And now we get to the part of Idol where it really gets good.
But first . . . .
One more night of audition footage, this time from San Francisco. I'll admit, after last week's mediocrity, I was not particularly psyched about sitting through another hour of auditions, but San Francisco proved interesting on several levels.
First of all, we finally saw the emergence of the New Paula Abdul in Jennifer Lopez. Granted, J.Lo is opting to play Paula a bit more lucidly, more like season one Paula, when there was just a shot of rum in that Coke cup in front of her rather than just a whole bottle of rum with a splash of Coke. (Love you, Paula. Seriously, girl, straight up love you. Tee hee. See what I did there?) But when Jenny from the Block started talking to people about their beautiful spirits (rather than commenting on their hideous voices), I sat back with a satisfied smile and thought, "Oh, Idol, we're going to be just fine."
To make things even better, we see Steven Tyler assuming the port of Mars, er, place of Simon Cowell. A more caustic side of my future lovah came out as he didn't hold back in his criticism. Nor was he afraid to try a little psychological torture as he told one particularly awful singer that he was great only to say, "No, just kidding, man. That was awful!" Like Mrs. Gigli, though, Steven is putting his own spin on it -- playing Simon Cowell with a little bit of a drugged-out bliss about him. It's charming. I'm really looking forward to performance weeks to see how these two develop their new characters.
San Francisco also gave us two of my favorite performers we've seen so far. I love love LOVE Emily Anne Reed, the girl whose house burned down seemingly moments before her audition. Emily has this awesome quality to her voice that's sort of Macy Grey meets Billie Holiday with this great indie/folkie vibe added on top of it. Why Steven initially voted against her after her performance of "You're Getting to Be a Habit With Me" is beyond me. This girl is Megan Corkery but, well, genuine. Never for a second did Emily Anne's voice feel affected. You only had to hear her talk to know that she would sound exactly like that when she sang. I'm totally rooting for her to make the top 10.
My other favorite performer was the victim of the audition "pimp spot." Not only was James Durbin the last S.F. audition we saw, he was the last audition we saw period before launching into Hollywood week. Like most pimp spot auditioners, James had a sob story -- his involving a dead dad, Tourette's, Aspberger's, and struggling to support a young family. After the tears, I was so not expecting James to come in and just ROCK. First, he did this amazing riff on "You Shook Me," and then, after asking permission from the man himself, launched into an incredible "Dream On" that had Steven closing his eyes with this look on his face that said, "That's how that song should sound, man." Again, I think James has a really good shot to go far in this competition. He reminded me a lot of Adam Lambert, only a more "palatable" version of Lambert (in other words, straight, cuter, and with a better story to sell -- the producers must have been flipping out when this kid stepped in front of them!).
One quick question before I move on: Is tragedy a prerequisite to having singing talent? Or does singing talent make you a tragedy magnet? Seriously. I'm just curious. All these kids have these horror stories that it just makes me wonder if "normal" people can ever stand a chance of stardom when the worse thing that's ever happened to them is a C in geometry class.
So now we're in Hollywood. Honestly, this was a time when I felt like Idol could have given us two hours. I never understand why they tend to short change Hollywood week so much since there is so much potential for drama here as well as the guarantee that many of the singers are going to be quite good. Of course, we got the montage of people veering wildly off key or forgetting lyrics, but it was frustrating that we only followed a few select people. There were other people in those lines that went through or didn't go through to the next round, and I would have liked to have heard more from them beyond just being told that this person made it or didn't. Remind us of who these kids are. Give us a rooting interest in more than just a couple! The drama they did give us? Well....sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn't. When an entire row included people who've been given a lot of coverage so far, you kind of knew they would all be safe. You knew Chris Medina would get through if only because America would go ballistic if he didn't at this point. I will admit there was a certain perverse satisfaction in Jacqueline Dunford making it through but douchebag boyfriend Nick Fink (appropriate name!) getting sent home. You could see on her face that question of how long would she have to stick by this loser before it would be appropriate for her to dump him. After he defiantly sang his way up the aisle after the judges refused to give him a second chance (good for them!), you kind of sensed that maybe the answer to that question was "the sooner, the better." The look on her face was priceless! I wonder if that shot of her texting alone in the "holding room" was her dumping him ... or telling her best friend about how she planned to dump him ASAP.
Next week will bring us the "dreaded" group performances. (Dreaded only by the contestants! For viewers at home, it's pure gold, baby!) I would assume, too, that we'll get things winnowed down to the top 24 (or 36 or however big the pool will be from which we'll draw our top 12). I don't know about anyone else, but I'm excited for the real fun to begin and to see how America responds to these kids.