Welcome to the live blog and recap for “Auditions #5″ of American Idol Season 12! Tonight, the auditions hit California and Texas!
Also, apropos of almost nothing, I’ve finally given up and gotten a Twitter, so feel free to follow me @RicanRhetoric. I’ll be posting any and all article links there, among other random snippets of enthusiastic nonsense.
Here we go!
-Lots of hype for a ton of vague drama to come. Maybe it’s because I’ve been updating during the credits the last several times, but it appears they’ve removed Taylor Hicks from the roster of winners in the opening. I suppose it’s a dark chapter in Idol history that they’d rather put behind them. (I liked Taylor though, premature graying and all)
VINCENT POWELL, 29, is up first!
-Vincent is a returning contestant, and he’s thrilled at the opportunity to meet Mariah, as he’s been unapologetically in love with her since he was a kid, often praying to the good Lord to give him a chance to meet her.
-He sings traditional blues standard “Rock Me Baby”, and kicks the night off with a dynamite vocal. Lots of grit and attitude, but not without control and soulful smoothness.
-Randy is impressed and asks “What happened last year?” YOU TELL US, RANDY.
-Vincent says that Randy had taken a sip of his drink during his performance, which made him nervous and caused him to not be on his A-game. It’s okay to just blame Randy, Vincent. Really, it is.
-Nicki thinks Vincent has an amazing voice, Mariah says his vocal was beautiful, and Randy and Keith are in agreement over his ability.
VINCENT POWELL is going to Hollywood!
-Two brothers, identically dressed (but in different shades of blue), their confidence through the roof, prepare to audition.
DEREK AND DAVID BACEROTT are up next!
-They sing “Let Me Love You” by Mario, and it’s comically bad. Randy wants to vote NOW, telling them that it was terrible, and that he’s trying to do them a favor by passing on them, because they’re not ready for anything like this.
-Mariah says that the boys violated the basic rule of harmonizing: stay on pitch.
-They continue pleading with the judges, to an obnoxious degree, talking over their constructive criticisms (which is honestly more than they probably deserve), leaving it to Nicki to shut them down, saying “Your part of the audition is done”, and telling them that they need to listen to the judges because they’re actually trying to help them.
-The boys insist that the judges are being rude, and aren’t telling them the truth. Randy puts them down for their terrible attitudes (I agree with Randy, for once).
-After getting flatly rejected, the boys rant to the camera that the judges were rude, and that they made a mistake in cutting them. Honestly, the only mistake the judges made was in not being harsher.
SAVANNAH VOTION, 24, is up next!
-Like seemingly all female contestants who turn out to be awesome in these audition rounds, she’s a young mother, doing this for her daughter. I like her matter-of-fact, yet humble, confidence – when the judges ask if there’s anything they should know about her, she responds, “I’m the next American Idol?”
-She sings “At Last” by Etta James, and it’s smooth but also sort of smoky, as her voice has a bit of a husky quality to it. Very nice.
-Randy feels she’s a natural performer, while Keith says she has a lot of life in her voice, a lot of highs and lows and triumphs. Nicki says it sounds organic and not at all forced.
-The judges all vote simultaneously, giving Savannah four yesses.
SAVANNAH VOTION is going to Hollywood!
-Back from commercial with a poor, unfortunate soul butchering “And I’m Telling You (I’m Not Going)”. The woman gets a unanimous rejection, although Randy strangely tells her to “work it out, and come back”, knowing damn good and well she just doesn’t have it. Thankfully, we move on to our next audition almost immediately…
CRISTABEL CLACK, 29, is up next!
-Cristabel is a worship leader, and has been married to her wonderful husband for seven years. They have a child together who sleeps in his father’s arms just outside the audition room, causing Seacrest to whisper to avoid waking the child up.
-She sings “If I Ain’t Got You” by Alicia Keys, and it’s a lovely, layered vocal (although if I never hear that song again on a singing competition, it’ll be too soon).
-The judges are over the moon for her, particularly Randy, who says that she’s what this show is all about.
CRISTABEL CLACK is going to Hollywood!
-Up next is our latest audition nominee, a woman Randy remembers from last year’s auditions. She is nominated by her husband for a shot in front of the judges.
ANN DIFANI, 23, is up next!
-Ann sings “Stronger” by Faith Hill, and Keith says she has a lovely tone with a lot of Faith in it. She misunderstands, thinking he meant faith, and Mariah has to correct her by adding “Hill”. Still a compliment though. That said, I found it pretty unspectacular, myself. It felt lifted straight out of a pageant’s talent round, though I imagine much of that was in the song choice, which wasn’t exactly terrible or anything, but which also didn’t do much to show off her range.
And Nicki thinks it’s adorable that her husband nominated her, with Randy adding that it’s “the Great American Love Story.”
-Mariah is impressed by her lack of nerves, and she’s complimented for her controlled vocals. That said, none of the judges seem particularly enthusiastic about sending her through to Hollywood, voting “yes” with all the vigor of a jock boyfriend who’s just been told he’s being dragged by his arthouse savant girlfriend to see the next Michael Haneke film. Why a jock and an arthouse savant would be dating is anyone’s guess, but then, I suppose if Paula Abdul has taught us anything, it’s that opposites attract.
ANN DIFANI is going to Hollywood!
-I’m sorry, commercial. You’ll never convince me anyone is willing to end a friendship over not having brought KFC to a football party.
-Back from commercial with Victoria Acosta, who started singing mariachi as a little girl, and right away I recognize a Selena song in her background video (though the name escapes me at the moment) – she’s very, very good at that style of music, which is not such an easy thing to pull off.
VICTORIA ACOSTA, 20, is up next!
-And her uniqueness disappears almost immediately, as she sings “Big Girls Don’t Cry” by Fergie. She sings it well, but she sounds like the kind of girl they put through to be an also-ran, or fodder.
-Randy asks her to sing a little mariachi, and there it is. I really enjoyed it, in a way I never enjoyed Karen Rodriguez’s attempts to invest her performances with a Spanish flavor.
-The judges love it too, giving her four yesses.
VICTORIA ACOSTA is going to Hollywood!
-We’re nearly halfway through the show, which means it’s time for the nightmare contestants montage. The Alamo visual theme is a cute touch for the video, along with “WANTED” posters for each of the offending contestants. Unfortunately, the video montage actually has to feature the terrible performances in question, and this video is no different, featuring some incredibly shrill renditions of such songs as “Listen” by Beyonce.
-Thankfully, that’s over pretty quick, and we’re on to our next contestant, a young man full of energy…who hates doing covers. But loves to dance.
PAPA PEACHEZ, 19, is up next!
-The judges are instantly amused by his name (with Keith sneaking in a “Papa don’t peach” quip). Papa Peachez is stoked that Nicki Minaj is on the panel, and his excitement shows in his general attitude, which is enthusastic but unwavering in his confidence in his abilities.
-Papa Peachez sings one of his own songs, a soulful, yet theatrical, number that pretty much tells his life story. Nicki thinks he’s an absolute superstar, though Keith thinks it was too theatrical to give any sense of who he really is. Randy feels that if he really gets serious about his music, he can be a real threat in the competition (“You could be really dangerous”). But he isn’t sure Papa Peachez is ready.
-Nicki and Mariah vote “yes”, while Keith and Randy vote “no”, but Nicki ardently argues on Peachez’s behalf, saying that he’s one of the most unique and original artists they’ve seen. Randy ultimately changes his vote, which gives Papa Peachez enough yesses to win himself a Golden Ticket.
PAPA PEACHEZ is going to Hollywood!
-Up next is a young contestant whose mom is from Tansania, and whose father is from Kenya. He’s a dancer loaded with positive energy who’s part of a dance troupe called The Noise. Does everybody dance this season?
SANNI M’MAIRURA, 16, is up next!
-He speaks a little Swahili, charming Nicki Minaj, while Seacrest interviews his parents about the confidence he projects. Kid is looking like a threat on likability alone.
-Except his voice is just kind of okay, when it first starts out. But it certainly gets better as his rendition of “Who’s Loving You” goes on. His runs, in particular, are really tight. By the end of the song, I’m sold on his potential.
-The judges are too, as they compliment his runs and his vocal control, and Randy, in particular, appreciates that he didn’t just try to sound like Michael Jackson.
-Sanni gets four yesses, and his address to the camera (“Got it.”) is just perfect.
SANNI M’MAIRURA, 16, is going to Hollywood!
ADAM SANDERS, 19, is up next!
-Randy asks Adam what kind of artist he’d want to be, leading to an amusing exchange in which Adam says he wants to be R&B but with a hint of the old soul like Mariah (his personal idol, whose presence brings him to tears) has in her voice.
-He sings “I’d Rather Go Blind” by Etta James, and rips the damn roof off the place. Best audition of the night so far, even though it got a bit histrionic and over-the-top in parts. But it totally worked.
-The judges are pretty much speechless. They vote right away, and though Mariah jokingly gives him a “no”, she retracts almost immediately, contributing to the four yesses that send him through to the next round.
ADAM SANDERS is going to Hollywood!
-Texas auditions come to a close as we move on to Long Beach, CA. We see contestants traveling from all over to come to the Queen Mary, the ship on which auditions are being held. Lots of traffic, but thankfully no Emblem3.
-It’s just Randy and Keith for now, as Mariah is stuck in traffic and Nicki has a prior commitment at the American Music Awards (you’d think they’d have planned this out better).
SHUBHA VEDULA, 17, is up next!
-Shubha is thrown by the presence of just the two male judges, but she has no problem launching into a forceful, dominant rendition of Christina Aguilera’s version of “Good Feeling”. It’s very deep and husky for someone so young, but it absolutely works for her, as the performance is one of the better vocals of the night.
-The two judges love her and give her the two yesses she needs, although Randy immediately questions Keith about what her name actually was, the minute after Shubha leaves.
SHUBHA VEDULA is going to Hollywood!
-Up next is a young guy right out of the bathroom – apparently, a producer heard him singing in the bathroom and encouraged him to audition for American Idol.
BRIAN MARTINEZ, 21, is up next!
-Keith has a hard time getting over the whole bathroom business, while Randy asks if the producer mentioned only Idol, by name.
-Brian sings “You’ll Be In My Heart” by Phil Collins, rendered unrecognizable by Brian’s lifeless vocal.
-Randy asks him if the producer who encouraged him was an actual music producer, and Brian insists he was, though he can’t recall the man’s name.
-The judges give him a “no”, which Keith really regrets having to do, since Brian is such a nice guy. I kind of feel bad too, once Brian dejectedly tells the camera “This wasn’t a good experience for me.” It wasn’t good for me either, buddy, but I still feel for ya.
-Contestant Matt Farmer chats with his little daughter, Cadence, in the car on the ride to the audition. She’s absolutely precious, trying to pronounce the name of the Queen Mary.
-Turns out fatherhood wasn’t even supposed to be possible for him. While serving overseas, an IED led to a brain injury, the medication for which was supposed to make him sterile. However, six months later, she came into his life.
MATT FARMER, 26, is up next!
-He dedicates his performance to his fellow brothers-in-arms, and it’s Sam Cooke’s “A Change is Gonna Come.” Except not really, because any time a white guy sings this song, it’s Gavin DeGraw’s version. Usually with the same runs and everything, although this isn’t as egregious a copy as Johnny Keyser’s audition last year.
-Keith, ever astute, picks up on the Gavin DeGraw qualities in his voice, while Mariah loves the rawness of his tone. Three yesses later, and he’s off to see Cadence, Golden Ticket in hand.
MATT FARMER is going to Hollywood!
-And we keep it going, with 16 year-old Stephanie Sanson, who says she isn’t the “typical” American Idol contestant, but who feels she can bring something different to the show.
STEPHANIE SANSON, 16, is up next!
-She sings “Set Fire to the Rain” by Adele, and well…she is bringing something different to the show. She hops up and down, doing a straight-up screamer rendition of the song. It’s the absolute worst audition of the season so far. Just irredeemably awful.
-Mariah pretends to compliment “the smoothness” of her tone, but Randy can’t even bring himself to muster fake enthusiasm, telling her it’s not simply a no, it’s a never.
-And we keep things moving…
JESAIAH BAER, 16, is up next!
-Jesaiah is adorable, wearing a Captain’s outfit that has Randy brandishing his own Captain’s stripes in response.
-She starts her audition, and it hops to the front of the line as my favorite audition of the night, until…the fire alarm goes off and the judges, contestants, family, and everyone is ordered to get out of the building. NOW!
To be continued…
…right now. Seacrest gets a pretty decent quip about the fire being caused by craft services preparing Randy’s lunch.
-With all the accidental smoke-related drama out of the way, Jesaiah returns and sings “Settle Down” by Kimbra, and it’s actually better now than it was the first time around. I may or may not be in love.
-Oh wait, nevermind, she’s 16. I’m not trying to go to jail.
-Randy is impressed by how rich her voice is for 16, and Nicki echoes that sentiment, saying she really wasn’t expecting it.
JESAIAH BAER is going to Hollywood!
-Jesaiah, Golden Ticket in hand, says that the fire alarm was probably due to the ship being unable to handle her, since she’s the captain and all.
-And we get our second “horrible contestants montage” of the night, this one with an amusing Haunted Ship theme, as the video splices in ghosts of the tuneless auditioners during the other tuneless auditioners’ auditions. Yes, I’m aware of how little sense that sentence probably made. Trust me, the video doesn’t help.
-Up next is a contestant with nerve damage who sees a speech therapist to help him develop more natural speech patterns. He refuses to give up, however, and his positivity is strangely infectious. I really hope this guy can sing.
MICAH JOHNSON, 24, is up next!
-Micah sings “Chicken Fried” by Zac Brown Band, and the look on Nicki Minaj’s face when he starts singing is PRICELESS (because I pretty much just had the same reaction). It’s a really, truly, sincerely excellent vocal. I’ve been waiting to get my mind blown like an NES cartridge, so feel free to call me Mario Bros. 2 right now.
-It’s so good that Keith is inspired to join in.
-Randy calls it the biggest fakeout he’s ever seen, saying his audition was “crazy”. No argument from me.
-The other judges are in unanimous agreement at the uniform excellence of his vocals, with Nicki saying that he absolutely is ready for this competition.
MICAH JOHNSON is going to Hollywood!
-We come back from break with a ten year-old girl singing Amy Winehouse’s version of “Valerie” and automatically becoming one of the best auditions of the entire f****** episode. Of course, she has to wait another five years, but damn – she almost single-handedly presents the argument for lowering the audition age (except not really, because that’d just be the worst idea ever).
RACHEL HALE, 21, is up next!
-She’s gorgeous, but she badly needs some kind of fashion coordinator.
-She sings “People Get Ready”, and Randy actually joins in towards the end (and doesn’t sound too bad either, although he gets a bit carried away with it).
-Rachel has such a beautiful voice, and the judges compliment the beauty of her voice, and the infectiousness of her attitude, as Randy says she’s probably “the happiest contestant they’ve ever had”.
RACHEL HALE is going to Hollywood!
-Keith theorizes that, even if they’d said “no” to her, Rachel would still have been smiling. I don’t doubt it, actually.
BRIANA OAKLEY, 16, is up next!
-Briana was picked on as a kid due to having appeared on an episode of Maury hyping the “most talented kids in America” when she was 12. She thought it was cool, but apparently her friends abandoned her in droves, with other kids in school actively starting to pick on her. Brianna would eat her lunch in the bathroom to avoid the teasing of her peers. But that’s all in the past now.
-Randy, in a rare moment of awesome, tells Briana that if any of her peers start picking on her again, to call Uncle Randy and Uncle Keith and “we’ll come down there and regulate.” I’d watch that.
-She sings “Up to the Mountain” by Patti Griffin, and it’s every bit as beautiful as the hype suggests (although I still prefer Crystal Bowersox’s version).
-The judges are speechless, particularly Nicki, who can’t form a single sentence. They tell her how fantastic she is, with Mariah adding that she’s proud of Briana for getting through bullying, since kids get picked on for any number of ridiculous reasons, from singing to looking different. Echoing the sentiments of Nicki and the other judges, particularly Randy, who says this could be “huge” for Briana, Mariah tells the teen that she’s clearly ready for this moment.
-Four yesses? Like you had to ask…
BRIANA OAKLEY is going to Hollywood!
-We meet our last contestant of the night, a Glee Project alum who was picked on for being physically different. After a visit to the doctor, he came to discover, to his disappointment, that his shortness isn’t the result of hormonal issues, but simply who he is. He claims to have shed so many tears that he felt it made him stronger. Lots of bullying stories tonight, and while I could probably blame the producers for that, I’d rather just blame the jackasses who bully in the first place, who make sad stories like this into an all-too-frequent trope on shows like these.
MATHEUS FERNANDES, 21, is up next!
-He sings “A Change Is Gonna Come”, thankfully not doing the Gavin DeGraw version that everyone else does. He can’t believe he’s here, and even jokes, before his audition, if there’s a height limit on the show.
-It’s a good vocal, and he shows his personality with it, weaving Mariah and Nicki’s names into the song.
-Mariah fights back tears, telling Matheus that she can sing for him anytime (at which point Matheus loses it, immediately apologizing for his tears). Randy tells him that the differences often held against people don’t matter here, all that matters is the vocal, and as far as he’s concerned, Matheus is ten feet tall. A cute sentiment, but I can’t remember the last time Idol was ever strictly about the voice.
-Of course, Matheus gets four easy yesses, and it looks like Lazaro might have competition in the sentimental favorite category (although who knows if someone with a story as equally sob-inducing won’t audition on tomorrow night’s show?).
MATHEUS FERNANDES is going to Hollywood!
-And we wrap up with the news that 49 contestants earned Golden Tickets (I’d have to go back and check, but I think that’s the most of any city so far). We then go into a hype video for tomorrow night’s episode, in which auditions come to the hometown of Idol’s greatest contestant (according to Randy, in the video), Carrie Underwood. Sounds like fun. Or, at least, it doesn’t sound tedious. There was a refreshing lack of novelty contestants and empty drama in the promo, so that gives me hope that tomorrow will deliver a really solid episode. Kind of like tonight’s, actually.
Until then, refresh the page, as I’ll be adding videos of tonight’s performances as they become available! And join me tomorrow for yet another live blog, as we get closer to Hollywood week, and the real brass tacks of the competition!
Thanks for reading!
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