American Idol San Diego Auditions Recap: On With the Showboating

American Idol shook things up by taking its auditions to the open water — or more specifically, to the U.S.S. Midway in San Diego Harbor — for a special Sunday-night episode. But there were plenty of constants, too: Producers continued the Season 11 trend of de-emphasizing joke auditions; Jennifer Lopez continued to champion the combination of poofy shorts and high heels; and Randy Jackson was there.

Let’s cut to the chase, shall we?

We kick things off with Melons McHotpants (*not her real name), who presumably was already spending time down by the docks in her ill-fitting red-and-white tube top and denim underpants, noticed the Idol auditions, and figured, “Might as well clamber aboard and do my best Jessica Simpson impersonation.” Alas/thankfully (depending on your point of view), we are not witnessing the second coming of Bikini Girl, which means we’ll have no scantily clad “sing-off” vs. J.Lo (or Steven) at the finale, only some bitter tears of shock and disappointment at the lack of a Golden Ticket. Oh, and yet another failed punch line from Randy: “The problem is, she should’ve worn a red bikini.” (Um, no, the problem is Uncle Nigel should’ve used this oceanic interlude to hurl you overboard and replace you with a real judge.)

Ashley Rhodes is up next, and she’s like a refreshing glass of iced tea compared to the mug of sludge that just made its way off the ship. Ashley is a single mom who works as an insurance account manager and a DJ, and yet producers fail to take the opportunity to play Kris Allen’s cover of “She Works Hard for the Money” in the background. Ashley also makes a strange choice — picking “I Will Always Love You” as her audition number — and shows off a solid instrument that is perhaps 20 percent less impressive when she’s not full-on belting. Even so, it’s hard not to root for an upbeat young woman who responds to Randy’s “where have you been?” by noting she’s spent the last few years being a mom and paying her bills. (The shoes on her feet? She bought ’em.)

The next three Golden Ticket recipients all get the “joke or no joke” treatment, starting with Jayrah Gibson, who tells the judges he’s “an R&B and pop artist” as if that’s what he does to pay his own automobills. (I’d bet everything in my wallet that a check of his tax returns would prove otherwise.) Jayrah tackles Musiq Soulchild’s “Just Friends,” complete with a corny “lady-curves” hand gesture. To her credit, J.Lo kinda sorta manages to point out that the track itself is inherently annoying — telling Jayrah that in the future, she’d like to hear him tackle more “melodic” songs than “rhythmic” ones — but even though he’s not without talent, there’s no way Jayrah won’t turn out to be Hollywood Week cannon fodder, right?

Aubree Dieckmeyer‘s first impression is even less promising, as she giggles and purrs and keeps accidentally looking into the camera and saying she wants to become “a singer and America’s Next Top Model.” Maybe it’s just nerves getting the best of her, but Aubree’s bubblehead persona is unfortunate not just because it’s been almost a century since the passage of the 19th Amendment, but because her rendition of “Feeling Good” is actually terrific, showcasing an airy tone that occasionally drifts into a outskirts of Yodelville, and a unique sense of phrasing that brings the song’s lyrics to vivid life. Too bad her voice will most likely be drowned out by her babygirl antics.

And then there’s Ali Shields, so “unusual” that she got her first two kisses from Mike Posner and Usher while working as a special correspondent for Ellen DeGeneres, so “wacky” that she kicks off her audition rapping to Chris Brown’s “Look at Me Now” and fulfilling Randy’s request for a booty-shaking “ghetto dance,” and so “Oh! Em! Gee!” aware of her own persona that I’m not sure I could handle it if she’s ever again on my TV screen. After Ali finally gets around to delivering a servicable but far from spectacular rendition of “Like a Star,” the judges send her through to Hollywood. “You can sing a little!” smiles J.Lo, remembering the exact words of the record exec who signed her to her first major-label deal once upon a time.

Kyle Crews doesn’t just go to college, he’s in a frat, and he fancies plaid shirts from the Kris Allen collection (as well as music from the Anoop Desai Season 8 playlist). Kyle’s cover of Monica’s “Angel of Mine” gets Steven super excited, and in fact has him calling Kyle “the best male voice we’ve heard yet. To my ears, though, while Kyle is among the top 2 or 3 of the San Diego telecast, he’ll need to dial back on the vibrato and the excessively cheesy hand gestures if he wants to be a true contender. Then again, America does love a humble gent with room for a style makeover.

Next up is Jane Carrey, a waitress, mom, and musician who just so happens to be Jim Carrey’s daughter. “Do you remember me? I was one of the Fly Girs?” asks J.Lo, who shared the stage with Jane’s famous dad during her In Living Color days. Instead of playing the flattery card — “Yes! Meeting you for a few seconds backstage is my earliest and happiest childhood memory!” — Jane reminds J.Lo she was only a toddler back in the day, or in other words that J.Lo is actually old enough to play her mother if they ever end up doing a movie together. Jane’s cover of “Something to Talk About” is pretty and in-tune, but it’s not going to make her the next Kelly Clarkson, or even the next Janell Wheeler. J.Lo offers some sage advice to Jane: She needs to stop closing her eyes and up her performance game, and then hands her a Golden Ticket. She’s going (back) to Hollywood!

The evening ends with golf-course mechanic Jason “Wolf” Hamlin, who physically reminds me of Season 6 semifinalist Sundance Head, but with much more impressive hair. Jason proves his good taste by choosing CCR’s  “Midnight Special” for his audition, but there’s something a little amateurish about his delivery — like he’s listening to John Fogerty’s original vocal through imaginary headphones, and trying to capture his inflections. To his credit, Steven demands a second ditty, and when the judges allow Jason to pick up his “git-fiddle” (aka guitar) for a cover of “Folsom Prison Blues,” it’s as if the instrument breathes new and thrilling life into the guy’s voice. The wolfman gives good growl, wins over the panel, and performs a limber little jig when he gets his Golden Ticket.

On his way out, Jason makes Seacrest all skittish by planting a kiss on his cheek — something all of his ladyfriends had dared him to do if he got within smooching distance of the dapper host. Maybe water is Seacrest’s kryptonite, but the pas de don’t with Wolfie is just one of several awkward moments Ryan has in San Diego. There’s the “look at what a hot-blooded hetero I am!” way he ogles Melons as she walks up the stairs. There’s the fact that he demands Ali get the third and fourth kisses of her life from Idol crew members, one of whom “has soft lips,” our host insists. And there’s the way Ryan aggressively questions Kyle about the lusciousness of J.Lo’s mouth, prompting the contestant to sigh, “Ryan, you’re going too far.” Indeed, Mr. Seacrest, you can only invoke the “what happens at sea stays at sea” clause if there aren’t a half-dozen cameras there to film your every move.

What did you think of the San Diego auditions? Did you notice a quick glimpse of Season 10 Hollywood Week standout Deandre Brackensick? And do you wish we’d seen more/better from the 53 Golden Tickets handed out in San Diego? Sound off in the comments, and for all my Idol news, recaps and video, follow me on Twitter @MichaelSlezakTV!

Comments are monitored, so don’t go off topic, don’t frakkin’ curse and don’t bore us with how much your coworker’s sister-in-law makes per hour. Talk smart about TV!

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  1. idologist says:

    Loved the review!

    Can I pretty please be a guest on idology! Ill do whatever it takes, answer any idol trivia. I can even dress up in a bikini or dress like Kris allen!

    • karenb says:

      No! Pick me, pick me! I’ll bribe you with all the Sav Blanc you can drink, Slezak! lol

      Idolatry, Idoloonies, Idology…I’ll take take any/all of it-plus the shout out to Kris Allen! Whoop! Life is good! (but prepare for the Glambert hate-ugh).

  2. Alienate says:

    At the rate they are giving out Golden Tickets, there will not be a hotel in LA big enough to hold all these average wanna bees.

    They have already given out almost 150 tickets and we aren’t even half way done.

    PS… great to have Idology back!

  3. Ken says:

    ” “You can sing a little!” smiles J.Lo, remembering the exact words of the record exec who signed her to her first major-label deal once upon a time.”

    Michael, I can never make it through one of your recaps without laughing uncontrollably at one of your punchlines. You are truly great.

  4. Carol says:

    Great recap as always, Michael! I was pleased to see Deandre Brackensick (although I didn’t remember his name until you provided it) — I remember that I really liked his voice.

    Michael, just a question — how do you remember so many names? I can keep up with most of the top 24 from any given season and with the standouts that seemingly wrongly don’t make the top 24, but how do you remember names like Deandre Brackensick? Do you keep a spreadsheet or a database, or file folders with names and pictures? Just curious.

    Thanks for all of the great Idol recapping!

    • Vighorois says:

      Uh, DVR, maybe?

      • Carol says:

        Uh, he remembers every single name of every single Hollywood contestant from every season. For instance, in another article he mentioned that Aaron Marcellus from this season was known as Aaron Sanders last season. Do you think he DVRs through every episode of every season to cross-reference? Do you know how many hours that would take? That wouldn’t even be possible, it would take so long. But thanks for the snotty remark.

  5. Malcolm says:

    ‘and Randy was there’ LMAO! PRICELESS!

  6. Kelly says:

    I wanted to see the audition for Deandre Brackensick. Also, Scott MacIntyre’s brother, Todd, made it through in San Diego but no mention of him. Ugggg….more time needed on actual contestants and less time on girls in bikinis!

  7. Alison says:

    FYI – FOX is rebroadcasting Sunday night’s show again on Tuesday night at 8 – yeah! I didn’t take into account that the game would go over, so my DVR missed it.

    • Lana says:

      Thank you Alison I was thrilled that I didn’t miss the game’s ending but was blue that I missed out on AI except for that red, white and blue bikini. From someone who has a very less than perfect body that girl’s body was smoking and it caused my husband some pain. (I didn’t hit him that hard, he is such a I will tape it Tuesday but will watch it alone this time.

  8. Jason says:

    SLEZAK – Just a thought but maybe the producers are ‘de-emphasizing” the joke auditions because they don’t have a judge willing or able to make those auditions funny. Without Simon that element of the show doesn’t work. Steven never criticizes anyone harsher then “I love you for trying.”, J-lo only criticizes someone if she’s a beautiful girl. And the less said about the dawg the better.Nigel has no choice but to only show the good singers.

    • Meghan says:

      Hadn’t even thought of it this way, but you are so right.

    • Louie says:

      I do love that some of these intro packages point to classic joke auditions in seasons past, only to be surprised that they actually can sing, and most of the times pretty well… I’m proud of Idol, for now

    • Callie says:

      Actually, one of my favorite Stevenisms from yesterday’s show was, “I sat through 4 ****ing hours of hair and makeup to listen to this bull***?” It was AWESOME. I think it was in response to a singer but … it was Steven afterall. LOL

  9. Kate says:

    That or Idol is feeling the heat from X Factor and The Voice and wants to prove they’re all about singing too.

    • Betsy says:

      I do think the “kinder, gentler” Idol is in response to Simon’s X-Factor – they want to make it better and more watchable – and NOT like Simon. Also, Simon really seems to like really bad singers – he would put them through just for the “drama” he thought they would add. And he liked being mean. So a lot of that was probably what he wanted, and the new judges aren’t into that.

  10. TwigLA says:

    So glad to have you back blogging AI, Michael. Also thrilled to have Melinda Doolittle doing commentary with you. I always enjoy your insights and humor.

    I’m thrilled they are keeping the joke/totally delusional auditions to a bare (no pun intended) minimum. I don’t miss the nasty either.

  11. Lori says:

    Very entertaining, and I haven’t watched Idol since they chased me off with their shenanigans in Season 7! And it’s great to see MindyDo. She’s quite amusing.

  12. Diane says:

    Because he has no life.

  13. CK says:

    So glad to see Melinda back. Michael, you two are great together! Hope to see more of you and Ms. Dolittle in the future. If you get her back, hopefully she can be in the studio with you.

  14. Lacey J says:

    Heck yes I noticed Deandre! I was so annoyed that they didn’t show his audition! That kid was amazing in Season 10. I hope he gets some screen time during Hollywood Week.

  15. DJ Furious says:

    You have the wrong last name for Ashley. It’s ASHLEY ROBLES!

  16. Luis says:

    Just a correction. Her name is Ashley Robles not Rhodes.

  17. Betsy says:

    Thanks for the Idology – love it and love Melinda Doolittle!

  18. My Alter Ego says:

    Idoloonies? Idology? Whatever. What does matter is that once again, Michael Slezak and Melinda Doolittle are providing their excellent and witty recaps of the last week’s American Idol shows, which ultimately spells delightful.

    Several others have mentioned their favorite quips, but I’ll add a couple that haven’t been mentioned yet. First, describing Creighton Frakker’s performances as “1-800-TOO-MUCH.” (I’m reasonably certain that I’ve used quotes correctly there, and they aren’t “air” quotes.)

    Which provides a perfect segue to the second item that was, of course, the suggestion that Randy should return, with the young man who’s dropped out of high school, for GED work to work on learning more adjectives (and what followed). Priceless.

    Thank you, Mr. Slezak!!

  19. Who Cares? says:

    Ashley Rhodes or Robles, who cares. She’s not showing up on the list of those who make it to the top 24, and I only see one name on that list mentioned in this episode.

    How many more audition rounds do we get to suffer through? The real story is that ratings for AI are way down this season. Nigel & Co. heard what needed to change and nothing happened. People are tuning out – because really, why waste your time discussing people we won’t remember 4 weeks from now? Kind of bored with the whole process, ‘cuz didn’t we have wade through a whole bunch of muck during The X-Factor only a few weeks ago? Seriously, these shows are getting old and anybody with talent over the age of 21 isn’t going to waste their time trying out for this show.

  20. Lana says:

    I hate the spoiler alerts about the top 24 and who will be there and not, the enjoyment is going through Hollywood week checking everyone out and then getting to the top 24. I bet you guys run around telling toddlers that Santa Claus is not real and stealing their candies on Halloween.

  21. Liev says:

    Dear Michael & Melinda,

    I love your chemistry in these videos. You two are absolutely hilarious! I look forward to watching both of you after every Idol episode. Please get these videos up ASAP! The next one can’t come soon enough.



    P.S. Michael, are your cheeks really that rosy or is your make-up artist just having a little bit too much fun with your face?