Last night American Idol traveled to Jacksonville, Florida, where the would-be contestants had plenty of love for judge Randy Jackson. The question is, did the judges love their auditions?
The first contestant of the evening, Joshua Ulloa, was eager to point out his resemblance to season one runner-up Justin Guarini. Overflowing with energy, he leaped into the room, then performed a quirky version of Marvin Gaye, "Let's Get It On," complete with his own semi-beatbox sounds. His voice seemed a little pinched, but his interesting energy won four yesses and a trip to Hollywood.
Next up was hippie chick Sharon Wilbur, who brought her dog, Sasha. She oversang "Superstar" by Leon Russell but showed she has some potential. Judge Kara DioGuardi critiqued her for singing "baby" like Britney Spears. Following a strange moment where Paula laid a fake kiss on Kara, she got her Golden Ticket. Turns out she's yet another would-be with an existing album (of Christian music) and a very professional looking Web page.
Wearing a red silk minidress and black hat combo that was straight out of the '80s, Dana Moreno sang a screechy version of "Through the Fire" by Chaka Khan. She said that she would take direction, and tough judge Simon Cowell pointed and quipped, "That's the direction I want you to take: right and right."
Kaneswa Finnie, 16, showed up in a cute plaid sundress and had a perky outlook. But her flat, muddy rendition of "Caught up in the Rapture of Love" by Anita Baker got a no from the judges.
If anyone was sure of her chances, it was Julissa Veloz, a 19-year-old beauty queen who announced she wants to be the first Latin Idol winner. Wearing her tiara and sash, she offered up a surprisingly good version of "I Have Nothing" by Whitney Houston. Despite some flat notes, she handled the key change nicely. After some initial hesitation from Simon, she secured four yesses. Her Web page, though it features some Latin-flavored demo songs, is considerably less professional than Sharon Wilbur's. You would think that before you were about to be shown on national television, you might fix the broken links on your home page!
The very sociable Darin Darnell danced into the lobby with fellow auditioners but got really upset when a newfound friend was cut. He was so distraught that he was crying uncontrollably during his own failed audition. For those who don't recognize him (as I didn't), he was already on a reality show, VH1's I Love New York, where he went by "Ace" and was eliminated in the first show.
Fresh-faced blonde Naomi Sykes compared herself to Mariah Carey, which Simon interpreted to mean she was "a talented looney." She brought in a friend, Samantha, who hugged Randy and then was goaded by the judges into sitting on his lap during the competition. To make things even weirder, Paula sat on Simon's lap, and Kara called Ryan over to sit on hers. With six eyes on her, Naomi squealed through a version of "Loving You" by Minnie Ripperton, with everyone eventually singing along. When she cried at not making it, all the judges but Simon hugged her.
Next, Jasmine Murray, who comes from a large family and wore a stylish red asymmetrical shirt, performed "Big Girls Don't Cry" by Fergie. Despite a few bad habits, such as audible breaths between phrases, she demonstrated potential. Simon called her cute and commercial, and she got four yesses.
Physics student George Ramirez looked straight out of the '70s with his scraggy beard and striped button-down shirt. He sang a very whispery, off-tune version of "Walking on Sunshine" by Katrina and the Waves, shaking his head the whole time.
The very beautiful Anne Marie Boskovich showed up wearing an oversized button-down denim shirt over a white tank top. After she sang a brief phrase, showing potential, Simon chided her for her fashion misstep and asked her to come back a little more put together, so she ditched the denim shirt, had someone apply makeup and borrowed a beaded necklace and put on different shoes.
From the twinkle in his eyes, I think Simon was only stringing her along and expected her to knock it out of the park when she gave her full audition, of "Bubbly" by Colbie Caillat. She got her Golden Ticket and was easily my favorite of the night. However, she might have seemed to be a wallflower, but she's actually been working professionally for years, according to the Internet celeb site, Scandalist.
The clean-cut Terence "T.K." Hash, who failed to impress when he auditioned the previous year, did a soul version of John Lennon's "Imagine," with lots of added runs. Randy told him he changed it up too much, and he received a no for Simon, but he got three yesses and a ticket to Hollywood.
Last of the evening was guitarist/singer Michael Perrelli, who sounded good as long as he had his guitar with him but panicked when he learned he couldn't play it during the audition. Crying, he sang a nasal version of Third Eye Blind's "Jumper." After the judges turned him down, he continued to be very upset, crying. It's a good thing he didn't make it, because there's no way he would have been able to handle the pressure. Simon advised him to get a job and put a band together on the side, which might be a good path for him. He's already writing songs and putting them on YouTube, such as this Snickers parody.
Tonight: Salt Lake City
This will all end in tears.