As you may have noticed, I’ve been in Utah for the past week covering the Sundance Film Festival, but who has time to catch two evening movie screenings when “American Idol” is doing two hours of audition footage from Wisconsin?
Click through for Wednesday’s (Jan. 26) recap of Milwaukee’s Finest…
8:00 p.m. ET Milwaukee begins with Steven Tyler and Randy Jackson trying to sing “Sweet Emotion.” Tyler’s actually singing. Randy’s sortta screwing up the harmony. Tyler means to be doing an “Idol” parody of “Sweet Emotion,” but his ability to play with the lyrics is limited to two lines. This is why Weird Al should have been an “Idol” judge.
8:01 p.m. Danny Gokey is in the house as the official representative of Milwaukee’s potential “Idol” talent.
8:02 p.m. What the heck does “Sweet Emotion” have to do with Milwaukee? Nothing. Enough already.
8:03 p.m. Just in case you wanted to make fun of “Idol” for doing a two-hour episode from Milwaukee auditions, we hear that actually people in Milwaukee auditioned from all over the country. [Personal Milwaukee Note: I was a Maid of Honor (or…some such male equivalent… “Honor Attendant”? “Bathroom Attendant”) this summer in a wedding that was held right next to the “Idol” audition site. Neither piece of that sentence necessarily makes me cool, but combined? Totally…]
8:03 p.m. As if to prove that point, Scotty McCreary from North Carolina is our first contestant of the night. The deep-voiced Scotty loves country, wears a big cross and is only 16 years old. If only “Idol” were still doing theme nights and Scotty were to make it through, he’d do well with a Randy Travis Night. Steven Tyler wants Scotty to sing something higher, so he does something from Travis Tritt that also appears to impress the judges. Tyler says something absurd and obscene about experimenting with sexual intercourse with a duck and enthusiastically pats himself on the back for his daring. It’s three “Yes” votes for Scotty.
8:11 p.m. “I feel like I’m on a jungle gym here,” Tyler opines as he’s made up by the crew. I don’t know what that means.
8:12 p.m. Time to make fun of the overweight guy with the scruffy mustache! I’m just going to go out on a limb and predict that University of Toledo student Joe Repka isn’t going to be a good singer. He’s also not especially funny, even though he dreams of being like Ryan Seacrest, “DJing it up.” The judges aren’t even encouraging of his DJ voice, how much are they going to love his crooning? Joe’s rendition of “For the Longest Time” gets a howl from Steven Tyler, who urges him to talk into the mic rather than singing into it. “Dude, definitely radio,” Randy says. Three “No” votes for Joe, who is in good spirits at his ouster and vows to try again.
8:18 p.m. We need something good to recover from Joe Repka. To that end, we get Emma Henry, a 15-year-old who drove 15 hours with her family, her Ford and her learner’s permit. Emma has a limited voice, but she has a nice Old Soul tone to her rendition of “True Colors.” She puts some feeling into the vocal, which I like. Steven and Tyler agree that she has something to build on. Randy isn’t sure Emma is ready yet, though. J-Lo tells her to work on it and gives her a “No” vote. Tyler gives her a “Yes.” Emma starts crying and says this is what her life is about. Randy worries Emma’s going to get swallowed up by the competition. “Dawg’s gonna turn into a pussycat,” predicts Tyler as the decision rests on Randy’s shoulders. And, indeed, Randy caves. After Emma squeals and departs the room, J-Lo warns Randy that his first instinct was right.
8:28 p.m. Let’s make fun of a bunch of people in a quick package! There’s no point in mentioning any of their names. The judges make a couple slightly withering complaints. Randy and a contestant plug for Coke.
8:30 p.m. Our next contestant performs at SummerFest in Milwaukee. Unfortunately, she performs mostly janitorial work. But she has dreams. She wants to provide for her family and give a better life to her daughters, an idea that brings tears to her eyes. Naima Adedapo is striking looking and she has the big voice and confidence that Emma lacked. She starts strong and when she gets to the chorus, she sounds even better. J-Lo likes the whole package and the other two judges agree. “I think you’re all that… yeah…” Tyler says. After a brief confrontation when J-Lo calls Tyler “Steve” instead of “Steven,” Naima gets her three “Yes” votes.
8:39 p.m. The guy flipping onto the cameraman’s chest and breaking his camera may be the Watermelon in the Face of “American Idol.”
8:40 p.m. It turns out that it’s every bit as hilarious for Jennifer Lopez to criticize somebody for singing her songs poorly as it was for Paula Abdul to do the same.
8:40 p.m. What is a “bar mitzvah singer”? That’s a pretty limited niche Jerome Bell is working. He shouts, bellows and oversings his way through “Let’s Get It On.” He’s horrible, which might explain why he can’t branch into weddings. What?!? Randy loves him. Huh?!? J-Lo loves him. EH?!? Steve Tyler thinks he’s terrific. That’s three “Yes” votes for Jerome Bell. Wow. I have no idea what they heard. I thought Jerome was dangerously close to being a “freak” audition.
8:44 p.m. Let’s see what the Justin Bieber Rule did for Milwaukee’s auditions. Thia Megia is from California, but she couldn’t wait a couple weeks to audition locally and the 15-year-old flew to Wisconsin. When you’re 15, those months can seem like years. Thia alienates a large percentage of the aging “American Idol” audience by telling Randy Jackson that she’s been watching him since before she could read. Since she’s 15 and “Idol” premiered in 2002, she may be a little slow. Thia’s got a huge voice, but it’s full of affectations that irk me a little bit. With coaching, though, I’m pretty sure she’ll be able to improve. Steven Tyler leers about Thia’s “heat down there.” She’s going to Hollywood.
8:47 p.m. A slew of other 15-year-olds also get Golden Tickets.
8:52 p.m. Meet Civil War re-enactor Nathaniel Jones. He’s not going to be able to sing, is he? But what he lacks in likely talent, he makes up for in insulting his father. He does a silly version of “The Lion Sleeps Tonight.” I’m disappointed that Steven Tyler doesn’t join in on the counter-melody. Steven Tyler tells Nathaniel that he liked the song. J-Lo and Randy give Nathaniel “No” votes and salute him.
8:55 p.m. Mason Wilkinson is overcome by nerves. He turns away. Turns back. Stares up into the rafters. Sucks.
8:57 p.m. Welcome recent Harvard grad and White House intern Molly DeWolf Swenson. Molly seems impressive until she can’t resist talking about how much she loves the president (acceptable) and makes a Monica Lewinsky joke (laaaaaame). The best part of her story is that in high-fiving contestants this morning, Randy Jackson slapped her in the face. Another great moment of physical comedy in this episode. She does a breathy version of “Sitting on the Dock of the Bay” that includes at least two entirely unnecessary key changes. “You’ve got attitude and you know where to put it,” Tyler leers. Randy’s confused by where Molly has been. What? Harvard isn’t enough for you? Molly vows to represent the administration.
9:07 p.m. The only plausible explanation for tonight’s over-praised Milwaukee auditioners: Pabst Blue Ribbon.
9:07 p.m. I like Hayley Reinhart, who was rejected in Chicago last year. To be clear, I like Hayley Reinhart in the way Steven Tyler likes attractive blonde teenage contestants. Singing-wise, she’s only OK, all runs, no melody. Randy makes up something about how Hayley has improved since they last saw her. Yeah, like Randy has any recollection of any auditions from last year. Now next year, I’ll definitely believe Steven Tyler any time he says he remembers an 18-year-old blonde from the season before.
9:10 p.m. Tiwan Strong may be auditioning in pajamas, but he makes up for his performing cheesiness with a pretty decent, restrained voice. He gets three “Yes” votes.
9:18 p.m. Why is it any more strange for a CPA to be auditioning for “American Idol” than… any other empo? Unlike the overrated Jerome Bell, Steve Beghun is a wedding and funeral singer. Steve has an interesting, pure, heady voice. It’s a sound that we rarely hear on “Idol” and I agree with Steven Tyler’s contention that he’s “weird, compelling, great.”
9:20 p.m. 10 seasons of “American Idol” and they’ve never sent an accountant to Hollywood? That’s professional-ist if you ask me.
9:20 p.m. “Loving You” isn’t a song I can recall anybody auditioning well with. Vernika Patterson isn’t going to be the first to overcome the “Loving You” curse. She can’t hit a note, but when the judges reject her, Vernika decides that she’s being sent home because she’s zaftig, rather than because she’s awful.
9:23 p.m. Montage of sad people and rejectees who don’t want the camera in their f***ing faces.
9:26 p.m. If you’re “I Am Number 4” and you’re advertising during “Idol,” shouldn’t you cut a Dianna Agron-heavy trailer?