They made it through the first auditions, they made it through Pasadena, they made it through life all the way up to this point. They in this case being the fresh-faced super youths that are just dying to be famous singers. And this point in this case being the first time they have to impress the unwashed masses instead of three judges. I've impressed the masses many times before, so I know just how difficult it can be. Bring your game, kids! Bring...your...game. Unless you don't mind going home early. Then just do whatever.
Time to start. The dark set. The foreboding music. Seacrest. Ahhh, it's all coming back to me. We're going to see a song, some evaluation and then some sitting with Seacrest on a big red couch. No surprises, everything is on cruise control right now. This recap is gonna hum, baby! Zzzzwwwwwing! Wait! What's this? The stage is surrounded by an audience sitting...in a pit. Like an orchestra. Speaking of which, the show now has a band. Where's the red couch? Where's the comfort zone? Who are these people? And why is Seacrest wearing a watch the size of clock? I'm so perplexed! I can't think of jokes when I'm trying to get my bearings. Oh me!
Well, okay, there's the Red Room. Settle down, big fella. But seriously, who are those people out there? No time for that. Time only for Diana DeGarmo. Diana says that she's from Snellville and Ryan claims that he's been to Snellville before. They have a great hubcap shop in Snellville. Get you anything you need, man. We flashback to Diana's first audition, when the judges told her to stop wearing pink and black. So for this big night she dons...a pink jacket and black boots? Uh...anyway, Diana gives a nice audition where she repeatedly asserts that she has the music in her. What do I have in me, you might ask? Mostly tacos and iced horchata. Horchada! Simon says that Diana reminds him of when Christina Aguilera was nice. Which is...a compliment...to either Diana or Christina? Man, I don't know what's going on.
Next up is Marque Lynch. Marque is a conservationist, judging from his refusal to wear a full shirt. Very little material went into Marque's outfit because this is the only planet we've got people! Did you ever know that you're Marque's hero? Did you know that? Well, you are, so try to set a good example for the kid.
Following the safe trail that Marque blazed right down the middle is Ashley Thomas, who looks like she's incredibly polite. Like she would thank the busboy each time he filled up her water. Ashley once said her spark will set TVs on fire, so hopefully you have your set grounded. Ashley sings “Craaazy”, and I imagine that she'll stand by her man when she goes walking after midnight. I like Patsy Cline and I like biscuits and sausage gravy, thus ending the Southern portion of our program. Ashley, you did really, really, really not bad sayeth the judges. Simon says she's sweet. Perhaps too sweet. And Ashley sweetly refuses to take offense.
Okay, time for a break. When we come back, more singing! Okay, we're back! Ryan's megacollar takes control of the show and introduces Katie Webber, who is just a TOUCH bubbly. Katie plans on singing a jazz song tonight, which worked out delightfully well for Ryan Starr in season one, so here we go! Between the zebra cocktail dress, the moves and the jazzy singing, I GUARANTEE Simon calls her performance cabaret/Vegas/Reno/cruise ship-worthy. Randy liked it, Paula sorta liked it and Simon...calls it hotel bar level. Yes! I did it! Golly gee, am I smart! Katie defends her performance by saying she wore a cute dress. Well done.
Before the break, Seacrest alludes to an upcoming halftime show that Simon and Paula are working on, thus delivering the country's 1,000,000th Janet joke in the past nine days. Balloons and confetti pour down on my head to mark this momentous occasion. We come back from the ads, as we're wont to do and now Erskine Walcott is up. Erskine seems like a good guy and the world needs more good guys – beyond me, I mean – so let's see what he can do.
Erskine takes us all back to an eighth-grade dance with his song choice. A "Journey" to the past, if you will. And I will! It reminds me of the time I spent the beginning of this song staring at a cute girl, trying to muster up the courage to ask her dance, then realizing it was the chorus and thinking that's too far into the song to start dancing, then realizing I was wasting time, then realizing that oh no she's looking this way, then finally taking one half step in her direction, then watching somebody way cooler than me ask her to dance and away she went. God, I sucked. Past tense, of course! Now I dominate. On a non-me note, the judges liked Erskine, although Simon doesn't like the blandness. In the next room, Ryan tells us to call for Erskine. But not yet!
That brings us to Jennifer Hudson, who is nothing like Macy Gray. Really. In tribute to The Beatles' first appearance in America 40 years ago this week, Jennifer sings a tune from John Lennon's solo career. And I really like the white trenchcoat and boots! The verdict? Well, the judges still haven't been blown away yet. But it's nice, it's nice. Real...nice. Then Jennifer starts crying, which apparently she is likely to do at any moment whether happy or sad. Then Jennifer goes backstage and cries some more. You're gonna cry...cry, cry.
Next up is Matthew Metzger, who is sticking with the black shirt/bleached blonde motif. Good for him! Matthew's set piece emphasizes that he needs to stick out more to succeed. And a black shirt and gray pants definitely set him apart from the crowd. So he's off to a sweet start. After Matthew's song, they cut to crowd where we see “Matthew's brother and fiancée.” Is that Matthew's fiancée? Or Matthew's brother's fiancée? And what does it matter, really? Why can't I focus?! The judges – minus Randy – really liked Matthew's singing and face, so he might be all set.
Lastly tonight we have Fantasia Barrino, which sounds like the name of an exotic red wine. Fantasia wants to give them something to talk about. How about that dress? And how about that performance? They were both dyn-o-mite! After eating vanilla ice cream all night, the judges are thrilled by Fantasia's serving of peppermint chip. Finally! Some excitement!
So that's the first night. I can't remember ever having been more excited in my life!