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American Idol: New York & San Juan Auditions


American Idol

New York & San Juan Auditions

Season 8 , Episode 7

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Hello again, everyone!  Once again, Claire Zulkey, your regular chronicler of the pop-singing dreams of middle Americans with unnerving smiles that is American Idol, is under the weather, and watching this show never makes anyone feel better.  So, like  a safe shoved out of a third-story window, it falls to me to walk you through tonight’s special bonus “Road to Hollywood” episode. 

This is the last of the audition shows, so I’m sort of hoping against hope that tonight is full of ungodly human refuse that crawled out of a municipal waste dump with “Faithfully” stuck in its head.  After this, it’s on to the drama-queening of Hollywood and the men being mechanically separated from the boys, so this is our last chance for truly bizarre street craziness.  And thankfully, the judges are visiting two places chock full of street crazies:  New York City and San Juan, which apparently became part of America when I was at the corner buying smokes.  The coming-attractions clip from last night’s show seemed to imply that there was a hurricane or something during the auditions, so I’m also looking forward to Randy Jackson getting brained with a piece of rebar, but I have a feeling that will remain just a happy dream.

We start off in New York with Adeola Adegoke, whose voice has the strangest quivering quality to it – it almost sounds like it’s been electronically treated.  Anyway, she’s no Chikezie Eze, and after bombing out on a Jennifer Hudson song, she gets Simon Cowell to call and get her the job back that she quit in a moment of overenthusiasm about her Idol chances.  This is supposed to show Simon’s decent-chap side, but what if Adeola had a really shitty job?  What if he was sending her back to a life of sexual slavery or something?  New York’s a lonely town.

The hopping rapid-fire between NYC and Puerto Rico is a tad disorienting, and is a big factor in why this seems like a below-average audition show to me:  it all seems crammed together, rushed, almost like an afterthought.  Maybe, in addition to dropping dead weight like the “Idol Gives Back” show, they should cut the city tours down to a manageable five or so.  After Adeola, we head down to San Juan for our first golden ticket winner, one Jorge Nuñez.  Jorge is way, way too hyper, but he’s got a good voice, even in whatever crazy outer space language they speak down there.  I thought his problem wasn’t his thick accent, which the judges keyed in on, but the fact that when he sang “What a Wonderful World”, he was hugely off-key.  But Simon wants some local color, so Jorge gets a trip to L.A.

Everybody knows that Idol loves making fun of fat ladies, and this week’s is Jessika Baier, a meaty pink creation who traveled all the way to P.R. from Michigan.  (What, she couldn’t find a road map to Kansas City?)  She’s accompanied by a cortège of followers, one of whom falls down comically for my lowbrow amusement.  Naturally, she is terrible, but, despite her claim to have won dozens of song contests, blames it all on nerves.  When she gets the post-boot interview, she claims that the judges said she wasn’t being herself, which is kinda funny, because we were all watching them on TV, and they didn’t say any such thing.  Good lookin’ out, Jessika with a K.

She’s followed up by a delightful montage of losers (including another sad ventriloquist!  God is truly smiling on me tonight), after which we meet Melinda Camille, or, as I like to call her, “If Me’shell N’degecocello Worked At A Jamba Juice”.  Camille has great pipes, but sings a bit flat; after her audition, Randy describes her as having “a pleasant disposition and a nice voice”, which is pretty accurate, but also quite damning.  Much is made of her predilection for dancing naked, but mostly she just reminds me of Melinda Doolittle, a.k.a. the greatest injustice in American Idol history. 

Next we’re introduced to Jackie Tohn, who looks like she’ll develop into this season’s Obligatory Rocker Chick.  And she doesn’t look like she’ll do that bad a job of it:  she makes “I’m Yours” by Jason Mraz a lot more compelling than the original, admittedly not a particularly difficult feat, but she does even better on her second song, which is a rare thing.  It’s during her audition that a big chunk of the window falls over, and unfortunately, no one is killed.  She misses a bet by not taking credit for it.

For a moment, it looks like my wish for a bunch of world-class delusional psychotics is going to come true, as we are introduced to Joel Contreras, a San Juan street comedian who sings kind of like Joey Lawrence.  (Hey, it worked for Joey Lawrence.)  His relentless wackiness is exhausting to watch, and includes dressing up in a rat suit and hugging people, continuing a disturbing Season 8 trend towards giving furries a moment in the national spotlight.  He doesn’t make it, of course, but he does inspire Simon to deliver one of the greatest lines ever spoken on Idol:  “What relevance has you standing there with a lion on your hand to a singing competition?”  What indeed.

Then, in a move guaranteed to make my blood boil, paralyzingly unfunny ‘funny guy’ Nick Mitchell, now calling himself Norman Gentle, makes a return appearance.  I guess he doesn’t have anything better to do than waste everyone’s time by trying out for AI every year, and worst of all, Kara and Paula Abdul, who have shit tastes, actually let him through to Hollywood.  Seriously, folks?  This guy?  After he goes off, there’s a rushed montage of people who also make it on, and we hear snippets of judge’s comments like “best audition yet” and “I love your voice”, but we don’t get to hear any of them, because we spent five precious minutes on this cretin.  Some genuinely talented singer didn’t get on because their spot was filled by Nick Mitchell.  I hope he gets knifed during the L.A. auditions.

We’ve been seriously lacking a mawkish narrative tonight, so in steps Monique Garcia Torres and her calculatingly adorable kid brother Christopher.  Monique toots instead of belts, so the only way she’ll go very far in this competition is if Christopher develops face cancer or something.  Then, as if to make up to me for suffering through the return of Nick Mitchell, the producers give me the special treat of a return engagement by North Philly psycho-trash Alexis Cohen!  Her crazy junkie meltdown at last year’s audition was a favorite Idol moment, and now she’s back, wearing nicer clothes and pretending to be kind to other human beings.  Maybe her insane cat-lady mom died and left her enough money to go to rehab.  Or maybe not, as she sings the world’s fourth-worst rendition of Madonna’s “Like a Prayer” and once again goes out with her birds a-flyin’.  Simon correctly guesses that Alexis is in love with him.

Last up is Patricia Lewis Roman, who’s showy and charismatic but has a bit of a ragged voice.  She ekes her way through “I Wanna Dance with Somebody” before redeeming herself with some Latin balladeering, illustrating the folly of singing what you think the judges want to hear instead of what you’re good at.  After barely snagging her golden ticket, Patricia (who, like most of the good singers this episode, wasn't that good -- this episode was distinctly lacking in wow) joins her gigantic, tambourine-wielding family, and…show’s over!  It’s on to Hollywood, where our girl Claire will resume her duties.

Grade:  C+

Stray Observations: 

- I think Simon should get to shoot anyone who asks to sing a second song.

- Between this show, his production credits, and the Journey residuals, Randy must be a millionaire many times over.  So why does he dress so poorly?  He looks like one of those guys who buys all his clothes at the Eisenhauer Market Center and eats chicken wings while watching other guys play pick-up basketball.  Get a stylist, Randy.

- In keeping with the city visits, San Juan gets a ‘theme song’.  Inexplicably, it is “Wicked Game” by the profoundly non-Boricua Chris Isaak.

- During one of the bad-audition montages, Kara DioGuardia tells a San Juan contestant that his performance “didn’t feel like a male presentation of the song”.  TOTAL BURN ON YOU, RANDOM PUERTO RICAN DUDE.

- Homoerotic Ryan Seacrest Moment:  Ryan dances frenetically with a glam rocker in the waiting room.

- The outfit of the night belonged to a guy whose name I didn’t catch:  duo-toned emo haircut, acid-washed jeans with a wallet chain, and a (buttoned-up) suit vest with no shirt.  I almost would have preferred another furry.