Thursday, February 03, 2011

Austin Auditions Are Country Strong

Austin, Texas is known for its live music scene. But you really wouldn't know it judging by what was shown on American Idol during its Austin auditions. Of the people shown in the telling one-hour-long-only broadcast, I can't see more than 2 or 3 making it to the semifinals, and the two who I think are most likely to advance that far are country singers John Wayne Schulz and Janelle Arthur.

I feel like Idol has been wanting to find another Carrie Underwood ever since the last piece of confetti fell from the Kodak Theater in Season 4. John Wayne Schulz is the closest thing to a male version of Carrie as we've ever seen on this show. He's good-looking, he's authentically country, he's so sweet with his mama, and he showed off a good, strong voice while singing Brooks & Dunn's "Believe." Oh, and he auditioned at the request of his breast cancer-ridden mom. BAM. Insta-votes!

Janelle Arthur is a cute blonde, which is practically an instant recipe for success in country music. I mean, heck, Kristy Lee Cook was even able to finagle a record deal (or two or three). And Janelle is way more talented. She turned the bluesy "Syrup & Honey" by Duffy into a country song and then when asked to sing a more upbeat song, handled the octave jump on Shania Twain's "No One Needs To Know" with incredible ease.

The only other person who could have a chance of going somewhat far in the competition here is Casey Abrams, although I'm not nearly as enthused about him as the judges are. The Seth Rogen/Fraggle Rock look-alike channeled Taylor Hicks with his audition, doing a very bluesy "I Don't Need No Doctor" by Ray Charles, with scatting, even. Seeing as how well this whole Taylor thing worked out in Season 5 (and how not well it worked out after his album came out and he got zero radio play), I can't believe that the producers will allow him to get to voting rounds.

The rest of the people who went through in this episode ranged from just barely good enough to WTF-were-the-judges-thinking?

I got fooled by Jacqueline Dunford and Nick Fink's audition. They were introduced with the cheesiest package ever. It was like watching a SNL parody of Idol intro packages. It was set to Luther Vandross' "Here And Now" for crying out loud. So naturally I thought they were going to be another hot mess audition. They actually weren't bad at all. Jacqueline had some nice moments with "Mercy", and Nick was charming with his "Sunday Morning." I'm not sure they're not much more than novelty going forward, but they sang well enough to have earned that Golden Ticket.

Corey Levoy, the guy with the long-lost-sister, sang "I Can't Make You Love Me" in a voice that was so piercing to my ears, but the judges gave him a "heck yeah". Then they put through the very shaky (both musically and emotionally) Hollie Cavanagh who completely blew her first song, "At Last". She wasn't able to hold a tune at all. Jennifer Lopez gave her another chance and asked her to sing something else, and Hollie sang "The Climb" much better - well enough for the judges to put her through to Hollywood. Hollie does have an interesting tone when she's in tune, but she's SO fragile and nervous, and I foresee a major meltdown in Hollywood. JLo made a point in the Milwaukee auditions last week during Emma Henry's sobbing audition to not put her through because she wasn't ready. I'm not sure why she even gave Hollie a second chance since she's clearly not ready either.

Courtney Penry gave the most obnoxious "successful" audition since that 16 year-old perky child robot Victoria Huggins in the first episode this year. It's not that Courtney was a bad singer. She was decent, if not generic, while singing Sugarland's "Stay." It's that she CLUCKED like a chicken and was SO. FAKE. and so obviously playing to the cameras when talking about her big crush on Ryan Seacrest. You could see her glancing out the side of her eye to see if the cameras were on her while she was pretend-crying.

Three others made it through to Hollywood - Shauntel Campos, Alex Carr and Caleb Johnson. They totaled probably about 20 seconds of airtime in terms of actual singing, and I can't really say that they earned much more than that. I thought Shauntel's "Ain't No Sunshine" was unrecognizable and pageanty. Alex had about five seconds shown of his "A House Is Not A Home", and it was all unnecessary elongated notes. And Caleb shouted about 10 seconds of Soundgarden's "Rusty Cage".

Lulziest Injury: Ryan Seacrest injuring himself on a belt buckle while picking up and twirling John Wayne Schulz's dad. I'm sure it hurt less than his last on-set Idol injury - getting stuck in a Ruben sandwich with Ruben Studdard and his brother Kevin.

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