When the American Idol judges arrived in Denver for season 9 auditions, they might have had high expectations, given this was the city where they'd met season 5 finalist and rock star Chris Daughtry. For once, their expectations were met with a high level of talent.
For this city, Victoria Beckham, a.k.a. Posh Spice, returned as a guest judge. However, while her comments had been fairly useful the first time around, this time she seemed to concentrate mostly on how contestants looked.
The auditions kicked off with Mark Labriola, 28, Aurora, Colorado, who says he's often told he looks like Jack Black (I don't see it). He wore horn-rimmed aviator glasses, a black newsboy hat, a black button-down shirt, and a white tie. The judges spent some time talking to him about his childhood, when his mom kidnapped him from his dad for six years, after which his dad regained custody. Today, he's the father of a son. He performed "Tempted" by Squeeze, and his voice was better than I expected: smooth with lots of energy. Victoria said that, based on how he was dressed, she'd "thought you were going to do something jokey" and that his vocals were a "really nice surprise." Simon Cowell liked that he's "honest about your background." He got four yeses.
Not quite so lucky, but clearly nervous, was Mario Galvan, 25, Denver, a nicotine addictions counselor. He wore a black T-shirt with a green Army trench coat but was plagued with a nervous laugh, which Simon mocked. He did the Elvis Presley song "Jailhouse Rock," which was mediocre at best, although there were a few moments where he tried to capture the Elvis vibe. Surprisingly, he said that he had once won the role of Jekyll and Hyde for a "Broadway review." I suspect this was a local theater production of Broadway songs. It was a no. [VIDEO]
This was followed by a montage of rejected people swearing.
Next to try her luck was Kimberly Kerbow, 24, Marina Del Ray, California, a single mom with a 5-year-old daughter. She wore a strapless, multicolored sun dress, but her most distinguishing figure was glossy, reddish-brown hair that looked like a wig. She turned in a cheesy rendition of "The Way I Am," adding some lyrics, apparently aimed at Simon, about how she'd buy him Rogaine when he needed it. She had a decent voice, but I found her personality grating. Simon said, "You're very lippy but you're very funny, and I'm going to say yes." She got four yeses, and after she left the room, Simon pointed out that he thought she'd been wearing a wig.
Her success was followed by a montage of golden tickets.
Danelle Hays, 24, of Seattle hosts live karaoke, sings in a cover band, and does song-writing on the side. She wore layered gray and black tank tops with big silver hoop earrings, and layers of silver coin necklaces. Oddly, she also had a bandana over her hair. I thought she looked a little bit like Ani DiFranco. In her interview portion, she nearly broke into tears talking about how hard she'd been working, trying to find success, including singing for corporate functions. She sang "I'm the Only One," capturing Melissa Etheridge's smoky, impassioned delivery. Simon said, "I like you, but I think that you're almost broken. You may have come in here just in time to rescue you from corporate hell." Kara DioGuardi said, "This was the most moving audition. And what people look for... is to be moved." Victoria told her "you're gorgeous" and that she should "take your little boy out and celebrate." She got four yeses. [VIDEO]
Next, we were treated to a montage of people wearing strange outfits, including cowboy boots, colored wigs, and even wings.
The female judges engaged in sexual harassment for the next hopeful, Casey James, 27, Fort Worth, Texas. He'd been in a motorcycle accident at 21 and suffered multiple compound fractures in his femur, arm and wrist. Despite daily pain, he'd learned to play guitar again. Of course, the ladies didn't care about any of this: they only seemed to care about his natural good looks. He'd arrived with his dark blond hair in ponytail, wearing a button-down denim shirt, but after an OK audition, where Simon noted his lack of charisma, Kara told him to take his hair down. Victoria asserted that he looks like a model. Kara advised him to work on his personality and then demanded that he take his shirt off! After he did, she said yes, with Victoria joining her. Simon said no, but Randy Jackson gave him a yes "for the girls," although advising him he's "got to find some persona pills, something." With three yeses, he was through to the Hollywood round.
High-school student Tori Kelly, of Canyon Lake, California, looked a lot older than her 16 years. Perhaps it's the effects of her dark tan. She brought along a family friend, a little girl named Hope, who presented drawings to the judges. She sang "Gravity" by John Mayer and had kind of a soulful voice with a little twang to it, although she ran out of steam at the end. Kara said she really liked her, while Simon said, "Out of the two, I'd prefer Hope." He added, "Your voice was almost annoying." Victoria, however, praised her look, saying that she looked classy; and "women are going to love you." Simon, commenting on Tori's bright orange sundress and her tan, said, "You're like a human orange." She got a yes from everyone but Simon, who remarked, "I think these three are mad." It was, however, enough to send her to Hollywood.
That marked the end of day one, so we saw a montage of people receiving golden tickets.
College football player Austin Paul, 22, Washington, D.C., is studying music composition and was full of confidence. He looked a little like Luke Wilson, with a long nose and dark blonde hair. Wearing a bedazzled dark blue shirt with jeans and pale blue sneakers, his audition revealed just an ordinary voice with too much vibrato on the high notes. It was his personality, however, that the judges despised. Kara said, he'd "come off a bit cocky." Simon noted his voice "could be very annoying," and Victoria felt he was "a little bit arrogant." He got four nos.
Kenny Everett, 24, Durham, North Carolina, could have rivaled Austin for confidence. He told the camera he was the world's best singer and that he was "the male Mary J. Blige." He regularly sings in a park, where he views his singing as a public service "because it brings people together," presumably as they clasp hands and run away. He wore a western red-and-black plaid shirt, which for some reason, he pulled off while singing to to reveal a bright orange ringer T-shirt, paired with oversized jeans with bleach patterns that looked straight out of 1990. After starting out singing, he started to improvise into an invisible mike, just wailing. Simon said it "sounded like you had been punched" and added, "It wasn't singing. It was literally screaming at us." Kenny got four nos, to which he replied, "You've got to be kidding me. I'm a great singer." Simon replied, "No you're not, and you're never going to be." Kenny, however, continued singing until they finally convinced him to leave. [VIDEO]
His exit was followed by a montage of other nos.
Determined Nicci Nix, 22, Florence, Italy, had flown for 14 hours to make the audition. She had a high, squeaky voice like Victoria Jackson, which I found distracting. She auditioned in a modern white mini dress, which looked nice contrasted with her long, dark hair. Simon, making fun of her speaking voice, asked her if she'd "drunk any helium." Victoria, however, remarked, "I like your dress." Nicci sang "Something Kind of Ooh" by Girls Aloud, a very odd song to audition with, because the lyrics are mainly composed of "oohs". She had an OK voice and was somewhat commercial sounding. Simon noted, "You sing so much deeper than you talk. It's weird. ... You're a funny little thing, aren't you?" Victoria liked her look and said she "has beautiful skin." She got four yeses.
Haeley Vaughn has been fighting since she was a premature baby, born at only 2 pounds. She's also since lost her father. Her goal is to be "first black pop country mainstream singer." She sang the Carrie Underwood song "Last Name," wearing a white ruffled no-sleeved shirt with a black miniskirt and black stiletto high-heeled sandals, along with silver chandelier earrings. Simon called her a "cute little thing" but noted a "slight lisp when you sing." Still, he liked that she's different, and he called her "infectious." Victoria called her bubbly, and Kara said she'd stand out, because there are not many black pop country singers. Randy cautioned her to watch that she doesn't become too sound-alike with artists like Carrie Underwood. Kara advised her to lower her register a little. Haeley got permission to bring her sister and mom into the room, so they were there as the judges gave her four yeses.
The final audition of day two was Ty Hemmerling, who hoped to capture attention the same way that Katrina Darrell captured attention last year, showing up for auditions in a bikini and earning the nickname Bikini Girl. Ty showed up wearing the same suit as Katrina had worn and delivered an anemic performance of the Billy Ray Cyrus song "Achey Breaky Heart." After Kara warned him, "Don't move your hips like that," telling him it's not a good look, the judges left the room, as he just stood here. "Are they really leaving?" he asked. Yes, they are. And you can read that as a no.
All told, 26 golden tickets were distributed in the Mile-High City.
Tonight is the last stop of the audition tour, with host Ryan Seacrest promising that they're "saving the best for last."
Victoria Beckham should stick to judging fashion shows.