Wednesday, January 26, 2011

'American Idol 10' - Working it out in Milwaukee

Chris Medina's back story makes Steven Tyler cry
For the first time, the 'American Idol' auditions take place in Milwaukee, home to Danny Gokey, who is, of course on hand to cheer on the masses. No surprise there.

I'm inspired to live blog it tonight, so let's get it on. 

First up, Scott McCreery, a throw-back country singer with a deep bass voice who inspires an interesting poetic outburst from judge Steven Tyler. Scott's going through, no problem. Jennifer thinks he'll be "legendary." We'll see about that.

Joe Rupka is a happy-go-lucky young man with aspirations to be a radio announcer. Ryan gives him a little training and Joe is off to the races. He gets in front of the judges and does his best radio announcer voice. Joe hopes he's the next American Idol, but when he launches into Billy Joel's "For the Longest Time," it's clear he should stick to radio. Tyler tells him, "Do not quit your day job." Jennifer thinks Joe should pursue radio as does Randy. Joe tries another song to no avail. See ya.

Randy has become almost superfluous.

Emma Henry, 15, and her entire family drove 15 hours to the audition. She's been watching since Season 1 and has wanted her own "moment like this." Tyler is ridiculous with her. She sings "True Colors." She has a nice tone and intonation, but is a bit hoarse. Tyler says she has a lot of character and Jennifer says there's something there for her to build on, a special quality in her voice. Randy doesn't think she's ready and Jennifer agrees. Steven likes her and says yes. Emma begs Randy. Awwww... say yes Randy. Please. Emma is crying. Randy says he thinks she'd get swallowed up in the whole thing. Outside the audition room, Mom is crying. She tells us Emma is sick. "Dawg's gonna turn into a pussy cat," says Steven to Randy. Emma says she'll work so hard. Emma makes the cut.

We get a mishmosh of horrible auditions. Thank you for not subjecting us to this for the entire show. We know, though, that all this nonsense will be followed by someone "good," right. One guy wants a sip of Randy's Coke. Another shot of Danny.

Milwaukee is the home of Summerfest, and our next auditioner, Naima Adedapo,  works for the festival in maintenance. She's got a unique look. Kind of Lauryn Hillish. She weeps through her pre-audition clip - wants to do this for her babies (yada, yada). She's singing "For All we Know." Tyler is nodding. Jennifer says she likes her voice and package. Randy and Steven both like her, so she's on to Hollywood. I love her multi-colored dress. Naima is unique and will stand out in Hollywood.

Note: What you don't know is that Naima was one of the 38 nationwide finalists on MTV’s P. Diddy’s reality T.V. show 'Making the Band,' and is a seasoned musical theater performer. A little more than a maintenance person I would say.

We start off after the break with a scene of a young man doing backflips. He smashes into a camera man on the floor. Heh! One woman sings "Jenny from the Block" and a weirdo comes on with a giant toothbrush.

Wedding singer Jerome Bell from New York steps up to the plate. Jerome has a great smile and belts out "Let's Get it On." A bit too much, but he has a decent voice. And again, that smile. "Hot, crazy vocals," says Randy who likes him. Steven is impressed and Jerome is through to Hollywood. His mom screams. Jennifer says, "Remember that name." Dude should tone it down a bit.

Little clip of Justin Bieber. Yup, this is why we lowered the age to 15 this year. So, here's a 5-year old! Right. Ryan tells us the 15-year olds have really delivered, setting us up for an audition from one, I would say.

Thia Magia is a pretty little 15-year old from California who auditions with "Chasing Pavements." Nice vocals. Jennifer says she loves Thia. Steven loves her voice and says it has "muster and heat." Thia is in.  Another slew of 15-year olds, all of whom are going to Hollywood. I have issues with this, but no one asked me.

Nathanial Jones is a Civil War renenactor. He comes to the audition dressed in his war outfit. Nathanial is emphatic that his dad, who sports a long ZZ Top beard, is not a hippie. Nathanial sings "The Lion Sleeps Tonight" in a falsetto that makes my dog's ears stand up. Randy can't contain himself. Nathanial looks like a guy I used to work with. It's a no.

The next guy needs to face the wall before the yowling begins.

The next serous contestant, Molly DeWolf-Swenson, recently graduated from Harvard and is an intern in the White House. She says she is in love with the President, but not in a Lewinsky kind of way. Funny. Hey, Molly, you've got some real good stuff going on in your life right now, why the hell are you trying out for 'Idol?'  Anyway, Molly tells Randy that when he was running down the line high-fiving everyone in the morning, he punched her in the face! Oh yeah. Molly has an interesting voice and good range. Tyler says, "You got attitude, you know where to put it." He thinks she's terrific. Molly is in, but has no family to celebrate with her. :(

The first day is over, the 15-year olds are headed to Hollywood, and thankfully, Danny Gokey has gone home. We get a preview of upcoming auditions, including what certainly will be the biggest tearjerker of the night, if not the entire season.

It's a new day and Jennifer is dolled up in a little '50s outfit. First up, Haley Reinhart, who auditioned last year in Chicago, but didn't make the cut. She does much better this year and is going to Hollywood.

Tiwan Strong has a rather retro vibe and weird teeth ("Twisting the Night Away"). Tiwan gets a golden ticket.  He looks about 40! Mama busts a move and another hanger-on-er has some kind of leg cramp on camera. Now that was unscripted.

Back from the break with the requisite cheesehead hats. Our next auditioner, Steve Bighun, is an accountant who moonlights as a wedding singer. He looks too old.  Surprise, surprise, Steve can really sing. Tyler's got his eyes closed. He says he heard an echo that resonated in the room. Really? "I found you to be disturbingly great," Tyler says. Steve Bighun is going to Hollywood. "Wow," says Steve Bighun. I love his name.

Vernika Paterson sings "Loving You," the Minnie Ripperton tune. She starts and stops. She's completely flat. But will she belt out that high note. Nope. Jennifer puts her hand up to stop the torture. Steven doesn't think she's ready for 'Idol.' Vernika argues. "Half the people can't sing as well as I can," Vernika says. She wonders if it's because she's not skinny. No, Vernika, it's because you sing like a cat in hear. Vernika stomps out of the room. She said no to herself! "She took that really well," Randy quips.

Now for a montage of folks who didn't make the cut and who don't want the camera on them. "Get that camera off my face," seems to be the common theme.

Albert Rogers, III, 24 (looks 44 - what's up with all these old-looking people), says people think his singing sounds like Ruben Studdard, Luther Vandross, and Usher. He's singing "Stand by Me." He ain't no Luther, let's put it that way. Steven leans on Jennifer and swoons. Randy puts an end to the torture. Steven isn't sure it's 'American Idol,' but good. Randy thinks it's a joke. It's a no for Albert.

Steven Tyler wonders if Scott Dangerfield is wearing lipstick. He tells the judges he kissed a girl in the holding room. He's singing "Dreamin'" by Amos Lee. Weird. He's a skinny white dude with long hair and glasses, but has a cool soul vibe. He reminds me a little bit of Clay Aiken. Jennifer says Scott might be her favorite of the day. Scott's going to Hollywood. 

Jennifer Hudson Weight Watchers commercial. She looks amazing.

Lots of love for the Packers. And now we meet "the most colorful fan" ever. Megan Frasier is a huge Packer fan and runs around the holding room screaming. Amazing no one slapped her! She's infused Justin Bieber's "Baby" with a touch of opera. She's awful.

Steven likes the next girl, Alyson Jaydos, who says she loves him. They hug. Aly says she loves rock and roll and is singing "Come Together."  She's not that good. Randy wants her to sing an Aerosmith song - "Dream On." She's better on this one. Steven yowls. It's all good. Will Aly go to Hollywood? Doesn't look good. Steven says she's very pitchy. Aly knows she can do it. Jennifer thinks she has a great quality in her voice and a good performance quality. Randy says no, but Jennifer wants to put her through. It's up to Steven. Ouch. He says yes.

Ryan tells us 53 went through to Hollywood. One more contestant, though. One more.

Quick recap of some of the good auditions in case you've forgotten. The last audition of the day is Chris Medina from Chicago. He tells the judges his story. He and Juliana Ramos have been together for eight years. He proposed to her at work in Starbucks. But on Oct. 2, 2009, she was in a serious accident and suffered severe brain damage. Juliana was in a coma for a month and a half. Now, their wedding plans are on hold. He and her mother are her caretakers. "What kind of guy would I be if I walked out when she needs me the most," Chris asks. What kind of guy indeed?

Chris sings "Break Even" by the Script. Dude can sing. Needs a haircut and some new duds, though. Jennifer wants Chris to bring Juliana in. Not sure if Juli understands all that's going on, and quite honestly, it's really uncomfortable watching this. The judges all get up to greet Juliana and Steven gets all teary-eyed. He tells Juliana that Chris sings so well because he sings to her. A tear forms in my eye.

Chris is going to Hollywood. And I'm predicting right here and now that Chris Medina will be in the Top 12 or 13 or whatever they have this year. Thing is, he could have gotten through on his own merit and not exploited his poor fiance. I'm not saying this is entirely his doing, however. The show's producers certainly had a hand in all of this, knowing full well the reaction this segment would produce. Brilliant, but still...

Thursday 'Idol' moves on to Nashville.


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  2. "Idol" producers may have exploited his poor fiance but is it fair to place the onus on Chris at this stage given the editing process? And exploitation is such a heavy-handed, cynical way to approach things. If he's good (which he is), so be it. A lot of sob stories in the past have not gotten any further than need be.