This has generally been a feel-good season for “American Idol,” with Randy Jackson, Paula Abdul and Simon Cowell offering helpful advice as often as biting criticism from their perches behind the judges’ table.
From the first auditioner in Miami, it was obvious that this city would be different, and it’s possible that the culprit wasn’t the lack of talent, but the proliferation of nighttime entertainment.
Shannon MacGough began the day singing “Cry Baby,” by Janis Joplin.
The 18-year-old seemed to have a lot going in her favor, like a camera-friendly job working for her parents in their meat market and a copious amount of background footage that aired before she sang. But right after she finished, Simon laid down the hammer.
“I had a late night and I’m not feeling great anyway, and you just made it a lot worse,” he said.
That was a sign of what was to follow, as a lot of Miami hopefuls got an extra-large dose of sarcasm from the judges.
Rejects run the gamut
Ben Hausbach had the best lyric switch, singing his own version of Elton John’s “Crocodile Rock” where “I remember when rock was young, me and Paula had so much fun.” She wasn’t impressed, and he got the boot.
Richard Valles sang a little Rascal Flatts, but his rendition of “Bless the Broken Road” was cringe-worthy. Randy tried to imitate the nasally sound, then gave up and sent him away.
Grant Rhea’s voice was a little too high for Simon’s taste. “I’m tempted to say come back in a dress,” the judge said, overcoming his temptation as he did so. Not surprisingly, Rhea got denied as well.
Brandon Black provided the humorous badness, doing a weird comedy/singing routine that ended the Miami auditions and saw the judges walk out while he was still finishing up his performance. “The audition was verging on desperation, from the weird wig, the horrible dialogue you used, the terrible singing...” Simon said, before running out of words entirely.
Simon saysBut Julie Dubela had the rudest awakening, perhaps because she labors under the impression that “American Juniors” is remembered fondly by the “Idol” faithful. She made the top 20 in the short-lived and unsuccessful spinoff four years ago, and now that she’s 16 she figured she would come back and wow the judges again. “I can take what I’ve learned from that and use it now to my advantage,” she said.
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The judges weren’t impressed with the resume, although they were straight-faced enough with their criticism to fool her. “That was a very interesting show,” Randy remembered. Simon said he wore out the DVDs of all the episodes because “I just love hearing kids that age sing!”
He sure didn’t love hearing Dubela sing “Me and Bobby McGee,” and Dubela was incredulous. But as she left the stage, fuming to the cameras all the while, the show played footage of her singing the Carpenters’ “Rainy Days and Mondays” on “American Juniors.” The truth was undeniable; she’d hit her singing peak at 12.
Women impress the judges
Of course, Miami wasn’t all bad news. There were plenty of stronger contestants who earned enough airtime that they’ll look vaguely familiar when the Hollywood episodes start.
Most of the success stories were women. Suzanne Toon was the sympathetic figure of the day, a 21-year-old single mom from Clearwater, Fla., who tearfully told the cameras that she was “sick of struggling” and wanted to provide a better life for her daughter. She said she hadn’t sung in three years, but Paula found a “very sultry sexiness” to her voice, and she made it to the next round by a unanimous vote.
Slideshow: Celebrity Sightings It’s not often a contestant enters the room talking about being the next Jasmine Trias, but that was Ramiele Malubay’s hope. Many may wonder why she’d set her sights so low, since Trias came in third place in the generally underwhelming third season of “Idol.”
But like Trias, Malubay is Filipino-American, and Trias is a much bigger star in the Philippines than she is in the States. A still-cranky Simon called Malubay a hotel singer rather than a contemporary artist, but the other two judges passed her through, so she’s going to Hollywood anyway.
Brittney Wescott and Corliss Smith are both 20, hail from Jacksonville, Fla., and auditioned together, and both are overweight.
That’s usually a recipe for some sort of mockery, but not this time.
Both sang well enough to make the cut.
Accentuating the positive
The power of positive thinking — combined with a very strong singing voice — may have helped Syesha Mercado. The 20-year-old gushed, “Good things are happening over and over again, and I think it’s just me attracting it by being positive.” The positive aura continued, as Randy called her one of the best they’d seen in Florida, and she easily made it through.
Natashia Blach and Ilsy Lorena Pinot also sounded strong in the 30 seconds of airtime they managed to get. Both will get another chance before the cameras in Hollywood.
Ghaleb Emachah was the rare male to make it out of Miami, although the 27-year-old’s chances of winning are only marginally better than those sent packing. Emachah had an accent strong enough that all three judges commented on it, but only Simon thought he shouldn’t advance.
He was so happy that he kissed everyone within a mile of the audition site, despite the fact that Paula and Randy each warned him to work on his accent. Good luck with that one in the few weeks between the Miami and Hollywood rounds!
The other male to get significant airtime, however, has more of a chance.
Robbie Carrico used to be in Boyz N Girlz United, and apparently used to date Britney Spears. Now he says he’s a rocker, and he made it through without much drama. He’ll have some interesting stories to tell his roommates, and perhaps the cameras, in Hollywood.
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