Tuesday, January 15, 2008

American Idol: We're back and IN PHILLY!

The Welcome Back Section
(skip if you just want to read about the auditions!)

UGH!!!!! Sorry, I just wanted to get one more venting of frustration from what we knew as American Idol Season 6 (the year they almost got worse than Fantasia!) You guessed it kids, it’s that time again! Time for more American Idol! Don’t worry, I’m going to try and be optimistic for a new season of Idol. I mean, we have to be right? In case you’ve been living under a rock (I think I need to trademark this saying considering I use it so much), the writer’s strike is working into its 3rd month and we’re starting to see its effects on our favorite television shows. (anyone forget that 24 would’ve premiered this past Sunday to start its non-stop season?) All that is left are a handful of shows that haven’t started airing (YAY LOST!), or shows in which there are a few remaining produced episodes (ugh Prison Break!). So, with this occurring, American Idol is sweeping in as the savior of television to fill a giant void left by its smarter and possibly more entertaining competition. Yes, season 6 definitely has left a bitter taste in my mouth of what Idol has to offer. But I have to remind myself, I didn’t think the show could get worse than Fantasia and the cast of season 3, but I half expected it to. Remember what happened in season 4? Yep, Carrie Underwood came into our lives! And it doesn’t look like she’s leaving us anytime soon! (we’ll get to that in a little bit!) What am I getting at here? Well, when Idol gets it wrong they admit it and they tweak the show to make sure they don’t repeat the same mistakes twice. And executive producer Nigel Lythegoe (I’m not even going to try to spell it right!) has acknowledged their missteps and said we won’t be disappointed with the talent they’ve found this year. The judges have even gotten in on the excitement. Loopy drugged out Paula said it’s going to be a Challenge for Simon to find ways to insult the massive talent they’ve found. Granted, this could all be hype. But do they really need hype in a script-less Winter/Spring of TV? By default, this could be the biggest year for Idol yet in the ratings. I guess we'll see!

So every year in the opening Blog, I usually do a "brief" synopsis of what our favorite idols have been up to. There's really only 3 that I can think are worth discussing at this point. It’s been a huge year of success for Carrie Underwood. She keeps racking in any award she’s nominated for (and I’m actually getting a little embarrassed for her when she has to give acceptance speeches. What else is there to say except “YOU GUYYYYYYS!!!” yep…she said it). But wow, that crazy season 4 winner that won us all over is winning the world over. Simon could not have been more right when he predicted she’d probably be the biggest Idol winner ever. And if you haven’t purchased her new album Carnival Ride (or her first album Some Hearts), you’re seriously missing out on some quality tunes! Of course, it is tough for me to admit some missteps taken by my other favorite and original Idol winner – Miss Kelly Clarkson. While her album My December gathered some pretty decent reviews by the critics – the backlash from all of the Clive Davis/Kelly feuding about the direction of the album, and the album (penned by Kelly) lacking a commercial sound has caused her to have an “off-year” in the sales department. But she’s taking steps to rebound her career, including a successful stint with Reba McEntire. Those 2 kids became BFF after the 1st season of American Idol when they performed a duet of Reba’s “Does he Love You” at some AI special. Anyway, they went on to perform a CMT Crossroads concert together. Due to the success of this and a duet of “Because of You” off of Reba’s Duets album they have launched a tour to cash in on it. Believe it or not, my girlfriend actually talked ME into going to this one and not vice versa! So yes, I’ll be in Louisville, Kentucky this Friday night seeing some Reba and Kelly (well, I was going to be in Tennessee anyway, why not right??). I must really be secure in my manhood to be broadcasting this in a blog!

The other shocker of the past year was Chris Daughtry (pre-maturely eliminated in Season 5) and his band (appropriately named Daughtry) having the Billboard Top Selling Album of 2007! And I gotta admit, that microphone stand loving baldy (ahhh Molly the Mic Stand) put together one fine album! In comparison, Season 5 winner and runner-up Taylor Hicks and Katharine McPhee have both been dropped by their labels. While you're at it, throw Ruben Studdard (season 2 winner) onto the list. Yes my friends, America is starting to show its true colors! What about our season 6 winner and runner up? Both Jordin and Blake have released their albums. And while Jordin's single "Tatoo" is hanging out in the top 10 of iTunes, neither of the 2 newbie idols are having any breakout success.

And sure there are the fleet of other minor successes out there from other Idol finalists, but I'm not going to get into them. Kellie Pickler is garnering enough attention with her...ahem..."personal enhancements" than for me to give her any more!

Season 7

So....onward to season 7! What will the show do for us to improve things from the past? Well for starters, they're allowing contestants to use Musical Instruments in their auditions and I believe for performances eventually. We have seen in the past that some of our finalists did have some skills other than their voice (Taylor -Harmonica, Blake -Beatbox???, Carrie and Bo -Guitar). So now they're able to showcase this stuff to separate themselves from the crowd. Also, they will focus much more on developing "STORIES" for our contestants. This was very evident in the auditions tonight. Many arguments from last season were that American Idol focused too much on bringing in other musical guests to increase album sales, that they did not focus enough time on introducing America to the NEXT big Musical act. Well, they're getting started early!

Okay where was I? Right...the auditions! You all know I am not a fan of the 3 weeks of Auditions. It's excruciating, it's a lot of been there...done that. And I'm sick of writing about them! But, how could I possibly not write about the PHILLY auditions? And before I get to them, I have to explain some sadness that has come to light in the past few months. Yes, my friends, I have officially passed the date where I am no longer eligible to audition for American Idol. I told many people that if the auditions were in Philly this past summer that I would definitely consider auditioning. Well, they came, and I didn't go! Of course, I had my excuse. I was out of town the weekend that contestants were required to register. Little did I know, though, that when I landed (I saw the Wachovia Center from the plane all lit up), I could've walked right into the arena with no line, and signed right up! And, if I knew that I would've been able to play some piano (like Paula's Stalker mentioned they had) while I sang....Man...i would've been a shoe in! What song would I have sung? Oh I dunno. Does it matter? I think the bigger question would've been....whose blog would you have read if I was off getting famous!? And if I did get famous...how much of my past blogs would come back to haunt me for the things I said about people? Ahhhh if only we could've found out!

With that said, we must discuss the people that DID get to Hollywood that don't even hold a candle to yours truly! (come on guys, I'm kidding. I'm not that good!)

Welcome to my hometown area - The city of Brotherly Love and the home of the Philly Phanatic, the cheese steak and Rocky Balboa! We had an eclectic mix of people auditioning from rabid star wars fans to female middle linebackers, to Borat wannabes (very niiiice yes??). We had a crazy glitter girl from Allentown who thinks the man that wrote their town's theme song was Jon Bon Jovi (OUCH! Don't be dissin' Billy Joel!). And to think the Idol Producers actually drove to her town to film this girl at her house. What a waste! But like I said, I don't want to spend time on the BAD (EVER AGAIN!). I am going to highlight the good people and we'll move on to bigger and better things (I think I've lost you all by now anyway!)

  • Joey Catalano - 19 - Story: He lost 200 lbs. See? Totally beats my story of losing 70 lbs. No reason for me to audition! The judges liked him. I wasn't a huge fan of his. But you gotta give him props for losing the weight. I don't see him as much of a contender down the stretch. Not from what I'm reading about this "massive talent" they've found!
  • Melanie Nyema - 26 - Story: Taylor Hicks Backup Singer. Yep following in the footsteps of Brandon Rogers (not even sure if that was his name anymore) and Melinda Doolittle. Is she ready for the spotlight? Didn't look like it, but we'll see if she grows into it!
  • Junot Joyner - 25 - Not much of a story for this guy yet. He looked kinda goofy but he sang a good version of Elton's "I guess that's why they call it the Blues" or as Junot called it "The Blues" Not much else to say at this point except if he makes it far....I'll probably call him JJ??
  • Jose Candelaria - 23 - He sang in Spanish and was good. Duh! That's an automatic shoe-in!
  • Jonathan Baines - 17 - Sang some country. Little Big Town's "A Little More You" Nice tune, he wasn't too bad either. Of course, you know my initial thoughts on the 16, 17 year olds on this show. Jordin made me a believer last year. But that was a rare scenario!
  • Angela Martin - 26 - Story: Mother of a sick child and has a strong support group of family and friends to get her through it. She is a full time singer and wants to win to get the best care for her child. She's also confident she can win. And well...she was one of the best people we saw from Philly (if only I auditioned!!!) The only thing that drove me nuts (and the judges called her on it too) was the snapping and "HA!'s" that she kept doing throughout the song. I mean what causes you to do that? Simon blamed it on being a Wedding Singer. Maybe...but we see it in these auditions all of the time and it's my biggest pet peeve!
  • Kristy Lee Cook - 23 - They hyped this girl up the entire episode so they wanted everyone to get very familiar with her. She's from Oregon. Bizarre that she traveled all the way to Philly for the audition. I'm sure there is one out West somewhere, but whatever. She sold a horse to get there so I mean they had to let her in! She was pretty good and probably the other one of the best people we saw. The judges think she needs a little more confidence. But she could be this year's country girl. Time will tell!
  • Beth Stalker - 28 - Great editing to have this girl follow that guy that was an ACTUAL STALKER of Paula's. Wow, that guy really found some new uses for the name Peter Falk(her). Gotta love this family show, don't ya? Anyway Beth is a stay at home mom and realized that it's her last chance to audition and actually went and gave it a shot! (okay okay...stop bashing me for not going!!!) As she was singing, I thought that we've been down this road before. She was singing that "Bewitched, Bewildered" song and it was very bluesy and low key and I don't think she'll be able to do much more than that. Simon seemed to agree, but she still has moved on to Hollywood. Prove me wrong Beth!
  • Chris Watson - 20 - This guy wants to be more famous after he's dead and listed Nirvana as one of his biggest influences. I guess if he becomes famous we can expect some headlines to hit when he turns 27 too, right? There's a good role model for children! Well, he did sing pretty well. Of course, did anyone else find the irony that THIS guy sang an Uncle "KRACKER" song? I can't be any more blunt than that, sorry folks! The judges liked his "interesting recording voice" Once again, it's too early to tell from the 6 other cities we need to visit if this guy will make it far.
  • Brooke White - 24 - Nanny for twins in California. Never has seen an R Rated Movie, doesn't drink, doesn't smoke (must really like Adam Ant too! anyone out there get that one?) Brooke sang some Corinne Bailey Rae and the judges liked her. I thought she was okay, but I don't see an Idol winner in her. Maybe if Simon turns her over to the Darkside. Maybe she could pull off the Jabba's prisoner outfit more than the chest waxing robed Star Wars Nerd that showed up to audition? Who knows?? If any show can pull it off...it's American Idol!

Seriously guys, do you really like these Audition Blogs? I'm a firm believer that this blog doesn't get interesting until the Top 24 starts. I'm a lot of talk every year and say I want to cut down on these but I never do. If anything, I may just shorten them to "who got in" and a little blurb about them. It's just too early in the process to be rendering any decisions unless you're Carrie Underwood in her audition! Anyway, as you can see...I posted a nice poll in the top right corner of the blog. I think it expires sometime on Wednesday so vote up and let me know if you're actually reading these Audition blogs and get anything out of them!

Anyway, that was our WELCOME BACK to Idol and our Philly Auditions Recap. Based on the talent that got in, there's a good chance I at least could have gotten a free trip to Hollywood with my rendition of the Black Crowes "She Talks to Angels" (oops, cat out of the bag! and once again kidding. I never would've made it out of the Wachovia Center to see the judges!) Oh well, I'll just have to become a famous writer instead!

Hope you enjoyed and POST comments! Thanks for reading and see you tomorrow as we return to Dallas, the audition locale of the original idol winner!


Marian said...

I winced during most of the Philly auditions, Mike, but glutton for punishment that I am, tonight I'll be back for more....

Anonymous said...

Mike - maybe you can write about some of the "comic relief" during the 3-weeks auditions like the 39-year-old dude who wrote the "sex" song or that REALLY creepy guy that wrote a song about stalking Paula Abdul.

Mike V. said...

Yeah, I could talk about the comic-relief....but sometimes there's just so much other stuff that I just don't have the time to do it all!

I did fit the "STALKER" guy into one of the bullets though. That guy called into the "Preston and Steve" show this morning and it turns out he's part of a local band in philly that writes a bunch of silly songs and are apparently a big hit around town. So, that whole sketch may have been pre-planned!

I haven't even watched tonight's episode yet so probably will be a late and SHORT blog!