[RATINGS UPDATE BEFORE WE GO TO THE MAIN STORY: "Idol" Wednesday drew 25.2 mil Wednesday, down 5% from yr ago and last week's opener. 18-49 figure of 9.2 was down 9% from year ago. Last night, the show drew 23.2 million, down 3 percent from last week's opening Thursday salvo, with a 7.6 18-49, down from 7.8 last week and 9.9 for comparable episode last year. Last year, the second night was on Wednesday as opposed to the more competitive Thursday. Overall, that's solid week over week retention.]
The incredible pimping of Lauren Alaina Thursday (and to a degree, Chris Medina Wednesday) is always fascinating to me because it never really works – at least in terms of leading to victory. Danny Gokey is a classic case and widely debated to this day.
First impressions of most eventual winners almost always focused on voice, not on back story. And twice, the initial auditions weren’t even shown. Let’s go into the wayback machine and check out those auditions:
Season one: We know Kelly Clarkson was not pimped. In fact, her audition was never shown at all in the original telecast. Here is how “Idol Rewind” did it after the fact several years later. She does Madonna’s “Express Yourself,” which is a rather odd pick but she does just fine. Randy mentions how he as a producer worked on that particular song. The other judges groan. “I’m a star,” Randy jokes. Quick-thinking Kelly then offers to take his place. It’s hilarious as Randy pretends to audition. Cool beans! Score!
Season two: They went straight to Ruben Studdard’s singing and he was already strutting his R&B strengths doing Stevie Wonder. He does give Birmingham its due – and his family!
Season three: Fantasia had a decent back story but the producers did not pimp her that way during her original audition. Her strengths (and why people didn’t like her) are readily evident on her Roberta Flack cover. “Gotta watch your pitch,” said Paula. Simon showed doubt: “You have such a distinct voice. That can be deemed an advantage could be a disadvantage. You are what you are.” They request a second song: her cover of Tina Turner’s “Proud Mary” is even better. “One of the best we’ve ever had,” Simon said.
Season four featured the first time an eventual winner Carrie Underwood gets a big back story line. But it’s not a sob story. She is the country gal who has never flown at all. “I want to go to Hollywood real bad,” she said sweetly. She does a Bonnie Raitt song “I Can’t Make You Love Me” and has amazing tone. It’s better than my memory of her first audition six years ago. “I think you’re very good,” Simon said. “Work a little more on the emotion and stage presence,” Randy said.
Season five, “Idol” did give Taylor Hicks a storyline based on his hair going gray starting at age 14-15. Again, no sobs here. “I’m not trying to be different or have anyone make me look different. I just am who I am,” he said. Later, he told the judges, “I just want my voice heard.” None of that has changed, eh? He does a pretty version of Sam Cooke. His bluesy sound is lovely. “I did not expect it,” Paula said. “You definitely can sing. Can you give me 20 seconds of something else.” He does something upbeat. Simon looks perturbed. “It is not just about the voice,” he said. “You prove that.” “Good energy, good character,” Paula said. “I disagree completely,” Simon said. “This is a guy who should be singing backgrounds. Not in the spotlight!” Simon says no while Randy and Paula say yes.
Season six winner Jordin Sparks is the youngest winner to date at age 17. No real back story except her dad was a football player. She was 16 when she showed up doing Celine Dion “Because You Loved Me.” Her sweetness and charm shines through from the moment we see her. It’s a great audition. “Love your voice,” Paula said. “I was blown away,” Randy said. “Sometimes, I like to put one sugar in my coffee. That was equivalent of putting 11 spoonfuls in. It was too cutesy, too over the top. That weird smile thing you were doing… all I’m saying, it was a little too sugary for my taste.” Randy noted: “You are a natural. This is what it’s about.” Paula predicts: “You will do well.”: But all three say yes.
Season seven winner David Cook is introduced showing a bunch of rock star types since Daughtry came along. “I watched Chris Daughtry’s auditon last night to get a competitive edge. Watch how people got through have done it,” he said. He tells the judges: “I think I’m the next American idol because I bring something different to the table and I am versatile vocally. I feel like I’m a pretty personable guy.” (Alll that would come true.)
His deep, resonant voice takes off on “Living on a Prayer.” Randy: “You have a nice voice but work on some persona. Look in the mirror Move!”
Season eight’s Kris Allen? His audition was never seen until after the fact. It aired later. He was not pimped at all. He sang “A Song For You.” Really good, actually. “You don’t have a huge amount of personality,” Simon said. “Your modesty is putting me off a little bit.” “I don’t feel a star,” Randy said. “You have to walk on stage feeling like a star,” Kara said. He makes it through anyway.
This was aired on “American Idol Extra”:
Season nine’s Lee DeWyze gets no back story either. He is merely part of the crew who need to leave their instruments behind. Interestingly, he is paired with Crystal Bowersox when we see him the first time. He sings a strong Bill Withers while Crystal does Janis Joplin. We don’t hear any of the judges’ comments.
Here’s Lauren’s video from last night: