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Freelance entertainment writer, martial arts instructor, and mother of two.

American Idol 9, Feb. 9 – Ellen's Big Debut


It’s a collective “Finally” heard across the nation as Ellen DeGeneres finally joins the judges’ table with Simon Cowell, Randy Jackson, and Kara DioGuardi. We better enjoy it while it’s here, because we don’t know what will happen next year. I know it will be fun with Ellen, but it will be interesting to see how this aspect of the show is without Paula Abdul. Ellen puts Simon in his place right away, asking if this is how it is, she comes in and he leaves.

All the contestants will come out and either sing a cappella or with an instrument, and it’s suddent death stay or leave. The first group up includes Antonio “Skii Bo Ski” Wheeler, 22, a Designer/Salesman, Orlando, and Katie Stevens, 17, Middlebury, CT. She is the one whose grandmother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. Katie sings For Once In My Life tonight and has an interesting deeper tone. Simon tells her she’s quite good, and Randy remembers her from the first time as being great.

Skii Bo Ski, no introduction needed, is up next, He asks the panel “How you doin’?” and Ellen returns the question to him. He sings Ain’t Too Proud to Beg, and Ellen tells him he frightened her, as he was like a leopard stalking them, and it’s a fine line between sexy and scary. Antonio is in the group that steps forward; Katy stays back. He’s out; she’s in. He comes back and asks why he’s leaving, and Simon tells him he’s just not that good of a singer. He sings his name as he walks out the door.

Vanessa Wolfe, 19, a fast food associate, who felt stuck in Vonore, TN, is in the next group and is nervous. Andrew Garcia, 24, a musician, Moreno Valley, CA, is waiting as well. He is the adult child of gang members and wants a better life for his son. Tonight he’ll be singing Paula’s Straight Up, his own rendition. It’s definitely a good take, a good updated take. It reminds me of what Kris Allen did to songs last year. Kara tells him that was genius and that Paula would be screaming and yelling and clapping and dancing, and Ellen says she’d be doing this, as she claps above her head. Kara compares him to Adam, though.

Vanessa sings Blind Melon’s No Rain, and is thankfully not in a bee costume, although it could have only helped. This is terrible. Ellen calls her unique and says she should embrace it, as she’s hiding inside, which will kill her. Tasha Layton, 26, personal assistant/minister, Granada Hills, CA is in the group as well. When it coms for the judgment, Andrew steps forward, as does Tasha, but Vanessa stays behind. She goes home as the others move on. Vanessa is disappointed and knows she blew it.

Cornelius Edwards, 24, a security guard, Boynton Beach, FL, who split his pants, sings Cowgirl Take Me Away … badly … and Simon asks why he chose the song. Maegan Wright, 20, a cosmetologist, Richardson, TX had brought her brother to her audition, and here she appears alone, singing and playing the keyboard. Kara tells her it was all over the place. Maegan calls it heartbreaking to have to go home.

Amadeo Diricco, 28, a bartender, Johnston, RI, came from the big Italian family, but can’t find his voice here as Randy tells him it’s not good. He asks for another shot, and Simon denies him. He really thought it was his chance. Janell Wheeler, 24, a sales representative, of Tampa, sings American Boy and sings well, as Ellen tells her it was amazing. Simon agrees. She’s through.

Haeley Vaughn, 16, Fort Collins, CO, is the preemie who now wants to be the first black pop country singer, and is watching others crash and burn with their instruments, yet auditions with her guitar, singing Change. It’s not the best I’ve heard, and I know they like her from before, so this could be iffy. Randy calls it interesting. Also up is Mary Powers, 28, a singer, Burbank, CA, who had a daughter that Simon tried to claim as his own. She sings Sober, and Ellen tells her she has an amazing voice and was really into the song. Both Haeley and Mary make it through. Mary says her whole life, and her family’s life, is going to change, and it’s amazing.

Along with the twenty-six people moving on on day one are Todrick Hall, 24, an actor/playwright, Arlington, TX; Charity Vance, 16, Little Rock; and Ashley Rodriguez, 21, a college student, Boston.


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