Wednesday, February 9, 2011

'Idol' San Francisco auditions: Saving the best for last?

James Durbin auditions in San Francisco
This week marks the end of the audition shows and I, for one, couldn't be happier. We wrap up tonight in San Francisco. "It's the last chance, and first impressions are everything," we see on the screen as a young woman wonders why, just because she passed gas, they wouldn't let her finish.

Ryan reminds us that this is the place where, two years ago, they discovered Adam Lambert, the "most electrifying" contestant ever.

First up is, Inessa Lee, originally from the Ukraine, who brags about having lots of music videos. She says she's an amazing choreographer and a "unique creature." She belly dances and does yoga poses for the judges, but her singing doesn't quite measure up. She does this stupid Betty Boop imitation and is gently mocked by Steven. It's a no for Inessa.

The morning auditions aren't so hot, but things get better in the afternoon. We get quick glimpses of alleged Top 40 -bound contestants, Brittany Mazur, Lara Johnston and Matthew Nuss.

Our first sob story of the evening features Stefano Langone, 21, of Kent, WA. In May 2009, Stefano was in a terrible car accident that left him unable to walk or use his arms. We learn the paramedics thought he was dead when they first came on the scene. But, Stefano was back on his feet in four months. We see him working out with weights to make the point that, even though he is all scarred up, he's beaten the odds.

Stefano sings “I Heard it Through the Grapevine” for the judges. He's okay, not great, but the judges fall all over him. “You have real star quality, movie star good looks, your voice has a nice tone to it,” Jennifer says. Steven tells him, “You survived that accident for a reason.” And why is that? Because he's going to Hollywood. Okay.

Night has fallen, but eager contestants are already lining up for the next day's auditions. Fast forward to morning and the judges are seen arriving. Of course all this doesn't really happen the same day, but we're not supposed to know that after ten years watching this show!

Next up is Clint Jun Gamboa, a karaoke host from Long Beach. Clint's got round black glasses and looks strange. He sings "Billionaire." He has a very current sound, great tone, and gets a resounding yes from the judges.

We are forced to watch an assortment of horrible singers. One guy appears to be wearing ear muffs and Drew, another weirdo, is wearing a Transformer costume that he built himself. He tells us this is the way people will be getting around in ten years. He sings "Born to be Wild" badly. His 'Idol' dreams have stalled, says Ryan.

Ryan tells us the girls in SF really shone. We hear a few of them, but don't learn their names.

It's Julie Zorrilla's 20th birthday. She grew up in Columbia, but war broke out and her family packed up and moved to the US, leaving everything behind Her father cries as he tells us how bad the war was. This is a weak attempt at a sob story.

Julie sings "Summertime." She oversings a bit, but Steven is impressed. “Fabulous, beautiful, great star quality, and I like your shoes,” he says. JLo likes it a lot. Randy reminds us that Fantasia "blew this out the box." Julie's going to Hollywood. Best birthday present ever. The judges wonder if she could be the winner?

Dave Combs, a sloppy looking dude with long, stringy hair, tells us "real men have long hair." He's doing “Oh Darlin.'” He's hoarse and all over the place pitch-wise. It's grim. Steven tells him he may be tending bar. Steven thought Dave was going to represent. Dave asks for one more shot. Steven is angry.

Steven isn't having any of these bogus bad auditions. “Dude did you hit your head on the way in," he asks one guy. To a girl dressed as a cop, he says, “You ought to be arrested for that voice.” Love you Steven.

Our second sob story of the evening is Emily Anne Reed whose house burned down the week before her audition. She tells us this broke her heart, but she is determined to rebuild a better life. She sounds like a little kid - a rather dim-witted little kid. But when she sings "You're Getting to be a Habit with me," it's totally different from anything we've heard to date. Steven loves her "old-timey voice," but says that her melody left something to be desired. No from Steven, Yes from Randy, and Jennifer says she'll give Emily one more chance... in Hollywood. Then Emily picks up a guitar and knocks it out of the park.She's too good for 'Idol,' I would say. And, I suspect, she'll get lost in Hollywood.

The tease before the break is that we're going to hear the "voice you've been waiting for" from what I assume will be the best (or worst however you want to look at it) sob story of the night.

More weeping contestants whose dreams will have to wait another year.And then the evening's clincher. James Durbin's father was a musician who wasn't around a lot when he was growing up. Dad died of a drug overdose when James was 9-years-old. James then had all kinds of medical issues and was finally diagnosed with Tourrette's syndrome and Aspberger's. He got made fun of a lot and the kids beat him up. He weeps for the camera. Then he met Heidi, an "angel," in a bar. And then they had a baby. But life is hard. They live in a dump, he has no job, and sometimes they can't afford diapers. He's worried about having a Tourrette's attack when he gets in front of the judges. He cries buckets.

James sings "Baby Please Don't Go." He's okay. Then he sings "Dream On." “That was over the top,” says Steven. They all love him and praise the poop out of him. James cries some more. This is not the voice I've been waiting for, actually. But he's going to Hollywood and I reckon the producers are going to pimp the hell out of this guy to try and make up for the fact that Glambert lost. Just my opinion.

Hooray, the auditions are over.

Hollywood starts Thursday. We see quick clips of some of the people who got golden tickets. And some who didn't. The first round appears to be a sudden death round, so the field will be chopped down considerably.

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