American Idol, Episodes 8-01 and 8-02

I don’t traditionally watch the audition episodes. The truth of the matter is, the audition process is the most predicatble and boring part of the show. You watch the show, and you find that the majority of people fall into one of five categories:

1) The person with a good story that can sing. Usually, these are accompanied by a video from their “normal” lives.
2) The person with a good story but can’t sing, sent there because they’ve done something worthwhile.
3) The gimmick people, who can’t sing and are more than likely some sort of plant used so that some media outlet/interweb site can claim that they “pulled a fast one” on American Idol. Get over it, the producers clearly know what you are and why they’re putting you through. I usually don’t write anything about them.
4) Guys who sing “diva” songs / people who sing Stevie Wonder. Never a good idea.
5) The person who can sing who gets intro’d with little fanfare, because they’re simply good.

Obviously, there are people that don’t fall into that category, but I think the majority of people we see on the show can be slotted into one of these four.

The first two episodes concentrated on Phoenix, Arizona and Kansas City, Missouri. The auditions were, as usual, shown out of order, but it was more blatant than usual because you would see the light behind the judges go from day to night to day. I’m all for telling whatever story you need to, but don’t insult us by telling us that someone was the “last audition of the day” when there’s still daylight flooding the judges’ room. Simon is no Jack Bauer. You get the usual people singing, failing, telling us that the judges made a mistake, and of course the jubilation of making the Hollywood round.

What was new, of course, was the addition of fourth judge Kara DioGuardi, who oddly enough, was one of the judges on the short-lived Idol clone The One – making her the second transplant from that show to Idol (the first being contestant Syesha Mercado). She’s a songwriter by trade, writing hits such as “Walk Away” (Kelly Clarkson), “Ain’t No Other Man” (Christina Aguilera) and “Taking Chances” (Celine Dion). She probably shouldn’t be too proud of that last one. Kara is good fit for this show, falling somewhere between Randy and Simon for criticism – something that has been sorely lacking the last few seasons as Randy has really softened up in criticism. I’m hoping that she’ll be Idol‘s version of Mia Michaels (but less ignorant).

As for the old, Paula didn’t seem drunk, and Randy was his usual. Simon… well, Simon didn’t do anything different, but it’s amazing how his type of insult is very similar to Top Chef‘s Toby Young’s insults, yet Simon usually does so to make some sort of point. Toby, near as I can tell, does it to get over. Gail Simmons can’t get back fast enough there.

OK, so performance-wise, we had a few memorable people (note – I probably won’t be remembering many names). The first is, of course, Bikini Girl who is allegedly a model. This was a case where the gimmick actually worked. Well, to an extent. Kara didn’t feel like she had enough attitude/emotion in her singing, and she had a valid point, although that didn’t prevent Ramelie Mulaby (who had much the same issues) from cracking the Top 12. Bikini Girl fought back, and if Nigel Lythgoe were still he show-runner she’d have been turfed right then and there. Regardless, I’m saying that she’ll make the Top 24 and be subjected to the court of public opinion.

Next was Andrew Lang, who had his own cheering section. He sang well enough, but I think the dog and pony intro shot down any chance of him making the Hollywood round. However, I think he’s got a bright future on Broadway. He’s definitely got the musical style for it.

The band leader who sang Michael Jackson – ballsy choice, good voice. This guy looks to be Top 24 material, and not just because he can sing. I have to assume that he’s been in marching bands before, and that is no walk in the park. Hollywood week shouldn’t be as tough for him as it will be for others.

…like the guy who did the backflip. He has the desire to succeed, but it looks like he’ll break easily.

Another girl who could go far is Stevie Wright from the Phoenix auditions, but she’s 16 (seriously? She looks quite a bit older than that) and I always have reservations about 16-year olds in this competition. And not just because of my hate for Archie. Also, since she’s 16, is it possible that they actually named her after Steven Wright the comedian, not Stevie Nicks? Just saying.

Finally, we’ve got Jason Castro’s brother. I can’t see him getting far, but hey, a sibling making it to Hollywood is not bad at all, and he’s got a good voice for someone who (allegedly) started singing recently. I just don’t think that the Idol machine can handle another stoner Castro sib in the competition, is all.

That’s it. See you next week when they go to Puerto Rico, and other places.

Kevin Wong writes for Reality Dish, Prime Time Pulse and Inside Fights. Despite Toby Young’s presence, he still thinks that Top Chef is the second best reality show on TV right now. The first is the one that keeps winning the Emmys.