The third audition city of American Idol, season 9, was Chicago, a city traditionally known for rollicking blues and straight-up rock 'n' roll. Sadly, the singers who showed up to audition would soon be singing the blues, after they failed to impress the judges.
This time the guest judge was Shania Twain, who had a great ear and also tried to provide guidance to these aspiring singers.
First up was Katelyn Epperly (MySpace), 19, of Des Moines, Iowa, wearing an antique rose halter dress, topped by an untamed mane of curly blonde hair with dark roots and a tattoo on the back of her right shoulder. In a pre-interview, she revealed that her parents are recently divorced, but her tearful mother was still supporting her to the audition. She performed "Syrup and Honey" by Duffy. There was a lot of vibrato in her voice, making me think that she might have taken vocal lessons. Shania commented, "Your voice has a lot of interesting qualities." Randy Jackson agreed: "I think there's something there." Kara DioGuardi said she'd like to see Katelyn sing something perkier, more energetic. Simon commented that she needs to work on her performance: "the lights are off." But Shania countered that Katelyn has "a voice that could sing a hit song." She was through with four yeses.
Even in the waiting room, Amy Lang of Westchester, Ohio, showed off lots of energy and personality. A plus-sized brunette, she wore a flattering pink paisley top with jeans. Talking a mile a minute and seemingly comfortable in her own skin, she performed the Aretha Franklin song "Dr. Feelgood," falling over at the beginning of the audition as if she'd fainted and then getting up and singing from the floor. While her voice was as big as her personality, her tone was uneven. She further sabotaged herself by doing chest pops with her large bust, leading Randy to coin the term "boob-boxing." Kara summarized: "It was too funny of an audition," saying the judges couldn't take it seriously. She was sent home.
Charity Vance, 16, of Little Rock, Arkansas, was featured in a video package showing her family's home-based hair salon, where she often treats the customers to a vocal performance. She looked put together, with straight blonde hair, a cream buttoned tank top, a black-and-white plaid skirt, and a black cardigan. She performed the Porgy and Bess song "Summertime" made famous by season 4 winner Fantasia Barrino. Chafity had a very sweet voice, although she started out somewhat soft. She grew more confident as she went. Randy called it a "small voice but a very interesting sound." Shania complimented her for "using your range" and showing a "lot of personal style." Simon called it great and praised her version, since "It was unique to you." She received four yeses, with Simon Cowell declaring, "Full house, you're through."
Then, to illustrate the dearth of serious talent in Chicago, we were treated to a montage of wannabes in strange costumes, including a girl with a squeezebox-style accordion, a young woman in a bridal gown, a guy on roller blades, a girl dressed as Heidi, and a guy in a maroon smoking jacket, singing a loungey "It's Not Unusual." To one of them, Simon asked, "Do you enjoy giving people pain?" This was followed by a montage of off-key singing, to which Simon proclaimed, "This is a complete and utter waste of time."
The montage concluded with a series of people swearing as they left the audition room. Host Ryan Seacrest revealed that only four golden tickets had been given away by midday. As he was returning from his break, Simon was confronted by the mother of a girl he'd rejected. I'm sure that's not the first time that's happened.
The final audition for the day came from Angela Martin, 28, who was auditioning for the third time. The first time she auditioned, the attention on her daughter, who has Rett Syndrome, earned her aid from the Shriner's Hospital. Her father was killed just before Hollywood week in Season 7, throwing off her game. In Season 8, she made it to the top 50 but couldn't make one of the shows, because she'd had a traffic violation and had to make a court date. This time, she showed up in a bright blue tube dress, paired with shiny metallic high-heeled sandals and performed "Just Fine" by Mary J. Blige. She demonstrated a lot of control and confidence. Shania said she had the "right attitude and it shows in your voice." Simon added, "You're really talented and need a break." Kara appreciated that Angela had actually listened to prior criticism, "and you're better." Randy called it "hot vocals." She received four yeses, although Simon jokingly said no at first.
We also saw a montage of people receiving their golden tickets.
Day two kicked off with Curly Newbern [VIDEO], 26, of Chicago wore an all-white outfit and sported a pencil mustache. His falsetto, which was very weak and tuneless, seemed mismatched to his large frame. The judges laughed throughout the audition, especially Randy, who looked at the window, trying to get control of himself. Simon said, "I don't know what that was" and then asked, "Do you find when you sing at home all kind of animals show up outside the house?" Sensing the negative reaction, Curly walked off before they could vote.
Singing in an equally high voice was Alannah Halbert [VIDEO], 19, who wore a short gray miniskirt with black tights and a white sweatshirt. Shania advised her to start the song lower, and she and Kara tried to give her an initial pitch. She couldn't even imitate the same note and in the exit interview admitted she didn't understand what they were saying. Verdict: no, followed by a montage of other nos, done as a silent movie, with title cards.
Brian Krause, 27, of Pittsburgh had served in the Army in Korea. During his service, he was warned not to sing while in uniform. The reason would soon become apparent. Wearing a striped polo shirt and a gray zipper-front fleece shirt, he performed the Tiny Tim song "Tiptoe Through the Tulips," in characteristic trembling falsetto, tiptoeing around the stage. Although the judges tried to get him to admit it was a joke, he swore it was his normal singing voice. He received four nos, after which Kara pointed to the door, urging "tiptoe that way."
Convinced he was a champ, Harold Davis [VIDEO], 25, Chicago, bragged about his ability to hold a note for a long time. He wore an attention-getting outfit consisting of a white fedora, a white V-neck T-shirt, and a black jacket with red and white insets. He did a sloppy version of Usher's "Nice and Slow," complete with poor enunciation and several off notes. Still, he remained very confident. Kara told him, "In terms of your vocals, they're not where they need to be." Randy said, "You're not up to this." Harold insisted the problem was his allergies, but Kara refused to accept that as an excuse. After Simon told him "absolute no," the champ broke down in tears. Randy tried to make him feel better, telling him it's "not the end. Work on it and come back."
Another montage of bad singers kicked off with Chantell Graczkowski, a 23-year-old cashier from Wisconsin, who murdered, of all things, a Shania Twain song.
Then came a ray of hope in the form of college student John Park, 20, Northbrook, Illinois. Dressed simply in a white button-down shirt and black pants, he told the cameras that he'd taken voice lessons in college. Those lessons paid off, as he showed when he sang, "I Love You More Than You'll Ever Know." Not only did he have a nice voice, but he was very good at the deep end of the range. Shania misspoke when said, "You have a beautiful bottom end," meaning of course, his tone. The other judges teased her for her choice of words, but Kara agreed, saying he had a "really good voice." Four yeses.
One of the most interesting back stories from Chicago came from Paige DeChausse, 21, Morris, IL. She suffers from asthma and when she was 15, had an attack that nearly cost her her life. Doctors gave her only a 35 percent chance of surviving and predicted that, if she did survive, she would have brain damage. But she beat the odds.
She performed the Sam Cooke song "It's Been a Long Time Coming," wearing a white fitted blouse and jeans, her long brown hair spilling over her shoulders. She managed the bluesy aspect of the song very well, but Simon said no, calling her audition "a little indulgent." Randy said the vocals were good, but she'd had some pitch problems. Shania said she was not entirely convinced "but for now I'll say yes." Kara also gave her a yes. The women then urged Randy to give Paige a chance. He relented, and she got her golden ticket.
The show concluded with just a taste of three more people who claimed a golden ticket. First was Justin Ray, 20, who wore a black-and-white striped shirt and glasses. Then was Keith Semple, 27, of Hanover Park, Illinois, who had a guitar with him and sang the Bryan Adams song, "Here In Heaven." Finally, there was Marcus Jones, 18, Gary, Indiana, who wore a black T-shirt with logos. [VIDEO]
The grand total for Chicago: only 13 golden tickets out of 12,000 hopefuls.
Tomorrow: Orlando, where a preview clip showed a crowd of hopefuls singing "When You Wish Upon a Star."
A joke audition may get you screen time, but it won't get you a golden ticket.