OK, “American Idol” Season 12… Let’s do this!
First off, thanks to HitFix’s Liane Bonin Starr, who did a terrific job of recapping while I was spending my evenings watching obscure documentaries at the Sundance Film Festival. If you loved Liane’s recaps more than mine, feel free to complain and I’ll force her to add “Idol” to her recapping plate full-time.
Til then, for the 11th straight season (I didn’t have a venue for recaps in Season One, plus the Internet wasn’t really recapping “American Idol” back then), I’m ready to spend some quality time with Randy Jackson and Ryan Seacrest and lament the passing of such favorites as Dunkleman, British Guy, Ditzy Girl, Angry Songwriter Girl, The Fish From “Finding Nemo,” The Mummified Remains of Steven Tyler and The Co-Star of “Parker.”
But let’s see what Nicki Minaj, Mariah Carey and Nicole Kidman’s Husband have to say about “American Idol” auditions from Long Beach and San Antonio… Shall we?
8:03 p.m. ET. We start in San Antonio with returning contestant Vincent Powell. Should I remember Vincent Powell? I don’t. He loves Mariah Carey. This is notable. He sings “Rock Me Baby” and he’s got a very pleasant voice. Actually, as he progresses, it becomes clear that he’s got more than a pleasant voice. Apparently, Vincent made it to the end of Hollywood Week last year, blaming Randy for distracting him by taking a sip from his Coke. The reason I don’t remember Vincent is because he’s added thick-rimmed glasses this year. “I think you can take what you do and fuse it with what you want to do,” Keith Urban says. “I can only imagine what a gospel CD from you would do,” says Nicki Minaj. “You obviously know what you’re doing and you sing like an angel,” Mariah Carey agrees. And Vince Powell is returning to Hollywood.
8:07 p.m. Oh goodie. Some of the most emotional auditions in “Idol” history are coming, including a dwarf and a guy who thinks he can inspire people. This will be very exciting!
8:10 p.m. Keith Urban and Randy are preening.
8:11 p.m. Meet Derek Vassero and David Bacerott. They’re brothers and they agree that there’s room for both of them. The reality is that there isn’t room for either of them. They’ll mostly be notable for how badly I misspelled their names when they said them, compared to what was eventually on screen. Randy calls the audition “terrible.” “We’re trying to save your lives here,” Randy tells them. “There’s a basic rule of harmonizing, which is stay on pitch, so the other person can stay on pitch also,” Mariah tells them. “We’re not a choir,” one brother says. “You don’t have to be a choir to harmonize,” Nicki tells them. This becomes a very pointless debate. The brothers insist they’re passionate and keep babbling. “Your part of the audition is done,” Nicki instructs them. The conversation continues. Keith explains the difference between “unison” and “what they were doing.” Randy explains the difference between “good attitudes” and “their attitudes.” They remain incredulous after the interview. “They lost two talented individuals,” one of them says. They were bad, but they weren’t bad enough to deserve four minutes. “You guys didn’t see that going as long as it did, did you?” Keith asks aptly.
8:15 p.m. Now for something slightly different with Savannah Votion. Based on her initial confidence and the way she’s dressed — lots of belly and VERY high heels — the instinct is to think that we’re about to mock the slightly garish Savannah, but it turns out that she has a five-year-old daughter and she cries when talking about what this chance would mean to her. Could she actually be good? Well, yes. She sings “At Last” with a lot of rasp and growl. Randy likes that she’s a natural performance. “Big voice talent, babe,” says Mariah. “You have life in your voice,” observes Keith, who also heard “empowerment.” Nicki thinks it sounded “organic.” Savannah’s off to Hollywood and with a little re-styling, I think she could be good.
8:24 p.m. No, Ryan. Things haven’t been “pretty harmonious” in Texas, since one of the three acts we’ve seen got lectured on failures to sing harmony.
8:24 p.m. Oh well. Ricky Jo Garcia sounded promising for two notes before becoming awful.
8:25 p.m. Ryan tells us things have gone off track, but Cristabel Clack is going to change that. We know she’s going to change that, because she’s got kids and she’s a worship leader. That’s a recipe for “Idol” gold. It’s also a recipe for over-singing and Cristabel’s doing that with authority on her Alicia Keys track. But under the unnecessary runs and excessive body english, there’s a very, very good voice here. Certainly the judges are impressed. “I loved that you put in your own little runs,” Keith says. We feel differently about things, Keith. “You just sang the song how you felt it. I know you. I get you. I felt you,” Mariah says. “You are to me what the whole thing is really about with the singing,” Randy says.
8:28 p.m. Time for tonight’s first Randy Shows Up In Public To Surprise You contestant. It’s Ann Difani, a former University of Arkansas Razorback. Randy surprised her on the football field on what looks to have been a rainy and unpleasant night. She’s been set up by her husband Jordan, who Randy calls “a cool dude.” These contestants can all sing. Otherwise, what would the point be? So yes, Ann has a good strong country voice. “You’ve got a pretty tone,” Keith says, adding that she has “a lot of Faith.” Ann hears that as “a lot of faith” and she’s pleased. She’s also pleased to be compared to Faith Hill. Nicki thinks it’s cute that her husband nominated her. Mariah thinks it’s nice that Ann has a country background to build on. Jordan comes in and the judges send Ann to Hollywood.
8:37 p.m. It’s Day 2 in San Antonio. We meet Victoria Acosta, who is singing mariachi music. If she and “American Idol” were truly hip, she’d be singing narco corridos. She’s not. They’re not. She’s got a good voic… wait. Sorry. Distracted by Nicki Minaj’s purple traffic cop outfit. They don’t like Victoria singing white girl music like Fergie, because they pretend that she’s not comfortable doing that. Then they ask her to sing mariachi and they pretend it’s an entirely different thing. Because they’re silly. She’s going to Hollywood.
8:40 p.m. We’re off to the Alamo. Outlaws are coming. Stefan Jones is the first outlaw. He’s got a loud, awful voice. He’s followed by a girl who’s far worse, but who has a name that’s too long for me to type. Carolyn Jackson isn’t so lucky. I’m able to write her name down. They’re all bad.
8:41 p.m. Will Papa Peachez also suck? He works with homeless people in Jackson, Mississippi and he looks like he’s going to star in a Gus Van Sant movie. Uh-oh. He describes himself as a big black woman tracked in a white boy’s body. Oh, this may be a problem. “Papa don’t peach,” Keith sings when Papa enters. He’s singing his own song. “I’m a gypsy on the rise, I’m a woman in disguise,” Papa sings. He’s interesting. “I may be gay, but that’s OK” and “Peachez is as Peachez does” are other sample lyrics. He’s not right for “American Idol,” but he’s absolutely right for a weird-ass rock opera. “I think that you are are superstar,” Nicki says. “Loved the song. Loved that you wrote it. Loved that it was something that only Papa Peachez could sing,” Nicki adds. Keith, however, worries that it was too theatrical. “If you could really get serious about it and add some serious vocal lessons, you actually could really have something,” Randy says. Nicki votes “Yes.” Keith votes “No.” Randy votes “No.” Nicki protests that he’s the most special person they’ve seen today. Mariah votes “Yes.” However, in San Antonio, Randy Jackson is the tiebreaker, so Nicki starts crying on Papa’s behalf. So Randy changes his vote.
8:46 p.m. Thank you, Papa Peachez, for letting “Idol” play us into commercial with Presidents of the United States of America.
8:50 p.m. Sixteen-year-old Sanni M’Mairura is a very enthusiastic kid. He wants to be a singer and also to teach dancing. Not intrigued yet? You should be. You know why? He performs with a church group and he wants to be a role-model. His mother is from Tanzania and his dad is from Kenya and I really like this kid. He’s not quite as theatrical as Papa Peachez, but there’s a lot of theatricality to what he’s doing. You know what show Sanni would be awesome on? “The X Factor.” I’m not kidding or trying to insult Sanni. I fear that “Idol” is going to capitalize on very few of his strengths, but that in the right venue, people would absolutely love him. “Your runs were pretty and all your riffs ended right,” Nicki says. “You’re fresh, man,” Randy says. “I love your balance of confidence and humility,” Keith says. Sanni is going to Hollywood.
8:54 p.m .Our last San Antonio contestant is Adam Sanders. Even thinking about Mariah makes Adam cry. This is going to be a freakshow, isn’t it? He’s very awkward. I don’t want to end San Antonio with suckiness. Nope. Adam has a technically fantastic voice. He’s basically the “‘Idol” version of “X Factor” contestant
Adam Jason Brock. But in the vacuum of expecting him to be awful, he was surprisingly good and the judges stand for him. I suspect that when they see Adam coming, they won’t be as impressed a second time. But for this time? He’s off to Hollywood.
8:57 p.m. Off to Long Beach next… For three unforgettable sob stories. Whee!
9:02 p.m. Why do they keep talking about “harmony” in this episode? They’re all solo singers, darnit.
9:02 p.m. They filmed on the Queen Mary in Long Beach.
9:03 p.m. “People are traveling from all over,” Ryan says, referring entirely to “Los Angeles.” Keith is counting on good talent coming down and Randy can’t tell the difference between LA and LBC. But where are Nicki and Mariah? Well, Mariah’s stuck in LA traffic and Nicki had a prior commitment.
9:05 p.m. So the guys are along and they get to objectify attractive female contestants, starting with Shubha Vedula, who has to have her name mocked by Randy, because she’s foreign. Grow the bleep up, Randy. He’s got a big, Christina Aguilera-aping voice. And with only the two guys and two empty chairs, she has no trouble getting two “Yes” votes. She leaves and they mock her name some more, even though it’s on paper in front of them.
9:07 p.m. Mariah bounces onto the boat and sits between the men. “When you want a diva, you’ve gotta pay the price,” Mariah says.
9:08 p.m. Brian Martinez isn’t going to be good. He has a bad speaking voice. If you’ve got a bad speaking voice and you were discovered singing in a bathroom, the chances of you being a good singer are very, very low. And… yes. He’s dreadful. Mariah buries her head in her cleavage to avoid laughing. The men just laugh. “That bathroom has killer acoustics,” Keith chides. Three “No” votes for Brian. “This wasn’t a good experience for me,” Brian says flatly. Nor for me, Brian.
9:10 p.m. Now we’re only being promised ONE of the most remarkable auditions… I thought it was three… Stop toying with me!
9:15 p.m. Meet Matt Farmer. He has a very cute daughter named Cadence. But she’s not a daughter… she’s a sob story! He was injured in Kuwait and he had traumatic brain damage and the medicine they gave him was supposed to make him sterile. But before you can say “Matthew Crawley,” his wife was pregnant. He’s so proud of his little miracle that he brings Cadence into the room with him. In case he doesn’t have enough emotional impact with the little girl in his arms, he also has a tattoo remembering all of his fallen colleagues. Y’all know I’m very protective of Sam Cooke’s “Change Is Gonna Come” and I’m not a huge fan of smiling your way through this particular song. I call that Gedeon McKinney Syndrome. The vocal is a bit nasally and strained, but not awful. “I thought there were certain moments that were just so raw and real and heart-felt,” Mariah says. Keith likes the thick thing at the back of his throat. It’s off to Hollywood for Matt.
9:19 p.m. Purple-haired Stephanie Sanson is in a band. She thinks she may not look like an “American Idol” contestant. Then she says she singing Adele. Then she shrieks her way through “Set Fire To The Rain” flipping off the camera and jumping her way out of the room and down the hall. That was… odd. Mariah notes that Stephanie’s bio says she plays the piano and loves ballet. I wonder what her audition was like.
9:21 p.m. Will a captain’s hat help our next singer succeed? Jesaiah Baer has an interesting, authentic jazzy voice, but she also sets off an alarm of some sort. Sirens blare and Nigel Lythgoe tells everybody to leave. Jesaiah sings through the sound for a while and eventually leaves with everybody else. We won’t learn her fate until after the break…
9:28 p.m. Take two for Jesaiah. She’s fun. And she’s only 16. Her voice is wise beyond her years. “I loved it within seconds of you starting,” Keith says. “I thought you had a very mature confidence,” says Nicki, who calls it “shocking. It’s four “Yes” votes for her.
9:31 p.m. The Queen Mary is haunted, so some awful singers are accompanied by Haunted Mansion-style specters. This is a full season’s special effects budget they’re blowing right here. Enjoy! It’s like “The Frighteners” only with song.
9:32 p.m. The day’s last contestant is Micah Johnson. He recently got his tonsils removed and the doctor who removed his tonsils hit nerves and left him with a speech impediment. DEAR LORD. The least “Idol” could do is give us the name of this dentist. Poor guy. Mariah had nerve damage in her arm, so she understands. Kinda. “I feel like I can be an inspiration for somebody out there,” he says. Holy crud. His speech impediment vanishes entirely when he sings. I’m uncomfortable with this, because it seems a little bit too much like a plant, but if it’s not… Gracious. That’s pretty darned cool. “This is the biggest fake-out I think I’ve ever had,” Randy says. “It was your spirit. It was you there,” Mariah says. “Even if you didn’t have that story, I still would have been moved by your voice,” Mariah tells him. It’s four “Yes” votes for Micah.
9:40 p.m. That little girl singing “Valerie” is too young for this competition. She’s 10. She’s better than most people we’ve seen tonight.
9:40 p.m. Looking ready for a CW show all her own is Rachel Hale. She’s adorably Southern and bubbly and Arkansan. And she can sing, too. I think I’d rather see her show up on “Hart of Dixie” as the sexy new chanteuse in Bluebell than waste her time on “Idol.” Nicki loves her voice and her energy. “I’m glad there’s somebody who already understands who they are and what type of artist they want to be,” Mariah raves. Rachel is just giggly and overjoyed and she’s going to Hollywood. I like Rachel.
9:43 p.m. But enough happiness. Let’s get back to other emotions. We’ve already been promised that Briana Oakley is going to make us cry. She was bullied severely in school. She appeared on “Maury” when she was 11 or 12 as one of America’s Most Talented Kids and, as a result, people bullied her and her friends abandoned her. She would eat her lunch in the bathroom. She had to change schools. Ryan Seacrest reassures her that she’s not alone. She promises things have gotten better. If she was talented on “Maury” five years ago, she’s still talented today. I’d say there’s a tiny bit of oversinging here, but that’d be petty of me. And it’d probably count as bullying. Mostly, she’s great. Keith calls it “fantastic.” “Wow. Wow. Wow. Wow. Wow. Wow. You are poised and ready for this moment,” Nicki gushes. “This could be the start of something huge for you,” Randy says. She’s off to Hollywood, as she should be. Her whole family pours in to thank the judges.
9:53 p.m. OK. Are you ready to cry? “Idol” sure hopes so. Take out your Kleenex. Get ready to have your tears jerked.
9:53 p.m. It’s time for Matheus Fernandes. He’s from Atlanta, but he’s recently moved to LA to pursue music. He’s been to lots of doctors, but none of them are able to diagnose anything about him other than that he’s just small. Very. My hunch? Fairbanks disease. I don’t actually know anything, but I watched a Robert Reich documentary last week and he has Fairbanks disease. So that’s what I’m guessing. He’s also singing “Change Is Gonna Come” and unlike our previous Sam Cooke auditioner, Matheus is actually really good. Or at least he is until he interrupts a song about the Civil Rights Movement to make a plea to the “American Idol” judges to put him through. BOO. You were so close. Keith figures he was good because he knows adversity. Nicki thinks he’s a special person. Mariah’s holding back tears and she says he hit her in the heart. “You can sing anything for me any day of the week,” Mariah says. “We’re all people. So to me, you’re 10-feet tall right now,” Randy says. Four “Yes” votes.
So who’d you like tonight? Who’d you hate?