Victoria Garrett, 21, Long Beach, said she believes God brought the auditions to L.A. just for her. Oh, I have a bad feeling about this. A deluded young woman with frizzy hair, wearing an oversized V-neck white T-shirt, she howled through her audition. Judge Steven Tyler said, "You're going to -- Siberia!... Nice try." Fellow judge Randy Jackson told her, "You sound like one of those animals," prompting Steven to baa like a goat. Steven added that she has "a sweet and angelic voice" but it "sounds like a little lamb." She was in tears as they told her it was a no. I guess God has other plans for her. [Victoria's audition]
Next was Tim Halperin, 23, Fort Worth, who has a crush on J. Lo. He wore a faded gray denim shirt over a purple V-neck shirt and had a chinstrap beard. He did a Maroon Five song and sang better than I expected, but he wasn't as strong as some. Randy said, "I felt like [Steve and I] weren't even here," telling him he had a connection to J. Lo. Steven told him to "work on the voice, step it up some" but gave him a yes. Randy told him he's not ready yet. "It's a no." J. Lo, faced with saying no to a fan, told him to "work on some of the strength in your voice." She did think he had a nice tone, though, and eventually said yes. [Tim's audition]
There were a couple weird moments then, like J. Lo telling Justin Carter, 27, that "it lacked the (EXPLETIVE DELETED) underneath it." It took me a while to figure out what they'd cut out: "balls." I guess they wanted to show that Steven isn't the only one who swears sometimes.
In the past, American Idol has played up friendships, and this year is no different. Daniel Gomez, 18, Corcoran, California, and Isaac Rodriguez, 18, Lemoore, California, were buddies. Auditioning together, both of them were confident. Daniel Gomez went first, wearing a western-style denim shirt with black pants and an unflattering shag haircut. His audition was weak and tuneless. Steven told him, "You're so far from the melody line." Randy chimed in: "It's not for you... You're relatively tone deaf." Three nos. [Daniel's audition]
Then it was Isaac's turn. He wore a plaid shirt and jeans and claimed to be singing "Build Me Up Buttercup," but it didn't sound like the song at all until the chorus. J. Lo, at a loss for words, told him "you have a nice smile." Steven told him he "set the song on fire" and Randy added "in the wrong way. You burned the song down." Isaac thought the problem was that he messed up the words, but Randy assured him it wasn't just that. "You and your buddy shouldn't be singing." Undeterred, Isaac said he'll keep practicing. [Isaac's audition]
In Los Angeles, they'd invited some MySpace auditioners to sing for the judges. These contestants had submitted videos via MySpace. Of these, the only one shown on the program was Karen Rodriguez, 21, New York City. She had a sunny smile with short dark curly hair and wore a denim bolero jacket, black leggings, and black and white tunic. She sang "You Give Good Love" and had a lilting, controlled delivery. Steven called her voice "sweet" and "beautiful." J. Lo agreed, saying she had "beautiful control." Karen reminded J. Lo that she'd once sung to her on TRL and that J. Lo had said Karen had a beautiful voice. Three yeses. Karen said she wants to be the first Latina American Idol. [Karen's audition]
L.A. attracted more than its share of deluded wannabes, with one of the prime examples being Tynisha Roches, 25, Hoboken, New Jersey, who brought her own microphone. She pranced and preened for the camera, waggling her drawn-on eyebrows, working her never-moving short-banged wig, and doing this strange winking thing along with a sort of cat sound. In black shorts with a black top, black shrug, and black hat, she otherwise looked put together. When the judges asked her if her mic worked, she announced, "I don't need the mic. My voice is big enough." Her tribute to Frank Sinatra was lisping, and she got the words wrong. Afterward, she said she has three albums "ready to be composed." Randy said, "Let's not do it again." Unable to take a hint, she started singing again. As Randy walked off, she chased him down singing "You're Going to Love Me." Randy finally wrestled her prop mic away from her and tried to get Steven involved, but he wouldn't participate. Finally, Randy called security, and Tynisha was ushered out. "You've got to go." [Tynisha's audition: part one, part two]
As a welcome break, belly dancer Heidi Khzam, 23, Agoura Hills, California, showed off her dancing talents to Steven's accompaniment, as he drummed on the table. She then sang "Superwoman" wearing a gray tie-dyed shirt, black shrug, and black pants. She could sing, but that probably has little to do with why she got sent through to Hollywood. J. Lo told the men "Simmer it down." Randy called her "one of the best we've ever seen," eliciting a bemused look from J. Lo. [Heidi's audition]
Then, back to badness with the one and only Matt "Big Stats" Frankel, 27, CEO of MSFP, Matthew Scott Frankel Productions. He claims to have produced a compilation album featuring Chaka Khan. For real? I bet it's just a mix CD. Wearing a suit with a striped tie, he told them he would like to do his formal introduction, which was a rap that he presumably wrote. Steven asked, "Was that your strong suit?" Matt told them he's a freelance music producer. Steven asked him to sing. "All right, J. Lo, this one's for you, baby," he said before giving a tuneless audition and trying to dance sexy. It was a clear no. He declared afterward, "This is not the last you've heard of Matt 'Big Stats' Frankel." Randy remarked, "Talk about delusional people." Matt forced his CD on Ryan before leaving. [Matthew's audition: part one, part two]
After the break, we saw a montage of badness, including William Roberts, 24, Long Beach, who wore a black suit with a shiny pink tie and sang in a weird falsetto. Steven told him, "I hear your voice, but I don't think you're ready for 2011, '12 or '13." Jeannette Manning, wearing a blue denim dress, was also weak. J. Lo told her "You're way off on all the notes." Daniel Hall, 18, was sing-talking and forgot the lyrics. Steven pretended to fall asleep. Anthony Granger, 24, actually sang "Pants on the Ground." The judges gestured towards the door in unison: "You're out." Arista Pemberton, 24, was really high and squeaky. She asked if she could dance for the judges and then thrashed around and did a painful looking split. Trying to be nice, J. Lo told her, "Loved your dancing (but) it's no today."
Brothers Mark Gutierrez, 28, and Aaron Gutierrez, 27, hammed it up for the camera, teasing each other. They are good-looking guys, with thick, dark hair, olive complexions, and a great style sense. Mark wore a blue V-neck sweater with red pants, while his brother wore a red T-shirt with black pants. Both of them wore black and white scarves. They performed a duet of "Lean on Me," demonstrating nice harmony and deliberately leaning on the word "lean." They got the judges clapping along. J. Lo loved it, calling it "really, really beautiful." Randy complimented them for singing really well together. Steven raved: "It was godlike the way you guys sang. That two people can sing that well together is unreal." Three yeses, naturally! [Mark and Aaron's audition]
Last of the auditions was Cooper Robinson, 59, from Arkansas, who was way over the age limit but was clearly allowed to audition because he'd be good television. Just looking at him, I knew we were in for it: he wore a suit festooned with sequins and bells, along with a big hat with feathers around the brim. In a thick accent, he told them he's from a really rural place off a plantation, where there are lots of snakes. He danced crazily to an off-key rendition of the James Brown song "I Feel Good." He was just messed up. Steven, remarking on all his stomping and noise, said, "You ain't never gonna get bit by a snake." The judges all looked kind of scared, especially when he started rolling around on the ground. J. Lo looked ready to cry. At the end, while the judges stared at him silently, Cooper just said, "Thank you. Bye." Steven turned to the camera and mouthed "Wow." J. Lo had security leave with her, because Cooper was still jamming out, obliviously, in the hallway. I feel really bad for her; she probably felt like she was in real danger from this guy. She ought to take it up with the producers, who clearly were looking for this year's popular wacky audition. [Cooper's audition]
Next week: San Francisco. Also, Hollywood week begins. The teaser showed plenty of tears. Get ready for the drah-ma!
Some singers are so bad it's frightening.