After a slow start in the American Idol auditions last week, things really start to pick up in North Carolina. Tonight’s show was very entertaining, and cause for celebration as it was Simon Cowell’s birthday. Perhaps there is a reason that both season two runner-up, Clay Aiken, and season three winner, Fantasia Barrino, both hail from this state.
Sabrina Oakley, 26, is first to audition. When she is questioned abut her first name, she says like the “teenage witch.” Simon suggests she drop the “teenage” from the description. Sabrina also explains she has won lots of karaoke competitions, people say she sounds like Faith Hill, and guys are always hitting on her. She hopes Simon will be the next.
As Sabrina sings Lean On Me, I think maybe the guys were hitting on her with a club. I am completely frightened that Simon had the same thought. He also tells her she is more fitted to appearing on Jerry Springer. Needless to say, she isn’t moving on. Simon even attempts a Springer guest accent, saying, “Y’all stole my sister.”
Cachet Robinson, 25, believes she is the total package. She sings I’m Every Woman and definitely makes it her own. Paula agrees, saying she didn’t recognize the song at all. Randy only loves the name “Cachet”, and Simon suggests she find a soundproof shower curtain. Yes! The real Simon is back!
Amanda McManaway sings Somewhere Over The Rainbow. Her performance is so mind-blowing, Simon can only shake his head and yell, “Eaaaah!” I’m not sure if it’s a good thing or not when Simon is at a loss for words.
Kelly Pickler, 19, has had a hard life. Her mother left when she was just two, and her father is in and out of prison with his drug addiction. Kelly now lives with her grandfather, and works as a roller skating waitress. Noting she has big shoes to fill, Kelly sings Kelly Clarkson’s Since You Been Gone. She sings well and has a cute personality to boot.
Asked to sing another song, Kelly does Broken Wing, and sounds amazing. Paula tells her she is adorable, and she loves the conviction in her voice. Simon agrees, although he believes she is belting the songs out a bit too much. He also says he would like to see her do well as she is a nice girl. Kelly goes out to share her good news that she is going to Hollywood with her best friends.
Shawn De Salazar, 17, brings with him his mom, little brother, and a decorated artboard display advertising him being “On a mission to bring back the standards.” Walking into his audition wearing a tuxedo, he sings Old Black Magic. Simon calls him distinctly average and believes he could hear this in a restaurant. Paula tells Shawn he has a nice voice, but adds the props were too distracting. He receives three nos, and Simon can’t help but ask Shawn on his way out to bring him a coffee, while Randy asks how the prime rib is tonight. Shawn’s little brother seems to take the rejection worse than Shawn. He goes on and on and on.
Richard Garland brings his ventriloquist dummy, Scotty, who tells Ryan that Richard stole his shirt. Randy and Simon think Scotty has Randy’s boots and Simon Cowell’s hair. Paula just thinks he is freaky and limber, as he is put away in his box for the actual audition. Richard sings Flying Without Wings which he says he sang to his wife at their wedding. Simon admits he has a good voice, but wonders if he could be a star. Randy says he enjoyed the dummy [insert joke here], but the singing was just okay. He is rejected, and as he walks away, Simon says, “There’s nothing wrong with working with a dummy.” There’s the joke we were looking for.
Ronda Jones has a very squeaky voice, but says her mother says she sounds like Carrie Underwood and Brittany Spears. She sings As Long As You Love Me, and it makes me wonder if Paula will suggest she do cartoon voiceover work. Simon, in his best deadpan voice, says it “sounded just like the original.” Ronda says she is sweet, cute and adorable, as Simon counters Paula is too, but she isn’t going to be the next American Idol. Somehow Ronda even works “gummi bears” into her explanation of herself, and when she is rejected, she asks Ryan for a hug.
Sgt. Steven David, Jr., of the US Air National Guard, comes in with one objective, to charm the pants off Paula … literally. He asks if she’ll dance with him if he sounds good, and Simon answers yes. He sings Let’s Get It On, and is HOT! Noting his audition is going well, Paula thinks she might have to dance with him. Simon and Randy pull Paula over to Sgt. Steven. As she dances with him, Randy dances with himself.
Simon admits to this being a weird show. Maybe, Simon, but it’s highly entertaining. After Steven is told he is going to Hollywood, he picks up Paula and carries her off with him. Outside the door is his wife, saying she doesn’t mind him dancing with Paula as long as he gets to go to Hollywood. It seems Corey Clark really is the only one that believed his story.
Halicia Thompson, 27, is here with fifteen family members, including her 11-year-old son. She sings A Different World, and has Simon grinning and Randy jamming. As Simon says she is a natural talent, Halicia says she is supposed to kiss Simon. She produces a plastic shower cap to use as a barrier, thinking Simon won’t want to share her mouth germs. Simon says forget the plastic, and indulges her with a kiss. He also indulges her other request, sending her to Hollywood.
Donny Meacham was in the Atlanta Boys Choir when he was 8, and hasn’t sung in anything major since. His mom hasn’t even heard him sing since then. He sings Bridge Over Troubled Water, and I’m thinking perhaps Donny lost his singing voice when his voice changed or something. Simon believes Donny murdered one of the most beautiful songs of all time. Paula tells him there wasn’t one note on key. Donny’s mother consoles him, sounding like a Cubs fan, saying, “Maybe next year.”
Kendra Winson grew up in forty-two different foster homes and group homes. She became emancipated at 15, then had a son. At 19 she married and had two more kids. She believes now that she married too young. Realizing he was not a good man, she put him out, got her G.E.D., went to college on a scholarship, and saved to get out of public housing. Today she is quite impressed with how hot Ryan really is.
Simon tells Kendra she looks like a young Whitney, and she says people used to say she looked like Tyra before, but with the curls, they say Whitney. Singing Ain’t No Mountain High Enough, Paula says she is a breath of fresh air and the whole package. As Paula and Randy both say yes, Simon says he would have said no. Kendra knows the drill, and says it doesn’t matter, because she’s going to Hollywood. As she comes out to celebrate with her kids, Kendra asks, “Where’s my boyfriend?” She, of course, is referring to Ryan Seacrest.
Kenneth “Chase” Bush says he wants to have his name and picture on the walls there at the next audition alongside the other idols. He says his favorite is Kelly Clarkson. He sings I Have Nothing. Paula says you never know what to expect when a guys sings Whitney Houston, but she felt he had an interesting tone. Randy thought he sounded like a young Wayne Newton. Simon says he can almost imagine Chase in a dress, to which Chase answers, he isn’t into drag. Simon says no, yet Paula and Randy say yes. Walking out, Chase tells Paula he loves her shoes.
Chonna Clepper looks at Ryan and states the obvious, “You’re so short.” She walks into the audition wearing a black see-through robe and a two-piece pink and black thing with fringe. She says her mom got her the outfit as she used to do lingerie shows. Before lingerie shows her mom was a stripper. Chonna sings Bring Out The Elvis, and Paula believes she is very sweet, and that her voice would benefit being cultivated by vocal lessons. Simon says there was more wrong than right with the audition, but encourages her to keep working on it. He thinks us Americans have weird ideas about lingerie, and states he would be saying, “Get back in the bathroom, Sweetheart.”
Brandon Haithcox, 23, sings Follow Me by Uncle Kracker. He oddly follows many of the lines in the song with a short high-pitched note, making Simon ask if he likes Michael Jackson because of that noise he keeps doing. Brandon says he doesn’t have to do that. Paula says he wasn’t prepared and that she should get his confidence going next time. Outside, sharing his frustration with a girl with him, she says if he had famous clothes on and looked rich, he would have made it. Not true. I think he could have dressed like his idol, Michael Jackson, who wears famous clothes and is rich, and still not made it.
Walking in with much more confidence, and no famous clothes, is Jeffrey “Ryan” Baysden. He sings Broken Road, and wow, he’s hot singing that. Simon tells him he is the first Ryan he has met with talent. Randy likes the Randy Travis/Alan Jackson thing he has going on, and Paula likes his tone and quiet confidence. See Brandon? Ryan moves on to Hollywood.
Cedric Robinson claims to be related to Fantasia Barrino. He sings Chain of Fools, just like she did, but in a falsetto. Simon calls it absolutely dreadful, and Randy adds especially the note at the end. Cedric, as Ryan says, will not be a entertainer.
17-year-old Paris Bennett is the fourth generation of a musician family. Her grandmother is Anne Nesbitt, the lead singer in Sounds of Blackness, and holder of three Grammys. She has a high-pitched squeaky kind of voice, but sings Cowboy, Take Me Away in a very rich tone, much more like Fantasia, than Cedric. Paris is asked to bless the judges with another song and does one by Billie Holiday. She is amazing! Paula says it was incredible and that she has chills. Simon says unbelievable, and asks where she has been hiding. Randy notes Paris definitely has the lineage. Making it to Hollywood, she collapses in the doorway in front of her famous grandmother.
The second day in North Carolina is Simon’s birthday, and he is presented with a cake, along with many of the performers wishing him a happy birthday as they audition.
Marcus Antoine Behling, 22, says he has won ten talent shows, three this past year. He compares himself to R Kelly and Usher. Uh-oh, comparisons are never a good sign. His audition is perhaps the most entertaining thing I have ever seen on American Idol.
Marcus sings Michael Jackson’s She’s Out Of My Life, and makes each “out” and “life” into the longest of notes. Simon asks what the hell was that, and Randy says if they let him keep going, it would have taken two hours. He says he never heard that song sung before like that. Marcus is asked if he ever had voice lessons, and he says he has the Randy and Paula DVD to guide him. Simon stands up and shakes his hand, telling him he made his day. Randy asks if Marcus has read Simon’s book, to which Simon asks if Marcus’ DVD machine is running in slow. Paula tries to bring it back to reality, and says if you have no talent, no DVD or teacher will ever help.
To decide whether Marcus goes on, Simon says to be fair, he’s Randy’s pupil, he should decide. As they trade barbs back and forth, Paula tries to be uplifting and suggests that Marcus should be in modeling. Simon asks Randy if he has a modeling DVD coming out soon. As Marcus leaves, dejected, Simon says this is his best birthday ever. He loves the world. Outside, Marcus is smashing the DVD with a hammer.
We go from the most entertaining to the least entertaining, with 24-year-old Jimmy Crabtree. He sings Broken Road, and it’s the opposite to when Ryan Baysden sang it earlier. To use a Simon phrase, this is like watching paint dry. Simon thinks he has the personality of a hippo when he sings. There’s a new one! Paula doesn’t think singing is the right career for Jimmy, telling him it wasn’t even on key.
Sammy Neighbors, 22, comes in carrying a red blanket and wearing eye liner. He sings I Can Show You The World, and the blanket is a prop, like a magic carpet. He then stops mid-song, and shakes his butt wildly, going into Paula’s Straight Up. Simon compares him to Sylvester Stallone’s younger sister singing Paula Abdul, Paula says he has fabulous hair, fabulous eyes and is a lot of fun, but … no.
Tyra Juliette Schwartz (what is it with all these people and their three names?), 24, just broke up with her boyfriend. While she wasn’t feeling well, she called him, and found another woman answering his phone, while she was in bed with him. She sings Still of the Night. Paula and Randy tell Tyra it was beautiful with great control. Simon says it was very good, but he’s not sure he is looking at a star. She says people will only be as good as they are willing to work. And she’s willing. They like her spirit, and she moves on. Ryan tells her she can meet another guy in Hollywood. I’m thinking her ex is kicking himself right now.
22-year-old Seth Strickland does a Michael Jackson imitation. I don’t know. It didn’t seem to work all that well for Marcus. He sings Thriller, and when he messes up he says, “Oh, shoot doggie,” and “Oh crap.” It’s obvious he learned the dance moves direct from the video. He tries another, She’s Out Of My Life. I told you, Seth, it didn’t work too well for Marcus, although it ends much sooner than his. Randy is speechless, but likes the Michael Jackson moves. Paula notes he has some dance steps down, but isn’t ready for this. Simon agrees, and Seth doesn’t make it through.
Firefighter Jordan Southerland, 24, auditions in his uniform. He sings You Raise Me Up. Paula says it’s not bad, and Randy shouts, “Fire in the hole!” He then adds Jordan is a nice guy with a nice voice. Randy votes no, Paula votes yes. It’s up to Simon, and he agrees with Paula for an interesting change. Could be the good birthday he’s having.
Finally, the moment Fox has been promoting the whole show. Ronetta Johnson, 24, who they compare to Edgar, Keith, William Hung, Leroy Wells, and Mary Roach. I don’t know. Marcus already stole the show for me. Although, Ronetta certainly dresses the part. She is wearing a silver sparkly tube top and boots, along with a short white skirt with belly hanging over it.
Promising she will soon find herself on top of the charts, Ronetta walks into her audition with a medley of Paula Abdul tunes, then says that wasn’t it, she was just joking. Gee, great way to warm up the judges. Making fun of them. Not exactly the way to earn those brownie points. She tries singing another song, and then stops in the middle saying she doesn’t like it. She claims her voice is hoarse, and Paula offers her some water. She then tries just one line of another song, saying that’s all she knows.
After she is rejected, Ronetta, goes on a Mary Roach diatribe, saying they turned down a superstar. Mostly her diatribe is against Paula, calling her old as hell, and asking why she’d want to take a drink off her. At the end, she launches into an attack on Simon. The whole thing is peppered with lots of bleeps. Not a whole lot of it is left after that.
All in all, thirty-three made it to Hollywood from the two-day stint in North Carolina. Ronetta was highly entertaining, but still, my vote still goes to Marcus. Of course, it wasn’t his audition itself that was so funny, it was the exchange between Randy and Simon. Tomorrow finds the crew in San Francisco, and previews show Simon walking off after a fight with Randy. It looks like his great birthday mood is over.
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