American Idol

'Idol's' St. Louis hopefuls have more stories than songs

Feb. 2, 2012 at 10:19 PM ET

Johnny Keyser and Rachelle Lamb audition for "American Idol."


“American Idol” closed its run of audition episodes by highlighting the St. Louis tryouts and inaugurating the first annual “Create Your Own Backstory Night.”

OK, that’s unofficial. I have no proof of that. But the evidence based on what we saw is overwhelming.

The hopefuls on Thursday each had some sort of sob story to draw viewers in, or overcame some obstacle. It was the musical equivalent of college application essays in which everyone tries to make their experiences sound the most compelling.

And yet, pretty much everyone failed because it’s all things we’ve heard before -- in some cases, just hours ago.

Take Rachelle Lamb. What a heartwarming story! She’s s divorced mom who’s husband did her wrong and held her back and she brought her daughter along to watch her pursue her dream.

In other words, it was exactly the same pitch that Britnee Kellogg offered Wednesday. Hopefully the two ladies will be roommates in Hollywood and compare notes, both so they can share best practices on juggling music and mothering demands and so they can de-conflict their backstories going forward.

And Johnny Keyser. Who couldn’t root for this guy? His parents were divorced, he was raised by his single dad ... and they apparently like to hang out on their boat. Johnny, Johnny, Johnny. To sell that story, you really need to accentuate the negative, not make it seem like a fun place to hang out. Or at least, it would have been better to claim that you were Jonathan Rhys Meyers’ long-lost brother. (Seriously, note the resemblance.)

Ethan Jones dropped out of school to join a band, which might have been a good enough tale to tell on its own. But being in a band with his father? And having that father now in rehab? “Idol” gold. His only mistake was not providing a better story for the cut on his forehead. Next time, something like “I had to fight off someone trying to mug my grandmother” would have sealed the deal.

Bullied in school? That was the hook for Reis Kloeckener. Sure, his vocals might have been enough to be compelling for viewers anyway, but why take the chance? Take that, mean boys! Now he gets to hang out with Jennifer Lopez and you don’t – unless you can come up with a good enough story, in which case you have a shot.

Finally, there was Lauren Gray. She was the only one without the sad and tragic backstory, though we did find out that her parents own and run a one-stop wedding shop and that she’s in a band with her dad. So she gets sentimentality points there. And she made up for it by being the most confident of the auditioners and belting out Adele.

Apart maybe from Gray, here’s who did not make it onto the air in St. Louis: People with more conventional backgrounds. Nobody stepped up to the microphone and said, “You know what? Things are good right now. I just like to sing, and I think I do it pretty well.”

Or perhaps they did and just didn’t make it onto the small screen. Perhaps they’ll have better luck in Hollywood. We’ll start finding out next Wednesday, because now the auditions are mercifully over.

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