Well, I spoke too soon. The sob stories were back tonight for the Pittsburgh auditions and the thing that they had in common were terrible mothers. First there was Travis Orlando, who got cut in Season 10, back to sing what I thought was a nice but not terribly memorable version of “Isn’t She Lovely” (why, if all the Stevie Wonder songs in the world, not to mention all the other songs in the world, pick that one? It’s just so treacly and uninspiring.) Travis dropped out of high school to chase this dream, and followed up the audition with the story of how his mother ruined his family’s life by leaving his father (who is in dialysis), his brother and him all homeless. What a bitch! I’m sure she has no good explanation for herself. Travis revealed that his main motivation was to prove to his shit mom that he could make it after all. He made it to Hollywood, of course, based on his tender dreams and all-right singing. I am not sold.
Then there was Hallie Day, another high school dropout, this one a former singer who, at a down-and-out portion of her life, tried to commit suicide but can now credit her supportive husband with keeping her on an even keel. “My parents weren’t really around to support me,” she said, and to illustrate this, the producers put up a picture of Hallie and her mother only to erase her mother from the picture. Hallie sang “I Will Survive,” pretty well, but since I obviously am automatically biased against the sob story folk, I didn’t think she was that great.
Some other contestants auditioned tonight whom the judges liked a lot but who didn’t do anything for me. One was Creighton Fraker (which sounds like a fake name, doesn’t it?), the New York starving artist who scatted (boo!) and sang in a remarkably high, nasal voice. “You remind me of someone? Who is it? Why can’t I think of who it is?” asked Jennifer. The answer is Adam Levine, from The Voice, and you can’t say his name because you’re not allowed to, Jen.
Then there was Samantha Novacek, who you probably remember as the girl with the dumbass planking sister. Samantha was a fine, boring singer but her sister Patricia Bell crapped up the whole episode with her hilarious “planking” antics. Hey guys, if you like planking, I have a great show called Mobbed for you, but I might need to sit you down and explain the concept to you, first. I used to think it was silly that some people thought planking was racist, but I just realized, no, it is highly offensive indeed.
But not everyone was annoying. Despite the fact that he came close to being a little too precious with his scat-laughing through the “Family Matters” theme and the fact that he was wearing flip-flops, I liked Reed Grimm, maybe because singing families are fun and he’s a nanny. And I definitely liked Erika Van Pelt, the husky-voiced wedding singer who thoroughly charmed the judges. I usually end up rooting for workhorse singers like her: it’s the Melinda Doolittle effect. And I didn’t even hate that Justin Bieberish kid: I thought I was going to, but he wasn’t nearly as obnoxious, either as a person or as a singer, as I thought he’d be.
So it wasn’t a very special episode, but at least it was only an hour long.
According to reports, Idol is down from monster smash record ratings to just “less massive” ratings. I think the novelty of the audition episodes has worn off now that Simon is gone and people aren’t curious anymore about what Steven and Jennifer are like, but I have a feeling the viewership will crawl back up once the competition starts up. Or not. Whatever.
—Jennifer is really into those pleated shorts.
—Steven Tyler has a hilarious comedy sound machine.
—Didn’t Shane Bruce, the coal miner, remind you of The Wire actor JamesRansone? And just when I thought I couldn’t be any more sick of “Hallelujah” being used on this show, he went and referred to it as “the song from Shrek,” to put a whole new spin on it.