Some people watch the first couple weeks of “American Idol” and nothing more. Why? Because the first couple of weeks are full of the “Idol” hopefuls, the wannabes, the pretenders, the delusional, the truly talented and the convinced-because-mom-has-been-telling-me-all-my-life-that-I-can-sing atonal vocalists. In short, “American Idol” in its first several shows every year is pure unadulterated entertainment.
The rest of the season is for the true “American Idol” fans.
“American Idol” debuted Season 8 in Phoenix, Arizona, and if the first two hours of “American Idol” are any indication of what this season holds for the audience, it is going to be an entertaining year.
New judge Kara DioGuardi got into a vocal duel with a bikini – clad contestant. A video search will result in nothing now (Fox Television claimed copyright infringement), but for hours, videos of the back-and-forth singing and verbal exchanges between DioGuardi and Katrina Darrell were the destinations of choice on YouTube. Katrina Darrell was sent on to the next round, although DioGuardi was visibly (and vocally) against it.
Katrina Darrell aside (who was nowhere near the worst vocalist and was just as good as some of the reigning pop princesses being played ad nauseum over the airwaves) there were those who could not and should not ever sing again. There were those of marginal talent at best, like the monster afro-sporting young man who, while doing a passably okay singing job, began tap-dancing and pelvic thrusting (a la Michael Jackson). And there was the completely tone-deaf black gentleman whose voice sounded like someone gave enunciation lessens to a bullfrog. And the ridiculous vocal stylings of one young woman whose face looked as if Picasso had had a hand at constructing it.
That is why millions tune in to watch “American Idol” the first few weeks every year.
That and Simon Cowell’s snippy remarks. People love Simon Cowell. Or perhaps it is more a love/hate arrangement. People love to hate Simon Cowell. Maybe it is a combination of both. This writer appreciates his honesty. The cruel honesty of Cowell is refreshing when compared to the mostly unembroidered judgments of Randy Jackson and the overly loving and gushing and hopeful yearning (that everyone, each and every one, of the contestants can fulfill their dreams) Paula Abdul.
And now there is Kara DioGuardi. It is too soon to tell exactly what she will add but it seems as if she might provide Paula with a backbone. Abdul’s wishful idealism with regard to the contestants leaves a bit to be desired at times and DioGuardi’s presence, and the fact that they are real-life friends, might produce a more realistic Paula. From DioGuardi’s judgments on the Phoenix broadcast, she seems to be a little tough, a little practical, but mostly fair. And fair beats Paula Abdul’s seemingly medicated smiley face routine every day.
The first show also had its moments of great singing as well. Emily Wynne-Hughes was profiled and the audience found that her mother had been a singer as well. Lead singer of a punk rock band, Emily Wynne-Hughes simply nailed Heart’s “Barracuda.”
She talked about her band not knowing of her audition, that they were getting ready to start a European tour, but she would gladly forego the tour to go on with “American Idol.” But according to the New York Post, Emily Wynne-Hughes will be cut during Hollywood Week. Thanks for the spoiler, New York Post. (Wonder if Emily Wynne-Hughes got back with her band? Wonder if she told them about the audition? Wonder what they thought of her so suddenly ditching the band?)
Then there was Deanna Brown, who sounded so much like Kelly Pickler when she spoke it was not even funny. But, then, she was not trying to be. She could sing, though. The judges loved her version of Otis Redding’s “Sitting On The Dock Of The Bay” and judges passed her through to the next round.
Cody Sheldon had an entourage with him. Most were family members, but still… Looking a little too much like a younger Danny Noriega (remember him from Season 7?), he surprised the judges with his voice. Singing James Morrison’s “Wonderful World,” Sheldon got his yellow ticket to Hollywood.
The surprise of the Phoenix auditions had to be Alex Wagner-Trugman. As nerdy a candidate as could exist, the young man slipped into James Ingram’s “Baby, Come To Me” with ease, enlisting judge Randy Jackson as back-up. Jackson seemed to be a bit surprised that the young man could actually sing, so much so he fumbled the lyrics in the chorus he was supposed to sing. Good thing he wasn’t be judgesd…
The final audition went to a blind pianist named Scott McIntyre. He sang Billy Joel’s “And So It Goes.” Although McIntyre’s voice was not star quality, he showed promise. The judges also knew that he performed his audition without his musical prop.
When all was said and done, Phoenix sent 27 contestants to Hollywood.
“American Idol’s” second night of their two-night, four-hour season premiere airs Wednesday (January 14).
“American Idol,” Fox Television