American Idol cruised into Dallas tonight and a promising crop of potential superstars, including former Barney and Friends cast member Erica Rhodes, childhood cancer survivor Christian Spear and dock worker Lloyd Thomas, peddled their vocal wares.
How I Met Your Mother star Neil Patrick Harris and teenage heartthrob Joe Jonas joined Simon Cowell, Randy Jackson and Kara DioGuardi behind the judges’ table to offer up their own unique brand of criticism. By the end of day two, 31 hopefuls had golden tickets to Hollywood, thousands of tears had been shed, and American Idol viewers had heard equal parts good and bad from Dallas. Here’s the play-by-play.
Host Ryan Seacrest opened the American Idol Dallas audition recap with a quickie overview of past successes – and failures – from the Big D. The biggest success of all thus far was, naturally, season 1 winner Kelly Clarkson.
The biggest Americn Idol Dallas failure was, well, it depends on how you look at it. Was it a coincidence that the first contestant profiled was Julie Kevelighan, 28, who auditioned with an earsplitting rendition of Lady Marmelade during season 1 and was turned down? I’ll stay mum. But I will say that shimmery blue minidress-wearing Julie, who was greeted by Neil Patrick Harris with a bemused “welcome, Sparkle” and sang Black Velvet, wasn’t great. She was squeaky in a bad, painful way. Even worse, she continued singing even after Neil Patrick Harris called the performance “not good” and Simon Cowell referred to her entire package as “wrong”. Oh, the pain.
But things took a turn for the much-better as 29-year old dock worker Lloyd Thomas stepped into the spotlight and wowed the judges with a smooth, buttery and soulful version of Stevie Wonder’s Overjoyed. Lloyd snatched my heart as he showed a tiny photo of his two young daughters, and explained that he wanted to do American Idol to show his children that they can do anything, no matter what their roots. He certainly did his girls proud: Although Neil Patrick Harris told him to be flashier, Simon called it “my favorite audition of the day” and Randy Jackson gave him “a billion percent yes”.
Up next Ryan Seacrest introduced a segment featuring clips of Simon Cowell and guest judge Neil Patrick Harris disagreeing a lot; woohoo. Simon being argumentative, what an American Idol rarity.
Kimberly Carver, 26, was profiled next on American Idol Dallas. She delivered a snazzy, jazzy original song that left the judges’ panel split three to one. While Randy called Kimberly’s song “really, really good, really excellent”, Neil Patrick Harris called it “really great” and Kara gave it a thumbs up, Simon called her unoriginal and boring, and only fit for “jazz TV”. Kimberly got the nod to go on to Hollywood despite Simon’s protestations, and breathed afterward that she needed to “go back and watch Doogie Howser again” as a thank you to Neil.
The next American Idol Dallas contestant featured may have had a smile Simon praised for its sincerity, but lacked the pipes to make him a star. Dexter Ward exuded confidence in his sunglasses, tan polo shirt and black pants, but from the moment he started trying to sing Sade’s If I Ever Fall In Love Again, it was clear that he needed help. A lot of help. A speechless Kara turned to Randy, and Randy was to the point as he simply said “that looked like it hurt” and “singing is not your thing”. Ouch, but fair. Poor Dexter.
Clearly not in need of any help at all was Erica Rhodes, 23, a Barney and Friends alum. It was just plain bizarre and uncomfortable watching her sing the Barney I Love You song while clad in dominatrix apparel, but she has a knockout voice. En Vogue’s Free Your Mind was something of a weak choice for Erica since I think she can probably go beyond airy, falsetto tones, but she’ll show American Idol fans more when she gets to Hollywood. And hopefully, she’ll ditch the trashy look, too. It’s possible to ditch Barney without looking like a slut.
American Idol Dallas day one ended with an audition by a contestant dubbed “crazy brave” by Neil Patrick Harris. Dave Pittman, 27, of Mountain Home, Arkansas was diagnosed with the neurological disorder known as Tourette’s Syndrome at age 9. Tourette’s can cause a wide variety of involuntary tics, but amazingly, Dave is unbothered by his symptoms while singing. And sing he can. He offered up a deep, rich rendition of Bring it on Home to Me that led Simon to claim “I think people are going to like you”.
American Idol Dallas day two auditions kicked off with the arrival of guest judge Joe Jonas, of the super mega hit group The Jonas Brothers.
Up first singing a creative, original song was Todrick Hall, 24, who appeared in The Color Purple with Fantasia Barrino and is now seeking his own personal success. Randy called it “excellent” while Joe Jonas said Todrick had “star power”, and all four judges agreed to send him on to Hollywood. This guy was good; one of my personal favorites of AI Dallas.
Cuteness came next as Maegan Wright, 20, who brought her little brother along for her American Idol audition, sang for the judges. Her version of To Make You Feel My Love impressed across the board; although Kara didn’t care for the outfit (a blue tank top and short-shorts), she loved her voice and called it her favorite audition of the day.
You just know we couldn’t have all hits on day two, right? Vanessa Johnston, who I’ve dubbed the pink princess of positivity, ended the streak with her version of At Last by Etta James. I feel like I’m shooting a puppy when I write this, but it was not good. At all. Simon summed up my sentiments nicely when he said “if anyone ever asks me what my nightmares look and sound like” and then gestured to the professed lover of pink. Undeterred, Vanessa genuinely smiled and said “SO nice to meet y’all, really”, and later quipped to the camera “so you say ‘you’re my worst nightmare’, at least you’re dreaming about me”. A-plus for attitude, Vanessa Johnston.
American Idol Dallas auditions came to a close with an appearance by childhood cancer survivor Christian Spear, 16. Christian, who was diagnosed with Leukemia at age 4, sang All I Can Do Is Cry by Etta James, and it was amazing, especially coming from a teenager. Joe Jonas praised her confidence, while Simon called her “an incredibly brave person” and sent her on to compete in Hollywood.
By the end of day two in Dallas, 31 total American Idol hopefuls, including Erica Rhodes, Dave Pittman, Christian Spear, Lloyd Thomas and Kimberly Carver, had tickets to Hollywood. Do I agree with all of the selections shown? For the most part. I found Erica Rhodes’ song selection weak, but feel like she has more to offer than she showed. I think her outfit coupled with her previous entertainment world exposure helped get her the golden ticket. It may not be totally fair, but hey, them’s the breaks. Dave Pittman has an awesome, inspiring story and an awesome, inspiring voice to go along with it. I wish him the very best on American Idol.
Who will be discovered next week in Denver? Tune into American Idol and see for yourself.
American Idol – Dallas Auditions Broadcast, FOX, 1/27/2010