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

American Idol 11, Jan. 19 – “We Need to Be Entertained”

It was a good start to season 11 of American Idol with the Savannah auditions last night. There were quite a few good singers that were put through. And the ones that were bad weren’t too much of a joke. They were just severely disillusioned. I’m hoping that’s a sign of things to come, and that it’s not just setting us up for a big fall. What happens with the auditions tonight in Pittsburgh should tell a little more of the story.

It’s the show’s first time here to Pittsburgh. Apparently Steven Tyler is looking for big things here, as he walks in and says, “We need to be entertained.” That’s why he’s on the panel. He knows what the viewers want to see. Randy Jackson tells the waiting crowd that they get one shot at fame, and that shot starts today.

Steven, Randy, and Jennifer Lopez settle in to their judging chairs as the first auditioner is up, Heejun Han, 22, a non-profit organizer from Flushing, NY, but originally from Korea. He lacks a little excitement. He can only say “I don’t know” when he’s asked questions, and thinks everyone else is crazy good, and that he’s not that good. When he meets Ryan Seacrest, he tells him his head is really small in comparison to his own. He was nervous, but drank plenty of tea, so thinks he’s okay now. Meeting the judges, he thinks they look like wax figures, and when Randy suggests they’re supermodels, he replies just one, obviously Jennifer. Interestingly, his family has never heard him sing. It could be the first sign of trouble for him.

Heejun sings How Am I Supposed to Live WIthout You, and is much better than it seemed he was going to be. And then he gets even better. He has some great emotion thrown into his performance as well. It’s surprising in the way Clay Aiken was. Steven tells him he sings great, Jennifer tells him he has a beautiful voice, and Randy admits to being surprised. Heejun tells Randy he looks better in person. Randy appreicates that, but also tells him he’s shocked and impressed. Jennifer likes his control, and Steven feels he has a great understanding of where notes can go. He gets three easy yeses.

In between auditions, Steven spends the time asking Jennifer how his ass looks and reading limmericks. He decides against the one that starts “There was a young man from St. Pauls.” Wise choice.

Reed Grimm, 26, a nanny from Ellsworth, WI, is up next. His mom and dad met in a band, fell in love, got married, had kids, and just added the kids to the show, so he’s been onstage since 2 years old. Yet, with all that to pick from, he chooses the theme song to Family Matters for his audition. Interesting. He’s got a great jazzy thing going on and can’t sit still, reminding me of Casey Abrams and Phillip Phillips from last night.

Steven tells Reed he is crazy and genius, and Jennifer brings up him being onstage since he was 2. She thinks the mark of a good performer is never knowing what they’re going to do. He has that and it’s exciting to watch. It’s time for the vote, and Randy gives him a zillion percent yes. Jennifer gives him gazillion percent yes, and Steven supercalifragilistically. He’s in, and they’re still impressed with him after he leaves.

After Reed paved the way, there’s more good news for Aaron Marcellus, 27, a voice teacher from Teaneck, NJ, who sings A Change Is Gonna Come, and is told “You can saaang!” Also getting good news is Chase Likens, 20, of Point Pleasant, WY, who sings Love Don’t Live Here, and gives Jennifer the goosebumps she’s always looking for. They’re both through, along with a whole host of other singers.

Patty Novacek isn’t a singer, but a planker, and she’s planking for her younger sister, Samantha, 19, a server from Sutersville, PA, today. She’s known as Patty the Pittsburgh Planker, but it’s possibly only a handful of people who know her that way. Planking is a yoga position, and she teaches it to Ryan. She feels Samantha sings better when she planks. Really? Or is it just your way of getting on TV? Samantha sings Like We Never Loved at All, and is better than the setup would have implied. However, she needs some emotion in there instead of just singing notes.

Jennifer loved the performance, and felt like there were some guts behind the voice, and it made her pleased and happy. Steven agrees. He liked Samantha’s tone and voice, and calls her sweet, clever, and a great nose. Randy liked the vibe, calling it pure. It reminded him of Faith Hill, yet was also Carpenter-ish. She gets three yeses and is on to Hollywood. Does her sister have to go with to plank? The whole family planks together afterwards.

Creighton Fraker, 28, of Queens, NY, calls himself a starving artist. There are a lot of people in New York trying to do what he’s trying to do, singing and writing music to get him to the next level. He uses the nine-hour bus ride to Pittsburgh to come up with something to sing for the judges. He tells the judges he couldn’t decide what to sing, so wrote a song on the way there. It’s a song about the Idol judges, and while the writing isn’t that great, his singing is somewhat good, but really out there.

Jennifer compares Creighton’s style to if Jamiroquai and Justin Timberlake had a baby. Randy calls it a wild thing, but also admits to there being something he’s intrigued by. Steven calls it genius and feels he has the bleep to just spit it out the way he did. He asks Creighton to sing something with a beginning, middle, and end, and he’s better on this, as he launches into Who’s Loving You. Jennifer can’t put a finger on who he reminds her of. I wasn’t sure about him at first, but now I’m loving him. Randy thinks he has a weird kind of crazy voice, but he loves it. Steven calls it the most amazing thing, as he went from singing something he wrote to Michael Jackson. Randy votes a million percent yes, Jennifer two million, and Steven three gazillion. This is why he joined Idol, to say, “Dude, you are so Hollywood!”

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