All right, folks. It is night two of American Idol. Hours three and four of an audition process that already feels endless. These episodes have truly beautiful moments, but overall, they’re padded out with montages and attempts at comedy, and by the end of them, I tend to crave silence. And sometimes the sweet embrace of death.
You know what helps? Kris Allen in a baseball henley. Dude can get it. Kris helps us out with the auditions in Little Rock, where we meet young Cameron Richard, which is pronounced Ree-shard, because he is from Louisiana. (Cameron is just pronounced like “Cameron,” though you do want to lay into it, like that Cajun guy on the Ruffles commercial used to say “onion.”) He was born with a cleft palate and wasn’t supposed to be able to speak, much less sing, so of course he has some kind of angel voice. He does an Ed Sheeran song (Or all of the Ed Sheeran songs? Who can even tell) in the acoustic emo style of Dashboard Confessional and Something Corporate, and gets yes-votes all around. I apologize for whatever Saves the Day YouTube rabbit hole I’ve just sent you down.
Daniel Farmer is the kind of person who says, “I’m so crazy.” People who say “I’m so crazy” tend to be a very different, much-less-fun kind of crazy than they are constantly boasting about being. Daniel bowls you all the hell over with Big Personality, and I sort of hate him right away, but guess what? He goes with D’Angelo’s “Untitled,” and this big, goofy asshole can sing. I feel like the American Idol experience is going to permanently damage a guy this desperate to please, and the experience will be even worse for his family and immediate group of friends. But you know what? Not my problem.
Dalton Rapattoni looks like one of the guys from 5 Seconds of Summer, but I’m not sure which one. Austin? C-Snizz? The Apostle Paul? (I’m not super familiar with 5 Seconds of Summer.) He does “The Phantom of the Opera,” which holds up to a Sheeranizing better than you might think. Of course he’s through to Hollywood. Harry talks at length about how pretty Dalton is, a sentiment with which I don’t fully agree, but at least it’s not Simon and Ryan calling each other gay for 45 minutes, the way this show used to be.
Pretty much everyone in Little Rock has some kind of farm story. Everybody’s sloppin’ the hogs or workin’ the thresher or goin’ down to the general store to get Aunt Gert a whole mess o’ gingham. Also, a lot of them do a thing I’ve been noticing in the American South where the word whenever stands in for when. As in: “I used to watch American Idol whenever I was growing up.” Oh, is that so? Every time you grew up, you watched American Idol? Can you hear yourself, Little Rock?
La’Porsha Renae has a legendary Afro and a seven-month-old daughter whom she is wise enough to bring along and ask J.Lo to hold. She sings Radiohead’s “Creep” and turns it into an American Idol audition version of Radiohead’s “Creep.” She sings a lot of runs. She can sing a lot of runs. But should she sing so many runs? No, she should not. Everyone should sing zero runs. We already have Mariah Carey and that lady from the Volvo commercials; we’re good on runs. It works, of course, because this is American Idol.
When we come back from a commercial break, Kris Allen duets with a pretty young southern boy in a men’s room, and a dozen gay-porn producers get a wonderful idea.
Sixteen-year-old Maddie McAllister has to show you that she’s all down-home and shit, because this is Li’l Rock, so of course she brings a chicken along with her. (Or maybe chicken day-care is prohibitively expensive, what the hell do I know?) Her version of “Cowboy Casanova” does nothing for me or the judges; they tell her to wait a couple more years and then try again, presumably on some other show because this is Idol’s FAREWELL SEASON.
Trent Harmon lives on a farm where there’s a restaurant, which Ryan says sounds appealing because he enjoys farm-to-table dining. (Ryan Seacrest: Distinction!) When Travis says he’s going to play some Allen Stone, I know I’m going to love it, but ooh-wee, folks. I will even forgive his atrocious high-note faces, which are just this side of “John Mayer guitar solo.” I love him, they love him, you love him; hello, top ten.
Out to break, there are “AI Memes,” which I am fairly certain are going to be a thing this season. Is it okay if I don’t ever talk about them? Well, sorry, because my decision is final.
And then, whoosh, we are off to San Francisco, where we meet Brook Sample, a waitress who is having a rough time pulling it together. She has a Tiffani-Amber Thiessen thing happening in the face, and a sexy, sultry voice, but she apologizes for literally everything. Everything! Even her name! Her version of the Dixie Chicks’ “Cold Day in July” is gorgeous, but she can’t keep herself from saying she’s sorry when she’s finished. The judges send her through, though Harry regulates on her self-deprecation. “Help yourself to some confidence,” he tells her. Good for him. She then apologizes for apologizing so much and I throw my hands skyward.
Olivia Rox’s mother “used to sing alternative rock,” which is a statement that raises so many more questions than it could possibly answer. She has a Jax kind of a style about her and can definitely sing, and will definitely get on my nerves around week two of Hollywood.
This second hour is very much Ladies Night. They want a final Kelly Clarkson so bad, you can taste it through the screen. There’s a montage of promising young women, one of whom sings Duffy’s “Mercy.” Remember Duffy? How furious do you reckon she is at Sam Smith and Adele? Anyway, the montage ends with Melanie Tierce, who looks like Cobie Smulders’s hippie sister, and sings Andra Day’s “Rise Up.” The judges ejaculate all over the place for it, but it doesn’t do much for me.
Malie Delgado is an Alaskan pageant queen turned local television personality. (What could possibly go wrong there?) The judges put her through, though Harry warns that she’s similar to a lot of what they’ve seen and that she’ll need to be ready to fight. And he’s right! (Unfortunately, as usual, the women will fight each other so hard they’ll take each other out, and another Cute Boy With a Guitar will be our Farewell Season American Idol.)
That CBWG might be Brandyn Burnette, who sings an original called “Lost,” which Harry likes so much, he sneaks up behind him and puts his head on his shoulder, which seems like it would throw you off in any context, especially a high-stakes audition. Brandyn handles it better than I would.
Kyrsti Chavez’s family thinks they’re the world’s biggest American Idol fans, which they prove conclusively by actually being excited to see Lee DeWyze. Krysti sings the Jessie J–est song ever in the Jessie J–est manner possible and gets through, whereupon her father gives the game away: “We’ve waited 15 years for this moment,” he gushes. Who’s this we? What have you put this poor young woman through? Señor Chavez, I look forward to watching you slowly lose your shit as Kyrsti gets a bad group-night assignment in Hollywood.
Pride goeth before the shitty audition. There’s a montage of people who suffer from a surplus of confidence — one of whom may actually be Barry Williams as Greg Brady as Johnny Bravo — and then there’s Sarah Hayes, who might just be drunk. Sarah tries to sing about 40 different songs, none of whose lyrics she can remember. She also has a massive tongue stud that looks like a giant wad of Extra Spearmint gum and throws off her diction. My boyfriend sits straight up and yells, “HEY, DUMMY. IF YOU WANT TO BE A SINGER SO BAD, MAYBE DON’T PIERCE YOUR TONGUE.” But some people never learn. Not even in the FAREWELL SEASON.
Fifteen-year-old Tristan McIntosh has an Alicia Keys thing happening, the plum end-of-episode slot, and a mother who is currently deployed in the Middle East, so she cannot fail. She says she’s dreamed of being a singer since she was 10, so we are talking about a dream that has existed literally since Limitless was in the theaters. And as you have guessed, she has talent and poise beyond her years and the mom is behind a flat on the audition set, and there are tears and golden tickets and even Ryan Seacrest seems to feel a human emotion.
Dammit, I’ve got Dashboard Confessional’s “Screaming Infidelities” stuck in my own head. See you next week.