Sepia-toned flashback montage of the big winners thus far, and then the preview for “TONIGHT,” which as always is scored like a climactic Lord of the Rings scene. We’ll see how many of tonight’s auditioners belong in the Fellowship and how many need to be sent back to Mordor.
The sun rises over New York City to the strains of “Living on a Prayer,” and as Steve welcomes us back to the final round of auditions (thank God, I think), the camera zooms in high speed and with commendable honesty to Newark. There’s a long tracking shot over the thick crowd waiting outside that seems to go for blocks. Steve says all these hopefuls have “Jersey spirit,” which, going by the interview snippets of people outside, translates to “delusion.” You know about the $5 million recording contract and the four judges, right? For the fourth time, Simon is touted as “the most successful talent scout in the world.” I’d agree that he’s the most famous, which isn’t necessarily the same thing. And the main reason he brought the show to Newark was because of Jersey Shore, so keep that in mind.
First up is Brian Bradley, a 14-year-old Brooklynite with a hat and glasses. He wants to be bigger than Jay-Z and Kanye West, and figures he’ll be there in about five years. Well, Jay-Z and Kanye West will be smaller then, at least. He heads out on the stage and works the crowd before introducing himself. Simon asks him straight-faced why he doesn’t have a record deal, and Brian says, “It’s politics, man.” So young, and yet so cynical. Simon remarks to L.A., “He’s a mini-you,” and Brian decides to pick a fight with that, taking exaggerated offense to Simon’s remark. He throws down his hat and glasses, saying Simon’s lucky they’re not in the streets, but it’s just a bit he’s set up for himself to launch into his rap about people looking at his mom. Which is apparently a preexisting YouTube hit that he put up as “Astronomical Kid.” The non-Simon judges are into it, as is the audience, but Simon doesn’t look like he appreciates being the butt of Brian’s little routine. At least not until Brian finishes, and the audience is on its feet cheering for him, and Simon tells him, “You are arrogant, obnoxious, argumentative, but you are one of the most talented young people I’ve heard in a long, long time.” Brian thanks him graciously, so I guess the act is over. L.A. even says that he was looking for Brian his whole time at Def Jam, so he feels lucky that Brian walked in today. All four judges give him a great big yes, and have already decided he’s a big star and what L.A. calls a “triple threat,” although it seems a little early for that. Brian’s pretty pleased with himself, obviously. I mean, even more than he was before the audition.
Back from the ads, Steve wonders aloud if New Jersey can keep this up. Next, a fresh-faced, 80s-haired nursing home hairdresser named Kelly Warner sings “Hallelujah” and gets four yeses. Aaron Surgeon, 27, is all about the hair and the hat before he sings “Don’t Want to Miss a Thing” and gets yeses from Paula and Nicole. Simon, unimpressed, says no, but L.A. thinks he has what it takes and gives him the third yes he needs to move on. Fast-forward montage of a few more successful auditioners, leading up to a 26-year-old RenFaire chick named Liliana Rose Andreano, who croons “You Are My Sunshine” a capella and does it quite well. Simon says she doesn’t look like a pop star until she sings, Paula calls her “magical,” and she’s moving on, to her own amazement.