Tonight American Idol kicked off season 9, with auditions starting in Boston, Massachusetts. Simon Cowell returns for his last season as AI judge, along with judges Randy Jackson and Kara DioGuardi. For the Boston auditions, American Idol recruited pop and fashion icon Victoria Beckham, aka “Posh Spice” to take the fourth judge seat that will later be filled by talk show/comedy diva Ellen Degeneres.
I may just be used to the disjointed and frenetic pace of America’s Got Talent, but the first showing of American Idol auditions seemed nicely paced. There was plenty of in-depth focus on selected contestants (both good and bad), rather than all quick montages and fast-forwarding. Of course, with 9000 folks showing up for tryouts, there’s no way AI can show you more than a sampling of what Boston had to offer.
American Idol Auditions Boston — The American Idol Video Game Lies
Of course American Idol had to give the audience what they wanted, and so the show started off with one of those perennial delusional wannabes who have no idea of their actual level of talent. The Boston auditions gave us a contestant who had practiced singing along with the American Idol video game, and since she had started to get some favorable feedback from the virtual AI judges, decided to give the real auditions a try.
While her belly shirt and low-slung jeans weren’t flattering, and her voice sounded like she was singing loudly (and tunelessly) with headphones on while jamming to her iPod, she still tried to protest to the American Idol judges that she was all that. It didn’t help her case that she kept referring to AI judge Kara as Paula, and then referred to Victoria Beckham as “David Beckham’s wife”–as if that were her only accomplishment in life. Add plenty of bleeped out cursed words, and you can imagine the American Idol judges gave a resounding “NO”.
American Idol Auditions Boston — American Idol Borg “Nine of Twelve”
Sixteen-year-old American Idol contestant Maddy brought in the heartwarming American Idol story vote with her family tale of multiple siblings (biological and adopted) with Down Syndrome. While Maddy did seem to have a beautiful family and a really sweet, loving temperament, I did find it a bit disturbing when her parents referred to their children by number.
The good news was that good girls can finish first, and Maddy had a beautiful and mature voice that landed her a ticket to American Idol in Hollywood.
American Idol Auditions Boston — Is Security Coming Over?
The American Idol Boston auditions then brought us Pat, a lively and camp contestant who incorporated frenetic dance moves into his singing performance. The American Idol judges teased him about his bad singing, but tried to temper it with a nod to his big personality. Simon urged him to stop singing forever, and Pat told him he was even sassier in person than he appeared on TV. Kara offered to hug him, and he was game, but hilariously asked if security was going to come over if he hugged her.
So Pat won’t be hitting American Idol in Hollywood, but he has a pretty funny anecdote to tell his “many friends”.
American Idol Auditions Boston — Girls Rule
American Idol did a quick blend, then, of three gals who earned tickets to Hollywood: Jennifer Hirsch, Claire Fuller, and Jess Wolfe. All girls had strong vocals, and Wolfe was soulful, but Hirsch had an interesting old school ’30s sort of vibe that I’m hoping we’ll get to see more of. I found a video on YouTube that looks to be the same Jennifer Hirsch.
American Idol Auditions Boston — Big Family, Big Personality
By noon, the American Idol judges had only found girls to send on to Hollywood. After the break, Amadeo Diricco changed all that. American Idol gave us the background on the jovial Amadeo and his big Italian family, where they have such big meals “that you have to lie down on the floor after because you’re so full.” Amadeo performed the Muddy Waters song “Hoochie Coochie Man” with a lot of power and gusto, and the judges really enjoyed him.
American Idol judge Victoria Beckham thought he had a huge voice and a lot of passion, along with being a really nice guy. When he said he felt it was important to be nice to people, the other judges teased Simon, but Amadeo said to Simon “You’re real; I respect you.” Simon took the compliment and returned one, saying that it was his favorite American Idol Boston audition so far, and that Amadeo was sincere and had good energy. Amadeo even earned a wink from Simon as he informed the AI contestant that he had four yes votes.
Amadeo then ran outside and tackled his whole family and practically dog-piled with them. AI judge Ryan Seacrest wisely ran out of the danger zone of zealous familial affection.
American Idol Auditions Boston — Maybe He Meant The Cleveland Browns and The Philadelphia Eagles
Next up on the Boston Auditions was American Idol hopeful Derek, a spacey kid with hippie aspirations who said he’d been “graditating” towards music, and wanted to “touch numerous amounts of people” once he was crowned Idol. Once in front of the American Idol judges, he told them his singing was a combination of Chris Brown and The Eagles. Asked why he admired Chris Brown, he said he’d touched so many kids around the world. The AI judges quickly breezed by the minefield of comedy options of that statement and it was on to the audition.
While honestly, Derek might have potential for a singing voice, in his American Idol audition he was trying too darn hard to be someone else. He ended up mimicking rather than singing, and screwing his vocals up into nasal warbling and stylistic flailing. Simon said it was like there were 20 people in there, “and all of them were rubbish”. He went on to say that he didn’t sound like The Eagles–“maybe an eagle”, he joked.
Derek was not going to American Idol in Hollywood, which the AI audition show then transitioned into a crying montage of all the contestants who were sent packing that day.
American Idol Auditions Boston — Tough Love on AI
Next up at the Boston auditions was Mere (pronounced “Mary”) Doyle. Ms. Doyle described herself as an “anime freak” and spoke of designing and making her own kimonos and costumes. Her dream was to be a pop star that was popular in Japan. Mere also told the American Idol crew that her mother had been with her on “hundreds” of auditions, and and they were ready for her big moment. While rejection is definitely part of the business, the home viewer had to be suspicious of Mere’s talent at this point.
Up in front of the American Idol judges, Mere decided to tackle Janis Joplin. It did not go well. Simon told her it was “verging on terrible.” Her jaw dropped in shock, Mere said “You can’t say that to me.” When the other judges agreed with his assessment, Mere protested, saying it made no sense that everyone she knew, including her two vocal coaches, had told her she was fantastic.
Simon wasn’t quite as nasty as he could have been, because it was obvious Mere had been mislead by everyone she knew. Simon told her it was probably going to be the best thing she’d heard that she needed to give up and try something else–but Mere felt singing was her life and was impossible to give that up. It was another example of the tough love often necessary on American Idol–sometimes it’s kinder to be honest than to keep perpetuating a myth of singing success that will never come.
American Idol Auditions Boston — Clark Kent without the Superman
After a quick look at Luke and Benjamin, two singers with clear and beautiful voices going through to the next round, American Idol moved on to Andrew Fenlon. Wearing large, black-rimmed Clark Kent glasses and looking frighteningly grim, Fenlon was seen in several clips being totally P.O.’d at having to wait so long for his audition. He was annoyed, tired, bored, and then completely unprepared when Ryan told him to head on in to see the judges.
In front of the American Idol judges, Fenlon turned on the “charm”. When asked why he was there, Fenlon answered “I’m auditioning for American Idol. That should be fairly obvious.” Simon pressed on, asking why he was auditioning, which Fenlon replied was not a very interesting question. Simon then told him if he wanted to be a smart ass he could just head out the door. Fenlon backpedaled slightly, but his sour attitude continued throughout his rendition of “House of the Rising Sun.” His singing truly wasn’t that bad, but his personality just dragged the whole thing down into a terrifying, depressive mess.
The American Idol judges then tried to ferret out the reason for Fenlon’s bad attitude. When he said he was on edge for having to wait, AI judge Kara went after him, telling him it was insulting to complain about a minor wait when others would wait years just to get the same chance. Finally Fenlon admitted he’d been trying to seem confident. When he sees the tape, he’ll see the truth of Victoria’s assessment that he was coming across as arrogant instead, “without the goods to back it up”.
After continuing banter, and three No’s, Simon said he actually would have said Yes–as certainly Simon can understand the prickly demeanor. Kara told Fenlon he needed a spanking, which prompted a startled Randy to ask “What are we talking about?” After he left the room, Fenlon asked American Idol host Ryan Seacrest “What the hell happened?” We’re not actually sure, Fenlon, we really aren’t.
American Idol Auditions Boston — Musical Training Does Not a Star Make
American Idol did a montage of music students, then, and showed that overblown Broadway style training does not always make for the most entertaining pop idols. Things looked up with Ashley Rodriguez, however, who nailed her rendition of Alicia Keys and wowed the judges. American Idol judge Victoria found her “sultry” “naturally beautiful” and well-dressed, while Kara named her one of her favorites of the Boston auditions. Simon told her “I think you may have It,” that special star quality that some people are just born with.
American Idol Auditions Boston — Out of His Tree
Next up was Tyler Grady, who looked like he’d fallen off of a 70s band album cover. Adding to his tight jeans and patterned shirt, Grady had two braced up wrists, that had apparently been shattered when he fell out of a tree. Simon quipped, “Did you have binoculars around your neck at the time?” to which Tyler blushed and laughed, “No sir, I didn’t!”
Tyler then sang “Let’s Get It On”, with a good voice and outstanding and sexy delivery. When he finished, Randy said “I get the feeling the ladies wanted you to continue.” American Idol judges Victoria and Kara were definitely smitten, with Victoria’s gushing over his tight jeans and Kara’s sultry declaration that Tyler was “so cooool.” Simon pronounced Tyler as memorable, and all four judges gave Tyler a yes to American Idol Hollywood. Afterwards, Tyler told Ryan he’d never expected a yes from Simon–it was clear that he’d wisely played to the ladies, but he impressed the guys as well.
American Idol Auditions Boston — Yelling Is Not Singing
On Day 2 of the American Idol Boston auditions, the judges sat for Lisa Olivero. With a job as a waitress and no singing experience, the attractive Olivero figured she’d give American Idol a try. On walking in, the men were drooling, but then shocked at the tuneless “Vision of Love” she performed. It was one of those painful AI performances, where the contestant is belting out phrases that have no direction or connection and don’t in any way resemble the tune or meter of the original song.
Randy and Simon wistfully declared her beautiful, with the right look, but Simon was forced to admit it was the craziest version of Mariah Carey’s song he’d ever heard.
American Idol Auditions Boston — Speedboat Singer
Things looked up at the Boston auditions with Mike Davis, who called himself an “actor on a speedboat”–which turned out to be a big red speedboat named “Codzilla” that took tourists out for a wild spinning ride on the ocean. The American Idol judges were excited to see what the jovial and handsome Mike was going to do, and he turned in a overly-warbly but creditable performance of “Yesterday”.
Simon liked that Mike was “confident without being obnoxious”, but Randy felt Mike just wasn’t distinctive enough. He was outvoted by the smitten gal judges, especially Kara, whom Mike felt bold enough to ask on a date for steaks. It was three-to-one and Mike is headed to American Idol Boston.
When greeting his tearful mother outside, Mike teased her with “Those better be happy tears”, and then announced that he probably had a date with Kara. “Kara?” American Idol host Ryan asked, quickly putting an arm around Mike’s shoulders and drawing him away. “Let me give you a little background…”
American Idol Auditions Boston — Sympathy Vote Part 2
American Idol manipulated us into more tears with 16 year old contestant Katie Stevens, a bilingual Portuguese girl who was hoping to win big before her beloved grandmother with Alzheimer’s “forgets who I am”. Despite the obvious manipulation, we cry anyway, as Katie is a sweet girl who cares about her family and has plenty of talent to make them proud. Her stirring version of “At Last” wowed the judges, with Randy declaring her a “natural talent” and Victoria praising her stage presence. It’s on to American Idol Hollywood for Katie, and a joyful moment for her and her gram.
American Idol Auditions Boston — Cute For the Age You’re Not
Next up in the American Idol Boston auditions was Joshua Blalock, a 28 year old with a bit of a twang to his tenor voice. Adorable and appealing, Victoria said he had “a nice little voice”, which prompted Simon to say it would be great if he were 14. When Simon added that Joshua was “forgettable”, with no presence, Victoria asked Joshua if he’d been trying to play it safe.
This line of questioning led the American Idol judges to discover that Joshua was, in fact, such a nice and humble person that he couldn’t muster up the courage to be brazen with his singing–probably in case he might offend. In a truly funny segment, the judges then tried to liven him up by telling him to order Simon to shut up, to which he shyly attempted “Shut up, Simon…please?” By the end he was fist-pumping and declaring his awesomeness–in the sweetest way possible–and even Simon caved on the likability factor. Joshua will be bringing his polite routine to American Idol in Hollywood.
American Idol Auditions Boston — Sympathy Vote Part 3
The American Idol Boston Auditions brought us the handsome Justin Williams, who informed host Ryan Seacrest that he’d had cancer at age 20 but had thankfully beaten it through surgeries and chemo. Despite his previous illness, Justin was in top form for his audition, and gave a nice performance of “Feeling Good”. The American Idol judges found him likable as a crooner type, and a sure hit with the ladies, and it was yeses all around for Justin to move on to Hollywood.
American Idol Auditions Boston — Excuse Me, Ma’am, Could You Remove Your Headdress?
After a few disastrous auditions, the American Idol judges saw Bosa Mora, a Nigerian singer that put Victoria and Simon at odds. While Simon found his performance “good but boring”, Victoria felt it was heartfelt, and then she chastised Simon for his rude eye rolling. Randy added his yes to Victoria’s, and Kara said that while she felt he needed to work on his star power, she was willing to vote him through on his voice.
Bosa joined his overjoyed family outside, thrilled at his good fortune. American Idol host Ryan got a good-natured laugh out of Bosa’s traditionally dressed mother, when he said that if Bosa continued on, there would always be audience members complaining that they couldn’t see over his mom’s headdress.
American Idol Auditions Boston — Best for Last
The last contestant of the day was Leah Laurenti, a sweet girl from a very religious family, who hadn’t had much experience with secular music. As she’d gotten older, she’d felt more and more in tune with music, and hoped it wouldn’t be wrong for her to pursue it as a career. The American Idol judges loved her emotional performance of “Blue Skies”, and though they recognized her nerves, declared it one of the best performances of the day. There were four yeses from the American Idol judges, and that was the end of the Boston auditions.
American Idol audition episodes have often careened too much to the side of showing all the bad singers, and it was enjoyable this time to see a nice balance. There were also some funnier segments, and the whole thing just felt a lot lighter than some previous auditions–there was even a nod to all the contestants sent packing that still were upbeat and pragmatic about the whole experience. It’s nice to show that not all people at AI auditions are crazy, deluded, and talentless.
Watch American Idol on Fox, Tuesdays and Wednesdays at 8/7c.