Thursday, January 25, 2007

American Idol: From Memphis to New York to Jumping the Shark?

If you look at the Jump the Shark page for American Idol, you'll see a wide array of posts. Some say the show never jumped the shark; some say it jumped way back when Tamyra Gray was booted. So far only one person says the show jumped when it began to make fun of people with disabilities. But I might have to second that emotion.

There were a lot of low points for me this week. I didn't enjoy watching Ashanti Johnson beg and plead for a 3rd trip to Hollywood, where she'd failed twice before. This bit went on far too long, and we had no context since they didn't show old footage of her Hollywood stints. I was slightly amused by Isadora Furman's orgasmic vocal stylings, but a prolonged interview with her made me sad when she seemed mentally imbalanced and declared she'd been at the audition for 3 days. Three days is a lot of time for the show to suck from someone's life while leading them on through prelminary audition rounds to think they have a great chance to make it. It's just mean.
Then there was Sarah Goldberg, who warbled "Dreaming of You" by Selena and appeared to have a completely skewed sense of reality as she went on a prolonged rant and admitted she couldnt sing but suggested that the judges could train her. Unless she's a brilliant actress, she's clearly mentally ill. Isn't this abusive behavior? Watching this show is akin to paying 25 cents to see the Bearded Lady and the Seal Boy at a freak show. Check out Sarah's hopeful mid-auditions posts on the USA Today Idol Chatter blog.

The show is supposed to be an emotional roller coaster, and the acceptable kind of heartbreak is that of Nakia Claiborne. Nakia was a ball of energy as she waited to audition. She radiated positivity, and I desperately wanted this jolly, four-eyed chubbette to make it to Hollywood. Her audition started off okay, with an uptempo "Dancing in the Streets." But then the judges asked her to sing a ballad, and the weaknesses of her voice became evident. She must be the light of her church choir, but that's the level where she should remain. As the rejections rained down from the judges, Nakia visibly shrank into herself. She paused at the doorway and pleaded, saying that many folks at home were rooting for her and she couldn't bear to disappoint them. The outcome didn't change, and hard as it was, it was the right verdict. These moments remind us that the show is really looking for an exceptional talent and that being sweet and fun just isn't enough. Hey, that's show business.

Amid all the sadness, there were some moments of joy this week. I loved Sundance Head, who Simon said "blew Taylor out of the park". I predict he'll go far. Sean Michel, who resembled Fidel Castro, surprised us all with a great voice, and I can't wait to see how he mixes with the other kids in Hollywood. Back-up singer Melinda Doolittle has an awesome voice but lacks confidence. She's very likable, and I think people will relate to her and root for her. Porcelana Patino, representin' Queens, probably doesn't have the voice to go far, but she can be an idol for Wendy O. Williams fans. Rachel Zevitz, a dead ringer for Dawn Weiner, showed she could sing pop as well as opera. Jenry Bejarno looks like a male model and has stage presence and a Yamin-esque bond with his mom. Jennifer Chapton, I hereby order you to hand over your title of "The Hotness" to Jenry.

And there was one bad audition I really loved - Ian Benardo. When Simon kicked him out, he asked if he could see Simon's working visa. His heavy NYC accent turned "All Night Long" into "Auwl Night Luong", and I'll never hear the suong the same way again.

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