It’s the seventh and final stop on American Idol‘s season ten audition tour, and we alight at the City by the Bay – San Francisco. One of my three favourite cities in the world, home to the 49ers of the NFL and baseball’s Giants, it is also the venue which first introduced us to eventual season five runner-up Katharine McPhee. Traditionally, the final audition show keeps something special up its sleeve to treat us with at the very end, and this year was no exception. But first, let’s wade through the other highlights and lowlights.
Inessa Lee (The Third Cheeky Girl)
Looking somewhat alarmingly like the long-lost cousin of the Cheeky Girls, Inessa Lee from the Ukraine claimed to be “a blend of Shakira and early Madonna“. (Or was that what Shakira and early Madonna would sound like after being put through a blender? I’m not sure.)
She ‘performed’ Air Supply‘s All Out Of Love, one of the great MOR classics, with all the grace of a hippo doing the Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy. By the end of it I was All Out Of Patience and wanted to cut off her Air Supply. Her husband must really be very patient – or tone deaf. In terms of her singing ability, she really could be related to the Cheeky Girls.
Judges’ decision: No. Prediction: Buy her album on Amazon. Alternatively, if you value your ears, don’t.
San Francisco came loaded up heavy on the heartstring-tuggers, and Stefano Langone was the first of four in this episode. He suffered serious injuries in a road accident in 2009, to the extent that paramedics on the scene were surprised he was still alive. But he was walking again inside four months and now looks completely recovered physically, although he did have some major scars to show for it on his forearms and clearly looks back on his accident as a life-changing experience.
He did a fine job with his rendition of I Heard It Through The Grapevine – surprisingly high in register, but with some interesting texture. He’s a bit boy-band for my liking, but he certainly looks and sounds the part. One to watch out for.
Judges’ decision: Yes. Prediction: Outside chance of making the top 12.
The self-styled ‘Jun-Bug’ with the Harold Lloyd-style glasses, Clint Gamboa sang an unusual gospel-influenced version of Travie McCoy‘s Billionaire. In the words of R-Jack, it was just alright for me and I didn’t really feel it, dawg – although the judges raved about him. He’s definitely a decent singer, but is he anything more than novelty Hollywood Week material? I’m not so sure.
Judges’ decision: Yes. Prediction: Hollywood Week exit.
According to his blog, Drew Beaumier is an artist, film-maker, writer, poet, actor, dancer, vocalist, musician, director, editor, cinematographer and photographer – but not an American Idol – which I guess makes him a triple threat four times over. You may not recognise him from his headshot (left), but he was the one who auditioned in his hand-made Transformers autobot costume which, it must be said, was pretty cool. I don’t normally have much time for the novelty auditions, but this one was genuinely worth 90 seconds of anyone’s time.
Oh, he sang Steppenwolf‘s Born To Be Wild. Not that it matters. And he left to the strains of The Cars‘ Drive. Naturally. But not before R-Jack asked him:
How many gallons per mile?
Judges’ decision: No. Prediction: Despite missing out on Idol, he will presumably find ways to fill his time being an artist, film-maker, writer etc. Assuming he doesn’t get towed away first, of course.
Julie Zorrilla lived in Colombia until she was eight, when her family fled to the US to escape the guerillas. She performed Summertime – a brave choice for any Idol contestant, knowing they will always be compared to season three winner Fantasia Barrino‘s signature performance – and, to be fair, she did well. She looks great, she sounded good. I remain unconvinced as to her ultimate potential as I thought her voice lacked power and enough interesting tones to be memorable, but the judges loved her.
Judges’ decision: Yes. Prediction: Will certainly sail through Hollywood Week, but likely to fall short of the top 12.
Emily Anne Reed‘s house burned down the week before her audition apparently, but it didn’t stop her turning up and singing Harry Warren‘s You’re Getting To Be a Habit With Me. Her vulnerable, girlish voice had the judges fawning over her – unsurprising, as she fills a distinct niche that no one else this year occupies, a more Joni Mitchell-esque Crystal Bowersox, if you will.
This sort of slightly folksy singe-songwriter schtick is usually dead centre for me, but for some reason I can’t quite put my finger on I couldn’t warm to her. I suspect she will go far though, and could even sell a decent number of albums – intriguingly, her suspiciously professional-looking website proclaims the imminent launch of a new album – but will she appeal to enough members of Idol‘s core demographic?
Judges’ decision: Majority yes (S-Ty said no). Prediction: A distinctive enough voice to creep into the top 12, but will enough people vote for her?
We have already had some great this’ll-make-you-cry stories so far this season. Travis Orlando from the Bronx, whose family had been forced to live in shelters. Chris Medina, with his paralysed fiancée. Lauren Alaina, the 15-year old whose cousin had a brain tumour. John Wayne Schulz, the crooning cowboy whose mother has breast cancer. No way could the producers top that lot, right? Wrong.
Enter James Durbin, whose musician father died from a drug overdose when he was just nine, and who was subsequently diagnosed with both Tourette’s and Asperger’s. Found the love of his life? Tick. Young child? Tick, Living on the breadline? Tick. Killer voice? Natch.
Even before he opened his mouth, he went straight into the very small mental file I reserve for potential winners. Once he did start singing, however – Led Zeppelin‘s You Shook Me, followed by Aerosmith‘s Dream On – I started emptying that file of much of its previous contents. James has tremendous range, tone and expression. Think of season eight runner-up Adam Lambert‘s voice coupled with the public sympathy vote generated by the stammer of Pop Idol‘s Gareth Gates. That’s a pretty potent combination. Anyone who gets S-Ty rambling on about “melodic sensibility” – whatever that is – must be good.
Judges’ decision: Yes. Prediction: He will be in the final. Winner? Very possibly.
And we’re done! Seven auditions in seven cities put to bed. Next up is the start of the pressure cooker environment that is Hollywood Week, as Idol gets down to serious business. Which early contenders will fall by the wayside, and which previously unseen gems will be unearthed? Stay tuned.
American Idol posts
Link: American Idol website