I watch a lot of reality TV. It’s sort of my job. And Wednesday (Jan. 30) night’s American Idol auditions from Miami were like a "Where Are They Now?" special for me. Look, it’s Julie from American Juniors! Whoa, that’s Syesha from The One! Way to bring out the fresh talent, Idol!
Dear viewers, you can all be forgiven if neither American Juniors nor The One: Making a Music Star made any impact on your lives.
American Juniors, of course, was a hideously uncomfortable attempt to capitalize on the success of American Idol in the summer of 2003. Ryan Seacrest was host and the judges included Justin Guarini and Deborah Gibson. One of the show’s winners, Lucy Hale, was a regular on NBC’s Bionic Woman this season, but the rest of disappeared into the depths of puberty, only to occasionally emerge as… Julie Dubela.
I only remember Julie because, like my family, she hails from New Hampshire. Now America gets to remember her as the space cadet with the lip ring who didn’t know what "precocious" meant when Simon used the adjective to describe her not-so-awful-not-so-good Janis Joplin cover. [Simon’s professed pleasant memories of American Juniors and Julie’s inability to recognize his sarcasm were also superior.] Perhaps if she hadn’t talked like a 16-year-old stroke victim and flailed her arms like a detached Muppet she would have gotten a Golden Ticket. It did, however, strike a chord when she came out of the room pouting about having given up the opportunity to sing a Red Sox game to audition. That’s harsh.
It’s also harsh for me to bring up The One, a two-week dud that ABC aired in the summer of 2006. Holding the distinction of having one of the lowest rated premieres in network television history wasn’t enough to keep it on the air, though it appears not to have hindered Syesha Mercado, whose bio still lurks on ABC’s website.
I have reservations about Syesha. Unquestionably beautiful and relatively gifted (she got awfully shout-y on the high notes on "Think"), her talk of how positive attitude and self-actualization have turned her life around sounded a bit too much like they were cribbed from The Secret. I like how they added the touching story about her father’s battle with drugs (not mentioning the musical background mentioned in that ABC bio) to give her a layer of texture setting her apart from that Natashia girl, who also got through to Hollywood and seemed even more talented despite the lack of a puffy montage.
I guess that’s only two reality TV alums on the episode, one going through to Hollywood and one going back to wherever Tori and Taylor Thompson are currently lurking (that’s a joke only American Juniors fans will get). They weren’t the only recognizable faces, though.
Actually Robbie Cabrico isn’t even vaguely recognizable from his days in something called Boyz N Girlz United. Check out the clean-cut David Silver wannabe from his theme park performance days and compare them to the generically scruffy crooner we met at Miami auditions. I mean, the guy dated Britney Spears. When she wasn’t gross. I’d love for the Idol stylists to do a full makeover and take him back to those days when he could have been the Newest Kid on the Block if they’d decided to get rid of Danny the Dog-Faced Boy.
And even though I didn’t actually recognize her, Ramiele Malubay was so close to being Jasmine Trias Version 2.0 that I might as well have experienced deja vu. Tiny, beautiful, Pilipino and mighty pitchy on high notes, it sure isn’t hard to find a point of reference for Ramiele’s potentially successful future.
For all of that, I fear that the two best singers from Wednesday’s show will never be seen again. Not-really-sisters Corliss Smith and Brittany Westcott did jazzy, sassy, perfectly phrased songs that may have offered the best pure vocals we’ve seen all season thus far. Even though the judges have been OK with taking a token overweight African-American woman every season, Corliss and Brittany would have to be split up to fit the Mandisa-Frenchie-LaKisha bill. That’s too bad, because they’re both really good.
Oh and we can induct Isly Pinot and Suzanne Toon into the Generic Idol Blondes gallery. And last, but not least, that guy Ghaleb is 27 like Orlando Hernandez is 42, which means ol’ Ghaleb’s probably 35 at least.
I’m going to ignore fame-seeking, humor-starved Brandon "Pimpin’, Pimpin’, Pimpin’" Black and say that the best of the bad auditions went to adorable meat handler (not in a euphemistic way) Shannon McGough, who proved that there’s a world of difference between Okeechobee Idol and American Idol. I loved her straight-out-of-the-80s sequin hat, half-glove and off-the-shoulder top. I also loved that Mo Meaty Meat Girl gave Simon the chance to use the phrases "That was like the Hungarian Janis Joplin" and "It sounds like you’re eating when you sing." Fantastic.
While Simon was at his best with Shannon, he was at his worst with Grant Rhea, whose mannerisms may have been a little, um, flamboyant, but that doesn’t mean he deserved "Grant, I’m tempted to say, ‘Come back in a dress.’" It’s been a while since Simon indulged in gay-baiting.
On to ATL next.
So who’d you like or hate in Miami? And did you recognize Syesha or Julie or Robbie?