Road to Hollywood

Tonight’s show featured mostly good, enjoyable singers. Even the few bad auditions were memorable for one reason or other. As has been the case for the last couple of weeks I’ll hit it as it comes, with each blurb in the order of appearance:

Jessica Furney- I enjoyed her, but I have to be realistic. She would be lovely next to a campfire, but is she really good enough to get past the alligators in this competition? I get the feeling that she s-t-r-e-t-c-h-e-d to get this one song just right, taking weeks and weeks to make it perfect. Will she be able to nail the next song, or the next 10 songs, with just a day or two to prepare? I’ll root for her. Chicks with glasses always look cool when they are singing.

Amanda Schectman- She is a theater actress more than a singer. She seems to be hard working and innovative, an impressive young talent in that arena. They showed some cool chops that she has already developed, and I would not be surprised if she had a lot more in her bag of tricks. She has cute-sexy charisma, and she has some nice vocal chops. She is just 19 years old, still very immature vocally though she has command of her voice. She is good enough as a singer that she might make it through to the semis, but this is not her true calling. She is not a singer, she’s an actress. Hell, we might see her in a sitcom some day. She’d be a good wise cracking sidekick.

Lee Dewyze- Love, love his voice. I am a sucker for the killer scratch. He has very strong undertones in his voice as well, and he has plenty of range. A voice like this makes me think of the difference between a branch and a tree trunk. Lee has a huge, redwood trunk of a voice. Picking “Ain’t No Sunshine” was a good idea. It’s the song that propelled Kris Allen to the title last season, and it’s one of the best songs ever written for a singer to show off. It just drips with emotion when it’s done right. I loved Kris doing it last year, but I think that I liked Lee’s version even more. This kid is standout number 3, and I might have him as my number one contender except that the song was such a perfect vehicle. I’ll tamper my enthusiasm until I hear him sing something else.

Chrystal Bowersox- Good voice, terrible phrasing. Fodder, in all likelihood, but never underestimate the power of the chick with the guitar. She has good pipes, and the phrasing might have been nerves. I won’t buy her yet. I’ve heard tons of singers use crappy rhythm before, and none of them ever fix it.

Just an aside, but I am getting a little worried that there hasn’t been a dominant female yet. Last year we had Lil, at least, and Allison Iraheta bubbled up as a late bloomer in the semis. I’ve liked a lot of the girls so far, but there is a huge difference between being cute and singing well and being a potential star. I kind of like the early rounds because we get to see a lot of these types of girls; the karaoke stars, but they aren’t really contenders. The natural parallel would be local beauty queens that go to Hollywood to be actresses. The ones that make it aren’t the beauty queens. The ones that make it are the geeky late developers that spend most of their waking teen years practicing their craft and working out how their faces can be bent in the mirror. It’s important to be obsessively driven, when the stakes are this high. While most of both groups fail, the rare successes usually come from the group that wants it enough to fully develop their talents.

My sister Alison is 57 years old and nobody is looking for her to be the next American Idol, but she is a much more powerful, innovative and versatile musician than anyone that I have seen demonstrated so far. I am sure that there are “Alisons” out there, but it troubles me that this isn’t important to Idol’s producers early on in the process. They just keep trotting out karaoke singers that are cute and bubbly, because it’s good tv. I’m done ranting. I thought that I should explain why I am not as quick to call the female contestants contenders this early in the show. By the end of Hollywood week it will look different. We’ll have some true female contenders, and we’ll have more of an idea who the real musicians are.

Ok, back to the show:
Lacey Brown- As I said, she was eliminated just before the semis last season. I don’t really get it. She sang a breathy version of “Over the Rainbow”, and I wasn’t all that impressed. She is cute, and she seems nice, but I was reminded more of Anna Nicole Smith or Marylin Monroe singing “Happy Birthday” than I was of a contender for the best singer in America. There must be something here; she almost made the semis last year. I don’t see it.

Stephanie Fisher- She has auditioned 7 times now. I can see the work in her voice, that she is really trying, but she isn’t good enough to in a national competition.

Idol ran through a few successful auditions from the 16 year olds. Allison Iraheta was 16 last year when she made it to 4th place, but most of them should really wait a couple more years to try this. Idol should know that they have potential for a talent “farm system” here; a pool of young talent freely available to them that needs to be nurtured until it is ready for prime time. If they don’t, they are morons.

Three young guns that are not ready yet:

Rachel Hubbard- She was pushing her vibrato way too hard, and she stopped and started instead of weaving everything together. Give her a couple of years and she’ll fix those things, but that takes some experience.

Thaddeus Johnson- This kid has tons of vocal power and some ability to do the runs, but he has no clue about when to breathe yet and he is still learning how to control his voice. He is still almost shouting, but despite this he stays perfectly in tune.

Genesis Moore- Pitchy,and no clue where to breathe. She has a big voice, but little idea of what to do with it yet. She is the rawest of raw talents.

Next up….

Adrian Chandtchi- I have read a bunch of Elmore Leonard novels so I am aware that there are 6-8, 300 pound gay men. It’s one thing to read about it, and another to see it in person. I liked Adrian and I wasn’t pissed off that they wasted time on him on a show that was supposed to be about good auditions. In a way, his audition might have been the coolest one of the night. This kid has probably had to self talk himself more than anyone else that has been on the show in a long time. In his heart he is Niles Crane, but in the mirror he is Dick Butkus. He seemed to be cool about the constant nicknames that come for someone so visually remarkable, so I would guess that he’s reasonably centered. I am not gay so I can’t really know, but intellectually I would guess that a guy with his size and good nature would be quite the star in that community. The thing about him swimming smells like a put-on, some Idol joke.

Michael Lynch- Huge guy with the same teddy bear vibe that Adrian has, but instead of being sweet and tender he is tough, dominating and masculine. I was about to call him a huge (no pun intended) contender until he reached for his high note. He hit the note, but it wasn’t easy. I still like his chances, but that strain worries me. He is extremely charismatic, but I was a little bit put off that he was still holding out for a boy after the amneo told him that his upcoming child was a girl. That doesn’t matter in the competition, though. That troubling reach for his high note does.

Didi Benami- If she was just trying out cold with no back story, I would call her the first true female standout of the year anyway. This kid has it all; power, control, emotion, command, and I loved her quirky inflections and phrasing. She can sing her butt off, and she has her own signature way of turning the song. She sang a song that millions of people have sung. She made it her own not because she sang it differently, but because she herself is unique. The back-story thing bothers me, not because it was trite (It wasn’t, I was moved; especially by the pictures of her friend) but because it gets in the way of one of the true talents of the competition so far.

Aaron Kelly- Another 16 year old. He has a very strong voice and terrific rhythm. He sang a Miley Cyrus song. I have heard Miley sing it; Aaron sings it much better than Miley does. His back story was about his adoptive parents. It’s too bad that he couldn’t be adopted by Billy Ray. He’s good enough to compete with Miley. I am always skeptical about 16 year olds, but this kid is pretty polished. He might go deep. He seems to be intelligent and mature. Is he this year’s Allie, just male?

Kimberly Bishop- They only showed her audition because she showed a body part that isn’t allowed. She isn’t much of a singer.

Shaddall Harris- She can’t sing, but she was interesting. She was cute and charming, and she reminded me of Vanessa Hamilton only black instead of white trailer trash. She is a total back woods hick. I am not sure why they showed her audition unless they just couldn’t resist the lipstick on the cheek thing. Her Mom was very cool, and unlike most of the bad auditions I would love to know these people.

Hope Johnson- Soooo close to terrific. I love her phrasing and I love her command, but she kind of lost it as she went along. She was very comfortable, so I can’t see blaming anything on nerves. I am not sure that she has any nerves. She is 19, and I see potential. She is a strong talent, and with good coaching she can be charismatic and mesmerizing. Can she do it in the short time that Idol gives her? I am skeptical, but not dismissive. The kid has the gift, and the scratch in her voice. I can see her in country music tomorrow, and her voice is memorable.

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