Idol Thoughts — 01.27.10

What’s the hardest thing about trying to blog on these early-season, audition episodes of American Idol?Attenetion span. Or I should stay, the wandering of that attention. It’s not easy staying focused on every audition with open mind and open ears, and giving each contestant equal consideration as the possible next American Idol.

Especially once you realize that what you’re seeing is only a fraction of the whole picture. The Dallas auditions produced 31 Golden Tickets–contestants who are advancing to the next round, Hollywood Week. The only reason we know that 31 is the number is because Ryan Seacrest says so, summing up at the end of the episode. For the rest of us, the people who just watched the whole hour, we only saw nine tickets handed out.

Obviously, because of time-limitations, Idol chooses to focus on a mixture of contestants with compelling backstories, a handful of colorful wackos, and a couple that simply have talent. So who are the 22 singers that advanced that we didn’t hear from? What do they sound like? Some of them must be contenders, right?

There’s actually a partial answer. The American Idol website has video interviews with every contestant heading to Hollywood. But no footage of their auditions. So we still don’t know what they sound like. And who has the time to hang out on the Idol website watching dozens and dozens of interviews? (Okay, I watched a couple.) So, as in the past, we’ll meet some of our eventual favorites for the first time during Hollywood Week. Or maybe even later.

So, as I write this morning about chicks with whips and dudes with Tourette’s, I have to wonder if singers with better chances of going far in the competition went unseen.

Now, about that chick with a whip, Erica Rhodes. In her child acting days, she appeared on Barney and Friends. So to get away from that squeaky-clean image, she came to the auditions squeezed into black latex and brandishing a whip. The judges dug her moxie. (Really? Moxie is the best word I came come up with today??) I felt it was a bit contrived. And I actually preferred her voice when she sang the Barney “I Love You” song to her version of En Vogue’s, “Free Your Mind.” Her voice sounds a little thin and limited. But, maybe because of the “moxie,” worth a second listen.

Full of all kinds of joy last night was dock worker, Lloyd Thomas, who turned in some nice phrasing on Stevie Wonder‘s, “Overjoyed.” A big guy and family man, Lloyd’s got the Ruben Studdard “teddy bear vote” locked down if he advances past Hollywood.

Stage actor Todrick Hall, who appeared in The Color Purple with Fantasia Barrino, effortlessly impressed the judges with an original ditty about, well, trying to impress the judges. Todrick was slick, natural, personable and talented–all the qualities that undoubtedly got him work on Broadway. Okay, he’s not exactly “the talented unknown with no other place to get discovered” that is the implicit American Idol premise. But he shined.

There were several last night that I’d like to hear more from before I get on their bandwagon. Kimberly Carver is going to Hollywood for a second shot. She sang a jazzy original. Nice jazziness–but what else can you do, Kimberly? Also advancing is Dave Pittman, the guy with Tourette’s Syndrome. He seems to gain control over the ticks and twitches that he can’t at other times when he sings. Great phrasing on his version of Sam Cooke‘s, “Bring It Home To Me.” If I were a cynic, I’d say Dave is this season’s Scott MacIntyre (blind guy, Season 8). But cynicism sucks.

Stephanie Daulong is another I wanna hear more from. Partly because she got scant seconds of airtime last night. She sounded a little Shakira-esque. Maegan Wright (“To Make You Feel My Love”) has a commercial look and a nice, controlled, powerful voice. And who doesn’t want to root for 16-year old Leukemia survivor Christian Spear? She showed promise, singing Etta James‘, “All I Can Is Cry.”

So those are the prospects from last night. Yes, prospects. Like in baseball, “spring training” is coming for these hopefuls. Hollywood Week being spring training, where we’ll get a better look at everybody’s strengths and weaknesses.

A final word about last night’s guest judges, Neil Patrick Harris and Joe Jonas: More Doogie! Neil (or are we supposed to call him Neil Patrick?) had ‘tude, involved himself and really seemed to get under Simon Cowell‘s skin. They tried to make a storyline out of it on the show. I wish they would have gone deeper into it. I wanted to know what was going on between those two. I suspect that Neil championed the more Broadway-esque performers, while Simon’s looking for a pop star. Joe, on the other hand, should have stayed home. What was the point? Knowing that his group is beloved by young fans was there any chance that Joe would say anything remotely mean or even constructively critical about anyone? He didn’t. And it seemed to me he had nothing to contribute.

Anyway, those are my thoughts. Yours? Let me know.

Greg Valentine
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