American Idol hit up America's Dairyland for its latest audition episode, but the theme of last night's episode was youth. The show famously lowered its age floor to 15 as part of the many changes it made over the summer, a move designed to simulaneously lure in those people afflicted with Bieber fever and reverse the show's demographic aging process. During the Milwaukee audition episode, it made the "new, younger blood" message explicit, with multiple people warbling Justin Bieber's "Baby" and sporting the Canadian heartthrob's haircut and Seacrest noting that every 15-year-old who auditioned on Day One of callbacks had made it through. Although it's hard not to wonder if lots of those youthful contestants would have been sent to Hollywood had they been older.
Take Thia Megia, for example. An attractive, self-possessed 15-year-old—who's already tried out for America's Got Talent—her take on Adele's "Chasing Pavements" showcased a strong voice that was completely ignorant of the concept of key. When she started singing I really thought she was a setup contestant; she recovered on the chorus, but not enough to deserve the overwhelming praise she got from the judges. (Although they hailed her more because she was the "total package," which is code for "good-looking," than for her voice.)
Which isn't to say that all the youthful people to make it through weren't good; 16-year-old Scott McCreery had a country-fried bass voice that the judges loved in audition, but that I can see being met with "you need to mix it up" comments should he make it through to the finals. And not all of the contestants to go through were so fresh-faced, either—29-year-old Tiwan Strong had a wonderful tone on "Twistin' The Night Away," while 27-year-old Steve Beghun upended the expectations set forth by his CPA certification with his warm, Aaron Neville-like tenor.
But one audition, by 15-year-old Emma Henry, really stuck with me. She sang a pretty version of "True Colors," but there was something sort of unfinished about her; it might have been a bit too much excitement about her being in front of the Idol panel, since she's been watching the show since she was five. (Ulp.) She made it through after a bit of intrajudge debate, but after she left the room, Jennifer Lopez said to Randy Jackson, "Your first instinct was right. She's going to get eaten up in this competition." Wonder how many other on-the-bubble 15-year-olds were subject to that sort of scuttlebutt after they exited the room? And how many of them will wind up on the big stage and seemingly fear being on camera when they aren't singing the way David Archuleta seemed to during his Idol run?
Other highglights from the two-hour episode:
GOLDEN TICKETS DOLED OUT: 53.
RANDY JACKSON'S VAGUE COMPLIMENT OF THE NIGHT: Well, Randy noting that both Jordin Sparks and Kelly Clarkson were overweight in response to Vernika Patterson's protests that she was being discriminated against because of her weight was definitely a lowlight on an episode full of them.
NEW JUDGE JUDGING: The supreme bitchface that Jennifer made when Jovan Raymond warbled a key-ignorant version of "Jenny From The Block" was a thing of beauty, and something that I fully expect to see at least 35 times once the live broadcasts kick in. (Get ready!) On Steven Tyler's side, you'd think he would have bristled at so-called Aerosmith fan Alyson Jados saying she was singing the Beatles' "Come Together" and not his own band's version of same, but he apparently was so taken in by her (relatively) groupie-ish look that he let it slide.
Steven also reprised his "fuck a duck and see what hatches" catchphrase, so get ready for that to be a censor-alarming theme over the next few months.
AWKWARD CALLBACK OF THE NIGHT: The moment worthy of this honor wasn't a reference to an earlier season of American Idol, but rather to a terrible period in American history—the Civil War. Re-enactor Nathaniel Jones auditioned in his replica uniform, and he sang "The Lion Sleeps Tonight"—which is itself derived from an African doo-wop song. And guess what, the judges thought he was terrible. Ah, Idol-branded sensitivity, I have not missed you one bit.
RYAN PROVES HIS METTLE: I often give Ryan flack for his overemployment—he makes a lot of money from a lot of places in a time when so many people are scrounging for scraps—but I have to admit, his John Moschitta act during the run-up to wannabe radio DJ Joe Repka's (disastrous) audition was pretty impressive! Who knew that he had so many jobs because he might be good at them?
SPOILER ALERT: Is Naima Adedapo, a Summerfest groundscrew employee whose performance of Donny Hathaway's "For All We Know" displayed some strong pipes, in the top 20? Well, she's kissing Jennifer's butt on Twitter, which seems to indicate that she is...
SAD STORIES GALORE: In the house for this week's episode: Season Eight sorta-villain Danny Gokey. (No word on whether or not he and Steven got to meet and talk about The Scream from his unfortunate performance of "Dream On" back in May of '09. Gokey, of course, was well-known for sometimes riding his (legitimately sad) sob story about the death of his wife Sophia all the way to the third-place spot. This week, we might have found his heir.
Chris Medina is a Chicagoland resident whose fiancé Juliana suffered a horrible brain injury in 2009 and has been confined to a wheelchair; Chris is sticking by her, and working on his music career on YouTube. He sang a version of the Script's "Breakeven" that turned the track into a lite-reggae song, and his voice was fine, but he got fawned over as much for his story as he did for his performance, and what was important to the producers became obvious when the judges asked Chris to wheel in his fiancé so they could meet her.
And so for the second week in a row we ended with Jennifer Lopez trying to soften her "mean rich lady" image by tenderly saying hello to someone who she felt sorry for. Please tell me that this isn't going to become a trend? I feel terrible for Juliana, which is why I really feel that toting out someone who doesn't have the ability to consent to doing so in order to prime the Idol sympathy pump—for both Chris and Jennifer, really—is just gross.
- Why Does Madonna Hate Hydrangeas? - Popdust ›
- Pentatonix Gotta Go See a Man About an LMFAO Medley - Popdust ›
- Premiere: JIA returns with "Floating Down the River" - Popdust ›
- Daughtry's Best Anthems. The 10 Best from their catalog - Popdust ›
- The Encyclopedia of K-pop! 22 Key Players, One-of-a-Kind Stars ... ›