We’ve been waiting for this since May. The season premiere of American Idol opened with last year’s winner, Phillip Phillips, doing an acoustic rendition of his megahit single on the stage of an empty theater. Transitioning into a montage of former Idol champions, mainly Kelly Clarkson and Carrie Underwood, we were subjected to a way too calculated and heavy handed attempt to assure us that American Idol is still culturally relevant. If you playback the montage very slowly, you can see a brief shot of Alexis Cohen, the girl who twice, gave the camera the finger and then died in 2009 in a car accident. Yeah, invoking dead people really shows you’re relevant and fun. Nice going, Idol.
The auditioners were of less interest than the new judges Nicki Minaj, Keith Urban and Mariah Carey joining veteran dog, Randy Jackson. I’m sure we were all anxiously waiting for catfights between Mariah and Nicki which never happened. All we got was some sass talk from Nicki. It was rather unfortunate that we didn’t have more drama between the judges because the talent was, for the most part, dull.
The first auditioner, the first impression of the twelfth season, the guy who set the pace for the entire first hour sucked. The season started out with a wacko but he wasn’t a particularly good wacko. Michael Buonopane, (Michael Goodbread) came in and started his audition while the judges were gabbing amongst themselves. They acted as if they didn’t even realize he had started his rap. He was basically interrupting their conversation. Talk about bad timing. Claiming he didn’t know what he was going to do he delivered an uninspiring rap that got him the boot.
Tenna Torres, a long time fan of Mariah’s had previously met and sang for Mariah at the cleverly named Camp Mariah some years ago. The judges praised her but she wasn’t all that.
If William Hung had gotten some vocal lessons he’d have been James Bae. James, an awful and delusional 15 year old had his dreams dashed by a harsh reality check from Randy. The other judges tried to be tactful with him and point him in another hopefully non-musical direction but Randy just put it out there telling him not to be a singer.
That seems to be how the judges were all night. The three new guys tried to be tactful and encouraging to the point that Nicki was almost Paula-esque with her nurturing qualities. That left Randy to be the one to deliver bad news directly and tactlessly. Unfortunately he lacks Simon’s wit to deliver a memorable put-down. I am hoping that once the judges get the hang of their new gig, they’ll get more comfortable telling the sucky that they suck.
Of all the singers we saw tonight, Christina “Isabelle” is the only one I want to hear again. They focused on her weight loss too much. Sure it’s great she lost 50 some pounds and Little Bobby hopes she’s lost some more between auditions and Hollywood week. Besides being on pitch, she was the only singer all night who showed any deftness with her voice. She had an artistry that can’t be taught. At some point they better explain why they put quotes around Isabelle.
I thought for sure one-legged cancer survivor, Evan Ruggerio would bring out the soft hearts of the judges and go to Hollywood but frankly I’m glad the judges were honest enough to not send him. He was good but not great. Without his guitar, he was a bit flat. With it, he was a bit sharp. With him, they were at least tactful and encouraging.
Jessica Kartalis had the good fortune to bypass the arduous days of pre-audition screening. Randy Jackson made a surprise appearance at a club or coffee house where she was gigging and handed her her pass to go straight to the judges’ room. Unfortunately, she blew it. Opportunity knocked and she showed up at the door with her proverbial hair in curlers. She was crying when she left but really now, she didn’t even have the impetus to go to the auditions and wait in line with everyone else. You can’t tell anybody how they should feel but in her case, I think she should have been angry about blowing it but happy to have had the chance.
I am one of those viewers who believes American Idol should seek out the undiscovered and non-professional talents and turn them into big stars. So I’m not really thrilled about Shira Gaurielov who had a hit recording in Israel. Her voice was just OK and her enunciations were a bit off. But the judges liked her so we’ll see more of her.
Subway troubadour, Frankie Ford, has good stage presence and a humble persona. Unfortunately he flubbed his song. I don’t know if he went up on the lyrics or what but he stopped and started over. The judges sent him to Hollywood despite this but I fear it portends badly for his ability to cope with the pressures of Hollywood week.
Day two started with Benjamin “Squeaky Pants” Gaisey. Another delusional non-talent, set straight by the panel of judges.
Rozanna Shindelman, who never sings in front of anybody but her parents, was another singer given a harsh put-down by the judges. Of all the bad singers, she had the most potential. While she will never make it as a singer, one of the judges should have at least been kind enough to encourage her to keep singing and maybe get some vocal training.
Second best of the night was blueberry farmgirl, Sarah Restuccio. She did a Carrie Underwood song pretty well but was asked by Randy to do a second song. I don’t know why she chose “Superbass” but she impressed the judges enough to make it to Hollywood. Randy and Keith were already laying down the “we don’t know who you are as an artist” crap on her for singing two totally distinct genres. Why aren’t they impressed with her versatility? Nicki got her. Mariah was behind her without any reservations. In the end, all four gave her the nod to go to Hollywood. With her country voice and her talent with a bow and arrow, she can be this season’s Skyler Laine.
I want to get this posted before I go to bed and I want to go to bed now so I’m going to skip the Turbanator and the very talented Angela Miller and go straight to the final singer, Ashlee Feliciano. More impressive than the big hearted family she belongs to was her ability to sing Put Your Records On.. That song has sunk so many contestants it’s cursed. Singing that song is guaranteed to put you in the bottom three. But Ashlee sang the song beautifully. If she can do that well with a song so difficult, I am looking forward to see what else she can pull off this season.
One final note, it’s been reported that Vote For The Worst is folding after this season of Idol. They say their work is done. They’ve succeeded in bringing down the show so they can quit now. Mission accomplished. They like to take a lot of credit for events that may or may not have been their doing. Sure, American Idol isn’t the same hotness it was 7 or 9 years ago. And sure their viewership numbers and demographics have not fared well but VFTW is crazy if they think they were the cause of it.
For all the claims that Idol has lost it’s relevance, opening the show with Phillip Phillips’ Home drove home the point that despite good ratings, The Voice and The X-Factor have not yet had a smash single like American Idol has. Also, despite lower numbers of viewers, Idol is still crushing its competition and is still ranked in the top five and usually in the very top spot of the ratings for the week. The fact is, fewer people are watching network television nowadays. Everybody’s numbers are going down on network TV. Vote For The Worst had nothing to do with it.
VFTW, like The Bob Tube, is a labor of love. VFTW has a lot higher overhead than I do and it doesn’t make enough money to cover all its operating costs. If I had the overhead VFTW does and wasn’t even breaking even with ad revenue, I’d have folded long ago. VFTW was fun while it lasted.