Kansas City, here 'American Idol' comes

Before I get started with the coverage of tonight's American Idol, how about a little Wednesday-evening quarterbacking on last night's show?

The big buzz today seemed to be all about Ryan Seacrest trying to high-five blind contestant Scott Macintyre. Honestly, I didn't think it was the worst moment ever -- he wasn't like, "Dude, you're leaving me hanging here." He wanted to offer Scott his congratulations and high-five was his natural reaction, and he told him what was going on. I mean, it was a little awkward, but I wasn't on the bandwagon of watching the clip again and again. *shrug*


Overall, I felt like last night, the producers tried to give us a kinder and gentler Idol, but it was also, uh, boringer. (Before the grammar police come out of the woodwork, I know that's not a word. It's a joke.) There wasn't as much straight-up humiliation, and only a couple of kooky characters. It kind of felt like they were giving us this "updated" Idol approach, at least in the first episode, but then the previews for tonight made it look like it would be business as usual.

Well, I'll stop speculating on that -- let's watch and see for ourselves.


Tonight's auditions are from American Idol champ David Cook's hometown of Kansas City.

Randomly, season seven finalist Jason Castro is there and greets Paula Abdul, telling her his brother is getting ready to try out. Intriguing!

First up is Chelsea Marquardt, who "has been singing as long as I can remember," which isn't the first time we've heard that sentiment on this show. She says she usually surprises people because this "powerful voice" comes out of this "little girl" and that she sings "with so much emotion and power, people are like, 'Whoa!'" The judges look like they are thinking "Whoa!" but not in a good way. Simon Cowell: "It sounded like a cat jumping off the Empire State Building and the sound it would make before it hit the floor." Randy Jackson says then it sounded like the siren that would come next. Paula yells at them for being mean, but rather convolutedly. Kara DioGuardi says she is not a good singer, "sweetie." (She really needs to lay off the "sweetie.") It's a no.

Ashley Anderson sings "Footprints in the Sand," a Leona Lewis song co-writted by Simon. Obviously she is going for brownie points, but then she sings "footsteps" instead of "footprints," and they stop her and call her out on it. But she's a good singer (Kara says she has got some "chops"), and she gets four yes votes.

Hey, look, it's a commercial for Idol during Idol. But all the David Cook fans will be happy!

Casey Carlson sings Vanessa Carlton's "A Thousand Miles," and she is pleasant enough. Her occupation is listed as bubble tea maker, which makes me giggle. It sounds so official. Simon: "I like you a lot. ... You have a good vibe about you." Everyone says yes, so on to Hollywood.

Brian Hettler says he isn't bringing any gimmicks, just his voice. He says he was trying to become an opera singer, but he left singing for two years. He never says he actually ever got into a school. He sings (I guess) Aretha Franklin's "Think," but it's just weird. Randy calls it "different." Simon says he hated everything. Randy asks if people really compare him to Josh Groban, and he insists on singing some more, and while it's loud, it's not what one would call good. He's out. The cameras follow him, and he says, "If you're expecting me to cry, don't even bother."

Cue the montage of crying, and in one case, screaming-totally-for-the-cameras overreaction. Yawn.

After a break, Ryan talks to David Cook's parents, who happen to be walking down the street. (Uh-huh.) Ryan talks about his signature last season of doing original twists on well-known songs, which leads to a montage of people doing original, but not in a good way, takes.

Von Smith has a Jason Mraz vibe to his look, and he says his range is a little different. He launches into a very soulful version of "Somewhere Over the Rainbow." They drag it out like the judges are going to hate it, but they actually like him and he gets a unanimous yes.

Jason Castro's interview problem apparently runs in the family, as his brother Michael demonstrates. He tells the judges he's only been singing for "20 days." He sings "In Love With a Girl" by Gavin DeGraw. He's not bad for less than three weeks of experience. I agree with Simon: "It was goodish." Cara calls him "a ballsy dude," and says she likes him. Four yes votes, and he is through.

Vaughn English is dressed in yellow and orange and sings about a banana. Um, no.


Matt Breitzke says he has always wanted to sing for a living, but he put it on hiatus to work to support his wife and son. He tells the judges he played the bar scene for a long time, but his family took priority. He sings "Ain't No Sunshine," and it seems pretty good to me. Randy calls him a good bar singer, but Kara says she thinks he natural talent, and Paula likes his tone. Simon agrees with "the girls" after drawing it out forever, so he is on to Hollywood.

Jasmine Joseph says AI is the only thing in her life that matters and insists upon being called Jazz. She sings "Somewhere Over the Rainbow," and it is not good. But she really seems to think she is good, and it makes me sad because she is just a confused kid. She walks out without a word.

Jessica Paige Furney really wants to make it to Hollywood and take care of her grandmother. She sings "Crybaby" by Janis Joplin. When she starts, I literally say "whoa" because I don't expect that voice to come out of her. Randy calls her a natural, and very quickly they all vote yes.

Asia McClain and India Morrison are sisters, and they rap their own composition, "Cookie," which they dedicate to Randy. It's funny, but not exactly singing. Asia comes forward to sing, and it's bad. Then India comes forward, and Simon stops her quickly. But they all really like India, and she gets a ticket. Her sister is thrilled, and it's so sweet.

Jamar Rogers sings "California Dreamin'." He's good but loud -- I called toward the screen, "They're right there!" They tell him it's overdone and too loud, but they put him through anyway. His best friend is Danny Gokey, who has been promoed before nearly every break.

Danny is a music teacher, and his much promoted story is that four weeks before the audition, his wife passed away from a heart condition. He says that he decided to go forward with the audition because he thinks people can get to know his wife through his performance. He sings "Heard It Through the Grapevine," and I'm thrilled that he is great because I wouldn't want him to have gone through the pain of sharing his story for no reason. They all love him, and he is through. Paula and Randy both says he's among the best so far.

Then there is a montage of badness from the women.


Anoop Desai says Randy can call him Noop Dawg. He sings "Thank You" by Boyz II Men, and he is shockingly good, especially shocking because he looks like he walked in off a boardwalk in his shorts and sandals. "Didn't expect that," says Paula. I agree. Simon says the look is "all a bit geeky." Randy tells him yes, but work on the wardrobe, and Kara says yes, but work on the stage presence. Paula says forget them, he was good just as he was. He's through.


Montage of people slaughtering "Signed Sealed Delivered." After the break, a montage of gimmickry that is clearly not just from Kansas City, since some of the folks are people we saw last night.

Andrew Lang has a cheering section -- literally two women dressed up as cheerleaders come in and do a crazy performance to introduce him. He (finally) comes out and sings "My Girl." Simon says it wasn't as bad as he thought it was going to be, but it still wasn't great. Randy says yes. Paula tells him to sing something for 10 seconds, and he busts out "Ain't to Proud to Beg" with a ton of tics. Paula says he was too theatrical, and Randy changes his vote to no. The cheerleaders cry, and Kara gives him an A for effort. Then the cheerleaders cry some more for Ryan.

Asa Barnes is a middle-school band director (and whoa -- a middle-school band that actually marches ... that is pretty impressive in this age of music programs being chopped. He sings "The Way You Make Me Feel," and his voice is good. Simon says he is puzzled as to why he would do "that song and like that." Asa says because he likes it, and they say that's actually a good answer. Paula says when people sing Michael Jackson, it's usually a disaster, and this wasn't. He gets all yes votes.

Ryan says 25 people have gotten through so far, and Michael Nicewonder hopes he will continue the streak. He is wearing a medal from elementary school for "best vocalization in music class" that he has taped a relevant fortune-cookie message to. He also tells us that his mother doesn't think he can sing, but he will prove her wrong. He intends to walk in there and become a star. We already know that's not going to happen, but I suspect he is not aware of that. And then he tells the judges he is going to sing an original composition, and that seals the deal. The songs are morbid, and Simon asks if it is supposed to be about a pet or something. He says he wrote it for his mom, and then he sings one he wrote for his grandmother, which is also not good. He cries.

Dennis Brigham says he dreamed that Simon told him he was one of the best they had heard. He enters the room and does a flip. He sings Chris Brown, and it's not fabulous, and it also brings up memories of David Archuleta singing it awkwardly last season. He pleads that this is his dream and that he can sing "very, very, very, very, very good." Paula says yes, Simon says no, and Randy gets the hard sell. Randy caves and votes yes, and it comes down to Kara. We don't see her vote, but he comes out with a ticket. Then they show her saying she likes him. I hope they told him to tone down the theatrics.

Montage of denials, montage of golden tickets.

Mia Conley falls asleep in the waiting room. She sings "Lovin' You" by Minnie Ripperton, and it's really bad. They stop her to tell her it's not going well, and she keeps singing the "la la la la" part in the background while they talk. It's a no. She interviews afterward, "You guys are wrong and God's going to make you pay for it." Wow. I have nothing else to say.

The last contestant of the day is mom of three Lil Rounds. She says she decided to go for it because a tornado took out their house, and they need this to recover. She sings, and Kara likes her almost as much as she likes her name. Paula says she's "one of the best that I've heard," and Simon says she's "absolutely fantastic." Randy says she's a cross between Fantasia and Mary J. Blige. Kara likes that she doesn't realize how good she is. She is 100 percent through.

And for the second night in a row, 27 people made it to Hollywood. From the clips that follow, it's clear we only saw a handful of them.

I take back what I said earlier -- it's still pretty mellow, and even though I really don't like humiliating moments, I'm not sure this was the best move. And I'm still not sure what the point of adding Kara to the mix is. I hope she will add more to the show as the season continues. Sweetie.

What did you think of the evening's proceedings?

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