The Road to Hollywood this season was one with high points and some unexpected curves. I mean, who would ever have expected that a 62 year old General would penetrate pop culture with a song about pants on the ground?!
Do you remember Jessica Furney from Season 8? She was the Kansas native who took care of her adorably blunt grandmother and made it to Hollywood after singing a Joplin song. This year, Jessica is back and ditched the flannel and straight hair for tousled waves and high heels. Also, she chose a very different song to sing, "Footprints in the Sand" by Leona Lewis and co-written by Simon Cowell. Victoria Beckham could not believe that Simon had a knack for song writing and she encourages him to write some more. Perhaps he can write a follow-up to Footprints in the Sand called "Footprints in the Sand at my Caribbean Vacation Home." The judges noticed improvement in Jessica, and she's off to Hollywood again.
Amanda Shechtman can impersonate Britney Spears and can talk impressively well with her mouth closed. I tried doing it after I saw her say "This is me talking with my mouth closed" and it's not easy! Amanda is a theater student with a flair for the dramatic. She performs for the judges but they just don't think she's connecting. Amanda begs, pleads, and puts on a huge act, eventually winning over Kara and Victoria. After Simon dramatically gives her a yes, we see her cry, embrace her friends, and give an acceptance speech. It looks like Season 8's Tatiana Nicole Del Toro has some competition!
Although you can't play a musical instrument during hometown auditions, Lee DeWyze and Crystal Bowersox brought their guitars into into their Chicago auditions. Even sans guitar, Lee's vocals shined during "Ain't No Sunshine" and Crystal showed off her strong voice with "Piece of My Heart."
Next we saw Hollywood-bound Idols who exited their hometown auditions with a defeated look on their face before busting out a golden ticket from under their clothes or a hidden body cavity. One of these times I'd love to see them leave the venue defeated and roll away in the car before springing the surprise on their loved ones.
A handful of season 8 contestants returned for another shot at making the show. Simon remembers none of them. He hardly even remembered super tan Crystal whom Simon grilled about her sun exposure last year.
Lacey Brown is one returner who made it all the way to the Top 50 last year and it came down to her or Megan Joy for a spot in the semi-finals. We all know how that story ends, but Lacey is back and her rendition of the overdone "Over the Rainbow" was fresh and unique...much like Megan Joy. The judges gave her four yeses and she's off to Hollywood once more.
Stephanie Fisher is here to audition for her seventh time. Wow, that shows commitment! Her idol is Victoria Beckham, and after singing a shaky version of "Fever," Stephanie mentioned that perhaps she's just nervous because she's in the presence of Posh. Victoria turns around in her swivel chair as to not distract Stephanie, but Simon observed that Stephanie's second song choice of "Baby Love" was worse than the first performance. After Simon said "With the greatest respect, you have a horrible voice," he hoped that Posh would comment on Stephanie's outfit to bring her spirits up. Victoria called it "a definite look" but not something she'd go for, which is a polite way of saying "It's so not working for you." Not wanting to let sweet Stephanie leave heartbroken, Victoria and Kara give her a hug. Before the judges could say "yes" or "no," Stephanie walks towards the door. Simon called her back only to say "No."
Rachel Hubbard, Thaddeus Johnson, and Genesis Moore are three 16 year olds with amazing voices and large parties of family members and friends to celebrate their golden ticket victories. My philosophy on why the 16 year olds are usually good is because they have been waiting to reach this age in order to try out; it's less of a spontaneous decision to audition.
Adrian Chandtchi is a 17 year old who towers at 6'8". He's not a basketball player, he's a swimmer. He sang Elvis Presley's "Can't Help Falling In Love With You." Randy is physically under the table and he's cracking up. You see, despite his giant stature, Adrian has a very high-pitched voice. Kara said it sounded as if "there's a small schoolboy trapped inside" of him. Unfortunately, Adrian is going to have to stick to swimming or learn to love basketball, because he won't be traveling to Hollywood.
Another big guy is personal trainer Michael Lynche. His biceps are bigger than most of the contestants' heads. This big dude has a big sweet side, and he just found out he and his wife are expecting a baby girl. Michael was bold enough to sing Simon's favorite song, "Unchained Melody," and he made Kara and Kristin Chenoweth blush. Kara called him "a bit of a teddy bear," which we already had with Season 2's "Velvet Teddy Bear," Ruben Studdard. There might be comparisons between these two, but it's not a bad thing to be compared to an American Idol winner!
Didi Benami lost her best friend, Rebecca, nearly four years ago. Rebecca is the reason Didi is continuing to pursue music because Rebecca always believed in her. She made a last minute decision to sing "Hey Jude," and when she finished singing she broke down and said it's because she really wants this. "Hey [Didi], refrain. Don't carry the world upon your shoulders." Randy likes her range and unique sound and Avril Lavigne saw huge potential. With four yeses of varying sizes and degrees, Didi is going to Hollywood!
Aaron Kelly was a year old when his biological parents kept moving around. His aunt and uncle didn't want social services stepping in, so they adopted Aaron and his brother. Now, Aaron calls his aunt and uncle "Mom" and "Dad," because they're the ones who raised him. He made a unique song choice in picking "The Climb" by Miley Cyrus, but it was a risk that paid off with a golden ticket.
Kimberly Bishop wants to be an Idol because she has a good heart. Although a good heart is a nice quality for an Idol to have, they also need to have a good voice, which Kimberly lacks. She hiked up her dress a little too far during "I Kissed A Girl" and even her comment on Randy's weight loss couldn't save her.
Shaddaii Harris' mom had a vision that her little girl would be a singer, so she pushed her to pursue those dreams. Shaddaii's mom should have had a vision about her daughter being a singer with a good voice, because she may be a singer but she's not one on her way to getting a record deal.
Hope Johnson has six sisters and one brother and she grew up in poverty, but she was unaware of it at the time. She said there are a lot worse things than going without necessities in life. Hope sang, "I Hope You Dance," and the judges liked her innocence and good song choice. Randy showed off his vocals when he gave Hope an example of how she can complete her phrases. Hope was so excited to receive four yeses; she couldn't believe this was happening to her.
So that concludes hometown auditions. You won't want to miss Tuesday's show -- Ellen DeGeneres makes her first appearance as American Idol judge during the Hollywood week premiere episode!