With Press Tour two days from being over and Sundance two days from beginning, it's possible I just have too many things on my plate to relish dedicating two hours to the generally forgettable Kansas City singers of "American Idol."
Maybe I'm not be quite as tolerant of a five-minute ineptitude montage set to "Signed, Sealed, Delivered" as I ought to be. It's conceivable that I'm not as desperate for another celebration of the Castro Family as the judges seemed to be.
But as largely unengaged by Wednesday (Jan. 14) night's "Idol" as I may have been, I'm still ready to get in line with the rest of American to declare...
Bring on Noop Dogg!
[More recapping after the bump...]
Anoop Desai was the clear breakout star of Wednesday night's "Idol" audition episode. Not only has the time perhaps come for an Indian American Idol, but I hope we can all agree on the added value we'd get by crowing an American Idol working towards a Masters in Folklore.
Anoop was, indeed, just a wee bit geeky -- though Simon's comments about how it was all a bit "Silicon Valley" was really code for "You're Indian" -- but his voice was worthy and he doesn't really stand a chance of advancing very far. But I'll root for him as long as the show lets me, because he wrote his senior thesis on BBQ. That's change I can believe in.
If Anoop represented Change, then Clifford the Muppet's brother Michael Castro represented the status quo. Another season featuring a vacant-eyed Castro? Count me out. At least Clifford the Muppet had musical aspirations when he tried out last year. His brother, intellectually identical, but with choppy pink hair as opposed to his brother's dreads, only decided to start singing a couple weeks before auditions. Imagine a less determined Jason Castro. The mind boggles. Actually, Michael's voice seemed stronger than his brothers', but if he hadn't come with the Castro last name (and therefore Paula's guaranteed stamp of approval, he wouldn't have been sent to Hollywood.
This episode was all about the sort of aspirational or inspirational stories the "Idol" producers have been promising us.
So that meant meeting Jamar Rogers, a shout-y bartender with a mohawk who the judges called "overdone," "affected" and "corny." For that, he made it through, not in small part because he was paired with BFF Daniel J. Gokey, a music teacher whose wife died of a heart condition four weeks ago. After three minutes of tinkly piano music and footage of Danny's wife, he couldn't not advance. Fortunately, his voice was fine. He reminds me of several older "Idol" contestants who had long runs, including Elliott Yamin, so who knows? We may see him again.
The scenes from Hollywood week strongly imply we're going to see little India Morrison again. India showed up at the urging of big (or larger) sister Asia McLain, but there was never much question that one sister was all energy and potential and the other was there for spiritual support. India received a golden ticket, mostly based on personality.
We were supposed to be mighty impressed by Von Smith, who dodged inevitable comparisons to Clay Aiken by wearing a white hat. Otherwise, the judges surely would have name-checked Clay when it came to the mamma's boy with the out-of-nowhere massive voice. To my mind, he yelled his way through "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" with the type of performance the judges usually dub theatrical before recommending trying out for musicals. Instead, Kara DioGuardi raved about his "really big instrument" and he got an easy pass.
Vocally, Von didn't seem that much better than the ill-fated Andrew Lang, who arrived preceded by two horrid cheerleaders before doing a version of "My Girl" that had Randy giving him a "Yes" vote. Andrew then did 10 seconds of "Ain't Too Proud To Beg" so broad that Randy immediately changed his vote. Probably the cheerleaders were a bad idea, though the pale-n-scrawny Andrew probably would have been cut earlier without the gimmick.
Who seemed to have the chops on Wednesday without any gimmickry?
Well, I liked the impossibly perky Casey Carlson, who managed to smile and wrinkle her nose midsong, while wearing cowboy boots and a short skirt. It's possible I didn't hear her voice at all, but she was one of those contestants who bring out smiles in all of the judges.
I also liked band director Asa Barnes. He didn't have quite the range for his version of "The Way You Make Me Feel," but he's photogenic and talented and had a good attitude. But is it compelling enough just to be a 28-year-old father when there are welders and oil rig wildcatters trying to pull their families out of poverty?
Heck, Lil Rounds is 23 and she already has three kids. Not only is she fertile, though, but she was inspired to try out by a tornado. You can't beat that, even if the judges over-praised her.
I'd also suggest the judges over-praised Jessica Furney for a Janis Joplin cover that wasn't even close to Amanda Overmyer-esque. Also, if Jessica makes it into the Top 36, who's going to make sure that her 90-something grandma takes her "crazy pills."
Is there any way I can just ignore this episode's freaks and geeks? Who cares about allegedly opera-trained Brian Hadler and his embarrassment of chest hair? Why did we even bother with Jasmine Joseph, with her fushia-and-blue hair, yellow teeth and the fedora with skulls? Why pick on Michael Nicewonder with his bleach-blonde bowl cut, elementary school singing prize and self-composed hymns to his mother and grandmother? And why validate Mia Conely, whose version "Loving You" stank even before she warned the camera that God will make the judges pay?
I'll be glad to get down to hour-long audition episodes next week.