“American Idol” Brings The Pain To Kansas City

noah | January 15, 2009 9:45 am

Perhaps in honor of Kansas City-area native David Cook’s grunging up all his songs, there was definitely a weird pall over last night’s audition episode of American Idol. Sure, it was great to see Jason Castro again (he was there in support of his brother, Michael, who’s pictured at left), but there was a little too much sadness: One of the contestants who made it through to Hollywood had an interview segment where he talked about his wife passing away four weeks before the audition; another singer sang “Cry-Baby”; some dude’s backup singers, dressed as cheerleaders, got teary-eyed in the wake of his rejection; and there was a montage of rejected singers freaking out in various ways. (The latter sort of had its dramatic importance undercut by the mortality-related reasons for tears.) The show itself was sort of weird, with people getting through more because they were, in the words of Paula, “not a disaster” than actually spot-on with everything, but I guess that’s in keeping with all the tears. More observations from the show after the jump!

“FREAK-FOLK IDOL” IS DOWN THE HALL: The first contender from Kansas City was Chelsea Marquardt, a 19-year-old waitress who sang a version of Nilsson’s “Without You” that possessed a Joanna Newsom-ish ability to meander around the vocal melody. And ugh, Kara DioGuardi complimented her on her looks before throwing down the banhammer! Kara, nooooo! Don’t fall down Paula’s ribbon-and-lipstick-bedecked rabbit hole!

FLATTERY WILL GET YOU TO HOLLYWOOD: Despite flubbing the title line of the Simon Cowell-penned “Footprints In The Sand” on first go (awk-ward!) the savvy song choice of Ashley Anderson, a New Jersey chick who looked like Feist, helped her get through to the Hollywood round. (Perhaps unsurprisingly, she did not sound like the Canadian iPod spokeslady.) She was one of the evening’s many contestants who made it through despite being not all that great: middle-school band director Asa Barnes’ “The Way You Make Me Feel” somehow didn’t get the “karaoke” put-down from Simon despite sounding like it; Dennis Brigham’s “With You” (a curious song choice, for sure) was oddly tuneless; Casey Carlson’s “A Thousand Miles” had many an off-pitch moment. I’m guessing that the promise of a bikini-photos scandal involving Carlson made its way to the producers, because, hey, everyone needs a hook these days.

LOOK, YOUTUBE FAME SORT OF WORKS: Von Smith, a kid who looks like a cleaned-up Pete Doherty (complete with hat!) and whose singing technique on “Somewhere Over The Rainbow” was basically “scream every note as loudly as possible,” is apparently a former viral video star who appeared on The View and 106 & Park because of various clips of him singing the crap out of “And I Am Telling You I Am Not Going.” I’m guessing that the other songs he sang were better, because even his YouTube fans were unconvinced by his “Rainbow” connection (“i’m so glad he finally decided to audition cause he’s heads and heels better then plenty of people who have been finalists. but he’ll need to step it up and do more then shouting runs.”).

AMERICAN IDOL: NOT SO SUPERSONIC The joint audition by Asia McClain and India Morrison was half-OK as far as singing went (India got a golden ticket after singing about half a verse of Musiq Soulchild’s “Love”), but the rap that preceded their tryout—which was dedicated to Randy, and about cookies (??)—was pretty great in a JJ Fad sort of way. Really! Someone make those girls some beats!

HARDEST-LUCK CONTESTANT: Danny Gokey, whose wife passed away a month before he appeared before the judges, and who made it through on a fairly ballsy version of “I Heard It Through The Grapevine.” A nice ending to this chapter of his story, but whoever decided to pair his celebration with the Fray’s “How To Save A Life” should maybe get a tag-team upbraiding from Simon and Kara at some point over the next few weeks. (The runner-up, Lil Rounds, lost her house in a tornado, but her family remained unscathed.)

THE SECOND-BEST PART OF THE NIGHT: The audition by Jessica Furney, a 20-year-old with a flannel shirt and a very Kelly Clarkson-like persona. Her high notes on “Cry Baby” dropped out a bit compared to the belty nature of the rest of the song, but i let that slide because I just liked her. (Also, note that her chyron said she was 19, but she was actually celebrating her 20th birthday the day of the audition. Crack editing there, Fox!)

THE BEST PART: Season 7 Jason Castro and his brother, Michael, out-dipping each other for the benefit of Ryan—and Paula getting absolutely starry-eyed (and more lucid than ever!) when he stepped in the room. (Some-one’s got a cru-ush!) Simon, of course, was unimpressed (“I’m never quite sure with you Castros, whether you’re into it or not”), but the promise of more amazing on-camera awkwardness probably helped get Castro the younger through. I also like how Michael is trying to stand apart from his brother by having a sharply cut pink ‘do instead of long, flowing dreadlocks.

American Idol [Official site]