Fresh Take: American Idol Auditions, Part 1

We open on shots of vintage America – Iconic imagery of late model Fords in fields of buckwheat, soaring coastal vistas, and shimmering cities. American Idol does this because American Idol knows America’s best days are behind her. But the power of song can bring us back to that special time and place when America was on top! I don’t immediately recognize who is narrating the show but then it comes to me all at once – it’s Carrie Underwood! OMG! Do we get to see what happened to her face?! Ever since last summer we have heard the rumors about how she horribly disfigured her face. A home accident left her needing upwards of sixty stitches. She’s alluded to how she isn’t ready to be out in public yet but maybe this will be our first glimpse of the new Carrie? It’s not.

We don’t get to see Carrie, but we do get to see Ryan Seacrest – boo. It should come as no surprise that his role is severely diminished this year as he wades in scandal from the #metoo movement. Would it really have been that hard to replace him, ABC? After the intro we get to meet our judges – the Judgementals. Groan. ABC promises that this is the most star-studded cast ever assembled. Their job: To tell children and young adults whether or not they will have a chance to let Hollywood chew them up. First up we’ve got Lionel Richie who might be the most talented of the three judges. He is the aged veteran, significantly older than both Katy Perry and Luke Bryan. He comes from an era where you actually had to have talent to make it in the business. Neat nature fact: I learned through one of his expositions that he was a member of the Commodores. Hey alright! Previously I only knew that he sang the song Hello, was in the Ghost Soundtrack (This is not actually true, but I think it is), and is the adopted father of now-normal Nicole Richie.

Next we have Katy Perry who is still in the process of reinventing herself to maintain relevance. My initial impression of her is “Wow! Does she know she is not competing?”. She may or may not know this. She is the pop/youth/energy judge of the show and the most vocal. She is expected to be the wacky-out-there judge but she sorta comes off like she is manic. She has too much energy, if you ask me. Manufactured energy, if you catch my drift…Anyway she’s there to get the crowd and the talent pumped. I’ll confess I used to really like Katy Perry during her Russel Brand years. Teenage Dream is a work of art and still holds up today. Everything that came before that album is pure gold and worth a listen. Everything that came after that album is…less so.

Finally, we have Luke Bryan who represents the folksy side of America – the area between the Appalachians and the Rockies. He was definitely not cast to compete with Blake Shelton on the Voice so don’t think that for a second. His most popular song on Spotify right now (I know, I am listening to it to familiarize myself to this dude) is “Most People are Good”. That’s very fitting because as I watched the first installment of American Idol auditions I asked myself if he was capable of telling someone no. He seemed to like everyone or didn’t have the heart to say wow you’re awful. Now I see his most popular song is about giving medals to mothers for trying to be mothers. It all makes sense now.

The chemistry between the judges is tbd. I came in expecting the judges to have banter back and forth like the Voice. That’s not the case here. The closest they come to non-forced conversation is when Katy Perry finishes sentences for Lionel Richie. They are thinking the same thing! This happened a number of times throughout the season premiere and let me tell you – I do this to my girlfriend all the time and it is not something she is thrilled about. In fact, I do it so damn often that I am actively trying to stop myself. I cringe when I do it. If I look anything like Katy Perry then it is certainly time to curb this behavior. That or convince my girlfriend that she is Lionel Richie and make her where those loose-fitting scarves from here on out.

The auditions are divided into 3 geographic regions tonight: New York, Nashville and Los Angeles. That’s where music lives. Our first contestant is Katie, that hat. She comes on stage full of quirky energy wearing this yellow corduroy ball cap thing and tall, white, “kinky” boots (the musical). With her trusty guitar she sings a song she wrote herself called 21st Century Medicine. It’s your typical we are too connected to technology and we need to be more human type song. She finishes and the judges are pretty quiet. I think she’s gonna get a no but to my surprise all three judges give her a yes. She’s going to Hollywood! It took a while for them to get to a yes though and I legit thought no one knew what to say. Not like a “she blew us away” no one knew what to say. It was more like a “does anyone want to say something first” no one knew what to say. Luke gives her some advice on her exit – don’t go on social media. No Facebook, no Instagram, nothing. He thinks the internet trolls will eat her up and ruin her energy. He’s right.

After Katie exits, golden ticket (I think about Charlie and the Chocolate Factory each time this is mentioned) in hand, we meet Ron. Ron has a really inspiring story about growing up in the Congo and immigrating to America 10 years prior. In America he was raised by his father who suddenly tells him that he is not his son and kicks him out. He kicks off his version of James Bay’s Let it Go and he sounds pretty good even though he mostly sounds like a bad copy of James Bay. Even still I think he has potential. Luke, Katy and Lionel all think he’s talented but he doesn’t have his own sound so there isn’t much to develop. Fair point. He’s out, sad story and all. We are about to cut to commercial but we go back to the judges table and Lionel is racked with guilt. He can’t stop thinking about Ron! He wants to bring him back. He wants him to go to Hollywood. They bring Ron back in and RON IS GOING TO HOLLYWOOD! He’s stoked and I am stoked for him. All seems well then Katy Perry makes a terrible joke, “You Congo Ron…” I missed the last part of it because I had a, did she really just say that, look on my face. Was it semi-racist? Am I being too sensitive? Was that a dad joke? I don’t know but I want it to stop.

My personal favorite audition of the night is next – Kobe Sliderz. She embodies everything I think about when I think musical theatre in New York. She has to be the star in the room. She thinks she knows everything. She’s fucking 26 years old. You know how much I knew at 26? Basically nothing. I sure thought I did though. Holy shit does Ms. Wagyu crash and burn in front of judges. Her song is…bizarre to say the least. Her up and down vocals were so piercing that she woke up my dog, no joke. For context my dog is a 2 year old lab so anytime she beds down for some shuteye I am extremely thankful. Welp, Kobe Beef comes along and ruins this quiet moment. Next thing I know my pupper is up wanting to play fetch for several hours. Get the fuck out Kobe. There’s no better way to end our time in NYC then seeing Kobe scream into the camera ala Krystal (Bachelor) about why she is better than everyone else.

Our next locale is Nashville, TN. Country music USA! I expect Luke to shine in these auditions since he owns the country chops on the panel. He doesn’t. He contractually (?) acquiesces the majority of the screen time to Katy. The first audition in Nashville is a Hayden Penettiere look-a-like named Harper and…TWIST…we’ve met Harper before! Before Fergie butchered the national anthem at the last NBA All Star game there was an 11 year old girl from the south that sang the worst rendition of the national anthem in 2012. Her name was Harper. Now I admit I am a pretty judgmental, condescending and overall dick sometimes but even I know better than to mock a small girl who gets up in front of thousands of people and sings. Well Harper is all growns up now and ready to redeem herself. She has a really good original song about breaking up with a dude and having a yard sale with his stuff. But she is 16 so it’s a touch uncomfortable that she wrote and is singing a song on this subject. Also, she brings her Oprah dream board with her to show the judges she has always wanted to be on American Idol. Katy Perry asks Harper to approach the table with her dream board. Katy crosses the “Audition for American Idol (and maybe win?)” line off her board and punches her ticket to Hollywood.

Layla and Dixie are next. Two sisters from Kentucky. Kayla is old enough to audition for American Idol this season. Dixie is not. Dixie is 7. Dixie is given a ticket to Hollywood for 2026. Boy is she going to be crushed when she is 15 and American Idol no longer exists…right? Dixie steps to the side and lets her big sis give it a try. She easily wins over the judges with her moxie and we have another golden ticket recipient.

Now is when things take a creepy turn. We are introduced to Benjamin. Benjamin is a Geeetar-Toatin’ cashier at an electronics store that is probably Best Buy. Ben-Jammin looks like a dude that works at Best Buy. He works there. Somehow it comes out that Benny has never kissed a girl before so of course Katy calls him up to the judges’ table and plants one on poor-old-Ben. Benjamin is swooning after the peck and needs some water. He is on cloud and doesn’t even care about the audition now. He kissed a girl – and he liked it! Then he says something that makes me shudder. We revisit his background and he says he likes being a cashier because he gets to talk to women…okay? I’m a bit lost then he offers up this confession: They can’t leave without saying hi to me. OMG. Ewwwww. If women start to go missing near a certain Best Buy that employs Benjamin – interview him first. He’s your suspect. Case closed. It turns out that Ben can sing as well as I can. No ticket.

Now we’re in Los Angeles for the third act of the first night. Here we meet Nico Bones. Nico Bones is to American Idol what Whaboom is to the Bachelorette. He’s there to play a character. He’s a mix between the Ramones and Marilyn Manson. He says he has a hangover but I don’t think he drinks. He says he plays gigs around LA for the free drinks. Again, I don’t think he drinks. He gets out in front of the judges, sings “Go Eat Worms” punk style and promptly leaves. Congrats on the 5 new twitter follows dude.

During Nico’s segment we are introduced to a man from Arkansas named Noah. Noah is a warm and friendly fellow who doesn’t want to be a farmer and loves to make new friends. Noah has the voice of an angel! Seriously, this dude can sing. He is by far the most talented person we have seen this evening. He absolutely kills Rianna’s Stay. His version might actually be better than hers. What does Noah want at the end of all this? An Alpaca. Winning would be nice but at the top of his list he wants an Alpaca. Good news. His audition was so good Lionel promises him an Alpaca. And Lionel better deliver because it would be a real crumb-bum move to lie to someone as sweet as Noah. Give him the Alpaca, Lionel.

We end with the Sauce – Alyssa Raghu. Her segment involves a lot of Disneyland and it becomes hard to ignore the fact that Disney owns ABC. I feel like Disneyland has reached the point where they don’t need to advertise. Everyone knows what Disneyland is all over the world. Every kid wants to go there by age 2. The only kids that didn’t want to go to Disneyland are the Star Wars kids and it looks like Disney cracked that nut just like Disney cracks every nut. Disney bought Star Wars. The sauce sings an Ariana Grande song which is…ballsy to say the least. Ariana Grande sings the songs Mariah Carey can’t now so attempting an Ariana Grande song takes guts. But she hits all the right notes and aces it. Golden ticket achievement unlocked. The Sauce is going to Hollywood.

There’s a few other contestants but none of them are too different from the characters we’ve seen in past seasons. There’s a Rick Astley guy who has a sock fetish and can belt out perfect Sinatra. He’s like if a voice was superman and Clark Kent. There’s also a guy from West Philly who is turning it all around by chasing his dreams in Los Angeles. He has a hole in his guitar. Trust the process. They both get tickets to Hollywood. Some girl that looks like baby Kelsey from Siesta Key is a no. Sardor is some sort of winner from Russia with loud shoes and a 3.5 octave range. He is a solid no.

The storytellers at ABC insist that there’s too much talent and too many emotional moments to have just one night of auditions. ABC needs your Monday night, too. What is going to happen?! We’ve been promised Katy is going to be emotionally wrekt over something. We’ll find out what that is tomorrow @ 8:00 PM EST.

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