Idol Recap: The Ayes of Texas Are Upon You

Tonight’s one-hour installment of American Idol felt a little like the Very Special Oprah episode that culminated with the talk-show titan pointing to members of her audience and gleefully declaring “You get a car! And you get a car! And you get a car!” Except, instead of passing out Pontiac G6 sedans, Idol was distributing Golden Tickets to seemingly everyone who showed up for the Austin, TX, auditions. And, of course, instead of Oprah’s “vehicles for everyone” mantra, we got Steven Tyler dropping a truckload of f-bombs at the end of Day One.

British girl sing-crying her way through “The Climb”? You’re goin’ to Hollywood! Chick imitating a chicken? You’re goin’ to Hollywood! Random dude inventing a totally new “melody” to “A House Is Not a Home”? You’re goin’ to Hollywood! The way things went tonight, I half-expected the seven-foot armadillo in a cowboy hat to walk out with a Golden Ticket, too.

The perplexing thing is, Ryan Seacrest’s end-of-episode tally revealed that 50 Austin wannabes advanced to the next round of the competition. Which raises the question: Did the 11 successful auditions we witnessed tonight represent the absolute best that Austin had to offer? I find that about as believable as a business card emblazoned with “Paula Abdul, Ph.D.” So how come Nigel Lythgoe & Co. are holding out on us? Where are the voices so devastatingly good that we’ll still be talking about them five seasons from now?

And while we’re asking tough questions, here’s a few more: How come every single contestant with a heartwarming/tearjerking backstory winds up getting the judges’ stamp of approval? Wouldn’t it be fascinating if J.Lo looked deep into the eyes of “Kid Who Overcame Obstacles No. 7,492” and said, “Your life story is intensely moving, but your voice isn’t strong enough to win this competition”? Also, why does the final audition of every episode give off a whiff of “we’ve saved Nigel Lythgoe’s favored contestant for last”? (Newsflash: Ten seasons in, most Idol fans can handle the occasional hour that doesn’t conclude with a fairytale ending arriving like a wrecking ball to the side of a building.) And are we really destined to make it through the season 10 audition rounds without the judges ending up with a single 2-to-1 vote stacked in favor of withholding a Golden Ticket? I know Idol doesn’t do subtlety, but I have to believe there’d be true drama in seeing J.Lo or Steven or Randy muster up the courage to place a vote against someone who’s talented, but just not talented enough. In my mind, that kind of tough-love interaction wouldn’t spoil the feel-good vibe of Idol‘s tenth season, it would merely highlight the fact that the show is seeking greatness, not mere goodness, and that it has a panel of judges astute enough to know the difference.

Okay, okay, I’ll quit my ranting. It’s not like Austin didn’t introduce us to a few singers who at the very least possess the building blocks required to become compelling Idol semifinalists. Let’s break ’em on down from “outside chance at cracking the season 10 top 10” to “probably ending up in the ‘Holding Room of Sadness’ on Day Two of Hollywood Week”:

* Best of the bunch was Casey Abrams (pictured, right), a shaggy individual who apparently gets mistaken for Seth Rogen (not to mention a creature from Fraggle Rock). What I enjoyed most about Casey’s spin on “I Don’t Need No Doctor” was the way he delivered it with total abandon, the way he treated the song as a living, breathing organism rather than a sterile sheet of paper containing words and notes. (A few years back, when Fantasia Barrino instructed a fresh crop of Idols to “get ugly” with their singing, this is what she meant.) Casey threw in a bit of scat, then went from a lovely falsetto into a primal howl that had J.Lo lifting a hand to testify. Still, am I the only one who was a little thrown by that highlight reel of Casey goofing off in the audition line? Because what can play like devil-may-care 19-year-old in an audition room can easily read as “Taylor Hicks, Wedding Singer” on the big stage.

* True cowboy John Wayne Schulz suffered from pretty much the opposite problem of Casey: There’s no denying the guy exudes the kind of charm that could lasso unsuspecting viewers into speed-dialing fits, but there was something a tiny bit clenched in the way he performed Brooks & Dunn’s “Believe.” Then again, maybe John Wayne just got a little reserved in the presence of a dad who always wanted a “rough, tough son” and who seemed panic-stricken in the presence of TV cameras. (Important side note: By virtue of her giant “look at this photo of my son in football uniform” pin, Mrs. Schulz is now the runaway early leader in the season 10 MVP parents’ sweepstakes.)

* Community college choir sweethearts Nick Fink and Jacqueline Dunford played up the cheese factor to Code: Orange (Cheddar) levels during their intro package, but I think the presence of real live deer in the background was an indicator that the adorable duo was in on the joke. We didn’t hear much of Nick’s “Sunday Morning,” but the televised snippet revealed a tone that was more buttery than a Barefoot Contessa sauce. (Nick gets bonus points for his delighted reactions to Jacqueline’s tryout, and for shedding particularly dreamy tears when the judges gave him his share of praise.) To my ears, Jacqueline strained just a little too hard attempting the full-diva treatment on Duffy’s “Mercy,” resulting in a handful of notes that were wonkier than the braid-bang that covered her forehead.

*  I’m not sure what kind of stereotype factory Janelle Arthur has been frequenting, but girlfriend made it sound like the average U.S. citizen thinks that “country folk” resemble Mrs. Peacock from that classic X-Files episode “Home.” Fret not, Janelle, we city folk mean you no harm! In fact, a lot of us originally come from towns that look just like yours! Anyhow, Janelle’s choice of Duffy’s “Syrup and Honey” (coincidentally the audition song of season 9’s eliminated-too-early Katelyn Epperly) was as sweet as the breakfast toppings about which she sang. There’s something to be said for a vocalist whose style is akin to the “gentle” cycle of one’s washing machine. How the 20-year-old Tennessee native’s delicate delivery will hold up against Idol‘s Bandzilla, however, is another story altogether.

* Corey Levoy (pictured, left) had me at “I have a J.Lo booty.” And while the ‘”my sister and I were reunited in our teens” backstory seemed a little too much, too intimate, too random, too soon — Corey is 21, now, after all — he certainly delivered a pretty, if not completely memorable, rendition of “I Can’t Make You Love Me.” Is he the worthiest season 10 Golden Ticket-holder? Heck, no. But the “omigod Corey’s doing so well!” grin between Steven Tyler and Corey’s sister was pure reality TV nirvana, as was Steven’s observation that no one will be teasing Corey anymore about his high-pitched speaking voice. Can I get an amen? (“Ayyy-men!”)

* Most of the time, I get a little bummed when Idol crams two or three Golden Ticket auditions into a one-minute segment of the telecast. In the case of Shauntel Campos, Alex Carr, and Caleb Johnson, however, my first impression is that less (of their singing) is most decidedly more (than I want to hear). Shauntel’s “Ain’t No Sunshine” was pretty, albeit indistinctive. Alex’s gale-force “A House Is Not a Home” was catastrophically wrong-minded. And on “Rusty Cage,” Caleb sounded a little like he was trying out for a med-school reenactment of a patient passing a gall stone.

* It was hard to tell where the parody ended and the real audition began when Courtney Penry (pictured, center) took the stage. I thought her unabased crush on Ryan Seacrest was just a grasp at audience laughs, but she seemed to be shedding human-type tears of joy when she actually had her Close Encounter With the Host Kind later in the episode. Then, of course, there’s the fact that the brunette spitfire book-ended her audition to Sugarland’s “Stay” with her absolutely deranged impersonation of a chicken. If Courtney inexplicably manages to take home the season 10 crown, I think the “Idol winners screen”  should absolutely contain a shot of her funky fowl moves.

And with that, I leave you to discuss the night’s final Golden Ticket holder, Hollie Cavanagh, a 17-year-old from Liverpool who could’ve used a little more tough love and a lot more experience before she was ready to advance to Idol hell week. I’d expound on that thought, but the hour is late, so I’ll leave it to you readers to take over the reins and let me know your opinions down in the comments.

What did you think of Austin? Who was your favorite? Which contestants did you think should have been held back from Hollywood?  Sound off below! And if you have some strong thoughts or opinions on anything you saw tonight on Idol — pertaining to judges, contestants, trends or conspiracy theories — and you’d like to share them on the next episode of TVLine’s new Idol-related Web series, Idoloonies, email a paragraph or two to (and be sure to include a contact phone number). We’ll be selecting a handful of readers each week to join me in cohosting the Webcast via Skype or video chat (to tape on Friday afternoons). We’ll also be choosing a Twitter Question of the Week, so don’t hesitate to fire your best shots to me @MichaelSlezakTV. Be sure to tag it #Idoloonies!

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  1. forrest says:

    zero comments? Anyhow, (1) all I see is more tears of rejection and failure once hollywood week is upon us. More cannon fodder for those few talents we have and haven’t seen so far. (2) So, if you are given a backstory production piece, does that mean we’re seeing an automatic golden ticket? Are these audition episodes being edited together so straightforward as to be predictable? (3) Obviously, I’ve seen the personality of the judges, granted in edited form and I’m really ready for the competition to begin. C’mon folks, let’s just get on with it.

    • SallyinChicago says:

      Well you know this is a 16 week show, and you know the judges have a quota to meet? That’s why most of them went through. but come Hollywood, it’s bye-bye to most of them. They have to whittle it down to 40.

  2. WhiteLady says:

    “I find that about as believable as a business card emblazoned with “Paula Abdul, Ph.D.””
    LOL that was funny

  3. Carlito says:

    I was not impressed with last night’s group of singers, they do not seem to have enough talent to make it in Hollywood week. Don’t need to see the crazy get-ups or hear all the crazy back stories. Show us more of the contestants who made it through to Hollywood. Still like S Tyler. And Michael, your coverage is as usual spot on!

  4. Joyce says:

    Mrs. Peacock!! I got enjoyably creeped out just being reminded of that episode of the X-Files. That’s why I love reading your recaps Michael Slezak. Thank you!

  5. darclyte says:

    Hey Micheal, I’m sure that there are times when the judges say no 2-1, and I’m also sure that there are times when someone has a “sob story” but doesn’t make it through. AI just doesn’t seem to want to show them so far.

    Of the people who they showed make it through, if I had to take a ticket away from any of the it’d be the gal who sang twice, ending with “The Climb.” I actually thought that she was better than some of the “marginal” people who have been sent to Hollywood so far, so in that case she too should go, but I felt that she was the weakest of the night.

    Janelle could be a model or actress, very pretty girl. There was another blonde who they showed at the end when they announced that 50 had made it through, she was talking to someone on her cell who asked if she was the next Idol…I think she had tattoo writing on her arm….she also was very cute.

    The cowboy guy could be exactly what the Idol folks would like to see win, a nice looking, down to earth, honest to goodness cowboy country singer, but I don’t know if his voice is good enough. We’ll see.

    The last guy, Casey, has mad skills. The way he hit all sorts of notes and ranges was impressive. But, would America vote “Fraggle Rogan” the next American Idol? (shakes Magic 8 Ball) “Signs point to no.”

  6. kayk says:

    Just when I was waiting for the WOW, Casy came along – THANK YOU!!!

    • kayk says:

      OOPS, I meant Casey!

      • McFudge says:

        A successful – that is, wildly successful – American Idol will be either a country or pop/rock singer who has a big voice, is telegenic, doesn’t have personal issues, and is a nice, non-jaded, non-Hollywood person without being milquetoast. As talented as Casey may be in his genre, he’s not going to sell records and fill up arenas.

  7. Adam Leonard says:

    The minute I heard Casey Abrams sing, I turned to my wife and said “it’s the second coming of Taylor Hicks.” My biggest disappointment with the episode was the fact that they made no effort to bring in anything about Austin. Nothing about “Keeping Austin Weird” or the long standing as “Live Music Capital of the World.” They might as well have been in Albuquerque. They talked up plenty about Nashville’s musical heritage but Austin got the “generic location” treatment.

    • Teresa says:

      That is a pity. I was a little miffed that they’ve auditioned three times in Austin and they hardly ever hit the NW region. BTW, Portland also has the informal slogan “Keep Portland Weird,” so it’s something we have in common.

      I do know that Austin has a great live music culture, so I did understand why AI would rather hold auditions there. But I wouldn’t have known it from watching the show. They should have mentioned it at least.

    • darcy's evil twin says:

      Funny you say that about Casey Abrams – he reminded me a little of Taylor Hicks as well, but he’s a little more current and doesn’t seem quite as corny.

      • Adam Leonard says:

        Casey is kind of goofy and his audition was very Ray Charles. Taylor’s audition was goofy and Joe Cocker but he busted out his Ray Charles enough times for me to connect Casey to him.

  8. Jane says:

    I’ve been perplexed by the number of golden tickets given out this year too, not just in Austin. Simon was good at seeing the people that could sing well, but not enough for idol and also wasn’t moved by the pleas of “I really want this” and tears. I think that’s part of it. I wonder though, with new judges, if more people are getting to sing in front of them than in previous seasons. If you only see 50-75 people sure maybe 12 or so are going to be good, but you double that and maybe that’s why there have been so many sent through. No wonder they have to do the sing well or go home Beatles round in Hollywood. They have to get rid so many mediocre singers.

    • KT says:

      I don’t know, without digging through archives or anything, I think they’ve probably always given out as many tickets to Hollywood. I wouldn’t venture to estimate how many, but after huge cuts in the first round, more huge cuts in the group performances, and then still having 3 or four rooms full of 25 or 30 people, that’s a lot of Golden Tickets.. We just haven’t seen so many of the winners in recent history because they always spent three-quarters of the show on the joke performances and train wrecks.

    • Teresa says:

      I think they are giving out more golden tickets this year than usual. I know that Season 8 had about 175 starters in Hollywood week (quickly culled down to 50 and then dramatically cut to 36).

      They’ve been giving about 50 tickets per city this year, which will give them over 200 contestants in HW. This probably has to do with the newness of Steven and Jennifer as judges. Once they go through the bloodbath of HW, they’ll probably choose to make more cuts at the audition level and spare everyone the heartache.

      In the past, though, there have been a lot of singers who’ve gone to Hollywood multiple times. (Have any of them ever made the finals? I’m not sure.) That can be a learning experience. Since there are so many younger singers getting through, it might help those potential finalists to experience HW, go home to work on their skills, and then come back in another year.

    • Snsetblaze says:

      I remember in past seasons that they send somewhere between 160 and 200 through (usually around 175 or 180). This year I read they sent over 300 through. I would bet that a good portion were 15 and 16 year olds as opposed to the other end, the 29 or 30 year olds.

  9. JAS says:

    I’m getting so tired of all the females on the show who just have to burst into tears to get their golden ticket. We’ve already seen that about five times this season and I’m sure we’ll see it again.

    • Snsetblaze says:

      I wouldn’t mind seeing a few of the marginal auditions where the tears do not work and they are told they need more work and to try again. There is no suspense as is where they keep sending through some who do not deserve it.

    • darcy's evil twin says:

      And won’t it be fun if one of those crybabies actually does well in Hollywood Week? I have a feeling they aren’t just showing those auditions just to annoy us.

      Then again, perhaps they are, LOL. the AI producers seem to delight in torturing viewers on occasion.

  10. NanCeE* says:

    I was most impressed with John Wayne Schultz. I think he’s got it and is the best country voice Idol’s seen this year. I would also like to see more no votes. I thought the crying “The Climb” girl would have been best served with a “come back next year.” She has a nice voice but clearly isn’t ready for this yet. The Idol gang was on Oprah yesterday and Steven talked about how at the end of the audition day they have some lovely package that makes the day worth it, so unfortunately I don’t think this trend is going to end this season.

    • jello says:

      I can’t imagine anyone in the music industry watching John Wayne Schulz and not being completely repulsed. Today’s music market is all about sex, drugs, and flamboyant, trend-setting behavior. As a pot-smoking, coke-snorting gay man proud to flaunt his sexuality, Adam Lambert represents all that is great and good about American pop music. HIs iconic AMA performance simulating gay sex will be remembered long after people like John Wayne Schulz and Kris Allen are forgotton. They are throwbacks to the dark days of the 1950s that celebrated repressive middle class values such as hard work, honesty, morality, responsibility, humility, religious faith, and devotion to family. There is no place for these values into today’s music market. Which explains why a singer like Miley Cyrus is working so hard to change her image from sweet young girl to a rebellious, sexual young woman now that she has outgrown her Disney years. If Idol continues to allow people like John Wayne Shulz into the competition, the show will rapidly descend into utter irrelevancy in the music marketplace.

      • NanCeE* says:

        So I’m thinking country music is not for you? Also, did you mean to be funny? Because you totally were. Are you one of those people that screams for tolerance and equality but then shows their intolerance for other preferences besides their own? Go on with your bad self, man, but please be careful. That coke-snorting will kill you. There’s a whole industry and group of fans that will love this guy, just like there’s a whole industry and group of fans that love Glambert…and thankfully there are still some people who think there’s room for both. Tolerance (or better yet, acceptance) is tough for everyone.

    • Mysti Adams says:

      There is not “next year”. This is it. This is Idol’s last year, so how can they say that?

  11. Pam says:

    Frankly, I thought last night’s episode was boring, except for Chicken Girl and the Seth Rogen/Fraggle Rock look-a-like. The girl who sang “The Climb” will probably get eaten alive in Hollywood, but I’ll say one thing – she can sing that song better than Miley. Even my 10 y/o said so! LOL

  12. Yo says:

    I thought I was the only one becoming bored with these auditions, but apparently not. Oddly enough, when we spend the day clearing white stuff, we need more entertainment value when we come inside. I am cranky and most tired of manipulation, which I generally ignore. (Hey producers, you need to tell JLo not to change clothes/hairdos for two days running!) I liked the Fink voice, but it would prolly be a good idea to lose the last name – it is pun heaven. I generally and sadly thought there was more variety in the male voices – and this year could use another Taylor. Laugh if you will, the guy entertains (and so does the chicken head Ryan stalker).

  13. Sophie says:

    The producers are clearly setting up a crash and burn Hollywood Week. Some of these pups are just much too young and naive to be sent out into the world. Further frontal lobe development is needed before they are exposed to the intoxicating taste of fame and money. And I will bet we are going to meet some truly crazy Mama Rose wannabe parents. Some of these parents have to be dancing on the edge of sanity to let their pups swim in the deep end of Hollywood at 15. Slezak, get the Japanese horror film reel ready for your Hollywood Week podcasts. Godzilla will have plenty of monsters to fight to the death with!

    I actually liked the talent in Austin. I want to see what Casey and the lovebirds do in Hollywood. Sadly, Nigel probably has a grisly break up planned for the lovebirds.

  14. ladyinsilver says:

    What really strikes me about this season of Idol is that, despite all the pre-season hype about all the big changes coming to Idol this year, nothing has really changed. Other than two new judges, nothing at all has changed! We have the same blatantly manipulative packaged “showcases” of the producer’s chosen contestants; the same marginal contestants (both talent and personality) who are allowed to grab TV time by doing bizarre things in front of the camera. We see a few promising singers every episode (2-3 at most!), and we are left wondering which mega-talent we were not allowed to see. Yawn! Idol needs to re-work this whole “audition episodes” process, or ratings will continue the inevitable downward slide.

    • John says:

      Yep…I agree….except for the zanny Tylor (…frankly, I’ve already seen/heard too much from JLo and Randy)this audition biz is same old, same old…..I’ve watched a couple of shows, but the boring factor grows on me….thank goodness, in my market, I have THE MIDDLE on Wednesdays, and THE BIG BANG THEORY on Thursdays.

    • susela says:

      Actually, we’re seeing far less of the truly bizarre non-talents (Armadillo Girl notwithstanding). I think they went overboard with those in the past few years, perhaps because they could count on Simon brutalizing them. Also, the judges clearly get along and are having fun—what a refreshing change! I love Simon, but he really checked out once Paula left and he was stuck Kara and then (eeesh) Ellen. It’s nice to see the judges so invested and interested in what they’re doing.

      • ChristineOH says:

        Yes, Simon ABSOLUTELY checked out when Paula left. He had a genuine affection for her, and Kara kept trying to recreate it, but there was no chemistry there. I think the new panel has great chemistry, and they seem to genuinely be enjoying themselves and each other.

        I am happy they have cut down the joke auditions. That’s one reason I’ve never liked the audition shows as much.

    • Betsy says:

      I think it’s improved quite a bit – there are a LOT less ridiculous costumed failures being showcased, which I’m so glad about. I want to see good auditions; not waste a bunch of time on the terrible ones. I also think the vibe of the show is different and better with the new judges – even Ryan seems more like a cool human being instead of a robot jerk. So, I’m enjoying it a lot more this year than the last couple of years so far.

  15. jado says:

    I think most people agree that the bar has been lowered for golden ticket hand-outs this season. It may be that after 9 years of harvesting, the crop is getting thinner (hence one of the reasons for lowering the minimum age requirement.)

    I’m wondering if the producers/judges have a quota to fill for each location. I imagine it wouldn’t sound good if Ryan’s VO annouces at aparticular city ‘also moving on are 17 other hopefuls….”

    Hollywood Week needs a certain population of pop-star wannabes to make good TV and ensure built in drama and success. Also a lower number of tinsel town troubadours is bad optics for the viewers. It’s an open acknowledgment of the reduced numbers of undiscovered high calibre singers out there and illustrates the diminshing of the talent pool – sending a message “AI is on the wane”.

    I’m pretty sure there will be some amazing performnaces this year too, but we have to wade through the waters containing copious amounts of mediocrity to find the few nuggest left unsifted.

    I’m curious if anyone else thinks there is “quota” for each location?

    • Marta says:

      ” Also a lower number of tinsel town troubadours is bad optics for the viewers. It’s an open acknowledgment of the reduced numbers of undiscovered high calibre singers out there and illustrates the diminshing of the talent pool – sending a message “AI is on the wane”.”

      I think you nailed it right on the head…. if they don’t have an abundant crop in Hollywood, it appears like there isn’t much to choose from. News flash producers, we’re thinking that exact thing when you show the judges sending crying and pleading 15-yr-olds to Hollywood.

    • darcy's evil twin says:

      I don’t believe for a minute there’s a shortage of talent. There are 300 million people in this country. Again, the show is about potential. Remember, Simon didn’t want to put David Cook or Daughtry through to Hollywood. there’s so much more to come, folks. Someone that seems “okay” in an audition could really hit their stride and shine during Hollywood Week. that’s part of the fun of the show.

  16. allie says:

    I certainly hope the judges step up the constructive criticism in Hollywood. I am still enjoying the freshness and enthusiasm that Tyler and J-Lo are bringing to the judging panel but I miss Simon’s honesty. Randy almost said something helpful when he told one of the contestants that she has a lot of bad habits to break but he needed to go farther. He also should have stuck to his “no” for the child from Liverpool – she is too immature and sensitive for this. I hope this experience doesn’t crush her spirit – she has a good voice but she needs training and experience to get more control.

    • Snsetblaze says:

      I was wondering why he did not tell her what the bad habits were.

      • Susan says:

        But WHAT bad habits? Does no one auditioning ever ask for feedback? These kids are going to get eaten alive in Hollywood, and they don’t ask one question about how they can prepare? What they need to do in the next 3 months to get better? It makes me crazy.

        Someone said it above – I like the freshness of Tyler and JLo, but otherwise it’s exactly the same. They need some freshness in the producer’s chair (and no, that’s not Nigel).

    • Andre says:

      Agreed that I’m enjoying Stephen and Jennifer’s presence and critical feedback to the contestants. When I see Stephen listening with his eyes closed, I see someone truly listening, removing visual distraction. I see Jennifer leaning into the audition, paying attention, being present and giving useful musical/vocal feedback.

      Randy, on the other hand has little constructive to add. I find Randy dismissive and rude. While some of the contestants are clearly not good singers, for Randy to start laughing and rolling his eyes during their audition is completely unprofessional.

      I have read the lists of planned changes for this season of Idol and what interested me the most was the intention to truly coach/mentor the contestants. That coaching starts the moment the cameras roll. If you’re going to dismiss a contestant who is auditioning, tell them why. Even if they disagree with you, the judges are supposed to be providing industry expertise while searching for the next ‘idol’. If the feedback is “you’re a terrible singer”, that is an opinion, not critical feedback. Tell the contestants something that they can work with – what went wrong? what can they improve on?

      Randy should have been dumped as a judge as well, IMO.

  17. Marta says:

    I absolutely agree, Slezak. Until they show a 2-1 vote not stacked in favor of a contestant, the drawing-out-our-vote schtick doesn’t work. Its so anti climatic and annoying. Adding insult to injury, I don’t think there’s been one 2-to-1 contestant this season that I rooted for to get a ticket. The gimmick doesn’t work until you show the contrary or until you show contestants we are hoping get the 2-1 vote in their favor.

  18. CMJ says:

    I can see a restraining order in Courtney Chicken’s future if she gets cut early in Hollywood (and she should). I suspect our Community College romance will crash and burn when he moves forward and she fails to progress past the first cuts. I actually thought the Fink twink was one of the better auditions of the night.

    One of the reasons I enjoy the first few weeks of the season is that I like watching people realize that they aren’t as talented as they think…sounds cruel, but I am impressed with how some people handle it, and of course, quite amused by others.

  19. Sophie says:

    Tyler is like a gaper delay on I-95. You know you shouldn’t stop to watch, but you just can’t help yourself. If he is like this in a taped and edited episode…boy am I looking forward to the live shows!

  20. Titina says:

    I really really liked Casey.
    Yes he won´t win or anything but there´s something very special about him. He doesn´t remind me of Taylor HIcks at all.

    Yes, he is soulful but in a much more current way.
    If he manages to be versatile on the live shows he could be a force to be reckon with.
    I want to see him put his spin on modern songs too. He´s 19! I also read he writes pop songs so you never know.
    Plus you know he will get a makeover week by week. Can´t wait for that.
    I hope he does well.

  21. Elizabeth says:

    Really liked Casey and Corey.

  22. Ella says:

    I actually enjoyed thie episode. And good thing that it was only 1 hour long. It was light and funny and I actually like some contestants. The last one, Casey was very, VERY interesting. I’m looking forward to see/hear more of him. If he only didn’t remind som much of that dreadful actor Seth Rogen! But it’s not his fault he looks a like, lol.
    Anyway, usually I don’t even watch auditions and this year is exception and I LOVE Steven Tyler and JLO is good too, Randy is starting to get on my nerves (and last season he was my favorite judge! lol), but all is good.

    And whomever said that is’t same ole, same ole – well, it’s still AI folks! Of course the formula is still the same, and I might add – it still works! Put I personally see the change for the better.

    One thing though is it’s still too many auditions. I’m about done with them already, even though I enjoyed them this season. And it’s not that there are no talented people they show, it’s just hard to see it in these short acapella performances. You need a good setting to fully appreciate and enjoy a singer and that’s why it’s enough of audutions. I’d compact them in 2-3 episodes and showed more of Hollywood performances.

    I’m also sure that they put through around 50 people every year, but the difference is that they show more of those who made it instead of freak shows they usually did and personally I’m ALL for this change. Those freak shows were getting very stale.

  23. Teresa says:

    My favorites of the night were Casey and Janelle. I really liked their voices.

    I see a potential problem for this year. It’s a speck on the horizon right now, but it may be huge come finale time. Where is the William Hung? Who is going to show up on finale night for that embarrassing reprise of the bad auditioners? Civil War re-enactment guy? Seven foot armadillo? What are we going to do with someone to sing this year’s equivalent of “Pants on the Ground” or show off the enhancements to her bikini?

    This is a serious problem, folks!

    • darcy's evil twin says:

      Teresa, you are so funny.

      I must admit, though, I laughed myself silly at “Pants on the Ground” but Idol always runs a good thing into the ground. I’ll never forget Mary J. Blige’s reaction when she realized General Larry Platt was serious – he was tired of the pants on the ground!

      Hey, cheer up, girlfriend – they’re going to be in LA, and who knows what kind of madness that will bring.

      Or perhaps this is some sort of gift from a higher power to all of us long-suffering idoloonies!

  24. darcy's evil twin says:

    Good recap, Slezak. As usual.

    First, I would like to comment on the golden ticket auditions that weren’t broadcast – I know very little about the music business, but I have a friend who makes wedding DVDs and he can use music in the videos as long as he doesn’t sell the DVDs (he makes his money on the still photos and the DVD is a “freebie”). So, I’m guessing the kids trying out can sing whatever they like without purchasing rights to the song, but once it’s broadcast on TV it might be a whole different situation, since AI has sponsors and clearly makes money.

    Is it possible they show auditions for songs to which AI already owns the broadcasting rights? Is it also possible that there are some songs used in auditions for which the songwriters won’t sign off on broadcasting rights? Just a thought. If anyone knows the answers please feel free to pass along the information.

    It may seem as though a lot of people are getting through, but crap, look at the trainwreck from last year. I think the judges were too reliant on Simon and Simon was looking for a “product”, not someone who could sing. They attempted to “cast” the show rather than just pick decent singers in order to appeal to a wide demographic (i.e., ratings). These judges are looking at potential, and I think that’s kind of refreshing. Was anyone blown out of their seats the first time they saw Carrie Underwood on AI? This is about potential and growth, and I believe we’ve forgotten that fact.

    That said, John Wayne is WAY marketable in country music. He could have a long, lucrative career and country fans are loyal to a fault (two words – Dixie Chicks). I liked Jaqueline …Dunsford? The blonde that sang Duffy’s “Mercy”. And Casey Abrams was wonderful but not what American Idol is looking for, but wow, what talent.

    • Really? says:

      “country fans are loyal to a fault(two words – Dixie Chicks)”

      You’re kidding right? Did you miss the whole people losing their minds and burning CDs, radio refusing to play their music, threatening their lives? Were those fans loyal to the Dixie Chicks?

      However, I do agree that country fans are the most loyal fans in music.

      • darcy's evil twin says:

        Sorry, what I meant was they were loyal to President Bush! I apologize for the confusion. They are devoted fans, but they are also very patriotic. There are three country music stations here and two of them still refuse to play the Dixie Chicks. Too bad – we really liked them and saw them perform at a local festival. they were on the verge of something really, really big!

  25. Owen says:

    Michael. Its as if you’ve never SEEN an episode of Idol. Or worked for an Entertainment magazine. This is a TV show. You know this. They want to create a ‘story’ as even reality shows try to do. You keep asking why its like that. But you know. So why waste space each and every column asking. Accept. It will go down much easier.

  26. Chris says:

    Best of the night for me was John Wayne. Maybe not the very best voice but quite good. More importantly he is hot and doesn’t fit the white guy with guitar Nigel meme. I see him getting at least as far as the first voting rounds.
    Michael I had the same thoughts about his Mom’s giant photo pin but as always your turn of phrase exceeds anything I can nuster. Also your talent for metaphor is second to none, “buttery sauce”.

    • Susan says:

      The pin on his Mom’s shirt is of his youngest brother. He couldn’t be there so she wore his pin. At least that’s what they are saying on his official Facebook page.

  27. Mel31602 says:

    I agree that part of the reason so many people are getting through is because they are showing fewer train wrecks, which I am all for. Even if they are putting more people through than usual I am fine with that. I think as long as a person has potential they should go through. As someone said before, they may blossom in Hollywood. I know when I go back to watch the auditions of contestants who I like in the live shows I see their auditions weren’t that good but they got better over time. And those who don’t improve can be easily weeded out.

  28. susela says:

    “…her unabased crush on Ryan Seacrest…” I’m guessing you meant “unabashed”?

  29. Bob says:

    Yesterday’s show was pretty boring. After all the auditions we’ve seen so far, I’ve heard only a few good singers but nobody I really feel like rooting for and nobody I really want to hear again.

  30. Tuzo says:

    Maybe he did but it was edited out?

    • Tuzo says:

      Since the REPLY TO THIS POST decided to not reply to the post, this was a reply to @Snsetblaze: “I was wondering why he did not tell her what the bad habits were.”

      Maybe he did but it was edited out?

  31. Kay says:

    We all know that having previously released music is not a disqualifier, but according to this 7-year-old article, John Wayne Schulz actually had grammy nominations!

    • Mel31602 says:

      I can’t link to it because I’m on an iPod but a billboard article clarifies that he made it into the first round of nominations but wasn’t on final ballot

  32. Laura says:

    I have really been enjoying the “new” idol. I think that the panel has a great chemistry. Although I don’t think that the girl who broke into tears was the best we have heard, I appreciated Jennifer’s reaction and request to hear another song. She is a class act. That type of reaction never would been allowed under Simon. I also appreciate that they are showing more of the legitimately talented folks rather than all the delusional types. It gives the show more credibility and I don’t feel as bad about myself for laughing at the hopeless and hapless.

  33. sharon says:

    an interesting article regardless but i find it especially interesting in light of some of the questions u raised today: the difficulty to say/accept no, the focus on the hero’s journey– suffering that is followed by a victory (as evidenced by the golden price tag).,b=facebook

  34. Suncatcher says:

    Austin was a downer. Having been there and knowing the great club scene, it was not what I expected. A talent drought – especially compared to NJ and Milwaukee, and the judges seemed a bit tired too.

    The worst moment to me – Hollie Cavanagh from Liverpool who could not stop crying when rejected the first time. If she can’t handle 3 judges in a small hotel room, she’ll faint dead away when she reaches the Los Angeles city limits! Could not believe they gave her the golden ticket after she calmed down long enough to sing “The Climb”, the 2nd try.

    ECSTATIC they are hardly showing any of the “psychos” and idiots as in years past when that’s about ALL we saw!

    Other than that, AI has been FANTASTIC this year! It is a brand new show and seems totally revitalized, in my humble opinion. And we still have our Slezak to guide is through to the end!!!

  35. Idol8Fan says:

    This season everybody that can carry a tune through at least part of the song and doesn’t have a really badly annoying voice gets through unanimously. The judging standards seemingly have been eliminated. Maybe that is so more people get a second chance. I can live with that for now but let’s see if it pans out. At this stage though I think they need to choose to show auditions with some judging drama in order to make it good television. We only see a fraction of the number of people that are actually getting through and it’s pointless to connect with anybody this early because most won’t make it far enough to care about them.

    Most audition round episodes with rare exception are tedious and boring for large parts of them. This is reality TV at its worst. Can we just skip the rest of these Audition rounds please. You can show us the auditions of those who make it past the first mass Hollywood cuts as you see fit later.

    The score this season so far: 1 hour that kept me interested.

    They need to focus on the singing and the good singing needs to be as close to full song as possible for me to get interested in a person. Short clips don’t draw you in enough to enjoy. I’m pleased at the improvement this year but I’m not feeling it’s consistent and wonder if out of the 50 they sent through if there weren’t some better auditions than what have been shown. I do not like the emphasis on underage singers and suspect they skipped over showing us better auditions. I do very much like the way the bad singing is being treated this year. It’s perfect.

    Tyler is an interesting character true but the in your face TMZish edit he is getting is not appealing. It’s keeping the remote in my hand resting on the FF button ready to give it a bump. I like J Lo much better overall and am getting a strong vibe that she is going to be the standout judge of the season.
    I think Randy is under performing compared to previous years audition rounds.

  36. Brian Dunkleman's Shrink says:

    A Short Play About 5 Austin Contestants I’m Eager To See More Of

    Lights up on an American Idol Holding Room. 3:00.

    John Wayne Schultz: Howdy, little lady.
    Courtney Penry: Cluck!
    John Wayne Schultz: Is this where them sangin’ auditions be holdin’?
    Courtney Penry: Cluck! Cluck!

    John Wayne Schultz walks over to Corey Levoy. Corey faints.

    John Wayne Schultz: Heard you inside. You done good, pardner.
    Corey Levoy: Better than when I was in this competition under the name David Hernandez?
    John Wayne Schultz: Mighty right. Is that your little lady? My pap’s been fixin’ for a nice weddin’ real soon ayup.
    Corey Levoy: She’s my sister.
    John Wayne Schultz: A single man. Good for you.
    (An awkward pause.)
    Corey Levoy: I wish I knew how to quit you.

    John Wayne Schultz walks over to Nick Fink and Jacqueline Dunford.

    John Wayne Schultz: Howdy.
    Jacqueline Dunford: I’m better than you. Hi.
    John Wayne Schultz: Well this here gives new meanin’ to a cattle call. How you holdin’ up, little fella?
    (Nick Fink impregnates Jacqueline Dunford.)
    John Wayne Schultz: Well all right.


  37. GeekKub says:

    Michael, I truly love you and reading what you have to say…however some of your “rants”, to me, are starting to overshadow the rest of your amazing articles. I really feel like the producers of the show cannot win with “us”, no matter how much they try to make the show better. It seems we always find a reason to complain.

    We are finally starting to see less joke auditions and are seeing more of the Golden Ticket winners. Woo hoo! However, it seems that now we have decided they are giving out too many Golden Tickets and the producers are again playing games with us.

    For once, I feel the judges are on a similar playing field and I’m loving it. They know what they are looking for, they are going for it, and I applaud it. If they see something, that we may not, who are we to say they got it wrong? I’m all for them giving these people the chances they are getting. We all know Simon would have kicked many of the people out instantly. Lets give the judges and producers the benefit of the doubt and see what happens down the road…Honestly, what does it hurt? We have too much talent to pull from, really?

    Why isn’t is plausible that we don’t see some of the other auditions because they cannot get clearance for the songs they chose to sing. I never see this mentioned as a possible reason, instead it has to be the producers holding out on us (and they very well could be, I like surprises).

    Also, just because we don’t see a 2 to 1 vote against someone, doesn’t mean it isn’t happening. I personally want to tune in and see people get through. I’m tired of the train wrecks and the heartbroken in the early rounds…lets save that for later on in the competition where it is more interesting and we have more of an investment in these people.

    There is my rant. hehe Grrr, I just did it too.

    I’ll always read your posts and look forward to everything you do Michael…thank you. :)

    • darcy's evil twin says:

      GeekKub – great minds think alike. I actually mentioned music clearance as a reason why some auditions are broadcast and others are not (I posted it here, earlier in the day).

  38. Tuzo says:

    I don’t know if it’s just that I’m cynically jaded (probably) but I’m getting a little sick of the Idol sob stories that feel like they are shoving down our throats every year. Especially when it’s the first thing we get to know when we meet these people. To be honest, I can’t remember Chris Medina’s name — he’s just “wife with brain injury guy” to me. Actually, that makes me feel like a bit of a jerk. :/ Thank you, Nigel Lythgoe. (For the record I had to look up his name for this post.)

    Why can’t this be about the contestants? My main focus is trying to enjoy and be moved by the contestants performance. Their back-story isn’t going to change this. Either they can put the emotion in the song or not. Maybe when we get to know the contestants better I would be more interested in their back stories. i.e. when I care about them a bit more. But if Idol’s taught us one thing it’s that we shouldn’t get attached to these contestants yet; some of them will simply vanish no matter how good they seemed. We’ll see a fleeting shot of them in the background in a Hollywood week group number and then they will be gone without a trace.

    This brings me to John Wayne Schultz. It just seems like the producers are grasping at straws looking for any type of woeful back-story to put on the show. I’m glad his mother has recovered from breast cancer but I thought it came off as maudlin. This story seemed less tragic and more like “living life”. From a certain point of view these are the challenges that life gives us. Let’s put it in perspective: 1 in 8 women born today will get breast cancer in their lifetime. My aunt died of breast cancer and my mother-in-law survived breast cancer. If I was on Idol, I can’t imagine wanting to share that with the whole world (maybe that’s why I’m not on reality shows?). I’m sure everyone has had issues in their life but I don’t really need to have those stories shoved down my throat in a singing competition.

  39. mytwocents says:

    This is in response to what Shauna Summers said in the first idoloonie video about Molly D. Swensen a.k.a. White House Intern:

    Where and when did you find her to be entitled? If poise, confidence, maturity, and class, not to mention a willingness to work hard for what she wants in life, constitute a sense of entitlement, then let’s have more of it! I’d rather see that anyday over the shameless and humiliating crow-eating displayed by the young people in these episodes who thought they were “entitled” to a golden ticket just because they “want it so bad.”

    Being a Harvard graduate is an achievement to be proud of anywhere, anytime, and no, she wasn’t boasting at all. How is her background story any less valid than any of the others we have heard so far? Instead of sitting on her a.s.s. eating Doritos, she placed value on a great education, and worked her a.s.s. to get there. And I’ll bet you my two cents that had she been rejected by the judges, she would have handled it with dignity. Just a feeling. Maybe that’s what pride can bestow upon a person.

  40. Lana says:


  41. Lana says:

    Michael I just now found you! I don’t know why you are not with E(I think) but I am thrilled that someone in comments gave your new address. I was bummed thinking I would have to go through AI without you!!! Love the new judges, Tyler is a Hoot and I do like the chemistry and have realized I am enjoying AI better when the judges are obviously enjoying themselves. It just makes it all more fun.

  42. lunaburning says:

    I do love that the judges seem to be enjoying their jobs so much and are so enthsiastic about finding the next Idol, I really do. But, I often find myself rolling my eyes, when they send another mediocre singer through, on a pity vote. “Awwww, sorry about your bad childhood, but here’s a trip to Hollywood! Let’s turn that frown upside down!” And enough with the “Let’s all scream YES in unison!”

  43. BRCO says:

    My theory on why Jlo and Sty are sending so many through that are OK but not great: imagine if either of them had to audition like this, early in their career? Would they have made it to Hollywood? Would you have been blown away by Steven Tyler singing alone in front of three judges? Maybe not, but he’s pretty much killed it. What about Taylor Swift or Miley? The absolute BEST singing voice isn’t necessarily what will make you successful as a performer… If they see a voice that has potential, and the persona to be a performer, they know that it’s possible to do well in the music business, and they are living proof. So if they see potential, they are willing to give them another chance. That’s my two cents anyway….

  44. oxy says:

    Does anyone notice, but I think Shauntel sounds exactly like Siobhan Magnus from last season!