American Idol headed to Los Angeles for another round of hometown auditions, but this time we're in Idol's hometown. Sing it, Carrie! "I'm on my way, Home Sweet Home!" L.A. auditions started with a glimpse of the hardest working man in show biz, Ryan Seacrest, attending two jobs at once. He was on-air at his radio station morning job as Idol cameras taped him for hometown auditions. Avril Lavigne was one of the guest judges assisting the panel in sending hopefuls from L.A. all the way down the street to Hollywood.
First up was self-proclaimed geek, Neil Goldstein, who admits he's "into everything." I can think of a few things he's not into right off the bat. Neil said he would title his debut album "Hope." How very President Obama of him. Neil enters the audition room and is already sweating. Avril has no problem jumping right in and asking Neil questions. He sings the first few lyrics, "Remember everything that I told you..." and then completely freezes, ironically forgetting everything. At first he seemed like he could be a sweet, innocuous young man, but when Simon said it wasn't good enough, Neil refuses to leave the room. Although it's a no for Neil, Papa Goldstein already feels like a star because he's wearing his sunglasses indoors (author's note: this is a peeve of mine).
Jim Ranger looks like he could be a ranger, but he's a worship pastor, husband, and father of three cute kids. He made a bit of a risky move in deciding to audition with an original song called "Drive." His voice is country with soul. Even Simon, who doesn't like country, liked Jim's voice and called it authentic. Having lived the pop star life, Avril Lavigne questioned whether or not Jim would be able to leave his life behind for a life on the road. C'mon Avril, "Why'd you have to go and make things so complicated?" However, Jim skips off with a golden ticket in one hand and his daughter's hand in the other. He also has tears in his eyes. Aww!
Next up was a trio of interesting performers. It is a bad enough idea to pick a Celine Dion song to audition with, because the woman has "mad vocals" as Randy would say, and Jayson Wilson chose to shriek the song. Jesse Chang sang "Kung-Fu Fighting" while performing choreographed kicks. Martin Perez looks like he's auditioning for the part of Danny Zuko in "Grease." None of these men are going to Hollywood...unless they already live there. Rather, they won't be singing on Hollywood's Kodak Theater stage.
Damien Lefavor says he's a pacifist who is addicted to martial arts, which seems like a bit of an oxymoron. He calls martial arts his "first great love," though I believe it's the only love he's ever known. Damien is also a sandwich maker and he said that pepperoni is the "in" sandwich. I, for one, prefer pepperoni on a pizza and turkey on a sandwich, so I have a feeling that Damien and I don't have similar tastes. You knew this was going to be a rough audition when Damien stood in front of the judges and said that he forgot which Righteous Brothers song he was going to sing. With the judges help, Damien remembered and began to sing "You've Lost That Loving Feeling" until he forgot the lyrics. Note to Damien: rent a certain Tom Cruise movie for a karaoke rendition of this tune.
Next we see a montage of cute, opinionated kids who accompany their loved ones to auditions and aren't afraid to speak their mind. Rocker girl Mary Powers is the mother of one such kid. Her daughter loves Simon "because he's the only negativity one." The adorable daughter says she believes her mom is "going to win to be on the Top 14 or something." She may be on to something, because Mary received four yeses and a ticket to Hollywood. After Simon met the little girl, he too believed that she could be his daughter.
Cue up the Adam Lambert montage. And why an Adam montage when this is Season 9? Adam's run on American Idol has inspired a lot of people, and a handful of look-a-likes, including AJ Mendoza. AJ is an Adam fan who has even shopped a demo to Adam and received great feedback from the Season 8 runner-up. This just shows how nice Adam is, because when AJ sang, the judges described it as sounding like he's at the dentist. AJ will not be following in his Idol's footsteps any time soon.
For the second day of Los Angeles auditions, Avril Lavigne left and Katy Perry arrived, the way normal humans do. I say that because the permanent judges arrived at the hotel via helicopter. Although it seems like a totally vain and unnecessary way to arrive in their hometown, especially during these tough economic times, I cannot blame them. I sit in L.A. traffic twice a day every day, and it's torture. Katy Perry promises to be an honest judge, and I'm sure she will be since she has no problem revealing her kissing escapades in song.
Austin Fullmer is a Water Treatment Technician who is wearing a shiny, possibly latex, shirt. He said he's like no one else, and he's right...especially when he gets on the floor and does open legged aerobics. Although Austin isn't moving on in the competition, the judges console him by agreeing that he's "different."
A montage of rejected contestants who are crying included a clip of one bawling eliminated contestant, Ashley Ferl. Does the name ring a bell? Or does the crying face conjure up some familiar imagery? Ashley is the young girl who cried in the audience during Season 6 as her Idol Sanjaya Malakar sang "You Really Got Me."
Andrew Garcia is a dad who grew up in Compton with parents who got involved in gangs. The family left Compton to provide a better life for their family in Moreno Valley, CA. After tears were shed at the kitchen table, Andrew sang Maroon 5's "Sunday Morning" for the judges. Although he was singing a capella, the melody of his voice made it seem like there was so much more involved and it was easy to get swept away by his performance. Within his first few notes, Kara and Katy high five each other. Simon said Andrew is "the only person who has walked through today who I genuinely believe is a good singer." Simon continued to compliment Andrew, and all of the judges had nice things to say. With four emphatic yeses, Andrew leaves with a golden ticket and a kiss from his son.
Tasha Layton is a personal assistant by day and a pastor by night. Her version of "Baby, Baby, Baby" by Joss Stone was well received by the judges, and Simon thinks America will like her. He predicted that if she makes Top 12 there will be an "Oh Happy Day" medley...which he actually started to sing! I think this is a first for Mr. Cowell. Tasha even tried to talk Simon into wearing a robe on stage if she makes it to the Top 12. We'll have to wait and see, because Tasha is headed to Hollywood!
Everything about Jason Greene's performance was...let's just say...interesting. He sange "I Touch Myself," he hit on all the judges, and he got down on his knees and asked the judges to join him. Even Katy Perry felt dirty and admitted that's hard to do. Jason exited his audition and handed his phone number to Ryan, who then handed the number to the extremely large security guard.
Kara and Katy are the antonym to Kara and Kristin Chenoweth from Orlando auditions. Where Kristin and Kara were instant BFFs, Kara and Katy seemed to be at odds with each other. Katy sets her straight on the reasons why they should or shouldn't send certain contestants through. Then, in walked Chris Golightly, a young man with Justin Guarini's hair who has been in and out of foster care his whole life. He took on Ben E. King's "Stand By Me," and Kara said he has the voice and the story, but Katy said the story is no reason to put him through. After a variety of "Big Y" and "Little Y" yeses were thrown out, Chris received four votes to send him to Hollywood!
In sum, 22 contestants from the Golden State are walking away with golden tickets to that Hollywood place they most likely had to drive by to get to auditions. Now, strap on your boots because we're heading to Dallas, Texas for the penultimate hometown auditon.