American Idol 2, January 29: Four Days to 32by Sting7 -- 01/30/2003
Wow. What an episode. Probably the best American Idol ever. But, to recap it is hell! A brief disclaimer. There was so much that happened in this episode, and a lot to people we haven't met yet, I am going to do my level best. If I leave someone out, or misname someone, or misspell a name, I will apologize in advance. If you have inside insight and you want to correct me, feel free. We will gladly make the corrections for the archives. These talented men and women at least deserve to have their names spelled correctly.
There are 234 winners from the local auditions, and all of them have been assembled in Los Angeles for a grueling (and I mean grueling) four days of auditions that will result in the final 32. Heroes and villains are born along the way. Some of our favorite faces left us, some surprised us, and others disappointed us.
All of the finalists are rounded up in groups of ten. They are to introduce themselves, explain why they are the next American Idol, and do their thang. Among them, Frenchie Davis (I may have called her Frenchie Smith once, my bad, Frenchie!), the clear breakout star so far, confidently says, "I'm not a size 2, but I'm fabulous!" Yes, she is.
Marcus Curtis takes the opportunity to propose to Paula. I already don't like him. Cara and Rhian Morgan say they are two times an American Idol. Okay, it is cute for a minute, but how is that going to work?
Ruben Studdard belts out a thunderous "Never Too Much." He likes the Luther songs.
Patrick Lake, adorned in studded wrist bands, proclaims, "I am rock 'n' roll!"
Cheryl Bak says she's the American Idol because she's "up for anything!" and quickly back-pedals from the Jerry Springer-esque images that implies.
Robert Jordan says, "I know how to treat the ladies." That will make him invaluable to the record label!
By the end of Day One, half of the finalists are sent home, including Cara and Rhian. It simply couldn't work. Also, Cheryl Bak won't have the chance to demonstrate how up she was.
The remaining finalists are given a choice of five generic lyrics that they have sing in a melody they create themselves. This is a clever idea. It gives an inkling to the contestants creativity, musicality, and ultimately, their ability to write their own material or interpret material in their own way. Brilliant idea, whoever came up with it. It claims many victims.
Joshua Gracin, USMC, does a great job with his (click here to find out the latest on what the Marines have said about Gracin). Daniel Rodriguez chooses to ham up some inspirational type lyrics with his lounge-lizard schtick. This is not the time for comedy. The transformed Clay Aiken (he had Chess Club chic going last time we saw him) sings in that booming voice to great effect. He looks much more like an idol, too. Equoia Coleman struggles a bit with hers. Stephen Franklin decides to spice his lyrics with a little striptease… and is told he was "ghastly" by Simon; he thinks it is a compliment. Simon fixes that quickly. Vanessa Oliveria and Krystal Coulen choose to take a few jabs at Simon with their saucy numbers. Simon can take it. And he took it.
Sadly, one of my Picks to Click, Coffey Anderson (that pronounced café), new daddy, sounds like a wounded animal with his lyrics and Simon quickly pounces, "Coffey, that was horrible. Terrible." Coffey and 39 others are cut that day.
The survivors are split into groups. They choose a song to perform as a group. Though they would still be judged individually, this is their chance to standout. Drama, drama, drama!
Let's think about this. You have overnight to learn a song that you may not know (consider their ages) with other people to deal with, choreograph, harmonize, yet find a way to promote yourself. Do you a) work into the wee hours of the morning to prepare yourself and your group? Or, b) go tear the bottom out of Hollywood? (Especially after seeing that the ones who partied last year didn't do very well.)
Mysteriously, Stephan Franklin (who advanced despite the "ghastly" from Simon) and Ryan Seacrest look-alike Alden Wynn choose Option B! They are looking for a third. Girl after guy after girl say no. But they are persistent. At one point, Stephen is seen at the bar drinking with Natalie Galan's (who we didn't see the whole show) mother (the hot mom!). Finally, Corey Clark (of the excellent Michael Jackson pitch), makes them a trio.
Julia DeMato (Pick to Click), who is in an outstanding group that include fellow Picks to Click Kimberly Caldwell and Stephanie Schultz, as well as Elizabeth Dickerson, discusses rehearsal time with her group. Stephanie and Kimberly have to eat. Julia says she'll meet them back here in hour. Ready? Break!
Julia waits. And waits. And waits. And… waits. Her group never comes back. The next morning, Kimberly, Stephanie, and Elizabeth are rehearsing "You'll Never Get To Heaven," their number. Kimberly says she doesn't know where Julia is, so they are now a threesome. Meow.
Stephen (who sees himself as a superstar already), Alden, and Corey have a ball. Patrick (studded wristbands) is concerned that Corey wasn't rehearsing and that slowed down his group. The next morning, the bus is ready to go, but three guys are missing. Any guesses who they were? That's right.
Corey appears, declaring that he is not late. Yes you are. Patrick weakly charges that he'd been waiting since 6:30 AM. I wouldn't have been as calm. Then comes Alden, who looks no worse for the wear (don't people like that make you sick!). And, then, our favorite ego-maniac Stephen arrives. At least he has the decency to run for the bus. On said bus, an unnamed person asks the male contestants to "remind these two ladies what time we were supposed to leave."
Will this behavior count against them?
Julia confronts her groupmates who are, of course, eating. We get a brief snippet of the tail end of an apparent hiss-fest, after which Julia stomps off to the lobby. Julia's sister (unnamed) demands to know "where is her mother?" She could only be talking about Stephanie Schultz, who's only 16. Julia tells her to chill, she doesn't care, it doesn't matter. Sister DeMato marches to breakfast table and gives the catty trio a piece of her mind. Kimberly declines the piece, and Sister DeMato snarls, "Be respectful! Be respectful!" Kimberly shoves a piece of sausage around her plate. How are they going to perform together?
For the men, it's show time. Simon gives them a warning, "Make sure you learned the words. I know it's a nervous time for you, but while you're waiting to go on, I urge you to make sure you know the words."
Good advice, but ultimately it falls on deaf ears.
The first group, which includes Ruben Studdard and Ricky Smith (Paula had said he looked way older than 22 and it bothered her), performed "Superstar" (Luther's version, not the Carpenters') and are sensational. The judges say so. The judges are encouraged, but they shouldn't have been.
The next group, which includes Picks To Click JD Adams and Jacob John Smalley, murder the words to Barry Manilow's "Tryin' To Get The Feeling." And they didn't seem terribly troubled by their failure. Simon is furious: "You three are an embarrassment to the competition! Absolutely unbelievable! That was one of the worst things I've ever heard. It's not even worth talking about individually." Paula, the nice parent, gently disagrees that they should be considered en masse (en masse massacred!). Simon says she and Randy can handle that if they want to. He is past it! (To be fair, though he was destroying the words, JD Adams managed to sound pretty good!).
The next group, with Corey Clark and Patrick Lake, tackle "A Kiss From A Rose" and draw a penalty. Seal may be the only man alive who could sing this song properly. Patrick is slightly off-key, and Corey (who partied) gives a slap to rose with his bastardization of the lyrics - and his pitch is horrible to boot. He tries to play it off by playing up to Paula. He ends up singing his way to Paula and taking her hand. It wins her over, Simon remains disgusted ("you didn't sound great"), Randy is at least good humored about it, "if you're gonna play to ladies like that, make it in tune, yo!" Yep, that kiss from a rose had onion breath!
Then came Superstar Stephen Franklin, Alden Wynn, and Bettis Richardson, who we are meeting for the first time. Alden takes massive liberties with the lyrics, Bettis seems uncomfortable with the material (probably because both of his groupmates didn't rehearse with him much), and Stephen flat-out lays an egg. He tries to steal the spotlight from his group, grandstanding to a sickening degree and the worst crime… trying to hide the fact that he doesn't know the words by over-stylizing. Incorrectly! If he had done that in his audition, he would have been turned down immediately. Simon looks fit to blow. Paula and Randy look utterly unamused themselves.
The men are assembled on stage and Simon opens both barrels with how disgusted he is. He tells them plainly that they have a situation where the girls could vastly outnumber the boys because of what they'd seen today. Translation: there is no curve!
Marcus Curtis, Paula's wannabe fiancé, chooses this moment to absolutely suck up to the judges with this: "Whatever decision you make will be the right decision.
Then things get cracking! Marcus and Alden get into a shouting match with Alden threatening to beat that cheesey smile off his face. Marcus tells the camera that he doesn't know what happened. He's not a kiss-ass, he's like this everyday. How reassuring! Alden continues to bellow that he's gonna knock the -smack the - beat the, you get the idea.
The women don't fare much better. But Frenchie and Kimberley Locke perform a powerful "Band of Gold." We are also told that the other two members of their group chose not to perform with them. Either because of their size or their voice diminishing them, I would bet. It wasn't clear.
Then comes the supergroup of Julia, Kimberly, Stephanie, and Elizabeth. They do a nice "You'll Never Get to Heaven" but the judges unanimously agree that Kimberly and Julia clearly stand out from the four. In a good way.
There are various clips of nameless women messing up words. One poor thing messed up so consistently that she burst into tears in the middle of her song. The women in the crowd urged her to keep going.
But, it's time to bring it down to 48.
The judges have the contestants line up in a particular order. It is done in such a way that it's never clear whether that line would all advance or all be dismissed. Starting with the men:
Line 1 includes - Corey Clark, Alden Wynn, Marcus Curtis, Joshua Gracin USMC, Ruben Studdard and Clay Aiken. (This looks like a strong group, they must be staying.) They are ADVANCING!
Line 2 includes - Stephen Franklin (uh-oh) and Danny Rodriguez. (Two performances that were pretty bad. Not a good sign, here.) They are DISMISSED!
Line 3 includes - Rickey Smith, Bettis Richardson, JD Adams, Patrick Lake, Jacob John Smalley, and Jim Visperos (pyromaniac). (Hmm… problems with all of them. JD, Jacob, Patrick, Bettis were all in groups that infuriated Simon… this is a toss-up). They are ADVANCING!
Now, the women (and I notice for the first time that the men were heavily highlighted):
Line 1 - No one I recognized. Gone.
Line 2 - Frenchie Davis, Kimberley Locke, Stephanie Schultz (this is a lock!). They are ADVANCING! Kimberley literally shrieks with joy!
Line 3 - Julia DeMato, Kimberly Caldwell (looks strong…). They are ADVANCING.
Line 4 - Elizabeth Dickerson in this group. They are DISMISSED.
Line 5 - Vanessa Oliveria is the only face I know. They are ADVANCING!
The last day. There are 48 left and only 32 spots open. The tension is palpable. The last 48 draw numbers to determine when they will perform one more song - one more time to lay it all out there.
We only get a few snippets and no one is bad! It is amazing how talented this 48 are! (I read in an interview that Randy Jackson said that this year's top 32 blew last year's top 30 out of the water. I see exactly what he means now!)
The contestants are sent to three different rooms. Each room has 16 contestants. Two of those rooms are filled with the top 32. One room came oh so close.
Room 1 has Kimberly Caldwell, Jacob John Smalley, Frenchie Davis, Joshua Gracin USMC, Ruben Studdard, Rickey Smith, and Candace Coleman. Randy tells them that they have made top 32!
Room 2 has Marcus Curtis, Alden Wynn, Stephanie Schultz, and Jim Vesperos (and a whole bunch of people I don't know… bad sign). Paula tells them they didn't make it. One poor girl collapses in a heap of tears and snot, inconsolable. Marcus can't believe his ears and stomps out. Paula is broken up delivering the news and makes a hasty exit herself. Marcus tells Ryan that he doesn't understand what is happening. He knows he was better than 100% of those guys. Self-esteem is important. Jim Vesperos cries in his lap. Stephanie Schultz, one of my Picks To Click, cries quietly in a corner, the sequins on her little cocktail dress don't seem to twinkle as much.
Room 3 has Julia DeMato, Patrick Lake, JD Adams, Equoia Coleman, Bettis Richardson, and Kimberley Locke. We know they made it, but they don't. Simon's speech takes them on a rollercoaster, but they made it! The contestants flood the judges with hugs and kisses. Paula needed this.
And now we have our Top 32! Next Tuesday, the first group of eight compete for America's votes! Here comes the good part!
The first eight are: JD Adams, Kimberly Caldwell, Lashundra Commons, Julia DeMato, Meosha Denton, Patrick Fortson, Charles Grigsby, and Bettis Richardson! Let the games begin!
Sting7 can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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