Thursday, January 27, 2011

Idol Goes Gokey In Milwaukee Auditions

Much has been said about American Idol shoving Danny Gokey's Ghoulish Widower (tm Kristin Baldwin) story down our throats early in season 8. And when the Season 10 auditions came to Milwaukee, the Idol producers upped their game with a (depending on which way you look at it) Gokey-like story that people are either going to see as incredibly heart-warming and inspiring or incredibly exploitative and manipulative.

Here's the situation: Chris Medina's fiancee was in an accident two weeks before they were supposed to get married. The accident left her brain-damaged and wheelchair-bound. Chris and his fiancee's mother are now her caregivers, and, as he said, "I was about to make vows just two months from the accident ... What kind of guy would I be if I walked out when she needed me the most?"

That is where I think it should have ended with the backstory. They should have let him sing, rendered their verdict and then showed some celebration after he got his golden ticket. But NO. They had to show the judges asking to meet his fiancee and then her being wheeled in and them talking to her like a pre-schooler. To me, that was shamefully exploitative and manipulative. Let the man be judged on his own singing merits without slapping the audience with this big sympathetic backstory!

And I can't let Chris Medina off the hook either because although I think it's so commendable and admirable that he has never left her side through all this, I also think he could have done something to not allow this to be portrayed like this (such as not bring her to the audition). I understand that she is a huge part of his life and of course he's going to talk about her, but I also can't help but think of Season 7 winner David Cook, who refused to discuss his brother, who had a brain tumor, on the show. I respected him so much for that.

I'll try to keep an open mind about Chris, but if this becomes all about his story and less about his singing (which I didn't think was all that, to be honest. I didn't like the slowed-down arrangement of "Breakeven" at all, and it was a little boring) in future shows ... look out. There's a fine line that Chris needs to tread. Hopefully he can figure it out, and hopefully the producers let him.

The Chris Medina story wasn't the only thing that squicked me out in this episode. Let's talk about Randy Jackson for a minute. After Idol reject Vernika Patterson butchered Minnie Riperton's "Loving You", the judges were all about to give her no's. She asked them, "Is it because I'm not skinny like half of these females here?!" Randy replied, "This girl's not skinny, that first winner wasn't ..."

OH HALE NO, Randy. Kelly was not fat. And she has a name. It's KELLY CLARKSON, bitch.

I found myself disagreeing quite a bit with the golden ticket decisions in this episode. Emma Henry, the 15 year-old who sang "True Colors" by Cyndi Lauper had a distinct voice and had some potential, but she went off the rails quite a bit during the chorus. She's very young, and her little meltdown showed that she's clearly not ready for this, as Randy said. She'd be much better off taking the next year to get more mature and get more experience before auditioning again. Inexplicably, however, Randy gets suckered by the tears and lets her go through. WTAF, Randy?!

I found Tiwan Strong, the 29 year-old daycare teacher, to be corny and old-fashioned when he sang "Twistin' The Night Away", but they let him through. I wasn't impressed with accountant Steve Beghun, who sang a rather ordinary rendition of The Script's "The Man Who Can't Be Moved". I thought the judges were mistaking loud with good in regards to Haley Reinhart, who sang "Oh Darling."

I don't begrudge these people their golden tickets, but I also don't get the hype: bar mitzvah singer Jerome Bell and 15 year-old Charice wannabe Thia Megia. Jerome, who sang "Let's Get It On", has a nice voice, but he came across as a bar mitzvah singer to me. It was just a little cheesy. Thia, who was on America's Got Talent two years ago, sang Adele's "Chasing Pavements" in a very affected manner, much in the same way that Charice does. She's talented but it just all feels like an act. If she's the one that Nigel Lythgoe has said outsings Kelly Clarkson, I scoff. HARD.

There are a few singers that I did enjoy tonight. Molly DeWolf Swenson, the Harvard grad and White House intern who got accidentally punched in the mouth by Randy was great. She sang "Dock of the Bay" by Otis Redding and showed off a mature, sultry, yet sweet voice. Student teacher Scott Dangerfield surprisingly sang "Dreamin'" by Amos Lee. He has a really good voice and is kind of rocking the cool nerd look. Summerfest custodian Naima Adedapo has a great voice, and she showed that off with Donny Hathaway's "For All We Know". But song choices like that and a mature sound can only take her so far in a show being dominated by 15 and 16 year olds right now. Also faring well were Steven Tyler super-fan Alyson Jados, who sang "Come Together" and deep-throated country teen Scotty McCreery, whose voice makes him very distinct in this competition.

Steven Tyler quote of the day: After Scotty McCreery's audition, he said, "Well hellfire save matches *#ck a duck and see what hatches!" WHAT?!

Bad audition of the day: Tie between the civil war guy (Nathaniel Jones) singing "The Lion Sleeps Tonight" and Packers super-fan Megan Frazier doing an operatic version of Justin Bieber's "Baby."

Grassy knoll alert: Usually you see "Previously on ..." montages before a show, and usually that footage is from a week or two before. For this episode, they put a montage together with auditions from Jerome, Thia and Scotty ... that had aired less than two hours prior. Can you say PIMPAGE?!


Anonymous said...

I agree. Idol is so manipulative and smarmy. They choose who they want to shove down viewers' throats & just won't let up. Even after a season ends, they try to tell the audience who we SHOULD have chosen if we don't agree with them. I'm really sick of the show & I'll only keep up with it through greats blogs such as yours!

SarahBeth said...

I agree with you that Chris Medina's backstory should have ended where you said -- the whole wheeling out the finacee is ridiculous. It makes you wonder if she even knew what was going on.

It also worries me that these 15 year olds that they're pushing through and into the Idol bubble just aren't emotionally ready for this. The age never should have been lowered, IMO, but I see Idol is still looking for their Beiber or Taylor Swift. I bet you most of the top 12 will be under 18.