American Idol Day 4: January 23, 2008

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Auditions: Charleston, SC

American Idol Day 4 took us to the fabled South, where the talented and talentless were on view in equal measure. Hoping for a chance to head west, 10,000 people flooded Charleston. The contestants there put their faith in gimmicks, perhaps more so than any other city thus far. Some were successful. Some were not. Let?s take a look:


Idol Worship: Raysharde Henderson of Atlanta, GA, is a 27-year-old, self-proclaimed black Clay Aiken. He looked the part, too, right down to the maniacal, faintly creepy grin. (In fairness, Raysharde?s is toothier.) His enthusiasm didn?t help him: ?I wouldn?t have been surprised if you?d have done a magic trick in the middle of that,? said Simon, ?very 1970s cruise ship cabaret.? Next!

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Grit: DeAnna Prevatte, hailing from Kellie Pickler?s hometown of Albermarle, NC, disproved the ladylike dignity of the South by raining a surprisingly long string of expletives on brunch diners at the restaurant where she waitresses, explaining her displeasure with their views on the ?all you can eat? special. Though barely able to keep her blouse straps about her, her rendition of ?Fancy? was all growling Delta heartbreak, complete with drop-to-her-knees choreography. But grit don?t sell like polish, and DeAnna was sent back to the diner.

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Romance: Likeable nerds Crystal Ortiz, 26, and Randy Stark, 27, met and found love on the American Idol online message boards, a story Idol was bound to love. But their warbly, A/V-club-puts-on-a-musical-duet version of ?She?s More? inspired little love from the judges. ?OK, well, that was complete torture,? said Simon, and Randy and Paula agreed that the two would have to content themselves with their love, not stardom.

Gravity: Brother-sister team Michelle and Jeffrey Lumpkin, 26 and 24 respectively, burst into the judging room like a juggernaut, weighing what must be a collective quarter ton. Jeffrey?s enthusiasm (a part of his outfit was dedicated to each judge, though he did not specify to whom he was dedicating the tie wrapped around his head like a Christmas ribbon) was charming, and his voice was excellent — better than his sister?s. Randy advocated sending just Jeffrey on, but Paula and Simon, in a rare moment of agreement, put both through to Hollywood, cautioning Jeffrey that he had three months to bring his sister up to par.

Sanctimony: Amy Catherine Flynn, a chirpy, deeply irritating high school student, lectured Simon on the merits of abstinence, a harangue punctuated liberally by ?and then you?re like . . . and then she?s like . . . and then he?s like . . . .? Christina Aguilera?s ?Reflections? was clearly beyond her abilities, but the 16-year-old phenom’s chipper confidence inspired Randy, Paula and eventually Simon to send her on, though the latter issued the warning, ?Many people are going to find you very annoying.? Agreed.

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Anti-Gravity: Aretha Codner, named for the great singer, couldn?t match her namesake in vocal ability but was certainly huge in other ways: her almost unbelievably large breasts. The judges manage to avoid discussing the 22-year-old’s endowments — which were somehow contained, seemingly against the laws of physics, by the skimpiest of strapless aqua dresses — by making frequent references to her enormous belt. Nevertheless, she can’t sing and the judges told her so plainly, an opinion to which she took great exception. ?I have a beautiful voice!? she insisted furiously. ?My voice is amazing! It stops crowds.? ?Yes, I bet,? said Simon.

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Day Job: Idol loves a working stiff, and who works harder than air force pilot Lyndsey Goodman, a servicewoman who looks more like a college co-ed. Her soulful rendition of Alannah Myles?s ?Black Velvet? was better than you?d expect, but not good enough for a trip to Hollywood.

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Rage: Joshua Boson of Beaufort, SC, gave a startling, jump-up-and-down performance of ?And I Am Telling You? from Dreamgirls, perhaps the worst we?ve yet seen — truly an achievement, as this difficult song has become an Idol staple. When summarily dismissed, the 20-year-old launched into a rant, defending his honor and that of the whole South: ?Y?all should never ever come to South Carolina, ?cause this is what you are going to get,? he bellowed. After storming from the room before the judges could even vote, he enlightened Ryan Seacrest: ?They say nobody here can sing, basically, in South Carolina. It?s been on every news station that South Carolina sucks.? South Carolina doesn?t, but unfortunately, Joshua does.

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Tragedy: The tearjerker backstory is an Idol tradition, and London Weidberg (?great name,? enthused Simon) stretched the sad tale of her father?s illness into a golden ticket on to Hollywood. Her bluesy version of Billie Holiday?s ?Good Morning, Heartache? was probably good enough to get her in without the gloom, but it never hurts!

And when all else fails . . . Just Have a Baby: 27 year-old Oliver Hyman, doting husband and father-to-be, was all ready for the first day of Idol auditions (incidentally also his wedding anniversary) when his wife went into labor. Idol treats us to an episode-spanning trip with the Hymans as they got lost in Charleston, eventually making it to the hospital and ushering Emma Grace Hyman into the world. Miraculously, Oliver made it back for the second day of auditions, and though he doesn?t wow with his countryish ?Get More? (Simon particularly objected to the showy falsetto), he good naturedly accepted defeat and offered to introduce the judges to his new baby and amazingly tolerant wife. Little Emma Grace is legitimately adorable, far more an Idol than daddy, and the judges are smitten. ?I feel like this is my baby,? said Simon creepily, after which the new family was probably very relieved to go home.

Has America exhausted her resources? Check in next week to see if Omaha can be mined for Idol gold!

–Matthew Schneier