After a disappointing day in Omaha, the American Idol judges headed to Miami, where the warm weather seemed to ratchet up the energy and give Idol some of the juice it has been lacking. Simon was the real star of last night’s auditions, delivering some of the choicest, strangest, and cruelest rejections we?ve heard all season, a welcome return to form for the curmudgeonly Brit.
Let?s review, shall we, the destruction:
?It sounds like you?re eating when you sing?: Poor, cute Shannon McGough, an 18-year-old butcher who can out-belch any frat boy, couldn?t impress the judges with her enormous, growling, but ultimately melody-free version of Janis Joplin?s ?Crybaby.? ?You may almost be tone deaf,? added Randy.
?I would like you if I was drunk?: Swarthy Latin lover Ghaleb Emachah, a Miamian by way of Venezuela, serenaded the judges with ?Comfort Me,? in which he promised, over and over, that he is not afraid to love. Simon, apparently hungover, deemed him a post-Margarita singer, but Paula swooned and he was sent on to Hollywood, kissing Paula, Idol producers, tech guys, camera crews, and even Ryan Seacrest on his way out.
?You became more attractive?: Hardscrabble Suzanne Toon, a torchy blonde with a crown of unflattering ringlets, wants to be the American Idol to give her daughter more than she had. Her ?I Can?t Make You Love Me,? was pretty faithful, and Simon declared that she looks better singing than not singing. A backhanded compliment at best, but she was sent on to Hollywood where she?ll continue to sing — and, presumably, look good.
?You?re more like a hotel singer?: Bite-size Ramiele Malubay, a diminutive Filipina, wants to be the first Asian-American Idol. Her ?Natural Woman? was a bold choice, and she almost pulled it off, but Simon found her stylings more fit for the Marriott than for Idol. Her dreams were salvaged, however, when Paula and Randy were wowed and sent her on to Hollywood.
?I thought it was all a bit of an effort?: Syesha Mercado has boundless energy, a megawatt smile and a recovering addict father. Continuing the day?s Aretha trend, the 20-year-old performed ?Think Freedom? which reduced Paula to a single word: ?beautiful.? Simon, never content to let a candidate off the hook too easily, proclaimed it forced, but she was sent to Hollywood with the support of all three judges anyway, and Randy?s benediction: ?one of the best we?ve seen in Florida.”
?I?m tempted to say come back in a dress?: A great Simon one-liner almost thrown away on trilling, faux-Mariah-styled Grant Rhea, who looked totally shell-shocked. Stay tuned next season to see if he does, in fact, come back in a dress.
?Why did you have your finger in your ear throughout? Tempted to put both in, no??: Another great line, another non-contender. Fabienne Hyppolite performed a wailing, stumbling, tuneless number this judge-at-home could not identify from its garbled lyrics, all with one finger pressed deep into her ear canal. Simon was right — why stop at just one?
?Have you ever been called precocious??: A heartbreaking moment for a young Idol-maybe-to-be, 16-year-old Julie Dubela, who the devout may recognize from her career as a 12-year-old American Junior. Her overacted, purple performance of Janis Joplin?s ?Me and Bobby McGee? won the disapproval of all, with Simon declaring it over-rehearsed and weird. ?Have you ever been called precocious?? he wanted to know. Julie could not have been a more perfect straight woman for Simon?s barb: ?What?s that?? she inquired sweetly, and was shipped home.
?He?s gonna take his clothes off?: Brandon Black exploded into the judges? room with a faux-dialogue between himself and any number of characters — one wearing a wig — that he created for the occasion. An uncomfortable mix of James Brown, Flavor Flav and a schizophrenic, the 20-year-old finally calmed the voices within to sing a flat version of Boyz II Men?s ?I?ll Make Love to You? that impressed no one. Finding the judges displeased with Boyz II Men, he launched into an original composition entitled, hopefully, ?I Am the Next American Idol.? Simon feared that the next step in his act would be stripping, and stepped in before things could escalate. Even Paula, who can typically be counted on to support anything in pants, had to declare, ?This is uncomfortable.?
Of course, miracles are possibly, and every so often, when the stars align, Simon is stunned speechless — sometimes actually by talent! Such was the case with ?separated at birth? best friends Corliss Smith and Brittany Wescott from Jacksonville, FL, two enormous young women with huge voices to match. Corliss has taken a shine to Randy, and Brittany to Simon, so as Paula flirted and flirted for attention between the boys, Corliss did an excellent jazz number and Brittany a straight-outta-Motown ?My Guy.? There wasn’t a cruel word from Simon for either, and both were sent on to Hollywood, proving, in effect, that miracles still happen for the deserving — even on Idol.
So concludes another grueling week of auditions. America isn?t through yet: Join us next week for Atlanta, where tens of thousands more will embarrass themselves, their families, and their friends for the chance to be told off by Simon.
– Matthew Schneier