Last night’s American Idol season 9 premiere contained everything views love and love to hate about the show. With little more than the blink of an eye, Paul Adbul‘s departure was ceremoniously dismissed. Viewers were then promised the eventual addition of Ellen DeGeneres and introduced to guest judge Victoria Beckham, who sat for callbacks in Boston. Over the years, Beckham has been described by the media as being mannequin-like, permanently pissed off and down right moody. That said, the Spice Girl known as Posh did a surprisingly nice job of filling Paula‘s sugary shoes by finding the good in each contestant while simultaneously picking at Simon Cowell for his rude behavior.
During the past 8 seasons, it has become formulaic for Idol to provide two types of entertainment during the audition shows, and the premiere didn’t disappoint with its share of rising above difficult circumstances balanced with plenty of what the heck moments.
Here’s a look at what Boston had to offer:
The producers offered up Janet McNamara as the night’s first contestant, and first victim. My grandmother always said, “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all”. Janet, a 26 year old accountant, started off the Boston auditions with a lot of energy and some self-affirming positive reinforcement. There, now that I’ve said something nice, she absolutely butchered Natasha Bedingfield‘s Pocket Full of Sunshine. Seems the muffin-topped wannabe plays the AI video game at home and gets really good scores. My only hope is that Molly Shannon was watching and returns to SNL to parody Janet, who seemed to have drawn inspiration from Shannon‘s pit-sniffing self-proclaimed superstar, Mary Catherine Gallagher.
Up first representing those with actual talent was Maddy Curtis. Curtis also represented the night’s first heart-tugging backstory, as she comes from a sweet family with 12 children, three of whom have Down’s Syndrome. Maddy, who bares a striking resemblance to One Life To Live‘s Kristen Alderson, who plays teen mom Starr Manning, bravely chose to sing the Leonard Cohen classic Hallelujah. I say it was a brave choice because it was this song that catapulted Alexandra Burke to first place on Cowell‘s soon to be imported British reality competition show, X Factor in 2008. After Burke‘s win, Cowell produced her debut recording, which included the single. Curtis was probably blissfully unaware of the song’s ties to Cowell, and performed a perfectly lovely version which earned her the night’s first golden ticket.
Pat Ford was on a different path with destiny. This rail-thin teen seemed to have forgotten to take his daily dose of ritalin while perfecting his impersonation of Sue‘s gay boyfriend from ABC‘s The Middle. With a staunchly localized dialect reminiscent of Grey Gardens‘ Little Edie, Pat spazzed his way through Britney‘s Womanizer. As I tweeted while watching, he might have fared better had he changed it to the seemingly more accurate Boy-izer.
To assure the audience not all was lost in Boston, another blink and you’ll miss it moment secured a trip to Hollywood for Jennifer Hirsh, Claire Fuller and Jesse Wolfe.
In a single appearance on American Idol, Amadeo Diricco did more to restore pop culture’s current views of Italian Americans than the cancellation of MTV‘s Jersey Shore ever could. This burly kindhearted young man had both female judges under his spell with his larger than life take on Muddy Water‘s Hoochie Coochie Man, resulting in the night’s second golden ticket to Hollywood.
Derek Hilton, a sort of Bucky Covington in need of ProActive, while seeming well-intentioned, didn’t have the voice to back up his kind spirit. His version of Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word showcased more off-key vocal personalities than Sally Field‘s award winning made-for-70s-TV movie, Sybil.
Up next continuing the Freak Parade was self-admitted anime geek, Mere Doyle. The audience should have considered her kimono fashion show a warning of things to come. She screamed through Janice Joplin‘s Take Another Piece of My Heart, thus ending her dream of becoming a pop star in Japan. Oh, wait…I think Japan Idol auditions are coming up.
Then it was again time to fast forward through some actual talent, as Luke Shaffer and Benjamin Bright sailed through to the Hollywood round.
After being featured in nearly commercial bumper through out the first hour, it was finally time for Andrew Fenlon to audition. Upon first glance, Fenlon has the look of a modern, albeit moodier Clark Kent, horn-rimmed glasses and all. It was quickly evident that Clark, I mean Andrew got ahold of some red kryptonite as he was the grumpiest, most sardonic hopeful Idol has featured during it’s 8 previous seasons. Despite a surprising Buble/Connick, Jr.-esque voice, judge Kara DioGuardi had had enough.
Ashley Rodriguez once again redeemed the hopes of the judges as she knocked one outta the park with Alicia Keys‘ If I Ain’t Got You. All four of the judges complimented her look, as well as her vocal ability.
Next up was my favorite contestant of the night. Tyler Grady, with his decidedly hippie inspired hair and wardrobe, possessed a friendly demeanor and a wide-mouthed smile before he uttered a single note. Despite having not one, but two shattered wrists encased in casts, his take on Let’s Get It On caused Posh and Kara to visibly swoon, while Randy Jackson and Simon casually approved.
Pretty Lisa Olivero might have been a vision of love, upon first glance, but her statement that she was “better than most” previous contestants set her up to put her money where he mouth was. From the first note of Mariah Carey‘s Vision of Love, it was evident some things are better left unsaid, or unsung as the case may be.
Thankfully the editors of Idol saved us from another lengthy freak segment as they fast forwarded through a few talentless entries. The highlight of which was a clip of Simon mimicking a child’s pouty tantrum by beating his fists on the judges’ table.
Boston speed-boat actor–around here we call them tour guides–Mike Davis was next. When not acting on a boat cleverly named Codzilla, Mike actually possesses a nice singing voice, if not a cocky demeanor. That said, he’ll most likely be gone within the first days of Hollywood Week.
Next up was another heart-tugger as Katie Stevens, whose Portuguese grandma suffers from Alzheimer’s. With her Katherine McPhee looks and a lovely voice, she really doesn’t need the sympathy vote. Neither does Joshua Blaylock, so thankfully we heard him sing without much backstory, and he made it on through to Hollywood.
Still another rapid succession of no way in heck contestants included a cowboy and this year’s William Hung.
Up next was still another look what I’ve overcome story–this one for the ladies. During Justin Williams‘ pre-taped segment, we learned that in addition to looks that rival anyone from Twilight and High School Musical, Justin is a cancer survivor. Much like Katie Stevens, his voice and looks would have been enough to move him through the competition.
My personal favorite oddball came next as Norberto Guerrero wowed the judges, but not in a good way, as evidenced by Beckham exclaiming, “Wow, what an interesting look.” With hair reminiscent of Janet Jackson circa Rhythm Nation and an overly manicured beard a la Prince‘s RAVE un2 the Joy Fantastic, Norberto‘s vocals reminded me of a country artist I worked with years ago–Billy Gilman. Nothing against Billy, who at 12-years-old rocketed to country stardom, but Norberto isn’t 12, he’s an adult. Falsetto is one thing, but creepy is quite another.
The night ended on a couple of high notes, figuratively speaking as Bosa Mora, a tall, soft spoken young man whose parent hail from Nigeria performed for the judges. Also earning a golden ticket was the night’s last featured hopeful, another shy unassuming surprise talent, Leah Laurenti.
CORRECTION: In yesterday’s preview, I mistakenly indicated that Victoria Beckham‘s other stint as guest judge would air tonight. This information was taken from an online schedule that has now been updated to reflect the show’s producers are sticking to the chronological order of the call backs.
Tonight’s episode features audition call backs held on August 16 & 17 in Atlanta. Guest judge Mary J. Blige joins Randy Jackson, Simon Cowell and Kara DioGuardi as they continue to dash dreams and realize fate, this time, from the Georgia Dome.
And remember, I will follow each night’s competition by posting my full wrap-up, giving an insider’s look at this year’s hopefuls. Be sure and click the SUBSCRIBE button at the top of this article (located between the headline and the article itself) to insure you receive FREE email alerts whenever I’ve posted a new article.
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Have you picked a favorite yet? Be sure and comment on the show below and take the poll to let your voice be heard.American Idol BOSTON: Who’s Your Favorite New England WannaBe?(survey software)