Tonight, the first “Idol” audition city negotiated by the judge’s agents: Aspen, Colorado. It’s gotta be the price of getting the judges to agree to go to Pittsburgh and Houston.
We see show host Ryan Seacrest, looking like a snow gnome among the magnificent, towering Rockies. This is followed by other scenes of bucolic, high-altitude Colorado. But where are they going to stuff the hordes of “Idol” auditioners in this tiny rich-folks’ town? Down some old silver mine?
Here a clue: a shot of the Hopeful Crowd in front of the since-renamed [Former Mutual Funds Company] Field in Denver which, I can tell you as a Colorado semi-native, is a mighty far spell down the road from Aspen.
This suggests that only pre-screened good-singer candidates for a Golden Ticket -- and the clueless and tuneless candidates for the Golden Clown Shoes -- were sent up the mountain. Which means, the Clueless and Tuneless had to somehow be led to believe they had a chance and -- my God, the judges know when the Golden Clown Shoes candidates come in, and they’re just acting surprised!
Stop these thoughts! We wish they’d never gone to Aspen! Better four more days in Pittsburgh than wreck our “Idol” illusions.
“I’ve always been overly energetic,” says Jenni Schick, 24, from Sterling, Va. – saucy blonde who aspires to kiss Aerosmith frontman and “Idol” judge Steven Tyler. Tyler, she tells Ryan, is on the Celebrities I May Kiss Without Being Branded a Cheater List she’s negotiated with her boyfriend.
Also on that list: Adam Levine, who’s a judge on That Other Singing Competition Show on NBC, and Lady Gaga.
Her boyfriend’s list, she tells Ryan, includes Adam Levine, Lady Gaga -- “and you.”
“Can I get a kiss for him?” Jenny asks Ryan.
Ryan, who wasn’t born yesterday, tells her to go audition, after which she’ll get the usual post-audition hug.
She does an energetic “Heartbreaker,” by Pat Benatar, with some passable singing, and she’s through to Hollywood. Judge Randy Jackson give her permission to give a lingering kiss on the lips to Tyler. “His lips are very soft and voluptuous,” she says. We think this whole storyline of Tyler as irresistible to young women also was negotiated by agents.
We’re treated to a series of self-shot videos of “Idol” contestants trying to wake up in the morning, because “Idol” has promised us a lot of self-documentation in this season’s show. We’re sure there’s some phone-company sponsor giveaway in the making here, but can’t quite put our finger on it yet. The really sleepy looking guy is Curtis Gray, 28. Later, when fully awake, we see him auditioning with BoyzIIMen’s “It’s So Hard to Say Goodbye to Yesterday.” He’s got a smooth voice, but he was far more interesting when half-asleep.
Richie Law is this year’s Scotty McCreery. Devan Jones is also great. Ditto Mathenee Trego. They’re all through to Hollywood.
Teenaged Tealana Hedgespeth, 19, of Loveland, Colo., has a twin sister who is a very talented performer and Tealana’s best friend. Tealana’s “spent my whole life living in her shadow,” she says, choking up as she tells the “Idol” Camera she knows her sister is better than she is. We are being set up for another Idol Heals audition, right? But no, she’s just plain awful on Melissa Etheridge’s “Bring Me Some Water.” Randy and Tyler decide to mock her by holding up their [soft drink] cups toward her on the chorus mentioning “water.” There will be no healing in this audition. “Have you ever recorded your voice and listened back?” asks Tyler, telling her she needs to, because then she’ll hear how bad she was, like they just did. It’s good advice, but advice that threatens to sink weeks of “Idol” audition fodder in the future, if anyone out there is actually listening.
Eighteen-year-old Haley Smith, 18, is actually from Orem, Utah, not Colorado, but, anyway, she “lives in a log cabin in the middle of nowhere and I love nature.” Haley gets by, bussing tables, cleaning houses, and working in some “meat department” though she’s a vegetarian. This is what “Idol” came to Colorado to find! An innocent girl we can see whisked off to Hollywood and forced to jump around in dopey car commercials, and attend premieres of dopey disaster movies, and live in some ridiculous Foreclosed Mansion in the Hollywood Hills. Oh, the perversity!
Haley’s odd song choice: Chaka Khan’s funky “Tell Me Something Good.” But she sings in a “Joanie Mitchell kinda way” as Randy and judge Jennifer Lopez agree, and Haley can sing. “You’re right out of my era and I’m honored to be here listening to your voice,” Tyler says with strange solemnity. Interpretation: “You’re not kissable.” So, Haley’s off to Hollywood -- bring on the corruption!
It’s Regional Cliché Time! Rocky Mountain Oysters! Yes, they’re not really oysters, but the naughty bits off a bull, fried up. Rocky Mountain Oysters once starred in an episode of NBC’s Let’s Make Them Eat Gross Things reality series, “Fear Factor.” Alanna Snare, 22, tells the judges she’s from Fort Collins, Colo., where she tends bar in a restaurant that’s “famous” for serving Rocky Mountain Oysters, which is a bit disingenuous of her, since you can’t toss a dead jackalope in Colorado without hitting a bar or restaurant that’s famous for serving Rocky Mountain Oysters: the Buckhorn Exhange in downtown Denver, The Fort outside Morrison, Colo. – we could go on and on.
Anyway, Alanna’s revelation causes much merriment among the “Idol” judges, till Randy marvels, “What are we TALKING about?” and it’s time for Alanna to sing Dolly Parton’s “Jolene.” Alanna is, in fact, one of the Clueless and Tuneless who must have been bussed up the mountain just for a joke about bulls’ private parts. We feel used.
“ ‘American Idol’ has given me a reason to stay on my meds,” says Shelby Tweten, speaking for us all. Shelby, a 17-year-old farm girl from Mankato Minnesota, is bipolar, and music has helped her get through her darkest periods, she says. “I want to show that bipolar doesn’t define who you are.” Shelby auditions with Carrie Underwood’s plaintive “Temporary Home,” and she’s got a decent raspy country voice and, of course, the song choice is right on target so it’s a win for her. “Big, huge yes!” gushes judge Randy, speaking for them all.
One montage of dreadful auditions – and a Regional Cliché avalanche gag later, we meet 19-year-old Jairon Jackson, from Denver. Jairon wrote a not totally awful tune, and performs it with an okay voice, and he seems like a very pleasant person, prompting JLo to whisper “he’s a lover” to Randy during the audition, and tell him when he’s done, “You’re a lover.” “Oh, yeah, I’m a lover not a fighter,” Jairon says. Now that we have that established, Jairon heads out the door with his Golden Ticket, and jumps on family members, but misses and falls to the floor. Then he jumps up on his way out the door and accidentally smashes some ceiling fixture. Can’t wait to see him execute those choreographed group-sing numbers to come!
Waitress Angie Zeiderman, 25, of Delray Beach, Fla., models herself on Lady Gaga, but lacks Gaga’s knack for, among other things, song choice. She performs, very badly, “When You Got It, Flaunt It” from the Broadway musical “The Producers.” Randy is openly contemptuous, sneering that he can’t stand Broadway because “show tunes …bring out that vibrato.”
So much for Cole Porter, Jerome Kern, George and Ira Gershwin, Rodgers and Hammerstein, and also those other vibrato-pushers. They got nuthin’ on Journey, Randy’s old band!
JLo, bless her, insists on another song. “I just want to shut you up,” she says to Randy. And in fact Angie turns out to have a nice pop voice when she sings “Blue Bayou”. “A great little voice,” enthuses Tyler. Even Randy now loves her. She’s through.
The episode ends on a mystery. Dressed as a metal rocker, the final auditioner calls himself Magic Cyclops. He’s wearing a wig and shades, speaks with an English accent of sorts. Magic Cyclops seems to have wandered off the set of “Spinal Tap”, the parody rockumentary, but he should only be that funny. OK, he’s got one funny line explaining that he’s from Davenport, Iowa, and has the accent because when he was a kid his family was so poor they could only afford to watch PBS and so saw a lot of BBC programming.
Magic Cyclops offers the judges a choice: Neil Diamond or Jimmy Buffet. Then he goes ahead and sings the former’s “Cracklin’ Rosie” followed by the latter’s Margaritaville. He concludes his audition by shooting off a roman candle from behind his back. Hopefully, starting tonight, he’s getting the career boost he wants for his standup act in Davenport, or wherever. To his credit, at least he didn’t do Rocky Mountain Oyster jokes.
Last week: Auditions continue in Pittsburgh
Interactive: “American Idol’s” decade of hits and myths