Tonight’s show shook me up a little, you guys. I felt feelings. Not the ones they’re grabbing me by the shoulders and trying to shake out of me, either. Different feelings. Some of them are good. Most are not. Come feel them with me.
Ryan opens the show by telling us: “Tonight, it’s a tale of two cities.” And indeed, the auditions will take place in San Antonio and Long Beach, which are definitely two different places. Your story checks out, Seacrest. As for the rest of you: Are you worried that he might not say “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times,” and be punctuated by good and bad singers, respectively? Are you concerned that Randy won’t tell you that everything’s bigger in Texas? Well, don’t even trip, because those two things happen in the first 60 seconds of the show, 20 of which are the opening credits.
Our first auditioner is Vincent Powell. He’s a praise leader who loves Mariah Carey. Close your eyes and imagine the sound of a praise leader who loves Mariah Carey. That’s exactly what he sounds like! Turns out he was in the competition last year, but he got nervous during Hollywood Week when Randy took a big sip from his Coca-Cola glass. Vincent reenacts the moment, we are shown footage of a 2012 Randy drinking from a Coca-Cola glass, Randy howls with laughter because he can’t believe the sip he took was as long as Vincent says it was, and we talk about it for eleven minutes because Randy never turned down an opportunity to make it all about himself. (And consider this: There is footage of all of this that didn’t make the broadcast.) Don’t waste time wondering why a judge in a darkened auditorium drinking a beverage would be enough to throw a singer off his game, just know that Vincent Powell is through.
Up next, brothers David and Derek Baccarat Or Something. They are a brother act. They are not good. They are also pretty clearly not serious. Each judge keeps trying to tell them no, they keep firing back like the trained improvisers I have to believe they are, and it goes on and on and on. The judges act like their time is being wasted, which it is, and so is yours. Finally, Nicki regulates: “Fine, you don’t want to hear criticism? We love you, you’re perfect, but still no.” Good on her. The segment ends with the brothers continuing to plead their case in the interview room, and they divide like amoebas or Heather Locklear in the old Faberge Organics shampoo commercial, until it’s infinite bozos selling their stupid comedy act over and over again. It’s actually a decent metaphor for these audition episodes, guys. Tighten up. You’re losing us.
Single mom Savannah Votion tells us that American Idol is her best bet. Hoo, boy. It is hard not to be concerned about a grown-up whose best bet is American Idol, but it’s pretty much impossible not to want to adopt her child. But! She sings Etta James's “At Last,” it is smoky and emotional, and I will tell you that I could listen to this woman sing for rest of these two hours and not get bored. Of course I won’t get to, because there are untalented singers to humiliate. She’s through, obviously. Maybe my favorite so far.
Christabel Clack is 29, so this year is her last shot on Idol, so it’s a shame there aren’t 300 other shows exactly like this one but without age restrictions. She does “If I Ain’t Got You,” which is a song that was built for phony emotion and boring runs. But she elevates it ever so slightly, and she’s through, and it’s worth mentioning that she is also a praise leader. I’m starting to imagine Texas as a place where there’s one sad-sack agnostic and every single other person is a praise leader.
Tonight’s I Nominate victim is Ann DiFani, who we quickly learn is a former Miss University of Arkansas. Two things: (1) Universities have pageants? Gross. (2) Since when are pageant winners too shy to audition for American Idol?
Anyway, she does some Faith Hill song or another, and gives a big, pageant-y answer about why she loves country. Something about roots and stories and America and whatever. They teach ‘em right in the U of A pageant system, because Ann DiFani crushes the interview portion. The judges unanimously put her through, and her husband comes out and does one of those hugs where he lifts you up, and Randy bellows “Now, that’s love,” because it’s not love unless you get all showy about it on television.
Mariachi singer Victoria Acosta sings the enduring Mexican-folk classic “Big Girls Don’t Cry” by Fergie. She’s fine but nothing special, and the judges make her sing an actual mariachi song, which she does much better. They put her through, and it’s great because there will be zero more opportunities for her to sing a mariachi song.
And then there is a gentleman who calls himself Papa Peaches. He’s a skinny, effeminate guy, all snapsy and sassy. He says, “Most people see me as a cute little white boy. But inside, I’m a big black woman.” Impressive! How many damaging, reductive stereotypes can you fit in that tiny twink body, Papa Peaches?
He does an original song that I am just going to go ahead and call horrible, but it’s all vocally showy, and while I don’t enjoy the sound of his voice, the judges tell him he’s wonderful. The boys say no, the girls say yes, but Randy is the tiebreaker, so he’s through. I don’t understand how that works either. But you are correct in assuming that they play him off with “Peaches” by the Presidents of the United States of America. Tonight’s show is so hacky and obvious, Carlos Mencia is performing it at the Comedy Store in its entirety right now.
Also, Nicki is dressed like Willy Wonka’s third wife.
Sanni M’mairura is the child of African immigrants, and he’s about as charming a contestant as I’ve ever seen on a thing like this. Mexican-American Chris Colfer Adam Sanders does “I’d Rather Be Blind,” and it’s overpowering, but that’s what sells with these judges. There are loser montages, but I’m not getting into them, because I respect your time.
And then we’re off to Long Beach! There is no Mariah or Nicki at first, because the former is stuck in Los Angeles traffic (and allergic to Long Beach hotels) and the latter is rehearsing for the American Music Awards. I know this was all shot months ago, but I can’t stop myself from whispering “Oh, God, Nicki please hurry.”
Shubha Vedula performs for Keith and Randy, who manage to wring a whole lot of racist hilarity out of mispronouncing her name a million times. Shubha does Christina Aguilera’s version of “Something’s Got a Hold of Me,” which is like the other versions of that song, except exhausting. She is through.
Matt Farmer looks like a roughneck Cheyenne Jackson, he brings his young (and remarkably patient) daughter with him, sings the shit out of “A Change Is Gonna Come,” and I think we have met season twelve’s shocking fourth-place elimination. Jesiah Baer sings Kimbra’s “Settle Down,” and while I generally cannot tolerate scatting, she has a nice face, so whatever. Very happy Rachel Hale does very happy “People Get Ready” very happily and gets a golden ticket and is very happy about it.
Young Stephanie Sanson says she’s going to perform Adele’s “Set Fire to the Rain,” and then she does a screechy death metal version of it, flips the camera twin birds, and shrieks “you only live once! I don’t give a shit.” Oh yeah? I bet you give many shits, otherwise why’d you waste two separate days of your one life standing in line to yell at a camera on the chance you’d get fifteen seconds of airtime? You are much, much less unique than you think you are, Sanson.
Okay, so here’s where shit starts to go off the rails:
Brian Martinez was discovered singing in a bathroom by a music producer who urged him to try out for Idol. So here he is. And he is not good. He is very not good. The judges laugh in his face. He schleps out of the audition room and grimly meets his throng of friends with homemade signs. “This wasn’t a good experience for me,” he tells the camera. And you know he means it.
We will come back to this.
Micah Johnson got his tonsils removed, the clumsy doctor hit a nerve, and now he’s left with a speech impediment. It’s a sad story, but not too sad for Mariah to try to make it all about her: “I had some nerve problems in my arm, but it got better. Do the doctors think that yours will improve?” No, the doctors do not. Because, Mariah, actual severed nerves tend not to improve. I think what she meant to say was “One time, my arm wasn’t having fun.” Anyway, his speech impediment fully goes away when he sings, and if they don’t pair him with the stuttering guy from a couple of weeks ago on Group Night, then this show is just asleep at the switch.
Briana Oakley was featured on Maury as one of America’s Most Talented Kids. Incredibly, a trip to Maury’s couch did not work out well for this young woman. She was bullied when she got back to school and hasn’t quite been the same since. Randy suggests: “If that happens again, call Uncle Randy and Uncle Keith and we will regulate.” He wisely leaves Aunt Nicki out of it, because if the rumors are true, she will violate the Gun Free School Zone law. Anyway, obviously Briana is great and kids are cruel and I’m starting to get a queasy feeling.
Matheus Ferndandes is short. I want to pick him up. He probably gets a lot of that, and I’m sorry, but these are the facts and I can’t change them. Amazingly, the fact that he is short does not prevent him from singing well, and even though this is the second “A Change Is Gonna Come” I’ve heard tonight, I will allow it. He is soulful! I like him! So do the judges!
Okay, here’s where I start to consider selling my television and moving to a non-English-speaking country:
Randy actually says these words: “Society can be harsh, but we don’t put up with any of that here.” We don’t? Are you sure? What about that Brian Martinez guy from earlier in your day? What about any of the hundreds of tone-deaf people whom you’ve turned into punch lines over the last twelve years? Briana just shared with us how a visit to Maury can derail a young life, and the point of that Maury episode was that Briana is a talented singer. American Idol has made billions by publicly shaming hopeful young people who, while they may lack the ability to make pleasing sounds with their mouths, are still human beings who deserve respect, or at least to have their de-pantsing done in private.
What I am saying here is not new. This show has been ignoble from the jump. But now it’s hopping on the anti-bullying bandwagon while engaging in the worst kind of bullying, and I am officially calling bullshit. I’m mad as hell and I’m going to take it up until the end of this season and then we’ll see.
Tomorrow: more! Send help.