This is the first time “Idol” has ever gone to Pittsburgh for auditions. And this may be the first time in 11 seasons that “Idol” did not feature even a few moments of a godawful singer. Even the one singer featured who didn’t make it through wasn’t cringe-worthy.
And there’s no doubt the final singer Hallie Day will make the final 42. She has that special something about her.
This turn towards the positive is clearly an emphasis on the “warmth” and “humanity” that Nigel Lythgoe is pushing.
They passed through 38 to Hollywood. We hear 10 folks who do.
First up is a guy who could be the next William Hung. Heejun Han from Flushing is acting odd, comparing his head size to that of Ryan Seacrest, a clueless quirkiness that yelps “Bad singer!” And his friends and family say they’ve never heard him sing. So nobody is expecting much. And he sings a Michael Bolton soul classic “How Am I Supposed To Live Without You.” The shocker: he is actually good! And off to Hollywood he goes.
Reed Grimm, an Ellsworth WI 26 year old nanny, channels his own Casey Abrams by crooning the theme song to “Family Matters.” It’s all spirit and light. “That was genius, beautiful,” Steven said. “You had us all enthralled,” Randy said.
Then like yesterday, we get a string of good singers: Aaron Marcellus, Teaneck N.J., works the soul (I just realized he is the same guy from Atlanta who made it last year to the final 40 but went by Aaron Sanders. Was he hoping the judges wouldn’t remember him from a year ago? Huh?) Chase Likens of Point Plaseant, W.V. hits the country mark. “Bingo!” Steven said.
Funny how the producers give Pittsburgh credit for singers who all come from somewhere else.
Samantha Novacek’s sister Patricia planks (seriously!) while she sings a Faith Hill song. She has a pretty tone but the camera spends more time with the planker. Samantha doesn’t have a lot of personality but the voice is good. “Very pure sounding,” Randy said.
After the break: New Yorker Creighton Fraker, a self-described “starving artist,” sings an original song. He has a bit of that Paul MacDonald tone that is either charming or annoying. Or both at the same time. “There’s something about it I’m kind of intrigued by,” Randy said. I wasn’t quite as impressed as Steven Tyler, who says he’s “sweetly insane.”
Milford, Ohio’s 15-year-old Eben Franckewitz . “People say I look like Justin Bieber” he said. (Barely). He has a pretty young boy’s voice. He has confidence and warmth, more so than Jacee from last year.
Travis Orlando, a high school dropout who was here a year ago and is now 17, returns. He sings one of those over-done “Idol” audition tunes by Stevie Wonder, “Isn’t She Lovely.” He’s good but I don’t see any star quality. “Your voice has gotten stronger,” J. Lo said. “But you’re not coming all the way out with it.” Sob story came on after the audition: his mom abandoned him and he now lives in a shelter with his dad and brother. But he is given a shot at Hollywood though it’s unlikely he’ll make the top 42.
Erika Van Pelt, a Rhode Island mobile DJ and wedding singer (think Justin Guarini!), works one of my favorite Carole King songs (”Will You Love Me Tomorrow”) and shows off maturity and quality tonal ability. “The voice matches her,” J. Lo said.
Shane Bruce, a 19-year-old coal miner from West Virginia, gets some video love. You hear him singing “In the Still of the Night” in the actual coal mine. He performs the incredibly overplayed “Hallelujah” but it isn’t even close to as good as, say, Jason Castro’s. Disappointing. It wasn’t awful but lacked that “wow” factor.
Final singer is always a good one: it’s Hallie Day, a newly married waitress with a major sob story that deserves a sad Elton John song in the backdrop. He had dropped out of high school at age 15 and joined a girl group, got into drugs. She returned back home and almost killed herself with pills. Her husband Ryan encouraged her to try out for “Idol.” Her world-weary pain is etched on her face as she sings “I Will Survive.” That pain is reflected her vocal stylings, which are excellent. “I could see you stealing the show,” J. Lo said. “You do have a gift. Your husband is right.”
“Idol” is back Sunday after the NFC Championship in San Diego. I can’t recall “Idol’ ever airing on Sunday!
By Rodney Ho, Radio & TV Talk