A new season of American Idol started last night, and so it begins. For those who are new to my blog, let me explain how I normally cover the show.
On the competition weeks, I provide a play-by-play summary of the performances, along with the judges' comments and my own assessments. Following the results show, I share my thoughts on why they came in the way they did.
Last night was the very beginning of the season, starting with the auditions in Phoenix. Usually, in these early stages, I just provide some general comments. Today, I'll share highlights, both good and bad.
In the good category, a new judge, Kara GioGuardi, has joined the show. She has a lot of familiarity with the show, having worked as a songwriter with many of the winners. Her songs have appeared on more than 100 million records by such artists as Kelly Clarkson, Christina Aguilera, Gwen Stefani, Celine Dion, and Carrie Underwood.
While I was initially skeptical about adding another judge, Kara seems to offer valuable insight. She speaks her mind and doesn't just rubber-stamp what the other judges say. Yet, at the same time, she seems to have a good relationship with the other judges, including Paula Abdul. Hopefully, she'll help bring out their best.
I do wonder what will happen in the event of a tie, when the judges are determining who will make it to the semifinals. But I suppose they will probably figure out a system before it becomes a problem.
A few auditioners already seem promising (although there's no telling if they'll ever make it past Hollywood week). Emily Wynne-Hughes, who could be this year's contestant with strange hair (there always has to be at least one), is a lead singer in a girl punk band [SITE HAS MUSIC], sports two sleeve tattoos, and has some impressive vocal skills. She was also refreshingly humble and polite when talking to the judges, which shows professionalism. Perhaps we'll see her again.
Interestingly, this is not her first brush with fame. She was working in the hair salon where Britney Spears shaved her own head in February 2007 and was quoted about the event in coverage by various media organizations.
Another one to watch is Scott MacIntyre. One of the last auditioners, he is blind and plays piano. Not only did he have a lovely voice but he had a great attitude. If he made it into the finals, I predict he would become an audience favorite. He's also no stranger to music, having written and released five full-length albums, according to the Arizona Republic. You can find more background on him here.
Of course, having a blind finalist would represent some changes to the show, but probably not as many as you would think. While he did have someone lead him onto his spot for the audition, Scott is a ballroom dancer and would likely, with some accommodations, be fully capable of participating in the choreographed group songs performed every results show as well as on the finalist tour.
Another promising audition came from Alex Wagner-Trugman, who is a self-taught singer with a nerdy vibe (go geeks!). He gave a surprisingly soulful audition which shows his potential. Let's hope he can take it to the next level.
Now for the bad. Several others received golden tickets sending them to the next round of auditions in Hollywood. Among them, one Katrina Darrell, a.k.a. Bikini Girl, because of her chosen attire for the audish.
Bikini Girl flirted outrageously with every male she could find, even giving host Ryan Seacrest a full-mouth kiss when she got her golden ticket. But honestly, her singing wasn't as impressive as her physique, so once she's forced to compete on a level playing field, she's not likely to stand out.
Kara wasn't impressed and actually sang her audition piece back to her, to show her how it was done. Bikini Girl just sniffed and said she didn't think Kara's version was any better. That sort of attitude is unlikely to get her very far.
Every year, some would-be contestants strive to get attention through their costumes. Very seldom does this work. In fact, of the last four seasons, I can remember only two who showed up with an attention-getting costume and made it to Hollywood. One was Nicole Tieri, a.k.a. Scooter Girl, who showed up at the auditions on a kick scooter (her album, Tales from Magnolia Drive, is now available from her home page). The other was an Elvis impersonator who auditioned in Las Vegas. Both of them failed to move on to the semifinalists.
Another contestant who was put through to Hollywood, Deanna Brown, has an interesting voice but probably shouldn't have made it to the next level. Her voice had a nasal quality, and she has a serious lisp, evident on her "S's." Of course, that stand in the way for my girl, Fantasia Barrino, so I guess she's worth a chance. We'll see if she proves herself.
There was a truly eerie moment when a girl in a pink cowboy hat and matching belly shirt, Lea Marie Golde, showed up clutching a folder containing hundreds of her own songs. She gushed that she was Kara's biggest fan, and after handing her the folder to peruse, she launched into an epic fail of an audition, strangely enough, not singing one of her own songs. If you'd like to hear some of them, check out her recent EP release, World of Wonders, available at CD Baby.
Of course, watching an obsessed fan's histrionics over a judge recalls the tragic story of a previous auditioner who had proudly displayed her drawings of Paula Abdul and who last year killed herself in front of Paula's mansion. It does seem, though, that Lea Marie was probably less deluded and, instead, making a savvy marketing move. Her 15 minutes of fame might actually translate into a few more record sales.
In addition, there were the usual assortment of deluded individuals. One guy was standing in the heat wearing nothing but a barrel. And of course, there was the requisite Michael Jackson imitator, this one sporting an unruly fro.
Future Idol wannabes take note: singing like Michael Jackson is not a way to get in; it's a way to get ridiculed, especially when you add some of his signature moves. Michael Jackson has a unique singing style that has become a parody of itself, over the years. In case you haven't noticed, he isn't exactly current or popular right now, so he may not be someone you want to emulate. Third, so many people do funny imitations of him that it's difficult to take it seriously.
If you think you have a good voice, and you want to sing one of your favorite '80s songs, try some Lionel Ritchie. Sing some Ryan Adams. But please, please stay away from MJ.
All in all, American Idol season 8 is off to a good start, and I can't wait to see what happens with the Kansas City auditions tonight.
A cute trick will get you noticed, but you've got to back it up with skill.