Two more cities on the seemingly endless audition trail and “American Idol” producers still refuse to supply a healthy glimpse of talented singers. Has it reached the point that admittance to Hollywood is based strictly on confidence, attractiveness and the ability to hold a note? The bar appears to be set mighty low for season 6.
Of course, it may all be an illusion, given that the Birmingham and Los Angeles shows were constructed to emphasize oddballs and anti-singers. Tuesday’s Birmingham show — and remember, the Alabama city supplied Ruben Studdard, Bo Bice and Taylor Hicks — featured 12 vocalists, seven of whom received no votes. They found a Minx Part II in Jamie Lynn Ward and, in a real shocker, a contestant elicited a rarely heard debate in which Simon Cowell said yes and Paula Abdul said no. If the show has another Birmingham winner in its future, its among the 15 who are moving on who were not shown.
Los Angeles, a little nuttier but not as polite as Alabama, brought out Brandon Rogers, a former back-up singer for Christina Aguilera, who unleashed a gentle and controlled “Always on My Mind” that wowed the judges. He appears to be the whole package — likable, attractive, confident and, one assumes, capable of moving from genre to genre. One hopes there is not some technicality in his background that would prevent him from moving on; he is the first televised performer with top 12, and probably top five, potential.
It makes one long for the days of seeing Fantasia knock everyone’s socks off in the first round.
L.A. told 40 contestants they could return, one of which, Alaina Alexander, had one of the shakiest auditions to ever get a thumbs up from the judges. It helps that she is immensely telegenic. Guest judge Olivia Newton-John was far more vocal in her appraisals on NBC’s “Grease: You’re the One That I Want” than she was with “Idol” wannabe’s.
Producers bent the rules to let a 64-year-old man sing for the judges. The love of his life, a woman he never referred to as his wife, had died a few days before the audition. But while tears were welling up in Abdul’s eyes, he was doing one thing most contestants fail to do — he sang in key.
Past shows have found producers going for the obvious in creating a sonic background. Kudos for the inclusion Wednesdays of Fred Martin’s “I Want Another Chance,” a Philly soul obscurity that just may deserve further rescuing.
Final auditions — which were tired a week ago — is next week.
ALUMNI NEWS: Elliott Yamin’s debut album will be released March 20 on the indie Hickory Records. RED is distributing. … Viewers will select an original song for an “American Idol” contestant in the final round. Ten original songs by aspiring songwriters will be placed on the Web and the most popular of the batch will be performed on the show. … Jasmine Trias, the third place finalist on season 3, will start a residency Feb. 15 at the Flamingo Hotel in Las Vegas in with the Society of Seven. Shows are Wednesday through Sunday through March 21.
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