They waited in line for days to audition. After a successful audition, they waited a month or two to make the trip to Hollywood. Actually Pasadena, but it's all Southern Cal, lady. And now – now! – after all the waiting and the...more waiting, we're going to find out what happens when people stop being nice and start getting real.
A full 117 people got the golden ticket to Wonkaland this year. By the end of tomorrow night, 32 will be left standing. Joe Lieberman will definitely not be one of them. One might argue that Idol is the real Super Tuesday action. If one was incredibly shallow, that is.
Ryan starts with show with, "Hello! I'm Ryan Seacrest!" You sure are, buddy. You sure are. He continues by informing us that these poor kids were worked hard over four days to trim the hopefuls down to the final 32. Sure, they weren't worked as hard as an 8-year old in Chicago smelting plant in 1914, but it was plenty hard relative to what kids these days normally go through. A little foreshadowing indicates that we're about to see a lot of failed attempts, snippy comments from Simon and a whole lotta tears. Whole lotta tears!
The kids unload from ride share vans into the hotel. Yay! I'm a cheerleader and I'm here! Yay! Okay kids, unpack, plug in your electric toothbrush chargers and skedaddle on over to the auditorium. They do and the first up in Fantasia Barrino. Fantasia lets us know that she has big lips, and a helpful graphic lets us know that all three judges liked her in Atlanta. It's a new development, and I like it!
Second up is Jon Peter Lewis, who, to answer Simon's charge that he looks like a pen salesman, prepares a bit with...a pen. Jon Peter sings about three bars before being cut off. Write this down, kid. Bad start. By the way, I have no idea what a bar is, but I hear people mention them all the time when discussing music, so I'm at least in the right neighborhood.
Then we have Kiera, who only got one check from the judges, but is somehow still here. Kiera, shockingly, really likes her chances at winning. According to her, she's never heard anything like her voice before. Of course, Kiera isn't the only preternaturally confident one in Pasadena. There's a guy who says he's three times better than any singer they've had before, which seems like an arbitrary number to me. But nobody, and I mean nobody, can top Alan Ritchson. His audition is half singing, half tryout for the Hot Cops mens strip squad. Alan declares it fate that "American" and "Alan" share three letters, a coincidence he seemingly just noticed yesterday. Right now, Alden Wynn from Season Two is trying to figure out how to get royalty payments from Alan. Few moments in my life will beat the time I watched Alden declare "I'm going to bury his face!" about some cat he didn't like. Dude, quit being so damn Luke. You already lost Marissa once.
So day one is in the books. For tomorrow, the kids were put in charge of writing their own lyrics and melody, which I think may well prove fascinating. Expect a lot of literal verses like, "Oh, I want to be the Idol. And I read the Bible. Oh, Idolllllllll." Alan apparently has already a song about Alan and American bouncing around his head, so he squeezes in some quality pool time with Lisa Wilson. But even if his song flops, Alan should be okay because everybody loves cocky blond guys, as every movie comedy from the 1980s taught us. Lisa declares that she's a last minute kinda girl, and since she can do a handstand in the pool, I go ahead and assume she can also write a song inside an hour.
Morning breaks and a charter bus makes a detour from Vegas to deliver the kids to day two of the big auditions. But first, let's have more of Alan and his unnaturally white teeth. Alan, he'll have us know, likes the chicks. The singing starts and Eric Yoder immediately proves my theory that somebody will write an incredibly literal song. It's like I'm listening to They Might Be Giants all of a sudden. "Now you're older than you've ever been. And now you're a little older."
Lauren Enswiler tops that with a cheeky love song about her gay best friend titled, I'm guessing, "You And Me Both Like Boys." After that we have Taryn, who wrote another literal song. I think. Not too many of the words actually came out. You know, I'm starting to think it's a really good thing that professional songwriters toil for these kids' first albums. Lana Philips, Derrick Olivera, Nellie Choi and Cortni Davis all follow in Taryn's footsteps by also forgetting their own words. John Stevens continues that trend, and he tries so hard to remember the lyrics that his hair catches on fire. No wait, it's just red all the time. Sorry. You know, frankly, I can't criticize these kids too much for forgetting the words. Hell, I've already forgotten the intro to this article and I wrote it twenty minutes ago.
Backstage, Cassie LaBeau says that watching other people forget the words pushes her to remember the words herself. Foreshadowing, anyone? Well, unless Cassie wrote her song to go "And then...(pause)...um...and thennnnn...(pause)...and thennnnn," yes, it was a healthy dose of foreshadowing. So how will Lisa Wilson do after her romp in the pool? If things take a turn for the hilarious, she'll bust out a flawless performance and hit every lyric and the judges will praise her as an example to the rest of the singers. "See? See what can happen when you work hard? Thank you, Lisa, for excelling and working so hard. You're a shining example to the other contestants." Nope. Lisa could only manage to remember four words – a new record! - before stumbling.
Ryan says it's been a disappointing morning, and he loves everything, so you know it's bad. Can Michael Keown turn things around? Sorta. Not really, though. Terrance Gaines? Negatory. Somebody should sing a song about how Paula's top is actually three different pieces in all. Top and two sleeves. I love it, so perhaps I'll pen a ditty to it. "Paula's shirt, it has three parts. One, two and three. Top, sleeve, sleeve, Paula I have love for you, so please don't leave." See? Boom. Ten seconds and I wrote something totally different and way awesomer than what the kids did.
Matt Rogers is used to performing in front of people, or so they say. Simon doesn't think he's taking this seriously. Matt assures us that it is, it's just that "the nerves are nervewracking." Yes. Yes, they are. Kira Scott, turn things around, won't you? She introduces her song by saying it's about dating the wrong man. Somebody like Simon, you know? That will ingratiate her with at least two of the judges. During the song, tension between Kira and Simon begins to bubble like Mt. Vesuvius in 79 A.D. Kira punctuates her performance by declaring Simon must be gay because he's not hot for her. And on top of that, Randy, shut your damn mouth because I know how to sing the chorus. Then Paula chimes in with an incredible dose of sensibility, which Kira feels she doesn't need at all. Backstage with Ryan, Kira still doesn't think she did anything wrong. At least she's sticking to her guns.
That night, the judges stared at more Polaroids than a forensic scientist in trying to determine who's staying and who's unstaying. Outside, a nervous Kira thinks her outburst will be sending her home. And a confident Kiera thinks her look and voice and blondeness and general excellence will be keeping her around. Finally, the kids are broken up into four rooms, where they immediately start mentally sizing up their group. "He's in this group? He was great, so I'm probably safe!" "Oh, man. She's in here? The judges hated her. I'm dead! Dead!"
Which of the rooms will be staying? Which will be going? Which will be hosting a life insurance conference next week? Such drama! In the first room, Paula breaks the good news. You're safe. Wheeeee! In room two, people fear being in the same room as Cassie, John Stevens and Lisa Wilson. But they're safe! The old twistery-istery-doo! Two rooms remain. In room three, Simon starts speaking, so that can't be good. And it isn't. You're fired. Room four, here comes Simon, so look out! No! They're in! Double twistery-istery-doo!
The thirty people the judges cut, they're not happy. One girl opines, "This hurts, because it makes you feel, you know, like you're not good enough." You know, actually, that's exactly what it's like. Taking the elevator toward the exit, Kiera doesn't hide in shame under her hat. She comes out firing with these interesting notes: This year's Idol is focusing on trailer trash and also, it won't be good without her. Which doesn't really explain why the show was so big the first two seasons without her, but hey, she had mascara streaming down her face and nobody can think clearly when they look like that.
The 87 kids that made it, they're not on Easy Street just because they passed the first cut. No, it's right back to the grindstone, relatively speaking. Once again this year, the kids will broken into threes for a group audition. This has tripped people up the first two years, so everybody should be ready to handle it this time. We won't see any fighting, no searching for groupmates late into the night, no arguing over dance moves or who takes what part. No, sir, this year it's going to go incredibly smoothly.
Of course, I knew I was lying in that whole paragraph. We're going to see more of the same mistakes this year, and here they are. Alan Ritchson debates with his group over which song to pick, because he can't decide which song will make for the best stripping routine tomorrow. It's almost 3:00 a.m. and some groups have their slow finger snapping down pat. But other groups – like, say, Lisa Wilson's – can't find their third member. Charly offers a little perspective on her partner's reaction to Lisa's AWOLness. We gotta squash this, kids! We need peace in the streets!
It's getting later, but things aren't getting any smoother. Brianna Garcia simply does not like her group. She doesn't like the idea of dancing, she doesn't like one girl's mom chiming in with harmony, she just plain doesn't like it. Jesus Roman doesn't like it either. His group broke into splinter factions over whether it's better to sleep for four hours or not sleep at all. Matt Rogers says sleeping is better, and he played in the Rose Bowl, so I'll listen to him.
So what will happen tomorrow? Well, we'll find out...tomorrow, I guess.