American Idol: Portland, Oregon auditions
The good news about Wednesday's American Idol auditions in Portland, Oregon, is that we heard a couple of intriguing voices and the bad auditions were relatively entertaining.
The bad news is that it was more of the same formulaic programming: more sob stories; more corny jokes at contestants' expense; more crowd shots of thousands of people who never got anywhere near the judges; more rock-star posturing from Steven Tyler; more of Randy Jackson calling everybody, male or female, dude; and if Jennifer Lopez calls one more female contestant "mama" I may throw something at the TV.
Ryan Seacrest tells us 45 people got golden tickets over two days of auditions. We saw 10 people sing and the ratio was six successful auditions to four unsuccessful ones, so that leaves a lot of presumably decent singers that will be mysteries to us by the time we get to Hollywood.
Of the good auditions, I liked the two Brits the best: Brittany Zika and Britnee Kellog.
The first is a 21-year-old nanny/social media tech from Portland whose claim to fame is singing "Gravity" onstage with Sara Bareilles. Brittany said she foresaw the moment in a dream and got the singer's attention with a homemade cardboard sign after her mom got her two tickets to a sold-out concert as a birthday present. When you think about it, that sounds way too fortuitous to be true, but you can watch it on YouTube.
For her Idol audition, Brittany sang "The Story" by Brandi Carlile in a lovely voice with a good range. She also brought a forthright personality and quirky fashion sense to the audition, although Randy made her take off her fedora and black-rimmed glasses. This one could be a keeper, I think.
Britnee Kellogg was a 27-year-old banker and single mom of two from Vancouver, Wash., (and a Britney Spears lookalike) who was nursing a grudge against her basketball player ex-husband. As Britnee explained it, she put aside her singing aspirations to "pursue his dream with him and then he decided to pursue other women." (I went looking to see which famous basketball player she was married to and apparently it's just some guy who owns his own basketball training company.)
Anyhow, Britnee sang "You're No Good" and did herself proud with a strong rock chick vibe. We'll find out if she has enough outrage left to take her safely through Hollywood Week.
Two men also put in good showings.
Jermaine Jones, a 24-year-old music teacher from Pine Hill, N.J., may be the tallest American Idol contestant ever at 6-foot-8-1/2 ("Don't take away my half," he told the judges). Ryan may need a stool or to borrow Simon Cowell's lifts.
The self-described mama's boy from a church-singing family did Luther Vandross's "Superstar." He has a nice tone, particularly in his lower register, but I thought he got too fancy with some of those notes. I hope he doesn't come down with Jacob Luskitis if he moves forward in the competition.
We also heard Romeo Diahn, 22, a shipping clerk and Liberian refugee from Portland. At first, when Romeo mentioned the country's civil war and we saw photos of child soldiers, I figured Romeo had been one of them. Turns out his father was able to get his family to a refugee camp in Ghana, which I'm sure was hellish enough.
Romeo, who reminded me physically of Sean Kingston, displayed an appealing, husky voice on Bob Marley's "Is This Love," although JLo said she worried about where he would go when he had to sing other stuff.
(I think my favourite part of the audition was when a giant friend of Romeo's waiting outside, appropriately named "Junior," looked Ryan up and down and said, "So who are you?" Ryan didn't play the diva but stuck out his hand and said, "I'm Ryan.")
The contestant that we were obviously really meant to get behind was Jessica Phillips, 25, a dental hygienist from Brooklyn. Her boyfriend of five years, Angelo, had a stroke almost a year ago and Jessica is now his caretaker.
I'm not sure how auditioning for Idol will improve their situation unless she gets lucky and strikes it big in the music industry. I will say that I thought her performance of Faith Evans' "Again" was good but not great. Nonetheless, she got three yeses from the judges.
Naomi Gillies, 22, a student from Boston, also got a golden ticket after seeking Steven's permission to sing "Crying." Props to hear for hitting those high notes, but I didn't love her voice.
Of the not so good auditioners, Sam Gershman, a "motivational dancer" from Clarksville, Md., could kind of sing but ruined the effect with a corny musical theatre vibe.
Ben Harrison, a shipping agent from Eugene, Ore., was a cheerfully demented sort of man-child who is perhaps not as adorable as he thinks he is, particularly after he mangled Queen's "Somebody to Love." Still, at least he took his rejection in stride, unlike some of the camera bashers we saw on the episode. "I didn't puke or pee my pants or any of the stuff that I was scared about, so it wasn't that bad," he said.
Words to live by.
And it could have been worse. He could have been David Weed, who sucked at both singing (an inept Geddy Lee imitation on "Tom Sawyer" by Rush) and standup comedy (which he told Randy was his other dream).
Cable TV salesman Ben Purdom both belched and blew his nose extensively on TV before failing to impress with Lady Gaga's "Born This Way" and Nicki Minaj's "Super Bass," two of the weirder audition choices I think we've seen.
The good news is the auditions are almost done. Thursday's show, at 8 p.m. on CTV Two, brings us the final stop in St. Louis, Mo.
I'll be recapping it here. And if you're still watching, let me know what you think: here, on Twitter @realityeo or on my Facebook page.
(The photos of Brittany Zika and Romeo Diahn are by Michael Becker for Fox.)