A Dose of Reality: American Idol 4: Audition Week 3, Episode 5
by The Trades Staff
Published: February 2, 2005
Tonight American Idol 4's traveling audition show went to Cleveland, known to many as host to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, but known to me, Molly Bishop, as my hometown during my high school years. Along for the ride was this week's guest host, LL Cool J.
We start off with contestant Jaclyn Crum, who impressed with her ability to be both bland and affected. Simon first made me happy by turning her down based on lack of performance skills, but, after LL and Paula gave her a pass, Simon changed his mind and let her through to Hollywood.
Next up was Sarah Sue Kelly, a very large woman with spiky hair and glasses, who performed a very community-theater version of "I Could Have Danced All Night." LL Cool J thought that she sang like she had a secret. Randy suggested well, maybe theater was a good idea, and Paula concurred. Simon finally put it on the table and said that her looks were a handicap. She cheerfully conceded his point, and, while she didn't advance LL Cool J did get up and give her a hug before leaving. Hmmmm ... perhaps LL was the one with a secret ... a secret passion! (Gimme a break, it's been a slow start, and I need to generate some excitement.)
Ah, time for loser parade! Sympson Ingram provides a little distraction as I try to figure out what language he's singing in (Simon suggests that maybe he was reincarnated), but when that's the high point, you know you've reached the pits.
Wait, I'm wrong -- when a contestant tells Randy Jackson that he is "the coolest dude on TV," as Scott Saville did, then you have really reached the pits. Scott, aside from his poor judgment, is laboring under the handicap of a father who has no confidence in him. But somehow he managed to climb out of this pit by coming up with a passable rendition of "Superstar," like a white Ruben Studdard. Simon remarks that Scott has "quite a good voice," and that this competition was a good thing for him, since he wasn't the kind of guy that would normally have a chance in the recording industry. LL says that, while so much in the country is based on looks, he'd like to see Scott have a chance to compete and have America decide -- and with a full slate of yes votes, Scott goes on to Hollywood.
The judges might have liked Scott, but I am not feeling the love from them for my old hometown. Day two of auditions starts with yet another loser parade -- and this time we don't even get to hear them, they're so bad? Did they break the recording equipment?
Maybe they did, because I can't hear the next contestant, Jennifer Paige, at all. Oh, wait, that's because she's a mime! A mime? She gives a spirited, if silent, rendition of Aerosmith. Simon says she's one of the best they've seen in the competition, and Jennifer falls flat on her face in shock. And, at the suggestion of mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, she eagerly points to LL Cool J. (You know, between Jennifer Page and the mime on Big Brother 5, there might be hope for redemption of mimedom.)
Next up was Pat Norman, a small-time farmboy who sang Nat King Cole's "Smile". I didn't. The judges did. I'm still wondering about that audio equipment, because they couldn't be hearing what I did. Maybe I'll hear what they did when Pat hits Hollywood.
I did smile when I saw the Jackson family, which had two large sisters competing. The shots of them with their family were down-to-earth, as was their cheerful bickering over which of them would win. Lashunda was first up, singing Monica's "Why I Love You". While her performance was maybe a bit too intense (in strange contrast to her smiling interview), her voice was quite nice. Randy and Paula dissed her on stage presence. LL gave her some props, but Simon delivered the news gently that it was a no. Sister Leandra came in with tears in her eyes, but gave a shot at "Summertime." This was a bad choice, considering what an amazing job Fantasia has done with that song, and she gets no votes straight across the board (but hugs from everyone -- including Simon!).
It's about time for another yes, so I had high hopes for Brianna Davis, even though the ones with purple hair don't usually make it through. She sang a selection from "Phantom of the Opera" in operatic tones. The judges were impressed, and Simon compared her to Sarah Brightman. While I wouldn't have passed her, the judges did.
Anatoli ("Anthony") Fedorow, sang Jon Secada's "Angel", and did a nice job of it. A touch affected, but I have no doubt the producers' eyes lit up at the thought of Clay Aiken remix. Even Simon commented on the similarity to Clay. Add in an underdog story (when he was a kid, he had throat problems such that it wasn't certain he'd be able to speak, much less sing), and he was a shoo-in to continue.
All told, 32 contestants advanced to Hollywood from Cleveland, and the judges (minus guest LL) advanced to Orlando, Florida for more auditions.
First up was Marissa Gans, who was off to a good start in her pre-audition interview by stating that she was looking forward to getting honest feedback, good or bad. She sang "White Boys," from the musical Hair. She had a lot of power, but came on way too strong. Paula steered her towards "theater," and Simon suggested "plays." Maybe she would have done better with a different song, but at least she wasn't bitter in her post-audition interview. And at least she was better than the next series of losers. (Simon, regretting your comment yet?)
Vonzell Solomon gave a blues-tinged rendition of "Chain of Fools," and compared to the previous fools we'd seen, Vonzell sailed through. I suspect she's going to struggle a bit in later rounds with stiffer competition. After all, she'll have to compete with those who can not just sing, but also act -- as evidenced by a montage of people pretending to be disappointed even though they had received their "golden tickets."
The final contestant we saw was Dezmond Meeks, who sang James Brown's "I Feel Good." Always a bad move to go so stylized, but Dezmond lucked out that he was seeing Paula after her Happy Meal lunch. Randy and Simon both passed on Dezmond, but Paula championed him, declaring him "unique" and "better than James Brown." (Simon promptly said no, he wasn't.) Paula went from cheerful and pounding the table to irate, tearful and morose, declaring that she felt like quitting the show if he didn't make it through. Randy, ever the one to sway with the prevailing winds, finally changed his vote to a yes, sending Dezmond through (along with 14 others).
Next up, San Francisco!
Earlier Recaps: Episode 1 | Episode 2 | Episode 3 | Episode 4
Other sites: American Idol | Sirlinksalot.net