AI7 – Hollywood Hell Week Part 1

American Idol logoBefore I carry on — I forgot to mention in a previous posting that I saw Ace Young on the red carpet at the Grammys. He is still working on an album, it seems. Hunh. Never give up, kids. You, too, can become time filler killer on a basic cable’s live show. Play your cards right.

I’m typing this as I watch it. It will most likely be very long. You’ve been warned.

164 contestants came to Hollywood. Many of them, Ryan Seacrest points out, have grown up on the show. They’ve seen it all before. But this year is different. Call is the Sanjaya Factor. Everyone gets two chances to impress the judges. In the first two days, they have their first chance to sing a solo and get a pass to the next round. (Half on Day One, half on Day Two.) Sing poorly and you get a second chance on Day Three. Suck on Day Three and take the next flight home.

Oh, and they get to use an instrument, if they so wish. Judging from what we saw on TV, this was usually a bad idea.

Welcome to Hollywood, where the judges stop being your friend, stop looking for the positive, and start ripping you apart, limb from limb. I love it. Gladiators, to your stations! Prepare for combat!

Day One:

Starts with Brooke White, who played the piano (synthesizer) and did a bang-up job. She showed that she knows music, can hold a note, and can get through a song on stage even when she’s feeling incredibly nervous. She gets a bye to the next round.

Jake Mellema had the “guts” to play the drums. (As Paula points out near the end of the show, sometimes we make bad decisions.) Sadly, his song did nothing for the judges or anyone watching at home with the slightest sense of what music should sound like. He gets a second chance. As Simon put it, roughly, “Horrible horrible song choice. Horrible horrible presentation. Absolutely nothing redeeming in it other than we stopped it early.” The Lord High Master of Pop Drums and Vocals, Phil Collins, is safe.

David Hernandez becomes an early favorite, with “Love the One You’re With.” He sounded great — controlled, strong, and could even pull off the falsetto in small doses. He’s through.

It’s odd to hear the contestants this early backed up by a pianist, a guitarist, and a drummer. I like it, but it’s odd.

Rock and Roll Nurse, Amanda Overmyer had a bad car wreck days before Hollywood, resulting in some cracked ribs and multiple staples in her head. She made it through airport security, though, and did well. Simon is right in saying that she runs the risk of singing everything as if it were the same song. We’ve seen that problem before on this show. She says she knows what he means, but I’m not sure she’ll be able to change. I like her, but I fear she’ll be a One Note Wonder, and not the Great Rock Hope for Season 7.

Cardin McKinney (she dropped the “Lee” she used in auditions) forgot her lyrics, which is a damned shame for someone that cute. She’ll get a second chance on Day Three.

Argentinian (or was it Venezualan?) gigolo Ghaleb Emacheh stunk on ice with his guitar. I wasn’t so sure of him at auditions, and now I know he’s doomed to failure. It’s a lot of shouting, and the accent that he was warned about really showed through. I think this is our official first Crash And Burn of the season.

55 people are left to sing for their lives on Day Three.

Day Two:

80 more contestants are about to take the stage, Ryan informs us.

Josiah Leming (the teenager living out his car) thinks he’s awkward without the keyboard, which means he’s a dead man behind it now. (The hotel he’s staying in has a “Piazza Ballroom.” Please tell me that’s no relation to the pro baseball player. L.A. can’t be that desperate for heroes to name its ballrooms after, can it?!?) The Brit accent is still there. He’s very comfortable on the stage with the keyboard. He’s right. Simon is smiling. Maybe I can’t predict the editing on this show, after all.

Paula is crying. Simon says he’s the only memorable one. He is so through.

Danny Noriega – previous season loser – sings his song with the mic oddly away and to the side from his mouth. He’s through, but he needs a less girly haircut.

Carly Smithson is great, but she never opens her eyes. The Irish lilt is still there.

Commercial time: KUNG FU PANDA is a cute kung fu anthropomorphic CGI movie.

David Cook is a little shouty with his black guitar and green tongue. Really, his tongue is green. The soul path is getting to the point of cliche. I didn’t like him much. Kinda forgettable. Randy looked bored throughout. But they judges liked it — but Simon isn’t convinced. He’s alone in that. David is through. Ryan thinks Simon’s hating on (a) the hair and (b) the rocking.

Ouch, Jessica Brown is looking bad. Browny/Orangey bad. Tired? Bad makeup? I don’t know. The judges didn’t like it, but she’ll get a second chance.

Kyle Ensley is Dallas’ politician, the geek with the glasses, and the awkward demeanor. (He also plays with his gum when bored.) He sounds awful. He looks awful in the dockers. His singing is flat. Simon surrenders and walks out. Paula calls it corny, but says his spirit is needed in the performance arena. (Yeah, like Sanjaya’s.) He’s stuck hoping for a second chance.

Out of 164, only “an elite few” made it through to Thursday. And it’ll be vicious.

Ooh, an iPhone commercial.

LOTS more after the break:

Day Three:

Do or die day.

Only 48 have made it through with three YES votes. 116 others are singing on Thursday (Day Three) for their lives.

Each group of 10 will sing a capella, one at a time. If you’re not good enough for the top ten, Simon will cut your butt. It’s time for the viciousness to begin.

Two single parents are on the line to start: Suzanne Toon from the Miami auditions goes first, going with “Summertime.” She looked nervous and her face looked haggard from it. The eyes were a bit puffie. Perrie Cataldo went more R&B, offering his excuse for the previous day and hiding in an oversized jacket. The man auditioned in San Diego, went to Hollywood, and couldn’t take the cold weather of either climate. (?)

Neither made it through. 8 of the 10 of their group are gone.

The judges weren’t kidding. It’s blood bath time. Whoo-hoo!

Amy Flynn from Charleston (who preached to Simon about abstinence) brought a voice coach from Season Four with her. And, yes, I remember her, if not her name. I don’t think it’s going to help. It doesn’t help that the voice coach picked a song Amy had never heard before the night before she had to sing it a capella. “Love Will Bring You Back” sounds amazingly good coming from her, but not necessarily natural. She’s out. Simon thought she’d learn a lot in Hollywood, but this isn’t quite what he meant. She never had the time to be, er, “taught” about the streets of Hollywood, I guess. Moving on now. . .

Of the first four groups of ten, only four people made it through.

Some notables are falling fast and furious. Some are whining already that they didn’t get a fair shot or that some people who don’t deserve it are making it through. Whine whine whine. Cry me a friggin’ river, you losers, and go home in the most uncomfortable coach seat your flight offers.

Uh oh, Kristy Lee Cooke is repeating herself with “Amazing Grace.” The judges know about these repeat songs. They don’t like it. As good as it sounds, that’s trouble.

Jeffrey Lampkin (extra large flamboyant black guy) is next to be cut, I hope, and I can’t help but think that this is a mercy kill. His sister was cut earlier in the day.

Angela Martin sang for her daughter. The single parents haven’t been doing too good today. And she has the double whammy that her father was just murdered. Hey, that’s Philly these days for you. It’s getting scary down there. The only worse place? Camden, just across the river.

Crap. Jeffrey makes it through. Angela is cut, though I thought she sang better. Weird. Even weirder: Kyle Ensley made it through. That’s scary and dangerous.

And Kristy Lee made it. The repeat performance didn’t kill her.

We have to put up with more Jeffrey. Crap.

KYLE MADE IT THROUGH?!? That’s enough to make one question the existence of a kind and benevolent god. He’s vengeful, isn’t he?

Nearly 100 have been cut on this day.

Day Four:

Final cut day. Only 24 will make it through.

Ryan Seacrest keeps repeating, like a mantra, that this year the talent is stronger than ever and that the eliminations are harder than ever. I’m pretty sure they say that every year, though we have some pretty good singers this year. Right now, I can only tell them apart by background stories. Once we get to the Top 24, I’ll be able to tell them apart by sound.

Contestants sing with the band and three backup singers on Day Four.

16 year old David Archuleta looks like the youngest contestant ever. He’d get good votes from home viewers, based just on the Gosh Shucks Cuteness of it all.

The biggest question of the night, though, is just how much money is Brian Adams making off all of these performances from his songs.

Is David precocious? Or is he really that good? He looks confident on stage singing “Heaven.” His voice can do more than one thing. He’s in good standing for this competition, and he’s through to — the top 50, I guess.

Kyle Ensley stunk in the last round but still made it through somehow. I don’t know how. Now he goes for Josh Grobin’s “You Raise Me Up.” He’s not bad, but he’s not overpowering. He’s through.

Jeffrey Lampkin killed “A Whole New World.” Murdered it. Crash and burn.

The background singers are just sitting there. I haven’t seen them singing yet. Weird.

Syesha Mercado had a bad week, but still went with the vocal gymnastics of “Chain of Fools.” (And the background singers are at work now for her.) She sounded really good despite the lack of voice. Randy loves her. She’s through and sounded good doing it.

Australian Michael Johns went with “Bohemian Rhapsody,” and did not do well with it. He has a gravelly tone to his voice that gets a little shouty in the upper register. He was reaching for it, and I’m afraid he didn’t make it. Randy liked it, though. Simon thought it was the best audition of the day. And he’s through. I’m wrong. Hunh.

Carly Smithson is allergic to her dog and that affected her original San Diego audition. She’s cured now, and knocked it out of the park (cliche alert!) with a Heart ditty. I like her. I want to go buy her album (must-reading history of Carly’s AI history at that link). She’s through.

Nobody is bailing out here. They’re all singing well.

Asia’h Epperson sounds amazing. Professional. Perfectly clean. Clear voice. She could really go places in this competition.

Brooke Helvie is the annoying beauty pageant. She went with Simon’s favorite song, made it her own, and bombed. Her face is brown/orange. That’s a recurring theme. And Paula is the one to hang her. She’s OUT! (That’s me making up for that “knock out of the park” cliche earlier.)

The last contestant is Josiah, back with no sleep. He lets us know that everyone gets a packet of 200 songs to choose from. He had a bad practice. Even Debra Byrd couldn’t save him in the hotel hallway. So he starts by sucking up to the band and then singing by himself.

The judges point out the lunacy here: “You guys are amazing, now get the hell out.”

He goes with “Stand By Me,” a capella. British. Too fast. Voice cracked. Based on previous performances, though, he made it through.

He still cries like a little baby. Wah wah wah.

We’re left with the judges’ deliberation to the Top 24. That’s tomorrow night.

Right now it’s time for another clips package over some unknown song Idol wants to make a hit at a cut licensing rate.

I’m exhausted. This has to be the longest IDOL write-up ever.

50 left. 24 to go through. 26 hearts to be broken.

Tomorrow, we give America their nominees. I think Michael Johns, David The 16 Year Old, Syesha, Carly, and Josiah will make it through. Off the top of my head, I don’t want to see Lampkin and Ensley make it through, though I fear Lampkin will be the token fat person to make it through this year. The contestants are mostly skinny good looking people so far.

I want to see Josiah, Brooke White, and Amanda make it to the Top 24. (Did Cardin make it to the Final 50?) That last shot of tonight’s show seems to indicate that Brooke isn’t going to make it. Or she’s prone to tears when given very very happy news. We’ll see tomorrow night!

5 thoughts on “AI7 – Hollywood Hell Week Part 1

  1. I thought Michael Johns’ “Bohemian Rhapsody” was surprisingly good. In fact, just before he started singing it, I said to my wife, “Please not another ‘Bohemian Rhapsody.’ Nobody sounds good on that over-the-top song.” Then, just to prove me wrong, Johns sounded great. I’ve never liked the opening to that song before.

  2. What happened to Meth Mom? I think I saw her cut along with those two other single parents. I think it’s frustrating when contestants get a lot of attention in the initial tryouts, then we don’t find out what happens to them during Hollywood Week.

    It was certainly a bad week for single parents…

  3. Dave – I couldn’t agree more! I inwardly groaned when he announced his song title, and thought, “well, there he goes,” and he pulled it off. Plus, the accent helps. ;)

  4. I too will jump on the Michael Johns bandwagon. I was VERY impressed with his take on Bohemian Rhapsody. Should be a very interesting bunch this year. I am glad they did away with the group performances though.

  5. Yes – HATE group performances. They are/were nothing but an excuse for emotional drama, histrionics, and diva-like behavior. Can’t stand them.

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