Friday, January 26, 2007

American Idol, Week 2: The Beat-Down

Something tells me that Simon is into this sort of thing

The New York auditions for American Idol brought more of the same results audience members have come to expect: humiliating verbal beatdowns, angst-ridden psychodrama, and the emergence of a potential star or two.

There were obvious jokes, like Fania, the Mediteranean singer/dancer who looked like a reject from "My Big Fat Green Wedding." There was Ashanti, who twice made the Hollywood cut only to fall short. This time, she didn't even make it past the main panel.

In pleading with Simon, Paula and Randy, she delivered a wrenching monologue, capped off with "I believe in the depths of my soul, I am right." Sorry, girl, but no, you're not, was the look on the judges faces.

The one thing the New York auditions were heavy on was the dramatics. Ashanti's tortured speech aside, there were several heart-string tugging sobfests, some good, some quasi-tragic, some downright scary. Among them:

- 19-year-old Sarah Burgess had to sneak away from her disapproving parents to audition. She was redeemed when she tearfully phoned her dad to tell him she made it to Hollywood. A good portion of the phone conversation was edited out, which makes you wonder what her father's full response was.

- Sweethearted Nakia, who got a good initial reaction with the Marth and the Vandells anthem "Dancing in The Street," but turned off the judges with her turn on the Selena standard "Dreaming." Heartbroken from her rejection, she whimpered "Sometimes you get tired of hearing no," as if she's been hearing it all her life.

- Immediately following Nakia was straw-hat wearing Sarah, who baffled the judges withe her utter lack of singing talent. She readily admitted that she had no singing talent, affirming "I think you don't have to sing to be on American Idol." Judges quickly pointed to the pictures of Grammy winners and previous winners to illustrate their common trait: they all could sing. Sarah went into a frightening fit, screaming that the judges had been drinking until 3 a.m. the night prior.

While there were the crazy moments, there were a lot of talented folks as well. Trashy yet talented Porcelena won the judges over with her smokey voice and unique look; 19-year-old Antonella of New Jersey diplomatically shared that she thought her friend was better singer because she was trained, when in fact Antonella was by far the more talented; and Nicholas, a New Yorker who quit season 5 a few weeks into the show, gamely took a second shot and was rewarded with a ticket to Hollywood. If he can remember his song lyrics (which kicked his butt last season), he could go far.

Of the loaded NYC talent pool, probably none stood out more than 18-year-old Rachel, a confident, metal-mouth opera singer dressed up in a colorful ensemble (her outfit looked like a cross between Janis Joplin and Rainbow Bright). She was big on both voice and character.

She sang a range of old soul (which channeled Joss Stone) and opera. She got an easy ticket, but she may need to grow into that persona she's created for herself - and lose the braces.

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