It’s the final night of auditions, and boy, do they lay it on extra-thick at the exact time they’re also hedging their bets on this whole “final”-season thing. Everything is heavy with meaning and drama. “This is the last season of the most important show ever made in America,” says the father of some hopeful who has apparently never heard of Murder, She Wrote. We are in for a long night.
At least it starts well. Jessica Cabral is a 21-year-old Brazilian-American whose family moved around a lot before settling in Worcester, Massachusetts, which is pretty much the worst way that particular story could have ended. (I went to college in Worchester, and while I’m sure there are nice areas, the parts I knew looked like places I’d seen on Cops.) Oh, but her voice is so warm and rich. I am in love with Jessica Cabral. Top ten, mark it down.
If American Idol really does end this year, at least they can say they mercilessly shamed and clowned young gay men for the show’s entire run. Cody Ostrenga is a world champion in whatever the thing is called where you ride a horse and shoot at balloons. He shoots some finger-guns as he tells his story, and they add little flashes of light and zap! sound effects just to make him extra ridiculous. Also, Cody cannot sing. Thanks, American Idol!
Brian Dale Brown has auditioned ten times. Ten. He can also do a Scooby-Doo voice and an impression of Keith Urban saying “yeah,” which, by the way, are things everyone can do. He ejaculates all over “Unchained Melody” and gets on my nerves 11 different ways. The judges try to find nice ways to say “calm down” and mostly fail. AND YET THEY GIVE HIM A TICKET TO HOLLYWOOD. He celebrates by doing a Scooby-Doo voice. I hate Brian Dale Brown.
Seventeen-year-old Melany Huber was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, which is a huge bummer, but she’s now cancer-free, which is good. I took you on a real emotional roller-coaster there, didn’t I? She does some Bruno Mars song, or all of the Bruno Mars songs — they all kind of blend into one lukewarm, beige smoothie for me — and does it well, and I can’t wait to hear her sing something that wasn’t written in a pop-music laboratory. She’s in! If you assumed they play “Fight Song” as she leaves, you are correct.
Gina Baez brings a dog in a tutu and can’t sing and is wasting everyone’s time and should go straight to hell.
Then we get a big montage of people who’ve recruited family members into their American Idol audition experience. They’re all good, even the one who kind of forgets her lyrics and has to face her furious dad. They all make it through, but until they’re to stand on their own two feet, I will not name them individually. You have to earn that shit.
Everyone goes on and on about Kelly Clarkson. Remember how she wasn’t really featured at this stage in season one? Good times. Justin Sullivan brings T-shirts that say “Mr. Clarkson,” which does not bode well at all. There’s a guy playing guitar for him, and Harry asks if it’s his dad, and he says, “Yeah, twice removed,” which, shut up. That is not a thing. He can sing decently, I guess. If you saw him on karaoke night, he wouldn’t actively make you sad. The judges all say no, and he takes it well.
Finally, we get to Harry Connick Jr.’s birthday celebration. He gets some kind of tiny rodent-monkey thing as a gift, and we lose five minutes of life on this planet. We will never, ever get that time back.
Lillian Glanton is 15, and oh boy, she is a country girl. She says “fifteen” in a way that sounds like “feeftoyn,” and she lives on a poultry farm. My boyfriend thinks she says “poetry farm,” and we both decide we should have grown up on poetry farms. She sings an original song about mud holes and six guns and chiggers and pigtails and gittin’ dinner at the Sonic and a million other things I’ve made up. Harry gives her the gas face, but Jennifer and Keith send her through.
Kayce Haynes got super into rock ‘n’ roll and drugs and darkness, but now he wears brightly colored pants with thick gray sweaters, and he’s throwing his less-than-one-year-old sobriety directly at American Idol. Boy, just DON’T. Keith tells him no — possibly out of some recovery-brotherhood kind of concern — but the other two wave him through.
Zach Person does a Gary Clark Jr. song, and it’s like a cool drink of water in a desert of bad reality TV. He gets unanimous yeses. There’s not much to say here; he’s just very good. People like Zach, who are just very good, will only get so far.
Why? Because American Idol must make room for the Colette Lushes of the world. Mark my words, Colette Lush will be the Tatiana del Toro of the FAREWELL SEASON. She is very “original Tina on One Life to Live,” and she disappoints me by having a perfectly fine voice. I feel like she’ll stall out in Hollywood Week, as have the many Colette Lushes before her. Her family has glittery “Colette” signs, written in the Coca-Cola font, and you know there was a whole branding discussion around the Lush dinner table.
Avalon Young is a tomboy who plays along with the whole “this is my last chance” FAREWELL SEASON thing the show is pushing. She has lyrics from the Roxy Music song “Avalon” tattooed on her arm, though, so I want to be her friend. She does an acoustic version of Beyoncé’s “XO” and serves up some female Ed Sheeran, which, incredibly, is not yet a thing. Keep your eye on this one.
The most damaging lie we tell young gay men is that they need to be entertaining all the time. Usen Isong shimmies into the audition room,because he doesn’t know it’s not his responsibility to shimmy into every room. He sings Sam Smith’s “I’m Not the Only One” because, let’s face it, he’s a little basic. His voice is nice, though there are way too many runs. He makes it to Hollywood, and they play Lady Gaga’s “Applause” as he leaves. Where is Larry Kramer when you need him?
Jaci Butler is the lead singer in a band that’s like if Ladies and Gentlemen, The Fabulous Stains were a Lifetime movie. She is very alternative, by which I mean she has green hair and the Bruno Mars song she sings is from Twilight. She’s in.
Stephany Negrete wears a bustier and a miniskirt. Her version of “Who’s Lovin’ You” is great, and I’m getting notes of Pia Toscano, which is good for me and bad for her. J.Lo spits some hot truth at her and says she should have thought about the emotional content of what she was singing rather than all the notes she wanted to hit, and I want every singer in the world to listen to her. But then she gives Stephany a ticket to Hollywood anyway. J.Lo’s messaging is all over the place.
Manny Torres is the LAST AMERICAN IDOL AUDITIONER EVER, and he does a perfectly adequate version of a Maroon 5 song. That’s all you need to know: The most important show ever made in America ends its final audition episode with a decent cover of Maroon 5, followed by a giant Grease: Live! promo. God bless America.
And then there were 190. Next week, the Hollywood experience begins, and a million people cry or fail or triumph or have terrible parents. I can’t wait.