After weeks of hopefuls wanting to get that golden ticket to Hollywood, we get to see if the 181 hopefuls can stay in Los Angeles. Can they prove themselves worthy of being the next Kris Allen? This first visit to the Kodak Theater will also let us see if Ellen Degeneres is worthy of Paula Abdul’s seat. The talkshow host is a comic and not a singer. Can she really relate to these kids? She’s already billed herself as more superfan than industry insider. What kid wants to know that a 52 year old woman can feel their music? Networks consider anyone in their 50s as being a kiss of death to their shows. Ellen will be the kiss of death to 157 of these kids.
The first day starts at 7 a.m. Although we’re pushed back in time to the kids arriving at the airport, checking into the hotel and finally bussed to the theater. Ryan claims the most high profile stage in the world is the Kodak Theater. Really? La Scala and the Apollo are second class in Ryan’s world. They scan the fresh faces in the audience. They are fresh since so many of them didn’t appear on the audition outside of a quicky non-singing montage. Ellen comes out and the crowd goes wild. She’s got a mussed up short hairdo that makes her look hip with the kids. In her jeans jacket and blue shirt, she looks like a Kris Allen wannabe. She tells the kids that she knows what it’s like to stand on stage and please an audience. She yucks it up backstage with Ryan.
She takes her seat with the judges and we’re given the biggest, most shocking, under hyped change of the season. The red Coke cups are gone. Instead we get these glasses with a white and yellow pattern that look like a beer with major head issues. Turns out the new sponsor is Vitamin Water. Have I mentioned to you how Vitamin Water ought to be sued for false advertising? First off, it’s not water. It has corn syrup in it. This is a drink. Not water. Also the vitamin aspect is destroyed by the fact it’s got about as much goop in it as regular soda. Vitamin Water has electrolytes! It’s like Idiocracy come to life. Water should not have anything except water in it. If you have to offer a diet version of your water, it’s not water.
The first round is a sudden death of singing a cappella or with an instrument. After a group of 8 perform, the judges will pick who lives and who dies. The first batch involves Katie, the girl with the Alzheimer’s suffering grandmother. The acoustics of the hall elevates her voice. Skiiboski does a bland job that scares Ellen. She fears he’s like a panther stalking them. In the end, Katie gets through and Skiiboski gets the boot. He’s not happy and wants to know why. Could it be that the producers discovered his arrest record? Of course not, he’s eliminated for talent lacking vocal skills.
Ryan declares the time as 11:30 a.m and kids are still waiting for their first shot. Simon has been nasty. Ellen gives a little comic relief including telling a girl to put shoes on because Hollywood is a filthy town. Andrew Garcia breaks out the acoustic guitar to do Paula Adbul’s “Straight Up.” Does Paula get a royalty for her name being evoked? The song sounds great with the reworking. Kara compares him to Adam Lambert – except without the Axl vocals. Vanessa Wolfe is the girl who never rode in an aeroplane before. We even see her landing. She’s blown away by the big city. She’s beyond nervous. She completely batters “No Rain.” Why? Did she go for a Blind Melon song? Ellen gives her a smile and knows the nerves got to the girl. Andrew gets through. Vanessa gets her first return trip on an aeroplane. If she wants to stay in Hollywood, she can play Kelly Pickler in front of the Chinese Theater next door. The montage features more unknown folks being set home along with a tearful Vanessa. She took a risk and it didn’t pay off. Don’t risk. Play to your strengths.
The commercial breaks seem even longer than last week. We return to what is 3:30 p.m. More people are cut. Cornelius Edwards split his pants in the audition. Nothing worked. Maeghan Wright tanked at the keyboard. Amedeo DiRocco was the Jersey Shore cast off that also destroyed a song and was sent home. He needs to call “The Situation” for career advice.
Janell Wheeler has a raspy country voice, but does the Kris Allen trick of doing an acoustic version of a Kanye West tune. She gets through. We get a montage of people who can’t play and sing at the same time. Away they go. At least they got their face on the air so mom didn’t think they flew to Vegas. Haeley Vaughn returns with her guitar and the memory of getting a “Million percent yes” vote from Randy. Rocker mom Mary Powers returns without her daughter. She has a yelp to her voice. They both make it. Mary thinks her life will change. There’s a few more rounds. Ellen has a group of four stepping forward and back like a game of Simon Says. The teasing pays off. They’re all in. At the end of day one 46 contestants made it out of the 90 that auditioned.
Day 2 exposes the human beat box guy as a complete bust. Even Ellen jokes that there was something wrong with his microphone. Lilly Scott comes up with her acoustic guitar and steals the day. She’s warm and charming and belongs on that stage. She gets through with no problem. Although the peacock feather earrings might have to be sent packing. Big Mike Lynche with the massive biceps gets news that his wife has gone into labor. He better not crash and burn. There’s nothing more wonderful than the moment you get to hold your newborn baby. You better have the greatest excuse in the world for missing out. Big Mike does well on a John Mayer tune. He goes through to the group performance round.
Tim Urban wants to prove Simon wrong. He brings an acoustic guitar for back up. Justin Williams hits the keyboard for a little John Legend love. He sings his full song. Randy calls him “interesting.” Oddly enough, Justin is sent home while Tim stays for tomorrow. Now we get an unexpected slaughter of people given attention during the auditions. The Domme with a whip former Barney star gets tossed. The Jersey gals are also packed. Maddy Curtis returns with her soft voice. Casey the singer who stripped for Kara and Posh is put though with his barely good to be annoying at the dorm guitar and voice. Maddy is sent packing.
The last group is taking the stage. Didi Benami was the nervous waitress. She stacks the deck by doing a Kara song. It fits in her mouth. She’s extra toothy on the “Aye Aye Aye” part. Forget a panther stalking, this is a shark attack. Crystal Bowersox gets a tattoo in Los Angeles as good luck. Her baby’s name on her back will be more than needed to combat Simon. She wows everyone with her take on “Natural Woman.” Simon thinks she’s infectious. Does he know about what you can get from a bad tattoo needle? Both ladies get thorough to the group round. A total of 95 kids remain for the group singing round.
Ellen really needs to get them to work on the lighting. She didn’t look 52, but she still looked old enough to be pondering an early bird special dinner. Ellen was as good as any guest judge this season except Neil Patrick Harris. Right now her quips are good since they’re cutting away lines from hours of tape. How will she react when the show goes live? None of the contestants who made it through seemed to be a talented trainwreck. How much entertainment will there be in the hotel group rehearsals? Where are the drama queens? How could they clip the Jersey girls or the Barney girl? There’s a couple good voices. But right now there seems to be more drama on the judges’ table. It’s been reported Randy Jackson is getting cut and might just jump with Simon to X Factor. Tomorrow promises another day of dream smashing. Although if the girl with a whip wants to stay in Southern California, she needs to grab a bus to Chatsworth. That’s a place that will respect her talent.
Tags: American Idol, Ellen, Kara, Randy, Simon