'American Idol': Memphis auditions

Thanks to the State of the Union address, we only have one hour of American Idol auditions today. WAHOO!

This time, we're in Memphis.


Southern Arkansas University cheerleader Frank Byers Jr. brings the rest of the team and part of the marching band with him to his audition. He interprets "Heard It Through the Grapevine," with a little pitchiness and a little nervousness. Simon says it was corny, over the top and cabaret, so Frank launches into another tune. Even Paula says it's over the top. So they all say no. He gets a cheer and a band performance, and Simon gets all annoyed: "Not being rude, but can you shut up?"

Timika Sims seems nice, but really nervous and not very interesting. She sings Ashanti's "Rock With You." Simon, who already couldn't understand anything she was saying during their conversation, says he didn't understand her singing, either. She (like Frank) launches into "Secret Lovers," which is even worse. She gets a no, too.


Chris Rivera goes in with confidence and sings "Superstition" with a lot of ticks and scary jeans. He is also unintelligible.

Alexis Partee sings a little Teena Marie, but it sounds like she's singing falsetto. No.

Sundance Head, son of Roy Head, who had a No. 1 song called "Treat Her Right" in 1965, is up next. He says he'll blow them away, but with some self-awareness that he could get kicked out and have this footage shown to show "what a smartass he was." He sings "Stormy Monday" and Randy tries to be all nonchalant and take a drink of water in the middle of it, but he is GOOD. (Oh, and his caption says, "Jason 'Sundance' Head," so I don't know what all this Sundance business is about.) Simon says he's one of the best voices they've heard in the auditions all season so far. He gets a unanimous yes, and Simon adds, "I'm going to amazed if you don't make the finals." After Sundance leaves the room, Simon mutters to the other judges, "He just blew Taylor apart." Sorry, Soul Patrol-ians, but I'm going to have to agree.

Wandera Hitchye sings next. Simon says there are "so many singers like you trying to get deals right now. Paula says, "You're a good singer, but there's nothing that makes you ... " "There's nothing special," Randy fills in. She leaves, and she is MAD and pushes the camera out of her face. I get what they were saying, but after showing so many horrible singers, she seemed pretty great, so it makes them look kind of needlessly mean (again, some more.

The montage of "noooooo" that follows doesn't help.

Travis McKinney has a song for his girlfriend. You know it's either going to be awesome or petrifyingly bad. It starts with manic dancing, and it gets worse, with breathy talking. Randy gets it right: "That was crazy!"

Dani McCulloch busts out with Aretha Franklin. Randy says he wasn't blown out, Simon agrees, but says he likes the "blues part" of her voice. Paula says yes, and Simon agrees, so she is through. Randy says she should try to prove him wrong.

Next, we learn that the locals adore Paula.

Topher McCain, aka Paula's biggest fan, is up next. He has a sad story about his wife leaving him. He seems like a pretty good person, if a little deluded about his chances with Paula. He says he's going to sing "Footloose." He starts, and I begin to fear that he will soon dance. He sort of does. Simon: "I'm tempted to ask if you sang that the night before your wife left you." Of course, saying this is the equivalent of, "Not to be rude." In other words, too late. They tell him it's bad karaoke, and he's out but not too down. Except for the last jab at Paula.

The next contestant, Janita Burks, says that her style "works in with my confidentiality." She says the judges' first impression of her will be that she's innocent, conservative and very sexy. Um, yeah. I hate to think what a "liberal" outfit would look like. She sings "Disco Inferno." I hope she is one of the people who is trying to get on TV. She tries to sing another song, and it's NOT good.

Sean Michel, who has a huge, Castro-esque beard, is the next in the audition room. He sings "God's Gonna Cut You Down" by Johnny Cash, and before he starts, let me just say, Cash is the only one who can pull that song off. He sings it a lot higher-pitched than I expected, and with a more soulful sound. Simon, Paula and Randy say yes.

Nerve hound Melinda Doolittle, who sings backup vocals in session work, is up. She sings "For Once in My Life," and she's great. Simon says she is a brilliant singer, but he's concerned about her lack of confidence, but that "you are in the top 2 percent of the singers this year." Randy says she's one of the best singers ever on the show.


Robert Lee Holmes claims to sound just like Elvis. He says he isn't going to dance, he's just "going to do a little movement." He sings "Burnin' Love." Well, sings might not be the right verb. Even Paula says, "It wasn't that good." He gets three nos. The look on his face afterward suggests that it was all a put on.

Phil Stacy missed the birth of his child to be at these auditions. Actually, he tells us this by saying he's feeling a little tired today because his wife woke him up at 4 a.m. to tell him she'd delivered their baby. HE is feeling tired? I bet she kicked him hard when she saw that little soundbite. He says he is going to sing "Let's Get It On," because, "to be honest, that's the last thing she wants to hear out of me today." OK, that was funny. But he changed it to "My Girl," and you are just hoping that he is going to rock it, but some of the notes were odd at the beginning. However, Randy liked it. Paula says it started weirdly. He sings something else. Simon says he can't start his songs well, and I have to agree. It was weird. But he's through anyway.

Twenty-two from Memphis made it through. And thankfully, we didn't have to see another hour of bad singers.

Tomorrow night, New York. And we get a preview that includes a glimpse of a guy who tried out for So You Think You Can Dance and was simply OUTRAGED that he didn't make it. I'll have to see if I can find his name in one of the old recaps. Scary, they keep coming back.

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