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Youngest singers shine, older ones screech on 'Idol'

This is the first year that 15-year-olds could audition for “Idol,” as 19 Entertainment and Fox look to jump on the Bieber bandwagon and catch that next big teenage star.
/ Source: TODAY contributor

This is the first year that 15-year-olds can audition for “American Idol,” as 19 Entertainment and Fox look to jump on the Bieber bandwagon and catch that next big teenage star before the Disney Channel snaps them up.

Jacee Badeaux because the first one to benefit from that, or at least the first to get on camera. The judges loved the 15-year-old's rendition of “Sitting on the Dock of the Bay,” so he became one of the 37 out of 6,500 New Orleans auditioners to make it to the Hollywood round.

Then there was Brett Loewenstern, who had all the makings of the typical audition disaster: a bullied high-schooler with a high-pitched speaking voice and feminine hair. Simon Cowell would have been ready to rip this guy to shreds. But remember, this is a kinder, gentler season of “American Idol,” so we found out that the 16-year-old's singing voice is nothing like his speaking voice — it actually did not stink. And therefore, Loewenstern is going to Hollywood.

Among the other highlights of Thursday’s broadcast:

Jacquelyn Dupree took no chances in her audition. Not only did she bring along high-school pictures of Randy Jackson, she also brought her uncle … who happened to be the Big Dawg’s former football coach.

“So coach, did you ever paddle his (rear end)?” Steven Tyler asked.

“He was too big to paddle,” the coach answered.

He didn’t say whether Randy gave up a potential pro career to start the musical path that led him toward “Idol” stardom. But clearly Randy has fond memories of those varsity days, since he passed Dupree onto the next round.

And those pictures of “Idol” judges in those crazy high-school clothes and hair styles? Never get old.

Of course, Randy’s not exactly in football shape nowadays, as we found out when Jovany Barreto took the stage. He was so excited to audition that he vowed to take off his shirt and show off his abs to J.Lo. He was true to his word, and in doing so he inspired Randy and Tyler to join him on the “Idol” logo and show some skin themselves. Unlike the high-school pictures, that got old a nanosecond after it began.

The New Orleans sob story was Paris Tassin, a mother of a special-needs child who tearfully proclaimed her dedication to making a better life for the daughter she says she was urged not to have.

]“I’m very proud of her and I’m singing for her,” Tassin said. J.Lo teared up too and sent her to Hollywood. The superstar got her chance for some personal feedback when she ran into the two on her way out of town. “Your mommy? She sang really good for you today,” the superstar told the little girl.

Marketing fail
Alex Attardo
made a big deal of the fact that he went to “Idol” camp three years ago as a 15-year-old, so it was natural to assume that he would be great and the judges would use that to encourage everyone to send their kids there this summer, assuming said camp still exists. Instead, he didn’t cut the mustard and was unceremoniously sent out the door. Perhaps the judges didn’t get the memo from the marketing department … you’re supposed to enhance the brand name, not trash it.

Lip service
Gabriel Franks
claims to have won a Steven Tyler look-alike contest sponsored by a local radio station, though Tyler thought Franks’ mouth looked more like Mick Jagger’s mouth. These are the kind of clever conversations that “Idol” lacked in season nine. Whoever you think he looks like, singing Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance” did not make him sound like a future superstar, so the 24-year-old got cut.

Having better luck with Tyler-esque features was Sarah Sellers, who captivated the Aerosmith legend from the moment she stepped into the audition room. “Where did you get those lips?” he asked.

She said nobody in her family had similar features, leading to what will surely be one of four zillion sly jokes about how-are-they-related-to-you-Steven? Jokes we’ll here between now and May. At any rate, she got a unanimous approval rating. “You had me sold from the second you laid eyes on me,” Tyler said.

That’s the kind of wordplay that will leave the groupies swooning all season long.