Well, we're in Birmingham, famous both for "Idol" finalists and for being the subject of the Randy Newman song cited above. (Check out the "Good Old Boys" album, notable also for "Louisiana 1927," which has become a post-Katrina standard.) First contestant tries "Unchained Melody" and has them calling for security when she refuses to quit singing ...
First Hollywoodie: Katie Bernard, 19, of Oviedo, Fla., gets extra air time for a bizarre speaking voice before demonstrating that she can indeed sing -- "A House Is Not a Home," no less, not an easy tune. But Simon's not buying it and it takes a split decision, and a lot of pushing Paula, before Bernard gets the final Hollywood vote.
After the break: Tatiana McConnico, 17, of Georgia, has obviously listened to Aretha Franklin a great deal -- and makes an interesting choice with "I Never Loved a Man The Way I Love You." Easy run to Hollywood. Two picks in 15 minutes. Is Birmingham that good, or just lacking real stinkers.
No golden ticket for a big woman with a single, spangled glove. Not that she's funny-horrible, though, she's just not good -- and pushes her vocals into areas better left untouched. Bernard Williams II, of Birmingham, does well with Simon but is actually zapped by Paula (what, wasn't he pretty enough?) before Randy votes him through.
All right, here's the comedy. A woman from Atlanta, claiming to be 26 -- and no one believes her -- and wearing a top that would be great for, well, Big Bird. Big Bird sings better, though. Simon fumes. "I've got no idea what this show is anymore," he says. He compares her look to the Easter Bunny -- obviously he's not someone who has spent much time around children -- and gets her to admit she's 50.
We are at the break, and I am pausing to consider how silly Randy and Paula got in Birmingham, swaying and smiling during performances for no apparent reason other than they have had to sit through many auditions.
And we're back. Montage of more Hollywood picks. Then comes Jamie Lynn Ward, 16, of Reidsville, N.C., who wants to help her grandma and her paralyzed father who shot himself after catching his wife (Jamie Lynn's stepmom) cheating; shot his wife, too. Lawsy, is there a song in there somewhere. And maybe she will get to sing it someday, since she got a pass to Hollywood.
Chris Sligh, 28, of Greenville, S.C., was real "Idol" bait because he didn't look great and, based on the promos, had a serious voice. In the full audition? For one thing, he brings up last season and says he wants to make David Hasselhoff cry. Song: "A Kiss From a Rose." Not great on the high parts, and he starts running out of breath. Paula is on the giddy train about him. On he goes to Hollywood.
Sixteen people get Hollywood on the first day. Promo promises some badness. Into the break. Back: No Paula for day 2. We're into the women with the Cousin Itt hair, complete with "Addams Family" theme. Simon invites the long-haired mom into the audition. No raves for the vocals, no Hollywood. But she wasn't bad; maybe they just figured when makeover time came, she wasn't going to give up the hair.
And then, a sequence. First, one getting a "What the hell was that?" from Simon. But she gets an extra moment for thanking Simon for calling her bad, followed by others being insulted -- and thanking Simon, too. Setting up, after the break, the woman who's been getting bleeped in the promos. But first ... people supporting their auditioners with a cowbell, posters, matching T-shirts. T-shirt girl sounded good to me, very mature, but the judges aren't knocked out. Am wondering if they worried about sending too many Birminghamburgers to the Hollywood round, and got very picky about some.
T-shirt girl sounds even better followed by the tuneless "Like a Virgin" woman so thoroughly used in promos. She has a novel theory for her failure, though: "Maybe it's the floor or something." They let her sing on the carpet. "Proud Mary." Still bad. Randy and Simon are just laughing at her. Her parting shot: "Paula better than y'all, anyway." But wait, there's more -- backtalk with the judges outside the audition room. She drops a bleeped word on Randy that has him saying, "What?" and Ryan complaining that it's too personal. (My first thought was that it was the n-word, but I couldn't be sure on replay.)
Twenty people to Hollywood total, which means they cut hard on the second day. "Like a Virgin" gets to close the show. On to San Antonio tomorrow; Los Angeles and a "best of the rest" clip show next week. [A correction to this information is below.] Hollywood starts Feb. 13. Still with me?