‘American Idol’ Chicago Auditions: That Don’t Impress Me Much
OK, I’m just getting this out of the way, right away: There are top 24 American Idol spoilers out there on the Interweb. Read them if you must. I understand the temptation to do so is positively crack-like. A quick Yahoo! Search query will help you find these spoilers. But you won’t find them here.
Yes, now that Hollywood Week has been filmed, many blogs are already posting reports of who supposedly did and did not make it through to the top 50 and beyond. But I am doing my best not to open my proverbial presents before Christmas, so to speak, and I’m valiantly struggling to stay strong and avoid paying these spoilers too much attention. Sure, I’ve taken a sneak peek or two–I’m only human, after all–but for the most part I’ve refrained.
Why? Because all these spoilers would, as the word itself implies, spoil all the fun of the audition process for me. I mean, how could I get all weepily excited for repeat auditioner Angela Ward tonight, for instance, if I were to find out her Idol dreams had already been crushed in Hollywood for the FOURTH time? How could I let myself get all unabashedly gooey and fangirly over my new Chi-Town crush John Park, if I already knew my TV time with him would be all too brief? Such revelations would almost make writing recaps like this one pointless. And I like writing these recaps! And hopefully you all like reading them. So I’m going to just stick my head in the proverbial sand, jab my fingers in my ears and sing “lalalalalala” a bunch of times, and write these recaps from the blissfully ignorant point of view of someone who’s never even heard of the word “spoiler” before.
And so, on to my roundup of tonight’s standout Chicago auditioners, who may or may not have made it to the top 24. I was not nearly as impressed by the Chicago talent tonight as I was by last week’s Atlanta hopefuls, but there were a couple that caught my ear and eye.
THROUGH TO HOLLYWOOD:
Katelyn Epperly – Enough with the sob stories, already! So this girl’s parents just got divorced. Yeah, that must have been rough. Poor kid. But really now, I am so tired of the Idol producers trying to create these tearjerker back stories for all the contestants about their ailing grandmothers/rare diseases/broken wrists/jumped bridges/lost dogs/wilted plants week after week. How about they just let these people sing, huh, and cut the melodrama? (Keep in mind that last season’s three biggest breakouts–Kris Allen, Adam Lambert, and Allison Iraheta–didn’t have sob stories at all, and they had no problem connecting with viewers through their performances alone.) Anyway, this girl Katelyn didn’t need a big weepy bio video about how her once-happily-married parents used to attend all her performances together…UNTIL NOW. (Cue violins.) Puh-leeze. Her voice was good enough on its own. An America’s-sweetheart-type golden girl with a headful of curls, urged to audition by her newly single mom (whom I fear might be living vicariously a bit through Katelyn), the girl delivered a sweet interpretation of Duffy’s “Syrup & Honey” (no pun intended) with a little country twang that pleased guest judge Shania Twain. (Side note: Shania was, like last week’s Victoria Beckham, a bit of a non-entity on the show, not offering a huge amount of useful input. I would’ve loved it if she’d sassed, “That don’t impress me much” every time someone sang a song she didn’t like. But oh well.) Simon Cowell smiled benignly throughout Katelyn’s audition, although he later griped that her subdued audition had a “lights are off/nobody’s home” vibe to it. Kara DioGuardi agreed that Katelyn needed to be a little “perkier,” but Randy Jackson and Shania praised the girl’s unique style. Eventually Katelyn got four thumbs up, and a golden ticket to match her curls.
Charity Vance – This 16-year-old didn’t have any sympathy story–unless having to work in her parents’ hair salon that is run out of their family home, sweeping up strangers’ hair clippings, counts as a sympathy story. And I do feel a little sorry for her, I guess. What a sucky afterschool gig. But anyway, I liked Charity’s style, and I don’t mean hairstyle. She did the Porgy & Bess song “Summertime”–the signature song of Fantasia, no less, so that was a big risk–and there was something very fragile and chilling about her voice. I took notice of this girl, as did Simon, who said she was unique and predicted that Charity would sound great on records. And I might be buying those records when they come out.
Angela Martin – OK, now HERE’S a real sob story, or make that sob stories, plural. This poor, poor woman. Angela has tried out for Idol several times; has a daughter with Rett Syndrome; suffered the death of her father in season 7 right before Hollywood Week; had to drop out of season 8 in order to take care of a traffic warrant; and her mother went missing just last Christmas. Undeterred, Angela auditioned again tonight with Mary J. Blige’s “Just Fine,” and she sounded just fine indeed; like MJB, Angela is a fighter, a tough cookie, and like MJB she’s a good R&B diva too. (I wish Angela had auditioned on last week’s Atlanta episode, when Mary was the guest judge; I would have loved to hear what Mary had to say about her.) Simon told Angela: “It’s singers like you why I really like doing this show. Because you’re really talented, you need a break, and you’re just good.” I really, really don’t want to read the spoilers now, because if Angela doesn’t make it this time I might sob myself.
John Park – I just want to point out that if John Park and I got married, it would be really easy for me to change my driver’s license and other documentation because, you know, all I’d have to do is chop off the last two letters of my surname. What? Was that unprofessional? My bad. Yes, people, John Park has officially replaced Tyler Grady as my season 9 Idol crush. (Although I suppose if they want to fight over me, I won’t stop them. Heh heh. Gawd, I’m lame.) Anyway, apparently I am not alone in my admiration. In one of the few moments of the evening when Shania Twain showed any real personality, she purred to John in her best cougar voice: “You have a beautiful bottom end.” Yes, she was referring to his vocals–John has one of the best male voices I’ve heard this season, and I predict he will go far–but then she added, “You have nice lips. You have a good head.” Whoa. Back off, Shania!
Page Dechausse – All right, another sob story. But Page’s tale of woe is a rather serious one, since this 21-year-old college student suffered an asthma attack as a teenager that nearly killed her. (Page’s mom, who came to the audition, almost cried just talking about this ordeal.) Page was only given a 30 percent chance to live, but she survived. Tonight, the judges nearly killed Page’s dreams of Idol stardom, when they were split about her performance of Sam Cooke’s “Change Is Gonna Come”–Simon said no, the other three half-heartedly said yes–and to be honest, I didn’t think she was all that amazing. But she deserved to go to Hollywood and give it a shot, I guess. She demonstrated enough potential. However, I suspect she has much less than a 30 percent chance of making the top 24.
IT’S A NO, DAWG:
Curley Newbern – Curley wasn’t the only man singing tonight who sounded like his privates were in a vice. (More on helium-squeaky Brian Krause in a minute.) His cover of “This Woman’s Work” made the Maxwell version sound like something by the Crash Test Dummies, it hit such earachy dog-whistle decibel levels. “Do you find that when you sing at home, a lot of animals turn up at the house?” quipped Simon. (That was his best zinger of the night; oh Simon, how I will miss you when you go.) I kind of wish Curley, with his effeminate voice, had sung Shania’s “Man, I Feel Like A Woman.” Or more like, “Man, I Sound Like A Woman.” It would have suited him!
Brian Krause – When this brave army soldier with the kooky eyeballs revealed that he’d gotten in trouble with his sergeant for singing while in uniform, I braced myself for the worst. That was obviously a bad sign. But I was still ill-prepared for Brian’s positively possessed impression of Tiny Tim on “Tiptoe Through The Tulips.” Actually, it was pretty funny, except Brian seemed to be as serious as a heart attack (and almost seemed to be HAVING a heart attack during his vein- and eye-bulging audition). “Swear on your mother’s life that was not a joke,” Simon demanded, and Brian stared straight at him with his crazy, krazy eyes and swore up and down that this was indeed his natural singing voice. This guy just seemed a bit off. I’d actually tiptoe around him, as if on eggshells instead of tulips, were we ever to meet.