I don’t know if I should admit this, but I’m already starting to give in to Steven Tyler. I actually find him charming and entertaining on Idol, without seeming like he’s trying too hard. He’s successful so far at bringing frontman qualities to a reality TV show. I mean, the version of “Sweet Emotion” he sang with Randy, accompanied by the Altoids Minis tin? Better than a lot of the stuff we hear on this show. We’ll see; he might belt one too many “Heee!”’s, and then I’ll change my mind.
We were in Milwaukee tonight (or, per Steven, “Milwaukeeee!”), where the crowd’s hype man was the city’s favorite son Danny Gokey, who appears to have slimmed down and gotten a tan since his Idol days. The show’s producers have been doing a nice job of making the various audition towns look good: The Calatrava-designed art museum was a lovely setting, and there were very few mentions of cheesy-beer farts.
First up was Scotty McCreery, a 16-year-old self-described “All-American” floppy woven belt, flip-flop and Jesus enthusiast who I kinda hated, due to what I perceived to be an excess of smirking. He sang country, his first selection a little ridiculously twangy, but I had to admit that he actually had some skills, both as a singer and as a PR man, when he mentioned that he knew that Randy produced Travis Tritt. The judges all enjoyed him, but Steven deftly steered the spotlight away from Scotty by saying what I believe was “Hellfire save matches fuck a duck and see what hatches.” Everyone forgot about Scotty for a second to try to figure out what that was all about. Well done, Steven.
Next was Joe Repka, the big “I’m gonna kick this thing straight to the moon!” guy, an aspiring radio DJ. I think we all figured Joe didn’t really have a shot but I liked him, especially when he seemed so reluctant to give in to Randy goading him into making fun of Seacrest. Steven made the rejection a little softer by joining Joe in harmony on “Fools Rush In.”
Someone who I didn’t care for as much was Emma Henry, the 15-year-old with the two-toned hair who did an okay-at-best version of “True Colors.” The judges all were going to give her a very-deserved soft reject with “come back next year,” but then she begged. I was especially turned off by her saying, repeatedly, “Oh my God!” I’m sorry to say that this worked, and now, I will think of her as a whiny teen who gets what she wants not because she deserves it but because she bitched enough.
I’m going to place my longshot bet to win the competition on Naima Adedapo, the gal who cleans the fairgrounds to sad music at SummerFest. She’s cute, she’s colorful, she’d have a good (but not depressing story), and she sang Donny Hathaway well without going too big.
Then we finally saw the full footage of that kid doing a backflip directly onto the Idol cameraman’s face. Of course the kid was a redhead. I feel like all the redheads on Idol this season are trouble. See: The Civil War re-enactor who, in defense of his dad, said, “He’s not a hippie! Hippies believe in sex! He hasn’t gone anywhere with anybody since my mom left.” (It was nice of Steven to say something kind about his version of “The Lion Sleeps Tonight,” which was awkward but I think technically mostly in tune.)
Is it mean if I liked Molly DeWolf Swensen because Randy Jackson accidentally hit her in the face? Otherwise, what with the Harvard and the White House internship and the nice singing and the long legs and blonde hair and what appears to be a good personality, well, she’d just be too perfect.
Also likable was Tiwan Strong (he of the charley-horse-prone relative), just because I liked that he chose “Twistin’ the Night Away.” I also was pleased that big dorky accountant Steve Beghun, who looks 47 instead of 27, unexpectedly had a sweet voice. He’ll be the gentle giant of the competition, the one who gets unceremoniously swept to the edge of the stage when it’s time for the contestants to dance during the group numbers.
The show’s noticeably toned down the angry, bad auditioners, mostly focusing tonight on Vernika Patterson who sang “Loving You” and walked out claiming that she was better than half the people there and that she was a victim of sizeism. I have a theory that she didn’t actually want to sing “Loving You,” but the producers egged her on because it's always a surefire awful moment. To be honest, I’ve heard much worse versions of the song, but also to be honest, I hate even the best version of that song. In the angry montage, I did like the one lady who seemed equally as mad at the crying girl she was shielding from the cameraman as she was at the cameraman.
Otherwise, this season doesn’t seem to reward camera hogs too much, and for that, I’m happy. Thia Megia was yet another youngin’ with a strong voice and an eerily calm demeanor. I also liked Scott Dangerfield, who sang Amos Lee’s “Dreamin’” really nicely like it was no big deal. Jennifer liked him too and asked him not to cut his longish hair or ditch his nerdish glasses.
Alyson Jados, the Steven Tyler fan, was not quite as laid-back. She sang fine, but I could have done without the drawn-out process wherein her idol gave her the yes to Hollywood, and he did a pretty lame fake-out. But according to Idol tropes, people who are Omigod Huge Fans of the judges rarely audition well so at least that was a surprise.
The show ended on a sob story that’s legitimately depressing, although the producers teased the story to the point where it was a little irritating. It wasn’t Chris Medina’s fault, but it is obnoxious when Ryan basically says, “Just wait, because this is going to make you cry your ever-loving eyes out. Stay tuned!” Medina was a few months away from marrying his fiancée when she suffered what appears to be profound brain damage in a car accident. Medina had a good audition, and the judges asked him to bring out his fiancée, but then didn’t really seem to know how to interact with her. If I were trying to find something snarky to say I’d come up with something along the lines of “Watch out Danny Gokey: There’s a new sad-wife story in town!” But seriously, it’s very tragic, and now I have to awkwardly end this paragraph. Hey, look over there!
Once again, it was an episode that was less grinding than most audition episodes in past seasons (I caught my colleague Jason Heller appreciating Naima’s audition on Facebook). If I have to pick on something, it's that Jennifer didn’t bring too much to the episode, but she didn’t take away, either, and that’s half the battle.
Tomorrow night we’re in Nashville. Heeee!
- Some other singers who were technically good but don’t get their own paragraphs due to my irritation with them over-doing it on classics were Jerome Bell (for “Let’s Get It On”) and Haley Reinhart (for “Oh! Darling.”)
- OK, Steven Tyler fact-check time. Did he say “Smack that baby on the ass and call me Christmas” at the beginning of the show? And was he implying that Alyson Jados looked like she could be his spawn?
- Congratulations, Packers fans. (And condolences, Packers fans, because the girl who sang the operatic version of Justin Bieber’s “Baby” is one of you).