Last night I was at a screening of "Music and Lyrics." More about that in a later post. For now, let's take a look at "American Idol," after the jump ...
Last shot before Hollywood and 172 contestants sent there. Scandals and ousters already being reported as the field has narrowed and the investigative focus sharpened.
Framework is lessons in auditioning. "Lesson 1: The Look." "That snappy little outfit might be just what you need," intones Ryan as we see distinctly not snappy garb. Focus on woman in checked shorts, red pumps, hat with veil and stuff I can't begin to describe. Singing not worth describing. "I don't know what that is," says Paula, probably not for the first time in her life. Tension with Simon, who refers to the singer's dancing, prompting a Paula snap that "that wasn't dancing." Singer asks if she can do something else. "Juggle," says Simon. Paula looks short on sleep and long on crabby. Singer cries. Judges vote again. Still a no.
Memphis audition. No fancy clothes on Tami Gosnell, 29, of Colorado, but a lip ring. She does "Whipping Post." Not bad, although I miss the Allman Brothers. Simon's nodding. "I really really like you," he says. Big three votes for Hollywood. I'm ready to hear her again.
Fast-forwarding through teaser and commercial break. "Lesson 2: Seek Inspiration." Singers mention ones who inspired them, including Paul Kim, 25, of California, inspired by William Hung because he wants the world to know that not all Asians are bad singers. Does "If I Ever Fall in Love." Has studied his smooth R&B. Yes from the judges, including Olivia Newton-John. Paula offers an extended compliment, Simon keeps rushing her. Hollllllllllllywood.
Singer inspired by Bo's acappella. Apparently took inspiration instead of singing lessons. Simon calls him "deluded." "I apologize," singer says.
"Lesson 3: Never Give Up." More repeat auditioners than ever, Ryan says. Woman who loves Simon, trying for third time. Oh, for pete's sake, could we put a stop to "Black Velvet" auditions? Gina Glocksen, 22, Naperville, Ill., replicates the recording, but that's about it. Still gets three votes for Hollywood.
Back from a break. Sequence of contestants talking about how much they like Simon. Snarling at Randy. Props for Paula. Leading into a Paula fan so excited that she gives him a hug. Too bad he can't sing. Simon cracks wise, then makes Paula comment first. She struggles, praising his coming down, says he has a lot of heart and "it was a pleasure meeting you." But no vote for Hollywood. The guy is still happy for meeting Paula. And somewhere singers are screaming because they didn't get to the judges just so this guy could get mushy on camera.
"Lesson 4: Audition on Your Own." Three roller-skating California carhops, in the tradition of Kellie Pickler. First one can't handle "God Bless the Broken Road." Second, Ashley Cleland, 17, decent on Sarah Mac's "Angel." Simon cuts her off. Third, Ebony Jointer, 23, goes for Whitney's "I Believe in You and Me." Breathy but a lot of presence. Best of the lot, IMHO. "You can sing the phone book and it wouldn't matter," Simon says. "You're in a different league." First one not voted through. Ashley next; Paula criticizes her makeup -- and blanches when Ashley calls it "motherly advice." Ashley still gets enough for Hollywood. Ebony, too, with no argument.
Long "Shrek" promo. Sequence of bad, or at least misguided, singers. Focus on one composer-singer. Olivia Newton-John seems in shock. I could actually see this song turned into some kind of arena-rock anthem -- if done by a much better singer and good band with more foot-stomping. But he's not getting Hollywood.
"Lesson 5: Shake Your Moneymaker?" Sequence of auditions involving dance. Sadly. Much obviously shot apart from the auditions. Leads into 28-year-old from Nashville who picked up moves from Paula's dances. Squeaky falsetto, though. Simons says he'll never be a good singer -- but Paula tries to ease the pain, calls him a "good person," hugs. Randy shakes his hand. But no one wans him in Hollywood.
"Lesson 6: Clarity." Leading into "Name That Song" bit, with singers butchering the likes of "Let's Stay Together." Salvation, hinted at in promos, is Lakisha Jones, 26, of Fort Meade, Md., who rips into Aretha's "Think." "Love this girl," says Simon, calling her "a good old-fashioned belter." Paula says "brilliant." Easy Hollywood.
Commercial, then video recap. Banter, dancing, Big Bird woman, endearing old guy, Castro-looking guy and so on. Promo for Hollywood. "The guys vs. the girls in our most ruthless competition yet." "I'm going to go back to being nobody," laments one performer. It won't be the first time.