American Idol Portland Auditions Recap: Oregon, Baby, Gone

“Congratulations, you’re going to Hollywood!” But not quite yet, Idoloonie Nation. First, you’ll have to sit through the Dance of Diminishing Returns, in which a cherbuic 28-year-old guy “entertains” you by shouting “I’m adorable!” and screeching his way through “Somebody to Love”; a cable TV salesguy belches, coughs, and blows his nose for the cameras; and Ryan Seacrest waltzes with a ficus. Heck, as a sharp-eyed TVLine reader noticed, American Idol couldn’t even bother to correctly spell the word “audition” at the start of its Wednesday-night show.

It’s episodes like these — when you realize Uncle Nigel is holding back on the stellar auditions, and you find yourself hoping for something as daft as “Pants on the Ground” just to break the crushing weight of your ennui — that it’s hard not to wonder why, 11 seasons in, Idol doesn’t cut back to two weeks of auditions, expand its Hollywood Week offerings, and extend its live rounds by blowing out the Top 12 to a Top 16.

But what do I know? I’m just a humble recapper. So let me get on with the business of revisiting an episode that only featured two contestants in the first 17 minutes, and managed to flash the face of The Glee Project‘s Emily Vasquez in its end-of-episode Golden Ticket montage without so much as an I.D. or 10 seconds of singing.

We kick things off with what appears to be an extended advertisement for a New Girl spinoff. Brittany Zika is wearing a fedora, suspenders, and gray rubber boots, and declares herself “tripster the hipster” after she stumbles into the room with a big, dorky grin. (Cue laugh track here.) Brittany has got an adorkable story about going to a Sara Bareilles concert, holding up a “Will You Sing Gravity With Me?” sign, and ending up on stage in duet heaven. Surely, her three male roommates are waiting outside to continue the wacky hijinks. Au contraire. Brittany’s audition turns out to be no joke, and her cover of Brandi Carlile’s “The Story” is as sweet and refreshing as a glass of lemonade. Honestly, I could listen to her a capella covers for the next hour without any complaint whatsoever. J.Lo tells Brittany she has “one of the prettiest voices we’ve heard,” Steven gives her an enthusiastic “yes,” and Randy chews his finger and asks her to take off her glasses, hat, and boots. Ugh. Randy just has to go and ruin everything.

Next up is guy with a cold who sings “Born This Way” and “Super Bass.” (And yes, I wrote that sentence with all the care and enthusiasm said audition deserves.)

Thankfully, gentle giant Jermaine Jones is up next. Dude sits on the porch with his mom and talks about how this is his now. In fact, mom had a church service and concert the night Jermaine was born, so his career in music literally began in the womb. Jermaine’s rendition of “Superstar” swoops and soars like a barn swallow, but it comes with a warning label: Scrutiny by the judges may cause shaky hands, copious sweating, and a deep-rooted sense of terror. J.Lo smiles sweetly and advises Jermaine to “loosen up a little bit” for his future auditions, and even though there’s no way the guy will survive Hollywood Week, it’s hard not to share his joy when the judges unanimously decide he’s Golden Ticket-worthy.

Britnee Kellogg enters next, and appears to be auditioning for VH1’s Basketball Wives or maybe a special episode of Dr. Phil. Britnee(eeeeeee) (sorry) used to be married to a pro baller, and she tells us that not only did he “decide to go and pursue other women,” but “he held me back from doing what I wanted.” Which is apparently sobbing uncontrollably on national television? J.Lo gives girlfriend a perspective check: She has two lovely children and a big opportunity in front of her. And so Britnee tells the judges she’ll be performing “You’re No Good,” by Linda Ronstadt. “Perfect, right?” she says with a rueful laugh, and suddenly, Britnee transforms herself from Weepy McKnockitoff to a grown woman with an actual sense of humor — and one with a controlled, powerful voice that’s clearly informed by the blues. J.Lo can’t help but sing along. Steven gives his “mmm-mmm-good” face. And an army of blonde people wearing “I Heart Britnee” t-shirts swarm the audition room and carry the latest Golden Ticket recipient back to the hive. “Look at that,” says Steven, pointing to the back of Britnee’s mom’s shirt. “‘My daughter’s the next American Idol!'” J.Lo, possibly reading the cue card Uncle Nigel is holding just offscreen, raises her eyebrows in response: “By the way, she just might be.” (If Britnee makes it past Hollywood Week, you know we’ll see that clip 4,400 times between now and mid-April.)

If Britnee got you in the mood for talented singers, you’re out of luck. Vibrato queen Sam Gershman manages to hit most of the notes on “I’m a Woman,” but her singing-into-a-fan tone is borderline repugnant, which the judges mistake for “Broadway.” Someone in the Idol editing room clearly has a little more respect for the Great White Way, though, because when Sam winkingly tells the panel that her dad’s name is Ira, it’s met with dumbfounded stares — and the classic “crickets” sound effect — by Steven, J.Lo, and Randy.

Sam is followed by David Weed , whose voice isn’t nearly as bad as Randy wants it to be. But what’s the dignity of a polite fast-food restaurant worker worth when there’s a marijuana joke to be made by the lead singer of Aerosmith. Yes, Steven, it’s a good thing David’s parents didn’t name him Smokey. Now go back to sleep.

Portland concludes with three more Golden Tickets:

Romeo Diahn survived several years in a refugee camp after his family fled the Liberian civil war. He shows off an interesting tone and captures the laid-back rhythms of Bob Marley’s “Is This Love,” but his voice seems too unpolished to make him a legit threat for the Top 24. J.Lo clearly feels the same way, but finds herself unable to get more specific than giving Romeo a “little tiny yes” and worrying about where Romeo will go next, musically speaking. Nevertheless, Romeo’s Portland audition provides a great excuse to show his massive friend Junior sizing up Ryan Seacrest ans asking, “So who are you?”

* Naomi Gillies covers Aerosmith’s “Cryin’,” and despite her histrionic delivery and creaky tone, gets three enthusiastic yeses from the judges.

* And finally, Jessica Phillips shares a heartbreaking story about how her young boyfriend D’Angelo suffered a massive stroke, a catastrophe that changed her role from partner to caregiver. It’s hard not to get a little teary eyed when the plainspoken young woman talks about how she’s experiencing “a different kind of love” while trying to nurse her man back to health, but she channels all her pain into a soaring cover of Faith Evans’ “Again.” What Jessica lacks in vocal perfection, she makes up for with genuine feeling, which is a better formula than the reverse, no?

What did you think of the Portland auditions? Are you ready to fast-forward through the rest of the tryouts and get on to Hollywood Week? And who were your favorites from the City of Roses? Sound off in the comments, and for all my Idol news, commentary, and recaps, 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. Trina says:

    I was surprised to see Emily of The Glee Project. She got a “golden ticket” I just wish we could have heard her sing.

    • dan says:

      I’m scared for Emily of the Glee Project. I wonder if she’s getting the kind of edit that means she won’t get far.

  2. Sally says:

    I think it is great that Jessica stayed with her boyfriend, even though she no longer loved him like that. I guess she figured to go the Danny Gokey route of geting on AI at the expense of someone elses tragedy.

    • Kwise says:

      Yikes Sally, that’s way harsh. I don’t think we know enough to conclude that. What we do know, unfortunately, is that her voice just isn’t that strong. Still, I hope she enjoys a trip to Hollywood – she at least deserves that!

    • marie says:

      She seemed very sincere to me. I agree with Kwise, that’s a very noble and selfless thing to do.

  3. Scarlett says:

    Was I the only one who thought Britnee had a very Britney Spears vibe going on? Not in the vocals but in the whole look…to include hauling her two little boys around. I haven’t seen anyone mention that yet so maybe I just imagined it!

    • Meghan says:

      Scarlett, I definitely saw a strong resemblance between Britnee and Britney Spears (maybe circa 2001?) She was my favorite of the night.

      • Scarlett says:

        Thanks, Meghan. I thought I was going nuts for a moment when none of the recaps mentioned it. It was really obvious to me! My fave was probably Jessica but I think she chose the wrong kind of song… her voice seemed better than that. Wish they’d asked her to sing a second song.

    • Saracen Riggins says:

      I was getting on here to say the very same thing! We all thought that at my house, too. VERY similar in looks… It felt so bizarre to watch a girl who looked like Britney, but actually singing well!

    • Rolfe says:

      She looked just like Britney from the Slave 4 U days. Almost distracting. If I were her I’d change my name and darken my hair.

  4. marie says:

    Really digging Idology! Melinda is looking terrific – love her (new?) natural hairstyle! And the two of you play perfectly off each other. I think I enjoy the Idology episodes as much as the actual show (more, this week!).

  5. Darcy says:

    Oh my gosh! I didn’t even see Emily and her golden ticket! Can’t believe I missed it! O:

  6. MHaegele says:

    I am completely underwhelmed by this season’s contestants so far. I’m not sure I’ll continue watching. If anything even slightly better to do comes along – like filling donut holes, I’m out!

  7. Jaime says:

    Jessica’s story reminded me of the guy last year. His fiancee was in the accident and he was taking care of her… I thought he was a very upstanding guy and think Jessica is the same. And i agree with the other poster that said they had wished for another song from her. I wish her all the best even if this doesn’t work out… That being said, I liked britnee the best.

  8. RTW says:

    This season is seriously lacking those water-cooler auditions that are supposed to hook us into watching this show. Sheesh, this time last year, just seeing Chris Medina and Casey Abrams had me sold on viewing Hollywood week. At this point, I don’t think there’s one person who I’m truly rooting – it’s kind of a bummer to be honest.

    • Tim says:

      There are just too many of these kind of shows now robbing the talent pool. Of course Idol is too big to fail, but I suspect some of the others such as The Voice and maybe even X-Factor are going to go by the wayside within a couple of years.

      • Betsy says:

        I don’t know – I saw a couple of sneak peek auditions on The Voice website and they were FANTASTIC – made me excited for the show to start soon! The Voice is going to be really good this year, I think.

    • Brigette says:

      Ditto. What is happening? I don’t understand why at the end of the night, we may hear something like, “42 golden tickets were given away!” but we only saw 5 okay people and 5 weirdos. At this point, I’d almost rather just watch reruns of season 10. Hah!

  9. Fan says:

    Does anyone know whether the songs the contestants sing in the hotel room in front of the judges needs to be “cleared”? If yes, is that possibly why more contestants aren’t shown? Because the show didn’t want to “clear” their songs?

  10. Jenn says:

    Honestly, I got so stuck on the title of the article that I forgot to read the actual article. Oregon, baby, gone? WHAT? Then it dawned on me, I’m guessing the writer prounounces it Or-eh-gone. Incorrect. It’s Or-eh-gun (for lack of better phonetic skill writing on my part). Now, on to reading the article.

    • marie says:

      You’re probably right: here in the Northeast, it’s AR-eh-gone, although the residents of the state pronounce it more like OR-gun. (We also say “FLAHR-ih-duh” instead of “FLOOR-ih-duh” and “Neh-VAAAHH-duh,” as in “aaaahhhh,” instead of the natives’ “Nuh-VAD-uh,” with an “a” as in “cat”.)
      Gee, was that as boring as last night’s show?

      • JoMarch says:

        Thanks, Jenn & Marie; I was having trouble falling asleep until I read your posts.

        • darcy's evil twin says:

          LOL. The Portland episode was so dull we’re reduced to discussing regional dialects and pronunciations. Come on, Nigel – show us some good auditions!

  11. darcy's evil twin says:

    I thought the Portland tryouts were boring as well and they burned WAY too much time on at least three auditions that did not get a golden ticket. My favorite was the last woman that sang – Jessica Phillips. Her delivery was wonderful and like some other folks here I wish they had asked her to sing another song.
    Naomi Gillies (?) wasn’t bad but I agree with Mr. Slezak – too much histrionics. Her delivery seemed soulful but the lyrics were muddled. Or was it just me?
    Brittnee was okay – she kind of grew on me.

  12. pattywilla says:

    I vote “yes” to making the audition rounds shorter – way boring. Also, wasn’t really too happy about these judges coming back this year… hopefully, they will do a better job than last year.

  13. kayee says:

    “When Antonella Barba’s toilet pictures leaked?”
    I knew that just “came out” but did any of you guys notice Michael’s iornic pun in the video with M. Doolittle?

  14. Betsy says:

    I’m really glad they’ve cut back on the mean terrible auditions, and they’ve gotten completely rid of the nonsense costume-wearing joke people who just want to get on TV. So, I hate to complain but Slezak is right, less auditions, more Hollywood. Thank you.

    • darcy's evil twin says:

      I loved the episode where we saw 16 good auditions. I could handle more auditions if they were good. I enjoy them.

  15. Lana says:

    I too thought Spears when that Britney came in with blonde hair and kids. I agree that the auditions are better when we get mostly good singers, they were doing that then all of a sudden the bad stepped in. Though I did find Magic(?) fun. I thought the Ira Gersham was cute and can’t believe the judges didn’t know who she was reffering to besides her daddy. I am soo old! I felt for Jessica and I’m sure when her boyfriend is able to take care of himself the love will go back to the way it was. She did assure him several times that she loved him so lets hope he just keeps getting better and better and will be able to go back to music with her.

  16. Louie says:

    “What Jessica lacks in vocal perfection, she makes up for with genuine feeling”
    So… are you saying that Jessica was… emotionally perfect?

  17. Brian says:

    I think Jessica was selected to make up Nigels quota of “fragile females”. You know, the ones who can be relied on to make “good TV” when they are kicked out.

  18. aravis says:

    Yeah, I kinda felt bad when no one even smiled at her Ira joke.