9:01 p.m. General Larry Plant is the only memorable contestant to audition for "American Idol," this season, a fact that the show sadly has no choice but to acknowledge as Wednesday (Feb. 3) night's "Road to Hollywood" special begins. The "Pants on the Ground" auteur is the only good *or* bad contestant to stir up any buzz in Season Nine, which can't possibly be ideal. But maybe Wednesday's episode will fix things?
9:02 p.m. Denver contestant Jessica Furney opts to sing something called "Footprints in the Sand," a composition notable for carrying Simon Cowell's name as a co-writer. It's an awful song, but Simon's new status as creative individual astounds that episode's guest judge, Posh Spice. She's through to Hollywood. I guess everybody tonight will be?
9:04 p.m. "We saved the best for last," Ryan Seacrest assures us. Oh good. Then why have we been watching for the past seven episodes and for the past eight-plus hours? It was one thing when this catch-all special was used to make sure that we didn't miss out on the few singers who weren't quite exciting enough to make individual audition episodes, but this season's openers have been all about the most intriguing stories and barely at all about the most talented singers. Does that mean that we're finally about to meet the next American Idol? Click through...
9:08 p.m. Ineffective impressionist and comedienne Amanda Shectman has plenty of personality out in the waiting room -- annoying personality, but I guess she might play to viewers who think the world needs an underaged Megan Mullally -- but she has no personality when she sings. She sings very well, but when the judges accuse her of not connecting, she starts acting up a storm, falling well short of being believably human. "Singing is what I love to do, man!" Amanda boldly declares, convincing nobody. When she gets her "Yes" votes, you'd think she'd won an Oscar. Wow. She's annoying. I can understand why the producers would favor genuinely genuine contestants over this ham.
9:12 p.m. Lee Dewyze hums among with his faux soul stylings. Crystal Bowersox keeps her guitar over her shoulder, even though she isn't allowed to play it. They both go to Hollywood. Crystal isn't bad. Lee's like a dozen previous gravel-voiced "Idol" rockers.
9:14 p.m. Contestants like to fake out their loved ones by pretending they didn't get Golden Tickets. This means five montage-y minutes with people who made it to Hollywood, five minutes in which we don't hear any of those supposedly talented people actually sing.
9:19 p.m. Some of our auditioners have auditioned before. Simon remembers nobody. Kara remembers many of them. Most of them aren't notable, but somebody named Lacey Brown was in the Top 50 last year. She was reject in favor of Megan Joy. Lacey has nice tone and warm eyes, though she's upstaged because she auditioned in that episode where Kara barely wore a shirt. Ah, memories.
9:22 p.m. If Stephanie Fisher has auditioned seven times without making it previously, that might say something about her. If she thinks Victoria Beckham is most beautiful creature, that might say something else. When her version of "Fever" is dreadful, Stephanie attributes her lack of talent to being intimidated by Posh Spice. "With the greatest respect, you have a horrible voice," Simon tells her. Victoria critiques Stephanie's fashion sense, which ends in tears and hugs.
9:25 p.m. Rachel Hubbard is a talented 16-year-old. Thaddeus Johnson is a talented, but problematically over-singing 16-year-old. Genesis Moore, also 16, seems pretty decent.
9:31 p.m. A tribute to athletes who audition for "American Idol."
9:32 p.m. The "Road to Hollywood" is full of potholes. One of those potholes is Adrian Chandtchi, who describes himself as, "A beautiful man-flower." The oversized swimmer does a falsetto version of "Fools Rush In." In past season, a guy this hilarious would have been featured in the real episodes. Now, he's out-of-place. "Adrian, there's like a small schoolboy trapped inside you," Kara says. "Either that or you've eaten one," Simon adds.
9:34 p.m. Michael Lynche, a personal trainer, would be the buffest "American Idol" contestant in history. I mean, he could definitely out-arm-wrestle Rose Bowl veteran Matt Rogers. His version of "Unchained Melody" is good until he gets to the last note and doesn't bother finishing it, dropping a full octave. See, the song is an easy song if you don't sing the hard notes, Michael.
9:36 p.m. Guitar-toting cutie Didi Benami is auditioning as a tribute to her late best friend, prompting a slightly inappropriate use of Death Cab For Cutie in the background and many tears in the audition room. She's mighty Brooke White-esque, only with a Megan Joy-y voice. There's a solid precedent. I wouldn't be at all surprised if Didi makes the Top 24. Nor would I be surprised if it turns out she has no range and we never see her again. She has the support of Avril Lavigne and her devil hoodie.
9:44 p.m. Aaron Kelly was poor and migratory as a child. He also has Woodstock hair. The bird from "The Peanuts." Not the music festival. He's only 16, but looks 10 and he isn't helping matters by singing a Miley Cyrus song. He's OK. Probably if he made it any distance, teenage girls would like him. He suggests he might be a role model someday.
9:47 p.m. Kimberly Bishop is horrible, but she says she'll use her platform to help recycling efforts and poverty in Africa. She also has no affect to her voice. It's a bit scary. Scary HOT. I kid. She's a zombie. "She'd be fun on a date," Simon says.
9:49 p.m. Shaddaiii Harris appreciates her mom's devotion. In turn, her mother says that she had a vision of her daughter going before the judges to sing. That does not mean that she had a vision of her daughter being good in front of the judges. She's tone-deaf.
9:55 p.m. The season's last audition contestant is Hope Johnson, who grew up poor, but didn't know she was poor. She used to bring home her school lunches and share them with her brother for dinner when her family didn't have enough to eat. She's radiant. Her voice? Good. Maybe even very good. But she's nearly angelic about her aura when she sings. Randy tells Hope to work on completing her phrases. Simon likes her. Joe Jonas likes her. And Kara joins the group. Kara's off to Hollywood.
9:58 p.m. And we're off to Hollywood, too! In less than a week! Bring on Ellen DeGeneres and the 181 best singers of this season who "may be the most talented we've ever seen," Ryan says, before touting the breakdowns to come.
So who'd you like from the "Road to Hollywood " audition episode? And who's the best singer you spotted in these auditions?