After all is sung and done in the auditions for the 9th season of American Idol, 181 contestants will by vying for the Top 24 in Hollywood. Last night’s episode was a blatant attempt to squeeze a second show into the week. They billed it as “saving the best for last”, but if these were the best, then this season is going to be lackluster indeed. Granted, you can only do so much in an a cappella audition. Adding music and audio processing can transform a mediocre singer into a pretty decent one. (In the case of Taylor Swift in can turn mediocrity into big bucks!)
Last night the show shined the spotlight on a crop of talented 16 year-olds. One or two of them could even turn up in the Top 24:
· Genesis Moore did a nice version of Carrie Underwood’s “I Told You So.” Genesis is the second African-American female to audition with a Country song in this competition. That’s a niche that A.I. has yet to fill, so it may give her an edge.
· Thaddeus Johnson of Oklahoma City was one of the best males to audition this season. The comparisons with Ruben Studdard are obvious and since Ruben has been one of the least successful winners, Thaddeus doesn’t have much of a chance in the long run.
· Aaron Kelly picked a pretty daring song in Miley Cyrus’ “The Climb”, and pulled it off with panache. Has a nice presence and the girls will love him.
My two favorites from last night were a couple of understated singers who just exuded star power. Their beauty and grace combined with their heartfelt vocals put them in my Top 5 for the entire audition process.
· Di Di Benami—The first thing that impressed me about Di Di was that she chose “Hey Jude” as her audition number. That’s gotta be a first for A.I. Di Di is dedicating her singing career to her best friend who died a couple of years ago and the emotion that comes with that is palpable in Di Di’s singing and carriage. She reminds me a lot of Brooke White from Season 7.
· Hope Johnson—Hope had the distinction of being the final audition for this year. She’s from Arlington, Texas, which is a good thing since all of the past American Idols, except one, are from the South. (Jordin Sparks is from Arizona.) And though she’s not one of those powerful belters that Idol fans love, her interpretation of “I Hope You Dance” had a very personal quality to it that I found moving and endearing. (Besides that she’s a real cutie-patootie.)
Outside of the aforementioned two, there weren’t really any impressive guys last night.
Now comes the fun part. The Hollywood competition starts next week and Ellen joins the judges’ panel. I’ll have my barf bag handy since I find it hard to stomach Ellen, but I suspect it probably won’t be all that bad. She’s pretty good at dancing with herself; let’s just see if she shows any expertise in judging talent.