American Idol 4, January 18: Breaking The Bandby Sting7 -- 01/19/2005
Wait no more Idolheads, the fourth season of American Idol has begun! Kicking things off is Leandra Johnson from Washington, DC, with our national anthem. Leandra sings a spirited, but tuneless, rendition. Everything after "say" sounds like an untuned violin somehow. Yikes. And, weíre off!
Ryan welcomes us, takes us on a little flashback to Fantasiaís crowning, and tells us that the age limit has been raised to 28. He tells us that there will be guest judges at the audition cities, including Mark McGrath, LL Cool J, Gene Simmons, Brandy, and Kenny Loggins.
Lots more chatter that wonít be funny with me describing it to you, so letís get on with the auditions, shall we?
Sean McNeill is a youth minister with a bright smile and sunny disposition that the judges, even Simon, like. Sean is 27 and is about to be a daddy, so he sings "Isnít She Lovely" for his coming bundle of joy. He has a nice, pleasing voice. Randy notes that raising the age limit makes it possible for them to see more Seans. Simon says it wasnít the best voice they will send forward, but it was alright. Mark McGrath asks if heís going to Hollywood. Randy and Paula says yes. Simon says on voice, no. Personality? Yes. Mark says yes too, so heís going to Hollywood!
Rebecca Nassar spookily proclaims she believes the children are our future, and we are all uncomfortable.
Davon Wright sings "YMCA" with clearly no idea what it is, actually. Her lyrics invite us to "open a can and enjoy" and Iím just done with her.
Jesse Cazella is happy to be here and met lots of nice people, which rankles Simon. Jesse nervously announces he will sing Josh Grobinís "You Lift Me Up" Ė and thatís about as far as he can get. Heís lost the words. Awkwardly, painfully, heís trying to remember. Simon says he should ask one of those nice people out in the waiting area for the words. Jesse dashes off. His entourage put the words in front of him. Jesse comes back to murderlize the song, off-key, some lyrics ad-libbed, and then they are gone again. Jesse covers his face and silently cries. Gee, this is awkward. He finally leaves, as Paula searches for something soothing to say. His entourage try to encourage him, but yes, the moment is gone. Forever.
Anwar Robinson is a music teacher, and he truly believes the children are our future, and itís not so scary coming from him. He sings "Isnít She Lovely" in a nice, but uneven voice (I thought), but the judges are far more encouraged. He is unanimously voted on to Hollywood.
Melissa Considine tells us that she is a classy young lady, and while she may dress like she has a lot of money (???), she doesnít, which goes to show you Ė okay, I donít know what it shows us. Melissa takes her turn in front of the judges, explains why she has scratches on her arms (something to do with dressing in a dark dressing room... Simon is eating this up) and starts "How Do I Live" but doesnít seem to know that answer, the lyrics left her. She asks if she can do "America the Beautiful" and she doesÖ in a creepy, soaring voice that reminded me of the old lady in Poltergeist. She finishes with, "oh my, that did sound horrible!" Simon answers, "You donít need us, do you?" And he says she dresses better than she sings. Backhanded compliment if there ever was one. Melissa says she can sing and starts another song, then says she doesnít want to be one of "those people you shove out the door." She gathers what dignity she has left and leaves on her own.
Derek Braxton claims to be the cousin of Toni Braxton, and declares he is fabulous and sexy. Self-esteem is very important. We get a bit of Toniís "Unbreak My Heart" and Derek accompanying it, and the only word I can think of to describe it is garish. In front of the judges, Derek announces that he likes to spend time alone (with that voice, I doubt itís by choice) and he says he doesnít like people, they donít understand him. He launches into "How Can An Angel Break My Heart" and Iím glad he told us because I would never have known otherwise. He sings like every note is his last breath, and it comes out like "how han a hangel hreak my heart." He does his bit and the judges look bewildered. Simon says itís most unusual voice heís ever heard in his life. Mark says itís like another language. Derek sees where this is going and asks how he gets out of there.
Backstage, Derek launches into a tirade, what does Simon know? (Been in the business over 25 years.) What does Mark know about singing? (Sugar Ray has sold over 20 million albums worldwide.) One-hit wonder? (Not even close.) Randy, doesnít even matter, what has he done? Produced a couple of records for Mariah? (Ever heard of Journey?) And Paula, only three platinum albums, heíll have eight. (And I will sprout feathers and fly to Neptune.)
Ryan leads us into a montage of "America the Beautiful" featuring...
Melissa Walton yes, that Melissa Walton of Making The Band 2, who just missed making the band (and Iím sure sheís a little glad, seeing how all that turned out). She sounds great. She represents the "beautiful" part, and those representing the not beautiful include more Derek Braxton and some of his less than talented compadres.
Regina Brooks tells us she pawned her wedding ring to go to DC and try her luck (it was that or her karaoke machine), and just talking about how badly she wants this makes her tear up. She stands before the judges and gives a captivating rendition of "Misty." Mark thinks sheís not what they are looking for, but Randy says her performance was certainly mature, and thatís one reason why they raised the age limit to 28. Simon asks Regina to bring in her husband, who she had said didnít want her to participate (but he told Ryan heís totally supportive). Hubby says he believes she can do it. Despite that, Simon says no, but Paula says yes. Mark says heís emotionally invested now, so Regina is going to Hollywood. She canít hold back the tears, and as she runs to her motherís arms she says, "I finally got a little validation." And, sometimes, a little bit goes a long way.
Marlea Stroman is a beautiful single mom, who finally dumped the boyfriend and came to "get a life." She sings Bonnie Raittís "All At Once," showing a cool tone to her voice, and generally pleasing sound altogether. She gets a resounding thumbs up to Hollywood.
Sarah Mather tells Simon that her parents are, in fact, British (and heís immediately interested), and launches into a spirited "Rescue Me" that Randy is pleasantly surprised with. Mark and Paula says yes to Hollywood, Simon offers "one thumb up," but sheís going!
Ryan says this leads to a series of "yeses" from the judges, and we see many auditioners bursting with joy, mostly women, and including Melissa Walton! Melissa not only bursts from the room, sheís on the street showing her yellow invitation!
But the luck runs out for purpley-dressed Aven Moore, with his bizarre rendition of "Tomorrow" featuring the longest, ghastliest note ever heard on American Idol. Hollywood? No.
Constantine Maroulis sings with a headbanger band in NYC, and they donít know heís about to audition for American Idol, so letís not tell them! Constantine rips into Aerosmithís "Crying" and Iím hooked. Simon says a decided no, but Paula says yes. Randy agrees with Simon that Constantine was vocally all over the place before the chorus, but thinks Constantine deserves the break. Mark makes it official, Constantine is going to Hollywood!
Then we get a dual introduction to two cute girls with a dream. There is Amanda Hubert, with her rakish argyle scarf, and Jillian Bennett, who tells us repeatedly that sheís crazy. Amanda auditions with "Broken Wing." (Do not ever audition with that song. Besides the fact that itís kind of corny, itís extremely demanding. Take it easy on yourself.) Amanda shows some promise, but too much cracking and screeching to forgive. Jillian sings something loudly and proudly, but much too showy. Amanda tells the judges a minister told her God wants her to sing. (Organ wash!) Simon tells her God does not want her to win this competition. "He just showed us that, clearly!" Paula tells Jillian that itís just not what they are looking for. Sorry. Jillian nods bravely, loosening her hair as she leaves, then suddenly does an about face and returns! Sheís going to make a CD! Amanda is now on her knees. Oh my. Simon says, "If your parents could see you now," which makes Amanda stand up immediately. Itís a no, Simon says. And Amanda cries. Itís a no, Simon says. And Jillian cries.
Outside, God-sent Amanda tells us that Simon is an @$$hole. Repeatedly.
Brian Bagley, from my hometown of Baltimore, MD (holla!), is a hip-hop dance instructor, ballet student, and aspiring Idol. He thanks Paula for inspiring him to dance and sings a very old fashioned "Sunny Side of the Street" that, while entertaining, is all wrong for this show. The judges gently tell him so. Other than Randy, who says heíd have rather seen him dance. Brian takes the news well, and tells us he has to go outside and beg for money because he canít afford to get home. To add to the woe, a nice gentleman with his hands full reaches for some money and drops a bottle of wine on the ground. Brian can only cover his face.
Travis Tucker is another dancer, who gives a full performance of "Dancing Machine" Ė and heís great, but can he sing? Oh, yes he can, with a full-bodied "Isnít She Lovely." Paula cautions him about power chording us to death, but there is obviously talent there. Heís going to Hollywood.
Mary Grober delivers a lusty "Hanky Panky" (complete with spanking), and while Mark is enthralled with the spanking bits, even he canít clear her to Hollywood.
Ian Holmes II, dressed in funky gear, making it work somehow, sings a spirited "Iíll Be There" which owes more to Mariah than Michael, complete with high-notes (which I think he pulled off, but the judges are clearly cranky by this point). Randy says heís on the fence, Mark is too. Paula is a definite yes. Randy relents with a yes, and so does Mark. Ian is going to Hollywood! He collapses in crying heap outside the audition room. I would too, that was nerve-wracking!
Michelle Fisher is a West Nile Virus technician. How many of those can you say you know? I donít know what she was singing, but I swear I said she sang like she had the virus before Simon does. Itís a no. She takes it well.
Now, Ryan takes us with him as he goes to break the news to Constantine Maroulisí band that heís doing American Idol. The band doesnít seem terribly surprised to see Ryan walk into their practice space. The drummer (a name with a lot of oís and uís and sís) is particularly unimpressed. Constantine says in rock cool that he checked out this audition and it went well, and heís gonna check it out, so check it out. Somehow, they understand.
Ryan notices Drummer looks a bit peeved. Drummer gives American Idol the finger (we're number one!), but Constantine is his friend so heíll support him. Ryan, prodding, says this could be the end of the band. Drummer says thatís okay because he knows what they are doing is "so much better." Ultimately, Drummer storms out of the room for a meltdown. Constantine says he doesnít know whatís going to happen, if he does well on the show, the band may well be done. A great loss for rock and roll it would be.
Back to the auditions.
Jason Smith is quite a character, with a headband that says "5.9%" (apparently, it represents the amount of alcohol in beer and heís a recovering alcoholic) and a personality that is bordering on the insane. He sings "Papa Was a Rolling Stone" in about six difference voices, none of them very good. He actually seems dejected to hear heís not advancing.
Franchon Crews is a 17-year-old boxer. She delivers powerfully, but misdirects "A Womanís Worth" and itís a tough call. Randy says she was all over the place, heís on the fence. Simon says sheís not ready, and Randy agrees. Paula adds that Franchon is only 17, which means she has time to put some work in and try it again. The look on Franchonís face says she has no intention of trying it again. I probably would have put her through, with a caveat or two. Outside she declares sheís going to be the middleweight champion of the world. Thatís that.
John Zisa is the son of a mayor who was the son of a mayor. Heís very tan and pretty good-looking, if can sing half a lick, he should get through. He sings a pure "Baby Come To Me" that Randy is not feeling at all. Mark likes it, so does Paula. Simon acknowledges that itís up to him. I can see the look in Simonís eye: "good-looking kid, nice smile, nice demeanor, I can market that," but what Simon says is, "youíre on to the next round."
Thatís why they keep me on.
All of that seems to be leading to this pivotal moment. Meet Mary Roach. Her clothes are strangely Partridge, her hair last seen somewhere around the little house on that prairie, Mary says itís her destiny to sing. She walks in before the judges and introduces herself (adding if she makes it to Hollywood, she will change her last name to Guilbeaux because it has more star quality) (???) and unleashes a strange, affected, uneven, bizarre "I Feel The Earth Move." Simon asks how she thinks she did. Not too shabby, she says confidently. From 1 to 10, he presses. She says 8. Simon sees heís not getting out of this easily and says it was one of the worst performances heís ever heard. She finds that curious. Simon says her voice was not made for singing. Her frightening answer is, "Which voice would you like to hear. I have many of them." Mark jokes that she hears them in her head, to which she says agreeably, "I think so."
Oh my lord.
Simon asks what are the voices saying now. Mary says that they are saying they didnít expect the judges to reject her singing. They are also saying that Mark is a hottie, Simon is bigger in person, Paula is prettier, and Randy is thinner. Thatís convenient. She says sheís not going to be one of those people who cries, and Simon says they donít want that. But sheís not going to Hollywood. Mary takes her leave. Outside, an inner storm has erupted to the surface. She commands herself not to cry. Loudly. To the camera, she says everyone tells her she can sing, even random people in the street walk to her and say, "you can really sing!" Iím so sure. Mary takes her bewilderment off to wherever Mary goes.
And so ends the first night. Ryan says 42 happy people are advancing from DC to Hollywood. Tomorrow, we visit St. Louis!
Sting7 has been a respected published writer for 16 years, as a music editor, entertainment critic, columnist, and interviewer. He also has a curious love for pro-wrestling! You can email Stinger at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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