After coming off my two-night premiere high, I figured I couldn't possibly love American Idol more this week. I was proven wrong. This episode had me laughing, cringing, and almost crying. I also realized that American Idol cameramen have a risky job! It all started with another cold open: on October 2nd in Milwaukee. We hear a percussive noise--cut to Steven Tyler shaking a tin of mints while Randy sang "Love in an Elevator." Wrong song. He switched to "Sweet Emotion." Randy should stick to what he does best, and Steven did some free-styling. THIS is American Idol (and I'm loving it)!
Season 8's second runner-up, Danny Gokey, is a local hero in his hometown of Milwaukee, and he was at the auditions. Jennifer Lopez and Randy Jackson were sporting some awesome sunglasses, and Steven arrived on the scene and said, "Slap that baby on the [bleep] and call it Christmas." I'm assuming that means he was jazzed about auditions.
With the new logo on the screen and the Milwaukee Art Museum all set-up, we were ready to go. As Jennifer and Randy checked out the view, Steven checked his reflection in the camera. First up was Garner, North Carolina's Scotty McCreery. He's an all-American boy with an adorable mom and a twinkle in his eye. The judges couldn't believe this guy with a very deep voice was only 16. He sang Josh Turner's "Young Man," which sounded velvety. The judges encouraged him to sing something higher, and he went with a Travis Tritt song. This second song stirred something up in Steven, who said, "Well hell fire save matches [bleep] a duck and see what hatches." The crew on set and the judges erupted. Scotty isn't even old enough to see a Rated R movie without adult supervision, but he assured the judges that it's nothing he hasn't heard on the playground. With applause and handshakes from the judges, Scott grabs a ticket to Hollywood. The judges believe they made their first big discovery!
Joe Repka is a jolly student who is an aspiring radio DJ. Ryan took him in as his apprentice for the day, and over and over again he practiced station identifications, but he was doing something weird with his fingers. He does have the personality for radio. He talked about his radio aspirations with the judges, and said he's a country music fan. So what does this country music fan sing for the judges? A song by Billy Joel and a song by Elvis. The judges politely encouraged him to stick to his radio dreams. Watch out, Ted Williams!
Fifteen year old Emma Henry got her learner's permit and drove her family, and an Idol cameraman, across the country to audition. American Idol has been on since she was five! There are kids auditioning this year that don't know a world without American Idol. She auditioned with Cyndi Lauper's "True Colors," and she's so young I'm impressed she knew it was by Cyndi Lauper and not just the cast of GLEE. Jennifer has come along way since New Jersey auditions, and she had no problem saying "no." Steven said "yes," and before Randy could answer, a tearful Emma pleaded for Randy's vote. Randy and Jennifer felt that Emma will get eaten up in the competition, but Randy gave in with a "yes." Steven declared, "The dawg's gonna turn into a pussy cat right now."
Bad singer montage time! Kody Zalewski described his voice as bluesy and Sinatra-like, so naturally he auditioned with Lady Gaga's "Bad Romance." It was a no for him, Juanita Borges in her interesting belly-revealing attire, Kamil Anthony, and Kanisha Miller (who you could tell thought she aced her Alicia Keys' song).
Milwaukee is home to Summerfest, and this year's music celebration included Idol stars Kellie Pickler, Carrie Underwood, Danny Gokey, and the American Idols LIVE! 2010 Tour. Naima Adedapo works as a janitor at the fest, and she knows she belongs on that stage. She hopes to create a better life for her young daughters through American Idol. Singing Donny Hathaway's "For All We Know," Jennifer said Naima's one of the best they've seen and the other judges agree. Naima is going to Hollywood, and we saw more of the judges' chemistry as Steven and Randy told Jennifer what names they'd like to be called.
There was a party in the holding room and one guy backflipped right onto the cameraman who was laying on the ground to get a different perspective of the tumbling pass. The camera was crushed and so was the worker's lip. After listening to two bad auditions, Jovan Raymon's take on Jennifer's "Jenny from the Block" and a 54-year-old sparkly jumpsuit-clad dentist named Chris Kammer, we met bar-mitzvah singer Jerome Bell. I was hoping he'd audition with "Hava Nagila" but he sang Marvin Gaye's "Let's Get It On," a song he must not perform at his job. The judges loved everything about Jerome and his performance and I loved his enthusiastic mom. With three cheers, Jerome is off to Hollywood. Mazel Tov!
Bieber Fever inspired Idol to lower the age limit, and the 15-year-olds were flying through to the next round. We met Thia Megia who was no exception to this rule. The judges loved her take on Adele's "Chasing Pavements." It shocked me to see such a big voice come out of such a pint-sized girl. After Steven praised Thia, Randy informed her that Steven's a legend, in case she's too young to know about Aerosmith. She probably thinks 22-year-old Adele is old! With praise from all three judges, you'll see Thia and her chaperone in Hollywood.
Nathaniel Jones is a Civil War reenactor. He assured us that his father is not a hippy, and he gave his reasons, which I will omit here. Nathaniel sang "The Lion Sleeps Tonight" for his audition. Did anyone else see that Randy was chuckling into his red cup? The judges didn't wave a ticket at him, but they saluted him. A very nervous auditioner named Mason Wilkinson took such a long pause to catch his breath before singing, it was uncomfortable to watch.
Molly DeWolf Swenson is a Harvard graduate and randomly got an internship at the White House, you know, cuz that just happens. She loves Obama, and she is probably almost as tall as he is. When Randy was high fiving people earlier, he missed Molly's hand and accidentally punched her in the face. She put her own unique, beautiful twist on "(Sittin' On) The Dock of the Bay," and I figured this is the type of girl that is good at everything she does. The judges were impressed with how low she started the song, and with three emphatic yeses, Molly's going from the White House to Tinseltown.
Haley Reinhart loves the sight of the judges and Steven likes the sight of her. Although she was turned away from Chicago auditions, she's back for another try and sang The Beatles' "Oh, Darling!" This 18-year-old has a very soulful voice. Randy said she improved from last year and is the first one to shout yes. Haley's going to Hollywood with three yeses.
Tiwan Strong is decked in all-white linen. This 29-year-old daycare teacher gave a spirited audition, and with three yeses, his family tackled him and nearly took Ryan down in the process. One of his loved ones doubled over with a charley horse, and the celebration music in the background of the episode kept starting and stopping as we saw cuts of the family celebrating, and the woman doubled over in pain. Dr. Ryan offered up medical advice to stay hydrated. This episode is killing me!
Steve Beguhun is a CPA and auditor, which doesn't help him in the friends department. He also sings at weddings and funerals. When the tall guy entered the room, he made a joke about his name that went over the judges' and my head, and then sang a song by The Script. Steve proved that his singing is better than his stand-up comedy. "I found you to be disturbingly great," said Steven. To celebrate, the Hollywood-bound CPA lifted Ryan into the air.
Vernika Patterson sang "Loving You," one of the harder songs to sing. The judges said she's not ready for the show and the angry lady asked the judges if it's because she's not skinny. Randy pointed out that some Idol winners haven't been the smallest, so clearly that's not the case. As Vernika stormed out before waiting to hear any more from the judges, we saw clips of sad and aggressive contestants. One girl swat at a cameraman. Between driving with a 15-year-old, the tumbling pass gone wrong, and these women, it's a risky job to be an Idol cameraman!
An Obama impersonator named Albert Rogers III didn't impress the judges with his vocals, but perhaps he can impress Obama fan/intern Molly DeWolfe Swensen. A girl with eagles and American flags on her blouse is a HUGE Packers fan. Her name is Megan Frazier and I am fearful of what the holding room would look like if she meets up with New Jersey's Victoria Huggins in Hollywood. However, her operatic take on Justin Bieber's "Baby" won't be sending her to Hollywood, so luckily we won't ever find out about that pairing.
Aly Jados idolizes Steven Tyler and cannot talk about him without getting giddy. Steven hugged Aly at her audition, which I bet didn't calm her nerves. She sang "Come Together," but then Randy encouraged her to sing Aerosmith's "Dream On." Steven helped her with the screaming, which must've been incredibly surreal for Aly. Of all people, her idol said it was a pitchy performance. With a yes and a no from Randy and Jennifer, it was up to Steven to decide Aly's fate. He sent her through to Hollywood and she became even more hysterical.
The episode ended with a heart-wrenching story. Chris Medina's fiance, Juliana, was in a bad accident over two years ago. She suffered from a traumatic brain injury and woke up after over a month in a coma. Chris devotes his time to helping Juliana's mom care for her. Everyone commends Chris for doing this, but he posed the question, "What kind of a guy would I be if I walked out on her when she needed me the most?" He sang "Breakeven" by The Script, and during his performance Jennifer gave silent golf claps and a big grin. The judges asked Chris to bring Juliana in the room, which the singer said would make her really happy. They got up from their desk and walked over to her wheelchair to shake her hand. Steven gave her a kiss on her head and whispered, "That's why he sings so good, because he sings to you." Oh man, I just got chills typing that. Jennifer last week and Steven this week have shown these sides of them that are so genuine and human. As America cried, the Medina family cheered because Chris is going to Hollywood.
At the end of a two-day hunt in the land of cheese, 53 singers are off to Hollywood Week. See ya tomorrow for Nashville auditions. Yeehaw!