The Hollywood round on American Idol is easily my favorite part of the auditions. The draaaaaaaaama of the group auditions (Hi, Bittermint twins!) is the pinnacle of Hollywood week, but before we get to that, we had the first round of cuts.
And if it were up to me, the first cut would be Kara DioGuardi. I cut her a little bit of slack (just a little bit because really ... Studio 57 and Saturday Night Live? El. Oh. El.) last year because she was new, but all bets are off now, and that chick just needs to stop saying words. Her comment to Andrew Garcia after the plaid-wearing, guitar-strumming dude turned a pop/R&B song into an acoustic ditty was so ridiculous: "You just owned that moment and interpreted something in a way similar to a way Adam did last season, where he would take a song and flip it." OIC, Kara. I'm not sure what show YOU were watching, but in the one everyone else watched, Kris Allen was the one who took songs that had no business being acoustic songs and making them brilliant. You know - Heartless, She Works Hard For The Money, Everything (I assume. Damn you, Idol, for hiding that video!). I wonder if Kara is holding a little bit of a grudge over Kris killing "No Boundaries" from the tour. Suck it up, princess, and write a better song next time!
OK rant done. Let's get on with the weeding out process.
Katie Stevens - Journalist Richard Rushfield has been calling her the juggernaut and the front-runner ever since her first audition. I was not all that impressed. Till now. She really sounded good on Stevie Wonder's "For Once In My Life" (iTunes | Amazon). Her voice was mature-sounding with a nice low tone. I still don't quite see her as a front-runner. She's going to really have to bring in some A+ personality to make people want to vote for her. Vocals alone just don't cut it. SAFE
Skiiboski - This guy is kind of a creeper. He reminds me of Sweet, the musical demon from the Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode "Once More With Feeling". He sang "Ain't Too Proud To Beg" by The Temptations (iTunes | Amazon) and just kind of prowled around stage. Creeper. ELIMINATED
Andrew Garcia - I mentioned him earlier - he's the one Kara compared to Adam Lambert. Kara's idiocy aside, Andrew sang a really cool acoustic version of "Straight Up" by Paula Abdul (iTunes | Amazon). It's a shame Paula wasn't there to see it, but Kara and Ellen did a good job of imitating Paula's clapping. Andrew is getting the Adam/Danny Gokey front-runner with backstory edit right now, and it's going to blow up in their faces. SAFE
Vanessa Wolfe - The country bumpkin got on an "aeroplane" for her first trip to Hollywood. Unfortunately for her, it was a fast one, after she inexplicably picked "No Rain" by Blind Melon (iTunes | Amazon) to sing for the first round of cuts. She got in for her authenticity towards country music. What in tarnation was she thinking singing Blind Melon?! I saw the list - there were HUNDREDS of available songs. ELIMINATED
Cornelius Edwards - He totally and unmelodically shouted "Cowboy Take Me Away" by Dixie Chicks (iTunes | Amazon) ELIMINATED
Maegan Wright - Maegan got behind the keyboards to sing a pageanty version of "Who's Lovin' You" by The Jackson 5. MEH! And goodbye. ELIMINATED
Amedeo DiRocco - I kind of pegged him as a one-trick pony from the start, and him singing "That's Life" by Frank Sinatra cemented that for me. ELIMINATED
Janell Wheeler - I LOVED THIS! Janell did a folksy acoustic version of "American Girl" by Estelle. This was an A+ song choice and arrangement. SAFE
After Janell, they showed some unnamed contestants with some failed auditions to "Something To Talk About" by Bonnie Raitt, "Waterfalls" by Paulini (WTF? Why would someone audition with THIS song?), and "Sweet Love" by Anita Baker.
Haeley Vaughn - Unlike Vanessa, Haeley stuck to what got her there - singing country. She did "Change" by Taylor Swift. She did well (although she was a little shouty), and she is very unique to this competition, so I expect to see her go far if she sticks to what she's known for. Her little giggle at the end was adorable. SAFE
Mary Powers - The rocker mom sang "Sober" by Pink. Of course. Having said that, I thought she sang it well. SAFE
Also safe are Todrick Hall, Charity Vance, and Ashley Rodriguez.
Jay Stone - This dude beatboxed "If I Ever Fall In Love Again" by Shai. I think. Hard to tell. That was horrible. ELIMINATED
Lilly Scott - Lilly the sandwich maker brought out her guitar to sing "Lullaby Of Birdland" by Ella Fitzgerald. Her voice is really cool - kind of Ingrid Michaelson-esque. SAFE
Michael Lynche - Big black guy playing a guitar and singing John Mayer's "Waiting On The World To Change". Well you don't see that every day! Simon praised his arrangement. I thought it sounded pretty much the same. OK den, Simon. Michael's wife was going into labor at the time, and before he sang, he said something to the judges about how he might be missing his child's birth, so he better do well for himself. He did. SAFE
Tim Urban - Simon shows his limited musical knowledge (or just his bad taste). They showed Tim's audition because they hadn't before, and during his audition, Simon criticized his song choice, "Bulletproof Weeks" by Matt Nathanson. Pfft! "Bulletproof Weeks" is freakin' gorgeous and heartbreaking (although to be fair, I don't think Tim quite got that heartbreak). Tim also didn't quite get the emotion in "Come Back To Me". He sang it well enough but it definitely needed more grit to the song. SAFE
Justin Williams - I think he sang "Fly Me To The Moon" but I couldn't really tell because it just sounded so moody. After he finished, Randy was all "Interesting". I knew he'd be toast with that. And he was, as was most of the people they showed on piano. ELIMINATED
Also eliminated were Paige DeChausse, Erica Rhodes and the Jersey sisters.
Maddie Curtis - She wowed the judges with "Hallelujah" in her auditions but then came up with a clunker in Hollywood with Norah Jones' "The Nearness Of You." ELIMINATED
Casey James - He kept his shirt and sang a very bluesy "I Don't Need No Doctor" by Ray Charles. I thought he sounded really good. SAFE
Didi Benami - She sucked up a little by singing "'Terrified' by Kara DioGuardi." I don't know if Kara ever recorded it, but I know Katharine McPhee has a really pretty recording of it on her new album (iTunes | Amazon). I rolled my eyes at first, but then then I went ohhh. This was really good. Like REALLY good. My favorite audition of the night. SAFE
Crystal Bowerson - Another guitarist. She did a pretty effortless "Natural Woman" by Aretha Franklin with the audience singing backup. Nicely done. SAFE
So tonight's standouts for me were Didi Benami, Janell Wheeler, Andrew Garcia and Casey James.
And I would be remiss to not talk about Ellen DeGeneres' judging debut. I thought she was going to be all nicey-nice or just trying to be funny while critiquing, but she showed a good mix of funny and critical. She called Skiiboski a stalker and told him not to frighten his audience, and she pranked some contestants onstage by having them step back, then forward, then to the side before telling them they were all safe. We can keep her (coughanddumpKaracough).