Tonight, “American Idol’s” in Houston, home of the NASA Houston Space Center so the show opens with a weightless greeting from Cmdr. Dan C. Burbank aboard the International Space Station. Was that Simon Cowell we saw in orbit outside the window?
“We’ve been saying, Season 11, a new beginning,” judge Randy Jackson says, quoting himself from a previous show, as the judges arrive on the waterfront in – wait a minute! They’re in Galveston! They’re carrying on the theme from last night’s Denver-Aspen auditions, in which the judges were separated, by many miles, from the sweating masses of auditioners.
Phong Vu is a bit of a nutcase with grandiose ideas “Today my spirit will come alive”, he exults while posed down on the beach. But not so much of a nutcase he doesn’t correctly get Idol’s theme for the season” “Being American, ‘American Idol’ is just phenomenon, it’s just amazing,” he says, if ungrammatically.
Well, by Season 11 we’ve developed enough of an “American Idol” Sixth Sense to know that Vu is a lamb for the slaughter. His singing style on “Un-break My Heart,” by Toni Braxton, sounds like people you hear singing when they’ve got their iPod earbuds in, and are totally oblivious that anyone can hear them. The judges toy with Vu, then send him away. “Your hands are sweaty,” show host Ryan Seacrest tells him after the audition. Ryan knows a dead lamb when he sees one.
A montage of cowboys riding the range follows, while Ryan reminds us of Texas he-man heritage. Followed by some very very bad guy singers and two cowboys with adenoidal voices.
So we’re getting a Texas-sized hankering to actually be musically entertained already. Next up is Skylar Laine from Brandon, MS, and we get a taped bit about how she likes to kill deer. She even has the head of a deer she killed hanging on her bedroom wall, which “Idol” plays for laughs. She gives an okay country-style audition on Pistol Annies’ “Hell on Heels,” which the judges greet like she’s the next Carrie Underwood.
Baylie Brown from Nashville auditioned for Idol when she was 16 and now she’s back five years later. She got bounced after the group-sing event because of sabotage from her two Jersey partners, she strongly implies, although she forgot the words which might have contributed a bit. She performs Bon Jovi’s “Bed of Roses” and she’s a solid B, though the judges bestow the Golden Ticket like a big gift.
Next up, Ryan promises, an auditioner taking “her one and only shot to change her life.”
As it turns out that’s because Kristine Osorio is already 28 -- the final freshness date for “Idol” auditioners. Roll video: Kristine has three little kids and is in the middle of a divorce but she invested the money she set aside to pay her lawyer to buy a plane ticket to Houston. So she and her lawyer have got a lot riding on this. She has a good strong voice (“Thank you, god,” says judge Jennifer Lopez, as Kristine starts singing) and she’s through to Hollywood.
It’s Jennifer Lopez “versus the Boys Club”, Ryan tells us about the upcoming segment. We see a quick succession of partial auditions in which judge Steven Tyler and Randy reject a series of female singers with voices no better than the successful auditioners we saw earlier in the show, while JLo protests and protests. Then there’s the one chick the guys like and JLo pronounces “awful.” Well, there’s no accounting for taste. Maybe we should mention that ladies the guys rejected were plain and the one they put through to Hollywood was cute. “I was so angry, I almost had an anxiety attack!” Jennifer tells her makeup artist during a break.
Ryan decides they need some levity. He finds Alejandro Cazares. “I am The Revoultion,” Alejandro says. Today is the first day of Alejandro’s revolution. He speechifies to the crowd of Idol auditioners, then leads them in chants of “Revolution! Revolution!” As we know, any of the auditioners would gladly slit the throats of the others if it would get them ahead in the line, so we don’t really believe this group is going to rise up en masse and demand a redistribution of Golden Tickets from the greedy to the needy. But we’re still curious to see where this story line will lead.
It leads to a miserable rendition of Paramore’s “Things Are Looking Up” and Alejandro begging on his knees for mercy from the judges, before finally being shooed away by the “American Idol” bouncer.
We are now three quarters of the way through the show and “Idol” hasn’t shown us a memorable talent, or even a memorable auditioner’s back-story, and if ever there was a time for a Revolution, this is it! We’re refusing to drink a Coke or make a Verizon call till the entertainment value of this show gets redistributed from the greedy to the needy! Well, they send in Cortez Shaw, an amiable guy whose family was homeless when he was a kid. He affirms that “‘American Idol’ is opportunity at its greatest.” Enough empty promises. Entertainment now! Well, he’s gutsy enough to tackle an Adele song, “Someone Like You” and he’s pretty talented but at this point It’s Just Not Enough! “Good looking, sweet, great voice,” says JLo, hopefully.
Oh, the arrogance. “Idol” producers now are flaunting their power by throwing some more bad acts at us. Some limber chick shouts Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep,” prompting Tyler to snark, “I’ll bet you’re great (beat) on the dance floor.” And here’s some earnest guy with a high voice, who Randy finds hysterically funny. Sure, you can laugh, rich guy -- your mortgage is paid.
It’s down to the last contestant to redeem this episode.
Last auditioner of the day. This is it, last chance for entertainment -- the equivalent of turning 28 for tonight’s show as far as we’re concerned. Only thing that would satisfy us at this point is somebody coming out and performing a Rage Against the Machine medley about five inches from Randy’s face. Of course, after 11 years, we’ve developed an “Idol” Sixth Sense that the last auditioner of the day is always the most uplifting among the thousands. But Ramiro Garcia better be about the Second Coming, is all we got to say. What you got, Ramiro? “I wasn’t born normal. I came out with no ears,” he says. Oh, well, alright then. Seems a series of heroic feats by surgeons gave Ramiro ears and the ability to speak. “Through time and faith I have a voice to speak with, even a voice to sing,” he says. And he gives a very heartfelt rendition of “Amazing Grace,” including a rarely heard verse. It’s touching. This guy has a future on the gospel circuit no matter what. “You’re a powerful example to say the least,” says Tyler, and Ramiro is on his way to Hollywood, as his father wipes away tears.
“54 got the Golden Ticket!” Ryan exults in voiceover and we see the judges congratulating themselves on how great things went in Houston, apparently for their private entertainment and not for the 99% of us viewers.
Last night: Auditions climb to Aspen
Auditions continue in Pittsburgh
Interactive: “American Idol’s” decade of hits and myths