American Idol took a trip back home to Los Angeles, California to see what talent lurked in Hollywood. The show started with Ryan Seacrest high atop a building in downtown Los Angeles. As the cameras circled him from above, he had his own little urban "Sound of Music" moment.
For the first time in Idol history, eligible folks could audition on MySpace. The exceptional singers from MySpace, out of a total of 16,000, joined up with the LA auditioners to sing in front of the judges face-to-face. The first contestant was confident. Victoria Garrett can already visualize standing on the finale stage and enduring a long, dramatic Ryan Seacrest pause before finding out she's the American Idol. She entered the sky-high audition room and began singing something that was so high-pitched it hurt. Steven Tyler wasn't sending her to Hollywood, he sent her to "Siberia." A golden ticket to Russian Idol? After Victoria exited the room, Jennifer compared her performance to nails on a chalkboard.
Tim Halperin "had" a crush on Jennifer Lopez. He claims it was back when he was in elementary school, but it seemed like he still has some feelings for her and stated, "My Love Don't Cost A Thing." I was hoping Tim would audition with that popular Jennifer Lopez song, but he went with Maroon 5's "She Will Be Loved," which he sang right to Jennifer. When she asked Tim how old he is, he then asked her how old she is...he clearly hasn't been in Southern California long enough! Jennifer's response? "I'm young enough for you, don't worry." Where's Marc Anthony this time? Although Randy gave Tim a no, the other two judges gave out the first ticket of the day.
Justin Carter was one of the good singers in LA, and a fired up Jennifer replied, "It lacked (bleep) underneath it," and she added a charade. There must be something in the LA air (pollution) because Jennifer and Randy were bleeped this episode but not Steven! I guess he took his Austin episode "warning" to heart. Justin's voice was good enough--he's going all the way down the street to Hollywood.
Friends Daniel Gomez and Isaac Rodriguez were excited to audition for the judges. Isaac even dropped out of school to be on American Idol, so he must be really confident. He didn't tell his mom that he dropped out, and she even interviewed that she's so proud of her boy for juggling school with American Idol auditions. Uh oh. This is going to make for an awkward conversation once she sees the show. Daniel said that Isaac is a better singer, and Daniel sang first for the judges. After hearing his "I'll Be," I believe him that Isaac won't be worse. Jennifer found something positive to tell him--"You have a nice smile." Next was Isaac, and he sang "Build Me Up Buttercup." His occupation came up on the screen as "College Student?" Unfortunately for Isaac, he's not a very good singer. I hope there are still some spots left in his classes so he can return. Although he quit school, he's not going to quit singing, regardless of what the judges told him. The moral of this story: Stay in school, kids!
Karen Rodriguez is from New York and auditioned for American Idol on MySpace. She hit the high notes of her song with a lot of control, and Jennifer thought it was hot. Steven said she has the confidence, the spit, and the fire. I'm not sure what he means by having "the spit," but I think it's a good thing. Karen said Jennifer inspires her and she tried to keep from crying. Apparently, Karen sang to Jennifer on TRL many years ago, and Jennifer said she had a beautiful voice then. Jennifer is still a Karen fan, as was Steven and Randy--she's going to Hollywood! Karen stated that she hopes to be the first Latina American Idol winner.
Tynicha Roches brought her own microphone to her audition where contestants sing six feet from the judges. She also did the splits in her short, tight dress. She talked about "artises" and that she has an album ready to be composed. When Tynicha stepped into her audition she performed a Frank Sinatra tribute, and refused to stop singing when the judges asked her to. Randy got up to leave and Tynicha chased him in a circle around the set singing and making up lyrics about the judges. Steven, in all seriousness, tried to talk some sense into her. Nothing worked, so a security guard was summonsed in to escort Tynicha out of the room. In her exit interview, Tynicha continued to speak into her microphone, as Randy commented, "This is the freakiest show ever." Hey, at least there hasn't been a 7 foot armadillo today.
Belly dancer Heidi Khzam swiveled her hips to Steven's vocal percussions, and Randy and Steven were ready to send her through to Hollywood. After singing Alicia Keys' "Superwoman," Randy sends her straight to Hollywood without any discussion. Khzam!
Matthew Scott Frankel, aka "Big Stats," was all business as he discussed his job as a record producer and CEO. He claims he produces for millions of artists, but then retracted that and went with "a bunch," including Chaka Khan. After introducing himself with a long spiel to the judges, Big Stats mentioned it was time for him to formally introduce himself via rap. The rap didn't go over well, so he sang Jennifer's "Jenny From The Block." His "homie" Jeremy couldn't look more uncomfortable and unenthused to be at auditions to support his friend. When the judges turned Big Stats away, he said they "be beefin'."
William Roberts, Jeannette Manning, and Daniel Hall continued the streak of bad contestants, and Anthony Granger was "Pants on the Ground 2.0." Arista Pemberton screeched her song and put her finger in her ear. I put two fingers in each of my ears. Hoping to make the audition a 2-for-1, she danced and dove into the splits, but she won't be on American Idol or So You Think You Can Dance. Can you believe the judges have to share a city with these people all season long?!
At the end of day two in Los Angeles we met cute brothers Mark and Aaron Gutierrez. The brothers playfully introduced each other to America and said that the judges won't expect the voices that are going to come out of these "scrawny kids." They went into their audition together and sang a duet to "Lean On Me." They harmonized really well and they got the three judges to clap along. Jennifer thought it was a beautiful performance and Steven called it "God-like." Steven and Jennifer gave yeses, and Randy didn't say anything. Mark lifted his slightly younger, slightly smaller brother into the air and celebrated. Finally, sitting through all of those wacky auditions paid off!
The night didn't end there. We met one more Hollywood hopeful. Cooper Robinson is from Arkansas and claimed he's here to take over California. He went off on a tangent about how he's from way deep in the woods. Jennifer asked the question we all wanted to have answered--"How old are you?!" He thinks he's 59, but he's not sure; whatever age he is it's too old for Idol. Cooper impersonated James Brown and spazzed out all over the stage. As he stood there sweaty and panting in front of the speechless judges, he got their cue and walked out of the room. Jennifer snuck by him, with a security guard in tow, as he talked about how he's better looking than any animal ever.
I'm spent! As an LA native and resident, I'm starting to question my town...which is where talented people come to make their dreams come true.
Next week we're heading up the coast to San Francisco, where supposedly the show is saving the best for last! Can't wait!