check back Thursday morning for our recap!