American Idol Four, 2005, is officially on its way. Some changes have been made to the semi-finals to even out the ratio between the sexes, and the age limit has been extended to twenty-eight to give some more seasoned performers a chance. The celebrity judges have been voted out of the live shows and are now along for the ride in the audition cities. We have also been promised, as with every other season, that this is the best year so far with the talent. I hope it lives up to its promises.
The opening audition city this year is Washington, D.C. Fittingly, the first song for the year is the National Anthem, being sung by Leandra Jackson. The blank stare on Simon’s face when she is done says it all. Absolutely no way.
Sitting alongside judges Simon Cowell, Paula Abdul and Randy Jackson today is Mark McGrath, lead singer of Sugar Ray, and responsible for hit songs such as Someday and Every Morning. We hope he will be an honest judge, and not one of the worthless ones, just adding some face time to their resume.
After opening with Leandra, tonight needs some good talent quickly. We find it in Sean McNeill, a married youth director with a baby on the way. He sings a very inspired Isn’t She Lovely by Stevie Wonder. Randy believes he has a good voice, Paula a warm tone, and Simon points out that while his voice isn’t amazing, people like him. Mark agrees, and adds that his mom would love Sean. Sean is on his way to either Hollywood or Mrs. McGrath’s house.
Twenty-year-old Jessie Grazella is up next. Simon and Paula renew their four year long argument on whether the contestants are really rooting for each other or not. Jessie backs Paula up, and says they really are. Jessie just can’t get past the words “Raise Me Up” in the song. In a very odd twist, Simon allows him to go out and ask the people outside if they know. Receiving the next line, he comes back and gets stuck again. Jessie cries, then quietly walks away. If you are that nervous in the audition, you will have a hard time on the show. Camille Velasco last season proved this.
Music teacher, Anwar Robinson is up next, singing … what else? More Stevie Wonder. The producers really need to find a way to finagle a spot as guest judge for him. Anwar makes his way through You Are The Sunshine Of My Life, and Randy notes it was great he didn’t do runs, just sang the melody. Mark proves he can provide humor and says the dreadlocked Anwar looks like both Milli and Vanilli, and adds he thinks he is a star. Simon and Paula make it unanimous; he’s moving on to Hollywood.
Wearing a short, tight black dress with lots of silver dangling from her, Melissa Considine believes she looks very classy. Simon asks why it looks like she was dragged through the bushes. Melissa says the store at the mall kept it open for her the previous night, but didn’t know how to turn the lights on, so she shopped in the dark. Melissa makes it through her song very nasally, and when it isn’t well-received, tries America the Beautiful, still without success. Simon tells her she dresses better than she sings, and as she walks out, she says she’s crying because not one of the judges said she was good. I found myself feeling sorry for her, for going through all that and not making it.
Derek Braxton is up next. He is asked if he is related to Toni Braxton, and he says yes. Listening to him, it’s hard to believe the same blood line could have created both voices. Randy does his patented move of laughter behind the paper, then tells him to check his hearing. Mark laughs and says it sounded like a different language. Toni Braxton’s sister, Towanda, was on Starting Over the past few months pursuing a solo career, and often talked of how rigidly success was demanded of them. Derek being part of the clan is very hard to fathom.
Seeming to fit that mold more is Regina Brooks. She had no money and had to choose between pawning her karaoke machine, CDs and wedding rings to go to D.C. for the auditions. She chose the rings. After she is done singing Misty, Mark said he was torn. He loved her voice, but wasn’t sure she was American Idol fabric. Paula and Randy like her, and Simon asks if he can speak to her husband, who walks in carrying their four-year-old daughter. Asked how he would feel if she made it, he says he wishes her the best, and he’ll be waiting for her in the end. She makes it through, and says it’s confirmation of her hard work.
Another mother, yet single, Marlea Stroman, sings All At Once. They love her, and send her through, telling her to add some life into her performance. Sarah Mathers (… as the Beaver), makes it as well, singing Rescue Me. All four judges like her voice, but add they thought her dance moves were a little awkward.
Aven Moore enters, singing Tomorrow, ending with what the show was calling the longest note of the season, and which my son clocked at one whole minute. After Simon tells him it was bizarrely dreadful, he asks if that means yes or no. He then asks if they would like to hear another song, and Simon tells him no, because he is too tired. You’re not alone, Simon.
The lead singer of a garage band, Constantin Maroulis, has snuck out of his band’s practice to get to the audition. He sings Cryin’ by Aerosmith, and as a rocker at heart, even though he wasn’t the best, I find myself rooting for him. Mark tells him it was rockin’; Paula felt he was unique, and Randy thought the verse was all over, but he pulled it together with the chorus. Simon would have said no, but lets him through three to one. Ryan goes to Constantin’s band practice and tells them he made it on American Idol. The drummer says he doesn’t like American Idol, but is happy for Constantin.
Amanda Hubert thinks God sent her there to sing. Mark tells her she is extremely hot, but no one likes her talent … singing talent. She even tries begging on her knees, probably leading to an other talent. Jillian Bennett is also denied, because they thought she was real showy. She walks away, vowing to “make a CD, damnit!”
Brian Bagley, a dancer/janitor tells Paula she inspired him with her dancing. Everyone agrees that his dancing is better than his singing. Janitorial services must not be paying what is used to, as right after, he is begging on on the corner. Travis Tucker proves you can dance and sing, doing the night’s second rendition of Isn’t She Lovely. Everyone likes him, and Simon adds his look is very commercial. He is through, and not begging on the corner.
Mary is singing Hanky Panky, spanking herself at the appropriate moments in the song. Simon says she “sings terribly, but spanks well.” Paula tells her it’s the wrong audition. What would be the right one, for Hugh Hefner? I was shocked … shocked, that Ian Holmes II made it through with a weak rendition of I’ll Be, as I always like all the choices. Apparently, normally I have loose standards, or something.
Showcased next is two sentimental favorites that don’t make it. Jason Smith wearing a hat that says, “5.9% alcohol” sings Papa Was A Rolling Stone in five different voices. He explains the hat slogan is because he is a recovering alcoholic, and has found God. Paula tells him she had a blast watching him, and says she’s proud of him for making the changes in his life. Boxer Franchon Crews also doesn’t make the cut, but they tell her at seventeen, she just needs some tweaking, and has plenty of time.
The mayor of Hackensack’s son, John Zisa, sings Baby Come To Me. Although not blown away, they do like him, and send him on to Hollywood. Mary Roach is a different … something. I’m not sure. If she doesn’t make it, she says she’s going to cosmetology school. She sings I Feel The Earth Move, and Simon tells her it’s the worst he’s ever heard. She tells him she thinks he’s saying that to annoy her. She asks if they’d like her to sing in one of her other voices. Asked if the other voices are speaking to her now, she says yes; they’re saying Mark is a hottie. She leaves and has a conversation with herself in all her different voices.
I feel the show has held to its promises so far. I felt there was more talent as a whole from last season, but no one has really blown me away yet. Luckily, we have many more cities and auditions to go through still. I’m pretty sure we won’t top Mary Roach though.
I welcome all questions and comments at LauraBelle@realityshack.com